Recently, Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic professor, was accused of sexual assault by multiple women. According to the New York Times, he has been accused of rape, violence and harassment.
This news is not necessarily shocking: it is not the first time that a man in a position of power has used his authority to take advantage of women.
Ramadan's position as a highly-regarded scholar in the Muslim community provides him with a tremendous amount of loyalty from many people. Although loyalty is perfectly acceptable, it has also shed light on an issue that I have not seen discussed enough in the Muslim community, or simply in general.
The reaction to these allegations was largely a dismissal of the legitimacy of the accusations. Some jumped to his side, while others maintained that he is innocent until proven guilty.
What shocked me the most, however, is the sheer number of people who believe that there is no way that he could possibly have committed those crimes, despite the fact that it is highly unlikely that all three women accusing him are lying.
According to many online studies, false rape accusations are rare. Despite this, there seems to be a general consensus among commenters that Ramadan is innocent, and his accusers are lying. A common belief is that the accusations are a conspiracy aimed at ruining the professor's reputation.
The issue presented here goes far beyond the current situation concerning Ramadan.
Whether or not he is guilty, as a Muslim woman, I believe we as a community are failing to provide any kind of support for those who accuse religious scholars of violence. The Muslim community's loyalty towards them is causing us to deny that most of the time, these accusations turn out to be true—although Ramadan has not yet been found innocent or guilty.
As the evidence piles up, Ramadan has admitted to having an affair with one of the accusers—although denying he raped her—now, all I am largely seeing is silence. We are failing to come to the aid of these vulnerable individuals in our community, who do not have thousands of supporters, like Ramadan has.
By immediately taking a negative position against those who accuse a scholar of sexual assault, we are making it difficult for people to come forward and demand justice. It is clear that our religious leaders have been put in an almost untouchable position.
Even observing the sex scandal surrounding another well-known scholar, Nouman Ali Khan, the general attitude is to immediately proclaim the scholar's innocence.
Instead, we should support the victims by listening to them with an open mind. We should not verbally attack them, accuse them of lying or conspiracy. Nor should we proclaim the innocence of the scholar before a trial has taken place.