#MeToo And #Domestic Violence In The Muslim Communities

#MeToo And #Domestic Violence In The Muslim Communities November 26, 2017

My short interview with Imam Tahir Anwar

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I have had the pleasure of knowing Imam Tahir for several years. He is one of the few Imams who are courageous enough to bring out DV in Muslim communities and is actively engaged in education, counseling and prevention of DV. I spoke with him today about the subject of domestic violence and NISA.

What do you think about DV and sexual abuse in Muslim communities, and how prevalent are they?

Domestic violence definitely exists in our communities. We deal more with DV than sexual harassment/abuse cases though I can’t put a number on it. Our shelters are packed to capacity. We only allow DV cases, and they are not used as homeless shelters. Victims are typically women and their minor children. Vast majority are those who have nowhere else to go.

Do you know about DV against Muslim men?

As an Imam I have heard of these cases. Men are not so quick to come out. With men it’s more emotional and verbal abuse. But the numbers are not well known.

Do you talk to the women in NISA shelters and do you seek reconciliation between the parties?

I don’t talk to the residents of the shelters at all. I do not know their identity, which is kept confidential. By the time they are subject to violence and seek shelters it is too late for reconciliation. In these cases our first goal is to provide them a safe and supportive environment.

However when we hear about disputes, as an Imam I do engage them in trying to reconcile, using Islamic teachings, and we also get the community elders involved. We engage in reconciliatory work more frequently, on a weekly basis.

We encourage premarital counseling in all cases of marriages we conduct. We develop rapport with them. Imams are often first stop shop for domestic disputes.

We also have professional counselors who help the family and the victims throughout the process. We also use other community sources to seek help on as needed basis.

What causes Muslim communities to degenerate into DV despite Islamic teachings to the contrary?

I am not sure. But a family history of domestic abuse often leads one to engage in DV later in life. Seeking help early from Imams and counselors early is very important.

If there were female Imams, do you think women will be more likely to come forward and seek help from the mosques?

I support female Imams. To me, female Imams are learned sheikhas (female plural for sheikh) who have been through the same educational process as male Imams, and perform the same types of religious and community work, minus leading the prayers. And yes, women would be more likely to approach female Imams in cases of domestic violence (and sexual abuse).

(End of the interview)

Islamic Teachings

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The irony is that Islam calls for a harmonious, loving relationship between husband and wife. Islamic teachings are best exemplified by passages in the Qur’an that address the relationship between a husband and a wife built on kindness and equity. Addressing them, the following passage declares that the love between them is a sign of God’s creation.

And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect. The Qur’an 30:21

Chapter 4 of the Qur’an is named An Nisa, or The Women and deals mostly with the rights of the women and husband/wife relationships, divorce and reconciliation.

O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dower you have given them,-except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity… The Qur’an 4:19

The Qur’an commands men to be kind and fair even in the setting of disputes resulting eventually in divorce. Reconciliation is much preferred.

If you fear dissention between them twain (referring to husband and wife), appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah has full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things. The Qur’an 4:35

And the Qur’an sends a warning to those men who keep women as their wives as an excuse so they can abuse them. The kindness is ordained even in cases of dispute leading to divorce.

Thus when they (referring to wives) fulfill their term appointed, either take them back with kindness or part with them with kindness…The Qur’an 65:2

When you divorce women, and they fulfill their prescribed term, either take them back kindness or part ways with kindness; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if anyone does that; He wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah’s signs [meaning verses] as a jest [mockery]. The Qur’an 2:231

What is your Imam doing to help prevent and raise awareness about DV and sexual abuse in your community?

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[1] http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/

[2] https://www.asknisa.org/services/

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