Yesterday on Happening Now we reported the story of 48-year old Faleh Hassan Almaleki of Glendale, AZ who, according to police reports, fled the scene immediately after he ran over his daughter, 20 year-old Noor Faleh Almalek, in his 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee. His motive is reported to have been his wrath over his daughters assimilation into American culture, and the consequence is that Noor is currently hospitalized and suffering from life-threatening injuries. A father who would calculatingly harm his offspring alerts us to a situation in which their relationship had clearly deteriorated, and given the nature of the circumstances, its difficult not to become immediately outraged at the deliberate and pre-meditative nature of the crime.
However, it seems to me that an incident such as this is laden with both meaning and contention as the fathers motive for the crime was reportedly outrage at his daughters withdrawing from an arranged marriage. Does this signal the extent to which he considered his daughters assimilation to be excessive? As of this morning, there are many unknown details, but an interesting aspect of consideration is whether or not Faleh and his daughter had become American citizens. If they had been, Faleh would have sworn to abide by American law, and do we consider that by natural extension law includes American norms and values? Do we strictly define norms and values as applied to the general population or do we include those of other cultures as a nod to Americas heritage as a melting pot? To what extent was Faleh un-American himself? And as an immigrant, to what extent do we approach foreign cultures with or without unwarranted suspicion? How do we define Westernization or assimilation? In turn, do we view the fathers actions as being excessively Iraqi or Middle-eastern? We are taught not to judge others on the basis of cultural norms, and yet can we given that the enactment of a cultural norm in this case resulted in a clear violation of American law (attempted manslaughter)?
How would we react if the situation was reversed and Almaleki had hurt his daughter under the pretext that she hadnt become American enough? How does one interpret being American, especially given Noors youth? Was it solely her desire to refrain from entering a presumably loveless, arranged marriage? What type of events lead to this incident -- did Noor wear provokingly low cut pants & belly-baring tops, or did she thoughtfully attempt to assert her independence through more conscientious means? Did her father attempt an honor killing, or was this a drastic means of teaching Noor a lesson? We dont know the details & so the questions I am asking are part of a larger debate regarding the definition of casually used terms such as Westernization, American and assimilation. This incident clearly illustrates the consequences that can be derived from their interpretation. As further details in this matter emerge, I know I will be evaluating the story in terms of a father defending a culture left behind and a daughter living life according to her own interpretation of mores, with the knowledge that the reality we face addresses a far deeper concern which underscores the existing tensions between cultures -- which we can only hope will be gradually eroded and yet without cost to the distinctive nuances of the respective traditions to which we belong.