How to Use a Murder Victim: The Exploitation of the Aqsa Parvez Tragedy

A recent Toronto Life magazine article regarding Toronto teenager Aqsa Parvez’s murder, entitled Girl, Interrupted, has sparked outrage in many circles in Toronto and beyond. And for very good reason. Journalist Mary Rogan has simply perpetuated stereotypes about Muslims, South Asian culture, and immigrant communities.

toronto-life-december-20081The disrespectful treatment begins with the front cover, where you see a full page picture of Aqsa’s face, posing seductively with only a hint of a strap on her bare shoulder. Now call me picky or cynical, but I find it hard to believe that this could have been unintentional. Aqsa Parvez has become famous for being murdered by her father for not dressing conservatively enough and the photo used for the cover is arguably not very conservative. The juxtaposition is no coincidence. But what does it say? Both South Asian culture (to which Aqsa belonged) and Islam encourage and value modesty in dress. Using Aqsa’s private picture, never intended for such public display, not only seems a violation of her privacy, but also a purposeful taunt to the Muslim and South Asian communities.

Rogan begins by recounting the events leading up to Aqsa’s murder. Her fear of her father who had sworn to kill her, her brother luring her home on other pretexts, and finally her father strangling her to death and then calling the 911 to confess his crime. It doesn’t take long for Rogan to throw in the phrase “honour killing.”

Was her murder an honour killing or simply a gruesome case of domestic violence? Worldwide, an estimated 5,000 women die every year in honour killings—murders deemed excusable to protect a family’s reputation—many of them in Pakistan, where the Parvez family had emigrated from.

Rogan uses a tactic used many times – point out violence against women in other cultures without acknowledging the extent of the problem within one’s own culture.* In the Western** context the killing of women by relatives and partners may not be termed “honour killings” but that does not mean women are not killed by those they love. The reasons provided may be different, but the underlying ideology – patriarchy – is the same. And patriarchy, which places women in a position of subordination and inferiority, exists in Western cultures as well. Even if one argues that the effects of patriarchy are greater in non-Western cultures, one cannot blame the culture itself but must rather look at the issue within post-colonial analyses. What effect has the racist and misogynist ideology of European colonization had on the culture in question? How has this colonization of the not-so-distant past impacted patriarchy of today? Because you can be sure it has. See here for an explanation of feminism and post-colonialism,

Rogan’s depiction of multiculturalism and immigrants as problematic within the Canadian context is an offensive and not to mention dangerous one. Throughout her piece Rogan repeatedly portrays immigrants, specifically South Asian and Muslim immigrants as threats to Canada.

But there is growing concern that recent waves of Muslim immigrants aren’t integrating, or embracing our liberal values. Aqsa’s death—coming in the wake of debates about the acceptability of sharia law, disputes over young girls wearing hijabs at soccer games, and the arrest of the Toronto 18—stoked fears about religious zealotry in our midst. Is it possible that Toronto has become too tolerant of cultural differences?

Rogan uses three examples to show that Muslims are not integrating. Three examples would hardly meet any empirical criteria. Honour killings, as Rogan calls them, are so rare in Canadian society that they warrant media attention when they do occur. Parent/child conflicts are common in immigrant families just as they are in non-immigrant families. If honour killings really were a part of South Asian/Muslim culture then many more than one would be occurring. One incident is hardly an epidemic to indicate lack of integration. The example of women wanting to wear hijab at soccer games does not indicate lack of integration in the least. If anything, the opposite would be true as it demonstrates a young Muslim girl’s ability to integrate her religion and her Western environment. Finally, the Toronto 18, which is now the Toronto 11, is again just one example of extremist thinking. What about the approximately 250,000*** other Torontonian Muslims who would never engage in such thinking? Three inadequate examples do not suggest that Toronto has become “too tolerant of cultural differences.” Three inadequate examples do not mean that non-Muslims and non-immigrant Canadians should fear all Muslim immigrants.

Rogan continues the story by talking with Aqsa’s friends at her school who tell the reader about Aqsa, what she was like, what she liked to do, who she was to them. They also give their reason for Aqsa’s murder – that she didn’t want to wear the hijab. At this point what one needs to remember, or be reminded of perhaps, is that Aqsa’s friends are young teenage girls. Although from their standpoint this may have been the reason and as such cannot be faulted for saying as such, Rogan, being a journalist, has done a great disservice to her readers by misrepresenting the opposing viewpoint – that the issue was not hijab but rather cultural conflicts and patriarchy. She briefly explains

The majority of Muslim leaders, however, insisted that Aqsa’s murder was not an honour killing. Mohamed Elmasry, who heads the Cana­dian Islamic Congress, and Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, described the death as a teen issue and a case of domestic abuse.

