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Just like everyone else, young British Muslims are looking for love - but often, the process of finding a partner takes place against the backdrop of the pressures of family, community, culture and faith. For some, even talking about it - especially using dating to find a partner - can be considered taboo. That's why we decided to talk about it in the latest episode of our series Young, British and Muslim. We looked at the pressures and expectations facing a diverse range of British Muslims and asked whether matchmaking, social media and online dating have made it easier to find someone. As divorce rates are rising across the UK, we examined the very different set of issues and problems divorce has within the community. With one Muslim women's helpline reporting that divorce is one of the top three issues it takes calls on, we ask why does such a taboo remain.
'I'm not his property': Abused Muslim women denied right to divorce
Updated April 18, Women apply for most Islamic divorces in Australia, but imams often refuse to grant them. Muslim leaders have condemned domestic violence, though some still teach that husbands can control their wives. Other articles in this series have examined Islam , mainstream Protestant denominations , the Catholic Church , Christian clergy wives , Hindu and Sikh communities , and Jewish divorce laws.
I taped it thinking no one would believe me. Once inside the building, a glass-fronted office space wedged between an electrical store and a denture clinic on a sleepy stretch of Sydney Road, Noor sat down nervously before a panel of five male imams and carefully recounted the years of physical, emotional and financial abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, who had recently breached the intervention order she had taken out against him.
He often criticised and yelled at her in front of the kids, she told ABC News, for petty reasons — for example, if she didn't prepare food to his liking. For a long time, she believed his violence was her fault. He also repeatedly threatened to take another wife, which hurt and distressed Noor, not only because they were already struggling financially.
Muslims in Australia may have a civil divorce, but if they do not also obtain a religious divorce, they are considered still married in Islamic law — and in the eyes of their community. Getting an Islamic divorce, however, can be a difficult and protracted process, especially for women, who face stricter requirements for initiating divorce than men, depending on the laws of their cultural community.
While a husband is allowed to divorce his wife at any time, without cause, often imams will not grant a woman divorce without her husband's consent, or proof she has legitimate grounds for an annulment which, depending on the legal school, can include infidelity, physical, financial or emotional harm, and sexual dysfunction.
In theory, domestic violence is one such reason: But in practice, advocates and survivors say many imams are denying women the right to divorce, in too many cases detaining them in abusive marriages for years. This was Noor's experience. Having presented the Board of Imams with what she believed was sufficient evidence, she was hopeful they'd acknowledge her husband's violence and swiftly grant a divorce.
Instead they dismissed the tape, she said, and told her to give the relationship another chance. When she insisted she had tried, that she had made up her mind, they told her they needed to hear her husband's "side of the story" and that they'd be in touch after that. It took six months for the Board of Imams to get back to her, Noor said, at which point they claimed to have forgotten the details of her case and asked her to come back in to retell her story.
Eventually, after a year of waiting, calling, praying, Noor — who had moved in with her parents — withdrew her divorce application, defeated and depleted. At that stage she wasn't interested in starting a new relationship; she simply longed to be free of a man who for years had controlled every aspect of her life.
I just wanted closure for me and my children, and at the same time I wanted [my ex] to stop saying I was his wife. In many Muslim countries around the world, women-led campaigns to reform Islamic laws governing marriage and divorce are gaining momentum. In India, for example, the government is set to introduce new laws banning Muslim men from instantly divorcing their wives simply by pronouncing "talaq" — the Arabic word for divorce — three times.
Some countries — including Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Morocco — also stipulate women's right to initiate divorce in standard marriage contracts. But in Australia, where Islamic law sharia operates in the shadow of the official legal system and the all-male imams who administer it with impunity, Muslim women's right to leave a marriage is not always recognised. Compounding the problem, social workers and survivors say, is the fact that many imams are ignorant or dismissive of the dynamics and seriousness of domestic violence.
There is no evidence suggesting Muslim women experience domestic abuse at a higher rate; no reliable data on this question has ever been collected in Australia. ABC News has interviewed several Muslim women in Australia who have experienced great difficulty getting a divorce. Many were threatened, raped or beaten by their husbands after instigating the process; one, a Lebanese Muslim woman living in Melbourne, said she had left her husband nine years ago but had been denied a divorce several times by the Board of Imams Victoria, who said they couldn't track the man down to seek his approval.
