Muslim Honor

part of: Questions

by Teresa Dunyati-Long

It seems to me the weakness of Muslim society is in their conception of personal and familial honor. This honor is dependent on the sexual lives of females. Females must have sex only with their husbands. That is not unique in and of itself. Christian and Jewish societies feel much the same way, though familial honor isn’t so much at stake. Christian and Jewish conceptions of individual responsibility mitigate against damning entire groups over the behavior of one person.

However, if a Muslim female is raped, she and her entire family are dishonored – as though she was personally responsible for the act of violence perpetrated against her. How easy is it to disrupt social cohesiveness when such a conception is routinely operationalized? Quite easy, if the experiences in Darfur, the Congo, and Guinea are considered! If Muslim communities took a different approach to honor—a person’s integrity—they might not be so vulnerable. I wonder if Muslims could evolve their definitions of personal and familial responsibility such that their families, and thereby their communities, were made less vulnerable to the predations of sexual violence as political tool?