The following is reprinted with permission of the author, Debra
LoGuercio, a columnist I admire very much. I thought it was important enough to ask
for her permission to reprint.
Beheading of Muslim woman drips with blood and irony
By Debra LoGuercio
ęCopyright 2009, Debra LoGuercio, all rights reserved
I didn't want to write about this. We have enough doom and gloom already -- why add to our
collective pool of misery. But this story needs to be told because it got far less press
last week than Jennifer Aniston turning 40 or the latest update on human baby factory
Nadya Suleman. And that, in and of itself, is just wrong.
The brutal murder of Aasiya Hassan, however, is beyond wrong. It's beyond tragic. There
isn't even a word that captures the horror of being murdered by one's own husband. That is
how Hassan's life ended. Her decapitated body was found in a hallway, her severed head
This horror took place not in some tribal area of the Middle East, where beheadings are
acceptable forms of punishment, but in Buffalo, New York. Yes, right here in America. And
no one noticed. Or maybe they're afraid to notice. But we must notice.
"The crime drips with brutal irony: a woman decapitated, allegedly by her estranged
husband, in the offices of the television network the couple founded with the hope of
countering Muslim stereotypes," writes Carolyn Thompson of the Associated Press.
Brutal irony indeed.
A related AP story notes that New York television executive, Muzzammil Hassan, 44,
"sought to improve the image of Muslims in the media" and "launched his
Bridges TV network in 2004. In an AP interview, he said he hoped the network would balance
negative portrayals of Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks."
So much for that.
A week before her death, Aasiya Hassan filed for a divorce, allegedly following years of
domestic violence and abuse. She had a restraining order, and her husband was legally
forced from their home in a quiet, upscale New York suburb. Following their estrangement,
says the AP story, "the beheaded body of Aasiya Hassan, 37, was found last week at
the offices of Bridges TV, the Muslim-American television network the couple started to
promote understanding between cultures."
Muzzammil Hassan's defense attorney James Harrington insisted, "culture, religion
doesn't play a role." (Ah, defense attorneys. Their concept of "truth" is
so fluid.) The AP story notes that "experts say such killings are still accepted
among fanatical Muslim men, including in the couple's native Pakistan, who feel betrayed
by their wives." In other words, honor killings.
Estranged husbands - both Muslim and non-Muslim - injure and murder their wives with
shocking frequency, but beheading falls into a grisly category all its own. They just
don't happen here. True, beheadings occurred in our European history, but nowadays, they
occur predominantly in the Muslim world. Outside the Muslim world, beheadings simply do
not occur in modern society anymore, except at the hands of the criminally insane. (Note
to Muslim world: Beheading is oh-so six centuries ago.)
It would be easy to let the murder of Aasiya Hassan intensify the mistrust and tension
between Muslims and non-Muslims, but I decided to focus instead on the one sliver of hope
in this nightmarish story. It's not much of a sliver, microscopic in fact, but it's
The AP notes that the Islamic Society of North America "urged (Muslim) leaders to
take a strong stand against domestic violence." Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali stated,
"Women who seek divorce from their spouses because of physical abuse should get full
support from the community and should not be viewed as someone who has brought shame to
herself or her family."
OK, it's a start, and the Islamic Society of North America should be applauded for that.
At least there was "urging" to take a stand, and a statement that abused women
seeking a divorce should be supported by the community rather than scorned (let alone
brutally murdered) but it wasn't enough. The Islamic Society didn't declare Muzzammil
Hassan's actions to be unacceptable. His actions should have been soundly denounced. They
were not. The statement talks about the woman, talks about the community, but the actions
of the murderer were ignored. Let that not go unnoticed.
Nonetheless, the Islamic Society's statement was still a start, and we should heap praise
on Muslims who speak out against atrocities committed by those claiming to follow Islam,
and in particular, to honor killings and beheadings. Bravo, Islamic Society of North
America! And a denouncement, even as an addendum, would still be welcomed!
As for Aasiya Hassan, we can't help her now, but we can honor her memory. Former Bridges
TV news director Nancy Sanders said that Hassan "didn't want her children to be
brought up in a world where every mention of a Muslim had some sort of terrorist
connotation to it." We can honor Hassan - both Muslim and non-Muslim alike - by
objecting loudly to honor killings and barbarism such as that which ended her life.
Sanders adds, "This woman in particular fought so hard to change the image of Muslims
in America, and how does she die? This brutal act at the hand of her husband. It just
It should stun us all. A lot more than Jennifer Aniston turning 40 or some woman in
Southern California spraying out babies like a lawn sprinkler.