02 Jul Season 1. Episode 8: Season One Finale
Ingrid Mattson, Mihad Fahmy and Maram Albakri wrap up the season with your questions and comments, a discussion of some of their key learnings, and a look ahead at Season Two of the Hurma Project Podcast.
The following transcript has been edited for fluency.
Ep. 8 Season One Finale
[SHOW MELODY FADES IN]
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Hello, assalamu alaykum, welcome to the Hurma Project Podcast, a show where we seek to close the gap between our Islamic values and our Muslim community realities. I am Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Chair of Islamic studies at Huron University College in London, Canada, and I am founder of the Hurma project, which I direct with my friend and partner Mihad Fahmy.
[SHOW MELODY FADES OUT]
Mihad Fahmy: Assalamu alaykum, I’m Mihad Fahmy and I’m a lawyer and workplace investigator also here in London, and I also teach on freedom of religion at Huron University College.
Maram Albakri: Assalamu alaykum, I am Maram Albakri and I’m the administrative assistant for the Hurma Project. And this is the final episode of Season One of the Hurma Project Podcast. Today I’ll be posing some questions to both Mihad and Dr. Mattson based on feedback that we’ve received from listeners and others who want to know more about the Hurma Project. We will also be reviewing some content from the first season of the podcast and present some of the topics we will be discussing in Season Two. So Dr. Mattson, can you briefly share with our audience why you founded the Hurma Project?
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Sure. Thanks Maram. Well, I would say to sum it down [up] really, really briefly, it is out of love for Allah and love for the Muslim community. I am pained when I hear about or witness our beautiful faith and the teachings of our faith being used in a way to hurt others, to abuse others. I have such respect for so many Muslim religious leaders, imams, chaplains, sheikahs/sheikhs and teachers and others, and it is very offensive to me to see some who- a small group – but some who use that position of great trust and profound responsibility to exploit or hurt others. And it’s for this reason that I feel that the work we do is important, as difficult as it is. I also feel that it’s important that we focus first and foremost on what we believe in, and that’s why we called this the Hurma Project, because we are emphasizing that Allah subhana wa ta’ala gave each person the sacred inviolability in their body and their lives and their wealth, in their honor and dignity. And if we uplift that, then it will become very clear to us what kind of behaviors are inappropriate and are reprehensible because they violate that sacred inviolability.
Maram Albakri: And Mihad, why did you become involved in the Hurma Project?
Mihad Fahmy: So when we started to hear about abuses of power by our religious leaders, for me, and I think for a lot of people, it was really gut wrenching. It was really disillusioning. But what sticks with me and continues to really motivate me in this work is something that I heard from a very experienced Muslim therapist who works with victims of spiritual abuse. And she shared this in the context of her extensive experience in this kind of work. And she said that many victims in the aftermath of abuse find it difficult – and I’m using that word really loosely – more than difficult – to reconnect with the Qur’an, to reconnect with Allah subhana wa ta’ala, to reconnect with their community and that this is part of the trauma that they experience. And I mean, what a devastating impact, and what a devastating form of injustice to do that, to take that away from somebody. So that for me is a real . . I think about that a lot. I think about the responsibility that we have as a community to make sure that that does not happen to somebody.
I also think about the number of community members who – youth largely – who walk away from this deen because they are disillusioned with religious leadership and that they think that nothing is being done. And then coupled with that is I think what drew me to this is my own professional background and working in complaints and grievances and investigations and me knowing that something can be done. So I do believe that the resources are there. I believe that there is a path forward and I don’t think that we’re powerless. So those are my thoughts on what drew me to this.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, I… what you say about the youth is so important. And recently I’ve noticed another effect that I didn’t consider earlier, and that is, very often when these abuses are covered up the rationalization or justification is that if the community knew about it, they would become too disillusioned. You know this kind of rationalization or thinking is, is also supplemented, by fears about the external gaze, about islamophobia. And I think that’s a whole another matter that is extremely problematic because it prioritizes really the opinions of our enemies over the experiences of our own community members. But the idea that these things can be covered up, in fact, seems to be just simply untrue because, because what I’ve heard now in a number of cases is from young people who make side comments that make it clear that they know what’s going on and they don’t talk about it, they don’t ask about it because the atmosphere is clearly one of, you know, of silence around these issues, but the way they express their understanding of this is that there is hypocrisy that is permeating the community. And in fact it often leads many of them to say, well – maybe not explicitly – but in their lives, they also begin to undertake all sorts of secret activities or live a secretive life away from their parents, from the community. And some of them will say, “well, you know, if so-and-so – this Imam or sheikh or this person – is doing this, then it gives a kind of opening for them to also live this secret double life.
