Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Beheading of Aasiya Hassan: Patriarchy-Conferred Privilege?

I just finished my once-per semester lecture on gender-equality (which I deliver to multiple sections), and I'm a little fired up on the topic of discrimination against women at the moment. Plus, I'm reading an extremely fascinating (if somewhat contradictory) scholarly essay on the role of patriarchic systems of dominance in the incidence of interstate wars. (See, "The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States," available here.)

So, I'm finding great interest (but little sympathy) in
Melissa McEwan's essay on the murder of Aasiya Hassan in Orchard Park, New York. Mrs. Hassan was allegedly beheaded by her husband, Muzzamil Hassan, in what appears as a classic case of Islamic ritual murder, a beheading in the fashion of Daniel Pearl's, and an "honor killing" in the fashion of literally thousands of women around the world who have been murdered or who are now at risk of death to this Islamic barbarity. According to Phyllis Chesler, the murder of Mrs. Hassan "is very probably an honor killing, a crime which has little to do with western-style domestic violence."

Well, not according to
Ms. McEwan:

Particularly in comment ... threads on posts about this story, there are a lot of jokes about how Hassan sure isn't improving Muslims' reputation by beheading his wife, all predicated, of course, on that most basic foundation of prejudice: The insistence that one member of a group represent the entire group. Certainly, I understand the source of the potential irony, but it's contingent on reducing Hassan to one piece of his identity—his religion—and suggesting that his religion is uniquely (or mostly) responsible for his crime. Which, as it turns out, there are people quite eager to do, too.

The thing is, it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense.

Now you know the woman who constantly says like a broken record "This shit doesn't happen in a void" isn't about to argue that Hassan was not a product of his environment; I will, however, note that Islam was only one part of his environment. He is also an American resident, which made him the beneficiary of all the patriarchy-conferred privilege inherent to that environment, too. He is a member of a family, which likely granted him a higher status for being male. He is/was a businessperson working in corporate America, which favors and privileges men. Et cetera. In most or all of these overlapping and intersecting environments, violence against women will have been tacitly—and sometimes overtly—condoned via media imagery, advertisements, "jokes," turned blind eyes, public religious admonishments from
multiple religions, and possibly intimate example.

So how much sense does it make to blame his religion, exclusively or even primarily?


Which means that anyone who isn't just cynically using the occasion of a woman's gruesome murder by her husband's hand to advance an anti-Islam or anti-religion agenda needs to rethink their argument—because if they really care about the victim at the center of this crime, or any of the millions of women hurt or killed by domestic violence every year, they won't mask the real culprit behind a cheap, and misplaced, shot at a single religion.

The real culprit is undeserved male privilege and the resulting second-class personhood of women.
Folks can see why I'm just not sympathetic to Ms. McEwan's case. You see, there are distinctions between the phenomenon of domestic gender abuse in the United States and the historical subordination of women in Muslin countries, and now in the nations of the West as well where Islamic fundamentalists are increasing their grip.

The U.S. is the international system's leading democracy and few other nations in the history of the world have made as dramatic advances toward civil and poltical rights for women. When I teach this subject in class I'm struck by how agressive the United States has moved to abandon its history of patriarchy and real structures of dominance, and I can certainly understand where continued progress might be expected.

But this isn't the case in Muzzamil Hassan's beheading of his wife. This is not "run-of-the mill" domestic violence, as horrible as such crimes are. Violence against women is never okay. But this is a murder of world-political significance. It illustrates the deeply rooted primordial codes of Islamic culture. "A beheading suggests that the murderer wants to separate his victim’s mind from her body, he does not want to hear what she has to say, he wants her mute, beyond what duct tape can do and he wants her completely severed, disassociated from her ability to flee," as Chesler indicates. Indeed, to read McEwen is revealing of the crass ideological blindness to pure evil in the world today. As a professor who teaches civil rights, and as an advocate for the unlimited advancement of women in politics and society, I'm astounded at the moral bankruptcy of Melissa McEwan and the radical left's cultural relativism.

The logical disjuncture in this kind of thinking among leftists here at home is just too much to fathom sometimes.


cracker said...

When it comes to Be-heading your wife, your ex-wife. Its an act of terror, to proliferate domination through terror...... not just an act of violence.

Any interpretation of a Religion that gives that act a "thumbs up" in the name of terrorising its subjects into submission.... has been corrupted a long time ago by the fearful men who purvey it.

Ms. McEwan is going to have to go way way way to the radical left.....to get any traction on that essay.

Norm said...

Islam was not just "one part" of the husband's environment. Apparently, Islam was the center of his environment. Islam condones male dominance over and the punishment by death over females in the family. Yes, other societies or religions may be male dominated and there are many other examples of men killing their daughters. But to deny that a beheading by a man who's life is centered by his religion was not condoned by this religion is putting one's head in the sand. Dhimmis, dhimmis, they're all Dhimmis.

cracker said...

"putting one's head in the sand"!!!!

Oh man, Norm

Anonymous said...

Is this woman serious? She actually disagrees with the statement that "his religion is uniquely... responsible for his crime"?

Yes, there are American men who beat their women. I'm not sure how much of it is the result of a "patriarchy" or being in corporate America or any of that nonsense, but, yes, it happens.

But routine domestic violence does not involve chopping people's heads off. As "American" as she wants to make this guy to suit her needs, the fact that he killed her, as some Muslims do, in order to retain honor as defined by a specific subset of Islam, makes this clearly, and uniquely, a product of his religion.

While some people will use this tragedy to defame all Muslims, she is just as guilty by using this tragedy to somehow paint a picture of "America the patriarchical man-beating society." She is twisting facts and distorting truth to serve an end the same as anyone she is criticizing.

Anonymous said...

This was not an honor killing. MO Hassan was married before to a non-Muslim woman, and had two children with her as well. He divorced the first wife without killing her. He was not a religious Muslim. Bridges TV was nothing more to him than an oppertunity to make money. He did not fast or pray as is required in the religion. HE often said that he did not miss Pakistan, or wish to visit. He was very Americanized. What this was is an example of is his rage, and domestic abuse... not an "honor killing." I know all this becuase I used to work there. Leave the religion of Islam out of it.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, a Greek man beheaded his girlfriend a few months ago. Last year, a Canadian man beheaded a companion on a Greyhound bus. A Catholic man also beheaded his own infant. This is clearly just a man with a horrific temper problem, and it is sad to see Islamophobes like Chesler use it to promote her agenda. Asiyya -- who was far more religious than her husband -- would be saddened to see her death used to denigrate her own faith.

AmPowerBlog said...

Adam: Take a hike buddy ... you obviously don't know what you're taking about, and I'm not here to debate the issue. It's Islam, duh:

"When a husband murders a wife or daughter in the United States and Canada, too often law enforcement chalks the matter up to domestic violence. Murder is murder; religion is irrelevant. Honor killings are, however, distinct from wife battering and child abuse. Analysis of more than fifty reported honor killings shows they differ significantly from more common domestic violence. The frequent argument made by Muslim advocacy organizations that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam and that it is discriminatory to differentiate between honor killings and domestic violence is wrong.

Families that kill for honor will threaten girls and women if they refuse to cover their hair, their faces, or their bodies or act as their family's domestic servant; wear makeup or Western clothing; choose friends from another religion; date; seek to obtain an advanced education; refuse an arranged marriage; seek a divorce from a violent husband; marry against their parents' wishes; or behave in ways that are considered too independent, which might mean anything from driving a car to spending time or living away from home or family. Fundamentalists of many religions may expect their women to meet some but not all of these expectations. But when women refuse to do so, Jews, Christians, and Buddhists are far more likely to shun rather than murder them. Muslims, however, do kill for honor, as do, to a lesser extent, Hindus and Sikhs.

- Phyllis Chesler, "Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?"

repsac3 said...

Another brilliant retort, Donald.

It's astounding how certain you are, considering that just about everyone who knows this guy says he was violent, but not particularly fundie Muslim. It is only the experts from afar (generally with agendas of their own) who bestow with your certainty--& inability to accept any question--that if one is muslim & decapitation is involved, it must be an honor killing. Perhaps, like the examples Adam gives of those other non-muslim decapitation murders, it is just what it appears to be. That you cannot fathom a murderer who happens to be muslim, rather than a muslim murderer, says alot about you.

I'm not saying I know either way whether this was or was not an honor killing--though the initial reports about the murderer seem not to paint the man as the fundamentalist type that does kill in the name of their religion, even here in America--but I reject any notion that you--or any of your fellow "experts"--do, either. You're using this case to fit your own ends. (Of course PPigg is right, as well... Melissa McEwan is doing the same thing, for essentially the same reasons... She's got a point of view to sell, and twisting the facts to fit the agenda is as good a way as any, for some...)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Douglas, its safe to say that "YOU DONT KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT" either.

Clearly you seem rather dellusional when it comes to the nuances of sociological matters.

You have a hard enough time dealing with politics. Probably best you work on that craft before moving on. Just my five cents worth.

Are you aware of the statistics on domestic violence in America??????

Based on your ignorant article, its evident that you clearly are not aware of it.

Anonymous said...

Adam, keeping shining the bright light up the dark alley buddy.

I am also noticing a systematic dismissal of facts around here.

AmPowerBlog said...

All of you are ignorant nihilist trolls. Adam leaves no shred of evidence, and that's enough to "shine a light up the dark alley."

Ah, that dark alley would be Islam:

"M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, agreed with Chesler.

