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A Sexually Harassed World

In an age where we find our values being rigorously scrutinised, examined and put under the spotlight, we simultaneously find a myriad of breaking headlines, where, if Islamic values were to be applied, the media would run into a famine, starved of newsworthy reports.

The most recent scandal is that of the American film producer, Harvey Weinstein. The film mogul’s reputation has taken a massive blow, amid countless reports of sexual harassment cases over the last couple of decades, involving some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, sending Weinstein and his team into a frenzy of activity in a ludicrous attempt to redeem an unforgiving situation. Promises of career advancement in exchange for sexual favours are among the catalogue of accusations being published to date. Weinstein has since issued an unreserved public apology. In a statement of apparent remorse, Weinstein insists his journey will now focus on self-discovery in a bid to conquer his demons.

Whilst much has been said about this act of cowardice and manipulation, one must not forget the lasting impact it has had on all the victims involved in this disturbing story. Multiple accounts of rape have been reported, as further light is shed along each passing day into the manipulative tactics allegedly deployed by Weinstein to satisfy his holy sexual desires.

It is ironic that these scandals have been uncovered at a time when one of the very institutions that is themselves starting to deal with the fallout of this pandemic,[1] is bent over backwards trying to systematically attack the supreme values of Islam; targeting Islamic guidelines and principles generally held by Muslims when it comes to the issue of gender interaction, under the pretext of “equality” and promoting so-called “British Values”.

A case in point being UK universities where Islamic Societies have been repeatedly targeted (from the highest levels of government for a number of years[2]) for implementing optional segregation at events, whilst accusations of rampant sexual harassment throughout universities seems to be a far less pressing issue.[3]

Keeping the long term impact of such incidents in mind, it is no surprise then that Islām provide such comprehensive guidelines when it comes to gender interaction. Much like everything in existence in the world, mankind also needs its manual and guidelines by which to live his/her life by in the best way possible, whilst avoiding self-inflicted tragedy and heartache along the way, highlighting the eminence of Islamic values over everything else. The Creator of genders is fully acquainted with the limitations and behaviour of each gender, and has full knowledge of what system will work effectively and efficiently.

“Does He who created not know, while He is the knower of the subtleties – the all-Aware?”[4]

Yet we find our principles being challenged. Much a deal has been made about segregation in recent times, despite its obvious benefits. There have been talks about making segregated carriages on our underground network in order to protect women,[5] much to the dissatisfaction of our politicians and media alike.

Pertinent to the subject at hand is the matter of modesty, which plays an integral role in any successful society. Yet modesty is now attributed to “backward” cultures who are yet to see the apparent light of modern day nakedness; all the while ignoring how this sexualised culture and objectification of women in particular has played such a significant role in the corruption of society.

The Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “Modesty is a branch of faith.” [6]

Also read: Can you blame Muslims for wanting to segregate?

Here we find a subtle yet powerful expression of beauty, which screams honour, dignity and elegance. And it should be noted here, that the need for modesty applies to both men and women. We also find an example from the life of Prophet Musa (ʿalayhi al-Salām):

“And when he came to the well of Madyan, he found there a crowd of people watering [their flocks], and he found aside from them two women driving back [their flocks]. He said, “What is your circumstance?” They said, “We do not water until the shepherds dispatch [their flocks]; and our father is an old man.”

So he watered [their flocks] for them; then he went back to the shade and said, “My Lord, indeed I am, for whatever good You would send down to me, in need.”[7]

This story serves as a perfect model of gender interaction, keeping it straight to the point and speaking on a necessity basis. It provides an example for us as Muslims in the West on how to deal with the opposite gender at our workplaces. It is as straight forward as keeping any interactions on a professional basis. Be wary of the other extreme and going overboard, suddenly cutting all forms of communication, in a way which has an adverse impact on your performance.

Islām is a balanced, natural way of life; nothing about our values and morals provoke awkwardness or the like, but rather it provokes respect and justice. Take Ibn al-Qayyim’s statement for example on how a believer should feel towards Allāh. He mentions (raḥimahu Allāhu) that a believer should be a like a bird with two wings, one wing with hope in Allāh and the other wing with fear of Allāh. Both are needed in equal measure for a believer to soar through the trials of the dunya and ultimately pass this phase of life with flying colours.

In the modern era, a plethora of industries have started to realise that in order to build a successful foundation, one must pay particular focus on proactive measures as opposed to reactive ones.  It is no wonder then that Islām applies a strict protocol in order to preserve one’s honour, dignity and status. Allāh mentions in the Qur’ān:

“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.”[8]

Keeping in line with this theme, Allāh has ordained preventative measures for us to take and has commanded the believing females to observe hijāb and for the believing men to lower their gaze.

