Toronto Life's Misrepresentation of Aqsa Parvez's Murder + Action

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
nanu
Toronto Life's Misrepresentation of Aqsa Parvez's Murder + Action

There's a call for action regarding Toronto Life's recent article on the story of Aqsa Pervez. 

---

Don't Believe the Hype!!! Call to Action against Toronto Life's
Misrepresentation of Aqsa's Parvez's Murder
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=49864066322&ref=nf

The December 2008 edition of Toronto Life features the story of Aqsa
Parvez, a young Muslim girl who was killed in her home in Mississauga
last winter (http://www.torontolife.com/features/girl-interrupted/). While featuring Aqsa's story is recognition of a young woman's life cut
tragically short, the Toronto Life article perpetuates common
stereotypes about Muslim and immigrant communities, diverting attention
from the urgent issue of violence against women across Canada. 
On Tuesday November 11th, join us in a "Don't' Believe the Hype"
Campaign! We are asking you to raise your voice on the important issue
of violence against women, racism, and Islamophobia. 
Get Involved!!

EMAIL or PHONE Toronto Life Editor in Chief, Sarah Fulford. Once you do
that, call up five of your friends and get them to do the same. You can
reach Ms. Fulford at 416-364-3333 ext 3063, editor@torontolife.com

WHY? Violence against women, racism, and Islamophobia are issues that
affect all of us in diverse and important ways. Fifty-one percent of
women in Canada have experienced at least one incidence of physical or
sexual violence since the age of 16, and there have been approximately
25 female victims of domestic homicide each year in Ontario from 1975 to
2004. Join us in voicing your concerns and helping to call attention to
misrepresentations that are all too common in our media

WHAT TO EXPECT? This number 416-364-3333 ext 3063 will take you directly
to Sarah Fulford's office, where her assistant will either pick up, or
you will be put through to her assistant's voicemail. You can leave a
personal message or voicemail recording for her assistant to pass on to
Ms. Fulford. 
WHAT TO SAY? Identify who you are and where you are from. State that you
are leaving a message for the Sarah Fulford, Editor In Chief and express
your dismay with the article on Aqsa Parvez. Bonus Points: Talk about a
personal experience that proves to you why addressing this issue is so
important and urgent. 
Here are a couple of talking points about the article that may help. Feel free to use them directly or make up your own:
1) 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. 2) 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. 3) 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. 4) 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. 5) 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. 
Other Ways to Get Involved

COME TO THE SPEAK OUT AND PRESS CONFERENCE on Tuesday, November 11, 2008
at 10:30 AM at YWCA located at 80 Woodlawn Avenue East, Main Lounge,
Toronto Ontario. Panelists include representatives of: Muslim Young
Women, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and
Children, Urban Alliance on Race Relations. For more information
contact: michelle@urbanalliance.ca 647-388-6900

SUBMIT TO THE AQSA ZINE # 1. It is s a grassroots zine that is open to
all 13-35 year old young women who self-identify as Muslim. This issue's
theme is self-defense and resistance. It is a creative avenue for us to
express ourselves, share our own experiences, and connect with others. Submissions deadline is December 1, 2008. aqsazine@gmail.com Blog:
aqsazine.blogspot.com

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thanks for this, nanu. That article is horrible. Is it an 'honour killing' whenever a brown murders a brown woman now?

Blue56

While the article is disappointing because of its sensationalist tone and its one-sided research, the main point seems to me to be entirely justified. Aqsa was murdered because her father believed that if she did not behave as he wanted, in line with his view of what Islam required, she had no right to live. Her murder was no accident. Police investigation has determined that there was a plot to kill this girl. It was cold-blooded murder for religious reasons.   

To equate her murder with violence against women in general does a disservice to the cause of protecting women from violence because it fails to address a clear cause of violence when so often there isn't one. To change the system, we must attack the particulars which reinforce violent behaviour.  Christianity spent 2000 years persecuting women and justifying their abuse because of the Bible, until women demanded and fought for equality within society. This fight is not over, but if the issue is gender equality, and tied to that, violence against women, then it seems to me fair to say Islam as its practiced by many has a long way to go before women achieve a similar equality to other groups. And if multiculturalism means remaining silent when gender equality is attacked, then perhaps promotion of this nation-building policy has gone too far.

