I feel strongly offended to see how scores of articles and speeches on topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and honor killing often bypass the secondary Islamic documents supporting these issues. This attitude of denial has only given us the destruction of countless Muslim women and a bad name to Islam.
Records of the empires of Hammurabi, Assyria, Napoleon, Rome and more show that honor killing goes across culture, region and religion. Historically, a woman’s “chastity” is the property not of herself but her family. As this phenomenon now is dominant in Muslim societies, we should look into how sharia law impacts this brutal culture.
Family members of a girl or woman – mostly men -- kill her for “bringing shame to the family” by not fulfilling their expectations of love, sex, clothing, behavior, intimacy, fidelity – including even a flirtation with men on Skype, Twitter, through SMS, etc. Even chatting on Facebook is prohibited, as declared by Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, a senior scholar in Saudi Arabia.
Let us look at real scenario. After the sister/daughter is killed, there are two sets of sharia law to apply:
Case A - “Punishment of intentional killing is death”. But, “A killer cannot be put to death if one or all heirs of the victim pardon/s him or take Blood Money”- Codified Islamic Law Vol 1 – 41, 44 (The Codified Islamic law is a three volume compilation from mainly Hanafi law written by six Islamic scholars and published by the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh.)
As the family already lost the victim, they do not want to lose another one (the killer). So, the killer may be ordered to pay blood money to his own family. It is also quite natural that one or all of the heirs of the victim pardon/s the killer. Politically and financially powerful killers in Muslim countries can easily force the victim’s poor helpless family to take the blood money and “pardon” the killer. In this case, the state is powerless to prosecute the killer.
Case B - “Parents and Grandparents will not be punished (by Hudood) for killing sons or grandsons.”- Shafi’i law # o.1.2.4 & Codified Islamic Law Vol 1-65B. [Hudood are Islamic laws stating the limits ordained by Allah and including the deterrent punishments for serious crimes]
It does not mention daughters or granddaughters but in essence, it applies to them too. This law was based on so-called Sahi Hadith (Prophet’s examples); see Sahi Ibn Majah Vol 4- 2661, 2662, Sahi Tirmiji 1404, 1405 & 1406:
These man-made sharia laws and hadiths are the main tools of legitimizing violence in the name of Islam and are one of the main reasons of growing global Islamophobia. We Muslims must apply our right to reject those laws based on logic and human rights.
Application of these laws varies, but honor killers are hardly punished. This brutality is supported by some vote-seeking local politicians in Pakistan. From the Quran and the Prophet we can successfully defeat all kinds of oppression of women in the name of Islam except FGM and honor killings.
Unfortunately, I did not find enough support to defeat those from Islamic sources.
We have a long way to go. Education/enlightenment is the only key. The West cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving the Muslim world behind; we also cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving our women behind by oppressing them.
The author is member of advisory board of World Muslim Congress, General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and Canada-Representative of Free Muslim Coalition.
The following is Raheel Raza's response to an article attacking the Clarion Project's film Honor Diaries written by Sheema Kahn and published in the Canadian Globe and Mail, titled,"We can end honor killings, but not with films by anti-Muslim zealots."
Raza, who appeared in the film, is a prominent anti-Islamist Muslim activist. Khan is the former director of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood entity) in Canada.
The Globe and Mail refused to publish Raza's response.
Ms. Khan has vaguely alluded to human rights in her article about Honor Diaries, but has tried to turn this human rights disaster into an international fiasco rather than address it for what it really is – a problem within Muslim majority societies. To know this, one must look at some of the facts:
- According to the International based violence awareness network, there are 1,000 honour killings in Pakistan each year – these are only the reported ones.
- In 2010, 35,000 child marriages were conducted in Morocco.
- 90% of Egyptian girls are subject to female genital mutilation (FGM)
There’s much more, but to make a point – since many of these atrocities are taking place in Muslim majority countries– why the denial and knee-jerk reaction?
We can only start to resolve a problem by first exposing it, and this is what Honor Diaries does, if Ms. Khan has taken the time to see the full documentary. Ms. Khan’s sentence “Western civilization good. Muslims kill for honour. Muslims bad.” is definitely her own paranoia.
How long will we sweep these problems facing Muslim women, under the rug? We live in a time when hide and seek is an obsolete game.
Facts are staring us in our face. If Iran and Saudi Arabia have a police force to measure the dress of women, we obviously have a problem of individual freedoms, not to mention the inability to drive or move around independently for many women.
Ms. Khan enjoys the freedoms of Western democracy, but how can she as a Muslim woman close her eyes to the atrocities being committed upon our sisters? Ms. Khan seems to be more interested in the lives and background of the film makers.
Seriously? Was she unable to find anything specific in the film to critique?
In her article Ms. Khan mentions Aruna Papp who is a champion for women’s rights. For her information, Ms. Papp was a VIP guest at the Toronto screening of Honor Diaries and expressed great admiration for the film.
Ms. Khan comments: “There is widespread doubt that the filmmakers actually care about the lives of women at risk.”
