TORONTO: A young Pakistani Canadian girl's refusal to wear the hijab cost her her life. Sixteen-year-old Aqsa Parvez was strangulated by her father Muhammad Parvez in their home in the suburb of Mississauga, police said.
Parvez, 57, called the police after the early morning incident on Monday. When police and ambulance reached the two-storey home in suburb, which is dominated by South Asians, they found the girl lying in a faint.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital and later shifted to a hospital in Toronto and put on life support system. But it was of no avail. Aqsa died on Monday night.
Parvez was arrested and later remanded to police custody.
Aqsa's classmates at the local Applewood Heights Secondary School said the girl had problems with her family for some time as she refused to wear the hijab, the headdress worn by Muslim women in some countries.
On her father's insistence, they said, she would wear the hijab while leaving home only to replace it with trendy clothes when she reached school. They recalled how she would sometimes run to the washroom to change into modern dress.
The incident has shocked modern Muslims across Canada. Toronto-based Sonia Ahmed, who runs the Miss World Pakistan and grooms Pakistani-origin girls for Miss Bikini and other pageants, said angrily: "The hijab was never a part of Pakistani dress. It is an Arab imposition. This should be banned all over North America. This killer father will now think that he has done the `right thing', and he can now go to heaven and claim his 70 virgins. Hang him."
"Ninety-nine percent of our girls want to be free. But because of parental restrictions, they are forced to live dual lives. At home, they live as their parents want. But outside, they have all the fun," Ahmed said.
For various reasons, she said, Pakistanis don't want to blend with Indians "whose culture is all dance and song. So they end up with the Arab immigrants. Hence this Arab culture and hijab among Pakistanis".
"But we Pakistanis are South Asians and the South Asian culture is different. Zia-ul Haq started the hijabisation of Pakistan when started his Islamisation drive. He invited Arab Wahabi scholars who married Pakistani women and started the hijab tradition."
Ausma Khan, editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine, was also outraged: "It is a tiny minority for whom the hijab is an issue. Many of our readers in the 18-24 age group say hijab is an expression of their personality. It is their choice, not anybody's imposition."
Opposing parental impositions on young girls, she said, "I am sure the tragedy will spark a debate on what is wrong with the Muslims and the issues surrounding the hijab. But this tragedy is an example of a cultural and generational conflict."
In a similar case four years ago, a Sikh in British Columbia had killed his 17-year-old daughter for walking out on the family and opting to live with her white boyfriend.