In February 2009, Aasiya Hassan, co-founder of Bridges TV, was murdered by her husband. Thanks to a groundswell of community organizing in remembrance of her life, Ms. Hassan’s story continues to be told a year after her death.
Domestic violence is one of the last taboos in the American Muslim community. Too often shrouded in silence within the community because for many domestic violence is tantamount to “airing dirty laundry,” outside the community, domestic violence committed by Muslims is shrugged off as “honor killings (which is factually not 100% tenable as an argument).
Last year, MMW brought you daily press updates in the days following her death as well as a roundtable post from our blogging team. This year, in the spirit of going against the tired old “Muslims don’t condemn…” arguments, I want to take a look at the first anniversary of her death and the various community events this month for and by Muslims in major American cities. I also had the chance to speak via email with two women who are or have coordinated remembrance events in their communities.
First up is Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence, founded in the wake up and response to Ms. Hassan’s murder. In February, they are organizing khutbas and pledges to raise awareness in communities nationwide.
Ms. Hadayai Majeed of Baitul Salaam has organized a global Facebook event enjoining us to remember Hassan and others like her by wearing purple — the official color of domestic violence awareness – on February 13th through February 16th. I had the chance to speak with Majeed via email, and asked her a few questions:.
Nicole Zaghia: Often times domestic violence is smoothed over or glossed over in the Muslim community. The events commemorating the one year anniversary of Ms. Hassan’s death go against the common misconceptions: there are groups of Muslims actively using this as an opportunity to bridge gaps in people’s knowledge, get the word out. How do you hope to change the bigger picture?
Hadayai Majeed: We as a community come together admit we have a problem and start working together to solve it. We must if we truly reverence Allah and believer prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the example for mankind of excellence in a human being.
NZ: As a coordinator for remembrance news about Ms. Hassan, what do you want the “takeaway” to be regarding her legacy?
HM: She took a stand against the abuse and finally took action. Unfortunately the price was death. It can happen to anyone. The poor are not the only one’s who can be abused. Although the event bears her name it is being coordinated to bring the issue to the forefront and hopefully people will make it a priority to learn about domestic abuse. Start with their families to make sure they are abuse free. It is not easy but we must do it. See Sandela Kanwal worked at Walmart so when she was murdered there was not one…Imam who said a thing. No one. Not one sister’s group leader said a thing. One sister who is part of an interfaith meeting of Muslims and Christians wrote to the local papers. I did two radio shows on the topic and wrote a blog. The only reason why we as a community did anything when we heard the news about Sr. Aasiya is because CNN put it in our face. Positive side of this is that the event has been well received. Many people in our community are doing what they can. This coming weekend should be good for all of us.
Last Friday, the founder of Sound Vision, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, gave a khutba on domestic violence with a special update to the Sound Vision website’s section on Domestic Violence .
If you aren’t already taking part in a remembrance/awareness activity this week and later in the month, the items listed above should point you in the right direction. And even if you don’t, spread the word! Let people know that Muslims DO speak out against domestic violence, both within and without their communities.
As a footnote (and a sad, sorry one at that), it was announced in late January that Ms. Hassan’s husband taking his own spin of the DV argument and pleading “battered husband” at his trial. In the words of the district attorney, “He chopped her head off … That’s all I have to say about Mr. Hassan’s apparent defense that he was a battered spouse.”