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. My Pakistani husband tells me that such a thing is absolutely forbidden religiously and culturally he and his entire family would be shamed at any kind of abuse. A relative of mine (Female, Christian, Western WA) killed her husband and his lover about 40 years ago because she was mad though, and was never even charged. That is our culture. So go figure. Spurned wife is a cultural defense, I guess.

  2. In my opinion a CULTURAL DEFENSE should NEVER be a defense to any crime. Neither should a religious defense. The entire idea that sone one can live in the US and be excused from following the law because of some cultural or religius difference is wrong. You want the right to beat or kill your wife go live in a country that allows it. Any court that allows a cultural defense is setting up a precedent that will put us all at risk. All citizens have the same obligation to follow the law, all if the laws.

  3. Let’s reverse the roles a little. Consider the outcome of joe-sixpack having a nice BBQ, some brats, cold brewskis, and scantily clad lady friends whilst in Pakistan. But it’s fine back home……Point made? Hussain’s cultural defense should hold no water under our laws.

  4. This is the real war on women.

    Part of immigrating to this country is a responsibility to learn our laws. “It was OK back home” is not and should not be a defense.

    I was friends with a Muslim family whose daughter was being stalked by another Muslim. Her father said that if he was back in Jordan, he would be able to handle this, he had a shovel and a desert. But he understood he could not do that here. He had to follow our laws.

  5. Another cultural defense is affluenza:

    Ethan Couch, a Texas teenager who killed four people while driving drunk was sentenced this week to 10 years of probation in lieu of jail time, after the defense argued that the 16-year-old was a product of “affluenza” — a condition in which growing up wealthy prevents children from understanding the links between their behavior and the consequences because they are rarely held accountable for their actions.

    Why not just call it the 1% defense?

    1. I remembered reading this and was mortified that this defense held up in court. To me murder is murder. I would like that to hold up in every court. Being that she was only 16 I do understand legally why a lighter sentence could be issued. I just don’t like the precedent that this is setting with that particular defense.

  6. ” He culturally believed he had the right to hit his wife and discipline his wife.”

    I don’t mean to sound culturally insensitive but that describes not all, but many, men in every trailer park, alchy bar, and NASCAR event in the country.

    The question is does respect for other beliefs and practices require that we accept behavior that clearly deviates from our standards. I would argue that no it does not.

    Acknowledging that others have a right to their beliefs does not require that we accept all their practices and associated behavior – particularly when that behavior leads to violence against another person.

  7. Irrelevant BS anywhere in a civilized setting. Absurd to allow such crap in court!

  8. Murder is murder and is illegal in this country. No excuses should be allowed. No door should be opened to continue this horrid abuse and torture on American soil!

  9. Waiting until she is asleep is the tipping point for me. Even if I was going to buy it, which I don’t to begin with, waiting until she is asleep is just chickens**t. I am against apply any cultural or religious law in American courts.

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