Was Bridges TV Beheading An Honor Killing?

The beheading of Aasiya Hassan allegedly by her husband, Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan, the founder of Bridges TV has prompted American-Muslim leaders to criticize domestic violence. Hamza Yusuf, founder of the Zaytuna Institute in California, says Muslims are being held to a different standard than Americans of other faiths.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The brutal murder and decapitation of Aasiya Hassan has stirred debate inside the American Muslim community. She and her husband founded Bridges TV Network in Buffalo, New York, in part to dispel negative stereotypes about Muslims. But her husband now faces murder charges in what some have termed a traditional honor killing.

Well, on Friday, the day that Muslims commemorate their weekly Sabbath, clerics across the country used Hassan's death to denounce domestic violence. One of them was Imam Hanza Yusuf, a prominent Muslim-American leader and the founder of Zaytuna Institute - that's an American seminary for educating Muslim theologians. Yusuf also insisted that American Muslims are being held to a different standard.

HANZA YUSUF: If a Christian beats his wife up, it's not Christian violence. If a Jew beats his wife up - and from what the statistics show, that doesn't happen very often - but if they do, it's not Jewish violence. But if a Muslim should do something to his wife, suddenly, it has something to do with the religion of Islam.

NORRIS: Earlier, I spoke with the imam, and he says there is no justification for domestic violence or honor killing in the Quran.

YUSUF: First of all, honor killing is - it's a problem - just the term itself. There's no honor in killing a spouse or a sister or somebody who has dishonored the family, so to speak. Obviously, these are pre-modern, barbaric traditions that still exist in many cultures. I mean, people forget that they are Arab Christians that have perpetrated so-called honor killings. This is not a Muslim problem in the Middle East. This also extends to the Christian community. So it's important to recognize that. And that's absolutely a fact - there's no waffling there.

NORRIS: Why did you decide to take this up in your sermon on Friday?

YUSUF: Well, I did because I actually read something that was done by a woman in New York about this issue. And I - people who know me, I mean, I've - this issue, I've talked about on many occasions. And I feel very passionate about it because the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, loved women. And he loved women because of the mercy, the compassion, and the role that they play in society.

YUSUF: And so, when his religion is in anyway associated with violence towards women or children, I think it disparages his honor. And I think a lot of Muslims don't realize that - right now - that every Muslim is, in a sense, an ambassador for Islam. And ambassadors have to be people that really watch their behavior. I mean, it's an unfortunate situation, but it is the reality because we're under a microscope. And anything that a Muslim does right now is associated with Islam.

NORRIS: I, obviously, was not there in San Ramon Valley when you gave this talk, but I did go online, and I took a look at this on YouTube. And you seemed to be acknowledging that domestic violence is a problem that has not always been dealt with properly in the Muslim community. Why do you think it's not talked about enough within the Muslim community?

YUSUF: Well, anthropologists divide cultures into shame and guilt cultures. Many of the Muslim countries are more shame-based societies, where you don't air your dirty laundry; it's very important to keep up appearances. And so often, pillars of the community, who might be guilty of these things, you know - it's literally like a death sentence for these things to come to light.

NORRIS: I'm curious about the reaction of the feedback that you received from your sermon - from women, in particular - who heard you speak.

YUSUF: Well, I - no, people are very happy. Many people came up to me afterwards and they were very, very happy about it. And they said it was important, it needs to be heard more in our community. I think if you look online at many of the comments that were made by people who've already seen it online - I think it's already been seen by about 3,000 people. So, it's making its rounds, and I think it's been very positive. I think a lot of people breathe a sigh of relief when they hear what they know in their hearts to be true about their own religion.

NORRIS: Imam Yusuf, thank you very much for your time.

YUSUF: Thank you.

NORRIS: That was Imam Hamza Yusuf. He's the founder of the Zaytuna Institute; that's an American Seminary for educating Muslim theologians.

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