Noor Faleh Almaleki is dead

Noor Faleh Almaleki has died in Phoenix. Thus, we have another development in the case of her father, 48-year-old Faleh Hassan Almaleki, who fled the United States after it is alleged that he hit the 20-year-old Noor and the mother of her boyfriend with his car.

The details of this tragic story are quite common by now, everywhere except on CNN. As I said at the beginning, something is going on with the coverage of this story in some newsrooms. People are struggling to report information that is out in the open and on the record.

Here is a chunk of the basic Associated Press report, as used by the New York Times:

Noor Faleh Almaleki, 20, underwent spinal surgery and had been in a hospital since Oct. 20, when police say her father ran down her and her boyfriend’s mother with his Jeep as the women were walking across a parking lot in the west Phoenix suburb of Peoria. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, is expected to survive.

Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, fled after the attack but was arrested Thursday when he arrived at Atlanta’s airport, where he was sent from the United Kingdom after authorities denied him entrance. … At a court hearing over the weekend in Phoenix, county prosecutor Stephanie Low told a judge that Almaleki admitted to committing the crime.

“By his own admission, this was an intentional act and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family,” Low said. “This was an attempt at an honor killing.”

Family members had told police that Almaleki attacked his daughter because he believed she had become too Westernized and was not living according to his traditional Iraqi values.

Journalists are still struggling to decide how to work their way around the fact that “his traditional Iraqi values” is code language for his approach to Islam, which means journalists are struggling to know how to handle the divisions inside Islam — even here in America — on whether or not it is appropriate to kill a female who brings disgrace on her family. In this case, as noted in other stories, Noor had refused to be part of a marriage arranged by her parents. Over in London, the Times claimed that the marriage had taken place, but that Noor fled to live with her boyfriend’s family in Arizona.

Clearly there is some uncertainty here about some of these events. However, certain facts are clear — especially when you contrast the AP report (and early reports at ABCNews.com) — with the CNN stories that have been scrubbed clean of messy details linked to controversies about Islam and “honor killings” in some Islamic cultures. Again, please note the word “some.”

In the comments pages, this lack of factual information has been blamed on the hard economic times in the news business. It’s hard to report the facts when there are few reporters on deck to do the work. That’s true.

Noor-Faleh-AlmalekiBut in this case, editors at CNN have clearly made a decision to leave out facts that are already on the record, as well as highly relevant statements made on the record by authorities investigating the case. This is truly strange.

At this point, this is what we have from CNN. Here’s the key material:

Peoria police said Faleh Hassan Almaleki believed his daughter had become “too Westernized” and had abandoned “traditional” Iraqi values. Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef told CNN the family moved to the Phoenix area in the mid-1990s, and Almaleki was unhappy with his daughter’s style of dress and her resistance to his rules. …

A friend of the daughter, Amal Edan Khalaf, 43, also suffered serious injuries in the attack, police said. Almaleki faces a separate aggravated assault charge in connection with her injuries.

Once again, is Amal Edan Khalaf merely “a friend”? Why avoid the subject of the arranged marriage, a key element in many of these tragedies? Why avoid the official claims that the father stated that this was an attempted “honor killing,” an attempt that has now turned out to have been successful?

I am sure that, on one level, it is accurate to say that the father “was unhappy with his daughter’s style of dress and her resistance to his rules.” But are we actually talking about “his rules,” or are we talking about the rules and traditions established with the Muslim community that he knows, the community that has shaped him?

Why edit the story in this fashion?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    “his traditional Iraqi values” is code language for his approach to Islam

    I’m sorry, I missed where the proof for this assertion was explicated. In fact, do you believe that I’m totally unable to find a quote where he talked about his view of Islam. I have, of course, found lots of opinion about what his religious beliefs are but the proof eludes me.

    The phrase that triggered my comment was code language for because I think that phrase betrays a bias. Clearly such crimes are part of Iraqi culture and Iraq is a Muslim country, but de facto stating that his view of honor killing is determined by his view of Islam is not warranted by the evidence as I know it.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Jerry:

    So his statement that this was an honor killing has nothing to do with his “traditional Iraqi values”?

    Or are you saying that the various stories reporting that this is a Muslim family are inaccurate? I’m having trouble understanding the point.

    The code language is a reference to mediaspeak, of course.

  • Davis

    Until his recent statements in Atlanta, there was no evidence that it was an honor killing, only speculation by unnamed people according to a police spokesman. It seems reasonable that journalists want to be careful about jumping on the “honor killing” bandwagon too early. …

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Oh, Davis and Jerry:

    What is your explanation for CNN’s edits concerning the friend and the arrangement marriage?

