Readers with long memories may recall that way back in January of 2012, an Afghan immigrant to Canada, his second wife (in a polygamous marriage) and his son, all devout followers of the Prophet, were convicted of the murder by drowning of the man's first wife and three of his daughters by his second wife. See "GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY in Shafia honour killings" (WWW 29/1/12).
The murders were said to be a matter of "honour", or the Islamic concept thereof. The daughters, you see, were "bad girls" -- caught in the ultimate culture clash, living in Canada but not allowed to be Canadian. They were expected to behave like good Muslim daughters, to wear the hijab and marry a fellow Afghan. And when they rebelled against their father’s traditions and customs -- covertly at first, then for all the community to see -- the shame became too much to bear. Only a mass execution (staged to look like a foolish wrong turn into the Rideau Canal at Kingston) could wash away the stain of their secret boyfriends and revealing clothes. The infertile first wife was simply a convenient throw-in, an afterthought.
Under the Canadian justice system, Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their eldest son, Hamed Shafia were entitled to an appeal as of right from their convictions of murder in the first degree, for which they had received sentences of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years. Agent 3 is following the proceedings in the Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto this week.
The parents are appealing on the grounds that expert evidence about honour killings, the teachings of Islam and the culture of Afghanistan should not have been admitted because -- this is the argument -- the jury might have been prejudiced and made to feel that there was something wrong with Muslims who were only acting in accordance with their faith. The Crown's response is that without such evidence, it would have been difficult to establish a motive for what would otherwise have been senseless killings, or perhaps "just an accident", as the Shafias said.
The appeal of Hamed Shafia is even more implausible. A defence lawyer interviewed on Canadian TV last night described it as an argument that made him roll his eyes. At the time of the killings, the son was apparently 18 years old, as his ID and other documents said. Now, nearly seven years after the young man helped push the car containing the four women into the canal, his lawyers are telling the court that he was only 17, thus shouldn't have been tried as an adult, but a juvenile!
"New evidence" to that effect, the defence says, has fortuitously just arrived from Afghanistan, a country not known for its ability to keep accurate records or indeed tell time. The defence is asking for a new trial for Shafia fils, or at least a reduction of his sentence to the 10-year max he would have received as a youthful miscreant, which would put him back on the street in another five years or so.
With the hearing in the Court of Appeal entering its second day, Maclean's has decided to republish The Shafia Honour Killing Trial, an e-book by Michael Friscolanti which first appeared in February 2012. Follow this link to the Maclean's longread.
As you read, ask yourself if Muslims like Mohammed Shafia are the kind of people you want to be welcomed into your country -- as refugees, asylum-seekers or immigrants -- from the sandpits of the Middle East. If the answer is no, and you're a Canadian, you could write to your MP, Minister of Refugees John McCallum or Prime Minister Just In Trudeau... but it won't do you any good. If you're American, Walt reminds you that there's an election coming up in just over eight months. Need I say more?