A Wake Up Call: Muslim Advocates Against Violence (MAAV) Condemns the Murder of Aasiya Hassan and Urge All to Do More

I was asked to distribute this far and wide. Please spread the word:

A Wake Up Call: Muslim Advocates Against Violence (MAAV) Condemns the Murder of Aasiya Hassan and Urge All to Do More

PRESS RELEASE
February 19, 2009

Muslim Advocates Against Violence (MAAV) condemns the gruesome murder of Aasiya Hassan. We join Muslim advocates and organizations around the country in conveying our deepest sympathies to the family and community members of Ms. Hassan. We urge everyone to learn more about domestic violence within Muslim communities, to become fierce advocates for people who speak out about violence in their lives, and to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions.

After securing an order of protection against her husband and filing for divorce, Aasiya Hassan, 37 years old, was brutally beheaded and found dead in her hometown of Buffalo, New York on Thursday, February 12, 2009. Two children survive her, ages 4 and 6. After the murder, Ms. Hassan’s husband Muzzammil, directed police to his Bridges TV office where her body was found. He is now charged with second-degree murder.

The irony that a well-respected Muslim leader, the founder and CEO of a Muslim television channel, is an abuser proves how prevalent abuse is despite ones standing within a community and society. It shows how insidious and hidden this problem truly is. We urge the Muslim community to hold their leaders to the highest ethical standards, and to speak out when incidence of domestic violence occurs.

The media is reporting the murder of Ms. Hassan as both an honor killing and the fatal result of domestic violence. However, in the effort to understand how we can prevent future incidents from escalating to this point, the label of this heinous act is not significant. Domestic violence is a problem that plagues women, children, and yes – men, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, orientation or economic status. In a study conducted by the late Sharifa Alkhateeb, 1 in 10 American Muslim women experienced physical abuse. This number does not reflect victims of other equally damaging forms of violence such as verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, economic and spiritual abuse.

It takes tremendous courage for victims of violence to reach out, to finally ask for help, and to admit that violence is occurring in their lives. For many, it takes years to break the cycle of power and control before seeking help. When any one of us becomes aware of violence in someone’s life, we absolutely must act, and take the matter seriously. We must realize the emotional courage it takes to speak out, and respect the experiences and decisions of the survivor. The question is NOT, “why didn’t she leave before?” rather, “why did all of us let this go on for so long?” and, “how can I prevent this from happening again?”

Despite prevailing stereotypes of Muslims, domestic violence is not an Islamic value, nor is it permissible or condoned within the Muslim community. Many women, men and children continue to be killed as a result of domestic violence; Aasiya Hassan is an unfortunate name on a list too long and too preventable.

We urge all to take this event as wake up call to learn more about domestic violence, and to find out how we can prevent such tragedies. There are state coalitions against domestic violence, community-based organizations, policy think tanks, international programs and faith-based organizations dedicated to ending the pervasive issue of violence against women.

We encourage all domestic violence programs to take a committed step towards learning about and engaging in outreach to Muslim communities, and ensuring their services are culturally and religiously sensitive to all survivors. Similarly, without community support and awareness, efforts and sustainable results of domestic violence programs are limited.

We also caution against diverging away from the justice Ms. Hassan and her family deserves by framing her death within a xenophobic lens that only enforces negative imagery of Muslims. This was not an act of terrorism perpetrated by or penetrating American-Muslim communities, nor was it inflicted due to extremist religious politics and beliefs. Aasiya Hassan’s tragic death joins the innumerable acts of domestic violence committed around our globe that terrorize women, men and children in every community.

For additional information regarding domestic violence, and for technical assistance, please contact the Peaceful Families Project (PFP) at info@peacefulfamili es.org, or visit http://www.peacefulfamilie s.org. PFP is a national domestic violence organization that facilitates awareness workshops for Muslim leaders and communities, provides cultural sensitivity trainings for professionals, and develops resources regarding abuse in Muslim communities.

About MAAV
Muslim Advocates Against Violence (MAAV) is a national network of advocates committed to ending violence against women and supporting healthy communities. MAAV’s mission is to raise awareness, foster dialogue and strengthen advocacy.

For additional information about MAAV, email: maav.info@gmail.com

Pop Versus Soda

Admitted, being born in New Jersey and growing up mostly in California, I find the idea of not having access to a coast stifling. I think some exceptions may apply to Chicago and Detroit because they are near the Great Lakes. The first time I ever heard someone call their carbonated soft drink pop was when I moved in with my grad school roommate in 2004. She, like my husband, was from Michigan. I contributed this quirkiness to them both being from an innerstate. While the Great Lakes are really big, they still aren’t oceans.

