This is a good one for World Hijab Day. Stockholm syndrome. But it’s understandable: these women have been raised as Muslims, and taught that this is a divine command: “Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them.” (Qur’an 4:34)
Hooper would still say that the abuser “violates Islamic beliefs,” because Islamic apologists routinely claim that the Qur’an’s command to beat disobedient women must be applied only with the most harmless of implements — i.e., a toothstick, as per a weak hadith. However, Muhammad’s example is normative for Muslims, since he is an “excellent example of conduct” (Qur’an 33:21) — and according to a canonical hadith, Muhammad’s favorite wife, his child bride Aisha, reports that Muhammad struck her. Once he went out at night after he thought she was asleep, and she followed him surreptitiously. Muhammad saw her, and, as Aisha recounts: “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?” (Sahih Muslim 2127) Aisha herself said it: “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women.” (Sahih Bukhari 7.72.715)
The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) recently issued a comprehensive report in which, among various other questions, respondents were asked to choose reasons for which it is justified for a husband to hit his wife.
The 2012-13 PDHS includes results from completed interviews with 13,558 women and 3,134 men age 15-49, all of whom have been married at least once in their lives.
The report summarised findings from between 2012 and 2013 on various topics including maternal and child health, infant mortality levels, immunisation and awareness regarding HIV/AIDS.
The section ‘Women’s empowerment and demographic and health outcomes’ included a survey on attitudes towards domestic violence. The respondents were presented with six reasons that may be used to justify wife beating.
The six circumstances were: if the wife burns the food, if she argues with him, if she goes out without telling him, if she neglects the children, if she refuses to have sexual intercourse with him and if she neglects her in-laws. Respondents were allowed to choose multiple reasons.
The most widely accepted reason for wife beating among women in Pakistan is arguing with the husband (34%). 28% of women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she neglects her in-laws and 18% agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she burns the food.
Similar to the pattern among women, men are least likely to agree that burning the food is a valid reason for wife beating.
The majority of men (19.8%) felt that the most justified reason for beating their wife was the wife going out without telling him.
They also show similar levels of support for the other five reasons (16-20%), although at much lower levels than among women.
Across all six reasons, women voted in higher numbers than men. Among the respondents, 66% of men didn’t agree with any of the reasons mentioned while the percentage among women was 57.5%.