This. Happened. In. Canada.

THS IKEA HIJAB 01When 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?

Read it all. Hat tip (with commentary) to Rod “Friend of this blog” Dreher.

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?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Caelius Spinator

    There was a show last year on CBC called Little Mosque on the Prairie (I think GetReligion covered some of the press related to it). And indeed, one of the persistent episode to episode sub-plots was a single Muslim father trying to convince his young adolescent daughter to wear the hijab and the women of the mosque community (some of who wore the hijab and some didn’t) urging him not to press the issue.

    It’s awful to see such a disagreement turn homicidal.

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  • William Calhoun

    Umm, the line I don’t understand here is:

    But what about the right not to wear the hijab? Can authorities limit the rights of Muslim parents?

    What parents rights? The right to discipline their disobedient kids with death?

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  • Julia

    William, I’m with you.

    What “right” does any parent have to kill their child to enforce their rules?

    Maybe back in pagan Rome, but Canada?

  • Colm

    As a Canadian, I can tell you all that yes, this story is receiving a lot of attention. It’s also driving a wedge between Canadians across the country, which is interesting since this is a relatively isolated and unique incident.

    It’s interesting that this crime has come on the heels of 5 Muslim law students suing Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine for allegeding making ‘hate statements’ against Islam. A lot of Canadians are already concerned with the spread of Islamism and extremism within Muslim immigrant communities.

  • tmatt

    William, et al:

    Read the top of the post. “Clear threat to life or health” is the US standard. I don’t know about Canada.

    The other question is how a free society DRAWS THE LINE at where parental rights stop, when there is a clash between common law and Sharia law.

    Would the parent’s at be illegal in Iran? How about post-invasion Iraq (a great question for GOP candidates in a YouTube forum)?

  • Michael

    The province of Ontario is way ahead of you. In 2005, it rejected a proposal to use Sharia-focused arbitration in family law and custody disputes.

    The idea was roundly criticized, even by people inside Ontario’s large Muslim community. So the idea that common law is somehow going to be undermined by “sharia” in the near future in Canada seems unlikely.

  • Michael

    I’d add that honor killings–while justified by some based on Islam–is not necessarily legal under Sharia and most Muslim countries find honor killings to be illegal. The exception is wives committing adultery and caught in the act, where laws in Muslim countries are more lenient in terms of punishment. If in fact this is an “honor killing,” it would be punishable under Sharia and punishable in Muslim countries.

  • CM

    ABC News picked up the story this morning (12/12), still waiting for the rest of the American editors and producers to file the story…

  • Kearns

    Michael is correct. There is no basis in Sharia (which is simply laws based on authentic Islamic sources) for a death penalty for not wearing hijab. As far as I can tell this “honor killing” is a cultural artifact and only present in a few “Muslim” countries (which in my opinion is additional evidence that it isn’t supported by Islam in any way – Wikipedia claims that it is a Pakistani/Arab issue most likely found in rural areas and not limited to Muslims).

    My hope, as a Muslim and North American, is that people quickly see that there is little relationship between the faith of these people and the act that they did, and simply try them for the Murder that they committed without putting undue stress on hundreds of thousands of Canadian Muslims who had no part in this crime, nor would condone it in any way.

  • Stephen A.

    The issue of Sharia law and imams having say in law courts sparked a memory for me.

    Not that I get all my information about religion from TV, but, in 2000, Law & Order episode (called “Return”) tackled a very tricky legal question in which a murderer was trying to avoid procesuction by claiming he was Jewish, and had flet to Israel and was fighting extradition. The “case” went before a Jewish court presided over by Rabbis.

    One of the prosecutors, the woman on the show no less (an odd choice, given the Orthodox Jewish venue) went before the Rabinic Court and argued that he was NOT a Jew because he wasn’t observant, and didn’t attend services. The court agreed, and he was not able to permanently flee to Israel.

