The concept of safeguarding is one that must be met with real agency. The need to promote a safe and secure ethos within our Islamic institutions, our Muslim communities and the wider society is prominent.
Considering the contemporary climate of harassment, Islamophobia and abuse in both national and international domains, it is necessary to not simply acknowledge the requirement of safeguarding the vulnerable within our communities but to actively encourage, support and promote the resilience and protection of our communities.
The current wave of sexual harassment allegations, with the viral hashtag #metoo that is encouraging women and men alike to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment, highlights the severity and scope of this epidemic of abuse.
We must recognise this culture of sexual harassment that is deeply ingrained within and across all domains, generations, borders and cultures. Somewhat of an all-encompassing risk in both the digital and actual arenas evokes the need to establish the principle of safeguarding those that are vulnerable.
Sheikh Andrew Idris Watts took to social media to highlight the imminent need to:
“Empower the potential victims: They need to be taught the situations and signs where they could be taken advantage of by people in positions of authority. The more we talk about this and make people aware that our leaders are human like all of us, the greater it can be prevented. We should not attack people who accuse our leaders of inappropriate behaviour. Rather, we should leave it to the professionals to deal with the issue fairly and suspend judgement until we gain certainty”
The concept of safeguarding ranges from online safety to trafficking, modern slavery and sexual misconduct.
Safeguarding & E-Safety Training: Photo courtesy of Faith Associates. For enquires email: email@example.com
Within the online sphere, major tech companies such as Facebook, are working towards ensuring a safer online space for the youth. Childnet International similarly work towards a safer online environment through providing resources and educating those who work with and around children.
Within schools and youth centres, the NSPCC advances attempts at establishing a safe milieu for children through providing resources, advice and training for those that work in such institutions.
Safe Guarding Guide Courtesy of Faith Associates
Faith Associates has pioneered the establishment and dissemination of safeguarding training in Mosques and Madrassas both on a national and international scale. This grassroots level endeavour not only educates but empowers communities to better tackle the increasingly evident pandemic of harassment and abuse.
No individual is exempt from experiencing harassment and abuse both online and offline. Yet it must be noted that BAME communities and women of colour are more susceptible to be the subject of abuse, harassment and assault. Furthermore, adults in vulnerable positions, such as refugees, are at an increased risk of maltreatment.
It is within the communities mentioned above that many Muslims exist. To heighten such problems is the lack of sexual education, openness and discourse within Muslim communities and families. It is not only our right, but our duty to raise awareness, to educate and to empower if we are to pro-actively tackle this harassment pandemic plaguing our societies.
Safeguarding Training: Photo courtesy of Faith Associates. For enquires email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Faith leaders, the Imams, Scholars and Alimahs working on the ‘frontline’ of communities are key to the solution if they are given the tools and training required to meet both the spiritual and societal demands of their congregations. Giving them the knowledge and resources needed to understand and educate people on the reality of issues such as sexual harassment will give them the confidence to speak publicly about such matters and help holistically tackle it.
No longer can we remain ignorant. No longer can we choose to turn a blind eye. No longer can we permit the harassment and abuse of our children, our women and our men.
For if you chose to stay silent, you have in fact chosen the side of the oppressor.