The deadly face of Muslim extremism
Tarek Fatah and farzana Hassan, National Post Published: Wednesday, December 12,
The tragic death of a Mississauga, Ont., teenage girl -- allegedly at the hands
of her own traditionally minded Muslim father -- has sent shock waves across the
world. Canadians are justified in raising concerns as to whether this is a sign
of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in their own backyard.
Aqsa Parvez, a sprightly 16-year-old, beloved of her friends and peers at
Applewood Heights Secondary School, was only trying to be herself, was only
wishing for a normal adolescence amid Canada's rich cultural mosaic. Her father
has now been charged with murder, and his son with obstruction, while a young
life has been snuffed out -- likely in the name of honour and Islam.
Radical Muslim men consider themselves ultimately responsible for the conduct of
the womenfolk. This outlook is rooted in a medieval ethos that treats women as
nonpersons, unable to decide for themselves what they should wear, where they
must go and what they must accomplish in life. If their conduct is seen as
contravening this austere religious outlook, they are invariably subjected to
The hijab in particular has become a thorny issue among Muslim families. It has
been elevated as a sort of "sixth pillar of Islam" among militant sects. Young
teenage girls are often lectured over the virtues of the hijab by their family
members. Once they hit puberty, compliance is deemed a non-negotiable religious
Yet none of this is actually mandated by the Koran. The Koran, while speaking
generally of modesty in dress and demeanour, falls short of specifying the
details of that modesty. Scripture also makes allowances for non-compliance of
religious edicts if the environment is not conducive to their observance.
The Koran exhorts compassion upon parents, caretakers and guardians of young
girls. Yet some families instead exhibit a strict conformity to doctrine and
dogma, which in turn leads to violence, bigotry and intolerance of alternative
understandings of faith.
There is much discussion in Canadian society about the religious freedoms of
those who choose to wear the hijab. We hear relatively little about the
oppression of young girls who make the opposite choice. Seldom is their
oppression from within their own community, or even their own family, cast as a
human rights issue.
If convicted, Aqsa's father and brother must be handed the strictest penalty
available under the law. As for the imams and clergy of Canada's mosques, who
constantly berate young women for not wearing the hijab or snub them for
"violating Islam," they need to reflect on the consequences of their sermons.
Consider, as an example, the Montreal mosque that recently posted on its Web
site a warning to the effect that if young girls took off their hijab, they
could end up getting raped and having "illegitimate children." Other proffered
risks included "Stresses, insecurity and suspicion in the minds of husbands" and
"instigating young people to deviate towards the path of lust."
As if the threat of rape and the fear of illegitimate children were not enough,
these pre-teen girls were told that if they took off their hijab, they would
cease to be Muslims: "By removing your hijab, you have destroyed your faith.
Islam means submission to Allah in all our actions." Little wonder then, that
Canadian girls walk away from sports tournaments rather than remove their
Muslims need to stand up to this sort of emotional and religious blackmail by
imams who spread the competing agendas of Saudi Arabia and Iran into Canada.
Young Aqsa Pervez's death cannot be reversed. But in her memory, we can at least
challenge those whose message leads to rage and madness. - Tarek Fatah is author
of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, to be published by
Wiley & Sons in March, 2008. Farzana Hassan is author of Islam, Women, and the
Challenges of Today. Both are members of the Muslim Canadian Congress (