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Honor killing

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Honor killing is the barbaric practice of murdering a woman in order to restore a family's "honor" after the woman had "dishonored" it through real or imagined sexual misconduct. Especially distasteful to Western Christians, Jews and also Atheists and Agnostics, is the idea that even a victim of rape is considered to have brought dishonor and will be punished in this way.

  • Anthropologist James Emery found that, "Palestinian culture continues to equate the value of a woman's life to her inviolable purity. Whatever her progress, ancient traditions still engulf her. Should she become the unfortunate victim of rumor or rape, she'll be sacrificed, just as her ancestors who swept across the Arabian Desert sacrificed sheep and other animals in the name of honor and Islam."[1]

The practice is especially prevalent in highly traditional societies, ranging from Islamic communities of the Middle East to Catholic Brazil and Eastern Orthodox Greece. When these people migrate to Western Europe or the United States or Canada, they sometimes bring these traditions along or tolerate their fellow immigrants who commit an honor killing. .

  • Most schools of Islamic jurisprudence legitimate the killing by the family of a married person caught in the act of adultery. Under Syrian law, an honor killing is not murder.[2]
  • "Mahmud Ahmad Ghazi, director of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, was interviewed in a BBC film on the honor killing of women, in which Pakistan has established a sad record. Ghazi coldly defended those feudal practices as Islamic, an opinion Islamic scholars all over the world mostly dispute." [3]
  • "We know of some women who are pushed to become suicide bombers," says Yariv Ovadia, consul for communications and public affairs with the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, California. "If you dishonor your family, you will be killed anyway, so you can save something of your honor by becoming a suicide bomber. (ibid)
  • Honor killings are sanctioned in the Qur'an ... in Islamic prophetic tradition and law in general, there is a very strong presumption of women’s chastity along with numerous safeguards to prevent any imputation of unchastity. However if that chastity is broken --the Qur'an and Hadiths have a strong resolution -death by stoning.

Islamic basis of honor killing

Qur'an- 4:15 "If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence of four (reliable) witness from amongst you against them; if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them. Or God ordain for them some (other) way." [4]

Sahi Muslim No. 4206:

"There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah's Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. ... And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her." [5]

Honor killing in the west

Honor killings occasionally happen among immigrant groups new to the United States. It is likely that most happen when the woman is sent back home and then disappears.

Police estimate there are a dozen or so honor killings in Britain annually; even more women are sent back home where their fate is never known.

The Searchers

One of the greatest of all American films deals with the topic. In The Searchers (1956), Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), a traditionalistic ex-Confederate, has returned to Texas to discover Comanches have raided his brother's ranch, killing or abducting the family. He tracks his young niece Debbie (Natalie Wood). After a five year search Ethan discovers Debbie has been turned into a squaw and decides to execute her as an honor killing. He is encouraged by some, and denounced by others, especially Debbie's brother Martin Pawley, played by Jeffrey Hunter.

Further reading

  • Besse, Susan K. "Crimes of Passion: The Campaign against Wife Killing in Brazil, 1910-1940," Journal of Social History, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Summer, 1989), pp. 653-666 in JSTOR
  • Korteweg, Anna and Yurdakul, Gökçe. "Islam, Gender, and Immigrant Integration: Boundary Drawing in Discourses on Honour Killing in the Netherlands and Germany," Ethnic & Racial Studies 2009 32(2): 218-238 in EBSCO
  • Safilios-Rothschild, Constantina. "'Honour' Crimes in Contemporary Greece," British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 20, No. 2 (June 1969), pp. 205-218 in JSTOR
  • Van Eck, Clementine. Purified by Blood: Honor Killings amongst Turks in the Netherlands (2003) online edition
  • "Honor, Crimes of." in Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, law, and politics ed. by Suad Joseph, (2005)online edition


  1. World&I May 2003, p. 190
  2. "Honor, Crimes of." in Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, law, and politics ed. by Suad Joseph, (2005)online edition
  3. (Pakistan Versus the Last Superpower: A Former U.S. Ally Moves Toward Jihadism and Isolation - World&I magazine, March 2001, Page 296)
  4. Koran 4:15 [1]
  5. Hadith of the holy prophet(may peace be upon him) [2]
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