While the world has been transfixed over the reelection of President Obama and the scandal currently surrounding General David Petraeus, two important legal decisions were rendered in cases of honor abuse and killings here in the Southwest of the United States.
The first was the disappointing and frustrating decision on November 6, by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer, to accept a weak plea agreement negotiated by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in the case of Aiya Altameemi (19). The plea sentenced Aiya’s parents and sister to two years’ probation with domestic violence terms. For those of us entrenched in work to counter ideas that feed pathological cases like this, this plea deal sends absolutely the wrong message.
Aiya’s family was arrested in February for two separate incidents where the family had beaten their adult daughter Aiya for speaking to a boy, gagged and bound her hands and feet, cut her lower neck with a knife and burned her face and chest with a hot spoon. The family reportedly was upset over Aiya’s desire to get out of an arranged marriage with a 38-year old man.
While honor violence is not accepted or prescribed by moderate interpretations of the Islamic faith, Aiya’s torture and oppression at the hands of her family is an all too familiar story in too many Muslim and Middle Eastern communities around the world. The plea deal that was approved by the judge and the prosecutors ignores the very likely possibility that Aiya will probably face severe recrimination from her family that could include further violence and will likely include ostracization, banishment and potentially the forced marriage that was the initial reason for the violence.
The family’s meager punishment diminishes the import of this case and the suffering of women in our communities. It oddly seems more in line with what one would expect in Pakistan or Jordan where honor violence is accepted and pushed under the rug, but not in the United States where our legal system is supposed to protect the rights of all people and lady justice is blind. Honor violence cases are accelerating in the United States. We need our legal system to educate itself on the seriousness of these crimes and render punishments that are commensurate with the crime.
As we saw with Faleh Almaleki, and the honor killing murder of his daughter Noor, the perpetrators of these crimes hold their supposed “family honor” in much higher regard than human life and the U.S. judicial system. The future Noors and Aiyas of the world cannot afford to depend upon a judicial system that tells the men in their world that it will make allowances for “cultural” variations.
The sentence in Aiya’s case will reunite this very young 19 year-old with a family who do not believe that they have done anything wrong or violated any laws. The legal slap on the wrist will do little to keep this family from further harming their daughter, whether physically or mentally.
We can only hope that Aiya does not end up like Shaima Alawadi who in March was allegedly murdered in her home in El Cajon, CA by her husband Kassim Alhimidi, for petitioning for a divorce. Shaima’s story sparked national attention when a note was found next to her body that read “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
Despite circumstances that clearly pointed to her husband’s involvement in the crime, national Muslim organizations used the killing as an opportunity to drive a message that America is victimizing American Muslims, calling the killing a hate crime.
One blogger went as far as claiming that because El Cajon has a significant military community that an “Islamophobic veteran” had committed the crime. Linda Sarsour, Director of the Arab American Association of New York, dismissed concerns over honor violence and instead used Alawadi’s story to draw parallels on CNN with the Trayvon Martin story which was grabbing attention at the time frame.
With no evidence Sarsour had the audacity to draw a line between Martin’s Hoodie and Alawadi’s Hijab reinforcing a message of racism with no real evidence to drive the claim.
On November 9, 2012, after eight months of no justice for Shaima, El Cajon police arrested Kassim Alhimidi for her murder calling the case a clear issue of domestic violence and not a hate crime.
This delay begs the question if prosecutors in this case were slow to arrest Alhimidi because of the reaction of American Muslim organizations and fear that if they did not exhaust all avenues, they would be crucified for being politically incorrect.
The actions of these Muslim leaders and the delay by the El Cajon police department again diminish the import of this case. Shaima Alawadi died for exerting her basic human rights of wanting to live her life as a free woman. She was violently bludgeoned by her husband for this crime.
Our society was built on embracing the rights of everyone to be free. It is incongruous with our values to blindly coddle a medieval mindset that castigates women to second class citizens and believes that a man or a family’s honor is more valuable than the life of a daughter or wife.
