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The Left and a Woman's Severed Head By: Phyllis Chesler
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Within hours of the news of Aasiya Z. Hassan's February 12th beheading, allegedly by her husband, Muzzamil Hassan, in Buffalo, American-Muslim organizations and individuals began a dirge bemoaning the existence of domestic violence. But thanks be to Allah, they affirmed, such violence exists among all faiths and ethnicities. Such family violence, they insisted, had nothing to do with Islam. Muslim leaders emphasized that honor killings were “anti-Islamic" or "un-Islamic," a holdover from "pre-Islamic times." They vowed to preach against it in the mosque. All well and good.

That Mr. Hassan beheaded his wife--well, that simply wasn't dwelled upon. Muslim religious feminist, Asra Nomani, and Irshad Manjie, both referred to the Buffalo beheading as an "honor killing" and despaired of the silence which still surrounded this form of domestic violence against Muslim girls and women. As Muslim women, they were not as squeamish about condemning violence against Muslim women by Muslim men and by Islamic culture.

Zarqa Abid, a soulful-sounding religious Muslim woman claimed that her cousin was once married to this same Hassan, and she denounced Hassan as a "monster." Abid also criticized the Islamic community for having refused to listen to her when she attempted to alert them to Hassan's criminal nature and deeds. Instead, they shunned her and continued to shower him with their money and to honor him. 

Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, a Muslim author and activist, said that "there is so much negativity about Muslims (this beheading) sort of perpetuates it. The right wing is going to run with it and misuse it. But we've got to shine a light on this issue so that we can transform it."

Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, of Sterling, Virginia, vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America, said that "violence against women is real and cannot be ignored."

Nevertheless, Muslim organizations are relatively silent about this atrocity, given how vocal they usually are when Islam or Muslims are involved. A Google search of CAIR and beheadings only revealed that CAIR had given the alleged murderer an award."

Alright, some Muslims are calling it an honor killing, most are insisting that it is not an honor killing and that it has nothing to do with Islam; some Muslims are admitting that, like other groups, Muslims also have a serious problem with violence against women. Progress, of sorts.

What did American feminists have to say? Well, I’m certainly one, and I have been on record a long, long time opposing Islamic gender and religious apartheid, both in Muslim lands and in the West. I write about this subject weekly, often daily. Nonie Darwish, a Muslim-born Palestinian-American feminist, has condemned Sharia law as dangerous to women and other living beings. Now, for the first time, an American non-Muslim feminist has joined us.

On February 13, 2009, Marcia Pappas, the President of NOW-New York State, hit the ground running. She was quoted world-wide, even as far away as India. Pappas bravely asserted that the Buffalo beheading was a domestic violence murder that smacked of terrorism and jihad. The February 16, 2009 NOW-New York State press release quoted her as saying:

And why is this horrendous story not all over the news? Is a Muslim woman's life not worth a five-minute report? This was, apparently, a terroristic version of "honor killing," a murder rooted in cultural notions about women's subordination to men. Are we now so respectful of the Muslim's religion that we soft-peddle atrocities committed in its name?...What is this deafening silence?

And exactly what do orders of protection do? Was Aasiya desperately waving the order of protection in Muzzamil's face when he slashed at her throat? Was it still clutched in her hand when her head hit the floor? You of the press, please shine a light on this most dreadful of murders. In a bizarre twist of fate it comes out that Muzzamil Hassan is founder of a television network called Bridges TV, whose purpose it was to portray Muslims in a positive light. This is a huge story. Please tell it!

Alas, other than Pappas, and the feminists who supported her privately, most feminist leaders either attacked Pappas or remained silent.

News of the beheading became public the evening of February 12, 2009. Eight days later, on February 20, 2009, more than a week after NOW-NY State President Pappas began talking to the media, and four days after Pappas released a press release, President of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, finally published a column in which she stated that the beating of pop music star Rihanna is every bit as bad as the beheading of Aasiya Z. Hassan. Or the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Gandy joins many of the Muslim groups in failing to differentiate the difference between a terrible, humiliating beating, (Rihanna), and being stabbed many times and then beheaded while you are, quite possibly, still alive, perhaps even conscious.

