Guilty: Muslim Family in Canada Convicted in Honor Killings

On Sunday, January 29, 2012, two years and seven months after the bodies of four Canadian women all from the same family were found murdered, after a ten week trial, and after fifteen hours of deliberations, a jury voted “guilty” to first degree murder for three other members of the Shafia family.

Although I myself initially hailed this as possibly a turning point in Canada in terms of the nation's failed multicultural policy, I now wonder why the life sentence, which in Canada means 25 years without parole, was not 25 years without parole for each life coldly snuffed out.

The three Shafias were tried under Canadian law for premeditated murder and for conspiracy to commit murder; no special “honor killing” related law was needed. This is as it should be and yet, if such a special law did exist, there might have been an “enhanced penalty” which might have maximized the sentences. However, Canadian law in general is lenient. They have no death penalty and there has been no capital punishment in Canada since 1962.

Still, true justice should have resulted in a 25 year sentence for each murder: one for Geeti, 13, one for Sahar, 17, one for Zainab, 19, and one for Rona Amir Mohammed, 52, instead of what amounts to about a minimum of 6½ years for each life taken.

Nevertheless, the case was vigorously pursued by the Canadian authorities on behalf of justice for four freedom-loving Muslim girls and women.

The Shafias are a prosperous family of polygamous Afghan immigrants who fled Afghanistan in 1992, took up residence in various Arab states and in South Africa, and then came to Canada in 2007.

Clearly, this was an honor killing and one that a biological mother, biological father, and biological older brother perpetrated. By definition, according to my own studies in Middle East Quarterly, the classic honor killing is that of a young daughter by her family of origin. This is not at all like Western domestic violence or even Western domestically violent femicide. Judeo-Christian families of origin in the West do not conspire to kill their young daughters because they are behaving in modern, western ways, i.e., are dressing in Western clothing, mingling with infidels, planning on higher educations, going on dates, attending parties, expecting to marry someone of their own choosing, etc.

These are all considered crimes of honor, which “dishonor” their families -- and if intimidation, beatings, isolation, and stalking (all of which applied in the Shafia household) fail, daughters may then be honor killed.

Khatera Siddiqui (2006) in Kingston, Aqsa Parvez (2007) in Toronto, Amina Said and Sarah Said in Dallas (2008), Nour al-Maliki in Arizona (2009 ), and the three Shafia girls and one Shafia woman (2009) all committed such “crimes,” including refusing to wear hijab and refusing to marry a first cousin. All were murdered by their fathers or by their fathers and brothers. In two instances, their mothers lured them home.