Is a Muslim scholar allowed to disrespect a woman?

Published: March 11, 2015

He was being interviewed by a professional who had her basic concepts on moderation just right. PHOTO: YOUTUBE


That was my first reaction when I came across a certain incident making waves on social media, catching the attention of people globally. A gutsy Lebanese female TV host, Rima Karaki, strong-armed her guest, London-based Muslim scholar Hani Al Seba’I, live on air after he told her that it was beneath him to be interviewed by a woman.

Being a TV presenter myself, I am very well aware of the fact that no anchor enjoys giving their guest a shut up call. Talk-show hosts are often bound by respect and obligation for their guests because of personal affiliations. It also takes a lot of effort from producers to line up guests to appear on these shows – most of which are planned at the last minute due to the ever changing world we live in.

When I discovered this video making waves on social media, I felt I needed to see what all the fuss was about. While many rejected it as a waste of time and ‘just another headline about a woman raising her voice against suppression’, I believe this incident deserves all the attention it is getting.

Karaki’s action in this case exhibits lessons and reminders for all of us who claim to be active members of civilised societies the world over. She not only provides commentary on how far behind the world still stands on certain issues of liberty, empowerment and emancipation but at the same time raises many questions that we still haven’t been able to answer, regardless of the progress we might claim to have made.

Part of the blame has to be borne by media for the insult the scholar subjected Rima to. Around 60% of the feedback that TV personalities receive, irrespective of sex, is all about how they look, which is often the criterion for hiring faces. Glamour quotient subjugates content in the ratings driven TV industry and that eventually contributes to audiences just going after how pretty or handsome the presenters look – little intellect is expected from a talking head.

Rima Karaki, the host, responds to Muslim scholar. Photo: Youtube

The scholar, however, was in for a few shocks of his own from Rima. He was being interviewed by a professional who had her basic concepts on moderation just right. She stays on topic and asks her guest to stay on topic too. It isn’t all that difficult to understand his reaction in the situation he found himself in. She was a woman to begin with and that too with brains. She was questioning him and instructing him on what to say and how to say it. She prompted him to blurt out something that highlights the complex problems of our social behaviours.

Muslim scholar responds to Rima Karaki. Photo: Youtube

Al Seba’I should have been mindful of his responsibility of portraying his Islamic thought as a teacher and scholar but sadly, he ended up successfully projecting the wrong image like so many others. Religion does not apply everywhere – if he believes that women should not be on TV or amongst men, then that’s his perception. It should not be forced upon others. I do not want to get into the religion debate here but there is often little value added to discussions about social issues by clerics when they are invited to such discussions here at home. Rigidity often does not let the thought process flow smoothly.

Just because it was a woman hosting the show, did he think he could talk down to her and she would take it?

Society has changed and personalities such as Al Seba’I need to realise and accept that.

Rima Karaki responds to Muslim scholar. Photo: Youtube

Times are changing and women are stronger and more vocal now. They might not have all the rights due to them, but if push comes to shove, they are ready to fight for and even snatch their due rights if required. Rima proves that respect is mutual and works both ways, and I applaud her for her strong stance. It should be the basis of all human interactions, men or women.


Waqas Rafique

An Islamabad based journalist who was a former employee of Express News. He tweets @waqasrafique (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Amenda W

    I agree with you and women should be respected for the role in society they have taken, (if it is a respectful role) whether others agree with it or not, but I did notice after he said it was beneath him to be interviewed by a woman, the last part of Hani Al Seba’I comment was silenced and cut out so we aren’t sure what his finished thought was. I think any man who feels they have been spoken down to by a woman in public would come back defensive, it happens here in Canada during debates all the time. You should have watched the Lang and O’Leary report, now there is a man who doesn’t like to be dominated or shown up by a woman. As far as being told to ‘shut up’, not all people believe this to be an insult, parents tell their children to ‘shut up’ all the time, in my days as a Non Muslim telling someone to shut up was common, so to hear it as a Muslim now doesn’t shock me nor does it offend me.. Maybe now the term ‘shut up’ isn’t politically correct anymore, so maybe ‘be quiet’ would have been better but if ‘shut up’ is that offensive then we need to start growing thicker skinsRecommend

