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    IO LE

    N C

    E A

    G A

    IN ST W

    O M

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    PA M

    ELA C

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    VIOLENCE AGAINST

    WOMEN

    PAMELA CROSS Foreword by Asma Barlas

    Health and Justice for Canadian Muslim Women

  • © Canadian Council of Muslim Women 2013

    All Rights reserved.

    CCMW gratefully acknowledges the support of Status of Women Canada.

    ISBN: 978-0-9688621-9-3

    Design by Sarah Khalid

    Printed and bound in Canada

    by Print Pros Inc., Toronto, Ontario.

    Published by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women

    P.O. Box 154, Gananoque, Ontario K7G 2T7 Canada

    www.ccmw.com

  • About CCMW and Acknowledgments

    Foreword by Asma Barlas

    Introduction

    Violence Against Women in the Family

    Femicide

    Forced Marriage

    Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation

    About the Contributors

    i

    v

    1

    3

    47

    95

    135

    173

    Contents

  • i

    The Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) is a national non-profit organization

    whose overarching mission is to ensure the equality, equity and empowerment of

    Muslim women. Founded in 1982, the organization has drawn upon faith and social

    justice for the betterment of Canadian society. For over 30 years CCMW has proudly

    advocated on behalf of Muslim women and their families and developed projects that

    enrich the identity of Canadian-Muslims, encourage civic engagement, empower

    communities and lastly promote inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding.

    Past initiatives include the coalition for No Religious Arbitration, the Muslim Marriage

    Contract Kit, My Canada and the Common Ground Project. CCMW is composed of a

    National Board that  works to further CCMW’s objectives at a national level, and its

    12 local Chapters and members, whose passion and hard work advances the vision of

    CCMW within local communities.

    About CCMW and Acknowledgements

  • ii

    OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES

    y We are guided by the Quranic message of God’s mercy and justice, and of the

    equality of all persons, and that each person is directly answerable to God

    y We value a pluralistic society, and foster the goal of strength and diversity

    within a unifying vision and the values of Canada. Our identity of being

    Muslim women and of diverse ethnicity and race is integral to being Canadian

    y As Canadians, we abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the law

    of Canada

    y We believe in the universality of human rights, which means equality and

    social justice, with no restrictions or discrimination based on gender or race

    y We are vigilant in safeguarding and enhancing our identity and our rights to

    make informed choices amongst a variety of options

    y We acknowledge that CCMW is one voice amongst many who speak on

    behalf of Muslim women, and that there are others who may represent

    differing perspectives

    y We aim to be actively inclusive and accepting of diversity among ourselves, as

    Muslim women

  • iii

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    This project was made possible by the endless support and work of our advisors and

    collaborators. CCMW would like to thank the following individuals and organizations

    for their time, resource and invaluable guidance:

    y Pamela Cross (LLP and Consultant)

    y Dr. Asma Barlas (Ithaca College, Professor)

    y Dr. Elizabeth Whitmore (Carleton University, Project Evaluator)

    y Springtide Resources

    y The Barbara Schlifer Clinic

    y The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)

    y The Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children

    (METRAC)

    y Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

    y The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)

    y The Social Services Network

    y The Indo-Canadian Women’s Association

    y The Shield of Athena

    y CCMW’s local chapters

    y Sarah Khalid

    CCMW would especially like to give thanks to the Status of Women Canada whose

    funds allowed us to turn our creative vision into a reality.

  • iv

  • v

    CHALLENGING VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIM WOMEN Asma Barlas

    Even if one is familiar with the long and sordid history of violence against women, it

    is still sobering to read about the persistence of sexual abuse and discrimination in

    Canada today. What is also distressing is that although citizenship confers equal rights

    and protections under the law on women and men, the onus is on women to document

    their own brutalization in order to lobby states for safeguards against it. They are thus

    doubly burdened: by the violence and by having to find effective ways to secure their

    own well-being.

    This is why these four reports, commissioned by the Canadian Council of

    Muslim Women (CCMW), are so important, because they not only detail the various

    forms of violence to which women are subjected but also propose some strategies for

    mitigating it. The most comprehensive, in my view, is educating both the women about

    their legal rights and the communities in which violence is normalized by appealing to

    religion, tradition, and/or national culture.

    In this context, while no community is free of abusive practices, the Muslim

    is beset by two further problems. One is that violence is committed not just by some

    husbands but also by fathers and brothers which makes for an expanded circle of

    familial abuse for women. The other is the tendency to ascribe this abuse to Islam’s

    Foreword

  • vi

    VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN | FOREWORD

    own scripture, the Qur’an, as the report on “Violence Against Women” notes. Since, for

    Muslims, the Qur’an is God’s word, the pervasive view is that God “himself” gives men

    the license to control or ill-treat women.

    Yet, as much new scholarship illustrates,1 and as the report also points out,

    one can interpret the Qur’an as rejecting women’s abuse, which raises the question as

    to why most Muslims cling so compulsively to its patriarchal interpretations. The

    most obvious answer is that, since they live in patriarchies in which male authority

    is taken for granted, they do not question their own approach to the Qur’an. In what

    follows, therefore, I will focus on some of the problems in Muslim attitudes towards it

    in the hope, both, of debunking the idea that Islam is congenitally patriarchal and of

    helping those who wish to work in Muslim communities understand how anti-women

    interpretations of the Qur’an are generated and the grounds on which one can go about

    contesting them.

    INTERPRETING THE QUR’AN: FOUR PROBLEMS

    The most theologically problematic assumption Muslims make is that God is a male

    since the Qur’an refers to God as “He/ Him.” However, these gendered references are

    simply a function of the Arabic language as is obvious from the Qur’an’s categorical

    assertion that God is uncreated, hence incomparable. To this end, it even forbids

    using similitude (metaphors that convey similarity) for God. Of course, if God is not

    a male and is, in fact, beyond sex/gender, one might ask why God would favor men and

    discriminate against women, as most Muslims hold, but no Muslim theologian has ever

    addressed this question.

    1 See: Asma Barlas, “Believing Women” in Islam (Austin, University of Texas Press: 2002); Amina Wadud, Qur’an and Woman

    (Oxford, Oxford University Press: 1999); Azizah al-Hibri, “A Study of Islamic Herstory.” Women’s Studies International Forum. 5.2

    (1982): 207-221 and Riffat Hassan, “An Islamic Perspective,” in Sexuality: A Reader. Karen Lebacqz ed.

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