Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Discussion of refugees’ problems hijacked to pathologise a religion or culture

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 27, 2012

Refugees who show and attempt to openly talk about personal problems can find others who wish to hijack the discussion for their own ulterior motives. An article from Australia highlights the same phenomena we see in the US. The article is at WAtoday, an online publication in Western Australia:

WHEN a Muslim man beats his wife why does the broader community focus on his religion rather than on the crime?

The question of culture, religion and violence was at the heart of the discussion when the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, met representatives of migrant and refugee women’s groups…last week.

“As soon as we use a preface like Muslim or Afghan, suddenly the issue becomes about culture, not domestic violence,” said Judy Saba, a psychologist…

Ms Manjoo, a South African who has spent the past three years investigating the dark world of domestic and state violence against women, is on an informal study tour of Australia…

She is here to listen – and what she heard from the dozen women representing mainly Muslim, African and Asian women’s groups was of the struggle to deal with issues such as domestic violence without impugning their communities.

Joumanah El Matrah, from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, said when groups tried to draw the government’s attention to violence against minority women the discussion was hijacked by those in the wider public who focused on “Muslim” violence.

“We are in a bind because the community is vilified,” she said. “Putting the issue in the public space feeds into the stereotype of Muslim men beating their wives…

…Ms Manjoo said pathologising a religion or culture created the illusion that a problem like domestic violence did not exist in the dominant culture, but was about “the other”… Read more here

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