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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Muslim women are resilient

Janan Najeeb poses for a photo with children

Content Warning: This blog post contains graphic details about a domestic murder-suicide.

As the president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, and a founder who’s been involved for 28 years, I’ve watched our organization transform—but most of all, I’ve watched women transform their lives through safety and community.

The coalition began as a local resource organization promoting an accurate understanding of Islam and Muslim women. Our mission is now to lead positive community change through advocacy, dialogue, and education, using faith-based values to ensure dignity and equity for all. We empower women to be economically secure, strengthen their family relationships, and realize their value in community and country. In the world we envision, all women can reach their fullest potential.

I come to this work as a Palestinian American serving immigrants and refugees. The misinformation about Islam and Muslim women didn’t begin with the Trump administration. Our domestic violence program, Peaceful Home, launched because we desperately needed culturally informed services. It’s critical to protecting Muslim women from domestic violence and gun violence—and we also achieve this by advocating for safety within Muslim communities and for wider cultural understanding.

Every day, we offer clients supportive services and guidance around domestic abuse. Safety planning, gun safety, and de-escalation in violent situations are key components of our work, which we conduct with interpreters in at least six languages. And we support the full family by offering programming for children along with youth leadership training, and a “be a buddy” program pairing American-born youth with Afghan peers who’ve recently come to the U.S.

Gun safety is a huge part of our program here at the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. We aim to prevent devastating incidents like one that transpired this summer: One of our community members, a 19-year-old woman, was killed with a gun by her husband. He then turned the gun on himself and died by suicide in front of their one year old infant. This is just one example of the tragic intersection of gun violence and domestic violence: Milwaukee has one of the highest rates of domestic violence gun homicides.

But there are real solutions. Widespread education to our clients when there’s a gun in the home, and de-escalation techniques, are part of that equation. Telling our stories is also a key way that we empower ourselves. We publish our stories in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal, and are preparing to put on our seventh annual Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival. We’re a cultural facility with a lending library, too. Groups come to our center to train on cultural sensitivity and competency, and will reach out daily with questions in order to better connect with Muslim communities.

The faces of the women and children I work with every day motivate me to keep going. Women are resilient and confront immense challenges, leaving violent relationships, often with limited English and income and no family in the U.S. And yet with resources and support, I watch them rise above impossible odds to become stable, working mothers who provide for their families and belong in community.

Learn More About the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition

The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition is a local resource organization dedicated to promoting an accurate understanding of Islam and Muslim women.

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