Domestic violence campaign targets Scottish Muslims

By Catrin Nye
BBC Asian Network

Image caption,
The campaign will be launched in Glasgow and Edinburgh next month

A new campaign asking Muslim men and women to speak out against domestic violence is being launched in Scotland.

The Change This campaign wants people to report any violence they have seen or experienced.

Muslim women's charity Amina will use Islamic teachings and an Imam to challenge the misconception that Islam allows violence against women.

The charity said it was aware of many cases where people used their religion in an attempt to justify violence.

As part of the campaign, it will be going out and speaking to men and women about the issue.

Smina Akhtar, from Amina, said she had been shocked by the way people had manipulated the teachings of Islam.

She said: "We have women coming in, phoning our helpline, time and time again and saying: 'My husband said it's okay, he told me the Koran says it's okay'.

"We're quite surprised that Muslim women are often not educated, even in Islam, because Islam does not condone violence."

She added: "We'll use certain Hadiths (the stories of the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, handed down by word of mouth) - for example when the Prophet, peace be upon him, says: 'The best among you is the one who is the best towards his wife'.

"We'll use these and phrases within the Koran to say no - actually the Koran does not say that it's okay for your husband to hit you."

Amina runs a helpline for Muslim women in Scotland. The charity says violence against women is the single subject on which it receives the most calls.

Smina added: "Time and time again we have women who have experienced violence telling us about it years and years after the violence has happened.

"Women often feel ashamed that this has happened to them and they're often living in extended family circumstances.

"For black and minority ethnic women, for Muslim women, it seems to take them longer than the indigenous women to come and speak up."

The campaign is calling on members of the public to become what it is calling "change-makers". Organisers are asking people to promise to oppose all sorts of violence against women and girls and, crucially, to talk about the problem so that it cannot remain hidden.

Mridul Wadhwa is the information and education officer at Shakti Women's Aid, an Edinburgh-based organisation offering support to ethnic minority women experiencing domestic abuse.

She says it is crucial that people speak out, and to the right people.

"There is a need for an open and honest discussion about it; we cannot use arguments of faith and culture or men's 'rights' as an excuse any more," she said.

"Men should be involved in this discussion too."

She added: "Sometimes individuals connected to faith groups will encourage methods of mediation to make the abused reconcile with their abusers and I don't think that's appropriate.

"Victims need to speak to someone safe, a service that's not compromised in any way by issues of patriarchy."

The Change This campaign formally launches in Glasgow and Edinburgh in February.

You can hear more on this story on the BBC Asian Network at 13:00 GMT and 17:00 GMT or listen back on BBC iPlayer

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