Honor Killings in America?

As an American, the concept of honor killings seems very far away to me. However, it’s coming into the forefront as Fox News is reporting that the shootings of two Texas teenagers by their father in 2008 falls under that category.  Despite Fox’s readiness to condemn Muslims out of hand, though, I think it’s worthwhile to look at the bigger picture, which the possibility of “honor killings” is just one part of.

From Fox News:

On New Year’s Day 2008, two Texas teenagers Amina and Sarah Said were shot dead, their bloodied bodies left in a taxi cab. The alleged shooter: their father Yaser Said.
In fact, Sarah appears to identify her Dad as the murderer in a 9-11 call – her dying words.

For more than two years the Fox News Reporting team has been following this story and the search for Yaser Said, who vanished the night of the murders.

Yeah, Said seems like a real gem. He married the girls’ mother Patricia when she was just fifteen, and their marriage was allegedly fraught with horribly violent abuse.

As if that isn’t creepy enough, he had an obsession with his video camera … and began secretly taping his daughters’ every moves as their status as American teenagers—and what that entails—became clear. He taped them walking the dog, on their computers, and getting into and out of the car. The sexual overtones are pretty hard to miss, such as zooming in on specific features and obsessing–vocally–over how pretty the girls are.

As is perhaps the most disturbing part of video footage obtained by Fox News. Basically, Said and a friend pretty much stalked his daughter Sarah while she was at work, noting that she was smiling too much and opening up conversations with customers. It’s obvious from comments caught on Said’s own video that Sarah is in big trouble.

Amina Said, who was with the two men, stood up for sister, explaining that being friendly and engaging in conversations with customers was part of Sarah’s job. Finally, Amina clearly becomes frustrated and makes a statement that’s absolutely chilling in light of what ended up happening to herself and her sister:

“Can we go, guys? I’m kind of tired. We can spy on Sarah another day.”

In any case like this, the obvious question is, “Why?” Much has been made over the fact that Yaser Said, originally from Egypt although he’s lived in the U.S. for nearly thirty years, is a Muslim.

If Yaser Said killed his daughters, what was his motive? His American wife Tissy claims he did so because their girls were dating boys that weren’t Muslim.

While friends and family call the murders honor killings, it’s a label the FBI and local police have been hesitant to use.

In fact, 8 months after the deaths of Amina and Sarah the FBI added the words “honor killing” to their wanted poster but days later, removed them.

It is definitely possible that Said’s double murder of his two lovely daughters was an “honor killing” in his eyes. If his current wife is to be believed, he was pretty ripshit at their non-Muslim romantic entanglements. If this is the case, it’s important that American authorities figure out a way to address the concept of honor killings in this country … and of course to prevent them.

This situation bears obvious similarities to Noor Faleh Almaleki, who died following injuries sustained in an attack by her father (he evidently mowed her down with a car after becoming perturbed at her resistance to his rules). This was a terrible tragedy that raised the issue of honor killings in America, but there seems to be a difference here between the intent behind Arizona father Faleh Hassan Almaleki and Yaser Said. Both crimes are unspeakably awful, but it’s impossible not to notice a potentially important distinction.

In the case of Yaser Said, I can’t help feeling like “honor killings” is perhaps being used as a convenient excuse for a perhaps even darker–and far more common–evil. If honor killings fly beneath the radar screen of many Americans, couldn’t the same be true for incest?

And there is no question that Yasef Said was looking at Amina and Sarah with more than just a paternal eye.

Given the mindset toward Muslims in this country, ranging from crazy religious groups to the inimitable Sarah Palin, is it any surprise that “honor killing” is the obvious quick-blame reaction? The fact that something was rotten in the state of Denmark, something that was so horrible that allowing two deaths to be blamed on a different reason rather than explore an arguably darker possibility, is backed up by the removal of the words “honor killings” on Said’s FBI wanted poster.

And just to be very clear, I’m not dismissing the possibility of the deaths of poor Amina and Sarah as potential honor killings. This is just a case where there are many dark and twisted strands making up a truly tragic story, and I wonder if writing these murders off with a knee jerk reaction that makes it easier to comprehend the motives behind a crime so unfathomable is doing a disservice to the memories of these girls.

