January 30th, 2012
01:30 PM ET

Islam doesn't justify 'honor murders,' experts insist

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Zainab Shafia's crime was to run off to marry a man her parents hated. Middle sister Sahar's crime was to wear revealing clothes and have secret boyfriends. Youngest sister Geeti's crime was to do badly in school and call social workers for help dealing with a family home in turmoil.

The punishment for all three teenage Canadian sisters was the same: death.

Their executioner: their brother, acting on instructions from the father to run their car off the road.

Another family member, their father's first wife in a polygamous marriage, was also killed.

Hamed Shafia, his father, Mohammed, and his mother, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, were sentenced to life in prison for murder, with Judge Robert Maranger excoriating their "twisted notion of honor, a notion of honor that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honor that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."

Leading Muslim thinkers wholeheartedly endorsed the Canadian judge's verdict, insisting that "honor murders" had no place and no support in Islam.

"There is nothing in the Quran that justifies honor killings. There is nothing that says you should kill for the honor of the family," said Taj Hargey, director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford in England.

"This idea that 'somehow a girl has besmirched our honor and therefore the thing to do is kill her' is bizarre, and Muslims should stop using this defense," he said, arguing that the practice is cultural, not religious in origin.

"You cannot say this is what Islam approves of. You can say this is what their culture approves of," he said.

The Shafia family is originally from Afghanistan.

Experts say honor murders take place in many parts of the world.

"It's definitely a problem that happens in many different places: the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh and among immigrant communities in North America," said Nadya Khalife, a researcher on women's rights in the Arab world for Human Rights Watch.

Several Arab countries and territories, including Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories, have laws providing lesser sentences for honor murders than for other murders, Human Rights Watch says.

Egypt and Jordan also have laws that have been interpreted to allow reduced sentences for honor crimes, the group says.

Reliable figures of the number of honor murders are hard to come by, Khalife said, but she pointed to a United Nations Population Fund estimate of 5,000 per year.

Khalife agreed that the practice should not be blamed on Islam.

"It's not linked to religion; it's more cultural," she said. "There have been several Islamic scholars who have issued fatwas against honor killing."

Mohammed Shafia, who denied murder, said himself in court that Islam did not justify honor murders.

"In our religion, a person who kills his wife or daughter, there is nothing more dishonorable," he testified.

But Shafia was heard condemning his dead children in wiretapped conversations played in court.

"May the devil defecate on their graves! This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?" he said.

Hargey, the director of the Muslim Educational Centre, said violence was sometimes the result of painful transition.

"Muslims are in a state of flux," he said.

"They are between two worlds: the ancient world and the new technological age," he said. "Women are getting rights and the ability to choose their own spouses. The family in Canada didn't know how to respond to this: the conflict between the discipline of children and the new reality."

Irshad Manji, the author of "Allah, Liberty and Love: Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom," said there was another conflict at work in honor murders, a term CNN uses in preference to "honor killings" because the latter phrase does not properly describe the crime.

It is "a tribal tradition that emphasizes the family or the tribe or the community over the individual," she said.

Although the practice may not be Islamic, she said, not all Muslims understand the distinction.

"It is a problem within Islam because of how Muslims often confuse culture and religion," she said. "It's Muslims who have to learn to separate culture and religion. If we don't, Islam will continue to get the bad name that it gets."

But one vocal British campaigner against honor violence points out that not all the crimes are perpetrated by Muslims.

Jasvinder Sanghera, who was the victim of a forced marriage, is not Muslim; she is Sikh.

"Significant cases are happening within South Asian communities, be it Pakistani, Indian, Sikh, Muslim, Kurdish, Iranian, Middle Eastern communities," she said.

"And we have to recognize that because the statistics don't lie. I am not standing here trying to embarrass those communities. But equally, those communities should be ashamed because this is happening in their community and they are not taking a stand," she said.

On the other hand, honor murders are not a problem in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.

"No such a practice can be found among Indonesian Muslims," said Azyumardi Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta, Indonesia.

" 'Honor killing' is, I believe, a cultural problem among Arab and South Asian Muslims. I don't think that kind of practice has an Islamic basis," he said.

