Killing in the Name of Honor

January 29, 2012 Michael Kaufman

On Sunday, an Afghani man, woman, and their son, who since 2007 have been permanent residents of Canada, were convicted of murdering the family’s three daughters and the man’s first wife. The women’s “crime”: the teenaged girls had brought supposed “dishonor” to their family by the way they dressed and the boys they liked. (See CBC news.)   In remembrance of and to honor the murdered women — Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar Shafia, 17, Geeti Shafia, 13, and Rona Amir — this week’s blog is an excerpt on “Honor Killing” from The Guy’s Guide to Feminism, co-written by Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel.


How could murder ever be seen as honorable?    How could something that brings shame and dishonor to families, communities, and nations be confused with honor and dignity?

It happens if we have a society where men think it is their right and their duty to control women, in particular, their sexuality.

We’ve had honor killings in North America – such as in the southern United States in the decades after the Civil War where a black man could be lynched for so much as looking at a white woman.  Such killings were obviously racist murders, but they were also based on the belief that (white) women were the property of (white) men.

We’ve had honor killings in Brazil and other countries when a jilted husband murders his wife and her lover.  Supposedly, such was the only way to restore his honor.

We have honor killings (even if not called that) right here at home when a man murders his ex-wife or ex-girlfriend.  We have them when a young man kills another young man to prove he isn’t gay.  They, too, feel they are restoring their honor.

But the honor killings that are in the news these days happen in some predominately Muslim countries. They happen when women are seen as men’s property.  They have happened when a young woman defies her parents and dates or marries a man of her own choosing.  They have even happened when a young woman has been raped.  It such cases some fathers and brothers feel it is their right to murder this young woman who, supposedly, has brought dishonor to their family.

Such murders are illegal although, until recently, were often tolerated.  Now as more and more Muslim women and men speak out, such crimes are being challenged.

It is important that all of us speak out, united across nations and creeds.

Murder = Murder.