#MeToo: Sexual Abuse In Muslim Communities-Fact or Fiction?

#MeToo: Sexual Abuse In Muslim Communities-Fact or Fiction? November 28, 2017

Post 24 DV Sexual harassmentAre the allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against prominent men such as Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken, and Harvey Weinstein just the tip of the iceberg in our society?

President Trump himself has been accused of at least misogynistic behavior. According to Washington Post, during the presidential campaign, at least a dozen women accused him of some sort of sexual misconduct or abuse.[1]

The focus of my last post was on domestic violence, which may include sexual abuse. But there is another related and perhaps a bigger problem- sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Like domestic violence, the victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse are not always women and children. As you will see from the statistics mentioned below, men are not immune from sexual abuse. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations, men are coming out with their own abuse stories, though far more choose to remain silent.[2]

A male friend of mine contacted me after my last post and told his own personal story of sexual abuse as a 14 years old boy. He showed a lot of courage by posting it on his facebook page. I know of another instance when a young girl in my community was sexually abused.

The problem is much more widespread than you may think. Before we get into the stats, it would be prudent to define these horrible acts.

Sexual harassment typically involves harassment at workplace and includes instances of unwelcome/unwanted sexual advances, sexual favors, sexual jokes or gestures, resulting in an uncomfortable environment for others.

Sexual abuse, according to American psychological Association, is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent.

Sexual violence, according to CDC, is defined as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.[3]

How common is sexual abuse/violence in the United States?

Post 24 DV woman-425106__480

Following data gives us a glimpse into the magnitude of the problem we face in the United States, according to National Sexual Violence Report Center.[4] The center gives specific references for the data quoted on their report.

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lifetime.
  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • 4% lesbians, 74.9% bisexual women and 43.3% heterosexual women reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes, while 40.2% gay men, 47.4% bisexual men and 20.8% heterosexual men reported sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.
  • 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and 9% are male.
  • In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members.
  • Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.
  • 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male.

And college Campuses are not immune:

  • One in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college
  • More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault

Sexual abuse among religious communities

post 26 child

Catholic church sexual abuse cases are rather well known now. Catholic church has settled numerous cases, paying off over 2 billion dollars in compensation to the victims. At the same time, the Vatican has lashed out against the allegations, claiming they were excessive and that most U.S. cases of clergy child sex abuse involved Protestant churches, and that it was also common among Jewish clergy. [5]

The spokesman cited research showing ‘only’ 1.5 to 5% of the Catholic clergy was involved in child sexual abuse.

 Sexual Harassment and abuse in Muslim communities

Do we have similar problem in the Muslim religious communities?

It appears the sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the Muslim communities in the U.S. is rather uncommon, though there are no statistics to confirm or reject that notion, the recent Nouman Ali Khan story notwithstanding, who has denied the allegations of misconduct but has categorized the exchanges as “between consenting adults”.

When it comes to sexual abuse in Muslim majority countries, it is another story. In short, sexual abuse and harassment in Muslim majority countries does seem to be a major problem.

Whereas the Muslim clerics and religious leaders are generally well respected in the United States and cases against them are practically unknown, the sexual abuse of young boys and girls is not that uncommon in some Muslim countries. There have been growing reports of sexual misconduct against the clerics of the Madrassas, or religious schools, in Pakistan.

Most cases go under reported because of the stigma, apathy of the local police and/or interventions by influential government officials. Many victims or their families don’t report tem for fear of retaliation from the clerics and their supporters. Many are reluctant to file formal charges. Because they feel the police is bribed by the influential and well-funded clerics.

post 24 dv women muslim faith-1599090__480What’s ironic is that, like the Christian and Jewish teachings (as well as those of other religious traditions), Islamic teachings strictly prohibit sexual misconduct, sexual assault and abuse. Even staring at women is discouraged. Both men and women are commanded to maintain modesty and chastity.

Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. The Qur’an 24:30

The next verse (24:31) in the Qur’an gives the same command to the women. And in a set of verses that describes the qualities and actions of the servants of the Rehman-one of the most often mentioned attributes of God (the Beneficent), fornication is mentioned side by side other sins considered major in Islam- committing shirk (making partners with God) and killing a soul.

And those who do not call upon unto any other god along with Allah, nor take the life which Allah has forbidden save in (course of) justice, nor commit adultery – and whoso does this shall pay the penalty (on the Day of Judgment). The Qur’an 25:68

The following verse prohibits even ‘getting close’ to fornication. This clearly implies other indecent acts including flirting, watching indecent movies, visiting nightclubs and improper touching. The message is rather clear: ‘don’t even think about it’.

And come not near to adultery (fornication): for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil way. The Qur’an 17:32

Jesus gave essentially the same message, using different words in the  Gospel.

You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

Reflecting on the way Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and their companions lived their lives and even a superficial reading of the Qur’an, Bible and other Scriptures would make one wonder as to why of all the people, the clerics would engage in sexual abuse or misconduct. This is not to throw the clerics in the Muslim countries and Catholic church under the bus, or make a generalization, as I am totally aware that there are more righteous clerics out there, doing a lot of good work than those bringing bad name to their religion. I also know the problem of sexual abuse/misconduct is much more widespread in our societies. But I do want to believe they should be above all this kind of stuff.

If we could only put the teachings of our respective religions above our temptations and desires…

Question: Which of the stats about sexual violence and abuse noted above surprised you the most?

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[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/11/22/president-trump-and-accusations-of-sexual-misconduct-the-complete-list/?utm_term=.780ec9874267

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/25/men-sexual-abuse-trauma-silence

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/definitions.html

[4] https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/28/sex-abuse-religion-vatican

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