NPR Insists Buffalo Wife's Beheading by Muslim Outreach TV Founder Has No Islamic Overtones

Almost the entire media skipped this chilling honor-killing verdict from Arizona on Tuesday, from Reuters: "An Arizona jury on Tuesday found an Iraqi immigrant guilty of second-degree murder for running down his daughter with a Jeep because she had become too Westernized." Faleh Almaleki killed his daughter Noor in October 2009 because she spurned his arranged marriage and was living with her boyfriend. Apparently, to report this is to be "Islamophobic."

NPR skipped Almaleki, but they noted the verdict in another horrific killing on Monday night's All Things Considered: Aasiya Hassan was beheaded by her husband Mozzamil in 2009 as the two headed a Buffalo television project designed to create better understanding about Muslims. NPR reporter Dina Temple-Raston's objective was to deny this crime was about Islam. Instead, she said, it was simply about domestic violence.

NPR anchor Robert Siegel tried to explain that "at the time, the media seized on the murder as an honor killing. That's a killing allowed in some Muslim societies when shame has been brought on a family. But NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports from Buffalo, the Hassan case is really about domestic violence and it forced an entire community to reckon with stereotypes."

"The media" didn't exactly seize on Aasiya Hassan. But Glenn Beck did, and some local news outlets. Temple-Raston was insisting Beck and Company were all wrong, that they were purveying negative stereotypes. She went directly to Dr. Khalid Qazi for her thesis, a man she said "looks like Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'" She did not explain he was a head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a professional spin controller on these issues, or that Dr. Qazi recently welcomed Ground Zero Mosque imam Faisal Abdul-Rauf to Buffalo:

Dr. QAZI: Nobody in the community can get their arms around that notion that he would not only kill her, he would stab her 40, 50 and perhaps 60 times and then decapitate her. There's absolutely no stomach for that.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Because she was Muslim, because of the way she was killed, and because Aasiya Hassan had filed for divorce just days before the murder, the media assumed that the killing was sanctioned by Islam.

Unidentified Woman Anchor: A brutal crime in Buffalo, New York. A Pakistani-born man is accused of beheading his wife, and there's speculation it may be a so-called honor killing.

Mr. GLENN BECK (Host, "The Glenn Beck Program"): All right. This guy started a Muslim-American cable TV network to challenge stereotypes about his faith. You know, apparently, we're just too stupid. We just all think that all Muslims are bad.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That was Glenn Beck talking about the case. In fact, the Muslim community was being stereotyped. Dr. Qazi said news of the murder was everywhere.

Dr. QAZI: So there is this constant reminder of this monster who we all tried to project and help to establish a lifestyle television channel to show who we are and what we stand for and then we get this.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Buffalo's Muslim community had already had its share of these kinds of stories. There were suspicions after the 911 attacks. And then, to make matters worse, a year after 911, six young Muslims from the Lackawanna community, just outside of Buffalo, were arrested and pleaded guilty to training at an al-Qaeda camp. Against that backdrop, stereotyping was easy. This had to be an honor killing, except it wasn't.

The idea that Mo Hassan's murder was "everywhere" is simply untrue. As I noted at the time, the national media (including for a while, NPR) were certainly not picking up the story, despite the enormous news hook of "Muslim-understanding czar beheads wife." The outlets that did report it predictably downplayed the Muslim angle.

But pay attention to that part about the Lackawanna Six. Temple-Raston wrote an entire book on those terrorists in training called The Jihad Next Door. At Amazon, the Booklist review crackles with how this NPR reporter exposes the dark age of Bush:

As she sensitively portrays each of the five men currently behind bars, she reveals their dire naïveté and profound regrets, which stand in stark contrast to her revelations regarding the Bush administration's use of the Lackawanna case to bolster the Patriot Act and to justify the assassination of Derwish, an American citizen. Compelling and clarifying, Temple-Raston's invaluable exposé will stand as one illuminated chapter in a dark saga of governmental crimes and cover-ups.

In the Aasiya Hassan story, Temple-Raston brought in another sympathetic expert, professor Remla Parthasarathy of the "Social Justice Clinic" at the University of Buffalo, who recently argued in a Buffalo News op-ed that there was no "cultural concern" in this typical case of domestic violence:

Prof. PARTHASARATHY: Honor killings are something that is sanctioned and approved by extended family. That wasn't the case here. Religious leaders in the Muslim community came out and denounced it. And they said it wasn't an honor killing, and I respect that.

TEMPLE-RASTON: In fact, when Aasiya's horrified family returned from Pakistan for her burial two years ago, it became very clear that this was a domestic violence case. Mo and Aasiya Hassan were not particularly religious. In fact, no one could recall ever seeing Mo Hassan at the mosque. As time went on, community leaders were presented with a stark choice: either allow others to stereotype the community or move aggressively to redefine the killing.

They came up with a novel approach: embark on a domestic violence education campaign. That allowed them to battle the honor killing stereotype, and it also provided new protection for battered women in the community. Domestic abuse had been an issue in the community all along. But according to Kathy Jamil, she's the principal of a local Islamic school, no one wanted to admit it.

Ms. KATHY JAMIL (Principal, Universal School): When this happened, everyone wanted to respond because it became very real for them, even though domestic violence happens. And I think a lot of that was really because now, Islam was under attack.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Islam was under attack, she said. And that's what finally focused minds on the issue.

"Islam was under attack." That apparently means it's time for NPR to run to the rescue.

Earlier: NPR Reporter Wrote Book on 'Dangerous Erosion' of Rights Under Bush with Executive Director of the ACLU

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis