Oct. 22, 2009— -- Police in Arizona are hunting for an Iraqi-American father who they say ran over his daughter with his car to punish her for becoming "too Westernized" and rebuffing the conservative ways he valued.
Faleh Hassan Almaleki, 48, was last seen fleeing the parking lot of the Department of Economic Development in Peoria, Ariz., Tuesday after hitting his 20-year-old daughter and her boyfriend's mother with his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Noor Faleh Almaleki is in "life-threatening condition," Peoria Police spokesman Mike Tellef told ABCNews.com today. Her boyfriend's mother, 43-year-old Amal Edan Khalaf, is also still hospitalized, but with non-life threatening injuries.
"It occured because her not following traditional family values. We've been told that by everybody," Tellef said. "He felt she was becoming too westernized and he didn't like that."
Calls to the Almaleki family weren't returned.
Noor Almaleki had backed out of an arranged marriage about a year ago, police learned, and had been living with Khalaf and her son in a nearby town.
Tellef said the young woman dressed in American clothing and was wearing typical Western attire when she was struck.
The family were all American citizens, though Tallef believes the parents were born in Iraq.
He said it was unclear if Faleh Almaleki intended to kill his daughter, but "it was definitely intentional that he ran them down."
Tallef declined to release the name of the hospital where Noor Almaleki was being treated while her father was still at large.
While Tellef had heard of so-called "honor killings" in other parts of the United States, this was the first such crime in Peoria.
Ibrahim Ramey, human and civil rights director for the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, told ABCNews.com that whenever this type of crime involves a Muslim it can serve to elevate the fears of people who may already harbor misconceptions about Islam.
"It's reprehensible," he said of honor killings. "It's wrong."
Ramey pointed out that a verse in the Koran specifically states that there is no compulsion in religion, meaning that people can not be compelled or coerced into being Muslim or adhering to a certain set of rules.
"People have to obey or adhere to Islam ... according to the dictates of their own conscience," he said.
Honor Killings Unfairly Cast Negative Light on Islam
The notion of an honor killing -- Muslim men murdering female relatives for dishonoring the family by violating Islamic tenets -- made the news over the summer when 17-year-old Rifqa Bary ran away from her parents in Ohio and turned up in the Florida home of Christian pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz. Rafqa Barry claimed that her Muslim father had threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity.
Rifqa made tearful television appearance, crying on the Lorenzes shoulders, describing how she had to sneak around to attend church.
"They have to kill me because I'm a Christian. It's an honor [killing]. If they love me more than God, then they have to kill me," she told ABC's Orlando affiliate WFTV last month.
Blake Lorenz pointed to other honor killings, including the January 2008 murders of two Texas sisters who were believed to have been murdered by their Muslim father in a religion-fueld rage.
But Rifqa's father, Mohamed Bary, denied the accusation and said that while he preferred his daughter be a Muslim, she was free to practice whatever religion she chose.
"I don't believe my daughter would say this," Bary told "Good Morning America." "She's completely being coached -- I mean trained, influenced by these people. It's so sad."
A Florida judge this month said he planned to send Rifqa back to Ohio after determining there was no evidence that her life was in danger.
Ramey said it's expected that incidents such as these will cause some backlash against the Muslim community, especially among Americans who have become fearful of Islam in the years since the war on terror and conflicts in places like Somalia.
But they can also open a door for discussion and questions so the community can understand that Islam is not a violent religion.
"It's certainly not part of the religion," he said," to run people down with vehicles."
Faleh Almaleki was last seen in a grey or silver 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Arizona license plate ADS-9192.
Peoria Police are asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to call 623-773-7045.