Stereotypes and Statistics

One of the [many] problems with talking about domestic violence within my faith community is that those who have never suffered it often don’t believe it exists or don’t want to believe so. And aside from struggling to escape it, those that have suffered it don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that all Muslims are wife-beaters and oppressors. It has become an issue to be swept under the rug.

We don’t like fulfilling stereotypes. No one does. But the truth is that stereotypes begin from some form of truth, some incident, an action of at least one person.

I’m here to tell the truth. That truth is there are Muslim men that abuse women.

Recently I was flying and had a long conversation with an older man who stated he had traveled to over 140 countries in his life. Near the end of the flight he leaned over and said “I just have to ask you this: How does a beautiful, intelligent, and seemingly well educated woman like yourself choose to practice a religion that treats women like dirt?”  I responded back with the fact that Muslims have been stereotyped into many things, woman-oppressor being one of them. I told him that my own father treated my mother and his children like dirt. He was the typical “A-rab” (thought we are not Arab at all). But for his misguided ways I can find a dozen Muslim men (including my own husband) who treat their women like queens, the greatest example being our Prophet and role model (peace be upon him). I told him that we should judge those men based on what the faith teaches, not judge the faith on their actions. He seemed taken aback, almost shocked that he had not come up with that on his own. I was appalled as I left the airplane. I always thought this stereotype was held by the ignorant, the uneducated, the unworldly, certainly not a well traveled, well versed man having a cordial conversation about culture with a Muslim woman.

Show me a culture, a race, a nationality, a religion, a group of people, and in that group you will find at least one if not some that go against the grain. You will find the aberration. The exception to the rule. Muslims are like any other group. We have outliers. We have those that taint and tarnish our faith with their selfish and self motivated actions.

Did you know that as many as one in three women across the globe will experience domestic violence in their lifetime irrespective of their nationality or religion? This is not a Muslim problem. This is has never been a Muslim problem. This is a human problem.

I am not afraid that some will leave here reaffirmed that we Muslim women are oppressed. Instead I hope to create a new identity for us.

Let us lead women and the rest of humanity in speaking out about this ever-permeating, indiscriminate cancer that continues to destroy women and children across the globe.  Abuse and domestic violence knows no bounds, holds no bias, and it’s time we accepted that this is a burden meant for us all to bear.


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