A crowd of Muslim and non-Muslim women sit together in a packed cafeteria in the Masjid An-Noor Mosque for “Afternoon of Sereni-Tea,” a fundraising event for Resources and Help Against Marital Abuse (RAHAMA) which was held this week in efforts to recognize International Women’s Day.
The tables are topped with gold satin fabric; Middle Eastern and Western desserts sit on a platter for guests to enjoy, as they sip on Yemeni tea. Cultural differences aside, the women were all in agreement with one thing – domestic violence is an epidemic and must come to an end.
RAHAMA started as a grassroots, volunteer organization in 2006 and they are now a nonprofit agency. Members started out by doing community and educational outreach. RAHAMA board member and Social Worker April Arman said the nonprofit needs financial support in order to better serve Muslim woman in abusive relationships. She said it is important for people to make themselves available to help.
“Silence is an abusers best friend. We need to empower women, and give them a place to go if they need that. Women leave and return to an abusive relationship an average of seven times before they may decide to finally leave,” Arman said.
Arman shared with the crowd a wish list and the goals RAHAMA has. “We need board members, mentors, Muslim foster families to accommodate cultural needs for children, on-call volunteers to help with grocery shopping and purchasing other resources, a Marketing Coordinator, and someone to assist with educational outreach. We are raising money for a housing shelter and other resources. ”
A domestic abuse survivor who wishes to remain anonymous for safety precautions moved the crowd with her bravery. She spoke about her traumatic experience in an abusive marriage. She says domestic violence is not assigned to one specific culture or race.
“Domestic violence knows no boundaries. The more we educate people, the better chances we have of getting rid of the violence,” she said.
Although she is accurate in her statement, domestic violence can be treated differently in other cultures. Even in Western culture, there is a stigma against talking about domestic violence. In Islamic culture, the extent is sometimes greater.
Supporter and guest at the fundraiser Taslemma said domestic violence is not exclusive to Islam, however it “gets swept under the rug. It happens and we need to address the issue, and recognize that it is not a Muslim thing.”
You might be wondering why this is Muslim based, as domestic violence is prominent in all cultures and countries. The answer is not so complicated.
As Arman said, there are already several faith-based shelters, but there are none which cater to Muslim women. Muslim women have cultural and religious requirements, and they are not always accommodated in other shelters. Some Muslim women need a space to pray, access to local Imam’s, halal food, and simply to be surrounded by people who understand them, their religion, and their culture.
“We need a place for local woman to go, some will not go to the shelters that already exist because of these restrictions. There are a lot of obstacles to deal with.”
To learn more about RAHAMA, check out their website: http://www.rahama.org/