America has a long, proud history of immigrants who came to America to escape persecution. They arrived here both with high hopes of retaining their ethnic and religious identities but also of becoming something new: Americans.
However, something new is now afoot among some of these new American immigrants and citizens. Although it is hotly denied, Americans, like Europeans, are now experiencing a new kind of immigrant, one for whom tribal, cultural, or ethnic loyalty trumps his allegiance to American law and to western concepts of individual human rights.
Today, two men are standing trial for having honor murdered a female relative in Buffalo, New York and in Tucson, Arizona. The perpetrators are both Muslims—as are their victims.
An honor killing is usually a family conspiracy to commit murder against either a young daughter or against an older, married mother.
According to my research, in the West, honor killings are mainly Muslim-on-Muslim crimes; Hindus, who do commit honor murders (and whom the American mainstream media incessantly profiles), do so almost exclusively in India. Hindu and Sikh immigrants to the West do not often travel with this particular cultural baggage.
On October 20, 2009, near Phoenix, Arizona, Noor Almaleki’s father, Iraqi-born Faleh Hassan Almaleki, ran over his 20-year-old daughter with a two-ton jeep. He struck down her female companion and protector as well. His daughter died.
Although she was seriously wounded, Amal Edan Khalaf, the other woman, survived. Just like Yaser Said, who fled Dallas after honor murdering his two daughters in 2008 (and who has not yet been found), Almaleki also fled, first to Mexico, and then to England. However, he was captured, extradited back to Arizona, and charged with first-degree murder. His wife and son helped him escape, but they have not been charged.
Although the prosecutor claims that he has admitted to committing the murder, Almaleki is still pleading “not guilty.” His latest story is that he “lost control” of the vehicle and that it was “kind of an accident.” However, in his view, the “shame” his daughter brought on his family by refusing an arranged marriage and by living with an Iraqi woman protector with whose son Noor may or may not have been involved, constituted grounds for stalking, death threats, and ultimately, murder. Almaleki equated Noor with “a small fire” which had to be extinguished in order to keep the family home from burning down.
This doesn’t sound like the language that precedes an accident.
On February 12, 2009, after savagely battering and psychologically tormenting his third wife, Aasiya, Pakistani-born Muzzammil Hassan (who weighed twice as much as his wife), beheaded her in Buffalo; he also stabbed Aasiya sixty times. Although he acted alone, and not as part of a family conspiracy, the ferocious “overkill” is precisely what characterizes a classic honor killing.
Aasiya’s crime? She dared obtain a legal order of protection, sued for divorce, and had Muzzammil ejected from their home. He beheaded her six days later; forensic evidence suggests that Aasiya was still conscious while he did so. Hassan is arguing that he is the “battered spouse,” the real victim. He has already demanded the right to cross-examine the children, whom he also abused and who witnessed years of his violence towards Aasiya.
Had he done so in Pakistan, charges would probably not have been brought; the sentence, if any, would have been symbolic. In Pakistan, an “alarming increase” in the honor murders of women has been reported. Just today, the police determined that a young woman had been “electrocuted” by her own family for having rejected an arranged marriage and eloped with a man of her choosing.
Both Aasiya Hassan and Noor Almaleki were brutally murdered because they had dared to act like American, Western women. Neither victim wore hijab or traditional Islamic clothing. Aasiya no longer believed she had to take the kind of extreme abuse that Pakistani women in Pakistan know they must absorb without complaint; if they initiate divorce, they know they will be honor murdered. One such woman, Samia Sarwar, was literally honor murdered in her divorce lawyer’s office in 1999 in Lahore, Pakistan.
Poor Noor Almaleki believed that she, not her father, not her family, had the right to choose whom she would marry. Aasiya, Noor, and the young Sarah and Amina Said were all honor murdered because they dared act in ways that are considered perfectly normal in America but “too American” for anti-American immigrants—even those who have chosen to live in America.
Understandably, Muslim apologists point out that honor killings are a tribal custom that preceded Islam. This is true. However, both Judaism and Christianity have eliminated such tribal customs. Islam has not.
Feminist anti-racists point out that domestic violence exists everywhere and that to focus on honor killings as a Muslim phenomenon will stigmatize a large group of otherwise innocent people. This might be true.
However, as I have documented in two studies in Middle East Quarterly, western-style domestic violence is not the same as an honor killing. If we do not quickly understand what the differences are, we will not understand how to protect or shelter those immigrants and asylum seekers who wish to live like Americans in America; nor will we be able to prosecute their murderers effectively. The blood of girls and women like Noor Almaleki, Aasiya Zubair Hassan, and Sarah and Amina Said, will be on American hands.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. She is the author of thirteen books, including "Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman" and "The New Anti-Semitism," and may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.