If the basic facts of the article are accurate, and if the first degree murder charge stands up in court, then Aqsa did not die randomly as another victim of violence against women, but because of her father's belief that he was justified in killing her because of his religion. Obviously few who follow Islam are as demented as the father, but that does not mean various misogynistic elements of the religion are not also to blame.

It also seems silly to call this issue racist.  Islam is one of the the world's great religions and people all around the world practice it. What race is Islam?   

martin dufresne

All murders of "unruly" women (and their children) by disgruntled men (partners, fathers, brothers, sons) are "honour killings".

French sociologist Christine Delphy makes the accurate point that, in French society, "Muslim" has become a code word for Arab, and that Islamophobia - based on Islam's alleged treatment of women - has become the moral cover for the war in the Middle-East and the continuing discrimination against French women and men whose skin colour isn't the "right" one. (The Toronto Life article makes that point vividly by taking on multiculturalism instead of male violence.) So yes, I believe that there definitely is racism in singling out the patriarchal killing of a Muslim while simply dismissing as "tragedies" the very similar murders of Christian, Jewish or atheist women by men who similarly put their "honour" in the control of "their" women.

nanu

**Given conversations here and here, i encourage indigenous folks and pocs to reply - i am particularly interested in their comments (and situate myself as well)**

Equating violence with one faith does not make sense, as violence against women occurs in so many communities - specific gendered power dynamics result in violence. Violence against women is rarely a random act, and suggesting so, to use Blue56's own words, "does a disservice to the cause of protecting women from violence." 

i am more than a little uncomfortable with the positioning of Christianity in opposition to Islam. i am more than a little uncomfortable with the suggestion that Christian women are the ones who "demanded and fought for equality within society" and that women in "other groups" (read not white, not Christian, not "from" the Global North) need to do that work too, and need to "catch up."  

What does "Islam as its [sic] practiced by many" even look like? The problem with the rhetoric of multiculturalism that Rogan perpetuates is the simplistic understanding - one "other" from the "outside" versus "us" from the "inside." "We" tolerate "them."  And a dichotomy is created: Muslim women who wear the hijab are "oppressed," while those who do not are "liberated."

It's not about remaining silent (my initial post obviously indicates that people are talking) as folks from various communities - south asian or not, Muslim or  not, women or not, have engaged in dialogue about Aqsa's life and death. 

In addition to martin dufresne's point about Muslim meaning Arab, the Toronto Life article makes claims about South Asians (a diverse group itself) in Canada - for example the faulty use of the term ethnic enclave, suggesting that the threat is growing because "those" people are congregating...

as a final note, talking about multiculturalism and the nation-building project is too large a topic to discuss here, i think...

Stargazer

Blue56 wrote:

It was cold-blooded murder for religious reasons.   

To equate her murder with violence against women in general does a disservice to the cause of protecting women from violence because it fails to address a clear cause of violence when so often there isn't one. To change the system, we must attack the particulars which reinforce violent behaviour.  Christianity spent 2000 years persecuting women and justifying their abuse because of the Bible, until women demanded and fought for equality within society. This fight is not over, but if the issue is gender equality, and tied to that, violence against women, then it seems to me fair to say Islam as its practiced by many has a long way to go before women achieve a similar equality to other groups. And if multiculturalism means remaining silent when gender equality is attacked, then perhaps promotion of this nation-building policy has gone too far.

If the basic facts of the article are accurate, and if the first degree murder charge stands up in court, then Aqsa did not die randomly as another victim of violence against women, but because of her father's belief that he was justified in killing her because of his religion. Obviously few who follow Islam are as demented as the father, but that does not mean various misogynistic elements of the religion are not also to blame.

