The Canadian Press Sunday Jan. 29, 2012 6:50 PM ET
KINGSTON, Ont. — Three members of an Afghanistan-born Montreal family were defiant Sunday in the face of life in prison and harsh condemnation for the murders of three daughters and a co-wife apparently motivated by what the judge called their "twisted concept of honour."
A jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in a so-called mass honour killing that has captivated Canadians from coast to coast, and touched off post-911 criticism of Muslim culture.
The three immediately pronounced the verdicts as unjust, but the judge was unmoved, cutting right to the core of the cultural cloud that hung over this case.
"It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honourless crime," Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger said.
"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."
The trial heard evidence over many weeks about the bizarre divide in the Shafia family, in which the patriarch struck fear in the hearts of some of his children, though often being away on business Hamed acted as the surrogate disciplinarian. The three murdered daughters thumbed their noses at the family rules. The children they did not kill were the ones ratting out their sisters to their parents for bad behaviour, court heard.
It was notions of honour, directly tied to women's sexuality and general control over their behaviour, that led the Shafias to kill, court heard, in an effort to cleanse them of the shame they perceived their daughters to have brought upon them.
The concept is in stark contrast to Canadian values, the Crown said. The idea that such thinking had not only been brewing in one of Canada's most cosmopolitan cities, but that this "honour" apparently superseded the value of life for the Shafias has shocked many.
But investigators who pored over the details of the disturbing inner workings of the Shafia family and examined the tiniest pieces of evidence from the crime scene urged people Sunday to remember the victims.
All that sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, their father's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage wanted was freedom, and it cost them their lives, court heard.
Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ont., in a multiple murder the Crown asserted was committed to restore family honour, lost when the girls began dating and acting out. Rona was simply disposed of, the Crown said.
The jury's verdict indicates the seven women and five men believe Shafia, Yahya and Hamed plotted to kill their troublesome family members, dumping their bodies in a canal and staging it -- albeit clumsily -- to look like an accident.
The three now-convicted multiple murderers did not accept their fates quietly.
"We are not criminal, we are not murderer, we didn't commit the murder and this is unjust," Shafia said through an interpreter when the judge asked if he had anything to say.
Yahya, who spent a withering six days on the stand testifying in her own defence, was similarly assertive.
"Your honourable justice, this is not just," she said, also through an interpreter. "I am not a murderer, and I am a mother -- a mother!"
Hamed said in English: "Sir, I did not drown my sisters anywhere."
During the three-month trial Hamed was the only one of the three never to betray any emotion, but as it became clear he could face life in prison, the young man put his head in his hands and hunched over in the prisoners' box while his parents rubbed his back. Yahya soon began to cry.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance to apply for parole for 25 years. The family has been behind bars since their arrests on July 22, 2009.
Outside court, Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis said the verdict is a reflection of Canadian values that he hopes will resonate.
"This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances," he said.
"This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy," Laarhuis said to cheers of approval from onlookers.
Laarhuis was interrupted in his remarks by Moosa Hadi, a central figure in the case who was a fervent supporter of the Shafias. He sent reporters and the lead investigator emails stating that the prosecution of the family was criminal and because of it he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"This is a lie, this is absolutely a lie," Hadi shouted over Laarhuis before being pulled away by tactical police officers. "This is a miscarriage of the justice."
Members of the public listening to Laarhuis' statement, many of whom have attended the trial from the Oct. 20 start, shouted Hadi down and cheered as Laarhuis continued.
Lead investigator Det. Sgt. Chris Scott praised Crown lawyers for allowing the four women to finally be heard.
"They gave these victims a voice when they had none and so I appreciate their work," he said outside court.
Shafia's lawyer, Peter Kemp, said after the verdicts that he believes the comments his client made on wiretaps calling his dead daughters whores and saying there is no value of life without honour, may have weighed more heavily on the jury's minds than the physical evidence in the case.
"He wasn't convicted for what he did," Kemp said. "He was convicted for what he said."
Hamed's lawyer, Patrick McCann, said he was disappointed with the verdict, and said his client will appeal and he believes the other two will as well.
"I still have a hard time understanding how the Crown theory could actually have happened," he said.
The Crown theory was that Shafia, Yahya and Hamed drowned the four victims either to the point of death or unconsciousness, placed their bodies in the car, then pushed it into the canal using the family's other vehicle. However, prosecutors couldn't prove how or where the pre-drowning happened.
The defence had said it was an accident, that they had gone for a joy ride with Zainab driving and accidentally plunged into the canal with Hamed watching, although he didn't call police. Hamed's lawyer told the jury his client was only guilty of being stupid, but the jury clearly thought otherwise.
Source of text: Guilty verdict in Shafia murder trial | CTV News
Related Lotusandcedar article: 嫁雞隨雞,嫁狗隨狗 / Gender Equity
+++++++++ Updated 20120131 ++++++++
Islam doesn't justify 'honor murders,' experts insist
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) - Zainab Shafia's crime was to run off to marry a man her parents hated. Middle sister Sahar's crime was to wear revealing clothes and have secret boyfriends. Youngest sister Geeti's crime was to do badly in school and call social workers for help dealing with a family home in turmoil.
