Bridges TV, a Wife’s Beheading, and Honor Murder

February 21, 2009, 5:36 pm


by Daniel Pipes*

I have followed Bridges TV in a weblog entry, “Were Investors in ‘Bridges TV’ Misled?” since it opened shop in 2004, critical of its faked demographic figures and its Islamist outlook. One hasn’t heard much about Bridges TV for a while, however, presumably because its once-shimmering prospects declined under the weight of the realities of North American demographics.

But it is about to reappear in the news with a vengeance, and for the most ironic possible reason. The station that Muzzammil (“Mo”) Hassan, 44, founded with the achingly benevolent idea, in the words of a November 2004 biography, to help “non-Muslims overcome the negative images they may have of both Muslims and Islam” has now abundantly enhanced negative images of Muslims and Islam.

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Today comes news from Orchard Park, near Buffalo, New York, of Hassan’s arrest on a second-degree murder charge for having beheaded his wife, Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37. Aasiya (known professionally as Aasiya Zubair) had recently filed for divorce and won an “Order of Protection” forcing him out of their shared house; it appears that Hassan attempted to create a murder scene for police that would allay suspicion of himself, but failed in this.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III offered his view that “Obviously, this is the worst form of domestic violence possible.” The Western New York chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council issued an untitled press release on Feb. 13 calling the murder an instance of domestic violence and condemning it as such as anti-Islamic:

The Muslim community unreservedly condemns domestic violence of all types (including the so-called honor killing). Such crimes are despicable and unequivocally prohibited in Islam. Islam celebrates and protects human life. Muslims of all shades and opinions know that.

Aasiya Z. and Muzzammil S. Hassan in happier times.

Comments: (1) No, this is not at all obviously about domestic violence. We do not know enough; it could be crime of passion or it could be something much colder and yet more vicious, namely an honor crime. District attorneys tend to refuse to see the latter but Phyllis Chesler establishes this distinction clearly in a forthcoming Middle East Quarterly article, “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” Spring 2009, pp. 61-69. She provides a table sketching out the differing characteristics of honor killings and domestic violence:

Honor Killings

Domestic Violence

Committed mainly by Muslims against Muslim girls/young adult women.

Committed by men of all faiths usually against adult women.

Committed mainly by fathers against their teenage daughters and daughters in their early twenties. Wives and older-age daughters may also be victims, but to a lesser extent.

Committed by an adult male spouse against an adult female spouse or intimate partner.

Carefully planned. Death threats are often used as a means of control.

The murder is often unplanned and spontaneous.

The planning and execution involve multiple family members and can include mothers, sisters, brothers, male cousins, uncles, grandfathers, etc. If the girl escapes, the extended family will continue to search for her to kill her.

The murder is carried out by one man with no family complicity.

The reason given for the honor killing is that the girl or young woman has “dishonored” the family.

The batterer-murderer does not claim any family concept of “honor.” The reasons may range from a poorly cooked meal to suspected infidelity to the woman’s trying to protect the children from his abuse or turning to the authorities for help.

At least half the time, the killings are carried out with barbaric ferocity. The female victim is often raped, burned alive, stoned or beaten to death, cut at the throat, decapitated, stabbed numerous times, suffocated slowly, etc.

While some men do beat a spouse to death, they often simply shoot or stab them.

The extended family and community valorize the honor killing. They do not condemn the perpetrators in the name of Islam. Mainly, honor killings are seen as normative.

The batterer-murderer is seen as a criminal; no one defends him as a hero. Such men are often viewed as sociopaths, mentally ill, or evil.

The murderer(s) do not show remorse. Instead, they experience themselves as “victims,” defending themselves from the girl’s actions and trying to restore their lost family honor.

Sometimes, remorse or regret is exhibited.

Stock Photos from 123RF

It is too early to conclude whether Aasiya’s murder is an honor crime, domestic violence, or yet something else.

(2) A second Middle East Quarterly article,” Beheading in the Name of Islam” by Timothy R. Furnish in the spring 2005 issue, also has direct relevance here. Furnish establishes that “ritual beheading has a long precedent in Islamic theology and history.”