To present a balanced view, it would have been helpful to present the side of the friends of Aqsa who felt that the hijab was not the reason but rather cultural clashes.

Aqsa’s friends describe, what appears to be a cultural conflict in Aqsa’s life. Conflicts between parents and teens are common. Add in the conflict of having to deal with two different cultures and inevitably problems will get amplified. I do not wish to trivialize the tensions and problems which arise as a result of biculturalism. However, Rogan does not paint Aqsa as a young girl who was trying to simply balance between two cultures. Rather Aqsa is shown as someone who was trying to shed her “oppressive” South Asian Muslim culture and embrace a “liberating” Western one. It is this juxtaposition which is problematic, offensive, and not to mention inaccurate. Patriarchy and misogyny exist in all cultures. To assume that one is not ignores the experiences of oppression faced by women in the Western context.

However, Rogan successfully paints South Asian culture and Islam as the problem. She quotes Aqsa’s friends as saying “She didn’t turn her back on her culture…She just wanted to have freedom; that’s all she wanted” suggesting that adhering to South Asian cultural practices would have meant lack of freedom.

This article also suggests that the more religious a Muslim is the more they will condone, or even engage in, violence against women.

Some progressive Muslims, such as Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress, saw her murder as evidence of rising Islamic fundamentalism in Canada.

Again, one isolated case cannot determine anything substantial. It is an unfortunate tragedy but hardly a case of rising fundamentalism.

Aqsa Parvez lived in two worlds. Devout Muslims reject any division of life into the religious and the secular. By the time she was killed, she knew her father was never going to accept her decision to travel back and forth across the two.

This suggests that to mix religious and secular life, at a personal level, is problematic, when the truth is that many Muslims can do so very successfully. This statement simply demonizes those Muslims who place an importance on their religion. Being devout does not mean, as seems to be suggested here, that Muslims cannot integrate into Canadian society.

Rogan relates a Muslim sociologist’s view on the issue:

…when a Muslim child disobeys her parents, the emotional stakes are higher than for other kids. “It’s a religious issue. You’re not just violating your parents’ rules; you’re violating God’s rules. This will affect you in the hereafter.”

This explanantion still does not explain killing one’s child. As mentioned before, many Muslim and immigrant children and parents experience conflicts but never before this have we heard of such a case. If Muslim parents really feared this retribution from God, would we not see such horrific acts occuring more often? The connection is faulty at best and fear-mongering at worst.

The broad generalizations and dangerous stereotypes perpetuated through this article takes the attention away from the very serious problem of violence against women. Additionally, this story ignores the diversity of Muslim women, all of whom want different things and live their lives in different ways. The story creates a xenophobic and Islamophobic atmosphere that does nothing to bring justice to Aqsa Parvez, but rather simplifies the complexity of her life.

Here is another interesting analysis of the story.

*In Canada every week one to two women are murdered by a current or former partner. That’s 52 to 104 each year in Canada alone. And how many women are victims of attempted murders? One could argue that all women who are physically abused could potentially be killed by that violence.

** I use this term in referring to the non-immigrant Western culture.

*** This is as of the 2001 census. Most likely the number has increased greatly since then.

  • Broomstick

    attention ignorant, un-educated morons in the Western world: there is NO such thing as “honor killing” in any part of the world.

    It is called DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, not any different from a daddy who beats the hell out of his daughter and then raping her.

    Morons.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • Krista

    Thanks Sobia for writing this – that wasn’t a fun article to take on. Great analysis. The title of your post is especially chilling (and sadly, accurate.)

    The one question I would raise is whether it’s really necessary to have a photo of the magazine’s cover page on this site. As you mentioned, the cover is really problematic and a violation of Aqsa Parvez’s privacy. I know that it’s being shown on MMW to illustrate how bad the article is, and to show people what’s wrong with it, but in displaying it here, might we also be complicit in reproducing the invasion of privacy and taunting of Aqsa Parvez’s family and community?

    I know it’s a tricky issue, just wanted to throw that out there…

  • http://jamericanmuslimah.wordpress.com Jamerican Muslimah

    Thank you for this Sobia. I have worked in the domestic violence field and was bewildered when I discovered that many of my colleagues blamed Islam/Islamic cultures whenever there were cases of domestic violence involving Muslims. Some of the people in my field had a “great Western liberator” type of thinking that they’d bring to their Muslim clients. By the same token, we saw domestic violence cases involving non-Muslims more frequently than we did with Muslims.

