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Responding to the Killing of Aasiya Hassan:

An Open Letter to the Leaders of American Muslim Communities

By Imam Muhammed Hagmagid Ali

 Executive Director, ADAMS Center Vice-President,

The Islamic Society of North America, February 19, 2009


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is saddened and shocked by the news of the loss of one of our respected sisters, Aasiya Hassan whose life was taken violently. To God we belong and to Him we return (Qur’an 2:156). We pray that she find peace in God’s infinite Mercy, and our prayers and sympathies are with sister Aasiya’s family. Our prayers are also with the Muslim community of Buffalo who have been devastated by the loss of their beloved sister and the shocking nature of this incident.

This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and can not be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community. Several times each day in America, a woman is abused or assaulted. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of us ignore such problems in our community, wanting to think that it does not occur among Muslims or we downgrade its seriousness.

I call upon my fellow imams and community leaders to never second-guess a woman who comes to us indicating that she feels her life to be in danger. We should provide support and help to protect the victims of domestic violence by providing for them a safe place and inform them of their rights as well as refer them to social service providers in our areas.

Marriage is a relationship that should be based on love, mutual respect and kindness. No one who experiences a marriage that is built on these principles would pretend that their life is in danger. We must respond to all complaints or reports of abuse as genuine and we must take appropriate and immediate action to ensure the victim’s safety, as well as the safety of any children that may be involved.

Women who seek divorce from their spouses because of physical abuse should get full support from the community and should not be viewed as someone who has brought shame to herself or her family. The shame is on the person who committed the act of violence or abuse. Our community needs to take a strong stand against abusive spouses. We should not make it easy for people who are known to abuse to remarry if they have already victimized someone. We should support people who work against domestic violence in our community, whether they are educators, social service providers, community leaders, or other professionals.

Our community needs to take strong stand against abusive spouses and we should not make it easy for them to remarry if they chose a path of abusive behavior. We should support people who work against domestic violence in our community, whether they are educators or social service providers. As Allah says in the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:136).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never hit a women or child in his life. The purpose of marriage is to bring peace and tranquility between two people, not fear, intimidation, belittling, controlling, or demonizing. Allah the All-Mighty says in the Qur’an: “Among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (30:21),

We must make it a priority to teach our young men in the community what it means to be a good husband and what the role the husband has as a protector of his family. The husband is not one who terrorizes or does harm and jeopardizes the safety of his family. At the same time, we must teach our young women not to accept abuse in any way, and to come forward if abuse occurs in the marriage. They must feel that they are able to inform those who are in authority and feel comfortable confiding in the imams and social workers of our communities.

Community and family members should support a woman in her decision to leave a home where her life is threatened and provide shelter and safety for her. No imam, mosque leader or social worker should suggest that she return to such a relationship and to be patient if she feels the relationship is abusive. Rather they should help and empower her to stand up for her rights and to be able to make the decision of protecting herself against her abuser without feeling she has done something wrong, regardless of the status of the abuser in the community.

A man’s position in the community should not affect the imam’s decision to help a woman in need. Many disasters that take place in our community could have been prevented if those being abused were heard. Domestic violence is not a private matter. Any one who abuses their spouse should know that their business becomes the business of the community and it is our responsibility to do something about it. She needs to tell someone and seek advice and protection.

Community leaders should also be aware that those who isolate their spouses are more likely to also be physically abusive, as isolation is in its own way a form of abuse. Some of the abusers use the abuse itself to silence the women, by telling her “If you tell people I abused you, think how people will see you, a well-known person being abused. You should keep it private.”

Therefore, to our sisters, we say: your honor is to live a dignified life, not to put on the face that others want to see. The way that we measure the best people among us in the community is to see how they treat their families. It is not about how much money one makes, or how much involvement they have in the community, or the name they make for themselves. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said, “The best among you are those who are best to their families.”

It was a comfort for me to see a group of imams in our local community, as well as in the MANA conference signing a declaration promising to eradicate domestic violence in our community. Healthy marriages should be part of a curriculum within our youth programs, MSA conferences, and seminars as well as part of our adult programs in our masajid and in our khutbahs.

The Islamic Society of North America has done many training workshops for imams on combating domestic violence, as has the Islamic Social Service Associate and Peaceful Families Project. Organizations, such as FAITH Social Services in Herndon, Virginia, serve survivors of domestic violence. All of these organizations can serve as resources for those who seek to know more about the issues of domestic violence.

Faith Trust Institute, one of the largest interfaith organizations, with Peaceful Families Project, has produced a DVD in which many scholars come together to address this issue. I call on my fellow imams and social workers to use this DVD for training others on the issues of domestic violence. (For information, go to the website: For more information, or to access resources and materials about domestic violence, please visit

In conclusion, Allah says in the Qur’an “O my son! Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs” (31:17). Let us pray that Allah will help us to stand for what is right and leave what is evil and to promote healthy marriages and peaceful family environments. Let us work together to prevent domestic violence and abuse and especially, violence against women.


Founder Of Muslim-American TV Network Arrested For Wife's Beheading
Jason Linkins

A prominent Buffalo area businessman who founded the BridgesTV network to improve the image of Muslims in the U.S. has been arrested and charged with murdering his estranged wife - by beheading her at his company's office on Thursday.

Police have charged the husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder in death of Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37.

In its logo, BridgesTV boasts of "connecting people through understanding" via its dish network. Its Web site quotes comments on the company by Jay Leno, Brian Williams and others, plus a screen shot of a CNBC interview with Hassan conducted by Maria Bartiromo.

A sad irony -- and perhaps a reason to keep the BridgesTV mission alive -- is that the television network was Hassan's wife's idea in the first place:

"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."




Remember the Goals:

1. SAFETY for the woman and the children

2. ACCOUNTABILITY for the abuser

3. RESTORATION of individuals, and, IF APPROPRIATE, relationships

OR MOURNING the loss of the relationships.

DO’S and DON’Ts with a battered woman:

• Do believe her. Her description of the violence is only the tip of the iceberg.

• DO reassure her that this is not her fault, she doesn’t deserve this treatment.

• DO give her referral information; primary resources are battered women’s services

or shelters and National Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Visit  for a national directory of Muslim service providers.

• DO support her and respect her choices. Even if she is aware of the risks and chooses to return to the abuser, it is her choice. She has the most information about how to survive.

• DO encourage her to think about a safety plan. Set aside some money, copies of important papers for her and children, and a change of clothes hidden or in care of a friend if she decides to go to a shelter. Plan how to exit the house the next time the abuser is violent. Plan what to do about the children if they are at school, if they are asleep, etc. (This is both practical and helps her stay in touch with the reality of the abuser’s violence. Safety planning is a process that is ongoing).

• DO protect her confi dentiality. DO NOT give information about her or her whereabouts to the abuser or to others who might pass information on to the abuser. Do not discuss her situation with others in the masjid who might inadvertently pass information on to the abuser.

• DO help her with any religious concerns. Give her a copy of What Islam Says About Domestic Violence. Refer to or call toll free 1-877-860-2255 to purchase copies of these books and receive other helpful information.

• DO emphasize that the marriage contract is broken by the violence from her partner.

DO assure her of Allah’s love and presence, and of your commitment to walk with her though this.

• DO help her to see that her husband’s violence has broken the marriage contract, and that Allah does not want her to remain in a situation where she and her children are in danger.

• If she decides to separate and divorce, DO support her and help her to mourn the loss for herself and her children.

• DO make du’a with her. Ask Allah to give her the strength and courage she needs.

• DO consult with colleagues in the wider community who may have expertise and be able to assist you in your response. Refer to for resources.

• DON’T minimize the danger to her. You can be a reality check. “From what you have told me, I am very much concerned for your safety….”

• DON’T tell her what to do. Give information and support.

• DON’T react with disbelief, disgust, or anger at what she tells you. But don’t react passively, either. Let her know that you are concerned and that what the abuser has done to her is wrong and not deserved by her.

• DON’T blame her for the violence. If she is blaming herself, try to reframe: “I don’t care if you did have supper late or you forgot to water the lawn, that is no reason for him to be violent with you. This is his problem.”

• DON’T recommend couples counseling or approach her husband and ask for “his side of the story.” These actions will endanger her.

• DON’T recommend “marriage enrichment,” “mediation,” or a “communications workshop.” None of these will address the goals listed above.

• DON’T send her home with just a prayer and a directive to submit to her husband, or to bring him to the masjid or to be a better wife.

• DON’T pressure her to forgive him or take him back.

*Adapted from “Responding to Domestic Violence: Guidelines for Religious Leaders,” FaithTrust Institute,



Remember the Goals:

1. SAFETY for the woman and the children

2. ACCOUNTABILITY for the abuser

3. RESTORATION of individuals, and, IF APPROPRIATE, relationships

OR MOURNING the loss of the relationships.

• If he has been arrested, DO approach him and express your concern and support for him to be accountable and to deal with his violence.

• DO pray with him. Ask Allah to help him stop his violence, repent and fi nd a new way.

* DO assure him of your support in this endeavor.

• DO fi nd ways to collaborate with community agencies and law enforcement to hold him accountable.

• DO address any religious rationalizations he may offer or questions he may have.

DON’T allow him to use religious excuses for his behavior.

• DO name the violence as his problem, not hers. Tell him that only he can stop it; and you are willing to help.

• DO refer to a program that specifi cally addresses abusers.

• DO assess him for suicide or threats of homicide. DO warn the victim if he makes specific threats towards her.

• DON’T meet with him alone or in private. Meet in a public place, or in the masjid with other people around.

• DON’T approach him or let him know that you know about his violence unless a) you

have the victim’s permission, b) she is aware that you plan to talk to him and c) you are certain that his partner is safely separated from him.

• DON’T pursue couples counseling if you are aware there is violence in the relationship.

• DON’T go to him to confi rm the victim’s story.

• DON’T give him any information about the victim or her whereabouts.

• DON’T be taken in by his minimization, denial or lying about his violence. DON’T accept his blaming her or other rationalizations for his behavior.

• DON’T be taken in by his claims that he has changed. If he is genuine, this will be a resource as he proceeds with accountability. If it is not genuine, it is only another way to manipulate you and the system and maintain control of the process to avoid accountability.

• DON’T advocate for the abuser to avoid the legal consequences of his violence.

• DON’T provide a character witness for this purpose in legal proceedings.

• DON’T forgive an abuser too quickly and easily. DON’T confuse remorse with true repentance.

• DON’T send him home with just a prayer. Work with others in the community to hold him accountable.

*Adapted from “Responding to Domestic Violence: Guidelines for Religious Leaders,” FaithTrust Institute,






Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent