Muslim women who report domestic violence and unjust divorce proceedings should not be dismissed as Western-style feminists. They need recognition and action from community leaders. Otherwise, injustice against women will continue to degrade our religion worldwide.
Dr Nada Ibrahim’s workshop on Empowerment against domestic violence (AMUST, March 2018) was directed towards the Imams and other community leaders who have the opportunity and obligation to encourage change for a more productive and peaceful society.
Muslim fathers and husbands would also benefit from these workshops, gaining insight into the huge responsibilities implied by their title, Head of the family.
When a woman is subjected to domestic violence and injustice, a productive individual can become depressed and mentally disturbed, placing a financial and social burden on the wider community.
“My parents worked hard to give me a stable upbringing and a good education. This has all gone to waste, due to my ex-husband’s violent abuse and the biased and unjust treatment I received from elderly community leaders.
After I confronted my husband with evidence that he was cheating on me, he initiated divorce proceedings. When we sought mediation from one of our leaders, only my ex-husband saw him in private.
When I was called inside, the leader screamed at me in front of my ex, “If you don’t see the act of fornication with your own eyes, you can’t accuse anyone!”
He would not listen when I said I had found 23 of my ex-husband’s emails & chats of extreme pervert nature. He offered no counselling for my ex-husband’s addictions, but only forbade me to criticise him. I felt completely devalued.
After that meeting, my ex-husband started to hit me badly. There was no follow-up from that leader to see how we were going.
When the domestic violence case went to the Australian court, my ex claimed that I was a fundamentalist Muslim, trying to bias the court against me for my adherence to Islamic practices.
Unfortunately, another biased Muslim mediator made me sign the finance papers drawn up by my ex-husband, giving him the entire proceeds from the sale of the family house.
He didn’t pay any wages for the six years’ work I did for his company. He even took the family piggy bank, and then declared bankruptcy so that he didn’t have to pay child support.
Nevertheless, he employed an expensive barrister, travelled the world with his new girlfriend and bought a Mercedes and BMW in her name. Meanwhile, the court awarded me nothing.
The mediator took no precautions to protect me from this ploy of bankruptcy. He also knew that, having recently lost my father and elder brother, I had no family member to help me.
With 70,000 people on the waiting list, the Department of Housing could not help, but even after my kids (aged 7, 5, and 3) became homeless, the mediator refused to help me in getting justice. Instead, he advised me to look for a job.
After these traumatic events, I struggled for 12 years with anxiety, depression and social isolation. Before marriage, I was able to study while working to support my mother, but now my concentration was so bad that it took me 7 years to complete a two-year course.
However, with the help of Allah, I am trying to raise them as kind, healthy adults, Alhamdulillah!
Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. One woman lost her financial independence because her in-laws had made sure they could operate her bank accounts. She lacked the command of English or the experience to know her entitlements to financial benefits in Australia. Even Muslim lawyers failed to help her.”
Programs like Dr Ibrahim’s will increase harmony and understanding in couples, reducing the rate of divorce and ensuring stability in our children’s lives.
Every Friday, at Juma congregational prayers, men should be reminded to be like a solid wall around the castle of their family: their role is to protect, not abuse. As our beloved Prophet (s) said in his last sermon, “Treat your women well”.