    I’m a fan of the Power & control Wheel created by the late Dr. Sharifa Al-Kateeb which highlights how the religion can be used as a *tool* in domestic violence. However, I always in emphasize the root causes of DV- patriarchy, sexism, learned behavior etc. When training people on domestic violence I like to show the aforementioned wheel and compare it to original one.

    Check them out:

    Muslim wheel: http://www.lfcc.on.ca/muslim_wheel_of_domestic_violence.html

    General wheel: http://www.ncdsv.org/images/PowerControlwheelNOSHADING.pdf

  • Philip

    Nice article, also another thing you could of added what the title “the immigrant experience” right above her head.

  • http://run.likethewind.ca/ fathima

    “Using Aqsa’s private picture, never intended for such public display, not only seems a violation of her privacy, but also a purposeful taunt to the Muslim and South Asian communities.”
    while i think that’s a valid criticism to make within the context of Rogan’s blatant anti-immigrant fear-mongering, i think that the more pressing issue is that using that picture sexualises Aqsa in a way that speaks to this false binary that’s been constructed between Islam (/brown/immigrant/repressed/violent/ugly) and the West (/postracial/integrated/liberated/safe/sexy).

    in other words, i’m troubled less by the perceived anti-SAsian taunt than i am by how fundamentally disrespectful and demeaning it is use such a suggestive (ala Cosmo</em) picture of a young girl who was struggling with her sexuality and faith in a deeply troubled environment.

    (also, Jamerican Muslimah, thanks for those links.)

  • AG

    Is that an actual, unedited picture of her? It sort of looks photoshopped to me. The skin is too perfect. It’s horrible to use, no matter what. I agree with fathima about how it sexualizes Parvez. If I didn’t see the headline, I’d think she was some [living] celebrity being interviewed for some teen magazine.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    Sobia: great post!!! You hit it dead on.

    @ fathima & Philip: oooooooooh, great insights.

  • luckyfatima

    wow fathima u have articulated why this pic disgusted me so much!

    great deconstruction of the article, BTW.

  • http://forsoothsayer.blogspot.com forsoothsayer

    you guys really think u can pin the blame for the extreme sexism which characterizes the vast majority of the non-western world on colonialism? with all due respect to the scholarship on this issue, there are a couple things wrong with that. first, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that insane sexism was well present before colonialism came along. certainly in the middle east. for another, every advance in women’s rights and feminism the region has known has been the direct result of western influence of some kind, especially in egypt, the country which i know best (i can expand on this if anyone wants to know), so much so that now anything in the nature of gender equality is seen as foreign.
    i want to know, also, what is the point of blaming colonialism. the post-colonial world has done that too long and it’s just preventing them from taking a long hard look at their own culpability and distracts them from addressing the issues.
    what this website seems determined to avoid addressing are the ways in which Islam has provided a fertile soil for sexist practices to perpetuate. perhaps the way i’ve phrased it isn’t pc enough for you; but is it really so wrong, so totally prejudiced and unreasonable to contemplate that a faith which sanctions polygamy, unfair inheritance laws, inequality of female testimony, unequal modesty laws, a faith where one can find if one chooses hadiths permitting FGM, wife beating, etc, might in fact be partly to blame for the conditions of life for women in the Muslim world? or is is just western racists who think so? yes, the other faiths aren’t much better. but when the other faiths are codified blatantly and constitutionally into law, we’ll talk. why do you always completely attack people who suggest that perhaps we should take the text of the Quran on the face of it as saying something about Islam? why must we all enter into tortuous careful interpretations that stretch language or be branded as bigots?
    i don’t think this has any bearing on the Aqsa case, about which i heartily agree with you all; but the entire premise behind MMW is to condemn the media for ever criticizing Islam as being different than other faiths – for that is the crux of their representation of Muslim women. while there’s a ton of racism, orientalism, and all that in their representation, what happened to freedom of speech and rigorous analysis? basically, i think both the underlying assumptions and the comment guidelines here are unduly restrictive and not altogether helpful for the promotion of debate.

  • http://www.brokenmystic.wordpress.com Broken Mystic

    This was a great post, Sobia! Really well down.

    I think it’s so insulting that the magazine used Aqsa Parvez’s private photograph for the cover image. I totally agree that this was done to taunt Muslims and South Asians, as well as to simplify this issue and label it an “honor killing.”

    @ Forsoothsayer — I don’t think this website blames everything entirely on colonialism. You stated that “every advance” in women’s rights and feminism has been the “direct result of western influence of some kind.” May I ask about Muslim countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, and Bangladesh, which have all elected female Prime Ministers? The United States has yet to elect a female President, but would you still say that female leaders in the aforementioned Islamic countries were the direct result of western influence?