    I know this is an odd case, and a ficticious one (based loosely on the Samuel Sheinbein case.) But I wonder if this is actually going on in New York and elsewhere, and whether the US court system acts in concert with these courts on occasion. It seems like a bit of an analogy to the idea of honoring Sharia law, and perhaps integrating such things into the court system.

    Or maybe this is all a stretch. It could very well be.


  • Trevor

    I’m surprised at the approach journalists have taken in reporting on this story. The father contacted the police to tell them he had murdered his daughter. That is indisputable, and in itself, a shocking story.

    But whether Asqa was killed because of her refusal to wear a hijab, is at present, mere speculation from her classmates and friends. Certainly clothing was part of the cultural clash this family had been experiencing, but the factors that led to her murder are undoubtedly much more complex.

  • Hajra

    I don’t believe that the father killed his daughter just based on the fact that she didn’t wear a hijab. There must have been more to it. No father could/should do something like that. In Islam such a thing is completely unacceptable and Muslims should not be judged based on what one man did.

    A Hijab is NOT forced. Women are supposed to wear it but if a girl like Aqsa doesn’t want to then that’s fine. It’s their life.

  • Ahem

    This will be something of a mash-up post and it may at times go off topic. But I want to respond to both Kearns & Hajra and I find that what I want to say to each of them is closely related. Please note though, if I refer to the relation of honor killings to Islam, I am referring to Kearns and not to Hajra. If I refer to the pressure to wear hijab, I am referring to Hajra’s post. I don’t want either of them to think that I am addressing them or their thoughts when I am not.

    I’ll start with Kearn’s assertion that Islam has nothing to do with honor killings and that the practice is purely cultural and present among only a minority of backwards groups. Even if the practice predates Islam, I think a much stronger argument is that Islam has everything to do with why it persists in these areas even among those who are not Muslims. The reason why is the extreme premium Islam places on honor, particularly that of the honor of the family and its utter dominance in those regions.

    Just because you can’t find a verse which clearly says “kill your daughter if she dishonors the family” doesnt mean that other messages don’t contribute to the continuation of the practice or to its spread to other nations.

    A religion is supposed to elevate both people and cultures. When it fails it is responsible. When it succeeds it is to its credit. Too many Muslims, due probably in part because of that premium on honor, are all too willing to exonerate Islam from any bad association while being just as quick to claim all credit for any good done in its name. They in effect, honor kill, the bad association, by refusing to acknowledge any blood connection to their religious “family”. It is an evil coming from a wholly alien place because only good can come from Islam.

    I have often seen Kearns’ argument in other contexts re Islam. And each time, I respond as follows.

    1) If Islam has been the only game in town for these backwards tribes from antiquity, if it has dominated the whole of their lives from time immemorial, then why has it been so powerless to reform their cultures and how does this powerlessness somehow exonerate the faith? How does the example of other Muslim peoples who never had the practice before they were converted somehow proof that Islam bears no responsibility for its persistence in these areas?

    2) If they insist on only giving credit to Islam for its successes then they must be logically consistent and do the same for others faiths. Therefore the success of the West is due purely to the power of Christianity while its failures have nothing to do with it at all because nobody can find a single verse in the Bible or a precendent in canon law that commands women to strip naked in men’s clubs.

    It is a flawed argument which should be put to bed for good for the good of everyone.

    Which brings me to how the exhorbitant premium placed on honor is just one of the pressures which in fact does force the hijab on Muslim women.

    What is force? Does someone have to hold someone down or lock them up in order to enforce behavior? There are infinite degrees of force which have nothing to do with physical contact or even verbal harrassment. Peer pressure can be a force. Those who are subjected to it can be said to have been subjected to force. Those who sucuumb have been forced to do so under pressure.

    The powerful and explicit association of the hijab with female honor is just one such example of pressure which is mounting day by day and has been for sometime. The woman who wears hijab is said to be devout, more committed to her faith, to love God more, to have a closer relationship to him, to be proud of her indentity and unafraid to express it, to be concerned with protecting herself from dishonor, to be more respectable. Those who don’t wear it are not as concerned.

