Dec 16, 2012 Letters
One never ceases to be amazed by the fact that once a person invokes religion, a book, prophet or savior he is granted automatic immunity regardless how insensitive, archaic, racist, sexist his pronouncements may be. An example of this phenomenon is the recent letter by Mr. Moeenul Hack captioned, “Modest dress would protect a woman from rape,” (Stabroek News, December 4).
What is rather depressing is that while a few of my acquaintances have unburdened their horror at the ideas contained in the letter, each has expressed a “fear” of speaking out aloud. Even the Stabroek News that is known to have an enlightened position on these matters and which in the past would not hesitate to append their editorial positions on matters of this nature has been silent. But worst of all, it is beyond my comprehension why Guyanese women, especially those who have experienced the horror of the crime of rape, have also been silent.
Could we imagine the howl of indignation and protest if the “modest dress” statement had been made by Men Against Rape? Or by someone from Help and Shelter, or Red Thread? This silence to me is intriguing and the only reason why the letter has gone unchallenged is because it carries with it the stamp of a religious belief. It is what Islam enjoins. If nothing else the statement that “the dress of females will ignite the flame of passion among men,” should have led to universal condemnation, but this nation, at a time when we are reeling from unprecedented violence against women, chooses to look the other way.
The other day I had a visitor from Help and Shelter and I was assured that the dominant literature and research done world-wide make it clear that rape is a function of power and dominance.
We have been reading of rape as a punishment for the enemy in the battle zones of Africa. When soldiers enter an “enemy” enclave and rape the women it is not because the women are not modestly dressed.
When homes are invaded as we know to be the case in Guyana by criminal groups and women are raped it is not because they are deficient in modesty. It is punishment and a show of power not dissimilar to the case when one woman had her long hair chopped off was blatantly told that her kind was not liked.
There is much in Mr. Hack’s letter that is based on sheer ignorance and, worse yet, religious belief, that is offensive to the core. But he makes references to “studies.”
So maybe he can enlighten us about these studies which have shown that “modest dress” which he seems to define as “long sleeves and skirts” (though he did not mention how long the sleeves and shirts should be) “protect her against rape.” Even if that study was done at any Islamic university such as Al Azhar.
It is instructive to note that the day after Mr. Hack’s letter appeared in the newspaper, worldnews.nbcnews.com carried a lengthy report of the violence that Egyptian women, among them the many who are veiled, have to face in their day to day life. In Pakistan, a sixteen year-old girl is raped as a punishment because she “compromised” family honour when her father discovered that a youth who passed by on a motor-cycle looked at her. Later she was found dead. Clearly, all of this has nothing to do with women not “modestly” dressed.
Pakistani, Egyptian, and Afghan women and girls are more than “modestly” dressed to use Mr. Hack’s notion. Usually their only crime is for wanting things that are perfectly normal and harmless, in every civilized society, like wanting to go to school.
I do not want this to be a discussion on Islam’s position on women. Mr. Hack has assured us that in Islam education is compulsory for every female, but we know that a Malala could be gunned down for wanting just that; Islam promotes equality between the genders but a woman’s testimony in court has less value; we are also assured that husbands are prohibited from abusing their spouses, but are they also not allowed to flog them provided the whip is not coarser than the little finger and the skin is not broken?
But I would urge that we have an open discussion on what constitutes modesty in dress. Is a woman in a pair of shorts asking for it? Mr. Hack seems to answer this in the affirmative. How long is long? Should the skirt be above the knee or below it? And what about the sleeves? Up to the elbow or the wrist? What research is it that tells us that men are more prone to crime and violence when they come from single parent families? What about orphans who are brought up by grandparents, or even those who are brought up by aunts and uncles? Do they also take to a life of crime and violence?
It seems to me that no objective research can establish whether, “the dress of females will ignite the flame of passion among men.” For sure, this is something that we can ask and answer at an individual level as men. Speaking about men in general is quite meaningless.
So, would Mr. Hack be kind enough to tell us to what extent the assertion that the “dress of females will ignite the flame of passion,” applies to him personally? As least we will have the testimony of one respectable male in our society.
Mr. Hack’s position is tantamount to telling to woman “you made me do it.” It is a classic case of blaming the victim. As charitable as I would like to be, I can’t help getting the dreadful feeling a kind of ultimatum: “modest dress” or rape.
In conclusion, there is a beautiful Sanskrit verse that tells us that in many things humans and animals are on par: our desire for food, sleep, comfort, and sex.
The difference lies in our culture, education and upbringing. We cannot allow our passions to run wild or else we become mere animals. Yoga teaches us that as humans we will be subjected to raging flames of passion. But its source is internal, and what’s more, we all wired with an inherent “extinguisher” mechanism.
I am sure that Mr. Hack will agree that every man must take responsibility for his own passions and what he does with his own penis.
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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