What makes an “honour killing” an honour killing? When the people involved are Muslim? Sikh? Arab? South Asian? North African?

When does murder due to ego, male pride, jealousy, a violent response to a partner’s infidelity get compartmentalised as domestic homicide?

In the wake of the Shafia murder-trial verdict, with the Canadian Justice Minister saying honour killings are “barbaric with no place in Canada” — Gerald Caplan for the Globe and Mail questions the posturing of honour killings as only a “THEM” phenomena.

And brilliantly argues all domestic violence resulting in murder is an honour killing.

I’ve added emphasis and reproduced much of the article — but you should really read the whole thing.

For some reason, the term honour killings seems to be reserved for murders committed by male family members against daughters or sisters in South Asian or Middle Eastern communities. These unimaginable crimes have been receiving much high-profile notoriety in the Canadian media, as they surely deserve.[…]

But I’m confident that not one in a million is aware that in Ontario alone, from 2002 until only 2007 (the latest data), 212 women have been killed by their partners. That’s 42 every year, compared with 12 so-called honour killings in all of Canada in the past eight years. Women killed by partners are known as domestic homicides, and, unless especially gruesome, are barely worth a mention in the media. Maybe there’s just too many of them to be newsworthy.[…]

What accounts for the high profile of these relatively small number of murders in Canada? Why do we know little or nothing about the larger epidemic of women killed, almost routinely it sometimes seems, by boyfriends or husbands? Is it less terrible to be strangled to death or shot or have your throat slit by them than by family members? Is it just too commonplace to bother paying attention to? Do we still harbour that sneaking suspicion that women murdered by partners have somehow brought it on themselves?

Yet both kinds of murders have a common root. Both are honour killings, reflecting a twisted, pathological male sense of honour. Both are executed by men who feel they haven’t received their due deference, men who consider “their” women, whether daughter or partner, to be their chattel, to do with as they choose. Have we smug white Canadians forgotten that you don’t have to be a Muslim or South Asian to regard women this way? […]

No nation, religion, class or ethnic group has the monopoly on misogyny. Honour killings should be seen not as uniquely evil but as the most extreme and perverse proof of this truth.


Happy weekend everyone — here’s a new roundup for your reading pleasure.

This week we’ve got a mix of serious and whimsical pieces — from honour killings and HIV in the Muslim community to awkward parental sex talks and female whirling dervishes.


1) Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, co-editors of the upcoming anthology Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, are just splashing all over the place with a little tongue-in-cheek and some wink-wink-nudge-nudge — if you know what I mean. In a fun piece on the HuffPo, these brilliant ladies expose the fact that due to his swarthy good looks and heroic treatment of Muslims in the Media, Muslim females everywhere are spending their nights with John Stewart from the Daily Show.

But can Muslim women really love Jon Stewart, who is — gasp! — Jewish? Honestly, that makes it even better. The Daily Show‘s Senior Muslim Correspondent Aasif Mandvi may be a suitable boy to bring home to our parents, but the element of forbidden fruit makes Jon all the sexier. (And, we suspect our moms might have a thing for Jon too.)

You damn well better believe it.

The HuffPo also published an exert from the above mentioned Love, InshAllah. Deliciously titled “The Birds, the Bees, and My Hole,” Zahra Noorbakhsh expresses how her mother’s straight-forward-but-not-so-helpful sex talk changed the way she related to her jeans and her male friends.

It’s a fantastically bitter-sweet story. Girl finishes high school and celebrates with a group of friends by going to the movies. One of those friends is a boy! Uh-oh! Watch the drama unfold when Mama finds out:

“Zahra, you have a hole. And for the rest of your life, men will want to put their penis in your hole. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, who is your ‘friend.’ Even at the movies, maman jaan, wherever—it does not change. Ri-anne seems like a very nice man, but he is a man. And all he wants is your hole. So, I will pick you up here at five o’clock. Have fun, maman jaan,” she said.

