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Death for Refusal of Burka and the Deceptive Muslim Denials

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The murder of 16-year-old Canadian teen, Aqsa Parvez, by her Pakistani immigrant father for her refusal to wear a burka or hijab has shocked and saddened the nation. As people from all walks of life are mourning her tragic death, Muslims — particularly their religious leaders — have joined the chorus of denials that “Islam has nothing to with the death of Aqsa.”

Here is a Muslim riddle. When one criticizes the practice of Muslim women wearing the burka or hijab, Muslims quickly respond that their religious symbol or choice is being attacked, but when girls like Aqsa die for refusing to accept the same religious symbol, Muslims quickly respond by saying their religion has nothing do with the death.

It is indeed a fact that wearing the burka (not the more liberal hijab) is a religious duty for Muslim women commanded by Allah. The Quran [24:31] commands Muslim women to “draw their veils over their bosoms” so as not to expose their physical assets to unrelated people. Allah says [Quran 33:59]: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers [Muslims] to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad).”

No Muslim will deny that Allah’s commands in the Quran are non-negotiable and binding on all Muslims. When someone dies for refusing to comply with those binding Islamic obligations, it is ridiculous to say the Islamic religion has nothing to do with that death.

When I was growing up as a Muslim, my religious teachers at my school and madrasa used to tell us that a righteous Muslim parent must ask his or her children to follow their religious duties at the age of eight and pressure them at the age of ten. If they continue to refuse, beat them at the age of twelve. In many Muslim countries not all parents apply this protocol rigorously, but it remains a widely accepted guide. Some parents do follow it closely in order to bring their disobedient children onto the righteous path. As a result, injuries and even deaths occur, like Aqsa's. These injuries and deaths can in no way be separated from the Islamic religion.

Whether it is for the refusal to wear the burka/hijab, or to follow other religious obligations, deaths such as Asqa’s occur in Islamic countries on a regular basis. The UK’s Sunday Times reported on December 16th that 48 women have been killed in Basra, Iraq in the last six months for “un-Islamic behavior.” The actual number of these incidents is likely to be much higher since many of them go unreported.

Red graffiti in Basra warns women, "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death." In Pakistan, an estimated 1,500 women die from honor killings every year. People in those countries hardly make a fuss about it. That’s a price those women have to pay for violating the Islamic codes. It is well accepted in Muslim societies, and people pay little attention to such incidents. In most cases, they go unreported.

Aqsa’s death is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence in Western countries, either. In the UK, there have been at least 25 confirmed honor killings in the Muslim community in the past decade, but the real number is likely to be much higher. On 1 November 2006, Riaz Ahmed, a British immigrant from Pakistan, burned his whole family alive (his wife, 39, and their four daughters, 3-16 years of age) for their Western lifestyle and his wife’s refusal to arrange marriages for their daughters.

In Germany, according to a February 2005 report, there were 45 recorded cases of Muslim honor killings during the past eight years, while there were at least five such cases in just four previous months in Berlin alone.

Imam Syed Soharwardy, of the Calgary Islamic Centre, suggesting that violence and Islam do not mix, went on a hunger strike to protest Aqsa’s death. Imam Sheik Alaa El-Sayyed, of the Islamic Society of North America in Aqsa’s home city, Mississauga, said in a news conference, “Islam condemns violence and teaches adherents not to force their beliefs upon others.”

Imam El-Sayyed’s claim, which is far too common among Muslims, is historically unsound from the time of Prophet Muhammad to the present day. Prophet Muhammad’s biographer Ibn Ishaq records that when the Prophet attacked Mecca in 630 CE, he gave his father-in-law and opponent, the leader of Mecca, the following choice [Life of Muhammad, Oxford, Karachi, p547-8]: “Isn’t it time that you should recognize there is no God but Allah? …Submit and testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the apostle of God before you lose your head.” Abu Sufyan complied.

