islam

IC a Muslim

As an ethnic, a large percentage of my time is spent thinking about ethnics and how they fare in the world at any given time. It’s my life so I like to take stock of my opportunities and limitations and am always aware of how the way in which we are viewed affects the ‘sliding door’ points of my journey. I like to check my privilege, or how little of it I have. I do this often.

After 9/11, my world was irrevocably changed. The white women I had previously consumed Lambrini and cake with (I made my best efforts to fit in) were now sat on the other side of a clear divide, and I’m not talking about the partition between us in the call centre. Those of us buying western propaganda and believing brown Muslims were to blame for everything and the rest of us; Muslims, brown people, people that look like Muslims and those with an easy tan. There were some who bitterly chided that the West was a fool to think there would never be repercussions, that the raping and looting of the rest of the world had inevitably come back to bite them in the ass but the majority of voices asked for calm, embarrassed that the actions of a few would have such devastating consequences for billions of people. This did not mean a thing to the white faces poring down on us, suddenly we were liars and not to be trusted. I will never forget the way I was instantly placed into the group that we must not believe. I didn’t practise Islam. I wore the clothes of my peers. But I was that beige-y brown people can’t quite place, the unnerving ‘other’; IC4 but I’m not sure what I’m seeing.

In the weeks that followed, I’d catch my breath every time I’d hear about a woman having her veil torn from her head. A group of men were aboard the first plane that turned the world on its axis. MEN. But there were many women who suffered because of it. Sikhs too, on account of wearing a turban that symbolises the East to many who do not have the education to distinguish between cultures never mind race (and this, their own construction). What could the non-white people of the world do except accept their fate and apologise for people they have no allegiances with? For my part, the first time I was confronted with the Al Qaeda/Taliban/Osama Bin Laden theory, I was shunned for asking for patience. On this occasion ‘due process’ ceased to exist. I was either in agreement that brown terrorists made this happen or on the side of the terrorists themselves. I lost ‘friendships’ and was devastated by this at the time. Of course, now I see them for the racist imperialist fucks they are and take comfort in the hard life lessons learnt; I was not born equal but I would make it my life’s mission to tell everybody about it. They can tout me as deluded or contrarian but every so often the world reveals its oppression of me and those like me. Or non-whites if we’re going to be honest.

Jean Charles de Menezes was one of them. If we had any hopes of restitution post 9/11 (not from guilt but from between a rock and a hard place) the events of 7/7 dashed any chance of rebuilding the fearful paranoid Britain we found ourselves in. Menezes was not Muslim or South Asian, or an Arab. He just shared a similar tone of skin. What about his appearance made him look Muslim? Whatever it was, he paid with his life. We can’t bring him back. An apology from the establishment doesn’t cut it, he is gone forever. But his legacy lives on; every time non-whites are scrutinised in this way, feared and monstered beyond all recognition. Yesterday, a self-identifying ‘high Tory’ held me up as an example of a Muslim preoccupied with her own safety, failing to take into account the young fallen soldier. This, as an example of home-grown terrorism, how people like me exist to serve only their own kind. Firstly, I am NOT a Muslim. As someone who was dragged up under a totalitarian extremist regime, I should by rights have the privilege of reviewing the particular sect I grew up under. It would be perfectly reasonable for someone like me to express a negative opinion on a subject I know far more about. But I don’t.  I understand the world for the vast space it is and I’m damned if I feed the trolls. Secondly, I exist for myself but also for the people around me. I cannot understand the individual expects to flourish and succeed unless everyone else is also comfortable. That is selfish, that is greed. It describes Imperialism perfectly and people tend to view the world as thinking and behaving in the same way they do. They are wrong. When you have less privilege, you are grateful for the bits you can enjoy and in my experience; people with less tend to share more. The less privileged you are, the greater the chance you will become political. Or cynical.

In recent weeks we have been subjected to one horrific revelation after another; Britain’s darlings are wanted in connection with the systematic sexual abuse and mistreatment of minors. A pattern was emerging; white, middle to upper class, members of the establishment and big names in the entertainment industry. We were oh so close to identifying a trend that, for the first time would hold white men of power to account. That just suddenly changed didn’t it?

Black men hacked a young white man to death in broad daylight. They killed him and then calmly put it to the camera that they were fighting back. The other white people at the scene seemed to hang about without the perceived threat they were ‘under attack’. The killers calmly spoke to a white woman, she had enough detail to give a full page interview.

