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Awareness, Religious Principles Seen as Key to Stopping Domestic Abuse in Muslim Homes
Last in a series
Dr. Amina Mahmood
Dr. Amina Mahmood, originally from Pakistan, has been living in Iowa for the last eight years. A second generation Muslim, she moved to Iowa for her education and got involved in the Muslim community with the aim of creating awareness on domestic violence.
“I think the definition is universal across countries,” Mahmood, a psychologist at the State University of New York’s University at Albany Counseling Center, said about domestic violence.
Mahmood’s professional work has included emphasizing positive social change in the Muslim community in Iowa. She lived eight years in Iowa City before moving to Albany in 2012.
“I think there’s cultural aspects that are different. For example, domestic violence typically occurs in the context of a relationship, and it’s more about power and control from the perpetrator. The ways that the perpetrator tries to gain power or control over the victim might vary according to the cultural background, but essentially there’s a lot in common.”
She speaks about the universal problems of domestic violence, regardless of religious or cultural backgrounds:
Mahmood’s work focuses on sexual assault and relationship violence prevention programming and outreach. Her clinical and research interests are multicultural psychology, including social justice, working with underserved populations, women’s issues, and religion and spirituality.
During her undergraduate studies at the University at Albany, Mahmood was active in the Muslim Student Association on campus and served as its president. She eventually received her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Iowa.
Nida Jamal, a second generation Muslim American, advocates for woman’s rights. Jamal, a Pakistani born and raised in New York, is a homemaker in Iowa City and a mother of three children.
She comes across many women who have been abused or are subjected to domestic violence. She believes some women like to share their stories, while others prefer to keep silent because of the stigma associated with the domestic violence.
She sees a big difference when comparing first generation Muslim Americans to those in the second generation:
“I know my rights more than my mother.”
Darakshan Raja, a Pakistani human rights activist, works with Muslim and Middle Eastern families in Washington, D.C., as a research associate at the Urban Institute. While highlighting the challenges of Muslim American women in social forums such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, she talks about protecting against life threatening domestic violence.
“I think, with domestic violence particularly, we have to remember domestic violence encompasses the whole gamut of abuse, so it includes child abuse, it includes intimate partner violence, it includes elder abuse, ” said Raja, who has been a rape crisis counselor and online hotline volunteer. She evaluates criminal justice policies for federal and state government agencies, with a focus on crime victims.
“A lot of times when we talk about domestic violence we tend to only focus on intimate partner violence, and that, too, when it’s committed at the hands of men and women are the victims. But we forget the whole, much larger gamut of abuse.” That includes, she said, times when men are victims, or child abuse when boys can be victims.
“In terms of engaging me, I absolutely think we need to engage men on this issue,” Raja said. That means teaching that aggressive behaviors against women is not appropriate form of masculinity, she said.
Raja received her master’s degree in forensic psychology with a concentration in victimology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
She is working on an evaluation of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is being funded by the National Institute of Justice. She also is working on a project that is to provide the Bureau of Justice Statistics recommendations for the feasibility of a national database on elder abuse.
Related reading: Ending Domestic Violence in Muslim Familes, By Sharifa Alkhateeb (1946-2004), founder of the Peaceful Families Project
Other stories in this series:
Faces of Silence: Seeking Help Difficult for Midwest Muslim Women Abused at Home
Inside a Domestic Violence Shelter: Respite and Hope
Domestic Violence’s Impact on Children is Profound, Causing Fear and Anxiety
About this Project
“Faces of Silence” focuses on Muslim American women of South Asian descent in Midwest United States who have been affected by domestic violence. The project highlights the manifestations of domestic violence in this group, how Muslims in the Midwest are dealing with domestic violence, the best practices for intervention in this community and their challenges. This project was the master’s thesis for Lamia Zia at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication in fall 2012. Zia interviewed during that fall domestic abuse survivors living in a Chicago shelter, experts, local women and imams for this report. Her thesis has been edited for presentation at IowaWatch.org.