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October 2005

Revealing the Hidden Truth

Islamic Attitude Toward Rape

by Shaden Mohamed

The miniskirt debate. We've all heard it before: does wearing revealing items of clothing make a woman more vulnerable to acts of violence or slander from her peers?

Lately, everyone's been giving their two-cents on everything except the real issue. And these "opinions" are causing distress to many women, regardless of the way they dress. For it is quite clear that walking through a dark alley way wearing a mini skirt is just as dangerous as wearing a baggy tracksuit with about as much sex appeal as a sack of potatoes. Because when one looks at the unfortunate facts, crime levels in Sydney (Australia, where I live) are on the rise, and it can be argued that this is reminiscent of a lack of values and a judicial system which has more cracks than communal showers in a prison.

As with any great evil in society, the spotlight is often cast upon the backdrop, and the star of the show continues the performance unnoticed.

Muslim Attitudes Towards Rape

More recently, the spotlight is shining on Muslim attitudes towards rape, sparked by Sheik Faiz's Mohamad's controversial lecture on March 18, where he is quoted saying,

"A victim of rape every minute somewhere in the world. Why? No one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world . . ."

To the shock of the organisers - who apologised for his comments - Faiz's speech has proved to be more than an embarrassment; the Muslim community is once again facing scrutiny for an individual's actions.

As a Muslim woman who wears the hejab (Islamic head veil), my demeanour ironically falls in line with the misguided rantings of those such as Faiz, who are unwilling to acknowledge that figure who stands in the shadows. And yet, I still fear walking the streets at night alone, I still lock the doors of my car and home, and I still foolishly rely on my 2 hours of Kung-Fu experience should the need arise to defend myself.

This fear is not pre-determined by the way I dress, and yet this is what is being asserted everytime a victim of sexual violence is asked: "what were you wearing?" Because if you think about it, if fear was pre-determined by the length of a woman's skirt, then the majority of women in Sydney are living models of Wonder Woman, fearless and quite capable of dodging a lethal blow from any man's sword.

The disturbing assumption here is that a woman who wears next to nothing has less fear of being attacked than a woman who buttons her long-sleeve shirt all the way to the top - an assumption which is nothing short of absurd.

Why Islam Encourages Modesty

It is true that my Islamic beliefs encourage modesty at all times, both in attire and behaviour. It is also true that wearing anything short, tight or otherwise revealing is discouraged. For it is believed that when a woman removes those factors which make her attractive (such as her hair, show of skin or body shape), then her peers are left with little choice but to base their judgements on her inner qualities, rather than on her exterior beauty.

Perhaps this is why we choose to dress conservatively in the work place; wearing your Saturday night clubbing outfit to the office may not be appropriate due to the importance of portraying a professional image.

Ignorant Remarks

As human beings, we are wired to react to each other on many different levels, and the dynamic relationship between males and females is no exception. But it is the choices we make regarding such reactions that differentiate us from the beast. Those who don't show restraint are often breaking official laws, or unwritten laws of what is considered acceptable behaviour in our society. So whether the act is that of a violent rape or of a male who honks his horn and yells obscenities at a woman who crosses the street, our choice of clothing should have no bearing on our mode of behaviour.

Unfortunately, the fires of hatred are being fueled by ignorant remarks and a backlash of negativity. Everything from what the woman was wearing, to who the criminal was and why he broke the law is being churned in and out of court proceedings, media reports, monotonous debates and even unprecedented Islamic lectures.

For those who have little or no idea about religion in general, let alone Islam, let me make one thing clear: Islam is a religion of peace, where men and women have equal human rights. Both have the right to live harmoniously, in safety and in happiness. What individuals choose to do with these teachings is a direct result of their own personal values and education.

The responsibility lies with the driver should there be an accident due to speeding, not with the vehicle - which is often left crumpled at the side of the road. Despite the airbags, seat belts and ABS brakes, there is only so much that the manufacturer can do to ensure the safety of his passengers. And that is precisely what happens to Islam when an irresponsible driver takes the wheel.

Focus on the Issue at Hand

The wider community should focus on the issue at hand, and concentrate on eliminating the source of the problem rather than letting the real criminal slip through the political hoops of finger-pointing and name-calling. As a woman, the horror of rape can not have differing degrees of sympathy according to who the victim was or what she looked like. My reaction will always be the same: rape is a crime with no justification, and no woman deserves to be treated so inhumanely.

And for those who still aren't convinced, perhaps you should think about the situation a little closer, and substitute the victim with that of your mother, sister or daughter. Religion aside, this opinion is universal to anyone who holds human life dear, and as such, a stance should be made to prevent the spotlight from being pointed away from the criminal's intolerable actions.

Because until the day comes when rainbows and butterflies are adorning the front page of a newspaper, my doors will remain locked, and my senses will be on full alert.

Of Egyptian background, Shaden Mohamed was born and bred in Sydney, Australia, where she attained a degree in Media & Communications. As an accomplished writer, Shaden has a passion for educating and informing others in her community on the beauty of her culture. "My dream is to inspire people with my writing because I believe that literature is the most beautiful form of expression."

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