Nasreen Bibi stepped out without her husband’s permission one time too many.
Islamic law forbids women to leave the home without permission from their male guardians, and Nasreen had repeatedly infuriated her husband, Muneer, by flouting this rule.
Muneer considered it an insult. She was humiliating him. She was shaking her fist in the very face of Allah. It could not be tolerated. It must not be tolerated. The last time it happened, he waited for her to come home. When she finally did, he began quizzing her about where she had been.
He did not find her answers satisfactory. There was no telling where she had been, or what she had been doing. He told her – ordered her – to lie face down on the ground. The he ordered her to recite the Six Kalimas, phrases from the Quran that express fundamental elements of Islamic faith. There is no God but Allah Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. I bear witness that no one is worthy of worship but Allah, the One alone, without partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. Glory be to Allah and Praise to Allah, and there is no God But Allah, and Allah is the Greatest. And there is no Might or Power except with Allah. And so on. Nasreen, no doubt terrified by this time and aware of what was to come, complied. As soon as he was finished, Muneer began swinging his axe. Raining blow after blow on Nasreen’s prone body, he killed her, and he didnt stop hacking even then. He cut her body to pieces, and threw the pieces into nearby fields.
When questioned by police, Muneer explained that he did it to provide a lesson to other Muslim women: that they must obey their husbands, as the Quran commands (4:34).
Then last week, a Muslim in Scotland, Regime Ahmmad, pulled a knife and threatened to kill his eighteen-year-old daughter Shyvonne for sharing her bed with a young man to whom she was not married. Shyvonne recounted:
My father said a woman shouldn’t share a bed with a man they are not married to. After that, there was a continuation of what he had been saying about how I shouldn’t show my legs. An Islamic woman is not supposed to show her legs past the knees and stuff like that. After he showed the knife, there was about half a minutes conversation and then I ran out the room. He said I was supposed to be a Muslim and, if I wasnt, he would kill me and then himself. I didnt want to argue with him because he had a knife. He has always been very vocal. He would say he would chop my legs off and things like that.
Such stories are not, of course, found only among Muslims. Domestic violence, domestic abuse, wayward wives, wayward daughters, outraged husbands, and furious fathers are found in all cultures. So, too, are those who threaten death, and kill. But as with wife-beating, sanctioned in the Qur’an (4:34 again), only in Islam is such behavior given divine sanction.
A manual of Islamic law certified as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, says that “retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right.” However, “not subject to retaliation” is “a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offsprings offspring.” (‘Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2). In other words, someone who kills his child incurs no legal penalty under Islamic law.
The Palestinian Authority gives pardons or suspended sentences for honor murders. Iraqi women have asked for tougher sentences for Islamic honor murderers, who get off lightly now. Syria in 2009 scrapped a law limiting the length of sentences for honor killings, but “the new law says a man can still benefit from extenuating circumstances in crimes of passion or honour provided he serves a prison term of no less than two years in the case of killing.” And in 2003 the Jordanian Parliament voted down on Islamic grounds a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. Al-Jazeera reported that “Islamists and conservatives said the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values.”
All this has its effect. It is worthwhile to ponder the question: what would it take for you to kill someone you love? Someone at the center of your heart – a wife, a daughter. It is an action repulsive to every natural bond of affection, such that it must be horrifically wrenching even for the one who commits it, if he has any vestigial conscience, any remaining soul. It’s hard to imagine anything aside from an extreme psychosis that could override the bonds that tie a man to his family to the extent that he would murder family members. But the duty to Allah that was expressed in Nasreen’s final Qur’an recitation overpowers all other bonds and obliterates all other duties.
Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide. Yet whenever it happens in the U.S. or Europe, the mainstream media and local authorities hasten to assure the public that honor killing is a cultural phenomenon that has nothing to do with Islam. Until authorities get the courage to tell the truth about honor killing, there will be many more women like Nasreen Bibi and Shyvonne Ahmmad.