He begins with the Koranic verse 47:3: “When you encounter the unbelievers on the battlefield, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely; then bind the prisoners tightly” and notes how both premodern (Tabari, Zamakhshari) and modern (Yusuf Ali, Khatib, Mawdudi) commentators of the Koran interpret this verse literally. Furnish also notes a second Koranic verse, 8:12: “I will cast dread into the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike off their heads, then, and strike off all of their fingertips.

A quick survey of Muslim history, starting with Muhammad and continuing through the Almoravid Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and various mahdist movements, shows that this precept was carried out in practice. In modern times, Furnish notes that decapitation is standard practice in the Saudi kingdom.

He concludes with two points:

first, the practice has both Qur’anic and historical sanction. It is not the product of a fabricated tradition. Second, in contradiction to the assertions of apologists, both Muslim and non-Muslim, these beheadings are not simply a brutal method of drawing attention to the Islamist political agenda and weakening opponents’ will to fight. [Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi and other Islamists who practice decapitation believe that God has ordained them to obliterate their enemies in this manner. Islam is, for this determined minority of Muslims, anything but a “religion of peace.” It is, rather, a religion of the sword with the blade forever at the throat of the unbeliever

(3) Muzzammil often explained how Aasiya prodded him to develop Bridges TV as a means to improve the reputation of Muslims and Islam. Here is one example, as reported in the Arab News on Dec. 1, 2006:

My wife, Aasiya Zubair, and I were driving from New York to Detroit in November 2001 and we were listening to the radio. During the radio program, a number of derogatory comments were made about Muslims and Arabs. It was very upsetting. So my wife suggested that there should be some kind of media which would give Muslims in America a voice. “Why don’t you do it?” she asked me. That is how I got started on this project..

(4) I predict that this atrocity brings Bridges TV’s short and ignominious career to an even faster and ignominious end.

(5) This may be the apt moment to recall laudatory praise from American Islamist leaders heaped on Bridges TV back in 2003. I posted the quotations in full at “Bridges TV Testimonials” and here are a couple of choice picks: Web Hosting

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Iqbal Yunus, International Institute of Islamic Thought: “Bridges TV is not simply an Islamic channel, but it’s a channel that is morally driven, its family friendly and therefore it should attract the common American television viewer.”

Ibrahim Hooper, Council on American-Islamic Relations: “Bridges TV is just an example of the growing maturity and sophistication of the American Muslim community that people are even at this stage where we can contemplate this kind of network. So I think it’s a good sign for the community and we encourage every one to support it.”

(6) Why a second-degree murder charge and not first-degree? In New York State, first-degree is reserved for thirteen special circumstances, such the intentional killing of a police officer, a judge, or a witness; a terrorist act; a serial murder; or torture. Were evidence to come out that Aasiya’s murderer took pleasure in her death, torture could elevate it to a first-degree charge. (February 13, 2009)

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Feb. 14, 2009 update: Today’s Buffalo News brings more details:

  • When Muzzammil Hassan reached the Orchard Park Police headquarters at 6:20 p. m. on February 12, he announced that his wife was dead at the Bridges TV station, where officers proceeded to go and find her body in a hallway. They then closed off Bridges TV’s offices as a crime scene; the offices were reopened only today.

  • The police have not yet located the murder weapon.

  • Corey Hogan, whose law firm Hogan Willig had represented Aasiya Hassan in the couple’s divorce proceeding, noted that “There had been problems before — there had been prior incidents of physical abuse” and that discussions were underway about arrangements for the couple’s two children, ages 4 and 6, as well as for Muzzammil’s two older children from a previous marriage, ages 17 and 18.

  • A late 2006 report in the Arab News quoted Hassan hoping to raise US$5 million from investors in Saudi Arabia. Khalid J. Qazi, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, confirmed that Bridges TV has been under financial strain.

The New York Post adds an enigmatic detail: “The family home was empty today. A police note stuck to the door five hours before Aasiya’s body was found asked her to contact cops. Nobody at the Orchard Park Police Department today could explain why officers wanted to speak to her.”

