How can we stop honour killings?

Aljazeera: Disturbing cases of extreme violence against women from around the world have come to the fore in the past few weeks. Farzana Parveen’s murder in Pakistan highlighted the country’s dismal record of women killed in so-called honour killings. According to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission, 869 women were murdered in 2013 in what were said to be “honour killings”

Sensationalist media quickly picked up Parveen’s story and blasted the familiar stereotypes and misrepresentations, sidelining a much-needed open discussion on misogyny. 

The so-called honour killings is one manifestation of violent and criminal practices against women that seem to persist in places such as PakistanAfghanistan and several other Muslim-majority countries. Some are quick to seek the causes of this deplorable act in religion, when in fact Islam stands clearly against it. Therefore, it is important to expose the faulty logic behind such accusations and openly discuss violence against women and honour killings in the context of Islam as well as in the context of perceived social norms of honour

Understanding the ‘honour code’

It is important first to consider the concept of honour itself. Renowned philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah’sanalysis of honour and his idea of moral revolutions can be particularly useful in this case. His book The Honour Code explores the processes that ended three abominable practices related to honour: duelling in Britain, foot-binding in China and slavery in the British Empire. According to Appiah, what ended these practices “wasn’t the moral arguments …, it was the willingness to live by them.” 


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