On February 13, 2009, in Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo, 44 year-old Muzzamil Hassan, a prominent Muslim businessman was arrested for having be-headed his wife, 37 year-old Aasiya Z. Hassan. Yes, he beheaded her. Aasiya’s crime? She dared to obtain an order of protection which forced her violent husband out of their home.
We are now sadly familiar with some high profile Islamic beheadings of infidels in Muslim lands; Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg, immediately come to mind. Sadly, we are also familiar with the practice of beheading, dismembering, burying alive, and stoning Muslim (and sometimes Christian) women to death in Muslim lands. But this took place in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, in America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. What can this mean? Why behead a wife who wanted a divorce and who wanted to live free of daily violence? Why didn’t Hassan just agree to a divorce?
Because this foul murder is very probably an honor killing, a crime which has little to do with western-style domestic violence. Erie County District Attorney Frank A Sedita III has it all wrong. He commented: “Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible.”
Yes, domestic violence exists in all countries. Femicide, like homicide, also exists everywhere. But honor killings follow another, and quite distinct profile. I am about to publish an academic paper in Middle East Quarterly on this very subject. Although I do not, as yet, know all the details of this Buffalo case, let me say that one feature of at least half of all the honor killings that I have studied, involved the kind of barbaric cruelty that we associate either with western serial killers, Muslim terrorists, or with relatively ordinary Muslim families vis a vis their daughters and their wives.
According to my preliminary study, the majority of honor killings in the West are committed by Muslims. Hindus and Sikhs, who also come from shame and honor societies, do commit honor murders but they seem to do so far less frequently. Daniel Pipes and MEQ might decide to publish my article online sooner rather than later, (or so he told me yesterday), but until that time, I am reluctant to pre-empt its publication or to share its findings.
In the Mumbai massacre, Muslim terrorists tortured and mutilated living beings and perhaps corpses as well. Perhaps they wanted to render their hated victims “deader than dead” as has been suggested in a recent Symposium in Frontpage in which I participated. Simple death was not enough to render their victims powerless. A beheading suggests that the murderer wants to separate his victim’s mind from her body, he does not want to hear what she has to say, he wants her mute, beyond what duct tape can do and he wants her completely severed, disassociated from her ability to flee.
But this honor killing in Buffalo is very important for another reason.
Often, it is argued that such barbarous acts are due to poverty, lack of education, lack of prospects, or to a history of being persecuted either by other Muslims or by “Islamophobic” infidels. Muslim-American groups and Muslim-Canadian groups strongly protest the idea that honor killings have anything to do with “Islam,” or with being a “Muslim.” Some Muslim activists have attributed the crime to “teenager problems ” or to “immigration” problems. Others have insisted that the practice is a pre-Islamic “cultural holdover.”
Muzammil Hassan was an educated, powerful, creative, and living in freedom in the United States. In fact, he may have viewed himself as a spokesman or even role model for other healthy, assimilated, Muslims who also live here.
In 2004, Muzzamil Hassan founded Bridges TV, an English-language Islamic network to combat alleged anti-Muslim bias in the American media. Hassan, a former bank vice-president teamed up with his primary investor, Omar S. Amanat, the founder of Tradescape, an internet brokerage company which Amanat had sold for 280 million dollars. Hassan and Amanat counted Nihad Awad and Ibrahim Cooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Imam W. Deen Muhammad, president of the American Society of Muslims; Dr Souheil Ghannouchi, President of the Muslim American Society; Aleem Rahman, President of IslamiCity; and Alex Kronemer, producer of PBS’s movie about the prophet Muhammed–as among their initial supporters and advisers.
At the time of the launch, Awad emphasized the importance of North American Muslims having “our own media outlets, our own timing and our own kind of programming. Our channel is in English and about life in America. We want a Muslim child who grows up in America to be able to watch our channel and identify with the characters.”
Hassan said: “American Muslims saw their entire faith hijacked as the perpetrators of these murders claimed Islam as their religion,” the fledgling company said. “The Muslim victims were not only the innocent souls that perished that day, but the entire 7 million American Muslims.”
According to Joseph Farah’s World Net Daily, at the time of the launch, Bridges TV said that “most of the programming will be original since very little exists that would be of interest to U.S. Muslims. The network plans to feature sitcoms that represent American Muslim family life, modeled after the “The Cosby Show,” the hit program that portrayed an African-American family.
According to Daniel Pipes, Bridges has been failing. Perhaps Hassan and his supporters will argue that financial pressure drove him over the edge or led to temporary insanity. But, if so, why a be-heading? Why not a simple shooting? Curiously, when Hassan went to the police, he merely said that his wife is dead. He did not confess and say that he had killed her. In fact, some evidence exists to suggest that he first tried to cover up his role in the crime.
Stay tuned. Brother Hassan might soon claim that Aasiya forced him to be-head her, that she drove him to do so, that he had no other choice. And, from his own point of view, he will be telling the truth.
I would like to thank: Andrew Bostom, who called this case to my attention by sending me Robert Spencer’s coverage of it on JihadWatch; Joseph Farah for his excellent coverage of Bridges TV over the years on WorldNetDaily; and finally, Daniel Pipes for his careful analysis of Bridges TV’s history and his support and encouragement of my work in this area.