In his day, Muhammad would have been considered as one of the foremost advocates of women’s rights. In the 7th Century, before he gained control of the Arabian Peninsula, women of the region had even fewer rights than Muslim women today. Female babies were often buried alive, spousal abuse was the norm and women had no rights of inheritance. After revelations from Allah (Muhammad), infanticide was prohibited, spousal abuse was codified, and a female inheritor could obtain half that of a male beneficiary. Unfortunately, every revelation from Allah of the Koran, and every casual comment of his Prophet concerning women, became a part of Islamic Law, the Shari’a. Thus, any improvement of women’s status since the 7th Century has been extremely difficult in all Muslim countries and practically impossible in others.
Today, Muslim women, under the calloused and cruel thumb of Islam are the most repressed of any society in the world. A woman, even a wife, is a chattel, lower than a bondservant, and only slightly above a slave. A woman's only purpose is to please her husband. Allah (Muhammad) said: "Men are in charge of women because Allah has made one of them excel the other." Other quotes are: "The woman is a toy; whoever takes her, let him care for her.", "Women shall with justice have rights similar to those exercised against them, according to what is equitable, but men have a degree of advantage over them.", "Your wives are a tilth (field) unto you, so approach your tilth when and how you will." And another, which sanctions wife beating is: "As for those wives, from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them". These quotes, reflecting Allah’s (Muhammad’s) low esteem of women, have influenced the Muslim religion since its beginnings. Muhammad was also reputed to have said that he had glimpsed Hell, and most of its population were women!
Under Islam, a Muslim is allowed four wives by custom, but many men have several more. Muhammad had more than ten; some historians say fifteen. Another type of quasi-wife is permitted; the practice is referred to as Al-Mesyar, or "short day-time visit". Under this male biased arrangement, a woman receives a one-time payment, or dowry, before the "marriage", but then relinquishes all rights to legal support, for her self and any issue from the union. She also relinquishes any nighttime visits, in order to be able to receive her "husband" during daylight hours. And, there are no limits as to concubines or access to slave women, even if a slave woman is married. Thus, even adultery, for a Muslim man, is sanctioned under the Koran. Muhammad fared even better however; he received a revelation, which permitted him, without restrictions, to marry his cousins or any other woman, even if she were married, who desired to be his wife.
As well documented by Muslims, Muhammad was 49 when making a marriage contract with his third wife, Aisha, who was either six or nine at the time. In the 7th Century, child brides were common in several societies. Under Islam, unfortunately, this practice continues to this day. The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, married his wife when 28, and she was 10. In this particular instance, it appears that the marriage was a success. He appears to have been deeply in love with her; wrote tender verses to her expressing his affection, and on her death, never re-married. He counseled Muslim fathers to, "Do your best to insure that your daughters do not see their first blood (menses) in your house." In Iran, in one of the more "enlightened" Muslim countries, their laws permit girls to marry when 9 and boys at 14!
A tragic by-product of child marriages sanctioned by Islam is the harm done to these child brides when becoming pregnant. Pregnancies often occur before their young bodies are mature enough to endure childbirth without suffering serious side effects. In a profiled case of UNICEF, the following was documented:
Zeinab is 26 years old. She was married at the age of 10, and at 12 gave birth to a girl. However, the trauma of the early delivery was too much for her young fragile body, whose left side became paralyzed. As a result, her husband sent her back to her family. He eventually abandoned her completely and re-married. She and her daughter, now 13, are now living with an aunt and earn some money selling potatoes. But Zeinab cannot afford to send the girl to school.
The above UNICEF report does not identify the poor girl as being Muslim, but Zeinab was the name of one of Muhammad’s several wives. However, regardless of her religion or ethnic identity, this is a story repeated hundreds of times daily in the Muslim world. That is, with the combination of child marriages and easy divorces by Muslim men, these tragedies are common.
A man can divorce his wife by simply saying, "I divorce you!" three times in succession. In some Muslim countries divorce can also be accomplished, by a note to the wife. A discussion is presently ongoing in some Muslim societies as to whether this can be accomplished by telephone. However, in most Muslim countries, a woman cannot divorce her husband; she can only seek a judicial annulment. Grounds for such a release are: a sexual physical deficiency, mutilation, or malfunction before marriage; madness or leprosy, impotence, or a husband's vow not to have intercourse with a wife for a period of four months. As can be imagined, there are few marriages dissolved by a wife in the Muslim world. And, since an Islamic marriage does not produce any community property, upon being divorced, a woman is entitled to a once only payment, for an amount agreed upon before the marriage. She then has no further recourse regarding assistance for herself or her children.
