Monday, 23 July 2012

A letter to my Muslim Brothers

Dear Brothers,

I know in our community it isn't the norm to speak up on social issues that pertain to women.  I know that it isn't the norm to speak up on social issues at all.  But now is the time you might want to do that.

You see, the media has decided to print the views of a brother (and in this reference, I use the term loosely) which make all Muslim men, heck, all men in general, look bad.  And maybe if he wasn't being termed an imam in the article's headline or the headline on the radio and instead they used the terminology in the article ("a Muslim street preacher") it wouldn't be so bad.  But the fact is, the media has termed him an imam in the Toronto Muslim community and therefore left the public thinking that this is one of our leaders, and for many who know nothing of Islam, the way that Muslim men think about women.

As we all know, there is a good portion of this world that think that all Muslim men want to do is dominate their women.  Now, those of us that are Muslim women or know Muslim women know how wrong this idea is, for more than one reason.  I've yet to meet a non-opinionated Muslim woman, and we are taught both through the Holy Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wa salaam) that women are to be treated with care and respect and that we have rights.  Unfortunately, there are certain groups that have totally eroded this in parts of the world and have left the non-Muslim world thinking that women having no rights is the norm.

Now this brother is preaching on the street and to the media of Toronto (which is printing it and reporting it on the radio) that it's a woman's fault if she is gropped in the subway, or raped.  Now, whether you (or we together, as an entire community) believe that a woman should dress conservatively in public, we all choose to live in Canada.  Where Muslims have the freedom to dress as conservatively as they want - from hijab and abaya to niqaab to hijab and conservative "regular" clothing.  But non-Muslims also have the freedom to dress as they wish - whether it is appropriate to some of us or not.  However, to turn around and blame a woman for the lack of a man to a) control himself or b) respect a woman, her body and her space and keep his hands to himself.  This brother is also making it look like Muslim men need to have women to be covered up in order to not become violent towards a woman - because rape is about power, control and violence.  It is not necessarily about the sex.  It's about dominating a woman and her body, including a woman he may not know.

So my request to you, my dear brothers, is to stand up and speak out and say that rational, kind, Muslim men do not believe that it's okay to go around raping and assaulting women purely based on how they're dressed.  Or at all.


So I began writing the above a week ago, before my computer crashed.  I got it up and running again, but then didn't finish it until now.  But in the meantime, I had a rather disturbing conversation with a brother last week that I just couldn't wrap my head around.

Now, I know that there are sometimes women that intentionally put themselves into situations that could end in them being assaulted.  I've met women like this and I won't pretend to understand what they're thinking or why they behave as they do.  What I do not understand, however, is how some cultures raise their men to believe that it's a woman's fault no matter what.

I do not understand men who say "well, she deserved it because of what she was wearing."  What she was wearing?  You know, I do agree there are some that go to far.  I don't understand those that prance around in their barely-there bikinis but then would be screaming and trying to cover themselves if someone saw them in underwear that probably covers more.  But at the same time, I'm not going to implement laws that say "you have to wear (this much) clothing" because I don't want it illegal to wear the clothes that I choose to wear.  I do not, however, understand the need to have a law stating that it is legal to go topless in this province. But I digress...

So I want to end my letter to my brothers by saying this: please do not automatically put the blame on women.  We should not be teaching our daughters how to avoid being raped, but our sons in how to treat women properly.  Please help raise your sons to believe that women should be valued, that a woman does not necessarily bring violence to herself, and that just become of the way a woman is dressed does not give a man the right to touch, grope, rape or otherwise harm a woman.  And please, stand up for your sisters in Islam should this happen to them.  In fact, help teach those brothers whose culture tells them that women are to blame for anything that happens to them how they should actually be treating women.


a sister who cares how her brothers are being portrayed.

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