A disturbing story appeared in various news sources yesterday and today. An American of Pakistani origin has been arrested for the beheading of his wife. Last Thursday the body of Aasiya Hassan, 37, a Pakistani national who had been living in Buffalo in the US for eight years, was found in the offices of a television station where she worked with her husband. Aasiya's husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, a Pakistani-American businessman, had turned himself in to the police and was arrested for the murder of his estranged wife.
Muzzammil is the Chief Executive (and founder) of an Islamic television station called Bridges TV that he launched in 2004, which he said was his wife’s idea in responding to the need for an English-language cable television channel aimed at the US and Canadian Muslims. Bridges TV was apparently created in the hopes of portraying Muslims in a better light under the slogan "connecting people through understanding".
But in the couple’s private life, there seemed to be a history of misunderstanding and domestic violence. The Hassans lived in Orchard Park — a well-off Buffalo suburb that hadn't seen a homicide since 1986. Aasiya Hassan filed for divorce February 6, police said, and Muzzammil Hassan was served with divorce papers at the station. That night, he showed up at the couple's home, she notified authorities and he was served with a restraining order. Just 6 days later, Muzzammil went to a police station and told officers his wife was dead at the TV studio.
To add to the horror of the murder by beheading, the sister of the victim, who resides in South Africa, may have been on the phone with her sister at the time of the murder. Asma Firfirey of suburban Cape Town, South Africa, reported to a local South African newspaper that she was on the phone with her sister, when she heard her tell her husband to calm down. She said she heard her sister say the two could talk about their impending divorce the following day. Then she heard something that sounded like her sister struggling to breathe. Police have charged Hassan's husband, Muzzammil Hassan, with second-degree, or intentional, murder in the death of his wife, according to the Erie County District Attorney's Office. Police are yet to find the murder weapon.
The incident has ignited major debate about what role religion played in the brutal slaying. Some commentators have termed it an ''honour killing'' and blamed extremist interpretations of Islam for the beheading. Acquaintances said Muzzammil Hassan was not overtly religious — co-workers did not see him pray, for instance. But he seemed to adhere to many traditional practices.
Muslim activists are urging against applying cultural and religious stereotypes in what they say is an extreme case of domestic violence. Muslim activists though condemned what one academic called ''exploitation of her (Aasiya’s) death by others with an agenda of vilifying Islam and demonizing Muslims.'' After a story in the Toronto Star that reported the slaying with a reference to Sharia law, Aliya Khan, a professor of clinical medicine at McMaster University, wrote to the paper expressing outrage that the article jumped from ''describing the tragic murder to attacking Sharia law, as though it could somehow be blamed for a totally unrelated incident.''