Imam: Women must cover themselves to stifle men’s uncontrollable lust

I found the video below on Facebook the other day, and though it was publicized by a right-wing group, it was part of a 20-minute VICE documentary, “Bangladeshi gang rape.” (Do watch that, too.) The clip below shows Tania Rashid, a reporter, interviewing Mohammed Shahidul Isham, an imam. It’s unbelievable that in 2016 you can hear stuff like this coming out of a man’s mouth. And remember—he’s an imam.

This is the perfect embodiment of the Islamic principle that women are the bearers of “honor,” and, in some branches, must drape themselves lest they excite the uncontrollable passions of men.  That always puzzles me, for in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, women once dressed Western style, with exposed hair and limbs, before those places became theocracies. Does that mean that men were uncontrollable sexual predators then, with rape and assault seen everywhere?

I don’t think so. The draping of women simply makes men sexually repressed so that, once they get used to the system, a wisp of hair or a flash of ankle both excites and enrages them. Combined with the prohibition against unmarried women mingling with men, that leads, as the VICE documentary shows, not to a decrease in sexual assault, but an increase.

The forcible covering of women oppresses one sex and brutalizes the other. And it completely warps human sexuality.

That means, of course, that while it’s easy for a society to go from women dressing as they choose to putting women in veils and sacks (it only has to be made a law, as in Iran), it’s much harder to go back, for veiling women, by making men sexually repressed, actually turns them into what they are supposed to be—but weren’t—before covering was ubiquitous. And that, in turn, makes it harder for women to remove their hijabs, niqabs, or burqas in a Muslim society that allows it. Further, the men, instantly transplanted to Western culture, might act out that repression, as in the Cologne attacks on New Year’s Eve. Religion poisons sex.

But I digress. The point of this post is to call your attention to Heather Hastie’s informative essay inspired by the video, “Women who get raped go straight to hell.” It’s an analysis of conservative Islam’s dress codes and their effect on psychology, rape and sexuality. Go read it.

These attitudes are, of course, the fault of colonialism. As one person said, “Noam Chomsky is still bashing U.S. imperialism, but he’s almost 90. He needs help!


  1. Vaal
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “That always puzzles me, for in countries like Iran and Afghanistan, women once dressed Western style, with exposed hair and limbs, before those places became theocracies. Does that mean that men were uncontrollable sexual predators then, with rape and assault seen everywhere?”

    I wonder if there are any statistics for those countries – rapes, assaults on women – that would throw light on that question.

    (Though there will be a bunch of variables to untangle, of course).

    • Posted May 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Well, I don’t think we have to worry about untangling any variables to refute the claim that stuffing women into bags is the one and only way to discourage sexual assault or rape. The only thing necessary would be to show that rape is no more prevalent in societies that allow people to dress as they wish. (It wouldn’t even be necessary to show that rape is just as common in societies that force women to cover up, although it would really bring the bullshit-iness of the claim into sharp relief.)

  2. Posted May 20, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I agree with the Imam on one thing, the women there are sentenced to hell. Unfortunately, that appears to be a condition that they have been in since birth. Very revealing interview and posts. Thanks to Heather as well.

  3. Denis Westphalen
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    During the time I lived in Kuwait I following letter to a local newspaper:

    “What does Ramadan Mean to Saudis Studying Abroad?

    (…) Being abroad also means these Muslims will have to test their patience and become strong in order to resist temptations such as music, food, and interacting with women or men informally.

    Back home , we don’t have to worry about meeting a girl or looking at one because they will all be covered properly, while here [in London] some of those who are not obliged to cover make it hard when we need to communicate. (…)”

    Arab News, October 4th 2007

    To all Women: stop making hard to communicate with muslins!

    • Denis Westphalen
      Posted May 20, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Ops, small edit:

      During the time I lived in Kuwait I READ the following letter to a local newspaper:

    • Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Oh, the horror!! Uncovered women.

      I had no idea that we men as a group were so weak and so oppressed.

  4. Tom
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Perhaps if all those men whom the Imam represents were better lovers, better husbands and better fathers, they might see the virtue of tolerance and cease to treat women in this way. Unfortunately they are not and therefore they must bully to force “respect” from their women.
    If they were merely the slaves of a detestable tradition we might have some sympathy, but pathetically they see fit revel in their ignorant prejudices and beliefs.

  5. George
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Maybe men with uncontrollable lust should shove red hot iron rods into their eyes.

    • Posted May 26, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh no! The Gospels give advice of this sort, and at least one man (philosopher Origen, if I remember correctly) followed it and castrated himself.

