By Daniel Silliman
A 56-year-old man has been indicted on charges of murdering his daughter, a crime he allegedly called an act of Islamic piety.
Chaundhry Rashid has been indicted on charges of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. Wednesday, a Clayton County grand jury found that he "unlawfully and with malice aforethought caused the death of Sandeela Kanwal, a human being, by ligature strangulation."
Kanwal was found strangled to death in the apartment above the garage in the family's 9654 Utah Drive home in Jonesboro. Her feet and hands were greenish and cold, according to police. Her face was "dark," and she wasn't breathing.
Rashid was chain-smoking, sitting cross-legged in the driveway, and allegedly told police he used a bungee cord on his 25-year-old daughter because she wanted out of her arranged marriage.
"He said, 'God will protect me. God is watching. I killed my daughter. I strangled her,'" said Clayton County Police Detective Michael Christian.
Kanwal had filed for divorce on July 1, five days before her death, court records show. She had married her husband, Majid Latif, in Pakistan when she was 19, but he had left her on her birthday, April 15. He reportedly left for Chicago, though nobody has been in contact with him since shortly before his fifth wedding anniversary, and the divorce papers were served to his last known address, the Jonesboro house where he lived with Kanwal and Kanwal's family.
Rashid and Kanwal had not spoken to each other for months, apparently in a prolonged silent argument, family members told police. But after the divorce papers arrived at the house, the silent argument allegedly erupted into violence.
On July 5, Rashid picked his 25-year-old daughter up from Wal-Mart, where she worked, and, according to police reports, argued with her about an alleged affair, and pleaded with her not to get a divorce.
He allegedly told police he stood in his daughter's doorway, bungee cord hidden in his pocket, and asked her one last time not to go through with the divorce.
Kanwal reportedly said, "I don't love him."
The detective concluded, in his warrant application filed with the court, that the murder was a Muslim honor killing.
"The offender advised that he is Muslim," Christian wrote. "[D]ivorce and extramarital affairs are against his religion and would disgrace his family, and that's why he killed Ms. Kanwal."
A local Pakistani group, however, was adamant in disassociating the murder from the Islamic faith.
Farooq Soomro, a spokesman for the Pakistani American Community of Atlanta, said so-called "honor killings" are the product of "very backward, illiterate ... tribal" cultures, and have "nothing to do with Pakistan or Pakistani culture."
Soomro said Rashid allegedly murdered his daughter because "he lost his freaking mind," and that had nothing to do with Mohammed, Islam or the Quran, which, he said, forbids taking a life.
Rashid's attorneys said there isn't enough evidence to support the theory of a religious killing, and said the "catch phrase" of "honor killing" does a disservice to the man, his family and his culture.
"See what the evidence is," said defense attorney Alan Berger in August. "Proceed from there."
A trial date has not been set for Rashid. The 56-year-old faces the maximum possible sentence of life in prison.