Talking about Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community is never an easy task. But a small non-profit in the heart of downtown Herndon has been playing an integral role for the past 13 years in establishing direct services for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
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FAITH, the Foundation for Appropriate and Temporary Help, has been working with domestic violence clients, county leadership and local imams to address many aspects of domestic violence.
Ambreen Ahmed, FAITH’s Executive Director, has worked on domestic violence prevention programs like “Muslim Men against Domestic Violence,” and produced the FAITH publication What Islam says about Domestic Violence : A guide for helping Muslim Families.
Ahmed said that when she started working with Muslim victims of domestic violence she found that there was confusion about religion and culture. To clear the confusion for Muslim victims as well as the larger community, Ahmed wanted to create a manual which would clear misconceptions and give insight into what is permissible in Islam.
The manual was a collaborative effort of Salma Abugideiri , a licenced professional counselor who provides counseling to Muslim families as well as Dr. Zainab Alwani, noted scholar and Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the Howard University School of Divinity. Funding for this project was provided by FAITH, International Institute of Islamic Thought and the Center for Multicultural Service through a Violence Against Women V-STOP grant.
The FAITH publication was welcomed by many groups that serve Muslim populations, but are not culturally aware of the many customs and traditions that accompany a Muslim client. Being culturally savvy is one of the reasons that FAITH’s Safe and Peaceful Families program has been so successful.
Ayesha*, FAITH’s domestic violence caseworker of seven years said that the success of FAITH’s domestic violence program comes from the holistic approach they give to each of their client's situation. She added that besides the physical and material needs FAITH works to connect their clients on a spiritual level as well.
“We understand that religion and culture comes with our client,” said Ayesha*, “our clients’ religion is very important and they want to remain true to their [faith] while making huge decisions that fac[e] them,” said Ayesha.
FAITH provides their clients with the opportunity to meet with imams who have been trained to understand the dynamics of Domestic Violence. The imams offer spiritual counseling, connect the clients to other support groups and may help clarify their religious concerns regarding their personal situations.
On a community level Ahmed said that domestic violence is a difficult subject to approach and nobody wants to face it or admit that it’s a problem. In the past five years FAITH’s domestic violence cases have more than doubled. So far this year FAITH received 86 reported domestic violence related cases. Many are left unreported because of the taboo in our community, said Ahmed. She also cited the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (CDC) of 2010 which found that one in three women are abused in America.
“Domestic violence is an epidemic that is spreading through the community like wildfire, we all have to come together to see how we can save our families from it,“ said Ahmed.
Through the FAITH Safe and Peaceful Families program domestic violence victims are provided with crisis counseling, safety planning, connection to legal representation, court advocacy and translation services. Support is provided from the moment they leave an abuser to the point where they are settled in a new situation. FAITH works collaboratively with county shelters, other non-profits and area masajid to address the needs of the client. Ahmed said that FAITH does not take any decisions for the clients. FAITH ‘s role is to provide information. It is then the clients decision of what course of action they will choose.
Ahmed is actively involved with the Fairfax County Fatality Review Team, the Domestic Violence Policy and Prevention Coordinating council of Fairfax and the Safe Haven supervised visitation program. She believes that it is a community effort to address domestic violence and by having a Muslim presence it helps the county and other nonprofits understand the needs of the immigrant as well as the Muslim community.
“We’re not really addressing the community at large by preaching , said Ahmed. “ We’re making the change by helping the client. Our mission is to give our clients the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
*name changed to protect privacy
If you would like to purchase the What Islam Says about Domestic Violence : A Guide for Helping Muslim Families please email FAITH at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on FAITH’s Safe and Peaceful Families and or other programs please visit our website: http://www.faithus.org/home
To stay in touch with FAITH’s various programs please like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/FAITH-Social-Services/108621029175877