Waheeda Samady: Domestic Violence Does Not Discriminate

Courtesy: La Prensa San Diego

By Vivian Moon
Fri, Aug 7, 2009

Education leads to prevention

Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, social, and economic borders. Dr. Waheeda Samady, a medical resident at UC San Diego, has embarked on a project to fight the on-set of family violence and explore ways to better educate the public on its prevention, focusing on Muslim communities in San Diego. By working with local organizations, Dr. Samady marks the importance of awareness and proactive efforts to maintain respect within families. As a Muslim herself, Dr. Samady also acknowledges the costs of stereotyping minority groups, and the resulting barriers that can make seeking help all the more difficult.

Dr. Samady works closely with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to bring a better knowledge of both domestic violence and available resources to the Muslim community. Together, Dr. Samady and CAIR are planning to make family violence the topic of at least one Friday prayer sermon at Islamic centers in San Diego, an effort that can reach thousands who attend these weekly prayer services. A leadership conference is also in the works, and will seek to bring together social workers, lawyers, advocates, religious leaders, congressional organizational leaders, and doctors, with the goal to teach community leaders how to deal with issues of family violence.

In order to make this all happen, Dr. Samady is working on getting funding, not only for the conference, but also to provide CAIR with the funds to equip Muslim community leaders with resource kits, which educate their communities on family violence prevention and resources. Such kits will include binders with directories of social workers, counselors, and Arabic and Urdu translators. The grant would also allow for ongoing efforts in spreading awareness at local religious institutions.

In addition to her extensive work with CAIR, Dr. Samady has worked to spread the message at Islamic centers and local high school and college campuses. At Islamic centers in San Diego, she created resources to deal openly with family violence. Her “Boys into Men” posters aim to inform young males about maintaining family morale and positive child rearing, both of which are at the heart of prevention. The posters, printed in English, were also translated to Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu to further her reach to the community. Dr. Samady also works with Muslim youth groups to teach young individuals upright skills in raising families. UC San Diego’s Muslim Student Association and Islamic Center of San Diego’s youth group are two groups in which she discusses domestic violence prevention. Working with youth is one of Dr. Samady’s key concerns because she believes the best time to prevent harmful relationships is before they start, at the beginning of possible long-term relationships.

Although Dr. Samady’s project focuses on domestic violence prevention in the Muslim community, she is careful to clarify that her focus does not indicate a higher rate of domestic violence among Muslims. Even further, she is mindful of the fact that stereotypes of Islamic culture have created, and continue to create, barriers to prevention and resources. She has observed that some Muslims do not recognize family violence among their peers because it is hard for them to accept that this can happen within their community as it violates the basic ideals of their religion. On the other extreme, negative media attention about the Muslim community has stereotyped a large and diverse group of people as violent and oppressive, in turn minimizing the instances when family violence does occur. Dr. Samady also points out that Muslim-Americans are an especially diverse group, including as many as 26 different ethnicities, speaking numerous languages, and coming from as far as African villages or the biggest cities in India. With such geographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity, comes a wide variety in religious tradition, as well.

Dr. Waheeda Samady embraces her ongoing project, seeking more than the prevention of domestic violence. She also educates the community about available resources, asks questions on how to provide best for those suffering, and gets involved in her patients’ over-all health. She explains, “Domestic violence does not discriminate against any one,” and through her fight against family violence, Dr. Samady continues to help break the silence and embrace awareness of an issue that is relevant to all our well-being.

Vivian Moon is an intern with the UC San Diego Comprehensive Research Center in Health Disparities (CRCHD) and is majoring in Literature/Writing with a minor is Political Science at UC San Diego. The CRCHD is a partnership of organizations focusing on community minority health and health disparities research. This publication  was supported by the UC San Diego Comprehensive Research Center in Health Disparities, Grant Number 5 P60 MD 000220 from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health.

Editor's Note: This story has been republished with the permission of La Prensa San Diego

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