Photo courtesy winds of change.net
Michael Zeigler Staff writer
Hat tip-Margo I
July 17, 2008
Infuriated because his younger sister was going to clubs, wearing immodest clothing and planning to leave her family for a new life in New York City, Waheed Allah Mohammad stabbed her outside their Henrietta home, prosecutors allege.
Afterward, he told Monroe County sheriff’s investigators that he attacked his sister because she had disgraced their family and was a “bad Muslim girl,” according to court documents.
Mohammad, 22, is scheduled to appear Friday in Monroe County Court on charges of attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 8 attack on Fauzia A. Mohammad, 19.
The case is the second in four years in Monroe County in which an immigrant from South Asia is alleged to have killed or tried to kill a family member over the perceived loss of family honor — an occurrence that is not uncommon in South Asia but is rare in the United States.
Although the defendants in both cases are Muslims, resorting to homicide to restore family honor in mostly Muslim South Asia is a custom that predates Islam, said Aly Nahas, a retired professor of pharmacology at the University of Rochester who is a student of Islamic tradition.
“In my belief, it has nothing to do with Islam,” said Nahas, a practicing Muslim. “I know Islam well, and I do not believe it is Islamic. There is nothing in Islam that talks about honor killing.”
Nahas said, however, that many Westerners don’t accept his assertion.
“And they will not because it occurs in countries that have been Muslim for 1,000 years,” he said. “People will ask, ‘Why isn’t it stopped?’ I can’t answer that.”
According to the United Nations Population Fund, up to 5,000 women are killed each year in South Asia for allegedly disgracing their families. Some of the women are killed after becoming rape victims or rejecting arranged marriages.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Waldorf, who is prosecuting Mohammad, declined to characterize the case as an “honor attack” or otherwise.
Fauzia Mohammad is recovering from her wounds, Waldorf said.
During Friday’s proceeding, Mohammad’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender John Bradley, will ask Judge John J. Connell to schedule a hearing to consider whether Mohammad voluntarily waived his right to a lawyer before making the alleged confession.
A bigger question than Mohammad’s purported motive, Bradley said, is whether Mohammad, who emigrated to the United States with his family from war-ravaged Afghanistan, is suffering from a stress-inflicted mental disorder that could explain or mitigate the alleged attack on his sister.
“Apparently the whole family was on the sidewalk, arguing with her, not wanting her to leave,” Bradley said. “It was getting to be quite a heated argument. I suspect that at least some element of this triggered something in him related to his past.”
Mental illness became a defense in the first case involving an honor attack in Monroe County.
On April 15, 2004, Ismail Peltek, an immigrant from Turkey, stabbed and beat his wife to death and wounded two daughters at their home in Scottsville. He told investigators that he was attempting to restore family honor that had been lost when his wife and one daughter were sexually assaulted by a relative and the other daughter was “sullied” by a medical exam.
Peltek was allowed to plead not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and is being held in a psychiatric center.
Mohammad was charged after his sister was stabbed outside their family’s apartment on Linhome Drive, west of East River Road and south of Jefferson Road.
According to court documents, a female friend of Fauzia Mohammad had arranged to pick her up outside the apartment to take her to New York.
During a family argument that spilled outside, Waheed Mohammad is accused of retrieving a knife from his car and chasing his sister. He allegedly lunged at her with the knife and stabbed her multiple times.
“He described her as a ‘bad Muslim girl’ and (said) that he did not approve of her clothing,” a sheriff’s investigator said in court documents. “They argued and he got angry.”
After the stabbing, Mohammad allegedly threw the knife into a pond behind the apartment and fled in his car. Deputies stopped Mohammad minutes later at East River and Jefferson roads. Divers recovered the knife later.
Mohammad’s mother, two sisters and a younger brother came to the United States in 2002 and Mohammad followed in 2005. He worked as a bus boy in a restaurant and has no criminal record, Bradley said.
Mohammad is being held in the Monroe County Jail in lieu of $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond, set in Henrietta Town Court after his arrest. Bradley said he intends to ask Connell to reduce bail to a level Mohammad’s family can afford.
“His family doesn’t have very many resources,” Bradley said. “There are people being held on even more serious crimes that are out on less bail than that.”