It also seems silly to call this issue racist.  Islam is one of the the world's great religions and people all around the world practice it. What race is Islam?   

 

I beg to differ. There are many many very religious people, of all faiths, whose daughters actions they do not like, or are at odds with. Religion did not make this man kill his daughter. The fact that women are thought of as less than men did. As long as some men (and those who sit by silently) continue to miss the fact that hatred against women is a large issue, murders will always occur, and excuses for why will always fall on something other than hatred for females, such as this "honour killing", "she provoked me" "I'm the man in this house" etc. He killed her because he thouht women are lower than men. Word up here eh - loads of men think women are lesser people. Some of these will use anything to justify the effects of their rage. This is just one among far too many examples. 

Again, the Qu'ran did not make this man kill, his hatred of women did. 

BTW, didn't we have a rather long thread on this already? 

Manitoba Girl

Margaret Wente has views on this.

"To be specific is not racist" 

When Mary Rogan accepted a magazine assignment from Toronto Life, she had no idea it would stir up such a hornet's nest. "The Brief Life of Aqsa Parvez," this month's cover story, is a sensitive portrait of a teenaged girl caught between the wishes of her devout family and the lure of a secular Western culture. The 16-year-old was strangled after her father allegedly threatened to kill her for ignoring his wishes. Her father and brother have been charged with her murder.

"The untold story of Toronto's first honour killing," said the cover line. And then the protests began. The magazine has been fielding a barrage of e-mail denouncing the piece as racist and Islamophobic. "The magazine created a culture of fear in perpetuating negative stereotypes," said one protester interviewed on CBC Radio.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081112.wcowent13/BNStory/specialComment/home

Blue56

Nanu,  Your interpretation of my words is very narrow.  I say clearly in the post that any perpetuation of gender inequality, which leads to violence against women is wrong.  I discuss Islam because Islam is at issue in Aqsa's case.  And when I say other groups, I don't necessarily mean white...why do you immediately make this a race issue.  Buddhism, for example, which is largely a "non-white" religion, has much less of a record of violence against women.  Similarly, Judaism, a religion founded in the same area as Islam.  Both of these religions have patriarchal structures but do not find it necessary to dominate women to the same extent as some who practice Islam do.  

I use Christianity as an example because Christianity has a horrible history of violence that to a great extent has been squelched by humanist beliefs.   Also, I never said or suggested that it was Christian women who fought for women's rights.  Women and men of all stripes fought/fight for gender equality, just like men and women of all stripes fight for racial equality. 

What I don't get is the ideologically inflexible stance that says, we should not be specific about the causes of violence against women because violence against women occurs everywhere and therefore there is no specific cause, just a history of men abusing women.  Well if this history is not genetic, then it was caused by various cultural institutions, and religion has been one of the biggest ones, and in some cultures, i.e. Islam, continues to be.  I never said it was the only one, but it is the one at issue in this article.

Stargazer, I'm surprised that you won't acknowledge that religious belief does not cause violence against women.  Religions have been the main cause of violence and murder for centuries.  What's so radical about that statement.   I do say in my post that the father is clearly demented.  That doesn't mean, however, that he wasn't led to justify his act by an appeal to religion. I guess where we disagree is that you think that all cultures and beliefs are equally misogynistic, and I believe that some are more so, and some less.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

blue56 wrote:
I discuss Islam because Islam is at issue in Aqsa's case...Buddhism, for example, which is
largely a "non-white" religion, has much less of a record of violence
against women.  Similarly, Judaism, a religion founded in the same area
as Islam.  Both of these religions have patriarchal structures but do
not find it necessary to dominate women to the same extent as some who
practice Islam do.

Do you have any sources to back up this claim? It's interesting that you would pick a religion that allows polygamy and refuses to admit women monks or novices as a tonic to patriarchy. Are you aware, for example, that Thailand (94% Buddhist), a man who beats his wife and "only" causes bruising, he is subject to a maximum 1000 bahts (about $20) fine, which is rarely enforced? This kind of 'law' is typical of the widespread, endemic violence against women in Thailand and the 'friendly' religion of Buddhism. Don't be fooled by the Wesern media's love affair with Tibet.

