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Friday, August 31, 2007

The Mind of the Public

posted by on August 31 at 11:25 AM

The Bare Facts Of The Crime
A woman marries a man. Five days later, the woman is murdered and her new husband is the only suspect. The cops, however, donít have enough evidence to throw him behind bars. He is released. A few days ago, the man turns up dead in a basement. Suicide is the suspected cause of his death. The case is now almost closed.

The Details
The murdered woman and the man who was her husband for the first five days of July are Canadian East Asians. The woman was 40; her man was 34. The woman was a popular principal at a Surrey school; the man was something of a drifter, a good-for-nothing with a violent past. The principal knew about his past.

The Public
Of course the public blames the woman. She committed the original crime: the double transgression her class (professional) and her age group (40 to 50). If she had married a man who was older than her (preferably widowed with kids), and of the same social standing has as her, she would not have exposed her delicate body to the deadly heat and beast of a much younger man. We know the mind of the public; we know what it’s saying at this very moment: Not him in the basement, but her in the grave. She should have known better.

The public feels safer when it can blame the victim for something that in truth was entirely out of his/her control.

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Her trangression was marrying out of her and social standing...? Um, NO.

Her only "crime" was being an idiot and marrying someone who was:

a good-for-nothing with a violent past.

Once again Charles, you over think and over look the obvious.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | August 31, 2007 11:29 AM

What #1 said.

She didn't marry a man "much younger than herself". He was 34, she was 40... that's only six years. I've known plenty of people who are married to people four, five, six years older/younger than them.

Her "crime" was being foolish. A man who is "something of a drifter", who has a violent past, just isn't the kind of guy you get serious with...

From the article you linked:

It was not the first time Cheema had run into trouble with the law.

In 1995, when Cheema was 22, he was convicted of attempting to kidnap a former fiance from a Winnipeg store. He took her to a hotel, where she escaped after 10 hours.

He later attempted to kidnap the same woman at gunpoint from outside her home, attempting to fire the weapon at the woman's mother. The gun, however, would not discharge.

He was sentenced to a jail term of three and a half years. Parole documents stemming from that conviction identified him as prone to "spouse abuse and explosive outbursts."

"You have a controlling attitude in that you demand to have control over the women in your life," the documents state, further noting Cheema had made previous suicide attempts.

Cheema, who was born in England, was ordered deported while serving a 42-month sentence, but later won a reprieve from the Immigration and Refugee Board because of his strong family support in B.C.

Jas Cheema has told The Vancouver Sun that Hirji was fully aware of Cheema's criminal past.

But several close friends of Hirji told The Sun that the popular principal of Surrey's A.H.P. Matthews elementary did not know details of his conviction.

If the woman truly knew that the man had a history of assaulting/abusing the women in his life, getting into a relationship with him was foolish. Extremely foolish.

No, she didn't deserve to die, but she obviously made a mistake.

Posted by Phelix | August 31, 2007 11:38 AM

please prove to us, with examples, this public opinion that the woman is to blame. your f'd up mind is not the public, God help us all....

Posted by ddv | August 31, 2007 11:59 AM

i can't believe i'm about to be on mudede's side here, but:

the first two responses here have gone on to blame the victim again for her choice in a man. no one expects her chosen spouse to murder her, and no one should expect that her chosen spouse will murder her.

women are killed by thier men often enough that instead of a reaction of shock and sorrow, we tend to immediately rush to find out how it was her fault. It's the guy's fucking fault for killing her. if she couldn't tell through her haze of love and excitement at finding someone she thought was good for her, that's sad (maybe at 40 she had stopped expecting an exciting new love - not that 40 is old in reality, but for a single woman, it can be pressure) but it doesn't mean she should have expected for her husband to kill her.

Posted by erin | August 31, 2007 12:05 PM

Yep, I'm with Unpaid Blogger and Phelix. She made a mistake. Very sadly, a fatal one. People make mistakes; they also frequently suffer the consequences of those errors. She didn't deserve to die, but she did (apparently) knowingly place herself in a dangerous situation. To think she played no part in this sad affair is ignorant.

But, why do you say "the case is now almost closed"? This is taken from the article you linked:

"The investigation we have is still ongoing," said Cpl. Dale Carr of the region's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. "We haven't closed our minds. [Police] are committed to doing a thorough and complete investigation to find who was responsible for Shemina Hirji's death."

So they aren't assuming that because he was the only suspect, he must have done it. Although on the face of it, he was the most logical choice. Small wonder they looked at him long and hard -- and probably still are.

And which "people" are laying all the blame on the victim? Or saying he was much too young, or that she was marrying beneath her station, as it were?

