Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Because we haven't had any Islamaphobic panic in a while...

There's nothing quite like a domestic abuse tragedy to work the media into a frothing imminent-religious-war frenzy. A 16 year-old girl in Mississauga (a suburb of Toronto) was killed by her dad on Monday - what makes this story such big news, though, is that it their family was "devoutly" Muslim and the girl had, against her family's wishes, stopped wearing her hijab and started dressing like her non-Muslim friends. The quotes and commentary from the article that's on the Toronto Star site is predictable and problematic:

*She wanted to be "free" and independent of her family's devout Muslim beliefs. But that was a problem.

*"Her dad wanted her to be a person who followed the religion. But she wanted to follow her own rules, wear her own clothes."

*Wendy Horton, executive director of Etobicoke's Youth Without Shelter, said that while she's shocked by the level of violence in this situation, she isn't surprised by its root cause. Parents who want their children to remain faithful to old world ways are often at odds with kids growing up in Western society.

*"She wanted to show her beauty but her dad wouldn't let her."

This sort've stuff is also common in the network TV reports - Global TV was calling the murder an instance of "culture clash" and reported that the girl just wanted to "be herself". The Globe and Mail's article, at least, offers some another perspective, differentiating between the domestic abuse and the Islamophobia that it's inspired:

*Across Canada, the killing has taken on larger proportions. On call-in shows and websites, many have used the incident as part of a wider indictment of fundamentalist Islam. One Canadian conservative blogger suggested Canadians boycott taxicabs driven by Muslims. In a statement Tuesday, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Canadians of all faiths to address issues of domestic abuse, and called for “the strongest possible prosecution” of those responsible for Ms. Parvez's killing.

The point they're driving at, if only implicitly by way of the CCAIR quote, is that this isn't an Islam v. West/Christian thing. There are domineering parents of every faith and abusers can find any reason to hurt or kill their family. I'm completely intolerant of fundamentalism, but the problem here is that our attention is being drawn to a particular kind of fundamentalism, which manages to simultaneously absolve other fundamentalisms of fault and excuse their abusers as somehow lesser. (At least they don't kill you, right? And if they did, at least it would be, it seems, for a better reason!)

1 comment:

Ellstar said...

I wrote my feelings on this too, after reading some HORRIBLE summations of the family and the history. All the information was on the web within 2 days of occurance, a real history of domestic abuse in the family, framed as cultural rebellion. I read the responses from digg.com members and it was stunning how easily people started the Islamophobia.