Domestic Violence

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

In the June 2006 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Robert S. Thompson, MD concluded that domestic violence impacts 44% of American women at some point during their adult lives. Some 34% experience physical abuse such as hitting, shoving, and 34% 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–no country is immune from it. It is prevalent in all sectors of human society. 

There is no country in the world where women are safe from violence or abuse… In Cambodia, 16% of women are physically abused by their husbands; in the UK, 30% are physically hurt by partners or ex-partners; this figure is 52% in the West Bank; 21% in Nicaragua, 29% in Canada, and 44% in the US. 45% of Indian women are abused by their husbands.

India also had the highest rate of violence during pregnancy. Of the women reporting violence, 50 percent are abused while pregnant. About 74.8 % 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. In Sao Paulo, 13% of deaths of women of reproductive age were homicides; of these, 60% were committed by their partners.

However, the so called experts never blame 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 excuses for abuse in each faith’s books. Yet 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.

The recent case involving Muzammil Hassan and his wife Aasiya Hassan is being viewed by many intellectual midgets as a faith-directed murder; they overlook the real issues involved.

It is not the faith that dictated the action of the accused. Rather, a lack of 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 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 is 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. At least someone should have looked into his record before presenting him as a champion of the 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.

Abuse 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 masajid 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?

* Or does one feel emotionally numb or helpless?

* Do any of the spouses feel humiliated, criticized, or yelled at?

* Is one of the spouses treated so badly that one is embarrassed to see the family?

*  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 up to counselors qualified to provide in relationship.

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 the counseling fails.

The faith-based community has to take a strong stand against abuser and 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. A relationship with God cannot be established by following one’s own egotistic ideals. There is no place for violence in any shape or form in a healthy Muslim society. There is no room for abuse. Those who do that are the ones 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.


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