Although women and girls make up the overwhelming number of victims, there have been at least some male victims, including Ahmet Yildiz, a gay Turkish man whose fugitive father is the main suspect in his 2008 shooting death.

Britain has had about a dozen honor murders per year for the past several years, said Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

He, too, said the crimes were not justified by Islam.

"This comes from tribal customs where the father - not both parents - see children as their property. A girl decides to marry somebody of whom their parents do not approve, and they conspire and find some way to kill and dispose of this body," he said. "This is a kind of misplaced shame that parents feel that their daughter has decided to marry somebody of her choosing, not theirs."

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service has an expert devoted to prosecuting honor-based violence, Nazir Afzal.

Convicting perpetrators can be difficult, he said.

"There is a wall of silence around this, and people are not prepared to talk," he said.

But Afzal insisted that it was "absolutely important that you bring every single person to justice because you want to deter other people from doing it."

And along with the Islamic scholars and human rights advocates, he rejected out of hand the idea that religion justified it.

"At the end of the day, murder is murder. There is no faith on Earth, no community on Earth that justifies this," he said.

"Abrahamic faiths say 'Thou shalt not kill,' " he pointed out. "At the end of the day, nobody should die for this."

CNN's Paula Newton, Atika Shubert, Bharati Naik, Ashley Hayes, Ivan Watson and Becky Anderson contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Canada • Islam • Violence

soundoff (2,115 Responses)
  1. Ricki

    Commands to kill infidels Kafirs Non Muslims.

    The difference between Islam and Christianity


    Death penalty for apostasy in Islam

    There is No Satan but Allah the Pagan Moon God,War God,Sword God,the beast 666 Lucifer the crescent Moon and Muhammad was the messenger of Allah,Muhammad have formed Islam he was a False prophet he was the messenger of Satan he was an terrorist,rapist,pedophile,murderer,beast,polygamist not a Human.

    February 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • lhpogo

      Alla, Yaweh, and Jesus are the same god. All three–Islam, Judaism, and Christianity–are Abrahamic religions.

      Nice try.

      February 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • goi

      You are right Rocking we pray that the whole world to know the other side of Islam which build on killing, lying, stealing polygamy, (all in their book and said by their who called himself prophet) ....etc. To the whole world I say, Islam is not a religion it is a cult. they're foxes in the sheep clothes. The most well educated people of them are brain washed. They translated their book incorrectly to appear good. Thanks Ricki for this true highlight.

      February 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Peace

      In response to Ricki

      #1: As for Islam commanding to kill infidels. There is not a single, I repeat, A SINGLE verse in the Holy Quran which calls Muslims to go forth and kill Non-Muslims!! I challenge you, to bring forth your Most Powerful argument (i.e: a statement from the Holy Quran) which instructs Muslims to kill Non Muslims. If it ever says that, it only says it in "self-defence". If you had read the Holy Quran, you wouldnt be taking such a cheap shot! It is very easy to take things out of context. So to solve this issue once and for all, you give me your best argument, and I will then answer it!

      #2- As for christianity, true christianity leads to Islam,I suggest you read this:

      #3-Death penalty for Apostacy in Islam????? Please give a single verse from the Holy Quran!!

      #4- Your last 3 sentences are just abuse and Islam teaches me to always take a moral high, so I will and say "peace" and end it here.

      For anyone else reading this, yes it is true that there are henious crimes being committed in the name of Religion, but it is unjustice of the highest degree if you judge a religion for the actions of people who are corrupt and driven by greed and power. Would it be correct to judge Chritianity for the actions of the Crusaders?They killed people in the name of religion! chritian religion! But Alas, we will never do the same unjustice and say the Christianity of Jesus pbuh taught this.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  2. Rick

    Islam is not a religion of peace,Islam is a religion of hate violence submission slavery and terror,the fastest growing religion in the world is Christianity the only true faith and the most negative growth religion is Islam,but in fact Islam is not a religion but is an fascist ideology,each year 40 million Muslim leave Islam only in the West 20% of Muslims have left Islam,in Africa each hour 1,000 Muslim accept Christianity.
    People who convert to Islam they do this just for money.

