Sexual Abuse is something that has been an underlying form of Cancer since society has been known to man. Women’s rights should’ve been equal from the 1st day versus fighting for equality during the 20th century and present day for equal pay, and treatment.  One of the first things you may do reader is scroll to the bottom of this entry to see whether the author is a male or female, thus creating a bias before even continuing on with this article. Well to save you the exercise this piece is written by a male.  The reason why this post assign gender assignment is that although most sexual assault and harassment occurs with women, there has been a recent rise in male victims sharing their stories as well.  The #metoo movement includes both men and women.  But before the competitive spirit overtakes to see which gender is “the bigger victim”, we must focus on a few issues which unfortunately encourage rape culture, and the individuals of either sex to become assailants…

Sexual abuse has been happening for years. Before our parents, and their parents, etc… One of the many issues Islam addressed during its inception was women rights and sexual abuse culture practiced by the Meccan and surrounding societies. However, recently sexual abuse recently came to the “media light” due to the Harvey Weinstein allegations. Members of Hollywood in a historic show of solidarity wore black to the Golden Globes to help raise awareness.  While the western hemisphere was following how the #metoo campaign was unfolding and how Hollywood’s elites were coming out sharing their personal stories of sexual abuse,  a young 7-year girl Zainab’s body was found in a pile of waste in Pakistan.  All indications showing the little girl had not only been severly beaten but also raped.  This controversy led the citizens of Pakistan to start demanding justice for little Zainab and reintroduce the death penalty by hanging, an odd request per western views. The conversation sparked by Pakistani actress, Mahira Khan paraphrased that the conversation about sexual abuse should take place in schools and homes. But for some reason, this conversation is considered taboo in Eastern culture.  The repercussions of ignoring this and not discussing and teaching it to youth are that more children and women will be abused and raped.   Pakistan along with many other countries suffers from increased reports of sexual abuse and pedophilia. But as Khan mentioned, the conversation does not take place in most homes to educate kids regarding prevention, effects and the boundaries of personal space.

In the grand scheme, however rape and abuse are truly defined, parallels can be drawn between the three isolated incidents. On one hand, you have sexual abuse relating to career advancement, bringing to light issues of consent and pressure in the realm of rape/abuse.  On the other hand, you have a society where the conversation about rape/abuse does not exist due to cultural stigma. Then there is the conversation about what is considered “abuse” and what is “consent”.  Ashleigh Banfield of CNN, fired back in defense of Aziz Ansari’s “Grace” allegation, If you were sexually abused, then go to the cops…If you had a bad date…then go home..tell your friends…”. However, you have one aspect that needs an introduction to this topic, what about for Muslims? Muslims are not supposed to be engaging in any such activities outside of marriage. So why the parallels?

Islam in true form of practice forbids all form of abuse, engaging in sexual affairs outside of marriage, taking away someone’s rights and ultimately killing. If the world practiced by these true commandments, then this conversation would have a high percentage of not even taking place…Allah knows best.

But given the society and its rules we adhere to, that isn’t the case. So now we must have this conversation. What can we identify from these isolated situations to better society for tomorrow?  To ensure that women can follow their dreams without giving into sexual demands, or that innocent 7-year olds can walk home from Quran class knowing that they will not become a statistic?  Can we prevent this by simply having a conversation? Or should one take on the larger undertaking of shifting society and culture?

A key driving force behind behavior, acceptance, and actions derives from culture. Culture doesn’t need to be religious based or any particular country.   It needs to be focused on what individuals are really exposed to. Exposure can be what is seen in the media/entertainment, family values, and more.  If we are engaged or surrounded by an environment that promotes heavy rape culture such as degrading women in the workplace or telling transgender people that they do not have the same rights as everyone else, such environments only serve to give predators a justification for their actions.   There have been studies by various feminist groups which encourage women to use their body to further advance their careers.  Such studies promote the notion of playing within the “ranks of men” or any dominating gender/type/faith to lead you to the result you desire. What is not taken into consideration in this teaching is this only empowers the abusing party more. Leads to ways to counter that if it becomes anywhere noticeable. This appears to be more of a short-term bandage than a long time fix. However, one cannot blame such teachings as society/culture has pushed individuals into solutions which may benefit them but potentially harm others.  When taking into account these variables, it is not unfortunately as easy to say “You should keep your gaze down”.

But this also leads to questioning, what happens if my boss/superior creates an environment that I may be forced into unwillingly? Such as forcing me to engage in sex for that next big promotion or any kind of extortion? Do you engage in such acts and report later? The solution to this is not as simple as one may analyze in this piece or any other writing/publication pieces. But what can happen, is we can begin to address the problem now, as a community, engage in conversation and essentially create a support system for victims, instead of shunning the victim and leaving the abuser free to roam.

The other aspects of this movement has to address another key vertical, the opportunist. There have been situations around the world where certain men & women see the #MeToo Campaign as a moment to “cinch back control” or leverage it for higher/equal pay or some other ulterior motive. Yes, equal pay is a grave concern which affects women. But to use a false accusation as a means to address it, or to use it as a kind of weapon to seek a better outcome is not simply just selfish, but it also delegitimizes the thousands of valid claims of abuse by victims who are indeed affected by sexual harassment.  It also demoralizes and undermines the rights of women or men who are victims of sexual harassment. It is something as a mother would tell her child, “Don’t lie”.  Lying, in general, is considered a form of “fasad”, which doesn’t yield anything of substance. It will eventually catch up and take away the very thing you were fighting for,

But one cannot simply blame women who are “gaming sexism” to their advantage. This comes from the contrary belief that men are superior to women. This notion exists from the earliest of times, to which it even predates organized religion. However, as each faith has preached through their respective messengers, society would simply develop a form of stigma against women, causing their [women] rights to be trampled upon. Holy Books would be altered to read such. But when the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) started his journey as the final messenger, it led to the Quran, which this day has not been altered/doctored and remains protected, in which Allah SWT speaks about the rights of women in a dedicated chapter along with various mentioned across other chapters as well.

