CAIRO – An Islamic initiative to denounce domestic violence during Friday's sermons at Australian mosques has been praised by Muslim women groups, considering the move a “good start” to tackle the problem in the Muslim community.
“It’s the religious duty upon men to treat their women folk with kindness, respect and mutual love and care,” Imam Abdel Aziem, the president of the Australian National Imams Council, said in a statement cited by the Guardian.
“Islam disapproves of oppression and ill treatment of women.”
The Imams Council has spearheaded an initiative to address domestic violence in mosques across Australia where four women are killed each month by former or current partner, according to official figures.
The imams used their Friday sermons to speak out against family violence and the role of women in Islam.
The exclusively-male council’s initiative was welcomed by several Islamic women's groups.
“The position imams take is extremely important,” Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, Joumanah El Matrah, said.
“When I first started working in this area 14 years ago it was very difficult to put family violence on the agenda, it was considered a taboo subject.”
According to El Matrah, Islamic women’s groups have been helping in raising awareness about domestic violence.
Yet, the feminist believes that “men”, whether Muslim or not, are the main obstacle of their work in case they are not “receptive”.
“The resistance men have to addressing violence in the home always looks the same,” El Matrah said.
“They prioritize what they think is the wellbeing of the family over the wellbeing of the women in the family. It’s taken an extraordinary amount of time to make men aware that what makes for a healthy family is a woman’s safety in the home.”
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
Deeming the mosques appeal “very commendable”, Islamic law experts believe that the initiative would be a “wake-up call” for men in the community.
“The only way to get to these men is through the imams in the Friday sermon,” Jamila Hussain, a lecturer in Islamic law at the University of Technology, said.
“Things are definitely changing in a number of areas.
“We have a grand mufti who is very active and very open and not overly socially conservative.
Hussain went on saying: “And the Imam’s council is now younger and better educated, including a number who grew up in Australia and understand Australian society better.”
For Maha Abdo, who runs the United Muslim Women’s Association, family violence within the Australian Muslim community is driven largely by “cultural practices in certain countries”.
Abdo stressed that the wrong interpretation of the holy Qur'an is the main reason behind family violence.
“Islamically, it’s very clear that violence against women is very much forbidden,” Abdo stated.
“A lot of people, due to their lack of understanding or awareness of Islamic traditions, don’t understand that a verse comes in context. It’s a power issue.”
In Islam, marriage is a sacred bond that brings together a man and a woman by virtue of the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
Each partner in this sacred relationship must treat the other properly and with respect.
Woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.
By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect. She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.
Moreover, the relations between the spouses in Islam should be based on tranquility, love and mercy.