    Sure, there are some women who are strong enough in their beliefs to hold out indefinitely. These will never adopt it for any reason. But as more and more of their friends, neighbors and family members adopt it, most girls will also “choose” to wear it. I mean who doesn’t want to choose to be a respectable, devout girl who really loves God and isnt afraid of proclaiming her identity?

    Sure, women in the West, as of today are free to choose. But what if we fast forward to a hypothetical future.

    Islam is now totally dominant across the whole world. Minority religions are dying out and wholly powerless to influence the culture. At the same time, the above arguments for hijab have been ingrained in the culture for centuries. Suddenly, a girl decides that she doesnt want to wear it. That she can have all the benefits of the hijab without having to wear it. She goes outside without it. What would be the reaction to this girl who has just rejected the wholesome values respresented by and ensured by the hijab in a culture that places the highest premium on honor and on a highly regimented, disciplined and moral society?

    I’ll just leave that up to your imagination.

    In other words, even if women can choose today with or without external pressure, the inevitable result is that choice will not be available to their descendents. If the quality of a woman’s honor, dignity, respect (or any other ideal) is dependent on and rises and falls due to whether she shows her hair in public what does it say about these same qualities inherant in women in general? What does it say, by contrast, about those who refuse to gaurd these desirable & wholesome qualities?

    This is not force?

    The man who killed his daughter for dishonoring the family for whatever reason that may be, was responding to a message that he could only have gotten from Islam ie honor is extremely important and it can be easily degraded or lost through any disobedience to a strict all encompassing standard of religious norms and expectations which were revealed in order to ensure and elevate the honor, dignity success & happiness of human beings. What must be the character of someone who would reject a system divinely designed to the nth degree to enhance and protect one’s personal goodness? Isn’t such a person by inference, a bad person?

  • Anon

    i knew her personally, and trust me, there was more to it than just not wearing the hijab.

  • hubrock

    dont listen to colm.

    i am canadian (white christian for those who care). canadians for the most part are not concerned with the spread of islam or any religion in our country. we are a multicultural society who embrases everybody, regardles of race, religion, nationality, sexuality or whatever. canadians “concerned” with the spread of other cultures in canada is as rare as muslim fathers who kill their daughters for not wearing a hibab.

    the majority of canadians know this incident is not a product of the accused’s religion, but perhaps a result of a mental problem or a poor upbringing, or both.

    toronto is the most diverse city in the world. we are very proud of our multiculturalness and everything guaranteed by the charter of rights and freedoms. i am proud to see people from every culture, from every country in the world all living in peace. i have met people who defended their country against saddams army, and i have met people who were forced to be a part of saddams army… and when they get here, there is no hard feelings towards eachother, even though back home they were trying to kill eachother. thats the beautiful power of the centre of the world that is toronto. im glad to go in a coffee shop and be the only person speaking english. im glad to look around the subway train and see that im the only white person there. its super cool to live in the center of the world, where half the population was born on foreign soil, and we all live in peace (for the most part). i drove a tow truck in toronto for 2 years… i think i have met somebody from literally every country in the world, and beleive me, WE ARE ALL THE SAME. most canadians know this.

    the charter of rights and freedoms guarantees everybody the freedom to be muslim. asqa had the right to not be muslim. her father did not have the right to take that freedom away from his daughter, because she was canadian and could be whatever she wanted to be and dress however she wanted to.

    if you think canadians dont want muslim culture in our country, you are no better than those who think all muslims are daughter killing terrorists. canadians know better. anybody who has been on the subway in toronto knows why.

    my two messages to whoever is reading this;
    1. the accused is not representative of islam or muslims. this incident has nothing to do with his religion, even if the focus of the accused’s anger was a religious article of clothing. this incident has everything to do with severe mental health issues of one particular individual.
    2. canadians have no problem with muslims. alot of us are muslim. i completely support everybodys right to their own language, culture and religion.

    vive l’canada & vive l’islam (i dont really speak french)