The murder of 16 year old Toronto high school student Aqsa Parvez this past December became an international cause celeb. Despite the lack of concrete information, media outlets from around the globe resolutely declared that Parvez was murdered by her father, an observant Muslim, in what must have been an honour killing (purportedly because Parvez refused to wear a hijab, although this popular line of speculation was later disputed by a close friend of hers). Ignorant opinion scribes quickly untied innumerable bales of straw, binding their hasty preconceptions about Islam into a virtual crusader army of anti-Muslim fallacies.
Yet if one digs deeper than knee-jerk Islamophobic squick, one will see that the practice of honour killings predates and transcends “fundamentalist” (read: contemporary heretical) Islamic practices. Nor is practice of using family or clan ‘honour’ as a justification for murdering women exclusive to Islam, or the so-called ‘Third World’. Though it’s comforting to pawn off deadly misogyny on the uncivilized darkies, we in the oh-so-enlightened West aren’t exactly saintly in our treatment of women.
IOZ puts it better than I ever could:
“[H]onor killings” are the sort of thing that happen in America all the time, with nothing to do with Islam. They’re plotted on prime time. They play daily on Law and Order. The absence of overt religious motivations doesn’t negate the fact that guys kill girls for cheating; husbands kill wives; fathers kill daughters. Intrafamilial and intracommunal violence is horrific and sad, but let us not pretend that it somehow affects the adherents of this or that sect more acutely than some other. Violence and possessiveness are universal frailties of our unfortunate species.
Violence against women must be addressed in a broader context than simplistically labeling it a Muslim problem. But, all too often, when feminists try to expand the boundaries to include men in all cultures, including our own, they are often unfairly criticized by those who would prefer that the “evils” of Islam be the focus of debate, rather than the many, many evils that men of all races, creeds and geographic locales commit on a daily basis. Thankfully, some feminists defiantly ignored narrow parametres of discourse when addressing Parvez’s murder:
We, as a society are bombarded with sexual images, young girls and women starve themselves to death in a deluded attempt for control over any aspect of their lives, we hear loudmouths constantly telling us that some women who are raped, asked for it.
Some would hold lifesaving information and attend disgusting “purity balls” so that their daughters can be handed directly from their father’s to their new owner, the husband.
[Women in the West] still are fighting the battle for control over our own bodies, uphill because there are those that would also not let women and girls know how to not get pregnant.
Boys will be boys, after all. Girls will be quiet and docile. “Girl Power” often is portrayed in such a way as to make damned sure that it includes lots of cleavage and butt shots.
Aqsa Parvez was probably murdered by her father because of some “cultural” battle. (the 911 tape has a man saying he had killed his daughter)
Culture? Yes. The prevailing [culture] of men. The only way to change this? Is to change the prevailing culture Worldwide to a culture of humanity.
This post @ Muslimah Media Watch is also directly on target:
Apart from the role of Islam and culture, we must always remember that, at the end of the day, this was a case of violence against a woman. The result of patriarchy and in its worst manifestation. And although there is some merit in bringing to attention the pressures of clothing among Muslim women, the real issue in this case appears to be something much greater. We should not lose sight of this in the media portrayals of the case.
Of course, the mere suggestion that domestic violence stems from a universal culture of patriarchal dominance (and is not endemic to teh MOOSLIMZ!111) would likely raise the “secularist” (snicker) ire of cultural supremacists like Danielle Crittenden. However, secularism isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the antithesis of observance (nor is integration in opposition to the much-abused concept of multiculturalism, although with that said, I must admit that I’m uncomfortable with recent calls in the UK to recognize–even superficially—some variation of Sharia law). To paraphrase Holyoake, “Secularism is not an argument against Islam, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Islam; it advances others.” I really like (and, as a secularist, embrace) the definition of secularism offered by wikipedia: “promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief.”
To be fair, according to some estimates, 1/5 of honour killings in the year 2000 occured in Pakistan, where the Parvez family originally emigrated from. But putting an inordinate level of focus on Islamic fundamentalism (or supposedly “backwards” foreign culture) as the primary culprit is to place too much stock on a mere symptom, not the disease (ie, the denial of women’s agency in cultures where women are seen as mere property, to dispose of at whim–again I stress that Western culture is not immune, even if the set dressing is different). At some point, Aqsa’s father (and, in the capacity as accessory after the fact, brother) made the choice to kill a female family member.
At this point we really don’t know.
Speculation is fine, yes. But I don’t hear the staunch secularists-as-long-as-the-religion-in-question-isn’t-Christianity raising a single peep when white Western (Christian) women are murdered at the hands of male family members. In fact, in some instances one hears a lot of disturbing apologetics with regards to home grown (middle class) domestic violence (“She was asking for it”; “Why didn’t she just leave?”; or my personal fav, “Oh yeah? Men are abused by women, too!!1”)
These sorts of issues lay bare the base motivations of all involved in the discussion. And, frankly, those who rant the loudest about the inherent evils of Islam–eg, Michelle Malkin and Robert “I hearted Vlaams Belang until I didn’t” Spencer–don’t strike me as the sort who would normally give two shits about uppity wimminz (nor teh queerz).
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Aqsa Parvez almost instantly became the latest prop to be opportunistically appropriated by the usual xenophobic suspects as a crude means of advancing their narrow-minded, nativist Holy War against the Jihadi horde. That so many have quickly jumped to the conclusion that Islam is, by default, complicit in Parvez’s death further highlights the simmering resentment for the ‘other’ that, ever since 9/11, has threatened to boil over here in the civilized West.
Judging by how even Canada no longer appears to be exempt (if we ever truly were), I fear that it soon will.
Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers