Growing up, I have had many individuals (mostly men) try to explain the importance of hijab by saying things like: “if two women are walking down the street and one is wearing hijab and the other is wearing a mini-skirt, which one is more likely to get raped?” Luckily, I do think that many people are becoming more educated about the dangers of victim blaming and proper ways to address the problems of rape and sexual violence.
However, I recently saw an article on Facebook that disgusted me and made me realize that we still have a long way to go in eliminating rape culture from our communities. The article attempted to explain away the rape allegations against Bill Cosby—although the word “rape” was never used—by suggesting that they are false accusations cooked up by the Islamophobic media. In an interview last year with Yusef Estes, Cosby said “The world would be better if all people acted like Muslims,” so according to the article, the allegations of more than 20 women are nothing more than an attempt to punish him for saying some nice things about Muslims.
There is so much that is wrong and dangerous about this line of thinking. First of all, blaming the “Islamaphobic media” in this case is just plain stupid. I mean, if this was a big conspiracy hatched up by Islamaphobes wouldn’t the reporters be saying something like “Bill Cosby, who recently praised the way Muslims treat their women, is accused of raping over 20 women?” I have yet to hear anyone in the mainstream media make any connection between Cosby and Islam.
More disturbing however, is that the more than 20 women who have accused Cosby of rape are not even considered worth mentioning. Their stories don’t matter. The specifics of the allegations don’t matter. Even the words “rape” or “sexual assault” aren’t worth writing. All that matters is that Bill Cosby is a good family man (or at least he plays one on TV), and he’s old, and he likes Muslims. That’s all we need to know to sweep the horrific allegations under the rug.
After reading the article, I looked at the Facebook comments hoping that I was not the only one who found it disturbing. Fortunately, there were many people speaking out against the ridiculous defense of Bill Cosby. However, those comments were met with self-righteous condemnation from individuals who say that we can’t criticize Cosby because we don’t know what really happened, and anyway only God can judge him. I would have more respect for this view if it was extended to not only Cosby, but also the women who accused him. But many of the same people who say that we that we shouldn’t be quick to judge an alleged rapist are the same people who have no problem with passing judgments against the alleged victims. Why is Bill Cosby innocent until proven guilty, but it is perfectly acceptable to say that the women are guilty of being sluts, liars, or as this article implies, pawns of the Islamophobic media?
The problem with this article goes beyond just the case of Bill Cosby. It helps perpetuate an environment where victims who come forward with allegations are ignored, discredited, and abused. This is especially dangerous because it is coming from an Islamic website and using the very real problem of Islamophobia to hide the very real problem of sexual assault. It doesn’t matter what Bill Cosby says about Muslims, it wouldn’t even matter if he was Muslim, the allegations against him must be taken seriously.