Salma Abugideiri is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in trauma and couples therapy. She is also the co-director of the Peaceful Families Project, an organization devoted to ending domestic violence in Muslim families. Salma develops and conducts awareness workshops about domestic violence for Muslim leaders and communities, and trainings for people who work with Muslim families. She also conducts research and has a few publications, including a co-edited book titled Change from Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities.
In honor of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Amal Killawi interviewed Salma Abugideri about her work with domestic violence and the Peaceful Families Project.
Tell us about the Peaceful Families Project.
The Peaceful Families Project was founded in 2000 by Sharifa Alkhateeb, as a result of a survey she conducted to determine the prevalence of domestic violence among Muslims in the United States. She passed away in 2004, but she left behind a legacy—may God have mercy on her soul.
The goal of PFP is to end domestic violence in Muslim families through prevention, to educate people about the prevalence of domestic violence and to use Islamic teachings and values to address attitudes that might either tolerate domestic violence or encourage it.
We believe very strongly that change from our community has to come from within our own Islamic paradigm, and so we’ve based all of our trainings and materials on that belief.
What is the rate of domestic violence in the American Muslim community?
Domestic violence includes all forms of abuse: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, and spiritual. Based on the few studies that we have about Muslims in America, we know that 12-18% of Muslims in the United States experience physical abuse, and 30-40% experience emotional abuse. Readers can refer to the 2009 SoundVision survey for example. Compare these statistics to the well-known fact that 1 in 4 women in the general American population are affected or will be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. I also come across information of approximately one domestic violence fatality each month in the Muslim community. My guess is that the numbers are higher because fatalities are sometimes reported as suicides or accidents and not identified as domestic violence.
Some people may challenge these statistics.
Numbers are important to a point, and people certainly need numbers to be convinced that this is a real problem. But it’s really important that when we look at numbers, we pay attention to what these numbers are referring to. Every research study will ask slightly different questions to different populations. Domestic violence is a difficult issue to get solid numbers on, but to me, the numbers that we have are enough to say that this is a serious issue. And as Muslims, we have a responsibility to do something about it and to get rid of it.
Don’t these statistics reinforce the stereotype of Muslim men being abusive to their women?
I’m not saying that Muslim men are more likely to abuse their wives. Muslim women like other women in the world are at risk of getting abused because they have lesser positions of power in the family and in society. The majority of Muslim men are not abusive. More Here