I would suggest, they obviously care more than the “caring” Muslim Organizations who have never exposed any of the ills we speak about in the film.
If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind about Muslim organizations endorsing FGM, they just need to read this piece about US Muslim Jurists sanctioning this horrific practice.
Raheel Raza is an award winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of Jihad and Sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality and diversity.
While the world has been transfixed over the reelection of President Obama and the scandal currently surrounding General David Petraeus, two important legal decisions were rendered in cases of honor abuse and killings here in the Southwest of the United States.
The first was the disappointing and frustrating decision on November 6, by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer, to accept a weak plea agreement negotiated by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in the case of Aiya Altameemi (19). The plea sentenced Aiya’s parents and sister to two years’ probation with domestic violence terms. For those of us entrenched in work to counter ideas that feed pathological cases like this, this plea deal sends absolutely the wrong message.
Aiya’s family was arrested in February for two separate incidents where the family had beaten their adult daughter Aiya for speaking to a boy, gagged and bound her hands and feet, cut her lower neck with a knife and burned her face and chest with a hot spoon. The family reportedly was upset over Aiya’s desire to get out of an arranged marriage with a 38-year old man.
While honor violence is not accepted or prescribed by moderate interpretations of the Islamic faith, Aiya’s torture and oppression at the hands of her family is an all too familiar story in too many Muslim and Middle Eastern communities around the world. The plea deal that was approved by the judge and the prosecutors ignores the very likely possibility that Aiya will probably face severe recrimination from her family that could include further violence and will likely include ostracization, banishment and potentially the forced marriage that was the initial reason for the violence.
The family’s meager punishment diminishes the import of this case and the suffering of women in our communities. It oddly seems more in line with what one would expect in Pakistan or Jordan where honor violence is accepted and pushed under the rug, but not in the United States where our legal system is supposed to protect the rights of all people and lady justice is blind. Honor violence cases are accelerating in the United States. We need our legal system to educate itself on the seriousness of these crimes and render punishments that are commensurate with the crime.
As we saw with Faleh Almaleki, and the honor killing murder of his daughter Noor, the perpetrators of these crimes hold their supposed “family honor” in much higher regard than human life and the U.S. judicial system. The future Noors and Aiyas of the world cannot afford to depend upon a judicial system that tells the men in their world that it will make allowances for “cultural” variations.
The sentence in Aiya’s case will reunite this very young 19 year-old with a family who do not believe that they have done anything wrong or violated any laws. The legal slap on the wrist will do little to keep this family from further harming their daughter, whether physically or mentally.
We can only hope that Aiya does not end up like Shaima Alawadi who in March was allegedly murdered in her home in El Cajon, CA by her husband Kassim Alhimidi, for petitioning for a divorce. Shaima’s story sparked national attention when a note was found next to her body that read “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
Despite circumstances that clearly pointed to her husband’s involvement in the crime, national Muslim organizations used the killing as an opportunity to drive a message that America is victimizing American Muslims, calling the killing a hate crime.
One blogger went as far as claiming that because El Cajon has a significant military community that an “Islamophobic veteran” had committed the crime. Linda Sarsour, Director of the Arab American Association of New York, dismissed concerns over honor violence and instead used Alawadi’s story to draw parallels on CNN with the Trayvon Martin story which was grabbing attention at the time frame.
With no evidence Sarsour had the audacity to draw a line between Martin’s Hoodie and Alawadi’s Hijab reinforcing a message of racism with no real evidence to drive the claim.
On November 9, 2012, after eight months of no justice for Shaima, El Cajon police arrested Kassim Alhimidi for her murder calling the case a clear issue of domestic violence and not a hate crime.
This delay begs the question if prosecutors in this case were slow to arrest Alhimidi because of the reaction of American Muslim organizations and fear that if they did not exhaust all avenues, they would be crucified for being politically incorrect.
The actions of these Muslim leaders and the delay by the El Cajon police department again diminish the import of this case. Shaima Alawadi died for exerting her basic human rights of wanting to live her life as a free woman. She was violently bludgeoned by her husband for this crime.
Our society was built on embracing the rights of everyone to be free. It is incongruous with our values to blindly coddle a medieval mindset that relegates women to second class citizens and believes that a man or a family’s honor is more valuable than the life of a daughter or wife.
Our judicial system needs to view these crimes for what they are. Shaima Alwadi’s death was a hate crime – but it was a hate for the equality of women in our society. The beating that Aiya Altameemi suffered from her parents and her sister were not a cultural difference as the family and even Aiya tried to explain.
It was a fundamental indifference for the basic human rights of a young woman which God has given to all people. The punishment sought by the prosecutor and rendered by the judge should have set a higher bar that our society will not tolerate such behavior.
Probation and the unqualified return of Aiya to that home excuses the behavior and encourages its continuance. We can only hope and pray that Aiya’s case not end the way some others have sadly ended.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy, founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. He is the author of Battle for the Soul of Islam. Dr. Jasser served 11 years as a medical officer in the U. S. Navy and was Staff Internist for the Office of the Attending Physician to the U.S. Congress.