During the past few weeks I have heard some shocking stories about a few women from the Muslim community who are encountering different forms of domestic, violent and sexual abuse. When I have told those in touch with these women to encourage them to seek advice and help from non-profit organisations and also the police if necessary, I have been met with much resistance. It is common for women in abusive relationships to find it difficult to report and/or leave their situation due to issues such as social pressure, conflicting emotions, lack of money, children, distrust of police and so on. However amongst some Muslim women there is also the idea that seeking support from those outside the community is forbidden by Islam. These women believe that if they report an abuser that happens to be a Muslim to the authorities, they are doing a disservice to Islam and to Allah. They are told that they must be patient and that Allah will reward them if they ‘stick it out’. This idea is wholly incorrect, incompatible with Islam and puts these women at great risk.
When women are told that they must keep silent and not tell the authorities about their abusive situation the responsibility, which should actually be placed on the perpetrator, is placed on them. However, these women’s primary concern should be their own safety and that of their children (if they have any), NOT protecting the perpetrator from being held accountable for their own actions. Furthermore, there is a very fine line between being patient and being oppressed. Asking a woman to keep silent about her dangerous position and in essence put up with the abuse is NOT the same as asking someone to be patient during a minor trial in their life. To use religion and Allah to emotionally blackmail a victim into keeping silent is the REAL disservice to Islam.
It does not benefit the Muslim community to pretend as though situations of abuse do not exist. As Muslims we do not want to portray ourselves or our communities in a bad light so we keep our problems within but we HAVE to move past this fear when the physical and mental health of those within our communities are at risk. We are not all equipped to deal with such sensitive issues, so if we need assistance we should ask. Allah says in the Qur’an that we should ask the people of knowledge if we do not know; the people of knowledge are not limited to only those who share the same beliefs as we do.
We understand the reluctance of many to approach outside organisations and the authorities for help because of the reputations they have. However, there are many organisations, such as ourselves, who have actually come from marginalized communities and have had the necessary training so are able to provide advice and support that is culturally sensitive. Moreso, many organisations aim to empower which means that they will only ever give a service user advice and cannot actually force you to do anything. They also strive to keep any information you share within the organisation unless they believe your life seems to or will be at risk.
Here at the JAN Trust we offer a safe haven for women within the community to come in and seek advice and guidance on issues such as this. We aim to empower women by giving them the chance to overcome the barriers they are facing and work with other organisations to ensure that our service users are receiving the best possible support and care that is also culturally sensitive. If anyone is struggling with the issues highlighted in this post we encourage you to approach the JAN Trust for help. We are able to carry out needs and risks assessments and then refer victims on to organisations that will provide them with support best suited to their situation and can even liaise with these organisations on their behalf if this makes them more comfortable.
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