Honoring Aasiya

ahBy Muna Ali

(June 8, 2009) – Much has been written about the horrific killing of Aasiya Hassan.

The gruesomeness of the murder has become both a feeding frenzy for Islamophobes and a wake up call to Muslims.

Aasiya, may God build her a house in paradise as her name sake- the wife of the Pharaoh- prayed, was not the first or last woman to have endured violence or to be murdered by a partner.

But the brutality of her murder, the public status and professed mission of the couple, and the new scrutiny of Islam have all positioned this case in a category of its own.

There is no need to enumerate the rates of spousal abuse regardless of color or creed, recall the high profile cases of women beaten or murdered by their husband, recite the moral and religious condemnation, or ponder what is going on in the minds of abusers and murderers.

We already know the statistics, the theories about the “making of an abuser,” the scripts for declarations exonerating religions from the insane actions of followers.

We also know countless women – and some men – mortally wounded in body and spirit by partners who are supposed to be their refuge from the world.

They walk amongst us, concealing wounds with stories of running into walls and bedposts and covering their shame with smiling lips and pleading glances.

They are our friends, neighbors, family members, brothers and sisters in faith.

Aasiya wanted her children to live without shame in a world where their faith is not defined by the worst actions of its followers.

Let not her legacy be the “abused and beheaded” wife or allow her children to forever walk in double sorrow and shame.

She and they deserve better from us – the Muslims and other fellow citizens.

Honoring Aasiya obligates us to remember her not for the gruesome way she exited this world but as the visionary woman who imagined a better world and worked to bring it about.

We honor her by sparing her children the labels, the looks of pity, the whispers about beheading and vicious allegation of “honor killing.”

After all, presenting an alternative to merchants of fear and hate who dehumanize others was her mission.

Let her death save countless other Aasiyas from the oppression of their Pharaoh spouses.

Saving these women and children requires more than our empty words of declarations and condemnations.

It demands a concrete multi-tier action plan that involves the community and each of its members. Imams who think they are “saving the family” by telling abused women: “sister don’t make him angry,” “be patient, this is your jihad,” “stay for your children,” need to remember that every time they send an abused woman back, they might just be signing her death sentence.

Imams and elders need to remember that a woman has told herself these very statements countless times over and had endured for years before she summons courage from the corners of a broken spirit and a shattered self to make this “private shame” public.

Abused women of all backgrounds everywhere hesitate to get outsiders and particularly authorities involved but Muslim women have the added burden of knowing that if they report domestic abuse they also confirm the worst stereotypes about Muslim men and women and about Islam.

Our men are already demonized and our religion vilified; so we think a million times before we publicly air out our dirty laundry.

So tell her to go back and to endure some more and know you are collaborating with her abuser and Islam-bashers everywhere.

We need to take to task every imam and khateeb who states or even suggests that the Quran and Hadith tradition permit a man to beat his wife.

Ask him if the Prophet who embodied the Quran ever struck a living being.

Ask that imam if he would approve of the beating of his daughter or mother or sister or if he is prepared to stand before God and the Prophet with that assertion.

The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic abuse are women and children.

But we commit another injustice if we neglect the men, however few they might be, enduring the tyranny of wives who, if not physically abusing these husbands, carve them with razor-edge words that kill the spirit in countless ways.

For every confidant who knows and does nothing, know you too are accountable and dishonor the relationship with the abused for not assisting and the abuser for not stopping.

After all we are our brothers/sisters keepers.

So counsel them or get them the counsel they need, preserve their dignity and privacy but not to their detriment, and provide refuge if that is what is needed.

Do not comfort yourself by supposedly minding your own business.

As a community, we need to have a forum that urgently moves from discussion to decision to doing and from prevention to intervention.

Spouses are meant to be our garments of honor and protection, our staunchest allies and advocates, the wells that quench our thirst for love and satisfy our hunger for harmony.

When homes become a war zone rather than sanctuaries, victims must be rescued. We honor those betrayed by spouses by rising to our responsibility, by putting abusers on notice and letting the abused know they have our unequivocal support, by creating refuge and safe houses…building Aasiya’s houses.


A trial date of January 18, 2010, has been set for a Muslim-American businessman, Muzzammil Hassan, charged with beheading his estranged wife, Aasiya,  at the upstate New York television station, Bridges TV,  the couple created to counter Muslim stereotypes.

The 37-year-old woman was stabbed multiple times and decapitated Feb. 12 at the offices of Bridges TV in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park.

Hassan has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Aasiyah