Church Shooting May Be 'Honor Killing'

Church Shooting May Be ‘Honor Killing’

NEW YORK – A California man accused of driving to New Jersey and fatally shooting his estranged wife and another man inside a church has been captured in Georgia.

Joseph M. Pallipurath was arrested around midnight Monday in Monroe, east of Atlanta, said New Jersey district U.S. Marshal James Plousis.

Pallipurath, of Sacramento, is suspected of shooting and killing 24-year-old Reshma James inside the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton, a suburb about 15 miles west of Manhattan.


After fleeing three months ago from what relatives said was an abusive, arranged marriage in California, James moved to New Jersey and stayed with Perincheril, who lives in Hawthorne.

The couple were married just over a year ago in India and moved to Sacramento in January.

Reshma’s aunt Maria Joseph, of Hartford, Conn., said she warned her niece, who was studying to become a nurse, not to marry him. Other relatives told her the man had a history of "behavioral problems," Joseph said.

This seems to be another in a succession of recent American ‘honor killings.’ The problem is indeed both cultural and religious. In many parts of the world, wives and daughters are still considered property. For them, leaving their husbands, fathers, or brothers is not an option. Marrying for love while maintaining a good relationship with their family is not an option.

To be sure, plenty of husbands kill their estranged wives for non-religious reasons. Jealousy seems to be motive enough. But the key here is that this was an arranged marriage. Possessive husbands feel they are legally, morally, and spiritually entitled to their wives–if the wife leaves, killing is justified and ‘God’ will bless their crime. Honor killing or no, we can lay this directly at the feet of a tradition we should no longer tolerate. A young woman would be alive today if she had not been forced to marry this man, who planned the killing for months and drove all the way across the country to murder her. Two innocent bystanders were gunned down at the same time.

According to the New York Post:

…we’ve grown reluctant to pass judgment on other culture’s customs – but multiculturalism hits a crossroads when honor killings come to America.

The United Nations estimates that the world sees 5,000 honor killings a year – overwhelmingly in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, but increasingly among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe.


"Honor killing is a misnomer," author and exile Ayaan Hirsi Ali told me. "The killing occurs because these girls have allegedly brought shame on their family. The paradox is that these are individuals who have emancipated themselves.

"These girls embody the American dream. They want to become self-reliant – deciding who they marry, when they marry and how many children they will have."

Comments (11 comments)

Karen / November 25th, 2008, 5:25 am / #1

It said arranged marriage, but that isn’t necessarily a forced marriage. It was clearly a bad marriage, she wanted out, and he wasn’t going to allow it — but that happens all too frequently. There are a nontrivial number of men in our so-called “enlightened” culture who somehow grow up thinking that women are property.

But I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to call them all honor killings, whether the cultural background is Pakistani tribal culture, American he-man culture, or any of the countless other cultures where women are property.

BlackSun / November 26th, 2008, 11:57 pm / #2


The very concept of an arranged marriage does violence to choice. It would be hard to think of a more personal decision than whom to marry. Even if a woman “consents” to an arranged marriage, it is because she has already been made to feel that the marriage is necessary for some kind of “family” reason–money, status, paying back a debt (she was ‘promised’ when she was born), etc.. If she refuses, she fears harm to herself and the loss of support from her family.

I can’t think of a worse or more scarring tradition for a young woman.

Karen / November 27th, 2008, 9:44 am / #3

That may or may not be true, depending on the cultural circumstances. If you accept that there are other things to marry for besides love (which seems really, really strange to me, but that’s a reflection of my own culture), an arranged marriage might make sense. Is he a nice guy? Does he have earning potential (i.e. will the bride and her children not have to worry about going hungry, will they be able to send the kids to good universities, have a nice house, take interesting vacations, etc.)? Maybe Mom and Dad are better able to assess this than she is. I’ve met Indian (Hindu-background) women who had marriages arranged from this perspective, and seem content.

That’s a far different situation than having a marriage arranged to some guy whose only qualifications are that he’s somebody’s cousin, or he’s dumped a pile of money on the table, or he needs a green card, or he’s a “good [practitioner of our religion]”. That isn’t marriage with the best interest of the bride at heart, and that does demean her and treat her like property, whether she consents to the marriage or not.

