First published in The Silhouette on December 1st, 2011

My soul cringes with disgust every time details of the Shafia murders are revealed. So much so that I have difficulty finishing the articles detailing accounts of what the Shafia sisters were going through. But unlike most people following the trial, my disgust and anger is twice that of anyone else – partly as a human, and partly as a Muslim.

Every now and then we hear of people committing unspeakable crimes. Here in Canada, the most recent one was that of Russell Williams. While public outrage and anger was directed at Williams alone during his trial, this certainly is not the case for the Shafia trial. Afghan Muslim immigrants have allegedly committed the Shafia murders. The blame in this case has been relegated to everything but the accused, it seems. Different groups are now using this unfortunate tragedy as an opportunity to advance their respective agendas.

Right-wing media outlets have already started using the incident to attack multiculturalism and its failure in Canada. They argue that it is political correctness and accommodation of immigrants that doomed the four women. Being overly sensitive towards Muslims is what caused the authorities to overlook the ‘honour killing’ that was about to take place. How these people mix-up religious accommodation with abuse towards women is beyond me. Even the most extreme interpretations of multiculturalism don’t call for accommodation of moral vices.

The Islamophobes are using it to warn us of the impinging threat that Muslims pose to this nation. The Shafia sisters, along with Aqsa Pervez, will now become the poster children of their movement. They will use this incident to further their case that Islam is, in fact, what inspired this crime. Statements from Quran establishing the sanctity of human life, the prohibition of such despicable acts and the commandment for the good treatment of women by the Prophet Muhammad are meaningless for this group.

The secularists are using it to prove the evils associated with religion, and the misogyny that they claim to be inherent in it. Their belief that Muslim women are forced to wear headscarves is further strengthened and their mission to liberate the ‘poor Muslim woman’ has gained more momentum. Their inability to differentiate patriarchal tribal customs from the normative practices of Islam is unfortunate, to say the least. These uninformed superficial attempts only end up inflicting more harm upon Muslim women, who, for the record, are quite capable of speaking for themselves.

Since the label of an ‘honour killing’ has sensationalized the murder and has sparked a series of unnecessary debates, I for one will attempt to set the record straight. Mohammed Shafia, if you are in fact guilty, then you are a sick man. Killing your own kin is one of the most despicable acts humanly possible; doing so in the name of preserving honour is even more perverted. The dysfunctional family you fostered was your own doing. Now you’ve punished your daughters for your poor parenting.

You’ve dishonoured not only yourself but your co-religionists too. Average Canadian Muslims like me will bear the brunt of your misdeeds. We will spend the coming ages explaining to people that our faith condemns, in the strongest terms, the heinous act you committed. We will have to go the extra mile to convince people that Muslim women observe their faith out of their own free will, and not under the Nazi-style hegemony you had imposed on your family. Freedom was all your family yearned for, but you deprived them of it. I hope you too are treated in a similar fashion, with your freedom restricted behind bars for good.

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Originally published in The Silhouette on Sept 22nd 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently declared that the greatest threat to Canada was ‘Islamicism’- whatever that is. Sure, we might be familiar with ‘Islamism’, ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamesque’. But even the word processor on my computer doesn’t recognize ‘Islamicism’.

The unfortunate reality is that our Prime Minister has coined a new term in the lexicon which is aimed at using Islamaphobic sentiment for political advantage.

The average Joe who has never met a Muslim, knows nothing about Islam or is out of touch with the political landscape of our world is now convinced that Muslims like me are the greatest threat to this nation. He hails PM Harper for speaking up, saying things like they really are and for not bowing down to political correctness. His next vote is going to Harper.

Harper and his supporters defend his statement by saying that he was referring to Muslim terrorists and their ideology. However, by using such loose and imprecise terminology with constant focus on the word ‘Islam’, he is appealing to a large uninformed part of our society. This crowd is increasingly skeptical of Muslims and is affected by xenophobic rhetoric from the US and Europe.

Harper’s sophistry allows him to gain political support and at the same time dismiss any criticism on grounds that he was referring to violent extremists. The Progressive Conservatives have employed similar divisive politics in the provincial campaign for the October elections by labeling new Ontarians as ‘foreign workers’.

The Norwegian PM responded to the recent terror attacks by vowing for more democracy and a more open society. Our Prime Minister, on the other hand, uses the pretext of ‘Islamicism’ to re-introduce two controversial pieces of anti-terror legislation which were thrown out in 2007. Both aim to sacrifice personal rights and freedoms to give us an illusion of security. It is interesting to note these laws were never employed by police when they existed, yet the PM feels the need to introduce them again ten years later.

The most notorious terrorist attacks in Canada include the Air India bombings, which were carried out by Sikh militants, the Montreal Massacre, executed by an anti-feminist and the Quebec October Crises, which was lead by militant separatists. History tells us that terrorism can happen on our soil from a multitude of extreme groups, so why all the fear mongering about Islam, considering Muslim militants have never attacked Canada? Why put 800,000 Canadian Muslims under the lens of suspicion out of fear of a hypothetical threat from an obscure minority ?

In conclusion, I would argue that it’s not ‘Islamicism’ that is a threat to Canada. Rather, it is Harper’s sleazy and divisive politics which threatens our multicultural tapestry. It’s his agenda to bring back expired, undemocratic legislation which threatens our freedoms and personal rights. And it is his unbending desire to autonomously run this country that threatens our democracy.