Anti-Abortion activists stage a rally in Washington DC. Across the nation, anti-abortion protesters are appearing on street corners and schools with graphic signs against abortion. A protest occurred earlier this year at Al-Huda School in College Park, MD as parents arrived.
Abortion is a hot button issue and with election season in full swing it’s being pressed hard.
Few political debates, television addresses or passionate platform pleas can escape the seemingly morally decisive viewpoint that often puts perspectives on one side or the other of the issue.
While religious groups have entered the debate providing perspectives based on holy scripture and moral standards the American Muslim community has not yet entered the discussion.
Islam allows abortion in particularly instances, in cases where the mother’s life is in immediate danger or in cases of rape. However, some feel as though abortion in political discussion should not be viewed as it would be from a religious perspective.
“Are you voting on it based on your personal opinion on it or [from] the perspective of someone else’s right to decide,” said Asma Hanif, a nurse practitioner by profession and the Executive Director of Muslimat Al-Nissa, a women’s shelter in Maryland. “That is what we are asking as Muslims in this country, to not have someone infringe on our right to decide...When I look at it from the aspect of someone else having the right to decide I don’t think it should be put on a religious level,” said Hanif.
Hanif, who is pro-life religiously, said she would never assist in or perform an abortion herself.
That stance cost her a job early in her career.
While employed with the Howard University Hospital in Washington D.C. she was asked to assist a physician in performing an abortion. When she refused, she was fired.
“Their position was that I was hired to work as a nurse and as such whatever assignment I was given, it was incumbent on me to perform the task as so assigned,” said Hanif.
Hanif took the case to court.
“My position was that I was religiously opposed to abortion and that they could not force me to do something that would be something that was against my religion,” she said.
Hanif won her case against the hospital on grounds of religious freedom.
As a executive director of a women’s shelter, Hanif said she’s been witness to abused women seeking abortions as a way of severing ties all potential ties to their abusers.
“If a woman comes and she’s been physically, emotionally and verbally for years I’m already sympathetic to her. Then she says that she’s possibly already pregnant and she sees the baby as being permanently tied to the [abuser],” said Hanif.
Hanif said she does not counsel people on cases of abortion because of her personal bias. However, she does offer her two cents.
“[I] tell them about the potential but [they’ve] condemned this child to be nothing but a reminder of something negative,” she said. “ You’re condemning the child based on the sins of the father.”
In a recent survey conducted by the Muslim Link Newspaper, nearly seventy six percent of survey respondents said they were pro-life with approximately sixty eight percent saying that the Muslim community should side with the pro-life movement because Islam forbids abortion with exception.
“We have to look at what Islam says about this and what the prophet (s) says about this particular issue. Before we jump to anything else we need to first look at what our deen says,” said Hassan Amin, Chaplain at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
Amin said that the Islamic rules place Muslims somewhere in between pro-life and pro-choice but the community hasn’t yet taken advantage of middle ground.
“In the beauty of of Islam, Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala covers everything for all time. You name the issue and Islam tackles it. [The Islamic perspective on abortion] could be the bridge but right now Muslims are on one side of the bridge or the other side of the bridge without being the bridge,” said Amin. “We can’t close the door on either one of them because of our deen. In our deen the door is open on either side.”
According to the survey, fifty eight percent agreed with Amin, that Muslims can create a bridge between the two stances while forty two said it wasn’t possible.
Even so, eighty three percent said that it was a responsibility for the Muslim community to weigh in on the abortion debate. Twenty six percent said that abortion was a non-issue and shouldn’t be actively discussed by Muslim leaders in the community, a perspective that Hanif felt could be a detrimental. She said that she has seen firsthand the result of ignoring larger social issues.
“I say this with a heavy heart because this is the same thing. [The Muslim community] is using [ignoring] abortion as they [ignore] domestic violence,” said Hanif. “It absolutely occurs.”
Hanif said the religious and social ramifications of pregnancies out of wedlock is a primary reason for Muslim women to seek abortions. While those who are not concerned with religious or social retribution may not find reason to hide a pregnancy, those who are part of religious communities with a strong stance on premarital relations may be drawn to any alternative that would allow them to escape perceived social or religious persecution.
Amin agreed that the issue of abortion should not be ignored in the community discussion.
“Yes it should be discussed in the Muslim community,” said Amin. “We can bring something new to the table instead of sitting at the table and eating what everyone else is eating.”
Aisha Raheem from Laurel, Maryland said she knew people who had undergone abortions in college out of fear for their future. Her concerns are not based in the act of abortion itself, but rather, the lifestyle that necessitates the action.
“I just think the whole pro-choice isn’t about right or wrong, just about choice, a woman’s choice, and her independence and not having her be the one to suffer alone if the man decides not to stick around. Raising a child alone is definitely a challenge but the real problem isn’t really abortions but the situations that lead to it. That’s the ultimate challenge,” she said. “Abortion is only a symptom of a disease and banning it is only a painkiller.”
As for why the Muslim community is seemingly mum on the issue, Raheem said it’s a matter of facing an unfavorable reality.
“I think the Muslim community may have a false notion that it doesn’t have much to do with us. No one would want to admit to even the idea of his or her daughter engaging in activities that would lead to such a thing let alone committing the act of abortion,” she said.