  • jack

    Amenda, I am sorry i will have to call B.S on your bigoted views, who gives YOU or any other men the right to judge what a ‘respectable role’ is in a society for a woman, and if you perceive it not to be respectable, you can disrespect her? who in the world gave anyone the right to do that? And any men who feels they have been ‘spoken down’ would behave in such a rude pathetic way as this mullah? Please, not all of us take pride in having a p**** between our legs, and automatically because of our sheer insecurity and pathetic mindset allows us to think that a woman cannot stand up for herself against us. You need to educate yourself, and please do so urgently. On the side note, to explain to someone like you, replace the word woman in your long rant with ‘black man’ and replace the word with ‘white man’ and then see how much bigotry there is from your side.Recommend

  • sab

    these anchors these days are crazy they provoke their guests to expose them, but if this molvi sb. has a lose temperament ,she also has lose temperament too. an anchore should give enough time to the guest, after that whatever happend it was just a fight we should not take it as something against woman, if woman are on the field they must bear these things, like men bear, woman should not demand extra respect and previlliges , in modern world we say men and woman are equal, then why woman are given extra previlliges , everywhere they are encouraged and men are discouraged, particularly in islamic countries, men can not enter in family parks woman can, woman have quota in jobs , they are given more age relaxations, everywhere woman are encouraged , if woman are equal then why give them special previlliges, they must compete men and beat them, in fact there is injustice with men in islamic states particularly with young men, but peopole like author always try to show west that they are very civilized and we respect woman, ,,,we should respect human not just woman, if women wants to share equal rights they must share equal insults which men face everyday, if this incident took place with a male anchor no body even bother discussing it, this is the mentality of people who are so obsessed with west and woman rights these days in islamic states. they never see the other side of the picture..Recommend

  • Razia

    He should either be a Muslim or a Scholar. Both cannot mix.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Television is turning into a medium where Edgar Allan Poe’s saying ‘ Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see ‘……..seems to be proving true.Recommend

  • Vegetable Man

    “Is a Muslim scholar allowed to disrespect a woman?”

    Yes, its an integral part of the Job of being a Muslim “Scholar”…..Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    now I was gonna deride you, lambaste you and maybe even use some words which you may not have liked. but seeing that the comment next to mine by jack has eloquently articulated what my thoughts are I will just copy paste some choice words from his comment to show that I agree with them.
    i will have to call B.S on your bigoted views
    who gives YOU or any other men the right to judge what a ‘respectable role’ is in a society for a woman,
    You need to educate yourself,Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I fully support and respect this lady. I did not know her before yesterday and I have never watched her show , but her attitude in this video is amazing. This is what EACH and EVERY woman on the planet should be following. You have the right to be respected, anyone who tells you otherwise is a bigoted imbecile. Do not let these fools of mullahs guide you, take them to task.
    So for the women reading this comment. Ladies! this is your role model right there, be like her and the next time any bigoted mullah or any other man disrespects you you just let him have it.Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Don’t paint them all with the same brush. Recommend

  • Jalal

    Dont frame the scholars of Islams by using cheap thugs as your pretext. Hani al-Sibai has not attended any religious seminary – which implies you wrongly used the wordings of “Muslim scholar” in your title without any verification on his academic credentials. Flashy titles will help to sell your article, but wont get you any respect. Peace.Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    His sentence was It is beneath me to be interviewed by you. Then the sentence ended and the next sentence was You are a woman and then his sentence was incomplete. So we are really not sure about what he was going to say, but we should not connect two sentences just to get few more likes and shares. However, his attitude was pathetic.Recommend