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Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks

This post contains my views on religion, which I’ve often found hard to talk about in the way I’d like. The subject is by nature open to some extreme views, please be thoughtful if you want to comment.

Despite seeing so many examples of idiotic thinking, it always shocks me when I see yet another way of looking at things which is fundamentally flawed. And this particular one so crassly demeaning toward women and men. Sheik Hilali talks about women who are ‘dressed indecently’:

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it .. whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.

If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.

Sheik Hilali (as reported by The Australian)

Later he said women were weapons used by Satan to control men.

Why does Sheik Hilali not see the problem as being that the “cats” were outside? Remove either the “cats” or the “meat” and you get no “eaten meat”. Actually, this allegory annoys me, let’s use the real words for the real things he was talking about and alluding to: the Sydney gang rapes. Re-phrasing accordingly, here is what was said:

“If you take out [a women, not dressed head-to-toe and wearing the head scarf] and place [her] outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without [wearing the head scarf and full clothing], and the [men] come and [rape her] … whose fault is it, the [men] or the uncovered [woman]? The uncovered [woman] is the problem.”

This, obviously, is hugely demeaning to women, and it’s also demeaning to men. While I don’t doubt that the Sheik intended one of those insults, I do doubt he intended the other. His comment implies that men can’t control themselves when women are around. That we are weak and liable to cave in to sexual lust, and that it can’t be our fault when we do because we’re just not strong enough to ever resist “Satan’s weapons”. I find that insulting, and I’m sure most men that don’t harbor a desire to rape would think the same.

Quite rightly Sheik Hilali has been called down by “the community” for his comments. Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Ali said:

Anyone who is foolish enough to believe that there is a relationship between rape or unwelcome sexual interference and the failure to wear a hijab, clearly has no understanding of the nature of sexual crime.

Waleed Ali, spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria

Waleed Ali is quite correct, but he’s also wildly miss-understood the Sheik and his comments. In reality this has nothing to do with head scarf’s or how women dress, but everything to do with Muslim religion’s attitude to women, and religion in general. If one believes the Qur’an to the letter, women are the property of men, a completely different class of person. The Sheik either believes whole-heartedly in the Qur’an teachings, which effectively demonstrates that women are to be subjugated, and is therefore ‘doing his moral duty’ as he believes it to be, or he’s a callous and immoral person taking advantage of a particular section of society in order to ‘have his fun’. I think evil people are very very rare, and it’s more likely he is simply a devout Muslim, sees himself as ‘a good man’ and is following the teachings of morality as the Qur’an lays out. Nor should we be so shocked about that attitude to women from a religious tome - the Bible says almost exactly the same things. The Old Testament is a nightmare of human rights violations, torture, gang-rapes (hetrosexual and homosexual), murder, genocide, and other general examples of immorality - all caused by a vindictive, jealous, and extremely un-pleasant God (who, let us not forget, created the universe so we could worship him - then created Hell so we could spend eternity in writhing agony if we used our ‘God given’ free will to decide we didn’t like him). The Old Testament, unsurprisingly, has generally fallen out of favor, to be replaced with the better (but still at times reprehensible and questionable) New Testament.

The fundamental problem

The fundamental problem is this: If a religion teaches something, but that ’something’ is morally unacceptable to the population at large, and a person believes in that religion (and I mean truly believes) - how do we deal with it? You can not shift a true believers faith because by definition they believe it despite a complete lack of supporting evidence and worse still despite any evidence or reasoning against it. Faith is praised in religion as a ‘virtue’, and questioning faith is shunned as a ’sin’ - as such the very process of faith inoculates itself against being disproved. Thus, if you truly believe that God made the world in seven days because you truly believe the Bible is a word for word explanation of everything - no amount of evidence otherwise will convince you of anything else, and the scientifically irresponsible Creationism taught in some American schools is the end result. Likewise, if you truly believe that a martyrs death earns you a fast-track to heaven and a hareem of 72 virgins to pleasure you for eternity (the poor virgins!), then nothing will stop you strapping a bomb to yourself and walking into a crowded street of ‘heathens’ to detonate it. No amount of contradictory passages in your holy book of choice will change the view that those passages are all correct. The stronger the faith, the harder it is to remove. Faith is irrational, and depending on ‘virtue’ of the person holding it, you can’t rationalize it away.

