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Aqsa Parvez : 16 Year Old Killed in Family Dispute Over Hijab

Dec 15, 2007

The recent tragic killing of sixteen year old Toronto student, Aqsa Parvez, was in large part a consequence of a clash of cultures. Aqsa was strangled, allegedly by her father, after ongoing family tensions relating to her wish to live her own life, including dropping the wearing of the hijab.


Efforts by some in the Toronto media to try and pass this off as just another domestic tragedy is fairly typical of the understatement that accompanies tragedies of this sort. Apparently fear of giving offense takes precedence over stating difficult truths. Information that was truly pertinent with respect to what led to the tragedy came from Aqsa's friends and associates.

I strongly recommend this excellent article by Natasha Fatah. Ms Fatah addresses a number of the key issues surrounding this case in a clear and forthright fashion.

Typical of the cop-out posture are feminists and women's advocacy groups who refuse to take a position that addresses the problem of overbearing patriarchal control and the oppression of Muslim women. Obviously this isn't an issue across-the-board, but it impacts enough women and children in that community to make it an issue that should concern us all. Instead these advocates direct journalists to the Muslim community for reaction. This is unfortunate. Young women of Aqsa's generation may be members of the Muslim community, but they are also young Canadians. In some cases they identify closely with cultural trends in the larger society. We owe them our support when they are subjected to abuse in an attempt to force them to conform to traditional Islamic dress codes.

Of course young Muslim women should be free to wear the hijab if they choose to do so, but those who decline ought to have their choice respected. This is a message the Muslim community in Canada needs to hear more forcefully, especially when you have religious leaders such as Dr Iqbal Nadvi, stating publicly that Muslim parents bring shame upon themselves if a child chooses not to wear a hijab. He makes this statement even though there is nothing in either the Qur'an or the Hadith that makes a mandatory demand (law) with respect to female robing. The call is for modesty. Are women in Turkey who dress in a secular style, perhaps with the addition of a headscarf, bad Muslims? I'm sure there are a few Turkish imams who would disagree with Dr Nadvi's assertions.

It took classmates of Aqsa's who attend Applewood Heights Secondary School in Mississauga to speak-to-truth on this issue. They told reporters that Aqsa was harassed at home because she resisted the hard line religious requirements of her family, particularly on this issue of dress.

Pundits who are reluctant to speak directly to issues of male dominance and religious coercion are afraid of being seen as racist or in some way unreasonable. Have we become so reflexively compliant to the call of correctness that it's okay if reporting amounts to editorial spin-of-convenience so as to keep the mask of cultural propriety firmly in place?

Speaking out honestly on these issues does not imply that the speaker is either racist or anti-Islamic. This isn't about being Muslim - it is about denying the right to choose, in some cases accompanied by ongoing abuse. As we have seen in Aqsa's case, this can escalate and become a terrible tragedy. Domestic abuse in the name of religion shouldn't be tolerated, even out of deference to multicultural sensitivities.

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