Arizona Judge Roland Steinle has just sentenced Faleh Almaleki to 34½ years in prison. According to live reporting from the courtroom, the judge noted that Almaleki showed no remorse after the murder, that he did not forgive his daughter, that he did what suited his own purpose. The judge also said this was the hardest case he had to face in his six years on the bench. He found no mitigating factors and sentenced Almaleki to 34 and 1/2 years: 15 years for the aggravated assault of Khalaf, 3 and 1/2 years for leaving the scene of an accident, and 16 years for the second-degree murder of his daughter. He was facing a maximum total of 46 years.
Thus, today we have witnessed Iraqi-American Faleh Almaleki being sentenced in Phoenix, Arizona for having honor murdered his 20-year-old daughter Noor and for having attempted to murder Amal Khalaf, the woman who was trying to protect her. In October of 2009, he followed the daughter, whom he had tormented all her life, to a shopping mall, lurked outside, then boldly ran over her precious, lovely body with a two-ton Cherokee jeep. He also tried to run Amal Khalaf down and managed to injure her seriously. Then he fled. Faleh flew to England via Mexico, but was arrested at Heathrow Airport and sent back for trial.
He made his escape with the help of his wife, Seham, Noor’s mother, and his son, Ali. Seham made sure Faleh had his diabetes medicine with him; perhaps she packed a little bag for him too. Seham was no kinder to Noor than her father was. Seham cursed Noor on a regular basis and made life at home so impossible that Noor left. She moved in with the sympathetic Amal, whose son, Marwan, Noor may have begun to date. Seham soon cursed the woman who dared give Noor shelter.
What exactly was Noor’s crime? She had refused to remain in an arranged marriage in Iraq. She wanted to live in America, not Iraq. Noor also insisted on dressing like a modern, American girl—worse, she dared to choose her own boyfriend, another Iraqi-American. In her family’s eyes, she was a “whore,” a “disobedient” daughter who deserved to die. Their honor depended on her death.
Noor is not the first young girl who has been honor murdered in the United States. Daughter-stalking, daughter-monitoring, and daughter-killing by the family of origin is one of the distinguishing features of a classic honor killing. This is very different from American domestically violent femicide, which usually targets wives who are murdered by husbands who commit the crime alone, not with the assistance of their own families of origin or with the victim’s family of origin. (This is sometimes the case in honor killings.) Battered wife-murder in America is not usually an expression of a family “conspiracy plot,” nor are such killers seen as heroes.
Faleh Almaleki was convicted of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of fleeing the scene of a serious-injury accident. He claimed that it was all “accidental,” that he only meant to drive past his daughter and spit at her. He claimed that he lost control of the car.
I cannot imagine what it might be like growing up in a family and in a culture where you know, in advance, that your own parents, brothers, sisters, first cousins, and uncles might be the ones who will one day kill you. I would think that “trust” and “intimacy” would be difficult and that paranoia, based on reality, would run rampant.
I do not believe that most Americans understand how profoundly different a shame and honor culture is from our own. I do know that the media has consistently misled American readers about what an honor killing is and who commits most honor killings in America, Canada, and Europe. Based on my 2010 study, it is clear that 91% of all honor killings in the West are committed by Muslims. Yes, Hindus and Sikhs commit the rest, but otherwise, they confine their honor killings to India and do not export them to the West. It is not relevant whether Islam, Sharia law, pre-Islamic tribal customs, a misunderstanding of either tribal law or Islam are responsible for such murders. What is relevant is that leading Islamic religious and political figures have not abolished such crimes or excommunicated such murderers.
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