It’s simpler for Americans to hear about “those crazy Muslim honor killings” because it allows the blame to be placed on an ideology we have been taught for nearly ten years is evil, foreign, and backwards.

Anyway, Yaser Said is still on the loose. It is my hope that he will be found and consequenced posthaste—for whatever reason, he killed his daughters.

And that’s really the bottom line of this tragic story.



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10 thoughts on “Honor Killings in America?

  1. “It’s simpler for Americans to hear about “those crazy Muslim honor killings” because it allows the blame to be placed on an ideology we have been taught for nearly ten years is evil, foreign, and backwards.”

    Here, here.
    Watching American news blows my mind.
    Last night we watched some American weekly news show, like 20/20 or 60 Minutes or something, and they did a story about a Christian church in Turkey which feels threatened because Turkey is now mainly composed of Muslims. They did a tour of the church, did some sad looking long walking shots on the head priest, and did an interview where the priest explained that he did not feel like a priority to the local government, and that a piece of history was going to be erased.
    That sort of blew my mind. That this was news. That some Christian church (albeit was a very old church, which should certainly be preserved as a historical landmark for Turkey and for Christians) was feeling marginalized in a country without Christians. In reality, this is the complete opposite in most parts of the world, where other religions feel isolated by Christianity. It really made me think that the real story was that the Muslims were taking over, which of course is not only ridiculous, but offensive.
    But to be fair, it also indicates a ‘we were here first’ narrative, which is not at all exclusively American. We have the same sort of issue here in Canada. Many cities are seeing an influx of immigrants, and I can’t count how often I have to bite my tongue when I here someone talk about how these immigrants should assimilate and accept current Canadian ways.
    Oh, who are we kidding. I don’t bite my tongue. I tell them they should take their complaints to the First Nations Peoples, and talk to them about assimilation and accepting mass cultures. And maybe to apologise for sending over all those diseased blankets while they are at it.

    • “Turkey is now mainly composed of Muslims”. Haha, now. That’s so biased, Turkey has always been a Muslim country. It really sounds like a biased show, hope not all US telly is like that.

      • Well this guy was arguing that originally Constantinople (Now Istanbul) was originally Greek, and therefore Christian. So really, he’s just really sentimental about the Roman Empire, and wishes we could bring back those good times.

  2. Gee,could it be that when these girls get a little to Americanized,they become a little too independent,and that drives old chauvinistic muslim daddy bonkers! No,probably not,that would be intolerant and narrow minded.

    • I dunno if it’s that simple, though. That certainly may be a factor, but the fact that he taped his daughters and apparently commented about their looks points to a little more than that. Honestly though, it infuriates me that people immigrate to the United States and are enraged when their children abandon the “old ways” and adopt the traditions of their new home. If you want to live in the dark ages, stay there. Don’t expect the dark ages to come with you to the US.

  3. I love you for quoting Hamlet.

    And to actually comment on the topic, it would appear that the father’s stalking would imply a combination of the factors. It may have been some part honor killing, but the fact that he stalked his daughters as well suggests a twisted incestuous mindset as well. It may very well have been that his daughters were associating with boys; not just non-Muslim boys, but any boys.

  4. This event happened 2 years ago, and while it may point to a culture of violence against women, it also smells of anti-muslim propaganda. Fox news anyone? Yes, they should find this monster and string him up by his cojones, but until they do, it shouldn’t be in the news. Christian American families are also responsible for murdering their children, but those cases are never scraped together for a news exclusive lambasting the religion…

  5. The problem here is not that he was Muslim but that he was crazy. There are plenty of nut job, so-called Christians around here. Did you know that some Christians don’t believe in dating at all and keep themselves pure until marriage. Imagine your first kiss at the altar. Every religion has it’s crazies the problem is they are usually the loudest.

    • Yep Zelda Lily featured a video of those Christians who don’t even believe in kisses before marriage. It was truly crazy, hilarious and a bit creepy.

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