[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is with extreme pain and sorrow we learned about the tragic crash of Continental flight 3407 into a Clarence Center house on late Thursday night (February 12, 2009) resulting in  loss of so many innocent lives. The devastating news that 49 on board and an additional man on ground perished in the crash has brought untold grief to the families, friends and our community. We join all Western New Yorkers in conveying our deepest sympathies to the families of all the victims. We share their pain and pray for the souls of the innocent victims.

Every single soul lost in this tragedy had so much to give. We remember how stoic Beverly Eckert was after she lost her husband in the World Trade Center attacks on that fateful day of September 11, 2001. As recently as last week she met President Obama who called her “an inspiration” as she continued her crusade she started after September 11.

Alison Des Forges, a consummate human rights activist and world-renowned expert on Rwanda spent decades in exposing the genocide in Rwanda. At the United Nations, the US Capitol and at the capitols around the World she was the voice for the voiceless. And everyone paid attention. As the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said “Her expertise was sought again and again and again by national authorities on cases unfolding in their courts of individuals facing deportation or on trial for alleged involvement in the genocide”

And Cantor Susan Wehle of Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, another special one with flair for life. A spiritual woman devoted to bringing people together, Susan was gentle, kind and a great friend of children.  She was also into reading poems and in her prayer service on Friday evenings she would read poems from Mawlana Jalalu Din Al Rumi, internationally respected spiritual Muslim teacher from the 12 century (more affectionately known as Rumi in the West).  She will be sorely missed by us all.

Every other person lost in this tragedy had a story behind them. We pray for each one of them. Our community stands ready to provide any assistance needed.

Same night, we were stunned to learn about the gruesome murder of Aasiya Zubair Hassan, as reported by the Orchard Park Police. That her husband has been arrested as the prime suspect

has sent shock waves in the community. MPAC-WNY and the local Muslim community is shocked  and horrified at this brutal murder of a wonderful upstanding member  of our community. Our hearts go out to her children and her family at a time of great anguish.

Reports of domestic violence faced by Aasiya, as reported by several media outlets, are very troubling and call for a thorough investigation by the law enforcement agencies. The Muslim community unreservedly condemns domestic violence of all types (including the so-called honor killing). Such crimes are despicable and unequivocally prohibited in Islam. Islam celebrates and protects human life. Muslims of all shades and opinions know that.

MPAC-WNY is gravely concerned about the ever increasing domestic violence taking place in our country.  It is reported that in the US one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime with an estimated 1.3 million women being victims of physical assault by their intimate partner each year. That is an alarming number.

The situation is even worse in New York State where in excess of 50,000 cases of domestic violence are reported every year. In 2006, in NY State alone, there were 133 homicides as a result of domestic violence.  Assiya with regret has become another statistic in an ever growing problem in NY State of spousal abuse. We all need to be vigilant and on guard against this scurge and report documented cases to the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

So as we mourn the loss of her life, let’s all remember Aasiya’s vibrant presence when, on behalf of Bridges TV, she accepted an award from MPAC-WNY a couple of years ago at the annual banquet.


The previous 48 hours have been very agonizing for Western New Yorkers trying to deal with the unforeseen tragedies. It is especially at a time like this that we call upon our Creator to bestow upon us the wisdom and faith to rise to the occasion to meet these tough challenges.