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Muslim Television Channel Founder Charged With Beheading His Wife

February 16, 2009

Muslim Television Channel Founder Charged With Beheading His Wife

Monday , February 16, 2009

By Joshua Rhett Miller

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The estranged wife of a Muslim television executive feared for her life after filing for divorce last month from her abusive husband, her attorney said — and was found beheaded Thursday in his upstate New York television studio.

Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37, was found dead on Thursday at the offices of Bridges TV in Orchard Park, N.Y., near Buffalo. Her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, has reportedly been charged with second-degree murder.

“She was very much aware of the potential ramification of her filing for divorce might have,” said attorney Elizabeth DiPirro, whose law firm, Hogan Willig, represented Aasiya Hassan in the divorce proceeding. “But she wanted to proceed despite the potential for it to erupt.”

DiPirro said the couple had “physical confrontations off and on” for their entire eight-year marriage that had recently escalated to death threats. The grounds for divorce were “cruel and inhuman treatment,” DiPirro said, referring to mulitple prior incidents of abuse. She declined to elaborate.

“We were worried about the situation becoming volatile,” DiPirro said.

The couple had two children, ages 4 and 6, DiPirro said. Muzzammil Hassan also has two children, ages 17 and 18, from a previous marriage.

DiPirro said Aasiya was a “brave” mother who sought a better life for her young children.

“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,” DiPirro said.

Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz told the Buffalo News that Aasiya Hassan had obtained an order or protection on Feb. 6, barring her husband from their home. Police have reportedly still not found the weapon allegedly used in the killing. Benz did not immediately return requests for comment Monday.

“Obviously this is the worst form of domestic violence possible,” Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita told the Buffalo News.

Muzzammil Hassan, who founded Bridges TV in November 2004 to counter anti-Islam stereotypes, surrendered to police Thursday. Hassan touted the network as the “first-ever full-time home for American Muslims,” according to a press release.

“Every day on television we are barraged by stories of a ‘Muslim extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,'” Hassan said in the 2004 release. “But the stories that are missing are the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence that Bridges TV hopes to tell.”

Dr. Khalid Qazi, a friend of the couple and president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, said the channel had been under financial strain.

“I cannot believe it — I know them both well,” Qazi told the Buffalo News. “I cannot get a handle on this.”

Samira Khatib, a friend of the couple, said Aasiya Hassan encouraged her husband to launch the cable channel.

“They were really more than married — they encouraged each other in everything,” Khatib told the Buffalo News. “She was such a lovely person.”

According to the station’s Web site, Aasiya Hassan “came up with the idea” for the network. The Web site, which shows an undated photo of the couple in happier times, identifies her maiden name as Aasiya Zubair.

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