Have either of you seen any indications of that?
Mihad Fahmy: I think… I think we don’t give the youth enough credit. I think you’re right. That we’re afraid of transparency because we’re afraid that it will have the effect of them questioning and then ultimately removing themselves from the masjid or the community. But I think you’re right, it’s actually quite the opposite. And I think what’s interesting that you said about hypocrisy, that hypocrisy is something that we learn early on in our Islamic education that is so hated by Allah subhana wa ta’ala and that we always teach kids about the different groupings, right, at the time of the Prophet PBUH, and one of them is the hypocrites. So that notion of hypocrisy is very large, I think, in a young person’s sort of coming to understand Islam and when they face it in their own community… yeah, I think it can be pretty – it can be very – detrimental.
Maram Albakri: I have to agree with both of you. I think growing up, especially the youth around me, as they grew up, as they became more involved in the Muslim community, they themselves asked for transparency, not only from their own communities, but also from their school organizations like the MSA and the more transparent their activities became, the more comfortable they became speaking out against the MSA or something that they didn’t agree with. But as soon as the MSA started transgressing and hiding things, then you saw a lot of the youth kind of distanced themselves. And I, and I’ve seen that and, and I think it reflects our own community. And I do think that the youth are doing a pretty good job at trying to address issues that are closer to them or in organizations that are closer in age to them because they feel that they’re more heard when they’re speaking amongst their peers than when they’re speaking to authority figures, whether they are religious figures or leaders in their community.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yes subhanaAllah.
Maram Albakri: The next question I wanted to ask both of you is as this first season comes to a close, what have you both learned personally from the conversations that you’ve had from the Hurma Project Podcast guests up to now, or what surprised you or was most interesting to you?
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Mihad would you like to start.
Mihad Fahmy: Yeah, sure. So something that came up very early on that I still think about came up in our conversation with Dr. Rania Awaad. And I think that it also was raised in a couple of other interviews is, what we do, how we respond, when somebody discloses to us an instance of abuse or, or a violation of any sort. And one thing that she said, is that time and time again, research has shown that victims will turn to family and friends first. And so we will be the ones that our loved ones will turn to. So then the question is how are we going to respond? And she and others spoke very clearly about how to receive that kind of disclosure and let the victim lead the way. As opposed to shifting our focus to what we do, and what action can be taken, and how can we right the wrong. And I think that what I’ve been thinking about is that that takes a lot of self-awareness to be able to do that and to be able to be aware of when we’re kind of shifting into that mode – and restraint as well, because we can be very angry when we receive the disclosure as well and appalled, and we want to take action and so on. And I think there is a fine line between providing the information that the person needs and is entitled to, and letting her lead that process. I think that’s what we were being told we need to do or advised versus essentially guiding the process and saying, this is what you should do, which is inserting ourselves in it. And so that was right from the get go of our, of our conversations with the guests, that was something that I’ve been thinking about… and I think we all – I don’t think anybody can risk not considering how they would react because if we have people that are close to us, it could be that we are the ones that they turn to with this really difficult piece of disclosure information.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: One of the… I would say one of the main things that I feel has finally – that I finally truly understood after hearing people talk about it so much – and it not really clicking with me (before) is this idea of self-care and the importance of religious or community leaders taking care of themselves so they don’t harm others, even inadvertently. Imam Muhammad Abuelezz was talking about how he looks back with regret at some times when perhaps he was overworked, over-tired, and someone came to him to ask a question and he was… he was short or irritable with them or responded in an unkind way. And I’m sure we’ve all had that experience. The problem is that when someone is approaching someone in a position of power and authority, someone who they respect and admire as a religious leader, if that person treats them with disrespect or is irritable, it can hurt a lot more than with just a normal person, an ordinary person. Sometimes it takes a lot even to approach that person, to ask them a question, and then when they do, if they’re rebuffed or treated or responded to in a disrespectful way, it can be alienating and painful and it might close the door also for further questions or encounters. And I think this point is important because it shows us that the idea of spiritual harm is a continuum. So, there can be these major egregious violations perpetrated by perpetrator- by predators – or things that are really criminal actions even. But I think that the more aware(ness) all of us have of our influence and our effect on others and also the way that our own religious positionality have affects those around us – I mean, even as parents – I do think that being aware at this interpersonal level can help us understand also the significance of the impact at the far more egregious, serious, and even criminal level.
