Monday, February 16, 2009

Muslim Founder of Islamic Network Beheads Wife: But it's No Big Deal?

Update (February 17, 2009):
"Muzzammil Hassan on CNN: Islamic Network and Beheaded Wife in (some of) the News"
It could have been worse: Muzzammil Hassan could have had the beheaded body of somebody else's wife leaving a stain on his business.

As it is, Bridges TV, which "aims to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations" has a serious public relations issue on its hands. A Pakistani news outlet's headline reads "Islamic TV owner charged with beheading wife." Under the circumstances, there's no way to avoid mentioning the Hassan's religious beliefs.

Old-school American news media does, though, seem to be having a shot at ignoring ht whole story.

Muzzammil Hassan is a Muslim, His Network's Islamic: Deal With it

I've written about 'former altar boy' news coverage in another blog. As a convert to a religious minority, I'm rather sensitive to implied connections between religious belief and criminal tendencies.

In this case, though, there's no way to reasonably ignore Muzzammil Haassan's being a Muslim:
  • Aasiya Hassan's body was beheaded
  • Muzzammil Haassan isn't just a Muslim: he's a prominent member of the local Muslim community
  • Bridges TV is an Islamic network, dedicated to building bridges between cultures
In this case, with a decapitated body recalling Al Qaeda and Saudi executions, and the suspect being not merely a prominent member of a Muslim community, but the founder of an Islamic network, it's simply not practical to avoid mentioning Islam and pointing out that Mr. Hassan is a Muslim. Not without leaving out major parts of the story.

Muslim Husband, Beheaded Wife, Islamic Network: What's a Tolerant News Editor to Do?!

Ignoring Mr. Hassan's being a Muslim would be like ignoring Pat Robertson's being a Christian (in a hypothetical case of Dede's body at CBN headquarters leading to his arrest). Whether or not religious belief had anything to do with Aasiya's death, Muzzammil Hassan is known mostly as a prominent Muslim in his community, and the founder of an Islamic network in America.

If We Close Our Eyes, Maybe It'll Go Away

On the other hand, it's quite possible to ignore this entire affair of a beheaded wife on the floor of an Islamic network. CNN and The New York Times seem to be doing that, so far.

They'll probably get around to reporting on this parochial incident, when they've got more information. I can't help but suspect that they're also trying to come up with a suitably multicultural approach to a decapitated woman and a Muslim husband.

And, yes: I looked for something - anything - that CNN or The New York Times had published on this story. Rather thoroughly, around 11:00 a.m., Eastern time, today.

Not an Honor Killing - This is Just Domestic Violence

Nobody's used the phrase, "honor killing" yet. Which is just as well. From the looks of it, this killing could be a case of domestic violence.

By a Muslim.

Who is from Pakistan.

No, I don't hate Muslims, or Islam: and I'm not against Pakistan or Pakistanis. But I do think there may be a connection between Mr. Hassan's background, and his wife ending up in pieces.

Ancient Customs in Today's America

Yaser Abdul Said had two daughters, before he killed them. He seems to have had a perfectly good reason for ending the lives of Sarah and Amina: they were disgracing him and his family.

I've got three daughters, and can sympathize with a father who feels stressed now and again. But kill them? Because they don't do what I think they should? Not gonna happen.

But, I didn't grow up in a part of the world where a family's Big Daddy was expected to knock off daughters who wore the wrong clothes, talked to the wrong people, learned to read, or did something else that wasn't in line with local customs, or made Big Daddy look bad.

American Tolerance Has Limits

I think that if Yaser Abdul Said had whacked his daughters back in the old country, he'd have been accepted as an upstanding example of paterfamilias - or whatever the local language's term is.

Here in America, we're tolerant of different customs and beliefs: but only to a point. Kill your daughters, and you're in trouble. No matter how big a snit you're in.

Muzzammil Hassan: Victim of American Culture?

Muzzammil Hassan may have had a good reason (by his standards) for killing his wife: She was going to divorce him. She was obviously not being a properly "Islamic" wife, by some standards. She
  • Was filing for a divorce
  • Had a restraining order that " 'had him out of the home as of Friday the 6th [of February]' "
    (Buffalo News)
In a way, I feel a bit sorry for Mr. Hassan. Aasiya was his second wife. He has two kids left over from #1. The idea of being a two-time loser can be tough on a guy. Even someone with Mr. Hassan's lofty ideals. (I'm not being sarcastic there: I'll get to Bridges TV in the next section.)

Mr. Hassan is 44 now. Before she lost her head, Aasiya was 37. Muzzammil Hassan came to America from Pakistan 25 years ago, according to the news. Doing a little arithmetic, I see that he was about 19 when he left Pakistan.

People that age have learned a great deal from their home culture. We can, if we want to, continue to learn new ideas and refine our old ones, all our lives. But it can be awfully hard.

I don't think it's all that unlikely that, being kicked out of 'his' home, and facing the prospect of losing another wife, whatever Muzzammil Hassan had learned from a quarter century in America wasn't enough. Courts will look at the evidence, and it's (remotely) possible that Mr. Hassan isn't the blade-wielding killer he seems to be.

But, right now, it looks like someone who grew up in a really old-fashioned culture snapped, and whacked off the head of a woman who was 'making him feel bad.'

Friends like this, Islam doesn't need.

Bridges TV: Good Idea, Lousy Publicity

Bridges TV, founded by Muzzammil 'off with her head' Hassan, prominent member of Orchard Park's Muslim community, seems to be based on a really good idea.

Here's their Mission Statement:

"Bridges TV aims to foster a greater understanding among many cultures and diverse populations. Through our high-quality, informative, 24x7 programming in English; we seek to become a unifying force that can help people understand our diverse world thorough education and entertainment."

Like most mission statements, it seems very nice. I'm quite sure that whoever is running marketing and public relations for Bridges TV is trying to find a way of saying that Bridges TV is doing a fine job, and that the beheaded body of a woman who was trying to escape their founder has little or nothing to do with their mission.

And, make it sound convincing.

That's a job I'd rather not have.

Mutual Understanding: a Good Idea

I've written before, about the need for becoming informed. Since that September morning in 2001, when airliners hit New York City's World Trade Center, I've been making a point of learning more about Islam, Middle Eastern cultures and beliefs, and related topics.

I think that quite a few Muslims might benefit from learning about Western culture from someone besides Osama bin Laden, professor Churchill, and Congressman Keith Ellison, but that's a whole different topic.

Bridges TV: Uniquely Unique Views

"Unique" and "Uniquely" both show up on Bridges TV's Daily News & Current Affairs page, in program descriptions.

Technically, they're accurate: no two people, and no two news-and-views programs are exactly identical - barring video recordings.

However, as a recovering English teacher who spent much of the sixties, seventies, and eighties in and near college campuses, Bridges' 'news' programming doesn't stand out all that much.

As of today, the news lineup, online, includes:

"Democracy Now
"Daily at 9p ET/10p PT
"Amy Goodman, the NY Times best selling author of Exception to the Rulers and Static, hosts a daily current affairs show. Tune in for a unique global view & guests."

The Democracy Now! website (the name is supposed to include an exclamation mark), identifies Amy Goodman as "radio's voice of the disenfranchised left" - and provides a copy of the Los Angeles Times article which described her in those words ("She has opinions, will travel / Left-wing radio's Amy Goodman takes her views on the road." Los Angeles Times, via Democracy Now! (April 21 2004)).1

No wonder The New York Times hadn't published an article on this beheading. Bridges TV's "unique" news programming will require delicate handling.

Bridges TV may think so to. At this moment, around mid-afternoon in America's central time zone, they're quite insistent that visitors to their website see this message:

"Bridges TV is deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Aasiya [Zubair] Hassan

Requests that the families' right to privacy be respected."

Islam, Culture, American Law, and the Human Condition

Right now, we know very little about what happened to Aasiya's death, except that her head was removed. Probably by the guy she had a court order against, and was trying to divorce.

This nasty death may or may not have anything to do with some quirky version of Islam. And, if there is a connection, I think it's arguable that the murder has more to do with old-fashioned Middle Eastern cultural norms, than Islam itself. Although Middle Eastern culture does seem to have had a massive effect on Islam. At least, in the Middle East.

I sincerely hope that traditional news outlets decide to drop their 'multicultural tolerance,' and report on this story. Even if there's nothing particularly 'Islamic' about Aasiya's beheading, trying to ignore this unpleasant death will look like an attempted whitewash.

Related posts: In the news: Background:
1 The paragraph containing that iconic quote, from the Los Angeles Times (April 21, 2004):

"...The fan base of 'Amyheads' is expanding in an age in which right-wing voices such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity dominate the radio airwaves. The recently launched Air America, with its more left-wing agenda, has been little more than a tepid challenge to those voices due to financial and technical difficulties. (Air America was yanked off the air last week in Los Angeles and Chicago because the network bounced a $1-million check.) Goodman, who calls Pacifica 'a sanctuary of dissent,' has emerged as radio's voice of the disenfranchised left...."

1 comment:

ahmed said...

MashALLAH great work..

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.