While the Tucson, Ariz., shootings captured headlines and attention all across America from the moment they took place, another Arizona killing that should be in the news is not. Its absence is notable not only because of the nature of the crime but because the lack of coverage it has received demonstrates a part of the political rift and rage around the country as much as Tucson shooting suspect Jared Laughton did.
Last month, a trial opened for Faleh Almaleki, an Iraqi immigrant accused of murdering his daughter, 20-year-old Noor, on Oct. 20, 2009. Mr. Almaleki, by his own family’s accounts, was upset by his daughter’s Westernization, furious that she had chosen to marry the man she loved and not the one her parents had selected, outraged that she dressed in blue jeans, wore makeup and lived not only in America, but as an American. Prosecutors say that is why he ran over her with his Jeep in a Peoria, Ariz., parking lot and then sped away, leaving his daughter fatally injured and the woman who was with her - the mother of her fiance - severely injured. Noor had dishonored the family. Her murder was what is commonly known as an “honor killing.” But the 50-year-old defendant claims, in an argument that beggars belief, that it was all “an accident.”
And yet, like other honor killings committed in America in recent years, this horrifying story has received virtually no news coverage. What little has appeared has been almost entirely in the so-called “right-wing” press or on websites that tend to appeal to a radical fringe. In the meantime, as conservative journalist Jamie Glazov, recently noted, the liberal left - with all of its calls for equal rights for women, with all of its feminist supporters - maintains an almost conspiratorial silence. Instead of investigating, reporters and editors in the liberal media turn their heads. They insist these events are incidents of “domestic abuse,” not “honor killings” or that there is no difference between the two. Above all, they resist ascribing religious underpinnings to these deaths even as women who manage to escape them - and often, the men and women who commit them - assert quite clearly, the cause is “my religion.”
I am of the liberal left. And this is the dilemma I and many other journalists and activists concerned about these issues face regularly. We are the people who read the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. We voted for Barack Obama. Sarah Palin scares us. We are the ones who fought for equal rights for women and minorities. Yet now we stand alone - abandoned by those who presumably share our values - finding an odd alliance with the enemy on the right. I cringe when I read the words of columnists who sneeringly ask, “Will the leftists defend the memory of women like Noor?” not only because by “leftist,” they mean me, but because I know the answer: No.
To her credit, Marie Claire editor Abigail Pesta earlier this year devoted several pages of her magazine to telling Noor Almaleki’s story. A few newspapers, including The Washington Times, covered the story but still the issue largely languished. Among the networks, only Fox News - disdained as much by my fellow liberals as its fans disdain us in return - has bothered to pick up the story, along with several others, such as the Egyptian-American Yaser Said’s 2008 murder in Texas of his daughters Sarah and Amina - also for being “too Western.” Mr. Said’s wife and son purportedly assisted in the killing.
The result, of course, is that such information is lost to all but a dangerous fringe who would be better off - certainly from a liberal standpoint - without it. Internet coverage of Noor’s murder elicits violent, hate-filled rage: Comments call for killing all Muslims, expelling Muslims from America, destroying the Democratic Party and especially the president. Anger at Faleh Almaleki expands to encompass the entire liberal population of America and its multiculturalist agenda, the political correctness that leaves it sitting silent as Muslim women and girls in our own communities are murdered.
Yet a good part of why those killings take place is simply that most of my fellow liberals don’t even know that others have occurred before and so cannot take action to prevent them in the future. How could they, if the media sources on which they rely for information refuse, repeatedly, to tell them?
But they do take place, and much more frequently than most Americans can imagine. U.N. statistics of 5,000 honor killings per year are generally recognized to be grossly understated. In the Netherlands alone, the official number of honor killings per year stands at 13, or more than one every month - and that does not include the growing trend of “honor suicides” - girls and even boys who take their own lives knowing that if they don’t do it, others will, that they’ve been marked for death. In England and Germany, the numbers are about the same.
These are not - as often is claimed - your standard cases of domestic abuse. Honor violence, unlike the domestic abuse we know, is often supported, sanctioned and even encouraged by the local Muslim community. Indeed, parents frequently feel they have no other choice. The murders are met not with horror and dismay, but with congratulations. Yet while such atrocities take place in our own villages and cities - far more often than we realize - they have no place whatsoever in our culture.
Faleh Almaleki’s trial is the chance for the press to do its part. The schism between left and right in America will not be healed until both sides stand together to protect the lives of these young women and the freedom America has promised them.
Abigail R. Esman is a columnist at Forbes.com and author of “Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy In the West” (Praeger, 2010).
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