Category Archives: Laws

The Dishonour of Honour Killings

Recently, here in the Great White North, a murder trial ended and the accused were sentenced to life.

A father and his son killed his daughter, all because she was too progressive to be a good little Islamic girl.

Muhammad Parvez and Waqas, his son, murdered Aqsa Parvez on December 10, 2007, in the guise of avenging their family pride in the face of her scandalous embracing of Western culture and lifestyle, even though they lived here.

These cultural-killing cases weigh heavily upon me.

I loathe what they do to the image of Islam, and what they do to my thinking, despite my best efforts.

Honour killing: image from The Baltimore Reporter.

I used to teach ESL a long time ago. Here, there. In people’s homes. It always gave me an interesting perspective on cultures I’d only ever seen from the flipside of a take-out menu or on the big screen.

For the most part here in Vancouver, that meant working with Taiwanese, Koreans, and the Mainland Chinese.

Once, though, I worked with two young Islamic women from Saudi Arabia. They were both married, under age 25, and would wear full burqas when out in the world, but, at home, wore tight jeans and cute trendy t-shirts that clung tightly to their breasts.

Their husbands were charming kind men who spoke to me often about our culture and tried to compare that with their traditional culture at home, so I could know more about them.

Their hospitality and the respect they showed me was warm and sincere. I always felt welcomed and appreciated, and never judged for being “Western” and very liberal. They even knew I wrote about sex, and the men found my blog entertaining.

I truly thought they were all wonderful people, and the kindness and graciousness shown me by them has lingered long in my memory as an example as what the true basic beliefs in Islam are — very similar to any a “good Christian” might follow.

But the burqas never sat well with me — the hypocrisy of bouncy, beautiful breasts being savoured in private but the pretense that this feminine beauty doesn’t exist in the world, or the suggestion that they’re doing what is right and good by Allah when hiding the feminine form from the world at large, despite the fact that Allah created all they hold in esteem.

But that’s a whole other issue that’s too large in scope to tackle, and which I’m not nearly informed enough to weigh in on without research.

It is, however, indicative of just how large a chasm exists between fundamentalist Islam and the standard Western world-view.

So, when a  family like the Parvez move here from Pakistan, there’s a galaxy of culture-clash to contend with.

Me, I’m so white I’m of the fish-belly variety of humans. With Irish/Scottish and French dotting my ancestry, I don’t even have a culture, let alone any experience with culture-clash — except for that which lands on our shores.

But that’s who we are. We’re Canadians.

We’ve got an open-door policy, and because we’re the most multicultural country on the planet, we’re constantly shaping who we are as a result of the immigrants who land here and build lives, for better and for worse.

You know what? I love that.

I love that, when Pierre Elliott Trudeau died, I had to take a cab that day and my driver was a man from South Africa. He was constantly wiping his eyes and sniffling as we moved slowly through rush-hour traffic.

In his thick, thick accent, he told me how hard he’d struggled to move to Canada two decades ago, that it had become his dream after this Canadian Prime Minister had been the only leader in the world to cry out against Apartheit in South Africa in the 1970s, that he saw Canada as being a place that held true to the belief that all men were equal — even beyond our borders.

This man made me cry that day — this immigrant, he and his love for my country, what we stood for, and what he wanted it to keep standing for now that he had given up his S.A. citizenship to become a Canadian. We cried together over a leader who divided the country but ultimately contributed more to what “being Canadian” meant than any leader in our history.*

It’s conversations with men like him who make me believe deep down inside that the majority of those who emigrate to Canada are those who ultimately admire our lifestyle and our tolerance of others.

So, yes, when I hear of honour killings, I’m left wondering how much it hurts the progressives who’ve immigrated long before these fundamentalist assholes, and how hard it makes life domestically for them.

Muhammad and Waqas Parvez are not your typical Pakistani-Canadians.

They are not your common Muslims.

And while honour killings aren’t common in Canada, they do happen.

