Categorized | Society

Honour Killing? Or Shameful Killing?

Posted on 30 June 2010 by .

Aqsa Parvez was murdered in cold blood by the hands of her own brother, as her father watched in 2007 at their family home in Mississauga. Her murder spread across media and news outlets like wildfire not just because this young girl of only 16 years of age had died but also because her death was a result of an honour killing. Aqsa admitted to her friends that she did not want to wear the traditional hijab. She wanted a different environment than her Muslim home and this led to her family killing the young girl. On June 16, 2010, both Aqsa’s father and brother were sentenced to life for her murder.

From left to right: Jawinder “Jassi” Kaur (25), Aqsa Parvez (16), Methal Dayem (22), Lubaina Bhatti Ahmed (39), Sahar Daftary (23), Amandeep Singh Atwal (17), Amina Said (17) and Sarah Said (18), Sandeela Kanwal (25), Surjit Athwal (27), Rukhsana Naz (19), Fadime Sahindal (32), Heshu Yones (16), Anooshe Sediq Ghulam (22), Maja Bradaric (16), Sahjda Bibi (21), Anita Gindha (22), Shafilea Ahmed (16), Gulsum Semin (20), Hatin Surucu (23), Banaz Mahmod (20), Samaira Nazir (25), Sazan Bajez-Abdullah (24), Sabia Rani (19), Ghazala Khan (18), Caneze Riaz (39) and daughters Sayrah (16), Sophia (15), Alicia (10), Hannah (3), Hina Saleem (21), Morsal Obeidi (16), Aasiya Hassan (37), Ayman Udas (30), Du’a Khalil (17), Khatera Sadiqi (20), Lidia Motylska (19), Müjde B. (18), Pela Atroshi (19), Rim Abu Ghanem (19), Sabina Akhtar (26), Uzma Rahan, 32,and sons, Adam (11), and Abbas (8) and daughter, Henna(6), Tulay Goren (15)

Aqsa emigrated from Pakistan and grew up in Brampton, which now has a large desi community and also a large Muslim population. Growing up in a community like Brampton there is always a tug and pull between the culture of your parents and the culture you are in. Finding your place within these two distinct communities can sometimes be a battle between your South Asian culture and what your parents would like, and Canadian culture you’re exposed to.

As I remember when I first heard the tragic news of Aqsa, it reminded me of the many tragic stories of women in Pakistan and in particular a CBC movie I had watched, “The Murdered Bride”.  In this movie a young Canadian girl named Jassi had been murdered. Her family orchestrated her death as a result of her marriage to taxi cab driver from India who was of a different caste. Her tale and sadly like many others including Asqa, is forever now a haunting memory. Not just because of the gruesome murder of a young life that had been lost too soon but because of the perverted nature of the murder, to protect a family’s reputation.  It makes you aware of how privileged you are to be free to choose without having the fear of your family in the background and how, Asqa or Jassi didn’t get the same. I don’t doubt for a minute that there are many homes in GTA and the rest of North America where women have been held back and experience this fear that inhibits them from what they want or would like to do.

If you think about it logically, although we all love our parents as we should, we don’t necessarily owe them anything. We all use the phrase growing up, “We didn’t ask to be born” and yet, there is truth behind this phrase. There is no contract we signed at birth that we must obey to our parents every quarrel and fulfill their desires. But most of us do, we treat our parents with respect and provide for them. And one shouldn’t confuse this, with being oblige to, but rather it’s what we feel we want to do. No parent can or should force their child to wear a hijab, because that isn’t how religion should be practiced, by force. It should be practiced with one’s own desire. Although one can argue that we have to teach our children and that is true, but there is a fine line between teaching and forcing. And this line when crossed can lead to devastating outcomes and I believe forcing is one component of the background of honour killings.

This notion of force by parents and not understanding or incorporating North American culture put parents in an unstable situation. The issue is to do with the clash of west and east and how well parents cope with the change in their families. When a child decides to defend their right not to wear a hijab or live in a manner different to their parents’ wishes, this is when families don’t know what to do. But what is the deeper issue is of the people who refuse to accept change and so much so that they rather kill their daughter than live with their wishes not being met. Selfish I would say, one of the most selfish acts to kill to preserve yourself and your family. Children are born into this world not as slaves to their parents’ wishes but a part of their parent’s lives. There can only be so much control. Is a family’s reputation more important than their own child? How could one even put such a dilemma on the table and execute the decision to kill.

Honour killings have nothing to do with religion? Well I would beg to differ, Canada although multicultural, is very much a young country that has many different cultures and religions but all closed in their bubbles. The book, Selling Illusions: The cult of Multiculturalism, by Neil Bissoondath outlines that although Canada is diverse in cultures from around the world we lack in being a common community. Canada does not have one culture of its own. Of all the many cultures and religions, Canada has become a collaboration of groups made up of different religions and cultures.  Of course one should carry on their culture and their traditions, however, to preserve them so much that you’re a separate entity, than you’re not living with society, and you’re living outside of it. The problem is that we live in a mix of cultures here in Canada where we get exposed to different worlds the other. This tango between worlds can be a deadly mix for an unstable home.

Asqa Parvez was choked to death by her brother for not wearing a hijab and prior to that, had many arguments about the way she wanted to live her life. How many of us young South Asians have not been through an argument or two with our parents about some sort of cultural conflict? We’ve been taught that our parents know best and we should always listen to them. But in a world to which they immigrated to and some have little experience in, there are some things we might know best, sometimes we understand differently. Things in Canada are different than in Pakistan or India. Not all elements of a culture can be applied and kept sacred in a bubble. And no one can live in that bubble. We can’t separate ourselves from other Canadians who don’t have the same religious and/or cultural background. Living here means living together.

Honour killings have a string of complexity of issues that surround them and each case is different. Some have associated these killings with the teachings of Islam. Or others believe that there are isolated incidents and can’t be correlated to a religion. Regardless of what you believe the truth of the matter is that it is a problem within our community. If Aqsa’s family felt the need to kill because of the shame they would feel, not only is it a disgusting act on the part of the family but also for those who would support it. After the life sentence of Aqsa’s father and brother, the message is clear that if you kill, than you will be punished but would this help stop future honour killings? Or is the problem rooted even deeper?

What would killing your own daughter accomplish? As sad as the deaths of these courageous young women, they surfaced a problem in North America that needs to be addressed. These haunting honour killings remind us of the silent unattached family in our communities. Where although they are living among us they’re not mixed in with society. In the homes where honour killings have happened there has usually been a history of emotional and physical abuse against women, and the cry for help is kept silent and the despair is hidden behind four walls. Women have the right to choose their lives and this disgusting attempt of preservation of honour in reality is a shameful killing.

Author: Zarish Ahmed

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