Muslim institutions are not immune to sexual misconduct.
So how do we address this issue? How do we protect people? How do we protect our masajid and other institutions?
Do we allow “sexual health” educators and activists into our organizations to teach us the meaning of “healthy sexual behavior”?
What about the fact that these educators, many of whom are Muslims, are advocating a completely un-Islamic, secular, liberal perspective on sex? A perspective that rejects Islamic notions of modesty and abstinence? A perspective that promotes embracing the LGBT paradigm? A perspective that goes against pretty much every sexual ethical guideline Islam has to offer?
This is a false choice that these Muslim “progressive” activists present to the masjid boards: Either accept our version of “sexual health” with everything it entails OR make yourself vulnerable to instances of sexual misconduct that can lead to lawsuits or even criminal prosecution, such that your entire masjid can be held liable.
This is a new tactic that is being rolled out by Muslim “progressive” activists and unfortunately for us, the US government has an interest in their success (as indicated by the amount of funding their orgs get and the political access granted to them).
But we don’t have to buy into their bullying. Islamic guidelines provide the best overall system for preventing sexual misconduct bar none.
Just abiding by the concept of khalwa by itself would prevent the vast majority of the opportunity for sexual misconduct. If our institutions abided strictly by khalwa standards, i.e., preventing a marriageable man and and a marriageable woman from having any opportunity for being alone together, we would all but eliminate this problem. And in the rare instances where sexual misconduct happens despite the standards of khalwa, the ability to identify the aggressor is much more clear cut than the intractable “he-said, she-said” situation that arises when there are no expectations of khalwa. After all, khalwa results in gendered spaces. Whoever willfully violates those designated spaces by walking in on the person of the opposite sex is more likely to be someone with malintent.
Not surprisingly, of course, you won’t find the experts on “sexual health” speaking about khalwa. That’s because the avoidance of khalwa goes against everything they believe in. For them, the genders need to mix as much as possible. Tear down all the barriers! Dress as provocatively as possible! Hug and kiss and touch as much as you want as long as it’s consensual! This is the naive and destructive notion of “health” they want everyone to adopt, but we know better.
Our religious guidelines around hijab, khalwa, gender separation, and on and on are all meant to protect us from our desires and our lower selves, the desires and lower selves that will destroy us if we do not restrain them. But progressive liberalism wants us to let ourselves loose, to tear down all the shields and protections established by Islam in favor of some “sex positive” vision they find more palatable based on their whims and baseless psychological speculations. These activists want to claim that this path is how to minimize sexual misconduct and harm.
What a cruel joke.
PRACTICAL TIPS: If you are a masjid leader or Muslim community organizer, don’t let just anyone lecture your community about these matters. Just because the expert or advocate is wearing hijab or has a beard and says “inshaAllah” doesn’t mean he or she won’t spew all kinds of deeply un-Islamic garbage that is nowadays accepted as “sexual health and well-being.” Do a thorough job of vetting potential invitees. Read their material. Browse their social media. See what they’re really all about before lending them legitimacy and a platform. Above all else, don’t be a sucker because sooner or later, they will come for you.
Beyond this, we need to start taking our tradition’s guidelines on mixing and khalwa seriously. There is no excuse for not having clear policies that are enforced. Just because it is a masjid or an Islamic organization does not mean people cannot slip or make mistakes. Take precautions using the resources that our religion provides and has provided Islamic civilization for 14 centuries.