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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Will Toronto Life to be the next "human rights"media victim?

Breaking news: Upscale Toronto Life magazine may well be the next media target of a "human rights" complaint, due to their cover story "The Brief Life of Aqsa Parvez" by Mary Rogan about a possible honour killing victim:

Tomorrow's looking it could be a very busy day for Sarah Fulford. Toronto Life’s editor is scheduled to speak at Ryerson University in the evening, but it’s quite possible she’ll spend her day fielding phone calls from readers angry about the latest cover story published by her magazine. A group called the Urban Alliance on Race Relations has created a Facebook page, urging people to phone Fulford and express their concerns about Mary Rogan’s cover feature on Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year-old who was murdered last year. After Parvez was strangled, her father Muhammad Parvez phoned 911 and told the dispatcher that he had killed his daughter. Muhammad and his son Waqas will be tried sometime next year.
In my view, all the concerns addressed by the Facebook group's five talking points are best addressed in a free society without a "human rights" commission.

For example, Talking point 1:

Aqsa's murder must be looked at through the larger context of violence against women in Canada. The problem is not limited to any one community or religious faith.
Sorry, no, that is an evasion.

It makes as much sense as saying that domestic murders of women should be looked at in the context of murder in general (gunfights over drugs, fatal barroom brawls, insurance murders, etc.). In reality, specific patterns of life expose people to specific risks. A full and free discussion - including the Toronto Life article, which I hope will be widely read - helps us examine those risks. The Facebook group should start their own Web site to present their view of the matter, not inundate the editor with phone calls. That's the beauty of the Internet. They get to tell their story too.

From the article:
Over the fall of 2007, Aqsa Parvez shuttled between friends’ houses and youth shelters. She was afraid to go home. Her father, Muhammad, was enraged because she refused to obey his rules. He swore he would kill her.

On the morning of December 10, Aqsa huddled in a Mississauga bus shelter with another Grade 11 student, a girl she had been staying with for the past couple of days. They had plenty of time to make it to their first class at Applewood Heights Secondary School. As they waited, Aqsa’s 26-year-old brother Waqas, a tow-truck driver, showed up at the bus stop. He said that she should come home and get a fresh change of clothes if she was going to be staying elsewhere. Aqsa hesitated, then got into his car
The rest here.

Like most Canadians I have met, I am proud that Canada is a multicultural country. But multiculturalism does not mean that any of our cultures is above criticism or that we must deny that some cultural circumstances can expose a person to a specific risk. If we deny it, we can't prevent it - which is why we don't deny it and do discuss it. Raheel Raza speaks for me when she says:
There is no rampant Islamophobia in Canada - only an attempt at gradual Islamization.
That attempt includes efforts to shut down the normal anxious discussion we multicultural Canadians have when someone is found dead somewhere. We consider all possible patterns and causes. We ask hard questions, and we don't just toss puffballs around to avoid offending anyone.

Hat tip Five Feet of Fury. I don't usually read Toronto Life - my mag would be "Toronto Life on the Cheap" - but I am running out right now to buy a copy off the stand. And if Toronto Life is charged with a "human rights" offence, I will dig deep and subscribe. Torontonians, if you love your city, please join me in this!

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