According to a document on the Oman Government website, (removed now), the Prophet’s letter to the Christian king of Oman in 628 read: “…Embrace Islam, and you shall be safe. I am God’s messenger to all humanity, here to alert all those alive that nonbelievers [non-Muslims] are condemned. If you submit to Islam, you will remain kings, but if you abstain, your rule will be removed and my horses will enter your arena to prove my prophecy.” Terrified, the Oman king replied accepting his directives.

These are no instances of sweet-talking or a persuasive way for converting nonbelievers, there is only enforcing Islam on them at the pain of death. Indeed, with a Quranic decree [2:190-3; 9:5], the Prophet had annihilated Paganism (Polytheism, Idolatry) from the Arabian Peninsula by giving the people a choice between conversion to Islam and death. These are well-documented historical facts, recorded by Muslim chroniclers.

It is a fact that murders among Muslims around the world for noncompliance with the Islamic way of life are common, and go mostly unreported. According to a 2000 UN estimate, “…around 5,000 girls and women in at least 14 countries, among them Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey, were killed yearly because their families felt they brought dishonor on them.” These are far too common incidences of unjustified cruelty, which make very few news headlines.

Muslims go about their business happily as these brutal murders happen on a daily basis. It is only when the Western press makes a fuss about it, pointing particularly to their religion, that Muslims all of a sudden break their slumber and join the chorus of denials, or accusations of unjustified attack on their religion.

What is needed is for the Muslim community to try its best to ensure that another innocent life, full of possibilities, like that of Aqsa Parvez, does not meet the same fate. Denials, putting up a show of a hunger strike, or accusations of attacks on their religion will not help, but will only perpetuate the tragedy.

In spite of these denials, hunger strikes, and accusations, Muslims know well what is written in their scriptures and their duty to enforce them. What is needed is for the Muslim community to look honestly into where the problem truly lies. They must initiate an open debate in their community about what is enforceable in their scripture and creed, and what is not. It is going to be a long time before such a debate will stop innocents like Aqsa from dying, but without it, Aqsas will continue to die in their thousands yearly, as occurs today around the world, without an end in sight.

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About Muhammad Hussain

  • Wendy

    I have read many of the arguments and the plain truth is this: women are subjugated according to the Quran when they are told as quoted above ‘to cover themselves when they go abroad’. I am NOT and expert nor a theologin…but forcing women to hide themselves, completely cover their bodies, marry whom they are told to and basically be forced to live the lives that MEN dictate based upon archaic religious teachings, is barbaric, abusive and controlling! If Muslims want to come to Canada I’m all for it. However, lets recognize that Canada has a culture too and if you come here, you adopt it! Asking Canadians to respect other cultures while ignoring ours makes me wonder why people such as Aqsa’s father would want to immigrate here in the first place!

    If you want to live in North America, then respect how we live and embrace it. Practice your faith but recognize that you also adopted our country as we adopted you and as such you have a responsiblity to embrace our way of life. I for one love my country, love that it’s peoples are diverse. But people who come as refugees and then complain when they get here because it’s “not like home”…well sorry, I have a difficult time with that.

    Her death was murder, but it was also subjugation based on religion and anyone who does not see that is either blind or ignorant and has their head buried in the sand!

  • Sarfaraz Ahmed

    Dear Readers,
    Salaam Aleikum. I am Sarfaraz Ahmed from Bangladesh. I happened to pass by when I saw the article of the tragic death of late Aqsa Parvez. First of all let’s get one thing straight here; what happened with Late Aqsa Parvez is absolutely Un-Islamic. Now let’s focus on one thing, for Jews their holy book of guidance is the Torah, and for the Christians there is the Bible, for Hindus there is Geeta, and for us Muslims, there are 2 books. One is definitely the Koran which is the word of God and second is Hadith which are the saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Both are equally important for a Muslim. Its like blood and oxygen which is very much vital to stay alive, similarly one must obey the word of Allah from Koran and must follow the sayings of Hadith.

