Islamic teachings do not help prevent sexual abuse scandals

A reply to Qasim Rashid's article in The Independent.

Qasim Rashid recently wrote a very indelicate article in The Independent regarding the Weinstein sex scandal. His overall argument favoured Islamic teachings as a tool to prevent sexual abuse, dismissing legislation in Western societies as inadequate and futile. He is indisputably incorrect in his argument, and this post will outline why. It is important to me, not only as an ex-Muslim but as a woman who has witnessed and studied the barbarous misogyny of Islam, to inform the public of the dangers of passively accepting intentionally mendacious articles that seek to promote Islamic legislation.

While I will still summarise the points in Qasim Rashid’s article, I recommend you read it first in order to fully comprehend my response.

Rashid is a Muslim civil rights lawyer, specialising in advocating women’s rights. Thankfully, unlike what Islamic doctrines dictate, he does state that a woman’s chosen attire, education, marital status do not contribute to sexual abuse. Surprisingly, it can be found in social media networks, pictures and analogies that compare uncovered women to unwrapped lollipops attracting flies. He notes that social norms, the media and the government promote rape culture, hence perpetuating sexual abuse. Such social norms, he says, demonise women for speaking out and against her sexual abuse, blaming her clothing choices.

He uses the Weinstein sex scandal to present his argument for Islamic teachings and its inextricable connection to women’s rights. Rape and sexual abuse is notably unreported, unrecorded and makes up a large portion of the dark side of official statistics. Rashid comments on the lack of morality within the state; despite the preventative laws and legislation which attempt to stop sexual abuse and harassment, they are considered, ineffective. Instead, Rashid promotes the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed, a solution which no state could provide.

For instance, he displays the Quranic verse, chapter 4 verse 1 (not 2 as he stated; even in his attempt in providing evidence, Rashid seems to fail), which testifies that women were not created out of man’s rib, they were created from a single soul. This should undoubtedly establish equality. Further on, he puts forward the Quranic verse, chapter 4 verse 20, which forbids men from forcing women against their will. Certainly, a powerful example of autonomy. Also, chapter 4, verse 35 prevents violence against women by forcing men to control themselves. Moreover, regarding the hijab, men are first commanded to lower their gaze, regardless of how a woman is dressed. Even the prophet Muhammed followed these divine words, by ordering his male companion to lower his gaze when approached by an uncovered woman. Rashid even points out that, “Islam prescribes no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise” and on many occasions, the prophet Muhammad “punished an accused rapist on the testimony of the rape survivor alone”. I flailed my arms up and snorted in derision at this. No punishment in Islam for women who choose to dress as they wish? Tell that to millions of women who fight daily to take it off and are sentenced to imprisonment and flogging. I recommend you read my piece ‘World Non-Hijab Day’ for further information on the veil as an ideological apparatus against women.

It might surprise you to find such teachings within Islam. To think that the prophet Muhammed did not scold the uncovered woman for her lack of modesty, and the Quran to state such verses of gender equality. Rashid calls Weinstein a symptom of the arrogance and social apathy within society and that Islam and the teachings of the prophet Muhammed provide a “practical solution”. Finally, he calls to us to “employ a proven Islamic model that will stop this madness, and re-invoke gender equity today in America, and the world”.

Brilliant argument, Rashid. Horribly flawed, but I caught your passionate sentiment. Cherry picking the Quran and the actions of the prophet Muhammed to justify Islamism as a solution to sexual abuse. Deceptive writings and deliberate evasiveness of your own holy text suggest you covertly know the reality of the rights of women in Islam.

Now let’s look at the other verses in the Quran that contradict your plea. While the Quran may state in chapter 4, verse, that we were created from a single soul, thus implying equality, chapter 2, verse 228 states that “men are a degree above them [women]”. Why the contradiction? Well, one logical answer would be because the Quran wasn’t written by an omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent god, but by a man who clearly couldn’t make up his mind. It is disgusting to think that such an almighty loving “god” could watch millions of cases of sexual abuse and sit idly by. Again, in chapter 2, verse 282, a woman’s testimony in court is worth half of a man’s. “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses: And if two men are not found then a man and two women”. Why? Well in the hadith, Sahih Bukhari, chapter 6, verse 301, Muhammed said that this is because of the “deficiency in her intelligence.” Quran, chapter 4, verse 11, a daughter is given half on the inheritance of her brother: “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females”.

Have I clarified the gender inequality within Islam? Good, moving on to sexual abuse.

