In line with the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, actress Alyssa Milano started a new trend. The 44 year old called on women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to come out posting the hashtag #MeToo on social media. The notion aimed to give a voice to women who have survived the experience.
The actress explained that if all sexually-harassed women wrote ‘Me too’ as a status people would understand the magnitude of the problem.
The above harassment incident and its echoes originated in the US. This triggered in me sad thoughts of the misconceptions circulated about status of women in Islam.
Cultural practices that abuse women are often confused with Islam teachings. Accordingly, instead of thanking Islam for its great contribution to dignifying women, it is blamed for wrongs it never condoned.
In reality, Islam has empowered women with the most progressive rights since the 7th century. In Islam, contrary to the beliefs held by many, women are not inferior or unequal to men.
Statistics reveal that Muslims account for 20-25% of the people on this planet. Islam has become the second main religion in Europe. Moreover, the majority of European and American converts to Islam are women. Who would have guessed?
Now, how can we instill Islamic values and teachings related to women in our children, girls and boys alike? How to teach them to respect and properly treat women? How can they play a role in decreasing the #MeToo victims?
Teach our boys that the woman is to be respected and remind them of the Prophet’s last sermon where we were taught to treat women well. She is not a body but a mind and entity to be respected.
Explain to your children that our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) championed the rights of the weak and oppressed. This included women.
Teach our children that the Quranic verses discussing women had the effect of vastly improving the status and rights of women.
Remind them that sexually harassing a girl is a terrible sin.
Admittedly, it may be difficult to lower gaze with the abundant images on social media and temptations in real life, our children still need to be trained on practicing this virtue.
Remind your sons that while girls are expected to dress modestly, he is equally expected to turn away.
This is illustrated in the hadith. Jarir ibn Abdullah narrated:
“I asked the Messenger of Allah about accidental glance and he ordered me to turn my eyes away” (Muslim)
Therefore, it goes without saying that surfing the internet for porn is to be frowned upon, as it is the key to many more sins.
It is unlawful and consequences will follow. It can be addictive. Protect your sons and daughters keep them busy.
Help our young men recognize their role in being responsible. Talk with them about sexism.
Talk about male privilege and violence against women (not just physical, but emotional, sexual, and other methods).
Educate our boys that life is about choices. We have a choice to not harass people on the street, and the power to do so, and we should exercise that choice and power.
Women deserve respect and have the same right to exist in public spaces as men.
Violence against women is endemic around the world, and disrespect for women is a primary reason.
So, Instill in your boy that every man is accountable to stop abuse of women—by their word and by their acts.
Women you have a role too.
Encourage your daughter to protect themselves by dressing modestly. Explain to her the significance of hijab and the rewards for obeying Allah and following his decree.
Let her be proud of herself dressed to be an ambassador of deen while staying safe from potential harassment.
Good role models
Male allies including fathers, uncles and brothers can do a lot to lead by example. They can also expose boys and young men to women role models (who are successful for reasons other than their appearance) so they can have positive female role models. Tell them of the significant roles the prophet’s wives had in Islam.
If we are teaching our sons how it is great to be athletes or entrepreneurs, we must also teach them how harassment is otherwise.
Males involved in harassing women are not only jeopardizing women’s safety and success but also putting their own interest to risk, both in the world and in the hereafter.