Recently, police in Rajasthan, India arrested Falahari Maharaj, a godman, for raping a 21-year-old after promising to make her a judge. Unfortunately, taking advantage of religious authority to misuse power is nothing new. Spiritual abuse is obtrusive across all religions as Sheikhs, religious scholars, chaplains, priests, etc. have been accused for abusing their followers whilst hiding their errors behind their religious credibility.
Recent accusations of the respected American Islamic preacher, Nouman Ali Khan, have led to discussions and focus on the victims of spiritual abuse across religions. It should be noted that this article is not taking a stance on whether or Khan committed the actions he is accused of. Considering this is an occurrence that is unfortunately all too commonplace, this is an open letter to acknowledge and further encourage victims/survivors to seek counseling and proper guidance.
“Liar. Shame on you. How can you attempt to ridicule a person of God?”
Do not let these comments agitate your vulnerable state. Do not be swayed into being ostracized under these contradictory incidents.
It is easy to feel neglected as opposing sides argue whether or not a public figure could commit such an atrocity. Evidence, they ask for, evidence to prove that a well-respected human has the capability to sin. Do not feel pressurized to come forward to the public eye about a matter that is gravely intimate. Seek credible authority to which you trust on the matter. Please, refuse to stay silent in order to prevent this degradation on anyone else.
You may be wondering: why are people so quick to defend the perpetrator and forget to stand by survivors or even acknowledge them? Why are people so quick to normalize the abuse of power and authority? Am I the sinner?
Do not let this incident eradicate your faith. Do not fear unadulterated backlash for coming forward for something that is a prominent issue and should be addressed. It is never okay for someone with authority to use religious teachings to justify their mistreatment.
Take the teachings of a religious scholar, but never idolize someone’s value to be equal to perfection, as only God is perfect.
Celebrity religious scholars are deterred by maintaining a groomed image, they have expectations to use their public platform in a flawless manner. If, and when they do make a mistake, you must remember, no human is perfect. Disappointment is inevitable, but, please do not let this test repudiate your religious faith. If anything, let this be a reason to be closer to God and ask him for proper guidance in the most beautiful manner.
This is not your fault by any means. Disregard statements of bystanders attempting to conceal corrupt power because they assume your actions were consensual. Abuse is not something that can be tolerated and swept under the rug because people assume you “let yourself be taken advantage of.”
Alienation in the community is exasperating, but know that there are others like you and God is with you.
Seek help to cleanse your mind and empower your intentions towards your religious faith. Join organizations of people just like you: IM WISE and the HEART Women and Girls Project. You deserve justice and the right to heal.
And lastly, forgiveness takes time and healing. It is a lifelong process so do not let anyone force you to rush it. Your focus should be on yourself, however, your personal and spiritual growth being the priority unattached to any other individuals.
Amina Khan currently lives in Dallas, TX but forever misses her home in Los Angeles. She hopes to become a successful journalist and is always working towards enriching her writing by blogging about her travels or her current favorite TV show/book. Her dream is to work for AJ+ and deliver raw and unfiltered stories that don’t make it to major news headlines. When she’s not attending college or wandering around in botanical gardens, she invests her time in creating oil paintings and occupies herself with learning how to perfect Arabic calligraphy art. She also has an obsession for sushi, baby goats, Marvel and old people. Feel free to check out her blog!