A shirt to die for

It’s a commonly held belief that immigrants, particularly those from Islamic nations, fare better in Canada than they do in the US. It’s our mosaic approach to immigration versus America’s melting pot attitude. We bend over backwards, sometimes to our own detriment, to ensure people have the freedom to practice their traditions, religion and culture. That’s just how we are. But I think it’s time we agree that it’s not racist or ethnocentric to put a stake in the ground and make it known that those traditions cannot include killing your daughters, even if they risk bringing dishonor upon your family.

A few years ago, a young woman and her fiancé were shot while they sat in a parked car a few blocks from my house. The shooter was the girl’s brother. Being murdered in cold blood was her punishment for dating this young man. In a story out of a Toronto, a teen girl was stabbed by her father for refusing to wear the tradition Muslim head garments and wanting to do what any teen girl wants to do. Play high school basketball and hang out with her friends at the mall. Those were her crimes.

But the honor killing that now looms in our minds and in the media is the drowning of three young girls, the youngest barely in her teens, last summer, in a canal in Kingston Ontario—along with their father’s first wife. He was living in a polygamous marriage with two women—apparently there’s no dishonor in that. A car with the four women in it was pushed into the canal by another car driven by either the father or his son—their brother—then an accident was rigged to cover the damage done to the car’s front end.  The police got wise to them, fairly quickly. The case is now before the courts, one that shows conspiracy between the girls’ mother, father and brother. The father has admitted to killing them; commenting that a life in jail was worth saving his family from shame.

Yeah. Go ahead and check the calendar. We’re slightly into the second decade of the twenty-first century and he’s using an overly literal reading of a holy book written in the seventh century to “discipline” his daughters.  That would be like a Christian or Jewish father putting his son to death for playing football or offing his wife for baking a pie on the Sabbath.  Admittedly, Christianity has a pretty spotty history when it comes to women and girls, but thankfully, at least in the West, we’ve put the creepier parts of religion behind us. It’s about time we demanded the same enlightenment of our more fundamentalist Islamic immigrants.

Mohammad Shafia killed three of his children in premeditated murder. Apparently no dishonor in that either. And he did it because the eldest agreed to marry two boys, obviously a desperate attempt to get away from the family horror show. The other two apparently showed signs of becoming “dirty, dirty” by wearing western clothes like sleeveless tee-shirts and other random infractions. It’s not clear what they were but I’m presuming crimes like going to movies or wearing eye shadow.

So he put them and his first wife in a car and then he and wife number two, the birth mother of the girls, and son knocked it into a dark, cold, watery canal, then drove back to the roadside hotel where they were staying. And then called the police saying the four had taken off joyriding with the second family car.

Imagine their terror. Trapped, death waiting in the water, knowing it was your own parents, your own family that wanted you gone.  It would have been a level of fear and panic and betrayal that none of us could imagine. My only hope is that in some small last act of the compassion, the occupants of the car were drugged or otherwise unconscious prior to drowning. That point has risen in court.

Earlier this year, Canada’s sitting Conservative government published a pamphlet for new immigrants that reminded them that in this country, infibulation (commonly known as female circumcision, but in reality, it’s genital mutilation that steals women’s ability to feel desire or satisfaction. It’s an ancient practice used to control women’s sexuality) was “barbaric.” A member of the opposing Liberal party and the son of a famous Canadian prime minister who really should have known better implied that the government was being racist and judgmental in using the term “barbaric.” Really? I don’t know, what else would you call carving out a teenage girl’s clitoris, usually with unsterile cooking instruments? It is barbaric and horrific and something not wanted in this, our civilized country. And I’m glad the government had the guts to say so.

We need more of that here. Guts. The courage to make judgments that protect us from becoming a place where life is cheap and rights are non-existent. The kind of place from which immigrants flee to come here. So why do they bring these ancient and terrible practices with them.  Why? I don’t get it.

I don’t know how we protect these girls from these insidious horrors. I’d say perhaps the schools could keep an eye out, but I realize teachers are busy; arranging tree plantings to slant attitudes about the environment and peeking through lunches to make sure no one brought peanut butter. Wanna see a real waste of resources? How about a dead teen girl, cut down long before her potential had a chance to flower.

I’ve not advocating we start spying on the neighbors, but if one has the slightest indication that something horribly wrong was going to occur, wouldn’t it be better to appear nosy than deal with the guilt afterwards.

This case has brought to light that along with their suitcases, some (and make no mistake, I am writing about the few) immigrants from Islamic countries are bringing with them attitudes and practices that are simply not acceptable in this country. I’m not talking about clothing or food or prayers. I don’t care about the color of your skin or the religion you practice. I don’t care about what you eat or celebrate or wear, even if the full out head coverings with the little windows give me the creeps because they remind that in many places, as a woman I’m a second citizen and apparently so morally unstable that my body can’t be seen. (Ever notice that these practices that control women are to make up for the fact that men can’t or won’t control themselves? Just saying. )

But for the love of God (any God, pick your favorite), we have to have the courage and sense of right and wrong to stand up, individually and as a nation and make it crystal clear to anyone entering our borders that it is simply not OK to kill your children, no matter what they do.

If that makes us racist, if that makes us judgmental, I can live with that. Because the alternative is just too terrifying to consider.


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