*shudder* I hated the sex talk I had with my dad. I think I blocked 98% of it out while he awkwardly talked about me not “giving IT away.” Ugh.

2) The Muslim community in Eastern Ontario has been shaken by the Shafia family murder case — where a husband, his second wife and son have been charged with the first degree murder of their three daughters and the husband’s first wife. When the trial first started there were plenty of mud-slinging debates if honour killings are actually a part or not a part of Islam.

It’s a horrific story and an enraging topic, so I’m glad to see people are making an effort to address violence in our community. Writing for the Gazette, Kingston Imam Sikander Hashmi unequivocally states that murder is off-limits in Islam:

For starters, murder is totally off-limits in Islam. Having an affair, a relationship or a boyfriend, not wearing the hijab, and so on – as dishonourable as these may be considered – are not cause for murder. Murder is prohibited to the severest degree and cannot be justified in any way, especially for girls who are under the care of their parents.

3) Joe Bradford, imam of the Islamic Center of North East Florida, blogged about an important consideration for many converts to Islam: changing your name to a more “Muslim” sounding name.

For many, “Muslim sounding” just means Arabizing your current name, or choosing a name based on an Islamic concept, Prophet, or Muslim historical figure. So Joseph becomes Yusuf. Katie becomes Khadija. I suppose you could use an English, French, German, <insert language choice here> translated name — but I’ve never met a Catherine who wanted to be called Faith. She usually chooses Iman.

In his post, Joe relates his struggles to adopt a “Muslim” name and then reclaim his parental-given name — and includes a couple of sweet anecdotes from his teachers along the way:

I appreciate that you have preserved your culture, your dress, your name; it is completely contradictory that we say Islam is a universal religion, and then tell people to choose Arabic names, eat Arabic food, and dress like Arabs. Sure we have regulations for dress, but that the how to wear, not the what to wear. Be you, that is the best example you can be; you’ll do more for Islam that way. Both Muslims and other faiths should know that we can have a person of knowledge named Joe; that is the universal nature of Islam.

Awwww! Love.

4) The HIV magazine Positively Aware has a brilliant article on a Chicago workshop which addressed “The Homophobia and Stigma Endured with being Gay, Muslim, and Living with HIV.” Three speakers relate their personal accounts and discuss the lack of HIV support in Muslim communities, experiencing Islamophobia or racism from non-Muslim service providers, and the need to  bring these stories to light.

It’s an uphill battle against an entrenched attitude that makes open discussion about homosexuality taboo among most Muslims. In fact, almost the same words of condemnation that appear in the Bible also appear in the Quran. Boyd acknowledges that the judgment and rejection can be “really psychologically damaging.” Just having someone with whom to talk about it openly is a great relief.

Read it. It’s important. Nobody in the community should have to hide.

5) And finally, what do you get when you put a 13th century Muslim mystic together with a bunch of contemporary women? A whirling colourful display of awesome dervishes!

Happy Friday everyone! ‘Tis the season, and since someone complimented my hijab saying that it was quite “festive,” I’ve decided to do a colourful roundup and save the heavy stuff for another time.

I mean I COULD talk about a new Immigrant guide in Quebec asking newcomers to not cook “smelly foods” or honour kill — but, that’s not only a “Muslim” thing.

And I COULD talk about Tarek Fatah’s horrific, self-hating, over-blown, incorrect, unfortunate understanding of 4:34, anti-Islamic rhetoric on honour killing — but my blood pressure would rise way too high for the health of “the little one.”

And I COULD talk about how Lowes pulled their advertising from TLC’s All-American Muslim because the religious right organised a letter writing campaign saying, “All-American Muslim is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values” — or I could just boycott Lowes. *toothy grin*

In any case, colourful pictures are more fun since I’m so easily amused. Speaking of colourful pictures, do check out Mezba’s FANTASTIC  Lego translation and interpretation of the Qur’an 4:34. Lego makes everything better.


