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I have watched with great interest the ongoing debate about Muslim honour killings. On the one hand, Islamic apologists predictably maintain that Islam does not condone such conduct. Conversely, most Islamic critics do blame Islam for one reason or another. However, I have yet to see a discussion of the subject that I considered complete and which definitively resolved the debate. I tried to offer that discussion/analysis here to any rational, open-mined person.
There is much in Islamic doctrine itself that can and does directly lead to honour killings and I will discuss some but not all of that material in this analysis. Only a fraction of the material is needed to prove my case. However, before I launch into the material that directly supports Muslim honour killings, I want to start off with the most important reason, albeit indirect reason, why I believe honour killings are so prevalent in Islamic culture and among Muslims. The simple answer is the way in which women are depicted in Islamic doctrine which then poisons over-all Islamic culture.
Honour killings undeniably preceded Islam and that fact is used by Islamic apologists—many of whom are no doubt practicing taquiyya and Jihad of the Pen—to support their arguments, but the mere fact that honour killings precede the advent of Islam hardly exonerates the religion. Murder, rape, and robbery existed prior to Islam, but that hardly means that Islam should not be blamed for the murder, rape and robbery it commands, sanctions and patently causes. Most aspects of Islam existed in some form before Muhammad. Muhammad simply borrowed from Arabian Paganism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and heretical Christianity in order to develop Islam as a new, syncretic religion. Hence, if we exonerate Islam for anything that existed before its advent, we have to exonerate Islam as a new religion as well.
The worst thing that Muhammad did to the World was to falsely claim that his ideology and policies were from Allah, who he claimed to be the one God and therefore had to be followed for all time. Equally disastrous was his claim that Allah repeatedly commanded that Muhammad had to be obeyed and his life was a perfect model of behaviour for all time. The end result is that he developed a religion wherein morality was determined by looking at Muhammad's inherently flawed seventh century ideology and practices. Muhammad created a religion and culture that is in large part significantly locked in the past. Muhammad attributed his philosophy, wants and desires as the word of Allah; and in doing so, he has prevented the Islamic world from advancing as it should have.
One Hadith claims that Muhammad had said: 'Islam cannot change' (Fn 1). If Islam cannot change, it should be no surprise that an Islamic culture, so overwhelmingly influenced by Islam, also has difficulty adapting and changing and, as such, its decline, continued difficulties and deplorable attitude and treatment of women are in large part to be directly attributable to Islam and its inherent flaws.
Islamic doctrine directly leads to the restrictions on and prejudices against women in Islamic culture that impedes the rights and advancement of women. It was not all that long ago that European attitudes and treatment of women were much worse than today. However, the approach toward, and treatment of, women in European culture was not mandated by actual religious doctrine. As such, European culture was able to and did advance women's rights over time. Islamic culture did not fare so well as a direct influence of Islam. We refer to the Islamic world using its majority religion to identify the culture for a compelling reason: Islam is more than just a religion. In its original form, Islam is a complete social, political, and religious way of life that absolutely dominates the lives and thoughts of fundamentalist Muslims. Islam overwhelmingly drives and dominates Islamic culture and it would be hard to overestimate Islam's role in the sad state of Islamic Civilization, including its treatment of women.
It is beyond credible dispute that Islam is an inherently misogynist religion that has resulted in untold discrimination against women. Muhammad taught that captured women were lawfully subject to slavery and rape by their male captors (Fn 2). Note that, in the Quran, references of "those whom your right hands possess" is a euphemism for captives and slaves. Today, it continues to be applied to non-Muslim women working in Muslim households in Islamic countries. It is common to hear reports of workers in Islamic countries, especially Saudi Arabia, being raped by their male employers (Fn 3).
Islamic doctrine is no more enlightened with respect to Muslim women. Muhammad declared that women are intellectually inferior to men and that they comprise the majority of Hell's occupants (Fn 4). One hadith records Muhammad as stating: "Women are naturally, morally and religiously defective" (Fn 5).
