Speaking about honor killings in the Islamic world is certain to bring you a charge of “Islamophobia.” But here we learn that “it is difficult to change laws that people are used to it and considered it as Sharia.” Indeed it is. And it is even more difficult when the people who should be working to change those laws are instead in denial about the problem itself. The authorities in this article who are saying that honor killing is not sanctioned by Sharia should be supported by Muslims in the West, who instead prefer to pretend that the whole thing isn’t happening.
“Honour crime fear of Syria women,” by Lina Sinjab for the BBC News (thanks to B.):
Seventeen-year-old Bushra is too scared to give her real name. She talks in a low, trembling voice, her face full of fear.
“They want to shed my blood, they want to kill me,” she says, as she recounts how she escaped being murdered by members of her own family in a so-called “honour killing”.
A Sunni Muslim, she had fallen in love with Fadel, from Syria’s Alawite Muslim minority. He went to her family to ask for her hand in marriage, but he was rejected.
The family said Bushra must marry her cousin. But on their wedding day, she ran away with the man she loved and family members began to hunt her down, to “erase the dishonour” she had caused.
Bushra’s story is not an exceptional one in Syria, where women’s organisations estimate more than 200 women are murdered every year by brothers, cousins or fathers.
The Syrian authorities are trying to crack down on the practice of “honour killing”, and they have widespread support.
About 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the practice, in a campaign backed by senior Muslim officials.
It is an issue for all communities – Christian, Muslim and Druze – says Daed Musa, a lawyer and women’s rights activist
“The laws are old and go back to the 1940s. No woman can feel safe under the current legislation.”
Murders considered to have been in defence of honour are not considered a “crime” under Syrian law, but an “offence”. It carries a maximum penalty of a year’s imprisonment, but could be reduced to a month by a judge.
Some families entrust the task of erasing dishonour to a juvenile, further reducing the penalty.
After Zahra’s death, the NODW renewed the campaign, circulating the petition and mobilising religious clerics to denounce the killing.
Syria’s top Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Hassoun, rejects any suggestion that “honour crime” is sanctioned by Islam.
He explains that Islamic law requires four witnesses for the crime of adultery – an almost impossibly high burden of proof, which means in effect that no-one can be found guilty of it.
The mufti believes, however, that the starting point should be in education and tolerance especially with religious preachers.
“It is difficult to change laws that people are used to it and considered it as Sharia. In many cases, it is traditions rather than laws,” he says.
“What we need is to educate people and spread awareness among the society. The problem is when you have people preaching at mosques and don’t have a profound knowledge on Islam.”
No women can be protected of an act of killing unless legal changes are introduced. This will take political will to actually happen. Until then, women in Syria will still be at risk.