Following the recent beheading of Aasiya Zubair Hassan, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) issued what it called “an open letter to the leaders of American Muslim communities.” The letter was a call against domestic violence, which apparently Hassan had been a long time victim of. However, while ISNA was condemning domestic violence and while Hassan was suffering from it, the group was perpetuating the same crime on its website and via the works of its leadership.
On Thursday, February 12th, Syed Muzzammil Hassan a.k.a. Mo Steve Hassan arrived at a police station in Orchard Park, New York, where he resided, to report the death of his wife. Aasiya Hassan’s body was found decapitated at Bridges TV, the television network Muzzammil had established at the behest of her in December 2004. Shortly after his contact with the police, Hassan was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder.
According to various sources, Aasiya Hassan had endured violent abuse at the hands of her husband for an extended period of time, as had two previous wives of Hassan. The abuse was said to be widely known throughout the Muslim community.
Following the murder, a number of Islamic organizations issued statements condemning the actions of Hassan. One of the groups, the Islamic Society of North America, issued a letter written by its Vice President, Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, concerning the event, which was quoted from by different news sources. The letter contained many statements that were, on their face, laudable. They included:
· “This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and can not be ignored.”
· “The shame is on the person who committed the act of violence or abuse. Our community needs to take a strong stand against abusive spouses.”
· “Any one who abuses their spouse should know that their business becomes the business of the community and it is our responsibility to do something about it.”
· “Let us work together to prevent domestic violence and abuse and especially, violence against women.”
While the statements seemed virtuous and responsible, in reality they were entirely hypocritical, as the group that published them, ISNA, has propagated and continues to propagate the complete opposite.
ISNA, on its website, hosts a version of the Quran which contains a variety of crude statements, at least one of which deals with the Islamically sanctioned beating of women. The quote reads as follows: “[T]he righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly).”
The above citation is in direct contrast to ISNA’s letter condemning domestic violence against women. Indeed, it mandates the violence. The information was found on ISNA’s site throughout most of Aasiya Hassan’s abusive eight year marriage to Muzzammil, and it is still there today.
One of the members of ISNA’s Board of Directors (Majlis Ash-Shura) is Jamal A. Badawi, a very popular lecturer throughout the radical Islamic speaking circuit. Badawi is also an established author. His book Gender Equity in Islam -- a portion of which is featured on ISNA’s site -- deals with various subjects regarding women, including the previously mentioned Quranic beating issue.
In Gender, Badawi writes: “In the event of a family dispute, the Qur’an exhorts the husband to treat his wife kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects. If the problem relates to the wife’s behavior, her husband may exhort her and appeal for reason. In most cases, this measure is likely to be sufficient. In cases where the problem continues, the husband may express his displeasure in another peaceful manner by sleeping in a separate bed from hers. There are cases, however where a wife persists in deliberate mistreatment of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations.”
Badawi continues: “Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body…” Badawi described this as a “permissible beating” and “permissible striking.”
The gruesome slaying of Aasiya Hassan took place less than a week after she had filed for divorce from her husband. Is it possible that, shortly prior to her death, Muzzammil Hassan was taking Badawi’s advice and was attempting to “save the marriage”?
The “wake up call” that ISNA speaks of in its Hassan letter is a lie. If the group heeded its own advice, it would have removed the offensive material immediately from its site prior to releasing the letter, and it would have removed Jamal Badawi from its Board, as well. The “shame” that ISNA mentions is not just on the one who perpetrated the crime, as the group says it is. It is also on ISNA and others like it, who propagate and provide the brutal ideology which leads to such criminal and horrific behavior.
In truth, instead of issuing condemnation letters, ISNA needs to bear much responsibility for what happened to Aasiya Hassan.