On Oct. 20, 20-year-old Noor Almaleki was hospitalized after being run down by a silver 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Peoria, Ariz. She is in critical condition. According to Peoria police, the incident is being classified as an attempted murder. The main suspect? Almaleki’s father, 48-year-old Faleh Hassan Almaleki, who had repeatedly threatened his daughter with violence, warning that she had become “too Westernized.” Here’s the headline the Arizona Republic chose to pair with this story:
According to the story, it wasn’t a father, an attempted murderer, or even a jeep that put Almaleki in the hospital: It was her “lifestyle.”
The lede of the story follows the same rhetorical device: It was Almaleki’s own actions that led her to be plowed down by a moving vehicle, not the actions of the person driving the car:
Noor Almaleki’s lifestyle would not strike many Americans as unusual.
The 20-year-old had pages on Facebook and MySpace. She had lots of friends. She posted details about her 5-foot-3 frame, along with an alluring photo, on a Web site for aspiring models and actresses. She lived with her boyfriend and his mother.
That lifestyle, police say, landed her in a Valley trauma center Tuesday afternoon, unconscious and bleeding, and sent her father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, on the run. It may yet kill her.
I understand why the Arizona Republic wants to highlight the cultural aspects of this story. The fact that Almaleki’s Western “lifestyle”—-living with her boyfriend and posting on Facebook—-would supply a motive for killing in this case is, of course, horrific (and probably why the incident landed in the paper in the first place). But isn’t it possible to tell the larger story here without conceding to the narrative preferred by her father, who, let’s remember, probably tried to kill his own daughter?
Since most reasonable people would agree that running over a family member with your car is unacceptable behavior, the paper has decided to take the contrarian position: exploring the attempted murderer’s motives in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the cultural issues at play. But as the story attempts to forge some cultural understanding—-the Almalekis are Iraqi—-it ends up going a bit soft on the whole systemic-violence-against-women thing. After outlining the details of the case, the story turns over to the expertise of Tom Keil, a sociology professor at Arizona State University. Keil provides some background on traditional “honor killings.” According to Keil:
Living with a man out of wedlock would be high on the chain of disreputable behavior because the Iraqi culture prizes virginity, Keil said.
“It would take a great act of heroism on the father’s part to resist the shaming,” he said.
For people who might be shocked by this behavior, Keil said that honor killings have a long history, here and abroad.
According to this narrative, Almaleki’s father isn’t a murderer, exactly—-he’s simply not a hero. And if you’re one of those people who “might be shocked” that women’s fathers are still attempting to kill them in the suburbs of Phoenix, perhaps you need a bit of a history lesson.
In its rush to explain how Almaleki’s “lifestyle” brought shame to her family, the story also glosses over the fact that, in an attempt to kill his daughter, the suspect also ran over Amal Edan Khalaf, the mother of Almaleki’s boyfriend. Unlike Almaleki, Khalaf’s “condition was improving” at the paper’s latest check-in. But the fact that the Arizona Republic would overlook another woman’s life in order to explain away a familial dispute is probably a pretty good indication that its take on this crime has crossed the line from contrarian to irresponsible.