    Also, I think it’s inaccurate to say Islam has provided “fertile soil for sexist practices to perpetuate.” This may be your opinion, but if I may contribute my 2 cents, I would strongly argue that it is *not* Islam that perpetuates sexist practices, it is the people. The religion of Islam itself emphasizes on gender equality, and the Qur’an mentions this explicitly.

    The selected Hadith you are talking about CONFLICT with Qur’anic verses, therefore they are not authentic. It’s very true that certain Muslims will actually believe in these Hadith, but what a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that so much research and studying is required in order to understand Islam. It does not make sense to Islamic theology if the Hadith says something that is completely contradictory to the Qur’an, because the Qur’an is regarded as the Infallible Word of God. If the Hadith says something like women are inferior or subordinate to men, then there is no way that can be compatible with the Qur’an’s Message of Equality, not just for males and females, but ALL of humankind.

    Freedom of speech is one thing, but when tragic incidents, such as the murder of Aqsa Parvez or 9/11, are simply reported as cases of religious extremism, then we’re leaving out other important factors that prevent us from understanding the root cause of the problem. It was not Islam that made Parvez’s father kill her — how could it be Islam when Islam abolished female infanticide during the Prophet’s time? If a white father killed his daughter, his religion would not be scrutinized or blamed for it. There are plenty of reports of white mothers killing and drowning their own children — are their religions blamed for their actions?

    It’s also important to keep in mind that freedom of speech doesn’t entitle a person to be racist or prejudice. Racism and prejudice is very hurtful, and history has shown us what dehumanization of the “other” can lead to.

    @ Krista — I think Sobia is fine with posting this picture because unlike the Toronto Life Magazine, she has no intention to violate Aqsa Parvez’s private life. Instead, she is pointing out how insulting and disrespectful it is for the magazine to publish the image. The magazine itself should feel ashamed of itself for using Aqsa Parvez’s picture to taunt Muslims and to perpetuate stereotypes that Muslims hate “freedom.”

  • Sobia

    Ugh…I had written a whole long response too all your comments but my internet connection went all stupid and I lost it all. Sorry for the delay in responding.

    @Broomstick:

    Calm down on your name calling. Are you referring to us as morons? Calling us morons will not help you get your point across. You make a valid point but your insults to us completely wipe it out. Remember, I am in the West as well, hence a Westerner.

    @Krista:
    You make a very valid point and this is indeed a very tricky issue. I don’t want to further insult her family or my own South Asian community but I also felt it was necessary to show the picture I was so ripping apart. I was concerned that if the picture was not there I could be accused of blowing things out of proportion, This way people themselves can see how insulting it is – those who would not see it otherwise – thus understand my critique better. It was a dilemma that I dealt with but decided to go with publishing it.

    What do other readers think?

    @Jamerican:
    Thanks so much. Violence against women is about patriarchy, misogyny, and learner behaviour. Various interpretations of Islam are easy and handy excuses for many men. And thank you for those links. They’re very interesting. The way Dr. Al-Kateeb has explained the ways in which men will use Islam to commit violence against women is so useful. Do you know how many mosques and religious institutions have this? They should if they don’t.

    @fathima:

    That picture is incredibly disrespectful. If she were alive I’m sure she would never have wanted that picture on the magazine. Again…dilemma for us….

    @Philip:

    You’re right. I have a feeling that The Immigrant Experience is the title of the regular section which appears in the magazine. More of a worry is the link of her death with the hijab being made so blatantly on the cover.

    @AG:
    Yup…it definitely looks altered.

    @Fatemeh and luckyfatima:

    Thanks!

    @forsoothsayer:

    BM has answered your concerns quite well. The role of colonization in the conditions of the world today cannot be denied. So much of what goes on “over there” is a result of decades if not centuries of the racist colonization of those “over here.” This is not to say that those in colonized countries are fault-free. They too have to take responsibility of their violations of human rights. But to analyze their problems without considering the effects of colonization would be completely incomplete and insufficient. And an insufficient and incomplete analysis leads to inaccurate and useless conclusions.

    As far as the role of Islam I think BM has covered it well as well. There are many interpretations of Islam and it is important to keep that in mind. No doubt that there are many misogynistic interpretations that oppress women but there are also many liberating and egalitarian interpretations of the very same religion. Interpretations that lead to many Muslim women being highly religious. Personally, I feel it is important to critique the misogynistic interpretations of Islam but at the same time respect that there are many Muslim women who embrace Islam as a means to gain equality and justice. Do not discount their experiences.

