Interesting op-ed this week in the Vancouver Sun:
Back in June, in an “honour-killing” murder trial now known across Canada, Muhammad Parvez and Waqas Parvez pleaded guilty to the 2007 murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez (their daughter/sister respectively). According to media reports, not one of the 12 people present in the house could — or would — bear witness to the crime.
Regrettably, unless attitudes in some immigrant communities change, this may not be the last time Canadians hear of such tragedies. The same day the Parvez men pleaded guilty to murdering Aqsa for “dishonouring” their family, I happened to conduct a workshop in an elementary school for South Asian women in Toronto. I asked the participants why the boys and girls were segregated on the playground and learned that about 75 per cent of the children in this school are from one region of South Asia, the same one Aqsa Parvez came from.
While segregation of children by gender is not the school policy, the volunteer parents who monitor the playground and speak their language instruct the children in appropriate, culturally accepted behaviours. For example, a majority of the boys and girls wore native outfits and few spoke English, and the consensus among the 19 mothers in the workshop was that if Aqsa had obeyed her parents, she would still be alive today.
All these mothers were resistant to the notion their children should adopt western values — the problem for Aqsa Parvez.
Reported the CBC:
Aqsa Parvez wanted to get a part-time job and be allowed to dress and act like other teenage girls in her neighbourhood, but those desires led to a deadly conflict with her family that ended with her being strangled.
The Parvez family had moved from Pakistan to Ontario. Aqsa was 11 years old when she arrived — the youngest of eight children.
The statement of facts released in court about the December 2007 death revealed that when she entered her teen years Aqsa began rebelling against her father’s strict rules.
“[S]he was experiencing conflict at home over cultural differences between living in Canada and back [in Pakistan],” the statement said.
Aqsa was in almost constant disagreement with her father and her siblings.
She told her father she did not wish to wear the hijab any longer. She wanted to dress in Western clothes and have the same freedoms as the other girls in her high school.
The statement revealed that Aqsa “did not have a door on her bedroom, her freedom to talk on the phone with friends was restricted, she was required to come straight home from school and expected to spend her evenings and weekends at home as well.”
It’s the third rail of politics for any country that has relied heavily on immigration from countries or regions whose cultural norms toward women (or children) vary widely from those of the nation to which they choose to move, live in, work and pay taxes to. I grew up in Canada and saw it there. I see it less in the U.S.
In Holland and France, the growing divide between what these democracies view as basic human rights and those of their newer residents, often Muslim, is creating growing friction.
The putative appeal of Western democracies such as those of Canada and Europe is their willingness to embrace and accept difference and diversity. But there are limits, and setting them an almost impossible challenge — before a woman is killed.