    Also a Muslim can not be indifferent; by saying I follow the Koran, but do not read the Hadith. Now if some one actually seen an English Translation of the Koran, after Surah Fateha, we have Surah Al-Baqara, verse 1-2 says as follows: “Alif. Lam. Mim. This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil)”. It is a very powerful verse for a Muslim, because it is here a mulsim must decide with absolute faith whether he / she would like to accept Koran, because a part of verse 2 says and I quote “This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt”. And then comes verse 3 “Who believe in the unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them”.

    So now the Koran explains the Dress Code for Woman and the Hadith explains it for Man, and the Koran says in Surah Al-Ahzab verse 59 “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, that so they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful”. And for Man, it is mentioned in Hadith (Bukhari):

    It is haraam for the Muslim man to let any garment he wears hang down beneath his ankles (an action known as isbaal); the limit for any garment is the ankles.
    It was narrated from Abu Dharr that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are three to whom Allaah will not speak on the Day of Resurrection and will not look at them or praise them, and theirs will be a painful torment.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) repeated it three times. Abu Dharr said: “May they be doomed and lost; who are they, O Messenger of Allaah?” He said: “The one who lets his garment hang beneath his ankles, the one who reminds others of favours he has done, and the one who sells his product by means of false oaths.”
    “Gold and silk have been permitted for the females of my ummah, and forbidden for the males.”
    How many men actually follow these rules? How many dismiss them and think they aren’t that important? Often, the very same ones who dismiss their own dress codes are the most outspoken on the dress of women in Islam.
    So the fact is there are many rules for Men also, and one must not think Islam only puts pressure on Women, there are rules for Men also, but you would not see them, I don’t why, and I don’t want to get to this argument. Every religion in the world has restrictions, whether its condom issues for Catholics, or Kosher for Jews, eating cow for hindus, and so on. I hope this Helps, and I deeply regret for what happened to Late Aqsa Parvez, its fanatic people like her father gives the religion a bad name.

    It is also mentioned in Hadith, where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), mentions not enforce your religion to others, and thus this promotes basic civil liberty. In other words if some one in a Muslim family would want to remain as a non believer, then let it be, cause my logic remains very simple. I have discussed earlier that in Koran you have the verse which says “This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt” and also “Who believe in the unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them”. Now say some one in Iran is believing this out of fear because there the government will punish him / her, then the problem is in their heart they will not believe it, and this is becomes a Hippocrates, and thus we should not enforce something on others because it is my believe.


    Sarfaraz Ahmed, World Universities Debating Championships Participant (2001- 2006), Bangladesh Rep to World Debating Council (2005), Secretary World Debating Council (2004- 2006), DCA All Asians (2005) and AIDA Level 03 Adjudicator
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Thank you, Hosain, for that voice of sanity….

  • Hossain

    Islam and Honor Killings

    By Imam Zaid on 13 December 2007

    For that reason, we ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul for other than murder or spreading corruption in the land, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity… Qur’an 5:35

    One of the gravest charges levied against Islam, in terms of its alleged antipathy towards women, is the claim that it encourages a phenomenon known as honor killings. This un-Islamic practice consists of the murder of female family members who are seen as dishonoring their families through real or perceived acts of indiscretion, such as premarital sexual relations or unapproved dating. This charge has been intensified recently due to the tragic murder of a Pakistani Canadian teenage girl, Aqsa Parvez.

    The practice of honor killings has absolutely no sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, or in the evolved systems of Islamic law. In the case of fornication or adultery, the only way a charge can be levied against an individual, male or female, is through confession, which is discouraged, or by four people actually witnessing the male organ penetrating the female. Even if four people witnessed a naked man engaged with a naked woman, but could not actually testify that they witnessed penetration, their testimony would be rejected.

