“Honour Killings” typically refers to killing of a person by family members in order to protect the reputation of the family. Such killings have been common in Pakistan and several other Muslim majority countries. There have been several cases of honour killings in UK by Pakistani immigrants. As per a report published by Middle Eastern Forum in 2010, 91% of the perpetrators of honour killings were Muslims. The detailed report can be found at: http://www.meforum.org/2646/worldwide-trends-in-honor-killings
The recent killing of Pakistani Model Qandeel Baloch by her own brother has once again brought the issue of honour killings to attention of the world. There is absolutely nothing in Holy Quran or the teachings of Islam, where it is justified to kill a family member in order to protect the honour of the family. Several fatwas are issued in this regard. Yet, the honour killings in Muslim majority countries hasn’t stopped, leading to speculation in Western media that honour killing has to do with Islam. Recently, DailyMail, a popular news portal in UK was forced to retract the headline that mentioned “Islamic Honour Killing” after Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruled that, there is no basis in of such honour killing in Islam. More details about this story can be found here.
So, why does Honour Killings Happen in Muslim Majority Countries?
We believe, the main reason why people indulge in honour killing in Muslim majority countries is because of a loophole in the legal system. Most of the Muslim countries have a law that allows the family members of the victim to pardon the perpetrator of the crime. In case of honour killing, since the perpetrator is a family member itself, he/she gets pardoned by the family members, thereby walking free.
In fact, in many cases the perpetrators were well aware of this law and committed the crime being fully aware that they will walk free. For example, the law in Pakistan allows the family of Qandeel Baloch to pardon her brother for killing her and there is already speculation in Pakistani press that he would walk free. Given the planning that went behind murdering Qandeel Baloch, it’s no guessing that her brother was well aware of the legal loophole before committing the crime. There are several cases in the past, where perpetrators of honour killing walked free in Pakistan.
What needs to be done?
The concept of pardoning the perpetrator by the family of the victim is derived from Islamic Jurisprudence to a large extent. The concept of pardoning applies in cases such as, the perpetrator has committed the crime unknowingly or has served enough time in prison or going through a severe medical condition, which deserves pardoning. However, there are several clauses in Islamic Jurisprudence that needs to be applied in case of honour killings, which haven’t been fully formalised in the legal systems of Muslim countries. This ambiguity has led to exploitation of the loophole by the perpetrators.
All the Muslim Countries, where cases of honour killing have been observed, must re-look into their legal system and ensure that loopholes in the law are fixed, so that no perpetrators of the honour killing is allowed to walk free.