A last minute harassment scandal in Mecca, the holiest Muslim site, makes us wonder why the victim remained quiet about it.
The victim is named Basica Khan. she’s a Pakistani woman who shared on Facebook her physical harassment experience during Tawaf, while performing one of the five pillars of Islam near Kaaba at Mecca. Her post on Facebook then disappeared, and her account deactivated it seems.
“Fearing to Hurt the Religious Feelings of Those Who Read it”
Her post was mainly about her initially expressing her fear of publishing her testimony, “fearing to hurt the religious feelings of those who read it”, and that is a justified and real fear, that she expressed herself with.
Freedom of Speech?
Let us put all this aside, if only slightly, to claim that her account is fake. That may be the case, but the main question we must stop and ask ourselves is: Are safe spaces for women not subject to sexual harassment? If they are exposed, is it safe to talk about it?
Here’s what Basica wrote: ” I felt that I could not speak. I remained calm because I knew that no one would believe me, and that no one would deal with this situation seriously except my mother, so I told her everything when we returned to our room in the hotel. It’s regrettable to say that you will not be safe even in the Holy Land. I have been harassed not once or twice, but three times. My experience in Mecca is overwhelmed by this terrible incident. Quite frankly speaking about sexual harassment, I do not know how many people have had a similar experience over there. However, unfortunately, this incident made me upset and left me speechless.”
The start of this recognition is an extension of Basica’s fear before she published her testimony, which is similar to the fear of many women who want to express the harassment they have suffered, a recognition of the mentalities that the victim will take care of and try to silence, perhaps as with Basica, and the fact that she disappeared from Facebook. Women have started publishing their stories and using this hashtag to support women like Basica to speak up.
Can We Not Protect Our Sanctities and Protect Our Women at the Same Time?
The story caused great controversy, both from women who shared their stories with incidents of sexual harassment they suffered during the Hajj, or from voices that refused to believe the story and even cast doubt on its credibility and claim that there are “hidden agendas” behind it. In addition to the stories shared by women and the responses that encouraged them to share their own stories about sexual harassment, they have questioned their accounts, criticised and attacked women’s testimonies, mainly on Twitter. This often happens when it comes to any woman’s case of harassment; including blaming the victim.
We wonder how many more women out there have experienced something similar and are also afraid to come forward. It would sadden us, if allegations were true, to say that even in the safest place on this earth women are no longer able to feel that safety.