Brooklyn Man Suggests Cultural Defense In Beating His Wife To Death Over Her Failure To Make Goat Dinner

200px-Kalighat_Painting_Calcutta_19th_Century_-_Woman_Strinking_Man_With_BroomAs I have discussed previously, I have participated for years in a program to help train lawyers and judges in dealing with cases involving the “cultural defense” where a defendant claims a tradition or religious practice as a mitigating factor or even an outright defense to crimes or civil claims. We have a new case involving such a claim in Brooklyn after Noor Hussain, 75, beat his wife to death. He insisted that such beatings are considering appropriate under Pakistani culture. We have previously discussed (here and here). Islamic clerics who have defended wife beating as permitted and even recommended under Islamic teachings. In this case, Hussain was reportedly upset because his wife, Nazar Hussain, 66, failed to make him a goat meat dinner that he preferred.

Hussain reportedly was outraged when his wife made him a vegetarian dinner rather than goat meat. He is accused of beating her to death with a stick — leaving what prosecutor’s described as a “bloody mess.” His defense counsel Julie Clark admits that Hussain beat his wife but argued that such beatings are customary in Pakistan. In her opening statement, Clark argued that “He comes from a culture where he thinks this is appropriate conduct, where he can hit his wife. He culturally believed he had the right to hit his wife and discipline his wife.”

Prosecutors note however that the wife was attacked as she lay in her bed and was left with deep wounds to her head, arms and shoulders — injuries causing a brain hemorrhage.

I have long drawn the line in the use of the cultural defense on such violent acts. However, there remain troubling outliers in the cases. In January 1985, Japanese immigrant Fumiko Kimura tried to commit oyako-shinju (or parent-child suicide) after learning of her husband’s infidelity. She walked her infant daughter and 4-year-old son in the frigid ocean off Santa Monica. The children drowned but she was rescued. While she had lived in the United States for some 14 years, she claimed the cultural defense (even though oyako-shinju is illegal in Japan). She was successful. Kimura received just one year in jail and five years’ probation. She then reunited with her husband.

The Brooklyn case represents a clear case in my view where the cultural defense should not be successful and I expect that it will not be successful. While such defenses in criminal cases can be considered as mitigating factors at sentencing, I do not see its applicability at either the guilt or sentencing stages. Both spousal abuse and of course murder are illegal in this country. The cultural defense should not be a license to suspend laws that conflict with your personal cultural or religious predilections. It is more relevant on issues of intent or scienter in some crimes.

Of course, Hussain can still claim that he never intended to kill his wife. However, that is a factual rather than a cultural dispute.

Source: NY Post

45 thoughts on “Brooklyn Man Suggests Cultural Defense In Beating His Wife To Death Over Her Failure To Make Goat Dinner”

  1. Some aspects of religion/culture (or ways of human thinking) deserve respect and others do not. Hate, misogyny, racism, homophobia, sadism, greed and selfishness, domination, are all destructive ways of thinking. Caring, kindness, generosity, are positive and deserve respect in whatever form they exist. Calling something religion or culture should not, ipso facto, give it any credibility.

  2. In the WAPO there is the story of a woman who was stoned to death, apparently by family members, for marrying the wrong man:

    We should note this is illegal in Pakistan. And there are real questions how we should respond to the practices of another community, culture or nation state.

    Nevertheless, I find this deeply disturbing and I think you should too. I also think this event raises many questions that range from our appropriate response to the attitudes that rationalize this behavior and parallels in our community.

    I don’t think I have any answers, certainly not any easy ones.

  3. It appears that someone is simply upset that there are liberals that comment here. I wonder if someone thinks that this should be a conservative majority blog because of Professor Turley’s stance regarding Executive overreach and his appearances in conservative venues and TV lately. Someone sounds positively insulted by the liberal voices here.

  4. We need to re-open Ellis Island. Do a quick quiz of the American wannabees. Have a good looking woman in a bikini walk by. If the Muslim male says Praise Allah, then let him in. If he covers his eyes and tries mumble prayers then send him back to Afghanistan and we will deal with him over there with his al Qaeda pals. After all, we can not use drones on these schmucks once they are living in America cities.

  5. A couple days back, after the shooting in CA, many on this blog were saying “NRA has blood on its hands” and calling for the banning, or tighter control, of guns. Why are those same over-reacting, “see, it’s evil so we must outlaw it” types (typically leftists) not now calling for the banning, or tighter control, of Muslims? Or Pakistanis? I guess those that tolerate Islamic dogma and Pakistani “culture” have blood on their hands. You know who you are.

    A key attribute of a truly intelligent person is the ability to recognize his/her own prejudices; to separate emotion from intellect. For example, bigfatmike’s cheap shot at NASCAR brands him as a bigot, not an intellect.

