Toronto Life editor Sarah Fulford has no regrets about the cover feature on the murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez published in the latest issue of her magazine. “I think it’s a tremendous story,” she said in a phone interview. The article was attacked by anti-racism and women’s rights groups at a press conference held earlier today.
Fulford says she commissioned the piece by Mary Rogan because the story of Aqsa Parvez’s murder “touched a nerve in the city of Toronto.
“We wanted to do what magazines do best, which it to flesh out her story in a long form magazine piece. Big picture. Lots of context. Lots of reporting.”
Critics charged that the story played up stereotypes about Muslims and ignored the issue of violence against women.
Asked about Toronto Life’s angle for the story, Fulford replied, “Aqsa's life story embodies an extreme version of generational and cultural clashes that occur in many immigrant households. I think it`s quite common to have a new world/old world battle. Her parents had a vision for their daughter`s life and Aqsa had other ideas. Thank God this domestic drama doesn`t always end in murder. But Aqsa, because her story ended so tragically, became a symbol for this old world/new world divide.
“I think it’s Portuguese-Canadian story. It’s a Congolese-Canadian story. It’s a Korean-Canadian story.”
Fulford said she hasn’t been surprised by the strong, emotional reactions to the story from readers. “I’ve received many emails complaining and almost as many emails articulating how powerful they felt the story was.”
Asked whether she considers the controversy surrounding the story as a good thing or a bad thing for Toronto Life, Fulford said, “I think the most important thing for Toronto Life is to be relevant. I’m proud of the article and proud of the package and I think all this debate is really healthy for Toronto.”
Fulford says she plans to run a “lively letters page” in the upcoming issue of Toronto Life and will hold discussions with her Web team about creating a space for the debate to continue online.