Within marriage, the Quran states that “your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will.” This means that men have dominion over their wives’ bodies as he does his land. “Tilth” is a cultivation of land or field. A man could go into his wife as he does in a field. Great comparison. Obviously, a verse of progressive bodily autonomy, one a woman could not achieve in Western societies that have no Islamic ruling. Quran chapter 4, verse 24 and chapter 33, verse 50, allow for men to have sex slaves (those whom the right hand possesses). It’s incredibly disheartening, and concerning to think that people actually believe that Islam could prevent sexual abuse and misconduct, their holy book unashamedly allows for such things. In Al-Tirmidhi, the prophet Muhammed states that the best woman is one who “pleases her husband, obeys him and does not go against his wishes.” A woman must remain complaint to her husband; non-consensual sex included.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria practices these Quranic verses, enslaving Yazidi girls and carrying out rape and sexual abuse. Indeed, they are called fundamentalists or extremists because they carry out the literal words of their god. If there is something wrong with fundamentalists or extremists, of any religion, it means there is something wrong with the religion’s fundamentals

Furthermore, marital rape is ignored or unexistent under Islamic ruling and yet, Western societies acknowledge and criminalise it. Another hadith, narrated by Abu Huraira, tells us that the prophet Muhammed said that “If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning,” (Book 54, Hadith 460). A woman cannot refuse sex within Islam. If she is disobedient, a man is allowed to succumb to domestic violence in order to subdue her: Quran, chapter 4, verse 34: “But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.” I’m sure Aisha, who was 9 years old when the marriage was consummated with Muhammed, did not have consensual sex with her husband. How could billions of people expect a child to give consent to such things?! It was considered her duty. The female body is one of many commodities Muhammed possessed. It bewilders me to think that Rashid advocates Islamic teachings as a way of preventing sexual abuse. Muhammed had sex with slaves, he raped them- it is no wonder Islamic State of Iraq and Syria follow his example.

The definition of sexual abuse within Islam is rather ambiguous. While Rashid may find it inappropriate to judge a victim of sexual abuse by her clothing, the majority of Islamic scholars would find her guilty of indecency and purposely attracting men towards sinful behaviour. Rape victims who testify under Islamic law require four witnesses (male, otherwise eight female witnesses would be equal to it) to support her in providing evidence. If this fails, she will be trialled on pre-marital sex or adultery. The woman, or rape victim, will be punished, usually through lapidation (stoning) or flogging.

The World Health Organization’s study in one of Iran’s cities presented their findings of sexual abuse within marriage. 15.0% of wives had been physically abused, 42.4% had been sexually abused and 81.5% had been psychologically abused by their husbands. In Saudi Arabia, a 23-year-old woman was raped by a group of men and became pregnant. She was sentenced to one year in prison and 100 lashes for adultery. The court graciously postponed the flogging until after the delivery.

Rashid stated that “states are not moral actors – people are”. Yet, in Islamic countries, honour killings are becoming prevalent in an attempt to rid the family or society of an “impure” woman who has practised pre-marital sex or committed adultery. An Islamic solution, while minorities such as Rashid may not agree, to sexual abuse could be their practice of female genital mutilation. Clitoridectomy and infibulation are carried out on millions of women in Islamic countries, such as Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and the Arabian peninsula, to stop sexual pleasure and orgasm in a woman. This would guarantee virginal purity until marriage; a fixed solution to prevent sexual abuse outside of marriage. Her lack of sexual pleasure certainly prevents her from dressing immodestly and attracting the attention of males. Qasim Rashid, like many other deluded writers advocating Islam, clearly does not advocate truth, rational thinking or integrity in his articles.

There is an increasing monotonization of Islam as an advocate or alternative solution for women’s rights. And I will carry on, unapologetically and unreservedly, fighting against this preposterous notion that women have rights under Islam. I thoroughly condemn Weinstein and ardently support the women who have spoken out. There are, undoubtedly, errors in our society that hinder the prevention of sexual abuse and silence women, and this is appalling. But, Islamic teachings are, clearly, not the solution. Yet, I find it significant to speak out against those who utilise this outrageous scandal as a force for a barbaric ideology which compares women to fields and property. The consistent attempts by Muslims journalists and writers to normalise unequal laws and religious doctrines that are axiomatically against women’s rights are published without editorial and public scrutiny. This may be because of the scare non-Muslims have of being Islamophobic, a term branded on those critical of Islam, an ideological tool to subdue and silence dissent. Ingratiation of Islam is becoming more prevalent and their evasive use of their holy book and of Muhammed’s teachings have become techniques to argue against Western societies.


Saiedeh Naeini 4 Articles
Saiedeh Naeini (Sai Naeini) Member of the Council of Ex-Muslims and the Organising Committee for the International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience. Disclaimer: Posts are not representative of the Council of Ex-Muslims. These are my own opinions. BA. English/History of Art. University of York. MA. Culture and Thought after 1945. University of York. MA English Studies: Literature, Language, Culture. Free University of Berlin. Feminist and atheist. Fluent in Farsi, English and German.

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