White people, if you seriously were under attack, would there not have been a massacre instead of what is clearly a targeted attack against one individual?

British government and media, why is this being presented as an unprecedented attack on a serving British soldier on British soil?

Four soldiers were killed at The King’s Arms, also in Woolwich, at the barracks not far from where the soldier lost his life yesterday. It was November 1974. The bombings were part of a year long mainland campaign by the IRA’s Active Service Unity.

How can we allow them to lie to us like this?

I am standing at the intersection and blinking slowly whilst this all sinks in. I haven’t the time to sign a petition for women to feature on banknotes. I am hyper vigilant and unable to sleep because my fellow human is under attack. I am under attack. I checked out the RadFems hoping for righteous condemnation of the way in which society is manipulating the kyriarchy as we speak but nada.

I did not ask to be born. I did not ask for this colour of skin. I didn’t even ask to be British if you think about it. When I am angry, when I ask why you don’t understand, it is from this position of loneliness and frustration. I want equality for women, this is patently true. But I also want equality for the non-whites, the others, the ones who have to deal with the shit that has nothing to do with us.

Without it, there is no ‘equality’.

The British Government and Media: Recognise that non white Brits are currently being terrorised

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-british-government-and-media-recognise-that-non-white-brits-are-currently-being-terrorised?share_id=oZoQlwdEze&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition … 

These are my privileges

Towards the end of last year I was hit with a couple of uncomfortable truths. My immediate reaction was to balk at the suggestions and defend myself with what I thought were righteous assertions. The first, that I as a British Asian woman had the right to feel suspicious of Muslim men as a result of the hounding I had been subjected to my entire life and secondly, there was no way my age could be considered a privilege because I had spent most of those years running away from my complete lack of said privilege. I also hadn’t completely got to grips with my cis privilege and didn’t know how to react to a trans woman of colour attacking me for alienating her. I didn’t know what I had done wrong and felt it was unnecessary. But I was willing to learn. And the reason for this is because I respected the people highlighting these issues with me and I wanted us to feel equal.

I did not want to rubbish the opinions of the people I respect even if my immediate reaction was one of disagreement. It was one of my new found intersectional friends who pointed it out to me. It was easy to reject his analysis because he was a university educated white male and it felt a little bit like control. His manner was unforgiving and he sounded like all the other men who have ever told me I was wrong. I was distrusting of this guy because he felt a university education was not a privilege. Lacking a formal education myself, I disagreed. But then another of my fledgling friends said the same thing. We were from similar backgrounds so when she said it, I had the realisation that I couldn’t ignore this, I would have to tackle my prejudices. I had to realise the world for the vast space that it is. Taking into account the meta narrative, the way in which ethnic minorities and in particular, Islam is portrayed was a good start. We are socialised into feeling a certain way about a group. Growing up, a community of a few hundred Muslim men made my life a misery. Add to this the monstering of Asian men and Islam, especially post 9/11 and it’s hardly surprising I would feel this way. I could not hold billions of people responsible for the community I belonged to. And I should reject the world as it is presented to me by the ruling classes. The predominantly white ruling classes.

The privilege of age was one it took a while to get my head around. I feel like I’ve only really been alive for a couple of years, savouring the little things that make life worth living is a relatively new thing for me. Up until the point of my breakdown I was merely surviving. I resisted the notion that I was privileged just because I’d a few more years on this earth. But then, watching my young friend and the ways in which she is ignored, undermined, caricaturised and only because she was 17, I began to understand what she meant. I made a promise to myself that I would make an extra effort to hear what she had to say, actively giving her a platform before others. It’s difficult because the hierarchical structures we have in place are entrenched in our way of thinking, because we have life experience we are ‘older and wiser’ but this isn’t necessarily true. We can always think and feel a bit better. We do not know everything.

When a trans woman of colour found me on Twitter and flew into a rage before we’d even been introduced, my immediate reaction was one of fear. I didn’t understand what was happening and I was really working on the whole privilege thing so couldn’t understand why she was so angry. I was afraid that I had done/said something but could not recall anything obvious and this worried me. Had I been abusive or dismissive and not noticed? I asked my trans* friends and they explained that as white trans women, life was difficult enough, being a trans woman of colour made you invisible. I was reassured that I had said nothing wrong. I worked at understanding her reaction. I’d been through life feeling as though I didn’t exist and I had been that angry too. To the outside world it might have seemed misplaced but not in my mind. Why couldn’t anyone see me and make it better?

