Muslim Women’s Shelter Provides Refuge and Support

Posted on January 2, 2010


Jamie Tarabay, NPR

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As families come together over the holidays, the victims of domestic abuse are often sequestered in shelters — a situation that’s especially difficult for Muslim women, because few facilities meet their cultural and religious needs.

At one home for Muslim women in Baltimore, women from different backgrounds recently gathered in the kitchen to prepare dinner together. Oil splattered on the stove, and Asma Hanif, the woman who runs the center, joked that the night’s dinner would be the end of her.

“In Iraq they don’t have high cholesterol?” she asks a Kurdish woman standing beside her. “This is going to kill us.”

The Kurdish woman — whose name is being withheld to protect her safety — laughed. “No, no, it’s OK,” she said. Wearing makeup and fitted jeans, the woman said the center is now her home and she would “never” go back.

“Right now, I’m really happy. Really happy,” she told the group.

The woman said her marriage was so bad — the beatings from her husband were so severe — that she had no choice but to get out, even if it meant leaving her three children behind.

She left without knowing where to go. She slept in her car for a month. Eventually she bought a plane ticket and somehow, ended up at the shelter, Muslima Anisah.“It’s very good,” she said, referring to the shelter. “It’s helping me … because it’s food, it’s house, it’s everything.”

In this cozy kitchen, she joked with the other women about how differently meatballs are cooked around the world. Another Muslim woman, from Chad, fried potatoes as her version of meatballs cooked on the stove. It was a cheery scene that quickly unraveled. Suddenly, the Kurdish woman broke down.

Hanif adjusted her lavender headscarf and took a deep breath. She hugged the Kurdish woman and they both cried. [Please click here to read the remainder of the article.]