Canada's Muslim clerics have banded together to denounce domestic violence, telling their congregations during Friday prayer sessions that there is no honour in killing and that violence against women has no place in Islam.

"The best of you will never do this, the best of you will never beat their wives," Imam Sami Metwally said during his sermon at the Ottawa Mosque.

The Islamic Supreme Council and other Muslim organizations across Canada felt the need to speak out against the image of repressive violence that is coming from the high-profile Shafia trial going on in a Kingston, Ont., courtroom.

Mohammad Shafia, an Afghan-Canadian businessman, is accused along with his wife and son of murdering his three teenaged daughters and his first wife in a polygamist marriage, allegedly because they shamed his family by either dating, skipping school or planning to leave the household. The three accused have pleaded not guilty to all charges, and elder Shafia has testified in court that he is "not a killer."

Metwally said that while honour killing may be more common in some countries such as the Shafias' native Afghanistan, it should be seen as a product of the local culture rather of the Muslim religion.

'You've got to separate what people call Islam from just social conservatism.'  —Ariel Salzmann, Queen's University professor

"You know in the Qur'an it says one of the wisdoms of marriage is to have tranquility, peace and love and compassion," he said.

Imam Syed Soharwardy planned to deliver his speech twice in his Calgary mosque. Members of his congregation were to hear a message of gender equality that originated with no less an authority than the Prophet Mohammed, Islam's founding father, he said.

"Domestic violence is very un-Islamic. It's a crime in the eyes of the law, it's a crime in the Islamic teaching," Soharwardy said.

'No religious support'

Samira Kanji, president of the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, said there are still some within Islam who may try to distort the faith, so Muslims have to speak to each other.

"If somebody is genuinely thinking that they have sanction in religion, then we want to make sure that we tell them, well, you're on your own, there is no religious support for what you're saying and there is no religious community support," she said.

Samer Majzoub, of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said that when a crime is committed by a Muslim it is always blamed on the perpetrator's faith.

"There are perpetrators, bad apples, everywhere," he said.

Ariel Salzmann, associate professor of Islamic and world history at Queen's University, described the Qu'ran as an "incredibly progressive document" for its time. While it maintains strongly patriarchal elements common to most religious texts, Salzmann said the Qu'ran enshrines female rights and economic freedoms not seen in Christianity or Judaism.

The socially conservative views supposedly espoused by members of the Shafia family often take root in areas where religious teaching is oversimplified, she said, citing the remote regions of Afghanistan where the fundamentalist Taliban first flourished.

"You've got to separate what people call Islam from just social conservatism," she said.

With files from The Canadian Press