Nothing hurts me the most than seeing some Muslim mothers who do not protect their own children, who do not fight for them, who do not stand with them for whatever political, social or materialistic reasons. Instead, they abandon them whenever it is convenient. They patch up with them whenever it is in their benefit. Some of them hurt their children routinely. They abuse them mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Some elderly mothers even damage their children’s married lives. They trash them, their spouses and sometimes their children whenever they like. They never apologize, but they do expect love, respect, care and sometimes flowers on Mother’s Day like all normal mothers do.
This Mother’s Day, I want to talk about THOSE mothers that might have failed or damaged their children because of their own shortcomings, bad decisions, poor judgements, unknown/untreated mental illnesses or something else that might have not been in their own control. Regardless of the reasons behind their behaviors, they put their children in hurtful situations that sometimes haunt them for the rest of their lives and their children’s lives. This needs be addressed and stopped because it’s wrong and it only produces more vicious cycles of violence and grief for generations, in some cases.
Child abuse and neglect is fairly common all across the world. The abuse of adult children and their spouses, especially of daughter-in- law, is also something that exist in all cultures and socio-economic classes from Britain Royal Family to India’s poorest villages. For younger children, researchers find that most children are abused and neglected by their own parents. According to NCANDS, in 2005, 79.4 percent of perpetrators in America were parents and 6.8 percent were other relatives. Approximately 40 percent of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 18.3 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone; 17.3 percent were abused by both parents (USDHHS, 2007).
In 2011, Project Sakinah and Peaceful Families Project conducted a national survey of Muslim American community. Two-third of the survey participants admitted that they knew someone who was abused. More than half of them admitted for being abused at some point in their lifetime by an intimate partner or an immediate family member. To my knowledge, there is no existing research at the moment that could give us a little bit more concrete number about the existence of abusive Muslim American parents and specially mothers though. MY Project USA is in planning stages to conduct one sometimes soon, inshaAllah.
However, the absence of specific statistic does not mean that the abusive Muslim mothers are not that many. In reality, abusive Muslim mothers and mothers-in-law exist in a quite larger number. More often, they actually prevail and control much of their own households and their children’s households. Unfortunately, they take advantage of Islam’s heavy emphases on a mother’s rights and being three times higher in levels of rights and rewards than the fathers. They manipulate and intimidate their family and community members for years after years.
Though the sad part is that nobody really confronts an abusive mother, specially an elderly abusive mother. Scholars and imams don’t talk about it. Family members do no help much. Their victims (children) are almost always being advised to be respectful and caring about their mothers regardless of their mothers’ unacceptable and harmful behaviors. Therefore, most victims live in an abusive hell for the most of their lives. They and their families are trapped in this situations. Damned if they stayed in the relationship. Damned if they didn’t. The general focus would always remain on the awesomeness and divinely rights of a mother without keeping her accountable for her actions. Perhaps we have internalized the notion of a selfless, caring and loving mother for so long that we don’t acknowledge it otherwise, even when we see a contradiction to such notion right in front of our eyes.
This is a huge problem. There is a great imbalance in this rhetoric and it needs to be addressed.
Being a professional adult and a community leader, I have seen and have dealt with the dozens of teenagers and adults who have been victimized their mothers or mothers-in-law. I see a need of having a more balanced discussion about motherhood and mothers within the Muslim community. There is a great need for Muslim scholars to talk about abusive and negligent mothers. There is a need to acknowledge the pain and the hurt that the victims and survivors of parental abuse deal with for the most of their lives. There is a need to remind our parents, young and old, that their rewards are contingent to their performances. There is a need to remind these abusive (young and elderly) parents to apologize before it is too late.
There is also a great need to help and empower the mothers with mental illnesses and other challenges like language barrier and cultural incompetency that sometimes result into bad parental decisions and could affect their relations and families severely. There is a great need to talk about mental illnesses and the due treatments that are must to stop the hurt and pain caused by such illnesses. There is a great need to create safe spaces and support groups for Muslim mothers where they can get professional advices and peer support in dealing with tough situations with their children and spouses.
It’s about time for Muslims to stop taking the Muslim motherhood for granted. We need to look into our changing world and the challenges it offers to our families and be realistic and creative in addressing them as a community.
As a step forward, I have started MY Parents Network at MY Project USA. I hope to make it a source of education, support and inspirations for all parents that are struggling out there. I also hope to make it a catalyst in bringing tough issues and taboo topics on the table for Muslim community’s open discussions and attention. I believe in prevention and pro-activeness. I hope you do too.
I invite you to join hands with me in this endeavor. Please take a minute and fill up a quick form now. We will be convening for our first round of discussion and planning very soon. Together, inshaAllah we will save many families by simply empowering more mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!