Culture Clash

(Please refer to the New York Times National of Monday, October 28, 1991 for the full account described in this article)

There is a story in my files that has haunted me since 1991. It is a story that many in the Arab-American communities nationwide were talking and fretting about. It goes like this: Tina is a typical all-American teenager, the youngest in a large family, an honor student and a soccer player. She had quite a few confrontations with her family. One of those was that she decided to attend the school prom against her father’s wishes. However, irate family members, who considered it untraditional for a young girl to be dancing and having fun, especially with boys around, pulled her away from that event. Tina must have felt humiliated and angry. Her Palestinian father, owner of a grocery store, a Muslim, was as traditional and stubborn as they come. His wife, Maria, was a Roman Catholic by birth and upbringing and was, most probably, fearful of and subservient to her husband.

Suspicious of the father, and hoping to gather evidence of terrorist activities, the FBI had planted listening devices in the apartment where Tina and her family lived. (Oh, yes! Much before the latest NSA scandal, American spook agencies had been spying, wire-tapping, bugging, shadowing etc. etc. The fact that they now use the latest technology to become more invasive and spooky should not be surprising to anyone.) On the night of November 6, 1989 what the FBI heard was not a tape outlining terrorism plots, but a young girl crying for help as she was being stabbed to death – stabbed multiple times – by her father while her own mother held and restrained her!! This was a real crime taking place and not a movie!

The FBI turned the tapes over to the prosecutor and a trial was held in which the defense argued that it was Palestinian culture, traditions and religion that compelled the parents to kill their “Americanized” daughter. The chilled and angry jury convicted the parents and called for the death penalty.

The murder was shocking to everyone who heard of it. It still chills and raises my blood pressure to this day! What is more shocking is that it still happens here in the United States (the television show: Law & Order had a couple of episodes with similar storylines based on real FBI files). However, it seems that Arab men such as Tina’s father have learned about the law. They have every intention of continuing to murder their wayward daughters (newspaper articles have reported a few suspicious deaths of young Arab women that have made me truly wonder) but not to land a death penalty for their crime; choreographing their felony they might make it look like an accident: I didn’t see her in the driveway as I backed out, might be an alibi. She fell from the ladder, could be another. There are others!

Now, having said that, American society also suffers from crimes against women; in these free United States women are raped on a continuous basis. Young girls are being sexually molested every day and some are used as sex slaves. Wives are killed by their husbands and predators abound. However, these acts are considered crimes. Our police will go after the perpetrators and they will, more often than not, find them, shackle them, haul them off to jail and convict them. There are laws on the books that dictate this. In most of the Middle East the so-called “crimes of honor” are still allowed. The perpetrators are, more often than not, jailed for a day or two, maybe months, and then go free whence they are welcomed back into their neighborhoods as heroes who have redeemed honor! How utterly disgusting! The law still favors men no matter how vile their horrid crimes towards women are. And the more wretched wars we witness, the more women will be sexually and physically violated. We are the first victims of every war and upheaval in history. Every one! Whether it was Crusader invaded Jerusalem of olden times or Syrian refugee camps of modern times the atrocities of rape and violence against us females continues unabated, unashamed!! These crimes stretch across the globe from South Africa to Alaska and every country in between and all across. And the practice of the so-called “crimes of honor” continues in the Middle East on an unremitting ghastly basis! Truly, my vagina is not a trophy of honor, or an item in male congressional hearings where it is not even represented, nor should it be a cause or an excuse for rape and other male perpetrated acts of violence?! It simply should not be!

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