BlackSun / November 27th, 2008, 4:10 pm / #4


I understand your perspective though I disagree. It’s a position which might lead to more stability or physical security for a woman. But the tradeoff for an illusory sense of security is her giving up the freedom of her spirit. The practice also prolongs the dying patriarchy. And boy does the patriarchy need to fucking die.

Not everyone understands the true cost of giving up one’s freedom, even and especially if it’s done voluntarily. Over time, the costs mount, and the inner yearnings begin to bubble to the surface. One day, what seemed like a good deal becomes oppressive. Suddenly a woman who was once docile and compliant becomes headstrong and independent. Suddenly a man who was once a protector and a provider becomes a murderer.

Both arranged and voluntary marriages are what could be termed evolutionarily stable strategies. But that doesn’t make them equally valid, or speak to their utility for a person’s self-ownership, self-awareness and maximum potential. Arranged marriages carry the full baggage of the outworn traditions that classify women as chattel. I shouldn’t even have to argue this point. What century is it? But anyway, you are correct that the problems are worst when arranged marriages are lifted out of their larger social context.

To be sure, institutions of child protective services often get it wrong. But that’s not enough justification to give up on the idea that people can form voluntary transactional relationships based on respect for free choice, including the freedom to end a family relationship and change one’s living circumstances. We can expect parents to disagree about who’s responsible for the breakup and who’s abusive. We can expect both feuding parents to marshall all their resources and that the more powerful will prevail. Using the government as a club is a completely predictable strategy. Why is this news?

Why are we even talking about custody battles? The ideas of divorce and custody pale into insignificance before the concept of hunting one’s spouse down and killing them in cold blood.

Divorce is not a panacea, but it beats staying in a bad marriage every time. Only the people involved can make that choice.

Freedom comes with a price, but it’s never as high as that paid when choosing any form of slavery.

Unless they have some reason to believe in their proposed partner’s goodness of heart.

That sounds suspiciously to me like love. Which would eliminate the need for the marriage to be arranged in the first place.

Myriam Koepcke / November 27th, 2008, 3:34 pm / #5

I believe arranged marriages can work better than the other kind. My understanding of the research that has been done on this is that divorce rates are lower for arranged marriages.

The Hindus, for example, that I have known, have had far better marriages than people in our culture. They seldom divorce. Wives are protected for life by their husbands. They don’t have to worry about growing old and then being abandoned by their husbands. Their contract of marriage is stronger than the contract in our culture. So women are better off, overall, in those marriages there than in our marriages here. (In my opinion for what it’s worth.)

Divorce isn’t seen as an option, for one thing. Also, therapists who see divorce as the answer to every possible form of unhappiness would find themselves ranting on a streetcorner with no followers in those East-Indian countries. Nobody would pay them insane amounts of money to tell them something they don’t believe to be true themselves, something that is against their cultural mores.

Moving in with one’s parents with children IS the option women choose. The state doesn’t interfere with that, unlike here. The state doesn’t mandate that children live with the abusive dad instead of the mom there, unlike here. Children are always assumed to belong to the mom, so who cares who theoretically “owns” her–she’s emancipated from slavery to the state, which is MUCH worse than slavery to a person. You can run away from a person but it is very difficult to run from the state. (Check out the FBI wanted list to see how many moms are on it just for fleeing abusive marriages with their children.)

In Eastern culture, the wife is protected because if the husband is abusive, her father does something about it.

In order to stop honor killings while honoring the cultural tradition, fathers need to be held more accountable for anticipating problems and addressing them. An honor killing doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. Incidents occur leading up to it. If she has no father, she needs protection from church or state. If she can’t get this, if her husband isn’t kind, she’s dead.

Arranged marriages among people of those cultures are a problem in the U.S., because the husband typically marries in his home country then brings the wife abroad where she has no father, family, institution to protect her. For that reason, U.S. law needs to be more stringent than the laws there, protecting women who are in this unprotected situation.

I believe in arranged marriages, but only when the cultural constructs support it, and the parents (or whoever) have the best interests of both parties at heart. If it’s about increasing one set of parents’ financial or political standing, then the less affluent and/or powerful partner will, by definition, be abused by the other. In that case that person (be it the daughter or the son) is nothing more than a pawn to be used by the parents–and he/she should refuse to participate in the marriage and RUN, not only from the proposed partner but also from parents who would suggest such a thing. Unless they have some reason to believe in their proposed partner’s goodness of heart.

