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Ending Domestic Violence

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Ignoring domestic violence is only going to worsen the problem.
What could be more ironic? A Muslim TV executive is charged with decapitating his wife. Aasiya and her estranged husband Muzzammil Hassan founded Bridges Television, whose mission was to "promote a better understanding of Islam and Muslims". Almost immediately, the term "honor killing" is thrown around by every Muslim-bashing blog and ultraconservative media outlet. Women's rights groups who admit they are not aware of the details of the case have been using the term also.

There is obviously nothing in the teachings of our faith that says in any way or form that a man should protect the honor of his "position" in the community by committing violence against a woman. Islamic law does not permit a man to beat his wife, so how can people ever claim it can justify killing her? Islam is innocent of such slanders. Islam has exalted the status of women and requires equal treatment for them; any transgression upon the guidelines of Islam is a mere backward and uneducated cultural practice.

The Aasiya Hassan case represents several areas where our community has failed. Following multiple episodes of domestic violence, Aasiya Hassan had filed for divorce on February 6, 2009. Several reports have stated that the community knew of the domestic violence taking place within the Hassan home, but nothing was done. Employees of Bridges TV gave a startling account of how Hassan treated his wife. Aasiya Hassan was popular at the station. Muzzammil Hassan was known among employees for having a temper; he sometimes would yell at and demean his wife, but at other times appeared to be a loving husband and father, the employee said.

Domestic violence is not limited to one community, but the signs are almost always the same. The scene isn't that uncommon. A couple has an argument. The female tries to walk away, but the male grabs her arm to stop her. As with the Hassan case, there is a duality of character in the assaulter. Many victims will say "my partner was very charming" or "I never knew." It just follows. Maybe a battle will happen, and the next day, flowers come. There's a period of forgiveness and then a honeymoon period, and then it falls back into the same cycle of violence.

Each time the violence happens, the degree of violence tends to escalate, and the chances of it being lethal increase. This is why women must leave such relationships; the tragic death of Aasiya Hassan is a testament to this. However, and as is this case with almost all demographics of domestic violence, it will statistically take the victim seven to nine times to leave an abusive relationship. Even if women do leave these relationships, they most often do not report the violence to authorities. Subsequently, domestic violence is in the league of rape and sexual assault when it comes to being reported, or rather, underreported.

Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, said Aasiya Hassan's death serves "as a wake-up call to all of us that violence against women is real and cannot be ignored ... the Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence."

In the absence of greater resolve by the Muslim community, we will not remove the stigma attached to abusive relationships. We must provide safe havens for women who are battered and abused by men, whether or not these women are Muslim.  Islam condemns violence and abuse against women, and as Muslims, it is our responsibility to both talk the talk and walk the walk.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. One out of every three women is abused in one way or another according to the United Nations, and such figures bring domestic violence much closer to our own homes. As brothers and sisters of all faiths and backgrounds, we must work together to end such episodes of violence against females.

Here is what we can do stop domestic violence in our community:

Reporting violence: If there is any suspicion of violence, call the local law enforcement. You could be saving the life of another person! If we continue the "it's not my business" mentality, more and more women can lose their lives. Shockingly enough, relatives of Aasiya Hassan were aware that she was being abused, yet no one had the courage to pick up the phone and call the police.

For advice and support: If you or someone you know are victims of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Victims, for a safe place to stay: Call your state's branch of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence if you need a shelter from domestic violence. To find your state’s hotline number, go to the State Coalition List.

Most importantly: Leave the relationship! A worker at a domestic violence organization can help you make a plan to leave as safely as you can. Also, Leaving Abuse Safely can help you think of ways to leave safely.

Use the law wisely: Getting a protective order can be an important part of a safety plan. If you get a protective order though, you should still take other safety planning steps to keep yourself and your children safe. Womenslaw.org provides free legal information and online support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Domestic violence should never occur under any circumstances. But it does, and when it does, there is help.

Author of this article: Huda Jawad
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