  6. Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    It would be interesting to lead him into this line of questioning:
    “So you are saying that if a person arouses a man, and he rapes them, that it is the victim’s fault and they are going to hell?”
    If he agrees then follow with:
    “So if you were to accidentally arouse a gay man, and he raped you, then you are at fault and are going to hell?”
    If he then counters with homosexuality being an abomination, etc. then you could follow with:
    “But heterosexual men in prison, denied access to women, will occasionally rape other men to relieve their sexual urges…” (If you wish to challenge this statement, I refer you to the documentary “Scared Straight” where a male prisoner makes exactly this point.”)
    It would be fun to see where the iman goes from here.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I looked at the films and commented over at Heather’s site. A sad & powerful reality of women in Islam.

  8. DrBrydon
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    You make a great point about crimes against women in the relatively secular previous regimes versus the current religious regimes. However, I don’t think that it’s about men being sexually repressed. It’s about the whole slate of attitudes that go along with forcing women to cover up. Men are told that women are objects of lust, that women who don’t cover themselves are asking for it, and that even when a woman who covers herself is assaulted, she is at fault. I think that without covering that message would cause problems in any country. Covering is just a convenient way to stigmatize and humiliate women.

  9. Posted May 20, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Heather. Women suffer the most in such a restrictive, regressive religious environment, but the culture as a whole is held back by legal decisions made many centuries ago. Until Muslims can resurrect Ijtihad,they will be mired in Islamic legal decisions made prior to the 1200s.

    According to an Encyclopedia Britannica article on the internet,”Ijtihād is defined as, ( Arabic: “effort”) in Islamic law, the independent or original interpretation of problems not precisely covered by the Qurʾān, Hadith (traditions concerning the Prophet’s life and utterances), and ijmāʿ (scholarly consensus).”

    “…with the crystallization of legal schools (madhhabs) under the ʿAbbāsids (reigned 750–1258), the Sunnis (the majority branch of Islam) held at the end of the 3rd century that the “gates of ijtihād” were closed…” “All subsequent generations of jurists were considered bound to taqlīd, the unquestioned acceptance of their great predecessors as authoritative, and could, at most, issue legal opinions drawn from established precedents.”

    “In the 19th and 20th centuries, reformist movements clamored for the reinstatement of ijtihād as a means of freeing Islam from harmful innovations (bidʿahs) accrued through the centuries and as a reform tool capable of adapting Islam to the requirements of life in a modern world.”

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jerry for being so good as to notice my piece. 🙂

    Also, you’ve pointed out here what I failed to properly – how these sorts of religious rules cause sexual repression. I tend to focus on the issues this stuff causes for women, but it’s damaging for men as well. It must be extremely difficult for a young man in these societies to develop normal relationships with women.

    • steve
      Posted May 21, 2016 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      Note: The next paragraph is NOT my opinion:

      You are projecting Western Imperialist ideas of “”normal” relationships with women” onto a non-western culture. You are a cultural imperialist extremist! And that figures since you don’t dress appropriately and need an excuse to say bad things about another culture so that you don’t have to confront your own temptress dress codes.

      The above is, I fear what a large segment of the regressive left would say if they also leaned in the Islamic direction.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, you’re not wrong, and it’s an argument that irritates me. Those that make it of course are never the ones that suffer because of it. They also forget that all cultures, including our own, are constantly evolving. It’s part of the human condition. It’s like the regressive left wants to keep a suitably quaint culture to be patronizing about instead of giving them the information to allow them to grow.

  11. Posted May 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Like with Saudi Arabia, our debonair partners for Human Rights in the region, and our friendly fellows of the Taliban before, the US has excellent relationships with Bangladesh. It says so in the U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue, Washington DC, September 20, 2012

    Bangladesh’s status as a moderate Muslim democracy and its flourishing civil society organizations are the foundation of our bilateral partnership. Bangladesh is a key participant in all major U.S. development initiatives, including food security, health, climate change, and women’s empowerment.

    On balance, Chomsky is right. Sam Harris is correct as well, and we do good to not strawman what each has to say: Religion is inflammable. Islam is particularily inflammable (Harris). Someone always pours out the most inflammable stuff than the less inflammable stuff (Chomsky).

  12. eric
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Does that mean that men were uncontrollable sexual predators then, with rape and assault seen everywhere?

    I don’t think so. The draping of women simply makes men sexually repressed so that, once they get used to the system, a wisp of hair or a flash of ankle both excites and enrages them.

    I disagree; I doubt very much that what clothing a woman wears makes any difference. The reason men behave badly in these cultures, is IMO, because they aren’t punished for behaving badly. Rape a woman? The woman gets punished. Attack a woman? The woman gets punished. Compared to what they’re wearing, this sort of ‘incentive’ system practically guarantees a high rate of attacks.

  13. Filippo
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what the Imam’s position is on the Widow Thumb and her four daughters.