So, we can’t deal with views like that of Sheik Hilali by changing the attitude of ‘true’ believers, though we may have some effect on the armchair believer. But it’s not the armchair believer that enacts the teachings of the religion, so that’s a hollow victory. Would it be possible to change the teachings of those religions instead? It’s very unlikely - because religious teachings are generally absolutes and not open to question (they are often understood to be the very word of God). Despite this the Catholic church is doing a reasonable job of picking and choosing and ‘interpreting’ itself into a semblance of acceptability as time wears on. The Old Testament has now been reduced mostly to ‘allegory’, despite the fact that no-where does it say this, and despite the fact that for centuries it was taught as an absolute truth, resulting in holy wars and hundreds of thousands of violent deaths over the ages. Quite how the Catholic church decides what is allegory and what is absolute I do not know, as the book itself doesn’t make any distinctions. The relatively fast shift of Catholic teaching is, I feel, one reason why Catholic church attendance is falling so rapidly in the UK. One thing religion needs to survive is an absolute conviction that it is right and un-changing. That’s what modern Roman Catholic doctrine has lost (which is no bad thing in my mind).

How do we address religion in a modern society?

Let me make myself clear: I do not think that people are a problem. I do not think that those who have faith are in themselves a problem (often, they never really had a choice as to what they believe). I think religion itself is a problem for a responsible society, because religion is irrational, intolerant, and fundamentally unstable in any mixed environment.
I respect and understand why people end up believing things which, without the support of the religious process through the formative years of childhood, they would never otherwise contemplate without strong evidence to back it up. I tend to view believers as victims of circumstance. For, if all those Christians had not been born in the West, they would in fact all be Muslims. And if those Muslims hadn’t all been born in the East, they’d in fact be Christians. A believer simply believes in whatever religion was dominant in the place, family, and society of their up-bringing. That’s why ‘conversions’ are so rare.

Many believers who have niggling doubts find it extremely difficult to stop believing. They can find it equally hard simply to be seen to no longer believe. This difficulty is due to the power of religion as a psychological and social device. I myself was born and raised a Roman Catholic. My family were doing everything in their power to bring me up in the best possible way they knew how, and for all the best reasons - love being chief among them. I am extremely thankful and grateful for having such a loving and caring family. Part of their belief in “doing what is right” was to teach and raise me as a Catholic. Even though for many, many years I’ve had issues with “my faith”, and for a number of years have rejected the idea of religion entirely - I’ve never been able to just come out and say “I don’t believe in Christianity, or any religion”. And that is because I have been raised a Christian, and because I understand why. As a result I do not want to upset my family. Some people wouldn’t want to reject their faith in case they were branded a heathen and in the process effectively lost their family. It is something that faith can do - tear apart an otherwise loving family. Fortunately I don’t feel that would be the case with my parents and grandparents. Yet, even writing this post and contemplating ‘letting the cat out of the bag’, I feel guilt. I feel like I may be letting people I respect and love down. It’s an emotional topic, despite the fact my convictions are solid, and have been for years. I do not want my family to be worried for me. I do not want them to think I could end up in a Hell which, for them, is real. So, it’s taken many years of thinking, many years of emotional see-saws, many years of “playing the believer” - and even now, at 25 - it’s still incredibly difficult for me to completely break free of the grip and consequences of being brought up in a religious environment, by posting this. As a result of my upbringing I understand how incredibly hard it can be for people brought up in a religious manner to reject that religion, even given the fact they genuinely disbelieve and need no further convincing.

So what can we do to improve the situation in which we find ourselves? How do we deal with religion in a modern and ever-more intermingling society? I don’t think it is a situation which can be improved overnight, or in a few years. It will take a few generations. My only suggestion would be to ensure an educated and religion free up-bringing of our children. That we as a society stop automatically deferring to religion as though it was worthy of the ‘respect’ that it so dogmatically demands, because it is not. It is a relic of the past with a tenacious and dangerous grip on the future. It is an uncompromising irrationality visited upon generation after generation through the indoctrination of children, who’s minds by their very nature are incredibly susceptible to such a process. The only thing to do is break the cycle, and that will take time, and bravery that may be hard for people not brought up in such environments to understand.


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  1. Jim posted 23hrs, 9min, 15sec after the entry and said:

    Hey Matt.

    Interesting post…

    My take (for what it is worth) is this…

    Religion's problem it now faces is that technology, lifestyle and communication have finally caught up with it.

