Friday, November 17, 2006

When murder changes religion …

When does the religion of a teenager accused of murdering her parents become relevant? Is it when police describe her motive as religious? Is it when she screams black and blue that she killed them for religious reasons? Is it when the magistrate mentions her religion?

Nope. Religion is only relevant when she follows the wrong kind of religion. And for the Daily Telegraph, on this occasion the wrong religion seems to be Islam.

The Tele runs a story of the Supreme Court bail application made by lawyers for a teenager. The last time I read of this story, the girl’s name had been suppressed as she was under age. I’m not aware if that suppression order has been lifted.

Still, that doesn’t stop the Tele from naming her and describing her as a “Muslim teenager”. The only real relevance of the girl’s religion to the story is that the girl’s parents objected to her going out with a 21-year-old uni student. The Tele wrote that the girl was “angry because her Muslim parents did not approve” of the relationship.

Why didn’t they approve? Was it because he wasn’t Muslim? Or was it because she was in Year 12 and her studies were suffering? Or was it because they preferred their daughter to marry later once she had completed her tertiary education (South Asian parents are often obsessive about their kid’s academic achievement).

The Oz has also made religion an issue when it first reported the story. It’s most recent report virtually avoids all mention of it.

The Courier-Mail report does suggest the police facts sheet mentioned witnesses hearing the girl yelling: “they are trying to kill me" and "I've just converted to Christianity from Islam, now he's trying to kill me”. The report goes onto mention that police dismissed this excuse, and found evidence the girl’s motivation had little relation to religion.

If the girl pleads not guilty, it may be that religion does feature heavily in this case. Until then, mention of her religion will serve no purpose except to further entrench stereotypes that people of certain religions are more prone to violence.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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