We have just witnessed the outrage that has swept across India about the brutal sexual attack on an innocent medical student on an Indian bus. We witnessed the extensive coverage that the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt garnered, after a Western journalist was sexually molested during a protest. These incidents come against a back drop of the brutal and horrific stories we regularly hear of sex trafficking across the Muslim world, forced prostitution in Bangladesh and the Philippines, forced marriages to rapists in Morocco and regular sexual harassment of women in every aspect of life across the third world.
The world seems concerned with how the third world countries such as these continue to be plagued by their inferior and exploitative views on women, not being able to fully adopt the real democratic values of equality and freedoms in their society as well as fair governance – India whose democracy has still some way to go to imbibe such values of equal participation, and Egypt who has begun the journey of seeking out their political destiny. Better democracy, more freedoms and equality have been largely the arguments put forward, for the road to the protection and value of women in the world.
However the joint statistical review released this week by the Ministry of Justice, Office of National Statistics and Home Office on the extent of sexual offending in the UK, has highlighted how under one of the greatest democracies in the world, a champion of equality and freedoms, women are suffering. Suffering because the greatly pitched democracy, free and equal society they live in, has failed them. It is heart breaking to know that 1 in 5 of every woman that walks down a British street, has been the victim of a sexual offence from the age of 16. 1 in 20 of every woman that we see has been the victim of a serious sexual attack including rape, and the statistics show that 90% of these victims actually knew their perpetrator.
These results reveal a society where sexual crimes are not just a fringe issue for society, but a deeply pervasive problem that affects scores of women across all elements of society. Clearly sexual exploitation of women is just as much of a scourge for the democratic, liberal world as it is for the third and Muslim world, where developing democracies and secular rule reigns. Therefore when we look to the legacy of established democracies, or developing ones, societies where equality and freedom is imbibed, and societies which are attempting to get there, we can conclude one thing – Secular societies, ruled by democracy where man is pushed to view the woman however he desires, has been disastrous for women.
The liberal values of secular societies such as Britain have granted the liberal right of big business to make their money out of sexualising the woman as it sells, pushing a popular culture where the only type of promoted and adored woman in the public eye is the visually and sexually appealing one. Societies which promote the killing of prostitutes in video games like in Call of Duty, where Comedy and Music think that referring to women in degrading terms, can be funny. And where her sexuality almost denotes she deserves aggression and a dim view is taken of her humanity and dignity, seen almost as archaic notions. And this is extraneous to the thriving porn industry which also exists.
It is a natural consequence that boys and men throughout such societies will then in turn view women as a sexual commodity, valued only for their sexual appeal. From the young boys competing with the exploits of their classmates, the rape tool of gang members, to date rape, leers on the street, sexual harassment in the office, to the violence and abuse in a relationship. The startling fact that 90% of serious sexual crimes victims, knew their perpetrator shows that in liberal societies, such an exploitative view and thus abuse is breeding in the relationships men and woman have with one another in their daily lives. What greater damage could a society do, one would ask?
Freedoms have provided society with the ability to view women however they choose, exploiting her to meet their gains. This is just the same as women across the third world, exploited for their economic value of being able to be trafficked as a sex worker, or exploited on the streets of Cairo or Delhi for being a woman who culturally and perhaps traditionally has always been an easy feat to conquer and gain some pleasure from. Whatever shape it takes, when man is able to decide for himself how to view a woman, it results in exploitation. And secular societies, will always fail to stamp out such exploitative attitudes toward women no matter how hard some may try.
This is why the world must know that democracy with its liberal secular values is not the only path women must take in order to secure their rights and protection. Rather the world has already experienced a system which brought about an alternative way of life, which banished the ability of human beings to rule and act according to their every whim and desire, but secured the ability of human beings to coexist together in a manner where their value and rights were enshrined. The Islamic way of life, through the implementation of the Islamic Khilafah system, created a society where no business, no man was free to view a woman as any form of sexual exploit. Although women in liberal societies battle to overcome this view in the workplace, in society, Muslim women never underwent such a battle.
The resonating and dominant view throughout the Islamic society, of an accountability to a Divine Being, Allah SWT, in every action in both public and private life meant that every element of society was enslaved to the view that the Creator of the heavens and the earth, of both men and women had prescribed about women. That they were that greatest honour that could be bestowed in this world as the Prophet SAW said:
“The world and all things in it are precious but the most precious thing is a virtuous woman”
This view is imbibed in society as the predominant idea about women, supported by whole host of rules and laws. These include marriage being the only allowed relationship between men and women, where compassion and commitment are integrals. Hijab, segregation of the sexes, and the prohibition of the sexual exploitation of women in any job or profession ensure that any potential of sexually exploiting the woman in society, is removed from the onset. A lustful glance at a woman is even a crime and extra-marital affairs, rape and even just slandering a woman hold harsh punishments, acting as vital deterrents against the exploitation of women. The implementation of Islam therefore creates, and has created in the past a society, where women were assured of their value for who they were and what they could contribute, and never by their sexual appeal.
It is true that exploitation and sexual crime against women has become normal, whatever corner of the world you turn to. The key is now to move forward in a manner which removes this pandemic from its root, and not continue to fan its flames. This can be only done through a fundamental shift in ideas and a system which will enshrine these ideas. Islam offers this revolutionary way of looking at life and the governance of society, securing the value and honour of human beings and absolutely, of women. It is time for this legacy of sexual oppression to end.
“And your Lord treats noone with oppression” [Surah Kahf : 49]