Saturday, June 19, 2010

Honour Killing

This week those uncomfortable with the Encroaching Dusky Hordes had great fun dancing on the corpse of Aqsa Parvez.

She was the young woman murdered by her father, Muhammad Parvez, and her brother, Waqas, in a "honour killing"; a 16 year-old kid who tried to enjoy the freedom she saw all around her, killed because her family brought with them the values of the Pakistani village they immigrated from in 1999. She had "shamed" them, and they murdered her. Based on quality of evidence, the Crown attorneys accepted guilty pleas to second-degree murder, which brings an automatic life sentence, and in this case parole eligibility after 18 years.

You can argue about whether or not the punishment fits the crime, but the bottom line is that a murder was committed and our justice system handled it. That the murderers felt culturally justified in their killing was irrelevant.

Reaction from the conservative side of punditry has ranged along an interesting continuum. But there seems to be general agreement that there is something especially nasty about honour killings that deserves special action. What that special action should be is never quite clear, but it's either hinted at or stated directly: Muslim immigration should be banned.

Margaret Wente isn't allowed to say that kind of thing in the Globe and Mail, so she contents herself with hinting at it. She coyly entitles her article "The Immigration Debate We Don't Want To Have", asks Extremely Troubling Questions: "What happens when large groups of immigrants cling to values and beliefs that diverge so sharply from the mainstream? And can we still rely on the passage of time to smooth the differences away?"

Wente compares the Muslim population with Italian immigration, noting that Italians imported "...a harsh, patriarchal culture where religion dominated all. But they didn’t marry cousins imported fresh from the old country. And so they began to raise their children differently."

This breezy, sanitized and condensed summary of immigration leaves out a few points. Most waves of immigration spark hostility from the dominant population, and newcomers usually established their own neighborhoods and social and professional networks for mutual support. Italians, Germans, Chinese, Jews, and my Irish precursors did, in fact, "marry cousins imported fresh from the old country", or other immigrants from their community. Integration into the dominant culture was a process that most sociologists say required three or more generations.

That seems to be true of the current intake of Middle Eastern and African Muslim immigrants, which began in the 1980s. It's noteworthy that every "honour killing" I've read about in Canada involves a parent from the "Old Country"; when Wente asks whether we can still count on the passage of time to bring about integration, I'd respectfully suggest that we give Somali and Pakistani immigrants the same generational window we allowed other immigrant groups.

I'm framing these thoughts as a response to the Wente column, mostly because her article avoided the kind of blind rage that makes discussion on the blogs operated by the usual suspects so pointless. Tour them at your peril.

Jay Currie, at the saner edge of Teh Crazy, piously tries to dodge accusations of racism by introducing a new sub species of Muslim, the "Village Muslim", to be singled out for banning. He calls for us to:
"... recognize that, as a general rule, village Muslims – from whatever country – will not adapt well to Canada. And we need to prohibit their immigration to our “Home and Native Land”.

His adroit demurrer is lost on his commenters, of course, who demand that Canada "Rent a boat and ship every damned one of them back to where they came from", and so forth. It is also a bit unclear whether the screening measures Jay proposes to protect Canada against the immigration of “Village Muslims” would be applied to applicants from religions (e.g., the more primitive strains of Islam), countries (e.g., the more macho side of Brazil), and cultures (the more backwards areas of Sicily) with a tradition of “honour killing”.

The call for a ban on Muslim immigration is a predictably hysterical response by haters to the twelve or so "honour killings" that have occurred in Canada over the last decade. But there's something particularly unsavoury about exploiting the death of one young woman to promote a racist agenda.

The father and brother of Aqsa Parvez murdered her for reasons that barely make sense to us. Their actions are incompatible with our society, and they're in jail. Now, call me a crazy patriot, but I like to think that Canada offers women better opportunities for a free and fulfilling life, and better legal protection to seek those opportunities, than a village in Pakistan or Afghanistan. So a question to those who claim to feel such deep compassion for Aqsa Parvez and the other women trapped in oppression; explain to me why their interests are best served by locking them out or shipping them back "home".

Crossposted from Stageleft.

1 comment:

Terrence said...

Do "village Muslims" hang out at the Y.M.C.A.?