The Muslim Students Association’s (MSA) Cape chapter has come out in support of victims of femicide and sexual assault. Speaking to VOC, vice chairperson of the MSA’s Cape chapter, Safiyyah Hattas called on Muslims to acknowledge and speak out against perpetrators of women and child abuse within Islamic communities.
This comes after reports of a local Muslim educator allegedly sexually assaulting a minor during the month of Ramadan this year and a surge in femicide and sexual violence throughout South Africa.
“The past month has been very emotional…we’ve been trying as an MSA to get involved as much as possible with the protests because it’s a very sensitive topic and as Muslims we need to be at the forefront of change,” said Hattas.
“It’s been a tiring month for everyone trying to keep the conversation going on gender-based violence and at the moment we are just trying to continue that conversation.”
Hattas has urged Muslim communities to acknowledge the presence of abusive individuals, regardless of their positions of authority or religious standing in the community.
“We, as Muslims, need to be aware that this is happening in our communities as well…We need to encourage people in these [Muslim] spaces to speak out against it [gender-based violence and child abuse]. Yes, Islam is a beautiful religion, but it doesn’t mean that individuals in the Muslim community can’t be perpetrators.”
“We will never be able to change injustice if we are party to injustice…Part of injustice is staying quiet and not speaking out,” said Hattas.
Young women need to be taught about their right to feel uncomfortable with people and situations and about their right to say no to things they are uncomfortable with or think is wrong, according to Hattas.
“We should not shy away from speaking out against perpetrators…These are sensitive issues and we need to take them very seriously.”
Hattas says that if Muslims want to live in the best way, according to the sunnah, Muslims need to speak out and act against injustice.
“The Prophet SAW said in a hadith, ‘If you see something wrong, if you see an injustice, you need to change it with your hand. If you cannot change it with your hand, you need to change it with your tongue. If you cannot change it with your tongue, you need to harbour an ill feeling in your heart against injustice’.”
In a statement, the MSA has called for Muslim action and dialogue:
“It goes without saying that Islam unequivocally condemns rape. This does not mean that rape does not exist in the Muslim community. So long as we are silent about it, rape is allowed to continue unabated. As a necessary first step, the Muslim community must acknowledge that Muslim men can and have been violent towards women and children – only then can we begin to grapple with what justice might look like for victims…
Discussions over the last few days have indicated that many men in the community struggle to grasp the systemic nature of gender-based violence – we urge our chapters to begin and to facilitate conversations in the musallah, in the classroom and beyond to deepen our understanding of the issue…”