When I accepted Islam in July 2006, I was welcomed with open arms by the diverse Muslim community in Atlanta. However, as I learned more and more about this beautiful deen, I also began to feel troubled by the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of many in the local and national community who chose to concentrate only on certain areas of social service, especially those that made them “look good.” Meanwhile, fellow Muslim men, women, and children are still crying for help, but being avoided and neglected by their Muslim neighbors, brothers and sisters.
There are many social evils and issues that are neglected by the Muslim community, but perhaps the most avoided is discussion of sexual abuse and domestic violence. As a graduate of the Men Stopping Violence internship program and current coordinator of Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence, an educational initiative of the Baitul Salaam Network, Inc., I have seen firsthand just how widespread domestic violence is in the Muslim community. Every disturbing trend in Western society that receives publicity – child rape, sodomy, sexual slavery, human trafficking, self-mutilation, incest, etc. – has occurred or is occurring somewhere in the American Muslim community.
What makes this oversight so much worse for us, as Muslims, is that it shows we are not really practicing our faith through an understanding of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Rasulullah (SAW), as we pretend that the problem doesn’t exist even when called to action to halt the haraam in our midst. This hubris is destroying our community. But no more; I cannot speak for all Muslims, but I can speak for a growing activist movement in the United States. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) tells us in Sura Al-Qiyamah (Verse 13) that on the Day of Judgment we will be judged for what we did and also for what we left undone. I am not going to wait till that Day to realize that I could have created change in this fleeting world, but was too selfish to do something.
The fight to raise awareness and end sexual abuse and domestic violence must begin now, and it must take place solely for the sake of Allah (SWT) and to keep His Creation – Muslim men, women and children – safe from violence and abuse. As Our Creator tells in the Holy Qur’an, “if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (Sura Al-Ma’idah, Verse 32).
This is a struggle that will take many forms, but I believe there are four main components – open discussion and dialogue; women’s education; men’s education; and community leadership involvement and accountability. Before we can establish education for Muslim men and women about their rights and responsibilities in Islam and in Islamic relationships, we must first get over the hurdle of even talking about abuse and violence.
When Sister Aasiya Hassan was murdered in 2009 (May Allah SWT have mercy on her soul), many Muslims reacted angrily that their community had been portrayed in such a negative light. “We are moderate Muslims, we don’t kill! We love America. We’re not like those bad Muslims in other countries,” they wailed and screamed to the media sources that would hear them (a handful) and to attentive policy elites. But, how many of us stopped to examine the situation and what was going on in Sister Aasiya’s marriage? Had domestic violence occurred before? Had she asked for help? Did religious leaders and men know about it and say nothing?
I can write for page upon page about this issue, but talk is cheap. Instead I can ask you to make a stand on this issue and unite in solidarity with Muslim men and women across the United States to end sexual abuse and domestic violence in our community. Every Muslim man and woman has a jihad (struggle) to deal with this on a personal basis and in their small community. Start in your home and then take the work outside.
The Atlanta community organized a prayer vigil and talk at the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam on Saturday February 13th. The attendees wore purple, the international color of domestic violence prevention. The day before the event, Atlanta was hit by a surprise snowfall that blinded the city and halted most activity. But, as we know from the Holy Qur’an, this was just a test from Allah (SWT). Alhamdulillah, eight brothers and sisters showed up for the event, including two sisters who came all the way from Cleveland, Ohio!
We talked about how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was the best of creation and was also the best to his wives and children. We explored the Sunnah and how we can move the community forward to actively end DV. We reflected on the life of Sister Aasiya Hassan (RA) and the other martyrs who died protecting themselves and their children. And we ended by making du’a for all the women and children who had died.
Bro. Shaam Abdus-Salaam is a Hindu convert to Islam and an Instructor of Political Science at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston, GA. He has lived in the U.S. and India and is an alumnus of Purdue University and Georgia State University. He is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Domestic Violence Prevention from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He is the coordinator for Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence, the founder of the Muslim Suicide Survivors Association and is active with Men Stopping Violence. He hopes to marry his “naseeb” this fall because he has been in love with her for almost four years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brother Shaam will be speaking on March 10th at Columbia University in New York. For more information and to RSVP, go here.