Our judicial system needs to view these crimes for what they are. Shaima Alwadi’s death was a hate crime – but it was a hate for the equality of women in our society. The beating that Aiya Altameemi suffered from her parents and her sister were not a cultural difference as the family and even Aiya tried to explain.
It was a fundamental indifference for the basic human rights of a young woman which God has given to all people. The punishment sought by the prosecutor and rendered by the judge should have set a higher bar that our society will not tolerate such behavior.
Probation and the unqualified return of Aiya to that home excuses the behavior and encourages its continuance. We can only hope and pray that Aiya’s case not end the way some others have sadly ended.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy, founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. He is the author of Battle for the Soul of Islam. Dr. Jasser served 11 years as a medical officer in the U. S. Navy and was Staff Internist for the Office of the Attending Physician to the U.S. Congress.
by Gadi Adelman
An Iraqi-born woman was beaten in her home in California and later died. A window was broken and a note left near the body read, “Go back to your own country, you’re a terrorist". It was thought to be a hate crime. Now Police are wondering.
Shaima Alawadi, 32, a mother of five was found unconscious by her 17 year old daughter, in the dining room of the family’s home in El Cajon, California, at about 11:15 a.m. on March 21. Alawadi was taken off life support about 3 p.m. March 24. She died shortly thereafter.
The daughter who found her told KUSI Channel 9/51 her mother had been beaten in the head with a tire iron and a note near her mother stated, “Go back to your own country, you’re a terrorist".
The family also told police they had received a similar threatening note several days earlier but considered it a prank by teenagers.
Let me state here that this is a brutal murder and regardless of what the investigation reveals, a 32-year-old mother of 5 was cruelly taken from her family. The death of Shaima Alawadi comes on the heels of the Trayvon Martin shooting and people throughout the country are taking sides over whether Trayvon was a victim of racism. Add to that the note left by Shaima’s body, and it’s no wonder that people right away start yelling “hate crime.”
On March 26, Jim Redman, the Chief of the El Cajon Police Department, held a 15-minute news conference, which lead to more questions than answers. His statement was less than two minutes long, the 14 remaining minutes was a question/answer session with the press.
Chief Redman explained, “Based on the contents of this note we are not ruling out the possibility this may be a hate crime.” He stated the note “was threatening in nature” but continued saying, “I want to stress there is other evidence in this case that we are looking at and the possibility of a hate crime is just one of the aspects of this investigation.”
Redman then stated, “Based on the evidence thus far, we believe this is an isolated incident.”
Red flag: How can this be an isolated incident if it was hate crime? Would the Chief make such a statement if he had evidence there were a person or persons running around murdering Muslims?
The first question was asked: “Could the note possibly be a red herring or possibly family members or something like that as well?” The answer that the Chief gave would remain the same for most of the questions,“I can’t get into that; I just have to maintain my statement that we are looking at all aspects of this case”.
Questions that followed attempted to get the Chief to reveal more to no avail. Chief Redman stuck to his initial statement. He acknowledged that all the family members had been interviewed, including the victim’s husband, and stated “We’re confident that we’ll be able to resolve this case.”
Another question: “If you think this is an isolated incident, or, how do you assure residents of El Cajon that they don’t need to be concerned if we don’t know a lot about this case?”
Chief Redman’s answer goes back to the red flag: “I wish I could reveal more, but I really can’t because it would compromise the investigation, but I just want to assure the citizens of El Cajon that we believe, we strongly believe that this was an isolated incident.”
When asked about hostility towards the Muslim community in the area, the chief stated that there was “no free flowing hostility” in the community. Redman added, “I can’t comment on the evidence or the reasons why we believe it’s an isolated incident other than to just assure the community that that’s our strong belief.”
So where am I going with all this you may ask. As explained in an article from August 2010 titled “Fake Hate Crimes: An Islamist Weapon”, by Ryan Mauro,
CAIR called on the FBI to investigate an act of arson at a Georgia mosque, saying that hate crimes were increasing because of a “vocal minority in our society promoting anti-Muslim bigotry.” The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) referred to it as one of the “incidents of Islamophobia [that] are on the rise in this country.” However, police later arrested a Muslim suspect.
