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The Case of the Missing Honor Killing By: Phyllis Chesler
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 24, 2008


Psychologically, we tend to believe that what we see with our own eyes, especially if it is "acted out" for us, is the "truth." Our brains are wired so that visual images assume a permanent reality--even if that reality is a computer-generated or photo-shopped Big Lie. Mohammed al-Dura did not die in his fathers' arms even though that carefully staged image was seen round the world. Israel did not massacre anyone in Jenin even though that Big Lie has also taken on a life of its own.

I'm glad that America's Most Wanted chose to dramatize the honor killing of Sarah and Amina Said in Dallas on Jan 1, 2008 by their father Yaser Abdul Said, who has been missing ever since. I hope the program helps aid in his capture. I applaud on-camera narrator John Walsh, who has turned his own grief at the loss of his child into something positive for so many others.

However, the dramatization was oddly, perhaps even purposefully misleading. Key figures were either fatally mischaracterized or were entirely missing in action. Malevolent motives, which had no basis in fact, were attributed to the innocent girls and yet their mother, Patricia, was not presented as the collaborator in their murder which she surely was. Their older brother, Islam, a foul-mouthed man who bullied his mother, harassed and monitored his sisters, and ultimately justified their being honor murdered, was not in the TV picture

Why would America's Most Wanted do this?

Patricia, the girls' mother, is and was a white, blonde, blue-eyed Texas-born Christian woman, a child really, when Yaser first married her. The dramatization chose to portray her as an Arab- or Hispanic-looking woman. Although the program has an on-camera interview with the real Patricia, their choice of an Arab-looking actress to play Patricia accomplishes the following:

Viewers might think that the girls really were rebelling against their culture when, in fact, their mother and her extended family are Christian-Americans whose customs the girls were choosing. Second, by failing to show the real Patricia as she enticed her daughters to come home, promised them that their father only wanted to make up, the program blurs, renders indistinct, the fact that this was a classic honor killing, one which always involves a family collaboration. That is probably why they did not include the girls' older brother Islam. He would have also visually and verbally confirmed the concept that an honor killing is characterized by family collaboration. Of course, Islam may also have cursed the producers and threatened to kill or sue them if he was included. Nice guy.

In other words folks, the producers did not want to inflame any white "ethnic" or "racist" passion by showing an Arab Muslim male tyrant dominating a white Christian American woman (his wife) and their daughters. The program wanted no part of the long, historical stench which has attended the usually false, but sometimes true allegations about "Indians" or "blacks" raping white women, and the terrible lynchings that have occurred thereafter.

But, even more: The producers did not want to be charged with 'Islamophobia" by showing what a real, full-blown honor killing looks like. Further, they wanted to appear and present a "balanced" re-creation even if they had to make things up in order to do so. Thus, they showed the two girls as plotting revenge or preemptive self-defense against their father. If only Sarah and Amina had followed through on this imaginary course of action, they might be alive today. But, knowing how American law works, they might also be in jail for life.

While the program tried to pack a lot of information into a limited amount of time, they did not show how brutally and continuously Yaser physically and verbally assaulted his daughters, tapped their phone lines, monitored their computers, watched them and had them watched.

Finally, to be extra careful, the program chose an exceptionally soft-spoken Muslim boy, Zohair Zaid, the girls' friend, who said some strong, true things but who also presented such a peaceful face of Islam. It does exist and yet--what a perfect foil to Yaser Said's cold-blooded murderousness. One cancels the other out and we are left with ... confusion.

Zohair advised the girls to take their fathers' threat to kill them seriously and to go to the police. He also told them that "once you run away, you can never come back. He will become totally insane once he's lost control of you...His honor and dignity (will be) scarred."

What a shame they did not listen to Zohair but instead listened to their murderous mother. On camera, a subdued, soft-spoken Patricia, actually defends Yaser. She says that when she would punish or ground the girls, that Yaser would try to protect them, go easy on them. When she was asked whether Yaser was upset when he discovered that his daughters were dating Christian boyfriends, Patricia says: "I don't think so. He always said that we could work (everything) out as a family."

Either Patricia is dull-witted, exceptionally passive, even mentally retarded; was battered, brainwashed, primed to turn against her own daughters; is one hellava cunning criminal; or, long ago, converted to Yaser's brand of Arabian-Egyptian Islamism, shares Yaser's view that disobedient daughters should be punished, even killed. A typical Islamist mother.

I want to know why the police have not arrested her and why America's Most Wanted has failed to portray her accurately.

I asked Gail Gartrell, the girls' great-aunt, what she thought of the program. Viewing it made her angry and it broke her heart. Gartrell feels that the program failed to present this double homicide as a full-blown honor killing. She quotes John Walsh who said: "Some people say this was an honor killing. But, there's no honor in this."

How dare he. I have worked hard to educate and get the word out about honor killings and he diminished what honor killings entail. You know, they are usually well planned out in advance and others in the family involve themselves as well.

How about this? Yaser shoots the girls, gets out of the cab without a single drop of blood on him, after 11 shots were fired at close range, and simply walks away. Who picked him up? He did not leave there on foot. Someone picked him up and fled with him.

How about it? Who could have driven Yaser away?

I have to give them credit for one thing. They had the means (Was it money? Or attention?) to get the otherwise reclusive Patricia to talk to them on camera. Check her out for yourselves. As I said she's soft-spoken, passive, subdued.

But this is also how an honor killer looks.

Perhaps this is also another face of jihad. Think about it. What if an American-despising Yaser was also interested in marrying Patricia in order to get a green card, become a citizen--and biologically produce American citizen jihadists? Might the fifth column we have long feared, come from such a source? Yaser is known to have owned many knives and guns, known to have taken his family to "Jihad military camps." At least, they are posed wearing keffiyehs and brandishing weapons. Maybe he was only joking. Maybe his annual visit back home to Egypt was only to visit another wife and family. Maybe Yaser is just a petty criminal and woman-hater.

But what if Yaser married as a form of jihad? What if his daughters were in turn expected to marry other Egyptian jihadists who would pay dowries for them?

I hope the FBI is considering all these questions.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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