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:

Honor crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce — even from an abusive husband — or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Let’s face it. Much of what women have gained in the West, in terms of freedom to be who they want to be, has come in the last 60 years. We’re a young culture, too.

Islam, however, and its main regions of practice (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq) forms the seat of all of civilization.

For thousands of years these principles have been in place. They’ll come undone, but it’ll be slowly.

The world needs to stand against honour killings, and while these sentences are a start here in Canada, they’ll do little to effect change in the high mountains of the Khyber Pass and throughout Mohammad’s land in Saudi Arabia.

Here, in Canada, some will experience anger and disdain toward Islam, as if these men represent all of what the Qu’ran teaches.

Like most religions, Islam teaches some pretty fucked-up things. Ask any cartoonist.

Any religion has proverbs that, taken word-for-word, could unleash hell with the devout. Islam is certainly not far from the path of nuttiness with ideas like Jihad and honour killings and the rants against cartoons and Salman Rushdie.

It doesn’t mean Islam’s unholy and hell-bent on destruction or death. That’s bullshit.

What men like the Parvezes do, though, is, they give validity to those who would tar Islam and rail against its practitioners with the belief that all who practice it are extremists who are literal about Allah’s messages in the Qu’ran.

And they make women like me scared of dating Islamic men.

I hate that.

The thing is, I’m not particularly afraid of dating a Muslim man — as long as he’s not a fundamentalist.

But I wouldn’t date ANY religious fundamentalist. I’d probably try to avoid most men who practiced religion of any kind, really, but I would think a Muslim would better understand why I’m not following his faith than a Christian would, since I was raised in Christianity and now reject the practice of it. Try to make sense of THAT, eh?

So, yeah, I’m not afraid of dating a Muslim man at all.

I’m afraid of dating his extended family.

Let’s face it. Families are nuts. You should meet mine.

There’s some serious fuckin’ wackadoos in the extended-family works here, and I would hate for anyone to judge me on the basis of being related to them. But they’re there.

And that’s the thing. A Muslim guy might be incredible, and god knows I find men of Persian descent incredibly hot, but I’m scared what Uncle Mojinder might be like or what distant Cousin Navez might get up to if I get a little rowdy one night, since I’m not exactly Miss I Don’t Drink.

It’s hard enough keeping philosophically on-page with a lover, but when there’s a cultural heritage that has the potential of honour killings in their extended family, it’s a little unnerving a concept for some of us who are given to misbehaviour.

I’m not sure how to end this piece, I don’t think there’s a comfortable “pat” conclusion I can offer.

It’s a terrible thing, honour killings — for what it does to women, for the rise of the fear and suspicions we nurse against an entire faith, all because of what some select group of them do.

It’s horrible that I feel justified in my fears, that I’m apprehensive of men based on their faith, not because I don’t trust them but because I fear their families.

And even that is hard on me, because I love what I know of the traditional Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern family lives.

Yet.

Yet this one thing exists, a small niggling fear — this negligible concept of  “honour” and what it is for and to others, and the price one can pay for damaging it.

In the end, there’s a reason I’m not religious anymore. I stopped believing in Catholicism in my teens, and by rights all other religions, because of the fear and judgment they sought to have me live life under.

Life has many chains that will bind me, but religion will not be amongst them.

I want to know, I guess, how honour killings affect you.

What do you think of them? How have they changed your thoughts on Muslims?

If you’re a woman, does it make you apprehensive of dating men who are Muslims but super-hip and very liberal, just because you fear their family?

Have you ever had a friend who has been under the thumb of this religion and wanted out?

Talk to me. I want to hear about this.

*On his death, the stories I heard from second-generation Canadians who immigrated to Canada with their parents when Trudeau was leader, just blew my mind. The reverence they held for P.E.T., and the esteem they held Canada in, made my heart explode with patriotic pride. Yeah. That’s who we are, Canada. We’re the port in the storm.

