Saturday, September 6, 2008

Islam: Religion of Peace?

Here is yet another horrific example of the deep rooted tradition of Muslim honor killings. A member of the Pakistani Parliament went on record in this brief article as saying: "these are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them”.

Many would have us believe that radical Islam is an aberrant tradition within the larger, peaceful religion. This is false. Radical Islam is in fact true to the teachings of the Qur'an.

I am not arguing that Islam teaches honor killing, but only that honor killings do not seem to be inconsistent with the teachings or the spirit of Islam.


Dan said...

Brigitte Gabriel in her book "Because They Hate" explained the recent increase in women suicide bombers by discussing this as their only escape from the total despair of being dishonored. Worse, for many of them their dishonor had nothing to do with any decision or failures on their part, but was the result of situations like a husband's demand for a divorce or rape.

Sarah Geis said...


I need to read that book!

Qur'anic Islam (as opposed to sheer cultural/weak Islam) as a worldview has such tragic consequences.


From the Middle East said...

Sister Sarah,

I've been lurking for a while and do apologize that my first comment is one such as this. Prior to address the orthodoxy of honor killings in Islam, I would like to thank you for tackling such a horrendous topic.

I will not comment on the premise that "radical Islam" is not a an aberrant tradition. However, I would like to point out that honor killings are DEFINITELY aberrant. You might note that the member of the Pakistani Parliament said, "these are centuries-old TRADITIONS and I will continue to defend them." (emphasis mine) It should also be noted that in the same article this quote appears:

Members of the religious Jamaat-e-Islami party rounded on Senator Zehi, declaring: "We condemn this barbaric act. This is against Islam, against humanity and against civilised culture."

BTW, my conclusion that honor killings are not aberrant is not based exclusively on these two quotes, but on the past six years of my life being spent in Muslim ministry and learning about the Islamic faith.

Actually, you may want to check out a book entitled "Kissing Cousins?" by Bill Musk. It is the most balanced book I have read to date that compares Islam and Christianity from a Christian perspective. It is definitely worth checking out.

His peace be yours in abundance,
From the Middle East

Dan said...

"Because They Hate" is an exelent book, but I would recomend "America Alone" by Mark Steyn first,if you havn't read it. I did a book review on "Because They Hate" in Feb this year if you're interested.

Sarah Geis said...


I would love to read that review.

My Middle East dwelling commenter,

Thank you for your work there. I do want to mention, however, that while I am aware of arguments suggesting that honor killings such as these are rooted in ancient tribal customs rather than in the teachings of Islam, these tragedies do seem to occur primarily in Muslim communities, and are committed typically by devout Muslims. In no way am I suggesting that all, or even most followers of Islam are this violent. In fact, I know that this is not so. However, it is abundantly clear that violence is a favored way of purging impurity within the Quran and Hadith.

Therefore, a devout and “radical” Muslim worldview is one which likely has little problem with this type of violence. I did not intend to imply that it is common in the greater Muslim community, but that the spirit in which honor killings are committed seems to coincide with much of the writings of Muhammed.

From the Middl East said...

Sister Sarah,

I do see how one would come to the conclusions that you do. As honor killings have historically been practiced in the "East" where Islam is prevalent. However they were practiced prior to Islam as well and have more to do with their worldview (of which Islam does influence just as Christianity has influence even secular Westerners). In addition to this it should also be noted that honor killings continue to be carried out by nominal and devout Muslims, high-identity and low-identity Muslims as well as "Christians" and are typically condemned by Islamic councils.

I'm certainly not saying that Islam is not "violent," but that honor killings are not supported by Islamic jurisprudence so much as they are by a strong sense of honor in the Eastern world.

For a greater understanding of the "honor & shame" paradigm that our Eastern brothers and sister view the world from, check out a little book entitled "Honor & Shame" by Roland Muller. He does an excellent job of explaining how the Good News applies to those who view the world through this lens.

A related question is: Was Islam born out of the culture or the culture out of Islam? Or maybe a combination of the two?

May His mercy and grace be yours in abundance,
From the Middle East

PS - Apologies for the disconnectedness of this comment, but I'm typing in a slight hurry!

Marc de Gre said...

Doesn't the Bible have (some) similiar injunctions to the Israelites?

If you say that they were for a specific time, how certain are you that these aren't for a specific time?

(I'm not a Koran scholar and haven't read these illuminating passages that you reference in context.)

Sarah Geis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Geis said...

Middle East dweller,

Again, I thank you for the invaluable experience that you bring to the table of this discussion.

I want to emphasize that I do not believe honor killings to be an explicit teaching of the writings of Muhammed, but I remain convinced that it is not condemned at best and is facilitated at worst by the violent and chauvinistic nature of "radical" Islam.

As for your question about Islam's relationship to culture, you could likely answer that better than I could. I do see it as a bit of a combination, however.

I do wonder, what are the similarities are between muslim honor killings and honor killings of other religions that you mention?


Sarah Geis said...


In the Old Testament, there were isolated instances where the command was only relevant to that particular moment in time.

In the Quran, these (far more frequent) commands read as a charge for how to live. These are ongoing, not isolated.

From the Middle East said...

