In what may be the first recorded instance of a Muslim wife attempting to murder her husband for not being pious enough, a Staten Island woman was charged this week with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Rabia Sarwar, a 37-year-old Muslim, said she did it because her husband, a 41-year-old Pakistani native, enjoyed booze and pork and wanted her to dress in revealing clothes. (She held fabric over her face and threw a shawl over her head before leaving court on Thursday.) “He made me do so many things that are against Islam,” she said in a police statement. “I did all that just to make him happy, but inside of me there was a war.”
“This is not a reverse honor-killing — it’s martyrdom,” says Islamic apostate and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, herself the target of death threats.
“The kind of American Muslim you’re seeing now is changing — not because America is changing, but because the world is. Someone from Pakistan is coming here not for freedom, but to escape a horrible situation. [Once here], they are being radicalized,” she says.
“The vast majority of honor killings do appear to be cases where there is some attempt to violate or leave [Muslim] cultural norms,” says David Bryan Cook, associate professor of religious studies at Rice University. “They’ve been going on in the US and Britain for a number of years, but in the recent past they’ve gotten a lot more publicity.”
Some believe that the sheer vastness of the US has kept such incidents largely off the radar. “We’ve not been seeing it yet because our country’s so big,” says Amil Imani, who was born in Iran but raised in the US, and is the founder of Former Muslims United.