When American legal scholars talk about defining limits on religious liberty, it doesn’t take long to map out the extreme borders.
If the government wants to place limits on religious freedom, the authorities are going to have to show evidence of fraud, profit or clear threat to life and health. That final condition is where things get tough, when legal authorities have to start limiting parental authority over everything from prayers of healing (think Christian Science) to non-traditional medical practices (think Jehovah’s Witnesses).
But the case unfolding right now in Canada is pretty clear-cut.
Or is it? The secular, common law is clear. How about the Sharia law?
Friends and classmates of a 16-year-old girl who police say was murdered by her devout Muslim father in a Toronto suburb told local media Tuesday she was killed for not wearing a hijab.
Police said in a statement they received an emergency call at 7:55 am local time Monday from “a man who indicated that he had just killed his daughter.”
The victim, Aqsa Parvez, was “rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries, but tragically passed away late last night.”
Her father, Muhammad Parvez, 57, was arrested at the scene and will be formally charged with murder when he appears in court Wednesday, said police.
The girl’s friends, meanwhile, told local media she was having trouble at home because she did not conform to the family’s religious beliefs and refused to wear a traditional Islamic head scarf, or hijab.
… They said she would leave home wearing a hijab and loose-fitting clothes, but would take off her head scarf and change into tighter garments at school, then change back before going home at the end of the day.
Wait — there’s one final detail.
The victim’s 26 year-old brother was also charged with obstructing police in the investigation.
Do not get me wrong. In a free society, women have a right to wear the hijab. Attempts to limit this right are going to fuel some interesting and, perhaps, disturbing cases in U.S. law — as have efforts to limit unique forms of religious attire in Europe.
But what about the right not to wear the hijab? Can authorities limit the rights of Muslim parents?
Meanwhile, watch your local newspaper tomorrow and in the days ahead to see if it covers this stunning story from Canada. Was this story on network newscasts tonight?