Canadian Muslims Protest “Honor Killing” Label As Racist
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
October 7, 2013
Are they willfully misleading? Or are Canadian Muslims who are fighting federal funding to investigate honor violence in the Muslim (and other) communities simply naïve victims of the same propaganda used routinely to explain away the religio-culturally-based murders of Muslim women?
Every year, according to United Nations reports, 5,000 women worldwide are killed for reasons of “honor” that relate to matters of modesty and obeyance, though most experts maintain the numbers are far higher. And the number of victims of honor violence, which can involve beatings, acid attacks, or locking a woman in her home, is literally incalculable. In the United Kingdom alone, more than 3,000 such honor crimes occurred just in 2010, according to a study by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization (IKWRO). The vast majority of those crimes, the organization states, were committed by Muslims, though Sikhs and Hindus have also been known to commit honor-related crimes.
In Canada, the decision to earmark funds to combat honor violence began in 2007, after a series of honor crimes over the previous two years resulted in the deaths of two women and one man. Soon after the program was announced, on Dec. 10, 2007, the father and brother of 16-year-old Toronto native Aqsa Parvez, strangled her to death. The reason: she had refused to wear the hijab, or scarf.
Yet recently, some groups have begun speaking out against the idea of specifying these crimes as “honor killings” and providing targeted programs to address them, even as two subsequent events underscore just how urgently such funds and programs are needed.
The first of these was the 2012 conviction of Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya, and their son Hamed in the murder of Mohammad and Tooba’s three teenage daughters and of Rona Amir Mohammad, Mohammad Shafia’s other wife in a polygamous arrangement – a case that received worldwide attention. That conviction confirmed the findings of a University of Sherbrooke study released earlier that year showing an exponential increase in the number of honor killings in Canada. Only three known victims were killed between 1954 and 1983. Since 1999, 12 women have died in honor killings.
All of the murders, the study reported, took place within immigrant families. (It is worth noting that the increase may or may not reflect either the growing numbers of Muslim immigrants to Canada over the years, or a better understanding of honor crimes among law enforcement and other agencies.)
Yet according to a recent report from Women’s e-News, many Canadian Muslim women now are speaking out against the government’s new focus on these crimes, arguing that honor violence is no different from any other form of domestic abuse. Opponents of the idea call the projects “racist,” and claim they put an unwarranted and biased focus on Muslim and Hindi families. “When women of color are killed, we ask these larger questions around their culture. We ask what’s wrong with their entire people – their culture, their religion – instead of a particular person,” Itrath Syed, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in “Islamophobia” in Vancouver, for instance, told Women’s e-News.
What is so tragic about this remark is not just the half-dozen or so ways in which it is patently untrue, but that it seeks to nullify the horror that is honor violence, to deny the profound distinctions between honor crimes and other forms of domestic violence and femicide.
So they now issue Ph.D.’s in Islamophobia? Christians are persecuted and murdered, women and girls are killed or beaten worldwide, and a university offers a course on Islamophobia. Sure the racist claims are outrageous but the course is another outrage. What’s next an ethics course on proper beatings?
Well, don’t doubt it.
“There is a beating etiquette.”
And somehow those who oppose this inhumanity are racist! University courses on Islamophobia?