'Honor' Murders – Why the Perps Get off Easy
By Yotam Feldner*
[*Yotam Feldner is the Director of the MEMRI TV project.]
This article originally appeared in the Middle East Quarterly, December 2000.
On May 31, 1994, Kifaya Husayn, a 16-year-old Jordanian girl, was lashed to a chair by her 32-year-old brother. He gave her a drink of water and told her to recite an Islamic prayer. Then he slashed her throat. Immediately afterward, he ran out into the street, waving the bloody knife and crying, ‘I have killed my sister to cleanse my honor.' Kifaya's crime? She was raped by another brother, a 21-year-old man. Her judge and jury? Her own uncles, who convinced her eldest brother that Kifaya was too much of a disgrace to the family honor to be allowed to live."  The murderer was sentenced to fifteen years, but the sentence was subsequently reduced to seven and a half years, an extremely severe penalty by Jordanian standards.
 Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1998.
Why do I have a feeling I know which way this is going?
Today, honor killings are prevalent mostly among Muslim populations. ...
 United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Asma Jahangir, on Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of Disappearances and Summary Executions (New York: United Nations, Jan. 2000), p. 27.
"Today, honor killings are prevalent mostly among Muslim populations."
The report then goes on to highlight five connections between honor killings of women and Islam:
This custom is, in other words, deeply rooted in a devout society that does not view honor killing as an aberration from the teachings of Islam.
Second, if honor killing originated in pre-Islamic Arab tribalism, it has long since been incorporated into Islamic society and thereby become common throughout the Muslim world….
Third, honor killings fit into a wider pattern of customs that flow from the texture of Muslim life without specifically being required by Islam, yet still enjoy the blessing of Muslim authorities.
Fourth, it bears noting that the policy of "not taking the law into one's own hands," which dominates Islamic authorities' circles, is less than an unequivocal moral and religious prohibition of honor murder. The refusal of Islamic authorities to unambiguously denounce honor killings signals to the public that this practice does not necessarily contradict Islam.
Fifth, the already ambiguous Islamic objection to honor killings becomes even less effective when considering the way mainstream Islamic scholars interpret the Qur'anic verse (4:34) that legitimates wife-beating….
The report finishes…
The honor murder phenomenon has become a social plague in many Muslim societies around the world. Despite its clear pre-Islamic pagan origins, contemporary Islamic authorities usually refrain from unequivocally condemning it. Some important Islamic scholars in Jordan have even gone further by declaring honor-crimes an Islamic imperative that derives from the "values of virility advocated by Islam." This unwelcome development does not come as a surprise when the almost consensual approval of both Muslim public and leadership is considered.
There is a website that deals with this: International Campaign to Stop Honor Killings
Looking down the page today, the 29 incidents reported are nearly all among Muslims in the Islamic World. There are a few among Muslims in Israel, the United Kingdom, or the United States.
Only one is not related to Islam: a case of a Cuban emigre in the United States.
We must never let it be said that men throughout the Islamic world have no honor.
March 1 Update: See Gates of Vienna post entitled All Her Dreams Will Warm and Sweeter Be.