Do we have a Will to End Domestic Violence?
1/26/2011 11:24 AM
February 12, 2010, marked the first anniversary of the gruesome murder of general manager and co-founder of Bridges TV, Sister Aasiya Zubair Hassan. She was killed by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, the other co-founder and CEO of Bridges TV.
Many of you know by reading my earlier posts on the topic that this particular murder had hit me and my family very hard. We felt the Zubair family’s pain directly, as we knew if we had not acted on time the dead victim could have been my first cousin, Sadia, instead of Aasiya. Sadia is Muzzammil’s ex-wife. We were thankful to Allah for saving Sadia’s life. At the same time, we were very sad for losing Sr. Aasiya at the hand of an established, known abuser. Since we personally knew many major players of the story, our reaction has been mixed with grief and anger. Grief for Aasiya’s children and her family. Anger toward the community and friends around the couple.
Our feelings were shared by several other individuals and organizations. In Sr. Enith Morillo’s words, “[this tragic death] served as a catalyst for the birth and rebirth of programs and organizations addressing this social evil.” All these organizations and many individuals have worked very hard throughout the year and have organized various awareness programs and Facebook campaigns this month commemorating Sr. Aasiya and renewing their vow to end domestic violence. (See the links to these events at the end of this post).
As a consultant and affiliate of Project Sakinah, a Dar al Islam initiative to end family violence, I am pleased about the collaborative efforts by several Muslim organizations to end domestic violence within Muslim community. The in-depth planning of several events in 2010 and a national campaign to raise awareness about the domestic violence in the Muslim community seems very promising.
As a community activist, I am excited about the possibility of launching meaningful events in my own community with the help of Project Sakinah’s campaign tools and major DV advocates.
But as Sadia’s cousin, I am afraid that just awareness about the domestic violence will not be enough to save any life in any community.
In Sadia’s case, I know firsthand, it was not just the awareness; it was the will that saved her life from Muzzammil.
Like other DV victims, it was her will to live a happy life with dignity, respect and security.
And unlike some other families of DV victims, it was our family’s will, with Allah’s guidance, to save her instead of saving her marriage.
We are a big extended family of more than a hundred people including my mother’s siblings and their families. Sadia’s divorce was about to be first ever divorce in our family. We could have made it an issue of family reputation, but we did not. Regardless of the stigma attached to the divorce in our community, we made sure that she divorced Muzzammil and secured a better life for herself.
Not a single person in our family was concerned about the consequences of the divorce. Instead, we were worried about the worst consequences of keeping her in that abusive relationship for long. The possibility of her being unmarried for the rest of her life and the possibility of her younger sisters never getting married were very obvious. But we disregarded all such fears and concerns for the fact that Sadia’s life and happiness was more important to us than anything else. This willingness of our family to put Sadia's well-being above family reputation was a gift from Allah to us all, and one for which we all remain grateful.
By Allah’s mercy, it was the will of those who loved her dearly that saved her life. That will was translated into several prayers and serious efforts to rescue Sadia. The non-conventional imam at Rochester’s mosque supported and rightly guided Sadia to get out of that marriage as soon as possible. Her brother willingly stepped forward and threatened Muzzammil about the consequences of torturing his sister. Her mother came from Pakistan, hired a lawyer and filed a case against Muzzammil. My uncle and auntie in Rochester launched a campaign against Muzzammil and supported Sadia by all means.
It was not easy. All of these people suffered through emotional, social and financial distresses. They all faced boycott in the community at some level. Sadia was labeled as a bad woman for the time being. Majority of the people did not believe us until Sr. Aasiya was murdered. But Allah SWT granted our wish and accepted those efforts. Today, b y Allah’s blessing, Sadia is happily remarried with a cute little girl. Her younger sisters are also happily married and have kids. On the other hand, Muzzammil Hassan is being jailed for killing Aasiya and is waiting for his punishment in this world and in the hereafter.
That’s where I am coming from. That is why I think it is crucial to raise this fundamental question about will. Do we have a will to end domestic violence? At the moment, my answer for the general community would be no.
As a community activist, I am convinced that we have to create a will to end domestic violence. Awareness is good, but it is not enough. It is the first step. The second step to the process is the creation of the will. People must be willing to take an action to end domestic violence within their families and their communities. They must be willing to face the consequences. Unless we do that, I am afraid that we will be ending up in having several DV awareness events all over the country and online with lots of empty talks and photo opts but no serious effort in saving a single life.
Note: I posted this article on my personal blog last year. Please check it out for more posts on various topics.