Thursday, January 7, 2010

When bloggers boil over benches

---------------------AQSA PARVEZ---------------------------

When bloggers get angry it can get very personal.

There are two American blog sites that are up in arms over a story about a granite bench in a “peace park” in the little burg of Pelham, Ontario.

Now before you go running to Mapquest or Google Maps, I will save you the trouble; this otherwise unremarkable town (population 16,000) is buried in the middle of the Niagara region, many miles away from the events that led to this dispute.

What Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch and Pam Geller at Atlas Shrugs are ticked off about is that the Pelham Fire Chief, Scott McLeod, gave an interview to the Toronto Star and, forsaking Geller, took credit for initiating a memorial to Aqsa Parvez in the form of a granite park bench, with the following inscription:

"Remembering new Canadians lost to the quest of integrating cultures – In Loving Memory of Aqsa Parvez – Remembered and Free."

A little history.

In December of 2007, sixteen year-old Aqsa Parvez, a Mississauga grade 11 schoolgirl, was rushed to Sick Kids Hospital, in Toronto, suffering from neck compressions. She died in hospital.

There was a 911 call allegedly made by her father confessing to her murder. He was charged with second degree murder. The girl’s older brother was charged with obstructing police. Subsequently, both were re-charged with first degree murder when the police concluded that the killing was planned and deliberate. There has been an extensive preliminary hearing in which the evidence was banned from publication.

The criminal trial is to take place in January, 2011.

Yes, the wheels of justice do grind slowly in Canada.

The arrest created a sensation because it was alleged in the media she was murdered because she did not wear a hijab all the time. It has been branded as an honour killing.

Both Geller and Spencer write frequently on their blogs about honour killings, including this one.

Geller was appalled to learn that Aqsa was buried in a cemetery with only a numbered marker in the ground. She organized a fund which received $5,000 in donations to put up a stone somewhere as a memorial to Aqsa with this inscription:

In loving memory of Aqsa Parvez

April 22, 1991 – December 10, 2007
Beloved, remembered and free

According to Geller, McLeod is a frequent reader of her blog and had contacted her about this memorial before the events in Pelham unfolded.

What annoys the two bloggers is not only that McLeod wants the brownie points, but that he deliberately appears to have distanced himself from Geller. The money came from the municipality with the assistance of a local female councillor and a point was made in the Star story that none of Geller’s donation money was used.

I guess I would be pissed off too, if I were Geller.

But I am not Geller and I haven’t been personally involved in this effort, so, just as a third party observer, this is what occurs to me.

I would not attribute evil motives to McLeod. He’s just a small time local guy who has done something notable in the community, probably the most exciting thing to happen in Pelham since they paved the highway into the town. Geez, he got his name in the Toronto Star. Who in Pelham can claim that distinction? He wants to take the credit. So be it. That is human nature.

And because I don’t think that he is evil in intention, I think it is consistent with portraying himself to be the local hero who thought up the idea that he would distance himself from Geller’s Aqsa fund. I don’t think Geller should assume he is somehow saying her money is tainted because of her politics.

As to the depiction in the story of Geller’s blog as being anti-Muslim, that is standard form multi-cult Toronto Star coverage. That goes well beyond McLeod.

Leaving aside the matter of who gets to be the hero of the piece, I am not overly impressed with either of the two inscriptions.

This is what one Muslim spokeswoman had to say about the Pelham one:

Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, is happy that a town is remembering Parvez. "But I have some difficulty with what they are trying to say in the inscription. Maybe they are trying to raise questions but I'm not quite sure (the inscription) reflects her death."

I agree with that.

I also don’t think Geller’s inscription passes muster. It is okay for a normal headstone, although it is never going to be placed on her grave.

If you read Geller and Spencer closely you find they are upset that the honour killing aspect in the Star story appears to be absent and that the message is lost in politically correct mush.

They are right about that and that is why I am not enthusiastic about Geller’s version of a memorial because it appears to suffer from the same problem.

Here is what I would do if I were Geller and I had $5,000 to put up a memorial to Aqsa.

First, I would ensure that the memorial was put up somewhere in Mississauga where Aqsa lived and died. What is point of locating it in Guelph or Pelham? The community that her death was supposed to appease is in Mississauga. That is where the message has to be hammered home, amongst the very people who tacitly support honour killings.

Secondly, I would wait until the trial is concluded and verdicts are secured.

I see that Spencer makes no bones that Aqsa’s father murdered her. In Canada, you haven’t murdered somebody until you are tried and the court says you did.

I know, I know: if it swims like a duck, it waddles like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Still, there is the presumption of innocence and we have the same libel laws as the United Kingdom, so one should be careful. It is up to a jury to declare it is a duck.

Consider this. Perhaps it was not the father, it might have been the brother, and the father was trying to take the rap for him. Not that he is not guilty of complicity, but why name him if it might have been the brother?

There is also an issue involving the question of the Islamic dress that remains unresolved.

According to this Toronto Life background story, Aqsa’s close friends don’t put much stock in the “wouldn’t wear the hijab” angle. Aqsa apparently wore it on whim. She liked her religion and some days just felt like wearing it, and other days not. One very telling thing was that one of her close girlfriends is black. And Aqsa’s father did not like her choice of friends, warning her that black people would lead her down inappropriate paths in life.

So it might well be an honour killing, but possibly not for the reason the media has spread about. Or it might not be an honour killing at all – just a domestic fight that got out of control over a teenage girl’s choice of friends. We won’t know the answers to these questions until the trial.

Assuming that the outcome of the trial will establish the guilt of the father and/or brother and that the evidence supports the honour killing motive, then I would suggest that a plaque be mounted in a suitable location with the following inscription:

(April 22, 1991 – December 10, 2007)

This plaque is dedicated to the memory of a young Canadian Muslim girl who was murdered by her closest male relatives, in accordance with the barbaric practice of honour killings, because she allegedly shamed her family by her desire live like a Canadian.

That seems to be closer to reality and what is needed.


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