The punishment for all three teenage Canadian sisters was the same: death.
Their executioner: their brother, acting on instructions from the father to run their car off the road.
Another family member, their father's first wife in a polygamous marriage, was also killed.
Hamed Shafia, his father, Mohammed, and his mother, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, were sentenced to life in prison for murder, with Judge Robert Maranger excoriating their "twisted notion of honor, a notion of honor that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honor that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."
Leading Muslim thinkers wholeheartedly endorsed the Canadian judge's verdict, insisting that "honor murders" had no place and no support in Islam.
"There is nothing in the Quran that justifies honor killings. There is nothing that says you should kill for the honor of the family," said Taj Hargey, director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford in England.
"This idea that 'somehow a girl has besmirched our honor and therefore the thing to do is kill her' is bizarre, and Muslims should stop using this defense," he said, arguing that the practice is cultural, not religious in origin.
"You cannot say this is what Islam approves of. You can say this is what their culture approves of," he said.
The Shafia family is originally from Afghanistan.
Experts say honor murders take place in many parts of the world.
"It's definitely a problem that happens in many different places: the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh and among immigrant communities in North America," said Nadya Khalife, a researcher on women's rights in the Arab world for Human Rights Watch.
Several Arab countries and territories, including Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories, have laws providing lesser sentences for honor murders than for other murders, Human Rights Watch says.
Egypt and Jordan also have laws that have been interpreted to allow reduced sentences for honor crimes, the group says.
Reliable figures of the number of honor murders are hard to come by, Khalife said, but she pointed to a United Nations Population Fund estimate of 5,000 per year.
Khalife agreed that the practice should not be blamed on Islam.
"It's not linked to religion; it's more cultural," she said. "There have been several Islamic scholars who have issued fatwas against honor killing."
Mohammed Shafia, who denied murder, said himself in court that Islam did not justify honor murders.
"In our religion, a person who kills his wife or daughter, there is nothing more dishonorable," he testified.
But Shafia was heard condemning his dead children in wiretapped conversations played in court.
"May the devil defecate on their graves! This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?" he said.
Hargey, the director of the Muslim Educational Centre, said violence was sometimes the result of painful transition.
"Muslims are in a state of flux," he said.
"They are between two worlds: the ancient world and the new technological age," he said. "Women are getting rights and the ability to choose their own spouses. The family in Canada didn't know how to respond to this: the conflict between the discipline of children and the new reality."
Irshad Manji, the author of "Allah, Liberty and Love: Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom," said there was another conflict at work in honor murders, a term CNN uses in preference to "honor killings" because the latter phrase does not properly describe the crime.
It is "a tribal tradition that emphasizes the family or the tribe or the community over the individual," she said.
Although the practice may not be Islamic, she said, not all Muslims understand the distinction.
"It is a problem within Islam because of how Muslims often confuse culture and religion," she said. "It's Muslims who have to learn to separate culture and religion. If we don't, Islam will continue to get the bad name that it gets."
But one vocal British campaigner against honor violence points out that not all the crimes are perpetrated by Muslims.
Jasvinder Sanghera, who was the victim of a forced marriage, is not Muslim; she is Sikh.
"Significant cases are happening within South Asian communities, be it Pakistani, Indian, Sikh, Muslim, Kurdish, Iranian, Middle Eastern communities," she said.
"And we have to recognize that because the statistics don't lie. I am not standing here trying to embarrass those communities. But equally, those communities should be ashamed because this is happening in their community and they are not taking a stand," she said.
On the other hand, honor murders are not a problem in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.
"No such a practice can be found among Indonesian Muslims," said Azyumardi Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta, Indonesia.
" 'Honor killing' is, I believe, a cultural problem among Arab and South Asian Muslims. I don't think that kind of practice has an Islamic basis," he said.
Although women and girls make up the overwhelming number of victims, there have been at least some male victims, including Ahmet Yildiz, a gay Turkish man whose fugitive father is the main suspect in his 2008 shooting death.
Britain has had about a dozen honor murders per year for the past several years, said Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.
He, too, said the crimes were not justified by Islam.
"This comes from tribal customs where the father - not both parents - see children as their property. A girl decides to marry somebody of whom their parents do not approve, and they conspire and find some way to kill and dispose of this body," he said. "This is a kind of misplaced shame that parents feel that their daughter has decided to marry somebody of her choosing, not theirs."
Britain's Crown Prosecution Service has an expert devoted to prosecuting honor-based violence, Nazir Afzal.
Convicting perpetrators can be difficult, he said.
"There is a wall of silence around this, and people are not prepared to talk," he said.
But Afzal insisted that it was "absolutely important that you bring every single person to justice because you want to deter other people from doing it."
And along with the Islamic scholars and human rights advocates, he rejected out of hand the idea that religion justified it.
"At the end of the day, murder is murder. There is no faith on Earth, no community on Earth that justifies this," he said.
"Abrahamic faiths say 'Thou shalt not kill,' " he pointed out. "At the end of the day, nobody should die for this."
