Key Points:

Muslims around the world recently began Ramadan fasting. No doubt many will be asking for divine assistance in improving the state of the broader Muslim world.

The answer to their prayers might be found in two Prophetic sayings: 1. If you wrong someone, God won't forgive you until you are forgiven by the person you wronged; and 2. Beware the cry of the oppressed person against you as God hears their cries even if they don't believe in God.

Muslim women make up at least 50 per cent of their communities. It is a great injustice to pretend gender-based violence is limited to or characteristic of Muslim countries.

But it would be a greater injustice for Muslim men to remain silent when gender-based violence does occur.

Unless and until Muslim men do something to stop the cycle of violence against women, they will continue to earn the consequences of oppressed women crying to God against them.

Recent events in Pakistan illustrate the need for Muslim men to no longer remain silent. Some decades back, Pakistan changed from being a secular state to officially an Islamic republic, in honour of the ethno-religious ideals of Muslims of the Indian sub-continent.

Yet important sources of religious honour and sacred law are ignored, if not trampled on.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sherry Rehman was quoted in Pakistan's Daily Times praising a unanimous resolution of the Pakistan Senate condemning the so-called honour killing (and burial alive) of women in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan on July 13.

"This is a very encouraging sign, since earlier such acts would always receive a divided response from both the Houses," she said at a news conference.

Perhaps she was not present when her colleague, one Senator Israr Ullah Zehri from Baluchistan, used the Senate debate to effectively defend honour killings as "our norms" which should "not be highlighted negatively".

In pre-Islamic Arabia, infant girls were often buried alive. An early verse of the Koran speaks of the fires of hell being kindled in response to the suffering of victims of major crimes, including female infants buried alive.

"When the girl-child who was buried alive is questioned - for what possible crime could she be killed?"

Muslims often speak with pride about how such gender-based ignorance and the brutality of female infanticide was stamped out by Muhammad some 14 centuries ago. Yet in this century, five adult women have been buried alive in the self-styled Islamic republic.

Something is rotten in the republic of Pakistan. Indian Islam is the religious culture that inspired the king of what was then the world's wealthiest empire to build a tomb - the Taj Mahal - in honour of his wife. Centuries later, violence against women is still a common feature of South Asian (including Muslim) societies.

In 2004, a Pakistani woman named Mukhtar Mai was sentenced by village elders to be gang-raped in a sad form of collective punishment against her family.

Her crime was that her teenage brother dared talk to a woman from a higher caste. In her 2006 memoir In the Name of Honour, Mukhtar Mai explains why her family chose her to apologise to the higher caste members.

"Your husband has granted you a divorce, you have no children, you teach the Koran. You are a respectable woman!" her father explains. Yet Mukhtar Mai's gang-rape, apart from having no religious sanction, could hardly be described as showing honour to respectable women.

Mukhtar Mai acknowledges her village imam was initially powerless to stop men from a more powerful caste attacking her. The imam did, however, support and assist her in prosecuting the perpetrators.

Muslim leaders often boast of the grandeur of Muslim civilisation. But what made yesteryear's Muslims so great? There is a centuries-old story of one Iraqi woman who was kidnapped by the Byzantine Empire.

The Caliph in Baghdad wrote a letter threatening to send an army whose length stretched from Baghdad to Byzantium unless she was released unharmed.

Today, few presidents, kings and generals of Muslim-majority states have enacted laws protecting women from domestic violence. Indeed, some governments (such as those in Pakistan) are selectively implementing religious laws in a manner that compounds the injustice to victims.

Worse still, those responsible for enforcing the law - police and the judiciary - are open to bribery by the usually wealthier male perpetrators.

I wish more Muslim men would stop justifying theology or pointing to historical precedents and address current gender realities in Muslim communities. Violence against women is a men's issue.

The situation for Muslim women such as Mukhtar Mai and the Baluchistan victims won't change until men take action. Because if men stay silent, they are effectively lending a hand to the perpetrators.

Women in Muslim communities aren't the only victims. A 2005 study from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics showed that domestic violence episodes in NSW cities increased over the previous seven years by more than 40 per cent.

In an address last month to a domestic violence conference in Hawkes Bay, Justice Minister Annette King noted that family violence offences last year increased by 31.5 per cent.

Men of all denominations really have only two choices when it comes to violence against women - speak out, or condone the perpetrators through silence.

* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and writer.