    @BM:

    Thank you!! Simpfying this issue does no one any good.

  • Farah B

    forsoothsayer, both BM and Sobia have addressed the bulk of your arguments so I won’t repeat what they’ve said, but you mentioned at one point – “but when the other faiths are codified blatantly and constitutionally into law, we’ll talk.”

    Did you omit Israel on purpose or was it an accident?

    Additionally, only until every Western government stops recognising Easter and Christmas as national holidays and starts recognising homosexual marriages then can one talk about faith not being codified “blatantly and constitutionally” into law.

  • http://forsoothsayer.blogspot.com forsoothsayer

    @ farah b: it’s true that many countries draw their inspiration for their laws from commonly accepted beliefs (see democracy), but most of them don’t actually reference a faith as the legal basis for the system of law. Israel is, of course, in no way a measuring stick. countries that do so cannot but do their minorities a disservice…i’m sure i don’t have to tell any of you about the disadvantages of theocracies in suppressing freedom of opinion.
    @ other ladies: you may feel, and think, that Islam provides women with equality, but it seems safe to say that women polygamy, not ployandry, is permitted, and when men’s legal testimony equals that of two women, and when women inherit half of what men do, that is NOT equality. i hope we’re together in understanding that equality means the same treatment for both genders. you may dismiss the above as “interpretations”: but i find that an ordinary reading of the Quran does not permit of any deviation from these three ideas. i doubt u would find an authority who would deny, for example, that polygamy is permitted (if not encouraged) only for men.
    re feminism and western influences: i specifically said the region of the middle east, where i know feminist advances to be wrought by, and as a result of, western influence on middle eastern feminists. and re the weak point of the united states: Canada and the UK elected female prime ministers long ago, and without the benefits of dynasty! not that i think electing a woman to highest public office is some kind of indication of whether or not that country’s feminist discourse was due to western influence or not. it’s not like people are waiting for cues. but to state that “Even if one argues that the effects of patriarchy are greater in non-Western cultures, one cannot blame the culture itself but must rather look at the issue within post-colonial analyses,” is not necessarily imperative. wouldn’t u have expected them to use the past 50 years to address the effects of colonialism on the status of women? the post colonial analysis is becoming more and more irrelevant, i would argue, as time marches. i know that some cultures’ women’s rights were done a huge disservice by colonialism: not so the middle east, since a lot of the injustices pre-date colonialism and in fact some of them were enacted in order to “resist” colonial influence (such as the prostitution laws which have in some countries been so tightened as to encompass all fornication). the other muslim countries may have a different experience, however.
    im just saying, this gung-ho other-blaming is doing no one any favours, especially not women.

  • Sobia

    @forsoothsayer:

    “you may dismiss the above as “interpretations”: but i find that an ordinary reading of the Quran does not permit of any deviation from these three ideas. i doubt u would find an authority who would deny, for example, that polygamy is permitted (if not encouraged) only for men.”

    You can find many new interpretations by women who have re-interpreted the Qur’an. I encourage you to read Asma Barlas.Just because the common interpretations are misogynistic does not mean they are the only ones, nor the right ones.

    Canada never elected a female PM. Kim Campbell took over when Mulroney resigned and was PM for a very short time.

    “the post colonial analysis is becoming more and more irrelevant, i would argue, as time marches.”

    As long as racism exists (an invention of colonialization) post-colonial analysis will be relevant. As long as previously colonized countries experience poverty and subjugation, post-colonial analysis will be relevant. It is no coincidence that most “non-White” countries are poor after all.

  • Mary Rogan

    Hi. I wrote the article. I appreciate the attention to detail you’ve brought to your analysis. The response to this article has been overwhelming and has generated some great discussion. I want to address two points you raise. The first is the photo of Aqsa on the cover. It was not a ‘private’ photo but one from her facebook page that was viewed by thousands of people.
    Secondly, I don’t agree that in order to discuss Aqsa’s death I also need to discuss other examples of violence against women in ‘my own community’ whatever that might be. I have no illusions that violence, of any kind, is limited by any categorization. That said, I don’t believe that to be specific is the same as racist. Thanks.

  • Sobia

    Hi Mary. Thanks for taking the time to read the critique and posting. This article has created controversy for reasons mentioned in the post.

    I did a search on Facebook for Aqsa Parvez and although I came across many groups for her, I did not come across her personal Facebook page. Therefore, I am not sure which page you are referring to. If this photo was on her Facebook, it was still on HER personal page. Regardless of who could/would see it, it was her choice to display it and her choice to show it to whomever she willed. If given the choice who knows if she would want it on the cover of some magazine. And did you ever give thought to her family members and how they would feel about this picture being displayed?

