Op-Ed: We can do more to prevent honour killings

Last month, thousands of attendees in Canadian mosques joined Muslim communities across the continent to listen sermons condemning violence against women. At the same time, the Muslims for White Ribbon pledge was shared with more than 50,000 people on social media. The campaign concluded with the White Ribbon Days at the Reviving Islamic Spirit Conference 2014 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

A recurring charge often levelled against Islam, any time a so-called honour killing occurs, is that the religion encourages it. This un-Islamic practice entails the murder of female family members who are seen as dishonouring their families through such acts as unapproved dating, wearing non-traditional clothing, adopting western makeup or styles, or even for exhibiting outspoken and self-affirming attitudes.

The practice of honour killing absolutely does not have any sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic tradition, or in the evolved system of Islamic law. It stands against all the logic and basic principles of Islam, and Canadian imams preach against it regularly.

Deaths that are commonly referred to as honour killings are the actions of individuals who use the notion of supposedly tarnished family honour, along with their distorted understanding of Islamic tradition, to justify and even excuse their criminal actions. Such individuals could not be further from the true spirit and practice of Islam. Local and regional cultures should not be confused with Islamic teachings.

It is not piety that gives some family members the belief that they have the right to control the identity and personhood of others. The sad reality is that the abusers do not lash out because they are Muslims, but because they do not know how to be Muslims. They cannot relate to the family dynamics of the 21st century, especially as they unfold in the West and so they finally, and tragically, explode in a manner that proves not only un-Islamic, but contrary to the values of all major world religions and philosophies.

Living in escapist zones of outdated, even dangerous, attitudes helps no one, especially those who deliberately isolate themselves from mainstream society. This segregationist mentality not only prevents them from knowing the world around them, but also cuts them off from self-knowledge and self-growth. Once people choose isolation as a way of life, they lose key opportunities to improve themselves and to grow as moral, intellectual and engaged human beings. Instead, they lapse into spiritual retardation; they become handicapped souls, existing in cultural ghettos.

Devotion in Islam is defined by selflessness and charity in our relationships with others. It starts with family members as we learn from the Prophet: One who brings up three daughters well and treats them well, they will be his/her door to Paradise.

Our children are an amanah or trust, given to us by the Creator. We are their shelters, protectors, mentors, teachers and guides. We are designated by God Almighty to be there for them, during happy times, when they abide our wishes, and during troubled ones when they disappoint us or misbehave.

As Canadian Muslims, we are commanded to devote ourselves to justice which requires us, as a community, to collectively oppose this crime of honour killings, or any family abuse and violence, in the strongest possible terms and take immediate action to end such practices in our society. There is, and has never been, anything honourable in these cruel actions.

Like all Canadians, we hope that more proactive measures can be implemented such as educational programs for Muslim families in the art of modern parenting in Canada to help our community become more solution-oriented and perhaps more in tune with the foundations of our faith, its role in a Canadian context and Canada’s rules and policies.

Canadian Muslim leaders must set standards for more and better social justice education, restorative justice, family counselling and community development. Canadian imams particularly must come to the forefront as engaged mentors, advisers, role models and facilitators — not just as judges and critics of youth. An imam’s job is to educate and remind Canadian Muslims that leniency, mercy, forgiveness and acceptance are the true hallmarks of our faith’s prophetic tradition, not violence and abuse.

Friday sermons, or khutbahs, are an ideal medium to explore the contemporary challenges Canadian Muslim families face with suggestions on healthy ways to manage the anger, confusion and disillusionment that can accompany cultural transitions.

They also must call for the strongest possible judicial sentencing against all those proven responsible for family violence and abuse.

Domestic violence is not a matter of religion. It is a social problem that affects us all irrespective of religious background. We must resist the temptation to make it into a religious issue.

Dr. Zijad Delic is the imam of the South Nepean Muslim Community in Ottawa.

A link to the article can be found here.