Mihad Fahmy: You know, that was the first time I had ever heard self-care being discussed in the context of religious leadership. I thought that was a really… they were all important conversations, but this one, that aspect was completely new to me. And it really, I think, illustrated the concept of self-care for me in a more meaningful way than I’ve heard it, even for- when it’s discussed in terms of what parents need to do to take care of themselves in order to take care of those that they are responsible for. And self-care, it was just interesting to me because self-care is so widely discussed now. It’s such a popular concept, and it was only through that conversation I think that it really held meaning; I understood better, I don’t know, the depth of it perhaps.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: But do you think maybe… I think maybe one of the problems is… sometimes I wonder if… when we adopt the terminology of therapy, that sometimes it can create barriers to understanding, at least until those terms become very commonly understood in culture, because clearly the idea of having – putting limits – on the space and time that people can approach the religious leader is very clear in the directions that Allah (SWT) gives us about the life of the Prophet (PBUH). And we know about those stories, right? About not raising your voice outside of his house, about Allah (SWT) tells us in the Qur’an in general about asking permission before you enter, to be cautious about minding the boundaries at certain times of day, even within the family of just not entering a room when people are taking a rest. We know that teaching (that) you knock at the door a certain number of times, and if it’s not answered, then you walk away. So we have these teachings in terms of limits and respect and propriety and boundaries, but somehow, very often I think, we hear about these things, but we limit them to that specific context and we don’t connect it to this broader – a broader concept – so that we can apply it into our lives and these different situations.
And then someone talks about it in terms of something like self-care. So looking at it, not so much from the perspective of the person who’s approaching the religious leader, but that religious leader is setting boundaries themselves, and suddenly it seems, it seems strange or foreign- or not, it doesn’t connect with our traditional teachings.
Mihad Fahmy: I think it’s also really important because for me, that really humanized the needs of religious leadership. Like to talk about self-care. And I know that our understanding and our belief is that the religious leaders are… that there is no hierarchy similar to other faiths, but at the same time we still hold them in high regard. So having that conversation and hearing talk about the need for self-care I think illustrated the human needs of our Imams and religious leaders and teachers just like everybody else.
Maram Albakri: Now I would like to share a few comments or questions that have been sent in by our listeners. One person asks, “should board members of mosques be trained to do preliminary investigations if a crisis occurs, or is this job to be left entirely to a trained professional?”
Mihad, you conduct professional investigations. What do you think?
