She was born to a Sicilian father and Puerto Rican mother, both Roman Catholic. Her ethnic heritage also meant growing up to enjoy culinary feasts for the senses and the soul - authentically delicious Sicilian style pizzas, lasagna, meatballs, Puerto Rican rice and beans, chicken, meat pies and custard desserts - just to name a few.
What becomes of those appetites and indulgences when one embraces Islam, which means also adopting its guidelines with regard to food which has no room for pork, pork-based products, alcohol and foods with alcohol as an ingredient?

I spoke to Yvonne M. Maffei, Editor, www.myhalalkitchen.com of DesPlaines, IL who embraced Islam and its dietary laws which include avoiding meats that aren’t slaughtered in the appropriate Islamic way. “Eating things like chicken, lamb and beef at most restaurants was a challenge,” says Yvonne. “Instead, I resorted to eating only vegetarian dishes, but quickly tired of that. I finally decided that I should learn how to make our favorite dishes, even the complicated ones. Although I had always known how to cook well, I really hadn't studied the techniques necessary to make such things as a roasted duck or homemade yogurt, for example. Once I did, I felt able to make really delicious food normally found only at restaurants.”
So what exactly are the special requirements people need to keep in mind when turning a non-halal recipe into a halal one? “As the best chefs say and do, you must "taste, taste, taste" your food as you cook. This allows one to know if a dish is turning out well. If a recipe calls for wine, I simply substitute it with a high quality 100% pure grape juice (white or grape depending on what type of wine the original recipe calls for). For most pork dishes, I will substitute any meat I think will go well in its place and then adjust cooking temperatures and times for the meat I've selected.”

Baking is a different story, however, because following directions exactly is critical to the success of the recipe. “However, I was told by Chef Sebastien Cannone, at the French Pastry School here in Chicago, that one could just leave out alcohol in baking because it is mostly used for flavor. So, for example if I choose a cookie recipe that calls for rum to be added for flavor, I simply leave it out and follow the recipe without that ingredient.”

Publishing a cookbook is one of her aspirations but Yvonne Maffei could very well be the next Rachel Ray. She’s interested in a TV show as a halal chef. “ I am passionate about all aspects of food- selecting, cooking and teaching about culinary arts, and of course all about the halal factor of food. I think Muslims today, especially those living in the U.S., are ready to explore dishes from areas of the world that are not traditionally related to Muslim lands, such as Italian or Mexican. They want to try new things but can't necessarily do that in restaurants because the food is not halal, so they're interested in learning how to substitute elements of these and other cuisines (for example French food where wine is heavily used) and make certain dishes halal.”

Statistics from the food industry in USA and Canada show that halal is slowly becoming a choice amongst Non-Muslims too. Myhalalkitchen.com bears testimony to that as well. “The non-Muslims who frequent my blog are very open-minded about other cultures and often times visit my site because they have seen a Middle Eastern recipe they've found to be interesting. For some of them, MyHalalKitchen.com, is the first time they've learned about what it means to cook and eat halal foods. The responses have all been so positive, making it very encouraging to know that foodies around the world have a common interest in quality food untouched by the chemicals, preservatives and processing techniques that are not good for us.”
“More and more people want to learn how to cook for themselves in order to feed their families on a budget as opposed to spending money for expensive, unhealthy meals at restaurants,” says Yvonne. “I hope that my blog offers some ideas for preparing one's kitchen for healthy and quick cooking as well as recipes that are tasty and well-explained so that anyone can make them.”

The interest in halal, according to a recent study by Packaged Foods, is also buoyed by the ever increasing appreciation of whole, organic and all natural foods. Not all halal meat comes from grass-fed, free range or antibiotic free animals. Still Crescent Chicken and Taqwa Eco Food are a beginning. “If meat is truly halal, then it is inherently organic, natural, humanely-treated and properly fed before showing up on one's dinner plate,” says Yvonne. “Once more and more people learn about halal and know they can buy products that are true to the term halal, they may buy halal meats not only for religious purposes but also out of a conscientious decision to eat healthier and more environmentally-sound products.”


I had the pleasure of listening to Tania James read from her novel, Atlas of Unknowns, a few weeks ago. The few paragraphs she chose, had me hooked. The entire novel, now that I've completed it, didn't disappoint either. Set in New York and Kerela, India, it kept me engrossed to the very last page! Given my increasingly short attention span, that is saying alot! Here is a book I didn't skim through!

Tania James, 28, has degrees from Harvard and Columbia and this is her debut novel. Until recently, one of her grandmothers was under the impression that she was on her way to becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Instead, Tania found herself becoming a novelist! Not a bad detour, many of us would think!

I had some questions for Tania, some of them as a reader and others as a fellow writer working on a novel ! Enjoy!

Q. At the heart of Atlas are two sisters named Anju and Linno, and in a way, two close female friends, Gracie and Bird. Are your sisters the inspiration for the bond between Anju and Linno?

A. Yes, I have two sisters—one older and one younger—and we are very close. I wouldn’t say that any one sister directly correllates with Anju or Linno, but I do think that the depth and intensity of my sisterly relationships have influenced the relationship between Anju and Linno. I also have this (maybe erroneous) theory that the dynamic among 3 sisters is very different from the dynamic between 2, because in a trio, one sister can act as a safety valve. So when two out of three are fighting (Sister A refuses to hand over the TV remote to Sister B), Sister C can diffuse the situation by suggesting a game of UNO. Between Anju and Linno, there is no such safety valve (nor is there UNO), and so there arises a silence between them, a tension more difficult to surmount.

Q: Was there alot of research you had to do for the book?

A: I once went to Jackson Heights, in Queens, to interview a group of threaders at an Indian beauty salon for the New York Times. The newspaper ultimately took a very compressed version of our conversation, but the pages and pages of transcripts kept me wondering about those women, the salon, their neighborhood. I began looking through archived articles on Jackson Heights, ones that mentioned South Asian immigration in particular. One of the first articles I read involved the abuse of the legal system by fraudulent lawyers, who offered illegal aliens a fantastically swift path to citizenship, basically in exchange for the client’s life savings. Of course those clients ended up broke and unable, as non-citizens, to report their grievances. And it seemed to me that this was exactly the kind of thing that might befall one of my characters.

Probably the most complicated world to navigate was that of the American immigration system, despite all the time I spent scouring official websites that purported to make things clear. In the end, what saved me was a conversation or two with an immigration law expert named Arlene Lyons who set me straight on the messy ins and outs of the system. And in retrospect, questioning her was probably a safer route than emailing Homeland Security to see just what an illegal alien can get away with these days.

Q) With the publishing business folding in on itself these days, what advice do you have for aspring authors? Would you suggest self-publishing?

It seems to me that the pursuit of writing a beautiful thing shouldn't be a fairweather pursuit, and as you mentioned, the publishing industry is currently undergoing some ungodly weather. I think it helps to be working on something while you're waiting to hear back from an agent or a publisher or a literary magazine. It keeps your mind focused on evaluating your writing, rather than evaluating your rejection letters, which may sometimes be based on economic factors, rather than the merit of the writing. (That said, as a former slush pile reader, I can't stress enough the importance of taking your time with the writing process, and sending out work that is as good as it can be.) I don't know too much about self-publishing, but have heard of success stories, though each of those success stories involved a massive amount of work on the part of the writer to get their work and their name out there, a more grassroots effort.

Q) What is the hardest part about getting a book into print?

For me, it was acquiring an agent, only because it seemed the scariest part. Suddenly, I was no longer in a workshop, receiving single-spaced letters of critique about my work. I was sending my work out to strangers, for the most part, and it seemed a make-or-break moment. Somehow I ended up with my dream agent, Nicole Aragi, and it's meant everything to have her in my corner.

