A majority of the news about Muslims in North America rarely seems to be produced
from an educational or informative point of view. Rather, the public is given unhealthy doses of sensational and unrepresentative
stories about incidences of domestic violence, honor killings and child abuse in the Muslim community. What the media fails
to mention is that among the six to eight million Muslims in North America, abuse is rare. There is no doubt that we have
our problems. However, our problems are the exception and not, as the news media seem to present it, the rule. Even less is
mentioned in the media about the efforts of the Muslim community in North American to address issues related to social services
with children, youth, and the family.
Ironically, one of the most positive aspects of Islamic law is the freedom, honor
and prestige it assigns to Muslim women regardless of their race, nationality or socioeconomic status. No other religion or
ideology can parallel the high regard that Islam has for women. For example,
the truth about the modest head covering (the hijab) may be shocking to the average person unfamiliar
with Islam. Muslim women do not consider themselves oppressed because they have to wear modest clothing and to cover their
hair. On this point of Islamically prescribed clothing, a Muslim woman rarely considers it a factor limiting her personal
growth. Indeed, given the vastly important role ascribed to women in Islam, it seems rather shallow to only limit the discussion
to what kind of clothing they wear. Even a simple survey would reveal a surprisingly high number of Muslim women who are educated
and involved in professional careers. Of course, much like in the larger American society, there are also many Muslim women
who despite possessing degrees in higher education are choosing to stay at home despite possessing degrees in higher education.
These women are choosing to do this in order to devote more time to their children and families.
Furthermore, the Muslim community in North America owes its tremendous growth
and vitality to the adaptive abilities and resilience of our women. As a community of immigrants and new American entrants
into Islam, we have relied heavily on Muslim women to help in all aspects of professional and community life. It is worth
reiterating that the Quran in no way condones or tolerates the abuse of one human being by another and especially not the
abuse of women. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stressed to his companions that the best among them in stature would
be the one who is the best in his dealings and treatment of his wife. If there is so much to be appreciated about the Muslim
women, what leads to the incidences of domestic violence or any other problem involving maltreatment and abuse of women? How
prevalent is the problem?
Addressing Abuse in the Muslim Community
Muslim community needs to make great strides towards the establishment of local social service providers. In addition, the
community must undertake several measures to gather more information about the incidences of domestic violence and other forms
of abuse in which women are the victims. In general, documenting cases of abuse possesses several challenges to both Muslims
and non-Muslims. Women experience intense feelings of guilt and shame assuming that their actions perpetrated the abuse. Some
women fear that reporting the abuse may bring harm to the abuser. The result in either case is that women rarely report cases
of abuse. Further efforts are necessary to educate women about abuse and to increase their awareness about the availability
of professional help. Such efforts may lead to greater self-reporting cases of abuse.
Role of Muslim Human Service Professionals
Muslim human service professionals need to educate the entire Muslim community about abuse and about the negative consequences
of abuse on the mental and emotional health of the women involved. Efforts in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago,
Philadelphia, Toronto and Winnipeg are beginning to address domestic violence issues. More work is needed. Increased funding
and support from government and foundation grants must be sought to sponsor educational and awareness programs. Overall, the
pioneering efforts of human service professionals in some of the major cities deserve support from both the public and the
private sectors. The abuse of women in any form tears the social fabric that binds together not only families but also communities
in general. The Muslim community is very much concerned about the incidences of abuse and violence that occur in all families
and especially in Muslim families. The media and policy makers must convince themselves that abuse is neither condoned nor
tolerated in Islam. Finally, the Muslim community needs to take additional steps to increase the awareness of Muslim women
about abuse and the availability of resources to address the mental and emotional health concerns arising from abuse.