An American Honor Killing – New York Post

ON July 6, police say, a Pakistani named Chaudhry Rashid strangled his 25-year-old daughter San- deela Kanwal with a Bungee cord in her bedroom because she wanted to end her arranged marriage. This “honor killing” came not in Pakistan, but in Jonesboro, Ga. – a suburb 16 miles outside Atlanta.

At his arraignment, Rashid said through an Urdu interpreter that he was “not in the state of mind to talk because of the death of his daughter,” but stated “I have done nothing wrong.”

This is not the same as declaring innocence. His attorney, Tammy Long, explained, “My client is going through a difficult time. As you can imagine, he is distraught.” Apparently, it takes a stronger man to murder his daughter without sentiment.

The national media has paid little attention to the story of Kanwal’s murder, though most outlets found plenty of time to debate the cover of The New Yorker.

When a blonde girl goes missing, cable networks stop in their tracks – but when a Muslim woman is murdered by her father, there’s not a ripple of sustained interest. Where’s the outrage?

Maybe it’s muted because we’ve grown reluctant to pass judgment on other culture’s customs – but multiculturalism hits a crossroads when honor killings come to America.

The United Nations estimates that the world sees 5,000 honor killings a year – overwhelmingly in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, but increasingly among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe.

The United States has avoided this bloodstained trend until recently. Some consider Kanwal’s death the first documented honor killing here. Others point to the murder of sisters Amina and Sarah Said in Irving, Texas, on New Years’ 2007. (Their MySpace page remains up. Featuring assimilated teen culture and American music, it is haunting.) Their father remains on the run from police.

Few doubt that other honor killings have occurred behind closed doors. In upstate Monroe County just a few days ago, a girl was stabbed by her brother for wearing immodest western clothing and wanting to move to New York City. According to court documents, Waheed Allah Mohammad explained the stabbing by saying his sister was a “bad Muslim girl.”

“Honor killing is a misnomer,” author and exile Ayaan Hirsi Ali told me. “The killing occurs because these girls have allegedly brought shame on their family. The paradox is that these are individuals who have emancipated themselves.

“These girls embody the American dream. They want to become self-reliant – deciding who they marry, when they marry and how many children they will have.”

On the surface, this sounds like a classic case for the left – outrages well worth protesting. Honor killings and other tribal customs like female genital mutilation represent a far greater threat to human rights than comparatively benign examples of Western sexism, like unrealistic measurements on a Barbie doll.

But this would require recognizing that the greatest danger to civil liberties in the world today comes not from the United States, but from a medieval tribalism that’s still murdering people around the world under the guise of enforcing piousness.

“America is an assimilating nation,” affirms Ayaan, “and so when immigrant Muslim men assimilate into American society they are applauded for it. But when some immigrant Muslim women assimilate into American society, they find themselves ostracized – beaten and even killed by their own families. And the American public ignores their plight to protect the immigrant Muslim community from stigma.”

There should be wall-to-wall coverage when Rashid’s pretrail hearings begin tomorrow in Atlanta. By any standards, this is a sensational crime.

Instead, the trial may well get dismissed as old news or swept under the rug as just another domestic-violence case. These rationalizations cover up a discomfort with wading into cultural judgment – and a desire to avoid the risk of violence that always comes with criticizing radical Islam.

There’s a cost to such squeamishness. In England, Lord Chief Justice Phillips, the country’s top judge, has said that sharia law should be incorporated into British law, while the Archbishop of Canterbury described such incorporation as “inevitable.”

This slippery slope threatens to undermine liberal democracy and even the concept of civilized norms. America must make a stand, because many Europeans either can’t or won’t.

As Ayaan says: “As an immigrant Muslim woman running for your life, from your own family, I think America is a better place for us, because we know that Americans are individualist enough that they will ultimately chose to protect us – while Europeans choose to stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing is going on.”

Our ultimate victory in the War on Terror will be to encourage a Muslim reformation by offering examples of successful Muslim-American citizens – especially women – who thrive within the equal rights and open opportunities of American society. For Muslim women who want to live in freedom, America is the last best hope on earth – and we must remain nothing less.

John P. Avlon is the author of “Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics.”

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