    If you want to now more about Islam visit this web sites
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com ,

    February 1, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Peace

      Please see this website for the truth about Islam:


      February 2, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  3. Zaheer

    If you really want to have a excellent analysis of this issue.

    Please have a look:


    February 1, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  4. Yousaf Khan

    “Honor killings” have nothing to do with Islam which is a religion that stresses religious freedom in its sacred scriptures the Qur’an: “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:257), “Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; Thou hast no authority to compel them.” (88:22-23), and “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (16:126)

    Truly, “honor killings” have nothing to do with Islam whose founder waged a holy war against female infanticide. In Islam, true honor lies in following the ways of God Who Himself does not enforce His will on His creation. Those who kill for the sake of their “honor” have inherited an erroneous understanding of honor which stems from their culture and not religion. This is the reason that “honor killings” exists among Christians living in the Middle East, which shows that it is truly a cultural trait that has nothing to do with religion. The Media has a responsibility to highlight this and not spread Islamophobia.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  5. Raheel Parwez

    Islam = Peace

    One who kills a human being will be as if he killed all of mankind.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • BG

      Unfortunately, Muslims only consider other Muslims as human. Kaffir aren't included and therefore don't count.

      Oops. You gotta read the fine print. Devil's in the details.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Raheel Parwez

      Every man is human, Kaffir or not, I don't know what you're getting at. Calling a man a pig does not mean he's not human.

      February 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  6. Thinker

    The Holy Quran already prophesizes that human beings will commit excesses in the world regardless of the clear Quranic injunction of respecting human life and dignity (see below the verse). To attribute "honor killing" to Quran is also part of the excesses that the ignorant people are committing against the God. If you are God’s enemy, you will be Satan’s friend so choose your side carefully!

    Holy Quran Chapter 5: Verse 55
    "We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. And Our Messengers came to them with clear Signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses in the land."

    February 1, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    islam means a religion of peace and obedience to Allah,and Allah does not allow mankind to kill eachother.if someone disobey the commands of God,it is his own mischief.for example, if a school management makes some rules,the rules are for every student.if some of the students do not abide by the rules they are liable to be punished or expelled.in the same way the teachings of islam are for every muslim,if someone is not acting according to the true teachings of islam then he is doing wrong and islam as a religion is not wrong,so it is unfair to blame islam as a religion.for true teachings of islam visit http://www.alislam.org

    February 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  8. Khurram

    Islam is a religion of peace. The killing of one human being is like the killing of all humanity.

    February 1, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  9. ziahshah

    Islam values every life as infinite in value and equates killing of an innocent person to a holocaust. Allah says as it reconfirms teaching given to the Jews:

    We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. And Our Messengers came to them with clear Signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses in the land. (Al Quran 5:33)

    The Quran also warns that there will be plenty, who will violate this teaching!

    February 1, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  10. Andrew











    February 1, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • hasson

      Read about the true Islam;


      February 1, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  11. Mr.Surakij Vuthikornpant

    Please allow me to introduce myself,sir.
    My God name's "God",sir.
    My name's Mr.Surakij Vuthikornpant,sir.
    I was U.N. volunteer in humanitarian operations during International Coalition Force's operation's"Infinite Justice","Enduring Freedom","Anaconda","Mountain Lion" during 4th Oct 2001 – 15th Jan 2003,sir.
    To be honest,today,I'm just a normal cilvilian in Bangkok,Thailand,sir.
    But first,before show my opinions.
    Please allow me to show my sympathy & compassion to all of victims & their families too,sir
    By the way,sir..
    With humility,and respect to all people opinions,sir.
    And please allow me to show my opinions about this topic,sir.
    In "Abrahamic tradition,Judiasm,Christianity,I-salami".
    All regulations & rules especially all of Holy Books which believe directly inspired by my "God" should reflected the pure goodness & immutability of my "God"'s will.
    And because directly inspired frm my "God",if some rules of laws in Abrahamic tradition must not conflict to some verses according to all of Holy Books.

    Like I said & I will insist again,sir.
    All regulations & rules especially all of Holy Books which believe directly inspired by my "God" should reflected the pure goodness & immutability of my "God"'s will.

    For Peace ,gloriousness & joy of all humanity of all nations & all living (his creations).

    But something called "honor murder" that some people claimed.

