David Thompson
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June 04, 2007

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David Amies

Having your pussy (cunt) (pudenda) hacked off by a crazy old female butcher with a sharpened stone is female genital mutilation in any language. There can be no justification for it and those who comment should describe it for what it is and pull no punches. This is why I have chosen to use such pungent terms.

I do not care if the practice is in some way hallowed by certain groups or societies. It is sheer, utter and unadulterated barbarism for which no extenuating circumstances exist anywhere in the world. If you feel that your religion sanctions it, then I suggest you take a hard look at the tripe you have taken on board as religion.

David Amies

clazy

Maybe I'm just a mean bastard, but I think you were pretty generous to take that seriously. The contradiction you analyze is ghastly, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute--it looks like flying, but it's not.

David

Clazy,

Well, it’s standard multicultural flummery and widely repeated. Some variation of it appears in the Guardian roughly once a week. That’s why I highlighted it. It’s a surprisingly common position, but not at all convincing.

I guess it’s a sign of our wonderfully dishonest age. We’re expected to deny the obvious, while pretending to have feelings of ‘respect’ we don’t actually have.

AntiCitizenOne

Respect has to be earned. Let's just say that I-slam doesn't work for me.

Suhail Shafi

Mr Thompson, let me say catagorically I welcome the interest and attention your website has given me....I am profoundly flattered.

Allow me to explain why the likes of Ayaan Hirsi are NOT constructive feminists.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was exposed as a fraud, who lied about her past and even her name in order to get asylum in the Netherlands and eventually was expelled from the Netherlands as a result of her fallacies. Not before she did terrible harm to the state of race relations in her adopted country, regurgitating the most fallacious lies and misconceptions about immigrants and aligning herself ideologically with the most intolerant and rabidly xenophobic elements of Dutch society and making herself a mouthpiece for the vitriolically racist Theo Van Gogh who had a long and unsavoury record of making misogynistic and bigoted comments about women, gays, Muslims, Catholics etc etc. Even more paradoxically Ali was a close friend of one of the Netherland's most hateful rightwingers by the name of Geert Wilders who campaigns on a platform of openly racist policies, including a banning of non Western immigration, draconian limits on cultural freedoms, prohibition of mosques, and forced assimilation of immigrants from outside Europe. The supreme irony is that the if the likes of Wilders were to have it his way, Ali would not have been allowed to emigrate to the Netherlands in the first place. More relevantly, Ali ended up being expelled by a hardline immigration minister Rita Verdonk whose draconian policies towards immigrants were paradoxically enough emboldened by the anti immigrant hysteria that Ali herself helped to foment.

Now, Ali has joined the American Heritage Foundation, one of the most conservative think tanks here in the US, that has a long record of acting as a cheerleader for some of the worst excesses of the Bush administration, from it's illegal invasion of Iraq to it's unlawful detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, to it's unconditional support for Israel's wholesale oppression of Palestinians. By aligning herself with one of the the most illiberal segments of the US and Dutch political establishment, Ali makes something of a mockery of the contentions of her supporters who see her as a champion of human rights and personal freedom.

Now, what was that bit about her being a feminist again ?

David

Suhail Shafi,

Again, none of that addresses the points I’ve tried to make. I’m not attempting to defend Ayaan Hirsi Ali's every word and action; I’m raising a larger question about how one challenges religiously-sanctioned abuse. Your feelings regarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Bush administration and the Iraq war are irrelevant to the issue, which you seem to be avoiding.

In a modern, secular environment the beating of women would generally be regarded as repellent, socially unacceptable and subject to criminal prosecution. One can freely and emphatically challenge such behaviour. In some Islamic contexts the situation is rather different and that social and legal disincentive may not be present to the same degree, if at all. And without that public and legal disapproval, speaking out against such behaviour can entail considerable risk, even threats of death, as outlined in the article linked below:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/03/for_the_love_of.html

You’ve argued that one should defend the equality of women “without insulting or vilifying anybody's religious sentiments.” Given the above, it isn’t clear to me how this would work in practice. If a religion, as some conceive it, explicitly endorses the beating and coercion of women, then that religion, so conceived, is repellent and immoral. It’s difficult to see how one changes how that religion is taught and understood without mentioning this fact.

Suhail Shafi

Oh but Mr Thompson, by extolling the greatness of a dubious character like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you are in effect promoting a very poor example of feminism. One is certainly entitled to ask - how is it possible to claim to be a victim of misogyny when the entire details of your life have been fabricated in order to buy sympathy and earn asylum with a comfortable life in the West? And if Ms Ali were so concerned about the dignity of women, how does one explain her silence over the sexual exploitation rampant on the streets of Amsterdam where thousands of women and girls, many of them traficked from overseas are made to work as sex workers, taxed and condoned by the Dutch government.

