Netherlands: Teacher fired after rape answer, draws Muslim protest

With all the commotion, it's interesting to see what the Dutch expert suggests. Van Eck suggests the girl approach the police, but not open a criminal file. In other words, she agrees that a girl in an honor-shame culture is in serious trouble if she's raped, and that she has no real recourse from the Dutch legal system, who is very likely to let the rapist go.

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Last week the InHolland college fired Turkish-Dutch imam Bahaeddin Budak, who was teaching Islam at the college. Budak had answered a question from a 17 year old Turkish girl on the Dutch Muslim Broadcaster site. She had been raped by a cousin, and Budak began his answer with a remark that a woman should not be alone with a man in one room because this is a risk. He gave her three options: lodge a complaint, inform somebody outside the family or forgive the cousin and keep silent. (see Netherlands: My cousin raped me, what should I do?)

Geert Dales, head of the college, says that this is not according to the Dutch legal system and does not fit in with Dutch culture. Rape is a serious crime and Budak should have urged her to lodge a complaint. The school administration are aware of the sensitivity of the subjects that imams broach, that they must sometimes balance issues, but that think that Budak caused a discussion about the professionalism of their organization. He might have done so as a private person, but they don't want anything to do with it. The administration also doesn't think that such delicate issues should be discussed on websites.

Canan Uyar, chairman of the women's federation of Milli Görüs says it's proper advice. On the internet she writes: What would be Inholland's reaction if the girl would have then be repudiated, forced to marry her cousin, or murdered? As a Muslim women I fully support his advice.. but that a school administration would fire a teacher because he answered a question with arguments from the Koran and tradition is incomprehensible.

Uyar is not alone. The Turkish umbrella organization has about 30,000 members, and Uyar is considered moderate. Dozens of responses on the website sound bitter. The freedom of opinion doesn't hold for an imam, observe the Muslims.

Yusuf Altuntas, head of Milli Görüs, says that imams are being silenced. Religious leaders must be able to speak about community taboos such as honor murder, domestic violence and homo-hatred. Traditions like the shame culture and group pressure must be broken. If nobody dares stand up, if they retreat from the debate, we'll never break dogmas, he says. Imams who balance on the thin line between Dutch law, religion, culture and tradition, sometimes say something wrong or less subtly. Budak may not have written things subtly, but he's not a bogeyman.

Clementine van Eck, researcher of honor murder, who is particularly acquainted with the Turkish community, says that it's very old fashion to blame the woman for rape. It's typical of eastern Turkey, where in such cases the woman is always murdered, and the man is never blamed.

Van Eck does recognize the risk in lodging a complaint. In the courtroom it's often one's word against the other, with the result of community service at most. Meanwhile the honor of the girl is stained by all the publicity and she can forget getting married, or even runs the risk of being murdered.

The researcher, who often works with the police and courts, asks therefore for more severe punishment for rapes. Meanwhile she suggests a temporary solution for the victims: The victim can make a report to the police. The difference between that and lodging a complaint is that there's no criminal case and the offender is not informed, but he does enter the police system, and such a file can play a role in later cases.

Budak, meanwhile, still stand behind his advice, and does not plan to retract it. "I have not accused the girl. I say very clearly that she shouldn't be punished one more time for something of which she's innocent. But I understand that her life would be in danger if she would revel the problems. Wasn't somebody shot dead a few months ago under the cloak of honor murder?"

Student Fatma Katirci thinks websites are often the place where young Muslim males and females can ask for advice anonymously. She says she doesn't understand InHolland's reaction and called on fellow students to protest to the school administration.

Nuray Basalan says that Budak has been misunderstood, and that she supports his advice as a Muslim woman. She can't think of better advice for a 17 year old Turkish girl, with her social and cultural background. Like Uyar, she asks what would InHolland have done if something would have happened to that girl.

Sources: De Pers, Trouw (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: My cousin raped me, what should I do?

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