Afrin Shakeel, a 23-year-old, filed a petition on Change.org, demanding Imam of mosques in Gujarat to address domestic violence after Friday prayers. “When I heard my cousin’s story of abuse and trauma, I was shaken to my core. How can an educated human do this to his own spouse? Clearly, there is a lot of conditioning that has gone into building such a narrative where a man can strike his wife. This is why I filed the petition,” she said.
Shakeel, a Biomedical Engineering graduate who is now preparing for the Civil Services Examination, addressed the Chief Imam of India Dr Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi directly in her petition and garnered 10,522 signatures.
Shakeel even reached out to Dr Ilyasi on Twitter and urged him to address the issue as soon as is possible and received a positive response from him.
The Quint spoke to both Shakeel and Dr Ilyasi to understand how the issues of domestic violence and abuse can be tackled within the ambit of religion.
Some on Change.org lauded her move. Tanweer Khan from Kolkata said, “No husband has the right to beat his wife over disagreement. Stop using Islam to justify such evil deeds.”
Naushin Khan signed the petition and commented, “I’m signing because I strongly believe that men are in need of better upbringing in strong morals. We need to develop a better place for all individuals irrespective of caste or gender.”
Shakeel is of the view that religion plays a crucial role in the lives of Muslims and the community can be most influenced by their masjid’s Imam.
“In Islam, we have a Friday congregation where scholars give lectures and address issues faced by Muslims in their community. I thought this was a great idea to pitch to the Imam so he can organise lectures specifically on domestic violence and abuse so that men can also be engaged and realise they should treat their wives with kindness and respect...” she said.
Meanwhile, The Quint talked to Dr Ilyasi in Delhi. He commended the courage Shakeel had displayed by speaking out against the issue and said,
“I appreciate Afrin’s courage because people generally tolerate such behaviour. If she won’t open up then how will her plight reach an Imam. Afrin has paved the way so that if at all someone is facing domestic violence then the Imam can take responsibility. Afrin has come to the right place. Her petition directs the Imams and Ulemas to take responsibility and we accept this responsibility.”
Dr Ilyasi claimed to have already spread the word among other Imams. “In Pune we are planning to start this. Similarly, we are spreading this across India and in many places and we hope that this takes off whereby we can spread a good message in society and improve it and end the injustice. Not just Imams, temple priests, bishops in churches too have a responsibility to address domestic violence as it is prevalent in all societies across religions.”
Shakeel told The Quint that she is supported by her family and has even come across young men who witnessed the trauma of domestic violence while growing up. She stated,
“These men have seen the pain and suffering their mothers and aunts have endured and they want to put an end to this cycle of abuse. It is important to engage men when they are really young because their minds can be moulded. They need to be raised in an environment where they see their parents engage in healthy conversations devoid of any physical or psychological trauma or abuse.”