Mihad Fahmy: Yeah that’s a really good question. So while board members really need to understand when an investigation should occur, they need to understand what triggers an investigation, and they need to have a broad understanding of what an investigation would look like, what they’re getting themselves into, no, in most cases the investigation should be conducted by a trained professional for a number of reasons and we’ll get into them in more detail in Season Two, but I’ll just mention a couple. So first of all, the investigator needs to be a neutral third party. And in many cases, the issue that’s being investigated may actually implicate members of the board, so that negates neutrality right off the bat. But also we know that our communities – in our communities – we have so many overlapping relationships. So, many of the board members might have relationships with people involved in the complaint, whether they be personal or professional – they might be their teacher, a family member, a friend. So that also jeopardizes the neutrality that’s necessary. And in order for the investigation to be fair, to be thorough, you need a professional to conduct it just as you would not, you know, step outside of your skillset in your own profession. You shouldn’t do that as a board member as well. So we’re going to be definitely talking about this more in season two of the podcast. So stay tuned.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Mihad, can I just – I know we’re we are going to get into this more – but can I just ask one question about the concept of mediation? Because I hear all the time people talking about there was some issue, there was some complaint, and they either had someone from within the community, or they brought in some visiting scholar, or some well-known scholar, to mediate. And it seems to me that this is one of the… one of the problematic solutions, because what’s happening, it’s actually not mediation. What is mediation? And can you just talk about what mediation is and when it might be the appropriate solution?
Mihad Fahmy: So for mediation, the absolute necessity for mediation to take place is that both parties agree to it. So nobody can impose a mediated solution. So the premise of any mediation is that you’ve got both equal parties coming to the table, trying to come up with a resolution so that they can move forward. Now, the mediator, just like an investigator, needs to be neutral, they can’t have any involvement in the dispute. But the mediator is trying to essentially solve the problem. Right? That’s not what an investigator does. An investigator is coming up with factual findings of what happened. In a mediation you almost kind of like don’t want to get into the details. You don’t want to make any findings of fact. Both parties get to sort of sit in their difference of opinion. Nobody’s going to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s the premise of a mediation. That’s why people will go into it because they don’t want to deal with those things. They just want the issue to go away. And honestly, there may be situations where mediation is appropriate, but it has to be agreed to by both parties. It cannot be imposed.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, yeah. It almost sounds like, from the many stories I’ve been told or situations I’ve heard of, it’s often really coerced or forced and people are shamed into going into it, especially the person who has suffered some kind of a violation. They’re told that they should just… it’s better to just give this up, to just walk away from this, for the sake of everyone, it’ll be more peaceful and harmonious. And in cases where that person has, I mean, has real rights that have been violated that have never, they’ve not only not been addressed, but they haven’t even been acknowledged – the harms.
Mihad Fahmy: Now part of immediate solution could be an acknowledgement. It could be compensation for the person that’s been harmed. But in most cases there is a… there’s, in most cases, there is not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing on either side; that’s usually the premise. And it’s: this is what we’re going to do in order to move forward. And that might include some type of compensation for the person that’s been wronged. But acknowledging that it’s been wronged, that’s usually not part of the solution.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Right.
Mihad Fahmy: So that’s problematic, but we’ll get into that.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, yeah. That’s so important. I think it’ll be really, really good to talk about that.
Maram Albakri: There are some other questions and comments listeners have sent us. One person states that they have experienced financial abuse and manipulation faced from a well-known Islamic public figure. And another listener writes in with a comment and requests that I have slightly edited, “assalamu alaykum, in Season Two, please think about an episode focused on those who have survived spiritual abuse that didn’t involve secret marriages, polygamy, or sexual abuse. There are a lot of us, including men who have survived abuse from shuyukh, tariqas and teachers, especially emotional and financial abuse, but those teachers never approached inappropriate sexual behavior with them. There are a lot of people whose deenand whose emotions are in tatters because of this, including Westerners who went abroad to seek knowledge. And we have the problem of these famous influential scholars and shuyukh covering it up out of adab or a self-interest. How do you both respond to these comments?
