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Inside the Mind of an Islamist: 5 Keys to the Psychology of an Honor Killer

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Posted on February 8 2011 6:00 am
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Editor’s note: Muzzammil Syed Hassan was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury yesterday. Read Phyllis Chesler’s post on the verdict here.

1. When Is The Aggressor Not The Aggressor? When He Has Been Forced to Defend Himself and His Lost Honor

On February 12, 2009, immediately after stabbing his unarmed wife 40 times with two large hunting knives and then brutally beheading her, he became calm, relieved. For the first time in years, he felt “peaceful.” Only then did he feel “safe from the Evil Dragon Terrorist” which is how he referred to Aasiya Zubair Hassan, the wife he had viciously battered for seven years.

Muzzammil Syed Hassan quietly told the police that he had killed his wife—but he immediately pleaded “not guilty” to second-degree murder. In fact, he told the police and the media what he is now telling the judge, prosecutors and jury in a Buffalo courtroom: that he, not she, was the “abused” and long-suffering spouse.

How is this possible? How can a man with a long and terrible history of physically and psychologically battering three wives and physically and psychologically abusing his children as well—he once punched his 13-year-old son in the nose—say this and believe it with his whole heart?

In pre-trial interviews, Hassan insisted that he suffered immense psychological abuse and humiliation during his seven year marriage to a woman who publicly nurtured a false image as a kinder and more sympathetic woman.

“All abuse happens behind closed doors, thus NO witnesses,” Hassan stated in his most recent letter. “All abuse is psychological, emotional wounds are not visible, thus NO evidence. . . . What a perfect crime! Only the poorly trained abusers use physical violence and get caught, for physical abuse leaves behind evidence.”

In the hour leading up to the murder, Hassan sent Aasiya text messages saying:

I am a good man, Aasiya…a humble and decent man, made some mistakes, please don’t punish me so hard. God likes forgiveness…I have not done anything to hurt you since Sunday…

Like other batterers, he is not merely saying that Aasiya “provoked” him to kill her but that she had been torturing him for seven years: cleverly leaving no marks, while he had been suffering the torments of the damned. Finally, afraid of being exposed—either as a batterer or as a battered spouse, both humiliating possibilities for a leader of the Muslim-American community—he said that he “snapped.” He could take no more. He had to kill her to restore his peace of mind.

And so, he took control.

Next: Where else have we heard such reasoning? —>

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