Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Town remembers slain teen Aqsa Parvez, who objected to wearing Islamic headscarf

Aqsa Parvez was slain by her father and brother in a typical honor killing - because they thought that she had become too western. She reportedly objected to pressure to wear the Islamic attire, such as the headscarf and long dress. What is common after an honor killing - which is supposed to rid the family of curses or impurity - is that there is meant to be no mention of the [offending] individual in the family again. This cleansing or discarding may even extend to the burial - as Aqsa was seeming dumped in an unmarked grave. When the numbered grave site was discovered - this caused a second outrage - the first being that her family thought they had to kill her for adopting western culture - and so an effort was made to at least create some sort of grave stone or memorial over the site - which was first rejected because - for this to go ahead they needed the family's permission. This effort was chiefly led by Pamela Gellar of the Atlas Shrugs Blog - it eventually came down it seems to a memorial in the form of a granite bench - by local council members to acknowledge that this girl was here - and to remind people in some way of who she was.

This article seems to be written in an in and out way as to not offend Muslims - who claim not to know what this whole thing is about -- in Pakistan at the beginning of 2009 the High Court in Karachi legalised honor killing, and across the Muslim world if it not entirely legal the practise is virtually legal - with offenders serving as little as 3-6 months for the crime. Oh, these Muslim women understand perfectly well what the fuss is about! Since Muslims largely ignore victims of honor killing - then here in the West we will claim them.



Town remembers slain teen Aqsa Parvez
But Muslim group says memorial's inscription may not reflect circumstances of death

PELHAM, ONT.–A memorial granite bench for a slain Mississauga teen juts out from knee-deep snow in a peace park behind the town hall in this bedroom community south of Welland.

Yet, none of the 17,000 residents of this Niagara Peninsula town ever knew the name of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez before she was killed on Dec. 10, 2007. The schoolgirl had absolutely no connection to this area and neither did any of her friends.

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But her death struck a nerve with a local fire chief and councillor in a community they say represents "small-town Canadian values." Now, from the Muslim community comes praise for the memorial but also some questions about the motives behind it.

The bench, dedicated on Sept. 18, carries the inscription: "Remembering new Canadians lost to the quest of integrating cultures – In Loving Memory of Aqsa Parvez – Remembered and Free."

Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, is happy that a town is remembering Parvez. "But I have some difficulty with what they are trying to say in the inscription. Maybe they are trying to raise questions but I'm not quite sure (the inscription) reflects her death."

Parvez's death remains tragic for a number of reasons, said Hogben. "It shows violence against women and girls in all cultures and it also shows the problems and difficulties that occur in recently arrived immigrant families."

Parvez's father, Muhammad, 59, and her youngest brother, Waqas, 29, are to face trial for first-degree murder in a year's time, on Jan. 10, 2011. All details revealed during last year's lengthy preliminary hearing remain under a publication ban.

Peel police said at the time of her death that her father called 911 and confessed to strangling his youngest daughter in their Mississauga home that morning. It became an international story when friends revealed there were family conflicts because she had rejected some of her Muslim values.



Regardless of the circumstances of Parvez's death, Scott McLeod, the fire chief for Fonthill, one of several communities that make up Pelham, and town Councillor Sharon Cook, were determined the student would not be forgotten.

"There seemed to be so much desperation to forget she had died," McLeod said recently.

He said he felt he had to do something after seeing a haunting photo of her burial site about a year ago. She had been dead for more than a year but her grave had only a numeric marker supplied by Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton. While there was nothing to indicate she was buried in the cemetery's Islamic section, it is not uncommon for Muslim graves to be unmarked.

"That was the icing on the cake. ... It had nothing to do with whether she was a Muslim or not," McLeod said. "In my mind, it seemed she had just been forgotten."

About the same time, Pamela Geller, author of the controversial U.S.-based AtlasShrugs.com blog, got involved and was later joined by Robert Spencer of the Jihad Watch blog. Readers of Geller's blog, which has an anti-Muslim tone, contributed more than $5,000 for a gravestone with Parvez's name.

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But cemetery officials would not allow them to erect it without the family's permission, which was never granted.

Another bid to have a memorial plaque and a tree planted at the University of Guelph Arboretum also fell by the wayside when university officials decided the memorial proposed by former Mississauga firefighter Norm Traversy might draw too much political attention.

McLeod said he was aware of Geller's blog and its reputation but insists there was no political motive or anti-Muslim sentiment behind his decision to find a way to remember the Mississauga teen.

He approached Cook and asked if there was anything town council could do. As a crisis intervention councillor, Cook deals with immigrants struggling with the Canadian way of life.

Cook submitted a motion to council calling for a bench and tree. It passed unanimously last March.

When she initially presented the motion, Cook was asked if she was afraid of what she was doing.

"Not at all," she said. "The memorial isn't against the Muslim faith. It's against the fact this young girl was murdered, allegedly for trying to integrate into Canadian culture."

McLeod said he did not get a single negative email. "We got so much support because I believe we in Pelham reflect small-town Canadian values. What we wanted to do and what we did do, didn't have anything to do with us wanting to make a political statement.

"We never took any of the money raised through the initial fundraising campaign organized by Geller," McLeod said, adding the memorial was funded by local donations.

About a month later, Parvez's family put an in-ground stone on her grave that reads, "In Loving Memory of Aqsa Parvez. Always loved, always remembered."

Cemetery officials said the family had finally decided it was time to put a stone on the grave.

The Star

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