Also, the Bridges TV website is now offline; visitors find just the message “This website is temporarily down for maintenance” on reaching

One Salma Zubair posted at the following statement:

I am sister of this brutally murdered woman. She lived her 8 years of married life with fear in heart. She never let it come to her eyes or lips she was this afraid of this man. He had already frightened her enough that she couldn’t muster up her guts and leave him, and when she finally did gather that much strength he killed her so brutally. She lived to protect her children from this man and his family and she died doing so. Muzzamil Hassan’s family including his parents and brothers never tried to help Aasiya. Even when he had hit her and bruised her body badly in front of them. Aasiya had always been a very loving person, not even one person in this world can say a small wrong word about her. … And please make a special pray for her children and that they do not have to live with that family who’s son killed their mother and they never helped her but rather supported their son.

Paradysz Matera

Feb. 16, 2009 update: Further details have come out from Aasiya’s divorce lawyer and the local police, via Fox News:

Attorney Elizabeth DiPirro of Hogan Willig: The grounds for divorce were “cruel and inhuman treatment,” referring to multiple prior incidents of abuse. The couple had “physical confrontations off and on” during their entire eight-year marriage and these recently had escalated to death threats. “We were worried about the situation becoming volatile.” For her part, Aasiya “was very much aware of the potential ramification her filing for divorce might have. But she wanted to proceed despite the potential for it to erupt. … She was a very brave woman who was extremely devoted to her children and had come to this decision after a long, thoughtful process and was determined to change her life for herself and her children.”

Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz: Aasiya called for officers to come to the couple’s home on Feb. 6, the date when she had obtained an Order of Protection barring her husband from the home. “He was served with divorce papers that day at the [television studio],” Benz said. “He came back to the residence and was pounding on doors and broke one window … He left the premises that night.” Aasiya’s body was found on the floor of an office floor at the television station. Investigators believe Muzzammil acted alone. The search for the murder weapon continues.

Also, the station’s website is now back up, with the homepage dominated by a single statement from the Bridges TV Press Department:

Bridges TV is deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Aasiya [Zubair] Hassan and subsequent arrest of Muzzammil Hassan. Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to the families of the victim. We request that their right to privacy be respected.

Stock Photos from 123RF

Feb. 17, 2009 update: Two sorts of public reactions to the murder are emerging: Spokesmen on behalf of Islamic organization emphasize that domestic violence happens in all communities and Muslims must pay it more attention, while women’s rights advocates focus on the Islamic element.

  • Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, vice-president of The Islamic Society of North America: “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.”
  • Marcia Pappas, president of the New York State chapter of the National Organization for Women: “This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men. … Too many Muslim men are using their religious beliefs to justify violence against women.”

According a Fox News report, Islamist pressure is being brought to bear on the authorities not to consider the murder as an honor killing, Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz has noted: “We’ve been told that there’s no place for that kind of action in their faith, but I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that’s being completely ruled out at this point.”

Other new bits of information from that same report: (1) Hassan has not confessed to the crime, says Benz: “He came in and said his wife was dead.” (2) Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III calls Hassan “a pretty vicious and remorseless bastard.”

The reporter who wrote the Fox News story, Joshua Rhett Miller, told Phyllis Chesler that Frank Sedita informed him that, “Mo Hassan is vicious and without remorse.”

CNN adds many new details:

  • Police had responded to several domestic violence calls at the couple’s address, though no one was ever arrested.

  • Aasiya’s body did not appear to have been moved.

  • Aasiya Z. Hassan’s sister, Asma Firfirey of South Africa.

    Asma Firfirey of South Africa told a newspaper that she was on the phone with her sister, Aasiya, when she heard Aasiya tell Muzzammil to calm down, that the two could talk about their impending divorce the next day. She then heard something that sounded like Aasiya struggling to breathe. “I can only imagine how scared and emotional she must have been before she died.”

  • Firfirey characterized Aasiya as living in fear. CNN reports:

Firfirey said the last time she saw her sister was in May 2008, when she visited South Africa. When she arrived, she was badly injured, and Firfirey’s family paid the equivalent of about $3,000 for her to be treated, she said. Aasiya Hassan returned to America, she said, because she wanted to complete her MBA degree and “didn’t want to leave her children with that monster.” She said she calls Muzzammil Hassan “the fat man with evil eyes.” Aasiya Hassan would have graduated March 6, Firfirey said.

