Honor killing in the United States
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2014)|
Several honor killings have been documented in the United States in recent years.
In 1989 in St. Louis, Missouri, sixteen-year-old Palestina (Tina) Isa was murdered by her Palestinian father, Zein Isa, with the aid of her Brazilian mother, Maria Isa. Their daughter listened to American popular music such as dance, rap, R&B, and rock. After learning that Palestina had taken a part-time job without her parents' permission, and dated a non-Muslim African American man, her father felt she had become too Westernized. On the day of her murder, Zein repeatedly stabbed his daughter Tina, while her mother Maria held her down.
Zein Isa was a member of the Abu Nidal Organization, which at the time he murdered his daughter, was plotting to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.. A crucial factor in his trial was that the FBI had bugged Zein's house on FISA order in connection with his suspected terrorist activities, and as such, had recorded Tina's murder on an audio cassette. This was especially important in confirming that Maria was an active participant in the murder, and that Zein's claim of self-defense against Tina was false.
On December 20, 1991 both Zein and Maria Isa were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. On April 1, 1993, Zein was indicted by the FBI in connection with his terrorist activities within Abu Nidal Organization, but the charges were dropped as he was already on death row for his daughter's murder. He later died of diabetes complications on February 17, 1998. Maria's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole; she died April 30, 2014, in a Vandalia, MO, prison at age 70.
The Forensic Files season 8 episode 38 "Honour Thy Father" featured this case, as did an episode of Arrest & Trial. A book called "Guarding the Secrets", written by Ellen Harris, describes and details the murder.
In July 2008, New York Post writer John P. Avlon claimed that the murder of 25-year-old Sandeela Kanwal—allegedly by her father, Chaudhry Rashid—was an "American Honor Killing." Rashid is said to have strangled Kanwal to death with a bungee cord after she tried to end her arranged marriage. Chaudhry Rashid was then sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Amina and Sarah Said
Amina and Sarah Said were the children of Egyptian immigrant Yaser Abdel Said and American Patricia "Tissie" Owens. Both girls were born in Dallas, Texas, Amina on March 2, 1989, and Sarah on March 16, 1990. The girls were found shot to death in a taxi at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving, Texas, on January 1, 2008. Both girls had left their home in Lewisville, Texas, earlier that evening, with their father Yaser Said. At 7:33 pm CT a call came into the Irving Police Department’s 911 call center. The call was from Sarah Said. She had been shot nine times and told the operator, “My dad shot me and my sister. I’m dying!” Their mother, Patricia Said, claims both girls were killed for having non-Muslim boyfriends. Death threats had been made by Yaser against the girls. They ran away and were safe, but their mother brought them back. Yaser Said is still at large, as a FBI Top Ten Fugitive, at the present time the FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Said has been featured on America's Most Wanted and a Fox News special about honor killings in America; he is also the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. He is 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs about 180 pounds, and almost always wears sunglasses, both indoors and outside. Said almost always carries a weapon, including knives, and is considered armed and extremely dangerous.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America responded with an "Open Letter to Muslim Leaders", expressing shock and sadness at the murder, condemning domestic violence, and calling on imams and Muslim leaders to "provide support and help to protect the victims of domestic violence" and "to never second-guess a woman who comes to us indicating that she feels her life to be in danger." Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, vice-president of ISNA, stated: "This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and cannot be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community."
Faleh Hassan Almaleki, an Iraqi immigrant, struck and killed his daughter Noor Almaleki, 20, in a Phoenix valley parking lot in October 2009, and also injured her boyfriend's mother, Amal Khalaf. Police said Almaleki told detectives and witnesses after the October 2009 incident that he was angry at his daughter because she was "too Westernized," defying Iraqi and Muslim values. Noor had shunned an arranged marriage, and was living with her boyfriend and his mother, police said. Earlier, she had insisted on driving and crashed the family van. County prosecutor Laura Reckart said an enraged Almaleki hid in the parking lot waiting for her and her boyfriend's mother and then "revved and raced that car right into them." Following his daughter's death, Almaleki fled to Mexico and later to London, where he was taken into custody upon his arrival.
After four days of deliberation, the six-man, six-woman jury at Maricopa County Superior Court convicted him of second-degree murder. The jury also convicted him of aggravated assault for crashing his vehicle into Khalaf, and two further counts of hit and run. Subsequently, Almaleki was sentenced to 34 ½ years in prison.
American Muslim community response
Leaders of the American Muslim community have condemned the practice. Members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have condemned all honor killings as well as specific incidents. Many Muslim leaders in the US say that Islam does not promote honor killings and that the practice stems from sexism and tribal behavior that predates the religion. "You're always going to get problems with chauvinism and suppressing vulnerable populations and gender discrimination," says Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
In February 2009, after the high-profile killing of Aasiya Zubair, Muslim leaders began a nationwide, unified effort entitled "Imams Speak Out: Domestic Violence Will Not Be Tolerated in Our Communities," asking all imams and religious leaders to discuss domestic violence in their weekly sermon or their Friday prayer services. The group, "Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence", was founded soon after the murder.
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- Whitley, Glenna (June 19, 2008). "American Girls". Dallas Observer.
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- "American Muslims Call to Action to End Domestic Violence". startribune.com.
- "Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse". mmada.org.