NAM Fellowship Story Sparks Dialogue Among Muslim Religious Leaders

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DETROIT — A New America Media Women Immigrants Fellowship story on the difficulties of getting an Islamic divorce has sparked dialogue among Muslim religious leaders on how to make divorce easier for women.

The article, by Natasha Dado of The Arab American News, describes the difficulties that Muslim women experience when their husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Many are forced to go “imam shopping” – traveling across the country to find an imam willing to grant them an Islamic divorce.

On Sept. 25, about 15 imams met in metro Detroit to discuss the article, which was published Sept. 19.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said many imams at the meeting agreed that there was injustice surrounding the issue, and discussed establishing an arbitration system that would help prevent women from having to go “imam shopping.” Walid said the subject was bought up as a result of the article.

The new system would consist of an arbitrational body that handles divorce disputes to prevent women from having to turn to multiple religious leaders when seeking a divorce. 

The meetings between imams are held every month throughout the year to discuss important issues in the community. No follow-up meeting was held this month, because it is the time Muslims around the world make the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

“There is a lot of injustice being done to women who can’t get an Islamic divorce,” said reporter Natasha Dado. “The most heartbreaking is when women are denied a divorce from men who were very physically abusive towards them. Some have described this as unjust imprisonment, and too many feel their rights are being violated.

“I really wanted the struggles of women dealing with this issue to be felt. This report was for them,” Dado added. “I’m happy the article sparked a conversation among local religious leaders on how to make Islamic divorce easier for women, but that still isn’t good enough.”

Dado, 26, is a Chaldean American, and graduate of Wayne State University’s journalism school. She’s worked as a reporter for The Arab American News since May 2010 covering metro-Detroit’s Arab and Muslim communities. The region has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the entire country.
Dado has written extensively about important social and political issues concerning both communities including domestic violence, LGBT struggles, immigration, and the continued profiling of minorities by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

NAM's Women Immigrants Fellowship, co-directed by Elena Shore and Irma Herrera, provides fellowships to journalists writing about the intersection of gender and immigration. Dado is a 2013 fellow, and was selected for her story proposal on the difficulties of getting an Islamic divorce.

Read Natasha Dado's story, Imam Shopping: Muslim Women's Long Road to Islamic Divorce.