Now, advocates are sounding the alarm and demanding agency and equality for women in the Islamic divorce process, which they say is not only stacked against women and re-traumatising for survivors of abuse, but putting women's lives at risk. Trapping women in unwanted marriages is a form of abuse, Salma says, and a violation of human rights: Imams say they have taken steps in recent years to improve the process for women — for example, by participating in family violence training programs and employing women to assist with divorce applications involving domestic abuse.
But an ABC investigation — part of an ongoing series examining the complex links between religion and domestic violence — has found that just in the past few weeks, several women with family violence intervention orders have been told to return to unsafe marriages by the Board of Imams Victoria. In Victoria, a family violence intervention order is made by a magistrate to protect a person from family violence, including physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.
One woman who had suffered severe physical and emotional abuse by her husband for more than a decade applied to the Board of Imams Victoria for a divorce earlier this year. But according to a family violence worker assisting the woman, during one of her meetings the imams said they would not finalise the divorce unless she first came in to discuss the terms with her husband.
The fact that she had an intervention order against him didn't matter, they said; she could sit in one corner of the room and her husband in another. In a subsequent meeting, the worker said, the imams told the woman to go back to her husband and "try again" for a month. They said, 'for the sake of the kids, go back'," she said. Part of the problem is the stubborn belief among many imams that domestic abuse is only ever physical.
The two imams handling her divorce application disregarded her husband's abuse and insisted she go back to him, she said, despite the fact she had left him several times in recent years and had previously taken out an intervention order against him. Her husband, who is still refusing to agree to the divorce, had been controlling from the beginning of their marriage, she told ABC News: He even tracked the kilometres she drove in the car, she said, and accused her of lying about where she'd been if the odometer showed a higher reading than he believed was appropriate.
But they were like, 'But he doesn't hit you' Because he wasn't hitting me they didn't consider it domestic violence," Maryam said. Survivors say this attitude — that women are unqualified to make decisions about their own safety and wellbeing — is evident among Australia's most senior Islamic clerics. A new Mufti was elected last month. Sitting in his Fairfield office, she claims she told him she had fled the marital home and was adamant there was no going back: He told me to go away and think about it before I made a decision.
At no point during her meetings with him, she claims, did the Mufti refer her to any domestic violence services or suggest she go to police: And yet I was being made to feel as if I was making the wrong decision, that I didn't know how to keep a marriage going After several weeks — and, according to Yasmin, two heated arguments with the Mufti about her Islamic rights and entitlements — she says she was reluctantly granted a divorce, though her dealings with him and other Western Sydney imams have left her scarred.
He stressed that he does not divorce couples, nor officiate Islamic marriages, and "does not ordinarily meet with members of the public to discuss these issues". He added that it is the Australian National Imams Council's "procedure to refer the victims of any suspected emotional or psychological forms of domestic abuse to a psychologist … and any physical domestic abuse to the police" and that he has "certainly employed this practice in his personal capacity".
So if refusing to let women leave violent marriages is, as imams insist, "not the way", if they are taking domestic violence as seriously as they claim, why are women still struggling to access religious divorce? What can be done? And why are so few women prepared to speak out about their experience? ABC News has interviewed dozens of survivors, social workers, women's advocates, academics and imams over the past four months with three main findings.
First, the Islamic divorce process is often inconsistent and ad-hoc, confusing for women to navigate, lacking in procedural fairness and administered by imams who operate with no oversight or accountability. Second, imams' response to women seeking divorce from abusive husbands shows a persistent lack of awareness — or worse, a blatant ignorance or denial — of the dynamics of domestic violence and the legal conditions of intervention orders.
As a result, women are being told by imams who claim to be acting in the name of Islamic law to be patient with violent marriages. But the crux of the issue, experts say, is the fact that the laws governing Islamic divorce in Australia are based on deeply conservative, patriarchal interpretations of Islam, which means women's rights are ultimately ignored. As Salma said: In addition, many Muslims believe Islamophobia in Australia continually distorts any discussion of their religion with an intensity and focus on fringe groups or sentiments that do not represent the whole community.
This, they say, deters them from speaking out about issues like gender inequality and domestic violence and is stifling progress in Muslim communities, by giving cover to imams, and perpetuating the silence among women, leaving them more vulnerable to abuse. Simply raising the issue is often construed as an attack on Islam, rather than an opportunity to examine cultural factors — or patriarchal structures — within Muslim communities that may be exacerbating or concealing abuse.
