UNITY Family Services, Scotland's only family guidance and support charity for Muslims, goes beyond marriage guidance to provide solutions to family problems.
Central to the work of our team, who have an intimate knowledge of the Muslim community and its problems, is the belief that the family unit is the most fundamental part of a healthy society. We believe it is the best option not only for the individual, but also for the fabric of society as a whole.
Experts on family breakdown from the UK and the US are increasingly finding that family breakdown leads to huge personal problems and affects the wider community in a way which is making it hard to keep families together.
We provide guidance for marriage and family issues respecting religious principles and practice. Behind our approach lie the principles of:
Trust and respect
Recognising the difference between arbitration and counselling
Loving what is good for other people
Making peace between people
Concern about Muslim affairs
Good listening habits
Understanding others' cultures
The partnership between counsellors and professionals
Awareness of the law
Why is UNITY required?
Broken families produce a broken society and family life is threatened as never before in Britain.
More than 40% of marriages end in divorce, with over 150,000 in England and Wales in 2004. The majority of these couples had at least one child aged under 16.
More than a quarter of children currently live in one-parent households.
There were 250,000 more one-parent families in 2006 than in 1997.
Research published by the think tank The Centre for Social Justice has found that those experiencing family breakdown are,
75% more likely to fail at school
70% more likely to become drug addicts
50% more likely to have alcohol problems
40% more likely to get into serious debt
35% more likely to be unemployed.
Furthermore, a recent and well-received UK policy review on family breakdown, found that nearly one in two couples who live together split up before their child’s fifth birthday. This compares to one in twelve married parents.
Finally, in 2006, an analysis of the latest data from the Millennium Cohort Study found that risk of family breakdown was 6% for married couples and 32% among unmarried couples. It also found that family breakdown resulted in higher levels of crime, anti-social behaviour, educational failure, and mental and emotional disturbance.
A three-tiered approach
For British Muslims, the problems are more complex. With the added factors of religious law, arranged marriages and other cultural and religious considerations, it is increasingly hard for Muslims to keep their families intact.
Issues faced by Muslims include teenage children being caught between the Muslim culture and the expectations of society, and the increased education of both Muslim women and men has led to them to expect a more just marriage based on liberating Islamic principles rather than culture. Intercultural marriages, too, present their own challenges.
Such problems require specialist help from trained consultants well versed with the problems faced by Muslim communities. Fortunately, UNITY provides such a service. At present, we focus on pre-marital, marital and post-marital guidance and support. UNITY Family Services will, in time, focus on solutions to a number of family problems.
In light of our research, our services currently offer information, support and guidance in the following areas:
Pre-marriage Before you get married, it is important to understand marital relationships, the responsibilities of marriage and your expectations of your partner. We can help you, using one of two methods.
The first is educational, such as our courses for groups of single men and women. To take part, you don’t need to be engaged to each other; the course is simply a tool for marriage education.
The second involves premarital guidance sessions with you, your partner and our consultant. This is more private, and more specific to your personal concerns.
This uniqueness is important in intercultural marriages. The consultant will help you recognise and plan for your cultural differences and similarities. In second marriages, we will help you address concerns from the first marriage and build the new marriage. These issues can be made more difficult if children are involved. Meanwhile, if yours is an interfaith marriage, we can help you plan for raising children, your religious expectations and any other concerns you have.
Some people don't realise the importance of premarital guidance until problems arise after the wedding ceremony. A few hours of premarital guidance can save years of anguish later.
During-marriage If you are already married, perhaps with children, our consultants will listen carefully to both parties, discuss all your concerns, and make you feel comfortable enough to express yourself. Your confidentiality is assured at all times. The consultant may recommend professional referrals in cases of mental illness, addictions or for anger management.
Post-marriage In cases of divorce, our consultant can help you understand both the religious law and the law of the land. You may benefit from guidance, mediation or arbitration. Post-divorce sessions may also include discussions about children and relationships between you and your former partner.