The Sin of Close Proximity and Gang Rapes

Khalwat, is the sin of "close proximity.” Under Sharia Law you are guilty of khalwat not only if you are too close to a person of the opposite sex, but also if you are discovered to be naked or near-naked with a member of the same sex for “no good reason” e.g. sleeping naked in the same bed.

Khalwat is not a trivial sin. In Iran the punishment for members of the same sex found naked together is up to 99 lashes.

The Islamic prohibition against what most non-Muslims would consider normal getting-to-know-you relationships or innocent flirting can have extremely violent consequences for young women and girls such as the repeated rape of young Muslim girls in such a civilized city as Paris.

Samira Bellil wrote about the phenomenon in "Dans l’enfer des tournantes." In the Hell of the Gang Rapes, my not entirely accurate translation of the practice of young men pretending to befriend girls as young as thirteen and after having sex with them introducing them to their friends and inviting them to do the same.

The young Muslim men, whose religion has denied them the opportunity to get to know the opposite sex as human beings, think these "tournantes" are no big deal.

They indulge in this often vicious, reprehensible behaviour believing that it is sanctioned by the Koran because these women and girls are not conforming to Allah’s ideal of the perfect woman, an ideal that even Mother Theresa, if she had chosen to become Muslim, to marry and stay at home, would have had difficulty living up to.

Samira Bellil fell into these "tournante" when she tried to escape a home where she was brutalized by both her father and mother. Her story illustrates what happens to women who are beaten by their husbands.

Mothers following their husbands' example, beat their daughters. Their daughters then grow up expecting to be brutalized by their husband and see nothing wrong in brutalizing their daughters in return. It is as if an entire closed community of Muslim women has been infected with the battered woman syndrome.

Rather than come to the aid of their daughters who have been raped, the mothers in Bellil's book defend the rapists. Their daughters must have been deserving of the rape or the brutality just like when they are raped and brutalized by their husband.

In much of Islam, a woman who is raped dishonours her family and therefore the least of the punishment she can expect is to be cast out of her former home with nothing but the clothes on her back. There is a reason why a large number of Muslim women in France chose to make their home their prison. Outside the walls, waiting, are dangerous young Muslim men with the Koran on their minds.

Josée Stoquart writing for Gallimard Editions the editors of Dans l'enfer des tournantes in the introduction to the book doesn’t place the blame for the rapes entirely on young Muslim men. She blames the khalwat which does not permit even innocent flirtations and fraternization between adolescent Muslim boys and girls in a society where young men are bombarded everyday by sexual and pornographic images and which leads to a very skewed view of what it is to have a romantic relationship.

Here is how Stoquart explains it (my translation):

… [young Muslim men] are caught in a contradiction between the inflexible demands of their cultural origins (religious fundamentalism, seclusion of women, polygamy…) and a cultural environment filled with erotic images. Flirting is not allowed, nor is friendship between boys and girls thereby heightening the sexual tension. The only sexual education available to these young people is from pornographic films, they have no other representation of what constitute a romantic relationship.

These young people have no barometer and no appreciation of the gravity of their actions. For them "la tournante" is just a game and the girls the objects [of that game].

The girls who are raped become in the eyes of boys and the community "des filles a cave" [basement girls, most of the rapes occur in basements] to whom you can do anything. The violence for these girls is not only physical … they also have to confront the moral violence of a loss reputation, the shame, the humiliation and the fear of reprisals should they complain [to the authorities]

Samira Bellil, died aged 31 from stomach cancer, at a grimy community centre in Marseille on Valentine's Day 2004. The Guardian noted her passing this way:

Courageous writer who forced France to confront the outrage of gang rape ... Thanks to her book and her activism, the French government and the mayor's office in Paris began researching the problem of violence against young banlieue (suburb) women, and her portrait was hung outside the French national assembly.

Bernard Payeur, November 7, 2010