    In a somewhat related issue, it should be noted that in three of the four Sunni schools of law, as is the case with all of the major Shiite schools, pregnancy is not a proof of fornication, as the possibility of rape exists in such a case. Therefore, if a single woman were to become pregnant, according to the overwhelming majority of Islamic jurists, there is no basis for punishing her. In the few well-publicized instances where a pregnant woman has been threatened with death, the minority opinion of the Maliki School of law was unjustly evoked, as occurred in Nigeria, or criminal malfeasance occurred as is the case in Pakistan.

    In the case of dating, there is no Islamically-mandated punishment for a male or a female seeing a member of the opposite sex against the wishes of their families. Such situations should be handled with counseling, compassion and a healthy dose of common sense. Muslim immigrants who have migrated to the West should realize that they have placed their children in an environment where there is a tremendous amount of anti-Islamic peer pressure. This is especially true if they have placed their children, as was the case of the young lady who was recently murdered in Canada, in public schools. Children who succumb to that pressure should not be seen as “bad” kids, for by the standards of the society that has shaped them, no matter how strong their home environment is, they are normal. To kill a female guilty of an offense such as dating or dressing like her peers under such circumstances is nothing short of cold-blooded murder, and no Islamic authority can argue otherwise.

    The overwhelming majority of Muslim societies are free from the practice of honor killing, although it does endure in some parts of the Middle East and South Asia. According to statistics released by the United Nations in 2000 there are approximately 5,000 deaths annually from “honor” killings. Even if one killing occurred due to such barbarity, it would be one too many, as the Qur’an emphasizes.

    However, to use the existence of such killings to smear Islam shows the desperation and misplaced priorities of many of those levying such attacks. Most of those deaths are the pathetic acts of sick individuals, who are far removed from the letter, as we have shown above, and the spirit of Islam. An example of such an individual is Muhammad Riaz, a British Muslim of South Asian descent who died as a result of a fire he set to burn to death his wife and four daughters, allegedly because his wife resisted his attempt to arrange marriages for his daughters. His wife and daughters did perish in that fire. To present Riaz, whose daughters had neither fornicated nor dated, as anything other than a sick individual is a sad attempt to defame Islam.

    To attack Islam from this angle is a case of misplaced priorities because it can distract attention from far graver abuses of women that demand immediate redress. For example, the State Department estimates that approximately 800,000 women and girls are trafficked as sexual slaves annually. The overwhelming majority of these females are taken from and sent to nominally Christian countries.

    Over the last five years well over one thousand women have been kidnapped and then gruesomely murdered in Guatemala. Their bodies usually turn up after a few days, mutilated and in some instances with messages such as “death to bitches” written on them. To date only three men have been incarcerated in connection with those attacks. Would it be proper to thereby conclude that the “Christians” of Guatemala, an overwhelmingly Christian nation, have no regard for the suffering of their women? Of course it would not.

    At the end of the day, attacks such as the one that resulted in the death of Aqsa Parvez are acts of domestic violence resulting from rage that emanates from a total neglect of Islamic teachings. Ms. Parvez lost her life due to such violence and perhaps there are a few other instances where Muslims women in Canada or here in the United States, have been similarly victimized. However, these instances should be kept in perspective. In the United States there are approximately 1,200 women killed every year by their husbands or intimate partners. There are other “Christian” nations where murders of this type are even higher.

    The United States, Guatemala, and other countries we could mention where similar abuses occur are Christian nations. However, it would be disingenuous to use such statistics as an indictment against Christianity. These issues are an affront to humanity and require our collective attention. Until we all view the problem this way, we are in jeopardizing the health and integrity of our society.

    Saying this is not to minimize the gravity of so-called honor killings to the extent that they do occur in Muslim societies. As Muslims, we are commanded to be committed to justice. That commitment entails that as a community we oppose in the strongest terms “honor” killings and take immediate action to end such a practice in our communities.