He cites several cases within the article,
A classic example occurred in 2008, when a 19-year-old female Muslim student named Safia Z. Jilani at Elmhurst College in Illinois claimed that she had been pistol-whipped in a campus restroom by a male who then wrote “Kill the Muslims” on the mirror. The alleged attack occurred just hours after she spoke at a “demonstration called to denounce the anti-Islamic slurs and swastika she had discovered … in her locker.” A week later, however, authorities determined that none of this had taken place and she was charged with filing a false police report.
In other cases, individuals are driven to fabricate hate crimes not for political reasons, but to cover up more mundane criminal activity. Take the bizarre story of Musa and Essa Shteiwi, Ohio men who received media attention in 2006 after reporting several attacks on their store, the third being with a Molotov cocktail. A fourth “attack” then occurred, when an explosion was set off and badly burned the father and son, injuries from which they later died. CAIR highlighted it as a hate crime. However, investigators found that the two had set off the explosion themselves after they poured gasoline in preparation for another staged incident and one of them foolishly lit a cigarette. The pair had hired a former employee to carry out the previous attacks as part of an insurance fraud scheme.
There are several other cases within the article, but too many to list all here.
Daniel Pipes did a report back in 2005 on this same subject titled “CAIR's Hate Crimes Nonsense”, he lists six cases in which the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) gave examples of anti-Muslim hate crime reports, and he “discovered a pattern of sloppiness, exaggeration and distortion”.
I myself have written on this subject before as well. My article last may on Fatima Abdallah was just one example of an honor killing that was ruled a suicide. No, it was accidental, or was it both? The Tampa, Florida police and the medical examiner never did agree, but as I explained in the article, “Fatima Abdallah died after she allegedly beat her own head against a coffee table and then on the floor until she died. Her death was ruled accidental and the case was closed.This goes much farther than the obvious ludicrousness that someone would commit suicide by beating their own head on a table. The inconsistencies in the police reports and statements, the 911 call report, the Tampa Fire Department medics and the Medical examiner are astounding.”
My first thought when I heard about the beating and death of Shaima Alawadi was that it was another honor killing that would be covered up. It’s not that I don’t believe that someone would murder a Muslim for being a Muslim. No, this was because of past history.
Now I am even more convinced due to the press conference by Chief Redman of the El Cajon Police. If a member of her family did kill Shaima in the name of honor, what better way to cover it up than by writing a note and breaking a window?
The reports on hate crimes by our FBI show that crimes against Muslims continue to go down each and every year. I touched on this in my article just last week, “ …the recently released FBI crime statistics from 2010... The stats section of religious bias once again shows that anti-Jewish hate crimes were far and above that of Islamic hate crimes. Of the 1,552 victims of an anti-religion hate crime, 67.0 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias and 12.7 percent were victims of an anti-Islamic bias.
I have written too many articles on honor killings here in the U.S., and I am certain this one will be added to the list.
There is only one way that the El Cajon police could be so certain that this was “an isolated incident.” There is only one reason the Chief would make a public statement saying he wanted to “assure the citizens of El Cajon that we believe, we strongly believe that this was an isolated incident.”
That would be if they knew without a shadow of a doubt that whoever committed this murder was a threat only to Shaima Alawadi and no one else.
My hat’s off to Chief Redman and his department, it sounds to me thus far that they are truly looking in to every aspect of this murder and not jumping on the “Islamophobic” band wagon.
Only time will tell if I am right, but at least so far this case doesn’t look like it is going to end up like the Tampa case that was swept under the proverbial prayer rug. Either way, as I stated in the outset, this is a brutal murder and regardless of what the investigation reveals, a 32-year-old mother of five was cruelly taken from her family.
If I am right, perhaps we will hear some outcry from the women’s rights groups this time. Then again …
Gadi Adelman is a speaker on terrorism, jihad, sharia and Islam. He is a contributing editor for the Family Security Matters website as well as writing for Conservative Camp, Faith for Freedom, Gold Coast Chronicle and Pronline news. He has his own weekly radio show "America Akbar" that can be heard on the Radio Jihad network.