Myriam Koepcke / November 30th, 2008, 7:21 am / #6

I don’t think love is enough. Marriage is a contract that ought to, in the best possible circumstances, be based on love, but it is also a social contract. I don’t think the marriages that have lasted 40-60 years would have made it if love were the only component of the contract. In any marriage there will be that day when one or both of you wake up and look at the other wondering where the love went–and then the important question: what to do about it.

Myriam Koepcke / November 30th, 2008, 1:18 pm / #7

I disagree that love eliminates the need for a marriage to be arranged.

Since all of our culture colludes with the man when there is an argument between husband and wife, she won’t have anywhere to go if, once married, he challenges her equality of power in the relationship–unless her family helps to negotiate the terms and provides a safe haven for her to go to as the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

BlackSun / November 30th, 2008, 4:12 pm / #8

Myriam, you clearly feel you got a raw deal. I almost laughed out loud at your Thanksgiving post. No offense. I actually feel for you. But I would say by espousing a really obvious stance of victimhood, you have pretty much given away your power. From the sounds of the way you tell it on your site, it could take years for you to recover. Or maybe a lot quicker if you just change your strategy.

Instead of looking at what’s wrong with the system, your ex-boyfriend, ex-husband, school teacher, policeman, yada yada, think more about what you could have done differently and could still decide to do to get closer to your desired outcome. Your philosophy seems to be one big whine “life isn’t fair.”

I’m sure I sound like a dick, but it’s the bitter truth. In case no one’s said it to you before, here it is: No one “owes” you anything. We are all free agents, and no one is required to do anything they don’t want to do. If you want something from someone, you need to convince, not demand. No matter what they said, anyone is free to go at any time. Let this sink in, and in your next relationship you will take better accountability.

Commitment only works as long as it is working for both people. Question: would you want to be married to someone who hated the situation? It would be a miserable existence for both of you. That is why arranged marriages are a joke as are the recent Christian innovation of “covenant marriages.” They try to circumvent the real work of self-knowledge and partner negotiation with so-called unbreakable bonds. It would be hard to imagine a greater folly.

There’s no way your personal bitterness and regret is disconnected from your stance on divorce, decision to join the Catholic Church, etc. The personal is political. As far as that goes, absent special circumstances, men generally fare far worse in divorce than women. Women usually get the children, the house, plus alimony. It’s a disgrace but something men are forced to deal with, at great expense.

Instead of trying to rewrite the rules for everyone, I suggest you rewrite them for yourself. Get some books on human nature, negotiation, and personal power and pull yourself together.

For inner work, start with “Women Who Run With The Wolves.” Then move on to any of a number of good books about the shadow and Jungian psychology.

For strategy, “The 48 Laws of Power” is also thick but good. 48LP requires that you get rid of your traditional concepts about morality and look at what people do, not what they say. Everyone vies for power. The only question is, do you want to be the player, or the played? Sounds like you’ve been played. A lot. For a long time.

I also like the Tony Robbins series for what it’s worth. It’s hard to beat his enthusiasm.

Good luck, Myriam.

BlackSun / November 30th, 2008, 7:54 pm / #9

Read WWW and 48LP.

Then why the victim stance? You know better than anyone what needs to be done.

Myriam Koepcke / November 30th, 2008, 7:41 pm / #10

Your last post sounded like a “conversation ends here” message.

Read WWW and 48LP. Good books. Have not read Robbins. Have to check him out.

Best luck to you, black sheep Sun.

You are loved.

darkeros / November 30th, 2008, 10:18 pm / #11

Wow, Myriam… very hard to believe that you have read http://WWW... and the reality is, it is much easier to read these works than to integrate them.

The whole premise that Estes promotes is that a woman must empower herself. She is not a victim, and when does fall prey, it is exactly the initiation she needs to grow. The shadowy people we attract are a direct result of our own wounded psyche.

The difference between what you are thankful for and what you are not thankful for on your post, is the sign of someone who wastes their energy on blame and therefore doesn’t have it to heal and self create. You actually think by forcing someone to stay married to you is the way of a woman? Get some depth therapy and find your authentic path. Forget looking for it from a man. Be unto yourself. And a man of depth and caring may seek you… and then, you may not want/need him.

Post a comment

Comments are closed for this post.