In the second post linked above, Pamela includes a comment from Pelham Fire Chief, Scott McLeod who took the initiative in getting his town to build an Aqsa Parvez memorial, in face of the predictable PC onslaught about "Islamophobia". I think it's worth reproducing McLeod's comment as it shows us what it means for someone to take the initiative and personal risk in renewing our shared public culture, renewing our necessary sense of courage and honour, through a process of measuring, judging, recognizing, and giving names to, our shared reality in ways that illuminate the imperatives we might all need to recognize:
NOT HONOR KILLINGSOf course, whether we call them shame or honour killings, we can recognize the paradoxical state of being in which a man does something horribly shameful in what he thinks is an act of protecting his and his family's honour, as his mind oscillates back and forth between attention to some pre-figured understanding of honour - perhaps some ritualized orthopraxy, perhaps less formal habits of mind - and a present and conflicting reality towards which he feels shame.
I have been giving a lot of thought to the events leading up to and the final resolution of the Aqsa Parvez memorial. I truly believe we need to rethink our comments regarding this and many other similar events.
In my opinion the term honor killing is not appropriate for these tragedies. The reality is they are narcissistic/shame killings and should be referred to as such.
More importantly the conduct of many organizations and individuals after the event certainly does not meet the term honor in any respect. The members of the family, academic organizations, and many others should also hang their head in shame over their conduct.
I have been fortunate that for most of my adult life I have worked with people who understand what honor really is. During my time in the military and my career as a firefighter I have seen on a daily basis, citizens and people in uniform performing honorably.
Honor, is the Soldier who gives up his life for a higher purpose, in defense of citizens of Afghanistan or Iraq. They are there, knowing that when they leave, some small bit of freedom which we hold dear is being left behind.
Honor is the Police Officer who goes to work every day knowing that he may not return to his family, when daily dealing with some of the worst elements of our society. While giving respect and in fact life to the most downtrodden.
Honor is the Paramedic who lay in a pool of gasoline trying to keep a survivor of a car accident alive, long enough to get to a hospital.
Honor is the firefighter who crawls through hell to bring a victim of a fire out of a building.
Honor is the residents of Pelham who have little tolerance for people who are afraid to act as they should, with respect for children like Aqsa.
I have been lucky enough to work with people like this and the truth is, we are surrounded by these heroes every day. If you look around yourself you will see honor and honorable acts.
What happened to Aqsa, was not and never should be considered in any way related to honor. It is shame and narcissism which caused this incident, the narcissism of her father who would not allow a child to become an ordinary teen of her country.
My friend Neo has a posting on his blog in which he describes the event as “Dying to become Canadian”, I can’t really state it any better than that.
The real heroes and the persons of honor in this incident are the Aqsa, who died for her beliefs, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer who created the fund in her memory.
In addition my friend Norman, a fellow firefighter, who worked so hard to make this happen and was confronted with PC madness. I have to thank my personal heroes, Councilor Sharon Cook and John Durley who ensured that the memorial would be created.
I am not articulate enough to tell the story of the honor and shame of this horrible event, but I know what honor looks like, I truly believe it’s easy to see who carries the shame, and who acts with honor
Fire Chief, Town of Pelham
Can ritual- or habit-bound men learn how shameful will be their acting out violently on behalf of pre-figured notions of honour from the tribal past that Canadians who recognize individual freedom cannot respect? Maybe it depends on the rest of us. While recognizing the fundamental paradoxes of being human, while recognizing that there is always more than one imperative in play as our minds race between pre-figured notions and present realities, we need all act in the here and now by modeling and, at least for a time, choosing a truth (e.g. in respect to Aqsa Parvez's story), and acting on the imperatives this truth will ask us to honour, that we may govern ourselves in respect for the inescapable and unrenounceable freedom that comes with being Canadian. When we put memory of Aqsa Parvez at the front of our minds, we should reflect not only on who or what is implicated in the guilt of the murder, but also rework our own understanding of what it means to choose honourable actions.
And that is why the memorials are such a powerful idea, and why it is a shame that the guilt-ridden multicultural relativism of Toronto's (not Pelham's) public life has not allowed itself to embrace more roundly the idea of building an Aqsa Parvez memorial. Arguing whether Islam, properly understood, does or does not give license to kill your rebellious, possibly apostate, daughter, or whether the problem is that Islam simply inculcates some less specific honour/shame mentality that does not adequately prepare its members for living in the complex modern world of free persons, is not going to get us to the point where we can renew or build up our shared reality as we move beyond guilt: the question is how well are we prepared for acting honourably in the here and now as we argue over the need to transcend a certain multiculturalism's attempt to re-ritualize some fixed honour/shame code for governing interactions, and muting criticisms, among duly-sanctioned opinions and identity groups.
In answering that question, we cannot talk seriously of honour and shame unless we make reference not simply to abstract philosophical or religious formulae but to specific events and persons of our times, the confounding events and free people that all ideologies fear. In this contest, let's salute those individuals and nations who ask, how do we recognize the imperative to honour and remember the freedom of every Aqsa Parvez? Aqsa could not avoid a reality that forced on her a choice to remain, or not, open to untold future possibilities. Neither can we.
Aqsa chose an open life and received death. Let us contest honour and shame accordingly, resurrecting her truth and honour when and where we can: we can resurrect something of our fallen victims because we all share in and carry with us a piece of our nation's real victims. That's what a truly liberal nation that strives to interpret its own particular history in relation to universal truths about free human will, and the sacrificial violence that grows out of that contested freedom, comes to understand and redeem. And if someone tells you, non-Muslim, apostate, etc., that you don't have a right to share in a victim like Aqsa Parvez, or if you don't feel any connection to some ideologue's counter-claims about who are the "real" victims in the contests over some "phobic" memory, you know someone somewhere is not being real. Honour, shame and narcissism are about knowing, or not, who is being real.