I have to admit, I have heard a very small sprinkling of stories about this. Thinking that, "Yes it happens - but not often."
Au contraire my friends. Turns out, it is very common and unfortunately accepted by many.
I have a "blog friend" that writes about controversial arab issues. Her blog is titled " Rebellious Arab Girl." The reason I started following it was to begin to understand more of the "unspoken" negative issues within the arab community. See, I am married to an egyptian. Yes, they are considered arab. And yes, he is muslim. I love my husband dearly, and luckily, I get to see a very beautiful side of his culture. My husband is very religious, and to my surprise, when asked if he thought honor killings were okay, he replied, "Yes, in some circumstances. It is Islamic Law, Nicole. "
On the otherhand, he also told me that a good muslim would not do the acts that would warrant a honor killing. Then I asked, "Sooo... what if an American, non muslim commited an act. Would they still be executed?" and the answer was - Yes. Then I asked, "How do you prove it?" He answered, "witnesses." Then I asked, " What if you don't have witnesses?" He said, " You have to promise to Allah four times." Then I asked the most obvious question, "What if the man is lying?" then he replied, "Then he will answer to Allah when he dies."
Of course being the feminist that I am - I had to ask this question, "Does this go for men also. Can a woman claim the same thing?" He says, "Yes." (That's good to know. But I wonder what the stats are on that one.)
What surprises me, is this is what happens in a court of law. Seriously. If a woman commits adultry, by law, she can be executed. Some men do take matters into their own hands and basically receive a "slap on the wrist" and do a little time.
Here is what wikipedia says about Honor Killings:
An honor killing or honour killing (see spelling differences, also called a customary killing) is the murder of a family or clan member by one or more fellow family members, where the murderers (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family, clan, or community. This perceived dishonor is normally the result of (a) utilizing dress codes unacceptable to the family (b) wanting out of an arranged marriage or choosing to marry by own choice, (c) engaging in certain sexual acts or (d) engaging in relations with the opposite sex. These killings result from the perception that defense of honor justifies killing a person whose behavior dishonors their clan or family.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000.
My question next was - where do these happen??? I found a map that will blow your mind:
Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as follows:
Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that "dishonors" her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.
The loose term honor killing applies to killing of both males and females in cultures that practice it. For example, during the year 2002 in Pakistan, it is estimated that 245 women and 137 men were killed in the name of Karo-kari in Sindh. These killings target women and men who choose to have relationships outside of their family's tribal affiliation and/or religious community.
Some women who bridge social divides, publicly engage other communities, or adopt some of the customs or the religion of an outside group may thus also be attacked.
In countries that receive immigration, some otherwise low-status immigrant men and boys have asserted their dominant patriarchal status by inflicting honor killings on women family members who have participated in public life, for example in feminist and integration politics.
Women in the family do support the honor killing of one of their own, when they agree that the family is the property and asset of men and boys. Alternatively, matriarchs may be motivated not by personal belief in the misogynistic ideology of women as property, but rather by tragically pragmatic calculations. Sometimes a mother may support an honor killing of an "offending" female family member in order to preserve the honor of other female family members since many men in these societies will refuse to marry the sister of a "shamed" female whom the family has not chosen to punish, thereby "purifying" the family name by murdering the suspected female.
There is some evidence that homosexuality can also be perceived as grounds for honor killing by relatives. In one case, a gay Jordanian man was shot and wounded by his brother. In another case, a homosexual Turkish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in the hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey's first publicized gay honor killing.
There are two videos I highly recommend you watch now:
According to the UN in 2002:
"The report of the Special Rapporteur ... concerning cultural practices in the family that are violent towards women (E/CN.4/2002/83), indicated that honour killings had been reported in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean and Persian Gulf countries, and that they had also taken place in western countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, within migrant communities."
There is a strong positive correlation between violence against women, and women's social power and equality; and a baseline of development, associated with access to basic resources, health care, and human capital, such as literacy - as research by Richard G. Wilkinson shows. In a male dominated society, there is more inequality between men, and women lose out not just physically and economically, but crucially because men who feel subordinated will often try to regain a sense of their authority in turn by excessive subordination of those below them, i.e. women. (Interestingly, he says that in male-dominated societies, not only do women suffer more violence, and worse health: but so do men.)
How about America? We know it happens here. Here is a video you might find interesting:
According to Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, the practice "goes across cultures and across religions."
2007 study by Dr. Amin Muhammad and Dr. Sujay Patel of Memorial University, Canada, showed how Islamic honor killings have been brought to Canada. He wrote: "When people come and settle in Canada they can bring their traditions and forcefully follow them. In some cultures, people feel some boundaries are never to be crossed, and if someone would violate those practices or go against it, then murder is justified to them." He also noted that there are hundreds of cases annually in his native Pakistan. He added that "In different cultures, they can get away without being punished -- the courts actually sanction them under religious contexts"
An article in the Spring 2009 edition of Middle East Quarterly argues that the United States is far behind Europe in acknowledging that honor killings are a special form of domestic violence, requiring special training and special programs to protect the young women and girls most subject to it. The article suggests that the fear of being labeled "culturally insensitive" prevents US government officials and the media from both identifying and accurately reporting these incidents as "honor killings" when they occur. Failing to accurately describe the problem makes it more difficult to develop public policies to address it.
Personally, it is a human rights issue. When posed with the question, do you support the death penalty in America, I can assure you that I do not. I guess, in these countries that view honor killings as part of the sins of man - perhaps they view adultry/pre marital sex, etc just as bad as "we" (Americans) see murder. Can we deny the fact that it is clearly stated in the bible that you should not commit adultry? Is it not seen as a sin that could land you in hell?
Something to think about.. and more importantly.. pray about.
Again - I am simply blown away.