During the 52nd Annual ISNA convention in Chicago, Illinois an important session took place that focussed on and highlighted the issue of sexual violence in the Muslim community.
The panel was headed by one of North America’s leading female scholars and former president of ISNA, Dr Ingrid Mattson.
Sexual violence does not just include the physical but also the mental abuse and its long term scarring.
Dr Ingrid Mattson in her talk highlighted the importance of understanding who the people are who commit this horrific crimes and their status in the community.
“People who do these acts are in places of power, the predators look for opportunities for access to young people, such as sports, scouts and schools” she said.
It is important to emphasise, which was also done by the panel, that this is a human issue, not a Muslim issue. It unfortunately exists in all society’s and it is the duty of all to try and eradicate it and make the community a safer place.
Dr Mattson, highlighting the lasting effect being abused can have on a person said, “People tell me when they are married and are intimate with their partner, the bad images come back to them – it leaves a scar lasting a lifetime on people”.
Bringing in her Islamic expertise, she emphasised the responsibility on people in higher authority, “In Shariah, the one who is in a high position of authority in society, if they violate their power by oppressing others, they will be punished far greater”
What is the solution?
Dr Mattson, speaking within the context of the Muslim community, explained that simply wearing a hijab is not enough to say confidently that people will be kept safe in society from being targeted by predators. The key to tackling this problem is to “highlight far greater that the problem exists and look to expose the predators who have committed these crimes”. “We need to make the truth clear” she said.