Flaying what Ali saw as the oppression of women in the Netherland's immigrant communities may have been easier, far easier from the vantage point of a supposedly persecuted immigrant woman than exposing the grim realities of the underbelly of the host society - in this case the Netherlands - and it's sins with respect to women's rights.

I repeat - NO to the abuse of women at any cost, but condemning people's systems of beliefs is the worst possible way to put an end to this kind of unacceptable behaviour - and the example of Ali proves the point.

AntiCitizenOne

Extolling the virtues of a dubious character?

Who could be more dubious than mohamed (murderer, rapist, paedophile) himself?

David

Suhail Shafi,

I don’t recall “extolling the greatness” of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and your attempts to suggest I have are dishonest. I simply pointed out the evasions of one of her critics, to which you took exception. You’ve subsequently claimed that women’s rights can somehow be asserted without ever “insulting or vilifying anybody's religious sentiments.” I’ve asked you to explain how this would work in reality, as opposed to rhetoric. Listing the reasons you dislike Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn’t answer my question.

If a person beats his wife in the name of his faith, based on explicit religious teachings and the purported words of his prophet, how does one challenge that behaviour without implying that the beliefs he holds are wrong? And, by extension, that his prophet was also wrong?

clazy

It strikes me just now that the essence of disciplined argumentation might lie in the capacity to listen.

David

Heh. I am running out of ways to phrase the same, rather basic, question.

Brendan_2

Someone's sentiments, even religious sentiments, have little connection to the issue of violence against women. If a religion condones such violence against women, never mind codifying it, it is guilty of abetting the act itself and what is wrong with criticising that?

David

It strikes me as odd that just because some ideas are called “religion” they should somehow – and for as yet unspecified reasons - be exempt from criticism, apparently at all costs.

It also strikes me as odd that the feelings of one set of people – say, women being beaten and coerced, or girls being mutilated – are regarded as less important than the feelings of those doing the beating and mutilating. It’s a strange moral universe in which the feelings of bullies and sadists receive preferential treatment.

Suhail Shafi

Actually yes, your penchant for Ayaan Hirsi Ali is quite obvious, even though she has been exposed as a fraud, her diehard supporter's contentions notwithstanding.

Back to the subject of religiously condoned abuse. It is well known that the abuse of women,physically, emotionally and sexually is a deplorable phenomenan that exists worldwide. Singling out one particular culture does not help, but even when one sets aside this self evident fact, one is inclined to question - does religion condone violence of this sort ? I refer to this link -

http://www.famousquotes.com/search.php?search=muhammad&paint=1

I am not sure if statements like - God enjoins you to treat women well, for they are your mothers, daughters, aunts.”, The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.”He is the most perfect Muslim whose disposition is best; and the best of you are they who behave best to their wives.”Do you beat your own wife as you would a slave? That must you not do.” leave any room for ambiguity - the abuse of women is not permitted, much less encouraged.

All religions preach compassion and kindness toward those less fortunate and more vulnerable than ourselves and for this reason, together with the above statements to make it clear that abuse of women is the diametrical opposite of the ethos of religion.

Suhail Shafi

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/849029.stm


There is a certain irony in the above link. The imam in question - I am not sure who referred to him as a ``respected'' authority - tries to condone violence in a country where according to the article, violence against women is endemic despite it being a European country. Since the majority of Spanish do not listen to what an immigrant imam has to say, and probably have never even heard of him, it is almost amusing to suggest that the rampant violence against Spanish women can somehow be attributed towards immigrant imams whom very few outside their congregation takes seriously in any case.

I think this interesting, if sad article reflecting on violence against women in Spain which is largely due to a culture of machismo ( then again it is questionable how relevant that is in contemporary Spain ) proves my point of violence against women being a worlwide scourge.

Suhail Shafi

Try the following links -


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/670142.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/736509.stm

Note the following statistics - In UK homes, one woman in four is a victim of violence. With this level of endemic violence against women across a European nation, it becomes a little puerile to blame immigrants/religious minorities for a homegrown problem.

David

Suhail Shafi,

Again - for the, what is it, fifth time? – you’ve tried to derail the debate with irrelevant comments, insinuations of nefarious motives, misattributed views and tu quoque diversions. The fact that spousal abuse is found objectionable by many believers and is not confined to religious adherents is beside the point. It in no way addresses the specific question I’ve asked. I’ll ask it once again:

If a person beats his wife in the name of his faith, based on explicit religious teachings and the purported words of his prophet, how does one challenge that behaviour without implying that the beliefs he holds are wrong? And, by extension, that his prophet was also wrong?

Perhaps you’d be good enough to actually answer the question that’s been raised by your own assertions. And, ideally, in good faith.

