EVERY death is painful and difficult to accept. It is even more difficult to accept an unnatural death of a daughter caused by her father. The death of Aqsa Parvez, the daughter of Pakistani Immigrant Muhammad Parvez in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada was such a death.
The untimely death of this beautiful 16-year old on December 10, 2007 in a country where a multitude of cultures coexist peacefully gave rise to many questions and put a whole community on the media spotlight by presenting the killer as 'a devoutly religious man'.
The whole world has become insecure today because of the extreme and crazy fanatics. The anti-religious and anti-terrorist fanatics are equally dangerous for human society as the religious and nationalist fanatics are. As the religious and nationalist fanaticisms are ugly and dangerous so is the fanaticism promoted to suppress them, which disregards the rule of law and civil human behaviour.
At the same time it is needless to say that it has become incumbent on the immigrant parents to review their old attitude and conduct with their western-born children. It is to be noted that a part of the public education system here in the west promotes the idea of "me, myself and I", which is aimed at creating a stern individualistic psyche in children. Teachers, who are more favourably viewed by children than their parents, inculcate the idea in their tender mind that "one is the owner of one's own body; so he or she should use it as he or she wishes even if that has to go against any established value system." Some educators felt the problematic nature of this educational system. One such educator is Mr. John Taylor Gatto, who taught in New York's public School system for over 30 years. Mr. Gatto, an honoured and award winning teacher, wrote many books about the problems of this education system. In his thought provoking book "Dumping us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" he wrote, "If we are to save the society, we have to change the education system, and that if we can't then we have to shut it down." To warn about the harmful objectives of this education system he wrote, "Educate your enemy; do not kill him, for he is worth more to you alive then dead."
According to police the death was caused due to neck compression; they are not saying anything other than that. The civil rights of everyone, regardless of their being believers, atheists or agnostics, are strictly protected in western countries by clearly defined laws. Usually people there do not talk much about such deaths and leave them to be decided by the court of law. However, the media is not letting the matter go. It seems like the paparazzi was eagerly waiting for such an incident to happen. At the same time there are those immigrants whose attitude is more western then the westerners themselves.
Present head of the Parvez family, Mrs. Pervez, is struggling to cope with the pathetic death of the daughter, jailing of her husband accused of being the killer, arrest of a son, accused of obstructing police work, and media torture. Did she or anybody ever think of being in such critical situation of life, thousands of miles away from the land of origin, when the objective was to build a new and prosperous life? The unfortunate girl's funeral prayer also had to be held quietly in a family environment instead of being held at bigger ISNA masjid as was originally planned. Any incident becomes a super hyke if an Arabic name or hijab could be related to that. Even though someone goes to masjid for only ten minutes in a week or prays occasionally, he is presented by the media and public opinion as "devoted Muslim" and relationship is then created to his religion, especially Islam, as if it promotes ferocious and barbaric behaviour. The media, quoting Aqsa's friends, are propagating the idea that her father killed her as an "honour killing", which is a criminal offence in his own religion. He killed her allegedly for living with a friend outside her home and her refusal to wear hijab to go to school. The daily Toronto Star on December 17, 2007 published commentaries indicating there could be other reasons for the killing. It questioned the reasoning that a daughter would be killed for refusing to wear hijab in a family in which no other female member wears it. Could a father kill his loving daughter just for not covering her head or was it an ugly outcome of a person's failure in anger management? Let us leave the matter with the police and court to solve and discuss a little different but related perspective.
About three months before Aqsa incident, on October 2, police recovered a bloodied body of an immigrant woman in the same city. Filipino woman Ms. Dulnuan got married here leaving her fiancÚ in the Philippines. Police arrested her wounded husband and another suspect. Within two months of this incident police recovered the intact body of another woman, also a victim of unnatural death, from her own condominium. About a year and half ago a Bangladeshi man beat his wife with a hammer to death in Toronto. A BUET graduate, Farzana was killed in Detroit, Michigan, by her husband who is serving a jail term for last five years. Bangladeshi housewife Shahida Sultana Lovely was murdered on December 21, 2007 by her husband in New York City's Jamaica, Queens's area. One of our neighbours Mrs. Sherry told us that when her daughter Sarah was only two her husband walked out of home. Sarah is 12 now, but the father never returned. That is why; Mrs. Sherry said she used to come "to our house to share the family atmosphere that exists in our family".
Violence against women in western countries has become a regular affair. A women's rights website reported that every seven seconds a woman in America is persecuted by her near and dear ones. Besides, leaving one's children in a car to go to beauty parlour and finding the dead body on return, drowning one's own children with the help of girlfriend or shooting them is not uncommon. The types of homicide incidents that happen in America cannot even be imagined in Bangladesh. At the same time, people in the US cannot imagine some incidents that occasionally take place in developing countries.
