Viewpoint 38-3: Bus Ads Target and Isolate Muslims - LawNow Magazine

Viewpoint 38-3: Bus Ads Target and Isolate Muslims

Viewpoint column logoWe would like to provide some context and background surrounding the “honour killing” ad campaign on Edmonton Transit buses sponsored by the America Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).

The term “honour killing” must stop being used. It needs to be called what it is: murder, femicide, wrong. Attaching the term “honour” to these crimes empowers the perpetrators, allowing them to justify their thinking and actions.

These ads ran on buses in late October and had the slogan “Muslim Girls Honor Killed by Their Families” and included the text: “Is your family threatening you? Is there a fatwa on your head?” The sponsors of the ads say their intent was to bring attention to the issue of honour killing. We are providing another point of view and key information regarding these ads.

The term “honour killing” must stop being used. It needs to be called what it is: murder, femicide, wrong. Attaching the term “honour” to these crimes empowers the perpetrators, allowing them to justify their thinking and actions. Religion, culture, ideology and chauvinism are no reasons to justify abuse and murder. Any actions of violence against women and girls must be identified as what they are: criminal acts.

No one is denying this happens. We welcome efforts by anyone to shed light on and help end the violence. However, by targeting Muslim girls only, the campaign singles out and separates a group of people based on their faith, thereby stigmatizing and isolating them. One result could be that victims might not seek help because they may feel compelled to defend their faith at the expense of their own well-being.

…the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has worked tirelessly to maintain equality, equity and empowerment for all Canadian Muslim women through education and advocacy. The Council has sought to promote an Islam that is humane, egalitarian and equality-driven.

Providing support, services and resources to women and girls who might be caught in these situations is important and necessary. If the ad sponsors are in fact concerned about the welfare of Edmonton women and girls, then working with and advertising the work of local organizations already addressing these concerns should have been their priority.

Organizations such as the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association and the Edmonton Women’s Shelter are examples of groups providing safe opportunities for confidential assistance. One such Muslim organization is the Islamic Family and Social Services Association, which is already taking actions on domestic violence including:

  • providing family violence outreach and counselling services;
  • participating in Walk for Your Life annual domestic violence public outreach campaign in partnership with Métis Child and Family Services;
  • working with local mosques to provide information for Friday sermons focused on family violence awareness and children’s mental health;
  • building partnerships and strong working relationships with local women’s shelters, family violence outreach centres and imams at mosques around the city; and
  • creating an after-school teen violence prevention program aimed at educating visible minority girls to recognize the potential signs of a violent relationship and increasing self-esteem.

As well, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has worked tirelessly to maintain equality, equity and empowerment for all Canadian Muslim women through education and advocacy. The Council has sought to promote an Islam that is humane, egalitarian and equality-driven. At the community level, the Council has developed projects, events, grassroots workshops, and research publications in women’s leadership, family dynamics, gender equality, racism and discrimination, and civic engagement.

Violence is not unique to any one cultural or religious group. On Nov. 4, 2013 Edmonton City Council proclaimed November Family Violence Prevention Month. The statistics are grim. Information provided by the Canadian Women’s Foundation states that, on average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. As well, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Recent studies show that Alberta has the fifth-highest rate of police-reported intimate-partner violence and the second-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence.

The focus of this year’s campaign is to bring men into the conversation and address the positive roles men can play in ending family violence as fathers, role models, allies and influencers. At the Nov. 4 proclamation, more than 150 men, including many prominent leaders from the diverse Muslim community in Edmonton, stood on the stairs of City Hall to show their commitment and support.

The Muslim community is part of the fabric of Edmonton, Alberta and Canada. Muslims want what we all want: happy, healthy families and communities. Let’s all work together to achieve this.

This article was first published in the Edmonton Journal on November 13, 2013 and is reprinted with the permission of the authors.

 

Authors:

Amarjeet Sohi
Amarjeet Sohi
Amarjeet Sohi is city councillor for Ward 12 in Edmonton, Alberta (2013).
 

Erum Afsar
Erum Afsar
Erum Afsar is a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
 


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