    Secondly, although you do not need to talk about the violence in “mainstream” Canada, you should have painted a more balanced and accurate picture. Instead of painting this as a problem of immigrants or Islam you should have pointed out that this was a problem of patriarchy. The way you depicted this story demonizes an entire population who would never condone nor engage in such behaviour.

    I wonder, if honour killings were such a big problem in Canada why haven’t we seen more than just a few cases considering the largest ethnic minority in Canada is South Asians? Perhaps this alone may suggest that its not an immigrant or religion issue but rather that of patriarchy – something no culture or religion is immune from.

  • Philip

    @Sobia
    “The way you depicted this story demonizes an entire population who would never condone nor engage in such behaviour.”
    The absolute same thing can be said about “common interpretations(of Quran)” you cited in your second last comment.

  • Sobia

    @Philip:

    You have an odd way of taking things out of context.

    The interpretations are influenced by patriarchy – I have never said to deny the existence of patriarchy. It exists and that we have to recognize. What I am saying is that it is universal and to point at only one religion or culture does not address the problem at all because the problem is patriarchy, not culture or religion. And yes, the ways in which Islam is implemented by many is influenced by patriarchy, just as the ways other religions are interpreted and implemented. Again, patriarchal interpretations are the problem – not the religion or culture itself.

  • everybodyever

    Excellent points, Sobia. (I’m new to your blog; I linked via Feministing.)

    This excerpt from the article is especially galling:

    Was her murder an honour killing or simply a gruesome case of domestic violence? Worldwide, an estimated 5,000 women die every year in honour killings—murders deemed excusable to protect a family’s reputation—many of them in Pakistan, where the Parvez family had emigrated from.

    What an abrupt, irrelevant shift of focus between those two sentences! Somehow, I doubt that an article about, say, the murder of a Swede in Toronto by her father would contain statistics about domestic violence stats worldwide or in Sweden, for chrissakes. The piece is from a Toronto periodical about a Torontonian victim killed in Toronto. Why on earth should crime statistics about anything other than Toronto be cited?

    (And “many of them?” What strong data.)

    Of course the question at the beginning of the paragraph is absurd as well — as though it’s either-or, as though a so-called “honor killing” somehow ISN’T a gruesome case of domestic violence.

  • Sobia

    @everybodyever:

    Excellent points. You’re right – if this family had hailed from Sweden or say the UK no one would be questioning Swedish or English culture. But for some reason its ok to question Pakistani/South Asian culture.

    And your point about the first sentence is so right. Fully agreed!

  • Mia

    Great analysis, Sobia! You brought up a lot of points I was thinking.
    It’s too easy for some people to find a reason within religion and not within the system or a person.

  • Kim

    Yes, Toronto Life promoted paganism and materialism at the
    expense of Muslim family values. The cover, of course,
    exemplifies paganism with the spaghetti straps and provocative
    look on the face of the teen. Such photos have no place
    on the covers of magazines, especially when the subject is
    so controversial. Next time, at least find a picture with
    a hijab. Teenagers are under the heavy Western influence
    here in Canada. The article does an injustice to religion
    and to families who just want to keep their kids safe.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • Sobia

    @Kim:

    I know you’re being critical of the article as you should be, but I wouldn’t go so far as saying that the article promoted paganism. To make such claims you would have to provide more detailed evidence.

    As far as being under Western influence HERE in Canada. Hello? Canada is a Western country so of course those living here are going to be under Western influence. We are Western Muslims.

    There is nothing wrong with Muslims being Western. After all we live here and we need to consider ourselves Western if we want others to consider us Western. And this way we can start to change what it means to be Western. Nuance the West it to include our images as well. Each person will choose for themselves how they want to express their identity where they live. Each Muslim has a right to do that.

    You can critique the ways in which Muslims and South Asians are depicted in this magazine but your comment goes into ‘insulting Muslim women’ territory, including Aqsa Parvez, by denying us a choice over our own lifestyles. Please be mindful of this.

  • one of aqsas best friends

    Aqsa, was a veryyyy good friend of mine. SHe called me her oldr sister. This is not a seductive picture. Shes blowing a kiss to the camera wearing a tank top…Shes doing wht every 16 year old does….whats wrong with that.. Aqsa is a beautiful girl and if you think shes trying to be seductive…then thats you, but please dont come on here saying that….

  • Sobia

    @ one of aqsas best friends:

    Thank you for commenting and sorry for your loss. It must be very hard to lose a close friend.

