14 Dec 2010

Message to Scotland's Muslims: Islam can't be used to justify domestic abuse of wives or children

BBC News - U.K. July 21, 2010

Domestic abuse campaign targets mosques in Scotland
By Rahila Bano | BBC Asian Network

Islam can't be used to justify domestic violence against a partner.

That's the message being given to Scotland's Muslim communities with the help of a new campaign.

It's come after concerns were raised by Glasgow-based Muslim scholar Amer Jamil and Strathclyde Police that religion is being used by some men to justify their behaviour.

Leaflets and sermons are being given in mosques over the next few weeks as part of the new campaign targeting about 30,000 Muslims.

Aneela, not her real name, is playing with her baby son in the front room of a large Victorian house in the predominantly Asian south side of Glasgow.

She's now remarried and has started a new life. But she still holds painful memories of her short-lived second marriage.

She said: "I had an Islamic Nikah (marriage) with a man from London in 2004.

"He promised to look after me and provide for me but very soon the marriage turned violent.

"We were in a hotel room and he attacked me, bruising my arms and punching the back of my neck.

Sheikh Jamil is concerned that some Muslim men are using religion in this way and are misinterpreting the Quran, which clearly forbids the abuse of a wife or any family member.

He said: "When police and social services have intervened in some cases they've been told by Muslim men that they are allowed to behave in this way because it's allowed in Islam or it's acceptable in their culture.

"The authorities have then asked me to clarify the situation. That's why I've launched this anti-domestic violence campaign in mosques."

He added: "A total of 30,000 leaflets have been printed in Urdu, Arabic and Bengali. I'm also speaking to Imams, asking them to hold sermons at Friday prayers to get the message out there."

Ch Supt Bob Hamilton heads the domestic abuse unit at Strathclyde Police.

Both it and Acpos, the body representing Scotland's most senior police officers, are supporting the campaign.


Bob Hamilton said the force received more than 25,000 reports of domestic abuse last year and 3% of those were from people of ethnic minority backgrounds.

He estimated officers from Scotland's largest police force dealt with some 137 cases from the Muslim community.

"The concern I have is trying to establish the exact size of the problem," he said.

"We've brought in third party reporting so that victims don't have to report incidents at a police station but we're aware that there are cultural reasons like shame, stigmas and language barriers.

"Some people don't even think it's a crime. We believe incidents are being under-reported."

Victims like Aneela aren't confident that this campaign will stamp out abuse within the Muslim communities.

She tried to seek help from two Glasgow-based Imams.

"The first told me I'd abused British and Islamic laws and I deserved what I got, the other said think about your reputation, better to stay quiet, your family will out, your friends, just go and talk to him," she said.

That has come as a surprise to the Imam at the Glasgow Central Mosque, Habib-ur-Rehman, who is backing the campaign.

He said: "We request everyone not to turn a blind eye to such practices, we've also offered them the opportunity to contact a centralised service in Glasgow, the Muslim Care Council.

"It provides advice and support to victims of domestic abuse."

'Big problem'

The campaign was launched at Glasgow Central Mosque. Worshippers at Friday prayers were mostly in favour of the methods being used to try to tackle the problem.

Umar said: "You need to raise awareness, it shouldn't be tolerated. I think there is a specific problem in the Muslim community but it's hidden."

Another mosque goer, Amaarah, who is from the west end of Glasgow, had just finished her prayers in the ladies section. She also supports the scheme.

"I think it's a very positive move," she said.

"It's a very big problem within our community, it's part of the culture and comes from the notion that the woman is a man's property."

The campaign is being rolled out across 33 of the main mosques in cities including Edinburgh, Inverness and Dumfries over the next few weeks and is expected to reach thousands of Muslim households.

You can hear more on this story on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.

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