Morality, Sexual Harassment and Islam

“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best morals, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.” – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Muslims who strive to follow the Prophet should, first and foremost, bear that in mind.

As #MeToo floods the internet and the world becomes more aware of the prevalence of the menace of sexual harassment, it is clear that a discussion needs to be had.

What Harry Weinstein allegedly did to Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and countless other women is deplorable. Larry Nassar was given the responsibility to train Olympic gymnasts and went on a rampage of abuse towards those who trusted him. Louis CK, Charlie Rose, and the list goes on and on.

In order to guard against harassment, Muslim women have been given an excellent tool and instruction by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – to have righteous intentions and to guard one’s modesty. The same, of course, applies to the men. The society that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) created is a dream meant to be striven toward.

At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), women were at the forefront of the new faith –the first believer was a woman. Women were active participants in public life. The Prophet’s first employer was a woman. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stressed the importance of women being partners and women often held leadership positions including commanding armies in stark contrast to what women’s roles are perceived to be in today’s Islamic societies.

Martin Luther King brought about social change through non-violent means; he adhered to patient striving against the forces of evil to bring about change in people’s mindsets and attitudes. The objective of King’s non-violence movement was not to call out those who opposed to his message but rather to gain their friendship and respect. The power of love overcoming hatred underpinned King’s philosophy. King believed that “we may conquer Southern armies by the sword, but it is another thing to conquer Southern hate”. He believed that one can only incline people towards love by giving love. Similarly, the Quran talks about bringing about change in people’s hearts and removing evil inclinations through love: “And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he, between whom and thyself was enmity, will become as though he were a warm friend.”

The feminist movement and stalwarts like Rosa Parks have contributed greatly to the advancement of humanity.  While the feminist movement advances, one could look at Islamic texts to reconcile the perceived disconnect between modern feminism and Islam.

Sexual harassment is as much a crime in Riyadh, Rome or Rotterdam and recognizing it as a global issue is imperative. No people can claim immunity from it and to recognize the problem is the first step in ridding our societies of this menace.

I believe that if mainstream Muslims understood the essence of jihad in the way that Martin Luther King understood it, we would be living in a more loving and peaceful world.