When a Follower of Jesus is asked what comes to his mind about Muslims and Islam, usually there is a common response due to a common stereotype—they have dark or olive skin, wear head coverings and are typically Arabs. However, only about 15% of Muslims worldwide are Arabs, leaving 85% of other nationalities. Many times all Muslims are stigmatized as being radical, which is not the case either. Most people do not realize that Muslims go through the same trials and hardships that we do. In many cases, for those in the Middle East, life is close to unbearable.
Muslims go through addiction, suicide and family trauma just like everyone else; however, there has been an increase in the number of suicides among women in the Middle East. Drug addiction, suicide and depression go beyond the lower or middle classes within the Middle East and North African regions. Joe Bradford, a guest on The Mad Mamluk podcast, stated, “I know scholars who are alcoholics. I mean scholars of Islam who are amazing scholars.” But most victims come from the average population in the Middle East. Betham McKernam reported in his article on suicide that, “The Middle East is one of the most conflict-driven areas on the planet, but murder and suicide are actually killing far more people in the region, a major new study has found.” And it is our responsibility, as Followers of Christ, to pray for these people and minister to them in whatever capacity God puts on our hearts.
Recently, there have been more and more reports of suicide on the rise in the nations of the Middle East, but why? Reasons include poverty, but the main reason is the oppression of woman in these countries. With this oppression, governments are reinforcing their laws that discriminate against women. Many national leaders view women as slaves, with little or no rights. One study reports that suicide among women has increased 66% in the last five years with women committing suicide three times more than men.
Another leading cause of suicide is forced marriage. In Muslim culture and law, the Quran and Hadiths, women are tremendously oppressed in regards to marriage. The legal age to marry in Iran is 13, while some fathers give permission for even younger marriages. It is no surprise since the founder of Islam, Muhammad, married Aisha when she was 9 years old. As a result, a 16-year-old girl, Ziba, set herself on fire because she refused the wishes of her mother to marry a man decades older than her. Sadly, these incidents are not isolated or few in occurence. In addition, men can have several wives, while woman are only allowed to have one husband. Men can divorce their wife by telling them “I divorce you” three times. When a woman is raped, most of the time they are blamed and are executed. The article states, “Such pressures, both in society and in family relations, lead to larger numbers of suicides among women and girls.” It is also important to note that suicide does not discriminate with age.
These issues and examples are just the tip of the iceberg of what is going on in the Middle East. Poverty and social norms may be the reasons for the growing suicide rates, but the main cause is the oppression of women under the beliefs and practices of Islam itself. The treatment of women by governments, and especially by their own husbands, leads to women being cast into deep depression. They have no hope. They turn to drugs and alcohol and eventually to suicide. So what can we do as Followers of Jesus to help?
A CALL TO ACTION
Once educated on the conditions of these women, we, as Followers of Jesus, have a responsibility to act. The first action is prayer, as we are all called to pray. We need to pray for the protection of these women and pray that hope is restored to them. Some are called to give financially and some are called to go. The only hope that will bring these oppressed and beautiful women out of bondage, physically and spiritually, is Jesus Christ. Let us seek the One that saves and ask Him, “What can I do?” As Matthew 9:37 reminds us,
Join us in praying for the Middle East by getting involved in prayer. Click below for this month’s prayer guide and to connect with our prayer team.