Culture / Stephanie Edwards

‘Honour Killing’: Product of Religion or Culture?

The life sentences given to an immigrant family from Afghanistan by the Canadian Judiciary last Sunday, have raised controversial questions on cultural and religious integration in the West.

Mohammed Shafia 58, his wife Tooba Mohammed and their son Hamed denied ‘honour killing’ family members: Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13 and Shafia’s first wife, in his polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Muhammad, 52.

Speaking out on the topic, Nazira Naz Tareen, Founder and past president of Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organisation said, to the National Post- that it is a cultural not religious issue and Islam is not responsible for such ‘honour killings.’ Just as Christianity is not held responsible for cases of violence from Christians:

“The Qur’an says if you kill one human being, it’s like you’ve killed all of humanity,” she says. “If you save one human being, it’s like you’ve saved all of humanity…it’s totally, totally cultural and it’s totally against the teachings of Islam.”

Aisha Gill, Guardian journalist, suggested the cultural and religious implications convoluted and diminished what was fundamentally oppression and domestic violence against all women:

“…By focusing on the subject of honour, such violence is too often explained away by cultural stereotypes – allowing society to dismiss these cases as something that only happens in minority communities with their “outdated” notions of justice. This allows us to completely overlook that, first and foremost, these cases are of violence against women, and the concept of honour is being used to legitimate the continued oppression of women.”

Others argue crimes committed for honour have significant importance to religion and believe there are fundamental differences between common cases of domestic violence crimes and honour crimes.

Philis Chelser, writer for the Middle East Quarterly suggests: “When a husband murders a wife, too often law enforcement chalks  the matter up to domestic violence…Honour killings are, however, distinct from wife battering and child abuse. Analysis of more than fifty reported honour killings shows they differ significantly from more common domestic violence.”

Do you think honour killing is a religious or cultural phenomenon?

Stephanie Edwards 06.02.12

Picture source: learn-about-islam.com Protest against ‘honour’ killing

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