Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aqsa Parvez rests in numbered gravesite

Strangled teen dared to be different

Last Updated: 10th December 2008, 9:35am

One year to the day Aqsa Parvez was stolen from this world -- allegedly by two members of her family. And her gravesite to show she even existed? Section 17, plot number 774, in the Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton, to be precise. No name, no date of birth, no date of death. No nothing.

But resting here is a girl who dared to be Canadian.

Aqsa Parvez

She was strangled Dec. 10, 2007 inside her family's Longhorn Trail home. Her father and brother will be in court next week to answer to charges of first-degree murder.

At Parvez's gravesite, one would never know the 16-year-old Grade 11 Applewood Heights Secondary School student was buried here. You would never know anybody was buried here.

"If not for a couple of her girlfriends, who put some flowers there, there would be nothing," says a disgusted Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of Chasing a Mirage, The Tragic illusion of an Islamic State. "It's disgraceful."

"That girl was not a number," adds Imam Syed Soharwardy, of the Al-Mamadinah Islamic Centre in Calgary and national president of Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. "She had a name and a life. It makes me sick."

Her friends describe Pakistan-born Aqsa as a happy teen who loved photography and loved to dance. Who knows where she would be if she had not, one year ago this morning, gone back to the family home from which she was estranged?

Her friends expected her at school. Instead, a 911 call was made saying she had been killed.The preliminary hearing for her father Muhammad Parvez, 58, and brother Waqas, 27, is to begin Dec. 17. Evidence is expected to show family disagreements over cultural issues and religious rules, including the wearing of the traditional hijab.

"A planned and deliberate act," is how Peel Regional Police's head of homicide, Insp. Norm English, was last year describing this murder.

Recently, he refused an interview request saying, "two people are charged with first-degree murder and we have not said very much because they are entitled to their day in court where we will present a very strong case."

It will be a packed courtroom and time will tell how this will turn out legally. It's not known whether Aqsa's killing was an honor killing. The honor killing tag is given to those victims who were killed as an illustration to peers that their shamed family has washed their hands of the embarrassment to their radical form of Islam with their disgraced family member's blood.

It's a barbaric act, often with agreement of other family members, that sadly occurs in some Muslim countries.

Speaking in general terms, Fatah says, "a victim of an honor killing is always left in an unmarked grave. Imagine caring more about your faith than your child? When this happens, it shows they don't give a damn about her and the fact a family has chosen to not put the name on a grave proves the point that they are embarrassed and gives an insight into honor killings."

Soharwardy knows of "100 graves of women" killed because their families felt their actions brought disrespect upon them and their extreme version if Islam. And anybody "telling you" it is Islamic tradition to bury a person in an unnamed grave, says Soharwardy, is out-and-out "wrong."

In fact, he says, "marking a grave is one of the highest recommendations of tradition by the Prophet Mohammed."

"Taj Mahal is the quintessential symbol of a tribute for a Muslim woman," Fatah says of the famous Indian shrine built for Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, by her grieving Mughal Emperor husband Shah Jahan. "In Islam, for a woman, you build the grandest structure in the world. I know of some in several countries which have stood for 1,000 years."

Aqsa Parvez's grave is the polar opposite. Its as chilling standing there as chilling as was her death. Disturbing.

For $580, the cemetery can put a flat marker there -- with her name, date of birth and death, and at least people can find her if they want to come and pay their respects. A cemetery employee said there is no problem if others want to place a flat memorial there but it would be removed if the family were to demand that.

As we wait for the court to decide the murder case, Aqsa lays, not so honourably, in grave 774.

[For an account of Aqsa Parvez's murder, click here.]

Joe Warmington is a columnist for the Toronto Sun. He can be contacted at

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