Justice Served in an American-Islamic Honor Killing
Posted by Phyllis Chesler
Arizona Judge Roland Steinle has just sentenced Faleh Almaleki to 34½ years in prison. According to live reporting from the courtroom, the judge noted that Almaleki showed no remorse after the murder, that he did not forgive his daughter, that he did what suited his own purpose. The judge also said this was the hardest case he had to face in his six years on the bench. He found no mitigating factors and sentenced Almaleki to 34 and 1/2 years: 15 years for the aggravated assault of Khalaf, 3 and 1/2 years for leaving the scene of an accident, and 16 years for the second-degree murder of his daughter. He was facing a maximum total of 46 years.
Thus, today we have witnessed Iraqi-American Faleh Almaleki being sentenced in Phoenix, Arizona for having honor murdered his 20-year-old daughter Noor and for having attempted to murder Amal Khalaf, the woman who was trying to protect her. In October of 2009, he followed the daughter, whom he had tormented all her life, to a shopping mall, lurked outside, then boldly ran over her precious, lovely body with a two-ton Cherokee jeep. He also tried to run Amal Khalaf down and managed to injure her seriously. Then he fled. Faleh flew to England via Mexico, but was arrested at Heathrow Airport and sent back for trial.
He made his escape with the help of his wife, Seham, Noor’s mother, and his son, Ali. Seham made sure Faleh had his diabetes medicine with him; perhaps she packed a little bag for him too. Seham was no kinder to Noor than her father was. Seham cursed Noor on a regular basis and made life at home so impossible that Noor left. She moved in with the sympathetic Amal, whose son, Marwan, Noor may have begun to date. Seham soon cursed the woman who dared give Noor shelter.
What exactly was Noor’s crime? She had refused to remain in an arranged marriage in Iraq. She wanted to live in America, not Iraq. Noor also insisted on dressing like a modern, American girl—worse, she dared to choose her own boyfriend, another Iraqi-American. In her family’s eyes, she was a “whore,” a “disobedient” daughter who deserved to die. Their honor depended on her death.
Noor is not the first young girl who has been honor murdered in the United States. Daughter-stalking, daughter-monitoring, and daughter-killing by the family of origin is one of the distinguishing features of a classic honor killing. This is very different from American domestically violent femicide, which usually targets wives who are murdered by husbands who commit the crime alone, not with the assistance of their own families of origin or with the victim’s family of origin. (This is sometimes the case in honor killings.) Battered wife-murder in America is not usually an expression of a family “conspiracy plot,” nor are such killers seen as heroes.
Faleh Almaleki was convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of fleeing the scene of a serious-injury accident. He claimed that it was all “accidental,” that he only meant to drive past his daughter and spit at her. He claimed that he lost control of the car.
I cannot imagine what it might be like growing up in a family and in a culture where you know, in advance, that your own parents, brothers, sisters, first cousins, and uncles might be the ones who will one day kill you. I would think that “trust” and “intimacy” would be difficult and that paranoia, based on reality, would run rampant.
I do not believe that most Americans understand how profoundly different a shame and honor culture is from our own. I do know that the media has consistently misled American readers about what an honor killing is and who commits most honor killings in America, Canada, and Europe. Based on my 2010 study, it is clear that 91% of all honor killings in the West are committed by Muslims. Yes, Hindus and Sikhs commit the rest, but otherwise, they confine their honor killings to India and do not export them to the West. It is not relevant whether Islam, Sharia law, pre-Islamic tribal customs, a misunderstanding of either tribal law or Islam are responsible for such murders. What is relevant is that leading Islamic religious and political figures have not abolished such crimes or excommunicated such murderers.
In America, a murder is a murder and must be treated as such. There are no “cultural” justifications or multi-cultural justifications that belong in an American court of law.
In 1989, in St Louis, Missouri, 16 year-old Palestina Isa was the first young girl who was known as a victim of an honor killing on American soil. Her crime? She was academically ambitious and dared to have an African-American friend, a boy (not a romantic interest). But Palestinians, like many Muslims, are anti-African and anti-black and they viewed Palestina as a “whore.” She was routinely beaten and often turned up at school with bruises and a black eye. Her mother and sisters clamored for her death. Her mother held her down for 20 minutes while her father stabbed her 13 times. Based on FBI tapes of the actual murder, (the FBI was monitoring him as an Abu Nidal terrorist), Zein Isa was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He died in prison of diabetes. Palestina’s mother Maria’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole.
In 2006, in Ottawa, Canada, 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was strangled to death by her brother (at the instigation of her father) because she refused to wear a hijab. The father and the brother were both convicted of second-degree murder and were given sentences of 18 years to life. However, her mother, who sweet-talked her into returning home from the shelter for battered women, was not charged with complicity.
In 2008, in Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, 18-year-old Sarah Said and 17-year-old Amina Said were shot to death by their highly abusive Egyptian-born father because of their “Western” ways. (He physically, sexually, and psychologically abused them from the time they were children.) Nevertheless, both Sarah and Amina were academically talented, dressed like Westerners, and had infidel boyfriends who were actually trying to help them save their lives. Their American-born mother had lured them back home to their deaths. The father escaped and is still a fugitive, and their mother was never charged for her complicity in the murders.
The laws in America allow for conspirators to also be tried. Thus far, that has not happened here. It has happened in Europe.
For example, in 2006, in Denmark, Ghazala Khan was shot to death by her brother at the order of her father because she had married an “unapproved” man. A Danish court sentenced nine members of the family to lengthy jail terms for their part in the conspiracy: the father got life; the brother, an aunt and two uncles got 16 years; and four other members of the family got sentences of between 8 and 16 years.
Great Britain passed legislation which allowed police to return British-Muslim girls and women whose families had tricked or kidnapped them into marriages in southeast Asia against their will. If the police had knowledge of this and could find such women, and if they indeed asked to be “repatriated,” the police did just that. In 2004, Great Britain also began re-classifying old murders. In 2006, in London, Banaz Mahmod was raped and strangled to death by two of her cousins and a hired gun at the order of her father and uncle. Her “crime” was that she had left an arranged marriage. The two cousins fled to Iraq after the murder; they were the first suspects ever to be extradited from Iraq to Britain. All five men involved were sentenced to life in prison; the men will be eligible for parole after 17-23 years.
Immigration, cultural identity, and religious freedom are complex and emotionally charged issues. Immigrants need to bring something of “home” along with them; food, language, religious practices have, in the past, been assimilation-friendly. Many Muslim immigrants are sophisticated and Western-oriented; some are even staunchly secular and/or anti-Islamist. However, the kinds of Muslims (or Sikhs and Hindus) who commit honor murders on our soil are not. They are importing barbarism and criminal misogyny. The remedies will be costly and take a great deal of time and will include a combination of careful screening procedures, combined with citizenship, police, judicial, and social work education.
I don’t think this will solve the problem. I am not sure what will, other than closing our doors to Muslim immigration which is something that I cannot in good conscience recommend. Many Muslims and other immigrants from Third World countries are in flight from at-home tyranny; many Muslim girls and women are in flight from being honor murdered or genitally mutilated in their home countries. Do we really want to close our doors to them?