I’m certain many by now are familiar with the ongoing trial of Hasibullah Sidiqi, the now 23 year old man charged with two counts of first degree murder for the brutal slaying of his sister Khatera and her fiance in September of 2006. After a night out of dinner and a movie, the pair were gunned down as they sat in her car at the Elmvale Shopping Centre. Khatera was pronounced dead at the scene and Feroz Mangul died ten days later in hospital.
Hasibullah Sadiqi has been accused of the crimes and is on trial in a Canadian courtroom. This case is not one to determine Sadiqi’s guilt or innocence but one rather to determine whether or not his charge(s) could be whittled down to manslaughter, a ruling which would carry a lighter sentence. The defense will argue the complex issue of provocation on Mr. Sadiqi’s behalf essentially bringing forward sharia as a defensive measure, while the Crown will advance these murders as honour killings.
It is not unusual for a defense team to bring forward what many would deem repugnant defense arguments; in fact it is their job to defend their client to the best of their ability including introducing outrageous platforms. It is also not unusual to advance religious ideology or cultural tradition as a defensive measure to attempt to mitigate a sentence. In 2004 the B.C Court of Appeal heard a similar case of a man who murdered his wife for defying Sikh principles, ultimately to his loss. So then, we should not be entirely surprised that a Canadian court could now be entertained by such an open defense of sharia.
But having said that and not long ago, we were assured that sharia law in Ontario ( and by extension Canada) would be squashed. The provincial government loudly condemned such an outrageous prospect, an outcome guided mainly by Muslim women. Yet here we find a case before the court in full, frontal swing. While Mr. Sadiqi’s defense will attempt to deliver the notion of provocation, the Crown will denounce honour killing as morally bankrupt; a foreign practice anathema to Canadian values. Underlying both arguments is the core issue which we can no longer stretch to avoid: sharia law is at play in Canada. Have we somehow normalized sharia by simply allowing the legal argument to proceed as a valid, defensive measure in the courtroom? Have we somehow legitimized a cultural absurdity and allowed a foreign ill to compete en par with our set values? Is this another awful end-result of a failing and out-dated multicultural project?
Consider this: Hasibullah Sadiqi came to Canada in 1986 with his parents from Afghanistan when he was five months old. Yet despite being raised in an environment of opportunity, equality and tolerance, he assumed the misogynistic watch-man post over his two sisters at the apparent grooming of his father. What was happening in Canada in 1986?– the World Exposition opened in Vancouver, Brian Mulroney was Canada’s 18th Prime Minister, Top Gun was the highest grossing film of the year and Madonna and the Vatican were at odds over Papa Don’t Preach. Pretty benign stuff. What was happening in Afghanistan in 1986? The continuation of age-old tribal feuding, war, corruption, oppression, violence, religious intolerance and the never-ending subjucation of women. Same old stuff.
Is this the proud heritage and loving legacy that Hasibullah’s father imported and imparted to his Canadian son? Is this the pious model by which Sadiqi chose to valiantly defend on September 19 only to end his sister’s life in it’s honour? Why didn’t Hasibullah assimilate to a country that would have gladly provided him every avenue for success, enrichment and freedom? Why would he betroth himself to a distant nation he never knew? Why was his sister’s healthy independance considered such a profound mark of distain to the family’s good sensibility that she would have to pay recompense with a bullet in her head?
Many questions, but perhaps all things considered it is time to ask. After all, it was this same “profound attachment to his heritage” as he has claimed, that was the motivating factor which led him to confront his ‘shameful’ sister and her fiance with a loaded .44 magnum. And it is this same attachment to cultural heritage that lawyers now find themselves either courting or denouncing in an Ottawa courtroom and the same imported legacy by which the public has the right and duty to openly scrutinize. If Mr. Sadiqi calls upon sharia as a cultural defense in a Canadian court, then surely Canadians would be within their purview to alternatively denounce sharia as a cultural offence.
Canadian law is specific; first degree murder requires a sentence of life in prison. We can argue as we have time time and again, that the system may be unjust through the provision of leniency via common plea bargaining. But we cannot afford to alter so readily the constitutional guarantee that all people are considered equal before the law, nor can we dismiss the disastrous outcome this specific case may indeed secure in it’s potential of creating a two-tier system. If the defense is successful on behalf of Sadiqi, our most cherished of values will have been demoted in a backward step toward a primitive rank.
Mr. Sadiqi’s attachment to his Afghani cultural heritage does not deserve special consideration in a Canadian court any more than my Irish heritage does. If we are to uphold this most important of Canadian values, we can do nothing less than judge Sadiqi as we would any other Canadian. Khatera Sidiqi, Feroz Mangul and Canada deserve nothing less.
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