In the fall of 2006, in Ottawa, Canada, an Afghan brother, Hasibullah Sadiqi, shot his 20 year-old sister, Khatera Sadiqi, and her fiance, Feroz Mangal, while they sat in a parked car. Both victims died.
Now, three years later, Sadiqi is on trial. According to the Ottawa Citizen, “The defence is expected to advance the argument of provocation, which could reduce a murder charge to manslaughter…The Crown, meanwhile, intends to prove that Sadiqi’s actions were planned and deliberate.”
In other words: Sadiqi will argue that the alleged “dishonor” his sister brought upon her family by choosing her own husband was a “provocation.” This is similar to Zein Isa, the Palestinian terrorist father who, together with the sixteen year-old girl’s mother, Maria, stabbed their allegedly “too-western” teenage daughter, Palestina, to death in St. Louis in 1989. Zein Isa insisted that he did this in “self-defense.”
Tellingly, Hasibullah shot his sister Khatera “in the head and torso” while he shot her fiancée, Feroz, “in the neck and chest.” True, Hasibullah did not behead Khatera, but he did shoot her—and only her–in the head. This suggests that he wanted to assassinate her way of thinking; it also suggests that this was a political execution.
Feroz Mangal and Khatera Sadiqi
In 2006, another news source, CBC, quoted Khatera’s boss at a clothing store in a Mall. “Her manager, Jenny Jeffrey, said the young woman was gorgeous, both in looks and personality. She was fun. She was bubbly. She was pleasant. It was a real shock that something could happen to somebody that’s so young,” she said.
Khatera was not cowering, she was not cowed, nor was she obedient and subordinate. She grasped her happiness with both hands. For this, her brother, (and perhaps her family), decided she deserved to die.
In the photos of honor murder victims, (I keep the smiling photos of the Said sisters, Amina and Sarah, near me), the young girls seem so vivacious, so alive, so lively, so happy, that perhaps, this very fact offends and threatens the same people who are offended by the pro-life vitality of Israelis and Westerners.
And, as I watch documentaries and videos in which Arab and Muslim women argue in favor of womens’ subordinate status, I can’t help but note how very angry and aggressive these women in head and shoulder scarves are—how filled with hate they are for those women who seek women’s elevation within the mosque. But also, their affect, even their rage, seems dead, flat, as if they are following a script that has been brutally drummed into them all their lives. (There is an important PBS feature due out in June which documents Asra Nomani’s struggle to elevate Muslim women. It is titled The Mosque in Morgantown and will air on June 15th, 2009.)
Now, back to the Ottawa trial. This tragic murder seems to fit my profile of a classical honor killing which I outlined in my study, published in MEQ. A relatively young Muslim girl, who is perceived as too westernized, too “happy,” too independent, too ambitious, is, therefore, perceived as dishonoring her family who, to cleanse their shame, kill her. The father, a brother, a male cousin, with help from the family’s women, carry out this cruel deed. In the West, fathers, brothers, and male cousins, do not usually kill their daughters or sisters. Sometimes, in the West, adult male intimates who batter their adult wives may end up killing them but fathers rarely do so; even battering husband rarely do so.
In the spring of 2008, in Henrietta, New York, another Afghan brother, Waheed Allah Mohammed, goaded by his mother, stabbed his sister Fauzia many times. Her crime? She was too “western” in her clothing choice, and she planned to leave the family home in upstate New York to attend college in New York City. Waheed described her as a “bad Muslim girl.” Luckily, Fauzia lived. Her brother will stand trial and, in my opinion, her mother should be indicted as well as a co-conspirator.
One honor murder, one attempted honor murder: Both perpetrated by Afghan Muslims. Yet, my Afghan friends assure me that honor killings are foreign to Afghanistan. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps it is a matter of definition. Many Muslims, including Afghans, as well as everyone else, (especially if they themselves are modern, sophisticated, educated, “westernized”), do not often acknowledge that the traditional indignities visited upon Afghan and Muslim women in which women are sacrificed, bit by bit, all throughout their lives, are tantamount to a long drawn out human sacrifice.
Thus, neither the burq’a nor the chador, polygamy nor arranged marriage, the habit of savagely demeaning and physically battering a wife—none are necessarily considered as related to femicide, which an honor killing surely is.
Perhaps the Arab/Al-Qaeda influence in Afghanistan and living in an era of global jihad have endangered Afghan and Muslim women even further. But how are we to understand honor killings in Canada and in the United States, in Ottawa, Henrietta, and Buffalo, where, in 2009, long time Pakistani immigrant, Muzammil Hassan, beheaded his wife Aasiya?
Will someone argue that the stress of immigration made these men murder? Even when the new country is far safer and filled with many more opportunities than the old country ever was? Or, will someone argue that alleged racism in the New World “provokes” bestial, barbaric behavior among Muslim (and sometimes, far more rarely, Sikh) families? Even when the New World frees people from the caste, class, and tribal rivalries that would mean constant warfare in the Old Country?
Where can these young Muslim women turn in the New World that will keep them safe from their own families? Can we educate domestic jihadists here?