    1. “For example, bigfatmike’s cheap shot at NASCAR brands him as a bigot, not an intellect.”

      I specifically stated that ‘some’ and ‘not all men’ who view NASCAR are likely to believe they have a right to discipline their wives.

      Perhaps you would care to make the argument that their are no men who enjoy NASCAR who also feel they have a right to exercise control over their women and discipline them?

      Now we know that misogyny exists in men at all levels of society. But does anyone really believe if we took a survey among those who value lower SES, blue collar, made up sports like NASCAR and professional wrestling that we would not find a significant number of men with misogynist values, who believe they have prerogatives over the women in their lives, and patterns of abuse reflected in domestic violence and stay away orders? That last time I say anything related to NASCAR, a guy looking very macho in his protective gear was busy spraying a bottle of campaign in the direction of an attractive woman – or is that just the NASCAR way of sharing.

      Not only was my statement fair; it was particularly on point for that discussion. There are plenty of men in this country who believe they have special prerogatives over the women in their lives. We give them no special legal consideration when their beliefs lead to violence. Why should we give men from other cultures special legal consideration when it comes to misogyny?

      If you enjoy NASCAR, or professional wrestling, or mixed martial arts that is fine with me. But if you think there is anything unfair about commenting on themes of misogyny in the presentation and promotion of those activities then make the argument. Tell us how those images are benign to women. Lead us to the reasonable belief.

      Finally, if I ever said or did anything to suggest that I am an intellectual, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. I do prefer to let the facts and logic lead where they may – regardless of how inconvenient or uncomfortable the conclusions may be. But, in my opinion, there is nothing particularly intellectual about that. We should all follow the facts where ever they may lead. We should all read widely. We should all try to have informed opinions on important and interesting matters of the day.

  6. “culture” is just permission and a means for small-minded men to elevate their own feeling of power by beating, bullying others they perceive (or society designates) as smaller, weaker, less powerful. Same idea with beating children in the name of “discipline.”
    Attacked in bed is irrelevant – a “tipping point?” Any more OK to beat her to death standing up?!

    1. trish – for me there might have been a defense, depending on how long he had been he had been in the country and could he prove this was cultural, but waiting until she was asleep just shows it was premeditated murder.

  7. General Sir Charles James Napier 1849

    “A story for which Napier is often noted involved Hindu priests complaining to him about the prohibition of Sati by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. As first recounted by his brother William, he replied:”

    “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.” [4]

  8. rafflaw – that is a defense that was certainly used up until the 1950s. I have friend whose father was part of a group who drew straws to see who would kill one of the town members who was an outlier. “He needed killing.” That was what the daughter was told afterward.

  9. The cultural “defense” reminds me of the old joke defense of “He needed killing”! When in the US, do as the US law says.

    1. “reminds me of the old joke defense of “He needed killing”!”

      Or ‘How can you try me for murder? Have a little compassion; I just lost my wife.’

  10. Paul

    Read your own link. The councils cannot be used for legal matters – such as murder. They are used for some civil domestic or business disagreements on a volunteer basis. Please don’t spread falsehoods and hate.

    Sharia councils have no legal authority or jurisdiction in the UK.

    1. They have as much authority as mediation has. Which has legal authority in this country. Jurisdiction is civil as well as criminal even in the UK. The have legal authority over those who come under them. Is that too hard to understand?

  11. Karen’s statement regarding ‘turning into the UK’ is a fear based on ignorance and/or prejudice. The Sharia councils she so fears has no legal authority or jurisdiction in the United Kingdom,

    Why she persists in spreading this falsehood is a mystery.

  12. Is he a citizen? If not then deport him on the day that he is acquitted. If he is convicted then use the culture as an element in elevating the sentence. Never let him on a plane with a box cutter. East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Don’t Apply. Therefore, do not have immigrants from those territories.

  13. There is no defense of violating an individuals rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These animals are simply that animals, regardless of where they came from, regardless of the ‘civilization’ of their ancestry, regardless of their religions, regardless of their beliefs. In the United States an the West in general, all these traditions, beliefs, religions, etc are subservient to common sense and the law of the people, not the laws of mindless disciples of fairy tales, in the game for power and power only.

    This animal killed another human being for the most ridiculous reason. He should forfeit his life. His lawyer has to try her best, however, common sense and our constitution, bill of rights, and the essence of our very being cannot and must not allow these arguments to affect justice.

  14. I don’t see this as a valid defense, but I suppose his attorney needs to try to defend his/her client in the best manner available.

    1. I think I have to agree that cultural standards are not a valid defense.

      I might be convinced that background including culture should be considered as a mitigating factor at sentencing.

      I, personally, am not particularly sympathetic to the culture issue in this case. But I do think the defense should be allowed to argue culture during sentencing.

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