Killing in the name of …

honourDid you hear about the attempted honor killing a couple of weeks ago in Arizona? I haven’t seen many stories about it. Tmatt looked at the ghosts in some of the coverage a week or so ago but It’s clearly not major news, although national media outlets have begun running their traditional one (or fewer!) stories on the matter. For the life of me, I can’t understand why stories about honor killings or attempted honor killings aren’t major news. This is a concept so very foreign and horrifying to most readers of American media and yet these stories are routinely underplayed. Now maybe the mainstream media doesn’t need advice on how to get more readers/viewers/listeners, but I think that when a father runs down his daughter with two tons of steel over some perceived slight to his honor, that’s newsworthy.

Anyway, here’s the bulk of the CNN report:

An Iraqi man accused of running down his daughter in Arizona because she had become “too Westernized” is being held on two counts of aggravated assault, police said Saturday.

Police in Peoria, Arizona, say Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, struck his 20-year-old daughter, Noor Faleh Almaleki, and her friend Amal Edan Khalaf with the Jeep Laredo he was driving in a parking lot in Peoria on October 20.

After the incident, Almaleki drove to Mexico and abandoned his vehicle in Nogales, Peoria police said.

He then made his way to Mexico City and boarded a plane to London, England. British authorities denied him entry into the country, and he was put on a plane back to the United States, police said.

The daughter’s condition is dire while the friend will likely make it. This CNN report is very brief — 10 sentences in all — so it doesn’t get into much depth. We learn, however, that the father tried to kill her because she was in violation of traditional Iraqi values. We get no word on what informed Mr. Almaleki’s values. There is no mention of his religion, lack thereof or other relevant information. I mean, we may know that 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslim, but that information isn’t shared in the CNN report.

Compare that with this ABC News report that begins with this headline:

Muslim Father Charged With Assault for Running Over ‘Westernized’ Daughter

So the father is not Christian, Yazidi, Mandaean, Jewish or Zoroastrian. Does that have anything to do with the attempted honor killing? Well this story is also very brief, but it raises the religion issue very lightly:

Honor Killings Unfairly Cast Negative Light on Islam

The notion of an honor killing — Muslim men murdering female relatives for dishonoring the family by violating Islamic tenets — made the news over the summer when 17-year-old Rifqa Bary ran away from her parents in Ohio and turned up in the Florida home of Christian pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz. Rafqa Barry claimed that her Muslim father had threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity.

Rifqa made tearful television appearance, crying on the Lorenzes shoulders, describing how she had to sneak around to attend church.

“They have to kill me because I’m a Christian. It’s an honor [killing]. If they love me more than God, then they have to kill me,” she told ABC’s Orlando affiliate WFTV last month.

Blake Lorenz pointed to other honor killings, including the January 2008 murders of two Texas sisters who were believed to have been murdered by their Muslim father in a religion-fueld rage.

Well, while many honor killings are done by Muslims and most of the remaining take place in countries with strong Muslim culture, honor killings aren’t necessarily Muslim. The practice predates Islam and can be found in other cultures as well. Further, this story seems to slightly confuse the difference between an honor killing and corporal punishment for apostasy.

Honor killings are done against women, usually, and for the crime of dressing the wrong way, alleged sexual indiscretion or refusal to marry a partner chosen by her family. They may or may not be perpetrated by and against Muslims. Killing for apostasy from Islam is just that — punishment for conversion from Islam.

Too bad there’s a media brownout on these stories. There are some super interesting angles to explore. What Islam has to say about honor killings — both officially and in practice — is precisely the type of story that I would like to see.

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  • Jay

    I don’t usually agree with your critique of the msm, but I think you are right that more reporting needs to be done on honor killings and also on the whole question of how immigrants from Muslim cultures assimilate in the West. (I knew a daughter of two highly sophisticated and secular Jordanians who had an “awakening” and suddenly became devout Muslims after being in this country for 15 years: they then practically disowned the daughter because she had become a cheerleader in high school and dated non-Muslim boys.) But I think the msm also does not report well on the related phenomenon of Christian families who kick their children out of their homes if they come out as homosexual or transsexual or in other ways violate their beliefs.

  • Bob Smietana

    On July 4 here in Nashville, a young Iranian woman was found dead in an apartment, by 2 bullets through her head. She was Westernized and did not abide by traditional Iranian family values.

    Honor killing?

