Honor violence is the intentional act of abuse and/or violence committed by one or more family members, tribal council members, or Islamic or Hindu leaders against a woman or girl because they perceive her to be rejecting a particular tradition, or cultural or religious norm. The perpetrators believe the only way to restore “honor” is to harm or kill the victim. They maintain that their conduct is justified, and their community expects and supports it.
Expressions of personal autonomy, and a desire to not conform to cultural or religious norms usually triggers for honor-based violence (HBV). Conflict usually arises when a woman or girl:
Honor violence often involves coercion, threats, and harassment. Abuse varies from verbal and non-verbal, and emotional abuse in which the victim is threatened to be disowned, destitute, divorced and deprived of her children. A woman or girl’s family members can also be threatened by the community.
Honor-based violence differs from domestic violence in several ways, as Dr. Phyllis Chesler has identified in the Middle East Quarterly, on her own website and through Understanding How Honor Killings Are Different From Western-Style Domestic Violence. Additionally, she points out the differing characteristics of honor killings and domestic violence in the chart below:
Honor violence is a tragedy that happens around the world, where a family kills or harms one of its members who has brought “shame” to them in some way. Upon initial inspection, honor violence, Judaism, and Christianity seem to have common threads. However, after further study, it is evident that Judaism and Christianity do not condone honor violence.
The Bible’s Old Testament contains a few verses that mention acts similar to honor killings (these verses are also part of the Torah, Jewish law):
Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death. Exodus 21:17
And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father, she shall be burned with fire. Leviticus 21:9
At first glance, these scriptures may lead one to believe that Judaism and Christianity supports honor killings. Ecclesia.org sums up the specific circumstances surrounding the command in Leviticus:
“The penalty of death mentioned in Leviticus 21:9 limits it to only the daughters of a priest. Only these specific women were to be “burnt with fire,” and no other women. Also, this law pertained only to “the sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 21:1- The LORD said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the priests, the descendants of Aaron”…), and it did not pertain to the children of Israel in general. Why? Because the priest was a representative of our blessed Lord, therefore he was required to be especially holy; and he is represented as God’s king among the people. By prostituting herself, the priest’s daughter exposes his person and office, and consequently religion, to contempt. In effect, she is a temple prostitute since her father is a priest in the temple!”
It is evident that what may be considered “honor violence” was commanded only under very specific and rare circumstances, in order to keep the Lord’s name blameless. This is different than the honor violence that takes place in other religions and cultures simply because a girl disobeys or disagrees with her family.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize that when Jesus came, he abolished the Old Testament civil law. Believers were no longer dependent on performing religious rites or sacrifices, because Jesus gave himself as the final and perfect sacrifice (Ephesians 2:14-18). Even if these killings were commanded for a time, they are no longer acceptable. Luke 7:36-50 even records Jesus associating with and forgiving the sins of a prostitute.
The Jewish principle “pikuach nefesh” demands that preserving a life in danger is more important than keeping the law. Honor violence never preserves or benefits a life, so Jewish law and principles cannot and do not condone it.
Just because Christianity and Judaism do not endorse honor killings does not mean that Christians or Jews will never partake in them. Christians make mistakes and sometimes even choose to deliberately sin, therefore disobeying God. Still, honor killings related to Christianity are rare. One recent honor killing in Pakistan has been identified in some articles as a “Christian honor killing.” An interviewee even said that it was the first time he had heard of a ‘Christian honor killing’ in Pakistan in his 14 years working as a human rights activist.
This case of a “Christian honor killing” does not mean that Christianity condones that behavior. It shows that even professing Christians sin and blatantly disobey God. Like the account in Luke 7:50 of Jesus saying to the repentant prostitute, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace,” Christians are called to show forgiveness to sinners, a reflection of God’s ultimate forgiveness of sins.
While Christianity identifies as an extension of Judaism and a fulfillment of the old law, those same laws were nullified by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Judaism and Christianity do not uphold honor violence.
“large majorities of Muslims favor Shari’a law [including] honor killing the woman for sex outside of marriage is favored over honor killing the man in almost every Islamic country. Over half of Muslims surveyed believed that honor killings over sex were at least partially justified.”