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, well, I really appreciate- thank you, jazaka Allah khair to the listener who sent in that comment. It’s really important. I do think that in some cases, people conflate spiritual abuse with sexual abuse, or are thinking of spiritual abuse only in terms of sexual abuse. And that’s not the case. I mean, there are many different forms of abuse; they could be emotional, physical, can be sexual, can be financial. So what is the spiritual abuse aspect? So spiritual abuse is engaging in any of those kinds of abuse and justifying it or enabling it with religious power, knowledge and authority. And so that it becomes harmful to the person’s spiritual life because the abuse that they face, whether that’s financial or emotional or physical or otherwise, has been perpetrated by someone who has this religious power and authority, or is justified or rationalized using religious language or is covered up using religious language and principles and values. So there are many different forms of abuse that can be perpetrated. And certainly we’ve heard a lot – many cases – we’ve had long conversations with people who have spoken to us about financial abuse and that comes in the form of being asked to give more and more and more, more than they really can afford or in a way that might harm their family, but they’re shamed. Religious shaming is used to coerce them to continue to give. It also can be in the sense of someone who has, those who are asked to donate to a certain cause and it turns out that in fact the money is being used in for something else or in a different way. And when there’s a request for transparency in how the funds are being used, there is an accusation made against those who make that very reasonable request, an accusation is made against them, that they are trying to cause fitna that they are questioning the shaykh or all sorts of, all sorts of things. All sorts of religious concepts and influence and relationships are used. So, there are many other issues and we will be inshaAllah talking about many of them in Season Two. We have some wonderful experts who will be coming on and discussing these different topics.
Mihad Fahmy: Yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s such an important layer to the topic of spiritual abuse that we really need to be careful not to overlook because I think now that the term is being used more commonly or people are becoming more familiar with it, automatically the assumption is that we’re talking about sexual abuse or secret marriages, and those are the ones, let’s be honest, those are the ones that we hear about most often, or that are known to us. But as Dr. Mattson said, as the work started, the work of the Hurma Project became more known, we did hear from people who were experiencing not only financial abuse, but also almost bullying behavior from their teachers and people that they looked up to as mentors. And so that kind of really extreme bullying that could be characterized as emotional abuse in the form of, or under the guise of, teaching and tarbeya or raising up in a, you know, the character of a Muslim is something that I think, you know, we will be looking at in future episodes that we don’t want to conflate the two sexual abuse and spiritually.
Maram Albakri: Some of our listeners are also asking questions like, can perpetrators ever redeem themselves. Is there ever a way back from their mistakes?
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Right. It’s interesting the way this question is asked, I think I’m not sure redemption from an Islamic point of view – we would say forgiveness. I mean only Allah (swt) can forgive sins. It is not something that we can declare for ourselves. What we can do for ourselves is to acknowledge our mistakes, to take responsibility for what we’ve done to be held accountable in ways that are appropriate, and continue to try to do better. So we believe that it’s always possible for Allah (SWT) to guide people to become better. Allah forgives sins, Allah is Al-Tawwab, Al-Ghafur. So we do believe that. Now that is about the relationship between a person and Allah (SWT). When the harm comes- when a perpetrator, so if we’re talking about someone who has perpetrated crimes or harm, abuse, violations upon another person, they also have accountability to that person. Right? So the person who has been harmed has rights and those cannot be forgotten. You know, just because someone has changed their ways, apparently, does not mean that they are not still accountable for harm that they have caused to others. And depending on the form of harm, it can take all sorts of different forms, public apologies, private apologies, compensation, there may be, you know, there may be criminal consequences, legal consequences. There are all sorts of different things. And after that; however, there’s another question. The question is, can this person return to a position of power and authority? And no person has a right to be in a position of leadership in the community. This is a position of deep trust and responsibility, and it’s up to the community to really be very cautious about weighing the risks and benefits and people have to prove that they are capable of doing that. And in many cases it’s impossible for the person to return to that position. It’s not that we canceled them in the sense of, as a believer, as a human being; they may be able to return to the community if that’s not harmful to those who have been victimized by them. So it’s a very complex issue, but it may simply be that they are not really capable of bearing that responsibility in a way that does not risk the welfare and the safety and security of the community.
Maram Albakri: In Episode Three, Imam Abuelezz says that Imams should know their limits. What happens if the Imam wants to put limits to what he can do within the community and then is met with resistance from the mosque.
