There are thousands of “honor killings” throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world each year. A man in Hayat Abad (in South Waziristan, Pakistan), for example, who moves in with a woman against the wishes of the woman’s family is perceived to have stained the honor of her family (even if said family has never stepped foot in Amman or anywhere near it). Murders are plotted and occur, and then the woman’s clan settles up blood money for her killing. Or they don’t, in which case a blood feud starts, usually lasting for generations. (For American readers, the Hatfield-McCoy feud lasted just over thirty five years with the killing of about fifteen people, including a few due to a ‘blood honor’ excuse.)
The perpetrators believe that, in killing the ones involved in the loss of honor (something perceived just by them), that the stain is erased. There have been cases of honor killings across the planet, almost always by people strongly connected to tribal influences. I say tribal because honor killings are not part of Islam, nor are they part of any form of Sharia law practiced or promulgated in normative cultures.
Honor killings are more than just anti-Sharia and tribal. They are the ultimate form of abuse of women for their gender. Killing the woman and not the man? After all, in most societies where this practice occurs, women are little more than chattel in the marriage and mating process. Wouldn’t the man be the logical target? But no, preying on the helpless woman, punishing her for having her own say in her life, is the real reason for this behavior. If they can’t be cowed into being proper property, then they have no place, living, in the clan.
Killing for honor is something that has been part of almost every culture. Yes, even American Christians have committed murder in the name of family honor. But again, these acts are about violence against women, not something practiced by any religion. The closer a family is to living in a clan, in time or distance, the more likely this is to occur. It’s the job of societies where law and justice are found at the hands of civil government to flense this primitive form of extreme abuse of women. Or they stand on the side of those whose sense of honor betrays the peace and sanctity of the lives of innocents. Unfortunately for the women of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, their government’s laws exempt honor killings from civil justice.