Q/A: Is it Ethically Consistent for Muslims to Focus on Raising Awareness Only of the Sexual Harassment of Women?

[Facebook Query on post 26th October 2017]

Context: In context of the MeToo campaign (where initially, women who’ve faced Sexual Harassment were encouraged to voice their experience), there was some debate in the Muslim community about whether men who also faced sexual harassment, should also have their experiences included in the campaign.


Umm M.N commented:

‘The prophet also allowed women and women’s issue to be talked about without saying it happens to men too?

For Example in the last sermon he acknowledged that men had dome rights over women and enjoined kindness towards women.

There was no outcry of “but sometimes women aren’t kind to men too” there are differences between the sexes and this was made clear.

What is also interesting is the admonishment to remain chaste was given to the women. Because these days we find a woman cheating in a marriage more surprising or less common. But when he said this there was no “but men cheat too” which I’m sure they Did, but I guess he was using his last sermon to give advice he felt was relevant and important.

The point is when we talk about one gender, we don’t always have to talk about the other too. When we are talking about the struggles of one gender thats not the same as saying the other gender doesn’t have these struggles too’.

Response:

Actually your example disproves your point. The Prophet’s farewell sermon spoke about BOTH the rights of men and women in marriage (and not just one side’s rights in marriage):

“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by YOUR right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. AND it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”

Secondly, in Islam men have an obligation of responsibility in marriage that doesn’t exist in the West’s absolute-equality worldview. In Islam, those given power or responsibility must be proportionately reminded of the rights of those under their responsibility. However in the West, both men and women are assigned exactly equal gender roles and responsibilities. To focus on one of their rights, and not the other, would translate, in such a context, to privileging one over the other.

So in conclusion, your argument, even if it could be argued to be valid within the Islamic paradigm of non-identical gender roles, would clearly not apply in the Western(ised) context behind MeToo.

Umm M.N:

‘I disagree with your assertion that in the West women and men are assigned equal roles and responsibilities. There are many studies demonstrating that women take on most Of the caring and unpaid roles.

Also the treatment of men and women in western society isn’t equal therefore issues need to be considered separately.

My point wasn’t that we shouldn’t speak about men’s and women’s rights. The point is we can talk about an issue effecting one part of society without saying yes the same things happen to other parts of society.

Also I wonder how far does this idea go? Can we not talk about black history month or Islamaphobia as that is leaving out other sections of society that face similar issues? Or is it just when it comes to gender?’


Response:

You’re right that in practice, due to biological or other reasons, men and women in the West don’t do as the egalitarian Secular Liberals imagine they would do – but that doesn’t mean that this is not the ideological paradigm dominating the West that is trying to uniform society into its desired mold. It’s those theories and formulas about individualism, that actively attempt to treat sex (i.e. gender) as inconsequential as hair colour. To the adherents of this ideology, if they reject our advice and insist on believing it, we simply ask them to at least be consistent when they apply it.As to your second point, the idea behind the MeToo campaign was ‘sexual harassment’, so it was expected that ALL sexual harassment would be discussed no matter what the source (e.g. female perpetrators), or who the target (e.g. men) – especially if the cause is the same (the sexualisation of society).Another example, Breast Cancer awareness campaigns, although being an illness that mostly affects women, but the campaigns are careful to include men – simply because it effects both men and women.Likewise, if there was a Xenophobia awareness month, that only dealt with xenophobia towards Muslims (i.e. Islamophobia), then sure, I’d disagree with that. If there was a ‘history awareness month’ that dealt with only, say Chinese history, then that toowould be odd that it was so focused.

If you counter-argue that ‘well, the reason for black history month, is because English/Western-European history is disproportionally taught in schools’, then sure, that is an understandable reason – but that argument would still work against yours. This is because you’d have to show that the Sexual Harassment of males was so disproportionately focused on to such a degree, that female victims needed a special awareness campaign to draw attention tothem. In fact, the opposite is the case, and I won’t be surprised if Men’s Rights Activists ( or ‘Meninists’, which I deem to be gender sectarian individualists like Feminists – but on the opposite side) make that exact argument.

Furthermore, the research shows that men are less likely toconsider inappropriate sexual comments or advances against them (by women) as ‘sexual harassment’ – again, this is something that the MRA’s probably would use to argue for the more urgent need of an education campaign for that subject.

MRA’s even argue the women dressing with revealing clothing is a form of ‘biological sexual harassment’ [1], and even argue that there needs to be an awareness campaign for this amongst men and women, because the current (Western) culture usually only defines Sexual Harassment if males create a ‘the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment’ [UK Sexual Harassment law [2]]. In fact, the MRAs use such a definitionto argue that women wearing body revealing clothing in both the workplace and in public constitutes such an environment(!)

However, returning back to the point at hand, because society tends to focus on the common Xenophobias of racism and antisemitism, an Islamophobia awareness campaign is needed toredress the imbalance.

So in conclusion, there is no intellectual justification to focus on one section of victims (or people) if a problem (or topic) effects (or involves) more than one section of people – UNLESS it is toredress an imbalance in society’s previous coverage which had biased one section over another.

I hope that’s clear sister


 

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/…/booby-trapped-20120212-1t0hl.html

[2] https://www.workplacefairness.org/sexual-harassment-legal…



Categories: Queries and Responses, WRITINGS

4 replies

  1. Was there not a previous imbalance towards the treatment of women and their rights?

  2. Also I can’t see anything saying in the posts about negating male experiences or saying men shouldn’t be part of the #metoo

    I also wouldn’t call myself a feminist and didn’t make a #metoo post myself.

  3. As well as that I’m not sure where there’s any advice to “focus only on the sexual harassment of women”?

    I think you have misrepresented and misunderstood a simple post that didn’t have an agenda.

    Today someone might post about an issue effecting women. Tomorrow they might focus on an issue effecting men.
    They dont always have to do both at the same time. That was all that was said in the first post. “When we are talking about the struggles of one gender thats not the same as saying the other gender doesn’t have these struggles too”

    I’m not sure how you got from there to “focusing only on the sexual harassment of women”

  4. Just realised I haven’t answered your question.

    No it’s not ethically consistent to highlight the abuse or oppression of one group of society while ignoring the plight of another.

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