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Domestic Violence In The Muslim Community-

Where Does The Real Problem Lie?

By Asma Hanif

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Muslim Link) April 25, 2008

A woman is beaten up every 9 seconds in America.

Most Muslim men don't beat their wives. BUT SOME DO!

According to a survey by the North American Council for Muslim Women, domestic violence against Muslim women and children occurred in ten percent of the population of Muslims. By comparison, seven percent of American women in general were physically abused.

If help for our Muslim Sisters is to be obtained, then we can no longer consider domestic violence as an issue/problem within the non-Muslim community. Statistics reflect that the Muslim community is plagued by social ills which we heretofore believed ourselves to be immune. We now know that, domestic violence, homelessness, child abuse, etc., are also shameful realities within the Muslim society.

For many reasons domestic violence has had a low priority in the Muslim community. To protect the image of the family, domestic violence is often shrouded in silence. Unfortunately, such private matters have a tendency to become public tragedies. Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence.

Responsibility for the abuse lies within the abuser not within Islam. Thus, there are two categories of guilty people: those who inflict the physical and mental abuse, and those who try to hide the fact that it exists.

If you know how to alleviate torment, but you don’t help alleviate it, you become one of the tormentors.

Holding perpetrators accountable is a significant first step towards the elimination of violence against women in the Muslim community. We look toward our Imams and scholars to provide appropriate interpretation of the ayahs of the Quran, along with hadith that denounce violence and support the value of all believers - including women and children.

While Imams traditionally focus on keeping families together, in cases of domestic violence, if improperly handled, this may inadvertently support imbalances of power in marital relationships and justify the use of violence and abuse against family members. Failing to adequately correct misinterpretations of Quran can contribute to the victim’s self-blame and suffering and to the abuser’s rationalizations for their behavior.

Imam Faizul Khan, Board Member, Islamic Social Services Director, Muslimat Al-Nisaa, INC & 2008 recipient of Interfaith Community Against Domestic Violence Certificate of Recognition, states, "Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community refers to a pattern of violent and coercive behavior experienced by one adult in an intimate relationship over another. It is not ‘marital conflict’, ‘mutual abuse’, ‘a lover’s quarrel’, or ‘a private family matter’. It is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the Muslim community".

It is crucial that Muslim communities not only recognize domestic violence as a serious issue within our community, but also acknowledge that we all have a role in addressing this problem that threatens the lives of our Muslim Sisters. As Muslim communities in America continue to grow and develop, a tremendous amount of energy and financial resources have gone into building Masjids and the establishment of Islamic centers. However, by that same token, disproportionate amounts are devoted toward health & social service needs – especially as they relate to women.

In fact the greatest deterrent to help for Muslim women victims of domestic violence is failure of admission and failure of funding by those in a position to rectify this harm perpetrated against our Sisters. Those who sleep at night in safety and comfort.

It is pass time to raise awareness of the need for culturally sensitive shelters and programs for Muslim women victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence feeds on silence.

Inshallah on August 2nd & 3rd, in the Washington, DC area, Muslimat Al-Nisaa organization will provide a conference, forum and fundraising banquet whereby community beliefs and attitudes that support domestic violence will be changed and the entire Muslim community will see themselves as part of the solution. Muslimat Al-Nisaa seeks to continue the work of our pioneers (now deceased) Sister Sharifa Alkhateeb, and Dr Maryam Funches by playing a leadership role in effecting social change, by educating the community, by establishing associations with masjids and other social service groups and by seeking financial support for not just a shelter but also a comprehensive self-sufficiency program for homeless Muslim women and children. Save The Date!

Inshallah as Imams, leaders, and Muslim organizations begin to hold perpetrators accountable for their action, we as a community must hold ourselves accountable for financial support for our sisters. Then and only then, can we better address domestic violence and its serious impact on the lives of the entire Muslim ummah and develop "best practices" in helping victims of domestic violence.

Sister Asma Hanif is Executive Director of Muslimat Al-Nisaa,INC, a 501c3 health, & shelter organization providing culturally sensitive services and programs for Muslim women and children. The organization is currently seeking funding for the Dr Maryam Funches Shelter for Muslim Women Victims of Domestic Violence. (410) 466-8686.

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