By Qasim Rashid
15 October 2017
Harvey Weinstein is just another case of a
powerful man abusing women because we live in a society that lets him get away
with it, but we can change that
If the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse
revelations shocked you, then you’re dangerously ignorant to reality. According
to RAINN, an American is assaulted every 98 seconds, one out of every six women
will deal with rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, and 90 per cent of rape
victims are women.
I’m a Muslim, and a civil rights lawyer
with a special interest in advocating for women’s rights. My advocacy is
informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings
and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse. Yes, the cancer of
sexual abuse against women that we see in Christian majority America is just as
prevalent in Muslim majority Pakistan, but also in Hindu majority India and
state atheist China. This proves that men worldwide are failing in our
responsibility to end sexual abuse and gender based violence.
Let’s start by understanding two facts.
First, a woman’s attire, alcohol intake, marital status, and education level do
not contribute to sexual abuse – abusive men do. Second, sexual abuse doesn’t
happen in a vacuum. Every level of society – social norms, media, and
Government – is complicit in promoting the rape culture that perpetuates sexual
Social norms demonise a woman for speaking
out, victim-blaming her by asking what she was wearing, whether she gave
signals inviting abuse, or asking why she didn’t speak up sooner.
The media also advances rape culture by
disregarding women and their voices. Why didn’t the allegations against
Weinstein gain clout when Rose McGowan screamed them from the top of her lungs
years ago? Why has society advanced people like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Aisles,
Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, and even our Commander in Chief to the pinnacle of
success, despite the decade’s long testimony of sexual abuse and rape from
dozens of women?
How can we rely on government when 97 per
cent of rapists never see a day in prison, judges punish rape of an unconscious
college woman with a measly three months in jail, award rapists with equal
custody of the child born from a woman they raped, and the US Department of
Education rolls back rules that protect women in college from sexual assault?
The fact is that states are not moral
actors – people are. But when people let bad behaviour go unchallenged we inch
closer to societal anarchy. In truth, any expectation that we can simply pass a
law to stop sexual abuse is foolish.
Despite laws in France that criminalise
sexual harassment, an astounding 100 per cent of French Parisian women on
public transit report sexual harassment. France’s proposed response is
legislation to ban cat-calling. Such legislation, if passed, will also fail
because state laws only punish the actor once the act is completed, they don’t
prevent the act in the first place. This scenario plays out repeatedly
worldwide, whether we’re discussing “revenge porn”, gender based violence, or
sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is where Islamic teachings and Prophet
Muhammad’s example provide a solution that no state truly can. And while there
are people who don’t believe that sexual abuse is even a problem, some on the
left will disagree that accountability to a higher power is a solution.