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Offensive to label moulana’s language as ‘misogyny’

Offensive to label moulana’s language as ‘misogyny’
September 19, 2020
September 19, 2020 September 19, 2020

JASMINE KHAN and NAJMUNESA SOLOMON challenge the wide scope given to the definition of misogyny by Mahmood Sanglay in an article published on this website last week.

WHEN we do anything to offend someone, or commit a blatant sin, we first ask the person/s that we injured to forgive us. We then turn in repentance to Allah. Is it reasonable to expect that while we do not have to deconstruct our sin to our Creator but are expected to do so to the offended parties?

We agree that the permissibility of polygyny in Islam is abused by some men but not by all. However, misogyny is a hatred for women and it is difficult to see how the word can be used in the same breath as polygyny.

The writer changes the meaning of the word ‘misogyny’ and extends it to mean more than what it actually means. He attempts to invoke an interpretation of the word as “ingrained and institutionalised prejudice against women and includes behaviour, conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on gender.” However, the word is repeated no less than twenty times in the text, a clear indication that the point is being hammered home. It is such a powerful, evocative term and because of its association in the criminal sense, most people will take it to mean just that.

Dictionaries define misogyny as “hatred of women” and as “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women”. In addition, misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women and girls. It enforces sexism by punishing those who reject an inferior status for women and rewards those who accept it. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, such as, social exclusion, sex discrimination, disenfranchisement of women and violence against women.

From a legal perspective, misogyny is the law enforcement branch of patriarchy. And those who practise it, punish women who transgress or threaten dominant men. In addition to this, misogynists do not apologise for their behaviour. In fact, they think that their behaviour should be commended for keeping the status quo by keeping women in their place.

The writer’s use of “Muslim men” indicates that he includes all Muslim men, including himself in this generalisation. Are we to accept that all men, him included, are women haters? Is it possible that the writer’s words can now be construed as insulting to Muslim men?

When he mentions polygyny, he is correct about how certain men abuse the right to take a second wife. However, once again he characterises all Muslim men as being women haters. It is worth pondering why a woman hater would then take another wife.

We absolutely agree that references to animal sounds and habits are offensive. The writer once again refers to all Muslim men as using such language and he does not say ‘some men’, or a ‘percentage of men’.

There is no argument when it comes to the language used on the video clip. It was offensive and there really is no excuse for it. However, we are of the opinion that the word misogynist is equally offensive and completely unjustified. Anyone who knows Moulana Dawood Sampson knows that he is far from a woman hater. In fact, show us another imam who has done more for women than this man. The irony is that no one has ever challenged him on the use of his colourful language, or as the writer terms it, his local slang.

He had a weekly programme on Voice of the Cape for seven years; not seven weeks or seven months but years. Neither the management of the radio station nor the staff had any problem. In fact, he probably made a difference to thousands of men and women through this series; not to mention the hundreds of couples who go to him for marriage counselling.

He happens to be compassionate enough and sensitive to the feelings of women to send them to a female counsellor for help. He tells them that what has happened to them has upset their emotional equilibrium and he can recommend someone who can help with this. Does this sound like a woman hater? Couples from suburbs far removed, geographically as well as socially, from Parkwood Estate go to him. When the women are asked why they went to him, invariably, the answer is that they have listened to him and believe that he has their interests at heart.

We have not made the decision to respond to this article lightly. Nor is it an attempt to condone the language use of the moulana in the video clip. However, we have spoken to a few people and gauged their reactions. One man said that although the analysis of the facts is correct, he gets the impression that the article is judgmental. Another asked what happened to the Islamic imperative that we are supposed to lift a fellow Muslim and not tramp him down.

A third one quoted the following: Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease one in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the hereafter. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the hereafter.”

[Source: Sahih Muslim 2699 Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Muslim]

We are reminded of the incident of the Bedouin who urinated in the Prophet’s mosque. The Sahaabah attacked him and was stopped by Nabi Muhammad (SAW). He told them to get a bucket of water to clean the spot, and then took the Bedouin aside and explained to him the wrongfulness of his deed.

It is said that one can do a thousand good deeds but if you make one mistake, you will be remembered for that mistake. What isn’t mentioned is that when you make that mistake you will be prosecuted, judged, found guilty and executed. This is what has happened here. Any person who has done something wrong is given an opportunity to defend himself. Moulana has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, by people who do not know him, nor have any idea of the work he has been doing for the past twenty-five years. Moreover, they are totally disconnected from what is happening at grassroots level.