    Just to clarify on the picture issue. This picture may not seem seductive within the context in which it occurred. If you were there, or you knew her personally, then I can understand you not thinking it was seductive. However, out of context unfortunately it does appear seductive, especially considering South Asian culture. Since she was not there to give the magazine her permission to use her picture, then the next person/people to consider should have been her family and their cultural sensibilities.

    I have to wonder, if she were alive would she be comfortable with that picture being used on the front cover a magazine? The magazine should have afforded her the same respect.

  • Kim

    I think the viewer’s interpretation of the picture tells more about the viewer than about the magazine’s decision to print it.

    Sobia says that her family’s sensibilities should have been considered. I’m sorry, but haven’t some of them been charged with her murder?

    And as for “if she were alive would she be comfortable with her picture being used” the key here is “IF SHE WERE ALIVE.”

    IF SHE WERE ALIVE we wouldn’t be looking at her picture on the
    front of the stupid magazine.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    I think the viewer’s interpretation of the picture tells more about the viewer than about the magazine’s decision to print it.

    Meaning what, exactly?

    I think Sobia’s critique is valid. Just because some of her family is allegedly responsible doesn’t mean all of them are or that they have no feelings or love for her. It’s callous to think that they don’t feel anything when they see her picture on a newsstand.

  • Sobia

    @Kim:

    “some of them been charged with her murder?”

    The key word here is SOME. Not all. To disrespect the rest of her family because of the actions of a few is making the insulting assumption that her whole family, and her community (us Pakistanis) would be in agreement with what her father and brother did.

    “the key here is “IF SHE WERE ALIVE.””

    Are you saying its ok to disrespect the dead? Dead or alive she should be respected.

  • Kim

    To say that I’m making an assumption that the Pakistani community would be in agreement with what her father and brother are
    ALLEGED to have done, because I say that the Press does not
    have to consider her family’s sensibilities when they procure
    a Facebook photo for their magazine is totally absurd.

    Then, I’m accused of saying it’s ok to disrespect the dead. The
    fact is, someone somewhere is going to feel disrespected no
    matter what, the Press can’t consider everyone’s feelings before
    deciding what to print. It’s just not viable and it contradicts the idea of a free press. In some countries, of course, they would not print
    such a photo because they very well could be arrested (e. g.
    Saudi Arabia). Arrested because people would say it disrespects a religion. Thank God that in Canada murder is treated much more
    seriously than alleged apostasy.

    Ms. Parvez herself took these photos and put them on Facebook.
    I see an image of a vibrant, alive young girl with energy and
    a healthy rebellious nature. Maybe that’s what a lot of people
    are objecting to, and like I say, you can tell a lot about someone’s
    values by the way the person reacts to images.

    Anyway, you have your opinions on the matter, I have mine,
    and if we can have a healthy debate on the differences, like
    in this blog, that is commendable and a credit to you.

  • Sobia

    @ Kim:

    “To say that I’m making an assumption that the Pakistani community would be in agreement with what her father and brother are
    ALLEGED to have done, because I say that the Press does not
    have to consider her family’s sensibilities when they procure
    a Facebook photo for their magazine is totally absurd. ”

    Why should the press not respect her family? Why does the press then not print pictures of murder victims? Why did the press not print pictures of the 8 snowmobilers bodies who died in BC recently? Why did the press not print pictures of child pornography victims? All these are done out of respect. And you may say that those pictures are not the same as Aqsa’s, but Aqsa’s culture is also not the same as the others. Within the South Asian community such pictures are disrespectful regardless of what you may think of the issue.

    Canada is officially a multicultural country. This means that the various cultures that exist within the country have to be respected, as long as the cultural practices are not infringing upon anyone’s human rights. And not using this particular picture would not have infringed upon anyone’s human right.

  • Kim

    The press did print pictures of the snowmobilers. Their pictures
    were all over the local papers (I live in BC). Pictures of murder victims are printed all the time, for example, when the recent parole hearing of mass murderer David Shearing came up the press printed pictures of his victims. The remaining family were happy to have these pictures printed because it helped remind people to lobby
    and make sure Shearing did not make parole. The picture of Aqsa reminds us of who she was, how full of life and vibrancy she was, despite the terrible conflicts in her life. Some people might not
    want to see that, because they want to cover up certain aspects
    of her life. They want to sweep certain perspectives of this case “under the rug” so to speak.

    Re: Child pornography
    Child pornography victim pictures are not printed because it is against the law to print child pornography.

    Yes, some ( a distinct minority) of the
    South Asian community might see these pictures as disrespectful,
    but they have to tolerate the other communities in Canada that
    don’t see these pictures as disrespectful and in fact feel such
    images are normal. That’s also an aspect of multiculturalism.

