Cultural Revolutions

Honor Killings in Canada

As Canadians were preparing for the Christmas season, they were shocked to learn that Aqsa Parvez, a 16-year-old Muslim girl from the Toronto area, was strangled to death by her devout father, a cab driver of Pakistani origin.  It appears her crime was a refusal to wear the traditional hijab when she was not at home and behaving like a typical Canadian teenage schoolgirl by posting photos of herself on Facebook wearing colorful clothing and accessories.

Friends describe Aqsa as a vibrant, fun-loving girl who liked to dance and take pictures.  When she arrived at school, she would change into Western dress.  A week before her death, she had left the family home to stay with friends because of arguments with her father and elder brothers.  When she returned home to gather some clothing, she was killed.  The father, Muhammad, has been charged with murder, and one of her older brothers has been charged with “obstructing police.”

Honor killing is a common occurrence in many Muslim countries of the Middle East and South Asia.  The term refers to the barbaric practice of killing female family members who violate the “honor” of the family, usually by compromising their sexual purity in some manner—but often, as well, by simply disobeying a dress code, refusing an arranged marriage, or being seen in the company of a man who is not a relative.  As recently as December...

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