Nigel Holland

Sorry to go slightly off topic David but the quote Suhail Shafi provided is enlightening

”Do you beat your own wife as you would a slave? That must you not do.”

This clearly shows that owning and beating slaves is fine, this negates Suhail's assertion "All religions preach compassion and kindness toward those less fortunate and more vulnerable than ourselves"

David

Nigel,

I have a feeling the actual topic of this thread is being avoided quite carefully. Incidentally, the usual superficial claims of religious equivalence have been addressed at length in the article linked below:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/02/blunting_the_se.html

Some of the errors and manoeuvres mentioned in it will be familiar to those who’ve followed this discussion.

Suhail Shafi

Actually no, I believe my statements tackle the matter of abuse head on - the statements I provided that were quotes from the prophet himself leave absolutely no room for ambiguity - no room for abusing wives. God enjoins you to treat your women well - there is no ambiguity, no equivocality and no if ands or buts here - the statements quoted are PERFECTLY relevant and no, they do not condone violence against slaves any more than they condone violence against women.

I feel that I am not dissing the real issue at all. I certainly stand by my view that religion is a poor scapegoat for the excesses of married men. I also stand by my assertion that domestic abuse is a WORLDWIDE phenomenon so singling one particular culture alone is unhelpful at best, racist at worse.

David you ask - ``If a person beats his wife in the name of his faith, based on explicit religious teachings and the purported words of his prophet, how does one challenge that behaviour without implying that the beliefs he holds are wrong? And, by extension, that his prophet was also wrong? '' The answer is simple - if the prophet's words are to treat women with kindness, then challenging the prophet's words are unnecessary since the behaviour you purport to deplore is already deemed wrong in the context of the religious belief system.

By failing to understand the compassion that religions are supposed to stand for, David you inadvertantly put yourself in the same boat as the abusers you seem to loathe. The question is this - just what part of - GOD ENJOINS YOU TO TREAT YOUR WOMEN WELL - do you and the women bashers not understand ?

David

Suhail Shafi,

“The answer is simple - if the prophet's words are to treat women with kindness, then challenging the prophet's words are unnecessary since the behaviour you purport to deplore is already deemed wrong in the context of the religious belief system.”

But it’s not simple, is it? Muhammad’s purported ‘revelations’ span all manner of attitudes towards women, including endorsements of beating and legal inferiority, the “deficiency of a woman’s mind” and their supposed prevalence in hell. I assume you know that Muhammad’s later Medinan ‘revelations’ are notably less benevolent than his earlier Meccan ones, both towards women and non-Muslims. And, as I’m sure you must know, when contradiction exists the later texts are regarded as more authoritative by numerous clerics and institutions, including at al-Azhar.

If you browse the archives here, you’ll find dozens of examples of believers who cite verbatim Muhammad’s own purported words in order to justify their misogyny and xenophobia, even acts of terrorism, and who cite various major schools of Islamic jurisprudence as supporting their position. Thus there is “room for ambiguity”, to say the very least. And remember, I’m not the one you need to convince, which takes us back to my initial question.

So, again, how does one challenge those who do believe they have a religious mandate to mistreat women (or despise infidels, or whatever)? They also believe they’re in accord with “the context of the religious belief system.” How would you go about changing their minds without calling into question their “religious sentiments”?

Suhail Shafi

I repeat my question - what part of GOD ENJOINS YOU TO TREAT YOUR WOMEN WELL do you not understand ? What part of this statement do abusers not understand ? I think it is prety ridiculous to blame a person who lived thousands of years ago for misdeeds ostensibly done in his name especially since his injuctions to treat women fairly are self explanatory.

It seems to me that you claim a mandate to despise people of faith ( especially Muslims ) - that you do so in the name of some secular ideology whatever that is - does not make it any less morally shaky the mentality of those people whose ideas you claim to abhor. Because like them you do not seem to understand GOD ENJOINS YOU TO TREAT WOMEN WELL - and like them you seem to have an agenda to malign people whose way of life and ideology you see as being different from your own.

Suhail Shafi

How does one challenge those who do believe they have a religious mandate to mistreat women (or despise infidels, or whatever ) Simple - point out that religion require treating people including women with fairness.

How does one challenge those who believe they have a secular mandate to vilify people, including those of other faiths or for that matter any faith by distorting the message of their religious sentiments ? Now that is a difficult one - I have no simple answers for that.

Brendan_2

Comparing statistics from a western democracy that has already made great strides in both the emancipation and protection of women is a little dubious given that Islamic republics, for instance, not only condone the abuse but also discourage women from reporting abuses. In Afghanistan, where tribal women have frequently set themselves on fire to extricate themselves from abusive arranged marriages, they will still claim "it was an accident" to avoid potential reprisals.

