Issues

Honour killings vis-à-vis faith


Case I:

Father rapes and kills teenager for eloping with boyfriend …. (T.O.I. headlines 07/11) "...the father told the police the elopement had ‘tarnished the family name’; her ‘frequent elopement for sex was the reason he raped her and got his friend to do so too.’"

Case II

In a sensational murder a father and brother of a girl engaged contract killers to get rid of her who was adamant on marrying a boy of her choice (belonging to another faith). The killers killed her in the presence of the brother …. Stripped her and cut her in two pieces and dumped the two parts in a well near Indore. The wealthy Memon family hails from Gujarat and the girl had acquired property rights from her mother. The very first question that arises; by taking the law in their own hands did they save the "honour" of the family?

Are these crimes befitting the "punishments" they meted out to the victims? Paying Rs 5 lakh for killing one’s own kin and then spending the rest of his life in jail is not the solution which one uses to solve the problem.

The issue has become not only alarming because of the frequency of such incidents all over the country but has also become a matter of grave concern because of the dilemma in which members of a family get entangled when it concerns the honour / faith of the family.

Killing daughters under the pretext of family honour had been a practice in the jahiliya period prior to the advent of Islam. Islam ensured not only the safety of the girl child but also enjoined on the family rights in the property. This is in addition to a decent upbringing - education and marriage a father is enjoined to ensure.

Modernity brought several unforeseen problems in the lives of the faithful. What should one do in a situation of this nature when an adamant daughter refuses to listen to the entreaties of the family caring a damn for the Shari’ah injunctions? In a multi-religious society such situations have become quite frequent.

What are the options that a family has? Keep quiet and wait and allow things to take their own course of action. Quite often, the two decide to elope. After a few months the boy kicks her out of his life (if he is dishonest and insincere). The girl either commits suicide or returns to her family with a child in the womb. Again, the family may grant her shelter and allow the child to be born or flatly shut the door on her face and ask her to fend for herself.

The second option that honour-conscious families frequently exercise is to get her married to someone as soon as possible. With the passage of time either the girl returns to sanity or makes the life of her spouse hell who may divorce her or kill her. The third option also results in death of the girl (or both) as the two examples cited above unfold. The ultimate result of such actions is financial loss, jail custody for kins and dishonour which people try in vain to save the family from.

In a Shari’ah-compliant government the matter could be taken to a Qazi and the administration would take action it deemed fit. But we are living in the 21st century world where Shari’ah governments are conspicuous by their absence.

Islam teaches us to rigorously follow the right to life. Taking the law into one’s hands is neither legally nor theologically justifiable. It deprives a person an opportunity to repent or reform. Very often we see that the mad fever called “made for each other” often subsides and with proper counselling the parties begin to see the wisdom of marrying within the faith. In some instances conversion seems to be the solution. However, because of legal ban on conversions and because of zealots / fanatics a matter of two families engulfs, quite often, the entire locality / community in violent outbreaks. The couple-to-be ignores this very harsh reality: what kind of doom they are inviting for their entire community by following the dictates of their hearts.

In these days of instant communication when every family is bombarded with inputs from T V, film, internets and mobiles from which we cannot cocoon the young people we must evolve some kind of counselling mechanism. We cannot afford to maintain an ostrich like approach by burying our heads in the sand.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2013 on page no. 2

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