Margari Aziza

February 15, 2009

RESPONDING TO THE KILLING OF AASIYA HASSAN: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

Filed under: Uncategorized — Margari Aziza Hill @ 6:35 pm

A few weeks ago, I ran into Asma [last name], who runs a Muslim women’s shelter in Baltimore. I expressed my interest in wanting to volunteer because I know that many Muslim women who are fleeing an abusive marriage have few places to go. When I first wrote about domestic violence in this blog post, I was very encouraged to hear that Muslim leaders like Imam Johari in DC were taking proactive steps towards addressing domestic violence in our communities. But when this story broke, I was horrified and deeply concerned about the continual violence against women. But what type of hatred and rage goes into a beheading? So many of us in the Muslim community are still in shock, unable to fathom how this could have happened. ISNA has written an open letter Muslim community leaders calling them to action.

RESPONDING TO THE KILLING OF AASIYA HASSAN: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LEADERS OF AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

By Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
Executive Director, ADAMS Center
Vice-President, The Islamic Society of North America

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is saddened and shocked by the news of the loss of one of our respected sisters, Aasiya Hassan whose life was taken violently. To God we belong and to Him we return (Qur’an 2:156). We pray that she find peace in God’s infinite Mercy, and our prayers and sympathies are with sister Aasiya’s family. Our prayers are also with the Muslim community of Buffalo who have been devastated by the loss of their beloved sister and the shocking nature of this incident.

This is a wake up call to all of us, that violence against women is real and can not be ignored. It must be addressed collectively by every member of our community. Several times each day in America, a woman is abused or assaulted. Domestic violence is a behavior that knows no boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, or social status. Domestic violence occurs in every community. The Muslim community is not exempt from this issue. We, the Muslim community, need to take a strong stand against domestic violence. Unfortunately, some of us ignore such problems in our community, wanting to think that it does not occur among Muslims or we downgrade its seriousness.

I call upon my fellow imams and community leaders to never second-guess a woman who comes to us indicating that she feels her life to be in danger. We should provide support and help to protect the victims of domestic violence by providing for them a safe place and inform them of their rights as well as refer them to social service providers in our areas.

Marriage is a relationship that should be based on love, mutual respect and kindness. No one who experiences a marriage that is built on these principles would pretend that their life is in danger. We must respond to all complaints or reports of abuse as genuine and we must take appropriate and immediate action to ensure the victim’s safety, as well as the safety of any children that may be involved.

Women who seek divorce from their spouses because of physical abuse should get full support from the community and should not be viewed as someone who has brought shame to herself or her family. The shame is on the person who committed the act of violence or abuse. Our community needs to take a strong stand against abusive spouses. We should not make it easy for people who are known to abuse to remarry if they have already victimized someone. We should support people who work against domestic violence in our community, whether they are educators, social service providers, community leaders, or other professionals.

Our community needs to take strong stand against abusive spouses and we should not make it easy for them to remarry if they chose a path of abusive behavior. We should support people who work against domestic violence in our community, whether they are educators or social service providers. As Allah says in the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:136).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never hit a women or child in his life. The purpose of marriage is to bring peace and tranquility between two people, not fear, intimidation, belittling, controlling, or demonizing. Allah the All-Mighty says in the Qur’an: “Among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are signs for those who reflect” (30:21),

We must make it a priority to teach our young men in the community what it means to be a good husband and what the role the husband has as a protector of his family. The husband is not one who terrorizes or does harm and jeopardizes the safety of his family. At the same time, we must teach our young women not to accept abuse in any way, and to come forward if abuse occurs in the marriage. They must feel that they are able to inform those who are in authority and feel comfortable confiding in the imams and social workers of our communities.

Community and family members should support a woman in her decision to leave a home where her life is threatened and provide shelter and safety for her. No imam, mosque leader or social worker should suggest that she return to such a relationship and to be patient if she feels the relationship is abusive. Rather they should help and empower her to stand up for her rights and to be able to make the decision of protecting herself against her abuser without feeling she has done something wrong, regardless of the status of the abuser in the community.

A man’s position in the community should not affect the imam’s decision to help a woman in need. Many disasters that take place in our community could have been prevented if those being abused were heard. Domestic violence is not a private matter. Any one who abuses their spouse should know that their business becomes the business of the community and it is our responsibility to do something about it. She needs to tell someone and seek advice and protection.

Community leaders should also be aware that those who isolate their spouses are more likely to also be physically abusive, as isolation is in its own way a form of abuse. Some of the abusers use the abuse itself to silence the women, by telling her “If you tell people I abused you, think how people will see you, a well-known person being abused. You should keep it private.”

Therefore, to our sisters, we say: your honor is to live a dignified life, not to put on the face that others want to see. The way that we measure the best people among us in the community is to see how they treat their families. It is not about how much money one makes, or how much involvement they have in the community, or the name they make for themselves. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said, “The best among you are those who are best to their families.”

It was a comfort for me to see a group of imams in our local community, as well as in the MANA conference signing a declaration promising to eradicate domestic violence in our community. Healthy marriages should be part of a curriculum within our youth programs, MSA conferences, and seminars as well as part of our adult programs in our masajid and in our khutbahs.

The Islamic Society of North America has done many training workshops for imams on combating domestic violence, as has the Islamic Social Service Associate and Peaceful Families Project. Organizations, such as FAITH Social Services in Herndon, Virginia, serve survivors of domestic violence. All of these organizations can serve as resources for those who seek to know more about the issues of domestic violence.

Faith Trust Institute, one of the largest interfaith organizations, with Peaceful Families Project, has produced a DVD in which many scholars come together to address this issue. I call on my fellow imams and social workers to use this DVD for training others on the issues of domestic violence. (For information, go to the website: http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/). For more information, or to access resources and materials about domestic violence, please visit http://www.peacefulfamilies.org.

