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Old 01-16-2006, 04:45 PM   #16
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No, honor killings are definitely not sanctioned by the Koran. Islamic law does permit capital punishment in the specific case of married adulterers (female or male), but it is never required, and in fact the constitutions of most Muslim countries explicitly forbid this practice. Furthermore, "honor killing" as defined by sharia--i.e., participation in the killing of a woman by her family members in any situation besides the above--is expressly forbidden by Islamic law. A small handful of radical clerics tout the sharia precedent of al-urf--i.e., legitimacy of custom and cultural traditions as sources of legislation in situations where the Koran and Sunnah do not provide a comprehensive legal framework--as justification for the legality of such killings in countries otherwise committed to sharia. But this interpretation is soundly rejected by most clerics, and so far as I know, Jordan is the only Muslim country which legally permits (sharia-defined) "honor killings" based on the al-urf rationale.

Incidentally, "honor killings" as defined by the UN--i.e., acts of violence committed by male relatives against female relatives in retaliation for acts perceived as dishonoring the family--result in the deaths of some 5000 women worldwide every year, including many from the non-Muslim communities of such countries as India, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Haiti. Demographically speaking, it probably makes most sense to correlate such "honor killings" not with any particular religious community, but rather with a more general context of rigidly patriarchal, clan-based sociteties in which "family honor" (as opposed to individual integrity) is regarded as the prime measure of individual worth, and where such entrenched customs rest uneasily alongside the much newer traditions of civil society, individual freedoms, and the rule of law. And certainly, such a description would also apply to large sectors of (for example) Pakistani society--Pakistan being one of the most oft-cited examples of a Muslim country in which "honor killings" occur with disturbing frequency, despite being grounds for murder charges and capital punishment (at least, according to the law books).

And a final note, for perspective's sake. Every year in the US, some 1300 women are murdered by their male partners, while some 3 million are assaulted by them. Most Americans--myself included--would be both repulsed and offended by the suggestion that these statistics in any way reflect the influence of any sort of "cultural" or "traditional" mores endemic to us. Or by any insinuation that we are thereby unworthy to call ourselves a society which cherishes and protects the right of women to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But 1300 murders yearly! 3 million assaults! These numbers ought to give us some pause when proffering our diagnoses of the "causes" of such brutality elsewhere. Is the mere presence or absence of some conveniently nameable and treaceable cultural precedent really all that is needed to explain, and more importantly put an end to, such awful crimes? Are we really in a postion to confidently assert that having all the "right" politico-ethical values in place--and all the "wrong" ones formally discredited--is a reliable remedy for such problems? We don't, and shouldn't, let Muslim leaders off the hook merely for making the brutalization of women punishable under law, but do we really extend the same standard of scrutiny to ourselves?

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Old 01-17-2006, 07:53 AM   #17
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Originally posted by yolland
We don't, and shouldn't, let Muslim leaders off the hook merely for making the brutalization of women punishable under law, but do we really extend the same standard of scrutiny to ourselves?
No we don't extend that, and I don't want to imply for one second that we shouldn't. Some of the very same people who are outraged by these "honor killings" would want to gloss over the problems we have in the US with violence against women and the murder of women by their husbands/boyfriends. All of this violence is equally horrific and needs to be condemned.

That was a very informative post you wrote, thanks. It's nice to see you back here.

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