The Qur'an describes men as being above their wives, demands women's obedience to their husbands, demands that women cover themselves, and states that their husbands may beat them (Fn 6). Muslim women are given less of an inheritance than men. (Fn 7)
Today, probably the most terrible aspect of Islamic discrimination against women is that their testimony in court is considered to be worth only half that of a man's (Fn 8). This law, in addition to other aspects of Sharia Law, yields the terrible result that if a woman wants to prove that she was raped, then she must have solid evidence beyond her own testimony as the male rapist's testimony is deemed to outweigh her testimony as a matter of law. Muslim women, who fall victim to rape, sometimes find themselves jailed or stoned to death for reporting rape, because since it cannot be proven, they have effectively admitted to adultery (Fn 9).
Based on the foregoing, it seems obvious that Islam has directly impedes women's rights to advance in Islamic culture as would have otherwise been expected. Bernard Lewis eloquently assessed the problem as follows:
"According to Islamic law and tradition, there were three groups of people who did not benefit from the general Muslim principle of legal and religious equality* - unbelievers, slaves, and women. The women were obviously in one significant respect the worst-placed of the three. The slave could be freed by his master; the unbeliever could at any time become a believer by his own choice, and thus end his inferiority. Only the women were doomed forever to remain what she was - or so it seemed at the time" (Fn 10).
In my view, so it still seems.
In short, by declaring negative attributes to women as being determined by both himself and Allah, Muhammad created a situation wherein women's rights failed to advance. In the context where a man is angry, because his wife, daughter or sister is perceived to be violating Sharia Law, it is far easier to kill a woman, even a relative, when you have been led to believe that women comprise the majority of Hell's occupants and that she is "naturally, morally and religiously defective." (See Fn's 4 and 5)
Equally important, Islam is not a religion that teaches and promotes a general sense of love. There is no equivalent of 'love thy neighbour as thyself' or 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' in Islam. The hatred generated by Islamic doctrine is palpable upon even the most cursory reading of Islamic doctrine. In addition to such religiously sanctioned conduct as murder and robbery, the Qur'an refers to non-Muslims in numerous derogatory ways and clearly teaches that non-Muslims are fair game for almost every type of indignity and violence. The Qur'an states that non-Muslims are not to be taken as a friend (3:28), confused (6:25), to be terrorized: "I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them" (8:12), to be made war upon (9:5 & 29), to be considered unclean (9:28), evil and a helper of evil against God (23:97 & 25:55), to be punished (25:77), humiliated (37:18) and hated (40:35), to be beheaded (47:4) and laughed at (83:34), and assumed to be plotting against Muslims (86:15).
As if there could be any doubt based on the foregoing, the earliest biography of Muhammad originating from Ibn Ishaq flatly quotes Muhammad as stating: "Muhammad is the apostle of Allah! Those with him are violent against Unbelievers but merciful to one another… "The Qur'an is in accord: "Muhammad is the apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other…" (Fn 11)
Islam generates so much hatred that even some of Muhammad's early successors and companions, who should have received overwhelming respect and support from Muslims, were instead murdered by fellow Muslims. A religion that cannot even promote peace and harmony amongst the companions of its founder is clearly deficient in compassion and elements of peace. One only has to look at Islamic doctrine to see that it inherently generates hatred and loathing for non-Muslims and that hatred and loathing spills over to women that are not being obedient to their male masters and Islam as the Qur'an and Hadith dictate. At that point they are often perceived as apostates, or dishonourable to the family, clan, society and to Islam itself. It is here that direct Islamic doctrine comes into play, because once the purportedly offending woman's conduct has risen to such as level, as deemed by her male master or relatives, that Islamic doctrine directly authorizes her death.
Islamic doctrine demands the killing of apostates (also blasphemers of Islam). That murderous command is vaguely set forth in the Qur'an, chapter 9, verse 12, but clearly set forth in the Hadith (Fn 12).
