Why are honour killings morally unjustified?

I’m going to go out on a massive limb today and partially defend Uthman Badar. Not because I like him, or agree with him, but because his recently proposed speech, “Honour killings are morally justified”, raises some very serious questions about the state of our society.

Let’s look at the facts.

He agreed to give this speech. There was a general emotional uproar against the Hizb ut Tahrir spokesman. And then the speech was canned.

But no one has been able to logically explain why a Muslim can’t give a speech about the morality of honour killings this year, while a couple of medical specialists could get up and present an argument justifying the morality of killing disabled infants in 2012.

And if that logical inconsistency presents a little problem, then the laws of this land present a bigger one. Right now, we have laws that allow all sorts of killing: soldiers can do it, police can do it, and between 80,000 to 100,000 babies are aborted each year.

Some of these children even get birth certificates.

And the Federal Senate is currently considering a law that will allow euthanasia.

So if it’s ok to kill for the nation, and it’s ok to kill babies because they are disabled, unwanted or merely present an economic inconvenience and it’s potentially ok to kill because someone is in pain or simply no longer has the desire to live, why can’t you kill to preserve the honour of a family?

On the face of it, Mr Badar has two compelling arguments.

The first is that if killing for an arbitrarily defined purpose is already deemed morally acceptable in our society (and it is), then it is impossible to logically argue that honour killings are immoral on the basis of our society’s modern moral standards.

The second is that, collectively, we are simply a bunch of hypocrites. Mr Badar can sit high on his chair and bask in the warm glow of self-righteousness.

Let’s be honest enough to face the facts. Our society has, by and large, decided that morality is no impediment to the creation of laws that will justify anything. On the contrary, if the concept of morality is even recognised, it is only as a result of there being a law at all. The illegal is the new immoral.

And if laws can be changed at whim, so can morality.

Previously, for instance, the argument used to be that euthanasia was objectively immoral (as opposed to simply being a concept that the majority disagreed with) and hence it was illegal. Today the argument is different. Euthanasia is illegal and that is why it is considered immoral. But if it were to become legal tomorrow, then it would no longer be immoral.

And the same goes for honour killings. They might be illegal today and therefore immoral. But if enough people are elected to change those laws then the morality of honour killings will change too.

In essence, the modern view is that the morality of honour killings or any other action, such as chewing gum, does not rest on any objective argument. It simply rests on the consent of our nation’s rulers, elected by the will of the majority. And in such a system it is perfectly reasonable and logical that a society may outlaw honour killings and legalise chewing gum. But it is also perfectly reasonable and logical that such a society may do the exact opposite: legislate the death penalty for gum chewers while legalising honour killings.

In the modern view of morality, there is no objective difference between these two examples. There is only the question of whether they are supported by the mob.

And that should scare you.

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Of course, mob rule is not the totality of rule.

We do have some exceptions. But they do not provide much more comfort either.

For instance, the United Nations is unelected. But it gets to determine what ‘human rights’ are.

And these determinations, again, are not objective. They are based entirely upon the subjective whim of whoever writes them.

It means that the laws we live by are not about protecting good and punishing evil. They are simply a means of expressing current sentiment, or are a tool by which those in power can enforce submission on those without power.

And in a world without objective morality, there is no logical argument against a ruler dismissing the view of the majority and making decisions on any other subjective basis.

This situation has only arisen because the concept of objective good and evil has been lost. The understanding that there is a natural law that exists outside of the arbitrary whim of man’s thinking has disappeared.

That’s why the arguments against Uthman Badar’s speech were not logical, but emotional. At the end of the day, his speech was canned not because he advocated an idea that was morally wrong, but because he advocated an idea that people did not like.

Of course, we have been designed to naturally dislike evil. So it is no surprise that the emotions ran high when his speech was announced. But it is important to understand this point clearly.

Things are not wrong because we dislike them. Rather, a correctly ordered person will dislike things because they are wrong.

And when it comes to emotions we must also be careful. The existence of psychopathic sadists is proof that the mere reality of ‘like’ does not necessarily correlate with the idea of good. It is possible for a person to become so corrupted that they actually enjoy evil.

Most people are not psychopathic sadists. But we are all prone to taking offence at things for reasons that are not objectively good or ordered. If someone criticises our own actions, we mostly get defensive without ever objectively looking at the validity of the criticism.

And that is exactly what Uthman Badar has done with Australian society.

He’s presented an argument that our society dislikes. Not because it is an evil idea in itself, but because he’s actually made us defensive about a system that cannot be morally justified. Our society can only justify its position against honour killings in other ways: the power of the number or the power of the ruler simply because he’s in charge.

The truth is that our society is unable to logically articulate why honour killings are immoral because we no longer believe in morality at all.

Consequently, the arguments against Badar’s speech were emotional and not logical.

And this is where I will give some credit to Uthman Badar. He does not live in the fantasy world of modern morality. He recognises that this very world is based on nothing and has rejected it. He also understands very well that a society that does not believe in objective morality is a society that necessarily admits that the morality of honour killings is as justifiable as any other belief.