    Please allow me to ask all believers a few technical questions,sir???

    Where is virtues like humility (the selflessness & egolessness)????
    Because I saw somebody only thinking for selfishness for themself interest???

    What about caring for anther people good sakes????

    And where is Peace,gloriousness & joy???

    Where is justify accrding processess of laws ???

    So where is honor???

    Through the actions is reflection of "morality" & morality is reflection of "virtues".
    Basically based upon "7 Heavenly virtues","Chasity,Temperance,Charity,Deligence,Patience,Kindness & Humility."

    All kind of actions should based upon "virtues" & "morality".
    For Peace,gloriousness & joy for themself & another people.
    Without cause anybody emotional sorrow & troubles.

    While pursuit of Peace,through the ways of "true repentance",the ways my "God" guides.
    With omniamrous infinite love of my "God" unconditionally infinitely,for all humanity of all nations unconditionally infinitely,for all living unconditionally infinitely.
    With divine grace of my "God",divine grace of graciousness,divine grace of mercy,divine grace of forgiveness,true repentance,the redemtion,
    There are divine grace of my "God",I recommended,insisted & granted,sir.

    Because Peace as a gift with lve from my "God",everybody deserve.

    "Loving-kindness toward eachother is most desirable & worthy salution" (than any sacrificing lifes ,For worship my "God" appropriately if somebody want to,sir.)

    That's my opinion,sir.
    If somebody disagree,that's ok,sir.
    Just only opinions,sir.
    I ultimately ultimately believe faithfully in "Spirit of Humanity" can help everybody can walkthrough any difficult times together & will prevail all of difficult times,sir.

    By the way,please allow me to introduce myself again but this time properly,sir.

    "My God name's "God",sir."
    "My name's Mr."Surakij" Vuthikornpant,sir."
    "I can be all I can be,uncertainty is very very certain,with my modesty,humility,with highly respect to my "God",my father,my God name's "God",if God said so.so be it,if God's will,so be it,zero to infinite be myself,,,,,my nature."
    "I can be all I can be,uncertainty is very very certain,zero to infinite be myself,,,,,my nature."

    And to show my sincere appreciation to all of excellencies,ladies & gentlemen,all of moral excellence,spirit of humanity who helped another unconditionally with your own freewill & still helping including helped me & still helping
    My friends,"my helping hands",please take a bow from me,I salute you,sir.

    Sallu 'alayi wa salimu tasliman.
    Bowdown,my "God" upon you & peace with worthy salutation.

    "Thank you,thank you very very much,thank you,thank you very very much,really really appreciate,thank you,thank you very very much,I salute you,thank you very very much,really appreciate,thank you,thank you,thank you,thank you,thank you,thank you,thank you."

    To bow down to somebody with humility derive from "worshipping".(My God name's "God",you alone we worship.)

    And because humilty is 1 of 7 Heavely virtue,(In I-salami "Tawadu".)

    So to bow down to someone something somebody with humility.
    Performing "humility" or "any virtues" = "pure goodness" never wrong doing.

    And thank you very very much about your time,reading my opinions,sir.
    Sincerely & faithfully.
    Surakij Vuthikornpant.

    February 1, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  12. John

    Right. Islam doesn't condone honor killings like the ones that have been know to happen in the name of Islam. And Christianity doesn't condone many of the terrible things done by people who consider themselves Christian. Look at the
    police scandal in CT. Cops who you can bet were all...or nearly all...Protestant and Catholic harassed and beat
    Latinos to drive them out of East Haven. It doesn't MATTER what the Bible or the Koran say, because far too often there
    are idiots who persuade the masses that major religions insist on things those religions really don't insist on...and there are endless morons who fall for the nonsense taught by false, extremist leaders.

    February 1, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    It is also NOT not healthy.
    All children and living things are born atheists.
    Prayer is self-delusional.
    Salvation is for those who lack the courage to face life.