    Nope. Murder-suicide. She apparently felt her boyfriend, ex-Titan QB Steve McNair was cheating on her, so she killed him and then herself. Sahel Kazemi was Baha’i by birth but not practicing.

    You get my point–that the details and facts matter. Doesn’t seem like there are enough facts here to label this an honor killing.

    My guess is that there’s not much followup reporting on the Faleh Hassan Almaleki case because there are not many facts available. The “too Westernized’ quote comes from a police report. Not sure where the Muslim father detail comes from. Seems like the stories are basically being re-written. Maybe we’ll get more now that Almaleki.

    Here’s the other question–Who is going to do that shoe leather reporting to find the facts in the case? The Arizona Republic has had major layoffs and budget cuts. Much of the reporting that CNN and other TV networks do is based on that shoe leather reporting done by newspapers folks.

    All we are left with is idle speculation.

  • Bob Smietana

    Not to diss your post Mollie– you’ve raised good questions. Getting answers to those questions is hard when there’s nobody to report the news.

  • Roberto

    Didn’t Terry write about this here at Get Religion?

  • Jhubers

    How refreshing to hear a sane reply to yet another attempt to paint a complex, multi-cultural faith expression with a broad brush. Unfortunately, most who read a story like this will not do the difficult work of actually looking into the “facts” or even the questionable practice of denigrating a faith on the basis of how certain members of that community act. When a Christian Science family allows their child to die because their beliefs don’t allow medical care, the family’s particular interpretation of one variety of Christianity is critiqued. When one particular person who happens to be Muslim acts in a negative way, Islam is the problem; not his particular interpretation of the faith, but the entire faith system.

    Thanks for pointing out how ridiculous this reasoning is.

  • Peterk

    “honor killings aren’t necessarily Muslim. The practice predates Islam and can be found in other cultures as well.”

    while you are correct to some extent the point is we don’t see any Catholics, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus or others killing their daughters with the complicity of family members and co-religionists.. If you would look beyond the MSM you would have read several weeks ago about the Almaleki case.
    start doing a little research and you will see quite a number of these ‘honor’ killings having taken place in the US. Just last year a father in Dallas killed both of his ‘westernized’ daughters. The father’s whereabouts are unknown, but it is suspected he is back in Eqypt his homeland

  • Kristine

    Two problems brought to light here; the fact that the people who should be paid to ‘gather the facts’ are being laid off or are given far too much work to do efficiently. They simply are no longer there. Even the local TV news is trying to make do with fewer reporters. Thus the vague and speculative dithering at the national level that passes for journalism. (Just so you know, we’re paying our $120.00 a year for the 8 page daily newspaper here in town, specifically because that’s what pays the news gatherers here.)

    Second problem – an evolving understanding (or evolving lack of understanding) of the differences between culture, religion and personal belief. Add fear of reprisal (monetary or physical), and it gets worse. Nevertheless, this WOULD make a dandy local story, which could then be picked up by national news outlets. A few years ago I would have expected this kind of thing to be covered by one of the national news magazines. Now, I think that would just add to the confusion.

  • Mollie

    Good points all around. And yes, Roberto, Terry did look at the coverage already . . . I put a link back in the original post!

  • Jerry

    Did you know that the Bible approves of rape? (search for rape Bible) Rape has been on my mind as people out here seek once again to understand how such a horrendous crime as the recent rape could have occurred. Of course we have a different view of those passages from the Old Testament just as modern Muslims see the Quran through modern eyes. Clearly no modern Christian would cite those passages as justification for the crime.

    And, of course, there is no “Islam” to make official pronouncements just as there is no the official source for Christianity unless you are a Catholic.

    I suspect Mollie did intend for me to go down this path from reading her post, but the way it was worded bugged me. I personally prefer the perspective Abraham Lincoln expressed when he said of North and South: Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

    And asking, as Mollie did, that the MSM outside of perhaps PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly to explore such theological points in news stories is like asking Rush Limbaugh to endorse Barack Obama. 99.9995% of all publishers would say, sadly correctly, that the audience for a serious discussion would be perhaps 5 people.

  • tmatt


    CNN has stayed with its strange and shallow wordings, long after ABC has surfaced crucial facts.

    The other victim? Friend or mother of the boyfriend? Was part of her offense the refusal of an arranged marriage (a key element in many honor killings)?

    Did you read the ABC News report?

  • Mike Hickerson

    Sad update to this story. CNN is reporting that the young woman has died:

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