Friday, December 5, 2008

Silence is Violence

Graceful, candid, intelligent and insightful, Sarah Ghabrial reflects on the death of Aqsa Parvez on the eve of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Some excerpts:

Genuine compassion or inquisitiveness regarding Aqsa's story dissipated all too quickly in the ensuing frenzy over the Canadian 'minority question.' The day after Aqsa's story broke, CityNews brandished a headline describing the "tradition and terror" behind the tragedy. A National Post columnist seeking to explain "the meaning of Aqsa Parvez" was quick to describe her death as an "honour killing" and elaborated on the "loathsome and barbaric" nature of the culture from which, according to this versions of the narrative, she was desperate to escape.

There is no doubt that Aqsa was desperate to escape - from her abusive home and tyrannical father. But as a young woman of colour, living at dangerous intersections of race and gender, belonging and exclusion, her options for escape were sadly limited. Women like Aqsa matter little in the grand scheme of things - until their deaths provide convenient grounds on which to mount xenophobic vitriol against Canada's dark Others.
In Canada, there exists a strange paradox: a tendency to view women of colour and 'immigrant' women - especially Muslim women - as particularly weak and vulnerable, due to the supposedly more intrinsic patriarchy of 'their' cultures; and a concurrent, stubborn unwillingness in our legal, emergency response and, most importantly, education systems to put forward solutions that reach out to women in these positions, rather than further marginalize them.
When certain persons must be imprisoned without trial, when certain countries must be invaded, when certain communities must be ostracized, even the vilest patriarchs are all too happy to invoke 'feminism' - or their weak understanding of it. Conservative leaders seem to have few qualms about vilifying feminism as the source of all things anti-family and awful, and then raising a feminist flag to front an amorphous 'war on terror.' It would be almost funny if not for the perplexing ways in which so many feminists - inevitably white feminists - willingly participate in such posturing. The sound heard from mainstream feminist camps in the wake of Aqsa's murder was a combination of racist muttering and bewildering silence.

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