This is not to say that Mr Badar’s views are sound. They are not. His justification of honour killings is just as flawed as our own society’s justification of abortion.

It is simply a recognition that Uthman Badar is playing by our rules to impose his system because our rules cannot say that his system is wrong. It can only say that his system does not have majority support, or that the powers that be do not support his system today.

But tomorrow, all that might change.

And there can be no escaping this conclusion: if we cannot logically articulate why honour killings are wrong, they will inevitably come to be accepted. Just as other forms of immoral killing have also come to be accepted by our society, and even enshrined in its law.

Next week I will present Part 2 of this series. It will provide an argument that logically rebuts arbitrary killing (including honour killing) while outlining the reasoning that justifies the use of lethal force in only one possible circumstance: self-defence.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of eight children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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12 Comments

  1. Chase,

    I know that christianity and Islam are not the same. In fact they are polar opposites.

    However the “claim” that one must follow a divine law, is said by both christians and Muslims and won’t convince those that are not religious one little bit.

    If one wants to get people over to their side, they have to understand them. I’m an atheist, and it was a catholic theologian/philosopher that managed to get me thinking differently. He is extremely skilled at talking with atheists, and he convinced me that my thinking was not correct and he didn’t mention God once.

    If you want people to follow what you think is a divine law, you are going to have to justify why it must be followed. Invoking divinity or God is not enough. You may not like that, but that is what you are going to have to deal with.

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  2. The hypocrisy of those involved in the outcry is appalling. There is a principle made by the secular courts that “he [or she] who comes to equity, must come with clean hands”. This is very similar to what Jesus said: “don’t say to another to take out the log in their eye when you have a speck in your own eyes”.

    At least some people are consistent with their beliefs, and as outrageous as what they believe may be, they are being consistent. Examples are Peter Singer and Uthman Badar.

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  3. A Christian mindset recognises that Jesus Christ is King – and that any pseudolaws from any state or territory anywhere which conflict with God’s laws and the laws of His One, True Church are utterly null and void.

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    • Unfortunately what you are saying is exactly what Islamists are saying. That their “divine laws” are the only ones to be followed, making Christians look as nutty as Islamists.

      Claiming something is divine isn’t going to be enough to convince the majority, and wether you like it or not, the majority do decide currently. There has to be a “reason” people would support objective morality that goes beyond a belief in a God. Without that you lose most people in the argument.

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      • May I suggest a re-think:
        “Claiming something is divine” is claiming an absolute, but without which much of the above reasoning is a waste of time.
        Examining credentials of ‘The Divine’ identifies the nature of His initatives and their uniqueness among all the other claims.
        Many, many, many have made that wonderful discovery, which results in them loving God (wholistically), loving their neighbour as themselves, and (even) loving their enemy(s).
        Such response must surely confront the majority.

      • Murray,

        Your comments are confusing , and hence I don’t think you really actually know what it is you are trying to say at a rational level.

        Claiming something is divine, is irrelevant to most of your society today. It is just another claim.

        To get through to our community is to explain tThe difference is in the nature “of” the faith, not in the way that you attempt to justify it.

        So again, if you claim divinity go ahead and do so. Everyone else can claim the same thing. That argument will not win over most of the lacklustre christian community and certainly not the athiests. And they would be right to reject that argument.

      • Annie, one can hardly compare Christianity with Islam.True Christianity is a religion of peace, on the other hand Islam is a murderous political system with a religious veneer.But both Christianity and Islam speak for themselves, by their fruits.

      • Annie,
        Trying to convince someone who has been brainwashed in an Australian school for 12 years, and possibly brainwashed in a communist Australian university for almost as many years about objective morality without mentioning God and His One, True Church could be a very tall order. It’s far easier to present the Catholic Truth in charity – even if it comes as a great shock to the listener. “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.” 2 Timothy 4:2. According to your misguided logic, Jesus should not have divulged anything about His Divinity because “claiming something is divine isn’t enough to convince the majority”. How about John Chapter 6 (that part of the Bible that protestants obstinately overlook)?:
        53Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

        Many Disciples Desert Jesus

        60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
        61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirite and life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
        66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
        67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

      • Annie, the bible tells us in Matthew 7:13 that most people WILL be lost ”in the argument”.

        Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate,and broad is the way,that leadeth to destruction,and many there be which go in thereat; Because strait is the gate,and narrow is the way,which leadeth unto life,and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14

  4. There is only a short distance from ‘morality’ by popular impulse to morality by power. We are on that road and it may end with the undo wing of the basic western principle that the law is king, but a law that flows from a Christian mindset.

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  5. This talk of honour killings brings to mind the story of when Paddy visited the Dublin cathedral for the Sacrament of Penance: “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I killed 3 protestants last night”. Interjects the Priest: “You are not here to boast of your political achievements. Now, please start again and mention only sins.”

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