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Murder does not reflect Muslim values
The Gazette

The death of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was an unmitigated tragedy. She was by all accounts a fun-loving girl who loved dancing, fashion and photography, and who worked hard at her studies and even harder to fit in at her suburban Toronto high school.

None of that makes her at all unusual. It's a profile that could fit a million Grade XI students just about anywhere in North America. There was really nothing to set her apart from the dozens of schoolgirls you see on the bus or the métro every morning, chatting with friends, flirting with the boys and worrying about their test scores.

It seems, however, that her behaviour could well have led to her death. Aqsa - again, not unlike millions of other girls her age - was at loggerheads with her family, especially her father, a 57-year-old taxi driver. Her interests often clashed with her parents' old-fashioned values. In fact, she had already moved out of the house, at least temporarily, and begun living at a friend's house.

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But on Monday morning, when she went home to pick up some belongings, Aqsa was strangled to death. Her father, Muhammed Parvez, has been charged with her murder. It's a bitterly sad story, and if, indeed, her father killed her, nothing can excuse that. Aqsa might well have defied family values and parental rules, but nothing she did warranted death. Harsh words, perhaps, and even grounding, but there can be no tolerance for such violence.

Given the temper of the times, however, and the heated debate over "reasonable accommodation," there's a danger that we might read too much into the one difference that set Aqsa apart from most of her friends - the fact that she was and her family is Muslim. One of the major sources of conflict between them, in fact, was Aqsa's refusal to wear a hijab, or headscarf, outside the house.

Already, the media - especially the open-line radio shows - are trumpeting this family tragedy as one more proof that Muslims don't belong here, that their culture is too "other" to accommodate itself to Western values. One genius even suggested that Canadians boycott Muslim cab drivers, and an expert cited in the National Post suggested that this cultural conflict forced Aqsa to live a double life, dressing one way at home and another at school. Now there's a shock: a teenager who tries to fool her parents.

All this is nonsense, of course. Murdering daughters is no more an Islamic value than murdering estranged wives is a Western one. Muhammed Parvez might have been fighting a losing battle trying to make Aqsa wear a hijab, but that hardly sets him apart. Few are the fathers, of any faith or none, who have not clashed with their adolescent daughters over something - boyfriends, lipstick, short skirts, staying out late, dyed hair, body piercings, tattoos and any number of other age-inappropriate enormities.

That such clashes can sometimes lead to violence and even murder is also not a phenomenon peculiar to Muslim families, as anyone who reads newspapers attentively can tell you. But once again, some people have been too eager to jump aboard the anti-Muslim bandwagon. To judge a faith and a culture on this one squalid incident is absurd.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007




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