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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Transforming a Muslim "Honour" Killer

"I have concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, there is a substantial likelihood that a jury, acting reasonably, would grant some degree of relief to Humaid and reduce the period of time during which he remains ineligible to apply for parole."
Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas Rutherford

"The difficult problem, as I see it, is that the alleged beliefs which give the insult added gravity are premised on the notion that women are inferior to men and that violence against women is in some circumstances accepted, if not encouraged. These beliefs are antithetical to fundamental Canadian values, including gender equality. It is arguable that as a matter of criminal law policy, the 'ordinary person' cannot be fixed with beliefs that are irreconcilable with fundamental Canadian values. Criminal law may simply not accept that a belief system which is contrary to those fundamental values should somehow provide the basis for a partial defence to murder."
"[P]rovocation does not shield an accused who has not lost self-control, but has instead acted out of a sense of revenge or a culturally driven sense of the appropriate response to someone else's misconduct."
Federal Court of Appeal
Photo of Aysar Abbas and Adi Humaid was entered as evidence at Humaid's murder trial for stabbing his wife to death in 1999.

In Ottawa, visiting from Dubai where he worked as an engineer, Adi Abdul Humaid became enraged when he assumed that his wife was insinuating she was seeing another man. Aysar Abbas, 46, was chased by her husband who was intent on stabbing her to death. When he was finished, he casually met with friends to have dessert and coffee. So much for his visit to see how his family, living in Ottawa was getting on his absence.

His wife and their children, the oldest a student at University of Ottawa, lived independently of husband and father. His then 13-year-old daughter wrote at the time: "Please tell him that I hate him. He killed my favourite mother and he deserves to stay in prison for life." Now an adult, and a forgiving daughter, she feels he has spent sufficient time behind bars and looks forward to being reunited as a family. "Favourite" mother? How many did she have?

Ottawa police managed to arrest the man shortly before he was scheduled to take a flight back to the United Arab Emirates. At his trial which lasted six weeks, he admitted killing his wife. But, he said, he was a loving Muslim husband. When he took what his wife was telling him as an admission that she had been unfaithful, the thought that his reputation had been dishonoured caused him to go into a psychotic rage; he became, he insisted, mentally impaired when he killed her to appease his rage.

A jury of five women and seven men turned down his manslaughter defence, convicting him in 2002 of first-degree murder. And in Canada, first-degree murder which speaks of pre-meditation, carries an automatic sentence of life imprisonment; 25 years in jail with no opportunity of parole within that period of time. He was, accordingly, not scheduled for release until October 2024, on the 25th anniversary of the murder.

The man appealed his sentence. In 2006 the Supreme Court of Canada refused his appeal on conviction for first-degree murder. His claim that his wife insinuated infidelity, causing him to lose control in reflection of the significance in Islamic custom and law of female betrayal of obligations to male honour in Islamic religion and culture had no bearing on the legal opinion of the Supreme Court, and they refused his appeal.

The now-62-year-old Humaid, who during his incarceration has become known as a Muslim leader in Canadian prisons has been given an opportunity to appear before an early parole board hearing having succeeded in his "faint-hope" application. Ontario Superior Court Justice Rutherford in screening the application ruled that a jury be empaneled to hear the case for early parole eligibility.

The reviewed application included letters of support from his children, as well as from an Anglican deacon who had met the killer while he was awaiting trial in 1999. A federal prison teacher became acquainted with Humaid and hired him in prison as a math tutor for Muslin inmates. Leading Friday prayers, he also organizes religious events and "makes sure that younger inmates learn that Islam is a religion of peace", according to the teacher. "He has been a remarkable role model for them."

Having completed a family violence course, he is considered to represent a low risk to re-offend. Re-offend? How many wives does he have? A prison report states he has made "beneficial progress" in the moderation of his views and attitudes toward women's roles in life, and acceptable responses to infidelity and tolerance for "deviations from his own value system."

While victim-impact statements during his sentencing hearing in 2002 moved Crown attorneys and veteran detectives to wipe away tears, the man at the centre of the hearing appeared unmoved, twiddling his thumbs in apparent boredom. As the leopard will not change his spots, a man in whom Islamist and cultural norms of female subjugation, and honour revenge as punishment for deviations from the cultural norm, is not likely to turn around his deeply-held value system.

While his children may believe, as they have stated, that a 'second chance' is warranted, there will be no second chance for their mother. Under the circumstances of her death and the behaviour of her husband after her brutal death, that he can be assumed to have paid his debt for his crime, seems unjustified. Assurances that he represents a 'role model' for younger Muslim prison inmates begs the question of what kind of role model?

Canada's prisons are known to be hotbeds of Islamist 'restlessness', where the concept of jihad is quite popularly embraced. 

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