Shafia trial: Six perspectives on ‘honour’ killings in Canada
Jan 30, 2012 – 7:39 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 30, 2012 11:00 PM ET
Dr. Amin Muhammad
Professor of psychiatry at Memorial University in Newfoundland
Professor of Psychiatry Memorial University of Newfoundland
Dr. Amin A. Muhammad
Honour killings have been on the rise in Canada over the past decade, says the professor of psychiatry at Memorial University in Newfoundland. There have been more than a dozen cases since 2002, which is actually very little compared to the United States and the United Kingdom, which have seen hundreds of such killings since then, he says. The Pakistan-born professor thinks news of the Shafia trial outcome will ripple internationally, and warn potential immigrants that the practice won’t be tolerated here. And, he hopes, the outcome will make people more vigilant now. “So many people approach for help and intervention in the past were not taken seriously, even those potential victims that don’t have the courage to come and speak openly about it,” he says. “Now at least it will give them a little courage.”
Nazira Naz Tareen
Founder and past president, Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization
Ashley Fraser / Postmedia News files
Nazira Naz Tareen
While the Shafia family’s Muslim faith played a role in the criminal proceedings, note that Islam does not condone killings in order to preserve honour, says the India-born founder and past president of the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization. “The Quaran says if you kill one human being, it’s like you’ve killed all of humanity,” she says. “If you save one human being, it’s like you’ve saved all of humanity.” The Shafias committed murder and “it’s totally, totally cultural and it’s totally against the teachings of Islam.” Since many Muslims read the Quaran in Arabic, they may not glean that the Prophet Muhammad actually afforded women more rights than men and that children no longer answer to parents in their teen years —they answer to God, she says. Most countries are misinterpreting Sharia law to mean the Prophet’s urging to “protect” women really means to control them, she adds.
Activist and author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad
Courtesy Raheel Raza
Their communities so failed Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, aged 19, 17 and 13 and Rona Amir Mohammad, 53, that Ms. Raza wonders if they would have received help had they been four white women instead of four Afghan-Canadians. “Was this political correctness to a painful degree?” asks the Toronto-based activist and author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad. It’s time to stop being so sensitive in the name of preserving multiculturalism, she says.. “Immigrants bring this excess baggage with them and as a community, our biggest problem is that we remain in denial and we can’t address the issues,” says the Pakistan-born Ms. Raza. “What this verdict has done is open the door to a great deal of debate and discussion. I think we have a long, long way to go.” While Canada wants its immigrants to integrate, when there are problems, they tend to be “ghettoized,” she says, and, with a mind for sensitivity, it’s “their culture, their problem…But what is sensitivity in comparison to four lives?”
CEO of the Punjabi Community Health Centre in Brampton, Ont.
Peter J. Thompson/National Post files
“I think it’s more of a men’s issue because the honour we talk about is predominately perpetuated by men,” says the CEO of the Punjabi Community Health Centre in Brampton, Ont. Every Saturday, 25 to 40 South Asian men gather in a men’s group and discuss the challenges of raising a family in a liberal Canada that functions differently from the traditional society they left behind. “There hasn’t been an opportunity for men to have a discussion around what constitutes an honour [here in Canada],” says Mr. Mutta, who emmigrated from India. He does get pushback from those who feel he’s giving his community a bad name by speaking out, but he’s more encouraged by the men in his sessions who are reframing their worldview. “We never shame men, we want them to own that every man makes mistakes.”
Executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Julie Oliver / Postmedia News files
The Kingston, Ont.-based executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has trouble with the word “honour killing.” She prefers to call it “customary killing” since it’s maintaining patriarchal customs. But the Shafia case went above and beyond that to blatant, outright “femicide” —and it reveals a greater need for gender equality. “If you look deeper, that’s what this issue is. Why do men think, in this patriarchy, that they have the control and the power to kill somebody because…[they think] they are doing the wrong thing or are deviant?” She believes these kinds of killings can happen in any culture that’s dominated by men. “Do you think the Mormons, who have been here for generations, don’t have patriarchy?” she asks. “Anywhere there’s patriarchy, which allows you to say ‘Men have to be the protectors and guardians of women’ is heading for trouble.” Despite cases like the Shafias’, she believes Canada is doing a good job to combat these kinds of killings. Police and social workers are better educated and family law has been brought up to date.
Child and Family Therapist
When Ms. Karmali looks at the Shafia murder case, she doesn’t see an honour killing. Rather, she sees a complicated stew of emotions, expectations, conflict and a father well versed in the ways of the Western world, having lived in Australia and elsewhere before coming to Canada. She also understands where the shame and embarrassment element comes from. After all, she sees it routinely in her office, as a registered social worker, child, marriage and family therapist in Calgary who counsels many immigrant families who seek her out because of her East-African/Muslim background. “That still doesn’t justify the behaviour to me. There’s nothing to justify abuse,” she says. Even when considering cultural background, safety is always the most important thing. “Oftentimes what I will talk with families about is good intentions. Usually, I think those [strict actions] come from a place of good intentions, but sometimes there’s a disconnect.”
(Source: National Post http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/30/shafia-trial-six-perspectives-on-honour-killing/ )