Domestic Violence in
Muslim Communities

The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence has organized resources for Muslim communities because so many Muslim immigrants living in the U.S. come from various regions in Asia: Central, East, South, Southeast, and West Asia, i.e. the Middle East.

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Notions of identity carry complex political, social, and familial meanings. The following terms are defined for clarity only and not to force anyone into a particular regional and ethnic grouping. Self-identification is appropriately a matter of individual decision.

  • Arab, Middle Eastern, West Asian refers to people from the Middle East, also called West Asia and includes peoples who trace their origins to the countries, diasporas and/or ethnicities of these regions.
  • Asian includes peoples of Central Asian, East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and West Asian ancestry, i.e., those who trace their origins to the countries, diasporas and/or ethnicities of the above regions.
  • Muslim, which includes the Sunni and Shia' sects, refers to people who self-identify, culturally or religiously (whether they are practicing or not), as Muslims.
  • Not all Arabs are Muslims. They can be Christians, Druze, Baha'is, or Jews. Christian sects in the Middle East include Antiochian Orthodox, Assyrian, Chaldean, Coptic, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, and Syrian Orthodox.
  • Not all West Asians, such as Iranians/Persians and Turks, are Arabs.
  • Indigenous Muslims refers to African American Muslims.
  • Immigrant and refugee Muslims in the U.S. come from Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan; MENA (Middle East & North Africa) Region: e.g., Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine; Africa, e.g., Somalia; and Europe, e.g., Bosnia.

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  • Muslims constitute 0.8% (2,454,000) of the U.S. adult population.1
  • 65% of U.S. Muslims are foreign-born; 27% of them emigrated from South and Central Asia, including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.2
  • 35% of Muslims in the U.S. self-identify as African American, the largest racial group within the community.3
  • 18%, nearly one in five Muslim Americans, self-identify as Asian.3

  1. Pew Research Center Forum on Religion and Public Life. Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population. Washington, DC: Author; 2009. (Retrieved 1-10-11)
  2. Pew Research Center. Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream. Washington, DC: Author; 2007. (Retrieved 1-10-11)
  3. Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Muslim Americans: A National Portrait, An in-depth analysis of America's most diverse religious community. Washington, DC: Author; 2009. (Retrieved 1-10-11)

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Domestic Violence Statistics

  • A survey of 63 Muslim leaders showed that 10% of Muslims experienced physical abuse in their homes. Alkhateeb, Sharifa. "Ending domestic violence in Muslim families." Journal of Religion and Abuse 1.44 (1999): 49-59.
  • A study of 23 Muslim married female immigrants from Bangladesh residing in Houston, Texas revealed a 10% prevalence rate of spousal abuse. Rianon, Nahid J., and Shelton, A. J. "Perception of spousal abuse expressed by married Bangladeshi immigrant women in Houston, Texas, U.S.A". Journal of Immigrant Health 5.1 (2003): 37-44.

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Important Resources for Advocates

Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence

Peaceful Families Project

Resources on Legal Issues

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Story of the Unknown Woman

Huma B. Dar

My name is Farah.
I am the one pierced by a dozen bullets
on my mother's orders
in my lawyer's office
My sin: I had dared to ask for a divorce.1

My name is Gauhar.
I am the one almost run over
by a truck or is it okay to blame the truck driver?
My crime: my "Otherness" exposed in the land of the free
wearing a shalwar-qameez
for every one to see.2

My name is Sultani.
I am the one who lost count after the rapist number three
or was it number thirty?
Faizan, my months old baby, kept on crying
for hunger
at the sight of my breast cut off
My crime: I am a Muslim
being cleansed,

My name is Simurgh.
I am the one whose stomach was kicked
child abused and kidnapped by a husband
while his sisters cheered him on
My sin: possession of a voice.
Are voices contraband?

My name is Kausar Bano.
I am the one - nine months pregnant
raped, belly cut open, foetus on trident
both burnt to ashes
My sin: being a Muslim in Gujarat.4

My name is Fatimah.
I am the one whose name and its shadows
Melted and evaporated into oblivion
in the alchemy of fire on nine-eleven
when Hawwa's strong bones
at the foundation of it all
cried out to be excavated
as once she herself had
through the darkness of the Middle Passage
Our crime: lithe bodies
deemed capable of labor
enslaved and indentured, undocumented, uncounted
marked unmournable.5

My name is Sherbat Gula.
I am the one whose three babies didn't make it
to age five
in the land of the land-mines
while my burqah was the talk of the town
and my eyes green were labeled "ferocious"
My crime: born close to warm waters
and black gold
I am told.6

My name is Unknown
I am the one whose burnt face, cut at the nape,
droned, white phosphoresced, or raped
couldn't tell my charred story
whose name, face or story didn't make the headlines
in the conspiracy of silence
My crime: they say we are "terrorists"
or too close to some, and thus
"Collaterally" damaged!

I am Unknown, I am Sherbat Gula,
I am Kausar Bano, I am Hawwa and Fatimah,
I am Simurgh, I am Sultani, I am Gauhar, I am Farah.

I am your mother, your aunt, your sister,
I am your neighbor, your friend, your lover,
I am you

Stand with me as I fight for justice
Hold me
Embrace me
Reclaim me
Honor me
Love me
Kiss me

for I am you.

  1. This case happened, albeit to a victim with another name, in the renowned Pakistani lawyer, Hina Jilani's office, in Lahore, Pakistan.
  2. From an actual hate-crime in Texas, post 9/11. Name changed.
  3. From "The Survivors Speak" - a report of the Gujarat pogrom by the Citizen's Initiative, April 2002.
  4. Ibid.
  5. A homage to the undocumented people killed on 9/11 and to the unmarked slave graveyard found beneath the erstwhile Twin Towers.
  6. The woman whose face made it twice to the cover of National Geographic, surrounded by sensational journalism.

Published with the poet's permission, 2011.

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