Mihad Fahmy: Yeah this is such a relevant and real, I think this is a really practical kind of question. We heard loud and clear, I think from Imam Abuelezz, about a lot of the challenges that Imams like him face in really trying to stay within the limits of their role. And part of what we’re trying to do with this podcast is offer an educational tool for boards, that board members themselves can increase their awareness of the importance of healthy boundaries for Imams and the communities they serve. So that’s kind of like that’s the long game, right? Like that’s what this, hopefully the podcast, part of the utility of the podcast. But to answer the question in the moment, when the Imam is faced with this challenge and is faced with this resistance from the board, I would say that he needs to frame his concern as one of safety. He needs to be able to present the issue as preventing harm to the community and creating safe spaces within the community and resist the board being able to frame it as him just wanting to do less. Because that’s likely what the conversation will turn into, that, you know, you are an employee of the community, this is how much your salary is, you are expected to do all of this, and now you are, you know, proposing to do less and the community needs all of these services. So first of all, I think that the Imam needs to frame the conversation in that manner about safety, that this is for the benefit of the community. I think I would also encourage imams to begin weaving these themes into their own sermons and other educational activities that they engage in the community to, not wait for the board to do that, but to do that themselves and really spark those conversations in the community.
And then I would also say, even though it shouldn’t be up to the Imam, it likely will practically move forward if the Imam tries to find community alternatives and community partners, that then he would be able to go to the board and say: here are a list of Muslim therapists that we can refer folks to, or, here are some community partners that we should try to reach out to and engage in relationships with, because that’s not part of what I can offer as an Imam. So I think that the Imam needs to be a little bit proactive in forging those relationships with community partners. And really, as I said, resist this turning into a conversation about just job duties and salary and what he is and is not going to do and really open it up and talk about safety.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah. I mean, it’s so hard to advocate for yourself in many cases in any workplace. I do think here there’s a responsibility on the part of the community to set these norms, to continue to talk about this in a broad way, beyond the context of any one position so that the Imam who is there trying to… has this job, has children, a family that he needs to support, is not in a position where he feels he has to choose between holding onto this job and supporting his family and doing it in the right way. So there is that responsibility for all of us to advocate for this. I would say that the best place for imams to advocate for themselves, or for chaplains, or Muslim teachers, or principals, or anyone who holds a position in the Muslim community – anyone who accepts a job with a Muslim organization, it’s at… you have the most leverage when you’re signing a contract. So don’t lose that opportunity. Don’t rush into a job without having a clear job description and to advocate for, for the kind of supervision, review, benefits that you really need. Because it is when the organization is trying to recruit you, that you have the most power, the most leverage. Really to get what is your right and what is necessary and what will be safe for the Muslim community as well.
Mihad Fahmy: Yeah, I think that what you said about advocating for yourself is really important. I think that we need to recognize that the Imams are, in almost all cases, let’s just say all cases, on their own advocating for themselves, negotiating that contract on their own. And so as Dr. Mattson said, your strongest negotiating position, the most bargaining power that you have, is at the front end of the relationship before you’ve signed the contract, as opposed to after the case, after you’ve signed and you’re stuck with a job description that maybe has not been reviewed, and really thought out in a long-term way. The other thing I would say is, look for allies, look for those in the community who will help advocate, who are like-minded, who understand these issues and who can interface with the board because, absolutely, let’s not dilute the fact that there is a huge power differential, in many cases, between the Imam as an employee and the board of directors as the employer. So if you can find a- and we should all be allies in that regard.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: And it’s interesting because I have advised some of my former students – chaplain students in particular – but sometimes imams in this situation, I would also say: ask for a continuing education allowance to be put in to your contract as well. Because if you listen to- if you’ve been listening to the Hurma Project Podcast and hearing about the kind of training that could really benefit you in terms of learning to set boundaries and to understand boundaries, but also things like learning how to respond to mental health issues, how to make referrals when people come to you with issues that you simply can’t… you know, you don’t have the professional ability to undertake, continuing education is going to be your friend. And so build that into your contract. The other thing I was going to say is it’s interesting to me, mashaAllah, Muslim communities are very generous. I mean, I think any of us who look at our communities, we see the amount of money that’s raised by our masajidmashaAllah to help so many causes. And there’s a lot of need among Muslims. There’s need domestically. There’s need internationally. Muslims have family members overseas. We have brothers and sisters in Islam who are suffering. We see that there’s a lot of generosity and communities also are very generous in contributing to buildings, you know, to acquiring buildings and land and other things, which is all very, very good. But why is it so often that we are… we’re so stingy when it comes to human resources, I mean, unfortunately.
