Frontenac County Courthouse, in Kingston, Ontario, received an anonymous call at 9:35 a.m. this Thursday: a bomb was to be detonated at the court house between 10:10 and 10:20. The courthouse was cleared and the building investigated. The threat came right before the court was to instruct the jurors of the case of alleged “honor killings” by Muhammad Shafia of his three daughters and first wife. After no bomb was discovered, proceedings continued in the afternoon.
Police spokesman Const. Steve Koopman said we should regard the threat as obviously related to the Shafia case: “It is relatively coincidental” that the threat anticipated Justice Robert Maranger’s instructions to the Jury on how to deliberate the case.
Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, are contesting a charge of four counts of first degree murder regarding the the deaths of Shafia’s three daughters and first wife, who were discovered dead inside a black Sudan that had plunged off a cliff into the Rideau Canal in Kingston.
Though charged in the same way as other murders, the Shafia case is considered one of the latest in a series of “honor crimes,” commonly involving first generation immigrants to the West of Middle Easterners or Southern Asians. In this case, the prosecution charges that Shafia, his wife, and their son were furious over the Westernized behaviors of their daughters, and sought to regain honor to their family through shedding their blood.
Shafia denied the charges, and also said that they had no justification in the Quran, telling prosecuting lawyer Lauria Lacelle, “To kill someone, you can’t regain your honor and respect. Respected lady, you should know that. In our religion, a person who kills his wife or daughter, there is nothing more dishonorable. How is it possible that someone would do that to their own children, respected lady?”
“You might do it, ” Lacelle returned, “if you thought they were whores.”
“Whores” was the term Shafia used to describe his daughters, according to evidence derived from months of wire tapping. He is recorded as saying
“I say to myself, ‘You did well. Would they come back to life a hundred times, for you to do the same again.'” and he later said, “May the devil…(defecate) on their graves. Is that what a daughter should be? Would (a daughter) be such a whore?”
He apparently was referring to the freedom his daughters practiced in choosing their boyfriends and their style of dress. Shafia testified at one point in the trial, “My children did a lot of cruelty toward me,” weeping bitterly. He also spoke of his daughters’ betrayal of him.
The evidence against the Shafia’s includes similar car damage to his headlight as the damage to the rear end of the black Sedan that plunged off the cliff, the change in Shafia’s story months after the event that he had not been present when his daughters and wife crashed, and months of wiretapping.
Despite the attention received by the public, such “honor killings” are relatively rare. There have been 12 cases of them since 1999. But Dr. Sharzad Mojab, a University of Toronto professor and speaker on this sort of crime, says the crimes are becoming more common and growing better disguised.