By Sameera Qureshi
originally published on muslimsistah-sq.blogspot.ca
I woke up suddenly at 6:00am from a bad dream, wondering how men could do this, trying to understand the twisted psychology behind their behaviour. No matter how hard I thought, I couldn’t come up with an answer. After an hour and a half of tossing and turning, I finally woke up and came back to my reality…a safe and sound home with a loving husband. But unfortunately, there are many girls and women here and abroad who aren’t blessed with the same fortune as I am.
About a month ago, I came across a 126-page document titled Unheard Voices: The Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women. It was published by the Muslim Women’s Network UK, and details approximately 30 cases of sexual abuse and violence against Asian girls and young women. How such innocent females were sucked into a ring of drugs and alcohol, gang rape, and prostitution. I read the majority of the document and it’s been on my mind since then. I think this morning, it was on my mind more than before.
I really don’t want to recount some of the stories I read in this document, partly because they are already re-playing through my mind and also because I want readers of this blog to read the document themselves.
All I can think is that such practices are not solely limited to the UK…They are just as often happening in North America and absolutely overseas as well.
I want to do something about this, but I don’t know what.
While there are agencies in the UK working to educate young girls, and the police force are criminalizing such acts, the thoughts justifying these acts (i.e. misogynistic thoughts, etc) are perhaps deeply seeded within the South Asian community. The majority of the victims in the case studies described are South Asian, coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Over 95% of the victims in this study were Muslim. The perpetrators are teenage boys and adult men, often recruiting their family members to pay them before violating these girls over and over again, while she’s unconscious in someone’s house. The following paragraph demonstrates this (graphic content and trigger warning):
“My mate called me and said ‘Bro I have a surprise for you, come over to this house.’ When I got there 15 of them were sitting in the living room. My mate told me to go upstairs for my surprise. When I went into the bedroom, another friend was doing this girl (she was a 20 years old of Pakistani background). The lads went up one by one and took turns and while they were waiting they were calling their mates, cousins and uncles to come over and join in and showing off. Others turned up too including two older men who were taxi drivers, who went straight upstairs. One older man said I am going to call my son over so he can practice on her and later his 15-year-old son arrived in his uniform. Everyone took turns and it took 6 hours. I did get concerned and said, ‘the girl is going to get broke, who will marry her?’ The girl is not paid but she gets looked after, she is given food and the boys make sure she gets home safely if it gets late. There are set days Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but some of my friends don’t like doing stuff like that on a Friday because it is Juma (holy day) and they go mosque.”
I can’t get this scene out of my head, and it’s to THIS dream I woke up this morning. I felt as I was there, floating around as an invisible witness, trying to figure out who could do this and how many men could let this happen to a girl. Tears well up in my eyes every time I think of this happening…it’s violent and repulsive…how can they do this?
How many of us know this happening within communities around the world? Did you know that in India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes? In the US, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. The statistic from India is alarming especially since only 10% of rapes get reported while in the States it’s just above 25%. Most sadly, it’s brutal gang rape more often than not, in ways that are unimaginable. How can we not pray for these women? How can we not pray that we find a way to STOP these men from committing such crimes?
It’s not just Muslims who are involved in rape and child sexual exploitation. It’s happening all over the world. Millions of boys and girls each year are sold into child prostitution, yet it doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves.
I’m starting to think of ways I can contribute to this cause. Building awareness is one step, but it’s not enough. Most people will read this blog post, feel sad that this happening, and move on with their lives. I don’t think I can do that. I think there’s a reason I am this impacted by what’s happening…I think it’s a sign and perhaps the direction I am supposed to go towards. I am not sure, but it’s something I am going to look into.
And perhaps for us folk in Canada, we can work to educate young men and women here as a means to prevent this sort of violence from ever happening among our youth. We need to teach young men how to respect young women, the importance of consent, and how saying nothing is NOT consent for sexual activity. We need to teach young women about the power and control wheel and how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, and we need to teach families how to protect their children from such abuse. It’s not an easy task and there’s no easy prevention curriculum…but we need to start somewhere.
And for those of you who are reading this, please take the time to read or even skim the document I mentioned above. It’s not an easy read but the first step to raising awareness is to understand yourself what’s going on.
May Allah guide us all and protect us all from any form of exploitation or violence.
Sameera Qureshi, MScOT (c) is an Occupational Therapist and currently manages a mental health promotion project that is school and community based, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her work over the past six years has been primarily with Muslim populated schools and their families. Since 2011, Sameera has been working to implement Islam-oriented sexual health education programs both within these schools and the greater Muslim community. Her work includes developing the curriculum for both genders and teaching the curriculum to girls in grades 5-9, running parent sessions, collaborating with multiple Calgary agencies around sexual health, and making her work available to interested community member and professionals. She also maintains a blog called Muslim Sistah and can be found on Twitter @muslimsistah