Q) Besides the eloquent writing, what were the qualities that helped sell your book to an agent and then publishing house?

I think that in literary fiction, it all comes down to the writing. I guess I can't speak for my agent or my editor, but I do know that they are utterly passionate about the books they love and about bringing those books into the world, so I can't imagine them making judgments based on anything else. That said, certain elements in a cover letter to an agent/publisher can help, like having publications in literary magazines. Sometimes an agent may contact you based on something they've seen in a literary magazine. But ultimately, the book you're trying to sell to an agent/publisher has to stand on its own merit.

Curry Is Thicker Than H20 says author, Jasmine D'Costa

Summer is just around the corner and, just in time for Kirti, the South Asian Literary Festival to be held in Chicago this June, I'm getting up to speed on my reading of South Asian North American writers. I'll be interviewing them and doing reviews of their books all summer long, so stay tuned!

I began Jasmine D'Costa's collection of short stories Curry Is Thicker Than Water(sold on Amazon.ca but not yet on Amazon.com), expecting to read fare that's now oh-so-typical about the sub-continent and those of us from it. It tends to be realistic fiction set in India, tales about "immigrant angst" or about growing up brown in a white world.

D'Costa, a recent immigrant to Canada, however, surprised me. Her stories are set in India, but also have an element of the fantastical, reminding me of Salman Rushdie (who, too, is of South Asian extract) and his novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Costa's writing is pithy and her characters stay with you long after you're done reading, but don't say I didn't warn you -- a suspension of disbelief maybe a prerequisite.

Readers have said her writing is evocative of R.K Narayan's work. "That is an immense compliment, though a bit of a stretch I would think," says D'Costa.

An excerpt:

In the meantime, no one knew what to do with the elephant sprawled on the highway. It was about 8 p.m. Finally, when word went round that the road was blocked, the traffic was diverted. The police summoned a vet from a nearby veterinary clinic. A very reluctant man who had only treated little Pomeranian dogs in his career arrived on the spot. He looked at the animal from a distance, bobbing his head in all directions puzzled. All governmental offices were closed and they did not know under whose jurisdiction the elephant fell. The municipal offices were closed and the forest officers could not be located. "Tomorrow," they thought, "tomorrow someone will decide how to go ahead. Maybe the elephant will just wake up and walk away." Meanwhile, unconcerned with their dilemma, the elephant lay like dead. Meanwhile, unconcerned with their dilemma, the elephant lay like dead. That night, Anand, who slept on the sidewalk nearby, walked up to the elephant. He sat on his haunches, curious to see an elephant at such close quarters.

"Sit down with me," the elephant said. Anand was afraid for his sanity. He had been hearing voices in his head for several weeks now and thought he was going insane. He looked at the elephant and thought he imagined a wink.

1) The stories are very different from each other and from what one has begun to expect of tales set in India. How did you decide to write this particular selection? Are they rooted in reality? Were you going for fantastical? For instance, the story about the elephant?

Jasmine: I have written a novel in very advanced stages of completion but felt that it should not be the first book I put out there. I keep writing small stories in between my work, and I thought perhaps a book of short stories would be more appropriate for my first book. It allows for variety, completion in short bursts of creativity and also captures my thoughts between times of writing a novel. I come from Bombay, where a writer will never dry up for want of stories.

I think all the stories have at least one element of truth and even the fantastical stories have the settings and cultural ethos that is very real and authentic. That makes the fantasy more real in a way. In the instance of the elephant, I had no story when I put the title, "Elephant on the Highway," on the paper and stared at it. All I knew at the time is the elephant in Kandivali in Bombay excited me so much that whenever I saw it I believed my day would go well. So he did merit a story. But the story itself just flowed without thought or planning and once they assumed a character, I was the elephant and the beggar in turns, having very enjoyable long streetcar rides, talking to each other in my head.

2) Was the elephant in Kandivali real?

Jasmine: Yes the elephant is real but, of course, the scenarios are all hypotheses in the event the elephant had really decided to sit it out on the highway.

3) What were the most challenging parts of putting this collection together?

Jasmine: I think some stories were more of a challenge and took longer to write because they had very many elements to them. "Eggs" and "Cobras and Pigs, Holy Cow!" were more complex and contain more complex ideas and structure. They also have sensitive areas that I had to wonder if it may arouse animosity. However, I am more at peace now that the feedback has not been negative. While controversies sell, they also hurt, and I feel I would like to get across ideas, entertain, etc. without hurting.

Many readers have got back to me saying they enjoyed it and one reviewer out of Halifax said he loved it and gave it to his mother, who loved it, so he thinks it deserves the highest praise and tells me that it will be in the Essential Summer Reading Guide of Halifax magazine. Most of them said that it was such an easy read and yet so philosophical. I think that as writers we are only as good as our readers, for they take the work beyond us.

4) What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Jasmine: Keep writing was the advice Austin Clarke gave and I think that is about the smartest thing I could say, too, to other writers.

5) The keep writing advice is easier said than done! How did you structure your day to make the time?

Jasmine: I write in the streetcar on little cards, I write in my head, I write in notebooks at events, I type into idea files that I store in my computer and when I am ready I sit and type continuously, sometimes even as much as 5,000 to 6,000 words a day. Passion and joy is important.

What can keep you going in hard times and motivate one to continue is one's faith and passion in what they are doing. So you need to be passionate and take joy from the writing.

6) Any details about getting a publisher or agent? What was involved in that, and it's an uphill battle so what are some tips to keep others going?

Jasmine: Once I decided I would be writing and acting, I set out about researching the two industries and acquiring skills, networking and meeting the industry and taking courses in acting. I joined writing groups, and am now the president of the Writers and Editors Network. I had taken creative writing courses in India and was always in touch with writing, though it was economics, banking and corporate finance, it still disciplined me on how to organize my mind and thoughts and put them on paper.

I would say it is very important to know the industry very well, understand that there is no glamor about what most people think is "creation." It is about the product and the marketing of the product that is the issue here and the major gains go to the person who invests the money. If the publisher puts in funds, then he takes more than the writer, and stores who invest in infrastructure make the money. So to writers who are looking at this being their main income will have to be more realistic and be willing to do a lot of marketing of their product or have a plan B to fall back on.

I approached the publisher directly without an agent, because I felt that at my age I want every thing as of yesterday rather than languish, waiting for things to happen with publishers and agents taking their own time. I did not want to hand over my life to the pace of the industry. I was, of course, lucky to get a publisher to take me on. But I am never one to curl up and die.

5) Do you have another novel or collection of stories in the works?

Jasmine: I am completing my book "Saving Ali" (working title, of course) and will hope to have it out next spring. The narrator is the 16-year-old Catholic girl Anna in my story "The Guest in my Grandfather's House." The story is set in the 1992 Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay.

6) And what's your life's story?

Jasmine: I left India and moved to Canada in 2004, not for a better life but for life itself. I did it for adventure I do know that moving at 46 and starting life is an adventure itself. But I decided when I came here to do all that I am passionate about. Here I am an actor and a writer. In India, I was a banker and also guest faculty in one of India's top management schools. I have a Ph.D., and a post-graduate degree in banking and finance. I have moved from a comfortable life to one of hardship, but it's very gratifying to be able to follow your passion.

Our lives' narratives are neither singular nor linear and, like everyone else, I have multiple biographies. Through my childhood and growing up in India, any pursuit that did not put food on the table was considered a hobby. So of course, the more urgent need to earn a living suppressed my deeper desire to write. I earned a doctoral degree, and spent several years as a banker; but through it all, I felt trapped in a secure world that made me push the things I really wanted to do for "later." Moving to Canada was the best thing I could do, for this dream -- I am now a writer.

This is my "later."

Title: Curry Is Thicker Than Water
ISBN: 978-0-9783793-9-1
Publisher:Bookland Press Inc.


