This episode is the SECOND part of two episodes that uncovers Uzma’s story of how she was abused by a renowned spiritual leader. With the help of a trained counsellor Ramzia Akbari, specialising in sexual abuse and cults, we discover how the trauma of what happened to Uzma in childhood, reared its ugly head in adulthood at a time when she should have been the happiest. Ramzia offers valuable advice about grooming and influence as well as techniques on how to recognise and combat these forms of abuse. Ramzia is a senior counsellor qualified in Therapeutic counselling and works with a faith and culturally sensitive, Islamic counselling model. This topic is triggering.
WARNING: this is an explicit episode with adult themes and language. Please put your earphones on and listen to this in private. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as a medical or mental health advice to treat yourself or others, please consult your own physician for any diagnosis.
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The intention behind this candid conversation is to bring to light the serious issues that nobody openly talks about. The question to ask ourselves is what exactly is sexual and spiritual abuse?
For the sake of anonymity and to avoid unintended slander, no names or locations have been mentioned. Our guest’s name is also an alias. Please note, we’ve kept this conversation as authentic as possible.
There’ve been a lot of cases where members of our community have been affected by abuse, we will cover various aspects of this with expert commentators over several episodes.
Unfortunately, Tasneem will not be able to join us for this session. Instead, we will have an expert guest Ramzia Akbari, and an anonymous sister ‘Uzma’ who shares her harrowing story.
Ramzia Akbari is a senior counsellor qualified in Therapeutic counselling and works with a faith and culturally sensitive, Islamic counselling model. She currently works with the refugee, migrant and asylum seekers in North West London providing counselling in Farsi/Dari and English. She is also qualified in Post Cult Counselling and has experience working with Anxiety, Depression, relational trauma, child sexual abuse, domestic abuse, psychopathic and narcissistic abuse, spiritual abuse and has a special interest in radicalisation. She is a member of the BACP and abides by the BACP ethical guideline.
Today’s episode discloses the full story of Uzma’s trauma, how it affected her marriage, her education, her life.
Abuse in all its form is not a new phenomenon – now with social media spreading news faster and people being more aware of it generally, it is now recognised as a growing problem. Although spiritual abuse covers vast ground such as misuse of charity funds, a family member using religion to manipulate and control other’s rights. Sister Uzma will share how a renowned, spiritual figure of authority in the Muslim community took advantage of her.
With the help of a trained counsellor specialising in spiritual and sexual abuse and cults, we explore why this particular case is classed as sexual abuse (and not spiritual abuse) and how we can protect our loved ones from this happening to them.
- Significant events that have shaped you as you are now
- If he was here today, would you be more affected? Would you report him? What would you say to him?
- Do you think he has done this to anyone else?
- What have you managed to achieve since?
- What advice do you have for others suffering from the same?
Nafisa: I just want to say, thank you Uzma for sharing your harrowing story with us. It’s hard enough to be abused by any authority but to be abused by your own, it is nauseating and the ultimate betrayal. May Allah reward you your patience and give you justice, ameen.
Ramzia, thank you so much, I have learnt so much valuable and critical information from you today, thank you for taking the time to do this. There really is a fine line between spiritual abuse and general sexual abuse, and to be able to distinguish the two. We need to keep talking and we do need to hold these people accountable. If there was a fear of exposure, these figures of community would find it harder to manipulate and take advantage of those who trust them.
Tasneem, we really missed you today! Catch up soon
- Why you remained quiet, if you felt indebted to him ? Commitment and Consistency (we like to look consistent through our words, beliefs, actions etc), instilling of phobias (can’t make it without me, shunned, ashamed?) Pseudo-identity?
How does spiritual abuse differ from sexual abuse?
Ramzia’s professional response:
The coercion and control of one individual by another in a spiritual context. The victim experience spiritual abuse as a deeply emotional personal attack.
Can take place in:
- Personal and intimate relationships such as husband-wife, friends. (One of one cults)
- Immediate/extended family
- In the wider community
- At state level – ISIL/Taliban
There is always a dynamic of power that is created without which the abuse will not be as successful.
This is done by many different methods.
- Forced confessions
- Secrecy and silence
- Pressure to conform
- Misuse of sacred text for control of behaviour
- The abuser has “divine” position (through mystical manipulation)
- Isolation from others on 3 folds.
What can you do as a parent to protect our children?
As parents what can we do to help make it less likely that our children do not fall prey to such situations:
- Relationships – Open, safe, validated à trustà antidote to isolation. Esp at a difficult time when they are vulnerable.
- Critical thinking – do not kill children’s curiosity, allow them to question and reflect à strengthens their thinking muscle. Helps when this is attempted to shut down
- Correct stance for authority, exercise autonomy
- Education – boundaries – taking correct responsibility for own action and feelings and allowing/holding others to do the same, toxic behaviours, private-secret (look the same, feel different, enhances/undermines, boundaries, walls, stress-free/stressful, shame, fear/human need, control/controlling)
Can you identify an abuser or do we have to rely on a child’s behaviour to tell us that something is going on, especially when it is towards a particular person?
In terms of grooming, if someone is being groomed, how can we help them recognise that they are being abused?
- Rule of Reciprocity – creating a feeling of indebt-ness by any means. [Take favours but be prepared to see through them as well as possible manipulation. Contracts??]
- Commitment and Consistency – more likely to go through with something once we commit [listen to your intuition, gut feeling. Also able to make decision to your interest at every moment- knowing what I know now, would I make the same commitment]
- Social Proof – if others comply and agree, then it must be ok. (public speech, seminars) others may model to induce this victim. [is the evidence reliable. Shouldn’t base our decision making solely on other people’s opinions]
- Liking – we like ppl who are like us, say the right things. We say yes to those we know and like. [separate between the person and their request]
- Authority – obedience to authority is ingrained in us from the way we are brought up and especially if we trust that person. [is the person really an expert, are they really truthful]
- Scarcity – value opportunity that are less available. “limited number/opportunity” [ step back and evaluate instead of acting from emotions]
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