Diving into Safety Head-First

We have helmet laws here in British Columbia. Even if we didn’t, I’d be wearing mine.

One saved my life. And still I’m different than I used to be.

When I saw this article come up on Twitter, I got pretty choked about it. I started thinking of the friends I’ve seen riding without a helmet — whether for a block or in the thick of city traffic with bad weather — and I found myself clenching my teeth in frustration.

Head injuries are horrible.

They change you forever.

They affect you emotionally, spiritually, physically.

And I’ve had far too much personal experience with head injuries to let the topic of helmets disappear easily into the cybernight without some commentary.

My personal experience, with just people my age?

Well, personally, I almost died. Had I not been wearing a helmet, I would have died when I somersaulted off my scooter and hit the pavement at Columbia and 2nd back on August 29th, 2004.

I spent the next year trying to get back to who I was while I laboured without a diagnosis on my head (because judgment is the first thing to go; you can’t be objective about yourself and you don’t think about the reasoning behind why you’re such a “fuck up” now; it becomes a self-esteem and time/skill-management thing when it should really be a head-injury thing).

I changed as an employee — it cost me my job security and made me first on chopping block when needed lay-offs came rolling around. (We didn’t know then that it was my brain-bouncing that was the cause of my production getting slower and less sharp.)

That started two years of job insecurity as I hopped around the employment world, learning that I couldn’t handle stress like I used to anymore, and realizing I couldn’t learn new skills or organize as well as I once could.

Experience 2 with head injuries is my brother. Hit by a Chevy Suburban, he spent 5 days in a coma in late 2005 and has never been the same person since. He takes longer to understand things, has a hard time processing his emotions, is more inclined to depression, and it’s all a result of the severe head injury he took — since he had another one within 6 months of the first.

Experience 3 with head injuries was a beloved old friend, in 2008, just 34 years old, who was out adventuring with friends just 9 days after the birth of his little baby girl. His ATV tipped, crushing his head on rocks, and leaving him washing down the fast river, where he drowned and died — orphaning that beautiful baby girl in her first two weeks of life.

Yes, head injuries are bad.

So, when I see brilliant, fantastic friends hopping on their bikes in their almost-hipsterness, cruising around town without their helmets, it fucking kills me.

Know what a head injury feels like?

Take equal parts of STUPID, ANGRY, and CONFUSED, throw them into a martini shaker and mix liberally with IMPULSE CONTROL ISSUES and BAD JUDGMENT and you’ll have the start of what you’re after.

Now, take that horrible mood cocktail and spread it over your days — 24/7, 365.

I spent a year at a loss about what I felt, what I needed, where I wanted to go, how to get there. I’m lucky, I’m a writer, and somehow through the act of writing EVERY SINGLE DAY for a year, I managed to get my brain to finally start firing again.

I don’t even remember ANY of the first 6 months except a Pocky Incident and being unhappy about a hamburger while watching World Cup Hockey.

I’ve never been as good at learning things as I used to be, I need more guidance and have more questions, but I’m smarter than the average person so I get it together sooner or later on new tasks, but only after a lot of frustration.

I’m still smart as hell, no doubt, but I forget large chunks of my life.

Large chunks.

And my mother’s dead.

And some of the chunks are of her. When death rolls around with your loved ones, memories are all you’ve got left, and your head is all you got to protect that with.

It kills me, you know. Just kills me.

When you’re a writer, your memory is your most valuable tool. I’ve lost a lot of mine. My years are a hazy blur when they used to have crystal clarity to them.

I have to live the rest of my life with the very real knowledge that head injuries are like a good savings plan — they compound infinitely.

Every time I hit my head, I run the risk of making myself less of who I was.

Every time my noggin bumps a doorframe or something, a shock of fear runs through me.

You parents failing to put helmets on your kids, I’d be all right with calling that child abuse, given what I know has changed in my life from my head injury.

Protect your children. It’s your job. It’s the law.