Yes, I agree, and I share Gandy's concern: Domestic violence against women is an epidemic. Although we have laws against it, police officers and judges ready to arrest and prosecute, as well as (too few) shelters available for those intended victims who manage to escape--still, we have not managed to abolish the scourge of domestic violence. Gandy is, understandably, frustrated.

Many women, (the statistics vary), are killed by their intimate partners. Amy Siskind, at The Daily Beast, tells us that "Sadly, this type of tragedy is hardly unusual in our country, where each and every day three or more women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend. In fact, statistics tell us that in the ten days since Aasiya died, 30 or more women in America have been murdered by their husband or boyfriend. The attention on this case comes as a result of the gruesome way in which Aasiya was murdered—torture and then decapitation—and what a beheading symbolically means."

Yes, I agree. However, Gandy and her supporters still refuse to consider that Muslim women and immigrant women in general probably face much greater danger, both in terms of being beaten and being killed than do non-Muslim women; that Muslim women in Muslim countries are prey, targets, human sacrifices, every single day; and that if we do not stop the forces of jihad that are headed our way that many more women will be beaten, veiled, and killed both at home and on the street.

Feminist women. Educated women. Christian and Jewish women. Yes, even me and Kim Gandy.

Gandy rejects focusing on Aasiya Z. Hassan's beheading because it might play into the hands of conservative "racists;" it might lead to "profiling." Wait a minute. NOW has conducted a serious campaign against religion, mainly against Christianity and Judaism. Why the sudden respect for Islam, a religion which is, in reality, not a religion at all but is rather, a totalitarian political ideology which has undergone no evolution for 1400 years and which is dangerous to women and other living beings?

Gandy fears that we might only focus on Aasiya's beheading or even on Rihanna's beating as entertainment, escape, lured by such sensational or celebrity cases. It's possible, but, perhaps it is equally possible to learn from such cases precisely because they've grabbed our restless attention spans.

Let me repeat: Apples are not oranges. Domestic violence is not femicide. Let’s be careful not to mix the two up. And, western-style domestic violence/femicide does not often end with an Islamic-style beheading. I am saying that we must make these distinctions, not be blinded by political correctness.

For those American feminists and Muslim-Americans who still insist that beheadings and domestic violence/femicide against Muslim girls and women has absolutely, definitely, positively, nothing to do with Islam or Muslims: I dunno. Ask Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders, read Nonie's recent book Cruel and Usual Punishment, about the nature of Sharia law and Muslim women. My God, talk to Muslim feminist dissident-activists like UK-based Maryam Namazie, or the group “Muslims against Sharia Law” which I have now joined.

Kim Gandy: Please, I implore you, read what I've written about Islamic gender apartheid and its penetration of the West in The Death of Feminism. Read what I've written about this Buffalo case, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Yes, domestic violence exists everywhere, both in America and on every other continent. But it is not normalized nor is it glorified everywhere. In the West, it is now criminalized and increasingly prosecuted, with imperfect but increasing success. In Pakistan, where Mr. Hassan comes from, it rarely is. In Pakistan, girls and women are still decapitated by the Arabized Taliban, buried alive, routinely beaten in childhood and in marriage, (yes, and while they are pregnant); women are gang-raped--and when they legally protest, threatened with death. Women who want a divorce are shot, even in their feminist lawyer's offices.

Muzzamil "Mo" Hassan's heart and mind remains in the East, in Pakistan. His body remains in custody in Buffalo, charged with second degree murder. Until or unless "torture" can be proved, he is eligible to be tried only for second-degree murder. In my article, “A “Cultural” Offense/Defense—But For the Prosecution. Some Thoughts for the Prosecutor of the Buffalo Beheading,” at Pajamas, I have suggested that the prosecutor consider that Mo Hassan was completely in control.

Hassan selected the weapon or weapons. He planned this beheading. He was not out of control when he stabbed and beheaded his wife. He was controlling the situation in a Pakistani male Muslim kind of way: By decapitating the woman, who had once been his wife, who had turned uppity enough to dare to eject him from his own home and who planned to keep his children. Hassan may have been living in America for more than thirty years but he still remains a Pakistani Muslim male through and through. Beating a wife is the "normal" way to relate to her. Killing her for being disobedient, in his mind, was what she deserved.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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