Common Grounds Media Project - Violence Against Muslim Women

As part of my involvement in the RDYL “Common Grounds Media Project” at Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre (RPF) I worked on producing an interview. The theme of the interview was pluralism, and I was given much freedom in deciding on which issue I would specifically focus on. RPF offered several options, however, the one I found especially interesting was the issue of violence against Muslim women. I choose this topic because I felt it would have the benefit of touching on not only themes of religious diversity, but would also speak to a very serious social issue. I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with Sahar Zaidi. The following is some background information on her.

Sahar holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Schulich School of Business (2012), a Masters in Business Administration from the American University of Sharjah (2010), and a BS in Accounting from Purdue University (2004). She has had over 4 years of experience in leadership, project development and management while working in the construction industry as a Finance and Commercial Manger in Dubai, in addition to working in the violence against women’s sector in Toronto.
Sahar has worked closely with Springtide Resources, the North York Women’s Shelter and the Canadian Urban Institute on strategic consulting, marketing assessment, evaluation of programs, grant applications, developing programs and researching topics such as approaching Muslim communities to create awareness around abuse against women, and evaluating different sources of funding for non-profit organizations. While completing her Masters, Sahar worked on several research papers looking into immigration policies and their effects on victims of abuse. In addition, she works at the Canadian Council of Muslim Women as a Project Coordinator, where she carries out government funded projects.
The questions I formulated for the interview are:
1) Is violence against women more common in Muslim communities than in non-Muslim communities?
2) What are some stereotypes held about Muslim women that need to be challenged?
3) What other forms of violence besides physical assault are Muslim women exposed to?
4) Does the Quran advocate violence against women?
5) What can the non-Muslim community do to show their support against violence against Muslim women?
While working with Sahar in respect to these questions I learned much about the issue at hand. She spoke of the diversity within the Muslim community itself, that violence is no more prevalent in Muslim communities than otherwise, and that it is an issue that transcends religion and is more firmly rooted in patriarchal culture.
One of my concerns in working on this project was that I was coming from a place of ignorance concerning the issue. Before the project was completed, I was unaware of the intricacies of the matter, and was worried that, question 4, for example, could be offensive to those in the Muslim community. However, I felt my questions were genuinely those that people unacquainted with Islam would wonder in regards to violence against Muslim women. Sometimes, I think, it’s the most simplest or obvious questions that need to be asked to gain the greatest insight and clarification. Thankfully, Sahar assured me my questions were relevant and warranted discussion, which put me at ease with the process.
This was a rewarding project, in that I not only am more aware of a serious issue after the fact, but more importantly, that information about a serious social justice and faith based issue will be communicated to a broader audience. I am grateful for the experience and hope that others have the opportunity to be involved with similar projects in the future!
Daniel Murray

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