It is your white friends that give you an idea of what it is to feel like a whole person. For a system to work you need compliance. If, from birth, you are treated as less, you will believe it your whole life through. I know I did. It’s why I remained in abusive relationships. It’s why I went out with white men who openly treated me like a brown trophy. It is my white (thoroughly human) friends who made me aware of this. The ways in which we are treated, the things that are said to us are simply intolerable to people have been brought up free (read: white). My friends show me when I am being subtly manipulated or treated in a substandard way. Of course when I am routinely stopped at airports I am instantly aware of how I am being treated differently.

I have always felt the power structure and even though it’s not been in my best interests, I have been somewhat resistant to it. The white saviour men have been washed out of my hair. The white friends who are proud to be British show themselves for the colonial masters that they are.  I was that special Asian, the one white people warmed to “you’re not like all the others”. I had a raging distrust of my own kind; I believed what they said in the papers. Y’see, in this country we get a wave of immigration and all the immigrants that came before are eager to show how they’re not like those work shy scroungers. Britain is at its best when it’s dividing and ruling. And I totally bought it for almost 30 years. I liked being a white pet and enjoyed the privileges it afforded; less overt racism than my peers. My Asian peers didn’t like this; I was accused of wanting to be white.  Luckily for me, I have a conscience and it was only a matter of time before it dawned on me that I was just like the rest and in denying this, was a question of my own integrity.

I also found that a lot of white people will never see you as anything but brown. They are actively encouraged to be proud of their empirical heritage. Like rape, war, genocide is easily forgiven when Britain is so ‘welcoming’ to the people of its former colonies. Mind you behave how they want you to though. You are not allowed a culture, an opinion without it being heavily scrutinised for terrorism. Someone called me a fool recently for saying the white man I had been engaged to was racist. He laughed at me once when I came down wearing a pair of mismatched pyjamas. He thought it was a ‘very Asian’ thing to do. HOW? The white brain thinks all of your quirks are attributed to the colour of your skin. Never mind the fact that he was in my bed, he pointed out every little thing that made me Asian. The hair on my body, the time I rubbed his feet, the bond that I had with my family; ALL ASIAN. When you are that obsessed by someone’s race, it is fair to say you might be racist. Especially when you think having an Asian fiancé is winning one back for the team. Well, those Asian boys love a bit of white meat, it’s only fair. If I hadn’t been seriously mentally unwell at the time, I wouldn’t have given him a second look. I don’t regret it though, he taught me a lot about this world.

I’ve had many a white person challenge the racism I have experienced in the past week. They’ve been looking for the P word or the N word and because they haven’t seen any evidence of it, I must be lying and using the race card. Racism and prejudice is not limited to language but rather the way in which we’re made to experience the world. It’s how they make us feel. There hasn’t been anything unusual about the manner in which I’ve been ridiculed or challenged. It is word for word the same as it has always been. Remember it is not your intention, but how you make somebody feel. If you have any respect or love for your critics, you are willing to change or at least think about it from their angle. My anger and my reactions have come as a result of feeling deeply disrespected and unwanted.

The onus is not on me, the oppressed, to make amends.

Monotheism and the War on Women

“..Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you” Genesis 3:16

The Church of England is procrastinating whether women deserve equal promotion to senior clergy, initially proposing legislation that would mean “it would have enshrined in law the very prejudices against which supporters of female bishops have battled so long. It would, they say, create a two-tier system in which not only female bishops, but men who ordained women or who had themselves been ordained by women, would be considered second-rate.” Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Taliban tribesmen are using ‘Sharia’ law to execute women ‘accused’ of adultery. Religions the world over proclaim peace and equality whilst consistently using their beliefs to promote power and control of women.

As someone who was indoctrinated into an Abrahamic faith from a very young age, I have my issues with religion and whether it can ever be considered supportive of the feminist cause. God is masculine. His first human was male. His first female wasn’t designed exclusively of her own flesh and bone; she was created from one of man’s ribs. In another tradition, Eve is described as being the second wife of Adam. Lilith was God’s first female creation, an equal; she refused to ‘sleep or serve under him’ and was banished for knowing her own mind. This version of events is not in any of the holy books. When God is a man (and a blond blue eyed one, at that) and all the prophets, disciples and saints (more or less) are also men, as a woman you face one of two choices. Accept that man is wiser; pure and blessed, and revere him as the creator and administrator of the life force OR open your eyes, revel in your ability to create fullstop and accept you might have been a little duped by the men holding the pens who, 2-3000 years ago orchestrated the abomination that is the subjugation of women through ‘original sin’.

