Murder in the Name of Honor: When a Life is Worth Less Than Honor (Review)

Book cover for "Murder in the Name of Honor" by Rana Husseini.Title: Murder in the Name of Honor: When A Life is Worth Less Than Honor

Author: Rana Husseini

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 256

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Borrowed from Zaid

From the cover:

A leading investigative journalist offers the first definitive expose of honor killings.

Chewing gum, laughing at a joke in the street, wearing make-up or a short skirt, choosing a boyfriend or husband, or being raped by a brother. All have been cited as ‘honorable’ motives for murder.

Rana Husseini’s hard-hitting and controversial examination of honor crimes is a fearless, groundbreaking account of a topic that can no longer be ignored. Claiming the lives of 5,000 women every year, the practice is common in many traditional societies around the world, as well as in migrant communities in Europe and the USA – where the incidents are becoming increasingly frequent. These so-called ‘honour killings” are usually carried out by a relative as an act of purification to restore the family’s honor.

Breaking through the conspiracy of silence, Husseini gives voice to the thousands of women who have lost their lives, whose murderers often receive encouragement, admiration, and mitigated sentences. In this book, she describes her battle to change outdated laws and expose those countries that still, even today, legally allow killers who claim to have struck in the name of honor to walk free.

Including the personal stories behind many high-profile cases that have recently hit the news as well as many of the unreported tragedies, no other writer has taken such an unflinching look at one of the most brutal practices in the modern world.

The topic of this book was so intimidating that I’ve had my borrowed copy sitting in my house for months without ever cracking it open. Once I did, I read through it in maybe two sittings, it was so engaging.

Murder in the Name of Honour is Husseini’s account of her personal struggle against honour crimes in Jordan, the struggles of activists and women’s rights groups throughout the world (particularly in the Middle East and South Asia), and the harrowing stories of girls and women who have been killed in recent years in “so-called honour crimes”. Husseini is careful to say “so-called” in front of “honour crimes/killings” because she wants to connote the difference between real honour and the excuse of honour in cases of familial murder.

Early on in the book, Husseini says something that really struck me as important to know, whether or not you decide to read this book. She swiftly debunks the myth that so-called honour killings are primarily an artifact of Islam, something that is often claimed as truth in the media:

Until recently, so-called honour killings have received little attention because they are all too often disguised as a traditional or cultural practice which has to be respected and accepted by everyone. Many people associate them exclusively with Islamic communities, but while some Muslims do murder in the name of honour – and sometimes claim justification through the teachings of Islam – Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and others also maintain traditions and religious justifications that attempt to legitimize honour killings. But crimes of honour are just that: crimes, pure and simple.

Over and over again, Husseini reiterates that so-called honour crimes are not something that we should dismiss as being traditional; rather, “honour crimes” should be treated as murder – especially since it is often premeditated – and we should encourage our governments and communities to establish preventative measures and improved laws against these crimes.

Something that I found educational, but also disturbing, was the variety of stories of women and girls who were killed for “honour’s sake”. Husseini gave examples from around the world, and from various religions and cultures, of girls who were killed by their families. I often found myself having to put the book down and take a minute to myself, since it was hard to process reading such horrific things about events that had actually happened.

Murder in the Name of Honor is essential reading for anyone who’s interested in the plight of women in traditional patriarchal cultures throughout the world, or even just interested in women’s legal rights, since Husseini exposes some rather interesting laws that exist in different countries. It’s quite a harrowing read, but it’s something we should all learn more about if we want to move beyond stereotypes and actually help people survive these injustices.


This book is a part of the Ramadan Reading event happening here this month.

You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.

8 thoughts on “Murder in the Name of Honor: When a Life is Worth Less Than Honor (Review)”

  1. SO GLAD to see this book getting more attention and reviews. It is such an important read and really highlights both the pre-meditation, the fact that it is NOT just an Islam traditional thing, and that we need to do more to end them.

  2. I read this book a few months ago and thought it was really interesting. I was glad it was written by a Middle Eastern woman rather than an outsider. This is such an important issue to have people learn about!

    1. I’m also glad that it was written by a Middle Easterner rather than a ‘Westerner’! It leds a sense of legitimacy to the book, which is needed in order to really help people to understand the issue.

  3. Honor killings are just frightening, and I am glad that this book exists to shed some light on the matter. I will have to try to grab a copy of this one. It sounds fascinating and informative. Great review!

    1. It was very informative, indeed! I particularly liked how it highlighted the misconceptions and the cultural/traditionalist beliefs that lead people to commit these crimes, and how she clarified that honour killing occur in communities of all religions.

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