And I was listening to the radio this morning hearing a discussion about care workers in the pandemic, specifically, those who take care of the elderly, those who are living in long-term care homes, about how underpaid they are, how they don’t have job security, they don’t have benefits. And all of this has been to their detriment and to the detriment of the people they serve. I mean, it really, the worst cases of outbreaks in the pandemic happened in those situations. So I’m just linking this, this really disrespect for the people who care for those in our community. You know, with theiImams positions, the chaplain’s positions, the Muslim teachers positions, we somehow think that if someone is doing – is caring for others or caring for those in our community, that it should just be… it should somehow also mean that they sacrifice every other part of their lives, like their health, their family life, their salary. Or that if we, if we pay them well enough, that somehow this means they’re just doing it for the money or something like that. And that they’re not, they’re not really sincere or they’re not really caring. And that is just ridiculous. And somehow we really need to come to terms with this problematic way we have of framing what it means to care for those in our community.
Maram Albakri: So we’re running out of time to address all the questions from our listeners. So maybe we can move on to preview some of the content for Season Two of the Hurma Project podcast. Mihad, what can our listeners expect in Season Two?
Mihad Fahmy: So we’re very excited to have a number of guests who are going to help us shift our focus a little bit. So the first season we focused on foundational concepts around healthy boundaries. We looked at interpersonal relationships and dynamics and how to maintain those boundaries and also looked at some case studies that we hope helped illustrate where things can go wrong, and how we as community members can help respond to disclosures among a number of other topics. In Season Two, we are hoping to turn our attention more to systems, to the institutional level, as opposed to in the individual level. We’ll be looking at systems of accountability, general ideas of what a safe space looks like in our masajid and Islamic centers. And then we also, as we said earlier, want to dig a little bit deeper in terms of exploring other forms of spiritual abuse, such as financial abuse and emotional abuse. So I’ll let Dr. Mattson kind of break that down a little bit more specifically in terms of what we’re going to be covering in the upcoming season.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah. I’m really excited about this as well. We have some amazing experts who are going to come in and talk about these topics. I’m really excited that probably near the end of the season, we’re going to be talking about community trauma and healing. I’m very excited about that. We have an amazing guest inshAllah who’s going to come and talk about this. And it’s so relevant, not only in the area of spiritual abuse and harm, but also for our community that has been traumatized by Islamophobic violence, by the surveillance state, by so many other external forms of harm. We need to begin to… we need to do better in recognizing the effects of trauma, the impact of trauma and how collectively we can respond. So I’m looking forward to that.
We certainly need to talk about some specific, particularly vulnerable populations, such as children, Muslims living with disabilities as well, who are often more susceptible or vulnerable to predation. So some very difficult topics. And the way we keep positive and hopeful is that we keep meeting people – Muslims in our community – who are experts and professionals who are working in the community to resolve these problems. So that gives us so, so much hope that we, we really are at the point where we are starting to have the Muslim experts and professionals – as we work together, we can really start to overcome some of these problems inshaAllah. As well as our faith that Allah (SWT) will facilitate any good work that we – that any of us – do; that as we make some effort, it is Allah who will open the way and facilitate success in this area, inshaAllah.
