A Johannesburg councillor, a Muslim woman, has called for Muslim women who are being abused by their husbands to break the silence.
Ward 55 councillor Rashida Landis was speaking outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court last week after the court denied Shaheed Cajee bail.
Cajee is alleged to have stabbed his wife, Nazreen, to death with a screwdriver three weeks ago.
The court heard how Nazreen Cajee had withdrawn four cases of domestic violence against Shaheed before he allegedly stabbed her to death.
Landis accused Muslim men of thinking they own their wives.
“In our culture, the Muslim men think they own you [women], they abuse you and feel that they can pay you off afterwards.
“The mother and the father will tell you that you need to sit in this marriage because you cannot divorce.
“Most women cannot divorce because of the stigma and the disgrace,” said Landis.
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“In our culture, the Muslim men’s family pays their way through, they pay for the cases not to go to court and I am sure they ordered [Cajee] to withdraw these cases.
“The justice system failed her – if you open four cases, the police should know this is not a joke.”
Landis also accused the men who sit in high positions in the Islamic community of not doing enough to protect women.
“The men that sit on top are always saying the woman must take care of the husband, the women must be submissive, women must respect the husband, they are not taking us seriously and that is why the men out there think we are punching balls.
“They think they can make us and they can break us,” she said.
Muslim women urged to speak out
Landis urged women to speak up about abuse by men.
“I urge Muslim women or any culture that says women must be submissive to break the silence because no amount of money can buy your life,” said Landis.
Secretary-general of Jamiatul Ulama South Africa (Jusa) Moulana Ebrahim Bham said a misdeed of an individual should not be used to generalise nor project the practices of an entire faith.
“Tribal, cultural or ethnic practices that condone abuse should not be confused with the teachings of Islam, which applies principles of fairness and equity in all social affairs,” said Bham.
Bham said Islam does not provide any basis for religiously sanctioned ill-treatment of women; rather, Islam teaches kindness.
“A measure of a man’s character is defined in terms of how one cares for his mother, wife and daughter. A prophetic tradition goes: ‘The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best behaviour; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives,’” Bham said.
He said Jusa acknowledged gender-based violence (GBV) was a reality and it does not know colour, race or religious affiliation.
“Throughout the year, our counselling agencies work with partner civil society organisations and directly with communities through [the] Breaking the Silence campaign, launched in partnership with Jusa,” he said.
“Jusa has established structures that deal with the modern scourge of GBV through interventions such as education, counselling and advocacy for the welfare of survivors.
“A specialised tribunal of theologians presides over cases of Muslim marriages in distress and wherever necessary, annulments are pronounced in order to end acrimonious and abusive marital relations.”
Bham condemned the murder of Cajee.
“It is our position that investigations and due process should take their course in this case that is now before the courts,” Bham said. – [email protected]