Just a few moments ago, the jury released its verdict of guilty of first degree murder in the deaths of three teenaged girls and a second wife, in a polygamous marriage. Guilty are the father of the three young women, his other wife and their twenty-something son.
In a trial requiring translators, interpreters, scholars to explain the meaning of honour killings under Sharia Law, which witnessed a bomb threat that evacuated the court room just this past week, the issues were those that attend the new world order, given the elevated rates of immigration from such places as Afghanistan, where this family originated.
The public evidence of incompatibility between the desires of the young women to have male friends, to date, and also to seek shelter from their treatment at home, according to witnesses, and the expectations of their father at least, to remain chaste, pure, unavailable to men and protective of the family honour eventually proved to be irreconcilible. The four women were found dead in a car in one of the locks on the Rideau canal just outside Kingston.
There was considerable public evidence of missteps by the three defendants, including contradictions, misleading statements, evidence of intemperate actions following the alleged timing of the deaths. Nevertheless, the prosecution held fast to its theory of "honour killings" under the umbrella of evidence that the father of these three young women considered them "whores" especially when compared with his version of their responsibility to the family of which he considered himself the head.
In his absence, it fell to the adult son to maintain the family honour, in the face of the actions, attitudes and beliefs of his sisters.
Should anyone think that the cultures of Afghanistan and North America can or will be easily, readily or even modestly merged, through immigration, or education or accommodation, they would be will advised to releae such thoughts. They are not going to happen, not now, and not in the foreseeable future.
We could import as many educators from Afghanistan into our Canadian school systems as we might like, without altering the culture that prevails between men and women in this country.
While there is growing evidence that people of different ethnicities and languages and cultures are assuming positions of responisbility in public life in Canada, we are not about to adopt Sharia Law; and we are not about to permit the erosion of a culture and values that have seen us knit formerly English, French and First Nations communities into something of a patchwork quilt, albeit with many rips and tears and lots of failures, in favour of the adoption of a culture as foreign and unacceptable as that apparently at the core of this murder trial.
And those who seek to impose the requirements of such a cultural change need to hear our push-back, although this verdict stands on its own merits, and on the evidence, not on the debatable merits of Sharia Law.
And this by Sheema Khan, Globe and Mail, January 30, 2012
Imam Sikander Hashmi, the newly-appointed imam in Kingston, took the lead the day the Shafia trial began. In no uncertain terms, he told the congregation that honour crimes were heinous, and forbidden by Islam. He reminded the audience that while such crimes were committed by different ethnic/religions groups, Muslims should step up to the plate and be part of the solution. That includes unequivocal condemnation of murder, and the establishment of resources to address family tensions.
This was soon followed by a National Call to Eradicate Domestic Violence, signed by over 100 mosques and community leaders across the country, which stated: “Domestic violence and, in the extreme, practices such as killing to “restore family honour” violate clear and non-negotiable Islamic principles, and so we categorically condemn all forms of domestic violence.” As part of this call, imams across Canada gave sermons unequivocally condemning family violence. Signatories pledged to go further by raising awareness, and providing workshops in mediation, anger management and family counselling.
Furthermore, a group of Muslim men launched the first-ever Muslim community White Ribbon Campaign at the Islamic Institute of Toronto. Men and boys pledged never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. It was also promoted at Toronto’s annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention, with an audience of 15,000. The White Ribbon campaign is scheduled to go nationwide on March 8, coinciding with International Women’s Day.
Last week, the London Muslim Resource Centre for Social Services and Integration announced the launch of the “Honouring Families” project, in partnership with Ceasefire, a renowned anti-gang program based in Chicago. The premise is that one can “save face” through mediation and non-violent options.
MRCSSI, led by Dr. Mohammad Baobaid, has a wealth of experience (and success) dealing with inter-generational conflict in Muslim families, finding key risk indicators for honour-based violence, such as: cross-generational gender conflict (e.g. father-daughter) which is exacerbated by the involvement of extended family; an older male sibling taking on a parental role; when extended family or a parent overseas has a significant say in the parenting; pre-migration trauma or post-migration stresses; and family isolation. In many of these cases, the parents are disengaged from the solution, and blame the child entirely. They hold uncompromising views of their tradition, and/or maintain rigid interpretations of Islamic teachings regarding gender roles and expectations. The risk is highest when the conflict involves adolescent girls. Also, reports with the police or child protection services can worsen the situation, as the child subsequently denies any problem for fear of getting their parents in trouble, especially if the intervention is not culturally sensitive.
The MRC has been successful in resolving many high-risk cases by engaging the family at risk, and the many support services around the family.