A group of influential Pakistani clerics has issued a fatwa against killings over perceived damage to a family’s honour and reputation, saying they are against the teachings of Islam.
The Sunni Ittehad Council, a representative body of the Barelvi Sunni Muslim ulema or clerics, has said anyone involved in an honour killing is a heretic.
The ruling came after a flurry of attacks on women, including murders committed in the name of honour such as last week’s killing of 16-year-old Zeenat Bibi in Lahore after she married a man of her choice. The teenager was burnt to death by her mother.
The Sunni Ittehad Council, which includes more than 100 prominent clerics, is affiliated with the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam. The other school prominent in Pakistan is the Deobandi school, which is seen to endorse some of the violence against women.
Earlier this week, a man killed his wife in the name of honour by attacking her with a fork.
Last Friday, a father in Lahore killed his daughter and her husband because he disapproved of their marriage. In May, a 16-year-old girl accused of helping a young couple elope was killed and her body set on fire, in a case that again brought honour killings into the national spotlight.
In 2015, more than 500 men and women were the target of honour killings, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The toll this year, as of Monday, was 233, the group said.
Most suspects in honour killings are never prosecuted. The council called on the government to amend laws that allow family members to “forgive” perpetrators in honour killings, which means charges are often dropped.
In February, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif praised an Oscar-winning Pakistani film on honour killings, raising hope among activists that long-pending legislation on the issue would be passed. However, no progress has been made so far.