This will likely be our final word on the history of honor killings. Though books could be written on the topic and its relationship to modern society — and they have been — our goal is simple: We simply want people to understand why women have been treated as second-class citizens in countries all over the world and, indeed, even here in the United States. As long as we rely on old traditions to lay the groundwork for new laws, these killings will continue.
We’ve discussed the first instances of honor killing around the world, but you may have noticed that we left the Middle East out of that equation. The nomadic cultures that gave rise to the culture of violence and reprisal were the precursors to eventual systems of law that resulted in the subjugation of women at worst, and the idea of male supremacy at best. “Honor killing” is not mentioned in the Quran or related religious texts. So why do Muslim men still feel compelled to kill in the name of honor when such an act is so forbidden by a higher power?
Once again, the answer relies on old practices born from old laws written by only a handful of powerful men who probably weren’t thinking about how their actions might affect future generations.
Sharia law punishes adultery severely, no matter who the culprit is. Gender does not matter. What does matter is that witnesses must be allowed to identify the culprit. And when considering who the witnesses are, gender is important. Only men fit into this role. But authorities are responsible for conviction and punishment — not individuals.
Because of these laws, there are many countries dominated by a Muslim population where honor killing simply does not occur. It does not occur in Indonesia. And the difference between those places where they do and do not occur? Tradition. Only tradition.