How many more deaths before we take action?

The prophet (saw) said: “The sun and the moon are two signs from amongst Allah’s signs and they do not eclipse because of the death or life of anyone.” Although October was designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month back in 1995 by leading organizations across North America, for Muslims February seems to be a pivotal month for raising awareness of the presence of Domestic Violence in the Muslim community. The tragic death of sister Aasiya Zubair Hassan on February 2009 served as a catalyst for the birth and rebirth of programs and organizations addressing this social evil.
One year past, the ripple effect caused by her death still reverberates throughout our communities, mobilizing Muslims to take a firm stand against domestic violence.

Sadly, all our efforts as advocates, activists, victims, and survivors have yet to effectively make a dent on the problem. Less than a month ago in West Haven, CT, sister Shengyl Rasim was murdered by her husband Selami Ozdemir, who was previously arrested on domestic dispute charges. He was released from jail only to head home and shoot his wife in front of their children, and then take his own life. The children have since been taken into custody by the state.

Although a high profile case like Aasiya Zubair Hassan’s hit the media instantly and generated a wave of energy and immediacy to address Domestic Violence in the Muslim community, sister Shengyl Rasim’s case is no less tragic and discouraging. Domestic abuse claimed her life and her husband’s, and changed their children’s lives forever. Sister Aasiya and sister Shengyl’s deaths are reminders that raising awareness is not enough: we need to take action.

As a founding member of the Healthy Families Initiative (HFI), I can testify to how quickly raising awareness translates to victims finding the courage to come forward. The more we disseminate the knowledge of what Islam says about domestic violence, and create a safe haven for victims to come forth, the more the need for prevention and intervention resources becomes evident. Muslims need to seek training on how to recognize domestic abuse, how to prevent it, and how to effectively deal with it. As an ummah, we need to collectively take responsibility for those deaths in our communities that could have been prevented, by Allah’s will.

Certainly, it is wise for our religious leaders to be cautious in not passing quick, superfluous judgment when counseling couples on domestic matters. However, when a Muslim sister approaches the masjid for help, in fear of her life and that of her children, our leaders need to seriously consider the repercussions, and possible legal implications, of their advice. It is never enough for sisters in abusive relationships to be told to “be patient,” “try harder,” or “your reward is with Allah.”

This is why AltMuslimah is honoring the death of our sister by renewing its commitment to serve as a platform for collaboration efforts to eradicate domestic violence. We are calling on all Muslims to join hands in taking a firm stand and take action. Establishing a united front and working collectively on this cause is key!

Below is a list of events on domestic violence taking place in the month of February. Please submit your events in the comments section and email pictures for our photographic campaign to pr@altmuslimah.com.

• Hadayai Majeed, of Baitul Salaam Network Inc, has organized a global initiative called International Wear Purple/Lavender Hijab Day, from February 13 – 16, which has garnered overwhelming support through Facebook, with over 1100 confirmed attendants. She hopes that eventually Domestic Violence Awareness Month can be shifted to February, to eliminate conflicting advocacy efforts with raising awareness for Breast Cancer.

Domestic Harmony Foundation and Turning Point for Women and Families are hosting a joint panel discussion event, to clear the misconceptions of Islam and treatment of women and condemn once again the heinous act of domestic violence against sister Aasiya.

Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence (MMADV), an initiative of Baitul Salaam Network Inc, has organized a prayer vigil in Atlanta, followed by a presentation by Brother Shyam Sriram.

Muslim Community Center (MCC), in Maryland, will be holding a panel discussion on Domestic Violence with Dr. Imad A. Ahmad (Islamic-American Zakat Foundation), Razi Kosi (Counselors Helping (South) Asians / Indians Inc. “CHAI”), and Holly Gaydos (Domestic Violence Counselor of MCC Clinic). Salma ElKadi Abugideiri, Co-Director of Peaceful Families Project, will moderate the panel.

• Renowned Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, founder of Sound Vision, as well as other Muslim scholars and leaders across North America, have expressed their intention to give a sermon addressing domestic violence during the month of February.

Spokane Islamic Center, in Washington State, is holding a Purple Hijab Day along with a speaker event on domestic violence.

• Peaceful Families Project (PFP) is spearheading a “Take A Stand Against Domestic Violence” Video Campaign, featuring pledges and messages from Muslims all over the world, denouncing domestic violence and joining hands in the fight to eradicate it from our ummah.

Healthy Families Initiative, a program of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, is holding a second showing of the Peaceful Families Project & FaithTrust Institute DVD “Garments for One Another,” to raise awareness and educate the community on the Islamic perspective on Domestic Violence.

Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse (MMADA) is campaigning for Muslims to sign their Call to Action pledge, and is actively reaching out to masajid to dedicate one sermon in February to the topic of Domestic Violence.

• Dar al Islam, a New Mexico non-profit organization, will soon be launching Project Sakinah: Stop Family Violence Now, to stimulate awareness and action in the Muslim community.

• Several schools, including the Girls’ Student Council at the College Preparatory School of America, a Muslim School in Lombard, IL, have also organized a domestic violence awareness event.
Enith Morillo is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah.

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