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Till Death Do Us Part – From Our Heads! February 19, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Crime and Punishment, Domestic Violence, Women's Issues.
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Muzzammil Hassan, right, founder of Bridges TV, is charged with murder in the beheading of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, left, in Orchard Park, N.Y (Photo courtesy Fox News)

Muzzammil Hassan, right, founder of Bridges TV, is charged with murder in the beheading of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, left, in Orchard Park, N.Y (Photo courtesy Fox News)

A story that has received little national attention – besides the crawling scrawl on MSNBC, Fox, and CNN – is the beheading murder of  Aasiya Hassan of Orchard Park, New York.  Mrs. Hassan was killed by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan on February 13.   Apparently, Mr. Hassan killed his wife in the studios of their Bridges TV station – a station they founded to dispel the “myths of Islam as a violent religion.”   Mrs. Hassan was found lying in the doorway of a room with her severed head set carefully to the side.  Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III has called the murder “the worst case of domestic violence he has ever seen”.  

Folks, this is a little more than domestic violence.  Nadia Shahram, who teaches family law and Islam at the University at Buffalo Law School,  has said that the murder has all the hallmarks of an “honor killing”.  Honor killing as a practice still accepted among fanatical Muslim men who feel betrayed by their wives.  “If a woman breaks the law which the husband or father has placed for the wife or daughter, honor killing has been justified,” said Shahram, who was a regular panelist on a law show produced by Bridges TV. “It happens all the time. It’s been practiced in countries such as Pakistan and in India.” 

Details of the couple’s life together are beginning to surface that make the likelihood that this was an honor killing more plausible.  Mrs. Hassan was a highly educated woman who began to chafe under the strain of the traditional roles for Islamic women.  She had always worn a traditional hijab but recently stopped without explanation.  She made numerous police complaints against her husband for domestic violence.  As Mrs. Hassan kept trying to exert more control, Mr. Hassan escalated his attacks upon his wife, at one time using his car to run her car off the road while she was transporting their two young children.  Finally, on February 12, she filed for divorce in New York State Supreme Court and received a protective order against her husband.  She obviously feared his reaction upon his being served in the divorce action.  One day later, she was dead.

Muslim men probably do not beat or abuse their wives at a rate more than other men, but whereas domestic violence among Western societies is a criminal act of aggression and control, in the Islamic culture it is sanctioned by religion.  It is a man’s right – given by God – to beat his wife.  That is powerful permission.  The Quran verse 4:34, lays the foundation for wife beating; “Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.”

 Islamic marriage is not equivalent to a Christian marriage. Its rules, roles, and requirements are different. In a Christian marriage the husband is given the role as head of the household and the wife is expected to submit to the husband’s leadership. However, she is his equal in terms of social status; she is not inferior to him. In Islam the husband is also the head of the marriage, additionally he is his wife’s manager. Women are considered to be “in-between a slave and free man”. Slaves are not equal to their masters, rather they are subservient, managed, and controlled. Similarly, Muslim wives are inferior to their husbands and are managed and controlled.  Muhammad’s viewpoint of women was that they “lack self-control” and thus for their own good, and societies’ good, they must be subordinate to and managed by their husbands. Wives must obey. In an Islamic marriage when a man gives his bride a dowry he is accredited the right to manage his wife. By accepting his dowry a woman is giving her husband the right to her regulation.  (from “Answering Islam; A Christian – Muslim Dialogue)

Similarly, divorce in Islam is the decision of the husband.  While the Quaran provides for counseling, arbitration, alimony and support of children – it is clear that only the husband can initiate a divorce.  Should a wife request a divorce, the husband has only to say”no”, and there will be no divorce unless the families agree.   The only acceptable reason for an Islamic woman to divorce is if her husband is a “non-believer”.

Under these circumstances, it is not a stretch to believe that when Aasiya Hassan went and filed for her divorce – without her husband’s permission – he believed that it was OK to kill her.  But why decapitate the poor woman?   Certainly a bullet would have done the trick if all he wanted was his wife dead.  He wanted, however, to send a message.  Beheading is  an Islamic justice to infidels, criminals and sinners.  A wife falling away from traditional Islam could certainly be considered a sinner and quite possibly, an infidel; a lesson to other wives, perhaps?

There has been a lot of argument over whether Islam is by its nature, violent, or is a “religion of peace”.   The more I learn about it,  the more I believe that Islam – as practiced by the majority of its adherents – is rooted in violence.  The reason that it seems peaceful when practiced in the U.S. (and other Western democracies) is because we have a Constitution here that protects all people.  All people are supposedly equal with equal access to and equal protection by the law. 

We must resist the urge to portray Mrs. Hassan’s death as mere domestic violence and look into the truth of what is happening behind the closed doors of our American Islamic communities.

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