Several thousands of years of being so tempting to poor, pure man that he cannot control his own impulses and only because he is so gullible and naïve; when confronted with an apple, he cannot control the urge to take a bite. Eve might have presented the apple but she didn’t force Adam to eat it. How old is Adam? Small children and perpetrators of abuse often bemoan “they made me do it!” And apparently God, the highly strung sleep deprived parent took Adam’s word for it and grounded Eve! Loving and understanding and forgiving God gave Eve pain. What should be a joyful miracle of creation marred forever more by Eve’s seductive ways. Obviously I don’t really believe this. Evacuating a fully formed human out of your body takes a lot of effort and is going to be extremely painful. Not punishment but rather basic human physiology.

Allegorically, the Old Testament is anti-feminist. It describes to men the punishment they face if they are swayed by feminine wiles. Did Eve nag Adam into taking a bite? Eve is beguiled by the snake, all slithery and penis like. He tempts her and she tempts him. And then because they know it all, God banishes them from Heaven. Desire is bad. Temptation is bad. It’s all woman’s fault.

Without desire and temptation, one is pure and worthy of God’s affection. Except God made each and every one of us horny! Yet men from all over the world don’t seem to want to own their desires. It’s easier to blame the witches and wenches. What is the value of female life when the honour between two warriors of Allah is at stake?

Is this why religious institutions openly defend their rights to exclude their female believers from more involved roles? There is a belief that they will tempt the holy men of the clergy into debauchery by being so pervasive and goddamn sexy?

We recoil in horror and our politicians condemn the slaughter of a woman whose country they want to pillage for all their natural resources. We’re more ‘civilised’ here in the West, we exclude and eliminate women through proper bureaucratic channels. The centuries old witch trials of burning free thinking women at the stake are a distant memory for many.

If we are all equal in God’s eyes, why can’t they prove it?

Religious men and child abuse

It was a long hut made of corrugated metal and plastic. They’d constructed it to fit on the side of the house, the back door in the middle just to the right of where the molvi sat on his throne of cushions. There were long benches, a foot off the floor, leaving a space where you would put your knees. We would sit in the prayer position, legs tucked underneath, feet splayed out to the side. He had a shorter bench in front of him; when it was your turn, you would go to him to read. The girls sat to his left and the boys to right. Being closer to the door, the boys always got to leave first. We’d stare on, those few minutes dragging.

I was 4 the first time I was sent to a madrassa to be taught Arabic and Urdu. It was a fair distance from where we lived but my mother would walk us there every day after school. There was just enough time for a quick cup of tea and a couple of biscuits before setting off to arrive just before 5pm. I vaguely remember the noise and close proximity of other children; all rocking back and forth, reciting parrot fashion the Arabic/Urdu alphabet; Aleph – Annar, Beh – Bakra, Theh, Tahthi.. Snapshots of a space in time I have very little memory of but a period during which I happened to learn an alien alphabet, progressing onto the first few chapters of the Quran. Alien because I could read it; recite it off by heart, but with very little understanding of what I was saying. Urdu and Arabic have a very similar alphabet and structure. Urdu was easy to understand, it sounded very similar to the languages spoken at home. But Quranic Arabic is art. It is complex and difficult to master. It was a language I didn’t understand. Shortly after I’d begun the evening classes, we were moved to the plastic and metal madrassa closer to home. By the time I left aged 11, I had read and recited it 3 times and was preparing to memorise the whole thing. I left because I could not take anymore. I had reached an age where I was able to make the decision that what I was experiencing was not normal and I did not want it. I was prepared to face the consequences.

When finding my niche, I did not have to struggle too much. I found learning fun, possibly a distraction, and had an aptitude for it. It helped endear me to the family; they had someone to pin their hopes and dreams on. I progressed very quickly through the Quran; chapter by chapter I impressed not only my family but my teacher. He would ask me to read louder so the other children could hear and ask for me to perform prayer, to show them all how it was done. I cannot remember feeling any joy in showing off my talents. Whilst eager to please, I was painfully shy. Inside I was sinking but I would do what was requested of me because I was afraid. He had a selection of sticks, bamboo and walking, in varying thicknesses. The thinner they were the more they stung. The thicker ones would leave a bruise but he saved those for the boys. Depending on his mood, your punishment was either swift; with a lash on your hand or behind or more in the way of suffering over a prolonged period of time. Children, as young as five and as old as 14, were made to hold stress positions. Kursi means chair in Urdu. Standing, you were required to hold your body in a chair like position, for maybe an hour at a time. If he saw you straighten or you shifted through pain from a cramp, you were beaten with a stick and made to resume position. Make like a chair, or a chicken. Bent all the way forwards, your arms round the back of your legs, you had to grip your ears from between your legs, holding the position for more than an hour.

