'The Factor' Investigates Muslim Beheadings

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 26, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: Last week we reported that 44-year-old Muzzammil Hassan is charged with beheading his wife in Buffalo, New York. Apparently Hassan killed the woman after she filed for divorce.

And all over the world, fanatical Muslims — some terrorists, others just enraged citizens like Hassan — are beheading people. The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women may have been murdered by Muslim fanatics, some by getting their heads chopped off. With us now, Dr. Dawn Perlmutter, a ritual murder expert who has been studying the situation.

First of all, these are honor killings. This Buffalo, New York, thing where a Muslim man is insulted by the woman. She commits adultery. She divorces, whatever. He has the right to kill her. Is this widely accepted in the Muslim world? You know, do moderate Muslims believe this?

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DR. DAWN PERLMUTTER, RITUAL MURDER EXPERT: Absolutely. This is ingrained in rights of purity, in ideas about the afterlife. A lot of what has to do when somebody is disrespected or dishonored by her filing for divorce, he has to restore his honor through blood vengeance, and it becomes a symbolic act.

O'REILLY: But in Morocco, Egypt, places that I've been, Jordan, they have murder laws on the books. You can't just go around beheading people in Cairo. They'll arrest you and charge you.

PERLMUTTER: Well, women aren't always seen as — they're less than. So in a lot of cases, it's just not reported. It's not — it's cultural, unless the woman is somebody of substance or someone important.

O'REILLY: You're saying while they have the laws on the book, they're not enforced? And sometimes they are acquitted and things like that?

PERLMUTTER: A lot of the times they're not enforced. The women are too frightened to come forward.

O'REILLY: Now, the honor killings are always directed against women, correct? A woman can't kill a guy if the guy does something, can she?

PERLMUTTER: No, no. Women could never do that.

O'REILLY: All right. In Islam, if the guy abuses the woman, the woman can't cut his head off and hope to get to paradise, right?

PERLMUTTER: No, not at all.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, there are two types of beheadings: the horrific terrorist situations, Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan. We saw some U.S. soldiers captured in Iraq, and they line up, they tape it. We can't show the beheadings. We will not do that. Some Web sites will. We will not. And then there are the ritualistic murder killings like the one in Buffalo, New York, correct?

PERLMUTTER: Well, there is a thin line between the two. With a ritual — they're all ritualistic murders. A beheading by its very nature is highly symbolic, which adds that degree to it. The jihadist beheadings — and by the way there is hundreds of them. People are not aware that...

O'REILLY: Sure, and they behead their own. The Taliban will cut your head off if your beard is the wrong way or something.

PERLMUTTER: Muslims are primarily the victims of beheadings.

O'REILLY: Right.

PERLMUTTER: But there has also been American soldiers. There's...

O'REILLY: Yes, as I said.

PERLMUTTER: But it's all highly symbolic. And it's all about the same thing: restoring honor.

O'REILLY: What does the beheading mean in the Muslim religion, in the Muslim world? What is the symbolism of the beheading?

PERLMUTTER: Well, theologically, in the Koran there are actual passages that say you need to smite the neck of your enemy. They're interpreted differently. There's lots of passages that require specific mutilations. They take an eye for an eye literally. And the idea is that, in some ways, it's to prevent your enemies from going to paradise and to — for you to restore...

O'REILLY: In Wahhabism, does it say if you cut the head off of your enemy they can never go to heaven? Do they teach that?

PERLMUTTER: Well, there's different interpretations. But it's about — more about them restoring their purity and their honor so that they can be — go to — there's higher levels in paradise.

O'REILLY: Can you restore your honor in this world by shooting somebody? Is it the same thing, or do you have to cut their head off?

PERLMUTTER: Well, the jihadists cut the heads off, because they sort of are aligning themselves with an authentic form of Islam. They liked the idea of identifying with the sword of righteousness, with Mohammed. So, Al-Zawahiri had — Al-Zarqawi had really perpetuated that. And they referred to the sword verses in the Koran. So the jihadists specifically liked to align themselves with that tradition.

O'REILLY: Right. So when they behead a U.S. soldier or anybody else that they capture, the message to the Muslim world is what? What do the Muslim world at home, seeing this on Al Jazeera in their living room, what goes through their minds? What happened there?

PERLMUTTER: Well, I think a lot of them are saying, "Yay, team." I mean, some aren't. But I think that they're thinking that because of the Americans being in the Arabia Peninsula that now the land has been polluted, sacred land has been defiled.

O'REILLY: OK. They may be rooting for the jihadists to kill as many infidels as they can. But does the head separation mean that the jihadists are immediately going to go to paradise? Are they elevated to that status?

PERLMUTTER: Well, I think in some ways it depends on the group. Sometimes it's initiation. It's earning their stripes. There's a 12-year-old Taliban boy that beheaded someone they accused of being an American spy, and that made him a man. So there's a lot of...

O'REILLY: All right. So you're saying that the violence is used against women, all right, to control women?

PERLMUTTER: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: And it's used, obviously, to terrorize people, but in a ritualistic way to boost the status of the terrorists?


O'REILLY: Nice, huh? Doctor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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