You can see the map of generic usage for carbonated soft drinks:
Pop Versus Soda
I have a bias against those who would call any carbonated drink coke. Don’t ever call my Sprite a Coke!! The main exception to that would be my grandma, who was originally from Georgia. Nobody steps on grandma Sara’s toes.

You can participate in the ongoing study here.

How Lack of Accountability Led to Rise of a Monster

Zerqa Abid wrote a very important post that highlighted some of the issues and concerns that I have with accountability in our Muslim communities. How could we have allowed someone like Muzzammil Hassan, a Muslim man of questionable moral character with legal documentation of a history of abuse, to rise to such a position of leadership?

It’s been five days now that my family along with the whole American Muslim community has been in shock. The fact that Muzzammil was married to my first cousin before marrying the victim still horrifies us. Ms. Zubair was his third wife. Both of his earlier wives filed divorce on the same grounds of severe domestic violence and abuses.

My cousin lived with him for only a year. Yet, it took her several years to get rid of the fear of living with a man in marriage. He was known as violent and abusive in the community. He had nothing to do with Islam. He had changed his name from Syed Muzzammil Hassan to Mo Steve Hassan. He had no background of community service or involvement in the Mosque or in any other organization. Neither his character and nor his faith were sound. In addition, he had no background or expertise in TV production or media.

But it did not matter. Even with this bad reputation, horrible background and lack of experience in media market, he still got the stage at the most reputable American Muslim conventions. Our leaders and established organizations did not bother to vet him. No questions or flags were raised about him. He was introduced at these conventions with huge respect and the Muslim community was told to give him generous funds for Bridges TV.


The surprise was changed into shock and worry when I learned that Bridges TV was owned and operated by the same Muzzammil Hassan who I knew as a serious criminal. To me domestic violence is a serious crime and a person’s character must be judged by the way he deals with his family. At my return, I warned some community leaders, but the response was not encouraging. People told me that his personal life may be messed up, but he is doing a good job so we should support him no matter what.

The Vice President of Islamic Society of North America, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, has posted an open letter on ISNA’s website. He writes, “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.”

What about making community leadership easy for them, Imam?

Shouldn’t Islamic organizations also take responsibility of vetting new comers before presenting them on the stage? Common people rely on organizational leadership and judgment.
Vetting of community leader has been established since the time of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) and is now in practice within the conscious communities all over the world….

Clearly, this is a rare case that has ignited the nation’s imagination. It is fodder for Islamaphobes and Muslims throughout the country are scrambling trying to deal with the PR damage. While I do not feel that I have to go around apologizing for every wrong action a Muslim does, I decided to write about this case because it brings to light some underlying issues that are poorly addressed in our community. There is little accountability in our communities. Every media report reminds us that Muzzammil was a respected and influential member of the Muslim community. This is why it is absolutely imperative that we not shield abusers and turn a blind eye when we see something funky go on even with the most promising and prized leaders.

My friend recounted in horror about a case a few years back in the Bay Area where a South Asian Muslim man had beaten his wife so badly that she had to be hospitalized. Both of us were hurt and angered when we found out that a number of people in the community came out to support the abuser. It is this type of backwards thinking that not only infects immigrant communities, but it is prevalent in convert communities where the jailhouse Islam and criminal culture is prevalent. Sometimes communities will give shelter to convicted sexual offenders and violent criminals. On rare occasions those communities get raided by the FBI. Before we lend some material support, let alone marry off some hapless new convert sister to sketchy Muslim man, do we do any background and criminal reports? And women, when you are marrying someone who has been divorced, has it ever occurred to you to have an honest and upfront conversation with the ex-wife? Do you think you can do it better than she did? Or are you afraid that you may hear something you don’t want to hear? Why didn’t Aasiya’s family contact the first two wives? Why did everyone fail to look into the divorce cases?

I’ve heard cases where a Muslim leader used his wife’s work, treated her poorly, was booted out of one community to only cross the country and set up shop somewhere else. On several occasions I’ve heard stories from the mouths of women that really shocked me. Too often the women refuse to identify the leaders who abuse their power in an effort to not backbite. Often these stories are dismissed as gossip. Our Muslim communities need to start listening to women a lot more. A large part of it lies in what Tariq Nelson calls “the culture of denial pretense,” the one where we are always trying to cover up our bad deeds and our brothers’ (but not so much the sisters’).