    In the past it was easy to 'respect' other religions 'from afar'. 'I don't agree with that…erm…. but anyway erm…..I'm busy!……' type approach…

    There was a time in history where even though we didn't understand 'their take on things', it wasn't happening on our doorstep and therefore it didn't really matter 'in the swing of things'.

    There was far less social and religious integration across the globe and the impact on each others religions (and the understanding of each others religions) was less than it is today. We could let them go about their business as long as it didn't infringe on our day to day lives, our politial ideals or, of course, our beliefs.

    When 'their' religion did of course cause us problems, we would then have all the moral justification for destroying them, their families and their way of life with impunity…

    In the last 20 or so years, increases in technology and communications have made us far more aware of our 'neighbours', their religions and the associated 'foibles' which come with them. We have also socially integrated more than ever before in history and this now means that we are 'having' to deal with things more than before, it's 'new to us' and quite simply unavoidable.

    There are things in each religion that are hateful to others and there is also synergy in particular areas across most religions too. There are Religions that are hateful and preach doctrines that blatantly despise womens rights as equals and homosexuals to name but a few marginalised groups. This of course means that, in a nutshell, religion still seems to be struggling with it's 'embracing each other ' and 'love all' principles and finds itself focusing still on areas of doctrine that clearly divide us.

    All this simply means is that we are finding ourselves for the first time in a world where we 'have no choice' but to see things from other points of view, regardless of their inference or how these practices and principles displease us or leave a bitter tase in our mouths. We have no choice but to face this and a we all know - having no choice is always difficult.

    I personally embrace this difficult period believe ot or not.

    It's an incredible challenge we all face when opinions on matters so deeply rooted as differnet religions and faith clash in this way and we have no choice but to 'adapt' for the benefit of all of us.

    The question religion now faces is how well will it's leaders are going to react and take on the huge responsibility on their shoulders to bring their 'masses' to the negotiating table. To start to embrace the things that join us all and not to continue to concentrate on the things that divide us.

    Of course the only other solution is for there to be 1 single religion that we all believe in, or are forced to follow, and this of course will never happen, well, not without a catastrophic global war with billions of deaths (strangely something that some religious leaders seem to wish for)!

    THAT'S the modern challenge that religion faces, and as an Athiest (tried to keep that quiet until now as I too am marginalised for my beliefs, or it has been suggested 'lack of them') my fear is that religions and their leaders, as in the past, will not be up to the task.

    I personally despise the failings of all religions to embrace the humanity we all share find it abhorrant that countless millions of people throughout history have wasted their lifes by being basically sacrificed at the alters of God's that don't even exist.

    To me, I hope that one day the world will open it's eyes to see how beautiful it would be WITHOUT religion in it, I am not holding my breath…

    In the meantime, all I can do is hope that those who DO believe in thier God's, learn to embrace each other in a 'human way' and start seeing each other as equal.

    The amount of hypocricy, death, fear and destructive power wielded by faiths in history and still today, is scary in the extreme and, in my opinion, can only lead towards destruction, a direction I hope we ALL manage to change TOGETHER….for ALL our sakes.


  2. Dave posted 1 days, 2hrs, 12mins after the entry and said:

    Ban all religions. And if they don't like it, nuke 'em all.

  3. Matt Wilcox posted 1 days, 4hrs, 17mins after the entry and said:

    Dave - force will never prevail over religion. It never has, it never will. Look at Iraq if you feel you need modern-day proof of how force just makes matters involving faith far, far worse. The same can be said of banning ideas and 'movements' - you only ever make them stronger. All anyone can do to effect positive change is tolerate what is tolerable and educate wherever possible.

    Jim - well said, I agree with everything bar the 'embracing' bit smiley icon: laugh Personally I'd rather be in a position to think 'what, and they -believed- this stuff? en-mass?!' than be caught in the middle of it.

    As an aside, Bush was asked the question of whether he believed current events in Iraq were the prelude to the apocalypse. Rather than say 'no' he simply failed to answer:

    Religious people in a position of power are a terrifying concept. And so ironic in a nation founded specifically without religious intent - the founding fathers would turn in their graves upon seeing modern America.

  4. Jim posted 1 days, 22hrs, 50mins after the entry and said:

    Not all the founding fathers Matt…..

