New campaign targets honour violence

In an online survey of 130 London Muslims — most of them women under 25 — nearly 90% said it’s time to address the issue, which can range from parental pressure and shaming to abuse.

About 35 service providers also completed the survey, which was conducted by the Muslim Family Resource Centre for Support and Social Integration as part of its Family Honour project.

Last week, the centre announced it had hired 22 women to act as community facilitators for the project and they have taken their campaign — Reclaim Honour — to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Nearly half the Muslim respondents to the survey said they knew family or friends who’d experienced violence based on the notion of honour.

Though the highest profile cases involve honour killings, honour-based violence more typically involves shaming or threatening a daughter or sister, and often because the family believes she is betraying the family reputation by her choice of clothing (such as not wearing hijab) or company (socializing with males).

“I think all of us would know someone who has experienced this or we understand why it happens,” said Yasmin Hussain, project co-ordinator. “We’ve worked with families struggling with the issue.”

Some of pressures are not unlike those faced by other cultural communities who’ve settled in North America from more communal countries over the years. Although many in London’s 35,000-strong Muslim community were born and raised here, there are also many families who are still fairly new and adapting to Western values.

One common scenario for families in London involves gossip about girls socializing with boys, Hussain said.

“When people say ‘I saw your daughter with a boy,’ it seems to be a source of anxiety for parents,” said Hussain. Brothers, too, sometimes take on leadership roles in newcomer families where parents are still struggling with language.

Although most survey respondents felt the need to address honour-based violence, few said they’d experienced it. In fact, asked if clothing or choice of friends has been a source of conflict in their families, less than 30% said they agreed.

Though there are cultural specifics to the concept of “honour” in the Muslim community, violence against women is the bigger issue, said the head of London’s Women’s Community House.

“There is a cultural context, but it’s all just another slice of a very complicated relationship: women to men and men to women,” said Kate Wiggins. “It’s men saying, ‘you’re mine, I own you.’ It’s a battle women have always had to fight.

In recent years only a few Muslim girls and young women have sought help from the Women’s Community House after being threatened or abused because a relative thought they were bringing shame on the family, said Wiggins.

As a result, the shelter — which now has some Muslim women on staff — has set out to learn more about the complexities of honour-violence.

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Some of the survey’s findings

Who are victims of honour-based violence?

  • Daughters (according to 98.8% of respondents)
  • Mothers (68.3%)

Who are perpetrators?

  • Fathers (97.6%)
  • Brothers (73.2%)

Forms of violence

Forced isolation, physical/emotional abuse, threatening, denial of resources, excessive restrictions, domestic violence, forced or coerced travel/marriage, killing

Muslim family challenges

  • Parental concern over loss of religious values
  • Peer pressure for parents, kids


“The majority of respondents agreed people gossip too much about behaviours of girls/women.”


“The majority agreed it is important for girls/women to behave properly to maintain honour..”

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