American Imam Shows His Bias in Brett Kavanaugh Post

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Imam Zaid Shakir Sexual abuse Kavanaugh Facebook MeToo Believe Women
Imam Zaid Shakir (center) helped lead the funeral service of boxing legend Muhammed Ali. (Photo: Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Leaving the American Muslim community aghast, prominent Islamist Imam Zaid Shakir invoked sharia law to vet sexual abuse cases, including that of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

On Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018, the San-Francisco based Zaytuna college co-founder wrote a 1,300 word public Facebook post on his view of the Kavanaugh story. Nominee Kavanaugh participated in a public hearing last week alongside Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party over 30 years ago.

Over the last week, the Kavanaugh story has dominated the headlines and caught the attention and opinion of most Americans, including those who typically shy away from public opinion over hot button issues.

In his Facebook post, Shakir cited sharia law rooted in Quranic scripture:

As for Dr. Ford’s accusations, they cannot be used as evidence against Judge Kavanaugh. That is so for a number of reasons. I will confine myself to those which are rooted in Muslim teachings. We read in the Qur’an, ‘Those who bring charges of sexual improprieties against chaste women, then fail to come forth with four corroborating witnesses, lash them eighty times and never again accept their testimony. Such are truly corrupt’ [verse] 24:4…We do, however, demand that she [Dr. Ford] produces corroborating witnesses. Were she to do so we would say she has a legitimate claim which we could support and rally behind. Since she has not we silently avoid voicing any opinion on the issue and if we do speak we do so with a skeptical voice. Other than that we can pray for her and urge her to be patient.”

There are two big problems with this:

Shakir Pushes Islamic Law Over the Law of the Land
In delivering a digital sermon on a heated political issue within the United States, Imam Zaid Shakir puts Islamic law ahead of the law of the land. In America, there is a very clear separation of church and state; however, Islamists blur those lines. Muslims worldwide also have an obligation to follow the law of the land. In fact, this guideline is what diversified Islam from region to region during Islam’s early years. Islam also dictates that we follow the law of the land.

Demands Four Witnesses be Produced to Avoid 80 Lashes
In this entirely tone-deaf comment, Shakir clearly says that he doesn’t believe Dr. Ford. Pushing against patriarchy, many women have supported the hashtag #BelieveHer during the Kavanaugh hearing, which is already being called one of the most tense periods in recent American history.

#BelieveHer supports the idea that women shouldn’t have to go through a gauntlet of inquisitions to be believed. The question of whether Dr. Ford is speaking truthfully on the issue is up for debate. However, when paired with his earlier statement,  Shakir says that because four witnesses couldn’t be produced, Dr. Ford should not be believed.

Further, he invokes Quranic punishment on women who accuse men without bringing forth the required number of witnesses according to Islamic law, which is to lash her 80 times and never again believe her.

Calling for four witnesses also goes against the grain of common sense in how sexual abuse works. It’s often done secretively and participants in that crime aren’t exactly going to serve as witnesses against themselves. Further, the audacity to say that a woman should never be believed again is another assault against a woman along with a lifetime sentence of social and legal ex-communication from a community.

Many Muslim women who have been victim of sexual abuse — including incidents of sexual abuse during the holy pilgrimage to Mecca — have found courage in the current wave of honest accounts pouring forward, It has taken Muslim women exceptional courage to come forward and share these accounts, because even though we live in the United States where we are free from the threat of 80 lashes and discreditation, we still suffer dynamics of shame within our communities.

To be sexually abused is an almost unthinkable shame for most women. The strength of women in bravely sharing their raw accounts has had a powerful impact on Muslim women who are now holding space for testimony and healing. Lisa Vogl is one such woman.

Vogl is the first Muslim woman to have her line of beautiful, soft hijabs and modest clothing get picked up by Macy’s department stores nationwide.  On September 8th, 2018, she shared a deeply personal account of her abuse at the hands of her then husband. Her story shocked many people and opened up a floodgate of sisterly support, regardless of faith.

Further, considering October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, Imam Shakir’s well-planned post illustrates he is unfit as a Muslim leader, and it should come as a swift warning for in intra-faith and interfaith communities who flock to the imam as a spiritual leader. He is no such thing.

Fortunately, many American Muslims immediately struck down Imam Zaid Shakir’s horrific post: 

imam zaid shakir controversy pushback

imam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook post

imam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook postimam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook postimam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook postimam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook postimam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook postimam Zaid Shakir Kavanaugh MeToo BelieveWomen sexual abuse Facebook post

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Shakir offered a Facebook apology later that day, which still flirted with victim blaming. Cases of sexual abuse against Muslim women gained a spotlight alongside the #MeToo movement when esteemed scholars and public figures were accused of emotional, physical and sexual abuse — including Nouman Ali Khan and Tariq Ramadan. The latest incident involves Congressman Keith Ellison, accused of emotional and physical abuse by his ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan



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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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