Islam’s “Uncovered-Meat” Excuse for Sexual Assault
The news that 60 Minutes journalist Lara Logan had been brutally sexually assaulted and beaten in Egypt among chants of “Jew” really hit home. As a teenager and young woman in Egypt, I remember having to endure the humiliation of being pinched and groped in crowded buses and streets of Cairo. Onlookers are usually indifferent, some even laugh, leaving women in Muslim society even more ashamed of their bodies. Women who do not wear Islamic clothes, such as Christians and foreigners, are even more vulnerable. In Cairo, hearing a passing car yelling the “f” word or “whore” to a woman and then speeding up in the busy traffic is not uncommon.
In times of uprisings and revolutions, it is not uncommon for the mob mentality to take over, resulting in assaults and even killing of journalists. But what happened to journalists in Egypt, including Logan, was an outrageous violation of police duty; instead of helping the foreign victims, the police added to the abuse by hours of unnecessary and abusive interrogation of the victims themselves.
Egypt and many Muslim countries have a terrible record of sexual harassment. According to a survey conducted in 2008 by an Egyptian Women’s rights group, 83% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed. The numbers for foreign women is a staggering 98%. Most of the men in the survey admitted they have harassed women and most of them blamed it on women for dressing provocatively. What is worse is that the majority of women in the survey believe that women who dress immodestly deserve the harassment.
Muslim culture has succeeded in turning women against each other and away from defending their human rights and dignity. The system rewards women who turn on other women who do not follow Sharia. A Muslim woman is given her much-craved respect only when she reports and condemns immodest women, turns against her sisters and agrees with a misogynist culture that blames the female victims and not the predators.
It was also reported that crowds yelled “Jew” at Logan. That does not surprise me, since a call that someone is a Jew has a meaning in Muslim countries. It means they are fair game for assault or worse; it means they are subhuman and deserve whatever happens to them. Muslim scriptures are full of commandments to kill Jews wherever they are and according to Islamic law, female captives in battle are automatically divorced from their husbands and can be sexually enslaved by their captors. Mohammed himself, who is viewed as the ideal example for men, in all his battles against non-Muslims allowed sexual enslavement of women captives. Such Islamic history lessons send the wrong message to Muslim men and influence how they view and relate to women and take away any feeling of guilt or shame.
From birth, Muslim boys are excused and defended for misbehaving towards their sisters and women in general. The message is that uncovered women are to be loathed and disrespected. Muslim preachers often rush to blame women as having “asked for it” or being “uncovered meat”. Even in Australia, an Egyptian Muslim preacher, Sheik al-Hilali, used the “uncovered meat” excuse to defend Muslim men who raped Australian women wearing bikinis on the beach. These kind of religious teachings are the reason behind honor killing, female genital mutilation and abuse, all of which are designed to tame women and set an example to the rest of society.
The anti-Jewish propaganda in Muslim countries is sickening and must be seen in relation to female abuse in general and to the assault of Logan in particular. Even I who was born and raised Egyptian once had a scary experience. On the way to Alexandria, an uncle wanted to stop in a village to meet a friend but got lost. As he went to look for directions, my siblings and I, who were wearing jeans and T-shirts and speaking English, attracted a village crowd around us yelling “Jews.” My sisters and I rushed inside the car. In no time the village police came to check us out but thank God by then my uncle showed them his ID and we left after some questioning. I can only imagine how Jews feel walking the street in any Muslim country.
Egyptian paranoid propaganda against Westerners and Jews is not only manifested in streets but affects every aspect of relationships between the ordinary Egyptian and foreigners in general. Foreign women are often called “Israeli agents” who are coming to ‘seduce’ Egyptian men. As to foreign men, they are often accused of being – what else? – CIA agents.
Many Egyptians describe the behavior of men who sexually harass women as un-Islamic and they believe this is a good enough explanation to end the conversation. They refuse to look within and see the truth behind the Islamic upbringing of men, how women are viewed both culturally and religiously and how Islamic teachings views non-Muslims. Muslims need to view themselves and the reality of their religious education more critically. Living in denial about one’s religion and the consequences of its teachings is toxic.
Nonie Darwish is the author “Cruel and usual Punishment” and the President of FormerMuslimsUnited.org.