When a husband murders a wife or daughter in the United States and Canada, too often law enforcement chalks the matter up to domestic violence. Murder is murder; religion is irrelevant. Honor killings are, however, distinct from wife battering and child abuse. Analysis of more than fifty reported honor killings shows they differ significantly from more common domestic violence. The frequent argument made by Muslim advocacy organizations that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam and that it is discriminatory to differentiate between honor killings and domestic violence is wrong.
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 5,000 women are killed each year for dishonoring their families. This may be an underestimate. Aamir Latif, a correspondent for the Islamist website Islam Online who writes frequently on the issue, reported that in 2007 in the Punjab province of Pakistan alone, there were 1,261 honor murders. The Aurat Foundation, a Pakistani nongovernmental organization focusing on women’s empowerment, found that the rate of honor killings was on track to be in the hundreds in 2008.
There are very few studies of honor killing, however, as the motivation for such killings is cleansing alleged dishonor and the families do not wish to bring further attention to their shame, so do not cooperate with researchers. Often, they deny honor crimes completely and say the victim simply went missing or committed suicide. Nevertheless, honor crimes are increasingly visible in the media. Police, politicians, and feminist activists in Europe and in some Muslim countries are beginning to treat them as a serious social problem.