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Islam and the West: Buzzwords will not fill the gap

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted February 9, 2004

Mohamed Kamal Mustafa

Recently, a friend forwarded an e-mail that contained a link to a news story that should make every adult - especially women - in our country rise to their feet in righteous indignation. A few years ago a Muslim cleric living in Spain published a book telling men how to beat their wives without leaving telltale signs. If a man's "serene dialogue" failed to bring a "rebellious woman" under control, then he should use a "light and thin stick" to hit her "so it will not leave scars and bruising." This led to a court case a few weeks ago in which the book was confiscated and the cleric, Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, was given a suspended sentence and a fine.

Given our country's belief in the First Amendment, that cleric would be free to publish such a work here. If that were to happen, I could never agree to put him on trial for what he wrote, though any man in our country who followed through on the imam's advice should be sent to trial and given a meaningful penalty. However, for what he wrote, the cleric should receive a hearing in our country's court of public opinion.

Many Americans concerned with civil rights are quick to come forward with charges of abuse and discrimination against so-called "Islamophobes", yet fall strangely silent when they are urged to examine Islamic beliefs in greater detail.

The Spanish cleric maintained that he was interpreting texts central to his religion. In his view the Spanish court, with arrogance and ignorance, took it upon itself to proclaim that the imam's beliefs and the texts he cited are unrepresentative of the Islamic religion or culture.

Indeed, Robert Spencer, adjunct fellow at the Free Congress Foundation, and author of Women and Islam (Free Congress) and Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery), notes that the Qur'an does include sentences that show men and women to be equal, something that defenders of Islam will highlight while portraying Islam to be a religion in harmony with the Judeo-Christian tradition.

But, as Mr. Spencer points out, there is much more to Islam and how it treats women. The Qur'an also contains a directive for the husband to beat his disobedient wife (Sura 4:34) and other passages denying women equality with men - and too many Muslim husbands take these passages as guides for how to deal with their wives.

Women who live in Saudi Arabia, where the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect exerts such a strong influence, risk arrest on suspicion of prostitution simply for walking down the street alone. Ironically, Amnesty International claims that in Pakistan, a locus for sexual slavery trafficking, women have actually been killed for refusing to engage in prostitution.

We hear very little about the sad plight of women in Muslim countries. In America there is much more of an outcry against Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for their alleged opposition to women's rights. For instance, on the issue of abortion, Robertson and Falwell place the issue of the unborn child's right to life ahead of the right of the mother to have a "choice". They are condemned for speaking out on behalf of the child, who, after all, cannot speak for himself or herself.

I know these men well and I have never heard them say that a woman who gave birth to a child out of wedlock should be stoned or whipped. Never have I heard them say that women must not own property. Never have I heard them say, even in jest, that women cannot walk unaccompanied down a street. Yet, in Muslim countries or regions it's a different story. Lashings still occur in Nigeria, where the northern provinces are under the influence of Shar'ia, which is an Islamic system of law. In the northern province of Zamfara in January 2001, a teenage mother was lashed one hundred times. Recently, another 16-year-old in Sudan was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery. Not long ago attention was focused on a mother, Amina Lawal, 31, who had been sentenced to death by stoning. Fortunately, she escaped death through a massive worldwide appeal.

American advocates of diversity and multiculturalism just don't get it. There is a vast fundamental difference between how women are treated in countries and regions under the sway of Islamic law and how they are treated in the West, with its tradition of individual rights.

That difference alone should make those who are interested in promoting "diversity" realize that a simple, feel-good buzzword will not wash away the differences between the West and much of the Islamic world.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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