As the groundswell of anger against femicide intensifies across South Africa, Muslim clerics have urged men to interrogate their role perpetuating gender-based violence. The complicity of men has become a topic of conversation as the hashtags #AmINext and #MenAreTrash dominated the public discourse this week. While the overwhelming call was that government must do more to strengthen the criminal justice system, activists believe the attitudes of men is the prevailing problem.
Speaking to VOC this week, the Muslim Judicial Council (SA) said society could not merely condemn rape and murder of women and children but must address the continuous culture of violence in communities.
“We cannot be complacent as the aggression perpetrated against women and children intensifies and escalates. We need to ensure we collectively engage in robust dialogue on why these repulsive manifestations of toxic masculinity are so prevalent in our society,” said Shaykh Isgaak Taliep.
“It is, therefore, important for us to reflect on and emulate the character of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who mentions on the authority of Abū Hurairah (RA): “The most complete of the believers in faith are those with the most excellent character, and the best of you are the best in behaviour to their women.”
In delivering his Friday khutbah from the Claremont Main Road masjid, Prof Aslam Fataar echoed the patriarchal dominance that creates and nurtures the perpetrators of gender-based violence.
“All men are complicit and Muslim men, as a specific instance of a broader patriarchal trend, have to now confront our ignorance, complacency and complicity. Ignorance is in fact guilt by omission. Ignorance doesn’t absolve our roles in perpetuating a gender violent society,” he said.
“Men must explicitly take a position that gender-based violence will not happen in their name, and take active steps to act on such a position.”
“The onus is on society, men and women, to hear the cries of women for freedom. The onus is on us to confront what the Qur’an (Surah Bakarah, Q2, V17 and 18) describes in a parable,
Their parable is that of people who kindle a fire: but as soon as it has illumined all around them, God takes away their light and leaves them in utter darkness, wherein they cannot see.
These are the people whom the Qur’an describe as,
Deaf, dumb, blind – and they cannot turn back.
It is apparent that a patriarchal misogynistic culture is mired in the darkness of its own doing, its own denials, complacency and complicities.”
Addressing musallees at Boorhaanol Islam masjid on Friday, Shaykh Muhammad West said men cannot say the call to assess their role in gender-based violence “does not apply to them”.
He reiterated that the way men treat women is a “reflection of our iman”.
He narrated the Nabi Muhammad (PBUH) last speech to his companions in which he said “the one who has the highest level of imaan is the man with the best akhlaaq. Amongst them, are those who treat their women the best.”
The dignity of women
Prof Fataar placed special emphasis on women’s dignity (karamat al-Nisa’) being at the centre of redressing the scourge of violence. He explained that the centring of women’s human dignity means working at all levels of society; governance, economy, education, the criminal justice system, religious discourses and institutions, family, and interpersonal gender relations.
“We have to create the conditions for women to live lives of personal bodily freedom, free from violence or its threat. If we are to change the conditions of their habituation and livelihoods, as the du`a exhorts, we must get busy changing our patriarchal culture,” he pointed out.
“Protecting women and providing safety must be accompanied by creating conditions for gender parity and equity in our homes, mosques, educational institutions, work participation, and leadership structures.”
He said pursuing the “gender jihad means that Muslims should place the struggle for the dignity of women at the principled and strategic heart of everything.