Lower your gaze, scholar tells critics of ‘inappropriate’ dressing

Muslims are not supposed to impose specific Islamic norms on non-Muslims.

(FMT) – Muslims ought to refrain from looking at people who in their view are inappropriately dressed instead of attempting to police what others wear, a prominent Turkish scholar said.

Mustafa Akyol said while the Quran prescribed for Muslim women to safeguard their modesty, such Islamic norms should not be imposed on women with different religious traditions and world views.

At the same time, he said, the Quran also told Muslim men to “lower their gaze”.

“In other words, it commands Muslim men to refrain from looking at any scenes that may be morally inappropriate for them, not eliminate them.

“It tells them to control their own behaviour, and not the behaviour of other people,” the senior fellow at Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity told FMT.

Akyol was responding to reports on plans by the Melaka Islamic religious affairs department (JAIM) to put up signboards reminding tourists in Pulau Besar to dress modestly. JAIM also warned tourists not to take part in activities considered sensitive to Muslims.

This followed a three-minute video of beachgoers in bikinis at a beach on the island which had been making the rounds on social media since Dec 25.

“Wearing such attire (such as bikinis) is only suitable for the bedroom, not to be shown off to the community in Pulau Besar,” JAIM chief Che Sukri Che Mat was quoted as saying.

Akyol said every society had certain norms of appropriate behaviour and dress code.

Muslims, however, are not supposed to impose specific Islamic norms on non-Muslims, he said.

“So, as a Muslim, I believe we should follow our own ethical guidelines as we believe in them, but do not impose them on other people through legal means.”

Akyol, who had argued in several publications that liberty and Islam were compatible, said this was also acknowledged by Che Sukri, who had admitted that no action could be taken against those who wore bikinis as they were non-Muslims.

“So, why do they need any enactment?” he asked.