Last Thursday, a woman named Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37, was founded decapitated in Orchard Park, New York, a village near Buffalo. Her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was charged, rather oddly, with second-degree murder in the case. But the specter of someone who beheaded his wife being charged only with second-degree murder was the least of the oddities in this case: Aasiya Hassan’s body was found in the offices of the cable channel, Bridges TV. Aasiya Hassan was the inspiration for Bridges TV, and Muzzammil Hassan was its founder.
Muzzammil Hassan founded Bridges TV in 2004 to combat the negative perceptions of Muslims that he thought were dominating the mainstream media. According to a Reuters story at the time, Aasiya “came up with the idea in December 2001 while listening to the radio on a road trip.” Muzzammil Hassan explained: “Some derogatory comments were being made about Muslims that offended her. She was seven months pregnant, and she thought she didn’t want her kids growing up in this environment.”
Bridges TV originally declared that its intention was to “fuse American culture with the values of Islam in a healthy, family-oriented way.” However, there were indications at the outset that it might not have been as moderate as many assumed. Bridges TV from the beginning had ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case, and Islamicity.com, which retails rabid anti-Semitic literature. In 2006 Arab News reported that Hassan was trying to raise money for the network from Saudi investors.
And now comes the clearest, most harrowing indication of all that Bridges TV’s founder was not the moderate he appeared to be, but was rather a man who had imbibed deeply the traditional Islamic understanding that women are possessions of men, to be punished severely when they get out of line. Of course, this singular lesson of the beheading of Aasiya Hassan, who apparently had raised Muzzammil’s ire by filing for divorce, is the one that the mainstream media and the American Muslim community is doing its best to obscure. Immediately after the killing, Khalid J. Qazi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) chapter of Western New York, declared: “There is no place for domestic violence in our religion — none. Islam would 100 percent condemn it.”
Unfortunately, all too few Muslim men seem to share Qazi’s view. The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences has determined that over ninety percent of Pakistani wives have been struck, beaten, or abused sexually — for offenses on the order of cooking an unsatisfactory meal. Others were punished for failing to give birth to a male child. Dominating their women by violence is a prerogative Muslim men cling to tenaciously. In Spring 2005, when the East African nation of Chad tried to institute a new family law that would outlaw wife beating, Muslim clerics led resistance to the measure as un-Islamic.
Why do things like this happen?
Because Islamic clerics worldwide have spoken approvingly of wife-beating.
In 2004, an imam in Spain, Mohammed Kamal Mustafa, was found guilty of “inciting violence on the basis of gender” for his book Women in Islam, which discussed the methods and limits of administering “physical punishment” of women.
Muslim men bring this religiously sanctioned violence with them when they immigrate to the West, even to the United States. The prominent American Muslim leader Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has said that “in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife…The Koran is very clear on this issue.”
In 1984, Sheikh Yousef Qaradhawi, who is one of the most respected and influential Islamic clerics in the world, wrote: “If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored, and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts.”
Why do they say such things?
Because the permission to beat one’s wife is rooted in the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, and Islamic tradition.
The Qur’an says: “Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded. And as for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them…” (4:34)
The Islamic prophet Muhammad was once told that “women have become emboldened towards their husbands,” whereupon he “gave permission to beat them” (Sunan Abu Dawud, book 11, no. 2141). He was unhappy with the women who complained, not with their husbands who beat them.
Muhammad even struck his favorite wife, Aisha. One night, thinking she was asleep, he went out. Aisha surreptitiously followed him. When he found out what she had done, he hit her: “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?” (Sahih Muslim, book 4, no. 2127).
Nothing in there about beheading, no. But Khalid J. Qazi was talking about domestic violence.
Why does this matter? Because as long as no one has the courage to call Muslim leaders like Qazi to account for statements like this, and ask them about the clear justifications for domestic violence that do appear in Islamic tradition, what can possibly be done to combat the prevalence of domestic violence in Islamic communities? Ignoring the Islamic justifications for domestic violence harms Muslim women. And ensures that there will be many more Aasiya Hassans, in the United States and around the world.