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The Muslim Link

Suffering in the Silence: Pornography Addiction PDF Print E-mail
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Community News - Community News
Written by Muslim Link Staff   
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 13:09

Area Leaders See Social Disease CausingFrustration, Depression, Broken Marriages

Over the last decade, the Muslim Link has reported on social diseases which have taken root in the Muslim community. Widespread in the United States, the presence of ills like domestic violence and homelessness among Muslims is now acknowledged by community leaders, and – albeit at a slow pace – some masajid and Islamic organizations are devoting resources to address these ills.

Still, there are other social ills community leaders privately admit are likely affecting thousands of local Muslims – mostly males – that no one is addressing.

One of them is pornography addiction, and a Muslim Link survey of local Imams and counselors suggests the problem is far more than weak faith, and is affecting married, Islamically involved males just as much as unmarried college student.

“Porn addiction is very prevalent in the Muslim community. We must face the fact that whatever ills that impact the society in which we live, also impacts our community,” said Imam Hassan Amin, Executive Director of the Muslim Social Services Agency in Baltimore, Maryland.

Although estimates are highly speculative, some sociologists and anti-pornography activists say up to 25% of men in America are consumers of pornography, mostly via the Internet. As a business, the  gross revenue of the pornography industry is close to $25 billion annually – more than sports like football and baseball; this figure is also disputed by industry watchers. Regardless, Dr. Jennifer Johnson, a social scientist at the University of Virginia, said the industry is “geared to promote addiction”. A November 2004 US Senate Committee hearing was held to discuss whether this social disease should be considered an addiction like alcohol or drugs, and experts disagreed.

Most Imams who responded to a Muslim Link questionnaire about pornography addiction in the local Muslim community said a husband’s pornography addiction is increasingly a topic in their marriage counseling sessions.

“[In the past] couples having problems in their relationship would simply be him not talking with her enough or her talking too much. But, lately as an Imam and social worker, I have seen an increase of couples coming to me for counseling and four out of five couples have his viewing of porn online as a major problem in their relationship. Sometimes [it’s] the only problem in their relationship. He spends more time looking at porn on the Internet than he spends with her and the family,” said Imam Hassan Amin.

Some area Imams are seeing pornography addiction result in divorce.

“One of my counseling sessions held about a year ago involved a husband addicted to pornography … it was something he witnessed as a youth at home. He had a [toddler] and the wife was very scared of his behavior. After two sessions with this couple, and after about a year later the wife requested a divorce,” related Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

While support groups and formal recovery programs exist for pornography addiction in the US – many church based – programs catering to Muslims are mostly unknown.

One such program for Muslims, “Purify Your Gaze”, formally launched on December 6, 2010.

Founder Zeyad Ramadan, a 24-year old certified life coach, said pornography addiction is Muslim community’s “elephant in the room” – a huge problem that few are willing to discuss.

Based out of California, Zeyad’s online, anonymous 5-week program involves lectures aimed at helping Muslim men understand their addiction and then how to break out of the cycle step by step. He offers unlimited, live phone counseling for program participants. “It’s not a magic pill,” he said, “its to start the recovery process and to set the foundation.”

Ramadan said he first realized pornography addiction was a major problem in the Muslim community when a married client of his opened up to him and described his struggle. Ramadan said its easier to get help for alcohol or drug addiction than pornography addiction. Muslims too often approach the problem with a dismissive, simplistic approach that isn’t appropriate. “[People tell addicts] fear Allah and you won’t have this problem anymore … that is the wrong attitude,” he said, adding that his program does use the Qur’an and Sunnah teachings to tackle the addiction, but coupled with step-by-step emotional and psychological counseling as well. Ramadan also said many people don’t get help with their addiction because Islam teaches people not to publicize their sins. “If concealing sins means the sin continues …. then it is not part of sharia,” advised Ramadan.

Individual coaching is limited to 25-30 people, said Ramadan, who is working full-time on the program and charges fees for one-on-one counseling. However, four videos are available for free, including an 80-minute, in-depth testimony of someone who turned away from a 24-year addiction through the Purify Your Gaze program. Ramadan said most of the men he is helping are Islamically inclined and frequent the masjid, even leading halaqas and prayers. Since he launched last month, over 35,000 people view the site.

An article from 2007 posted on the popular website, “The Secret Life of Husbands” dealing with pornography among Muslims elicited hundreds of responses from both addicted men as well as  wives impacted by their husbands’ problem.

Addicts describe their lives being filled with frustration, self-hate, hopelessness, and loneliness.

“I simply did not believe I was capable of redemption …. I was doing the same thing over and over and over …. proof of my failures [brought me ever lower] ….its a really lonely place,” said ‘Brother X’ whose extensive interview is posted on Zeyad Ramadan’s website. “At my lowest point, even the remorse wasn’t there, it was just emptiness,” he says. Now, after his wife found out about Zeyad Ramadan’s program from another sister and he joined, he said he has gotten closer to Allah and feels he is finally “an integrated, whole” personality.

While some community leaders like Imam Hassan Amin said masajid across the greater Washington and Baltimore region should use the khutbah to have a “One Friday, One Subject” day focusing sermons on the harms of pornography, other activists say the problem needs to solved on an individual level.

“I agree that it’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed by our masajid, but beyond speaking about it openly and publicly, I wouldn’t imagine the masjid to be the place that will influence people away from this. It would require a stronger effort on the personal level really - young adults talking with adults, and long-time married couples with newly-weds,” said Adam Kareem, head of the Muslim Inter-Scholastic Tournament’s DC region and a youth activist.

Acknowledgment from community leaders is only a first step; the dangers of addiction harm far more than just the user.

“I have noticed when Muslim males are addicted to porn they are also seeing other women, outside of their marriage and engaging in sexual activities with these women or talking to them in a sexual manner,” said Imam Hassan Amin. “Anytime a man spends eight to nine hours looking at porn and less than fifteen minutes with his family, I would say that it is a very serious problem in our community,” added the Imam.

Jose Acevedo, a Youth counselor and co-founder of NOMAD Camps, said unfortunately there is a lack of complete addiction treatment that addresses both the faith issues as well as the psychological and social issues of the addict.

“We really need more professional, practicing Muslims in the fields of counseling and psychology, so the link between Islam, science, and sociology can be made to benefit the people. Too often our Imams have a limited knowledge base on how to treat such addictions, [while on the other hand] professionals lack the spiritual guidance to complete their counseling holistically,” said Acevedo.

“Most people who are addicted to this or who partake in it lead otherwise ‘normal’ lives,” said Adam Kareem. “But the first thing they need to understand is that they’re not alone.”

Focusing in on their addiction and making it the central challenge of their life is the suggestion from some who have conquered this illness. Whether the Muslim community will focus in on this ill is yet to be seen.