Sister Sarah,

Thank you for graciously entertaining me on your website.

You commented:
I want to emphasize that I do not believe honor killings to be an explicit teaching of the writings of Muhammed, but I remain convinced that it is not condemned at best and is facilitated at worst by the violent and chauvinistic nature of "radical" Islam.

I would agree that aspects of Islamic culture do facilitate these acts. But would disagree with the statement that "it is not condemned" by Islam proper. As evidence, we can bring the following to the table:

With regards to your question, "I do wonder, what are the similarities are between muslim honor killings and honor killings of other religions that you mention?"

I would submit to you that there is not difference. The reason is that these "honor killings" emanate from a worldview that highly values family honor and will do anything to retain it. Even go against their respective religions.

May His face shine upon you,
From the Middle East

Anonymous said...

"In the Old Testament, there were isolated instances where the command was only relevant to that particular moment in time."

Do those commands to kill the Canaanites(sp?) both you. Didn't Nehemiah or Esther demand that people divorce their wives?

Do those things bother you? They bother me.


Nick said...

Anonymous if your worldview is otherwise absent of "bother" I would sugest you are very close to a pristine and worry free worldview. If it bothers you, don't believe it! Otherwise, I am inclined to believe that you are most bothered by the fact that someone else isn't bothered by it. Would you be happy if everyone was just like you and were bothered by what bothers you? Hypocrite!

Daniel said...

Wow Nick, very untactful. Perhaps a blog posting on tact is in order.

Doug Groothuis said...

1. Nick, sadly, represents some of the worst of the blog world: insults sans argument.

2. Perhaps Islam itself does not justify honor killings, but its theology of gender moves in the direction of male abuse of women. (a) Allah has made the man superior to the woman; (b) he can have four wives; (c) he can beat the wife when he wants; (d) he can divorce here easily. Moreover, Islam is instrinsically violent toward outsiders (the bloody borders of Islam as discussed by Samuel Huntington) and even among itself (the power struggles of early Islam).

This makes for a sad and deadly combination for women. Honor killings may come before Islam, but it seems to lack the internal resources to come against it strongly enough.

Gabrielle said...

Sorry I am a late comer to this particular blog and don't know that anyone will actually see my comment. I have done extensive study on the very topic of honor killing in Islam. I actually wrote a Thesis type paper on a comparison of the Crusades and Jihad. The conclusion I drew was quite interesting but I fear I cannot post a 15 page paper on here. Therefore I will summarize the high points.
I have come to the conclusion through a scholarly study of Islam, that it is actually no more violent than any other cult type religious mentality. It should be noted that when I say Islam I am referring to the more radically slanted side of the religion. In fact in my studies, most if not all religions when first beginning, tend toward a cult mentality.
In my paper I discuss the us v. them problem that arises in the religious discussion. I have found that most violence is condoned in the early practices of religion (usually within the first 500 years or so but in some cases it appears later) in order to differentiate us from them. I also found that it is sometimes used as a conversion tactic to gain new loyals to the religious community. The violence tends to be carried out by a few of the practitioners but in some cases (mostly the case of a religion that is looking, usually subconsciously, to secure a spot as a world religion) the violence is accepted and even praised by the religious and political leaders within the religion. The violence also tends to be a way to unite the followers to a single-mindedness that helps the religion grow. Sort of like when a gang or a rioting group get together. It is an odd paradigm the coupling of violence and religion.
I also found that the Quran is really not much different from the Old Testament in its commands to wipe out those who are not part of the religion. It is not a foreign idea to attempt to eliminate those who are not like us and in fact the Jews carried out much the same plan throughout the Middle East at God’s command. The Christians carried out these plans when they went on their crusades to wipe out all traces of ungodliness in the holy land. Even the Buddhists and Hindus had a time in their religion when killing those not true to their teaching was condoned and praised.
The other factors that I found to play a major role are cultural. The violence is usually carried out when there is that down swing in belief. When the followers of a religion begin to feel like maybe God is not as active as they thought and maybe they should take matters into their own hands. It also usually strikes when there is monetary strife in the community and there is a need to blame someone else for the problem. As in, If those infidels didn’t live across the river from us God would not have struck us with this drought, God must want us to wipe them out. The people who participate in the violence are usually uneducated or have only been taught what their power hungry leader has allowed them to be taught. The violent movement is also usually spurred on by a powerful orator and leader within the community who promises salvation for any and all that participate in the “holy war”. Salvation, the most important question in the religious debate as well as the thing that is most intangible, is assured for the one who participates and for all those in his family. What is the sacrifice of one if 20 family members are saved? Death is not seen as a sacrifice at all but as an immediate way to come into the presence of God for you and everyone of your family members who will die or who have died before.
It only makes since that the most un-assured of salvation, poor, and uneducated in the Islamic community, the women, would begin to take up arms as well.
It is almost like this violence is a coming of age for religions and without it, it seems impossible for them to flourish. It is really weird that religion which should bring peace and comfort would be able to create this but I am just a lowly scholar. I think I hit most of the high points and thank you for entertaining my ideas.
If you are interested in my paper, feel free to contact me and I will dig it up for you to read. Email me at