Unveiled Women and 'Uncovered Meat'

The Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, has gained international attention this week by saying that women are generally at fault if they are raped. He explained that rape is “90 percent the woman’s responsibility….If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park, or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, then whose fault will it be, the cats, or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the disaster….If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she’s wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don’t happen.”

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In the uproar that followed, Muslim leaders in Australia and elsewhere distanced themselves from Al-Hilali. Ali Roude of the New South Wales Islamic Council declared that Al-Hilali had “failed both himself and the Muslim community.” Al-Hilali also had defenders. Abduljalil Sajid of the Muslim Council of Britain said that al-Hilali’s remarks had been taken out of context, and affirmed that “loose women like prostitutes” encourage immorality in men.

It was also surprising that Al-Hilali’s remarks generated any uproar at all. After all, the idea that a woman is responsible if she is raped did not originate with him, and this was not the first time it has been enunciated in the West. One notorious example occurred in September 2004 in Denmark, when the mufti Shahid Mehdi of the Islamic Cultural Center in Copenhagen said on the Danish television program “Talk to Gode” that women who venture outside without a hijab are “asking for rape.”

Australian Muslim moderate leader Tanveer Ahmed acknowledged that “what Hilali says is consistent with a strict, conservative interpretation of Islam….As long as Muslims view their religion as sitting above history and culture — with the Koran as the literal word of God, which in their view makes Islam undebatable — there will always be Hilalis who can point to certain texts and argue for a social and legal structure consistent with 7th-century Arabia….This is a man who knows the Koran in intimate detail and his views are consistent with a strict reading of the Muslim holy book.”

They are also, unfortunately, consistent with the example of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, as I show in my book “The Truth About Muhammad.” The Koran tells men: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess” (4:24) — that is, slave girls who are considered the spoils of war. All too often in Western countries, particularly in Europe’s restive Muslim enclaves, young Muslim men have understood this as permitting the rape of non-Muslim women who venture out uncovered — in accord with Shahid Mehdi’s statement.

What’s more, in traditional Islamic law rape cannot be established except by the testimony of four male witnesses who saw the act, as stipulated by Koran 24:4 and 24:13. Consequently, it is even today virtually impossible to prove rape in lands that follow the dictates of the Sharia. Unscrupulous men can commit rape with impunity: as long as they deny the charge and there are no witnesses, they get off scot-free, because the victim’s account is inadmissible. Even worse, if a woman accuses a man of rape, she may end up incriminating herself. If the required male witnesses can’t be found, the victim’s charge of rape becomes an admission of adultery. That accounts for the grim fact that as many as seventy-five percent of the women in prison in Pakistan are, in fact, behind bars for the crime of being a victim of rape.

In light of all this, al-Hilali’s remarks should not be surprising — but they should cause concern. For they illustrate the fact that the clash of civilizations isn’t just taking place where the warriors of jihad are fighting today. It is right at home, in Western countries where our deeply-held cultural values are being subjected to an increasingly forthright and assertive challenge. If we do not defend them now, it is those who agree with Sheikh al-Hilali who will determine the mores of the future.