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Battered Woman Syndrome and the Muslim Conscious

Battered Woman Syndrome describes particular behaviour which manifests after relentless abuse.  The abused begin to believe that they deserve the beating due to not living up to expectations.  There is an inability to place responsibility elsewhere.

These symptoms seem to be prevalent in parts of the Muslim community.

Muslim communities in the West have been the subject of what is now being referred to as structural “epistemic violence”[1]—the slow and steady dehumanisation of Muslims through counter-extremism programmes like PREVENT which seek to coerce changes in Muslim beliefs and behaviour.  After more than a decade of being subjected to this violent programme, it has clearly taken its toll.

On Saturday, Muslims held a “not in my name” unity rally,[2] and sought to distance themselves and Islām from the attack. A day after, Muslim women gathered on Westminster Bridge while some women told the media that “Islam totally condemns violence” and reassured us that they were “in support of democracy.”[3]

As a Muslim woman myself, though I do not question the sincerity of these efforts, nor criticise the impulse to share in the grievance, I feel anxious. This is because such behaviour contributes to an anti-Muslim atmosphere which makes me mainly the target Islamophobic violence.

You see, sections of the Muslim community behave as though they are all to blame when they aren’t and they know they aren’t, internalising the dynamic of perpetual condemnation and desires to issue statements of rejection. It is a behaviour which reinforces the treatment of Muslims as a “suspect community”; that there is a presumption that Muslims/Muslim organisations endorse, in some tacit, secretive way, senseless violence unless explicitly and publicly rebutted. This expectation is set by government officialdom within the framework of counter-extremism, where Muslim organisations seem to get brownie points or chastisement depending on whether they condemn a violent act.[4]

It is discrimination.  And it is constantly reinforced by Muslims themselves.

What really takes the cake, though, is the fact no motive of the primary suspect in the Westminster attacks have been confirmed. Mark Rowley, rather irresponsibly declared without a shred of evidence that it was “Islamist-related”.[5] The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, mimicking the linguistic discrimination of US neocons in Donald Trump’s cabinet,[6] removed the ambiguity between “Islamism” and Islam and proclaimed that the “working assumption” was that the attack was “Islamic terrorism”.[7] The mainstream media largely followed suit escalating the demonisation of Muslims.  Indeed, it has been suggested that the motive may never be known,[8] whilst a connection to ISIS has been ruled out by the Metropolitan Police,[9] making the behaviour of some Muslims all the more embarrassing.

This has not stopped the government from taking advantage of the situation, however. With the information released that the perpetrator of the Westminster attack had used Whatsapp, the likes of the Quilliam Foundation were out to show how the messaging app had been used by “ISIS-inspired terrorists” as well.[10]  Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who formerly sat on the Political Council of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society,[11] called for access to encrypted messaging services.[12]  Using democracy imbued with fear to defeat liberty, Number 10 has similarly followed suit. As Simon Jenkins aptly shows,[13] the government has form in exploiting public fears to further erode the privacy of citizens.

Creation of fear needs to be fed by the imagery of an enemy. And, no doubt empowered by Muslims inadvertently supporting the anti-Muslim script through their internalised blame, neoconservatives did not hesitate in using the moment to attack Muslim living spaces, thoughts, views and Islam by declaring yet more Islamic concepts as “extremist”.[14]

Muslims need to rehabilitate their collective conscious and consider whether their actions are contributing to the prevailing, state-level anti-Muslim clime.  Moreover, there needs to be vigilance in how incidents are exploited by those who wish to erode civil liberties off the back of Muslim dehumanisation.

The following quote by an academic about neoconservatives I came across recently neatly describes what we have been witnessing:[15]

“[The neocon] Irving Kristol came up with the solution that has become the cornerstone of neoconservative politics: use democracy to defeat liberty. Turn the people against their own liberty… if you can convince people that liberty undermines security, they will gladly renounce it.”

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] http://www.heathwoodpress.com/epistemic-violence-dehumanise-reduce-person-status-object/

[2] http://www.itv.com/news/central/story/2017-03-25/muslims-in-birmingham-hold-unity-rally/

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/muslim-women-stand-solidarity-london-terror-attack-victims-westminster-bridge-khalid-masood-a7651361.html

[4] https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/135/135.pdf

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/22/parliament-attack-police-officer-four-dead-westminster

[6] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/war-on-terror-2-0-openly-a-global-war-on-islam/

[7] http://www.itv.com/news/update/2017-03-23/fallon-working-assumption-attack-linked-to-islamic-terrorism/

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/25/westminster-attack-khalid-masoon-acted-alone

[9] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/khalid-masood-london-attack-isis-al-qaeda-no-links-police-a7652696.html

[10] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/khalid-masood-whatsapp-westminster-london-attack-parliament-message-isis-terror-network-contacts-a7649206.html

[11] http://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/20/theresa-mays-cabinet-scrambles-disassociate-extremist-think-tank-tied-donald-trump/

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/26/intelligence-services-access-whatsapp-amber-rudd-westminster-attack-encrypted-messaging

[13] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/westminster-attack-tragedy-not-threat-democracy

[14] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dc402cca-1160-11e7-a660-52c57ff18a53?CMP=Sprkr-_-Editorial-_-thesundaytimes-_-CommentandOpinion-_-Cardkitandlink-_-Statement-_-Unspecified-_-ACCOUNT_TYPE&linkId=35857779

[15] https://coolnessofhind.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/theresa-mays-neoconservative-cold-war-against-islam-and-muslims-1/#_ftnref1

About Quratulayn Haamidah

A niqāb-wearing British Muslim woman, Quratulayn is a student of knowledge in the Hanafi school of law. She has studied law, works professionally and takes a keen interest in Muslim public affairs.


  1. Thank you Abu Saalih for insulting me instead of addressing the factual points I made about discrimination against women in Islam. Your request to Islam21c to stop publishing comments with which you disagree shows your contempt for democratic discussion.
    By the way, your rant contained nothing about the subject matter of the article, namely battered women, of which you appear to have nothing to say.

  2. When Shai Masot, a SENIOR POLITICAL OFFICER at the Israeli embassy in London was exposed for the serious national security issue of attempting to undermining the elected leaders of the Labour Party and plotting the downfall of two Conservative MPs (ones that disagree with Israeli crimes against the Palestinians) as well as the National Union of Students, it was brushed over by the UK Government! In fact most people in UK probably didnt even know about it but know more about Russian alledged involvement with the US election for which there is no hard evidence! They considered Masot a lone wolf saying “these remarks can only be attributed to one person” and “do not reflect the views of the Embassy or the Israeli government.” But following the recent Westminster attack for which the motive is not known, a collective guilt is imposed on the innocent Muslim community, and they are pressured to formally denounce it. The excellent expose by aljazeerah can be seen here: https://youtu.be/BUc0VoNYjyA – Also can islam21c stop publishing comments that are irrelevant Islamophobic drivel such as those by Jack and John Simpson and any other troll please.

  3. I thought this article was about “battered women and the Muslim conscious”. (sic) . What on earth is “Muslim conscious” ? Consciousness? Conscience would be better.
    The whole article never addressed the subjugation by Islam of women, for example when the wearing of the hijab is imposed rather than voluntary, as in many Muslim countries, and when women have inferior status in divorce proceedings.
    The piece was a psychobabble rant against imaginary enemies of Islam with little relation to everyday experience of battered women in whatever community they live.
    Don’t blame the societies and other religions in which you have chosen to live for the dysfunctionality of Islam in a democratic setting. Obey the law instead of trying to drag it down to the level of feudalism and male domination.

  4. A lot of Muslim men batter their wives. In my street there are 4 or 5 Pakistani Muslim families. Over the last few years I have seen at least 3 of those family women get battered by their husbands. One was particularly bad. The young Muslim housewife and been punched in the face and had a broken nose with blood pouring down her face and onto her clothes. Our front door was open and she come running in crying seeking refuge into our house. My wife consoled her and comforted her and she was crying her eyes out. Than her husband’s sister came running into our house uninvited, saying that it’s alright and that there has been a terrible accident. We were shocked at her lack of apathy and lying. Only minutes before we had heard shouting and fighting coming out of their house. The young Muslim women who had been beaten did not want to leave our house and I told her sister in law to leave. Than two or three other women came from their house and put mental pressure on the battered lady to come with them back to her house. I couldn’t understand what they were saying as I don’t speak Pakistani but there was no compassion in the tone of their voices while convincing this lady to come back with them. All that time the Muslim men from that house were just looking out of their windows clearly annoyed as to why one of their women who had been battered should run into a non Muslim household to seek refuge.

    I went out and stood on the street in the hope that by seeing me the Muslim men might come out of their house and talk to me but the cowards just looked on from behind their net curtains thinking I can’t see them.

    A few months afterwards, the sister in law was around again to her brothers house with her husband. This time the Pakistani family had another argument and this time the sister in law got battered by her husband and brother on the road. My wife was in the garden watering plants and the battered woman came running to seek refuge. He slapped her so hard on the face that he left scratches on her cheeks. I called the police to report it but nothing came off it as the woman who got battered afterwards said that my wife and I were lying and interfering in her family issues.