    “Not using this picture would not have infringed upon anyone’s human rights,” well, not printing the story would not have infringed upon anyone’s rights, and I’m sure that’s what her family would
    have wanted. No stories, just forget about it, she’s dead in an unmarked grave. All very respectful.

    Well, that’s not how it works here. Murder and press investigation of murder is not censored nor swept under the carpet. We want to know about such murders so we can prevent
    the same types of crime from happening again. Toronto Life
    provides a perspective, and if people don’t want to read the story,
    or want to boycott the magazine, they are free to do so. Likewise,
    I am free to encourage people to read and try and understand
    all perspectives, without censorship or worrying about hurt feelings.

  • Sarah

    “I see an image of a vibrant, alive young girl with energy and
    a healthy rebellious nature. Maybe that’s what a lot of people
    are objecting to, and like I say, you can tell a lot about someone’s
    values by the way the person reacts to images.”

    @Kim: I can also tell a lot about you for exaggerating Sobia et al’s reactions to this image. Just because we are criticizing it, doesn’t mean we are opposed to a young women living life as she chooses. We are criticizing the CONTEXT, the way it was used. On the surface, yes, it simply shows a vibrant young girl…and you can stop ur analysis there if you don’t care to take the whole context into consideration at all. But, um, context is kind of important, and that’s what I think Sobia et al are referring to when they say this image is disrespectful within this particular context – a context in which the girl herself is dead, she was killed for having cultural conflicts with her parents, and those conflicts had something to do with differing views on sexuality. I don’t mean to speak for others, but this is what I think and what I think others are expressing.

  • Sarah

    btw, i was reading forsoothsayer’s comments from way back and others’ response to him/her – i can see both sides of that argument. i do think forsoothsayer makes some valid points though that, while hard to hear, shouldn’t be dismissed out of defensiveness. i do think the more egalitarian interpretations of islam are harder to come by, not nearly as accepted by the majority, and are far more recent, possibly indicating that they have been influenced by modern western thought. i don’t have evidence to support that, but it has always been the feeling i’ve had whenever i’ve studied alternative interpretations. i don’t think that the western influence is a bad thing, because people will always interpret religion through their own cultural lenses, that’s human nature, and that has been the case throughout the history of islamic scholarship. it’s important to realize that islam is dynamic enough to take on different interpretations according to different cultural contexts (ex. many scholars today saying that a woman’s testimony Is equal to a man’s)

    while forsoothsayer does need to understand the issues of gender inequality in the cultural context into which islam was born, i think it’s valid to point out that most muslims themselves don’t understand that, and therefore the common understanding of islam remains bound to a very specific time and place that did view women as less than men. therefore it can easily perpetuate misogyny, and people will continue to use islam to justify their mistreatment of women. to deny any connection between islam (as it’s popularly understood) and misogynistic practice/thought is like denying it’s connection to terrorism while so many muslims today are committing acts of terrorism. of course mysogyny and terrorism exist within other contexts as well, but to bring that up as a defense doesn’t do anything to address why on earth muslims are finding any sort of justification in islam for their immoral actions. i’m not impugning islam, simply saying that we need to analyze the connections b/c only that way can we root out the ignorance. denying the connection doesn’t do anyone any favors.

  • Kim

    Fatemeh: That is good you critique media, but as there is no objective criteria for doing so, opinions about context will differ and will not likely be reconciled. But it is very interesting to read what you have to say. That would be interesting to have a picture of Aqsa smiling with her family, I think that would be a very excellent discussion maker, considering what happened to her.

    Yes, Sarah, I think connections between belief and evil acts need to be analyzed. Sexuality does seem to be one of the major issues in this case, the fact the picture has become so controversial in certain circles is definite evidence of this. To me, the image just seems like another Bollywood influence in a normal teenager’s life,but to her very religious family, pictures like this must have meant they felt shamed and humiliated, disrespected by what they would consider the girl’s rebelliousness against what they believed. This disrespectful nature towards her family and their beliefs is alleged to have been a factor in her murder. I imagine more facts regarding these matters will come out as the legal system works its way through this case. Analyze the connections, sounds like
    a good idea to me.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh

    @ Kim: The “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” crap doesn’t fly here. WE CRITIQUE MEDIA.

    And while I agree with you that showing pictures of Aqsa is a way to remind us of her life, showing this picture isn’t. Why couldn’t they have used a school picture of her smiling, or a picture of her smiling with her family, like every other murder victim is portrayed? You don’t see pictures of Natalie Holloway doing a sexy Facebook pose, you see her smiling, graduating, and in family pictures.


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