The little evidence that has been produced on family violence in Muslim communities has long been buried. A decade ago, imams accused of condoning domestic violence were put on notice when a landmark report by the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria revealed some imams were condoning rape in marriage, hindering police from pursuing domestic violence charges and denying abused women seeking Islamic divorce their rights and entitlements.
The research, which was commissioned and funded by the Howard Government, involved " extensive community consultation " with Muslim women, community and legal workers and police. Imams, who it said were ill-equipped to respond to complex modern problems including marriage, divorce and domestic abuse, were also reported to have conducted polygamous and underage marriages.
In response, Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam, then Mufti of Australia, said it was "absolutely wrong" that women's rights were ignored in marriage or divorce, or that imams brushed aside domestic violence. He also "absolutely" denied the issues raised in the report. The report then vanished and has never been publicly released; the Home Affairs department said it was unable to supply ABC News with a copy because "it is not a publicly available report".
It declined to provide further comment. However, the problems identified in the report are still significant, and remain unaddressed, Muslim women say. A close examination of public statements by some influential Muslim clerics reveals conflicting messages about whether Islam allows for — or even at times condones — the non-physical abuse and control of women. Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, the president of the Australian National Imams Council, was the lead signatory on a letter signed last year by more than 30 Muslim figures that condemned "all forms of intimidation and abuse targeting women".
Blunt and unequivocal, the statement was released after a Facebook video — in which two women from the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir discuss the apparent right of husbands to physically discipline disobedient wives — sparked fierce backlash. And for three years in a row in , and , to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November, the National Imams Council called on imams around the country to deliver a special Friday sermon — or khutbah — on domestic violence.
In public lectures Mr Alsuleiman has often admonished Muslim men to honour and "look after women in the most respectful manner" and railed against troubling attitudes towards women in modern Muslim communities. Some men still boast about telling off their wives, and putting "fear in [their] heart", he said in a lecture about women. In the same sermon, he stressed that men should "never strike the face … never hit" their spouse: But while many Muslim leaders and imams in Australia are consistent in their denouncing of physical violence, what is less clear is their approach to emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse.
A consistent theme in public pronouncements by imams both here and overseas is that men have the authority to control the movements and actions of their wives, and that women must obey and respect their husbands without qualification. If a husband does not want his wife to work, for example, he can, according to some imams, forbid her to.
That alone would give any husband the right to divorce his wife on the spot: The belief that Muslim men can forbid their wives from working outside the home does not appear to be isolated. ABC News has obtained an audio recording of a man recently asking a Sydney imam whether he is allowed to stop his wife from working, visiting friends, and having people over to their house.
And in a lecture on a the "rights" of husbands, Mr Alsuleiman said women were forbidden from bringing anyone, including family, into their home without their husband's consent. And if a husband does not want his wife to leave the house, he said, she must obey him "even if it is to go and visit her parents or to go shopping or to go down the road or even to visit her friends. Mr Alsuleiman, who provides couples with marriage counselling, said he had been asked whether this included going "in the backyard to put up the laundry" by a woman whose husband demanded she call him every time she did this.
This person has "lost the plot", Mr Alsuleiman said, and it is "drastic and extreme", but "that's his right". According to a review by the Australian Parliament, the definition of domestic violence includes social abuse, defined as "systematic isolation from family and friends, instigating and controlling relocations to a place where the victim has no social circle or employment opportunities and preventing the victim from going out to meet people.
Economic or financial abuse includes control of all money as well as "preventing the victim seeking or holding employment and taking wages earned by the victim". Dr Ibrahim in his statement to ABC News said that "Islam teaches that throughout marriage, both spouses are required to communicate effectively and come to an agreement on a range of issues". Women, he said, "do not need to ask for permission every time they leave the house including to collect the washing". For many Muslim women, getting a religious divorce — often in addition to a civil divorce — is non-negotiable, not just because women cannot remarry under Islamic law without first being granted one.
Particularly for those who have experienced domestic violence, divorce can also bring emotional relief and a sense of freedom.
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Skip navigation! When it comes to love, dating and sex, Muslims are often conspicuous in their absence from the public conversation.
