Sun newspaper issues correction over ‘Islamic honour killing’ headline

The UK’s Sun newspaper has apologised over an article wrongly linking Islam and so-called “honour killings” after being accused of “encouraging Islamophobia through the use of clearly inaccurate language” in its headlines.

The Sun, the UK’s most popular newspaper, published an article in May about the murder of mother-of-four Saima Khan, a 34-year-old care worker from Luton whose 26-year-old sister was subsequently charged with her murder.

The original article claimed that police were investigating whether the killing was a so-called “Islamic honour killing”.

A clarification published on Saturday noted that the Sun was now “happy to make clear that Islam as a religion does not support so-called “honour killings”.

The clarification follows a complaint submitted to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) by Miqdaad Versi, deputy head of the Muslim Council of Britain.

An IPSO ruling issued last month in response to the complaint noted that there was “no basis for saying that religion had played a role” in Khan’s killing.

The text of the Sun’s clarification was almost identical to one issued by its competitor, the Daily Mail, which also included the phrase “Islamic honour killing” in its headline.

Responding to the Sun’s correction, which appeared both online and in print, Versi told Middle East Eye that headlines encouraging Islamophobia must be avoided in the current climate.

“News outlets should not encourage Islamophobia through the use of clearly inaccurate and inflammatory language in headlines, especially in today’s climate,” Versi said in an emailed statement.

“Honour killings are barbaric acts based in culture and not in faith. The fact that two tabloid outlets, the Mail Online and the Sun made the same error is very worrying and suggests there is insufficient oversight over the language used.

Versi said safeguards need to be put in place to prevent “further inaccuracies”.

The Sun was also in hot water with IPSO last month after publishing a column saying Islam is “clearly a violent religion” and slamming Channel 4 for allowing Fatima Manji, a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf, to report on the bloody attack in the French city of Nice.

IPSO is investigating after receiving more than 100 complaints in less than 24 hours concerning the column, written by former Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie.

Doesn’t religion cause most of the conflict in the world?

In this extract from the book For God’s Sake, one question is asked to four Australian writers with very different beliefs.

Religion is powerfully motivating and belligerent humans fight over it. Yet it’s true, religion has been a major feature in some historical conflicts and the most recent wave of modern terrorism. Religion has taken on extra significance today because globalisation is challenging and changing everything. Religious identity not only survives but can take on heightened significance when national and political alliances break apart. That religion can be so markedly different in the hands of the power-hungry, as opposed to the altruistic and virtuous, really says more about human psychology than it does about religion. That’s why so many human conflicts unfortunately involve religion.

None of this is to excuse the undeniable barbarity unleashed by religionists over the centuries. The misogyny, beheadings, terrorism, killings, beatings and cruelty are real. They continue. Today we see a growing battle in the Middle East between Shi’ite and Sunni; a Jewish state unleashing militancy against Christian and Muslim Palestinians; and an anti-gay crusade led by some Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that threatens the sanctity of life itself.

Claiming religion is the source of the world’s evils is a careless comment. It’s far too easy to blame the Muslim faith for honour killings. I’m under no illusion about the fact that religion is routinely used to justify the more heinous crimes. But the 20th century is filled with examples, namely Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, that didn’t need God as an excuse to commit genocide against a state’s own people.

Two Books Published on Shafia Family “honour” murders in Canada

The Globe and Mail – December 14, 2012

 

Without Honour: The True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders, by Rob Tripp (HarperCollins, 350 pages, $29.99); Honour on Trial: The Shafia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings, by Paul Schliesmann (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 207 pages, $21.95). Paul Schliesmann won a National Newspaper Award for his reporting on the Shafia case.

In 2007, Afghan millionaire businessman Mohammad Shafia emigrated from Dubai to Montreal, buying his way into Canada under the federal investor program and bringing with him five daughters, two sons and two wives (one ostensibly a cousin). Two years later, he killed three of those daughters, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, aged 19, 17 and 13 respectively. His first wife, Rona, 53, would also die.

At trial, Shafia presented himself as a pious Muslim, a loving if sometimes impatient father. In truth, according to these books, he was a thug and a hustler who had not stepped inside a mosque for years, a hair-triggered tyrant much feared by his daughters, and a man who made money easily and enjoyed spending it.

In his rants about “honour,” Shafia repeatedly invokes God. But as the trial jury heard, while many “honour killings” do occur in Muslim communities, Islam offers no justification anywhere for this very ancient type of murder, rooted in cultural practices that predate all the great religions.

Another focus in the two books is the disparate, sometimes muffled, cries for help from the victims-to-be in the weeks and months before the murders. Authorities in Montreal – teachers, social agencies, police – were alerted at least three times about problems in the dysfunctional Shafia home, yet the inquiries fizzled out. There were reasons: This unusual, well-to-do clan fit no familiar profile; there was no criminal history and a significant language barrier; and more than once, the children told of their father’s abusive behaviour, but then quickly recanted, saying it was all invented. Taken together, it was a recipe for inaction. One of the lingering images from the trial was the distressed testimony of teachers and social workers who wished the dots had been better connected.

 

Shafia verdict prompts debate about ‘honour’ killings

News Agencies – February 1, 2012

 

The news that Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia had each been found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder drew mixed reaction from across Canada. Experts in so-called honour killings — murders carried out to preserve family honour in the face of perceived disgrace — heralded the verdict as a step forward; a clear message that neither Canada’s courts nor its people will tolerate this type of crime.

