Friday, 7 January 2011

"A new year and worries for Muslims"

Letter to International Herald Tribune (the international edition of The New York Times), 6th Jan.

One sympathises with the plight of Fayza, the educated Muslim divorcee and friend of your columnist Souad Mekhennet ("A new year and worries for Muslims", Jan 5).   Fayza tries hard to exculpate Islam for its view of women, quoting the Koran Sura 3, Verse 195 "...male or female -- you are equal to one another".

But that is the translation of Khalifa, a non- orthodox Muslim. All nine other online translations render the phrase as a version of "... you are from one another", quite a different sense. [*]

By contrast, the verses stating man's superiority over women are legion in the Koran. For example 4:34 states that men are superior to women and admonishes men to "beat" disobedient women. 

Fayza's desire to excuse Islam for its treatment of women is understandable, but not helpful. It would be far better if she and her interlocutor Mekhennet (and, indeed, the International Herald Tribune!), were to face the truth squarely, unpalatable as it may be. Only by facing up to the misogynist verses in the Koran and Hadith will Muslim women have any chance of the "influence in society and families" that Fayza rightly seeks.
Yours truly,

[*]The well-regarded translation by Dawood (Penguin 2003, not online) translates this phrase as "... You are the offspring of one another".
Postcript: there are some other silly statements in the article, which I didn't cover in the letter.  It's difficult enough to get anything in the New York Times that's critical of Islam, let alone firing with all barrels.
Here's another quote for example:
Entering the 10th year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims know that their religion will be debated extensively, around all those questions that surfaced a decade ago. Is Islam violent? Why can’t Muslims just integrate in Western society? Is there a clash of cultures?
The answers --  simple and obvious to anyone reading the core documents and observing the actions of many observant Muslims around the world -- are: 
(i) Is Islam violent: "Yes".  Just read the Koran and Hadith.  Then look at the actions of observant Muslims who carry out the injunctions in those core documents
(ii) Why can't Muslims just integrate in Western society: "because their religion tells them not to"(+)
(iii) Is there a clash of cultures: "Yes, because Islam seeks to replace western laws with Sharia".

There's no question about the answers here.  Even to raise the questions as worthy of "debate", or wondering, or questioning, is to be naive or disingenuous.  Then again, there's a huge ignorance of Islam, shown by recent polls by Pew Research, which I'll get to shortly(ish).

(+) I just noted the use of "just" in that sentence.  As in, questioning the expectation that Muslims should integrate; showing that it's something that maybe society should not be expecting....