    Practical steps include the following:

    1. Emphasize that such killings have no sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, or in Islamic law.
    2. Declare anyone guilty of involvement in honor killings to be a cold-blooded murderer.
    3. Encourage judicial authorities to enact the harshest penalties possible for anyone accused of involvement in such killings.
    4. Educate our Muslim communities, especially in the West, about the un-Islamic nature of honor killings, and the pressures, nuances, challenges and complications facing young Muslims, male and female in the West.
    5. Work to eliminate the double standards, and to expose the hypocrisy that exist in our communities, generally, concerning attitudes and standards relating to the indiscretions of males as opposed to females.

    In conclusion, Islam honors the female, and values femininity. It is up to every Muslim to translate teachings in that regard into a beautiful reality that helps to elevate the status of women in all societies. Honor killings, domestic violence in general, murders of the type terrorizing women in Guatemala, female sexual slavery and trafficking, pornography, especially its more violent manifestations, are all crimes against humanity that we should oppose in the strongest terms and work strenuously to eliminate. If our women are not safe, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically we are all at risk, for without women men are incomplete, and without men women are incomplete. Our Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him alluded to this complementariness when he said, peace upon him, “Women are the complimenting halves of men.” Let us all work harder to make our societies whole.

  • ERS

    Tarikur, if you are confused about the distinctions between “honor” killings and other types of murders, there are ways to educate yourself. Here’s a good place to start.

    You are right. . .”honor” killings are a form of domestic violence, but a very particular form. The distinctions are important if measures aimed at prevention are to work.

  • Every religion has a culture that goes along with it. And more likely than not, that culture has elements to it that stink. Honor killings among Moslems, Dowry killings among Hindus, swindling and thievery among Jews, vicious Jew-hatred among lots and lot of Christians.

    The world is just full of love and bounce, folks…

  • STM

    “What a Islamophobic racist article filled with pure lies and misconceptions to spread hate towards Muslims and Islam”

    What, like people need any more reasons to feel that way … the truth is, most muslims are average, normal people living the same mind of ordinary, everyday lives that everyone else on this planet does (and I know, because I once lived in a muslim country). And they want the same things the rest of us want: peace, prosperity, and hope for their children.

    The problem is: there are some really nasty people out calling themselves muslims and justifying their filfth and murders on a holy book and a religion that doesn’t condone it at all. That, really, is the big problem right now …

    For that reason, Tarikur, instead of accusing people in the west of islamophobia (and I don’t believe it really existed until recently – let’s say, about 2001), perhaps you could better use your talents of reasoning and communication to tell ordinary muslims to stand up and stop those who are hijacking your beliefs and turning your religion into a very hateful thing in the eyes of the rest of the world.

  • tarikur

    How could conclude that Burka is required not Hijab or no Hijab at all from the Quarnic verse that you provided. Again, it just shows you bias and interpret everything in Islamophobic way.

    Thw Quranic clearly says you must be modest but don’t say how far you have to cover.

  • What a Islamophobic racist article filled with pure lies and misconceptions to spread hate towards Muslims and Islam

    This is a case of domestic violence. This kind of killing happens regularly in Christian Western world where no one make a fuss about it.

    What is the defination of honor killing anyway? You can make a case for every muder case which involes a female killed by father or brother. Honor killing or anything related is not found in Quran or Hadiths and it is not found in most of Islamic world.

    What do you mean the Muslim societies and countries don’t care? This is most prejudged statement ever. There are about 1.5 Billion Muslims (1/6 of human population) and Muslims are found in every country in thw world, where majority countries there are at least 2% of Muslims that are found. So you are saying that 1.5 billion are somewhat evil and don’t care about injustice and suffering of females? Let me break down to you, you are not the only human here, every human has feelings and are unique. Every human cares about injustice and suffering and every human wants to make this world a better place.