What is very disturbing is the fact that, for decades, women and children have been abused yet, nothing constructive has been done. Now there is a move to call for a series of actions, including the implementation of policy to transform Muslim institutions, as well as a need for regulation of gender equality and women’s rights.

The irony is that all of these already exist. We have clear guidelines on every aspect of life from the Quran and the Sunnah. The problem is that many people do not follow those guidelines; this is what should be addressed.

We have all condemned the video, and this is certainly justifiable. However, some of us went on to condemn the man and proceeded to vilify him. This shows a lack of compassion. Remember what our beloved Rasool (SAW) said:

“Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1924. Grade: Sahih (authentic).

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What have I done to change the mindset of men who abuse women?
  2. Have I offered any kind of support or comfort to a woman in an abusive situation?
  3. Have I lobbied for programmes to be run to educate men and women on how we are supposed to live as set out in the Quran and Sunnah?

It is a good idea to bear in mind the following wise counsel by Moulana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, (RA): ‘Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: ‘Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?’

In conclusion we offer very good advice from Shaikh Muhammad West:

  • We live in a country where gender-based violence (GBV) is a huge issue;
  • Begin with always having respectful interactions;
  • No room for sexist comments or locker room talk;
  • No one can judge another;
  • But if you were to, then weigh a lifetime of community service against a momentary lapse in judgment;
  • We are all human and err and sin; and
  • If someone repents (asks for maaf) we honour that.

“…and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 24:22)

The views expressed here are those of the writers Jasmine Khan and Najmunesa Solomon as well as six people with whom they discussed the article. This included Shaikh Muhammad West of the Boorhaanol Masjid, who said that he echoes its sentiments. They have also taken into consideration the many messages received from women who were disappointed and dismayed that Moulana Dawood Sampson is being depicted as someone who hates women.

Featured image: The writers emphasise that the Quran and Sunnah have clear guidelines on gender equality and women’s rights. (Photo LEO LINTANG/ 123RF.COM)

 

Mahmood Sanglay replies to the main points raised by Jasmine Khan and Najmunesa Solomon

I THANK Jasmine Khan and Najmunesa Solomon for responding to the article on misogyny.

The definition of misogyny as used in the article is, in its entirety, derived from the dictionary. Nothing in the definition was changed as alleged by Khan and Solomon, and I refer them to Merriam-Webster as the source. Furthermore, I clarify in the article that the aspect of the definition that applies especially to the moulana is stereotyping. It is therefore inaccurate to reduce my definition of misogyny to hatred of women.

Nowhere in the article is it – either implicitly or explicitly – stated that the moulana is a woman hater. Nor does it deal at all with hatred of women. Instead, it deals essentially with the abuse of polygyny and ways in which women are subjected to stereotyping. Therefore, the use of the word misogyny, in the sense expressly defined and intended in the article, is entirely appropriate.

Also, nowhere in the article do I state – or imply – that all Muslim men are misogynists or that they hate women. In each of the two instances that I use the term ‘Muslim men’ it is clearly qualified by the context. First, by the three kinds of prejudice specifically applicable to the utterances of the moulana. Second, by the qualification ‘among’ which denotes some men, as opposed to all men. In a third instance, it is a case of legitimate generic usage as it refers to the call for guidelines to govern the conduct of all men.

The audience of the offending video clip is potentially global, given that it was quite deliberately released by its producer on a highly viral social media platform. The magnitude of this audience clearly dwarfs the number of people who know of the moulana’s reputation as a champion of women’s issues. Thus, the damage done to his reputation is directly due to the video he released and not due to the responses it elicited. It is also important to note that the moulana is a public figure who was well aware he is addressing an audience significantly wider than his own community.

Khan and Solomon correctly point out that the Quran and Sunnah provide clear guidelines on all aspects of life. This is not disputed in the article. However, they have to concede that there is a policy vacuum and inadequate public programmes in our leading Muslim institutions to address problems such as misogyny. The call for implementation of policy to transform Muslim institutions does not presume any deficiency in the Quran or the Sunnah.

Khan and Solomon have misread and missed the key point of the article, which is to draw the reader beyond a narrow consideration of one man’s stereotyping of women. It connects the stereotyping to broader patterns of misogyny, mainly in polygyny and within Muslim institutions generally.

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