Muslims like to point out that the incidence of prostitution is quite low in Islam, but this claim is due more to semantics than reality. Muhammad invented a short-term marriage, the "mut’ah", a ploy to allow his troops an outlet when campaigning. This was a marriage of three days, generally to prostitutes. As with several other customs of Islam, the short-term marriage, has been even further corrupted, than its original corrupt concept. Today, in Iran, a short-term marriage can mean only an hour of nuptial bliss. A one time payment, or dowry, is paid before consummating the marriage. Then, in a few days, or in the case of Iran, perhaps only an hour or so, three "I divorce you’s", and a man can be on his merry way. It might be imagined, that if the recent divorcee had excelled in her temporary marital duties, the recently divorced husband might return to marry her again, in a matter of days, or perhaps hours! A cynic of the Western world might consider this arrangement as being prostitution, but under another name. In Tehran today, there are an estimated 60,000 "ladies of the evening", almost all divorcees, willing to enter into a short-term marriage of an hour or more, that is, once an acceptable amount has been agreed upon as to the dowry.
A Muslim mother loses all control over her children when a boy becomes seven, and a girl when nine. In legal matters, two women's testimony is needed to equal that of a man. A female inheritor is entitled to only one half of that of a male heir. In most Muslim societies, no statistics are kept as to spousal abuse, and a male relative’s permission must generally be given before a wife or a child can be admitted to a hospital.
A wife is expected to sexually gratify her husband, but not to take any pleasure of her own. She is to be only the vessel for his gratification. A true Muslim considers a woman's orgasm repugnant and sinful, since it might indicate mutuality. This mindset has led to the barbaric practice of subjecting girls, on or before reaching puberty, to a horrible and painful operation, a clitoridectomy. This operation severs the nerves giving pleasure through the clitoris. The practice is more prevalent in parts of Africa, but not unknown in countries of the Western world within Muslim societies. In Africa, the operation generally entails the young girl being held to the ground by other women, often her mother or older sisters while a woman skilled in this procedure performs the actual operation. In many cases, this atrocity is accomplished without local anesthesia or any sterilization of the knife used. In Egypt, an estimated 80% of Muslim girls are subjected to this horrific practice.
In 2002, a Muslim family living in England was upset because Britain's National Health Service would not provide such an operation for their daughter. They had to go abroad for the operation "to make her more desirable for marriage". A law passed in 2003 by the English Parliament makes this barbaric practice punishable with 14 years of prison.
When a girl reaches nine years of age, she enters "Purdah", and takes the veil. Thereafter, her every movement is severely restricted and, in most Muslim countries, cannot leave her home unless completely covered, from head to toe, and accompanied by a male relative. As to education, in most Islamic societies, a woman, unless of the ruling class, has little chance of any additional schooling past that of the religious indoctrination of the Sunnah. Turkey and Iran are two notable exceptions, where in both countries many women are allowed to pursue a higher education.
Much of the above is not from a history text describing conditions of medieval Arabia, but reflects life in Saudi Arabia in the 21st Century. A considerable amount of the above information is contained in a document of the U.S. State Department, entitled: "Country Report on Human Rights Practices in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for A.D. 2002". This report is available in most public libraries of the United States.
Honor killings, or a better description would be "honor murders", are a phenomenon largely confined to the Muslim world. Not a single Islamic country is free of the custom. Honor murders have their root in a vulgar and ancient Arabic expression, "A man's honor lies between the legs of a woman." Muslim women who have had sexual relations outside of marriage, including rape, or to have raised suspicions regarding their conduct, i.e.- be only suspected of having illicit relations with a man outside of marriage are subject to being killed to "regain the family honor." But adultery, or the loss of virginity, or its suspected loss, is not the only justification, in the minds of Muslims, for brutal murder. Marrying without permission of the family, disobedience, leaving home without permission, or even a flirtatious glance has provided motives for murder. And, in a few cases, women observed smoking cigarettes has led to their deaths.
However, for whatever of the above reasons that the male members of a Muslim family feel that a female member of the family has brought dishonor to the family, the execution is generally carried out by close male relatives, generally by a father, brother, or uncle. These murders reflect a mind-set almost incomprehensible to more civilized societies, but are every day practice in Muslim countries, and beginning to appear in other countries with Muslim populations. Statistical evidence is difficult to obtain, not so much as a desire of the Muslim countries to hide the facts, only that "honor murders" are such an accepted custom of Muslim societies, that many officials of the different countries would be surprised of any interest in the matter. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that around 5,000 honor killings (murders) occur each year!