Maram Albakri: Dr. Mattson, apart from the podcast, what work is the Hurma project undertaking? And what’s the ultimate goal of the project.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: As we had said, our goal, the ultimate goal really is to give these, make these resources, all of these resources, available to the community, so that Muslim organizations and institutions and communities can benefit from this research and come implement it in their own context. We’ve already heard from some teachers who train imams and chaplains and even a colleague of mine who is a Christian minister, who trains Christians for the ministry has talked about… has listened to the podcast and really has found it so beneficial that she’s going to be integrating it into her teaching and training of ministers, alhamdulillah. So that’s the ultimate goal is to develop the research, and the knowledge, and the tools that allow us to be a safe and respectful community when we overcome these obstacles. And we’ll never completely have a space that’s free of harm or free of sin or, or free of all of our human failings, because this is the life of this world. In fact, if we pretend that we have a utopia, we will only be in denial about what actually happens. We’ll refuse to accept when we hear or when someone discloses to us that they’ve had harmed. So we don’t expect a utopia, but we can do better. And by doing better, we can help to unleash the amazing capacities among our Muslim brothers and sisters, their spiritual capacities, their intellectual, emotional, social. There’s so much more that we can do when we have these safe and respectful spaces inshaAllah.
In terms of concrete projects. We have some exciting things that are happening in addition to the, the podcast. InshaAllah we will be working with the Association of Muslim Chaplains as they continue to refine their Code of Conduct and look towards models of accountability. So Muslim chaplains want to get to the point where they can protect their own profession by holding themselves accountable. The best way to protect the respectability, and the integrity of their profession is to ensure that when those who violate the norms and the professional ethics, are held accountable. So I’m really excited about doing that as well as undertaking some research with Muslim academics in some of the most difficult areas that are relevant to the Hurma Project Podcast. And we’ll be announcing that over the next few months inshaAllah. So stay tuned for that. Mihad, do you want to talk about but what else we have?
Mihad Fahmy: So one of the tools that we hope to be able to provide to communities, which I’m really excited about, because I think it will be very practical a resource is a manual of sorts. A manual, or a book essentially about addressing and responding to spiritual abuse in Muslim spaces. And we hope for it to really be first of all, a primer on a lot of the concepts that we’ve talked about in the podcast around healthy boundaries, but then to bring it down to the practicals. So offering some potential frameworks or models that communities can use, can modify of course to their own context, but still some type of framing or structure that they can use for complaints, processes, for accountability structures, perhaps codes of conduct. But the idea is that communities will be able to turn to this resource and address the issue from within and equip them to understand the issue, and hopefully put some policies in place to prevent to the extent possible these kinds of abuses from happening, but also to understand and be able to respond to them.
And I just want to echo what Dr. Mattson said about hope, because I really do feel that there was a hopeful piece for me after every one of those interviews that we held with the guests; that there was a recognition and understanding that I didn’t previously have, that I want to share with the listeners and assure you that there are experts that are working in that actually have been working in this area for some time, but we just were not aware of them. Perhaps we were not uplifting their work as we should. And so for me, that was a source of optimism and it is a source of optimism and hope. And a lot of these individuals are really quiet warriors. They’ve been doing this work for years, and hopefully by bringing them together and bringing their expertise together, we can address this harm.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson: Yeah, inshaAllah. Well, I think, I think we’ve come to the end of our conversation for this final episode. This wrap-up episode for Season One of the Hurma Project Podcast. Maram, thank you for gathering those questions and asking them,
Maram Albakri: Thank you for responding. And I’m very excited for our audience because there’s a lot to look forward to.
Mihad Fahmy: I’d like to thank you, Maram, for joining us today and for guiding us in this conversation and for all the work that you have been doing behind the scenes in the Hurma Project and the Hurma Project Podcast. And I’d like to thank our funders, the Waraich Family Foundation, as well as the Pillars Fund for continuing to support this important work and the Hurma Project Podcast. And we look forward to continuing our conversation with all of you in season two.
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Dr. Ingrid Mattson: And thanks to Kyle Fulton, our producer, for the great work that he’s done. And we look forward to being in touch with all of you inshaAllah in the fall once we’re able to release the second season of the Hurma Project Podcast. In the meantime, you can contact us through the contact form on the Hurma Project website, hurmproject.com. You can also send us messages through our Twitter account and Instagram; please be in touch. We love to hear from you. And we ask Allah (SWT) to bless all of you and protect you. Please pray for us, for the work that we do that it may be, you know, anything that may be of benefit to our community. Assalamu alaykum.
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