Transliteration: ar-rijālu qawwamūna ʿala -n-nisāʾi bimā faḍḍala – llāhu baʿḏahum ʿala baʿḍin wa bimā ʾanfaqū min ʾamwālihim fa-ṣ-ṣāliḥātu qānitātun ḥāfiẓātun l-il-ghaybi bimā ḥafiẓa -llāhu wa-l-lātī takhāfūna nushūzahunna fa-ʿiẓūhunna w-ahjurūhunna fi-l-maḍājiʿ w-aḍribūhunna fa ʾin ʾaṭaʿnakum falā tabghū ʿalayhinna sabīlan ʾinna -llāha kāna ʿalīyyan kabīran

Translation: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). — translated by Yusuf Ali

To better understand this verse, one must go into depth of the Quranic verse before casting any judgment over the verse translation alone. This verse alone has three parts to it. The 1st part talks about the “responsibility” of man to a woman. This can be understood in both aspects 1.) non-married/platonic/Gender role- Men are to protect women due to their creation of having certain characteristics in physical built they pertain that women do not. 2.) Men and Women that are married. In both references, This is spoken about in “ar-rijālu qawwamūna ʿala -n-nisāʾi bimā faḍḍala”, to which “qawwamūna” derives from the root meaning, “support”. The second part of this surah is the role of Women in the absence of Men.  Allah SWT has promised that He will look after the obedient women in the absence of men. The third part to this is the consequence of disloyalty, to further define the relationship. This last part of the translation is weaponized by Islamophobes and parties that are trying to “modernize” the faith. But to better understand this as well as the Quran, one must research into the Hadiths that are associated with this verse.

The last part talks about “beating” whereas if one views it from a current society lens, it appears “barbaric” as argued by the opposition. But when one you refer to the Prophet’s farewell sermon and as well as the hadith collected by Abu Dawud, The Prophet mentioned that one may “symbolically” beat their wives without causing harm.  Ibn ‘Abbas, a companion of the Prophet, is recorded in the Tafsir of al-Tabari for verse 4:34 as saying that beating without severity is using a siwak (toothbrush) or some such thing. Other narrations using something as light as a feather.

Sulaiman bin Amr bin Ahwas said: “My father told me that he was present at the Farewell Pilgrimage with the Messenger of Allah. He praised and glorified Allah, and reminded and exhorted (the people). Then he said: ‘I enjoin good treatment of women, for they are prisoners with you, and you have no right to treat them otherwise unless they commit clear indecency. If they do that, then forsake them in their beds and hit them, but without causing injury or leaving a mark. If they obey you, then do not seek means of annoyance against them. You have rights over your women and your women have rights over you. Your rights over your women are that they are not to allow anyone whom you dislike to tread on your bedding (furniture), nor allow anyone whom you dislike to enter your houses. And their right over you is that you should treat them kindly with regard to their clothing and food.’ ” GradeSahih

There are many other verses which speak about the independence of women and how they are to receive equal rights and shares. In our current affairs, this expands to domestic abuse, equal pay, and rights. But as mentioned prior, men have tried to suppress women through domestic abuse and/or sexual harassment. It is a philosophical thought that is practiced by men of all generations. But the 1st goal is to bring awareness to the issue itself.

We live in a world of social media and public information. The majority of us have used social media to talk about the good times, bad and issues that we/individuals may be facing. Recently, celebrities, bigtime producers, politicians and others have been called out for their misconduct and abuse of power and/or influence. This is all because awareness has begun. The conversation has started. But to ensure results are delivered for the generation to come, we must apply the rules of the campaign the way one would start a business. Starting a business is more than just philosophy, strategic planning, and even how much one financially contributes to it. It comes down to how much sweat one puts into starting a business, hence the term sweat equity.

Given the conversation has started (business has been founded), the conversation has taken place (a strategy discussed and will only further evolve) now the sweat equity must take place. In the case of harassment and looking into ways of preventive notions. The 1st thing that can be done is starting early with education. During grade school the are various health services classes which cover various topics ranging from drivers education, CPR and cooking sciences and etc.  Gender equality is something that should be taught as a recurring topic over the years versus minimizing it down to a semester or a one-off class. This should include history, prevention, psychological effects, and importance of community/support.

Also, accountability should exist as well. Exercising boycotts in large collective masses against not just individuals who are in the entertainment industry. But also the politicians. Just as lobbyists work day in/out to push their corporate interests. Why can’t the people do the same? Force them to resign, go after their [politicans] business interests to capture that attention and to create a form of pressure.

The conversation of #MeToo has to be more than a conversation. It has to be a full-on movement which doesn’t fizzle off when it leaves the News Cycle. Muslims first must learn to put aside cultural and teachings and ways of thoughts of their ancestors and realign with the Quran and Hadiths teachings. This doesn’t mean to simply “google” a few verses and make a decision from there.  But to uphold our duties and full dive into the commandments and teach good, use it as examples to share with others. Non-Muslims are also encouraged to dive deep into the full scripture and supplements along with the scholarly rulings and interpretations. If understood correctly like the greater majority of Muslims who are peaceful/love and understanding,  great positive change can be brought forward.

Men and Women have equal rights and Women have more protection versus men. Men may be given more strength than Women. But women, on the other hand, are given more rights and protections. It is time society adheres to these and creates a more unified and supportive society for the future generations.

Raakin Iqbal

Co-Founder of U.M. Studied at Georgetown University. Loves Board Games.

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