by Dr. Aslam Abdullah
In the June 2006 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Robert S. Thompson, MD concluded that domestic violence impacts 44 percent American women at some point during their adult lives. Some 34 percent experience physical abuse such as hitting, shoving, and 34 percent face non-physical abuse such as angry threats
A UN study on violence recently reported that some 1.5 million people are killed in violence annually with at least 10 percent in domestic violence.
Domestic abuse is a major issue in our world as no country is immune from it. It is prevalent in all sectors of society.
There is no country in the world where women are safe from violence or abuse… In Cambodia, 16 percent of women are physically abused by their husbands; in the UK, 30 percent are physically hurt by partners or ex-partners; this figure is 52 percent in the West Bank; 21 percent in Nicaragua, 29 percent in Canada, and 44 percent in the US. 45 percent of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands. India also had the highest rate of violence during pregnancy. Of the women reporting violence, 50 percent are kicked, beaten or hit when pregnant. About 74.8 percent of the women who reported violence have attempted to commit suicide. Based on 48 surveys around the world, half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. Women are killed by guns, beatings and burns among numerous other forms of abuse. In Sao Paulo, 13 percent of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides; of these, 60 percent were committed by the victims’ partners.
However, none of, the so called experts have ever blamed faith or religious traditions for these acts of violence.
We never hear that Hinduism, Christianity or Judaism is responsible for violence against women even though one can easily find plenty of misogynist passages in each faith traditions. But, when a Muslim is involved in such an incident, not only his faith, that he might have nothing to do with, but his religious traditions are also blamed.
Rather than looking at the issue from a sociological perspective and developing a realistic understanding of the causes rooted in social conditions promoting domination, humiliation, isolation, intimidation, and condemnation, and even lack of faith analysts often find a scapegoat in religious scriptures, arguing that God intends one gender to be in control of the other by whatever means.
The recent case involving Muzammil Hassan and his beheaded wife Aasiya Hassan is being viewed by many intellectual midgets as a faith directed murder overlooking the real issues involved in it.
It is not the faith that dictated the action of the accused. Rather, everything that betrays the faith. Faith is often used to hide one’s crimes and to justify one’s animalistic tendencies.
People are not born violent. They have the inbuilt capacity to learn violent or non violent means to express their disapproval of things. The faith of Islam demands a life style based on love, compassion and mercy even in the worst adverse conditions. Hassan’s alleged action had nothing to do with this moral framework of relationship. Rather it showed those animalistic tendencies that our unbridled material culture has promoted in the form of revenge, greed and domination.
What is sad in Hassan’s case is that the people who promoted him in his greed to misuse Islam for his personal business, did not pay attention to warning signals. There was ample data to suggest that he was a chronic domestic abuser. His two previous wives filed for divorce because of his alleged abusive nature. Someone should have looked into his record before presenting him as a champion of future of Islam in the United States. The reason, perhaps, is apathy towards issues of domestic violence in Muslim families.
Few are willing to recognize that no one deserves to be abused. The responsibility for the violence belongs to the abuser. It is not the victim’s fault! Financial dependence on a spouse does not mean that the provider has a right to abuse the dependent. Indeed, abuse is a pattern of coercive control over another. Beating is a behavior that physically harms, arouses fear, prevents a partner from doing what they wish or forces them to behave in ways they do not want. Many also fail to understand that domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, sect, religion or gender. Professing a faith does not make a person immune from that behavior.
Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, and even on the victims of their abuse. This pattern need to be challenged from faith based groups, Muslims included. It is important that Islamic centers and masajids have family counseling support groups to tackle the issue heads on. Some of the symptoms of domestic abuse can be identified by looking at the following issues:
Does a partner feel afraid of the other much of the time?
Does a partner avoid certain topics out of fear of angering the other?
Does one feel that one can’t do anything right for the other?
Does one feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Do any of the spouses regularly feel humiliated or criticized?
Does one of the spouses feel embarrassed to see their family because they have been treated so badly?
Does a spouse blame the other for his/her own abusive behavior?
Does a spouse see the other as a chattel rather than as a person?
Once these patterns are found, they should be brought to the attention of qualified relationship counselors. If the situation does not improve, the authorities should be alerted to tackle the issue at a legal level. There is no shame in reporting incidents of violence to law enforcement officials if counseling fails. The faith-based community has to take a strong stand against the abusers and take a stand for the rights of victims to lead a decent life.
Peace in the family is the goal of Islam. Without love and compassion peace cannot be established. Domestic violence destroys this foundation of faith and promotes the idea that relationship with God can be established by following one’s own egotistic ideals. There is no place of violence in any form and shape in a healthy Muslim society. There is no room for abuse. Those who do that are the one’s who deny the signs of God and who use faith as a badge rather than as a responsibility to ensure that transgression from the divine path are not allowed.