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Aasiya Hassan: Will It Be The Wake Up Call That Our Community Desparately Needs?

February 18, 2009

“When a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half.” (Bukhari)

“The lawful thing Allah hates most is divorce.” (Abu Dawud)

Of course, there are the hadiths which manage the in between, which stress the necessity of being good to one’s spouse and children but these two focus on the beginning and end of a matter.   The first hadith is a spiritual fulfillment while the second makes divorce a spiritual struggle.

In my own cultural background, I’ve seen the stigma of divorce reach beyond the divorcee and become a permanent mark on their children resembling the likes of being afflicted with a contagious deadly virus. Although to the same extent, known cases of spousal abuse in a family are as deadly a virus.  I can’t speak for other cultures of the Islamic world but I would imagine that it would be much the same considering that Bosnian culture has been a rather liberal reflection of the Muslim world. 

While hadiths are abundant in being good to one’s spouse, overlooking flaws, as well as having patience nowhere to be found are hadiths which micro-manage the psychological impacts of going against the grain of these hadiths and numerous Quranic verses.  One is instead given “lawful” permission to divorce, although it is an act most hated by Allah.

I could only imagine the turmoil Aasiya would have gone through in her decision to divorce.  Was there anyone from her Muslim community there to tell her that her acts were brave?  Was there anyone there to tell her that she provided a good example to her children that this behavior was not acceptable?  Was there anyone there to tell her that she was doing the right thing?  Or was she given the “are you sure that divorce is the right approach and you know Allah hates divorce the most of all things permissible?” speech?

I wondered if she had up until the moments of her violent death been a silent hero for other women suffering the same spousal abuse.  I wondered if her decision to leave inspired other women to do the same.  I wonder if, by example, her brutal death extinguished any hopes of being able to leave an abusive marriage for other women.  I wonder if we as a community will be able to do what is necessary to restore their hope once again.

I had already read the article on Monday about Assiya Hassan and was waiting for the links on a list serve that I am on.  There it was within an hour, a post titled “NEWS: Bridges TV Owner Kills Wife.”  I awaited the discussion.  Sure enough a reply would come through.  Unfortunately it was a correction to the title which the original poster had titled “Bridges TV Owner CHARGED With Killing His Wife” with the moderator admitting to hastily changing the title line.  The only other two posts that would come through would be about a desperately needed ISNA statement.   

There would be no discussion.

Again today, I would receive an email through the list serve regarding a commentary on Aasiya Hassan’s death.  This one would be a link to an interesting article on AltMuslim titled “Moving beyond the Slogans”.

Ms. Asma T. Uddin hits the nail on the head with this:

In exposing the hypocrisy of the spokesperson, though, Hassan’s actions serve as an urgent call to all of us spokespeople to step away from the sound bites and begin to live our religion again. Constantly caught up in the social commentary-the debates and blogs and conferences and, yes, TV channels-we need to delve deeper and take more seriously the task of representing Islam through our actions and character rather than the slogans and clichés.

She goes on to describe the significance and importance of the ISNA statement.

“He goes on to say that young men should be taught that terror has no place in marriage, and young woman should be taught to never accept and keep silent about marital abuse. And “[n]o imam, mosque leader or social worker should suggest that [the abused woman] return to such a relationship and to be patient if she feels the relationship is abusive.”

The absolutism and specificity of the imam’s words makes his message a call to action rather than a mere pep talk. He is not merely a spokesperson; he is setting the parameters of appropriate action and communicating a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse. The shift is a critical one.”

I have to ask though, what makes this a shift so critical and what makes this less of a sound bite? 

In December of 2007 we bore witness to the reaction of Aqsa Parvez’s tragic death with ISNA‘s condolence letter which urged victims of domestic abuse to seek protection or call the police as well as CAIR and 20 other organizations which set up a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse.  A Calgary Imam even went on a hunger strike in protest of domestic violence.

I admit, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali’s open letter goes above and beyond the zero tolerance policy brought forth by Aqsa’s horrific death but the stakes are higher in this case considering that Aasiya Hassan’s husband was a spokesperson in North America.   A simple slap on the wrist isn’t going to cut it in this situation and we know it.

Throughout the letter, it is sound bites galore from domestic violence knowing no borders of religion, race, ethnicity or social class to summing up the collection of collaborative inter-faith programs regarding domestic violence.

Nonetheless, once one gets over the feeling of “just another press release”, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali’s words need to be translated into actions.  We need more than signed declarations promising to eradicate domestic violence.  We need to see formal programs established as Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali suggests in his open letter.  We need programs that go beyond the hadiths and Quranic verses which explain the psychological impacts of spousal abuse on the victim and their children in hopes of giving the community a greater understanding of the affects of abuse.  We need not just say we as a community have a zero tolerance policy but we have to get our community to change the way it views divorce because sadly until this is achieved it will leave many abused parents in a position of silently suffering for what they may view as the long term best interests of their children.

The effects of programs aimed at eliminating domestic violence won’t be immediate and it may even take decades to see the results, but until we actually start taking the steps to implement these programs within our mosques we as a community will be accomplices to domestic violence.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2009 5:00 am

    And to think Bridges network was set up to dispel stereo types!

  2. February 19, 2009 12:42 pm

    What a crapstorm this is going to be!! I really don’t know what else to say about it; may Allah grant her peace and may he get all that is coming to him (just hope it all goes to him and others like him, where it belongs, and not on the rest of us).

  3. Owen permalink*
    March 9, 2009 4:52 pm

    Sorry, away from the subject, except that again it’s about brutal and unnecessary violence. It’s written by a fellow-Chicagoan of yours.

  4. August 26, 2009 5:30 pm

    Sorry, I haven’t been in the touch I should have been in either. I have come to the conclusion that in ALL communities, not just the Muslim community, whoever is physically the more dangerous gets the advantage socially. So if a man is abusing his wife, than he has an advantage because people are AFRAID of crossing him. The reason to stigmatize the ex-wife and her kids is out of fear of him, it’s all very unspoken. It’s usually framed as ‘being fair to both sides’ ‘hearing both sides’ etc. It makes me angry whenever this happens and I don’t care what social group or community does this. At least Islam allows divorce. It’s very hard for a woman to initiate divorce but it is allowed. The Catholic Church doesn’t allow divorce(and no annulment is not the same thing!)
    The position of women who avail themselves of the right to a civil divorce is not wonderful among Catholics since a second marriage isn’t possible. Some Catholic countries go even further than the Church itself in this matter! Ireland for example once did.
    I feel very bad that there isn’t a lot of education for clerical persons in any religion on the subject of domestic violence.


  1. A Collection of Statements Concerning the Murder of Aasiya Hassan — Updated « Muslimah Media Watch

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