    Thomas Paine was not a Christian he was a Deist, George Washington never declared himself a Christian, Thomas Jefferson was of course an Atheist, John Adams said that this would be the 'best of worlds if there was no religion in it' (bit of a giveaway there…), Ethan Allen another Deist, James Madison a through and through atheist and then of course there's Benjamin Franklin…….no need ta say anything about Franklin's credentials.

    There's at least 3 Presidents in there!

    Imagine another american atheist president today?

    ….all I can do is hope.

  5. Little Bro posted 10 days, 1hrs, 45mins after the entry and said:

    Erm… Isn't Thomas Jefferson the inventor of the light bulb?

    I swear that religion is the biggest cause of war and violence. The War in the middle east is due to religion, The fighting in Ireland that led to Bloody Friday was over religion, and Henry VIII had Catholics killed because he fell out with the Pope, and Hitler Masacred the Jews. Throughout history, religion seems to be the main cause of Violence.

  6. Matt Wilcox posted 10 days, 2hrs, 4mins after the entry and said:

    Sir Humphry Davy invented the lightbulb, in 1801. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb

    Pinning down a cause of war often isn't as easy as finding a single factor and just blaming that, despite what modern news and politics might want you to believe. While I do agree that religion is a very large factor in the majority of wars, there are always multiple factors to this sort of thing. Religion almost certainly plays a part in every war ever undertaken, but it's hardly ever the only reason to go to war. There is almost always a political side too, or a need for resources one country has that another doesn't (think oil - America needs it, Iraq has it).

    Looking for a single cause for an event often makes an understanding of the event incomplete - religion is a good scapegoat, but so is politics, and so is national discontent, and so is a shortage of resources, and so is racism, etc. etc. etc. The 'real' cause is often more complex than just picking one of those and attributing everything to it.

    Good to see you've got your thinking cap on though, nice one smiley icon: smile

  7. Serenah posted 23 days, 23hrs, 23mins after the entry and said:

    Thomas Edison was the inventor of the lightbulb lol.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on the whole religion being the problem. It is only a huge problem because people follow it blindly. Historically when they did the crusades and took Jerusalem they did it in "the name of God" and slaughtered millions, and not to mention when the Christians were turning against each other and Catholics were burning Protestants on stakes without care or cause. Millions of Women and Children died because of the Malefis Maleficarum (Witch's Hammer) all because the Catholic Church decided they were too free in their thoughts. All religions have pushed Male dominance to the extremes and they always will as long as they feel threatened by them. We hate what we fear, fear what we don't understand, and hate it because it's different and not like us. It won't change as long as there's power in the struggle.

    The problem with the interpretations of Islam is simply that they don't look at the whole Qur'an. "Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former (men), than the latter (women) and with what they may spend out of their possessions. (4:34)"
    Stating that they should take care of them financially simply because God has graced the men with more financial means. Whether it be because of physical attributes or simply because men cannot get pregnant or don't get periods that make women almost unable to do anything at most times it's true. History proves that and men should but they take this too far. And if you look at the next verse a little earlier in the book
    "And the mothers may nurse their children for two whole years, if they wish to complete the period of nursing; and it is incumbent upon him who has begotten the child to provide in a fair manner for their sustenance and clothing. (2:233)"
    This says nothing about the men having to care for the women all the time nor does it say they cannot work, it simply gives the mother the option of nursing the child and if they do the men have to provide for both the women and child BUT ONLY WHILE THE WOMAN IS INCAPABLE OF DOING SO.

    I agree with many of your statements but the Qur'an does not say that the men litterally own the women. It is rather a male mind-set that has been passed down through Millenia of misinterpretation.

    "The hadith of the creation of woman from Adam's rib which is in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Not that Eve "is a flawed female helpmate extracted from him as an afterthought or utility." … The rib is the protection of the heart and Woman represents the protection of Man rather than the reverse, but for such protection to take place then man must protect woman in the first place. This is because if any harm reaches the rib (woman) then the heart (man) is left unprotected."
    Hajj Gibril
    GF Haddad
    14 May 2003

    "And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of you owen kind, so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love an tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think. (30:21)"

    If we had more people who looked at these verses or the Qur'an in whole and not simply as a tool for justification for deplorable and dispicable acts (as many religions do with their Holy Documents) than perhaps there would be a little more tolerance in this world.

    Again I thank you for your statements on the matter. You gave me much to think about and I hope I gave you something back.


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