The crime was so brutal, shocking and rife with the worst possible stereotypes about their faith that some U.S. Muslims thought the initial reports were a hoax.
The harsh reality of what happened in an affluent suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. — the beheading of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan and the arrest of her estranged husband in the killing — is another crucible for American Muslims.
Here was a couple that appeared to be the picture of assimilation and tolerance, co-founders of a TV network that aspired to improve Muslims' image in a post-9/11 world.
Now, as Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan faces second-degree murder charges, American Muslims are once again explaining that their faith abhors such horrible acts, and they are using the tragedy as a rallying cry against domestic violence.
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The killing and its aftermath raise hard questions about gender issues, distinctions between cultural and religious practices, and differing interpretations of Islamic texts regarding the treatment of women.
"Muslims don't want to talk about this for good reason," said Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, a Muslim author and activist. "The right wing is going to run with it and misuse it. But we've got to shine a light on this issue so we can transform it."
There is evidence of movement in that direction in the 10 days since the slaying. In an open letter to American Muslim leaders, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali of Sterling, Va., vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, said "violence against women is real and cannot be ignored."
He urged that imams and community leaders never second-guess a woman in danger, and said women seeking divorces because of physical abuse should not be viewed as bringing shame to their families.
Muslim women's advocates consider the statement significant after years of indifference in a community which has seen only recent progress — for example, the opening of shelters for battered Muslim women in a few major cities.
Said Abdul-Ghafur, editor of the anthology Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak: "The next time a woman comes to her imam and says, 'He hit me,' the reply might not be, 'Be patient, sister, is there something you did, sister? Is there something you can do?' The chances are greater the imam will say, 'This is unacceptable.'"
At the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, Calif., Imam Tahir Anwar said he preached at Friday prayer services about keeping peace in the family and denounced physical and emotional domestic violence.
"All religions have texts that can be misinterpreted," Anwar said of Islam's potential role in the Hassan slaying. "Good people regardless of faith would never do something like this."
While sermons like Anwar's are encouraging, other Muslim clerics in the United States probably preached that Aasiya Hassan could have avoided her fate by being more obedient, said Muqtedar Khan, an associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.
"The imam has to be enlightened enough to recognize this violence happens, to not hide in denial or somehow blame it on American culture," said Khan, author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom.
Asra Nomani, a Muslim journalist, author and activist from Morgantown, W.Va., challenged Muslims who say the murder has no link to Islamic teachings. Although Islam does not sanction domestic violence or murder, a literal reading of a controversial verse in the Quran taught in some mosques can lead to honor killings and murder, she said.