10 Nov 2010

Canadian judge convicts father for threatening violence against daughter in the name of honour

The Globe and Mail - Canada November 11, 2009

An honour crime in Ottawa

by Margaret Wente

Madam Justice Lynn Ratushny of the Ontario Superior Court did a good thing Tuesday. She sentenced a man to a year in jail for threatening his daughter with violence. She also identified his deed for what it was: a crime of honour, committed in the name of a “seriously dangerous belief system.”

The young woman, Eman Al Mezel, was 23 when her father lost control of her. She lived at home, and had started doing volunteer work at a local community centre. They fought bitterly over that. He pushed her into a flight of stairs. He threatened to break her legs and kill her, and then smashed her computer. When she learned he had arranged for her to marry a Syrian man, she moved out. To the horror of her family, she abandoned the hijab and her Muslim beliefs, and moved in with a male friend and his family.

Ms. Al Mezel's father, Yusef, who is head of Ottawa's highly vocal taxi union, repeatedly called and e-mailed his daughter to get her to move back home. He sent his wife and other siblings to the place where she was living. In one e-mail, he told her that they could no longer “hide the problem” from her uncles and cousins, and that he couldn't guarantee the “safety of anyone” if she didn't return home.

“Eman, you know when everyone hear about, they will react crazy, and no one will care about police or other thing, you know your family.” He wrote about the sharaf, the honour, of the family. He believed that his daughter had shamed and dishonored them, Ms. Al Mezel told police, and that the only way to restore the family's honour would have been to kill her.

“Attitudes such as these are quite prevalent in certain segments of the Muslim community,” says Farzana Hassan, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a reformist group. She says the influence of Wahhabism – a highly intolerant form of Islam that uses religion to justify the subjugation of women – has been growing in Canada. “They are not a fringe group any more.”

Many groups – not just Muslim ones – refuse to admit the existence of honour crimes in Canada. After all, they point out, domestic violence is universal. As Mr. Al Mezel's lawyer argued at his sentencing hearing, “What you have is a loving and caring father who thought his daughter was on the wrong path.”

The judge didn't buy it. She found that this particular father believed that violence is a wholly justified response to female disobedience. Mr. Al Mezel, she said, “deliberately and repeatedly invok[ed] the concept of violence against her in the name of honour.”

Eman Al Mezel wasn't wrong to fear for her life. Victims of honour crimes are typically young, attractive, Westernized and, in the eyes of their families, immodestly dressed. Two years ago, a Mississauga teenager was strangled after she began to rebel; her father and brother have been charged with her murder. In Kingston, three family members have been charged with murder after three teenaged sisters were found dead in a car in the Rideau Canal. This month, a 20-year-old Iraqi woman in Phoenix died of her injuries after she was allegedly run over by her father because she had become too Westernized.

I was glad to read the other day that the government is revising its citizenship guide for new Canadians. Unlike the current one, it will be more assertive about our history and our values. It will explain our military history, and who Wayne Gretzky is. I don't know whether it has a chapter on the rights of daughters to dress and marry as they please. If not, maybe it should. Far too many women in Canada can't take these things for granted.

Yusef Al Mezel will be eligible for parole after two months. His daughter and the family with whom she took refuge have been relocated for their own safety.

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment