The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

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Note: This post may contain triggers for those who have been in abusive relationships or been through sexual assault.

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To highlight the issues that victims face physically, emotionally and economically, Femme Frugality will be discussing the issue every Friday. We will do this through a mix of stories, conversations and factual articles. To help raise awareness, please use the hashtag #DVAM when sharing these articles.

Domestic abuse is an epidemic-level problem in our society. The complexities of the dangers you find yourself in when you are being abused make it hard to leave. To report. To recover.

These problems are compounded, however, when you’re a member of a marginalized group. Today, we’ll look at some excerpts from The Feminist Financial Handbook.

In this section of the book, I was honored and humbled that Nour Naas — a survivor and advocate — shared her story and perspective as a Muslim woman who has lost her mother to domestic violence. Here are just some of her perspectives on how Islamophobia compounds the problem of reporting, and the economic effects of abuse.

“After my mother passed away, I didn’t want to talk about it,” says Naas. “The Muslim community is already targeted in so many ways through stereotyping and policies. I didn’t want to add to it. There are really obvious ones like invading all these Muslim countries and occupying their lands, speaking about people from or in those countries as primitive, saying things like, ‘We’re there to save them,’ and giving people this concept that these people are different from us, living in a backwards culture. But there are also stereotypes about Muslim men and women that make it hard to talk about. Men are supposedly violent and patriarchal; women submissive and in need of saving. You don’t want to reinforce any of that.”

Naas notes that Islamophobia is at times also in evidence at the institutional level, creating a mistrust of law enforcement that affects victims’ decision to report. In the Muslim community, mosques have been surveilled by law enforcement. Racial profiling is widespread. The police haven’t been on your side so far — why would they help now?

“Not having finances to leave your abuser is the number one reason women don’t leave,” says Naas. “They would have nothing to survive on. It’s a source of a lot of people’s depression when they’re in that situation. When you don’t have resources to leave, it just makes people feel hopeless.”

“You’re not in a state of mind to do anything because of those psychological scars,” Naas explains [about returning to work after escaping abuse]. “There’s a stigma attached to what a victim goes through. It can impact a person’s work performance or their ability to bring in an income at all. Women who are in these situations will sometimes resort to drugs or drinking, etc., to cope with the pain. That ends up being where all their money goes.”

Today, Naas is a political science major at UC Berkeley. About a year ago, she took her first training to be a domestic violence advocate and has been serving as a volunteer in her communities ever since. She has a special place in her heart for marginalized women — especially Muslim women. She is launching a new effort to create safe spaces for these survivors to share their stories and get help.

“Talking about domestic violence and making people aware can help get rid of the stigmas we have around it,” she explains. “That way, if this is happening, you know you just need to tell someone that it’s happening. We need a community of people who will help — who know it’s not okay either. That attitude is not really there in the Muslim community or in most of the country, for that matter.”

To learn more about Nour, read her story. You can also get more of the context of her comments and some potential financial recovery solutions in the book.

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