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More on Aqsa Murder and Hijab Controversy


December 18, 2007


A follow-up post on the honor killing of Aqsa Parvez in Toronto last week. There's been controversy over whether this honor killing reflects Islam or not, and whether wearing hijab is really voluntary or not for young Muslim women. I'm posting two pieces by Muslims on that subject, an article by Khalid Hasan in the Daily Times of Pakistan and an article by Tarek Fatah of the Canadian Muslim Congress. First, Hasan's article on the pressure for North American Muslims to wear hijab:

"Many Muslim families in North America are forcing their daughters to don the hijab against their will, which has led to tragic outcomes, the latest being the murder in a Toronto suburb of 16-year old Aqsa Parvez by her own father."

"According to a commentary by Natasha Fatah, broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Aqsa Parvez did not want to wear the hijab, 'the Middle Eastern head-covering that has become the most significant icon for Islam in the West, which is unfortunate, since 90 per cent of Muslim women in this country don’t wear one … This superficial measurement of ‘Muslim-ness’ has become so prevalent that a small but increasing number of families are pushing it on their daughters. Aqsa, a Pakistani-Canadian, was just one of the victims of this growing obsession. Now that Aqsa is dead, who will speak for her? Who will speak for the countless Muslim girls who lead double lives and who suffer in silence in their homes? Who will make sure they aren’t abused or killed? Most Islamist men and women say that a woman chooses to wear the hijab. But, all too often, that choice is taken away from young Muslim girls, and they are being told by their parents and their imams that if they don’t wear the hijab, they are no longer Muslim, even though the Quran, Islam’s holy book, does not say that a woman has to cover her hair.' ”

"Fatah notes that in downtown Toronto, Montreal, Windsor or other Canadian cities with large Muslim populations, little girls, as young as four, five and six, are seen wearing hijabs on their way to school. Obviously, these little girls did not make a choice to wear the hijab? Common sense indicates that these children did not choose for themselves. 'Meanwhile, the mullahs and Islamists are busy dismissing the idea that Aqsa’s alleged murder had anything to do with religion. They are circulating rumours online that she had a black boyfriend, that she was sexually promiscuous, that she was a drug pusher – and these are cited as reasons why her family was strict with her. Why are they so afraid of acknowledging that obsession with a religious ritual may have been a factor? It is because they fear their own culpability in this horrible tragedy. Before their congregations, they tell men to control their daughters, wives and sisters. They have brought into Canadian homes the radical Islamist notion that a man’s honour is encompassed in the sexual and physical body of the women in his family, that’s why they must be covered up and kept inside. Muslim fundamentalists have made a woman’s body the fighting ground for their religious wars, and it is unfortunately women who pay with their lives for the sake of their men’s honour.' ”

Secondly, this piece by Tarek Fatah of the Canadian Muslim Congress, which you could call a progressive, reformist Islamic organization. The title is, Who Killed Aqsa Parvez - The Deadly Face of Muslim Extremism:

"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."

"....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 abuse."

"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 requirement."

"Yet none of this is actually mandated by the Koran. The Koran, while speaking generally of modesty in dress and demeanor, 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."

"....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 awarded 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."

"....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."

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