    The other Muslim families on our street also have behavioural issues towards their women. The women of their households come across as very timid and keep their graze always low when walking around. The men of their households don’t seem to hold any stable jobs and are out at random hours of the night and day.

  5. The most important thing to bear in mind is that victory and success has been promised by Allaah if we combine eemaan (faith) and righteous and correct action. All this begins by attaining sound Islamic knowledge. Allaah only grants that we be overcome by the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and suffer humiliation when the we neglect eemaan and righteousness. Allaah says:

    “Verily, Allaah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves (by committing sins and by being ungrateful and disobedient to Allaah)” [al-Ra’d (13):11]

    May Allaah guide us to His Obedience.

  6. If Muslims don’t do this, what do you suggest they should do instead? I don’t think I read in your article what should be done instead. Please, offer a suggestion/solution and not just remarks/criticism. Give some true guidance to Muslims and show them how to react after an atrocity is done in the name of Islam. Are they supposed to say/do nothing and go on with their life as if nothing happened?

    • There is no evidence that the recent london incident was religiously motivated or that it was in fact an act of terrorism. So I don’t understand why you are asking how to react after an atrocity is done in the name of Islam?!

      Even if an incident was an act of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islaam, the Muslim community shouldn’t have to be apologetic for it as it’s not their fault. We shouldnt have this mentality that if we do not publically rebutt such criminal acts that we in some way tacitly endorse them! As for clarifying that such acts have nothing to do with Islaam – this has been done for many years by all levels of the global Muslim community.

      As for what we should be doing – We as Muslims need to focus on the CAUSE and not the symptoms of our current humiliation and degradation. It is because we have become neglectful of the dictates of our religion. We need to make a serious effort to return to Allaah’s obedience and step up the da’wah (inviting others to the worship of Allaah, both muslims and non-Muslims).

  7. Excellent article. Masha’Allah. Unfortunately a lot of Muslims in the West think the our rizq comes from the British Government and not from Allah; otherwise I cannot understand why are some of our leaders are lining up to get ‘brownie points’ from the Government by issuing apologetic statements on our behalf.

    • I don’t know about the rest of the west but here in the UK I agree with the Muslims that believe “rizq” comes from the British Government and people. Large numbers of Muslims here are on multiple benefits which the Government provides. Also the British Government and people provide living conditions and working conditions that make it attractive to Muslims to migrate here.

      If Allah or Mohammed provided rizq instead of the British Government and people, I think you will find Muslims would have left the UK a long time ago and migrated to Saudi Arabia or some other Muslim lands.

      Sam, can you explain to me why huge numbers of Muslims have or are migrating to the west if rizq is from Allah?

      Also can you explain to me why if rizq is from Allah, the west along with the Far East (both non Muslim regions) seem to have more “rizq” than a lot of Muslim lands?

      Lastly can you explain to me that why does Allah grant more rizq to let’s say Somalis living in the EU or the UK surrounded by kufr and evil than their own country surrounded by fellow Muslims?

      • The Messenger of Allaah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “If the world to Allaah were equal to a mosquito’s wing, then He would not allow the disbeliever to have a sip of water from it.”

        This hadith means that whatever good things of the world Allaah (subhana wa ta’ala) has given to those who deny His attribute of Oneness, as well as the Prophethood of His beloved Messenger, He has given those things to them because the world, as a whole, is entirely insignificant and valueless before Him.

        We should not be fooled by what the disbelievers or Munafiqeen have of the luxuries of this world, for they have no share of anything good in the Hereafter.

  8. Great article maa shaa’allash – i think the way we are to deal with this abuse from the State / media etc is for us to TOUGHEN up, stand up to, UNITE and not be bullied into submission in acting in ways that contribute to the anti-muslim clime – just like the solution for a battered wife is to stand up to her abuser. We also need to work towards greater unity. Yes we have differences but we are all in the same boat and should put differences aside and work together for a common good – supporting our religion and each other. A surgeon may differ with a patient’s political views but that doesnt stop him being professional and treating him to the best of his ability. We need to stand united. You will find in most cases of abuse, the abuser tries to isolate the person being abused whether it’s keeping them away from family or friends so they don’t have a support network. This is very important because if you have people that will support, help and advise you it is much easier to escape an abusive situation. Islam21c deserves our du’aas, donations and for their ideas to be widely shared as their writings are a great support and empowerment for us – jazaakum Allaahu khayr

  9. Well put, in fact I have been discussing this amongst my work colleagues, and I actually used the exact words some Muslim’s behaving like ” Battered wives” for the same issues discussed in the article, nice to see am not the only one who views it in this way.

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