On the morning of December 10, Aqsa huddled in a Mississauga bus shelter with another Grade 11 student, a girl she had been staying with for the past couple of days. They had plenty of time to make it to their first class at Applewood Heights Secondary School. As they waited, Aqsa’s 26-year-old brother Waqas, a tow-truck driver, showed up at the bus stop. He said that she should come home and get a fresh change of clothes if she was going to be staying elsewhere. Aqsa hesitated, then got into his car. Less than an hour later, Muhammad Parvez phoned 911 and told the dispatcher that he had killed his daughter. Within minutes, police and paramedics arrived at 5363 Longhorn Trail, a winding suburban street near Eglinton and Hurontario, and found Aqsa unconscious in her bedroom. The 16-year-old wasn’t breathing. The paramedics started CPR, found a faint pulse, and rushed her to Credit Valley Hospital, 10 minutes west. A few hours later, she was transferred to SickKids and put on life support. She died just after 10 that evening. The official cause was “neck compression”—strangulation.
The Murderer was her father, he killed her because she did not want to wear a head scarf. Now a group called Urban Alliance on Race Relations is calling the magazine called Islamophobic because they dared to call Aqsa’s Father’s horrible act an Honor Killing.
Tomorrow’s looking it could be a very busy day for Sarah Fulford. Toronto Life’s editor is scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in the evening, but it’s quite possible she’ll spend her day fielding phone calls from readers angry about the latest cover story published by her magazine. A group called the Urban Alliance on Race Relations has created a Facebook page, urging people to phone Fulford and express their concerns about Mary Rogan’s cover feature on Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year-old who was murdered last year. After Parvez was strangled, her father Muhammad Parvez phoned 911 and told the dispatcher that he had killed his daughter. Muhammad and his son Waqas will be tried sometime next year.
The Facebook group, which currently has 127 members, offers five “talking points”, which callers are encouraged to bring up in phone conversations or messages to Fulford. They are:
- Aqsa’s murder must be looked at through the larger context of violence against women in Canada. The problem is not limited to any one community or religious faith.
- The article calls Aqsa’s murder “Toronto’s first honour killing”. Approximately 25 women a year are murdered in incidents of domestic violence. The use of the term “honour killing” is an attempt to sensationalize the situation by invoking common stereotypes about the prevalence of “honour killings” among South Asian Muslim families, thereby suggesting that domestic violence is not occurring at alarming rates across Canada. Instead, we should be working to end violence against all women.
- The article associates Muslim religiousity with a tendency towards violence. In other words, the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely s/he is to engage in this type of violence. This is false and based on Islamophobic stereotyping.
- The question, “Has multiculturalism gone too far?” suggests that Muslims and immigrants are threats to Canadian society, rather than contributing members to Canadian society. The idea that “our” tolerance or respect for cultural diversity has let “them” continue their oppressive and dangerous behaviours is not only based on racist and Islamophobic stereotyping of diverse Muslim and immigrant communities, but also ignores the ongoing racism that exists in Canada despite our public commitment to multiculturalism.
- The focus should be on violence against women, not hijab. The article sets up a false dichotomy between Muslim women who wear the hijab as oppressed and Muslim women who do not wear the hijab as liberated. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that all young girls want the same things, completely ignoring the diversity and richness of Muslim women’s voices and lived experiences.