Toronto Life has stepped in it again.
The cover story of August’s issue was about gun violence, an article based on a set of false premises that was publicly dismissed as fear-mongering “bilge” by Doug Bell, one of Toronto Life‘s own contributors and, perfectly, its former media critic. (Toronto Life‘s article was also, incidentally, one the reasons we started Metrocide.)
December’s cover story is about Aqsa Parvez, the Mississauga girl who was killed a year ago, allegedly by her father and brother. The Parvez family was devoutly Muslim, and, because Aqsa’s murder may have been committed in part because she violated the family’s beliefs about proper dress and conduct—beliefs founded in Islamic law—many labeled it an “honour killing.” The circumstances of her death gave it wildly disproportionate worldwide attention, fuelled in large part by xenophobia; as we wrote last year, “One isolated instance of brutal domestic violence, motivated by religion or not…has been spun out into a huge argument over the cultural divide between Islam and the West.”
Toronto Life‘s article is more of the same. As D.B. Scott at Canadian Magazines notes, the feature is “a fairly straightforward profile of a tragic event,” but it “trespass[es] against a standard journalistic rule: don’t raise questions you don’t answer.” Namely? Stuff from the article like this:
Canada prides itself on its multiculturalism and, to varying degrees of success, condemns institutionalized patriarchy. But there is growing concern that recent waves of Muslim immigrants aren’t integrating or embracing our liberal values. Aqsa’s death—coming in the wake of debates about the acceptability of sharia law, disputes over young girls wearing hijabs at soccer games, and the arrest of the Toronto 18—stoked fears about religious zealotry in our midst. Is it possible that Toronto has become too tolerant of cultural differences?
“Nowhere is this question even addressed, let alone explored,” says Scott. Indeed, Doug Bell’s complaint about the content of Toronto Life‘s gun violence feature—that it “does a good job of reporting the facts on the ground but fails in even one instance to place this ‘trend’ in any sort of context”—could just as easily apply to the Parvez feature. As we wrote, again, last year, “In a city with thousands upon thousands of Muslims, fundamentalist or not, there has been no rash of honour killings, no trend that this murder participates in.”
As it turns out, Muslims are not super-huge fans of being collectively “other”ed. A Facebook group against the article popped up late last week, and a press conference, hosted yesterday, dismissed the article as “Islamophobic,” “racist,” “sensationalistic,” and “ignor[ing] the greater issue of violence against women.” Toronto Life editor Sarah Fulford, meanwhile, defended the piece to Masthead Online. “We wanted to do what magazines do best,” she said, “which it to flesh out [Aqsa’s] story in a long form magazine piece. Big picture. Lots of context. Lots of reporting.” Uh, about that…
December cover from Toronto Life‘s website.