The author of Al-Jabhawi, a reader of this blog, posted this link in the comments section (check out the links at the bottom of the story). It's the the news story of a Muslim Imam in Australia who had some pretty retarded things to say about scantily clad women who seduce men then later accuse them of rape. He likened women who show their flesh to uncovered meat and, to complete the brilliant analogy, men who "consume" them to "cats." He gave his sermon in Arabic in the context of discussing adultery. He also didn't miss the chance to rant against all those atheists (Christians and Jews) who will, according to him, end up in hell. (this part doesn't seem to have attracted much furor).
As usual when someone says something controversial about Islam, there are, at least, two issues:
What he said. The reaction to his words.
I'm not that shocked because I have heard both points made before. So we can't accuse the guy of originality. His"food" analogy is a stock one and it comes in different variations and not necessarily from "Muslims." I was once told in the course of a college debate that a woman who is "used" (meaning not a virgin) is like a dish that someone has eaten from. No one will want to consume such food. If I remember correctly the guy was (or had the illusion that he was) a Marxist. Also there is the saying "an old cow has tough flesh" delivered to me by a sweet uncle to instruct me in the importance of marrying young (he died disappointed).
Saying that wearing the Hijab "protects" women (and some would say men) is an old and entrenched argument. To me it's the most unacceptable one of all those offered to justify why a woman wears the hijab (of any variety).
As to calling Christians and Jews infidels or atheists and thus throwing away the major Muslim tradition of considering them "people of the book," it is definitely part of some Islamists discourse. So again, he wasn't improvising exactly.
Blaming women for their rape, something he seems to have implied, is also not his invention. In the debates in the US about date rape and the attempts to criminalize it in the courts, this argument was made by secular, Harvard-educated lawayers. Feminists faught it and still have to fight it everytime there is a "date rape" case.
Now to the reaction.
I was happy to read that some Muslim women in Australia were outraged by his comments and wanted him out. Let's not ignore this reaction and drown it out. But the media will certainly do that. It doesn't help that the old boys club decided to keep him in, with a little tap on the wrist (suspended from giving sermons for a few months). Old boys tend to band together in these cases (remember the Catholic Church and the coverups of sexual abuse not so long ago?).
The media and some politicians would like him tarred and feathered and run out of town. Iran comes up as a possible destination (I don't remember any politicians demanding the deportation of Jerry Falwell when he said AIDS was God's punishment to gays; Muslims, on the other hand, have to be constantly reminded that they belong elsewhere). They also want to use this case to "test" the Muslim community as a whole. And herein lies my problem with some of the reaction: why does the whole Muslim community of Australia have to "prove" that they are not him? In other words, they are guilty till proven innocent and the only way they can prove their innocence is to do what? Speak up against him? Some already did, but will their voices be heard in this den? And why should Muslims speak when they are pretty much ordered and threatened to speak to prove their innocence? I bet some will dig in their heels just because people don't like to be bullied and tarnished by association.
With this said, I think Australian Muslims who disagree with this ignoramous nincompoop turned Imam should do what is in their interest and the interest of their religion. In my opinion the priority is to yell at the top of your voice that sexist and bigotted remarks like these are not welcome. They need to find ways to hold "their leaders" (who were delivered to lead them through Wahhabi oil money) accountable. I'm not saying this because they need to "defend" themselves. I say it because I believe that one of the most dangerous effects Islamophobia can have is to stifle internal debates and self-criticism within a community that feels it's being constantly "tested" and challenged to prove itself to others.
update: according to al Sharq al Awsat, the Imam denies that he meant to justify rape. He said: "Islam forbids you to even look at a woman. How would it allow her rape?" He also claimed that an extremist Muslim group, al Ahbash, is allied with the Australian government and is leading the media campaign against him.
Nice try. Nice backtracking.
And to read some of the Arab readers' reactions to the story, click here. (in Arabic but can be summed up as a mixed bag with most against him).