I have been following the discussion between Swami Aksharananda and Messrs ul Haq, Bakr and Ally regarding the issue of rape with much interest. I am not surprised that the idea of rape being the woman’s fault still prevails and is stoutly defended by men in our society. It is not even a sign about our backwardness since this notion is still forwarded in developed societies like Britain and the United States. Further, there are women who agree with this view. Hence the fact that rape is probably the most under-reported crime in the world.
Every statistic on rape bears a disclaimer that it does not reflect the true numbers of the crime. It would be laughable if it were not so tragic that Abu Bakr in his letter of January 9, 2013 in SN refers to the criminal statistics from “Saudi Arabia or Muslim countries” and concludes that the statistics show that these countries “seem freer from many kinds of crimes and safer for their citizens than the crime-ridden pits in which we live.”
While rape is under-reported in every country, I would venture a guess that it is more so in Islamic ones where a woman dares not, simply dares not. What happens if she does? Hasn’t the ul Haq-Bakr-Ally trio told us and so eloquently what would happen to her? She would be blamed for provoking the man to rape because of her manner of dress and/or decorum, or whatever else is handy. The fault would lie with her and she would, therefore, be punished. Why then would a woman report a rape and make herself a target for further trauma and abuse?
The man who rapes on the other hand, and according to these writers, is not to be held responsible for any control or lack of control over his own sexuality which, in the case of rape, he uses forcibly on a woman, and against her will.
In a current news report on the rising rate of divorces in Pakistan, it is stated that women are slowly turning to divorce to opt out of abusive marriages. Women are often killed while pursuing a divorce and a Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters,“The women have been given so-called freedom and liberty which causes danger to themselves.”
(If the women will only remain bound to their abusive husbands they will be safe!)
Pakistan does not track its divorce rate and it is easy to extrapolate from that that all marriages in Pakistan are happy ones – hence the glowing statistics from these “freer” Islamic nations.
The bottom line on rape is that it is about power and domination. It is a crime perpetrated by weak, insecure men who, for whatever reason, feel powerless. Their forcible domination of the women they rape provides them with a sense of power, however fleeting, and encouraged and excused by the kind of idea promoted by ul Haq, Bakr and Ally that it is not their fault but the woman’s – she was asking for it, after all – they do it again and again.
This discussion has been going on even as the most brutal of rapes occurred in India. I want to believe that no one who sees themselves as a civilized human can say that that young woman deserved that horrific death. I would have thought it would have given everyone a chance to reflect and reconsider. But, no. From all that I have read about the Holy Prophet Mohammad – and mostly as a historical figure – he was a great leader and a fine human being. Among his many qualities, he was an astute politician. He saw that for the Arab world to progress that the tribes needed to stop their constant bickering and warring. He succeeded in unifying them under monotheism, under the One God concept. As a man, he was known for his kindness, for his consideration of others, and for his tolerance. When a Christian delegation came to meet with him and had no place to pray, the Prophet invited them to use the mosque as their place of worship. A Muslim leader who does such a kindness today would be vilified by the talibans of our times. Perhaps, even killed.
He also had his pragmatic side. Polygamy was instituted after the Battle of Uhud during which many men were killed. At that time, women needed male protection because they were not educated or independent and the Prophet allowed polygamy which was attendant with strict rules of behaviour. It was a practical solution and it was contextual to the times. Polygamy in Islam is, today, out of context and is much abused.
There is a school of thought among Muslim scholars that the turmoil in the Middle East is mostly internal as Islam is being dragged from its mediaeval roots into the modern world. When one hears the voice of the ultra conservative wing of the religion, the fear is that the mediaeval darkness will triumph.