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.”[9]

The interactions between men and women are said to be among the most highly regulated interaction in the whole of the Sharīʿa, and range from the simple lowering of the gaze and etiquettes of professional distance between opposite sexes, to clear prohibitions beyond certain red lines, such as being alone in private.

One may argue that the solution to the problem is not to adopt strict rules as per the guidance and principle followed by many Muslims, but rather address the issue by other means, such as penalising the offender or placing bodies where complaints can be made, and so on.  However, we have already witnessed, left at the hands of those in authority, these solutions ultimately fail for a multiple reasons. For example the impracticality and ineffectiveness of their application – as seen in some of the referenced articles; victims will almost always feel fearful of losing their career and are only too aware that this disease is so widespread that even those meant to protect them might be part of the problem.

To say the least, these solutions are not a practical means of prevention; and of course prevention is what is required since once the crime is committed, the damage cannot be revoked.

With that in mind, to question Islamic values on gender interaction at a time when women, both in the East and the West, are being harassed left, right and centre is astonishing. This so-called secular-liberal way of life exposes the weakness of its philosophical foundations and values.

In addition to the verse above, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) further stipulated guidelines for us to follow. For example, he said: “For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him.”[10]

Some may argue that there is no need for such extreme measures, but ask yourself this: What price would you be willing to pay to preserve your identity, honour and integrity? To have a productive life free of the routine unnecessary harassment and scandals offered to us by Western culture.

Another common topic that arises within this discussion is that of how Muslim women are treated – commonly portrayed as being oppressed and slaves to their husband. This could not be further from the truth. Those who wholeheartedly live their lives based on Islamic principles are the happiest of individuals who find the utmost means of love, honour and respect. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said: “The best of you are those who are best to their wives”, signifying the importance of being well mannered and loving to one’s spouse.[11]

He also said: “A dinār which you spend for the sake of Allāh, a dinar which you spend on freeing a slave, a dinār which you give in charity to a poor person and a dinār which you spend on your family – the greatest of these in reward is that which you spend on your family.”[12]

Such is the honour granted to our womenfolk that they are not property, required to change their surnames upon marriage, contrary to other cultures. It is an obligation upon the man to offer his wife a gift by way of wealth as a gesture of love and respect. This is in stark contrast to how women are treated by swathes of those who have grown up with Western values, who are seen as little but sex symbols, as is evident in the Weinstein scandal and the never-ending news releases of new scandals coming to light. Most recently Daisy Goodwin, creator of ITV drama ‘Victoria’, revealed this week that she was groped by a government official inside 10 Downing Street.[13] Such is the pandemic of sexual harassment that whenever we come across a story, most of us just flick through the page as if it has become a socially accepted norm of our time.

Also read: Segregation and the Useful Idiot Paradigm

The prominent theme of the animalistic nature of men in positions of power, especially in the face of our so-called liberal and secular society that “empowers” both genders in the guise of “equality”, demonstrates the pitfalls of such attitudes. It has been widely reported that women are fearful of complaining about sexual harassment amid fears of losing their positions.[14] This would suggest that the role of women in society is increasingly becoming degraded as opposed to the “empowered” as we are led to believe.

A question which begs to be answered then; are we willing to put the mothers, daughters and sisters of our society at risk by neglecting Islamic values, and instead preferring to toe the line of so-called “equality” and ill-defined “British values” that permit the status quo?  In fact, given this pandemic has its place with some of the very people who govern our country—be it in parliament or the white house—are we then to say that accepting the existence of sexual harassment is part of being “British” or “western”?

We should be a mature society whereby we see through the negative portrayal of Islamic principles intentionally maligned by those in authority to serve their agenda and because these very principles are openly against such corruption.  And that may mean going against the status quo and taking from the divine principles and guidance offered by Islam (history is witness to its effectiveness when applied correctly), as we should adopt principles that benefit our society wherever they may come from and use these to shape definition of “British Values”, for the greater good.

Therefore, the next time you are challenged or looked at strangely due to your reluctance to “integrate” with the opposite gender, hold firm to your values and your identity, the values given to us by the greatest person to ever set foot on the face of this earth. Hold your head high with unwavering confidence in the knowledge that the decisions you make today will impact your future tomorrow, for we are a principled nation, guided by the revelations of the Qur’ān and Sunnah.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41812281

[2] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/sex-segregation-at-uk-universities-must-end-david-cameron-says-9003388.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/05/students-staff-uk-universities-sexual-harassment-epidemic

[4] Al-Qur’ān, 67:14

[5] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/whats-the-problem-with-women-only-train-carriages/

[6] An Nasa’i

[7] Al-Qur’ān, 28:23-24

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 17:32

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 33:59

[10] al-Tabarāni

[11] al Tirmidhi

[12] Muslim

[13] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41976749

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/21/women-sexual-harassment-work-careers-harvey-weinstein

About Mohammed Abdullah Naeem

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