  • Bridges TV had already transformed itself in recent years, according to a former employee, from a specifically Muslim and American network into what CNN characterizes as “more of a cross-cultural network seeking to bridge the gap between all cultures. Most of their employees were not Muslim, the former employee said, and Muzzammil Hassan himself was not devout.” This suggests that, lacking the Muslim demographic Hassan falsely claimed existed, he had to go the direction of general multi-culti programming.

  • Aasiya had been popular at the station and very kind, observed the former employee (who, tellingly, asked not to be named, CNN indicates, “for fear of retribution”). Muzzammil was known for treating his wife erratically, sometimes appearing to be a loving husband and father and at other times yelling at his wife and demeaning her.


Finally, one Zerqa Abid identifies herself today in a blog as CEO of ZAPS Technocrats Inc. and as community political organizer. (A picture on the website shows her with Dennis Kucinich.) She writes that “Muzzammil was married to my first cousin before marrying the victim,” a reference to Aasiya. She tells about Muzzammil:

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 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.

The rest of Abid’s analysis focuses on the American Muslim community’s lack of discernment in allowing Hassan into the ranks of its leadership. Further, it trusted him with its money, collecting “millions of dollars and handed it over to him.” Abid then accusses Hassan of embezzlement:

Muzzammil Hassan put that money in his personal pocket and moved into a huge property with stables and horses. Nobody was there to question that how much money was spent on the actual project and how much was spent on his new but lavish lifestyle. None of our organizations bothered to look into it and inform their members of any concerns.

On learning that her former in-law owned and operated Bridges TV, Abid professes having felt “shock and worry.” She defines him “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.” She recounts having warned Muslim community leaders about him, “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.” She goes on bitterly to note:

Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation

This support was so overwhelming that he was presented with awards too. Now the pictures of award ceremonies are coming back to haunt us and some of them are already posted on anti-Muslim blogs after the murder of Ms. Zubair. One of the headlines reads: Bridges TV CEO Arrested for Beheading Wife Received Award from … [name of a prominent national American Muslim Organization].

Abid demands accountability:

Bridges TV’s website requests to respect family’s privacy. In this case, unfortunately, this request cannot be honored. There is no privacy for people who promote themselves as leaders of the community and take people’s money on the promise of investing it in the community projects.

Feb. 18, 2009 update: Hassan made his first appearance in court today, before Judge Philip Marshall in Orchard Park Village Court, to face murder charges. Amid tight security (“There were extra police officers on hand, along with a K-9 unit, and everyone heading into court was searched”), he did not speak but his defense attorney, Jim Harrington, waived Hassan’s right to the presentation of evidence at a felony hearing, so the case now goes before a grand jury. Hassan will be held in jail without bail.

Harrington described Hassan as “almost in shock. He has an almost blunted affect. He’s having difficulty coping with this.” The defense lawyer lost no time making the Islamist argument that the case has nothing at all to do with Islam: “These questions about culture and religion, I think are very inappropriate. I think the media would be better served to let that go.”

Stock Photos from 123RF

Also today came a note from Hunaid Baliwala, who introduces himself as the newly appointed interim general manager of Bridges TV. After emphasizing how the television staff is “trying to deal with this shocking event,” “deeply shocked and saddened,” and “in a state of shock,” Baliwala gets down to business with two main points:

  • Don’t talk to us about honor killings: “This appears to be the most tragic of domestic violence incidents and, although we have heard statistics that imply that more than three cases of domestic violence occur every day in the US, no one here could ever imagine that this may happen to our beloved colleague.”

  • We need more money: “Without your support we would not have been able to come this far. Therefore, we value your continued support and will need it to get through this challenging time. If you have any ideas and suggestions please do not hesitate to contact me.”

From the other side, the Philadelphia chapter of American Friends for a Safe Israel sent out an e-mail calling for Verizon to drop Bridges TV from its cable offerings and the FCC to look into its funding:

“Last week’s tragic beheading of Aasiya Zubair Hassan by her estranged husband Muzzammil Hassan calls into question Verizon’s vetting of Bridges TV. Muzzammil Hassan founded the pro-Islamic Bridges TV propaganda network in 2004 and Verizon carries it on their Fiber-Optic Television nationwide,” explains Hillel Bluestein, chairman of the Philadelphia chapter of AFSI. … “Verizon and the FCC must completely re-evaluate Bridges TV and take appropriate and immediate measures to remove it from the airwaves.”