  14. somer
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    These attitudes towards women are Not a modern phenomena. In Afghanistan Pashtun tribal law has always been savagely misogynist and any period of easing of veiling etc was due to one of the kings having been educated in the West and wanting the country to adopt some western ways for economic reasons and because he liked the freedoms. It didn’t extend much outside Kabul and there are accounts from Western women staying in Kabul at the time that most women were still very repressed. Moreover there was pushback even in the reign of that king. When the communists installed a puppet there was civil war before the Soviets came in – thats how much most traditional Afghans pushed back. Moreover in Iran – the western dress was for the upper class and encouraged by Pavlavi – again there was a backlash. Who knows if Mossadegh had been allowed to govern as he was a genuine democrat but I suspect the traditionalists would have eventually won out given pressures from the region. Turkey under Attatuk was secular only because he trained at Sandringham and realised the old Caliphate with its medieval ways made turkey completely militarily and economically vulnerable before the westernised powers (including Russia). In 20th Century Many ME and African countries adopted large elements western laws either due to former western imperialism or influence of western ideas (Nasser) or due to a modernisation process fearing take over by modern western powers if they did not.

    The Hanifi school is often touted as the most moderate school of sufi Islam. Rape is regarded as a species of “Zina” or fornication. The Hidaya guide to the Islamic laws was written in the middle ages and translated into English in the 18th Century. My edition is revised by Muslims (Zaintner edition) but it doesnt differ from the original Hamilton translation in all the attitudes to slavery and women. It says that Zina is “the carnal connection of a man with a woman who is not his property either by right of marriage or of bondage, and in whom he has no erroneous property …What is here said is the definition of whoredom with respect to a man; as to the whoredom of a woman it simply signifies her admitting the man to commit the act.” It doesnt talk about veiling or honour killing but it says the dowry is still due to the girls parents (obviously not her) if she commits suicide rather than marrying the man arranged for her.

    The Hidaya guide to the Islamic laws says the wife is naturally “the possessed” not “the possessor” and that divorce initiated by the woman should be exceedingly rare. Once the man has paid the dowry for his wife “he may if he please enjoy her by force”. A free Muslim man can have sex with his female slave but a free Muslim woman may not have sex with a slave unless it is actually a marriage
    The Hidaya is used to interpret laws in Pakistan except the bits on slavery and by Muslims in India for the bits on family law and is the Hanifi schools interpretation of hadiths as they apply to specific cases. The book is written for Hanifi scholars – the version Ive got is Imam Hanifa is their founding scholar and where various ancient scholars interpretations are given the one by Hanifa is the one that is recommended to be followed. The version I’ve got is revised by Muslims. On family law it is packed with misogyny.

    Certainly in the Thousand and One nights people are drinking, there are plenty of powerful women etc. But these are tales full of magic told mostly to traders and the relatively well off, and they are told by Scheherazade to a ruler who sleeps with then executes a woman every night just for sexual spite at his former wife. The tales occasionally recount other rulers who are sadistically and viciously cruel to their spouse/s.

  15. gluonspring
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it weird that Allah created men with uncontrollable lust? What’s up with that?

  16. David Duncan
    Posted May 21, 2016 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    “…once they get used to the system, a wisp of hair or a flash of ankle both excites and enrages them.”

    A Pakistani Shia I used to work with said that covered women are a turn on because he likes flirting just with eye-contact.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 21, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I’m reminded of the fellow in Australia who tracks and captures critters with his bare hands, going so far as to smear himself with animal feces to mask his human scent. And he captures the animals alive. I should think that his hunting skills would shame the “hunter”/gun fetishist-fondler.

  17. Bob
    Posted May 21, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
    Was looked on as something shocking.
    But now, God knows,
    Anything goes.
    Good authors too who once knew better words
    Now only use four-letter words
    Writing prose.
    Anything goes.
    If driving fast cars you like,
    If low bars you like,
    If old hymns you like,
    If bare limbs you like,
    If Mae West you like,
    Or me undressed you like,
    Why, nobody will oppose.
    When ev’ry night the set that’s smart is in-
    Truding in nudist parties in
    Anything goes.

    Cole Porter

  18. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 21, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised to see no mention of The Artist’s fund-raising page and it’s tee-shirt : (deliberate attempt at embedding) , which is their “2Burka” design with the legend “Thank you for not provoking my uncontrollable lust.”
    I can testify at it’s efficacy at provoking “Muslims” (in the pub, supping ale, no less!) into impressively purple fits of apoplectic rage. It really is quite good at the task it sets out to do.

  19. Matt Jenkins
    Posted May 22, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    There’s another element to sexual assault in Islamic countries, which is that a woman, I understand, must produce four witnesses to the rape for it to be classified as such – and if she cannot do that, she is guilty herself and liable for punishment, including death by stoning. Given that it is pretty difficult to produce four witnesses to many assaults, it is probably much easier to get away with sexually assaulting a woman in countries under this legal system.

    • Posted May 26, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      And, as far as I know, the four witnesses must be Muslim males.

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