Honor killing is a general practice among Muslim community against girls, young women or adult women. The families perform honor killing because a certain female member has dishonored them. Initially, parents use death threats to control their daughters. Families perform honor killings using various barbaric and ferocity means.
It may involve the use of burning, raping, stoning, beating to death, slitting throat, decapitating and suffocation, among others. Community and extended family members set and maintain honor killings. The community does not condemn the perpetrators. Instead, they see it as normative religious process. If the girl escapes, the family searches her in order to perform honor killing.
Opposing religious views on honor killing
Melissa Robinson argues that nowhere in Islam are honor killings encouraged or condoned. Rather, the Koran states that the family is suppose to honor women and girls and never abused, hurt, or murdered them (Friedman, 2010). However, Robinson acknowledges that honor killings are problems in Muslim societies, but she points out that there are many cultures and religions that experience domestic violence and murder.
She explains that people make misogynistic statements, not just by Muslim religious leaders, but also by Christian preachers, philosophers, revolutionaries, existentialists, historians, scientists, poets, and others. She concludes that honor killings are not inherently an Islamic problem. However, when they occur in Muslim families, they should be condemned by Muslims everywhere as being un-Islamic.
On the other hand, Robert Spencer notes that families use Islam to justify honor killings. He argues that although Koran does not encourage the killing of women based on such offenses, the prevalence of honor killings is too often in Muslim societies and families to the extent that they can no longer be cases of domestic violence. Spencer draws from the history of Islamic countries where societies use religion to justify violence against women.
Spencer says that it is impossible to assume that Islam has nothing to do with honor killings when majority of such killings happen in Islamic context. Spencer notes that there are circumstances where people link honor killings to Islamic practices. He further observes that there are cases where Islamic culture inculcates attitudes that can lead to honor killing (Friedman, 2010).
Robinson and Spencer encourage Muslim leaders to condemn honor killings among Muslim societies if they believe that Islamic faith has nothing to do with honor killings.
Socio-economic views on honor killings
One of the factors that determine whether a question of honor leads to an honor killing is the relationship between Muslims and their community members. For instance, Turks experience social difficulties when community excludes them from other members. Therefore, a family whose honor is at stake will experiences pressure from the community to perform honor killings.
The extent of public knowledge will determine if honor killing occurs or not. Therefore, if many people know about the dishonor then the family is likely to engage in honor killing. Turks are likely to carry out honor killings when confronted directly with the loss of their honor. A family can ignore the loss of its honor till openly confronted with it, at which point it cannot ignore it any longer (Eck, 2003).
Public accusation increases the likelihood of honor killings, rather than to a point to which loss of honor is a common knowledge. This is because public accusation leads to punishment. The party responsible for loss of honor may be publicly accused by the injured party if he or she cannot take responsibility. In this case, personal motives might influence honor killing.
Loss of honor among Muslim societies may provoke public ridicule or gossip. Families try to restore honor by carrying out honor killings. Therefore, loss of honor no longer subjects them to isolation and ridicule. Honor killing serves the purpose of restoring peace, respect and purifying the family name (Eck, 2003).
Loss of honor in a family that results into job loss and fear of unemployment is likely to results into honor killings. Loss of honor can be disastrous for families who possess their businesses. Once the society has isolated a family, customers will withdraw resulting to collapse of business ventures. Therefore, the communities condemn the family to a life of suffering.
Studies show that social ambition is among the considerations controlling a decision to engage in honor killings. However, this may be influenced by traditional values. A family may attempt to regain its lost glory and respect by means of honor killing within their own class, where members of the class view such killings positively. However, it is significant to note that honor killing does not improve one’s social mobility within the class system (Wenona & Hyndman, 2004).
There are instances where honor killing does not serve the purpose of restoring and purifying the family. The motives of such honor killings range from incitements to kill certain people, improve a girl’s chances of getting marriage, taking children away from stepfather, to crimes of passion.
At present, some other factors such as availability of weapons like firearms create an enabling environment for honor killings. Some case may be related to use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Critics argue whether there is a difference between honor killings and domestic violence involving killings.
Eck, C. (2003). Purified by Blood: Honour Killings Amongst Turks in the Netherlands. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Friedman, L. S. (2010). Women’s Rights: Introducing Issues with opposing views. New York: Greenhaven Press.
Wenona, G. & Hyndman, J. (2004). Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones. California: University of California Press.