“Oh, that pork looks yummy! Guess I can’t control myself now, better have a bite at it!” Assuming you’re a Muslim, do you realize how stupid and preposterous this sounds? Yeah, I thought so. But, wait a minute. I’ve heard something similar: “If a woman is not dressed ‘properly’, she is inciting rape.” And this is popular opinion in the society I live in.
Right. So, a few months ago, I was completely taken by surprise when a person tried to partially justify the perpetrator of a rape case. “See, if the woman was dressed properly, he wouldn’t have done it. It is these women who need to dress up properly, only then can rape be minimized.” I couldn’t believe my ears, and I wanted to shake him up! “What the HELL is wrong with you?”
The Quran was sent down for a purpose. And that purpose is to read it in Arabic and earn rewards develop the reader’s character to the point where he is a responsible, productive, and a noble human being. Yes, a human being who makes informed choices instead of an animal that just follows its impulse.
Chapter 12, which narrates the account of Yousuf (Joseph), deals extensively with character development. It is here that we learn a vital lesson on curbing desires no matter what the situation at hand. As you might (and should) know, the lady of the house in which Yousuf was brought into, tried to seduce him sexually. But, when she tried to advance at him, what did he do? He resisted. He didn’t give into that weak moment. In fact, he immediately became conscious of evil, and sought protection from Allah.
“The lady of the house, tried to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “I am all yours.” He said, “May God protect me! Truly, He is my Lord and He has bestowed upon me a good moral character and granted me a position of honor. The wrongdoers do not prosper.” Quran: 12:23
This speaks volumes about his character! Mind you, he was only young when this incident happened. But this young man realized that no matter how strong the incitation be, only he was responsible for his actions: a perfect role model on issues pertaining to modesty.
These are the role models that need to revived among Muslims! If we are oblivious to them, how can we ever emulate them? Mind you, following the prophets does not equate to following their cultural norms. Otherwise, wouldn’t we be still riding camels? What we have forgotten is the fact that we were commanded to follow their character! No great man would want his followers to adopt his culture, rather he would want them to adopt his morality, ethics, and character. Let’s please not fall into the trap of being penny wise, and pound foolish.
Now, I do advocate modest clothing, but more importantly, I also advocate developing one’s character to the point where external factors don’t affect your behaviors. What good did religion do to you if you can’t even control your impulses? We have got to stop cherry-picking verses we want to follow, and instead embrace the message holistically.
No matter what a woman is wearing, we as Muslims, are commanded to guard our gaze (24:30). It’s not the clothes that incite rapists; it is the sick mindset of such people that is to be blamed and addressed. Instead of sympathizing and standing up for the victim, we have come to the point where we try to justify the perpetrator? Does it get any worse than this?
Still not convinced?
For those of you that still think clothing is a factor in rape, ask yourself this: “What about the children who get raped? Are their clothes ‘provocative’ too?” Let that sink in.
So, what is the solution?
Unless we start addressing the real issue here, we simply cannot make any progress. The first step to overcoming a problem is to identify it. Hence, instead of exhausting our efforts on how women should dress, we should more importantly deal with issues such as attitude towards women, and educating/sensitizing men.
The biggest problem, in my view, is the “macho” crap that is widespread in every society. As men, we are brainwashed to think that it is “alright” to play with the feelings of a woman and to use them for our petty desires. This becomes further encouraged when their male peers cheer them when they do such acts. This, I believe, is the fundamental cause of the oppression done on women. On a personal level, we need to take a stand against this.
In addition, unless men become sympathetic to the problems that surround women in their daily life (such as being cautious at all times), we cannot expect empathy and compassion between them. We have got to stop objectifying women, and treat them how we treat women in our households. How would we really feel if our mothers, daughters, and sisters had to go through this? Would we still blame them?
I really hope this changes your perspective. And that you become a voice for the oppressed.
P.S – Just to clarify, I am not implying that only Muslims think this way. This is a popular opinion in many societies. My point, however, is that considering the teachings of the Quran, Muslims should be the last people to believe in such an irrational statement. We have a gem of a reformation program in the form of Quran, and this is what needs to be propagated to Muslims.