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Natasha Fatah on CBC.ca :: "Who will speak for Aqsa Parvez?"

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  • Tarek Fatah
    December 14, 2007 Who will speak for Aqsa Parvez? -- Natasha Fatah CBC.ca http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_fatah/20071214.html Sixteen-year-old Aqsa
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 14, 2007
      December 14, 2007
       
      Who will speak for Aqsa Parvez?

      Natasha Fatah
      CBC.ca
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_fatah/20071214.html

      Sixteen-year-old Aqsa Parvez did not want to wear the hijab. The Middle Eastern head covering has become the most significant icon for Islam in the West, which is unfortunate, since 90 per cent of Muslim women in this country don’t wear one.
       
      By extension, they get dismissed as not being authentic Muslims. The CBC’s own Little Mosque on the Prairie plays into this stereotype by showing every prominent Muslim woman in a hijab. This superficial measurement of Muslim-ness has become so prevalent that a small but increasing number of families are pushing it on their daughters. Aqsa, a Pakistani-Canadian, was just one of the victims of this growing obsession.
       
      Now that Aqsa is dead, who will speak for her? Who will speak for the countless Muslim girls who lead double lives and who suffer in silence in their homes? Who will make sure they aren't abused or killed?
       
      Most Islamist men and women say that a woman chooses to wear the hijab. But, all too often, that choice is taken away from young Muslim girls, and they are being told by their parents and their imams that if they don’t wear the hijab, they are no longer Muslim, even though the Koran, Islam’s holy book, does not say that a woman has to cover her hair.
       
      Take a walk in downtown Toronto, Montreal, Windsor or other cities with large Muslim populations. You will see little girls, as young as four, five and six, wearing hijabs on their way to school. Did these little girls really make a choice to wear the hijab? Did they make a declaration to their parents that they want to be religiously pious and sexually modest? Common sense indicates that these children did not choose for themselves.
       
      Meanwhile the mullahs and Islamists are busy dismissing the idea that Aqsa’s alleged murder had anything to do with religion. They are circulating rumours on-line that she had a black boyfriend, that she was sexually promiscuous, that she was a drug pusher -- and these are cited as reasons why her family was strict with her. Why are they so afraid of acknowledging that obsession with a religious ritual may have been a factor? It is because they fear their own culpability in this horrible tragedy.
       
      Before their congregations, they tell men to control their daughters, wives and sisters. They have brought into Canadian homes the radical Islamist notion that a man’s honour is encompassed in the sexual and physical body of the women in his family, that’s why they must be covered up and kept inside.
       
      Muslim fundamentalists have made a woman’s body the fighting ground for their religious wars, and it is unfortunately women who pay with their lives for the sake of their men’s honour.
       
      Women’s advocacy groups have played mute on the issue. When Canadian feminists are asked for their reaction to Aqsa’s murder, they decline to respond and instead suggest that it would more appropriate to turn to Muslim women’s groups for reaction. They are willing to speak up for all other women in Canada, from women who need cancer treatment because of radioisotope shortages to the dozens of prostitutes murdered in British Columbia, but they will not speak for Aqsa.
       
      Even social pundits and critics are making excuses. They say that this isn’t something unique to the Muslim community. They bring up examples of honour killings in Christian, Sikh and Hindu families. Just because there are religious fanatics in every group doesn’t take away the need to investigate what is happening to young Muslim women.
       
      So far, the only ones who have spoken honestly are the young girls that attend Applewood Heights Secondary School in Mississauga. The friends and classmates of Aqsa, who aren’t concerned with political correctness, have said without hesitation that Aqsa was abused and threatened at home because of the religious fanaticism of her family. They have said she was killed because she wanted to be herself.
       
      The rest of Canadian society could take a hint from these girls. We hesitate to condemn this behaviour because we don’t want to be seen as racist. Are we going to allow cultural relativism to be the scapegoat for abuse and murder in this country? This is not the time for discussions about cultural nuances and lowered expectations for ethnic and religious minority groups. This is the time to speak up, and say enough is enough to the religious fanatics in Canada.
       
      If a vacuum of silence is left by the moderate people in Canada, who are the overwhelmingly majority, then that vacuum will be filled by the religious extremists on one side, who will make excuses for these actions; and by intolerant racists on the other, who will say religious minorities are poisoning this country.
       
      Canadians, Muslim and non-Muslim, must say that while this country’s greatest pride is its diversity, multiculturalism and acceptance, there are certain beliefs and laws that are inherently Canadian and that must be respected. We have to say loudly that a woman is free to cover her body as she chooses. She is free to wear her hair how she likes. That at least in this country, she is free, no matter how you interpret your religion.
      ---------------------------------
      Natasha Fatah is a producer for CBC Radio's Current Affairs Show "As It Happens."
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