DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND RELIGION

Are Muslim survivors of abuse being silenced by their own communities when they try to seek help? HuffPost reporter Rowaida Abdelaziz shares the results of her shocking investigation.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233

For more information on Turning Point for Women and Families, click here.

Aired on January 15, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THE STATISTICS ARE ASTOUNDING.

HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, ONE IN FOUR WOMEN ARE SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

AND AN EVEN MORE STARTLING FACT, ACCORDING TO UNITED NATIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE, 137 WOMEN WERE KILLED EVERY DAY BY AN INTIMATE PARTNER OR RELATIVE IN 2017.

NOW A RECENT INVESTIGATION HAS DISCOVERED WITHIN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, WOMEN WHO TRY TO SEEK HELP ARE OFTEN SILENCED BY THEIR OWN NEIGHBORS OR FACE ISLAM PHOBIC STEREO TIMES.

HERE'S A DETAILED INVESTIGATION IN THE ARTICLE.

SHE JOINS ME NOW.

WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT TOPIC TO DISCUSS.

HOW DID YOU COME TO THIS?

ABSOLUTELY.

PART OF MY JOB AT THE 'HUFFINGTON POST' IS HATE CRIMES.

ONE OF THE TRENDS THAT I SAW, IT WAS OFTEN MUSLIM WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF THIS ABUSE AND MUSLIM WOMEN WHO HAPPEN TO WEAR THE HIJAB OR THE HEAD SCARF TEND TO BE TARGETS.

PEOPLE NOT KNOWING FAITH MARKERS.

WHEN I TRIED DIGGING DEEP ENTIRE THE OBSTACLES THAT WOMEN IN PARTICULAR FACE IN THIS COMMUNITY, I STARTED TALKING TO SURVIVORS OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND IT OPENED A WHOLE NEW CAN OF WORMS FOR ME.

THERE WAS A SPECIFIC WOMAN WHOSE STORY YOU WERE ABLE TO TELL AND I BELIEVE THAT WAS A CATALYST TO GO EVEN FURTHER INTO THIS ISSUE.

YEAH.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACROSS THE PLATFORM IS A TABOO NO MATTER WHERE YOU COME FROM.

I SPOKE TO DOZENS OF WOMEN AND ALL OF THEM REQUESTED THAT THEY TALK TO ME ANONYMOUSLY.

WHEN I SPOKE TO NOR, A YOUNG WOMAN BASED IN THE BAY AREA, WHO WAS THE INCREDIBLE STRONG WOMAN WHO DETAILED TO ME A TRAGIC AND AWFUL INCIDENT WHERE SHE SAW HER FATHER MURDER HER MOTHER, NOT THAT LONG AGO.

A CAN YOU PLEASE YEARS AGO AND IT HAS INSPIRED HER TO GO INTO THIS WORK AND NOW AN ADVOCATE.

SHE WAS ONE OF A VERY FEW WEAPON WILL ON.

IN THIS INSTANCE, IT WAS ON THE RECORD.

THE ONLY WOMAN WHO AGREED TO DO SO.

SO THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS FOR PEOPLE WHO AREN'T MEMBERS OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY MIGHT NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND.

WHAT IS THE, I DON'T WANT TO SAY THE DISCONNECT BUT PERHAPS THE CHALLENGE OR THE HURDLES THAT PEOPLE MIGHT FACE ABOUT COMING FORWARD AND GOING TO THE AUTHORITIES, QUHAS MOST WOULD SAY THAT'S WHAT YOU DO.

I THINK WHEN I WAS INVESTIGATING, THERE WERE A LOT OF SIMILAR CHALLENGES THAT MUSLIM WOMEN FACE THAT ANY OTHER WOMAN WITH A RACIAL BACKGROUND FACE.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DOESN'T DISCRIMINATE.

IT IS AN ISSUE THAT PLAGUES ALLER COMMUNITIES, FAITH-BASED, GENDER, RACE, ET CETERA.

BUT MUSLIM WOMEN FACE CHALLENGES WHEN THEY WERE SEEKING HELP.

OFTENTIMES THEY'RE FIGHTING THROUGH A CULTURAL STIGMA WITHIN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY.

AND OUTSIDE OF THE COMMUNITY, THEY WERE TELLING ME THEY CONTENDED WITH ISLAM PHOBIA.

SO THERE IS A TUMULTUOUS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE POLICE AND THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY WHEN YOU'RE TALKING WITH INFORMANTS AND SPYING.

IN NEW YORK, THAT WAS AN ISSUE.

OR WOMEN WHO WENT TO MAIN STREAM AGENCIES AND PEOPLE SAYING, IF YOU'RE A MUSLIM, ISN'T IT NORMAL FOR MEN TO BE VIOLENT AND WOMEN TO BE OPPRESSED?

WHICH IS AN AWFUL AND FAR FROM THE TRUTH TYPE OF STEREO TYPE THAT MUSLIM WOMEN ARE CONTENDING WITH.

YOU WERE SAYING THERE MIGHT BE A STIGMA WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.

THAT THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT SAY THAT, THERE MIGHT BE A BETTER WAY TO HANDLE THE SITUATION.