"It certainly has all the markings of [an honor killing]," Jasser told FOXNews.com. "She expressed through the legal system that she was being abused, and at the moment she asked for divorce, she's not only murdered — she's decapitated."

"Muzzammil and Aasiya Hassan founded Bridges TV in November 2004 to counter anti-Islam stereotypes, touting the network as the "first-ever full-time home for American Muslims," according to a 2004 press release.

Jasser said he was concerned that Aasiya Hassan suffered such a barbaric death after she and her husband were seen as a couple focused on bettering the "Islamic image" in the United States.

"The most dangerous aspect of this case is to simply say it's domestic violence," Jasser told FOXNews.com."

-Joshua Rhett Miller, "Beheading in New York Appears to Be Honor Killing, Experts Say"

repsac3 said...

Look, Donald... If you want to buy into a very possibly non-existent "honor killing" angle in this case, that's up to you.

Phyllis Chesler is a right wing blogger with a brand new journal article (in the works for awhile, but released today) about honor killings.

Fox News is a right wing media outfit.

Jasser and his American Islamic Forum for Democracy is a right wing Muslim think tank and lobbying group (which strangely enough, lists only two members, one of which is Jasser. It sure pushes Chessler's new journal article, though...)

The only person whose motive for labeling this an honor killing isn't from the political right, is the NY State head of NOW, who has her own axe to grind. (She opposes domestic violence discriminations in law, and wants all threats of murder or violence to be treated the same, whether the victim knows/loves her potential (actual) attacker or not. The more sensational this (& every "domestic violence") crime is, the better for her cause.)

I've read Chesler's new study. How many of her own Characteristics of Honor Killings (from Table 1) fit this crime?

It was a horrific crime committed by a Muslim man on his Muslim wife.

But, there is no proof (as yet, anyway) of planning; of other family members being involved; no claims by him or anyone else that she dishonored him, his family, or his faith; no one in the family or community is "valorizing" him or his act; and very little has been said about his showing or not showing remorse, or of his saying anything about having restored his family's honor.

Maybe this will turn out to be an honor killing, but so far, I don't think the facts and opinions of unbiased sources are solid enough to make the case...

If doubting either you or the "fact" of this being an honor killing based on the stuff I've laid out once again makes you cry "nihilist," I suppose there's nothing more I can do...

akhter said...

This man committed a murder, whether he beheaded , chopped up or bullet through the head , same thing ,it is still murder, for that he deserves to be hanged, now there hundreds of spouse related murders in USA every year ,how is we do not have any site debating
for those poor Christain, Jewish, Hindu,etc women,yet wherever you look on the net and on TV there is muslim beads his wife, here is the list of those YOU forgot and lay off Muslims for a change!!

Chart One: Number of Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/Single Offender Homicides and Rates by State in 1999, Ranked by Rate

Ranking State
Number of Homicides
Homicide Rate per 100,000
1 Nevada 30 3.38
2 Alaska 9 3.06
3 Louisiana 57 2.51
4 Arizona 54 2.24
5 South Carolina 42 2.09
6 Vermont 6 1.99
7 Tennessee 55 1.94
8 Oklahoma 33 1.92
9 Missouri 53 1.88
10 North Carolina 74 1.88
11 Maine 12 1.87
12 West Virginia 17 1.82
13 Arkansas 23 1.74
14 Virginia 60 1.71
15 Texas 171 1.68

Anonymous said...

Akhtar, beware of the delete button pal. How dare you list those big bad red states in such an unlawful manner! :)

Anonymous said...

Upon second thought, those kind of murderous statistics you just listed can only be perpetuated by those psycho Islamists, with there pervasive genetic predisposition for honor killings and beheadings.

Ayesha Fiaz said...

Nowhere in Islam does it say to take justice into your own hands. Clearly this man is ill minded and deserves to be punished. He misinterpreted the Quran. He, in my eyes, is an infidel. It clearly states in the Quran that unjust killing of one man (or woman) means the killing of the whole mankind. Yes, he very much deserves to be punished. But this is NOT part of Islam. Killing and beheading a woman for filing a divorce or "order of protection" is NOT part of our religion.

How the media attacks Muslims for there wrongdoings is atrocious. Yes the man killed his wife, but why linger on the fact that he is muslim? How many other people of different religions abuse thier wives and children? Isn't that just as bad? Yes their are extremists in Islam, and they surely will be punished. But this negative attitude that builds prejudice and racism towards Muslims is wrong. Land of the brave, Home of the free??? There is no bravery in what is happening.

Thousands of innocent people were killed in Gaza, did America do anything? NO. So please, next time (hopefully there never will be) focus on the story and not the religion.

Anonymous said...

I know his first wife, and she ran out of the house in terror after he chased her with a knife and threatened her and their children. Mo is a sick twisted person.