Twenty years aren’t enough to bring a murderer to justice.
In 1992, Abdul Awkal, a Lebanese Muslim, met up with his wife and her brother at the Family Conciliation Office in the sprawling Lakeside Courthouse. Awkal’s wife had filed for divorce after years of physical abuse and a sexually transmitted disease that she contracted from him. In response, Awkal had bought a gun and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t come back to him.
On the day of the shooting, Awkal, who would base his entire twenty year defense on an insanity claim, wrote a check for most of his assets to his brother, and arrived at the courthouse with the stroller, child seat and baby food that he would need once he abducted his daughter. He met up with his wife and her brother inside the courthouse and killed them. Then he tried to use his 15 month old daughter as a human shield before being shot in the back by law enforcement.
Awkal told police that he had ordered his brother-in-law to “profess that Allah was the only God.” And he had only killed him after he refused to do so. The divorce had been preceded by mutual accusations of heresy and Awkal’s letters were full of technical disputes between his Shafi'I school and his brother-in-law’s Hanafi school. Similarly his lawsuit against the Ohio State correctional system was rooted in complaints about the prison Imam’s Hanbali allegiance.
Awkal’s marriage was a bizarre Islamic soap opera. At one point he divorced his wife by repeating “You are divorced three times”, which constitutes a divorce under Islamic law, because she kept talking during a TV show that he was trying to watch. After that she had to go out and have a quickie marriage with another man in order to be able to remarry him. According to him these rapid divorces and remarriages occurred several times over the course of their marriage.
In his defense, Awkal claimed that he had been psychologically traumatized by the Lebanon War and that he was the victim of Islamophobia, which he proved with a dose of racism and religious bigotry.
“The judge who was presiding over my trial, Honorable Stuart A. Friedman, was Jewish-American. The prosecutor assistant, who was eager to send me to death, was Lebanese-Christian. And moreover to all this, the TV medium depicts the Arab-American and the Muslim-American very badly… because they tend to kill their wives and then kidnapped their children from America to Middle-East.”
Awkal had managed to live out a sizable chunk of this stereotype. But while he did succeed in killing his wife, he only managed to kidnap his daughter as far as the courthouse basement. To some of his defenders, statements like these are proof that he is mentally ill. But if this is mental illness, then much of the Muslim world appears to have come down with it.
Eleven years ago he wrote that he wanted an end to the appeals. “I want the State of Ohio to kill me.” But the State of Ohio has yet to oblige. Instead Governor Kasich gave Awkal another extension which allowed a hearing to be held on whether he was mentally competent to be executed. And Judge Stuart Friedman, the same evil “Jewish-American” who presided over his trial and whom Awkal had accused of being racially prejudiced against him, ruled that he “lacks the capacity to form a rational understanding as to the reason the state intends to execute him.”
If Judge Friedman is waiting around for Awkal to stop believing that the State of Ohio wants to execute him because of a Jewish-Christian CIA conspiracy, he’s going to be waiting for a long time. But Awkal is fully aware of what he did. He can describe in detail how he pointed a gun at his brother-in-law, how his brother-in-law batted it away with a magazine, how he chased him into a room, shot him, and then killed his wife.
What Awkal refuses to accept is that he was sentenced to death because he killed two people and not because he is the victim of a vast conspiracy to humiliate and discredit him. But in this he is no different than the majority of the Muslim world which continues to believe that America’s War on Terror has nothing to do with September 11.
Awkal is no crazier than Saddam Hussein, who refused to understand that America was attacking him because he had invaded another country, and not because of a conspiracy against him. He is no crazier than Al-Bashir, the Butcher of Sudan, who called the International Criminal Court’s indictment of him on war crimes charges a conspiracy. On a smaller scale than these men, Awkal had planned out a crime in detail and then carried it out.
Insanity has a cultural context. In a culture where the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia bans Pokemon on charges that it promotes Zionism, where Egyptian officials can blame tourist deaths on Zionist sharks and where the majority of Muslims do not believe that September 11 was carried out by Muslims, he is not insane. Awkal’s inability to take responsibility and belief in conspiracy theories and even the actual murders are normal in his religious culture.
Despite his antics, even a psychiatric witness for his defense in the original trial testified that Awkal was sane. This was used by his defenders to argue that he had never received a fair trial. Awkal’s claims that he was in contact with the CIA or that he went temporarily insane after watching the Sally Field movie, “Not Without My Daughter,” about a woman who escapes her Muslim husband, don’t change the fact that he is completely aware of what he did and why he is being executed. Even after blaming Islamophobia, Awkal still admitted, “But I know I killed them and the jury found me guilty.”
After he finally receives his long-delayed lethal injection, Awkal expects to see an Angel of Death who will ask him whether he believes in Allah, Mohammed and Islam. This will determine if he gets into Islamic paradise, despite his crimes. While he agonizes over Allah forgiving him for eating non-Halal meat, he seems to have no similar worries over being forgiven for murdering his wife. Instead, he told a reporter that he would do it all over again “a million times.”
Abdul Awkal was not executed as scheduled. Instead he will continue cluttering up the criminal justice system, as he has for the last twenty years. When Awkal was first sentenced to death, he said that he assumed it would come within a few weeks, the way it would have in his native Lebanon. Instead the Ohio Justice & Policy Center has managed to keep Akwal from facing justice. And the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, like so many evils, is traceable to a single source. The Open Society Institute.
Abdul Awkal’s true savior, the man who kept the Lakeview Courthouse honor-killer from facing justice for his crimes, is not Allah or Mohammed, but the man whose fortune helps fund the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. George Soros.
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