Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has tabled a bill called The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices act in the parliament last month. However, some criticize the name of the bill and call it pretty loaded one. But violence against women is absolutely barbaric act. It must be addressed strongly.
There are thoughtful and effective ways to look at all the facets of violence against women and it can certainly be done without promoting bigotry. For example, in March, the Ottawa Police, the Ottawa Rape Crisis, and Algonquin College partnered to put on a full day event on violence in the name of honour.
I heard the story of Banaz Mahmod, a 20-year-old woman in London, gang-raped, garrotted, stuffed into a suitcase and buried in waste ground, for the crime of a kiss in a train station. Her murder was carried out under the orders of her own father and her uncle. Banaz was married off to a man she had barely met at the age of 17, who subjected her to extraordinary abuses. We need authorities, decision makers and politicians to provide the same protection and preventative action for women of ethnic minority communities affected by "honour"-based violence and oppression as they would for any other crime in any other part of society.
On the morning of June 30, 2009, police in a small eastern Ontario city made a ghastly discovery: four females dead in a car submerged in a shallow canal -- Canada's first mass honour killing. In Without Honour, award-winning journalist Rob Tripp draws on three years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews to make sense of a senseless crime in a way no other writer could. "The feeling had gnawed at Jake since the catastrophic outcome of his peck on Sahar's cheek in the corridor of St-Ex in the fall of 2007. He had not forgotten the sight of the sad girl standing in the hall, tears trickling down her cheeks, as she explained that her dad got really mad and slapped her."
As Muslims with progressive values slowly but surely take ascendancy over Deobandi and Wahabi puritan fundamentalism, honor-shame sub-cultures will disappear and with it, the sanctioned abuse of women.
That a man in an eminently civilized country like Canada could invoke an ancient practice like honor killing in the 21st century is frightening. The mores that seem to be at work cut to deeply felt attitudes about families and women.
The verdict in the Shafia case exemplifies the ability of Western legal systems to provide justice to victims of honour killings. If anything positive can come from the Shafia verdict, let it be that law enforcement throughout North America takes the time to educate themselves about honour violence.
Canadians are often uncomfortable labeling premeditated murders "honour killings" under the guise of political correctness. Let us take off our multicultural goggles and see honour killings for what they are: culturally motivated, violent crimes committed against women that have no place in a civilized society.
The Shafia trial exposed a cultural pathology that needs a closer and unbiased examination. The men in Muslim families are rarely subjected to the kinds of constraints their female relatives endure. It is mostly when the conduct of the women is perceived as dishonourable that matters worsen.
What must we do -- we Muslims -- to ensure none of our daughters and sisters are murdered by their fathers, husbands, and brothers? Among many things we must embrace foremost the 1400-year-old Islamic tradition that emphasizes not the responsibility to guard our modesty, but the duty to show compassion.
Thus pronounced the jury in the 1968 film "The Producers" -- as the jury in the Shafia "honour killing" trial pretty much did this afternoon. It's justice but it doesn't feel like justice -- if only because those lives can never be brought back, the smiles of those murdered beautiful young women now forever frozen in photographs.
The most retrogressive segments of Muslim society often angrily conclude that reformist Muslims only speak from a position of ignorance when questioning orthodox religious practice. Progressive Muslims are ignorant, self-serving, heretical, and hypocritical according to these conservatives, who consistently accuse revisionists of being fifth columnists with nefarious ulterior motives.
Another group should stand accused alongside the Shafia family, during the ongoing trial of their daughter's murders: the social service and youth protection professionals who catastrophically let the Shafia girls down.
Self-anointed leaders of Muslim organizations had a great opportunity to come clean about the links between honour crimes and Sharia law, but instead, they tried to deflect attention and spin-doctor the truth.
Muslims emigrating to Canada and the United States need to acknowledge that their children, especially daughters, are human beings. No one has the right to injure and kill daughters due to medieval notions of family honour or disdain for Western society. Mr. Shafia, it is not sinful to be Canadian or American.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau chided the Conservative government for calling honour killings "barbaric." But why such reluctance to call these heinous crimes using terminology that best describes them? Is it fear of stigmatizing a particular culture or religious community? Is it simply naivete of the worst kind?