  • Davis

    “What is your explanation for CNN’s edits concerning the friend and the arrangement marriage?”

    They can’t substantiate it and don’t want to cite another news source, like the Times of London did? They don’t have a reporter on the ground who has read the police reports?

  • dalea

    Why doesn’t the press have Islamic leaders they can turn to for context and religious information? It seems that for most stories involving religion the press gets background from scholars and leaders of the religion involved in the story. I would think that this is standard procedure, and am puzzled by the lack here.

  • David

    Jerry,

    I think we both know that there is no such thing as “traditional Iraqi values”, as Iraq has no national identity whatsoever, outside of Islam.

  • MichaelV

    I think Jerry has a point about the fact that reporters probably shouldn’t say this is about the murderer’s view of Islam unless they have a statement from him to that effect (or third party information they can cite). But 99% of us are going to read “traditional Iraqi values” and think “Islam.” So it seems like a sort of precarious situation… if this guy *isn’t* motivated by his view of Islam, I think the reporters owe it to Muslims to figure that out and state it clearly. If he was, they should figure it out and state that clearly too – otherwise it just looks like condescending whitewashing of Islam so we Americans don’t end up more prejudiced that we already are.

  • Pingback: Iraqi girl dies after being hit by her father in alleged honor killing « Faith or Something Like It

  • Jerry

    MichaelV’s statement is what I was trying to drive at. I don’t really know the Iraqi culture and don’t know what was in the mind of the murderer outside of what he said.

    We also have people making the same claims in the case of a pastor or avowed Christian committing a crime. These people state it is due to his Christian religion because, as we know, there are all sorts of things in the Bible about depraved practices.

    So if a person states something is due to his beliefs, then report it. If an unbiased expert, if such exists, states that something is religiously motivated in a culture, report that. Otherwise, don’t fall into the trap of stating something is religiously motivated without evidence.

  • Jay

    This is the worst post I’ve ever seen on Get Religion.

    So why don’t you tell us, tmatt, what part Islam played directly in this killing? Does the Koran prescribe honor killings? Is this guy a Shiite or Sunni? Remember, there are two different major sects in Iraq, and lots of subgroups as well. Which one did he belong to? What religious leader has supported such killings? This has as much to do with Islam as does Christian women being killed and beaten by their husbands has to do with Christianity.

    Good grief.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Is your argument with me or with all of the media, except for CNN?

    Are you saying that honor killings do not exist and that they do not have certain key characteristics (the link to the arranged marriage being the key)?

    My whole point is that there is a disagreement WITHIN Islam and Islamic cultures on this issue. You cannot defend some within Islam — which needs to happen — without covering the corners of Islam in which honor killings are sadly common.

    I am all for the reporting of additional information about the culture that surrounded this man. Sunni and Shia? That information would help.

    As for Islam requiring honor killings, that is of course the point. Some in Islam say that it does, some say that it does not. There is the story. There’s the divide that needs to be covered.

  • Jay

    You say it yourself in the post: “Clearly there is some uncertainty here about some of these events.” Until there are more facts developed, I think the CNN report is adequate for a short news story.

    I’m for letting this story develop. It’s clear even from the CNN story that this is connected with Iraqi culture, and anyone who doesn’t know that might involve Islam is living on another planet. You want them to go into long background story at a very early stage. Once there are some more facts, perhaps a story like what you suggest would be appropriate.

    Has there been a psychological work up on the dad? I know, some Islam bashing sites are already speculating that the Islamic community in the US might try to minimize this as one deranged individual. http://pajamasmedia.com/phyllischesler/2009/11/01/honor-killings-all-over-america-why-are-the-islamists-suddenly-silent/I'm not connected to the Muslim community-I’m just saying this story needs more work. To launch into a story on honor killings in Muslim countries from THIS story at this point is premature. I tried to discover whether the funeral was to be in a mosque or not-there is not even a formal obit for this poor girl as of this morning.

    This isn’t some conspiracy or bad reporting-the seed of the story is included in the CNN report. I’m sure that as details become available, some journalists will develop a wider story. Heck, there may already be enough material for one. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them or some other outlet do a special on honor killings at some point. But to criticize CNN at this point on this story is wrong.

    Chill out-give it some time! I don’t doubt there’s a story to do, but CNN is just getting the first take on the story out there.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I will settle for praising the ABC News and AP reports.

  • ahem

    Jay:

    You’re naive. There’s much written about honor killings in the UK. It’s online. In English. Read it.


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