Here at GetReligion, we depend on faithful readers to help us spot religion ghosts in news stories across the nation.
Our thanks to a Texas reader who submitted a link to an Associated Press story about a Houston man charged in the shooting deaths of his three children:
HOUSTON — The estranged wife of a man accused of killing their three children in a custody dispute said “no one believed me” when she claimed he abused her for years and was a threat to their children.
Norma Martinez filed for divorce in February from 47-year-old Mohammad Goher, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday. The mother and their three children — daughters ages 14 and 7 years old, and a 12-year-old son — had lived at a shelter since March.
The children were found Sunday shot to death in their beds in an apartment where Goher lived.
Goher is recovering after shooting himself, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office says. The sheriff’s office, hours after the victims were discovered, issued a statement saying the couple had already divorced, but shelter officials indicated the two are still married.
“I have documents of everything, all the abuse, and I showed it to everyone, but no one believed me, and they still made me send my kids to him every weekend,” Martinez said in a statement read by Tayseir Mahmoud, a board member at An-Nisa Hope Center.
The reader said in his e-mail to GetReligion:
There is religion all over this story, but it is completely ignored in the report. No info was even given on An-Nisa, for example. I looked into An-Nisa and found out it’s a Muslim-based outreach to battered Muslim (and other) women.
Indeed, An-Nisa’s website includes this note on its donations page:
The best of all deeds is to bring happiness to other Muslims: by covering his nakedness, or satiating his hunger, or fulfilling any need of his. (Al-Mundhiri)
The AP story was mainly a rewrite of a piece that originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle story, like the AP version, includes no mention of religion, describing the An-Nisa only as “a nonprofit that operates a shelter for battered women.”
So … the suspect’s name is Mohammad. The shelter caring for the mother is a Muslim outreach. Yet the word “Muslim” appears nowhere in either story and in none of the television reports I quickly watched.
What role, if any, did faith or religion play in the life of the suspect and/or the mother, who is Hispanic? Is the wife Muslim, or was this a blended faith household? Did the children frequent a local mosque or church — or both? Is there a grieving faith community (or communities) trying to deal with this tragedy? These seem like relevant questions to me, but the stories totally ignore them.
In the AP report, there is this vague reference at the end:
A prayer vigil was held Monday night for the three children. Mourners offered stuffed bears, flowers, balloons and candles.
What kind of prayer vigil? A Muslim vigil? A Catholic vigil? An interfaith vigil? Again … readers are left guessing. But why?
In searching Google for information about this case, I did find this reference online:
It is a very solemn day today in the Spring Muslim community. Today, at 2 p.m., a funeral prayer was held at the local Champions Masjid for the three children that were killed by their father, Mohammed Goher, this past Sunday. The three children, Saeeda, Saeed and Aisha were staying with their father during weekend visitation when he decided that he would kill them and himself rather than let their mother have them.
A grieving Muslim community. That sounds like news to me. Too bad it’s news that no media covered.
In that same online item, there’s also this:
Finally, in Islam, children have certain rights, and we must not forget that. If we as a community and as a society had recognized the rights of these children and looked after their safety, then maybe they would be alive today.
So, in review, we have a crime story — no religion, please — about a woman who claims “no one believed me” when she complained about abuse by her husband. And we have a Muslim community where at least one person suggests online that more attention to the children’s rights might have helped save their lives.
Nope, no dots to connect there. Definitely no religion angle to this story. The reader thought he saw a ghost. But obviously, it was a false alarm.