A really large and well-known Islamic conference that took place in 2018 actually had a speech on #MeToo movement. I read on a friend’s Facebook account that this speech was lead by a male Imam; this Facebook post also discussed why women should be leading this discourse instead.
Although I was not present there, I still thought to cover this topic. I firmly believe that it would have helped a lot if women lead this particular discussion. You see, I hang out with Muslims and also learn about what they are doing or saying because I am a Muslim. There are times when some of the Imams and Muslim men say random and lame things that are extremely painful for sexual assault victims to hear—not all Muslim Imams and men are like that though. For instance, reminding someone to do a good deed is a common Islamic practice so an Imam may say, “Women should not point out a rapist unless it is true and even then this needs to be investigated”. I heard from my friends that something like this was actually mentioned during this conference as well. Correct! Although there is no wrong is stating this but there is always a danger of overdoing this; for example, when most of the lectures start revolving around admonishing and preaching. This is utterly boring and waste of time and money! However, I firmly believe that it is useless to preach during a #MeToo campaign simply because it is a fact that most victims are not lying to you.
I did some research and found out some things that some—not all—male Imams and well-educated Muslim men won’t be able to tell you.
1) Imams and religious figures are incorrect when they admonish women to be truthful about revealing that someone has raped them. This is because by doing so they are unconsciously adding the “victim blaming” mentality into the masses. I have some material about how rapists think; and, I have learned that rapists easily say, “Don’t blame me” or “You wanted all of this”. What is the difference here when an Imam continuously tells the masses, “women should not be pointing out any rapist unless it is true”. My friend mentioned on her Facebook that some male Imam said this at the 2018 conference. Apparently, he is approaching a very sensitive topic in a very insensitive manner. I know a raped woman who went through several years of depression and could not get out of her bed simply because her brother said a couple of mean things to her after she was raped by a stranger. Even when I started discussing the situation behind my rape with a politically connected Canadian-Muslim man who was supposedly very religious, he gradually became awkward in his communication. I only had a brief cellphone conversation with him and one face-to-face meeting. I started talking to him because I was in a new city and needed a job fast and because he told me that he has helped abused women in the past. He tried to help me out a bit. Then, one day I texted him that I was not praying because I was not feeling so well. After hearing this, he said: “Satan is effective on you.” Here is a screenshot of this conversation. His comments are inside white textboxes and mine are inside green.
A politically connected Canadian-Muslim man (Shan) harassed me when I was discussing how I was unable to focus due to some abuse. Over time, I have learned that men's definition of harassment is very different than women's definition.
I blocked all the contacts he offered me as well as his email. It hit me that day that these men are learning something wrong; and, it is a group mentality. The reason I decided to be very firm about this is because I have studied the mentality of abusive men; and, I have found out that sometimes they trap or mistreat women by giving them something they need. This is another reason why I felt like I needed to be quiet about revealing his comments online. You see! By giving me something, he made me feel an obligation towards him, which is why I had to question a lot before sharing this online.
Seriously! This topic #MeToo is really that sensitive. We all know that sexual assault victims can injure themselves further when they are told something that does not make any sense or somehow adds to the suffocating atmosphere that they have been conditioned in. Research shows that women don’t usually lie about being raped. According to a study conducted by FBI, only 8% of the rape accusations are false. Very frankly, admonishing women to tell the truth should not even be the topic of debate because women usually do not lie about being raped. Read article, “Women Don’t Cry Rape“. Most of the stories and outcries we hear are true. Remember the case of Rehteah Parsons, the young Canadian girl who was gang raped! She was questioned so many times by some policemen and then verbally harassed by her community for speaking out that she ended up committing suicide. After being pressured by Hacktivist Anonymous community, the officials felt pressured to review her case again. This is when they conducted further investigations and found out that there were several flaws in police investigations. Read article, “Rehtaeh Parsons case review finds system ‘failed’“. I feel speeches that are centered around preaching should not be utilized for the #MeToo campaign because these are focusing masses to perform stronger investigations while ignoring the rest of the critical concepts.
2) Some imams and religious figures are doing a horrible job at protecting women. I have been to a couple of Canadian masjids; and, I am stunned to find out that only men are sitting inside offices and earning money. This sucks! Thus, it is clear that some of these men are not promoting women. Maybe most men aren’t doing this; I don’t have stats but only experience of being “shunned” repeatedly by men. They are neglecting the women, which is how these religious figures are allowing for mistreatment including rape. Read article, “Training Programs and Reporting Systems Won’t End Sexual Harassment. Promoting More Women Will“. Just standing up on stage and then preaching about telling truth or sharing some training programs or reports don’t do anything at all. Its like everyone repeating what everyone else is saying but no one knows the way out. The reality is that everyone needs to put a massive effort to integrate women, especially colored women since Canada is a very racist country.
3) Imams and Muslim men should receive training from Muslim women and learn about female psychology and issues before they get on the stage to address their communities. They should focus less on learning from women who belong to other communities because those women don’t know much about the Muslim community. Here is a helpful quote from the article, “Cardinal Ouellet: Women should help screen, train priest applicants“.
Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future sex abuse, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Source: “Cardinal Ouellet: Women should help screen, train priest applicants“.
4) Some Muslim men and Imams are teaching Prophet Mohammad’s teachings in a very blind manner. This is why even fresh minds like the Muslim youth, the revert Muslims, and all the other eager learners are being mislead. For example, Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) once said that mothers are three times more important than men.
A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet (PBUH) said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim) Source: The Importance of Mother in Islam.
Reality is that female psychology is not discussed in detail anywhere in Islam. The only famous phrase that discusses the importance of women is the one stated above. But, what if this phrase is referring to something bigger. For instance, the article, “Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships” states that women focus more on building closer and trustworthy relationships and men focus on building status. For any given society and household, creating reliable relationships is more important than working on maintaining status because relationships are the basis of everything. Read some of the dialogue provided in article “Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships” to see how women can be misunderstood. For instance, it is easy for women to be labelled as “beggars” when they try to work on broken relationships.
I read in ancient Islamic text that Ayesha, the wife of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) was a scholar. She taught many men, which means that the men who came from her circle were more versed in working with women. They had the opportunity to learn from her and observe how she behaves and reacts. They must have also noticed what kind of attitude made her angry or happy. Because they were learning from her, they couldn’t have just started questioning her without questioning themselves first or without asking more questions. That is how they promoted her within their society and protected the women. I must comment that I have met some Muslim and Christian men; and, I have realized that only a small number of these men have an idea about how to really integrate women without making them feel ashamed of anything they are lacking.
Saying all this, I definitely thank all the men who are trying to help me out one way or another. Make sure to share this post with your friends or family members because this is a very challenging topic; and, this issue is not only hurting the women but also dismantling the structure and progress of religious places like Churches and Masjids. Men can learn a lot from women; and, they should be doing exactly that, as humbly as possible. Read “Lucid Dreams Suggest That Women Should Be Leaders In Peacebuilding” to see why I think women should be paid really well for all their services including peacebuilding.
Copyright © by Arzoo Zaheer. All Rights Reserved.