Saving Aqsa Parvez

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LAST JUNE, Muhammad Parvez and his twenty-nine-year-old son, Waqas Parvez, were sentenced to life in prison by a court in Ontario, Canada for the murder of Muhammad's daughter and Waqas' sister, Aqsa Parvez. Aqsa was a rebellious sixteen-year-old, the youngest of eight children. She objected to her father's demand that she wear a traditional Muslim hijab, and wanted to get a job so she could have the money to lead a normal teenage life. After she ran away from home and then returned, she told her friends she feared for her life, because her father had sworn on the Koran that he would kill her if she ran away again. She was right. Three months later, after another battle royale over her disobedience in attending her first movie, Aqsa fled once more. Her brother picked her up from a school bus stop and took her home; half an hour later she was dead.

In an interview with police, Aqsa's mother said her husband told her he killed his youngest child because: "My community will say, 'You have not been able to control your daughter.' This is my insult. She is making me naked." This evidence of what he called "a twisted and repugnant mindset" led Judge Bruce Durno to find it "profoundly disturbing that a sixteen-year-old could be murdered by a father and brother for the purpose of saving family pride, for saving them from what they perceived as family embarrassment."

Human Rights Watch defines "honor killings" as "acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family." Nevertheless, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) refused to admit that Aqsa's murder was an honor killing, saying it was just a case of domestic violence that can happen in any family.

Domestic violence does happen everywhere, including the most secular of families. What Canadian CAIR and other defenders of Islam deliberately choose to ignore, though, is that a substantial body of Muslim scripture and tradition teaches people like Muhammad and Waqas Parvez that it is God's will for them to impose this kind of punishment on disobedient daughters.

It's true that there is nothing in the Koran or the traditions of Muhammad that flatly states: "Thou shalt kill thy unruly daughters." There are even some passages in the traditions that can fairly be interpreted as encouraging lenience and mercy in cases of violations of the sexual code. The trouble is, the Koran and the traditions are full of conflicting commandments, and there is plenty of ammunition there to turn a case of wounded pride into homicide.

First, there is the extensive Muslim authority that females in general are subhuman; their testimony counts as half the testimony of a male, their inheritance rights are half those of males, and they need to be covered up and kept inside as much as possible to avoid tempting males into sin. Men can have multiple wives, but women are forbidden from having multiple husbands. The Koran states that "Men are in charge of women, because God hath made one to excel the other," while ordering back-talking women to be scourged. Muhammad is reported to have added that: "Women are naturally, morally, and religiously defective" You don't see many alleged honor killings of males; daughters and sisters are the principal targets.

Then there are the laws commanding death for illicit sex. Sharia is a mass of contradictions on this point, but there is plenty of support for Muhammad's saying that "for a fornicator, there is stoning." Sometimes the punishments for men and women are equal, but sometimes they are not. In one notable case, Muhammad ordered an adulterous man to receive 100 lashes and exile for a year, while the woman was stoned to death.

Then there is the teaching on apostasy. Here Muhammad did not mince words: "If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him." Even closer to the honor killing point is the Koran's approving discussion of the murder of a boy by a God expert, in order to prevent the boy's apostasy from corrupting his parents. …