Close pals turn up at Islamic centre to find `private' ceremony moved to secret location
Dec 16, 2007 04:30 AM
A day they expected to include waves of grief ebbed back into bitterness and anger for the friends and peers of Aqsa Parvez as they realized they'd been excluded from her funeral.
"They tricked us," said Konnor Williams, 16, who had known Parvez for three years. "I'm very upset and very angry right now. I feel cheated out of my friend's funeral. It's just not right."
Many of Parvez's closest friends turned up yesterday at a large mosque in Mississauga, the Islamic Centre of Canada, for Parvez's funeral. But they discovered the funeral had suddenly become "private," held at a secret location. Some speculated the family decided on the change after the intense attention the case had been given in the media and on the Internet.
Though the funeral was scheduled for 1:30 p.m., in fact it happened much earlier, a mosque official said. They also learned that, by that time, her body had already been buried for hours.
Many of the friends headed to the Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton, some driven by their parents, only to meet another hurdle.
Though cemetery officials pointed to her burial site on a map, the friends weren't sure exactly which grave was hers, since it was unmarked. At one point, they switched their huddle from one grave to another nearby.
Eventually they hung around the plot that appeared the most freshly dug, around which were strewn fake flowers. One strong clue that it was Parvez's was a small plaque depicting two hands holding a picture of Mecca, Islam's holiest site.
"It's really confusing," Williams said, bracing against a harsh wind. "I don't know how to feel. I'm mad, upset that we don't know if it's our friend's grave or not."
Parvez's shocking death last Monday put the spotlight on the cultural and religious divide many immigrant youth experience in their families. Parvez was strangled in her home and died later in hospital.
Her 57-year-old father, Muhammad Parvez, a taxi driver, faces a murder charge. Her brother, Waqas, 26, was charged with obstructing police and released on bail.
Following her death, friends from Applewood Heights Secondary School spoke up about Parvez's desire to fit in at school, her clashes with her father over traditional Muslim values and those of her school mates and over what she would or would not wear, including the hair-covering hijab.
Outgoing and rebellious, Parvez wanted to wear Western-style clothing, contrary, her friends say, to her father's wishes. She had started to take off her hijab on the bus en route to school and put it back on in the afternoons.
Parvez fled from home twice in the past few months. The first time she went to a shelter. It was well known among her friends that a letter from her family describing how her parents couldn't sleep without her home, and informing her she wouldn't have to wear the hijab, persuaded her to return home. However, she ran away a second time weeks after.
"We were supportive of her during that time," said her friend Jayjae, 17, who declined to give her last name. "She ran away because they didn't let her be who she wanted to be."
At the mound of snow-covered dirt they believed to be her grave, a dozen of her friends hugged. A few cried ceaselessly.
Under that emotion, however, there was fury.
"They're ridiculous," said 16-year-old Shanell Ridgwell, referring to Parvez's family, tears streaming down her frozen cheeks. "I'm sure Aqsa would have loved for us to say last words, just to be there, to say it one last time. But nope. They have no respect for what other people think ..."
"They weren't her family," Jayjae said. "The people who attended here today were. They didn't respect the fact that we loved her, they don't respect that. Someone took a life and now they're taking it away from us."
A couple of the friends made their way to the Mississauga Civic Centre for an anti-violence vigil to remember Parvez, organized by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.
One speaker explained they would say a prayer to comfort those who weren't able to attend the funeral. "Take mercy on Aqsa," the prayer went, "and on us who are left behind."
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