From the northern UK cities of Bradford, Rochdale, and Manchester to the rural areas of Pakistan, the grisly issue of honour killing persists. This has recently surfaced in the media, with the savage killing of Farzana Parveen, a 25-year-old pregnant woman, literally bludgeoned to death with bricks and stones by family members, for having married the man she loved. It beggars belief, how anyone can do this to their own flesh and blood. What kind of values do these people carry? Whatever it is, I can see no reference in Islamic law, and the life of the Prophet (saw), to remotely endorse such barbarism and cruelty.
One of the first Quranic injunctions forbade the killing of daughters; the pre-Islamic Arabs used to bury them alive, because it brought shame. For that same reason of ‘shame’, family members of Farzana Parveen collectively plotted and murdered her. It gets worse, in another case, a couple in Pakistan, killed their daughter for allegedly looking at a boy, and another family killed two teenage girls for ‘dancing’ in the rain, yes like most 15-year olds, they were engaged in some form of frolic enjoying themselves; they were not stripping or performing some lewd dance in front of a group of rowdy men.
These men and women who carry out these gruesome acts I wonder what sort of standard they set for themselves; don't tell me these self-righteous ‘holy’ people do not look at the opposite gender and take an interest. I recall few years back, a BBC documentary interviewing a young Pakistani Asian boy with a similar attitude, and he says, if anyone approached my sister I will deal with it. I wonder if he has set the same benchmark for himself, thus, maintain distance from sisters of other men! From his trendy appearance, I am pretty sure he is seeing a few ‘sisters’ himself. Of course, if one of those sisters happened to be a local white girl that doesn’t even count, they are ‘halal’ freebies. For the UKIP/EDL folks, the halal used here is sarcasm, so chill with your pints in the pub.
In the case of Farzana Parveen, what was the crime according to Islamic law, since marriage is a virtuous act? The ‘crime’ according to their backward cultural mindset appears that Farzana married a man, who was not chosen by the family, but does this really warrant killing? According to Islamic law, blood can only be shed in some cases, and only if the alleged crime has been brought to the court, tried and convicted, under the rigorous criteria set by the Sharia laws. Going further, let us assume the issue was one of adultery. However, this does not give the parents, the family members or anyone else the right to start applying the Islamic penal code through some cultural filter; the allegation has to be brought in front of judge first. The only criminals here are the family members for murdering an innocent woman and her unborn child.
Apart from the so-called honour, another issue that underlines this is forced marriages; the parents assume, it is their sole right and responsibility to ensure their daughter marries the man they have chosen for her. In most cases, the marriage goes ahead with potential long term consequences. For example, can you imagine years later, when one of the spouses find out, the other was in love with someone else. Oh yes, even men are coerced or bullied at times to wed someone chosen for them. On this note, almost everyone has a story to tell.
There is no coercion in forming any contract, and this is also applicable to marital contact, thus the term “forced marriage” is an oxy-moron. According to the Hanafi legal School that is dominant in Pakistan, a woman has every right to choose her spouse. Few years back, I was discussing this issue with a reputable Hanafi Scholar from India, he pointed out that the Quran clearly endorses that a woman can enter into a contractual agreement over business matters; therefore, by greater reasoning, she can secure her marriage contract. There are some differences, if she is a young virgin, but for a divorcees or widowers there is consensus among almost all the legal schools that she is entitled to marry the man of her choice, without the need to secure permission from a male guardian (wali). However, for peace and harmony to prevail, one should do their utmost to gain approval of the family members; political considerations are just as important as complying with the minimum legal requirements.
I am disappointed that Muslim groups and scholars have not been vocal enough to condemn this gruesome honour killing, and their inaction contributes towards an ongoing perception, largely fuelled by the Islamophobic media that this sort of act is sanctioned by Islam. Concurrently, it also gives the Islamophobes a freehand to tarnish the entire Muslim community, based on the actions of a tiny group of people. The parents of the 17 year-old Shafilea Ahmed from Bradford, gave the same reason of ‘shame’ being brought on the family, after they murdered their daughter. The local Pakistani community remained silent, almost endorsing that viewpoint. If only they came out to the streets and protested, vocalising that the only shame is the murderous acts of the parents - and that would have sent a very positive message to the rest of the community.
These Muslim parents should remember, we do not own our children, they are individual human beings, a gift from the creator, and we are the trustees, all we can do is provide them with the best possible guidance in life, and they will bear the consequences of their actions; the Quran reminds us of this, the son of Nuh (AS) did not follow his father, there is no guarantee that our children will always follow our paths and wishes.
Yamin Zakaria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published on 31/05/2014