In the last few months, the world (and especially the men of the world) are finally realising how horrific and terrible it is to be a woman. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, men are waking up to the sad reality that all women have been harassed or assaulted or been violated in their lives.
But unfortunately, this is a battle that we will have to fight for a very long time. From Weinstein, to Ansari, to Jeetendra, this is a fight that keeps exposing the ugly sides of humanity to us. And today, we have yet another horrible instance to add.
Last week, Sabica Khan put up a Facebook post in which she talked about, for the first time, how she was harassed during Haj.
The account was heartbreaking:
*I was afraid to share this because it might hurt your religious sentiments*.
While performing my tawaaf around the Kaaba after isha prayer, something really weird happened. It was my 3rd tawaf, and I felt a hand on my waist. I thought it was just an innocent mistake. I completely ignored. Then... I felt it again. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I kept moving. During my 6th tawaf I suddenly felt something aggressively poking my butt, I froze, unsure of whether it was intentional. I ignored and just kept moving slowly because the crowd was huge. I even tried to turn around but woefully couldn't. When I reached the Yemeni corner, someone tried to grab and pinch my butt. I decided to stop there. Grabbed his hand and threw it off me *couldn't move or turn around* I was literally petrified. Couldn't even escape, so I stood, and turned around as much as I could, to see what's happening, I turned around but... couldn't see who it was.
I felt so violated. I felt unable to speak out. Stayed quiet because I knew no one would trust me, or nobody would take it seriously, except my mum. So I told her everything when I returned to the hotel room. She was incredibly confused and devastated. After this incident, she never allowed me to go there again alone.
It's sad to say that you are not even safe at holy places. I've been harrased, not once, not twice , but thrice. My entire experience at the holy city is overshadowed by this horrible incident.
I believe it's totally okay and important to be open about harassment.
Don't know how many of you had similar experience there but this incident has unfortunately left me feeling upset.
But perhaps what was more heartbreaking is how many other women echoed her experience of being harassed.
After reading her post, author Mona Eltahawy, who wrote Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, started a Twitter thread to not only talk about her experiences of harassment, but also to provide a place for other women to share their stories.
I am glad to see women are speaking out about being sexually harassed during Hajj. Several years ago, i shared my own experience with sexual assault during the pilgrimage (see following tweets) https://t.co/7A5CeJngEy h/t @jwildeboer #MeToo— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) February 5, 2018
And also: I was in hijab. The way you dress HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT! I wore hijab for 9 years and I lost count of how many times I was sexually assaulted while dressed that way. Men are responsible for sexual assault, not wardrobe.— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) February 5, 2018
And women across the world responded with what happened to them:
I was looking for souvenirs for my family. I was accompanied by several other women. And then this man just started to flirt and grabbed my hands tightly. eying me from head to toe and caressing my hand. It happened only a few feet from Nabawi #metoo— CFX A41A-B, SAT | VIXX FA @ 📌 (@djenanggulo) February 6, 2018
When I visited the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the man lending “modest” robes to women touched my breasts. It took me several hours to shake my denial that it had happened. I also don’t talk about it so people won’t use my experience to justify Islamophobia. #metoo— Dr. NOPE (@reallyHibbs) February 6, 2018
I’ve been doing tawaaf last year in Umrah, it wasn’t even crowded and many was pushing their body against mine and touching me with their hands I actually got terrified and thought omg that couldn’t be happening even in this holy spot! #metoo— Yasmine Fathelbab (@Yazzzmine) February 6, 2018
And people pointed out the sad truth of actually bringing this up in society:
"very hard to believe""Doubt it"
"can't believe this at all" first responses I notice to someone talking abt sexual harassment during Hajj— Caalz (@naayacaliyo) November 6, 2016
Even the men spoke up, about things that happened to people around them or even to themselves:
Each time my mom and her sisters went to Hajj, they were groped—disgusting ppl w/no morals/“deen”; toxic patriarchy; keep doing what you’re doing, Mona. #MosqueMeToo— Hassan Saleh (@hass_saleh) February 8, 2018
The thread also prompted people from across faiths to talk about harassment at holy places:
Absolutely. When I went to Benares (holy city, holiest of), what I really remember is what felt like thousands of male hands reaching for my fourteen year old body. @monaeltahawy Please speak it. https://t.co/jPwbsuSjAY— Chaya Bhuvaneswar (@chayab77) February 6, 2018
I was 12 when a local priest groped me while trying to make my parents understand that there were faults in my stars. He touched my breasts in their presence. And they told me that since the priest was 60 yrs old, it wasn't a bad touch. Well..— Kalyani Kamat 🌈 (@Thebakonmaverik) February 6, 2018
And unsurprisingly many people came up with ways to tear these people down.
From "it was your fault"
To "you should have been prepared"
The reactions of these people show how society is still not ready to question the people in power. How we still cling to old beliefs blindly, because accepting the truth is difficult. When it comes to religion especially, we do not leave space for reconsideration. From maulawis to priests to swamis to bishops, people have faced harassment from religious figures. But unfortunately, they have never been allowed to voice it out. Society has shamed them and scared them into being quiet. We must remember that these powerful figures are humans at the end of the day, just as capable of evil as other. And most importantly, they are just as answerable for their actions.