Connection Point Manager Yasmina Mrabet interviewed Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, Co-Director of the Peaceful Families Project, about her work addressing domestic violence issues in American Muslim communities. Her responses are below.
I am a mental health professional by training and it was my intention as a Muslim professional to improve access to mental health services for Muslim Americans. I recognize that American Muslim communities have the same issues as everyone else, but don’t have professionals from their communities to address those needs. Working to combat domestic violence came up in the context of providing counseling on mental health issues. I was in graduate school doing a practicum and my first client was a Muslim woman who was beaten quite severely by her husband, and that was the first time I was faced with the issue directly. I was confronted with this issue by virtue of doing work in the mental health services field, and came to recognize how big an issue it is, and how taboo it is. A pervasive myth in American Muslim communities about issues such as mental health and domestic violence is that they are “Western,” and that people with our faith and religion are not going to have these problems. It is also taboo because of the huge value placed on privacy and reputations of families in Muslim communities. If we talk about domestic violence, it means forcing people to confront their cultural beliefs and interpretation of Islam, which causes emotional reactions. Women struggle with this taboo not only in Muslim communities, but in other faith-based communities as well. When the group focus is preservation of family, drawing attention to problems can be seen as countering this ideal, especially given the historical context of the anti-domestic violence movement in the US which emerged from a feminist movement that at many points departed from religious communities. So what we see in the Muslim community in the United States parallels...continue reading