Are Bad Ideas Coming to Your Neighborhood?

A murder was committed in Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. On February 13, 2009, a 44-year-old Muslim businessman, Muzzamil Hassan, beheaded his 37-year-old wife, Aasiya Z. Hassan. The local district attorney said: “This is the worst form of domestic violence possible.”
This was not domestic violence (a crime of passion); rather, it smacks of the all-too-frequent custom in Pakistan, where Hassan was born, of “honor killing.” A wife or daughter whose actions have shamed the family must be executed – and decapitation is a favored mode, which al Qaeda has even justified as sanctioned in the Koran.
Violence toward women is not just an American phenomenon but here, it is a crime. In many other places, however, particularly in many Muslim communities, honor killing is considered acceptable. A family loses its “honor” if its daughters or wives “misbehave” by running away, dating, not wanting to marry someone chosen by the family, imagined (or real) adultery, and worst of all, demanding a divorce, which Hassan’s wife did.
European governments have problems with honor killings of daughters in their Muslim immigrant communities. Initially, these were downplayed as “cultural,” but today they are prosecuted. In the United States, we have had instances of these crimes too (a recent one in Texas where a man murdered his two college-age daughters for “dating”), and now this beheading.
What makes this Buffalo case so terrible is that the husband is a well-educated businessman who established an English-language Islamic network to combat alleged anti-Muslim bias in the American media. The irony is that he was promoting Islamic “family values.” 
He is no backward village bumpkin; he was a former bank vice-president who was unfortunately unimpressed with American domestic values. That such a man could decapitate his wife in the style that was used on American reporter Daniel Pearl, or a few weeks ago in Afghanistan where a kidnapped European was decapitated and his murder filmed, is alarming.
His wife’s crime, apparently, was serving him with a restraining order against beating her and asking for a divorce. This somehow “shamed” him and he retreated to one of the most violent values of his former homeland: a beheading execution to which he felt entitled. I pity his defense attorney.
Along with all the great benefits of globalization, horrible ideas also travel. What we should understand is that the daily horrors of life under the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan do not just stay there; they come here. We cannot pretend they are none of our business.
Pakistan has made a deal with the Taliban (to end bloody and inconclusive warfare in Swat, in the North West Frontier) to replace Pakistani law with “strict” Islamic law. Swat, which was recently a tourist haven for skiers and in a recent election voted for the secular party, has been thrown under the bus by the Pakistan government. Perhaps the government feels it is a good deal because all that it will cost is the legalization of Taliban’s war on women. But what will Taliban demand next?
Quite a few American political analysts have actually suggested that we negotiate with the Taliban ourselves – and try to detach them from al Qaeda, whom they consider our real enemy. Yes, indeed; let’s back these heroes, just as we did in fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. This was a case of considering the Islamist monsters preferable to the Soviet monsters. We were wrong, and are still paying for it. When will we learn that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend?
Pakistan has become the spawning ground of fanatical villains who are influencing young Muslim men living in Europe and some in the U.S. It has spawned the “honor killings” of wives and daughters who only want American (or European) values of being equal human beings under the law. Unless severely prosecuted here and in Pakistan, decapitation may come to your neighborhood too. Contributing Editor Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is an historian, lecturer, and author who also writes for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. You may contact her at or

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