The world today presents a horrific scenario of crime, violence, killing and a determined attempt to destroy the very pillars of social order that sustain peace, tolerance, harmony and human dignity. The lives of millions of people around the world have been ruined and such individuals are experiencing unbearable suffering and witnessing ruthless devastation.

Violence against women is also increasing dramatically. Women are being subjected to different kinds of violence. Domestic violence, acid throwing, female genital mutilation, rape, sexual exploitation and honour killings are among the most pervasive forms of violence against women.

Recently, two very unfortunate incidents took place, one in India, where two teenage girls were raped and then hanged, and the other in Lahore, Pakistan, where Farzana Iqbal, who was three months pregnant, was stoned to death by family members and relatives in a broad daylight in front of the Lahore High Court in the presence of policemen and civilians. This incident thrust the issue of so-called honour killing into the spotlight. What is an ‘honour killing’?

It is the concept of the killing of a family member, usually a female, who is perceived to have brought dishonour and insult upon relatives and family. The reasons give frequently are that the girl/woman did not toe the family line and married someone she herself chose. In such cases, family members allege she is involved in extra-marital relations and, refusing to respect the decision of the family, it amounted to a dishonour for the family and, thus, the family had a right to kill her on such charges.

I think all the motives mentioned to justify honour killings are completely baseless. Honour killing is a contradiction in terms; there is no honour in the unlawful killing of an innocent person.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women globally are murdered this way every year. Last year, 869 women were said to have been killed in Pakistan alone.

These unfortunate incidents are reported and highlighted in the media but to attribute these honour killings to religion is absolutely mistaken. It is true that many unlawful deaths, such as honour killings, are perpetrated in some Muslim countries. However, religion is not behind such deaths, which are the result of tribal or sometimes historic legacy issues, culture or customs and false sense of pride.

Islam has nothing to do with honour killings. This must be understood very carefully.

The guidelines for Muslims lies in the Holy Qur’an and the example of Prophet Muhammad and not the actions of some individual Muslim or country.

What does Islam say matter about honour killing? It says that “whosoever killed a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind (5:33)”.

As far as the issue of marrying someone of one’s own choice goes, Islam gives this right to both men and women. According to Islamic law, the bride’s approval and consent for marriage is compulsory; parents or guardians have no authority to force a girl to marry anyone.

Let me quote a tradition of Prophet Muhammad: “It is narrated that a virgin girl came to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and said that her father had married her with someone but she did not like him. The Holy Prophet Muhammad gave her the option to maintain that marriage or reject it.”

Honour killing is a contradiction in terms

Although, in Islam, boys and girls are not allowed to have private meetings before marriage, they do have the right to see each other and meet in the presence of their parents or elders before getting married. It is narrated that a companion of Prophet Muhammad sent a message of marriage to a lady and the prophet told him: “See her, as seeing will increase the chance of affection and attachment between the two of you.”

The concept of arranged marriages is misunderstood and people think that whatever match is suggested by the parents for the children, especially for the daughters, the children must accept blindly.

Unfortunately, sometimes it happens. But it is entirely wrong. Arranged marriages mean that the parents assist their children in finding a suitable match but it is up to the children whether to accept the suggested match or not.

The above references are clear evidence that Islam gives the right to both men and women to marry someone they freely choose. Also, so-called honour killing is categorically condemned by Islam and those who commit such atrocities must be brought to justice and punished according to the law. Because human life is precious and “there is no honour in killing, whatsoever”.

Laiq Ahmed Atif is president Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.

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