Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide. A manual of Islamic law certified as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, says that "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right." However, "not subject to retaliation" is "a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring." ('Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2). In other words, someone who kills his child incurs no legal penalty under Islamic law.
The Palestinian Authority gives pardons or suspended sentences for honor murders. Iraqi women have asked for tougher sentences for Islamic honor murderers, who get off lightly now. Syria in 2009 scrapped a law limiting the length of sentences for honor killings, but "the new law says a man can still benefit from extenuating circumstances in crimes of passion or honour 'provided he serves a prison term of no less than two years in the case of killing.'" And in 2003 the Jordanian Parliament voted down on Islamic grounds a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. Al-Jazeera reported that "Islamists and conservatives said the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values."
In light of all this, until authorities get the courage to tell the truth about honor killing, there will be many more such murders.
"Pakistani wife in disputed marriage gunned down in court by her brother," by Jon Boone in the Guardian, August 5 (thanks to Block Ness):
So-called honour killings by families who believe their daughters have disgraced them are increasingly common in Pakistan. But the gunning down last week of a woman by her brother, a lawyer, in front of dozens of witnesses in a packed courtroom in the bustling city of Hyderabad marks an alarming new low.
The family of 22 year-old Raheela Sehto had already made their fury at her marriage to Zulfiqar Sehto – a love match struck without their permission – abundantly clear. They reacted by filing a claim with local police that their daughter had been kidnapped by her 30-year-old husband, a life-long neighbour who had wooed Raheela over the years, although largely through clandestine mobile phone conversations.
Her uncle had tried to throttle her with a scarf at an earlier appearance at the high court in Hyderabad in July. The couple had petitioned the court for its protection and to try and have the kidnapping charges thrown out.
But Sehto, a university graduate working for the local electricity company, said they felt they had no reason to fear for their lives in court, even when in the earlier part of the morning he was sitting almost directly in front of his wife's eventual killer, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, her brother.
Shortly after the two judges had returned to their seats after a break, Shaikh, dressed in the black suit and tie of his profession, produced a gun he had smuggled into court, lunged at Raheela and shot her point-blank in the left side of the head.
"Before she fell to the ground, my wife was looking straight at me," said Sehto. The gunman, Shaikh, then tried to shoot Sehto, but was overpowered by police.
Although furious families have succeeded in killing their daughters in police custody before, it is the first time such an incident has occurred in open court.
The killer managed to evade security checks, including two sets of metal detectors and body searches, because he was one of the country's obstreperous lawyers – an entitled group that has been known to assault policemen violently.
"The lawyers, they don't like to be searched," said Amjad Shaikh, a police superintendent in Hyderabad, the main city in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh. "Security is a little bit of a problem there."
Apparently unrepentant, Shaikh gave interviews to journalists later, while in custody, saying he had "lost my mind".
"I did that in rage because she had dishonoured the family," he said to a Pakistani newspaper. Four other family members who accompanied him in court have also been charged over the killing.
"Everyone is very shocked by this because it happened in an educated family," said the police officer. "Normally, honour killings happen in the rural areas where people are not educated."
In the countryside such crimes can even be given the imprimatur of local "jirgas", informal and illegal justice systems run by communities that enforce tribal lore.
The superintendent added that the involvement of the Shaikhs was also unusual, saying they are known for being "peaceful".
The Shaikhs of Sindh, originally migrants from neighbouring Punjab, tend to enjoy high levels of education, are traditionally involved in trade and are little connected with tribal custom.
According to the latest survey of violence against women by the Aurat Foundation, a rights group, there were 2,341 honour killings in 2011 in Pakistan – a 27% jump on the year before. The report also said there were more than 8,000 abductions and 3,461 rapes and gang rapes.
But the figures were just "the tip of the iceberg", it warned, saying researchers relied on those cases that were reported in the media only....