Body Evidence: Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America

By Shamita Das Dasgupta | Go to book overview

2
The Many Faces of Domestic
Violence in the South Asian American
Muslim Community

RUKSANA AYYUB

Since September II, 2001, Muslims have been thrust into the limelight in America. There is a great deal of interest in trying to understand the Muslim psyche. Muslims themselves feel scrutinized and under siege. Fear and suspicions are easily raised on both sides. In such an atmosphere, while Muslim religious and community leaders continue to point out the message of peace in Islam, others try to cover up and hide internal problems. In order to distance us from terrorism and violence in the world, many have started denying the violence that exists in our homes. As our outside world became an unsafe place, the worst affected were the victims of domestic violence, for it became even more difficult for them to speak out and seek help.

The Muslim immigrants from South Asia bring with them very strong cultural and religious beliefs. Islam plays an important and positive role in the lives of South Asian Muslim immigrants. Numerous Islamic Centers have been established in America, which act as religious and community centers to meet the community's needs (Haddad 1986). However, one subgroup of the Muslim population whose needs have not yet been adequately met is the victim of domestic violence, a subgroup that is overwhelmingly women.

Most South Asians prefer to see themselves as a model minority devoid of any problems like domestic violence (Bhattacharjee 1992; Dasgupta 1998a). To them, domestic violence is a problem of the modern Western woman. Nevertheless, a survey I conducted in the immigrant South Asian population indicated that one in four women experienced domestic violence in their homes (Ayyub 1998). Despite strong denials within the South Asian community, if 25 percent of women reported violence in their homes, one might surmise that the actual number was even higher.

Generally, Muslim women faced with domestic violence turn to their religion and families for help and support. The religion, culture, and families expect them to fit certain prescribed roles of wife, daughter, and mother. For those women who

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