Murder does not reflect Muslim values
The death of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was an unmitigated tragedy. She was by all
accounts a fun-loving girl who loved dancing, fashion and photography, and who
worked hard at her studies and even harder to fit in at her suburban Toronto
None of that makes her at all unusual. It's a profile that could fit a million
Grade XI students just about anywhere in North America. There was really nothing
to set her apart from the dozens of schoolgirls you see on the bus or the métro
every morning, chatting with friends, flirting with the boys and worrying about
their test scores.
It seems, however, that her behaviour could well have led to her death. Aqsa -
again, not unlike millions of other girls her age - was at loggerheads with her
family, especially her father, a 57-year-old taxi driver. Her interests often
clashed with her parents' old-fashioned values. In fact, she had already moved
out of the house, at least temporarily, and begun living at a friend's house.
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But on Monday morning, when she went home to pick up some belongings, Aqsa was
strangled to death. Her father, Muhammed Parvez, has been charged with her
murder. It's a bitterly sad story, and if, indeed, her father killed her,
nothing can excuse that. Aqsa might well have defied family values and parental
rules, but nothing she did warranted death. Harsh words, perhaps, and even
grounding, but there can be no tolerance for such violence.
Given the temper of the times, however, and the heated debate over "reasonable
accommodation," there's a danger that we might read too much into the one
difference that set Aqsa apart from most of her friends - the fact that she was
and her family is Muslim. One of the major sources of conflict between them, in
fact, was Aqsa's refusal to wear a hijab, or headscarf, outside the house.
Already, the media - especially the open-line radio shows - are trumpeting this
family tragedy as one more proof that Muslims don't belong here, that their
culture is too "other" to accommodate itself to Western values. One genius even
suggested that Canadians boycott Muslim cab drivers, and an expert cited in the
National Post suggested that this cultural conflict forced Aqsa to live a double
life, dressing one way at home and another at school. Now there's a shock: a
teenager who tries to fool her parents.
All this is nonsense, of course. Murdering daughters is no more an Islamic value
than murdering estranged wives is a Western one. Muhammed Parvez might have been
fighting a losing battle trying to make Aqsa wear a hijab, but that hardly sets
him apart. Few are the fathers, of any faith or none, who have not clashed with
their adolescent daughters over something - boyfriends, lipstick, short skirts,
staying out late, dyed hair, body piercings, tattoos and any number of other
That such clashes can sometimes lead to violence and even murder is also not a
phenomenon peculiar to Muslim families, as anyone who reads newspapers
attentively can tell you. But once again, some people have been too eager to
jump aboard the anti-Muslim bandwagon. To judge a faith and a culture on this
one squalid incident is absurd.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007