We were all subjected to these punishments, boys and girls. The molvi relished barking these orders, his eyes moving over your body as you struggled to keep still. I can’t remember how old I was when I first recognised his gaze as something that was unacceptable. I had chosen to sit with my friends at the far end of the hut; it is there I first learnt about sex. I had already seen porn; my father didn’t think to protect us from such things. Aged 7, I’d innocently pressed play on the VCR on his room, my siblings sat on the floor around me. At first, I struggled to identify what I was seeing, I thought they were wrestling. And then, a close up. Horrified I reasoned the man was hurting the woman and hurriedly turned it off, shooing my siblings out of the room. I would later discover all manner of magazines and videos and toys. As I joined the dots in my head, I became increasingly distant and withdrawn from my father. Once, I discovered a video of a couple with their daughter. I never let my dad hug me ever again. We weren’t particularly tactile but that was the nail in the coffin for our father/daughter relationship. I was afraid. And I was also determined to leave the madrassa.

He picked on me exclusively. Or maybe he didn’t and I just felt alone. Aged 10, I was a young developer. My chest had begun to swell and I was due my first period. I’ve read up on studies where girls whose fathers are estranged from the mother begin menstruating, on average, 6 months before their secure peers. From my place at the far end of the hut, I could have a giggle with the other girls; we would make fun of this stupid sex thing and vow it was never going to happen to us. But it wasn’t to last. Just as I began my first period, he insisted I move to sit right next to him.

Knees tucked in, facing the wall, he was sat to my left facing the opposite way. He sat so close to me, his thigh was right against mine. He would stroke my side, pinch my ribs. It was all unwanted. Where once he had stroked my knees, now his hands would wonder up my inner thigh, stopping short of actually touching me between the legs.

In Islam, girls and women are prohibited from touching the Holy Quran during their periods because bleeding is considered unclean.  I risked damnation by continuing to do so. I didn’t want anyone to know I had begun bleeding. I was ashamed of it; I was only the 3rd girl in my class at school to have started. At this very early stage of womanhood, I was disgusted by the way my body functioned and utterly afraid of how God would punish me for touching the Quran with my unholy fingers. I would wrap a corner of my burqa around my finger so I wasn’t directly touching it.

He yawned, loudly and stretched his arms up wide and then brought his hand down hard to slap me square on the chest. Of course, this was incredibly painful but I stifled my reaction. He felt my barely even there breasts, lingering and stroking. I knew this was wrong. The way he sneered at me, touched my body at his every whim, I was completely dominated. And unable to tell anyone. I was sure they wouldn’t believe me anyway, he was like a local celebrity. A man of God, he was respected and the community would bend over backwards for the good work he did for them.. Educating a new generation of Muslims. He had the opposite effect on me. I became very un-Muslim. I had started to challenge God and thought he must be a pervert too, for allowing these things to happen. This wasn’t my God but a God for men who did whatever pleased them. It was the same God my father, grandfather and uncles held up as an example. And they were all bad people.

Finally, aged 11 I summoned up the courage to say no. My mother would complain that I was a lovely little girl before I’d started secondary school and she could just not understand why I was rebelling now. I refused to get ready for mosque. On arriving home after school, I would lock myself up in the bathroom. A couple of times, my father managed to beat the bathroom door down and slapped me about for being so defiant. But this would last at least half an hour into the lesson so I successfully managed to avoid it. It was only after one of the last beatings in this chapter that I disclosed what had happened to me. My father had dragged me onto the ground by my hair and was kicking me on the floor. I managed to escape and ran upstairs to my bedroom, my mother followed behind. “What is wrong with you?” She pleaded. And I just blurted it all out.

“You, you send me there. To that man. But he touches me! And you won’t stop him”.

She froze. I remember clearly that her eyes darkened and glazed over and she stopped, her breathing silent again. And that’s all I remember. Nothing was ever said or done. It was never mentioned to me again.