Muslim courts are especially lenient concerning honor murders. Jordan, one of the more "enlightened" countries of Islam, if this expression can be used concerning any Muslim country, has even codified honor murders. Until quite recently repealed, Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code was clear on the matter. Quote: "He who discovers his wife, or one of his female relatives committing adultery, and kills, wounds or injures one or both of them, is exempt from any penalty." And, Jordan is one of the more "enlightened" Muslim countries. But still on the books are other articles of the Penal Code that insure that a Jordanian man will be exempt from prosecution or be treated with leniency if conducting an honor killing (murder). At most, the sentence would be a few months in prison.
Dr. Mu'men Hadidl, a previous Director of Jordan's National Institute of Forensic Medicine, has stated that even the conduction of a hymenal examination is practically a death warrant for a woman there. That is, even the suspicion that an unmarried woman is not a virgin, as evidenced by an examination demanded by a male member of her family, in many instances will lead to her murder! Dr. Hadidl further stated that he has performed post mortem examinations on several victims of honor killings (murders) that still possessed an intact hymen. As an "enlightened" Muslim country, a good percentage of women in Jordanian prisons are there for their own protection against being subject to honor killings (murders).
In 2003, an article was reported in the "Jordan Times" newspaper, and later was used in a segment of a broadcast by the BBC. Two sisters, 27 and 20 years of age, were hacked to death by their own brothers. Their crimes, in the eyes of the family were that the older sister had left home to marry a man without her family's permission, and a couple of years later, the younger sister had run away to join her. Some "well wisher" of the family revealed the sisters' address, and the brothers entered their residence with axes and hacked the women to death! It is not known if the family was too poor to have owned a gun for the executions, which would have been rare in the Muslim world, or just that such a dishonor of the sisters deserved a more horrendous death. According to a Jordanian policeman at the scene, "One victim's head was nearly cut clean off." However, the family's honor had been preserved!
In Egypt, the Ministry of the Interior reported that of the 775 cases of reported homicides in 1988, 49 of the murders, or 16% of them, were to "wipe out shame", a term used in Egypt to describe honor killings (murders).
In addition to the murders, which at least in the eyes of many Muslim families, are justified; many fake honor murders occur. These are instances where a man kills another man with the pretense that the victim had had relations with one of his female relatives, and he is only upholding the family "honor". In this manner, he is not accused of murder and keeps his own head. Unfortunately, in many instances, the female relative is then sacrificed on the altar of "family honor."
In some cases, the family members of a Muslim woman are relieved of the duty of protecting the family honor and the pertinent country, where a woman has dishonored her family, then assumes this obligation. In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but certainly not exclusively limited to these countries, the pertinent country where the "dishonor" has occurred, may step forward to resolve the situation.
Then, these public executions take on the festive manta of a bullfight in Madrid or a major league baseball game in the U.S. The main exceptions are that generally there is no charge for admission and the snacks sold by the vendors at the stadium are quite different, but the atmosphere is much the same. And, the wild cheering of the crowds are not for a brilliant veronica by a matador or a home run knocked out of the stadium, but for the clean decapitation of a human head! Two separate incidents illustrate the Muslim mind-set.
Several years ago, the International Monetary Fund contributed to the construction of a new sports stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan. Until the fall of the Taliban regime, it was used for public executions and amputations. When U.S. officials complained of this use of the stadium, the Justice Minister promised that such events would be moved elsewhere.
The second illustration, indicating Muslim attitudes towards honor murders, has to do with a public execution held in Saudi Arabia in July of 1977. An English journalist concealed a small camera and recorded the public execution of a Saudi princess, Mishael 'bint Fahd 'bin Mohjammad, and her lover, Khalid Muhallah. She was a woman still married, but separated from her husband. She and her lover, also a Saudi, had initiated a liaison when both lived in England, and were sufficiently naive to continue the relationship once returned to Saudi Arabia. They were arrested, hurriedly tried for adultery and sentenced to death. Before a capacity crowd, the Princess was shot six times in the head and her lover beheaded. The photos taken by the English journalist became part of the basis for a documentary entitled "Death of a Princess", produced by Anthony Thomas. The documentary aired in England and caused strained relations between Great Britain and Saudi Arabia. When the program was to air on PBS, our State Department appealed to PBS not to use the documentary, and Exxon threatened to withhold its sponsorship of further support of PBS programming.
With the immigration of so many Muslims to Europe,most in the last twenty-five years, honor murders are no longer confined to Muslim countries. They have been reported in every European country, as well as Ecuador, Brazil and Canada. In 2002, English authorities believe that twelve of their murders could be described as "honor killings".
One horrific murder was that of a sixteen year old Muslim girl who made the mistake of befriending a young Christian boy. Her father stabbed her 17 times with a kitchen knife to maintain the "family Honor." He was sentenced to life in prison by an English court.
The present law enforcement statistics of several Western nations do not as yet reflect the incidences of honor murders; perhaps it is time to do so!TOP