Additionally, it reported:
“Among those who do, stoning women for adultery is favored by 89% in Pakistanis, 85% in Afghanistan, 81% in Egypt, 67% in Jordan, ~50% in ‘moderate’ Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, 58% in Iraq, 44% in Tunisia, 29% in Turkey, and 26% in Russia.”
Why is this the case? Islamic law, as understood from the teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith, dictate honor violence and murder of women and girls over men.
From the Qur’an:
“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.” (Surah 4:5)
“The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication—flog each of them with hundred stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by God, if ye believe in God and the last day.” (Surah 24:2)
“Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).” (Surah 17:32)
From the Hadith:
Sahih al-Bukhari: Volume 7, Book 63, Number 196, (See also Volume 7, Book 63, Number 195) narrated by Abu Huraira:
“A man from Bani Aslam came to Allah’s Apostle while he was in the mosque and called (the Prophet ) saying, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.’ On that the Prophet turned his face from him to the other side, whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! I have committed illegal sexual intercourse.’ The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side whereupon the man moved to the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and repeated his statement. The Prophet turned his face (from him) to the other side again. The man moved again (and repeated his statement) for the fourth time. So when the man had given witness four times against himself, the Prophet called him and said, ‘Are you insane?’ He replied, ‘No.’ The Prophet then said (to his companions), ‘Go and stone him to death.’ The man was a married one. Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Al-Ansari said: ‘I was one of those who stoned him. We stoned him at the Musalla (‘Id praying place) in Medina. When the stones hit him with their sharp edges, he fled, but we caught him at Al-Harra and stoned him till he died.'”
Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah al-Ansari:
“A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] and informed him that he had committed illegal sexual intercourse; and he bore witness four times against himself. Allah’s Messenger ordered him to be stoned to death as he was a married person.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 8:6814)
Sahih Muslim No. 4206:
“A woman came to the prophet and asked for purification by seeking punishment. He told her to go away and seek God’s forgiveness. She persisted four times and admitted she was pregnant. He told her to wait until she had given birth. Then he said that the Muslim community should wait until she had weaned her child. When the day arrived for the child to take solid food, Muhammad handed the child over to the community. And when he had given command over her and she was put in a hole up to her breast, he ordered the people to stone her. Khalid b. al-Walid came forward with a stone which he threw at her head, and when the blood spurted on her face he cursed her.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol. 2., pg. 1009; Sahih Muslim Vol. 2., pg. 65:
Hadhrat Abdullah ibne Abbaas (Radiallahu Anhu) narrates the lecture that Hadhrat Umar (Radiallaahu Anhu) delivered from the pulpit of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu Anhu) said,
“Verily, Allah sent Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) with the truth, and revealed the Quran upon him. The verse regarding the stoning of the adulterer/ess was from amongst the verse revealed (in the Quraan). We read it, secured it and understood it. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) stoned and we stoned after him. I fear that with the passage of time a person might say, ‘We do not find mention of stoning in the Book of Allah and thereby go astray by leaving out an obligation revealed by Allah. Verily, the stoning of a adulterer/ress is found in the Quraan and is the truth, if the witnesses are met or there is a pregnancy or confession.”
From Sahih al-Bukhari, “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Whoever guarantees me that he will guard his chastity, I will guarantee him Paradise.'”
The following story is recounted in the Hadiths, Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Abu Dawud, An-Nisa’i and others:
Abu Hurayrah reports that the Messenger of Allah said, “No one commits adultery while still remaining a believer, for faith is more precious unto Allah than such an evil act!”
In another version, it is stated, “When a person commits adultery he casts away from his neck the bond that ties him to Islam; if, however, he repents, Allah will accept his repentance.”
From Sahih Al-Bayhaqi:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O mankind! Beware of fornication/adultery for it entails six dire consequences: three of them relating to this world and three to the next world. As for the three that are related to this world, they are the following: it removes the glow of one’s face, brings poverty, and reduces the life-span. As for its dire consequences in the next world they are: it brings down the wrath of Allah upon the person, subjects him to terrible reckoning, and finally casts him in hell-fire.”
While honor violence and killings do not solely occur within Islamic traditions, the majority of honor violence reported do occur in Muslim-majority countries and communities. According to The Middle East Quarterly, 91 percent of honor killings are committed by Muslims worldwide. A 2013 Pew Research Poll found that: “large majorities of Muslims favor Shari’a law [including] honor killing the woman […]
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