But at least one Muslim women’s group says the way the Shafia case unfolded within and beyond the courtroom may have done more harm than good when it comes to public perception. “I’m frustrated and fed up with the kind of emphasis and time that’s been spent calling it an honour killing,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

Toronto Area Imams Condemn ‘Honour Killings’ following verdict

February 3, 2012

 

Amid the often disturbing anti-Muslim sentiment generated by the Shafia murder trial and its guilty verdicts, dozens of imams (religious leaders) will gather at a mosque in Mississauga Ontario to issue a fatwa, spelling out that so-called honour killings and violence toward women have nothing to do with the real teachings of Islam.

The three-months-long Shafia trial recently culminated in a total of 12 first-degree murder convictions for Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and the couple’s eldest son, Hamed. It was freighted with evidence suggesting the three killers murdered four of their relatives because they believed the family “honour” had been stained.

The fatwa will be released Saturday afternoon at the Jamia Riyadhul Jannah Mosque on Campobello Road, where more than 30 imams and muftis (Muslim priests) including a number from the United States, will endorse it.

University of Toronto professor testifies on “honor killing” at Shafia trial

The Globe and Mail – December 6, 2011

According to Shahrzad Mojab, an Iranian-born University of Toronto professor of women’s studies who has lectured and written on the topic for many years, so-called “honour killings” are rooted in an ancient patriarchal need to control women’s sexuality, and sometimes immigrants from regions that embrace such a code cherish it more dearly than those who stay home. It is wrong to blame religion, Dr. Mojab testified, because honour killings predate all the great faiths. Worldwide, honour killings are on the rise, Dr. Mojab testified, but in North America they remain extremely rare. In 1989-2008, just 13 were identified in a 2009 article in the Middle East Quarterly cited by defence lawyer Patrick McCann, and only two took place in Canada.

Dr. Mojab was the final prosecution witness in the murder trial of Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, who turns 21 this month. The defence will soon begin its case and in a highly unusual move, its first witness is expected to be Mohammad Shafia.

Canadian Muslim leaders speak out against violence towards women

News Agencies – December 5, 2011

A broad coalition of Muslim leaders, some of them shaken by allegations emanating from the Shafia family murder trial, have seized on the Dec. 6 anniversary of the killings at Montreal’s École Polytechnique to speak out about violence against women. Nearly 60 Muslim associations have issued a statement condemning domestic violence, particularly honour killings, saying the practice has nothing to do with Islamic teachings and “[violates] clear and non-negotiable Islamic principles.”

As a first step, it encourages imams to address the issue during Friday prayers.

Father accused of honour killings called eldest daughter a ‘whore’

News Agencies – November 14, 2011

In the days leading up to the July 2009 arrest of an Afghan-Canadian businessman and his wife and son, all accused of jointly murdering four family members, the man’s conscience was clear because the victims had violated every decent principle, he said in wiretapped conversations.

Mr. Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son, Hamed Shafia, each face four counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of the couple’s three teenaged daughters – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – and Rona Amir Mohammad, Mr. Shafia’s 53-year-old first wife, in a clandestine polygamous marriage.  Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston, as the 10-member family returned to their Montreal home from a short vacation in Niagara Falls.

The core of the prosecution case is that the multiple deaths were a so-called “honour killing,” inflicted in a bid to salvage the family’s “honour,” marred by the rebellious, independent-minded conduct of the three Shafia sisters, in particular the dating habits of the oldest two.

“Honour Killing” trial begins in Kingston, Ontario

News Agencies – October 21, 2011

 

A car found at the bottom of an eastern Ontario canal with the bodies of three sisters and their father’s first wife suspended in the water inside seemed to trace a very deliberate path, a murder trial heard. In a case that has raised the issue of so-called honour killings, the Crown alleges the girls’ family couldn’t bear the “treachery” of their daughters having boyfriends, so they killed them and staged the scene to look like an accident.

Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, her husband, Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son, Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, Shafia’s first wife, who lived with the family in a polygamous relationship.

An expert will be called to testify about so-called honour killings and how in extreme cases, killing can be seen in some cultures as a way to restore honour to a family. Disobedience by a female member of the family can cause shame and taint family honour, the expert is expected testify. The trial is expected to last between two and three months.

Frontier Centre for Public Policy Releases Document about Honor Killing in Canada

Immigrant communities in Canada, particularly South Asians, must “air our dirty laundry” in order to combat violence against women, says Ms. Aruna Papp, who specializes in domestic violence. She recently released a report for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (a privately funded conservative think tank) entitled “Culturally Driven Violence against Women”.

There have been 12 honour killings in Canada since 2002, said Ms. Papp, who defines them as “murders carried out in order to cleanse the family name and restore the family honour.” Rona Ambrose, Canadian Minister for the Status of Women, spoke at the release, condemning honour killings and calling on women’s groups and local communities to work together with the government to combat the “heinous abuses of power.” When asked if the government might create a special definition or enhanced sentencing in the Criminal Code around honour killings, Ms. Ambrose said that laws are already in place to address violence and murder. Still, she said, “it’s something that we’re looking at.”

Jeffrey Reitz, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in immigration issues, called this “patronizing,” saying that honour killings aren’t a problem of “educating immigrants,” but rather, a problem of crime and violence in general.