Phew, someone finally gets it! Agnes was my alibi.
British Muslim women are 'facing crisis' getting a husband
By Natalie Corner For Mailonline. Caught between their 21st century lives and the expectations of an older generation, many British Muslim women find themselves struggling to find the right partner. That's the suggestion of new Channel 4 documentary Extremely British Muslims, in which viewers meet feisty aviation engineer Nayera, 30, who refuses to settle down as a mother and housewife. When Nayera goes on a date with Hanaan, 35, on the show, his revelations about his expectations of a future wife spark a heated debate, and prompt an incredulous Nayera to ask: Their date comes to an abrupt end after Hanaan announces he has no intention of leaving work to be a 'man dad'.
Against all odds: Meet India's happy interfaith couples
Do you really want to remove selected members from this list? Aisha Male 35 - 52 for Marriage Marital Status: HI,Iam Aisha from U. K ,my mom is from india and my dad is british ,i was born and raised up in U. K ,have never reIocated ,my famiIy is musIim ,though not so reIigious ,i am here to find my souImate ,Iooking forward to meet the best man of my Iife Amina Male 30 - 43 for Marriage Marital Status: I am starting to practise my religion and want to find someone who equally shares my passion. I want to find someone who can show me the right path of these deen as I lack knowledge I love travelling, laughter and positive vibes I am hoping to wear hijab soon so want someone who will encourage and accept this No timewasters.
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But not all communities date. Muslims, for example, often get to know potential suitors with the aim of getting married as soon as possible, predominantly to avoid premarital sex. No matter what your preferences, the dating pool might not scream talent. But when you add religion to the mix — particularly if you are trying to find someone on the same religious level as you — the pool becomes smaller.
Islamic Muslim Marriage
A few years ago, at the behest of my mother, I attended a Muslim marriage event in Glasgow. These are events where Muslim men and women meet for the purpose of seeking an ideal marriage partner. At the event, there were around five women to every man. Well-turned-out women sat around dejected, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to speak to the select few. Sadly, it's not an isolated example. Up and down the country, hundreds of women in their 30s and 40s within the Asian Muslim community are struggling to find a marriage partner. Nearly all Muslim singles events are female-dominated, unless organisers artificially construct a level playing field by selling equal numbers of male and female tickets. In the latter case, there's always a stampede for female tickets. December's Canary Wharf Professionals Muslim marriage event saw the female ticket quota sell out three weeks before, whereas the male ticket quota only sold out days before. Moreover, the average age of women at such events is typically higher than men. Rooful Ali, founder of Emerald Muslim events , believes that the average age of women attending tends to be early 30s, while for men it is late 20s. Such occurrences are symptomatic of the growing Muslim spinster crisis, which has been brewing for some time and is rooted in cultural, rather than religious, trends.
Navigating dating as a Muslim gal: lies, alibis and imposter syndrome
M uslim dating has come of age with its own Carrie Bradshaw-style chick lit. She is one of four big-city friends seeking Mr Right but with no sex before marriage and no alcohol. As in Britain, Esma finds herself part of a growing demographic: British Asians have long been early adopters of the technology to find marriage partners. Even the old aunty network of helpful family matriarchs has gone high tech, I'm told, with handwritten notes replaced, with Excel spreadsheets of available "boys" and "girls" aged 20 to
Young Muslims On Finding Love In The Tinder Hook-Up Era
Updated April 18, Women apply for most Islamic divorces in Australia, but imams often refuse to grant them. Muslim leaders have condemned domestic violence, though some still teach that husbands can control their wives. Other articles in this series have examined Islam , mainstream Protestant denominations , the Catholic Church , Christian clergy wives , Hindu and Sikh communities , and Jewish divorce laws. I taped it thinking no one would believe me.
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We speak to spouses of different faith backgrounds who have married, against the backdrop of rising obstinate attitudes. In recent years, however, having a relationship in India with a partner of a different religion has become increasingly fraught with danger. There is the so-called "love jihad" conspiracy, that has seen right-wing Hindus accuse Muslims of forcing Hindu women to Islam , in an attempt to eradicate Hinduism. India reported an percent increase in so-called " honour killings " in , with people killed. A Facebook page by the name of Hindutva Varta Hindutva Talk recently listed the details of Hindu-Muslim couples, calling on people to attack the Muslim partner.
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