The Islamic Garden Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Center in Glasgow
Hussein was born and brought up in Glasgow, and
her family roots are in Bengal. She is married
and works full-time as a lawyer. She says that one of the greatest things she
has done in her life was helping to establish the Amina Muslim Women’s ResourceCenter
in Glasgow, Scotland. The
center is located in Govern Hill, Glasgow.
It was set up by a group of Muslim activists and now the organization extends
across the UK.
The constitution was established 10 years ago. It started off because
historically in the UK
there is recognition of black and ethnic minority issues but there was also a
need for a project specifically targeting Muslim women. This was necessary
because Muslim women do not fall under one category of ethnicity. In Islam
there is a wide range of cultural backgrounds and needs, for example, providing
sports center access for Muslim women and proper segregation. Hussein
commented, “First generation Muslim women migrants have a lot of language
barriers and can not access the system properly and often have issues with
violence at home.” Muslim women are often unable to access all the services
available in the mainstream and there are not a lot of culturally sensitive
services available. These founding members were looking to work with mainstream
agencies to educate them about Muslim women and to provide direct services for
founders had a conference in the mid 90s entitled The Needs of Muslim Women.At this conference a number of Muslim women were present as well as
government people. Research had been commissioned to find the gaps in the
system. Governmental authorities made promises to set up this organization and
five years later, the center opened its doors to the public. The Amina Muslim Women’s
also has offices in Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. It runs a
helpline for Muslim women so they can call at any time and this is open all
day. People can leave a message and it is confidential. Confidentially is an
essential part of the center.
are trained on how to be culturally sensitive to Muslim women. They also help
Muslim women to take active part in the community. The center produced a
booklet about misconceptions about Islam and Muslim women and sometimes even
the Muslim women themselves did not know what their rights are in Islam. So it
is not just about educating non-Muslims but also Muslims. They generally work
with people over sixteen years of age and will help anyone coming to them for
help. There are non-Muslim women advising the center, working as volunteers and
helping with fund raising.
center has also been making progress with imams and Muslim men in general,
especially in relation to domestic violence. It is necessary to work with the masjids
and the men individually to help rectify this problem. Muslim women often go to
the imams and usually do not get the support they need. However, now the
Central Mosque in Glasgow is working with the
Amina Muslim Women’s ResourceCenter and many imams have
contributed to writing booklets and showing real support for women seeking help.
London no longer has a help line for Muslimwomen and so the
center even receives calls from London.
People recognize they are an effective organization. They do not push Islam
onto people but if someone asks, the center will give them advice and direct
them to the people who can give them further advice. Hussein added, “It’s not
about telling someone to get a divorce but helping them to make an informed
choice.” The people working with the center are well-trained and it is known as
a qualified agency. The center has been received really well in Glasgow. They have had a
lot of success working with a many mainstream agencies. They are funded from
the Scottish government and this is recognition from them that what the center
is doing is important.
center serves women from all races. The main groups seeking help from the
center are Arabs, Turks, Somalis, and Asians. These are also the main groups
existing in Scotland.
The Asians are the majority in Glasgow and Scotland. There
is also a bereavement project for counseling people but unfortunately, there is
no more funding at present. This is seen as necessary because people need to
know how to deal with grief. Hussein said, “Even Muslims have misconceptions
about this, for example, many think they aren’t allowed to cry.” The center has
a library with computers and face to face counseling. There are also doctors
available and people to help make out tax forms. If a person lacks confidence
to go out alone, she will be paired up with a volunteer. This volunteer goes
out with the Muslims woman so she can learn how to access the system. It is
called the Befriending Project.
helpline does not just answer calls but also works with community police and
policy makers. They also educate other organizations about how to deal with
Muslim women. “We want to work with other organizations and build up their
resources so they understand what Muslim women need, so they’ll be able to help
them too,” said Hussein.
other organizations that provide refuge facilities that Muslim women can use
but until now there is no specific refuge center for Muslim women and even the
mosques are thinking of helping in this area. The center has been talking to
Central Mosque in Glasgow
about setting this up. The projects are mainly about working with mainstream
violence exists in the Muslim community and that’s why they received the
funding. Hussein noted, “Female circumcision hasn’t been a big problem in Scotland but forced
marriage is and the Scottish government is attempting to put legislation in
place to prevent this. The center is aware that Islam doesn’t ratify it.” Hussein
said that there are also other issues that cause more problems, for example, the
two year rule in the UK.
According to this rule, it someone marries an outsider, that person has no
rights in the UK
for two years. This is especially significant for women who do not have rights
to seek legal aid or benefits and there is a stigma on divorce and often these
people are stranded and they do not want to go back to their home country
because of leaving their partner. In Scotland they do not have a lot of
options. The center has been lobbying parliament to find solutions for Muslim
women who are in this predicament.
killings are not mentioned so much in the calls the center receives but the
center is aware that this does exist. In the last year there was a case that
was reported widely in the press.
been a significant presence of Muslims in Scotland since the 60s. There have
been Muslims here for a long time with many of them working in the ports. These
Muslims are mostly Pakistani, Bangladeshi communities. They are basically
people from the commonwealth. There are not that many Moroccans and Algerians
as they are younger communities, meaning they came to Scotland in
recent years. There have been more refugees over the last few years and they have
their own issues. The newer refugees need even more help. They come from
different cultures and the culture in the UK is very different. These newer
refugees are mostly from Arab and African cultures.
general Scottish community is accepting and welcoming and there is harmony
there, but there has been institutional racism and in some pockets of
communities where refugees are concentrated, there has been violence, even
murders. In Scotland
people are generally friendly and welcoming. Muslims are free to practice their
religion. The existence of the center shows the willingness of the government
and people to fund and help the Muslims. The Muslims in Glasgow are in a fortunate position compared
to people in other places.
terrorism, the Scottish people are still trying to integrate the Muslims, who,
in return have been active for some time and have been educating slowly. This
ripple effect has got us to where we are today. Islamphobia has been around for
a long time but because authorities are aware of that and aware of the good
work Muslims have done, now they see that the violence is being done by a minority
within the Muslim community. They realize that the majority of Muslims are
‘good’ citizens. In Scotland
the center received home office funding as proof of this.