In light of such attitude toward women generated by Islamic doctrine, Qur'anic verses 18:74,78,80-81 can be, and often are, easily interpreted as supporting honour killings. A reading of the verses reveals why:
'So they [Moses and another man that is not identified other than as being learned in Islam] twain journeyed on till, when they met a lad, he slew him. [Moses] said: What! Hast thou slain an innocent soul who hath slain no man? Verily thou hast done a horrid thing. He said: This is the parting between thee and me! I will announce unto thee the interpretation of that thou couldst not bear with patience. And as for the lad, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief. And we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in purity and nearer to mercy.'
The foregoing verses also establish that in addition to apostasy, failure to believe and the rather ambiguous crime of 'rebellion' allow for a justified killing lest the parents be 'oppressed' and so that they might have a better child.
Many honour killings are done due to belief or fear that adultery has or might occur. In the case of actual adultery, Muhammad did establish a hard-to-meet evidentiary burden in order to save his beloved child-bride Aisha, but angry Muslim males easily avoid that hurdle by also attributing offending behaviour such as going out without permission or the violation of other Islamic rules regarding veiling, being with unrelated men, etc. as 'rebellion' for which no clear evidentiary standards are applied.
Given the low place women hold in Islamic doctrine and the few if any sources of support or assistance available to them in their culture, they are virtual slaves to however their male guardians control their life, with little hope of intervention unless they live within a larger non-Islamic culture that they can escape to or appeal to for help.
I have not gone into the rather difficult nature of Islam's honour culture. That culture precedes the advent of Islam and, in my view, is hard to wrap up in a way that is comprehensible to anyone that has not lived within such a culture. For those interested in understanding honour culture, I suggest Raphael Patai's excellent book titled 'The Arab Mind.' Suffice it to say, however, that the honour culture is easy to reconcile with Islamic doctrine and its associated lack of love and compassion and it is no wonder that it survived the advent of Islam.
By now, hopefully you have come to agree with me that Muhammad is in fact an unindicted co-conspirator in Muslim honour killings. Even Muslims have tacitly admitted the truth of my observations about Muhammad. In 'The Future of Islam', Wilfred Scawen Blunt accurately points out that Islam is not amenable to change, because even 'students of the Sheriat (Sharia Law) have not inaptly compared the Koranic law to a dead man's hand [Muhammad's hand], rigid and cold, and only to be loosened when the hand has been cut away.'
Such an observation, given that Sharia Law is based on the Quran and hadiths, both of which are either the work of Muhammad or based upon his life and statements, reveals the nature of the Islamic faith as inextricably entwined with the life and beliefs of Muhammad. It is hardly a giant stretch from that obvious and unassailable conclusion to see why a barbaric practice such as honour killing that continues into the modern world is directly attributable to Muhammad himself and, therefore, to Islam.
If Muslims are to love women as much as fellow men, as one rightfully should, if Muslim women are to receive equal treatment as men to which they are entitled—the grip of Muhammad's 'dead hand' must be cut off from the modern world everywhere Islam holds sway.
· Fn. 1: Al Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 88, Number 174
· Fn. 2: Fn 17: Qur'an 4:24 and 33:52
· Fn. 3: See e.g., http://hrw.org/reports/2004/saudi0704/7.htm#_ftn145
· Fn. 4: Al Bukhari 2:28 and 6:301
· Fn. 5: Al Bukhari 3:195
· Fn. 6: Qur'an 2:228, 4:34, and 24:31
· Fn. 7: Qur'an 4:11
· Fn. 8: Qur'an 2:282
· Fn. 9: http://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/pakistan/
· Fn. 10: What Went Wrong, (2002) Bernard Lewis, p67-69
· Fn. 11: Qur'an 48:29
· Fn. 12: Al Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52, Number 260: "The Prophet said, 'If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him.'"