At any rate, Toronto Life's article chooses to make this story about Islam, and in doing so, draws a line between 'us' and 'them'. There was no line between Aqsa and her friends, so why does the article feel the need to draw one? Words like 'multiculturalism', especially when used in loaded and lazy questions like 'is this the price of...', ring ll kinds of alarm bells. What is 'multiculturalism' in such a context? Immigration? Respect for other cultures? Hardly. It is reinforcing what 'multiculturalism' has always meant for Canada: imported cheap labour and second-class citizens that prop up the white middle. Isolating 'Islam' as the sole, or primary motivation for this horrible tragedy is nothing but a smear and a stoke to the fires of intolerance and xenophobia.

Manitoba Girl wrote:
Margaret Wente has views on this.

Please keep that horrible woman out of this thread.

TVParkdale

nanu wrote:

**Given conversations here and here, i encourage indigenous folks and pocs to reply - i am particularly interested in their comments (and situate myself as well)**

Equating violence with one faith does not make sense, as violence against women occurs in so many communities - specific gendered power dynamics result in violence. Violence against women is rarely a random act, and suggesting so, to use Blue56's own words, "does a disservice to the cause of protecting women from violence."

i am more than a little uncomfortable with the positioning of Christianity in opposition to Islam. i am more than a little uncomfortable with the suggestion that Christian women are the ones who "demanded and fought for equality within society" and that women in "other groups" (read not white, not Christian, not "from" the Global North) need to do that work too, and need to "catch up."

What does "Islam as its [sic] practiced by many" even look like? The problem with the rhetoric of multiculturalism that Rogan perpetuates is the simplistic understanding - one "other" from the "outside" versus "us" from the "inside." "We" tolerate "them." And a dichotomy is created: Muslim women who wear the hijab are "oppressed," while those who do not are "liberated."

It's not about remaining silent (my initial post obviously indicates that people are talking) as folks from various communities - south asian or not, Muslim or not, women or not, have engaged in dialogue about Aqsa's life and death.

In addition to martin dufresne's point about Muslim meaning Arab, the Toronto Life article makes claims about South Asians (a diverse group itself) in Canada - for example the faulty use of the term ethnic enclave, suggesting that the threat is growing because "those" people are congregating...

 

Ahnee Nanu:

I too, have a problem with a woman's death in this country being claimed as "honour killing" or anything else religious for that matter.

I too, have that problem with Christian vs. Muslim since such Christianity in this country has been used to justify genocide against us, I hardly think the Christian churches are in any moral position to take a stand against the Muslim religions and what Muslim women choose to wear, or not wear to please their families or themselves.

The emphasis on "clothing"  is another red herring here. Traditionally, many Native women choose long hair/dresses to the ground and other such clothing to delienate traditional status. That is the choice some make, some daily, others on occassion, others not at all. It is irrelevent to our death toll and to point that out as being "relevent" somehow to the death rate of Muslim women is ludicrous.

This is, as someone pointed out, a matter of seeing this young woman as "less than". And the press, focussing on honour killing has made the brutal fact of her death even more "less than" because it puts her, her death and her family in the role of "other"--rather than the fact that due to oppressive practises across the world women are murdered at the hands of their family members in far greater numbers than men. 

What may have relevance is why this family felt so isolated that these men could not find someone to confide this dark secret to. How ashamed must they have been to speak to NO ONE about what they perceived as bad behaviour on the part of this child.

That's not blaming the victim--it's looking at prevention. They felt they had the right to murder this child. They knew it was illegal. They did it anyway. Why did they not tell a soul outside the family what they were planning? If so religious, why not speak to a church leader who might advise them of other options? Apparently this had happened within their family before. Why had no one spoken of how tramatizing that experience had been for them?

