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Soraia's Culpability (?)

Reader comment on item: Guarding the Secrets: Palestinian Terrorism and a Father's Murder of His Too-American Daughter

Submitted by Kathy R. (United States), Apr 6, 2022 at 12:37

My name is Kathy and I am a school teacher in Ohio. While I do not practice Islam, I taught at Dayton Islamic School in Beavercreek in 1995-1999. It was there that I met many wonderful people from all over the world. One parent I met and became rather friendly with was Sister Soraia (her son was in my class - Adil, if I recall correctly). Soraia was welcoming and friendly, encouraging me to learn a few Arabic phrases such as as-salamu alaikum and to participate in community pot lucks at the school. We talked to each other almost daily.

After working at the school for two years, in early 1999, while I was preparing to move to a new county and leave Dayton Islamic, Soraia and another family from the school were planning their move back to Palestine. I distinctly remember standing outsided at parent pick-up asking Soraia if she was afraid to move back overseas due to the strife and instability of the Middle East. I especially remember this conversation because it was a few days after a young girl named Erica Baker from Kettering went missing while walking her dog. Soraia told me she was not afraid for her children in Palestine because at least there, if they died, she'd know why. Unlike in the US where kids get kidnapped and never seen again. I could see the logic in her thinking and wished her the best of luck. That summer I moved away from Beavercreerk and her family moved back to Palestine.

As the summer progressed, Soraia and I kept in touch, writing letters back and forth. She even mailed me packages with trinkets from Palestine.

It was that fall in 1999 when I found Guarding the Secrets on my local library bookshelf. I was a voracious reader of true crime at that point in my life, and this was one of the few books I had yet to read. In order to give faces to names, I normally would peruse through the photo insert pages of a crime book before starting to read. This time I didn't do that. For some reason, I was about 4 chapters in before I looked over the pictures. It was then I saw the trial picture of Soraia with her arms wrapped around a woman, and I realized that the sister of the victim was the mother of my student.

When finished with the book, my feeling was that Soraia egged her parents on; she was culpable in Tina's murder. However, I also knew the book was a biased, one-side-of-the-story telling, but I still felt it could have been reasonable that her sisters behaved that way. I especially felt this because I'd had a personal experience at Dayton Islamic myself that supported an underling feeling of a controling male influence upon and social inequality for the women in that community.

My experience was this: As a teacher in that building, I developed a friendly relationship with the bus driver of the school, Mohammed. We would talk in the hallway, in plain sight of all, often discussing photography - something we both enjoyed. One day he approached me and told me people in the community were not happy with us talking and we had to stop. I was confused and apparently Mohammed anticipated that for before he walked away, he handed me a book to read, telling me it would help me understand. I cannot recall the title, but it was a true story about an Islamic princess who developed breast cancer and how she choose to flee her husband in lieu of being locked up.

After finishing the book, I was uncertain how to handle my coorespondancing with Soraia, so I just stopped responding and she stopped writing as well. I've often wondered now why her family moved back to Palestine and if they ever came back to the US or Ohio? (I know the other family returned to the US because I ran into the other mother at the Dayton Mall Burger King).

I've also wondered just how culpable Soraia was? Did the author Harris get it right? I read on here that Th was at the trial and heard the tape - saying you could hear a sister in the background encouraging the parents. Is this true? Why does Th not give a real name?

Another person posting on here knew Soraia as a teen and said how nice she was. I, too, found Soraia very kind and caring, so I do struggle to understand how and if she could have been an influence.

Any insights or comments would be greatly appreciated,


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Thank you for this valuable first-hand testimony.

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