Metropolitan Police and London Mosque Team Up Against Abuse
In an unprecedented step, east London police are joining forces with a mosque in the capital to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police are working alongside members of the Minhaj Ul Quran mosque in Newham to organise a woman-only workshop.
Women from South Asian communities were targeted at the workshop as they face greater difficulty in getting the necessary help and guidance than those from other backgrounds due to the culture of honour and shame existing in Asian societies.
Chief Inspector Shabnam Chaudhri stressed the “importance of engaging with that section of the community” in order to provide support to victims of domestic violence.
In an unusual step for a mosque, the workshop, which was held in the main prayer hall where men regularly congregate to perform their daily prayers, allowed women to discuss matters behind the closed doors of their marriages.
One of the event’s organisers, Adnan Sohail from Minaj Ul Quran mosque, said: “Today we have told the men to pray in another room and converted the worship hall for ladies to come and attend the workshop.”
He said that mosques had the ability to “play a vital role” in tackling domestic violence.
Through the event, women were given the chance to discuss issues relating to a topic which is usually considered taboo in the South Asian communities, and were able to talk freely, ask questions and gather information during the workshop.
One of the female attendees said: “By holding it in a mosque, women feel safe to come out and talk about domestic abuse because they feel they’re not going against their religion.”
National charity, Women’s Aid, report figures which show that, on average, two women a week are killed at the hands of their current or former male partners with one domestic violence incidence is reported every minute.
However, according to Chief Inspector Chaudhri, these figures do not sufficiently reflect the number of domestic violence victims from a Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi background.
The abuse remains unreported not solely because of cultural and language barriers but also due to issues relating to honour within the South Asian communities – the victims don’t want to bring shame to the family by voicing their abuse.
One sufferer, who wished to remain anonymous, had been a victim of a violent relation for more than two decades before she sought help.
“I would get kicked, punched and dragged by my hair. One time he pinned me down and repeatedly smashed the phone on my head,” she said.
By not seeking help, the victim had “covered up for him and helped him get away with it”.
The woman placed the blame for her silence on “pressure in the community”, adding that “you have to keep it hidden to protect the man because he’s providing for you and it reflects badly on him to say you’re not happy”.
Shagufta Nasreen, director of Skills Rethink, which provides ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for South Asian women, blames language barriers for the silence of women from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds.
As English is a second language for many South Asian women, this prevents them from seeking help, Shagufta said.
“If you don’t understand the language you won’t know your rights,” she said.
She said that such victims need “extra support”, adding that these women “lack confidence” due to being unable to speak the language and, as a result, are at a significant “disadvantage” in getting the required guidance and assistance.
Attendees at the workshop responded positively to the workshop’s aim in raising domestic abuse awareness.
One such attendee, Haleema Hassan from East London, said: “It’s crucial to have something like this.” She described the event as being one which “empowers women”.
Organisers are hoping to partner up with other mosques in London to encourage them to hold workshops tackling domestic violence.
If successful, the project will roll out nationally.