Fed up with abuse, young Muslim activists take back their faith

Kristen Minogue by Kristen Minogue

Photo by khalilshah/FLICKR

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It transcends ethnic, religious and gender boundaries. Men beat women, women beat men, and both abuse children. But when domestic violence hits the Muslim community, it seems the whole community – and faith – is damned by Islamaphobes who already use a broad stroke to paint even the faithful as terrorists.

There isn’t much data showing how prevalent abuse is among Muslim families, but what little we have suggests it’s no different from abuse in any other culture in the United States. Two studies from 1998 and 1999 – apparently the most recent available – place the number of Muslim women suffering physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their spouses between 10 percent and 20 percent. That was lower than the national average of 25 among all women.

But domestic violence cases in all circles are notoriously underreported, according to Salma Abugideiri, co-director of the Peaceful Families Project in Virginia, one of several organizations specifically designed to address abuse in Muslim families.

Most experts agree that power and control lie at the heart of any domestic violence case. For Muslims, the main differences are in the trappings: a complex combination of narrowly interpreted scripture and cultural values that encourage families to stay together – a value shared by most other Western religious traditions as well. Abugideiri said Muslim shelters offer women a safe escape from an abusive situation with people who understand their family-focused culture, whereas a more individualistic, secular shelter might come across as threatening. And there are many stories of survivors who have passed through their doors.

These are not their stories.

These are the stories of young Muslim men who decided to debunk serious misconceptions surrounding their faith and their gender. Drawing on Islam as a source of inspiration, they each created their own avenues to oppose abuse in their communities. They are writers, organizers and entrepreneurs. They are young, they are devout, and they are tired of seeing their religion scapegoated for society’s crimes. Click on the blue links below the photos to see in their own words what they are doing to combat the cycle of domestic violence.

Altamash Iftikhar, 25, founded i-appreciate.org, an online nonprofit selling T-shirts to raise money for domestic violence. (Photo courtesy of Altamash Iftikhar)

Altamash Iftikhar, 25, founded i-appreciate.org, an online nonprofit selling T-shirts to raise money for domestic violence. (Photo courtesy of Altamash Iftikhar)

Abbas Jaffer, 23, helped launch the online publication Altmuslimah dedicated to gender and Islam. (Photo courtesy of Abbas Jaffer)

Abbas Jaffer, 23, helped launch the online publication Altmuslimah dedicated to gender and Islam. (Photo courtesy of Abbas Jaffer)

Mohamad Khalil, 30, started the online advocacy organization Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse. (Photo courtesy of Mohamad Khalil)

Mohammad Khalil, 30, started the online advocacy organization Muslim Men Against Domestic Abuse. (Photo courtesy of Mohammad Khalil)














Iftikhar’s story: Fighting abuse with fashion   


Jaffer’s story: Rethinking gender, Islam and the Quran 


Khalil’s story: Linking allies through the Web


Muslim voices: Five men speak out about where they think faith and activism collide

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24 Responses to “Fed up with abuse, young Muslim activists take back their faith”

  1. Andy Says:

    Great article and great to see young muslims involved in helping the community and raise awareness of issues that would not exist if the teachings of Islam were practiced.

  2. Asad Says:

    Altamash is doing great work and is showing how much he cares about his community. I happen to be a friend of Altamash, so I suppose I’m biased. Yet, being his friend puts me in a unique position to describe him and he is warm-hearted, brilliant, and quite funny.

  3. Georges St. Pierre Says:

    Is the author an idiot? She wants to cite supposed statistics that place the number of Muslim women who suffer from domestic abuse as lower than the national average. Is she that dense? Do you honestly think Muslim women in the U.S. will be as willing to go to police with allegations of domestic abuse compared to the American population of women at-large. A little thinking goes a long way, Kristen. Islamophobes who paint women with a broad brush to begin with? Ha. Some of us just want all American women to have an assurance of safety. Get a clue. Islam as a belief system and cultural set within the United States should not remain free from critique.

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