Are Muslim women responsible for protecting themselves against sexual assault?

No matter what anyone says, wearing a hijab does not eliminate all chances of sexual assault.

Weighing into the ongoing sex scandals surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Queensland Muslim leader Sheikh Zainadine Johnson said that “a hijab is necessary for women.”

He also advised women to only wear bracelets at home, not out in public as it is not permissible.

In his words, “Men should be able to control themselves. This is a common argument against the Islamic hijab.

“I totally agree, they should be able to control themselves, however, facts show many don’t, this is why a hijab is necessary for women."

“There’s no problem with a female wearing a gold bracelet and making herself look beautiful as long as it’s underneath her hijab or at home, no problem.

“In front of her husband, no problem. But on the streets wearing it? No. In front of the people, this is not what’s permissible.”

Sheikh Johnson is not the only Islamic cleric who feels this way. In September 2006, Sheikh Taj el Din al-Hilaly, compared women who do not wear the hijab to ‘uncovered meat’.

He said, “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.”

These two Islamic clerics make interesting points still are they right? Is the hijab the best way to eliminate all chances of sexual assault?

These Muslim women disagree. Independent reports that some women have shared their stories in order to prove that their modest clothing does nothing to prevent sexual harassment.

One anonymous woman said,  “It doesn’t matter what you wear. Some men think they have the right to prey, harass, grab, touch and treat women like objects. I was very young when it started. I was 15. It was a distant relative who used to harass me. But I didn’t tell anyone. After a while, I just made sure that I was never alone when he was around.”

Another woman, a young woman lady, said she was raped four years ago adding: “As a hijabi woman covered head to toe, [modest clothing] didn’t stop my rapist.”

Their stories have been validated by the Muslim Women’s Network UK. According to the chair, Shaista Gohir, “We receive calls on the helpline from Muslim women who disclose sexual assault and rape.

"They have been fully dressed. Some have been wearing the headscarf, jilbab (full robe) and even the face veil. The offenders have included family friends, family members, and also respected religious leaders in the community.

“Women’s dress is an excuse popularised by men to justify their behaviour so they don’t have to take responsibility. It makes me angry when some women join in and peddle the same narrative instead of challenging it.”

The Network runs a helpline for Muslim women.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the hijab clearly does not completely remove all chances of sexual harassment or assault.

Guess, its time to stop talking so much about women’s clothing and focus on raising better men that can control their urges.


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