    February 1, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  14. K

    Unless you come to Jesus not save don't blive other do have are Muslim
    Must not one of god comment to Moses to his people mustn't use lord name or take lord name in vain or worship false god for only god when word became flesh live among you spoke did many thing in hear and sight and did miracle Jesus saa father also see the son I am great I an and only way in to heaven though Jesus with him know see heaven saw father still not joking he heal from stomach abs my back also saw face he Ted hair big blue eyes and he spea to his children but never he say sin he came down from heaven went aross you and me we didn't have die or go hell by his strips I am heal this man of love he went aross all us don't say thing people it wrong Muslim are peaceful we should come crist one drop his blood save you he say never too later say arm sorry sinner against him sorry doing come back to heavenly father he love you very he has name above all other name is Jesus love know love people don't please people peacemaker hate god love all heart and mind and soul do on other do on to you have bless day ask Jesus into your heart he you only in heaven though Andrew ask Jesus show father he said not with you all this time don't see father look at Jesus also see father there one in same make since he was god he also jealous god children or anything before him wrong he want number one reason want realionship he about reglion he wanting relationship with you all my name show you great might thing never seen before godless have faith Jesus name

    February 1, 2012 at 12:36 am |
    • tim


      February 1, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • physics-lite

      Murder is murder weather it’s for Religion / or Cultural beliefs.

      February 1, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  15. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    Islam gives women almost no rights and treats them like fodder for the male species as so bluntly noted by Aya-an Hi-rsi Ali in her autobiography, In-fidel.

    "Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circu-mcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It's a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hi-rsi Ali escaped – and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women."

    ref: Washington Post book review.

    some excerpts:

    "Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly be-aten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their scre-ams resounded across the courtyards. "No! Please! By Allah!"

    "The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had cas-tes. The Untou-chable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were darker skin. The others would not play with them because they were unt-ouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were tou-chable: we to-uched them see? but also hor-rifying to think of yourself as un-touchable, des-picable to the human race."

    "Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were ki-lled by their families in just two regions (there are 20 regions in Holland). After that, people stopped telling me I was exa-ggerating."

    "The kind on thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia and among the Brotherhood of Kenya and Som-alia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves the feu-dal mind-set based on tr-ibal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypro-cricy, and double standards. It relies on the technologial advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam".


    February 1, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  16. tim

    The problem isn't with the people. It's with the evil text itself and the fact the people believe this evil text.

    February 1, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  17. K

    Telling you not all Muslim are same friend are Muslim your commit like inncolt people get depotef and wrong job should bring people to Jesus see people like you just give life doesn't mean all Muslim are same not all American are the same jury people speak way do true to or not you should be about peace not talking people are Muslim there people when sad kill there children use god name devil come kill desttory Jesus came give ever lasting life never see people in white or Congreve thanks god anything name Jesus people pick go in school will shoot you what doing gun again not got any way not blame Muslim only then Devil come kill soon didn't read your bible know these false Chiat god don't fall it Jesus has his marker which hand and feet he went aross for us we did go hell unless come though Jesus not enter in heaven head out but Muslim know Jesus return on them so does Christian talk what do know arm Christian my husband love me for me understand he my love get mad talk about my people understand Jesus save your life you yourself witness peoria god hold count rabble on judgement he blame then there blood be on your haves just get bible everything in bible happened phoftsee

    February 1, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  18. Aziz

    While reading these comments I have noticed one recurring problem. Many of you are labeling millions to billions of people to one description. In other words, stereotyping is the problem I see. Throughout my lifetime I have seen good Muslims, and bad Muslims. I have seen good Christians, and bad Christians. I also see people blaming the religions, when a lot of the time misinterpretations by the people cause these problems such as war, honor killing and anything of that sort. Also try to look at different things at many perspectives, so that way your comments won't sound so bias or one-sided.

    January 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Hassan

      I agree with you Aziz. Most of the comments are so one sided and biased. The haters were always there. But it's a shame to see them in such a mass!

      February 1, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  19. lowell


    January 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  20. ANDREW

    Let's really talk about Islam.


    January 31, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • BG

      @ Andrew

      Sure. Let's -really- talk about Islam. And Jessica Mokdad, and all those like her.


      People need to get their heads screwed on straight about Islam, so the more we can "really talk about Islam," the better.

      Your turn, 'Andrew.' Tell us all about Islam.

      February 1, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • hasson

      Read about the real Islam;


      February 1, 2012 at 6:05 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.