Thursday, 15 July 2010

Imams urged to condemn domestic abuse



Exclusive by Jasper Hamill
Herald Scotland
20 Jun 2010

SCOTLAND’S leading Islamic scholar is launching an unprecedented campaign to place anti-domestic violence messages in Friday prayers at every mosque in Scotland.

Shaykh Amer Jamil, right, the country’s most prominent and respected Muslim thinker, is to meet every imam in Scotland over the coming months. Jamil will ask the imams to tell their congregation about Islam’s stance opposing domestic violence, and give the clerics advice on dealing with the police.

According to police, there is a problem in the Muslim community of families failing to report domestic abuse. Scholars like Jamil also say that some Muslim men use incorrect readings of the Koran to justify beating their wives.

Jamil added: “When police or social work got involved, some men were saying: ‘Look, this is allowed in my culture and religion, you don’t understand’. That’s rubbish.

“Half the problem is that imams don’t understand the reality of domestic violence and how bad it is. I think that if we can get the information to them, it will motivate them to do something about it.”

As well as the messages in Friday sermons, there will be 30,000 leaflets distributed around the country in English, Urdu, Arabic and Bengali.

Jamil added: “Islam has no religious justification for this kind of behaviour. If this goes on in families, and someone knows their cousin, uncle or brother is doing it, they have a responsibility to speak up. If they don’t, it’s sinful.”

Jamil has also campaigned against the dangers of forced marriage, terrorism and ‘DIY Islam’ – incorrect versions of the religion learned over the internet often with a hardline twist.

His latest project has the backing of Strathclyde Police, the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Amar Shakor, chair of the Scottish Police Muslim Association, is backing Jamil. “We support this initiative that will provide education to the community on how to report domestic violence,” he said. “One of the issues we do have in the Muslim and Indian sub-continent community is in regards to the honour of a family if they report domestic violence, because shame is said to be brought onto the family as well. That’s a hurdle we need to cross.”

Shakor also wants Muslim men to know they can report domestic violence. “It’s not just women that suffer,” he said. “Some male victims that come over from the sub-continent suffer from domestic violence and there is under-reporting amongst men too.”

The Scottish Government sees the project as a strand of its own campaign against domestic violence.

A government spokeswoman said: “The project will make it very clear that Islam does not tolerate domestic abuse of any kind or under any circumstances. By working closely with imams and the community the project will challenge the misconceptions and empower more women to come forward for help.

“We support this initiative, in partnership with ACPOS, and will continue to do everything we can to tackle domestic abuse in Scotland.”

Half the problem is that imams don’t understand the reality of domestic violence and how bad it is

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