Islam not responsible for 'honour killings' and female genital mutilation, experts say

File image of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch who was a victim of an 'honour killing' (AAP) Source: AAP

Cultural experts say action is needed to dispel 'misinformation' that Islamic teachings incite acts such as ‘honour killings’ and female genital mutilation.

Cultural expert Professor Sahar Amer believes Islam is being "wrongfully accused" of inciting people to commit acts such as 'honour killings' and female genital mutilation.

The University of Sydney academic said such assertions were the cause of a rise in anti-Islam sentiment, or Islamophobia.

Her comments come following the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East, as well as calls from Senator Pauline Hanson and television personality Sonia Kruger for a ban on Muslim immigration.

“What strikes me in Australia is not the lack of information, so much as the resistance to accepting the information when it [is] circulated," she told SBS.

"In the Qur'an it says very clearly, that if you harm on a single human being, it's the same as if you had killed all of humanity.

"The terrorists are clearly not listening to the Qur'an's message, which is to be very peaceful. Islam believes that you should never be forced to do anything they cannot understand rationally."

Professor Amer said the root of Islamophobia stemmed from 'misinformed' politicians such as Hanson, labeling her call to ban Muslim immigration as "absolute horror".

"To me it reveals that the people who are in charge of making laws and educating the public, are themselves completely misled and misinformed. They are exploiting that misinformation to spread more fear," Professor Amer said.

"It's unethical and needs to change. Politicians need to be called upon and held responsible for all the fear mongering they are propagating."

'Honour killings' and female genital mutilation

Professor Karl Roberts, expert in policing and criminal justice at Western Sydney University, said assertions that Islam was directly related to 'honour killings' were false.

He said the practice, which he explained as murder motivated by somebody trying to defend the honour of their family or community, had its foundations in customs within rural communities in certain parts of the world - not in Islam.

A recent case occurred in Pakistan where a social media star was allegedly murdered by her brother, who claimed she was 'bringing dishonour' to the family with her pro-women posts.

"It seems very much related to cultural belief systems rather than religion," he said.

"There is no part of the Quran that talks about 'honour' as being a fundamental thing.

"Where 'honour killings' are most common are places like Pakistan, areas of India and Arabian areas, where Islam is dominant religion.

"'Honour' evolves in very rural areas, where there are no police forces or rule of law. The thing that makes communities function and ensures that people behave in appropriate ways is the value of 'honour'."

Senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, Heather Barr, said the same 'anti-Islam' stigma existed for the practice of female genital mutilation, where parts of a woman's external genitalia are removed.

UNICEF estimates that more than 200 million girls and women in 30 countries have been subjected to this practice, of which more than half live in just three countries - Indonesia, Ethiopia and Egypt- while roughly 44 million are girls below the age of 15.

The World Health Organisation has classified the practice into four categories, which are distinguished based on the location and extent of the cutting.

Ms Barr said the practice was associated with efforts to control a female's sexuality and chastity, and based on the idea that it would discourage sex outside of marriage.

"The desire to prevent girls and women from engaging in 'illicit' sexual behaviour is linked to cultural ideas about family honor and the fear of a family being 'shamed' by the sexual or romantic behaviour of a girl or woman within the family," she told SBS.

"In some societies, FGM is so widespread that it may be difficult for a girl who has not undergone FGM to marry, another factor which creates pressure on families to continue the practice."

Ms Barr said FGM occurs within communities of differing religions, and not exclusive to any religious teachings.

"Many people who favour FGM claim that it is required by religion, but this is a weak argument," she said.

"FGM is not consistently practiced across any religious group, and often you see that FGM is practiced in only one certain communities within a country. A number of Islamic scholars have called for an end to FGM, saying that it is not only not required by Islam, but in fact is in conflict with Islam."

Ms Barr said it was difficult to come up with accurate figures of FGM in Australia

"There is often stigma about discussing FGM, and girls and women who have been victims of FGM may not have a clear understanding of what was done to them and why," she said.

"In an environment like Australia where FGM is a crime, in addition to the other barriers to collecting accurate data you also have the secrecy that results from fear of prosecution.

"It is clear that there have been at least a few cases of FGM in Australia, but it seems like these numbers are relatively small compared to the numbers of girls and women who may have come to Australia after previously suffering FGM in their country of origin."


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