In conclusion, Allah says in the Qur’an “O my son! Establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong; and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs” (31:17). Let us pray that Allah will help us to stand for what is right and leave what is evil and to promote healthy marriages and peaceful family environments. Let us work together to prevent domestic violence and abuse and especially, violence against women.

I pray that she is brought to justice. May Allah have mercy on Aasiya and console her family and loved ones. Please make du’a for this women, whose promising life was cut too short. I hope that Muslim leaders heed this call and that more of us support women and children who are in danger.

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9 Comments »

  1. “I pray that she is brought to justice. May Allah have mercy on Aasiya and console her family and loved ones. Please make du’a for this women, whose promising life was cut too short. I hope that Muslim leaders heed this call and that more of us support women and children who are in danger.”

    WORD!
    :(

    Comment by Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann — February 16, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  2. I am surprised to find such a clear and proper response on a muslim site. Your faith needs more who will speak up like this if we are to end the terror of those who present themselves as muslim

    Comment by Kent J — February 17, 2009 @ 5:31 am

  3. Violence against women is a big issue in America.

    This sister, who was decapitated of course is a very gross, rare example of what takes place in our community.

    I’m glad that ISNA put out this statement, and that some local imams here plan on discussing this issue for khutbatul jumu’ah this week. I may speak about it myself.

    Comment by dawudwalid — February 17, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

  4. Salaam Alaikum,

    What a well laid out and thorough statement, masha Allah.

    May Allah grant Aasiya peace.

    Comment by Safiya Outlines — February 17, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  5. ASA Margari,

    I swear there aren’t enough hours in the day!

    A friend of my mine who is a former employee of CAIR e-mailed me this story.

    I mentioned your blog on Muslim Bushido. Non-Muslims need to know where practicing Muslims stand on the issue. IMO.

    Thank you for keeping it real, and keeping folks informed.

    One thing I will say is that in that e-mail this sister told me that Muslims are tired of having to condemn every act of domestic violence in the Muslim community just as they are tired of condemning every act of terrorism that occurs overseas.

    I’m not sure if people don’t realize this but once you ( not you personally)

    tell the world that:

    >Your faith is *THE*truth
    >Has *ALL* the answers
    >Is regulated to *PERFECTION*
    >Is the *CURE* for ALL problems

    when situations transpire (especially numerous times)that indicate otherwise, you have put yourself in a situatiioin where you constantly must refute craziness.

    I posted my other comments on Muslim Bushido.

    Salaam

    Comment by Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann — February 18, 2009 @ 4:34 am

  6. “I am surprised to find such a clear and proper response on a Muslim site. Your faith needs more who will speak up like this if we are to end the terror of those who present themselves as Muslim” Kent

    AGREED!!!

    I’m NOT surprised at Maragari’s response because she’s NOT a crazy fanatical Muslim–and has demonstrated clear thinking, and emotional discipline during some of the nuttiest times on the Muslim blogsphere.

    Comment by Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann — February 18, 2009 @ 4:41 am

  7. [...] Margari is one of the first to react. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Letter on Aasiya Hassan, wife of founder of [...]

    Pingback by A Collection of Statements Concerning the Murder of Aasiya Hassan — Updated « Muslimah Media Watch — February 18, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  8. As Salamu Alaiykum.
    There is one part of this issue (domestic violence) that I’m itching to know: what measures do we take to prevent and solve these problems before and after they’ve transpired? How do we identify the perpetrator to the Muslim community and, most importantly, how can we help both the brother and sister to recover from the event(s)? What happens if there is no community for the Muslim woman to rely on? Who can she come to so that she can admit that there is a problem and who helps her solve it?

    Comment by fullmoonoffaith — February 18, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  9. @Full Moon Of Faith

    I’m on my way to my 9 to 5 so I’m rushing through my response but here is what I’m personally telling EVERYONE to do:

    If you know a fellow Muslim adult or child that is being abused direct them to your local county, city, or state Departments of Human Services/Social Services/Family services. ** DO NOT** send them to the masjids or Islamic organizations. **DO NOT** get personally involved. Help them from a distance, protect your own life FIRST.

    Concerning prevention, again, I’m rushing through my response but generally speaking 1-eliminate the competing discourses that have caused confusion amongst Muslim women 2-women need to learn how to screen and vet ALL men 3- women need to learn how to be self sufficiency and protect themselves and 4-women need to learn how eliminated unhealthy, unbalanced “contracts” WITH EVERYBODY in their life–family, friends, etc 5-STOP allowing men to define YOUR personhood, motherhood, etc.

    Here are some resources:

    http://www.ndvh.org/

    If you think you might be in an abusive relationship please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or your local domestic violence center to talk with someone about it. Callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

    The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence
    http://www.abanet.org/domviol/
    American Bar Association | 740 15th Street, N.W. | Washington, DC 20005-1019 | 202.662.1000

    Child Welfare Information Gateway
    Children’s Bureau/ACYF
    1250 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Eighth Floor
    Washington, DC 20024
    Personal assistance and inquiries
    800.394.3366 or 703.385.7565Fax
    http://www.childwelfare.gov/contact.cfm

    Administration for Children and Families • 370 L’Enfant Promenade, S.W. • Washington, D.C. 20447
    Critical Phone Numbers
    Child Abuse
    Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
    800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
    Child Care
    National Domestic Violence Hotline
    1-800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)
    TDD 1-800-787-3224
    Missing and Exploited Children
    National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
    National Human Trafficking Resource Center
    National Human Trafficking Resource Center
    1-888-3737-888
    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/acf_contact_us.html

    Comment by Sister Seeking, Miriam, Mary Ann — February 19, 2009 @ 5:03 am


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