Freedom from the Forbidden

All things gender and Islam. No bigotry is allowed in this feminist territory. #DeathToPatriarchy

How Not to Respond When You Hear an Imam is Sexually Abusing People

Just to clarify: the title of this post is referring not to survivers of sexual abuse but to those who hear about sexual abuse. The following are some things *not* to say when you learn that a Qur’an teacher, an imam, or other religious community leader is sexually abusing people.

The post below is specifically in response to the recent sexual abuse by the Chicago imam, who — let’s all thank the Creator — now has been charged with sexually abusing an employee! May those whom he harmed, in any and every way, find love and strength to cope with the repercussions of the crimes this man has committed against them. And may those because of whom this man is now being punished be rewarded for their pursuit of justice despite the consequences.  May all such criminals be brought to justice soon, aameen!

So here are some things that we should NOT say when we hear that a “respected” member of the community, especially a religious community leader, has been or is sexually abusing community members.

1. “He’s an IMAM! Muslims and people of faith would never do such a thing when they’re constantly preaching about how to be pious and stuff. They’re not Muslim if they do. Period.”
I don’t care if you think they’re Muslim or not. Because, first of all, they are Muslim. Being dismissed from the fold of Islam isn’t as simple as committing a crime. Especially when the Muslim in question is a Qur’an teacher who has crucial Islam-related roles in the community and maybe even the world.

But that’s not even the point. It’s not “period” just because they’re doing something that Islam wouldn’t approve of. That’s just the beginning of the problem, and we need to collectively do everything to condemn these sexual predators, punish them, and make sure that others note the consequences of such crimes.

2. “Listen, let’s first make sure that all these allegations are true before we punish the accused, ok? In fact, we shouldn’t even talk about this until we have evidence and proof that he’s guilty. This is a respected imam you’re accusing of.”

What? Why? Because respect = complete innocence? You see, particularly given the kind of communities most us Muslims belong to, it’s difficult to find absolute evidence of sexual abuses, and so we’ve to rely on the statements of those coming forward; it’s also insanely close to impossible to encourage people to come forward to speak out against their abuse(s) because of how much victim-blaming and victim-shaming takes place in our society. We saw this with the Chicago Muslims coming forward: While many Muslims responded in support (see, for example, this petition and letter that some wrote for Muslim scholars/leaders to address sexual abuse in their communities), some others are still defending the imam and accusing the survivors of lying. Our immediate response to abuse when we hear of it should be to send well wishes upon those who have been harmed and demand justice. Let authorities take care of the rest, but we cannot demand for the community’s silence “until it’s been proven.” That’s what we’re supposed to say to the survivors? Seriously? “I can’t stand with you until you’ve proven to me that he’s abused you.” There’s something seriously amiss here if this is our initial response.

3. Some of our community leaders have been writing long Facebook posts/statuses in response to the Chicago imam’s case expressing support for the victims. Great! Excellent! But these public statements also completely neglect to condemn the imam for what he’s done. And the writers/activists are calling this a “balanced approach.” Actually, there’s nothing balanced about choosing not to — maybe even refusing to — condemn the imam/abuser because you’d rather focus on the survivors only. You can’t support the survivors by refusing to recognize publicly that the person who abused them was wrong and should face consequences for what he did. You can focus on the survivors, their well-being, their safety WHILE also condemning the imam. Otherwise, your approach isn’t balanced at all.

4. “Look, imams, too, are human, just like everyone else. And everyone makes mistakes. You can’t let their mistakes define them.”

Okay, there’s everything wrong with this, and I refuse to go into this. (But it’s a real response, I swear! Someone said that to me when I shared my blog post on how my Qur’an teacher sexually abused girls in my elementary school.)

5. We always lose focus when talking about religious people’s crimes! Our focus shifts from “let’s make sure he’s charged guilty and send message to others that this is unacceptable and that we will take action” to “But why would an IMAM of all people do such a thing? Besides, Imams have no reason to do this. Catholic priests, yes, since they can’t get married and stuff. But that’s why Islam requires marriage especially for men.” Like what the hell? NO! Lets first talk about sexual abuse. Why is it so hard to believe an imam would do this? He has easy access to potential victims, is trusted, knows no one will believe the victims or anyone else if they tell on him. He knows that if the victims come forward, any of them, the community would destroy them in every possible way. Because imams = gods.

6. We also tend to immediate say it’s not just imams or its not all imams! Stop making it seem like only imams do this. #notALLimams, anyone? Or even #notjustmuslimsokay?! Just … just stop.

In other words, we’ll talk about ANYthing but the actual problem of the reality of sexual abuse especially by religious, respected members of the community. Or of condemning the abusers.