Released just a month ago, the reviews for Haunting Bombay , so far, have been pretty. Written by Shilpa Agarwal, Haunting Bombay is the winner of the First Words Literary Prize for South Asian Writers, and parallels are being drawn to the mysticism of Isabelle Allende and the spirituality of Toni Morrison as they are to the writings of other authors of South Asian heritage. "Agarwal's work will definitely appeal to fans of Monica Ali and Jhumpa Lahiri...but it retains a fresh, original feel that will draw in new readers with its own literary merit," says Library Journal.

Personally, I am surprised it took so long for a ghost story to be set in India. After all, it's a country teeming with belief in the supernatural, ghosts and witches. As kids we grew up hearing that we'd be taken away by them if we didn't behave, and there's always a family or two who've had prayers done to ward off the evil eye.

Set in post-colonial India, Agarwal weaves together literary fiction, a mystery, and haunting supernatural spirits in a story of power and powerlessness, voice and silence. The novel is a tale of three generations of the wealthy Mittal ( no relation to the Mittal Steel Multi-Billionaires!) family who have buried a tragic history and the ghosts of the past who rise up to haunt them, illuminating their deepest fears and desires and underscoring the singular power of utterance.

I had a tete-a-tete with the author:

Q: HAUNTING BOMBAY breaks with the tradition of the South Asian-American novel. How did you decide to go in that direction?

Shilpa: My book is an exploration of how the privileged can hear the voices of the dispossessed - about what sacrifices and risks must be taken in order to actually hear. The ghosts are metaphors for the dispossessed, those who have little or no power in a family, community, or nation. The novel has very suspenseful and eerie moments but it is also full of humor and lightness, especially in the interaction between the members of the Mittal household. I would say that it expands the boundaries of the Indian or South Asian novel. When I was researching ghost stories, I discovered fairy legends, mystical traditions, references to ghosts in the ancient religious texts, and a 115-year old English translation of Sanskrit Vampire stories which I've woven into my novel. There is such a rich tradition of the supernatural in India yet I didn't find any other English-language South Asian authors who were writing about it. Readers instead have connected my writing to the mystical and magical literary traditions of South American writers Isabelle Allende and Gabriel García Márquez.

Q: Without giving it away completely, can you tell us more about the novel?

Shilpa: Yes - the story opens with the drowning but as it unfolds and the ghost begins to haunt the household, the Mittal family's tangled memories of that drowning day - of where and what theywere doing when the child died - are revealed. The family and the servants all have secret desires and motivations - the ayah who was dismissed was in love with someone in the household, the father illicitly visits drinking dens while his children sleep, the driver maintains a relationship with an aging prostitute in the red-light district, one of the housemaids despised the ayah and so forth. There are a number of characters who could have been involved in the child's death. My protagonist's journey is about finding the truth of what happened but also finding the courage to face that truth because often times truth itself can be terrifying.

Q: Why did you set the story in 1960?

Shilpa: At the moment of India's Independence in 1947, Prime Minister Nehru had talked about how the nation, suppressed by centuries of invasion and colonialism, at long last finding utterance. I wanted to set my novel thirteen years after this moment, as the nation moved into its adolescence to explore this idea of finding utterance - of a national consciousness informed by the voices of the underclass. I also set it in the 60s because I wanted to weave in my parents' stories of their youth. My mom's family were refugees during the partitioning of India and I wanted to show both the loss and sense of hope at that time.

Q: As a mom of elementary school age kids with aspirations to get a novel published myself, I'm in awe of how you pulled it off. You have such young children yourself and still managed to get the words out each day.

Shilpa: I started writing the novel when I was pregnant with my first child. After that, I had to write in snatches of time - when my child napped, when I didn't feel utterly exhausted by sleepless nights and changing diapers and newborn colic. After my children began to sleep through the night, I began to write early in the mornings before dawn because that was the only time of day I could lose myself in my writing without fear of distraction. That time of day also lent itself to expanding my imagination especially in the supernatural realm - it was pitch black outside and eerily quiet in my office except for the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard. The most important thing for me was having a disciplined schedule, writing every day even if I didn't feel like it.