RESPONDING TO THE KILLING OF AASIYA HASSAN: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

A few weeks ago, I ran into Asma [last name], who runs a Muslim women’s shelter in Baltimore. I expressed my interest in wanting to volunteer because I know that many Muslim women who are fleeing an abusive marriage have few places to go. When I first wrote about domestic violence in this blog post, I was very encouraged to hear that Muslim leaders like Imam Johari in DC were taking proactive steps towards addressing domestic violence in our communities. But when this story broke, I was horrified and deeply concerned about the continual violence against women. But what type of hatred and rage goes into a beheading? So many of us in the Muslim community are still in shock, unable to fathom how this could have happened. ISNA has written an open letter Muslim community leaders calling them to action.

RESPONDING TO THE KILLING OF AASIYA HASSAN: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

By Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
Executive Director, ADAMS Center
Vice-President, The Islamic Society of North America

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: http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/). For more information, or to access resources and materials about domestic violence, please visit http://www.peacefulfamilies.org.

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.

I pray that she is brought to justice. May Allah have mercy on Aasiya and console her family and loved ones. Please make du’a for this women, whose promising life was cut too short. I hope that Muslim leaders heed this call and that more of us support women and children who are in danger.

Justice Served: Life for Fake Mansa Musa Wannabe

Alhumdulillah, finally some justice served for this fake Mansa Musa wannabe. I vaguely remember this case nearly a decade ago, Children’s abuse evident, doctor testifies, during trial of Mansa Musa Muhummed:

Some of seven children and teenagers who were removed from their father’s Aguanga home were so deprived of food and nurturing that they looked half their age, a pediatrician testified Wednesday.

In 1999, Marlon Boddie was almost 20. He was 4 ½ feet tall and weighed 78 pounds when Dr. Clare Sheridan-Matney examined him and six of his siblings after they were removed from defendant Mansa Musa Muhummed’s home.

“He didn’t look like a 20-year-old. He looks like a kid,” said Sheridan-Matney, who is the head of forensic pediatrics at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Boddie’s weight and height would have been normal for a 10- or 11-year-old, the doctor said.

I didn’t get to follow the case because I was abroad last year. But I was glad to hear that the victims have some vindication.
Calif. polygamist gets life term for family crimes

A self-proclaimed polygamist was sentenced Friday to seven consecutive life prison terms for torturing some of his 19 children and falsely imprisoning two of his three wives.

Mansa Musa Muhummed, 55, also was sentenced to additional terms totaling 16 years and eight months by Riverside County Superior Court Judge F. Paul Dickerson III.

“If his appeals are exhausted and he does not prevail, he will die in prison,” said Peter Morreale, Muhummed’s attorney.

Muhummed was convicted last June of seven counts of torture, two counts of false imprisonment and additional charges of child endangerment and spousal abuse.

At his trial, several of Muhummed’s children and stepchildren testified against him, telling jurors they had been beaten, starved, strung up by their feet and forced to eat vomit and feces.

Muhummed — whose given name was Richard Boddie — denied the charges and blamed one of his wives for the alleged abuse. He was a convert to the Muslim faith, which he said gave him the right to have multiple wives.

He was arrested in 1999 after one of his wives slipped a 13-page letter to a postal service worker describing the abuse.

Sentencing came nearly a decade after Muhummed’s arrest. His trial followed nine years of delays in which he represented himself and changed lawyers multiple times.

Journey Into America

How do Muslims fit into contemporary American society? And how have the uniquely American ideals of pluralism, openness, and cultural integration held up in post-9/11 American society? Those are the driving questions behind “Journey into America,” a cross-country adventure led by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, renowned Islamic scholar and author, and his team of enthusiastic young Americans. They will explore America and American identity in a post-September 11 world during their journey, which will take them to cities big and small, from Birmingham, Alabama, Nashville, Tennessee, and Salt Lake City to New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Sometimes I wonder what planet I’ve been on to miss things like this. And then I remember, “Oh, I was in Cairo for most of 2008.” As I was preparing to head back to the States after a year of being away, Akbar Ahmed began his Journey Into America, exploring Muslim life in some unexpected places.

Letter From a Brother

For a long time, I’ve wanted to post a link to Charles Catching’s post titled, A Letter From a Brother.