OF COURSE.

AND SHAME AND FEAR ARE POWERFUL SILENCERS.

AND WE SEE THIS IN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.

THERE IS STILL A STIGMA WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN LEAVING THEIR ABUSERS, AN EMPHASIS ON TRYING TO FIX THE COHESION, THE FAMILY LIFE.

WHAT WAS SO INTERESTING ABOUT THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN PARTICULAR, HOW OFTEN THEY SOUGHT OUT RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND LOCAL CLERGY FOR HELP.

THIS IS SOMETHING UNIQUE TO THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY.

AFTER TALKING TO FAMILY MEMBERS, THEY WERE TALKING TO THEIR LOCAL IMANS AND SAID, HEY, I HAVE A PROBLEM.

AND THESE RELIGIOUS LEADERS SAY, THEY KNOW SCRIPTURE, THEOLOGY, THEY CAN TELL YOU HOW TO PRAY.

BUT A LOT OF THEN DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO EDUCATE THEN.

IS THIS ABOUT EDUCATING AGENCIES THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO PROVIDE HELP AND ASSISTANCE TO SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

IS THIS AN ISSUE OF BETTER EDUCATING RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND HOW BETTER TO HELP WOMEN NAVIGATE THESE ISSUES?

EDUCATION IS AT THE TOP.

YOU HAVE ADVOCATES AND FOLKS WHO WORK FOR SHELTERS AND AGENCIES SAYING, COME GET TRAINED.

PARTNER WITH US UNTIL WE KNOW HOW TO TACKLE THIS.

THERE ARE AGENCIES BUILT IN THE U.S., PREDOMINANTLY AND SOLELY FOCUS ON SURVIVORS.

I TALKED TO A HAND.

IN THE BAY AREA, TEXAS, BALTIMORE, ONE PARTICULAR WOMAN IN BALTIMORE WHO FOUND AD HOUSE STRICTLY FOR MUSLIMS.

OFTENTIMES HER CLIENTS WITH SAY, WHEN I WENT TO A MAIN STREAM AGENCY, A COOK WOULD PUT PORK IN MY MEAL.

THERE WEREN'T PLACES TO PRAY OR HAVE ARE KOSHER OPTIONS.

SO IT HIGHLIGHTS A SECOND PROBLEM WHERE AGENCIES NEED TO BE BETTER EQUIPPED IN UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT NEEDS.

AND I THINK THIRDLY, NOT FALLING INTO THE STEREO TYPES.

OFTENTIMES, MUSLIM WOMEN ARE AFRAID TO COME OUT.

THEY SAY HEY, NEGATIVE ATTENTION ON US IS SO BAD.

ISLAM PHOBIA IS SO BAD.

WE DON'T NEED TOER PUT OUT OUR DIRTY LAUNDRY SO WE NEED TO CREATE A SPACE WHERE WE SAY, WE RECOGNIZE YOU AS A WOMAN, A SURVIVOR.

WE DON'T CARE WHAT YOUR BACKGROUND IS WEST WANT TO HELP YOU.

WHAT IS THE REACTION TO THE WORK YOU'VE DONE SO FAR?

FROM WHAT YOU'VE GOTTEN WITHIN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, I WONDER IF THERE ARE ANY BACK LASHES FROM, YOU'RE SORT OF PUBLICLY AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY.

I WAS TRYING TO STRIKE THE RIGHT BALANCE OF SHEDDING LIGHT ON A PROBLEM BUT NOT WANTING TO FEED INTO THE STEREO TYPES.

AS A RT REPORTER I WAS THINKING OF THOSE WITH MALICIOUS AGENDAS.

HEY, THIS IS WHY WE SAY MUSLIMS ARE SO BAD OR THEY USES IT AS A TOOL TO PERPETUATE BIGOTED POLICIES.

I THINK WHAT HELPED ME BE REASSURED, THE RESPONSE WAS MOSTLY POSITIVE.

I HAD OTHER WOMEN SAY, YOU KNOW, I'VE BEEN CONTEMPLATING LEAVING THIS RELATIONSHIP.

THEY REALIZE THEY NEED TO GO OUT AND SEEK PROFESSIONAL TRAINING.

THE PROBLEM IS FINDING THE RESOURCES AND CREATING THAT SPACE MORE PEOPLE ARE REALIZING THERE IS A LOT OF WORK TO BE DONE.

I WOULD BE REMISS TO SAY THERE AREN'T WILL SERVICES OUT THERE.

THERE ARE ORGANIZATIONS BASED HERE IN NEW YORK, A TURNING POINT IS ONE THAT SPECIFICALLY CATERS TO SOME WOMEN.

THERE ARE PLENTY OUT IN ALL THE DIFFERENT STATES THAT KATER TO DIFFERENT WOMEN AND BACK GROUNDS AND OF COURSE THE MAIN STREAM COALITION AND THE MAIN STREAM ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE DOING THIS WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT GETTING THE NATIONAL ATTENTION THAT THEY SHOULD BE GETTING.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS STORY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE SUNG A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, YOU CAN CALL THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE AT 1-800-799-7333.

AND YOU CAN VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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