I’m so deeply grateful to the thoughtful ways that Muslim women deal with problems in our community. I’m so grateful to be among them, and I’m grateful that I’m in conversation with them. Thank you all ❤ I’m blessed to call you my sisters.
Much of what I say in here is the accumulation of ideas that Muslim women are expressing on Facebook. E.g., Thanks to JH for point out the irony that we’re suddenly waiting for an Islamophobic system to exonerate TR; to AH for calling out the hypocrisy of the people (Muslim male academics mostly) who supported our #MeToo stories but are now doubting a woman who came forward to out her rapist; to DR for reminding us about the survivors who never received justice because of a lack of evidence; to SS for pointing out another inconsistency in our community, that of, on the one hand, saying that if the women in NAK’s case were telling the truth, they’d have come forward earlier and/or reported the case earlier, while in Tariq Ramadan’s case, the women are lying and/or we need to hold off on our judgments. And to everyone else for noting that we always, always render women’s experiences and concerns irrelevant until somehow magically, the “real” “bigger problems” are solved! We’re tired of having to constantly say that women’s rights cannot wait. Yes, there’s Islamophobia, but why should I as a Muslim woman think that Islamophobia is more important and deserves more attention than the injustices inflicted on me in my own community, where my own “brothers” and “sisters” are the ones committing the same injustices they’re quick to attack other communities for? And why does it have to be let’s fight one or the other and not both? One of the issues here is that because it’s always, always women behind revolutions and fights for justice, you men have no idea that we can actually multi-task. For you, a fight is worth fighting only if men’s rights are at the center, but for us, Islamophobia AND misogyny are equally unacceptable.
As the Qur’an commands: Dear mu’mineen, stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor! (4:135).
But I digress. That’s a topic for another time that, almost ironically enough, I’ve been holding off on writing about… as though it can wait… I know, pity. But for now, there’s something else I’d like to bring to y’all’s attention.
It’s been quite something, disturbing but whatever, to watch how male academics are talking about this on Facebook. There’s the dismissal of the whole case because, well, “false accusations”–even if they’re between 2-8% of all accusations–are still la possibility. There’s the one saying it’s not true because he’s someone’s father, son, husband, etc. (“What if someone accused your husband of rape?” they ask. Well, if you wanna take it to that level, then how about … no, I ca’t. I can’t bring myself to ask such a pitiful and insensitive question in response. This is ridiculous.) There’s the person saying he can’t possibly have done this because he’s been on panels with Tariq Ramadan, and, well, we all know that rapists don’t serve on panels, so … and there’s the whole lot saying “he’s innocent until proven guilty” and “if him now, which of us is next?!”
Now as more and more of Ramadan’s victims/survivors are coming forward, these folks are either completely silent, or they’re reminding Muslims that “Well, sure, he may have raped all these women, but he’s still taught you a bunch of valuable stuff, so he’s not a totally bad person.” Except, no. Funny how when it comes to women, esp feminists, *everything* they say is invalidated, their Islam put on trial, if they say or do something the patriarchy doesn’t like, but a man? He gets to rape 5+ women, brutally, and/or sexually harass women, and we get a “now now, people: remember he’s still a scholar you got valuable knowledge from.” Actually, no. Imam Bukhari would disagree, because he wouldn’t take knowledge (of the Prophet s.) from those whom he saw doing things as simple as deceiving their animals! Or as someone else said in a comment discussing this, would you accept Tariq Ramadan in an isnad for a hadith? If yes, your hadith wouldn’t be inauthentic; if no, there you go.
Some of these folks also believe this is just some conspiracy to destroy Islam’s scholars. I can’t get over this protection of rapists. I’m suspicious of all the men defending TR. I wonder if it’s telling us something about which other of our “scholars” we might expect are also among the abusers who are being outed at last. (See this post for more “scholars” who have and continue to commit serious sexual crimes in our communities.)
Mind you, some of these Muslim male academics are also supporting Nouman Ali Khan. (“But but but, who’s the victim here?! The women shouldn’t have agreed to be involved with him!”)
Now, were this before the #MeToo campaign, I’d be like eh, what else is new – a bunch of men doubting women and protecting violent men. (Moment to interrupt myself here again. I’mma need y’all to know that #MeToo was founded NOT by a white woman but by a black woman named Tarana Burke. White women, y’all need to stop taking credit for the work that women of color do. It’s like when men take credit for the work that women do. Shit’s not cool.) But after #MeToo, where so many of the same men defending TR and NAK expressed support for the women who shared their stories, especially hard for those of us for whom sharing/re-telling our stories is like re-living it, something needs to be said.
Saadia says it really brilliantly:
Beware the religious scholars/preachers who peddle misogyny disguised as “the presumption of innocence.” With NAK they argued that if a crime had truly been committed why didn’t these women take it to court. With TR the case is going to court but they have already come to his defense because, you know, look at her Islamophobic ideas! There is no amount of evidence and no due process that will ever make these people support the women who have been abused because they are invested in protecting male authority, not making our communities safe.
I ask Muslim male academics to ask yourselves why it is that you were shocked to read our #metoo stories, almost as if to doubt the extent of the sexual violence that we experience. Some of y’all even asked us why we never came forward earlier. And then a woman comes forward to out your buddy, and you go, “#NotHim! #heWouldn‘t! She’s lying! There’s a conspiracy to destroy Islam and Muslims! This is a conspiracy against our Muslim leaders! We must not give in.” What will it take for you to understand that your choice to protect each other contributes to the prevalence of #metoo experiences AND keeps us from saying anything openly, ever? Have you no idea how powerful and violent patriarchy is so that we know we’ll lose everything by coming forward, sharing our experiences, and especially if we decide to out our abusers?
Besides, many of the women’s #MeToo stories did point out that their abuser is a prominent figure. And a lot of you men supported those women by “liking” or writing supportive comments. Do you understand that by doubting the women who came forward now, you’re telling those of us who said our abuser is a prominent figure that were we to ever, ever name our abuser(or abusers), you’ll doubt us? Because that’s precisely what you’re doing here.
So in the future, instead of being fake advocates and allies, just tell us, “Well, I support/believe you depending on who your abuser is…If it’s someone I like and/or know, I won’t believe you.”
We keep hearing, “X is innocent until proven guilty!” (There’s a horrible HuffPost piece going around about this. It’s like, hello? Do you have any clue how patriarchy works in the “justice” system?!) Yes, you’re saying the same thing about all the men we told you abused us, too. The thought that some of the people who probably initially supported Henda when she shared her #MeToo experience but are now being all, “Na, you lie. He’d NEVER do something like that” haunts me.
Besides, you’re innocent until proven guilty, sure, until someone outs you. And if you’re waiting for the court or any legal system to charge someone before you can believe he’s a rapist, you’re part of the problem. Be part of the solution and believe victims/survivors. Like, where do you even live and who ARE you to doubt that someone you respect or are BFFs with wouldn’t do that to someone? Just because he he didn’t do it to you doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. This is also abuse 101. You garner the trust of the community and then do whatever you want behind closed doors, or some even in public, while putting on a charming face in public, so that people tell the victim/survivor she’s crazy, she’s lying, she just wants attention, she’s out to get you, this is an attack on Islam, etc.
Then, of course, we hear, “He’s my friend. I’ve been on a panel with him. He’s a good scholar. I use his work in my classes. He likes me. He’s my good friend.” Okay, but ALL abusers, ALL violent people are “good friends” to someone out there. Someone’s not innocent by association with a (possibly?) innocent person. This is like saying, “Na, he’s my best friend; he’d never abuse his wife.” So what that he’s your best friend? His being your best friend has nothing to do with whether or why he abuses his wife. I know men who abuse their wives but no one would and no one does believe the women because these men have secured a reputation and image in their own and the women’s families so that people will only attack the woman for outing him. Someone–a male academic–once said to me, in a conversation on domestic violence, “What?! That still happens?!” And I’m like, “Uh. Yeah.” And he goes, “No one I know does it.” This idea that just because they don’t do it in front of you, they don’t do it at all, and the idea that because someone’s your friend or family, they don’t do it … this is all dangerous nonsense that actually keeps the violence alive. ALL of us know at least one person (it’s many more) who’s been abused or is being abused. And by abuse, I mean sexual assault (involving penetration or not), emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, stalking, blackmailing, … the list goes on.
Also, I keep wondering why it is that so many male academics, who can and do otherwise write books, seem incapable of studying and understanding and researching abuse. You have access to so much, to resources, and you’re still putting the onus on us to explain the basics of abuse to you. Male academics are still asking what exactly makes the Nouman Ali Khan case “abusive.” They say, “But it takes two! Clearly, the women are at fault, too!” And the best part is that these men think this is the Islamic position. Again, the convenient use/abuse of Islam is mindblowing. Y’all need to understand that men in positions of power are especially likely to be violent! You need to stop protecting each other and begin to take abuse seriously enough so that you see how real and prevalent abuse is.
I can’t anymore.