October is the month dedicated to domestic violence awareness and during this month, a number of organizations, both secular and religious, are putting together domestic violence awareness events in order to spark up some discussion on the subject which plagues our country and that many people still refuse to talk about.
The Muslim community is not immune to domestic violence, but our problem is that we refuse to talk about it either out of fear or the cultural taboos surrounding it.
A few weeks ago, local Imams gave sermons on the subject of domestic violence and took a stance against it. This is not something new within our community; I have seen and heard some of our local community leaders speak out against domestic violence and it is really encouraging to have our leaders talk about such sensitive issues.
However, is just talking about it enough? A few days ago a young Muslim woman, the mother of two beautiful children aged 3 years and 18 months old, was murdered by her husband. That is the 3rd victim this year alone within my own community who passed away as a result of domestic violence.
So no, talking alone is not enough, it is time that we started to act.
The first step towards resolving an issue is recognizing that there is a problem in the first place. Once the problem is identified, we must talk about it and out of the dialogue, find solutions to prevent it. In the case with domestic violence, we know that it is an issue within our communities and not just in the Muslim community. Now in regards to the Muslim community, we all agree that is wrong and advise others not to do it, but that alone is just not enough. If we want to prevent domestic violence then we must take action and give people the chance to acknowledge it for the devastating and adverse effects it has on individuals and the wider community.
We must provide a safe space for a victims of domestic violence to speak.
Many a time, victims of domestic violence will not speak out of fear. If you are a victim, please do not be afraid to speak to someone you trust. As a community, there should be organizations dealing with victims of domestic abuse, and if not, we should encourage people to confide in a family member, a local community leader or an Imam. It is easy to say ‘don’t be afraid,’ but no matter what, people need to know that they are not alone and there are safe places for them to turn to.
Perhaps the most prevalent issue victims of domestic abuse within the Muslim community face is the cultural taboo of discussing it or speaking out when it happens.
The advice they receive from family members, or even Imams is quite saddening, especially if the abuser is the spouse. Family members tend to prevent the victim from speaking out against the spouse due to what the community would possibly say. They continue to try making the victim feel guilty by making remarks such as, “Who will marry you if you are divorced?” or, “What will the community say?” or even to extend it as far as asking, “What are they going to think about the family?”
The following responses will usually be something along the lines of:
- “Just do not make him mad!”
- “Do whatever he asks of you and have Sabr (patience).”
- “Allah (SWT) knows best.”
This needs to stop. If we are to seriously tackle domestic abuse, comments which justify the abuse, or make it seem acceptable need to come to an end.
What can I do to help?
- If one is giving advice to a victim of domestic abuse, do not think selfishly. Rather, think of the victim and what they are going through.
- We need to stop caring about what others will think because it should not matter. The safety of the victim should always come first.
- Do not tell the victim to stop making the abuser mad as it will only encourage the victim to stay in the abusive relationship as they will feel that they are at fault, when in reality, they are not.
- Do not tell a victim to simply have patience; one may have patience when they are going through some kind of financial difficulty, the loss of job, the loss of family member or other such occasions. Never should patience be forced upon a person when they are facing violence.
Domestic violence is not a joke and it needs to be taken seriously by our community. We must take a stance against it and prevent it from happening with actions and not just talk, because one more victim of domestic abuse is one too many.