My Qur’an teacher sexually abused girls when I was in elementary school, and I’ve a friend who was sexually abused by a female Qur’an teacher. I will never, ever doubt it when anyone says they’ve been abused or knows someone who’s abused. None of us should ever doubt it. Especially when the accused is someone no one would ever expect to do such a thing. That’s when we should all open our eyes wider because something’s going on here because of the power dynamics in question.

Categories: Death to patriarchy, Sexual abuse, society, stop using the word shame, violence in this world, why we need feminism

Tags: , ,

13 replies

  1. Yes! Finally! (oh wow, anony has a wordpress account now, hell yea)

    #2 pisses me off the most. There are SO many ways to get evidence nowadays but people just turn a blind eye, have the “pick n choose from the koran” game and this is affecting us negatively. and so many people forget that sexual assault has psychological effects too, and psychologically hurting someone deliberately is haram and that’s enough for the imam (or anyone) to be brought to justice.

    and shall i ramble for you on #4?
    on number 4:
    the imam is a human, but so is the victim. the koran was given to you and explicitly stated what is a grave sin and what’s a ‘buddhist sin’ (can’t find a better term, sorry).
    but this deliberate attack was not a mistake.
    saying only the imam is human and he has mistakes (like a very humanely thing to do), is totally ignoring the victim and his/her torment.
    forgive and forget is also a crappy excuse, indirect victim shaming and ‘telling a fish to climb a tree’.
    if he doesn’t regret nor repent, it’s already down this man already defied Islam. and Allah shall deal with him.
    you shouldnt let mistakes define you, but you should learn from it.
    If he admitted it, he would ask forgiveness from the victim and allah, repent, pay a fine AND NEVER DO IT AGAIN. he shouldve realised it hurts people. almost every harrasser, always harasses again.

    i guess im bad at explanations, but think of a scenario when you trust an adult and they have broken that trust of yours. you hope the adult you had known before the incident will return, but instead they attack again. you don’t want this happening, but hopefully the adult will return to the person they were, defending his actions even if they tear you apart.
    this is sexual harassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. na day **

    and Pakistan divides Pashtuns ! I dislike those who divide Pashtuns !


    • I deleted your other comment because you are just trolling. Go away and never come back. Also, I cannot — and I really mean cannot — put into words how much I *really* sincerely don’t care that you don’t like those who divide Pukhtuns and that you’re not Muslim.


    • Then i’ll take your advice, I will return when our grand children or our great grandchildren or great-great grandchildren gain independance from Pakistan, Inshallah !

      and would i live long enough to witness us Pashtuns having our national identity that far into the future? That is my dream ! That or something else 😉


    • the fact that she made clear she was no fan of pakistan, therefore she is friend to Pashtuns who wish to seek independence , yet the Pakistani Bashing Pashtuns keep bashing like retards and not on Pashtuns who want to stay a part of Pakistan but because this woman actually supports independance …….. The worst thing to happen for Pakistani Bashing nationalists is if she went back to become a Proud Pakistani with alot of KPK Pashtuns, and flushed Afghanistan or Pashtunistan out of her mind and heart ….

      MOST KPK Pashtuns consider themselves Pakistani and want to be Pakistani and alot of them are willing to integrate with majority Punjabi people and Pakistani society in general, live with it!


    • read her About,

      she sais she’s not a fan of Pakistan so isn’t that enough! Stop attacking someone who supports your opinions by calling her names like race traitor etc. etc. she’s not a race traitor and wants pashtuns to be seperate…. just not bashes other folks….


  3. We are Pashtun legion

    We do not Forgive, we do not Forget

    We keep on coming and going, this is our logo, We represent Pashtun people

    and we WILL make Pashtunistan a reality !

    ~~~~ Afghan Cyber Army

    We are not Anti-Islamic, we are Anti-Islamic extremist, we promote freedom of religion…

    We are Anti to those who are Anti-Pashtun….


  4. It seems to me that people will respond that way because they fear that being open and honest about sexual abuse will reflect poorly on them as individuals. In other words; it is all about them, never about the victim and is really selfish. It is selfish because it makes all the more harder for all victims of abuse to seek justice. If anyone after reading your excellent series still wants make excuses for abusers and silence the vicitms; then I invite them to look into the past 30 years of research into the effects of sexual abuse on children and then ask themselves if that is the legacy we wish to leave for our kids; of any community. Ameen to you dua


  5. Dear Orbala… are you studying Anthropology???? Are you becoming an anthropologist?

    just curious….


    • I was planning to double major in history and anthropology to study Pashtuns, Punjabis and about any ethnicity, culture or race around the world….

      i am not Anti-Islamic, nor am i Anti-women, nor do i bash persistently Pakistan or say Only Afghans are Pashtun or any of that BS …..


    • Nope. Not in anthropology. Islamic Studies with emphasis on gender/sexuality issues.


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