Maybe I need to get out more, but I don’t know any average father who has ever threatened his daughter with violence and murder. I also don’t know any average father who would toss his daughter down a flight of stairs, beat her, taunt her with vile language, follow her, send her menacing letters or threaten that male members of his extended family carry out an honour murder against her. I also don’t know any average father who would consider his daughter a shame because she chooses to exercise free choice over her own life.
I also don’t know any average mother who would view such action(s) by her husband against their children to be merely ‘strict’ parenting, nor do I know any average mother cruel or ignorant enough to believe that such behaviour does not constitute abuse. As for Al Mezel’s supporters, I am not in the least bit surprised to find those who would eagerly line up four fold to stand knee deep in their own Islamist shit to defend sharia, nor do I find it astonishing to learn that his family is shocked and disappointed by the criminal charges. After all, in the eyes of those who believe sharia should be the existing system of jurisprudence in this country, Al Mezel has committed no crime, in fact his actions serve to round out the virtues of a responsible, dutiful father.
But perhaps the most important aspect of this story and the one we should pay closest attention to and understand fully, comes from Al-Mezel’s own parole officers assessment; that his interest and hard work in the Muslim community lies not in the religious, but in the political. It is this doctrinal, political system called Islam that his daughter has had a complete understanding of and from which, she has fled.
From The Ottawa Citizen
Support strong for jailed union boss
Cabbies collect money for man serving year term for ‘honour’ crime
Yusef Al Mezel is widely respected by his taxi driver co-workers.
Photograph by: Rod MacIvor, The Ottawa Citizen
The other day at the Innes Road jail, taxi drivers stood in line four-deep to visit their union leader, Yusef Al Mezel.
And although Al Mezel, 44, is in jail for threatening to kill his daughter in an “honour” crime, his popularity among the city’s cabbies is far from waning.
In fact, many of the 1,500 members of Canadian Autoworkers Local 1688 are now collecting money for Al Mezel, who is the sole financial provider for his big middle-class family.
Except, that is, for the 25-year-old daughter he threatened after she took off her hijab, abandoned Muslim beliefs, and refused an arranged marriage.
The police relocated Eman Al Mezel for her own protection. Her father pleaded guilty, sparing his family a sensational trial.
She has had no contact with any members of her family since her father was charged in 2007. Publicly, Al Mezel has said the case is a family matter. Privately, he has expressed remorse, insisting his threats were made out of concern for his daughter.
His wife, Hussuh Thageel, and one of his other daughters, have told a parole officer that he’s an “average father with strict expectations of his (seven) children.
“However, his family did not consider his behaviour to be abusive,” the parole officer wrote in her report. His family also said they were shocked and disappointed by the criminal charges.
“The offender was characterized by family and co-workers, to be well respected by the local community, primarily for his many efforts at representing the taxi drivers’ union and local Muslim community,” the parole officer wrote in a 2008 report recommending that he serve his sentence under supervision in the community, not jail. (The presiding judge instead sentenced him to jail for a year.) It’s not the first time Al Mezel has been incarcerated.
He was jailed in 1987 in the Middle East for publicly denouncing the regime of the late Saddam Hussein.
The son of Iraqi parents, Al Mezel was raised in Kuwait, studied at university in Egypt, and entered Canada as a refugee in 1989. Al Mezel said he didn’t have any cultural conflicts and said his family made an easy transition to their new lifestyle, first in Montreal, and then later in Ottawa.
Days before Al Mezel was sentenced, the Harper government unveiled Canada’s new citizenship handbook which is given to immigrants headed to the country. The guide notes Canada doesn’t tolerate “barbaric cultural practices” such as genital mutilation and honour killings.
Al Mezel, a founding director of an Ottawa mosque association, is today a pivotal member of the Muslim community.
“The offender acknowledged that his involvement in the Muslim community has been more of an interest in the political rather than religious,” the parole officer noted.
Some Muslim and non-Muslim taxi drivers consider him a “hero” for his tireless union work.
On top of driving a taxi himself, Al Mezel represented 1,500 other drivers, and made himself available day and night for them, union members say. He must have worked quite a few hours last year, because on top of his union salary (40 hours a week), he filed $19,000 in overtime, according to records filed in court.
By all accounts, his work was impressive. The biggest part of his union job involved meeting with city councillors on behalf of taxi drivers. They were impressed, too, with Mayor Larry O’Brien thanking him in writing in 2008 on behalf of “city council and the citizens of Ottawa” for his “hard work” while serving as vice-chair of the city’s taxi advisory committee.
Today, Al Mezel is still trying to represent taxi drivers, handling some of their problems in collect calls from jail.
In conversation at the Innes Road jail last week, a smiling Al Mezel told the Citizen: “I respect people and people respect me,” said the prisoner, who ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2006.
He said he’s working half as much these days in jail and politely declined to say if he was still on the union payroll. Al Mezel has been elected president of Local 1688 for three consecutive terms and he takes great pride in his job. After he was charged with the “honour” crime, he handed in his resignation but the union rejected it.
The vote to keep him on as union boss featured the biggest membership turnout in the local’s history, and his support was overwhelming.
“Everybody admires Yusef Al Mezel and they trust him,” said Ahmed Elkhatib, a taxi union chairman. “They appreciate what he’s done for them. He was very comfortable dealing with people from so many different cultural backgrounds,” Elkhatib said.
Bill McConville, a longtime taxi driver, has known Al Mezel for more than 10 years.
“They still respect him big time,” said McConville, who advised Al Mezel’s parole officer that union members don’t think his criminal case will impact his professional responsibilities.
“And (taxi drivers) were of the opinion that ‘family issues’ would not be considered to be anything other than a private matter for the offender,” the parole officer noted.
If the number of visits are any indication — he gets more than any other inmate — Al Mezel’s support remains steady, no matter his death threats against his own daughter to restore his family’s “honour.” But his visitors will need to make a day of it next time. A few days ago, Al Mezel was transferred to Ontario’s superjail in Lindsay, a four hour road trip from Ottawa. He’s eligible for parole in less than two months.