Official Statement: Responding to Sexual Violence in the Muslim Community

The recent allegations of sexual abuse against a religious leader in the Chicago community have elicited much anger and confusion. We hope that in the coming days and with more clarity, our community members and institutions will speak up and take action. We, HEART Women and Girls, are actively supporting those involved in this case as educators, survivor advocates and allies. We thoroughly condemn sexual abuse, the blaming and silencing of victims and the lack of action around this issue.

We recognize that there is an abundance of concern and confusion in the Chicago community. Our utmost priority is to protect and respect the confidentiality and safety of survivors; that said, we hope that questions from the community will be directed to the rightful source – the staff and Board of the institution in question.

Sexual abuse is an abominable crime that is forbidden in all faith traditions and must be dealt with immediately and with transparency. While no institution or community is immune from such crimes, it is crucial to implement preventative measures and equip institutions and its members with the proper policies, training and resources to minimize its occurrence in the future.

Coming forward as a survivor and sharing personal stories of abuse, regardless of when it occurred, is a courageous act of bravery. We commend and pray for all of those who have, and may be thinking about, coming forward. We are committed to supporting survivors and connecting them with the necessary legal, social, and emotional resources they need.

In addition, we do not support any blaming, shaming or silencing of victims. Instead, we support men, women, boys and girls who share their experiences of abuse and hold their perpetrators accountable. Victim blaming is one of the main reasons survivors do not come forward and seek justice. Most importantly, maintaining a culture of silence promotes complacency and allows abusers to continue their crimes in their homes and communities.  Let us not be responsible for silencing those who have been oppressed.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Each one of you are shepherds and each one of you is responsible for your (own) flock.” We pray for a loving community whose members support their loved ones, believe them when they come forward, support them, and help them in pursuit of justice.

HEART is here to offer anonymous, judgement-free support. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual abuse, please email safetyforsurvivors@gmail.com. Your identity will be protected, and you will be connected to all the resources you need to begin your journey of healing. We are committed to advocating for and supporting survivors that come forward and working collaboratively with community organizations and members on the prevention and prosecuting of these crimes. Please find a list of resources in the community below.

In Solidarity,

The HEART Women & Girls Team

Resources

Talking Points: Responding to Allegations of Sexual Violence in the Muslim Community

Important Resources: Community Resources on Sexual Violence

Toolkit: Parent’s Guide to Talking to Children about Sexual Abuse

Creating Safe, Resourceful Communities

What people are saying about us

I just wanted to say that the idea of creating safe spaces for women is brilliant. Not only just for women who need a safe space but for other women to awaken and realize that there is a need for it. Thank you so much for (in my eyes) beginning this type of movement. It is very necessary for a group of women who are very much in the minority to first begin to welcome each other and be each other’s support before we can go out in the world and be empowered.

Zainab Lakhani, Boston

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