By Dr. Badria al-Bishr
8 April 2013
It’s worth taking a look at the readers’ comments in a British daily on a news piece about molesting women or children. Some readers requested that capital punishment be legalized again and others called molesters "devils" that must be gotten rid of and stopped by severe punishment. Compare these comments with some readers' comments in Arab dailies on the same topic. The readers ask "how can a woman go to this place and not expect anyone to molest her? What was she wearing? What has she done to arouse him?"
There is always a search for a justification of the crime. There is always a search on the victim's side and not the criminal's. But in both cases, justifying the crime precedes condemning the criminal. If anything, this shows that molestation crimes in our Arab countries are first a cultural crime before being a sexual one because the molester himself and those who defend him if they are present in the most nude places in France or America will not dare touch a woman or even inquire what a girl is doing there. So what made them "moral" people on the beaches there and monsters in public streets and squares packed with people in their own country?
No place like home?
Molesting women and above it the crime of defending those who molest women are the extremist Islamists' best way to currently convince women that the only safe place for them is their homes and that whenever a woman leaves her house, no one bears responsibility for what may happen to her. This logic is even uttered in Egypt despite women's historical achievements, their pioneer experience in progress and attaining rights, their participation in the revolution encouraging efforts and planting hope and succeeding in becoming an ambassador, a minister or a doctor. Some are not convinced by these examples because they think that being molested is the tax paid by women for leaving their houses. They do not see molestation as an indicator of the disruption of morals. Some preachers have encouraged such acts when they justified the crime of molesting women and laid the blame on the woman and not on the man. I have a story to share with these.
Before marrying the prophet, prayer be upon his him, Umm Salama, god bless her, was married to her paternal cousin. He had migrated before her to Medina. He was one day ahead of her on the journey as her parents prevented her from going. But she decided to follow him and take her baby with her. Uthman bin Talha, a pagan, ran into her and said "where do you head to?" she said "I want (to see) my husband in Medina." He said "and no one is accompanying you?" She said "no, only God and my son (are accompanying me." He said "I will not let you (go alone.)" Umm Salama later said "I have never known an Arab man more decent than he is."
These are the Arabs' morals before Islam. Islam only came to complete these morals and not to place women in further threats among Muslims and keep her safe in France and America! Someone will as usual say the molestation cases are even present in America and Europe. This is true. But when they do happen, no one comes out to say that the woman "deserves what fell upon her" and the law does not ask her "what were you doing at this time among molesters," and it does not punish her!
Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist and a PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University's Department of Social Studies.