The gruesome death of Orchard Park resident Aasiya Zubair Hassan -- who was found decapitated -- and the arrest of her estranged husband are drawing widespread attention, as speculation roils about the role that the couple's religion may have played.
Muzzammil Hassan, 44, was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder after telling police his wife was dead at the office of their television station in the Village of Orchard Park.
While Muslim leaders have urged against applying cultural stereotypes to the crime, advocates for women linked the killing to attitudes in Muslim societies.
"This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women's subordination to men," said Marcia Pappas, New York State president of the National Organization for Women.
She decried the scant national media attention paid to the story, which broke the same day as the commuter plane crash that killed 50 people in Clarence.
While domestic violence affects all cultures, Muslim women find it harder to break the silence about it because of a stigma, she said.
"Too many Muslim men are using their religious beliefs to justify violence against women," she said.
After episodes of domestic violence, Aasiya Hassan, 37, filed for divorce Feb. 6 and obtained an order of protection barring her husband from their Orchard Park home, her lawyer, Corey Hogan, said.
She and her husband both worked at Bridges TV, a satellite-distributed news and opinion channel. They launched the station in 2004 in an effort to counter images of Muslim violence and extremism.
Nadia Shahram, a matrimonial lawyer in Williamsville, said that some Muslim men consider divorce a dishonor on their family.
A teacher of family law and Islam at the University at Buffalo Law School, Shahram said that "fanatical" Muslims believe "honor killing" is justified for bringing dishonor on a family.
While it has not been determined whether Aasiya Hassan's death had anything to do with fanatical beliefs, the community should address the attitudes that make divorce particularly difficult for many Muslim families, Shahram said.
"I have not had one [case] where the husband wanted to settle outside of the court system," she said.
In some interpretations, the Quran allows husbands to punish "disobedient" women, Shahram said, adding that this is a minority view.
An open community forum on the issue is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the UB Law School's Moot Court on the North Campus in Amherst, she said. Imam Fajri Ansari, the leader of a Buffalo mosque, and other experts on Islam are scheduled to attend, she said.
Orchard Park police Monday continued to investigate last week's death and remained quiet about its details.
Police believe that Aasiya Hassan died where she was found, in a hallway at the TV station's offices on Thorn Avenue in the village, Police Chief Andrew Benz said.
The office was released as a crime scene Saturday, he said, but the effort to determine the murder weapon continued.
"We're looking to make sure we find the weapon," Benz said, adding that police don't have a confession.
Muzzammil Hassan is scheduled to appear at a felony hearing in Orchard Park on Wednesday to determine bail.
A Family Court hearing today is expected to address the future of the couple's two children, a girl age 4 and a boy age 6. Their grandparents, having traveled from Texas and Pakistan, are expected to attend, said John Tregilio, a lawyer for the children.
Muzzammil Hassan also has two older children, ages 17 and 18, who lived with the family on Big Tree Road in Orchard Park. The couple had been married eight years.
Naeem Randhawa, a documentary filmmaker in Dallas who worked with the Hassans, said it was apparent that their television venture was in trouble, but not their marriage.
He characterized Muzzammil Hassan as aggressive in a business sense, with fundraising efforts in the Muslim community that were necessary to keep the station going.
On a personal level, "he was not extremely talkative -- he would sit back and listen," Randhawa said. "He came across not as a passionate guy, [but] more reserved."
Friends said they remember Aasiya Hassan as a vivacious and intelligent woman. For a time the couple owned a convenience store in Orchard Park where she would work, sometimes with her son.
Muzzammil Hassan graduated magna cum laude with an MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester in 1996, according to biographical information on the TV station's Web site.
In a 2005 interview with The Buffalo News, he said that the idea for the TV station was sparked two years earlier when the couple heard derogatory remarks about American Muslims on a radio talk show.