Q: The supernatural nature of your book lends itself to film. Have you thought about HAUNTING BOMBAY, the movie?

Shilpa: Yes, I'm very interested in developing a screenplay. One friend described the 'movie version' of my book as a "cross between Mira Nair and M. Night"!

Q: Are you working on your next book?

Shilpa: Yes I am. I am intrigued by the idea of crossings and in HAUNTING BOMBAY, I explore the crossing of the centers of powers with the peripheries and the intersection of the living and the dead. My second book also brings in mystical and magical elements but explores the crossing ofthe realms of heaven and earth.

Readers can reach the author via www.hauntingbombay.com, hauntingbombay.com/facebook and twitter.com/authorshilpa


Last week, I was both humbled and honored to have received the “Inspiring Woman Award”, given by the Muslim Women’s Alliance in Chicago, for volunteering with the refugee population, and mobilizing my community to join me with their time and money. As elated as I was, I believe being my brother's keeper is a reward in itself. It has given my life meaning and purpose. My volunteering is also about knowing that, as a Muslim and a human being, Allah expects no less of me.
As I spoke to a room of 250 women, I recalled Sura Rahman of the Quran where Allah mentions his signs--the food we eat, our days and nights- and then asks, "Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?" The question is repeated 31 times. Yes. Which are His favors can we deny?

There is no doubt in my mind that we will be asked to account for how we showed our thanks for His blessings. Volunteering is my way of trying to be answerable to God.

He will ask us to account for how we used the peace and prosperity he has blessed us with, He will ask us what we did with our good health, He will ask us how we put our ability to read and write towards making His earth a better place to live in. Or how we thanked Him for the hot water that runs through our taps. All these are luxuries for most people in the world.

He will ask us how we thanked Him for the fact that our children don't cower in fright when they hear a plane go by or that they go to bed each night, without crying themselves to sleep because they're hungry and there's no food to eat.
Giving back, for my children, is becoming second nature as well. One November night they slept outdoors in Chicago’s cold winter as part of “Sleep Out Saturday”, to raise awareness and funds for the homeless. My ten year old, Taskeen, had asked for donations, as she went trick or treating, that year. The kids have raked yards for senior citizens and they’ve helped deliver Meals-on-Wheels. In school, for an assignment titled “What would you do if you were given $100?” My first grader Yousuf wrote, “I’d give it to the kids in Palestine because they’re injured and dying and have no medicines.” As a parent I know I must be doing something right.

Through our choices with time and money, I’ve shown my children, that nobody can do everything but everyone can do something. As they say, Action Springs Not From Thought, but from Readiness for Responsibility. If each of us made a commitment to one or two instances of volunteering a month, how much lighter the world’s burdens would be. And to make that a reality, volunteering cannot be viewed as a choice. Rather it is a responsibility and bearing it well, that is what will make all the difference.

Author Examines The Lives of Muslims Post 9/11

Award-winning author, Shaila Abdullah's new novel Saffron Dreams offers readers a chance to explore the tragedy of 2001 from an uncommon viewpoint.

"I looked on as day after day the media tried, sentenced, and hung my faith," writes Shaila Abdullah in her brand new book, Saffron Dreams, being released online today. "I witnessed the lynching of a religion and race again and again. What proof did I have of the innocence of the rest of us?" I couldn't have expressed it better myself ! As Muslims, we've watched helplessly as all things Muslim and Islam have come under fire. The treatment meted to Barack Hussein Obama, for being born to a Muslim father, made us cringe. Shaila Abdullah awakens us to a story of a culture in shock. An award-winning Pakistani-American author, her writing focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistani women and their often unconventional choices in life.

