Content warning: Domestic violence, child abuse, and violence against women.
If you’re being abused, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit their website for help; please keep in mind that many abusers monitor web usage, and access resources as safely as you can.
In one of the latest incident of domestic violence that took place in Houston, Texas, a Muslim American man killed his estranged wife, his 4-year-old daughter, and mother-in-law before he turned the gun on himself. The man came to his wife’s apartment on the morning of May 19, and the murders took place there at the immediate entrance, indicating that this was premeditated, and not a heat-of-the-moment circumstance.
The husband and wife were going through a divorce in the months leading up to the event. Court records cite verbal abuse from the man as well as physical abuse towards the child.
The Islamic Society of Greater Houston has identified the victims as Sadia Manzoor, her daughter Khadija Mohammad, and mother Inayat Bibi. Sadia was a teacher at the Islamic school Houston Peace Academy.
This tragedy begs the question, who can Muslim women turn to in times of need, especially in cases of domestic violence? It goes without saying that if we want to minimize the possibilities of such horrific events from continuing to happen, we must have others we can reach out to and rely on for help. Events such as this one pose an example that proves that disputes cannot always be handled within a family — that rather we may need to look towards external assistance.
This sister, Allah yerhama, did reach out for help — but help didn’t come. Multiple agencies were aware of the abuse. The police were aware of the abuse. Child protective services was aware of the abuse. The family court overseeing the divorce was made aware of the abuse. A local sheikh was also allegedly aware of the abuse. These horrific murders are not just a tragedy, but a multi-systemic failure by the systems and agencies tasked with “protection.”
Had the Islamic community and/or other suitable individuals such as mental health professionals (it’s important to note that Islamic leaders are not typically trained beyond theology, and may not be well-equipped to undertake matters such as domestic violence) intervened, this senseless catastrophe may have been avoided.
There is an undeniable norm within our Muslim community in which we tend to keep our problems to ourselves, no matter how much we want and need to reach out. Oftentimes, this standard results in the prevention of justice regarding familial matters — and considering a majority of abuses are directed toward women, it also promotes misogyny.
The more Muslim women are encouraged to keep quiet despite the gravity of their struggles, the more we will see such tragedies take place that potentially could’ve been prevented had there been others to get involved in the de-escalation and solution of matters.
There are Muslim women who don’t give in to this norm of keeping hush in fear of factors such as what society has to say or fear of bringing shame to our family/community. But then, who do they turn to when they get told by everyone around them to remain silent and patient in the face of domestic abuse just for the sake of “saving the marriage or the family’s reputation?”
This atrocity that happened in Houston, TX is not only a reflection of how far the misogyny that Muslim women and girls face can go, killing three generations of female Muslims but also a reminder that we should do better collectively as one community.
This atrocity that happened in Houston, TX is not only a reflection of how far the misogyny that Muslim women and girls face can go, killing three generations of female Muslims but also a reminder that we should do better collectively as one community. No one should ever feel unsafe reporting domestic violence, and nobody should be turned away when they ask for help from the community.
Domestic violence is never acceptable. If you know someone who’s being abused in any way whatsoever, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally, be sure to support them and help them secure a safe space where the predator will never be able to reach.
Visit National Domestic Violence Hotline for instructions on calling, texting, or using live chat for support and to discuss solutions.
Editors’ note: This article was edited on May 27, 2022 to remove mention of an unrelated case.