Every day I pick up the newspaper, daring to hope that perhaps today is the day when I will not see a news item that has become as much of a permanent fixture in the newspaper as the date on top. The headline usually says “man kills wife” but is by no means limited to this relation; any and all women kin are fair game in this practice of murdering in the name of honour.
Our society is complex, to say the least. It is this complexity, perhaps, that somehow makes us believe that women are the sole vessel of a man’s honour whether as a wife, a sister or a daughter. It is irrelevant how women are treated in each of these roles; the only time their existence is of any importance is when they have transgressed the lines drawn for them by individuals in particular and society at large. Considering that many of our cultural practices are directly or indirectly, correctly or incorrectly derived from our religious beliefs, it belies all logic that such ignorance is accepted and practiced with the frequency that it is. Islam gave women unprecedented rights not just in terms of material provisions or inheritance but also in terms of social standing and interaction. Thus we saw women being given the highest of honours as mothers, equal rights as wives, just provisions as daughters and so on. Yet it is appalling how these decrees from God are boldly overruled these days for land, money or simply lust.
Where does one get the right to take another human being’s life simply because a perceived sense of ‘honour’ is slighted? In many cases even that excuse is not considered necessary. Domestic arguments are one of the most frequent reasons behind cold blooded murder, going so far as to include the relatives of the wife, who happened to be at the scene when the angered husband forced his way into the house of his in laws. I can understand divorce, abhor physical violence but outright murder is something which can neither be explained nor excused. Once this line is crossed, there should be only one course of action; the gallows or life imprisonment.
Just as horrific, is the practice of marrying a young girl to the Quran. It is to me equivalent to murder. This is such a vile tradition followed usually in remote rural areas that it makes one sick to the stomach. First it is an offence done by one’s own relatives, usually men wearing the mantle of guardianship. Secondly it is in direct violation to God’s law. For the sake of a few acres of land, an innocent girl is sentenced to life imprisonment, for it is nothing less, denied all joys in life, forced to live her life as a hermit devoid of love or basic human interaction. Nothing could be worse. It is like confining a living person to a grave and to make is socially acceptable the whole loathsome affair is wrapped up in religious blasphemy, where a cleric is invited to oversee the nikah of the girl to the Quran. The only thing unbelievable in the whole affair is that man can stoop to such depths.
Hypocrisy knows no bounds. What is acceptable behaviour in a son is readily denounced in a daughter to the extent of being labelled a crime worthy of execution. This is usually when the girl marries according to her own wishes and the match is unacceptable to the parents. I don’t by any means encourage clandestine behaviour and whole heartedly denounce a course of action by which parents are socially humiliated, yet if things come to such a pass it must be understood no matter what your beliefs are on the subject, one cannot pursue a homicidal recourse. Killing your own daughter will not undo anything, it is not allowed in Islam and it makes one a criminal. How is honour protected through this course of action if neither God nor society approves of it?
The question then is how to eliminate this plague of ‘honour killings’ in our society. The most effective and immediate remedy is the upholding of the law. If one is guilty of murder one should be punished for the same. Justice has an uncanny ability to reform even the most base of individuals.
In addition to this we really need to educate the masses, give them a chance of reforming, of becoming better human beings. Whatever your station in life, you can benefit some one less fortunate than yourself by equipping them with the ability to overcome the ignorance that governs their thinking, their actions, their lives. Only swift retribution and enlightenment can create a society where no one can associate an act of murder with a sense of honour.