There is no more powerful retardant to change and reform among individuals and in a community than human denial.
According to Andrew Benz, Orchard Park Police Chief, on Thursday, February 12, 2009, Muzammil H. Hassan, the founder and CEO of Bridges TV, walked into the police station at 6:20 PM and told officers that his wife was lying dead at the Bridges TV offices. Later, Benz confirmed on WIVB Channel 4 that she was decapitated.
The Veneer of Bridges TV
Mr. Hassan immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the 1980s. He received an MBA from the University of Rochester in New York and then worked at Procter & Gamble before becoming a banker. In a profile on Hassan and Bridges TV on December 24, 2004 on NPR's All Things Considered, Jerome Vaughn of Detroit Public Radio reported that,
"Bridges TV says it wants to inform and entertain Muslims and, at the same time, give viewers who aren't Muslims a glimpse into their culture. Mo Hassan was traveling from Buffalo to Detroit a few weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks when his wife came up with the idea for the new network. They were in the car listening to the radio when they heard some derogatory remarks about Muslims."
They claimed that the mission of the network was to, "foster understanding between cultures and diverse populations." The Chicago Tribune puff-piece on the new network on November 30, 2004 called it "Lifetime for Muslims with a dash of CNN."
Apparently he financed the network personally leaving his banking job with a $500,000 line of credit and a number of investors. They sought to finance the venture through individual viewer subscriptions of $14.99 in addition to a reported 50 individuals who donated $10 million. Later in 2006, according to the Arab News (the English language propaganda arm of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Mr. Hassan visited Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the global capital of Wahhabi ideology, seeking stock investors in his network.
The face of Bridges TV's "public marital partnership" in the Hassans clearly had a false veneer which years later would reveal itself. What a difference a few years makes. Mrs. Aasiya Hassan took out an order of protection against her husband and filed for divorce less than a week before her gruesome murder on February 12, 2009. The NY Post reporter only directed attention to the supposition that this beheading was related to Mr. Hassan's financial troubles. The couples' attorney did mention that there was a history of domestic violence and a recent divorce filing leading up to her murder. There was no mention of honor killings and Islamist motivations.
The Media's abject blindness
Now almost five days since the beheading and murder of Aasiya Hassan, the media has been unfathomably silent. Local media covered it like they would any murder. And national media have remained tone deaf and silent. In a media industry where high-profile bizarre murders can quickly become an obsession dominating coverage (i.e. Laci Peterson and Natalee Holloway, to name just two), the avoidance of this story is beyond remarkable. Mark Steyn eloquently points out the abject avoidance behavior and blindness of mainstream media in addressing the layers of issues related to Islamism at the National Review's Corner:
When poor Mrs Hassan's husband launched his TV network to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims, he had no difficulty generating column inches, as far afield as The Columbus Dispatch, The Detroit Free Press, The San Jose Mercury News, Variety, NBC News, the Voice of America and the Canadian Press. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle put the couple on the front page under the headline "Infant TV Network Unveils The Face Of Muslim News".
But, when Muzzammil Hassan kills his wife and "the face of Muslim news" is unveiled rather more literally, detached from her corpse at his TV studios, it's all he can do to make the local press - page 26 of Newsday, plus The Buffalo News, and a very oddly angled piece in the usually gung-ho New York Post, "Buffalo Beheading: Money Woe Spurred Slay".
Do not just take my word for it. Search major media national outlets for any comment at all let alone investigative analyses of this horrific murder. Other than blogs, you will not find much coverage at all. Imagine for just one second, a non-Muslim CEO of a cable network channel (i.e. the Oxygen channel) turning himself in after the beheading of his wife. Add to this the threat of the ideology of radical Islamism and the resources which our government is spending countering that threat since 9/11, and one cannot help but lament the dimming hope of any legitimate reporting being done about the Islamist movement and its threats in the United States.
Islamists' abject denials
Islamists and their sympathizers are, for the most part, also staying away from this story with fear of the lessons that lie within. But we are sure to witness a litany of variations upon the theme of denial as this story gets the attention it needs in the coming months. Khalid Qazi, a vocal Islamist, a local advocate for Bridges TV and head of the Western New York Chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, apparently spoke to the couple according to reports just last week. His comments scream denial. He said,
"…the killings went against the teachings of Islam and damaged the image of Muslims that Hassan worked to promote. Domestic violence is despicable, and Islam condones it in no way whatever. Murders are being committed in the US every day by people of all faiths"
The key elements in denial here are the likely deep links of Islamism (political Islam), interpretations of Sharia and other mysoginistic religio-cultural values unaddressed by organizations like Qazi's. Another sampling of the types of denial sure to come from America's leading Islamists is this typical post from an Islamist at the "average Muslim blog" of this nameless former MSA leader at Stony Brook University, web developer, proud Salafist, and New York native. He stated,
"This is why we can't really label people as "extremist" because it's such relative term (sic). From the TV shows that I've seen on Bridges TV, I can say that they are very open minded and liberal in some sense. So what made this guy do such a horrible crime? Many people will look at this and say "this guy is an extremist Muslim", but the reality is. (sic) This guy is just a criminal who is Muslim by faith, that's all. The act had nothing to do with his religion, unfortunately many non-Muslims will bring this up and blame it on Islam and many Muslims will brush it off with "he's an extremist Muslim". (sic) Both are wrong. Let's be real and treat it as it is. He's a murderer who happens to be Muslim" said also "for those who don't think he's guilty, he's guilty from before sine his wife filed for a restraining order to do the physical abuse she endured. According to Islam and Allah's words, this is forbidden. We don't need to wait for man-made law to declare him a crminal. And Allah knows best"
Looking more closely at the ideology of Bridges TV and its supporters
Whether the mainstream media ignores these cases and Islamists and their sympathizers choose to dismiss it away or not, the general public will rightly continue to grow increasingly concerned about the connections of Islamism to these episodes of rage. If Muslims cannot crawl out of their denial and begin to address these obvious connections in a scientific way, the frequency of these cases – both high profile and otherwise – will only increase and we will have shirked our deep responsibility to our nation and to God.
