Media Avoids M-Word in Reports on Canadian Honor Killings

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The recent trial of the honor killing trial in Canada has garnered an abundance of media attention. In that trial a wealthy businessman, Mohammad Shafia, 58, a Muslim native of Afghanistan, and his second wife, Tooba Yahya, 42, were convicted of killing their three daughters (two shown, left) and the girls’ aunt (who was also Shafia’s first wife and sister to his second wife).  Their 20-year old son Hamed was also found guilty of first-degree murder in the case as well.

Media coverage of the trail and its verdict were extensive but noticeably missing in most mainstream media coverage (NBC, AP, CNN) was any mention that the Shafia family was Muslim and that such killings are sanctioned by Sharia law.  

For example, the Associated Press (AP) reported that the killings were the  result of a “culture clash” involving  a “strict religious family.”

 NBC’s Anchor Brian Williams reports:  “A verdict has been reached in a murder case that's gotten a lot of attention because it involved so-called honor killings of family members by family members. In this case an Afghan family living in Canada. It is a culture clash getting a lot of attention to our north. NBC's Kevin Tibbles has the story.”

Reporter Keven Tibbles: “Three teenage sisters murdered because of how they wanted to live their lives. Dress like westerners, use the internet, meet boys. Also killed, their father's first wife, by a strict religious family that felt it had been disgraced.”

In fact, the only time religion is mentioned in the report is to tell us that one of the girls had a Christian boyfriend.

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The CNN reporter, on the other hand,  sounded shocked that the jury convicted the three and that it took only 15 hours to deliver its first-degree murder charge.  It is clear from her tone that she questioned the validity of the jury’s judgment.

“I mean … that’s not a lot of time … There were 12 counts. That means that they must have spent just slightly over an hour on each count. What does that tell you? This means that the prosecution basically did make their case as far as this jury is concerned.”

 She wondered why they didn’t consider the lesser charge of second-degree murder, since the three convicted family members held to their story throughout the trial that they were all innocent and didn’t point the finger at each other.  She sounded amazed that the jury believed that two biological parents would murder their own children.  She called it “a stark verdict. “  

Never mind that the prosecutor had rock-solid evidence to the contrary, including wiretapped conversations of the father. The evidence never made it to CNN’s report nor did the mention of which faith allows honor killings. 

As to the girls brother, also convicted of first-degree murder, the CNN reported mused  that, since he was “just 21-years old,” an appeal will probably made on these “extenuating circumstances.”


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org