Honor killing

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Honor killing, also spelled honour killing, is the barbaric practice of killing a woman, oftentimes by stoning her. The purpose of this practice is to restore a family's "honor" after the woman "dishonored" alleged sexual misconduct.

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. Many of these countries have statutory laws against honour killing, but traditional or customary law permists the practice.[2] The practice has also been imported into the Western World due to globalization.[3]

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.[4]

"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." (Pakistan Versus the Last Superpower: A Former U.S. Ally Moves Toward Jihadism and Isolation - World&I magazine, March 2001, Page 296)

"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 Koran ... 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 Koran and Hadiths (traditions relating to the life and deeds of Muhammad) have a strong resolution -death by stoning.

The Kurds of northern Iraq are known to use stoning to carry out honor killings.[5]

In Jordan, about 20 women are murdered each year in honor killings, sometimes for simply dating a man. Until recently, the Jordanian penal code allowed for "honor" killers to get sentences as lenient as six months. Attempts to apply thougher punishments for these henious crimes are resisted and blocked by the country's Muslim lawmakers.[6]

Middle East

In the Koran, it says, "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." [7]

Sahi Muslim number 4206 says, "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." [8]


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.

Germany has also seen hideous cases of honor killings. In 2008, in Hamburg, a 16-year-old Afghan girl was stabbed 20 times by her 23-year-old brother because "she had become too comfortable with Western life with her uncovered hair, makeup and short skirts."[9] In a 2009 case of self-censorship derived from the 2005 Muhammad cartoons controversy, the German book publisher Droste Verlag canceled a novel about this barbaric practice, in fear that the book would offend the Muslim community and spark violent retaliations.[10]

North America

Honor killing has never been tolerated in the U.S., apart from the lynching of black men accused or raping white women, which was perpetrated by Democrats in the era of Jim Crow.

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.

South Asia

In India and Pakistan, honour killings continue to be a problem, with 73 crimes reported in India and over 600 in Pakistan in 2009.[11]

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

See also


  1. World&I May 2003, p. 190
  2. Karen L. Kinnear. Women in Developing Countries: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved on 2011-03-05. “Many of these countries have statutory laws against honor killing, but traditional or customary law permits the practice.” 
  3. Sana Loue, Dr Martha Sajatovic. Encyclopædia of Immigrant Health. Springer. Retrieved on 2011-03-05. “Honor killings may thus be expected to appear in societies and migrant communities where the idea of “honor” and the concomitant anxiety of social shame constitutes one of the focal cultural values is being primarily attributed to the proper behavior of the consanguinal female family members.” 
  4. "Honor, Crimes of." in Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, law, and politics ed. by Suad Joseph, (2005)online edition
  5. FOX News: Video Surfaces Showing Kurdish Girl Stoned to Death for Relationship With Iraqi Sunni Boy (May 4, 2007)
  6. FOX News: Jordanian Shoots Dead 17-Year-Old Daughter in Honor Killing (January 25, 2007)
  7. Koran 4:15
  8. Hadith of the holy prophet (may peace be upon him)
  9. FOX News: Afghan Girl's 'Honor Killing' Sparks Debate in Germany (May 27, 2008)
  10. FOX News: German Publisher, Fearing Muslim Retaliation, Cancels Honor-Killing Novel (October 9, 2009)
  11. Karen L. Kinnear. Women in Developing Countries: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved on 2011-03-05. “In India and Pakistan, honor killings continue to be a problem, with 73 crimes reported in India and over 600 in Pakistan in 2009 (U.S. State Dept. 2009).”