Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Muslim women speak out about domestic violence

The Buffalo news has a story about some Muslim Women in the Buffalo area that are SPEAKING OUT against what had happened to Aasiya Zubair Hassan, and about martial abuse within the Muslim home as well.

We hear alot about the silence in the Muslim community over this awful tragedy, but there have been those that are speaking out!

They also want to give people a glimpse of what the lives of Muslim women in Western New York are like. Because those lives, they admit, often seem to outsiders to be shrouded in mystery.

It’s easy for people to see the garb they wear, the women said, and make assumptions about female repression in Muslim- American culture, especially where career opportunities and marital relationships are concerned.

“It bothers me that the headscarf is such a barrier,” said Ahmed, 38.

The three women said they do see one great good arising from the horrific death of Aasiya Hassan: a new openness about domestic violence, both within and outside of Muslim relationships.

“So much good,” said Ahmed, speaking with conviction, “is going to come from her tragedy.”

If you go to the link above there is also a video that you can watch in which these women are interviewed!

They said they want to commemorate her death each February with outreach and educational initiatives centering on domestic violence.

And, they are working to strengthen a fledgling domestic violence group that has existed at their mosque in Amherst for three years, called RAHAMA, or Resources and Help Against Marital Abuse. Rahama is also an Arabic word which means “mercy.”

The group, which meets at the mosque’s community center, will attempt to educate Muslim women about domestic violence, and provide them with links to services and shelters available in Western New York.

I think that is awesome idea! The story describes the three women, and notes their careers. They call come from different backgrounds and experiences. Some of them knew Aasiya Hassan.

The women acknowledged that girls in Muslim communities are raised differently from boys, and lead different lives as wives and mothers. But, in their view, that doesn’t mean those lives are less valued.

“Women and men have certain roles, and they are complementary roles, but they are not the same,” said Arman, 44.

The women said they reap great benefits by being, in 2009, both regular American women and people of Islamic faith and tradition.

“Being a Muslim woman in America is the best scenario,” said Ahmed. “The best.”

The women from Masjid Noor, the mosque on Heim Road in Amherst, said they knew Aasiya Hassan at arm’s length, which is the way she seemed to relate to many people.

Experts on domestic violence said that’s a classic signal of a woman in trouble: a victim keeps others at bay, does not socialize, and lives a life of increasing isolation.

“That was a common pattern,” said Laura Grube at Child & Family Services Haven House, of Aasiya’s case.

At the mosque, Aasiya Hassan was quiet and did not draw attention to herself, though she was the wife of a TV executive well known in the community.

But they did notice a few troubling signs. How despondent Aasiya often seemed. The way she hung back from socializing with the “sisters” at the bright, bustling mosque: women who like to chat, laugh, and compare notes about their families and jobs.

“She had the typical signs of domestic violence,” said Ahmed. “And I never assumed. I never thought. We never approached her –never reached out to her. We felt really bad about that. Really guilty.”

I think this is NOT unusal behavior for anyone. Most people aren't going to assume things, and do ignore the signs of domestic violence.

No ‘honor’ here

As for a so-called “honor killing,” the women disagreed strongly with the label –a hot-button phrase – that has been applied to Aasiya’s slaying. Most prominently, the president of the state’s NOW office, Marcia Pappas, recently called the incident an “honor killing” and refused to retract her statement in the face of opposition from local domestic violence groups.

Tabbaa said the tradition of “honor killing” in the Middle East has to do with fathers and brothers taking action when a woman in their families became pregnant out of wedlock.

Tabbaa said she was explaining the traditional concept of the phrase –not justifying or defending it –so that there would be better understanding of what it means in the Western world, in the wake of Aasiya’s death.

It has nothing to do with a husband- wife relationship, she said.

“That is not for the husband. The husband is not allowed to kill. The husband has a way out: divorce,” said Tabbaa. “Honor killing is about the dignity of the family.”

These women, as well as many domestic violence experts in Western New York, see Aasiya’s killing as an act of domestic violence, pure and simple.

“Honor killing was not the killing of Aasiya Zubair,” Tabbaa said. “It had nothing to do with religion. It was ... an evil, controlling man. What a sick man.”

I'm not a Muslim, but in college I did alot of different studies of different faiths. In my Christian college we had a number of courses covering different aspects of faith. I actually enjoyed it personally.

I do agree that I don't view this as an honor killing. I had a person disagree with me over the fact the man beheaded her, but I don't think that aspect makes it a proper defination. From what I have studied the aspect of 'honor killing' has more roots within the middle east and their culture. I don't get the impression that is a faith aspect, but more of a cultural one. You have a number of people moving to the West, and they are attempting to bring that part of the culture with them. From what I read there are a number of cultural aspects they are attempting to bring, and in some ways being accepted and others flat out rejected.

Me & the Mosque - Women in Islam is a documentary I found on youtube. These women are speaking about some of the aspects that have begun to change due to culture, and NOT faith being introduced. Another film that I found interesting was Jihad: Struggling with Islam . 'Jihad: Struggling with Islam' chronicles the struggle of one woman to reconcile her Self with the faith she was born into. A faith she has felt no real connection with until September 11, 2001. As the tragedy of that day unfolded, Hina Khan repeatedly thought "Please don't let it be a Muslim, please don't let it be a Muslim". That event led to a rude awakening which forced her to come to terms with what it means to be a Muslim and if this was a religion she wanted to be a part of.

The Toronto-born 34 year-old broadcaster documents her journey as she meets a variety of Muslims from open and inclusive progressives to fundamentalists who celebrated the events of 9/11. This powerful, personal, first-person film was filmed in Toronto, Canada and London, England.

I think this aspect isn't looked into as much as it should be, and I think when it isn't it raises the ignorance and fear of this faith. We have all heard the awful stories of how they treat women and children within the middle east, but if you take a closer look at alot of the muslims in different parts of the world...they don't all agree with that culture of oppression.

I'm glad these muslim women came out to speak about domestic violence within this faith. I hope they have other mosques as well that do the same. Oppression of women in any faith when it comes to domestic violence should be talked about and STOPPED at all costs!


  1. Anonymous9:30 PM

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  2. Thank you for sharing Hannah!

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