Sexual Harassment East and West
- “I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.” — Nabih Wahsh, Islamist lawyer, on Egypt’s al-Assema TV, October 19, 2017.
- The Iranian Revolution of 1979 sparked off increasingly revolutionary movements across the Islamic world, and in the process saw women in many countries denied the freedoms they had started to acquire under earlier regimes. The veil returned widely, notably in Turkey, following the growing power of authoritarian and fundamentalist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with women’s rights being increasingly denied.
- We urgently need to drop our unwillingness to contrast Western and Islamic values — whether regarding violence, treatment of religious minorities, anti-Semitism, or treatment of women. There are also growing numbers of Muslims, as we are seeing today in Iran, who find wider Islamic attitudes abhorrent and work hard, mostly against the odds, to bring their faith closer to modern values.
For a time, one could not open a newspaper or visit an online news site without finding yet another scandal about sexual harassment. Lawyers are presumably going to have a field day for years to come. In the UK, a further wave of accusations has shaken an already shaky parliament and the Government, whose Cabinet is increasingly in disarray. In the US Congress, Hollywood and elsewhere, similar claims are still being made, with #MeToo stories being shared by women, while there is an unknown number of accusations in US statehouses.
Sex scandals in the West are far from new. The irony is that this brings us face to face with attitudes to the same problem in the Islamic world.
For many years in the West, it was common practice for sexual harassment and rape among celebrities and public figures to be hushed up. To secure silence, abusers often used bribes or threats. Young women feared the loss of their careers or reputations; in many instances, the police would reject claims of abuse. This happened more than once in the UK, when young victims of “Asian” grooming gangs were not believed by social workers and police; in Europe authorities tried — and still try (see here, here and here) — to cover up harassment and rape committed by Muslim migrants. There will be a lot of work to do to protect women and children from the excesses of so many men.