Mr. Hassan was often referred to publicly as a "moderate Muslim leader." Now more than ever, if there is one lesson to learn from the death of Mrs. Hassan, it is that a Muslim's "moderation" is not defined by a condemnation of violence and terrorism but rather by their stance against political Islam and their stance against the statist legal goals of political Islam.
Islamists like the supporters of Bridges TV will try to dismiss this horrific murder as a cultural act of barbarism, but this man was well assimilated into the American culture and his wife was also rather well culturally assimilated. But far deeper in this story than the domestic violence that plagues all societies is the male domination and dehumanization of women, which the method and rage of this murder demonstrates. This animal likely felt religiously empowered by a religious, political, and cultural ideology (Islamism) which placed him in his own mind in a position of power over his wife. This concept endemic to Islamism will always contribute to acts of domestic violence. Thus, while all cultures are plagued with some form of domestic violence, the far higher incidence in the "Muslim world" speaks to a dire need for theological reform.
Bridges TV was endorsed and utilized by most American Islamist organizations and this case should again put up a warning flag of the dangers endemic to political Islam. Bridges TV was endorsed by ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council), and MAS (Muslim American Society) to name a few of the prominent American Muslim organizations which endorsed it.
These organizations have remained malignantly silent on the issue of the equality of women, their support of Islamism, and barriers against women's rights in their interpretation of sharia. For example, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has said in April 2004 in a fatwa (religious opinion or ruling) for the popular Islamist site, Islamonline.net of the Muslim Brotherhood out of Qatar that,
"It is important that a wife recognizes the authority of her husband in the house. He is the head of the household, and she is supposed to listen to him…a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation. However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely. in some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife…"
Note that the current President of ISNA is Professor Ingrid Mattson. She provided a prayer at the interfaith service for the new Obama administration at the National Cathedral in January. Now into her second term of her presidency of ISNA, she has yet to publicly repudiate any of the misogynistic pronouncements and interpretations of her predecessors. Without an outspoken frontal defense of women against the misogynistic interpretations of Islam by Islamists, individuals like Mattson remain complicit veneer for an anti-woman medieval ideology. In fact, this is an ideal moment in time for Mattson to speak against mistreatment of women and repudiate any sanction of so-called "light disciplinary action" which her ISNA colleagues have obviously endorsed.
CAIR was not only on board as an advocate for Bridgest TV, but Mr. Hassan touted Nihad Awad as an advisor to Bridges TV. Hassan was also recognized at the annual dinner of CAIR-PA. CAIR-Chicago and other CAIR chapters around the country lobbied to have Bridges TV added to regular cable programming. Add to this MPAC-NY's defense of Bridges TV throughout its existence and its recent apologetics, and we can begin to get a flavor of how pervasive the type of ideology peddled by Bridges TV was among Islamist organizations.
We should not ignore the additional fact that recently the FBI officially finally severed ties with CAIR citing among other things its open support of HAMAS and many of the revelations which arose during the Holy Land Foundation trial which, ended in guilty convictions of many HLF leaders. This was certainly long overdue and a welcome evolution after the FBI hosted a townhall meeting on Bridges TV in 2006.
Many of us trying to sound the alarm against political Islam and its insidious threat to Western secular democracy have been dismissed as "alarmist." Check out Bridges TV's YouTube channel (as long as it remains up) to get a firsthand sense of the type of programming and ideology it espoused. They focused on the same old trope as the rest of the Islamist organizations in the United States – victimization, blaming western foreign policy, and conspiracy theories. This is not to mention their typical apologetics and avoidance of any criticism of Muslim majority countries and their governments. Do not waste too much time looking for any exposés on the genocide in Sudan, the oppression of women by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or the oppression of dissidents by the Egyptian, Syrian, or Pakistani dictatorships, to name just a few of the issues that a truly moderate and progressive American Muslim network would cover.
