Friday, October 27, 2006

Cleric's Catty Comments Decoded

Australia's most senior Muslim cleric is reported as suggesting that women who dress "suggestively" invite sexual assaults, saying that, "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."

Apart from its insulting equation of women with meat, this argument implies that men are animals as much ruled by instinct as cats, instead of rational beings with intelligence, self-control, and the knowledge of right and wrong. By the same logic, one could blame supermarkets for shoplifting because they put their products on display. It is all too common for weak-willed people to blame their victims, rather than recognise their own faults.

Looking at the psychology behind Sheikh al-Hilali's remarks, I suspect that what those who call the loudest for censorship of pornography or for women to dress "decently" are really afraid of is their own sexual urges. While claiming to be motivated by protecting society from the impact on unnamed others who supposedly cannot control their sexual desires, what they really want is to abdicate their responsibility for controlling their own libido by forcing everyone else to avoid any action or behaviour, however innocent, that may risk turning them on.

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