I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have that day I almost died back. How much I could undo the stupidity that led me to thinking I should be on my scooter that morning.

I just can’t tell you.

Most people who know  me would never think I’d had a head injury. I’ve got razor-sharp wit, keen conversational abilities, and I’m sly as the day is long.

But they’d be wrong. I’m different. Just in little ways I can work around.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t anger me still that I’m different now.

I used to test at Mensa levels on IQ tests, you know. Between 145 and 170, depending on the day, over the years. “Smart” is a commodity one can’t afford to trade on, not via head injuries or anything else.

Really, it’s not that the head injury takes you out of the game — because it doesn’t. That’s kinda part of the problem — you become the “walking wounded” afterwards.

You go through life okay enough — you look fine, everyone thinks you can do your job, they think you’re as normal as can be. But because you’re rendered some lesser part of yourself as a result of the changes, you’re not even aware of how much you’ve changed — you’re in a fog, a daze, so you can’t say “Hey, something’s off here.”

And because you’re not defending or explaining yourself, those around you think you’re just in some depressive funk and that you need to “shake it off.”

But you can’t.

You hit your brain and you have a boo-boo that can’t be bandaged, doesn’t get air, never sees the sun, and can’t be displayed to others. You’ve seen how long a bruise on your leg takes to heal? What about if it’s under a skull, and all the bruised areas affect how synapses and thoughts and neuro-body-controls occur?

It was two years after my head injury that I finally realized how much I had changed, and only because I was seeing the same stuff happening to my brother with his head damage. A strangely consistent downward spiral in his life mirrored the one that had been happening to me.

Finally, I went to see a shrink I’d been to in the past, who’d had muchos experience in head injuries, and I learned what was going on inside was all part of the healing journey a head injury victim usually takes.

I had a helmet on and I’ve luckily lived to tell my story, even though I’m changed and will probably always have to live with the legacy of that day in small ways.

In fact, everyone I’ve written about here today was wearing a helmet, and yet, look at our stories.

Put your fucking helmet on.

Get over your haircut. Get over yourself.

If not for your own life and the hell it will likely be if you survive a head injury and have to live with it for the remainder of your life, then at least wear it so my fucking tax dollars can go somewhere more intelligent than dealing with your dumb-ass negligence.

Please.

__________________________________

Think you might’ve had a head injury and wonder what the indicators are? Check here. The New York Times has a good cheat-sheet HERE on what to do or look for after a head injury has first been suffered — please read it NOW, not when you need it. Remember how quickly Natasha Richardson died from a ski fall? Yeah. Know your shit.

Opting Into Ignorance

Freedom of education? Not on my tax dollar, bub.

The province of Alberta, here in Canada, has opted to make matters of sex, sexual orientation,* and religion OPTIONAL for their students. Parents can yank their kids out of school when they disagree with the premise at hand. [Story here.]

Religion? Okay. Fine. I’ll give you that. Make that optional. I not only understand having strong beliefs on faith, I respect it. I do not, however, understand refusing to listen to other views, not having faith in your children to be intelligent enough to hear more than one viewpoint, or shutting down education when it seems fit,  because I feel that teaches children that the teachers and education itself are not credible.

But on matters of sex? Sex education?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Continue reading

RANT: BDSM Films are “Torture-Based” Porn?

One of the most offensive things to me is when journalists — people who are paid to get messages right — get things wrong.

Like here, in the San Francisco News, where they describe fetish films with bondage and sado-masochism as being “torture-based” films.

Talk about an economic stimulus. California taxpayers have paid $46,791 so that employees of the San Francisco pornographer Kink.com might produce more perfect web-based depictions of motorized dildo impalements on www.fuckingmachines.com; do a better job displaying women as they’re bound, gagged, and repeatedly electrically shocked on www.wiredpussy.com; and more effectively transmit images of, well, people doing pretty much what you’d imagine they’d be doing on www.whippedass.com.

That’s right: California’s government has been subsidizing torture-based pornography.

