I think it fitting that as Valentine’s Day approaches, we should pause to remember that as we celebrate love, we should also act to preserve and protect it from darker impulses. For far too many women, just being alone of Valentine’s Day isn’t the worst possible fate – it’s being locked into an abusive and vioilent relationship from which there is no escape. For them, it is we who must act – the community has a responsibility to its weakest and most vulnerable. I can’t imagine what a sick joke Valentine’s Day must be for the women (and increasingly, some men) for whom their relationship isnt someting to be celebrated but feared.
Let’s also remember that it was about a year ago that Aasiya Zubair Hassan was brutally murdered by her husband in a horrific crime (must-read: Wajahat Ali’s excellent piece about Aasiya in the Guardian on Friday). In response to Aasiya’s murder, the muslim community stepped up to the plate, condemning domestic violence, hosting friday khutbahs devoted to the topic, and founding organizations like Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence and a grassroots facebook page devoted to remembering Aasiya as the face of the domestic violence epidemic for the muslim community to rally around.
This year, on the first anniversary of Aasiya’s murder, the muslim community still remembers and is doing something about it. Here are a few examples:
1. MMADA has issued a Call to Action and PDF information packet to raise awareness in the muslim community about domestic violence. They encourage people to download the packet and distribute; see their website for more details.
2. For people in the New York area, there is a panel discussion hosted Sunday by the Domestic Harmony Foundation and Turning Point for Women and Families, from 11 am – 1 pm at 7 Jaymie Drive, Basement, Westbury, NY 11590.
3. A global Facebook Event – wear purple, the official color of domestic violence awareness — February 13th through February 16th, in memory of Aasiya Zubair Hassan and other victims of domestic violence. Event organized by Hadayai Majeed of Baitul Salaam.
4. Altmuslimah.com is hosting a domestic violence awareness photographic campaign – “aimed at providing an alternative to the dominant media image of oppressed Muslim women and angry Muslim men.” Send your photos in!
5. Abdul Malik Mujahid, a prominent imam and community activist in the Chicago area, has written a 9-point plan for ordinary muslims (based on a khutbah he will deliver today) to take concrete steps against domestic violence. I am reprinting the document in its entirety with permission:
In memory of Sister Aasiya Zubair: 9 things you can do
By Abdul Malik Mujahid
1. Organize “In Memory of. Aasiya: Domestic Violence Awareness Day”
Get together a couple of Imams, leaders, mosques and Islamic centers in your city and organize a city-wide “In Memory of Aasiya: Domestic Violence Awareness Day”, This would feature Khutbas and speeches by both men and women leaders from the local Muslim community, workshops on domestic violence awareness at local Islamic institutions, as well as the distribution of multilingual information about this form of abuse in area mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim institutions.
2. Audit Yourself for Domestic Violence
You many not be physically beating your spouse but verbal abuse can lead to physical abuse. Verbal abuse is also prohibited by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Verbal abuse occurs where there is a deficit of mercy and forgiveness. The low level of mercy points to a low level of love or an absence of communication. So let’s do a self-audit in our own homes:
Start by saying praises to the Merciful God who says He has ninety-nine times more mercy than mothers and remembering that the Prophet did not raise his hand against anyone. Period. Ask yourself the following questions about your relationship with your spouse:
· How is our communication?
· How is our expression of love?
· How are we doing in terms of mercy and forgiveness?
· Is there any verbal abuse in the relationship?
· Is silence being used as a weapon?
Once you have done this personal audit, seek Allah’s forgiveness if you feel it is required and then sit down with a pen and a paper to plan for a better life.
3. Name something after Sister Aasyia
Aasiya Zubair was a leader. She was the one who thought of the idea of starting a television station to correct the image of Islam and Muslims in the media. She was named Aasyia after the wife of a Pharoah who took care of the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. She is considered among the four best women of the world by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. So name something after her: a baby; a food pantry; a new not-for-profit organization; a sisters’ Halaqa (Islamic studies circle); a. new media project; a Masjid; a school; a scholarship.
4. Stop ignoring a situation involving domestic violence
If you know of a woman who is being abused by her husband physically, verbally or emotionally, then start helping her today.
You may not be ready to confront her abuser. However, one of the first and most important steps you can take is to reach out to her. That means keeping in touch on a regular basis. One thing abusers do is isolate their victims by cutting off their relationships with the outside world, particularly with family and friends. By keeping in touch, you can literally be a lifeline by alerting authorities if her situation becomes deadly.
What’s more likely to happen though is that by slowly breaking the isolation, you will help the abused woman gain the strength and support she needs to take a stand and get out of the abusive situation.
5. Insist that your Imam talk about domestic violence, using Sr. Aasiya Zubair’s example or Sr. Shahpara Sayeed who was burned alive.
Call, email or snail mail your local Imam and discuss the need to have a Khutba about the Islamic perspective on domestic violence. Offer him specific points and insist that he use Aasiya Zubair’s case to show a practical example in the Muslim community.
If your Imam does not respond, arrange an in-person meeting with a delegation and make sure to include some brothers to show this is not a “women’s” issue but a community issue. If that doesn’t work, keep contacting Imams in your city until you find one or more who are willing to give at least one Khutba on this topic.
6. Make collective Dua for Aasiya Zubair and all victims of domestic violence. Make this the closing of the Friday Khutba on this topic, as well as all related events.
7. Make this excellent directory available in every mosque and for all abused women in your community
Last year, the Muslim Women’s League, in collaboration with the Peaceful Families Project, put together a directory of “Domestic Violence Programs for Muslim Communities” which is available here:
Make sure this is on the desk of every Imam and Muslim community leader in your city, as well as any woman you know who is being abused.
8. Contact a women’s shelter or help hotline and see if you can volunteer
This may be emotionally trying and is not for everyone. If you don’t think you can bear the sadness and pain, at least help the shelter or hotline with your money by making a small, monthly donation to support their work.
9. Seek and distribute multilingual information about domestic violence
There is information available online and through various social services agencies about domestic violence in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Bangla, Punjabi and many other languages. Get these pamphlets and put them in the women’s section of every mosque in your city, as well as in the main areas usually frequented by men.
If you cannot find information in the language you need, arrange to have it translated, published and distributed. Consider this your major project for year 2010, one that could very possibly save the lives of women and children suffering pain and abuse.
Some resources include:
If you have information on other activities please share in the comments thread.
And, have a happy Valentine’s Day Inshallah every victim of domestic violence will someday be able to enjoy it too. It’s our collective responsibility to make it so.