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Posted in: Honor Killings

Published on Jul 23, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Kingston Police Call It A "Muslim Honor Killing"

Family Charged with 4 Counts of First Degree Murder and 4 Counts of Conspiracy to Commit Murder


At 2pm EST today, on a CFRA radio press conference, it was announced that the deaths of four Afghan-Canadian girls and women was a "Muslim honor killing." If so, this is the fifth known honor killing in Canada since 1999 and it brings the death toll to nine victims. I am no statistician but I have friends who are and they tell me that this is a very high number given that the Muslim population in Canada is no more than 750,000.

Let's hear it for the Canadian police! They have just charged the Shafi family with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder in this case. In other words, they understand that both classic and often unique honor murders are planned and performed by families, not only by individuals.

Kingston police chief, Stephen Tanner said "It was a needless and senseless loss of human life…They had their lives cut short by members of their own family."

Only once, in 2008, did our own FBI describe an honor killing as an honor killing. They did so in the case of the Said Dallas case but within ten days, they retracted that description. One can only imagine why. (And one does not know what the Canadian police or prosecutor will ultimately say).

This is also the second Afghan-Canadian honor killing. The first one took place in 2006, and was a brother-on-sister murder. The brother, Hasibullah Sadiqi, shot his sister and her fiancée in a shopping mall in Ottawa. Sadiqi stood trial in 2009.

Here is the background to this latest developing story in Canada.

They married in Kabul in 1979, the year the Russians invaded. Rona Amir Mohammed was Mohammed Safi's first and only wife—that is, until it was clear she could have no children. At some point, he married a second wife, Tooba Mohammed Yahya, with whom he had four (or seven) children: three daughters and one son. The daughters were all born in Kabul, the son might have been born in Dubai. They all moved to Canada two years ago.

No one in St. Leonard, a suburb of Montreal, knew that Safi was living with two wives. Rona, his first wife, was an intimate member of the family, variously introduced as a "relative," an "aunt," a "cousin." From a Muslim point of view, Safi behaved honorably because he did not divorce or banish his first wife even though she was infertile. How polygamy itself as well as secretive polygamy may psychologically affect a family is another matter entirely. And, while Safi may have appeared westernized, that was far from the truth.

Last month, 50 year-old Rona, 19-year-old-Zainab, 17-year-old Sahar, and 13-year-old Geeti were mysteriously all found dead in a car submerged in the Rideau Canal. The car entered the canal backwards. This suggests that Rona had co-parented these girls and perhaps that she supported their westernization.

Is this really an honor killing? I am not sure but let's consider these facts:

Safi, a polygamist, considered his eldest daughter Zainab, to be a "rebel." He accused her of having a boyfriend. He also told the police that Zainab had taken the car "on a joyride." Safi mocked Zainab's driving ability.

The fact that his first wife was found dead along with the second wife's "rebellious" older daughter suggests that Rona might have argued for Zainab or might, herself, have longed for a more westernized life. I am not sure why the two younger girls also had to die. Perhaps they were seen as already too influenced by their older sister. Maybe they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Well, it could have been a mysterious accident. But yesterday, the police arrested Mohammed Safi, his second wife, Tooba, and their eldest son on their way to Montreal's Trudeau's International airport. Why would they be leaving at this point? Where were they going?

Atlas Shrugs has the photos of the marriage between Rona and Mohammed of thirty years ago. Rona's sister, Diba Massomi, sent them to the police. It was she who first suggested that this was an honor killing.

Massomi emailed the Kingston police and said that "for some time, my sister and the Shafi couple's oldest daughter Zainab, had been receiving death threats for social, cultural, and family reasons."


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