I’m going to ignore all the content in the article about government funding and who’s right and what’s wrong, because the only thing that matters is clarity right now, and on that count, SF News, from a city who KNOWS about kink, calling a little sexual brutality TORTURE is way off the fucking mark.

Torture is what happens to you against your wishes.

AGAIN, let’s remind the whole world how the kink and BDSM community work: It’s consensual. People not only agree to be beaten, bound, gagged, and whatever else makes your little conservative cockles shrink in fear — they BEG for it, DESIRE it, and SCHEME to get it.

THAT is not torture.

Let’s remember that language exists to allow us to communicate. It’s there for us to put to words what springs from our minds. WORDS matter. Precision counts. Especially in a motherfucking newspaper.

When we denigrate someone’s sexual preferences as being a fondness for “torture”, you belittle actual incidences of torture in places like Abu Ghraib, China, and wherever else inhumanities occur.

Mary getting paddled while in leather restraints on film as she squeals and moans is hardly akin to high-value prisoners being water-boarded and deprived of basic human rights while off-the-record and on the hush-hush.

So let’s open our fucking dictionaries, editors & writers of the world, because what’s a blase and catchy little term for YOU is something that’s subjecting whole demographics to judgment and ridicule. Learn a little professionalism. It’s the least you can do.

eHarmony: The Battle for Gay Rights in a Nutshell

I’ll get to the changing-your-life follow-up on the weekend. News comes first.

Back in 2005, eHarmony got slapped with a lawsuit for discrimination because gays couldn’t use the service. Now, personally, considering their overpriced, weird cult-like dating service, I kinda thought eHarmony was doing gays a favour. But I agree with the spirit of the lawsuit, because it’s bullshit.

Well, now it’s three-plus years later, and eHarmony finally has a gay service available. Yay for progress!

Oh. Wait a second. Not so much?

See, gays still can’t use eHarmony. No, they get Compatible Partners. (Which is yet to be launched. Look to March 31st, 2009, for that.)

Did they even put a marketing team on this? Do they even give a fuck? “Compatible Partners”? What, “Ass-Pirates and Their Friends” was unavailable? Holy segregated fuck, Batman! Continue reading

Update on Murder

It’s official — my brother’s friend was murdered by a filmmaker trying to recreate a death from the show Dexter. He had paid actors and everything. John, my bro’s now-deceased friend, was indeed lured to the garage in which he would be killed (as there is no corpse, but investigators say the “forensic evidence” gathered in the garage is overwhelming) by the sick film-making fucker who posed as a WOMAN on Craigslist to get our friend out on a “date”.

Had John not emailed his directions to his date to a friend of his, the murderer and the location of the crime may have gone unfound by the police.

We’re all “internet” types — we’ve probably all gone on internet dates. Just because you THINK you should be safe because it’s mostly normal people on the web doesn’t mean that’s the case, and this crime makes it obvious that even men have a lot to be concerned about when it comes to meeting strangers, even if the stranger is supposed to be female.

I’m not trying to say no one should ever meet anyone off the internet, but going to someone’s home on the first date? Fucking moronic. Meet in public places. Follow your Spidey-sense. Do not ignore gut instinct. Do not get into their car unless you’re certain you can trust them. Be very, very scared, and very, very cautious, because this case ain’t just some TV show come to life. This wasn’t some big-city crime where some anonymous characters just up and offed someone. Edmonton is a small city, and this was in the suburbs, on a quiet street that’s well-patrolled by cops.

This shit happens in real life, and we all need a fucking reminder sometimes to be vigilant. Well, this is that.

RIP, Johnny. Here’s the most recent CBC story on the crime. And another story about the links to the show Dexter and other weird shit regarding this crime can be found here. Even the producers of Dexter have come out and admitted total shock that someone would copycat one of their fictional murders. (That “shock” is yet another thing I feel the urge to write about — and slam — but hey. Another day, another posting. This crime won’t be resolved for months.)