This week, Stuart Hazell was convicted of the appalling crime of sexually assaulting and then killing his partner’s 12 year old granddaughter Tia Sharp. Over the past few weeks, other stories regarding the sexual abuse of children, young girls and women have also dominated the media. The history of mass abuse in children’s homes in North Wales, allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by teachers in English Specialist music schools, and admission of guilt in the abuse of girls by the sports presenter Stuart Hall has followed the huge continuing scandal involving the famous TV personality Jimmy Saville who has now been accused of abusing hundreds of girls and women during his time at the BBC. On the other side of the Atlantic, news also broke of the shocking case in Cleveland, America where Ariel Castro kept three women in captivity for ten years, raping and even fathering a child with one of them.
Alongside this has been the highly publicised case this week of the British men from Pak origin Muslim men who were convicted of sadistically abusing children and girls as young as 11 and 12 in a paedophile grooming ring in Oxford and forcing them into prostitution. This follows other high profile stories over the last two years of similar sexual grooming rings of vulnerable teenage girls in Shropshire, Derby and Rochdale operated by Pakistani men. In response to these vile crimes, some sections of the UK media and particular politicians such as former Home Secretary Jack Straw, suggested that there was a racial or even religious cause to the abuse of white vulnerable girls… However, the Hazell, Saville, Hall and other cases cited above as well as the fact that in the UK almost a quarter of young adults have experienced sexual abuse in childhood (NSPCC, 2013) demonstrates that the sexual abuse of children, teenage girls, and young women is a widespread and rampant problem within secular liberal societies that affects all communities - black or white. The question that needs to be asked is why.
Why is Sexual Abuse so Rampant in Western societies?
(1) The secular, liberal way of life defines the purpose of life as pursuing the maximum enjoyments of the here and now and living life to the max. Happiness is therefore viewed as fulfilling sensual pleasures and actions are decided based upon the desires of individuals. Consequently, personal whims become the basis of deciding right, and wrong. Essentially this means that every individual in society is free to dress and pursue any relationship they wish and decide for themselves how to satisfy their sexual instinct in whatever way is pleasurable to them. Securing liberal freedoms such as personal and sexual freedom is therefore set as the priority of liberal societies up and above family and community wellbeing. All this nurtures a dangerous environment within society.
(2) This harmful view towards the satisfaction of the sexual instinct has ramifications on society. Open relationships, promiscuity, and the sexualisation of men and women in advertisement, films, TV, music, magazines, books, pornography, and the beauty industry has become the norm in the UK and other secular liberal states. Even children have been sexualised - their clothes, music they listen to, the TV shows they watch, and even the computer games and toys they play with have become increasingly sexually provocative.
(3) Within such a society where the sexual instinct is constantly urged and triggered, and the mindset of satisfying desires dominates over the mindset of doing what is right, it is inevitable that many men and women will seek to fulfil their sexual desires in any manner they see fit and through whatever means that is available to them if they feel that they can get away with it, even if that means abusing children, or vulnerable young girls and women.
(4) In addition, under the Capitalist system as implemented in the UK, US, and most secular liberal states, the pursuit of profit reigns supreme. Consequently businesses are permitted to encourage the sexualisation of society in order to increase sales, regardless of the detrimental impact on individuals and society. For example, although David Cameron has talked a lot about the harmful effects of the sexualisation of children, the UK government has not banned the sexualisation of children’s clothes or entertainment, choosing to secure profit over the welfare of children. And despite 1 in 5 women being victims of a sexual offence in the UK, there has been no ban on the exploitation, objectification, and sexualisation of women in advertisement and the media that devalues their status and hence exacerbates sexual crimes against them, for capitalism places financial gain over protecting the dignity of women. Indeed, it is the degrading of women and girls for profit that creates an environment that is ripe for the exploitation of children, girls and women in trafficking, prostitution and grooming rings.
It is all this that fuels sexual abuse.