Some young members of a family getting spoilt is not uncommon. What is important is to devise a way to create a bond with the youth that suits their psyche. The social scientists in the west are researching on how to control this irresistible social and familial problem. They are researching to find out why even strict laws cannot prevent these problems. Some people are blaming Islam for criminal activities among Muslims without trying to understand the root cause of the problem. They are calling these matters as "cultural clash", "no to hijab", "no to Islamic school", "new addition to Islam by political mollahs" to arouse antagonism against Islam, which, in no way contributes to peace in our world. Can anybody demand the banning of a law enforcement agency because of an incident of extra judicial killing by one of its members? An intelligent step would be to find out a way to rid the society of ignorance, extremism and fanaticism without interfering in the core belief of individuals and by avoiding capitaslism of some isolated incidents.
An open mind can discover the beauty and enjoy the diversity of human belief, culture, and traditions. Multiculturalism does not mean praising Jewish and Catholic schools for their controlled and conservative environment education system to promote moral and humane values but criticising Muslim traditions and educational institutions to show "Islam equals terrorism" out of Islam phobia. It also does not reflect equal treatment for everybody. This is a dichotomy that is promoted by American media talk shows whereby they would say, "there should be the mosaic of multiculturalism in our society but no girls should wear headscarf."
In Detroit, African-American girls wear white hats, like those worn by the hafiz, one who memorised the entire Qur'an, in Bangladesh. I was so amazed that I asked one day, "Where did you find these when they are only sold at the south gate of Baitul Mukarram in Dhaka?"
The boys tie a black bandana like the ones worn by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh. Traditional and colourful loose dress of the Africans, the exotic traditional xi pao of Chinese men and chang san of women, the baju kurung of Malay women and sarong of Malay men, the hat and the gown cassock of the Christian priests, headscarf of nuns, the long dress, long beard and skull cap yamaka or kippah of Jewish men and Jewish women's headdress kippot, the Sikh men's turban, which is even allowed to be wear instead of helmet in Canada for riding bikes and motorcycles, women's veil, and the sub-continent's payjama-kurta, shalwar-kameez, sherwani, urna, caps, etc. all came from some beliefs and traditions.
The Canadian value is to show respect to all cultural traditions, no disrespect. And this is the practice of all people who are tolerant. I have observed a serious desire in people in the US to know about different cultures. Last year all my colleagues, who are all non-Muslims, showed seriousness about knowing the history of Eid-ul Azha. Two days after Aqsa's death Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcast a long interview with a former white Jewish woman Sandra Naoi, who wears headscarf. A onetime blind-devotee of rock star Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, Sandra openly expressed her feelings. She talked about her turbulent life of leaving home at seventeen as an unhappy young woman, a close save from an auto-accident caused by drunk driving, music, alcohol, etc. She confidently told the CBC why she chose to wear the hijab, with which she goes to her workplace. If those who wear it find no problem with it then who are you and I to tell them to stop it? If someone gets murdered for wearing of these dressed then the responsibility of murders falls on the killer. We cannot save the family and society by blaming the dress.
Mississauga is the home of more than 700,000 people. In this city of many ethnicities, religions and cultures, peaceful coexistence, more than 45 per cent people speak languages other than English, indicating a heavy presence of immigrants there. To develop Mississauga, which was an apple orchard and habitat for indigenous people before 1978, into a secure world-class metropolis the contribution of 7.0 per cent Muslim population, which includes many professional engineers, doctors, professors, pharmacists, bankers, accountants, politicians and skilled workers, cannot be denied. They are the initiators or founders of many businesses and educational institutions. The legislator from Aqsa's constituency is Pakistani immigrant Wajed Khan and the legislator for the neighbouring constituency is Omar al-Gabra, an engineer and MBA of Saudi Origin.
The city's Mayor for 30 years 86-year old Hazel McCallion, nicknamed "Hurricane Hazel" for her outspoken criticism of nonsense politics, always praises Muslim community, as "a law abiding hardworking community." A member of the Trinity Anglican Church and a hockey player even at this age, Ms. McCallion never hesitates to praise other people's religion or dress. She attributes her ability to work fairly and successfully to her religion. She takes pride in her religion and loves to call it, "Christian Power".
Lastly, the immigrants should know and remember that there is nothing that they can or try to do by force. In some oriental countries it is considered a lack of respect on the part of the young to talk to an older person, directly looking in the eye. But in the west a person will feel offended if the person talking to him or her is not looking in the eye. Immigrants have to live a life of utmost care with proper understanding of modern social environment and management in a land where socio-cultural values are completely different from those of their country of origin. You should also learn from your children, instead of only trying to teach them. If you fail to do it, the ship of hope that you are travelling by, might sink beyond salvage. And a similar frustration is bound to follow.
The writer, an engineer, work in an engineering company in Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com. To read more you may Visit his personal Blog Please click here
‘How perfect You are O Allah, and I praise You. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.’