Home > Culture > Hope amid horror in the Shafia trial

Hope amid horror in the Shafia trial

The verdict, when it came on a quiet Sunday afternoon, was not unexpected; Guilty of first degree murder. Mohammad Shafia, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son, Hamed Shafia, guilty on all four counts in the deaths of the three Shafia girls and Mohammad’s first wife of a polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Mohammad.

I had passed by the Frontenac County Court house in Kingston, Ontario, many times during the trial. Tempted as I was to observe part of the trial, I did not. The thought of seeing the accused in their glass enclosed dock, and hearing the evidence of the horrific killing of the four victims, left me chilled. I had no professional need to observe their demeanor or to hear the evidence first-hand.

The verdict brings to a close a tragic and troubling three-month trial that has no precedent in Canadian judicial history. That a mother, father and a brother, in Canada by virtue of this country’s open acceptance of people from around the world, would act on cultural/religious concepts that are reprehensible to Canadians, is a betrayal of the very principles under which they were allowed to come among us.

The concept of “honour killing” to avenge the immodest or unchaste behavior of female family members — and thereby clear the “honour” of the male heads of the family — is an entrenched fact among certain Muslim societies. That the Shafia family came from Afghanistan (via Australia and Dubai) is especially ironic when set against the sacrifice of Canadian and other Western soldiers in support of equality and human rights in their home country.

Mr. Justice Maranger, in imposing the mandatory sentence of 25 years without eligibility for parole, commented powerfully on their acts:

“It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime…the apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honour … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

There is every indication that the vast majority of Muslims in Canada would support the verdict. Yet there remains a refusal, among certain Canadian elements as well as some strands of the Muslim community, to accept the unique nature of the acts that led to the deaths of four innocent females.

Their reasoning goes something like this; The crimes, while appalling, are really no different from any other acts of violence against women. “Don’t call them honour killings,” goes this refrain.

The words of Mohammad Shafia put the lie to this specious reasoning.

“They betrayed us immensely,” the police tapes of a conversation between Shafia and his wife show him saying.  “They violated us immensely. There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this. They betrayed Islam, they betrayed our religion and creed, they betrayed everything. They brought about their rightful deaths.”

Shafia must have been thinking of Verse 4-34 of the Koran:

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more strength than the other, and because they support them from their means … As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly.)”

Knowing how the Christian Bible can be interpreted in so may different and often conflicting ways, it is not surprising that these words would be taken by some to justify murderous acts against female family members.

Yet there is hope in this horror.

Once again, we see evidence of the powerful effect of freedom on people brought from oppressive societies. Zainab, who was 19, Sahar at 17, and especially the rebellious Geeti, just 13, had all been exposed to Western values, and all had eagerly embraced the universal desire for freedom and self-expression. Even “sad, doomed, betrayed Rona,” at 52, sought the protection of Western values.

The hope is that the yearning for freedom among girls and women all over the world will someday put an end to the evil distortions of culture and tradition that bring about such crimes as honour killings. We hope the deaths of Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona, have not been entirely in vain.

  1. Barry Francis
    January 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Ray: Excellent blog I especially liked the reference to our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The only thing missing was a call to deport this unholy trio after they serve their 25-year sentences! There is no room for them in a civilized society such as Canada (as the judge, in effect, observed). Barry Francis

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: