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Killing For Cause

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Sadly, once in a while, there are reports of a furious father killing his daughter(s), or a husband murdering his wife, which he suspected of adultery, in order to restore the so-called family honor. The latest such happening took place   in Pakistan ( ). Six teenage girls were gunned down by their angry father for having relationships with some boys in the neighborhood, thus tarnishing the family's honor. While such cruel acts may happen everywhere, they are more prevalent in Muslim countries, according to the available statistics. I have been living in the USA, a prominently Christian country, for nearly 40 years and I haven't heard of even one honor killing, while in Pakistan alone, a few hundred such killings take place each year. As heart wrenching as this is, it seems that honor killing is a medieval tribal tradition that is unfortunately reinforced by misogynistic Islamic teaching, or misguided interpretation of its scriptures. Surely, all religious rules and codes of conduct are made by men. This is why, I believe, they have a built-in misogynistic element that often provides the impetus to disrespect women and treat them harshly. I don't suppose Islam specifically prescribes or even sanctions honor killing, however, because of its misogynistic teachings, such as sanctioning polygamy, allowing a man to beat his wife with impunity, or allowing men to treat women like their personal possessions, the door to tragedies like honor killing is opened.    

I don't know what psychological forces drive some deranged individuals to such extreme madness that they commit such crimes. Nevertheless, whether it is rooted in cultural, tribal traditions, or religious teaching, murdering innocent human beings is insane and unjustifiable. Regrettably, it will continue to happen in the future unless we eradicate its root cause, which I believe is mainly religious fanaticism.

The complicity of religion in killing for cause gives rise to significant questions. The Abrahamic religions all have murderous undertakings enacted in the name of Yahweh, Allah, or Jesus in their histories, even though they all preach the sanctity of human life. How can crusades, jihad's, genocidal massacres, and right to life bombings conducted by Catholics in the name of religion, to name just a few, be called righteous? How can the murder of innocents be condoned and considered to be an act of honor that restores honor? What is honor and who defines it? Can the answers to these questions honestly be found in religion, or is the sanctity of human life only a cafeteria-style, pick and choose, convenient truth?


Reza Varjavand (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is associate professor of economics and finance at the Graham School of management, Saint Xavier University, of Chicago. He has been an avid participant in many professional organizations and active in (more...)
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