Dr. Zuhdi Jasser (An American Muslim whom every so-called ‘moderate’ Muslim should emulate but few ever do) condemns Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roland Steinle’s misguided conclusion and sentencing of the honor-killing father, Faleh Hassan Al-Maleki, to 34 ½ years in prison.
AZ CENTRAL – Judge Steinle’s remarks ventured into many theological, cultural and social areas from which he should have steered clear. His comments only exacerbated the harm done by the jury with their conviction on the lesser charge of second-degree murder. Combined, these decisions are a significant blow to America’s messaging against honor killings.
Judge Steinle is correct to state that the Quran says “nothing at all about carrying out vengeance in order to gain back honor in some way.” He was still misguided to assert that it was not an honor killing.
The reasons are complicated, but there is profound import placed on family “honor” and, more importantly, on “shame” in some Muslim communities across America. The attention given to these tribal perceptions has great impact on the treatment of women within those communities. Shame and honor understood this way are a slippery slope of more pervasive cultural, social and, yes, religious mores that oppress women and cannot be ignored. Judge Steinle chose to ignore them. The jury sadly appears to have taken into account these mores as an excuse for Faleh’s actions.
Although many are lauding this sentence as a “virtual” life sentence for Faleh, the sentence is only 16 years for the vicious murder of his daughter. This sends an enabling message. Faleh was motivated by the shame he felt his daughter’s actions brought him. The Phoenix New Times reported that he told detectives, “If your house has got a fire (in) just part of the house, do we . . . let the house burn or (do) we try to stop the fire?” Noor Al-Maleki was the small “fire” he had been forced to extinguish.
From jail he told his wife, “The Iraqi honor is precious. . . . For an Iraqi, honor is the most valuable thing.”
Noor Al-Maleki’s actions were probably judged negatively within various circles of their Iraqi community. This communal shame is the root that leads to abuse, violence and, at times, honor killing. Our legal system had an opportunity to make an unequivocal statement against Faleh’s mindset, but it fell short. For any Muslim defenders of the oppression of women, the verdict and sentencing sadly left many openings for apologetics.
Tragically Noor Al-Maleki’s death is but the tip of the iceberg. Honor killings in the West are only increasing because our communities have avoided any open discussion about the interplay of culture, tribalism, family, honor, shame and faith. The self-destruction of families like Al-Maleki’s cannot be prevented when society enables such deep-seeded denial.
How many Noors do we need to lose before we begin to take some responsibility for reform against the cultural and theological ideologies that denigrate women? The jury should have convicted Faleh of first-degree murder. At sentencing, Judge Steinle should have made clear to the entire world that in the United States we do not tolerate or mitigate for shame or honor.
This interview with Jasser was before the trial.