Windsor Muslim women react to Shafia verdict

Two Windsor Muslim women are speaking out against violence against women after the Shafia trial ended with three people found guilty of the first-degree murder of four female family members.

Local women say so-called honour killing is simply violence against women

The Shafia trial in Kingston has drawn sharp reaction from Muslim women in Windsor.

Reem Khan and Miriam Issa are speaking out against so-called honour killings after a Muslim couple and their son were convicted Sunday of first-degree murder in the deaths of four family members.

The prosecution characterized the deaths as honour killings; that four women needed to die to preserve the family's honour, in part because two of the daughters were interested in boyfriends and dating.

"It's really sad to hear that these thing exists during this day and time," said Issa, a Muslim woman from Somalia who moved to Canada 19 years ago. "My concern is that this is an act of violence against women, regardless of what you call it. Whether you call it an honour killing or a crime of passion, it's just wrong and it's unacceptable, and it's about time we put an end to this kind of practice."

Sunday, a jury found Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya and their son Hamed, guilty on four counts of first-degree murder. All three pleaded not guilty and can appeal.

The judge called the crime cold-blooded and shameful. He said it is difficult to conceive of anything more heinous, more despicable or more honourless.

Khan, a Muslim woman from Pakistan who has been living in Windsor for the past year, said some families who move to Canada try to hold on to their customs, traditions and mindsets.

"I'm not saying that honour killing is a tradition, but I'm saying that patriarchal structure is definitely something that they hold on to," she said. "In the case of this family, when they came to Canada, and the daughters were beginning to integrate into behaviour that was not acceptable [to their family], it was a threat to the patriarchal structure of the family."

Khan said the term "honour killing" makes the killings more exotic or foreign.

"Essentially, honour killing is just violence against women. That's the core of what we need to address," she said.

Issa said there is no historical background to honour killing in Islam. It's not taught in any religion, nor is it part of the Holy Qur'an, the central religious text of Islam, she said.

"It's cultural," she said. "This is absolutely against Islam and it's ignorant to use Islam to justify these crimes."