A Lesson from the Last Few Days
I'd like to share the following takeaways and call to action. But first, I wouldn't be so ready to dismiss the public preoccupation with the allegations against and response by Nauman Ali Khan (a renowned American Muslim lecturer). To me it's reflective of a fundamental public need for and right to justice. But the accused and survivors also have rights, and don't they outweigh the rights of the public or potential victims? How do we balance this? Please read on.
When it comes to allegations of sexual assault, there are three systems at play: the criminal system which is governed in these instances by state law; professional codes of conduct covering such professions as therapists, doctors, professors, and lawyers that include prohibitions against consensual encounters; and violations of rights in Islamic law. So when we talk about wrongdoing and victims, are we talking about violations under the same system or are we talking past each other? More importantly, in the criminal system and professional codes of conduct, there are systems to investigate and prosecute violations. We Muslim practitioners HAVE NO SUCH systems to investigate allegations of violations of Islamic Law in the US. And I think we can all agree that social media tribunals are not how we want to resolve disputes and redress wrongs.
So my call to action: in the areas with large Muslim populations, host town halls and discussions about developing alternative dispute resolution centers or religious arbitration panels. There should be clear processes for agreeing on consent to the process, controlling law, victim protection, analyzing evidence, remedies and disclosure of findings to third parties.
Second, Islamic institutions who hire staff, or those programs who engage speakers as independant contractors, should have arbitration clauses that specify how such allegations should be resolved.
To all my sisters out there: to get this done is OUR burden and opportunity to establish systems to protect our rights and redress abuses under Islamic Law. And since so many other doors are shut to us, why not have panels of female jurists mediating conflict and resolving disputes in our communities?