First Published: 2004-12-08

Do honour killings have any basis in Islam?

Experts tell conference in Stockholm honour killings have no basis in Islam or any other religion.


Middle East Online

By Pia Ohlin - STOCKHOLM

Honour killing is quite common in Jordan

So-called honour killings are most common in Muslim countries but they have no basis in Islam or any other religion for that matter, experts said as an international conference on the subject wound up in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Honour killings are often seen by relatives as the only way of avenging a family's honour if a woman is thought to have brought shame on her family by being unchaste.

But while such killings are regular occurrences in certain parts of the Middle East and Asia, experts stressed that Islam does not condone or support such crimes.

"Islam does not support these kinds of killings," said Guldal Aksit, Turkey's state minister responsible for women's issues.

Nilofar Bakhtiar, an advisor to Pakistan's prime minister on women's affairs, agreed.

"Islam gives freedom to women to choose their husband, and the freedom to divorce... There are lots of similarities between Islam and international law when it comes to women's rights," Bakhtiar said.

She said only extremists or fundamentalists would interpret Islam as condoning honour killings.

In such cases, "Islam is not being represented in the true sense," she said.

Several of the delegates said honour crimes were the result of ignorance and a misinterpretation of what honour really means.

"There is no honour in any crime," said Bakhtiar.

Aksit stressed that the factors underlying the problem varied from country to country and said it "can not be attributed to religion".

The phenomenon is increasingly being seen in Western countries, where it often affects second-generation immigrants torn between the more liberal society they have grown up in and the strict, traditional upbringing their immigrant parents want to maintain.

In Sweden, two cases have hit the headlines in recent years, including that of a 26-year-old Kurdish woman who had campaigned in the Scandinavian country against the practice and who was shot dead by her father because she had had a relationship with a Swedish man.

Some 200 government officials, experts and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Wednesday wound up their conference on patriarchal violence and honour crimes hosted by the Swedish government.

Delegates on Tuesday said that the practice could only be eradicated by improving women's role in society. Educating and empowering women gives them a stronger place in the family, experts said.

Statistics on the frequency of the honour killings remain shadowy, as the brutality usually occurs in the family's home and goes unreported to authorities.

The Stockholm conference is aimed at increasing the exchange of information and experiences and foster cross-border engagement and dialogue. A final declaration was to be presented later Wednesday.


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