MUSLIM RELIGIOUS SCHOLARS, SAINTS OR SINNERS?
WHO HAS JURISDICTION TO JUDGE THE ACTIONS OF RELIGIOUS PROFESSIONALS IN THE AMERICAN MUSLIM COMMUNITY?
On September 22nd, a religious scholar was accused of having inappropriate conversations with his students. Upon this information reaching the public through social media the American Muslim community was concerned and divided into two groups. One group supported the accused and the other group supported the victims. Members of these two groups got into heated debates with each other. The public exposure of this prevalent issue resulted in chaos and social media users taking ethical guidance into their own hands.
This is a time where the community is supposed to UNITE. Lets talk about ethical governance instead of placing judgments. Lets talk about strategically planning solutions rather than merely speaking out our opinions.
Infidelity, harassment, sexual assault and rape are prevalent issues in society and religious settings are not immune to these issues. They must be addressed in a constructive manner rather than a destructive one.
1. How do we address these issues while maintaining gender equitable standards?
In the Quran it states, “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female – you are equal to one another. ”
Spiritually men and women are equal to each other in Islam. Personally, I would like to see gender equity practiced in the work place, in courtrooms, and also in front of ethical boards.
2. Does standing with victims/survivors mean that we have to take away due process and rights of defense from the “accused?”
It is important that both sides of a narrative are heard without bias. The recent NAK controversy reminded me a bit of the 1962 Salem Witch Trials. During that period false accusations, religious extremism, and lapses in due process caused the wrongful deaths of twenty women, accused by the people of being “witches.”
In no way am I condoning NAK’s behavior. However, I am highlighting the need for due process. Taking away due process leads to a slippery slope allowing for even innocent persons’ professional reputation being tarnished and/or slandered and careers potentially being destroyed.
3. What is abuse of power?
Abuse of power is “the act of using one’s position of power in an abusive way. This can take many forms, such as taking advantage of someone, or just manipulating someone with the ability to punish them if they don’t comply.”
4. How do we hold religious scholars, lecturers, and figures to a higher ethical standard without forgetting that such persons are also humans not free from making error or mistakes?
Religious figures have power/influence over their followers/students. This is similar to the attorney client and the doctor patient relationships, which are both, built on trust. Both doctors and lawyers are held at a higher standard than a layperson.
The American Medical Association (“AMA”) notes that the doctor/patient relationship may unduly influence the patient and that such a relationship is unethical if the doctor “uses or exploits trust, knowledge, emotions or influence derived from the previous professional relationship.” Similarly the American Bar Association (“ABA”) states that it is unethical for a lawyer to be romantically involved with a client.
Disciplinary actions by the AMA and ABA include warning letters, sanctions, fines, suspension and possibility of being disbarred.
Corrective measures include Continuing Education Courses, Counseling, and other rehabilitative measures.
In Texas a Dr. who had a romantic relationship with a patient was disciplined by being fined $10,000 and was also required to take ten educational hours.
Can the American Muslim Community work towards creating a central ethical governance board for Religious professionals called American Muslim Religious Professional Association (AMRPA)?
A diverse board that consists of both men and women, legal professionals, social activists, and religious leaders, to hear the alleged claims against religious professionals. AMPRA should be responsible for drafting a guideline of ethical conduct and also responsible to review claims, oversee evidence, make judgments, and if need be provide a disciplinary action.
5. How do we create a safe space for victims/survivors to report abuses of power and for such ethical deviations to be punished?
It is important to encourage victims/survivors to share their narratives and experiences in a place that they feel safe. However, it is also important to investigate and collect evidence on the alleged claims. This is to prevent “the Salem Witch trial effect.” In the light of being a woman, I would always support the woman until the day comes that someone accuses my father, cousins, or nephews of inappropriate behavior then I would demand a fair procedure.
Can the Muslim community create an anonymous 24-hour hotline where Muslim women, children, and men can report unethical violations by religious figures? These claims should be further investigated and handled by the AMRPA as discussed above.
In conclusion, I propose to create an ethical governance board called American Muslim Religious Professional Association (AMRPA) to govern the behavior and actions of religious professionals and a hotline customized to the cultural and religious needs of American Muslim victims/survivors.
Now how many of us are ready to strategically plan and implement a solution to this prevalent issue. I’m down are you?
Author: Zara Husain Iqbal is a young dynamic American Muslim, is a writer, a lawyer, mediator, humanitarian , human right and social activist . Ms Iqbal’s mission is to bring the positive change in the community and counter injustice, thru dialogue, art and written advocacy.
1. Sohail Rahima, Pakistani-American preacher alleged to have inappropriate relations with women, PK. TRIB., Sept. 23, 2017 https://tribune.com.pk/story/1514111/famous-pakistani-american-preacher-alleged-inappropriate-relations-women/
2. [Quran 3:195]
4. American Medical Association § 9.1.1 -1.2 https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/default/files/media-browser/code-of-medical-ethics-chapter-9.pdf
5. Professional Rules of Responsibility Rule 1.8 j https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_8_current_clients_specific_rules.html
6. Parker-Pope Tara, Punishing a Doctor-Patient Romance, NY. TIMES, April. 22, 2009, https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/punishing-a-doctor-patient-romance/?mcubz=1