PJ Media

A Raw Deal for Muslim Women

The February 13 beheading of Aasiya Z. Hassan by her husband Muzzamil Hassan, as reported here at Pajamas Media by Phyllis Chesler, has stunned the American Muslim community.  This honor killing is particularly shocking because Hassan co-founded the Bridges TV network, which was created specifically to combat negative stereotypes of Muslims and to supposedly present Americans with an alternative “moderate” form of Islam.

However, the official response to this tragedy from the Muslim community has not been helpful. As observed earlier this month by the Salafi Burnout blog, the individual chosen by the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) to respond to the “moderate” Buffalo beheading tragedy is Mauri Saalakhan, who reportedly has admitted to beating his own wife. Saalakhan’s response to the Hassan honor killing is posted on MANA’s website. (Saalakhan has also previously  been discussed here at Pajamas Media, regarding his support of terrorist organizations and his close connection to New York Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks).

Several days following the initial post concerning Saalakhan’s abuse of his wife, one of his supporters posted a purported response from Saalakhan defending his conduct, which was then included in a separate post on the Salafi Burnout blog:

The allegations — which I have since discovered are now on a number of extremely hostile anti-Islam, anti-Muslim websites — are UNTRUE. I have never beaten up any woman in my life. There have been a number of occasions in the PAST (not the present), and few in number, when I have struck a woman with an open hand — an admission that I am not proud of — but I have never beaten a woman! And on the few occasions when this did happen — with three (I can count them) exceptions — it was in response to being struck first.

So Saalakhan’s supposed response to these accusations of domestic violence is the standard Ike Turner “bitch had it coming” defense. His position of “I might have beat my wife yesterday, but I’m not doing it today” apparently clears him of any taint of hypocrisy.

It should be noted that while Saalakhan argues that these accusations came from “hostile anti-Islam, anti-Muslim websites,” a Muslim runs the Salafi Burnout blog. Many of the comments posted on the blog — again almost all from the Muslim community — expressed horror at MANA’s extremely poor choice of respondent to address the Buffalo Islamic honor killing. They also condemn the glaringly hypocritical response to the domestic violence epidemic that is part and parcel of the anti-woman, pro-violence, Wahhabi-driven ideology that unfortunately now dominates institutional American Islam.

Examples of this hypocrisy aren’t difficult to come by. Observe the response to the Hassan incident by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which bills itself as the largest Islamic organization in the U.S. The open letter posted on its website fails to mention the breakout session on “And Beat Them Lightly …” at the 2006 ISNA National Convention, hosted by former ISNA president and current ISNA board member Muzzamil Siddiqi.

In addition, Jamal Badawi, another member of the current ISNA board of directors and one of the most respected Islamic scholars in North America, openly advocates wife beating. In an article published several years ago entitled (coincidentally) “Wife Beating,” he allows the practice under certain circumstances, as long as the woman isn’t hit on the face. And in a fatwa (an official Islamic religious ruling) issued jointly by Badawi and Siddiqi in April 2004 on Islamonline.net, they outline six different scenarios that permit wife beating according to the precepts of Islamic Shariah law.

In November 2007, I reported on Badawi’s appearance on behalf of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) — both organizations closely aligned with ISNA — at Ohio State University. Badawi’s topic at this university-funded presentation was on “Interfaith Relations — the Islamic Perspective” (notwithstanding his advocacy of domestic violence and his extensive ties to the international Islamic terrorist network). He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the recent Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial (the defendants received guilty verdicts on all 108 counts) and was also identified in another trial exhibit as one of the North American leaders of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood.

Domestic violence is not limited to any segment of the community — ethnic, religious, or otherwise — but the utter abdication of responsibility by the leading Islamic organizations is compounded by their hypocritical promotion of the anti-woman, pro-violence agenda as represented by their most prominent spokesmen and scholars. In fact, both Siddiqi and  Badawi serve on the ISNA’s Fiqh Council of North America, which they bill as the top Islamic religious ruling body in the U.S. (with Siddiqi serving as the group’s chairman and Badawi on the executive council). And despite their present position that Buffalo beheader Hassan had a long and well-known history of domestic violence (that they are promoting to absolve themselves of any responsibility), these organizations could have cared less how many wives Hassan had gone through (three, in fact) as long as he was doing their bidding — a point well made by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

It is a positive development that moderate Muslims are speaking out against Islamic leaders who openly promote and practice domestic violence. But until they find better leaders than Saalakhan, Siddiqi, and Badawi, and institutions like MANA, ISNA, and CAIR abandon their theology that tolerates wife beating, there is little hope that things will improve for women in the Muslim community anytime soon.