You know you've done something right when...
...your kid's self-selected leisure reading material ranges from high fantasy to Keats and Chaucer.
Aasiya and an Islamic theology of equality
I have written a longish piece for newsweek/thewashingtonpost online about domestic violence and Islam.
Hopefully hard hitting and insightful about the Muslim community's response to Aasiya's murder. The response has been appropriate on many levels, but there is so much lacking on other levels.
Please click on the link to read it. That's how I get paid -- by the click.
Probably will post it here in it's entirety next week some time.
Aasiya and the horrors of Domestic Violence
I have been putting off writing this column on Aasiya Hasan, who was brutally murdered by her husband, a prominent figure in the American Muslim community, founder of Bridges TV. The subject is painful in many ways. Domestic violence is a problem that continues to plague not only the Muslim community but American society as well. But the beheading of Aasiya is so disturbing, that it has been difficult to write about.
Extensive study from the Center for Disease Control has revealed that domestic violence is a leading cause of death for women ages 15-44. Over 1100 American women are murdered by their partner or a former partner each year. Nearly one-third of all American women report experiencing violence from a current or former spouse or boyfriend, according to the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund. The numbers around the Muslim world vary widely.
According to Wikipedia:
In some Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia,
reports indicate that domestic violence is quite widespread. One recent study, in Syria
, found that 25% of the married women surveyed said that they had been beaten by their husbands.
One study found that half of Palestinian women have been the victims of domestic violence.
A WHO study in Babol
[an Iranian city] found that within the previous year 15.0% of wives had been physically abused, 42.4% had been sexually abused and 81.5% had been psychologically abused (to various degrees) by their husbands, blaming low income, young age, unemployment and low education.
A 1987 study conducted by the Women's Division and another study by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1996 suggested that domestic violence takes place in approximately 80 percent of the households in the country.
In Pakistan, domestic violence occurs in forms of beatings, sexual violence or torture, mutilation, acid attacks and burning the victim alive.
According to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in 2002, over 90% of married women surveyed in that country reported being kicked, slapped, beaten or sexually abused when husbands were dissatisfied by their cooking or cleaning, or when the women had ‘failed’ to bear a child or had given birth to a girl instead of a boy.
Clearly this is a problem that cuts across cultural, religious and national lines.
Unfortunately, the Muslim community has been sleeping on this issue. Depsite efforts to bring the problem to light, and to pressure imams to address the issue from the minbar (the Muslim equivalent of the pulpit), despite the work of some dedicated activists who have opened shelters specifically catering to the needs of Muslim women (such as Baitul Salam in Atlanta and Al-Nisaa center in California), or to provide legal assistance (such as the Muslim Womens Legal Defense Fund), most of the community has it's head stuck in the sand.
Many Muslim women who face violence at home are told to be patient with this trial. Or they may find themselves being asked to consider what they can do to avoid provoking their husband. Sometimes they are outright blamed for their husband's behavior. Or told that he is only doing his Islamic duty.
Fortunately, the shocking murder of Aasiya -- a crime committed by a man many in the community saw not only as a leader, but as a exemplar, standing up for Islam at a time when the community feels under seige -- the brutality of how she was killed, the betrayal of what we all thought we knew of this man and the values he stood for, has jolted the community awake.
Pretty much every Muslim organization has come out with a statement against domestic violence. For those of us who have been trying to get them to take this problem seriously for years, it is bittersweet that the lethargy has finally been broken. Let us hope that once the furor over the catalytic event has died down, the will to change our society does not.
A Glimpse into the Past
Two men in Afghanistan face potential death sentences for the most "horrible" of crimes -- printing a translation of the Qur'an without the Arabic alongside. So much for trying to do good deeds! (The men in question thought that the translation would be a service since most Afghanis cannot understand Arabic.) It drives me completely nuts that Muslims can think this way, and that some of us seem to have a hyper-phobia of heresy. It's like looking through the wrong end of a telescope at the Inquisition.
And yet, what can one do but pray for a sense of balance, and of tolerance? There is no way for individuals here to change overzealous rigidity halfway across the globe. We can only stand by helplessly as people who want to convert to another religion, who ask questions about women's rights, who name teddy bears Muhammad according to the wishes of their second grade, Muslim students, all face sudden, and unexpected threats to their very life.
Signing petitions is good, but in the end I have to wonder if they really do any good. Unless scholars from other countries make an effort to educate these ulema, I doubt we will see change fast.
How long did the Inquisition last? It started in 1478, and wasn't officially ended until 1834. Over 350 years! Let us hope that sanity returns to those parts of the Muslim world that need it much sooner than that!