In response to an epidemic of honor killings, Muslim scholars from around the world have issued a series of fatwas denouncing the practice as antithetical to Islam, and directly forbidden.
Recently, the All Pakistan Ulema Council issued a fatwa, declaring that “killing of girls in the name of honor or dignity is terrorism and viciousness — which has nothing to do with Islam.” It continues by saying “[A] daughter is a gift by Allah. And the feeling of being dishonoured by your daughter is forbidden in Islam … Killing one’s daughter and humiliating them is a sign of ignorance.”
Ignorance, or “jahilliya” is an old Islamic term referring to pre-Islamic eras in the Middle East, which are believed by many Muslims to be a uncivilized time period, characterized by violence and immorality. For Muslim scholars, referring to something as exhibiting ignorance, or jahilliya, is a strong form of condemnation.
Similar fatwas have emerged from around the world, including the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, saying “There is no justification for honour killings, domestic violence and misogyny in Islam. These are crimes in the court of law and in the sight of Allah.” The Canadian fatwa spans four pages, and a list of six obligations to combat honor killings, domestic violence, and other types of violence.
It concludes by reiterating “As the Imams and religious leaders in the community we have an obligation to inform everyone that Islam condemns domestic violence, honour killings and misogyny. We offer every Muslim family in Canada and the United States the support and guidance they need if a family member seems to be violating the Islamic code of conduct.
“However, we want to be very clear that no one, except the Canadian/American courts, has the right to punish anyone. It is the requirement of Islam that citizens must follow and respect the laws of their countries. Therefore, Muslims who live in Canada must follow and respect the laws of Canada. Similarly, American Muslims must follow the laws of the United States.”
The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) mirrored the fatwa of the All Pakistan Ulema council, stating that honor killings are “haraam” or forbidden.
Many Muslim governments have taken legal action against the practice. Turkey is well known for giving life sentences to anyone involved in a “honor killing.” In 2009, Turkish courts sentence an entire family to life imprisonment for their involvement in the killing of a young relative.
The University of Cambridge reports “the government of Jordan has increasingly criminalized honour killings, and in 2009 a special court for prosecuting honour crimes was established. “
Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, tells National Geographic “In countries where Islam is practiced, they’re called honor killings, but dowry deaths and so-called crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable.”
According to Ms. Brown, the practice “goes across cultures and across religions.” The National Geographic reports that the similar practice of “crimes of passion” are treated very leniently in places such as Brazil.
“Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda” says the magazine.