Pakistani clerics issue fatwa against 'honour killing'

By Zia Ur Rehman

Civil society activists June 14 in Karachi protest "honour killings" that take women's lives. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Civil society activists June 14 in Karachi protest "honour killings" that take women's lives. [Zia Ur Rehman]

KARACHI -- Following a series of recent attacks on women in various parts of the country in recent months, a group of Pakistani religious scholars has issued a fatwa declaring that killing women in the name of honour violates the basic teachings of Islam.

On June 13, a group of 40 scholars affiliated with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), an alliance of religious parties, said that Islam prohibits "honour killing".

"It seems that we are moving towards an age of barbarism," the council said in its fatwa. "Burning women alive for marrying by their choice is against the teachings of Islam."

Honour killing in Pakistan

The SIC clerics issued the fatwa after a string of honour killings in May and June.

A Lahore father is accused of killing his daughter and her husband for marrying without his consent June 10. Lahore police accuse a woman for burning her daughter alive in the same week for marrying someone without family consent.

On May 5, members of a tribal council in Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), drugged, strangled and set on fire a 16-year-old girl who helped her friend elope, police said. They made 14 arrests.

"Considering any killing in the name of honour justified is heresy," SIC Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza told Central Asia Online.

Human rights activists hailed the fatwa, given that Pakistan sees many honour killings of women.

Last year, relatives killed almost 1,100 women for perceived dishonour to their families, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Many such slayings go unreported, Asad Iqbal Butt, vice-chairman of HRCP, told Central Asia Online.

"Killing the victim is considered a way to restore the reputation and honour of the family and tribe," he said.

Civil society groups want the killing to stop.

On June 14, activists from various groups demonstrated outside the Karachi Press Club to denounce the recent honour killings.

SIC issues fatwas against Taliban, suicide bombing

In the past, SIC clerics have issued fatwas against the Taliban, terrorism and suicide bombings.

"Suicide attacks are forbidden in Islam, and those involved in the killing of innocent people are condemned to hell," a fatwa issued in June 2013 said.

Similarly in October 2012, at least 50 SIC-affiliated scholars declared the Taliban and terrorist attacks "un-Islamic" in a fatwa.

"The Taliban's interpretation of Islam ... deviates from the authentic interpretation of Sharia," the fatwa stated, calling the Taliban driven by ignorance.

Islamic scholars refuse to bow down to Taliban intimidation. Militants in Lahore in June 2009 assassinated Islamic scholar Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi. One month earlier, the fearless foe of the Taliban helped the government convene a conference of Islamic scholars that denounced suicide bombings and beheadings of the innocent as un-Islamic.

Countering un-Islamic practices

Religious scholars bear responsibility for guiding Pakistanis to the truth about Taliban atrocities and honour killings, Raza said.

"It is our duty to stand up clearly against these anti-Islam, Taliban forces," Raza told Central Asia Online.

Religious scholars can play a key role in educating the public through sermons and fatwas, security analysts agree.

"In the past, the Taliban issued several fatwas opposing polio vaccination campaigns and justifying suicide bombings and slayings of the innocent," Islamabad-based conflict resolution scholar Shuja Ali told Central Asia Online.

"Such phony fatwas misguided less educated people to some extent, especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," Ali said.

However, legitimate scholars, such as those associated with SIC, can debunk such phony fatwas, he said.

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