Steve Stalinsky of MEMRI reported in the now defunct NY Sun about the many concerns of the ideology of Bridges TV. He reported that some guests were extremists. Stalinsky wrote,
One religious figure who appeared October 3, 2006 said Muslims have a duty to change America and to increase their numbers to 50% of the population from 2%. He recommended that Shariah, or Islamic law, be implemented in American courts…Bridges TV's website www.bridgestv.com features a weekly poll. Notable questions and results include 59% calling for Hezbollah to continue as a military force in Lebanon, 73% in agreement with the American policy of withholding funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian Arab government, and 63% believing that the Iranian government's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes…Bridges TV claims that its "major purpose" is "to build bridges between American Muslims and other Americans." After viewing the channel, I find this highly unlikely."
How many more warnings do we need about the perils of political Islam?
News agencies worth their salt will begin to look at the facts of this case and give it the attention that other high-profile murders in the United States warrant. Certainly Muzzammil Hassan will be innocent until proven guilty. But that does not change the responsibility of the media to address the facts. The facts here are that this media executive turned himself in to police and directed them to the location of his wife's body back at his office. We are missing many facts. But the facts thus far reveal a woman who feared for her safety from her husband, filed for divorce, and then was found decapitated.
This should at least begin a national discussion on how remarkably parallel the tracks of the ideologies of Jihadism and the ideologies of male domination and dehumanization of women are. Most importantly, we need to address how both come out of political Islam. American Islamist organizations should account for their stances on the place of women in society and whether they recognize the inherent equality of women which has characterized one of the core values of modernity in the west. A review of many controversial laws passed in the name of Sharia in the "Muslim world" reveals a treatment of women which is only a "stone's throw away" from the so-called moderate veneer of the Islamism of Muzzammil Hassan's Bridges TV.
So many of the human rights abuses in nations dominated by Muslims are atrocities committed by men against women. Laws excusing honor killings, rape, and domestic violence continue to remain part of the legal systems of many Muslim nations driven by governmental interpretation of sharia. Even in Germany, a judge ruled that a Muslim German man's abuse of his wife was permitted since it was a protected religious belief. That verdict was vacated a few weeks later, but highlights the abominable cognitive dissonance which many non-Muslims employ when dealing with this issue. The evidence is overwhelming that political Islam and Salafism – are theological constructs ossified in medieval mindsets and in need of deep reform.
That reform and modernization will not happen without daily and pressured attack against the ideas. Something that Bridges TV certainly did not do.
Comments by Islamists or their supporters are sure to continue to give short shrift to the plight of Muslim women. No surprise. The real victims here are Mrs. Hassan and Muslim women all over the world. Their plight is the plight of all those who are victimized by the supremacist mentality of political Islam and the recommended domination of women by their male run communities. I cannot understand why the mainstream media do not see value in publicizing their plight.
The lack of freedom and equality for women in societies and communities run by Islamists exemplifies how Islamists, no matter how they try to camouflage it, will always try to dominate various groups of individuals. It may hide itself from the public eye for years but it exists. Whether guilty or innocent of this grisly crime, clearly this "nice man," as some Muslims have called him, was a oppressive and violent at home. His wife had resorted to an order of protection against him one week earlier. Domestic violence is not a monopoly of the Muslim community, but the West has gone a long way towards giving women victims of such Neanderthals legal mechanisms of protection, equality, and rights. The Muslim clerics who teach and enable these Islamists have done no such thing and in Hassan's motherland of Pakistan, women are killed every day without a government or a humanitarian legal code to protect them.
An Islamist who spontaneously turns into a monster is not a new phenomenon. Similarly, in describing "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" and the murderous rampage through the University of North Carolina by Mohammed Taheri-Azar, Daniel Pipes wrote that Mr. Taheri-azar represented, "a seemingly well-adjusted Muslim whose religion inspires him, out of the blue, to murder non-Muslims…It has the awful but legitimate consequence of casting suspicion on all Muslims. Who knows whence the next jihadi? How can one be confident a law-abiding Muslim will not suddenly erupt in a homicidal rage? Yes, of course, their numbers are very small, but they are disproportionately much higher than among non-Muslims."
So with Mr. Hassan we see a variation on this theme – a "Sudden Honor killer Syndrome" if you will. The monstrous, murderous violence which led to Mrs. Hassan's murder may have been "sudden" for those who knew the couple. But Mr. Hassan's misogyny and his apologetics for the ideas of Islamism, and Salafism were most likely not sudden at all. It is time for all Muslims to shed the deep seeded denial and avoidance behavior which shifts the focus away from long overdue theological reform – the only treatment for this disease. A culture and theology which lives along the pre-modern slippery slope of Islamism can easily lead men like Mr. Hassan toward the brink while providing many warning signs. It is time that American Islamist organizations like ISNA, CAIR, and MPAC recognize the problem openly, giving it more than just the lip service which a few poorly attended seminars on domestic violence at their national conventions may do.
But then again, to do so would ask them to deconstruct the very legal system of political Islam which is the ideological infrastructure of their existence. This case should highlight the critical need among Muslims for an anti-Islamist narrative. Surely the first group to run and liberate themselves from Islamists will be Muslim women around the world seeking real freedom and human rights.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor M. Zuhdi Jasser is the founder and Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a physician in private practice, and a community activist. He can be reached at Zuhdi@aifdemocracy.org.