Friday, July 06, 2007

Honour Killing of Muslim Ismaili Woman Married to Sikh Man?

I wonder if this is an honour killing of Shemina Hirji. She was just married according to the article and had written about the role of Sikh teachers in the BC school system. Her husband, Paul Cheema, from his name sounds like a Sikh as well. I don't know either of them or the background, but if it is an honour killing I wouldn't be surprised. The surprise would be if it was committed by an Ismaili who aren't generally known for doing those sorts of things. It's a sad situation as it is and would be made only more so if it turns out to be an honour killing based on a Muslim woman marrying a Sikh man.
A newlywed school principal was slain and her husband hospitalized in an apparent home invasion Thursday.

Shemina Hirji was pronounced dead shortly after police arrived on scene in the afternoon.

Her body remained in the Burnaby condominium unit as investigators combed the area for clues late into the evening.

Ms. Hirji's husband, Paul Cheema - whom she married Saturday in a lavish ceremony - was taken to hospital. Police said his injuries were not life-threatening.

Police would not say how Ms. Hirji died, or the nature of Mr. Cheema's injuries.

Police said a man called from the condominium at 12:15 p.m., saying he and his wife had been attacked by three men.

He was able to describe two of the assailants to police. He said the first was a tall Caucasian man wearing a brown suit, and the second was a dark-skinned man wearing a ski mask. The third man was not identified.

RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr said the suspects fled.

"RCMP dog service and air service searched but we were unable to identify the suspects," Mr. Carr said.

Police were tight-lipped as they escorted neighbours out of the complex, surrounded the building with police tape, and searched the condominium.

Ms. Hirji, who is principal of A.H.P. Matthew elementary school in Surrey, B.C., was a member of Burnaby's Ismaili community.

Arris Meghji, the honorary secretary for the Ismaili Council of BC, said Ms. Hirji's death "is a big shock. We really were not prepared for this -- how can you be?"

Mr. Meghji added: "We pray for the family. This was such a tragedy and we are going to support the family as best we can."

Standing outside the Ismaili community's mosque in Burnaby, he described Ms. Hirji as "a great person, very gentle and very compassionate. So this was a true shock."

Ms. Hirji received her bachelor's degree in education from Simon Fraser University in 1991 and wrote her master's thesis on the role of Sikh teachers in the B.C. school system.

Professor June Beynon was Ms. Hirji's thesis supervisor.

"She was a close friend of mine," Ms. Beynon said. "She was fabulous. She loved kids."

Ms. Hirji contributed to several academic papers on the subject of language, culture and education, and also worked on Ministry of Education teachers' resources. She had been principal of the elementary school since 2005.

I found this from another source, The Province, it seems the husband was a Sikh,
The husband, Narinder (Paul) Cheema, told police that three men entered the home and attacked him and his wife, leaving her dead and him injured.

Neighbours said the couple married just last weekend.

"He described two of the suspects as a tall Caucasian in a brown suit and a dark-skinned man wearing a ski mask," said Carr. "He was unable to describe the third man."

Carr said any witnesses should come forward.

"We're out doing neighbourhood canvassing," said Carr, who would not confirm the name of the victim or her husband.

Hirji has published numerous academic studies of ethnics in education, including "Teachers of Punjabi Sikh Ancestry: Their Perception of Their Role in the British Columbia Education System," and "Teachers of Chinese Ancestry: The Interaction of Identities and Professional Roles."

Hirji completed her bachelor of education at Simon Fraser University in 1991.

In 1998 she wrote a thesis for a master's degree on "The Roles of Teachers of Punjabi Sikh Ancestry in the British Columbian Education System." In it, she wrote:

"This thesis is dedicated to my parents Amir and Roshan Hirji, who have supported and encouraged me in all that I do."

She also concludes: "It is critical to acknowledge teachers of Punjabi Sikh ancestry not just as 'professional ethnics,' but as educators with a range of skills and talent as varied as those of their mainstream colleagues."

Update 2
Angry has a nice post about the changing fortune of Paul Cheema. Shemina's brother-in-law and his wife should be commended for the way they've handled the adversity of what's happened so far. As a Sikh, I must say that the community should pray for the soul of this woman who was murdered so soon after what should have been a highlight of her life.

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Anonymous said...

I certainly hope that this wasn't any sort of stupid honour killing -whether it was commited by a Sikh person or an Ismali person. I come from a Sikh family and am well aware of how marrying into a Muslim family would've been frowned upon by the community. I'll guess that vice versa is also true. South Asian society needs to change so that we all are encouraged to get along whether we're Sikh, Muslim, Hindu or whatever!

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog for the first time in doing a search on this sad event. In an time of great sorrow for the family your post seems particularly insensitive. It is based on speculation and not on a single shred of evidence. Please think several times before just mouthing off.

Anonymous said...

ow about we change things by first changing what it is called - MURDER, there is no "honor" in that.

it is unforgivable, intolerable, racist MURDER.

Anonymous said...

I must agree , there is nothing honorable about MURDER. I also highly doubt that this would be done by an Ismailli, I think you should do a little research and find out what Ismaillis are about before making insinuations. I have never heard of an Ismailli girl being murdered by her fellow Ismaillis for marrying someone from outside her religion.

Karim said...

The Ismailia and Sikh community, both ARE very prominent in Canada. I bet you there will be added pressure to find out the events of what occurred. Until then, it is best to keep opinions to minimum until we know what is going on. Laying out unsubstantiated assertions IN that it was an 'honor killing', will only bring more clout to the situation, and more importantly animosity amongst different ethnicities.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Hirji's (Cheema) murder is sad for whatever reason. It is important that no more blood be shed. Let no one assume anything. Let the police do their jobs. In the mean time, everyone should try to celebrate Ms. Hirji's life and try to do something nice for someone today hoping that healing will occur for all those in Ms. Hirji's life and just be served.

Anonymous said...

It is a murder in the name of the insensitivity and so called religion and castes. We need to change ourselves. Came to your site through:

Kaptaan said...

If you read the post, you'll note I state that Ismailis aren't known for this type of thing. I also condemn the idea of honour killing, it is murder.

Also, knowing Sikhs and Ismailis in the GVRD, I would think that this murder was particularly disturbing and more importantly sad.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE .... It is based on speculation and not on a single shred of evidence. Please think several times before just mouthing off.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ......... We all know Paul Cheema was behind the MURDER, even you.

Paul Cheema was just an uneducated truck driver, Ms. Hirji's was educated. Paul Cheema will try and claim her townhouse, which I believe is worth about $500,000, since they were "married".

Aiz said...

Pathetic half ass assumption of honor killing, is just a way to deny Indo Canadian culture see's women less than equal, recent and past killings of Indo Canadian women, shows there are serious issues the community needs to address rather than deflect the truth, deal with it!!! Kaaptan Saheb, Look at the subject heading.

"Honour Killing of Muslim Ismaili Woman Married to Sikh Man?"

Kaptaan said...

Aiz, interesting how you say the following, "just a way to deny Indo Canadian culture see's women less than equal, recent and past killings of Indo Canadian women,"

and then go on to say, "shows there are serious issues the community needs to address rather than deflect the truth, deal with it!!!"

Last time I checked, Ismailis were "Indo-Canadians" and they are also regarded as being part of the "community." So the point is, to deal with what is a tragedy, and not deny what was an act of violence by a man on a woman.

If you read the date of the post it was written before any other facts were brought forward.

Also, the issues of Honour Killing and Men Killing Women, both have similar roots. I agree that all Indo-Canadians, of all stripes need to address this. Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Each community faces this issue.