Sunday, January 06, 2008

Abuse is okay. The Qu'ran tells me so.

Picture (right) and story via the The New York Times.

Abused Muslim American women aren't much different from regular abused women, except that their religious text condones the abuse (it's usually public abuse of women that's condoned in the Christian bible.

The current interpretation of Chapter 4, verse 34 in the Qu'ran gives "husbands the right to strike their wives as the final step in an escalating series of punishments for being rebellious."

The problem is widespread. Even more so because within the Muslim community, the abuse is accepted. Even by women. If a woman asks for help, she is usually met with a cleric who offers marriage counseling (WITH the abusive husband) and/or family telling her to suck it up and be obedient.

If an American Muslim woman seeks help at a shelter, her faith is held in question. The article details this woman's story:

After enduring seven years of beatings from her husband, a young Yemeni-American woman recently fled to a local shelter, only to find that the heavy black head scarf she wore as an observant Muslim provoked disapproval.

The shelter brought in a hairdresser, whose services she accepted without any misgivings. But once her hair was styled, administrators urged her to throw off her veil, saying it symbolized the male oppression native to Islam that she wanted to escape.Instead the woman, who asked for anonymity because she feared further violence from her relatives, decamped to the Hamdard Center for Health and Human Services in suburban Chicago, a shelter that caters mainly to Muslim women by not serving pork and keeping prayer rugs handy. Such shelters are extremely rare nationwide, activists say, because Muslim Americans only recently began confronting the issue of spousal abuse.
Do we really need separate shelters for Muslim women? That's really sad. A shelter shouldn't be a place to question someone's beliefs. A woman comes to a shelter seeking help, and that's what she needs. She doesn't need someone to tell her that her entire life is based on something that oppresses her. And this woman filed for divorce, sought help from imams and family, and endured tremendous abuse because of it. The headscarf does not equal oppression for this 29-year old woman. The husband and family do.

It's good that she had a place like the Hamdard Center to go, but it's extremely sad that she needs it. Shelters are hard to start in Muslim communities, because they like to pretend it's not a problem. Well, I guess it isn't if the verse you take literally tells you it's okay.

People are working to change the interpretation, but it doesn't look good. I guess we should feel lucky that Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are a little wishy-washy on the whole literal thing. If I had to leave the city every time I had a period, I would probably have to kill someone.

No comments: