A Scottish born Islamic scholar is urging Imams across the country to challenge those in the community who take Qur’anic text out of context to justify violence against women.
Earlier this month, Shaykh Amer Jamil delivered a keynote speech at a conference organised by Strathclyde Police. The one day seminar was attended by Imams, community representatives and women’s organisations.
According to Shaykh Jamil those who use the Qur’an to defend cruelty towards women must be re educated on their understanding of their religion.
He said: “There is a particular verse in the fourth chapter of the Qur’an, which taken in isolation, by individuals who do not know not what was written before or after, will lead to them believing that Islam allows women to be abused.
“It is the duty of learned individuals to remove such misconceptions. I will travel around the country to meet Imams with the aim of discussing how to make it clear that the aspect of harming is contrary to Islamic teaching. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) never hit any of his wives or servants.”
There are two main organisations that cater for victims of domestic violence within the Muslim communities in the Glasgow area.
Tabassum Sarfraz, development worker at Amina Women’s Resource Centre, reveals that 11% of calls to their helpline were from women seeking advice on domestic violence. This made it the second highest call category behind family matters.
Hymat Gryffe’s statistics from 06/07 (1626) to 07/08 (2683) show a 65% increase of women seeking support from a violent partner. In the same period the number of children requiring support on domestic violence was up from 111 to 176 - an increase of 58%.
Nusrat Raza of Hymat Gryffe says this year’s figures, although not official, will show a “10 fold increase.”
Furthermore she believes a change of definition by the Scottish Government will better protect ethnic victims north of the border.
She states: “The majority of cases we deal with involve women suffering at the hands of extended family members. At times the husband plays a non existent role. In England authorities can take action against extended family or wider community members, while in Scotland the issue of domestic violence covers partner and ex partner only.”
The Muslim Care Council of Glasgow (MCCG) was launched in November 2007. It has no legal authority and is run by volunteers. It rejects accusations that mosques are not tackling the issue of domestic violence.
Mohammed Shahid of MCCG says: “In the last 6 months the Imam at Glasgow Central Mosque has spoken four times on such an issue. No one from our organisation is shying away from such a subject. Our aim is to reconcile couples who are having difficulties. However, if it reaches a stage when people are getting abused then we don’t hesitate to contact the relevant authorities.”
Figures from Strathclyde Police show that last year there were 27,616 domestic violence cases across the force area from all communities.
In a bid to overcome these concerns the force is launching Third Party/Remote Reporting specifically for domestic abuse crime. The introduction of these measures will offer victims, witnesses and third parties the opportunity of reporting the crime without having to speak directly to a police officer.
However there is concern from senior officers within Scotland’s largest police of the under reporting of domestic violence in the Muslim community. Drew Pryde, a race relations officer, says perpetrators will not be able to hide behind cultural and religious practices.
He said: “There are those Muslim women who don’t report domestic violence because they feel they will bring shame onto their families and communities. We would like to think the only shame involved in domestic violence is with the aggressor not the victims.
“I urge Muslim women to come forward and report their experience to the police. Their cases will be handled by officers specifically trained on the issue of domestic violence. We also give them the option to speak to female officers along with access to interpreters. Our message is clear that domestic violence is not acceptable anywhere in the world never mind Scotland.”