Sheema Khan: We can end honour killings, but not with films by anti-Muslim zealots

Sheema Khan’s reasonable approach on how best, and how not to, address gender issues, including “honour-based” violence.

Barbara Kay (Suffering caused by honour tell tales that smite the heart) and Margaret Wente (Don’t ignore women’s struggles in the Muslim world) would  do well to reflect further on Sheema’s points, as well as those of Amy Awad (Don’t Separate ‘Honour Crimes’ From Other Violence Against Women).

While much of Sheema’s piece is largely on the motives of Clarion Project (the organization behind Honor Diaries, Iranium, Obsession, and The Third Jihad), it is more her positive formulation on how best to counter “honour-based” violence that is of interest:

For those who want to help eliminate “honour”-based violence (HBV), a good place to start is through in-depth research about the issue. Next is consultation with those who have first-hand expertise in the field and credibility with affected communities. Aruna Papp, a South Asian Christian, has survived the trauma of “shame”, and is one of this country’s leading experts. In London, Ont., the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration recently launched the “Reclaim Honour Project” that “works to promote honour and prevent violence against girls and women through the support of the community.” In March, the Ottawa Police Service held a collaborative session with local communities to address HBV, with expert Rana Husseini. Ms. Husseini, a Jordanian-based journalist, has over twenty years’ experience in the field. She advised: “never denigrate a people’s faith or culture,” but rather, protect at-risk women, create safe spaces to raise the issue, and work patiently to change laws and attitudes. The absence of Ms. Husseini’s approach in Honour Diaries speaks volumes.

We can look to the recent successes against female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa as an example of how to approach centuries-rooted traditions. The key drivers include community dialogue and education, health-based initiatives, alternative income for cutters, legislative reform, and the involvement of religious clergy whose moral authority has undercut cultural legitimacy of genital mutilation.

Religion is an ally against “honour” killings. Islamic scholars (both Sunni and Shia) have condemned this practice. Their voices need to be amplified, in order to remove any doubts about the immoral nature of this crime. They carry far more legitimacy than anti-Muslim propagandists. But then again, eradicating honour killings was never the goal of Honor Diaries.

We can end honour killings, but not with films by anti-Muslim zealots – The Globe and Mail.

Don’t Separate ‘Honour Crimes’ From Other Violence Against Women | Amy Awad

Legitimate criticism of the focus on “honour crimes” without any linkage to overall violence against women by Amy Awad of NCCM:

There are thoughtful and effective ways to look at all the facets of violence against women and it can certainly be done without promoting bigotry. For example, in March, the Ottawa Police, the Ottawa Rape Crisis, and Algonquin College partnered to put on a full day event on violence in the name of honour. The event brought together a broad section of Ottawa professionals as well as religious leaders and community activists focused on developing effective community-based strategies in Ottawa for preventing violence in the name of honour.

With thoughtful discussion about definitions, causes, strategies, and yes, choosing the words we use, all participants felt welcome and were able to come up with first steps that can be taken to address these problems. Their concrete proposals included prevention strategies, early intervention and accurate data collection.

Contrast this with Honour Diaries that presents some of the most egregious examples of gendered violence and then almost entirely attributes the problem to Islam. Instead of offering real solutions based on facts, the documentary will very likely result in promulgating fear of the ‘other’ and promote hatred against Muslims who are falsely portrayed as holding the exclusive franchise on this scourge.

A more nuanced approach than Barbara Kay (Suffering caused by honour tell tales that smite the heart) and Margaret Wente (Don’t ignore women’s struggles in the Muslim world).

Don’t Separate ‘Honour Crimes’ From Other Violence Against Women | Amy Awad.

Barbara Kay: Suffering caused by honour tell tales that smite the heart | National Post

On the film, Honour Diaries, and Barbara Kay’s commentary. Some may be uncomfortable talking about “honour killings” but I think it is fewer than Kay asserts. Despite some previous musings within the government of the possible need for special legislation against honour killings, existing laws have proven adequate to punish those guilty of murder (e.g., Shafia and Parvez cases):

The lives of girls and women are held cheap in many regions dominated by the Hindu and Sikh religions, but nine out of 10 of the countries with the worst gender-rights disparities are Islam-dominated, according to the World Economic Forum. There is no evading that elephant in the room, and the women in this film gamely attempt to address it head-on. But the subject needs a film in itself.

