An-Nisa Society addresses fatherhood

2 April 2005

When Humera Khan co-founded the An-Nisa Society in 1985, its goals were to improve the provision of Muslim-sensitive services and influence Government policy to tackle religious discrimination and Islamophobia. The society, among other achievements, has set up a successful, Supplementary Muslim School in north-west London.

Its main supporters have been women. However, latterly, Ms Khan, leading An-Nisa’s partnership with Fathers Direct, has found men becoming part of the Society’s focus. “We found that many women were concerned about their husbands, who were perhaps unemployed or suffering depression. Also men were working away a lot. In the refugee communities, many women are here without their husbands, so they live essentially as single mothers. There are problems among some boys, wandering about like loose cannons, without a male influence in their lives.”

At the Supplementary Muslim School, An-Nisa works to involve dads. “Initially, they were concerned that we wanted to tell them off,” recalls Ms Khan. “We started parenting sessions and used materials from Fathers Direct to break the ice. I found fathers coming to speak to me in informal settings, sharing their anxieties.” Now the Society, thanks to a Parenting Fund grant, is working with Fathers Direct on a booklet about Muslim fatherhood, is able to develop this website section and helped Fathers Direct plan and prepare the Forum on Muslim Fatherhood held at the 2005 ‘Working with Fathers’ conference. There is a strong possibility that this will be the forerunner of a national conference on Islamic fatherhood, to be held in 2006.

“We have to dig deep to understand male experience sometimes,” Ms Khan says. “We are learning to step back to ensure it has authenticity.”