Pakistan ‘honour’ killing: Why clerics’ call may fall on deaf ears

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Source: BBC

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Pakistan has declared that killing in the name of family honour is un-Islamic and against the law. The group, which advises the government on religious aspects of law and society, issued its statement after a recent spate of killings shocked many in Pakistan and around the world. Will anyone listen?

What did the clerics say?

The Council of Islamic Ideology – which came under fire last month for suggesting husbands should be allowed to lightly beat their wives – said it had declared such killings to be un-Islamic in 1999, and made clear it was restating its position following a spate of killings in recent weeks.

Council of Islamic Ideology chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani speaks to journalists in Islamabad on 26 May 2016Image copyrightFAROOQ NAEEM/GETTY
Image captionCouncil of Islamic Ideology chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani speaks to journalists in Islamabad

A working group formed to look into the matter has recommended that while “adultery, obscenity and immodesty are grave sins and Islam prescribes harsh punishments for them, it does not allow an individual to act in an extra-judicial manner”.

The CII said it was up to the courts to declare an individual guilty or innocent.

Its statement says that anyone guilty of such killing should be tried under a range of existing laws that cover different categories of murder. These laws, it says, are in conformity with Islamic teachings and therefore no new legislation is required.

Why now?

There have been at least four cases in the past month in which a woman was killed in a marital dispute. It is alleged the murders were carried out by family members or relatives of a rejected suitor, either on their own or following the verdict of local elders.

Last week a young woman, Zeenat Rafiq, was allegedly burnt to death in Lahore by her mother for marrying without family consent, triggering widespread anger.

Hassan Khan shows the picture of his wife Zeenat Rafiq, who was burned alive, allegedly by her mother, on a mobile phone at his home in Lahore, Pakistan Wednesday, June 8, 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionHassan Khan said his wife Zeenat Rafiq’s family had “lured her back”, promising a wedding reception

A week earlier school teacher Maria Sadaqat was set on fire in Murree near Islamabad for refusing a marriage proposal. She died of her injuries.

And last month a teenager was burnt to death near Abbottabad on the orders of village elders because she helped a female friend to elope, police said.

On Sunday, ahead of the CII statement, a group of Pakistani clerics issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, declaring honour killing to be against the teaching of Islam.

How bad is Pakistan’s honour killing problem?

According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), at least 109 people were killed for “honour” during just four months, between January and April this year.

Human rights monitors say the incidence of such killings is on the rise. The HRCP reported 1,100 honour killing incidents in 2015, 1,105 in 2014 and 869 in 2013.

Increased media coverage may be one reason but changing lifestyles amid continuing social conservatism are also a major factor.

For example, women’s education and their exposure to changing lifestyles and fashion in the media have been growing. Mobile phones and the internet have also empowered many women.

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