Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Four-three-four.. what are we waiting for?...

Graffiti of woman slumped on stairwell in Kabul
4.34 is the verse in the Koran that allows men to beat their women if they're "disobedient". [see Koran online link at the left]

Wandering round the Intertubes, I came across this piece by Qasim Rashid on Huffington Post, which is quite one of the worst cases of Islamopology that I've seen.  For Rashid black is white and 2 plus 2 is ... what? well, who knows it could be anything.  "Beat" doesn't mean "beat", it means to discuss, to conciliate, to enter counselling, anything but the plain and clear meaning of the word... "beat".
Rashid constructs a great edifice of sophistry on top of the Koranic verse 4:34, an edifice so weighted by the farrago of pomp and tendentiousness that it crushes the thin verse on which it sits, crushes it out of existence: he doesn't even quote it.
So, let me quote it here, in its entirety. While noting that there are many other translations of the verse which are available online at the link on the left. And don't come at me with "you've got to understand the original Arabic" gumpf.  I read and write Chinese and have often heard the same said in relation to that, but it's rubbish.  Of course it's possible to have a clear and faithful translation.  I've just picked one, that of Picknall, an Orthodox Muslim translation:
4:34.   Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great. [my emphasis]
So here is what we have, from the Koran, in relation to men and women:
1. Men are superior to women
2. Men have authority over women
3. Women must be obedient to men
4.  If they are not obedient, men may:
    a.  admonish them
    b.  send them off to sleep on their own
    c.  Beat them.
In what way is this the least consistent with women's rights in the west?
In what way is this consistent with what progressive women consider fair and proper in any context, other than in Islam?
In what way is this consistent with the United Nations' International Declaration on Human Rights (*)
In what way is this consistent with the laws in western democracies against any discrimination on the basis of gender?
In short, how can this verse be defended?
Rashid uses what I'll call the "progressive defence". That is, that it's a progressive process. The woman is first "admonished" and if she doesn't measure up she's sent off to sleep on her own.  Only if this doesn't do the trick, then she can be beaten. Note that there's no hint here that the man may be in the wrong.  And note that it's up to the man to decide when "admonishment" and "banishment" have failed and that he can now beat the crap out of her, because Allah is ever High, Exalted, Perverted.

In truth, this verse can only be defended if the reader wishes to be willfully blind. If the reader is determined to see nothing wrong in Islam, no matter what is presented as evidence.
Rashid's defense of this verse is a farrago of tendentious nonsense, especially when set against what the verse actually says.  I say: use common sense. See what the verse says. It's inimical to all the progressive west, that progressive women, stand for.
But, for pious Muslim men, it's "one two three four, what are we fighting for"!  But updated: "four three four; what are we waiting for!" Let's get them's biatches!
Later: Today's South China Morning Post has a piece "Clerics' code harks back to Taliban" (behind paywall), which quotes said clerics as saying that the Afghan constitution is "flawed from a religious perspective" (in the case of equality of men and women), that "men are fundamental and women are secondary" and that "the use of words and expressions that contradict the sacred verses must be strictly avoided".  The Guardian's article on "restrictive code for women" sums it up in any case.
Anyone would think these clerics had read the Koran and understood the plain meaning of 4:34!
(*): ".... the equal rights of men and women":  paragraph 5 of the United Nations Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [my emphasis]