Islam Holds the Solution to Sexual Abuse
(1) In stark contrast to the secular, liberal way of life, Islam defines the purpose of life as worshipping Allah (swt). Hence its view of happiness is to seek Allah (swt)‘s Pleasure and not to satisfy carnal desires. Actions are not based upon pursuing individual whims but upon abiding by the Commands and Prohibitions of the Creator. Thus there is no sexual freedom in Islam that allows people to fulfil their desires however they please, rather Islam sets down firm guidelines on how to view the opposite sex and what type of relationships are permitted. Even with regards to the view of the woman, Islam does not allow men to view them as they wish but obliges that they be viewed and treated with dignity always. The Prophet (saw) said,
«خَيْرُكُمْ خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِهِ وَأَنَا خَيْرُكُمْ لِأَهْلِي...» أخرجه الترمذي
“The best of you are those who are best to their families, and I am the best of you to my family.” (Tirmidhi)
In addition, taqwa (God-consciousness) nurtures a mindset of accountability to Allah (swt) that understands that every action has reward or punishment in the Akhirah (Hereafter), ensuring that the Muslim adheres to His (swt)‘s Limits and Rules, and maintains an upright, moral behaviour regardless of who is watching. This aids the creation of a safe society.
(2) Islamic laws organise society based on what is best for the security and wellbeing of children, family life, and the community overall rather than securing individual freedoms and desires. In doing so it seeks to guarantee the basic rights of every child, woman, and man in that society to live within a safe environment where crime is minimised, their dignity protected always, and hence where they are free from fear of harassment or abuse. Therefore the sexual instinct is not allowed to run havoc and is channelled in a way that ensures it does not become the number one issue on people’s minds across society. So free-relationships are rejected, fornication and adultery prohibited, and no sexualisation of women, children, or any aspect of society is allowed that agitates the sexual instinct in public life, again protecting children, women, and the vulnerable from abuse.
(3) Islam has a detailed and comprehensive social system of laws that regulate the relationship between men and women and channel the triggering and fulfilment of the sexual desires to marriage alone. These laws include the Islamic dress code that minimises the allure of men and women, the lowering of the gaze to avoid attraction, and the prohibition of the beautification of the woman in public life or socialising of unrelated men and women that reduces the agitation of the sexual instinct. Thus the sexual instinct is not suppressed but nor is it let loose within society that exacerbates sexual abuse, trafficking, and paedophile grooming rings. Rather it is directed and fulfilled in a way that is beneficial to individuals and society through ensuring the integrity of the family unit is maintained, and the rights of women and men within a relationship, and the children they bear are protected. In addition, Islam has prescribed harsh judicial laws to safeguard these values and laws, and hence protect individuals and society by preventing the loose fulfilment of the sexual desire outside of marriage.
(4) Finally, since Islam is not driven or dominated by financial gain but what is best for humanity and society, it does not allow profit to dictate and allow the sexualisation of women, children, or society but rather ensures that the morals, rights of children, unity of family life, security of women and other important values of society are protected. Hence it outright prohibits the objectification, exploitation, and devaluing of women in any field of life, ensuring that their high status and dignity is maintained at all times.
All this minimises sexual abuse and the exploitation of children, teenage girls, and women and creates a society where they do not live in fear but in security. However, this can only come to life comprehensively under the Khilafah system of ruling that implements all the laws of Islam upon a state.
As Muslim women in the West, we must understand that it is through rejecting the Western secular liberal values, lifestyle and culture, and nurturing the Islamic values, obligations and rules within our Muslim youth and community that alone holds the remedy to addressing the problem of promiscuity, sexual abuse, and the exploitation of girls and women and similar vile crimes… However, we also have a great responsibility to explain to our non-Muslim contacts, colleagues, and neighbours the harmful consequences of the secular liberal way of life upon women, children, and society, and alongside this to present them with the light of Islam, its values and laws as a solution to the many societal problems they face, including that of the vile crime of sexual abuse. Allah (swt) says,
((ولو اتبع الحقُّ أهواءَهم لفسدتِ السماواتُ والأرضُ ومن فيهِنَّ، بلْ أتيناهم بذكرِهِم فهم عن ذكرِهِم معرضون))
“If the truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth and all beings therein would have been in confusion and corruption! Nay we have sent them their admonition but they turn away from their admonition.” [TMQ Al-Mu’minun:71]