1) A Muslim cleric residing in Europe has announced that men should not touch, prepare or look at Hershey’s kisses, oranges, melons, avocados, doughnuts or any other food that resemble a woman’s arwah lest they become sexually aroused — is the nutty fatwa I would love to be commenting on today.

Instead, the cleric has suggested that women should avoid carrots, cucumbers and bananas because of their… phallic resemblance. Male relatives should properly cut up the offending fruit and serve their women in order to maintain proper social decorum and to keep women pure of thought.

Thankfully, Egyptian editor Muna Khan (and others) pointed out the ridiculousness of the fatwa — saying that it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt which unfortunately causes the media to jump on absolute nonsense instead of, oh I don’t know, covering “coherent debate on women’s rights in Egypt.”

The cleric also missed listing butternut squash, tamarind and the Washington Monument. Personally, I feel he failed to grasp the absolute irony of not only asking men to do women’s work — but also asking them to literally emasculate themselves by slicing off phallic symbols. Brilliant!

Unsurprising, the whole darn thing was pretty hoaxy to begin with.

(Stop snickering and getting all bothered over the picture. It’s ONLY a grapefruit. Credit.)

2) Inspired after experiencing misdirected Islamophobia, photographer Bharat Choudhary decided to showcase Muslim life in the United States and England — capturing Muslim’s life stories “as a platform to help Muslims and non-Muslims understand each other.”

Check out his gorgeous work, The Silence of Others at TIME Lightbox.

© Bharat Choudhary / The Alexia Foundation Iythar, an Egyptian-British artist, paints at her studio in east London, July 17, 2011. One of her paintings, top-left, is titled, The Way Sarkozy Intended It. “It is an interpretation of the burga ban in France,” she said. “It shows how the ban takes away the voice and identity of Muslim women, leaving them speechless and incomplete.”

Fierce, fierce, fierce!!!

3) I’ve talked about her before, but fencing queen Ibtihaj Muhammad is always welcome on my blog. ESPN has a great little video interview with her mommy — discussing Ibti’s desire to be the first American Muslim female Olympian in her sport.

Here’s what Mama Muhammad had to say about girls and sports:

I want (my girls) to be self-confident. I raised Ibti to be very self-assured. With sports, when you’re good at something, people are drawn to you — they want to be around you, you’re like a magnet. Ibti has made her identity as a fencer and an athlete. People respond to that, and it’s given her confidence.

You can read more of the transcript here (ESPN! Fix your video!)

4) Finally, who can resist auto-tuned nasheeds? Not me! Certainly not when the cute sister-brother team of Dima and Muhammad Bashar are singing away. Making both Eryn and myself get up and dance. Ya haraam!

‘Miss Fran’ from the children show the Romper Room has converted to Islam.

“I discovered a God who, the Qur’an tells me, is closer to me than my jugular vein, who runs to me when I walk toward Him, and who profoundly cares about my existence and my soul,’’ she said.

Pappert-Shannon said her family has been accepting of her decision, including her 80-year-old mother, a devout Roman Catholic.

But not all understand her decision. Pappert-Shannon said she’s saddened by the response of some non-Muslims who are distrustful of Islam and have made mention of terrorism to her.

Like the majority of Muslims, Pappert-Shannon said she rejects any Muslim person or group that commits terrorism and “commits such horrific and un-Islamic acts.”

“Islam is a religion that extols peace, justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. There is zero tolerance for terrorism and honour killings in Islam,’’ she said.

When I shared this news on Facebook, my brilliantly astute, beautiful and earthy aunt posed this question to me via e-mail:

K, when I try to tell my friends or aquaintances that “Islam is a religion that extols peace, justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. There is zero tolerance for terrorism and honour killings in Islam,’’ as the Romper Room lady said, they invariably refer to the acts of terrorism by Muslims. All I can ever come up with is “well, you know extremists in every walk of life” or words to that effect.
How can I explain both sides of the tablet? Is it the use of the word ‘muslim’? as a people/religion? Is Islam only muslim and are all muslims believers in Islam?

Here is my response: