Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Woman Beheaded in New York State. National Organization for Women-NYS Questions Media Blackout

My friend, Heather, forwarded me this awful story and press release:

Press Release
February 16th, 2009
Contact: Marcia Pappas, 518-452-3944

Woman Beheaded in New York State

National Organization for Women-NYS Questions Media Blackout

ALBANY, NY (02/16/2009; 1237)(readMedia)-- On February 12, 2009, in Orchard Park, Buffalo, NY, forty-four year-old Muzzamil Hassan, a prominent Muslim businessman, was arrested for having allegedly beheaded his wife, thirty-seven year-old Aasiya Z. Hassan. What was Aasiya's crime? Why, Aasiya was having Muzzamil served with divorce papers. And apparently, on February 6, Aasiya obtained an order of protection which had forced her violent husband out of their home.

NOW New York State is horrified that Erie County DA, Frank A. SeditaII, has referred to this ghastly crime as "the worst form of domestic violence possible." The ridiculous juxtaposition of "domestic" and "beheading" in the same journalistic breath points up the inherent weakness of the whole "domestic violence" lexicon.

What is "domestic" about this violence? NOW NYS President Marcia Pappas says "it is high time we stop regarding assaults and murders as a lover's quarrels gone bad. We further demand of lawmakers that punishments fit crimes. We of NOW decry the selective enforcement of assault laws and call for judicial enforcement of our mandatory arrest policy, even when the axe-wielder is known by his victim."

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 it's name? Millions of women in this country are maimed and killed by their husbands or partners. Had this awful murder been perpetrated by a African American, a Latino, a Jew, or a Catholic, the story would be flooding the airwaves. 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 as 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 a huge story. Please tell it!
Marcia A. Pappas, President
National Organization for Women-NYS
Phone: 518-452-3944
Presidents Email: NewYorkStateNOW@aol.com
General Email: Info@nownys.org


Feminist in the City said...

This is unbelievable! This should be breaking news and all over the place but this is the first time I've seen anything reported on it and I was home sick today. I'm outraged! Justice must be served!

Thank you for posting! I'll be sure to spread the news of this despicable story tomorrow!

phd in yogurtry said...

This is the first I've heard of this story. Unbelievable. And yes, labeling this murder "domestic violence" serves to quiet or temper the heinousness of the crime. Very sad, frightening, and another example to our young women and middle aged women who are clueless about the worth of feminism - misogyny is alive and well.

K@ndi said...

"it is high time we stop regarding assaults and murders as a lover's quarrels gone bad" - EXACTLY!

Lucie @ Unconventional Origins said...

God this story has me sick. What really gets me about this is EXACTLY what you said - why isn't this news? Can you imagine if a white soccer mom in the suburbs was beheaded? We would NEVER stop hearing about it. Why is this woman's life so devalued? Where is the outrage?

FeministGal said...

just to clarify, i didn't write this, it was a NOW press release. That being said, yes i completely agree there is nowhere close to enough outrage about this and it should have been ALL over the news yesterday :/

Alex Z. said...

I very much dislike appeals to emotion, which NOW is full of.

First, many newspapers reported on this the day after it happened. It just didn't go national until the 16th. Second, why does this need to be given such weight? What gives it the right to get precedence over other types of murder? Because it was a woman? Because of the ethnicity or religion of the two? Because the crime is more grisly than usual? There's over 40 murders a day in the US alone. Uniqueness does not make one murder more deserving of condemnation than another. And finally, what more do you want? This guy is the first suspect. He was arrested and has been charged with second degree murder. This is not being taken lightly.

As for the domestic thing, are there statistics on prosecution of murder cases described as domestic versus other cases? Are murderers being sentenced differently under the law when such an adjective is used? In what mind does the word domestic soften the word murder? Whether described as a gang shooting, domestic violence, or a premeditated masterplan, whether someone got strangled by a midnight burglar or filled with lead in a bank heist, it's still murder. I don't see how the idea of two people in a home fighting changes this.

Finally, I don't like the tone at the end of NOW's cry to arms regarding Hassan's television network. It almost seems like they want this story out in order to invalidate the network's purpose, which, regardless of this one person's vile deeds (allegedly), is still valid. If that is not her intent, Marcia Pappas needs to seriously reconsider her choice of words.

Anonymous said...

Alex Z, while your arguments are valid, the fact that this person was a spokesperson for the Muslim world, does not bode well for their cause, and furthers the idea out there in the world that Muslims believe women are not "free."

He should be charged with first degree.

Anonymous said...

I have seen next to nothing about this on feminist blogs. The one blog talking about it seems mostly concerned about not focusing on the Muslim aspect.Personally I don't think the Muslim aspect is irrelevant. There have been VERY PUBLIC decapitations performed by Muslims for political purposes see: Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Fabrizio Quattrochi, Shosei Koda, Piotr Stanczak and others. Therefore to me it's reasonable to PUBLICLY look at the Muslim aspect . Furthermore there are government approved decapitions in Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere). There where the two women beheaded in Pakistan (I can't find their names)This beheading of Aasiya Hassan is part of a pattern. IN this case it's of a private unofficial non-political "domestic" kind of decapitiation. I don't know, I think decapitation warrants attention. But yeah murders happen everyday all the time so maybe we should just ignore them all rather than give certain murders "special" attention.

Alex Z. said...

He should only be charged with 1st degree if it can be proven that it was premeditated murder.

Decapitations are brutal, but just because we are unused to them is no reason to put them above gunshot wounds or stabbings. As for the reason it continues to hapen, look no further than the Qur'an. Those who interpret it literally cite passages that support this practice.

I am not condoning this practice, yet even under Islamic law, if this guy did it, it is a crime and he would probably be put to death. Most decapitations in the Muslim world are either perpetuated by terrorist organizations or as a form of capital punishment. Vigilante beheadings are not endorsed. It's not like anyone can remove someone's head whenever they feel like it. Yet, because of it's historical and sacred importance, some crimes that are committed by Muslims happen to be beheadings.

Is this an issue of male privilege? I agree that there are some practices in the Muslim world that have no right to exist, for example honor killings, but as far as the practice of decapitation goes, both men and women have fallen victim to it. Prisoners of war tend to be mostly male and acceptable to behead, and both men and women are beheaded when it comes to capital punishment. The only disparity seems to be in these type of crimes, where a man kills a woman for a perceived dishonor. Very rarely do you hear a story about a woman decapitating a man. Sadly, many of the inequalities perpetuated in the Muslim world against women are not condoned by the Qur'an, but are simply longstanding cultural practices. In an ideal world under Islam, men and women are equal. The problem patriarchal interpretations of certain provisions for their own benefit. No matter what part of the world you are in, this will be the main problem you will find.

To return to the issue, again, I'm not condoning this practice, but I understand why it happens. How do you fly in the face of over a millennium of historical and sacred texts? Simply telling them that it's wrong ain't gonna stop it.

Anonymous said...

I think this should be looked at BOTH from the domestic violence angle as well as the Muslim aspect. Imagine if some Jews were occasionally making a public political statement by decapitating people. Would people say, well I don't condone it but... it's a cultural remnant and Judaism doesn't approve of it, those Jews are misinterpreting Jewish law, and besides any Jewish husband who decapitates his wife would be prosecuted according to Jewish law,and MOST Jewish decapitations are a form of capitol punishment or done by a random few terrorists? OF course it should be understood that domestic violence AND honor killing are not the soul domain of one particular group, any more than murder is, whether it's decapitation,shooting, lynching or whatever. That said,I would differentiate between random murders that occur in a culture versus systematic murders that occur in a culture. I wouldn't classify a serial killer exactly the same as someone who lost it and shot someone. Not all murders are created equal.

Kelly said...

Some people are talking about it. This has been the main topic of discussion (among other recent tragedies) in our break room, and I am sure we are not the only ones.

Anonymous said...

In what way is decapitation (an Honor Killing as it was put) not pre-meditated?

For those of you that think that Islam is not the problem. I think you should take a serious look at Sharia Law. Sharia Law is the law that Muslims must obey.

It clearly states that a mans word is worth that of four women. Islam is already used to justify and excuse the sufferings of women subjected to domestic violence, forced marriage, “honour” killings, forced child-bearing and endless drudgery.

Do not take this lightly.


Alex Z. said...

It really depends on your definition of premeditation. It varies widely, mostly as to the time frame. At one point is a person considered to have consciously intended the act?

Anyway, what I didn't realize is that New York interprets second degree murder as including premeditation. First degree murder is applied to the degree, such as multiple murders, torture, and "especially heinous murders," which I think is the key term here, but it's open to interpretation.

As for Sharia, I do have to ask about this:

"It clearly states that a man's word is worth that of four women."

I can find no reference to this anywhere.

You have to remember that Sharia is nothing more than an interpretation. Reforms need to be made, there is no doubt. The fact that it is religious law as opposed to civil or common law is the biggest barrier to change, I think. I personally would hate to live under law that was dictated from centuries-old manuscripts that no longer have relevance.

Anyway, you may find this story pretty interesting, if you haven't already seen it. It's from last August.


FeministGal said...

Sorry i couldn't get involved in this discussion earlier, i was away for several days. Now, I agree with Anonymous that this should be considered from both a domestic violence/violence against women perspective and in relation to the oppression of women in the Muslim world.

Alex, to answer your question of whether this is an issue of male privilege: Absolutely. Women are literally worth 1/2 of a man in certain Muslim countries so yes, male privilege plays a vast role in violence against women in those countries and in the US among Muslim people. However, Alex, i would like to clarify your ideas about the Qur'an - is not inherently violent. Muhammad valued justice and even gender equality. Obviously modern interpretations of Muhammad and the Qu'ran, paired with fundamentalism, leaves women highly oppressed. This is why religion IS a large part of this story and should be considering in the discussions.

Alex Z. said...

"Women are literally worth 1/2 of a man in certain Muslim countries so yes, male privilege plays a vast role in violence against women in those countries and in the US among Muslim people."

I still would like some sources for this. I know it varies from country to country, but I really can't locate specifics. The 1/2 and 1/4 thing mentioned earlier don't seem to show up anywhere.

"i would like to clarify your ideas about the Qur'an - is not inherently violent."

I hope that's not how I came across. I just meant that there are some passages that when interpreted literally, can be construed as condoning violent behavior, similar to some Bible interpretations.

"Obviously modern interpretations of Muhammad and the Qu'ran, paired with fundamentalism, leaves women highly oppressed."

Exactly, it's the interpretation, not the document itself that leads to such practices.

Still, I am against having law based on such old texts. Call me a skeptic.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a book I read recently, that I highly recommend. It’s called Infidel, by a woman named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.