Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Double-Standards and Respect for Women

 Yesterday I heard some very disturbing news. I found out that an ex-professor of mine was no longer at the University because apparently he had sexually harassed a number of students and they spoke out against him. The person who told me this stated that she has no respect for the man. Obviously I agree with her, my perception of him was changed completely on hearing that news.

It’s weird; I thought he was a nice guy. He seemed decent you know, with a wife and adult children and all that. He was at the University for years and I always kind of saw him like part of the old furniture. Although I have to admit that I found his lectures very tedious in my undergraduate studies, I actually came to like him when I did my postgraduate degrees and I saw him as someone with a lot of knowledge and experience, someone you could learn a lot from.

Then he became my research supervisor and I remember feeling more comfortable that he was an older guy, if only I had known!  I was actually quite shocked yesterday, as you can imagine.

My feelings and reactions aside though, there’s another reason why I’m mentioning this. You see, I did my Masters research on Muslim women. And of course, given the current political climate, the issue of ‘Muslim women’ is a heated topic. At some point I even remember the same professor saying to me that; “I wouldn’t want to be you researching this issue”. Anyway, it turned out quite well for me, Alhamdullillah and the research was much better than what had initially been expected (which I take no credit for). One day though, he said to me that he gets angry when he sees Muslim women all dressed up in black, completely covered, with their husbands walking in front of them. His reason for getting upset was that he felt it it was unnecessary and just like many people he believed that this stifles Muslim women.

At the time I understood that everyone has their own opinions when it comes to the dress of Muslim women. In fact, it would seem that more people have an opinion on this than things they actually need to have an opinion on. Nonetheless, I now find myself feeling quite angry, because if this professor really cared about women’s rights or respect for women, then how could he disrespect women by harassing them, and how could he infringe upon the rights of women while pretending to be bothered by women who he regarded as being oppressed?

Of course these sorts of double standards are prevalent in society, and people simply fall on the bandwagon of believing everything that they hear without actually understanding or a lot of the time, without even thinking about things logically themselves. Think about it right, if this particular professor had to speak about Muslim women for instance, then people would automatically believe what he had to say, because obviously he had great academic credentials. Yet, his words would’ve been false as he himself disrespected women and violated their rights.

The thing that gets to me is that everyone has a lot to say about Islam and how Muslim women dress, yet it is because Allah wants to protect our modesty, chastity and honour that we are supposed to dress this way. Allah Almighty tells us in the Glorious Quraan that the dress of women is for protection. Despite this, people start screaming about “oppression” and “the need for liberation” when they themselves cannot uphold respect and honour of women.  (Please note that I am not saying that all Muslim women are respected and honoured as there are many cases where Muslim women are oppressed, but also understand that Islam does not oppress women, nor do the laws of Islam, people who abuse and misunderstand the laws of Islam oppress women- And Allah Knows Best about everything and will bring Justice in every situation).

Back to my discussion- This case is not unique; it happens all the time. Women are preyed upon by men in power who abuse their power to achieve their own personal needs and wants. I have to wonder though, if the system of the so-called Western world is so perfect, then why do these things still continue to happen, over and over again?

I also can’t help but wonder what the real reason is for people hating the way Muslim women dress. Could it be because it goes against male ideals of what women should look like? Could it be because it deprives men from gazing at women?  I really can’t say, but what I can say is what I’ve mentioned before, Muslim women’s dress should be a non-issue, because the way someone dresses does not by any means determine their level of intelligence or their ability to contribute to society and so on.

The most important thing in this whole case is that women are not treated with the respect and honour that they deserve. While the world seems to suddenly care so much about the oppression of Muslim women, what about the oppression of all women? Why not launch huge campaigns and bring laws into effect to put an end to this type of harassment altogether? Instead of banning the niqab and making a big show of it, why not implement stricter punishments for men who harass women, whether in the workplace, or educational institution or wherever. So yes, people like this professor may lose their jobs, but what about legal punishment? Why don’t those in power make a big show about this type of oppression? Why do we not have stories like this as front page news? Really if we can have stories of oppressive Muslim men who marry women, take them to their native countries and give them a hard life on the front page of the newspaper, then why can’t we have stories like this as big news? The double standards in society keep surfacing, and not many people seem to notice!  

Women should be respected, honoured and protected at all times, and within all systems. If anyone is found guilty of infringing upon the rights of women, then it is only right that they be punished for their actions. People should make a big noise about oppression of all sorts, not just the sort that fits their stereotypes.

All women should be respected, despite the way she dresses. Whether she chooses to cover up completely or not, a woman is not what she wears, nor is she only about the external body. It’s really sad that even though the human race claims to have progressed, we still have these type of situations which can only make you shake your head and wonder whether there is hope for the human race.

May Allah protect us all from all types of harm, evil and oppression, and may Allah save us from being hypocrites who display double standards.


  1. I found your post very interesting - it brings up many points of discussion and makes you think about how muslimahs are thought of!

  2. Karima

    Hope you are well. Yes, this incident made me realise many things as well. It seems to me that alot of the people who have issues with Muslim women, base this on their own personal thoughts and perceptions, which most of the time are biased, but Allah knows best. Also goes to show you never really know what people are really like.

    Stay well and thanks for your comment

  3. I was thinking of double standards the other day when I read a story about a Muslim brother from Yemen living in the states who had five girls from the college he was at lock him in his room and take off their clothes etc to try to force him to get over his 'psychological' issues that stopped him from dating girls. He had them charged with sexual assault and in the comment section below it was 99 percent of people saying what an idiot he was, he was just a whinger, he should be a real man etc

    Imagine if the situation was reversed and it was a young woman who had five men lock her in her room and take off their clothes etc it would be an uproar. These same people commenting would say how these men deserved castration etc

    Now imagine even further if was five Muslim men and a American girl (with races reversed) I wouldn't even dare to read the comments section in that case.

    I know it's not the same as what you were talking about but all these double standards around Muslims really makes you think...

  4. Very interesting as always Zarina. I have spotted that some people would talk a certain way and would act a different way.
    It seems nowadays people have ideas and held "cliches" for everybody. When it's not about Muslim women, it's about Europeen women. There is a lot of intolerance from both side and it's quite sad.

    Take care dear and hope you are keeping well.

  5. Bonnie

    The story you mentioned sounds terrible, I can imagine that the man in question was quite distressed by the actions of those women. And you are right, the double standards really can make you angry. Its about respect for people and their choices. Respect for how Muslim women choose to dress, respect for a young man who doesn't want to date, and respect for college students who trust their professor. The society at large seems to have lost respect and this is really bad news. I think viewing people as "other" or different" no matter who they are is what leads to disrespect and that leads to double standards. It's all very frustrating, but in the end Allah knows best.

  6. Marie

    You are so right, there is too much intolerance and this is indeed very sad. Labelling people and sticking to cliches really causes hatred in society.

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