It should be easy for me to close my eyes and ears, to ignore all the problems BAM women and men are having with one another but I have daughters. One sister responded to me being concerned about my daughters by saying other brothers are simply disconnected, that they do not relate their objectification and mistreatment of BAM women to their daughters, and if she is right then woe to us.
….

In the past year I’ve read numerous blogs and articles about the suffering hearts of Black women. I have heard countless conversations depicting the atrocious acts of Black men against women. Keep in mind here, I’m talking about Black Muslim women, women who came to the religion for God and a good man! If you haven’t read, and you probably haven’t because you’re a guy, you should read a book called Engaged Surrender: African-American Women and Islam along with some critiques, questions, and concerns from other Muslim women about the book. Women have absolutely no problem reading the latest from a male scholar/author/activist/blogger about issues in the community. But hey, if women are championing mens’ causes don’t you think you need to take a second look at theirs?

Just the other day egg was thrown on my face by a co-worker. The African-American woman praised Black Muslim men stating that the reason she loved us so much was because of our respect and love for “the Black Woman”. I wanted to receive her praise as a truth but no longer had I started puffing out my chest when I got an horrible email, a story I will share in a moment. Seeing as though this woman is 50+ years old, I gathered that she was speaking more about the men in the Nation of Islam and not of Muslim men in America at large and that was sad. At that very moment, I felt my obligation went beyond informing her of any differences between the Nation of Islam and others to factually stating that many African-American Muslim women are well beyond fed-up, sick-and-tired, and too-through with brothers because of our shady ways. These women came to Islam hoping to find protection and security in addition to monotheism and have been struggling to accept the prophetic message against the backdrop of criminals, deadbeats, cheaters, liars, bigots, and bootleggers posing as lovers of Allah.

Lastly, as you read this there are others doing the same, wondering if I have any solutions or if I am even qualified to talk to African-American Muslim men about marriage. I have two answers; first, it’s time for those of us who have decent marriages to help others cultivate the same for it is so easy to read about horror stories all day. I know single sisters who have never been married swearing off men because of these stories. They need happily married Muslim women to look up to and brothers need solid examples, not charlatans. Secondly, I have daughters, and there is just no way on this earth I’m going to subject them to the kind of nonsense present today so over time, as it permits itself, I will continue this letter of sorts to my brothers, hoping that someone out there heeds the call to be more and do more without wanting more.

I frankly, was shocked by the treatment of women in the sunni Muslim community. A number of womanizers use their Muslim celebrity status and their close relationship with leaders in the community to prey on women and misuse their position to garner free services. I’ve written before about pathological narcissists and as I stated they are often charismatic. I am not saying that we should start gossiping to uncover everybody’s dirt or create the religious police with some gestapo like investigation capacities, but our leadership should take active steps to ensure that the brothers in their circle are upstanding members of the community. If they have some dirt in the past, they should repent and be currently living upstanding lives. I believe we should forgive our brothers and sisters who make honest efforts to clean up their acts. At the same time, anybody with some nefarious dealings, should be checked. The sad thing is, the women who have been preyed upon and subject to multiple sham marriages is seen as damaged goods. Women who have even been in legitimate marriages, but are divorced are often seen as damaged goods. However, a man who leaves a trail of broke-up women is never seen as damaged. Rather he is a pimp, and a lot of young brothers celebrate him.

I had a conversation with a man from the Nation of Islam who commented that sunni Muslims often show very little respect for their women. He said, “Sunni brothers are just HARSH with their women.” He believed that some of it was the misogyny that is now prevalent in our culture, but also due to the adoption of some foreign attitudes towards women. In some ways I agree, its like a number of convert men adopted the misogyny from the BAM movement and Hip Hop culture and combined it with the structures of gender relations from the Middle East and South Asia. It is as if they gained the worst of both cultures when it comes to dealing with women–misogyny and patriarchy. The same man recounted a story about how a brother who was going to jumu’ah made his wife drop him off at the door and she had to go part the car and walk a long distance in the rain to get into the crummy women’s section. He also commented that there was nothing in place in the sunni Muslim community to protect convert women from predators.

Not all of us are wallowing in misery. And there are a number of men, like Charles, who are appalled by the current state of affairs. Simply put Charles is calling all the ethical brothers, especially the married brothers, to provide examples. There are countless examples of good men who are striving to be good to their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, cousins, associates, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Please check out the site and respond to the brother’s call.