Well-Known Imam Under Attack for Derogatory and Sexist Language

Picture: Facebook, @MI Dawood Sampson

A well-known Cape Town Imam, Dawood Sampson, has come under fire for the derogatory and sexist language he used in videos which were widely shared on social media since its release on Friday.

In one of the videos resident Imam at Masjidus-Sabr in Parkwood, Dawood Sampson announced his upcoming nuptials and second marriage, which will take place next Friday.

The Imam was criticised for the language he used and disrespectfully referring to women as “hens”. In another video promoting his upcoming marriage classes, the Imam said: “A wife is cute when she is mute.”

This sparked the creation of an online petition urging the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) to address toxic masculinity at the hands of Muslim leaders.

In a statement released on Saturday, the MJC said it had reached out to Dawood and requested him to make an apology and withdraw his statements.

Women’s Legal Centre director, Sehaam Samaai, said it was time to take on misogynistic behaviour and that the incident provided the perfect opportunity for the Islamic clergy to step up their women-centred educational programs.

Samaai said reform within Islamic institutions was needed, “Men working in mosques should have studied the Qur’an and the Sunnah, so they should be best equipped to deal with concepts such as misogyny, sexism, and patriarchy. However, as stated earlier, we live in a patriarchal society where culture and tradition often obfuscate the duty of a man in terms of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah.”

She said, “One place to start would be more representation of women at Ulema bodies, mosque committees, and Islamic education centres.”

Chairperson of the Islamic Unity Convention Women’s Forum, Magboeba Davids, said Sampson had brought into disrepute the well-defined purpose of polygamy and perpetuated long-standing postures of misogyny in the Muslim community.

Speaking about the videos, Davids said, “The community of Parkwood, where he serves, struggles with gender-based violence – as is the experience of mothers and daughters all over this country. It is therefore received with deep revulsion that this religious leader would perpetrate such vile speech. It is particularly worrying that he runs a school for young Islamic girls and also gives lessons in marriage. This is the type of behaviour which requires us to collectively take a stand against it.”

Women of Waqf co-founder Shameelah Khan asked: “How are we living in 2020 and still being confronted with violent, misogynistic language from the very leaders who should be protecting us from it and speaking out against it?”

Khan said collaboration between men and women, where more women could occupy positions within Islamic structures, would be the beginning to ‘unlearning’, and that reform was not separate from healing.

In his apology video, Sampson said: “It was never my intention to offend. It was regrettably misconstrued to undermine and be disrespectful to our women. Sometimes it is not good to say things in jest.”