NEW YORK (CNN) — The founder of an Islamic television station in upstate New York aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes has confessed to beheading his wife, authorities said.
Muzzammil Hassan was charged with second-degree murder after police found the decapitated body of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, at the Bridges TV station in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, said Andrew Benz, Orchard Park’s police chief.
Hassan was arrested Thursday.
His wife filed for divorce January 6, and police had responded to several domestic violence calls at the couple’s home, Benz said.
Hassan went directly to the police station after his wife’s death and confessed to killing her, Benz told CNN.
He launched Bridges TV, billed as the first English-language cable channel targeting Muslims inside the United States, in 2004. At the time, Hassan said he hoped the network would balance negative portrayals of Muslims following the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Muslim Television Channel Founder Charged With Beheading His Wife
“She was very much aware of the potential ramification 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.
Asked if the slaying is being investigated as an honor killing, Benz replied, “It’s safe to say we’re investigating all the angles we can, all the possibilities in conjunction with the district attorney’s office. We’re looking at whatever we might come across.”
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.”
Hassan, who was arraigned Thursday, remains jailed at the Erie County Holding Center. No bail had been set and an attorney for Hassan was not listed, according to a jail spokeswoman. Hassan has a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, Benz said.
According to a Web site for Bridges TV, Aasiya Hassan “came up with the idea” for the network. The Web site, which shows an undated photo of the couple, identifies her maiden name as Aasiya Zubair.
“Bridges TV is deeply shocked and saddened by the murder of Aasiya [Zubair] Hassan and subsequent arrest of Muzzammil Hassan,” a statement posted late Monday read. “Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to the families of the victim. We request that their right to privacy be respected.”
‘Monster decapitated my sister’
Cape Town – An Elsies River woman is concerned about her sister’s children, after her brother-in-law allegedly decapitated her sister in the US.
Asma Firfirey, 42, on Monday wanted to know how her brother-in-law could still be in charge of the children.
The brother-in-law was due to appear in a Buffalo court on Tuesday to argue for custody of their children.
Firfirey said she and her husband, Amier, 49, were talking to her sister, Aasiya, 37, on the telephone last Thursday, when they heard her tell her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, to calm down and that they could talk the following day about the divorce.
Then they heard sounds that sounded like her sister was struggling to breathe.
On Friday, they were informed by a family member that her sister had died.
Fifirey believes Hassan, whom she calls “the fat man with the evil eyes” will be more dangerous when he is released on bail.
The children, Rania, 4, and Danyal, 6, are currently being cared for by a colleague of Hassan’s.