Many people, and feminists in particular, feel it is racist to judge the gender practices of other cultures, preferring to dwell on the perceived deficits in our own. They must get over that, as all the women in the film agree. Canadian women viewers will walk out of this film feeling as I did: There but for the grace of cultural accident go I.

Barbara Kay: Suffering caused by honour tell tales that smite the heart | National Post.

Some background on the directors and producers of the movie, which doesn’t necessarily detract from the messages of the film (but makes it easier for people to discard them):

Clarion Project as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to exposing the dangers of Islamic extremism, while providing a platform for the voices of moderation. [Executive producer] Shore’s previous films include the award-winning documentary ‘Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,’ ‘The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America,’ and ‘Iranium.'”

Film wages ‘interfaith campaign’ against abuse of Muslim women

Barbara Kay: Banning hijabs won’t halt honour killings

A good piece by Barbara Kay on the recent report by Quebec’s Status of Women Committee on honour killings and the lack of linkage to the wearing or not of religious headgear like the hijab.

If the Quebec government believes that the forced removal of a hijab will mitigate against centuries of a cultural tradition so strong that people prefer a lifetime in jail rather than tolerate what we would call normal female autonomy, they are dreaming in technicolour. Quebec’s Status of Women report treats a serious subject with the concern, objectivity, ideological neutrality and earnestness it deserves. The Quebec government has no business exploiting the good faith of its writers and the tragic deaths of innocent girls and women to further its secularist agenda.

Barbara Kay: Banning hijabs won’t halt honour killings | National Post.

Lila Abu-Lughod: Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

A good reminder of the risks of stereotypes and the complexity of women’s lives, context and choices:

There is no doubt that Western notions of human rights can be credited for the hope for a better world for all women. But I suspect that the deep moral conviction people feel about the rightness of saving the women of that timeless homogeneous mythical place called Islamland is fed by something else that cannot be separated from our current geopolitical relations. Blinded to the diversity of Muslim women’s lives, we tend to see our own situation too comfortably. Representing Muslim women as abused makes us forget the violence and oppression in our own midst. Our stereotyping of Muslim women also distracts us from the thornier problem that our own policies and actions in the world help create the sometimes harsh conditions in which distant others live. Ultimately, saving Muslim women allows us to ignore the complex entanglements in which we are all implicated and creates a polarization that places feminism only on the side of the West.

Lila Abu-Lughod: Do Muslim Women Need Saving? |

Crimes d’honneur: Québec s’engage à agir

A more productive and focussed approach than the proposed Charter of Quebec Values, focussing on  youth protection and police training. The official figures of only 17 cases since 1991 may be understated, and there may be more cases of intimidation and control that fall short of  “honour crimes”. Given how much of this happens within families, like other family disputes, improving awareness is likely one way to reduce the risk.

Crimes d’honneur: Québec s’engage à agir | Jocelyne Richer | Politique québécoise.

Muslim extremism: That’s just calling it like it is | Toronto Sun

A number of columns by critics of Islam and Muslims (Michael Coren, Farzana Hassan), who focus on the extremists among them, without recognizing that all religions have their fundamentalists, conservatives and extremists, as well as the majority who are more moderate believers.

The issue is more how extremism manifests itself; unfortunately, in the case of Muslims, it manifests itself in terrorism and blowing people up. And that is the problem, unlike most other communities where it is more internal to how people live their lives (e.g., the choices made by conservative Jews, Christians, Sikhs and the like), although there are also issues from an integration perspective.

I could not find the source reference to Imam Soharwardy (the Calgary Imam referred to in the second article), just the blog commenting on it without a direct link.

Muslim extremism: That’s just calling it like it is | Home | Toronto Sun.

Calgary imam to Muslims: “Go home”

John Ivison: PQ could learn from Jason Kenney the right way to promote cultural values | National Post

As this is behind the firewall (and it quotes me extensively!), full text below for those who do not have National Post access:

Gérard Bouchard, co-author of the Bouchard-Taylor report on diversity in Quebec, once remarked that Jason Kenney’s reforms to Canada’s multiculturalism policies had brought the Quebec and Canadian models closer — an emphasis on integration over accommodation.

Both Quebec nationalists and Canadian conservatives were suspicious of Pierre Trudeau’s multiculturalism policies — particularly the Liberal tradition of indulging cultural groups just long enough to extract their votes.

In large measure, Mr. Kenney, as Multiculturalism Minister, pursued his own charter of values. But, crucially, he used “soft” policy tools to persuade people to buy into his vision of Canada, rather than the bludgeon of legislation that the Parti Québécois government is proposing in its secularism charter.

As the author of a new book — Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism — makes clear, Mr. Kenney pursued an unabashed policy of integration (often in the face of opposition from his own public servants).

Andrew Griffith was a director general of multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration at a time when significant shifts in policy were being introduced by the Conservatives.

“Kenney did make a major shift towards integration … I would argue he brought multiculturalism back to its roots, as it was always about making various communities more comfortable about integrating into the Canadian ‘mainstream’, while preserving their culture, all within the common framework of Canadian laws [and] regulations,” said Mr. Griffiths.

While placing high value on cultural diversity and religious freedom, he set limits and condemned “extreme” behaviour like honour killings that were not in compliance with Canadian laws, identity and values.

In 2011, he even aligned himself with the Quebec approach when he announced that the niqab would not be allowed at citizenship ceremonies, claiming it was not a religious obligation to wear the veil. The next year, Mr. Kenney introduced a language requirement for citizenship applicants, obliging them to provide objective evidence like test results to prove they could speak either French or English.

Mr. Griffiths said Mr. Kenney’s extensive outreach into ethnic communities gave him credibility to take a broad range of positions.

“My take on him is that it is a very rare minister who can both implement more restrictive immigration, refugee and citizenship policies and yet ‘narrowcast’ to individual communities, addressing their concerns while reinforcing broader pan-Canadian messages.”

Mr. Kenney not only stressed integration into the Canadian “mainstream,” he redefined what that mainstream would look like.

Most famously, he revamped the citizenship guide for new Canadians from a very Liberal “A Look At Canada” to the Conservative-friendly “Discover Canada.”

“I think we need to reclaim a deeper sense of citizenship, a sense of shared obligations to one another, to our past, as well as to the future. In that I mean a kind of civic nationalism where people understand the institutions, values and symbols that are rooted in our history,” he told Maclean’s in 2009.

But the guide cherry-picked those symbols to promote the Conservatives’ preferred narrative, with emphasis placed on the military and the monarchy at the expense of peace-keeping, medicare and gay rights.

The results were not always appreciated internally, particularly among staff who were forced to turn down grant applications from non-governmental organizations they’d supported for years. Mr. Griffiths notes how some demonstrated the initial stages of the Kubler-Ross grief model — denial, anger and depression.

But there is some evidence that the shift in policy worked. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada survey from the 2012 departmental performance report found that 88% of foreign-born, compared to 81% of Canadian-born, respondents reported “feeling proud” to be Canadian.

Not only did foreign-born Canadians demonstrate a higher level of attachment to Canada, they also had a better understanding of what is required of citizens.

Those findings suggest that a balance has been struck between the majority culture and integration of minorities in the rest of Canada; that, in large measure, sensible public policy has ensured that the fundamental values of the majority have been respected, while allowing new Canadians to preserve their food, music, folklore and religion.

One wonders how many Sikhs, Jews and Muslims can say they feel proud to be Quebecers today?

John Ivison: PQ could learn from Jason Kenney the right way to promote cultural values | National Post.

Feds take aim at violence against Muslim women | Toronto Sun

While I am not a great fan of changing vocabulary – sometimes it is better to use existing words like “honour killings” that are used in the community and force a discussion about why such “honour” is not honourable than finding a technically neutral term like femicide. However, the organization involved, The Canadian Council of Muslim Women, has a good track record in such initiatives, and work in this area is warranted.

Feds take aim at violence against Muslim women | Canada | News | Toronto Sun.

D’Amato: Canada must confront honour killings, cultural violence, expert says | therecord

D’Amato: Canada must confront honour killings, cultural violence, expert says | therecord.