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Opinion Editorials, February 2009


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Domestic Violence In Muslim Communities:

A Reaction to Aasiya Hassan's Violent Death

By Mohammed Khaku, February 28, 2009
Muslim of Lehigh Valley are shocked by the news of the death of the respected sister, Aasiya Hassan the co-founder of Bridge TV, whose life was taken violently. To God we belong and to Him we return (Qura’n 2:156). Our prayers and sympathy are with the sister Aasiya’s family and the Muslim community of Buffalo who have been devastated by the loss and shocking nature of this incident.
This is a wake up call to all Muslim Communities that violence against women cannot be ignored and should be addressed by the Muslim leaders of the communities. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, ethnicity or race. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim communities are not immune from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. 
Unfortunately, the murder has fed a perception that Aasiya's murder was related to Islam rather than an act of domestic violence - specifically, that it was somehow an "honor killing". The simple truth is that Aasiya's murder was an act of domestic violence taken to an extreme. Despite prevailing stereotypes of Muslims, domestic violence is not an Islamic value, nor is it permissible within the Muslim community. Many women, men and children continue to be killed as a result of domestic violence; Aasiya Hassan is an unfortunate name on a list too long and too preventable.
Domestic violence is widespread and it is believed one in three women experience physical or mental harm. Violence against women is not a marital issue, although it occurs within the context of a family relationship. Abuse against women is not a family issue, although it occurs within the context of a family. Domestic violence against women is not a religious issue, although religion is abused as a means of perpetuating it. Oppression of women is a human rights issue and unless we start looking with that lens we will not be able to recognize the extent of the crime nor we will be able to find solution. Shariati tells us in the words of Imam Ali, "two parties are required in order to bring about oppression. One is the oppressor and the other is the one who accepts oppression. Oppression cannot be one sided. Oppression is like a piece of iron which is formed by the striking of the hammer of the oppressor upon the anvil of the oppressed." Thus, women themselves partici­pated in the attack upon their values by allowing them­selves to be oppressed and by not searching out their roots
Domestic violence and divorce remain topics that are taboo within many Muslim communities in the U.S.  Many Muslims react by saying “that’s a tragedy that doesn’t effect Muslim families”.  However, domestic violence does exist in all quarters of society, with no boundaries, nor has any group a monopoly over it. It occurs among the well-known and little known communities. The rich, the poor, the well educated and uneducated.
Domestic Violence is a sickness that does not know East or West. It is frequently found in the mud huts of Africa as well as in the luxury villas of Florida and California. Domestic Violence includes mental, emotional, verbal, sexual and physical abuse. Both women and men are victims while children are our most vulnerable victims.
Violence against women is not an Islamic tradition.  The Prophet Muhammad said, “ I command you to be kind to women and the best of you is the best to his family (wife).  The Quran requires that spouses treat each other with love and mercy. (30:21).  The Prophet Muhammad vehemently disapproved of men hitting women, (or vice versa) and said “ A strong person is not the one who can use the force of physical strength, but one who can control his/her anger”. Yet domestic abuse in the Muslim world seems to have become a way of life.
 Under no circumstances is violence against women encouraged or allowed in Islam. There are many examples in the Quran and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad that describes the correct behavior of Muslims between husband and wife. The relationship should be one of mutual love, respect and kindness. The last words of the prophet delivered during His farewell pilgrimage were that men should hold themselves accountable before God concerning the question of how they treat their wives.
Muslims advocate that Islam has given more rights to women then any Abrahamic faith and complain that we are stereotyped and misunderstood by western society, but show no remorse and take no action against domestic violence in Muslim community. It is easy to blame others for the present predicament of Muslims and hold others responsible for ones’ own weaknesses and shortcomings. This philosophy contradicts the Quranic injunction of personal responsibility. “God does not change the condition of people until they change that which is in their souls” (13:11)
 The Muslim community should be standing shoulder to shoulder with other communities to declare that violence against women isn’t something we can be silent about any longer. Because if we remain silent, we might as well as be lending a hand to the perpetrators of violence. Today it may be a stranger. Tomorrow, it could be our mother, our sister, or our daughter. As is often quoted from our Holy Book, Paradise can be found at the feet of our mothers. Yet millions of Muslim mothers and sisters and daughters are living in an abusive environment. We Muslim men must take a stand against violence to reach the stage of perfection, which is well defined by the prophet Muhammad “ The best of you is best to his wife”.





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