You know how you’re always shrieeeeeking at us feminists because we’re not shrieeeeeeeking along with you about the evils and horrors of Mooooooozlim (or Mawwwwwwwzlem) “honor” killings coming to these shores, along with those brown immigrants?Well, you can stop shrieeeeeeeking now. Because two of those people you’re so frightened of, and always shrieeeeeeeeking about, have finally admitted their guilt and are going to prison for the rest of their lives.Yes, the murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was horrifying. How could a father and brother, who ought to have been nurturing and protecting her, put their hands around their daughter/sister’s throat and strangle her instead? The rationale for their crime is culture-based, and yes, horrible, but let’s be honest, it is neither foreign nor far removed from that of other domestic femicides in North America:
“…you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked.”That’s all this boils down to. Aqsa’s father was embarrassed because his youngest child, of all people, had decided, just two years shy of legal majority, that she did not want to be so strictly controlled. For a while and in some ways he loosened that grip, but when he saw her making a bid for more freedom, he tightened it again…the final time, right around her neck.And Mother blames the victim: “Oh my Aqsa, you should have listened…” As though she had not. As though it were only her fault, and not that of her killers–her father, her brother. It seems to me that Aqsa was the one trying to be heard, and the others were not listening to her. Even her sisters, who obediently said they had “heard nothing” when their baby sister was struggling against the death grip of father and brother!We can try to blame these things on the Parvez family’s foreign origins, but that ultimately won’t wash. Patriarchy is pervasive all over the globe. Yes, even here. When a woman gets sexually assaulted, we often hear the question: What was she wearing? Funny how that is never said about men. Does a man with a bulging wallet, one whose outline can be seen through the back of his pants pocket, ever get blamed for being mugged? Should he be? No? Then why women?I’ll tell you why. It’s because our society, like that from which the Parvez family came, is still very patriarchal. Women are seen as property, to be traded and controlled. When a young woman marries, does she walk down the church aisle alone? No. Her father escorts her. He “gives her away” to her husband-to-be. The handing over of control, along with the change of surnames, is so blatantly obvious. In our society, women are still, symbolically and in fact, chattel. No muezzins or minarets required.And yet, the shrieeeeekers who want us feminists to castigate Muslim immigrants for honor killings, take all this patriarchy of their own as perfectly natural. They take it for granted. They do not even see it as patriarchy; or if they do, they say it can’t be as bad as what Those People do. Those People force their daughters to wear hijabs, oh noes! It’s always Those People. It’s never OUR people.And when something bad happens among Our People–when an abused white Christian wife asks for a divorce, say, and her husband takes out the shotgun and gives her both barrels in front of the kids, before perhaps taking their lives and/or his own–those same shrieeeeekers are out there, blaming her, claiming she “asked for it”, maybe huffing that if she didn’t get out sooner it must have been her fault. Those same no doubt are also grumbling about the liberalization of our divorce laws and the existence of a long-gun registry, and what uncontrollable, mouthy jezebels all these teenage girls are nowadays, thanks to comprehensive sex education, condoms and Gardasil shots, and blah blah blabbity blah blah. And we are supposed to view the Parvez family as some kind of cultural anomaly, some foreign threat, to be kept out by special exclusion laws, no doubt?No, shrieeeeeekers, it doesn’t work that way. Because honor killings are not a Muslim thing. They’re a tribal thing, and our own tribe has them too. Only we don’t label them as such, because our patriarchy is something we are too deep in denial about to openly admit, discuss and demolish. We call it “stability”, “law-abiding”, “morality” and many other false, inaccurate things. We even call it “natural order”, although we go to unnatu
Media in Toronto and around the world immediately reported and continues to report that Aqsa was killed because she refused to wear the hijab. But it was much more complicated than that.Parvez felt like he was losing control of a daughter who was failing most of her Grade 11 subjects at Applewood Heights Secondary School. He believed she would be better off attending an Islamic high school.But at a meeting with her father and school officials on Sept. 17, 2007, she told them she wanted to stay where she was.A day after the school meeting, Aqsa ran away from home for the first time. Her clandestine exit from her school was orchestrated by school officials and a social worker from Indian Rainbow, a non-profit agency for immigrants. They arranged for her to stay in a shelter.The familial problems had been obvious a year earlier, when the local Children’s Aid Society (CAS) had been brought into speak with her father, once school officials became aware of growing cultural clash between Aqsa and her father, a taxi driver. Life after they had moved to Canada in 2001 was much different than the small village of Pur Miana in the Punjab area of Pakistan.She told officials she feared she would be beaten, perhaps even killed, if she told her father she didn’t want to wear traditional clothing anymore to school, especially her hijab.Now, after spending several days in a Mississauga shelter, she returned home after receiving a letter from Irim, telling her that her father would give her whatever she wanted so long as she returned home.For a few weeks, things worked out. But the trouble started again.During a second round of family mediation in November 2007, Parvez said it would be better for her to quit school and stay home.She contemplated leaving home again but told a couple of her close friends in November that if “she ever messed up again,” her father would “kill me.”She began to cry. “No, he swore on the Qur’an,” Aqsa said. “He said he’d kill me if I ever ran away again.”Aqsa left home for the final time on Nov. 29, 2007, and settled in with a Pakistani family, who had a daughter Amal Tahir, friends with her sister Irim. The Tahir household was far less strict than her own home, and she felt safe there.To her siblings, Aqsa’s actions were shocking. Running away from home was unheard of in a Pakistani household, they testified.In a chilling police interview on the day Aqsa was killed, her mother crying and talking out loud to herself, was recorded as saying she thought her husband was only going to “break legs and arms,” but instead “killed her straight away.”“Oh God, Oh God. . . Oh my Aqsa, you should have listened,” Anwar Jan said in a police interview room. “Everyone tried to make you understand. Everyone begged you, but you did not listen. . .”When she asked her husband why he killed her, he told her: “This is my insult. My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked.”
ral lengths to codify it, institutionalize it and enforce it. How far do we go? Far enough to blame the victim of domestic violence, just as Aqsa’s mother blamed her. And sometimes, far enough to kill the victim. Or send her back to her abuser, who eventually kills her, and call that “preserving family integrity”. It is the same thing; either way we look at it, it results in her death.And either way we look at it, that’s a murder to be prosecuted under the existing laws of the land. No special immigration laws–really, exclusion laws–required.The death of Aqsa Parvez made it to the news precisely because it is so anomalous. The entire Pakistani-Canadian community is not rife with unremarked honor killings of women and girls. Murders are comparatively rare in Canada. This is not a place where the authorities turn a blind eye when someone is killed. Our grasp of patriarchy may be shaky, but the law is clear at least on what constitutes a murder. And “honor”, that fuzzy concept that varies from person to person and place to place, is not considered an exculpatory factor. Fathers and brothers don’t get off here for claiming they could not control a wayward sister-daughter. The law applies to them. And most imams here exhort their congregations to obey the laws of the land. Which most Muslims do. They even voted against sharia as a potential legal basis for divorce arbitration, which should tell us something: Muslim Canadians want to be part of mainstream society, not outsiders. They want to live by the same laws as we do. They don’t want to take us over, outbreed us, or force their laws and religion upon us. They overwhelmingly accept our way of life, our laws, as part of the conditions for living here in Canada. The case of Aqsa Parvez is the exception that very clearly proves the rule.And that is nothing to shrieeeeek about.