Sexual harassment in Egypt is endemic. There is really no getting around this fact. Explaining it away or brushing it off is of no benefit to the harasser, the harassed or society at large.

Blaming the victim is a tactic utilized both by harassers and their enablers. To think that, through what she is wearing, a woman is “inviting” you to verbally or physically violate her is almost as disgusting as the act itself. What’s more, it’s a claim that’s easily refutable – just ask the multitudes of niqabis and hijabis that have lewd comments hurled at them on a daily basis. My own wife, a hijabi and mother of two, was walking – WITH OUR DAUGHTER – in the mall just last week when a couple of guys ogled her and made some snide remarks. This is not, nor can it ever be, “3aadi.”

Thankfully, a number of initiatives have set out to combat this societal plague, including today’s dedicated blogging campaign (follow the hashtag #endSH on Twitter). Another tech-savvy approach to rooting out sexual harassment on Egypt’s streets is Harassmap, which digitally plots incidents reported by users through sms, email or Twitter. While these efforts are all worthwhile, I find there is a dearth of Islamically-oriented approaches to solving this problem.

One way khateebs and da3ees (not just in Egypt, but around the Islamic world) can help combat harassment is by reviving the ethos of futuwwa, or Islamic chivalry. Futuwwa encompasses a number of virtues, modesty and chastity being operative in this circumstance. Although Ramadan is always an opportunity for renewal, this aspect of the Holy month should be particularly emphasized this year in the wake of Egypt’s glorious revolution. As such, I truly hope all those who will be leading Friday prayers or spreading Islamic knowledge will take the time to highlight the need for our youth to start living a more virtuous, chivalrous lifestyle.

A while back, Imam Zaid Shakir wrote a wonderful piece on the essence of futuwwa. Although it is largely in terms of one’s duties with regard to marriage, it nonetheless a very worthwhile read for all the bachelors out there. I’ll close here with a quote from the article:

Islam is not a religion of empty laws and strictures but one which points towards a higher ethical order.

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5 Comments on Futuwwa and The Fallacy of “She’s Asking for it”

  1. Great post my friend. 

    Very interesting and informative. I believe that, unlike what many people say, religion SHOULD play a role in countering sexual harassment.

    A lot of people say keep religion out of it because then the religious people will tell you that a girl dressed in a certain way deserves what she gets. However, this is not about religion in anyway. There’s nothing in Islam that says a girl/woman dressed in a certain way is “inviting” people or deserves it.

    The truth is, the imams need to speak out about sexual harassment properly by not pointing the finger at the woman (which is what 99.9% of imams I have seen do) and instead tackling the real person at fault – the harasser.

  2. Yeah, it’s absurd that anyone – especially those in positions of authority and reverence like imams – would blame the victims of SH. 

    I think there is a need to restructure the entire institute of Friday khutbas in general, IMHO. In the US, the best khutbas I heard always related the sayings of the Prophet and Quranic scripture back to real world circumstances. In fact, the whole idea of the khutba should be to begin with a relevant issue and build a sermon around it. I find in Egypt, sadly, the khutbas are more akin to haliqas most of the time. 

    Suffice it to say, I’m absolutely in favor of explicitly and frequently addressing this scourge on our society – particularly in the masjid. If nothing else, continuous mention of a Muslim man’s duty to respect women may sink in over time through osmosis. That was for all my science writer friends ;)

  3. ziyad says:

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