  • Some would say it is the result of a cultural clash, but a variance between Muslim tradition and Western lifestyle should never end like this tragedy. Those who preach the tradition not only condemn such acts by zealous parents but urge the community that nothing is sacred than living what Almighty The-God has endowed to preserve: life. If a person lives his or her life, the time provides sufficient opportunities to change and reform. After death nothing changes in worldly matters for the deceased except what remains are the tragic memories for the family, friends and rest of the world.
    The charged offender Mohammad Pervez learnt a lesson in a tragic way, had he shown tolerance and patience with his own flesh and blood, events could never have been as tragic as he faces today. It is indeed a tragic lesson for thousands of families who live nearby but community’s prayer shall remain for the victim Aqsa Pervez who tried to live life on her own terms.
    Parents are to understand when dealing with teens that there is always a Trans-generational difference between them and the children, and what such kids learn at home does not necessarily coincide at schools. The kids like Aqsa Pervez do come under pressure during their school hours to change from their home traditions to prevalent teen traditions in the schools. Such an understanding would allow parents to adjust their values which are best suited for the benefit of both parties.

  • Islam endorses the beating of women and children if they won’t do as “the man” tells them.

    So does the Old Testament.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for being willing to speak the truth. Islam is fiercely violent and anti-female. Islam endorses the beating of women and children if they won’t do as “the man” tells them.

    All that crap about women covering themselves sounds like a bunch of men who don’t want to accept responsibility for their roving eyes or controlling their urges. Blame the women for being so attractive that men just can’t control themselves.

    Utterly ridiculous.

    I can’t believe how it’s become so un-pc to say anything negative about Islam, yet other religions are experiencing a bashing free-for-all.

    They’re all BS in my eyes.

  • STM

    We have had one in Australia a few years back, where the immigrant brother and father of a beautiful Syrian-born but Aussie-raised girl killed her for having a relationship with a boy not of the family’s choosing (possibly a non-muslim, but I’m not 100 per cent sure).

    From memory, in their defence they used the clash of cultures excuse and the honour killing reasoning; the jury took about two hours to deliver a guilty verdict, the judge gave them a severe bollocking about obeying the laws of their adopted country and also from memory, which may not be that reliable, I think they’re both doing about 30 years (which in Australia probably ends up being about 15-25, but still, that’s a life gone for a life gone, in my book … )

    Serves ’em right, too.

  • Alamgir Hussain

    [“Honor” killings are believed to have their origins in pre-Islamic Arab tribal codes. They pre-date Islam by centuries and, in fact, are un-Islamic… it has more to do with culture than with faith.]

    Allah was a moon-god of the Arabs prior to Islam, whom Muhammad usupred and incorporated into Islam. Hence, praying to Allah is un-Islamic.

    Hajj and Omra were pre-Islamic polytheistic rituals among the Arabs, so performing Hajj etc. by Muslims is un-Islamic.

    Oneness of God, the foundation of Islam, pre-existed among Arab Jews and Christians before Islam, so Islam’s foundation is un-Islamic.

    Islam is basically borrowing from other pre-exisiting religions, culture, myths and folk-stories — so the entire edifice of Islam is un-Islamic.

  • I simply cannot fathom why anyone would resort to denials rather than speak out on behalf of Aqsa and voiceless women throughout the world. People are more concerned about political correctness than protecting human life.

  • ERS

    “Honor” killings are believed to have their origins in misinterpretations of pre-Islamic Arab tribal codes. They pre-date Islam by centuries and, in fact, are un-Islamic.

    It is the case, however, that, of the U.N.-estimated 5,000 “honor” killings per annum globally, the majority occur in Arab/Muslim countries and in Arab/Muslim immigrant communities elsewhere. So there is a correlation, but it has more to do with culture than with faith.

    Still, there is room in the mosques for the imams to denounce these crimes. I found in a recent survey I conducted in Jordan that over 20% of the people in my representative sample believe Islam tells them they must avenge affronts to family honor by killing. This is a problem.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”

  • Thank you for speaking out for Aqsa and other young victims like her, and for calling for reforms to help eradicate the tragedy of “honor” killings. There is no honor in murder — ever.

    Karen Tintori, author
    “Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family”