TORONTO - A Muslim imam has ended up in hot water after calling for changing Canadian laws to require women to cover themselves to prevent sexual assaults, amid accusations that his views reflect men's desire for control of women.
"This is not about what women wear," Tarek Fatah, a Muslim writer, told the Toronto Sun on Monday, July 16.
"This is about ... some Muslim men believing that any woman whose head is uncovered is fair game because she is lustful...and doesn't belong to the pious (Islamic) sisterhood."
A Muslim preacher has earlier called for legal changes in Canada to require women to cover themselves in order to prevent sexual assault.
"The reason ... these sex attacks are continuously happening is because (of) Canadian laws, which give too much freedom to women" when it comes to how they dress, Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana, a 33-year-old convert, said in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun.
"You should take your example from the way Muslim women dress," Atangana added in response to recent sexual attacks at York University.
"Why does (sic) Muslim women who wear long dress and covers her head aren't targeted for sex attacks?"
Defending his point, the preacher cited the position of Const. Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto police officer who ended up in hot water after telling students at a York University safety forum in January that women should dress properly to avoid being victimized.
"If (women) want to prevent being sexually assaulted, they should cover themselves," said Atangana.
The preacher also called on Toronto city to introduce laws that ban women from dressing provocatively to be followed by other Canadian cities.
"The reason ... a woman gets raped is because of the way she (dresses)," he said, suggesting that "Toronto (become) the first city in North America to introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively."
Muslim women also criticized the imam's view as reflecting a desire for control.
"There is absolutely no connection between how women dress and being sexually assaulted," Alia Hogben of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women said.
She argued that though other religions from Judaism to Christianity have traditional dress codes of their own, but this never prevented assaults.
According to a 2008 report from the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 83% of Egyptian women had experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault at some point.
The survey also found that 70% wore headscarves, which is an obligatory code of dress in Islam.
"These results disprove the belief that sexual harassment is linked to the way women dress," the report states.
"This confirms that the stereotypical ideas of a patriarchal culture that blames women even if they are victims, is opposite to reality."
Hogben opines that the results of the survey showed that some "good, pious" Muslim women are sexually harassed, despite wearing modest and traditional clothing.
If (Atangana) thinks good, pious Muslim women are not sexually assaulted, he's wrong, she said.If he thinks this is not happening in India or Egypt ... it is not true.