I remember it every time I hear a Catholic church story, and wonder how many millions of children suffer in silence at mosques. Of course they might not, but how would we know? Grassroots madrassas are rife in local communities. They are not affiliated with the local government and there is no way of ensuring they adhere to child protection guidelines. I am also reminded of the practice of removing body hair as part of your religion. I have made an association between religious men, the rules and paedophilia. I don’t think anyone could blame me for feeling this way.

Honour Based Crime: It’s Their Cultural Right

Domestic violence is illegal in this country. The term domestic violence extends to threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) and it doesn’t just affect spouses but also family members or members of the same household, irrespective of gender or sexuality. When an assault or threat of an assault is reported the police have a duty to investigate. Except in some cases they say they cannot undertake their duty lest they offend on grounds of cultural differences.

I am yet to encounter a culture where domestic abuse is enshrined as one of their respected practices. As in any culture across the world, the majority of people are peaceful and benign in their actions. They can be reasonable and resolve issues without resorting to harm. Islam, a religion that is touted as punitive and regressive to the development of women is often held up as an example by right wing pressure groups and media in the West of how men in the East continue to control their women because their holy book says so and somewhere in this book, it is alleged that God decrees domestic abuse as the right of man, it is not apparently a religion of peace as its followers believe but one of violence and control, oppressive and archaic. I’m not a Muslim by a long stretch of the imagination but I was institutionalised once upon a time. And I was victim to such abuses. However, I cannot say that I was abused because the good book said so. I was abused because the men in my family were hellbent on control.

Having arrived in the 60s, my grandfather (ex-army) had to muddle his way through British life by himself for the first few years. He found work as a foreman for British Steel. Without their wives and children, groups of men in their tens would share grotty bedsits in an effort to stay alive on the meagre wages they were paid but also to save so they could bring their families over. It was a time of deprivation and disorder; they were not wanted in this country. I think my grandfather was a very angry man, put upon and controlled by other men he could not afford to say boo to. And so the cycle began. They would bark orders at him and he would beat it down to her, my grandmother. She was a poor village girl he’d fallen in love with and eloped. Strange that my grandparents had what we term a love marriage whilst they forced most of their own children into marriages they did not want. I believe they did this because they felt they had to protect their culture. I remember my mother laughingly telling me how my gran had reacted to the news a distant relative had recently got married to a white man. My grandmother was adamant my sister and I should not hear about it, just in case we did the same.

Whenever any group migrates to new shores, they become insular, protective of who they are and where they come from. The culture in the Motherland will continue to move on and adapt, becoming modernised and globalised. When I went to Pakistan in 2002, I was shocked to find my girl cousins wearing short sleeves and getting their eyebrows done at the local beauticians. We were forbidden from doing such things. When your culture is not being oppressed, it is easier to move with the times. My cousins were not beaten, they were all studying and one was even going into engineering. Domestic abuse is not part of South Asian culture.

It is not part of Islam either. You’ll get the fundos with their beards and cropped trousers offering dawah, with their various takes on Islam and the role of the woman. One offered “if God did not exist (wait for him to finish saying his astagfirullahs) then woman would look to her man as her God”. Wait a minute, last time I checked it was women who had the power to create. If God did not exist (sorry god), then surely it is woman who takes the place of creator?

In relation to abuse, I have found two teachings which shed some light. Firstly, there is a passage on chastisement (domestic abuse to you and me). It is recommended, if the woman should speak out of turn (my mind usually wanders at such a sentence) then it is permissible to strike her on the arm with a ‘miswak’. A miswak is a twig from the Salvadora Persica tree which is used to clean the teeth. It is no bigger than your hand and about the thickness of a standard pencil. Texts are largely open to interpretation but I believe this to mean, you shouldn’t hit your wife. There is another teaching from the hadiths which suggest that if an argument ensues and your opponent is not a physical match to you, one must lay down on the ground. The change in stance has a calming effect. Perhaps I have chosen to focus on the bits where confrontation and violence are discouraged but when Muslims the world over call it the religion of peace, maybe it’s time we started listening.

Domestic abuse is not a cultural practice. It is the worst manifestation of control by people who feel the need to exert their control. I personally believe that statutory agencies are using this excuse to avoid having to deal with people they might not understand or actually care for. This excuse has gone on long enough, why are these agencies not putting some of their budget into courses designed to tackle culturally sensitive issues? For if they did, they might realise that saying domestic abuse aka ‘honour’ based crime  is a cultural thing, they ‘d be saying the same about us Brits. Where one person has intentions to harm another’s body or state of mind, the state has a duty to protect. Irrespective of the excuses the perpetrators think up.