Aug 02 2009
When it comes to “honour killings”, there should be no hesitation about tackling the root of the problem: medieval attitudes towards females. This phenomenon is essentially a recent cultural import to Canada by those who want the benefits of living in this country without adopting Western values. “Culture” or “religion” should be no defense when it encourages certain types of crimes.
Some would contend that there’s nothing to defend here. Letter-writer Abubakar N. Kasim makes the case that the killings of four females in the Shafia family, even if it were motivated by imported cultural values, ought to be treated by authorities as an “ordinary” murder investigation. He believes the case is being used to tarnish Islam and intimidate Muslims across Canada.
As well, he Stageleft blog suggests Canadian authorities looking to crack down on so-called “honour killings” implies guilt of cultural insensitivity or racism. In his view, honour killings are premeditated murder; why should they be treated differently than any other type of murder? The Public Safety Minister must be a bigot.
Before we get into refuting the ideas of Mr. Kasim and Stageleft, it’s worth noting that much of the news coverage of the Shafia killings omitted any reference to Islam or Muslims. Especially early on in the case, but continuing to today, articles mention the possibility of a cultural factor in reference to the practice of “honour killings” yet fail to clearly define just which culture it is that we’re talking about. The reader is left to guess based on the names of the alleged killers and their victims. A case of self-censorship by reporters? If so, why?
A few examples of this odd journalistic omission are presented below (but a quick search on Google will furnish many more, if you’re of a mind):
In any case, Mr. Kasim and Stageleft are wrong. There is precedent for treating “honour” crimes more harshly in Canada and it’s got nothing to do with cultural insensitivity – quite the opposite, actually. According to our criminal code:
The courts may define the motivations of hate, bias or prejudice as aggravating factors when sentencing an offender for other offences, such as assault, damage to property, threatening, or harassment. The result is usually a more severe punishment
The victims of “honour killings” and the domestic violence that doesn’t always rise to the level of murder are always women. That these killings are perpetrated exclusively by a definable cultural minority should not be used to protect the perpetrators. It just makes it easier to understand that these crimes are hate crimes, in the same way that lynchings of blacks by whites, firebombings of synagogues and bashing of homosexuals are (categorically, if not legally designated) hate crimes.
Taking action to protect women against honour killings with better use of existing tools of our justice system isn’t bigoted. It’s the least a Public Safety minister can do when it comes to dealing with an increasing and abhorrent crime in Canada. Canada’s multicultural society is not required to accept all cultural imports, particularly those insidious abusive types of behavior that come from from countries where women have fewer protections.
Hat tip: Excellent analysis by Werner Patels on the need to confront the phenomenon of honour killings and eliminate the red herring of Islamophobia.