Justice served in Shafia family conviction
January 30, 2012
My latest column.
A trial that gripped the nation has come to an end with one positive conclusion: Justice has been served.
On Sunday afternoon, a jury in Kingston, Ontario, found Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed guilty of first-degree murder for the horrifying killings of their beautiful teenaged daughters and Mohammad’s first wife. Their bodies were found in a submerged car in the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009.
The judge didn’t mince words, describing these despicable slayings as “cold-blooded, shameful murders,” and a “twisted concept of honour … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”
While certain groups have spun honour killings as a form of domestic violence and downplayed them with politically correct language, the courts have finally sent a strong message: Honour killings are cold-blooded murder. The notion that killing your daughter will restore honour to your family is perverse, morally reprehensible and wrong. Canadian society does not accept honour killings, and perpetrators will be outcast and severely punished.
This verdict is a victory for the slain Shafia women, who only wanted to enjoy the same freedoms as their peers by acting like typical teenaged girls.
It’s a victory for other victims of honour killings, of which there have been at least 16 reported in Canada.
The finding of murder in the first degree was especially significant because of the impact it will surely have on social attitudes towards honour killings and cultural violence.
Aqsa Parvez was murdered in Mississauga, Ontario, in 2007 by her father and brother for refusing to wear hijab. When they were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced in 2010, the reaction from some of the media elite was appalling. Jim Coyle, a columnist in the Toronto Star, expressed sympathy for the family, and criticized Aqsa’s friends for publicly condemning her murderous family members.
I don’t know of any culture where murder is acceptable but in some places, the justice system gives light sentences to those who kill to preserve the “family honour.” As a society, we must make it very clear that committing violence and murder in the name of honour is unacceptable and un-Canadian.
By finding Shafia and his family guilty of pre-meditated first-degree murder, the courts are sending that message. But it’s a tragedy that four women had to die to make it clear.