Last month, after the Costa Concordia fiasco in Livorno, Gregoria De Falco – the port official who ordered the cartoonishly cowardly captain, Francesco Schettino, to get back on his ship and aid in the rescue effort – became an instant hero. But De Falco’s wife dissented, saying it was “ridiculous” to call her husband a hero. “The worrying thing,” she said, “is that people like my husband who simply do their duty every day, immediately become idols, personalities, heroes in this country. That is not normal.”
Wise lady. But it’s not only in Italy, these days, that some people are awed when others simply do their duty. Take last Sunday’s guilty verdicts in the Kingston, Ontario, honor-killing case. On June 30, 2009, as Stephen Brown recounted here the other day, three teenage sisters and their father’s first wife were found dead in a car in the Rideau Canal. Three weeks later, police arrested the girls’ father, Afghani-born real-estate tycoon Mohammad Shafia, their mother, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their brother, Hamed. All three have now been handed 25-year prison sentences for first-degree murder.
You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to crack this case. Far from it. The perpetrators’ alibis were monumentally feeble, the motives transparent, the evidence ludicrously incriminating. On the family computer, someone had Googled “where to commit a murder” and “Can a prisoner have control over his real estate.” On wiretaps recorded after the murders, the father was heard boasting of his sense of honor, calling his dead daughters “filthy and rotten children” and saying “may the devil shit on their graves.”
Yet after the verdict, commentaries hailed the judge and jurors as courageous. How depressing that it should be considered courageous to send such people to prison! “Experts in so-called honour killings,” wrote Monique Muise in the Montreal Gazette, “heralded the verdict as a step forward; a clear message that neither Canada’s courts nor its people will tolerate this type of crime.” How depressing that a free country needs to send a message that it’s unacceptable to kill your children!
There are other depressing aspects to the case. Even to breathe the words “honor killing” in connection with such a crime nowadays is to invite a lecture by multiculturalists to the effect that the very term is racist. “Murder is murder,” they’ll insist; “non-Muslims kill their loved ones, too.” Readers of an article on the CBC website about the Shafia case felt compelled to protest that “we [Canadians are not] superior to any culture when it comes to how we treat children” and that “we shouldn’t make negative comments about immigrant’s [sic] practices when domestic violence is rampant amongst those who are Canadian born.”
This was basically the line Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, fed to Muise. “I’m frustrated and fed up with the kind of emphasis and time that’s been spent calling it an honour killing,” Hogben said. “The media attention in particular has been very much on this being something exotic, something foreign, as opposed to the fact that this was the murder of four women in Canada,” she said. “I think it was because that separated us from them. People want to believe it’s other people doing this. Canadians don’t do this.”