There's too many questions here to simply call this "honour killing". It is the undeserved death of a woman in a country where "honour killing" is not permitted.

Those questions cannot be answered if there is a polarization around the Muslim religion being designated as "against women".

 

 

Unionist

I have a few observations (opinions):

1. I'm unaware of any society/culture/civilization on earth today where women have achieved true and full equality of rights in all (or most or some) spheres with men. The main such society that concerns me is called Canada.

2.  I'm unaware of any religion (with the possible exception of a couple of lefty self-styled "religions" with a handful of adherents) which preaches and practises full equality of men and women.

3. Women are oppressed, discriminated against, subjugated, humiliated, assaulted, and killed by societies and perpetrators who are fanatically religious, atheistic, and everything in between.

4. Any attempt to single out Islam for special abuse on this front is base and deserves to be exposed and condemned.

5. Any attempt to suggest that Islam or Catholicism or Judaism or Buddhism or you-name-your-flavour do not inherently treat women as lesser beings than men, should be examined with great suspicion and skepticism.

TVParkdale

Blue56 wrote:

Stargazer, I'm surprised that you won't acknowledge that religious belief does not cause violence against women. Religions have been the main cause of violence and murder for centuries. What's so radical about that statement. I do say in my post that the father is clearly demented. That doesn't mean, however, that he wasn't led to justify his act by an appeal to religion. I guess where we disagree is that you think that all cultures and beliefs are equally misogynistic, and I believe that some are more so, and some less.

All religion is used to "prop up" the priveleged. That doesn't matter whether it's used as a basis for racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, classism etc. etc on the endless scale. 

Christianity can claim "humanism" but the fact remains--read the Bible.

Buddhism? Read it. Really read it. Find any major historical women in it that commit great saintly acts and obtained Buddhahood?

They are all equally guilty or perpetrating class systems and creating a priveleged class of religious and political figures. They are all designed to have the poor 'accept their lot in life' and 'do as your leaders bid'.

No major religion says, "Fight your oppressors. Stop the cruelty. Religion exists at the sole discretion of the wealthy and is being used to keep you down. Fight those that persecute you." 

Being "less misogynist" is like being "less pregnant".

It either exists, or it does not. 

 

 

 

pookie

TVParkdale wrote:
 

What may have relevance is why this family felt so isolated that these men could not find someone to confide this dark secret to. How ashamed must they have been to speak to NO ONE about what they perceived as bad behaviour on the part of this child.

That's not blaming the victim--it's looking at prevention. They felt they had the right to murder this child. They knew it was illegal. They did it anyway. Why did they not tell a soul outside the family what they were planning? If so religious, why not speak to a church leader who might advise them of other options? Apparently this had happened within their family before. Why had no one spoken of how tramatizing that experience had been for them?

 

 Gee, I haven't the foggiest idea why they might not have confided in anyone their plans to murder her.  Seriously....what?

 And talk about projecting onto the accused: "isolation"; "traumatizing"....it may not be your intent but to me it seems like a distraction, and trivializing what happened.

TVParkdale

Gee, I haven't the foggiest idea why they might not have confided in anyone their plans to murder her. Seriously....what?

And talk about projecting onto the accused: "isolation"; "traumatizing"....it may not be your intent but to me it seems like a distraction, and trivializing what happened.

I am not saying these men would have confided their murder plans precisely. I am wondering why they did not confide their frustration with their daughter/sister, which is a whole other line of discussion.

Nor am I "trivializing". The import of a young woman being murdered means looking at *why*. Why did these particular men believe that was their course of action? What impacted that decision? What made them feel as if this was some sort of acceptable choice?

It's easy to say, "because they CAN" but to believe that, I would need a history of their actions that says they have gotten away with such behaviour in the past. Otherwise, why her? Why now? Why over THIS?"

The son spoke about seeing another female relative murdered in this way. An intervention with *him* about that trauma may very well have prevented this tragedy. 

Was there a history of other woman assaults? If so, why was there no prevention of recurrance? 

Violence does not occur in a vacuum.