I last told you about the first Islamic rage that I ever faced, on the day that I made a mistake by bringing home pepperoni pizza as a dinner treat for my Muslim boyfriend’s family. I had soon put that incident behind me, as just something scary and odd that had happened, which was now in the past.
But a tension remained, whenever I knew that my boyfriend’s father was going to be around. Although we managed to avoid him as much as possible, several troubling events followed, which I saw and heard. For now, I will skip over those. I want to bring my story more current, to how my ex-boyfriend went back to practicing his Muslim religion.
So, one day we returned to the apartment. We expected his three sisters, two teens and a preteen, to be at home after school, as usual. What we did not know was that on this day we would walk in on a terrible fight. The two older girls were in a violent screaming match. Often, the girls would argue in front of us. But this time it was brutal.
Before coming in, we heard unusual sounds coming from inside. We unlocked the door, and saw the 17-year-old sister pinning down the 15-year-old sister on the sofa. She was completely straddled on top of her, and was punching her with direct blows to the face. No exaggeration. That is how it was. It was loud chaos. The 9-year-old was ten feet away, backed into the dining area, crying and screaming.
I rushed over to the 9-year-old to console her, and Tony immediately pushed his 17-year-old sister off the younger one. This only enraged his older teen sister against him. She grabbed a mug from the coffee table and threw it at him. With that, she ran through the hallway and into the bedroom, where he chased after her.
At this point, all I can say is that I heard what sounded like slapping, scuffling, pummeling, cursing, and screams of pure terror coming from the back room. I still remember it clearly. It was a distinct sound of heavy slaps, as solid contact on body parts, along with her terrified screams.
Then it stopped. I was standing there in shock, thinking to myself, “What just happened, and why?” What I saw next took me years to process, or even to understand. It was his expression and manner. He came out of the room with a silent calm, and with a look on his face of stoic authority. He gave an impression that he had just taken care of business as usual.
There was no concern or worry for the well-being of the sister he had obviously just brutally beaten. His expression was stern, and hard, and very rough. But he also had an overall, calm, despite the chaos and violence that he had just been part of. For me, it was so unpredictable, and so quick.
He then scolded his younger teen sister in Arabic, and he also said something to the youngest one, as if to give her assurance of something. All I know is that she nodded, “Yes”.
I stayed silent. He told me that we were leaving the apartment, and that his father was going to handle the situation. It was just that plain and simple to him.
Days later, I saw the extent of what he had done to his sister. The right side of her face was swollen and huge. She was deformed from the beating. The swelling was purple and black. In my experience, I could only compare it to Hollywood horror movie make-up I had seen, like it was a latex prosthetic. It was unreal to me.
And yet, how was he not in any legal trouble? I had no reference in my mind as to how to process this incredibly violent family incident. If none of them were going to call any public agencies to get involved, how could I know what I was supposed to do? And his sister didn’t want to talk to me about it.
Later, he explained to me that back home in his country, he was raised to be the male in authority if his father was not there. I thought I could accept that, as a cultural difference. But that beating was overkill. Is that what his father would have done?
He proceeded to tell me about his religion and how this beating is allowed. I don’t know why I accepted that explanation. All that time, I had thought he was a non-practicing Muslim. I felt very confused.
He justified the beating by saying that he was breaking up a fight, and that his sister attacked him with the mug. I knew that what he had done was wrong, but I felt stuck.
I felt sure that I couldn’t interfere with another person’s culture. Americans don’t do that. We cannot tell people that their culture is ugly. We won’t tell people that what represents their culture is dangerous, backward and barbaric. At least we don’t tell them to their faces. To be continued…
(Pam is our LUTF contributor from Southern California. Her true-life experience reveals the conflict of values from Islam in America.)