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Honor Killings or Victims of Domestic Violence?

Although this case happened up in Canada, we wanted to blog about it as it brings up some pretty interesting legal precedents, especially if this situation arises here “south of the border”.

On Sunday, a Canadian court found three people guilty of murdering four female family members in a so-called “honor killing”. Two Afghan immigrant parents, Mohammad Shafia and his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their eldest son Hamed were convicted of killing Mr. Shafia’s three teenaged daughters and his first wife in what the Wall Street Journal calls “an elaborately staged, though ultimately bungled, car accident”. Although the defense argued that the June 2009 incident was a late-night joy-ride gone awry, the prosecution showed some startling evidence that suggests domestic violence, no matter what the religious or cultural background of those involved.

The crime of “honor killings” is rare in North America, but it is increasingly common in western European countries like Britain and Sweden, where they have a lot of immigrants from the countries that practice this custom. In places such as Pakistan, India and Turkey, honor killings are defined as where victims are murdered because they have brought shame on their family.

The prosecution alleged that the murders happened because Shafia wanted to “cleanse the shame” he felt from the conduct of what he called his rebellious daughters. Apparently, the 19- and 17-year-old daughters had taken unapproved boyfriends, and all three disobeyed their father by not dressing appropriately (in their father’s eyes) and by their independent behavior.

There are some in Canada who see that the case is an example of how immigrants do not integrate enough into their new home’s society-because they are not required to. Others have criticized the Canadian public services by ignoring the girls’ pleas for help-they told police, teachers and even a women’s shelter about their father’s sometimes-violent discipline.

Where do we draw the line between multiculturalism and individual welfare? Just because this murder would not have been punished in Afghanistan, does that mean the perpetrators should not be sent to jail here? Do you think that Canada should respect the traditions, culture and religion of their immigrants’ homelands in regards to their actions here, or should they be subject to our laws and morals?

What do you think? Should these three people accused of murder be incarcerated in the Canadian system, or should they be set free? Perhaps you think they should be sent back to Afghanistan? What do you suggest America does if an honor killing happens here?

At the Law Offices of Glew & Kim, we see all clients as innocent until proven guilty, and believe in equal justice for all. If you or someone you know has been involved in a crime and needs honest, unbiased defense, please call us immediately on 714-713-4525 or use our online form for a free case analysis.

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