Saturday, February 21, 2009
  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,[26] 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.[27] One study found that half of Palestinian women have been the victims of domestic violence.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30][31][32] In Pakistan, domestic violence occurs in forms of beatings, sexual violence or torture, mutilation, acid attacks and burning the victim alive.[33]

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.[34]

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.

Or worse.

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.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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