AFSI also calls on the FCC to look into the financing of Bridges TV and investigate what laws may have been broken in the foreign financing behind this extremist propaganda effort. AFSI requests clarification as to whether U.S. taxpayers unknowingly financed Bridges TV through the NPR/PBS linked Democracy Now! program that has long aired on Bridges TV.

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AFSI has also initiated a petition along these lines, “Verizon Must Drop Islamic TV Network.”

CNN has produced a video survey of these events, with footage of both Hassans, which can be viewed below.

In “Beheading in Buffalo,” Robert Spencer shows the Islamic roots of husband-on-wife violence and argues that “Ignoring the Islamic justifications for domestic violence harms Muslim women. And ensures that there will be many more Aasiya Hassans, in the United States and around the world.”

Feb. 19, 2009 update: The Buffalo News adds important details to yesterday’s court hearing:

  • Although Hassan told police where to find his wife’s body, he has not confessed, Harrington said. “If and when he’s indicted, he’ll plead not guilty, It’s too early to know what approach we’ll take, but we’re exploring everything.” He added that the couple’s history of domestic violence will be part of the case. “They had their problems.”

  • Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable: her office will seek an indictment against Hassan within 45 days on a second degree murder charge, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison.

Speaking of Aasiya, a local attorney, Nadia Shahram, told the media that “Everyone in the Muslim community was aware that she was indeed going through abuse.”

*Daniel Pipes Blog
Thu, 19 Feb 2009
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Cross-posted with permission

Related: Feminism, Human Rights, Islam, Media/Blogsphere, Political Correctness

3 Responses to “Bridges TV, a Wife’s Beheading, and Honor Murder”

  1. rastamick Says:

    What benefit or satisfaction is derived from your insisting this was an honor killing may I ask ? You have certainly been keeping an eye on this guy or at least your post leads readers to believe you have. Honor killings from my reading are justified in some murky wacky reading of the Sharia law by Islamic extremists who justify everything they do with their own perverse interpretation of religious practice — not unlike snake handling baptists or pedophiles masquerading as adherents of Joseph Smith. This guy did not fast at Ramadan, (as you might divine from his pictures) was never seen at the mosque and had practically nothing to do with any of the muslim community unless he was shaking them down to donate to his t.v. enterprise or his own self-indulgent lifestyle. Hassan was secular and decidedly not the ascetic frothing at the mouth Islamist radical so many God-fearing Christians are wanting him to be. As one of his former employees said so well : He was a piece of garbage. To paint all the members of his faith with the same bloody, domestic abuser’s brush is not only unfair it’s also bigoted and you should take another look at what you’re trying so hard to scream from the rooftop because it’s wrong.

  2. Steve Jackson Says:

    The author is no “bigot” in any way, shape, or form. Nowhere in the article does Dr. Pipes try to “unfairly” stereotype “all the members” of Islam. He has often tried to make clear distinctions between moderates and extremists, an exercise which is often practiced when examining any culture or movement or religion.

    Pipes clearly states in this article:

    It is too early to conclude whether Aasiya’s murder is an honor crime, domestic violence, or yet something else.

    You, the commentator, are using the worn-out tactic of trying to silence all discussion or criticism of Muslims by labeling anyone who asks thoughtful questions about Islam as “bigots.”

    There have been several honor murders related to Islam recently in North America, and its citizens have the right to find out about the practices — or aberrations — of one of the world’s fastest growing religions, some of whom are immigrating to the U.S. and Canada. Documentation of such honor killings can be found here, here, here, and here.

    People of good conscience will continue to educate themselves about the dangers of radical Islam whether you like it or not.

  3. isawpplemakeotherplldosatanicactions Says:

    simple, black majic was done on this family for years. i know because there are groups of people who get hired to make people do shocking actions… then if they can they will get some trained person within to hypnotize men like muzamil who do not practise religion. so it easier to command them to do satanic actions .believe it

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