Gender violence is everyone's responsibility

Sadly, it still seems en vogue, possibly even necessary, to react with hysterical abandon and with bigoted superiority to the Muslim. 

Never has this reality been more evident than it is today, when one reads the violent opinions in response to the arrests made in the alleged ‘honour killings’ of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, and Rona Amir Mohammad.

Rather than choosing to understand cases such as these for what they truly are -- cases of gender violence – there are many who instead stand above the issues, pointing fingers and declaring: Muslims hate women!  Muslims oppress and abuse and repress and violate the freedoms of women!  We are better, for we are not Muslim!

No honour in gender violence

When using the terminology of 'honour killings,' we must understand that in this specific instance, Islam is used by certain members of a community as an excuse to wage this violence against women; that some women have become complicit does not diminish from the reality that this is a perversion of Islam to meet a gender-specific end.

The general responses are both grotesque and arrogant in their pretensions of superiority to a religion we are all allowed and encouraged to look down upon and view as backwards and hate-filled. 

It’s grotesque in that people are asking for the deportation of Muslims from Canada, and in that people are using this situation to justify the further bombing of Muslim countries.  Interestingly, these calls are not only leveled against Muslim men -- the great demons that they are -- but also against the Muslim females.  Somehow this is not considered as counter-productive to the Muslim female’s rights we are attempting to ensure; and, if it is considered, then undoubtedly, it is spun as feminist-forward.

Some people are choosing to only understand this subject as one which is specific and unique to Islam, a faith to which they do not belong; that these are Muslim crimes against the female population, when in fact ‘honor killings’ are an arm of gender violence, rather than Muslim violence.

So then, what is gender violence?  It is domestic violence and it is state violence against the female population.  It does not have one specific culture nor one specific religion, and it most definitely is not a subject matter from which we, Canadians, are free of guilt.

Unfortunately, and coupled with the reality that it is indeed most fashionable to hold Islam accountable for all ugliness and hatred, our general news bodies won’t afford its audience an opinion the audience doesn’t already hold.  Instead, we are patted on the back for our immediate call to arms against the Muslim community, for our feigned rally in support of the Muslim female (until, of course, she points a finger back and asks you how many women have been killed in your culture, and at the hands of their husbands?  How many young girls have been beaten to death by their boyfriends or their fathers in your culture?)

We are all responsible for combating violence

When we choose to decry another culture and another religion as being abusive and dangerous to women, we are actively disengaging and distancing ourselves from the greater world of gender violence.  Doing this allows us to raise our hands and say ‘not responsible!’, when the reality is that gender violence wasn’t born of one specific religion or culture, and must be something for which we are all responsible.

Let us never loose sight of the dangers women face -- specifically, at the hands of men -- every single day and in every part of this world, including our own here in Canada. Naturally, this is not to say that we ever deny the cultural aspects of gender violence, for it is only when we understand the culture that we may remedy the violence; but, rather, this is to say that next time we are presented with any case of gender violence, we understand it as such, and we fight against it both as men and women from all cultures. 

Most importantly, we understand that gender violence is not something that only permeates Their religion and Their culture, but it is something which is raging within our own neighborhoods, no matter where we may live.


Maha Zimmo is a political analyst whose areas of concentration are the Middle East, Islam and the international legal system. She received her Master of Arts from the Department of Law at Carleton University.

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