I thought readers might be interested to have a look at this little book which was handed out recently at a Keele University Islamic Society event. It attempts to help Muslims explain aspects of Islam to non-Muslims, and surveys topics which, it is asserted, crop up most often in discussions. Here are a few passages which caught my eye, but, before quoting them, I want to note the response of a mortified Muslim who wished to distance herself from the booklet:
The booklet entitled “Answers to non-muslims’ common questions about islam” has many answers which have no Islamic basis and is based upon opinion and perception. I can only apologise for such a booklet being distributed.
Here is part of the booklet’s bizarre justification for polygyny.
Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays).
Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes ‘public property’. There is no other option. All those who are modest will opt for the first.
Suppose two sisters who are twins, and who are equally beautiful, walk down the street. One of them is attired in the Islamic hijab i.e. the complete body is covered, except for the face and the hands up to the wrists. The other sister is wearing western clothes, a mini skirt or shorts. Just around the corner there is a hooligan or ruffian who is waiting for a catch, to tease a girl. Whom will he tease? The girl wearing the Islamic Hijab or the girl wearing the skirt or the mini? Naturally he will tease the girl wearing the skirt or the mini. Such dresses are an indirect invitation to the opposite sex for teasing and molestation.
It seems scarcely necessary to respond to such an insulting argument, but modest dress does not prevent one from being harassed, and victims of rape or harassment are not the ones at fault, however they dress. On Twitter, for example, modestly dressed Muslim women attract offensive comments (from extremists of various stripes) often couched in violent and threatening language.
Similarly in financial transactions, two men are preferred. Islam expects men to be the breadwinners of their families. Since financial responsibility is shouldered by men, they are expected to be well versed in financial transactions as compared to women. As a second option, the witness can be one man and two women, so that if one of the women errs the other can remind her. The Arabic word used in the Qur’an is ‘Tazil’ which means ‘confused’ or ‘to err’. Many have wrongly translated this word as ‘to forget’. Thus financial transactions constitute the only case in which two female witnesses are equal to one male witness.
Oddly, considering the fact that this booklet purports to cover the most common difficult questions faced by Muslims, there seems to be nothing here about punishments for apostasy, blasphemy or homosexuality. But it does seem still to be a work in progress:
15. IS THE QUR’AN GOD’S WORD?
How can you prove that the Qur’an is the word of God?
(to be corrected and provided after a few days)
I’m very sympathetic to the many progressive Muslim voices who assert that such teachings and attitudes are not, in their opinion, part of their faith. I liked this piece by Chris Steadman and had a brief exchange with him recently in which I stated that I was in broad agreement with it, was, like him, an atheist, but not anti-religion, and acknowledged the problem of Islamophobia while also thinking that term was sometimes used to stifle criticism of extreme or illiberal views. I know some Muslims will agree with the leaflet – but others won’t, and it’s good to remember the latter group when discussing Islam – and particularly when discussing Muslims.
RT @J_P_70: @RichardDawkins I was going to the Maldives, but cancelled trip. Going to Cancun instead. No muslims there I hope! #maldives #fuckyou #islam …)
Finally – this story was first reported on the Student Rights blog. They were hit by a DDOS attack as the same time as Harry’s Place so – bookmark them if you haven’t already, and – welcome back!