Comments (8)
  • Christopher Behnke  - Soul Poison
    I totally agree, pornography addiction is a HUGE problem today and it rips apart marriages and families every day!
  • Muslim  - Good to see us take this on
    Alhamdulilah, it's wonderful to see these social ills confronted in a public space. I think that only by being frank and upfront with this and similar issues (e.g. domestic violence) that our community faces will we be able to begin solving them, insha'Allah. So it's great to see a popular publication like TML to bring this issue to the table. Thank you ML Staff! My question however is how do we overcome the inherent "awkwardness" or "uneasiness" of simply talking about issue? Undoubtedly that's a major reason why it's a "silent suffering," right?
  • Muslimah  - Re: Good to see us take this on
    You are so right about the major reason for the "silent suffering". Humans are subject to fall from grace occasionally. Yet the fall need not be a silent, lonely death sentence. Until our communities are more open to helping than to criticizing, no one will come forward to ask for help for fear of being ostracized, shunned, or demonized.
  • DC
    [b]السلام عليكم[/b]A very good article. I think publishing articles like this is a very positive step towards addressing this issue. One of the things thast we must all be aware of is that it is not just adults that are struggling with this. Kids run the risk of becoming addicted to this too. Studies (with non Muslim) teenage boys showed that early, consistent exposure to online pornography gave them unrealistic expectations about sexuality, degraded their opinion of women and overall cheapened how they felt about sex.
  • Mima  - Wife's Fault?
    Assalm Alaykum, Addressing an issue of this magnitude without looking at all sides is like treating the symptoms without eradicating the problem. Did you ask youself, how do the wives of these addicted husband feel about sexuality. How healthy if the suxual life in a culture that makes a woman a sexual object? Are we doing something wrong by raising our children with total balck out of what the other side exagerates. I think there are other layers to the topic.
  • DC
    [color=green][b]السلام عليكم[/b][/color] I think you raise a good point. This is an issue that effects both genders. We know girls in this (western) society grow up with exaggerated ideas about what is attractive, what men like and what is appropriate behavior. Likewise, boys grow up exposed to a lot of sex on TV/movies/music and have false ideas about what it means to be a "man." I think this is why it is so important to pay attention to what kids watch, what they hear and what they see. A lot of times kids are picking things up at school, at playgrounds, at the mall, etc. that we don't know about. Also, let's be realistic and admit that a lot of things that come from "back home" that deal with sexuality have more to do with culture than Islam. Spending time with kids talking about Akhlaq is important. I know for younger kids a lot of books are out there (for example Good World books) that incorporate lessons from the Hadith and Noble Qu'ran. I even tell non Muslim parents' about these books because. I know this sort of strayed off topic.....but if you reinforce good values and ethics and decision making when kids are young, I believe they will be less tempted by things like pornography later, and if they do fall prey to their temptations, they will be able to contextualize what they have done and realize they need to change their behavior. Alhamdulilah
  • Anonymous  - Addiction
    It might be difficult for people to understand who have not been directly impacted by pornography addiction. The advice sometimes given (like just get married, or telling the wife to dress nicer and wear perfume) amounts to telling the alcoholic to just drink water - or tell the alcoholic's spouse to serve tastier juices - as the solution to his or her alcoholism. Alhamdulillah, this issue is being labelled for what it is: An addiction. It is a powerful addiction that profoundly changes who people are. To addicts, their addictions become more important than almost anything else. Addicts in [b]denial [/b]are willing to risk and destroy their values, families, careers, finances, and much else for the sake of their addictions. They are willing to blame others, lie, steal, corrupt others, and even turn violent to cover up and continue their addictions. Their near and dear ones pay a huge price. When everyone is in denial, and the tactics of silence, covering up and the blame-game reign supreme, those surrounding the addicts are demanded to play the roles of [b]co-dependents[/b] and [b]enablers[/b] of the addiction. Which only shields addicts from the consequences of their behavior, continues the addiction, and everyone suffers. With honesty, knowledge, and placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the addict to change his or her own behavior, there is hope inshallah.
  • Abdullah
    Harmful effects Relationship with Allah Is the most important thing to remember. This, for it, I continuously sever: I stop His worship in place of my own desire; In Najasa instead of Sajada. If I should now die, should I die a disbeliever? I stop reciting the Quran, Azkr, duas and the like. With dissipating sweetness of the tongue Heart, and mind; And the protection of the Divine. I slip and slide. Losing nights after nights: Along with comforts of bed, sleep, And companionship of dear wife. I give a lease of life to dormant Shayateen, Tucked away deep within. So it multiplies: I get angry; Feel depressed, Ashamed, and Embarrassed! A hypocrite – a MUNAFIQ; I give up in despair! Then, hurt the ones I love and care. What filth? Degradation of humanity; Abasement of the honored womb; so disgustingly, So disgracefully Loosing Bliss; yet it is to remain engraved Perpetually: in both the eyes of mind and in the inscriptions for The Last of Days! “Oh,” I cry, “Had that I had been blind!” How could I let this be – a man who supposedly Advocates human dignity? By now confused! Tired; Exhausted. Tossing and turning and gasping for breath! In choking revulsion and in desperation, I turn back to the only One who can help. Out of Mercy, again, He frees This rotting solitary from captivity. Soon with renewed energy, I begin to regain lost dignity; And go about picking myself up gradually. But as the sweetness of the tongue returns, I soon forget from what I had run. And once again return To that which I had recently left behind. Surrendering in pathetic disguise. Can’t they notice that I tell lies? Can’t they see that I don’t look them in the eyes? With the very condemned eyes! “What if they do so recognise?” I cry; As the thought consumes me alive. And I display anxiety and guilt around men devout; No doubt witnesses to this guiltily guise. So I avoid lending the hand; That’s equally condemned. But before the One who sees me clear; I seem not to fear. Why then do I consider Myself to be a believer? O Allah! Help me and brothers to finally Overcome. And let me and them Not die, except after confessing Eeman.
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