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‘Education needed amongst ulema’, says expert on toxic masculinity

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“The bottom line is that Maulana’s comments were the catalyst for discussion which is incredibly healthy because often times Gender-Based Violence is ignored. The fact that the community is talking about it, whether negatively or positively, opens new doors for engagement over an issue that is a huge one in the Muslim community.”

These were the words of Director of Ihata shelter for Abused Women and Children, Nuraan Osman, after the actions of revered Parkwood cleric Maulana Dawood Sampson was at the weekend the subject of debate, following comments made during an announcement of his second marriage on Friday. Maulana Sampson has come under fire for encouraging men to take second wives, but the way he made his remarks has caused huge offence.

In another video posted shortly thereafter, and has since been linked, Maulana Sampson advertised marriage classes with: “a wife is cute when she is mute and a husband is honey when he gives money”.

While the debate reared off course for some who assumed the issue to be polygamy, dozens of women objected to Maulana Sampson’s insinuations and derogatory manner in which he delivered his video.  Following pressure from civil society, the MJC issued a statement and requested an apology from the maulana, which he complied to. A petition calling on the MJC to address the actions of ulema on issues of toxic masculinity garnered more than 2k signatures.

Osman welcomed the ‘knee jerk reaction’ from the MJC, but said more needs to be done because “typically in our community, we have a habit of sweeping things under the carpet.” Concern arose over how underhanded commentary contributes to gender-based violence as well as the way “many turn blind eye to misogyny”.

“Now is the time to build. We got the situation and (it’s) ugly. What are we going to do about it?” she questioned, disagreeing with called for Maulana to step down from his position.

Sampson was also condemned for speaking “out of the bedroom” through his references. Osman called for an open discussion about women’s needs and feelings.

“Islamically we never speak out of the bedroom. We never speak about what our spouse’s responses may be. Can we engage ulema in a way that says ‘lets talk about this topic, what do you know and what don’t you know’, ‘what makes you comfortable and what make you uncomfortable’?”

“This is not a women’s issue. This is a family, community and society issue. GBV sits at the very core of who we are and what we do. “

Many of Maulana Sampsons’ defenders claimed that he was speaking in jest and that the public should not be offended. Osman, however, referenced a Facebook post by Shaqeel Garda which read: “Gender based violence starts with the way we think and speak about the opposite gender.”

She explained that the type of conversations that are tolerated, maintain the undermining of women in Islam.

“Because we make light of matters that kill South African women daily, it gets overlooked. When we joke about things that are so serious, we take away its importance in communities. I don’t think its only women that are angry, I think there are men too.”

“I will engage with MJC and other religious bodies ahead of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. We need to create safe spaces and safe language. We need to know the difference between good words and bad words, but most importantly the impact of these words. Have those talks, use the humour, but let’s do it positively in a way that builds not breaks.

Muslim women further spoke out about years of being subject to silence by their male counterparts, with Osman testifying that this is often the case at the shelter.

“Many of my clients who come through the doors of the Ihata shelter have been to an alim and asked for assistance and have not received a just response. I can’t understand that religious spaces, generally, are not safe spaces for women. There are those who really want to make a difference. But we need to get to a point where there needs to be protocols and policy in place for how these matters are held at all masajid in the Western Cape, if not South Africa,” added Osman.

“It is absolutely hurtful when you realize that, even after so many deaths, murders and rapes in our country, that people are still defending acts like these!” she said.

“Are we going to perpetuate the misogyny and toxic masculinity or are we going to get to a point where we (identify) things that are appropriate and things that are inappropriate,” she challenged.

Many women also spoke against the encouragement to pursue other women for the sake of fulfilling their needs, devoid of the sanctity of marriage.

“One of the things that really hit me in the head was when Maulana said “if you still got it”. I don’t think ‘having it’ is the criterion for polygamy, nor is it the criteria for marriage, there is so much else that needs to be taken into consideration,” said Osman.

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Osman said that the religious sector is ideal to begin executing real change in society, noting that she has engaged with a senior member of the MJC.

“It’s important for us to consider that religious space is a good one for social change. Those universal khutbahs about HIV/Aids etc they impacted our community. The khutbah of Jumuah is a sacred one and we should be discussing sacred matters in sacred tones- and women are sacred.”

The topic also brought to light concerns over how children are raised and what they are exposed to, with Osman expressing the need for sufficient education in the home.

“Most of us are listening to the ulema leadership to tell us what to do and how to do it. Cape Town ulema has a massive following. We must question ourselves and our leadership for improvement.”

She added that although the MJC has supported and participated in global GBV training, “it isn’t enough”. Osman emphasised the need for education and for the ulema to be open to hearing- and advocating for- the issues facing Muslim women.

“We need the help of the religious fraternity to impact the scourge of GBV.  I want to encourage Maulana’s who are making these statements to please use the platform to empower women and men. Empower families and communities,” she urged.

“Now is the time to step up on the educational platform. Yes, we have done workshops and participated in the (anti- GBV) marches but it’s not enough. Today its Maulana and tomorrow it’s someone else. When does it stop?”


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