When the bodies of four Afghanistan-born Montreal family members were found on June 30, 2009, in a submerged car in a Kingston, Ontario canal, the case initially looked like a tragic fatal accident. But after 30 months of probes and lengthy court sessions, a jury's verdict this week declared the incident was actually a first-degree murder - in the name of family honour.
Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42 and their son Hamed, 21, were found guilty on Sunday in the killing of three of Shafia's daughters - Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 - and Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 52.
The case obviously shocked Canadians, but it has also sparked a clash of cultures that could have long-term implications on how Islam is perceived around the world, and how Muslim communities in the West handle their relations with others.
As horrendous as the practice is, honour killing is a social problem in the Muslim world, wherein male relatives believe they must cleanse disgraces brought upon their families by female members. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls are put to death every year at the hands of their own families over honour.
As I followed up on Canadian media coverage of the Shafia honour killing case, I was heartened to see Canada's Muslim leaders denouncing the heinous act as un-Islamic.
In December, the Imam of the Ottawa Mosque condemned the practice, telling a newspaper reporter that it "speaks to a perverse sense of honour that is alien to Islam, and has no place in society". That same view has been echoed by Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger, who declared that Shafia's slanted concept of honour "has absolutely no place in any civilised society". (...)(...more)