Set in New York, the novel leads the readers through a soul-searching and at times gut-wrenching journey of its protagonist. Arissa Illahi, a Muslim artist and writer has everything going for her -- a devoted husband and a much-anticipated child on the way. After her husband's death in the collapse of the World Trade Center, the discovery of his manuscript marks Arissa's reconnection to life. Her unborn son and the unfinished novel fuse in her mind into one life-defining project that becomes, at once, the struggle for her emotional survival and the redemption of her race.

The geopolitical concerns that have drawn Islam and the West into many conflicts since 2001 have also generated a thirst for multicultural literature -- fiction and nonfiction, with a Muslim angle. At a time when much of the world associates Islamic culture with oppression and terror, the new genre is tackling such universal themes as love, hope, and women's issues. In Saffron Dreams, Abdullah captures the essence of ordinary Muslims who create nothing newsworthy and power no conflicts to be of any value to the media.

Her first book, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individualities despite the barriers imposed by society.The book received the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Award among other accolades. Abdullah also received a Hobson Foundation grant for Saffron Dreams. She has published several short stories, articles, and essays for various publications, including Women's Own, She, Fashion Collection, Sulekha, and Dallas Child. She is a seasoned print, web, and multimedia designer as well. Abdullah lives with her family in Austin, Texas and is a member of the Texas Writers' League.

If you liked the movie Khuda Key Liye aka In the Name of God, you'll love this book!


By Naazish YarKhan

When I was deciding on a husband, one of my criteria was that my spouse be the kind of guy who'd never hit me. A calm temperament was absolutely essential. My husband claims I had low standards. Wouldn't I expect personal safety in any marriage, he teased? Growing up in India in the 90's, news reports of brides being torched to death by their in-laws for bringing an insufficient dowry, and hearing of maids being slapped around by their drunken spouses, was commonplace. Alas, no, marital violence really wasn't something unheard of.

This week, with Aasiya Hassan's frightful beheading at the hands of her husband, Founder and CEO of Bridges TV, my fear didn't seem out of place. My South Asian community is in shock. Blogs are abuzz claiming that this is yet another of example of how barbaric Muslims are and how my kind shouldn't be allowed into the USA - Their venomous rantings leap off the screen.

Anger rises in my chest. Aasiya Hassan's murder is not about Muslims or Pakistanis or South Asians. It's about Domestic Violence. Each day, more than 600 families call the National Domestic Violence Hotline in America. They all can't possibly be Muslim, can they? Why don't people focus on the issue, instead of making this about ethnicity and religion? I want to scream.

Domestic violence happens amongst American Christians, American Jews, American Atheists, as much as it happens in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or amongst American Muslims. I could roll statistics off my tongue but, even as I recall those numbers, I know I harbor a dirty secret. Aasiya Hassan's murder is not about the teachings of our faiths but it is about how many, in both the Muslim and Hindu communities, treat domestic violence.

Yes it's true that domestic violence cuts across all barriers. But we, as a community, are guilty of averting our eyes, labeling domestic violence a "personal" problem, advising our girls to be "patient", coaxing them to "work it out". Leaders in the community, especially women leaders, lecture women ad nauseum on the values of covering up one's husbands faults. We teach our daughters that some marriage is better than no marriage. Muzzamil Hassan had been divorced twice before, both times on grounds of domestic violence. Was there no one in the community who could have spoken up to warn Aasiya ? Or, like some parents, were Asiya's folks just eager to get a daughter off their hands, just as they would a burden?

When South Asian women do muster the courage to complain of abuse, they are not always believed, or they find they don't have their family's support. Some learn that they are bringing shame to their parents and families, that they will become pariahs. Even educated, earning women are taught to fear what society will say, and are told to worry that their children will be seen as off-springs of a broken home. Self-sacrifice and martyrdom are glorified.

Watching the “Changeling”, I couldn't help but think how one mother's heartbreak eventually led to so many positive changes. Asiya's murder is horrific, but perhaps her story will give our community reason for pause and hasten countless other womens' journey's out of violence.