Posted by Toby | August 31, 2007 12:08 PM


Yes, I wouldn't expect someone with no criminal record to hurt me. I would be surprised and shocked if someone with no violent history assaulted me out of the blue.

This was not the case here.

Make no mistake about what the first few posts are saying: what this man allegedly did was despicable. But I think it would be pure folly to think that her poor judgment is somehow irrelevant. People have a responsibility to look after themselves. It doesn't make what happened to her "all her fault", but her choices, her *informed* choices, helped to lead her to this fate.

It makes it no less sad, no less tragic, but it also makes me want to beat my head on my desk, wondering what the heck this woman was thinking.

Posted by Toby | August 31, 2007 12:20 PM

Charles point is that blaming the victim is a psychological pallative, regardless of the particular transgression we invent to rationalize that blame.

It's rather discomforting to think that tragedy can befall good people for no good reason.

Posted by Sean | August 31, 2007 12:41 PM


"It's rather discomforting to think that tragedy can befall good people for no good reason."

Yes, like when some random, unforseeable event takes your life, like a sudden serious illness, a rock being dropped on your head as you drive under an overpass, a stray bullet coming through the wall of your house and killing you, a home invasion...

Those kind of lethal events have no good reason. Totally unpredictable.

Was this particular husband's behavior, given his past, unpredictable?

I take no comfort from believing it was. If anything, it makes the whole thing more messed up. It makes it worse.

Posted by Toby | August 31, 2007 12:54 PM

The Mind of an Idiot. Your post totally misconstrues the public sentiment and distorts the facts. The woman was murdered, show some respect.

Posted by left coast | August 31, 2007 1:20 PM

I find this to be one of the least offensive or controversial of Charles' posts. Did you all ignore this line? "The public feels safer when it can blame the victim for something that in truth was entirely out of his/her control."

And those claiming that the public isn't blaming the victim have been proved wrong by this very comments thread.

Posted by F | August 31, 2007 1:28 PM

Erin, @ 4

I don't blame the victim for her death. That was tragic and is entirely the fault of whomever murdered her, whether it was the mysterious "home invaders" or the husband. Her death is not her fault.

That said, she made a very poor choice. If you associate, knowingly, with someone who is likely to do you harm, then you missed the chance to protect yourself.

The fault, the blame, the onus of her death belongs to the person/people who killed her, but there were things she could have done to prevent the situation. Just because she was in love, or feared being alone and single at 40, does not negate that she should be aware, should think for herself.

If a person chooses to put themselves in a dangerous situation, they are not innocent victims if that dangerous situation harms them.

If she had chosen to go walking alone at night in an area where there was a serial rapist on the loose, she would be in much the same situation as now. The victim of a crime that is not her fault, but a crime that she could have prevented with wiser choices.

Posted by Phelix | August 31, 2007 1:49 PM

Beautiful post Charles,

However discussing halacha with the goi is an exercize in futility. Their brains are too small to grasp the subtleties.

By Torah Law (halacha) the rapist is obligated to pay the girl/woman and marry her.

It is almost inconceivable today for a woman to wish to marry her rapist, especially if he is a stranger and a thug or a relative. The rapist would therefore be an accepted person in the community and the marriage would be of great benefit to the woman. So according to Jewish law there are serious monetary consequences for rape but not much beyond that.

The shiksa of the goi would complain about this and no amount of money would silence them, thus forcing the man to murder the shiksa.

In Israel halacha would have prevented this unfortunate murder since the two could have been happily married. So Charles is right, the ignorant goi sometimes cause great damage to women.

Posted by Issur | August 31, 2007 1:52 PM

What the hell public have you been listening to? That doesn't sound like anything I've heard from anyone - not the papers, not the radio news, not the east indian or anglo communities... where the hell are you getting this from?

Posted by wench | August 31, 2007 2:38 PM

He's making it up for the purpose of generating comments. There is no basis for it. People in Vancouver aren't saying it. He's an asshole with no respect for her family.

Posted by left coast | August 31, 2007 3:34 PM

Western Canada in general and the East Asian/Canadian community specifically, is grappling with a number of domestic murders in the past years. I don't think that the public here is blaming any of the murdered women for their deaths. It is my understanding that many within the Canadian East Asian community are starting to speak out about customs and values that place women at risk. Raising the issue of victim blaming is an important first step to opening up a discussion, but we have to go beyond this.
I will start with a question: why are (successful) women STILL marrying men that kill them? What are we teaching our girls if they think that a bad man is still better than no man at all?

Posted by Victoria | August 31, 2007 6:05 PM

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