The comparison Suhail Shafi is trying to make simply doesn't hold. Abuse of women is a world wide problem for many reasons, but the rights of women and the protections of those rights in western democracies is so far removed from the situation in states dominated by religious fundamentalism that I can only conclude that Suhail is guilty of gross cultural equivalence.

David

Suhail Shafi,

Ah, capitals, ad hominem and claims of victimhood. It was only a matter of time, I suppose. And yet my question – the simple question on which this entire discussion hinges – remains unanswered.

As for my “distorting the message of religious sentiments”… Would you like me to list some of Muhammad’s “divine” views on how to deal with “disobedient” women? For instance: “admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.” (Sura 4:34)? Or Abu Dawood 11:2142? I have a list, from several reputable translations. These ‘revelations’ aren’t exactly abstract or unclear. These are the words that have shaped forms of Sharia across continents and centuries.

Current advocates of wife-beating include the “esteemed” Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of Sunni Islam’s most influential clerics and head of the International Council of Muslim Clerics. Qaradawi advocates wife-beating repeatedly on his Al Jazeera broadcasts and in his best-selling book, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam. How about the Egyptian Professor, Sabri Abd Al-Rauf, of al-Azhar University – the nearest thing to a Sunni Vatican – who, on September 13 2004, told an Iqra TV audience that, “beating [one's wife] doesn't mean beatings with a rod or beatings that draw blood...The beatings are intended to instil fear...and to declare that [the husband] isn't satisfied with this wife.”

Or Sheik Abd Al-Hamid Al-Muhajir? Or Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, again of al-Azhar? Or Sheik Muhammad Al-Mussayar, another al-Azhar luminary? Or Sheik Yousuf Al-Badri, who quoted Muhammad's own words and told his viewers, “There are beatings in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah... This means we're allowed to beat.” Are all of these “esteemed” scholars wrong? And if so, who is going to tell them? And how?

These are hardly esoteric theological points. Plenty of men in dozens of countries feel entitled to act upon them. And, conveniently, they can cite their prophet, their religion and many of its institutions as giving them license to do so. So, as you can see, a person who lived “thousands of years ago” has some relevance to many modern women, or at least to the men who beat them.

Suhail Shafi

The statements you quoted are from contemporary scholars and cannot be attributed to a man who lived thousands of years ago. To suggest the Prophet was in some way responsible for what people say today is just about as helpful as to attribute statements like those of Jerry Falwell blaming 9/11 on gays ( ??!! ) and those of Pat Robertson calling on the violent overthrow of the democratically elected Venezuelan President to Jesus. The Christian televangelists in question both supposedly espouse Jesus's teachings, just as the warloving, prodeath penalty Bush.


Besides, what is so wrong about claims of victimhood ? You yourself seem to have an obsession with the perceived victim hood of Muslim women ( why only MUSLIM women - why not the one quarter of British women who suffer abuse as well ). Who knows - some of them might actually be in your own family or your own circle of friends - ha ! Could it be selective sympathy - in which case where is your sympathy for the suffering of women in the Palestinian territories suffering from a religiously sanctioned military occupation - you do know that don't you ? Or for Iraqi women who died and suffered when Pres Bush invaded their country on santion from God

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1007-03.htm


And while we are on the topic of unanswered questions, may I ask why are you so reluctant to answer - what part of GOD ENJOINS YOU TO TREAT WOMEN WITH FAIRNESS do you not understand ? Or seem unwilling to ?

Suhail Shafi

You might find this link interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WlSYoJQziA

A picture equals a thousand words. A video, apparently is worth a thousand pictures.

David

Suhail Shafi,

Oh dear. I see you’re teetering on the brink.

As you’re apparently unwilling to give a straight answer and defend your own key assertion in a logically meaningful way, and as you’re so keen to assign to me views I haven’t expressed and don’t in fact hold, it’s hard to see you as someone who debates in good faith. I doubt there’s much point pursuing this matter with you, but maybe your evasions will have been noted by other readers. So hopefully it’s not been a total waste of effort.

Brendan_2

(why only MUSLIM women - why not the one quarter of British women who suffer abuse as well )
Again, this is a specious statement. Abused women are quite able to speak for themselves in western democracies and do so with some guarantee of protection, though I can cite hundreds of examples where that protection has been inadequate. Women subjected to Sharia have no such options and suffer far more consequences, as it seems --GOD ENJOINS YOU TO TREAT WOMEN WELL-- means not much more than treat them as you would treat your livestock well. Well is a relative term and lacks the specific idea of equal rights and free will.

Pat Robertson? That is indeed teetering on the edge of sanity. That said, Pat Robertson is not able to beat his wife in the United States because there are laws to prevent it, so in the context of this argument, I suppose he is good example of an idiot restrained by secular common sense and non religious legislation.

David

Brendan,

As I’ve tried to explain to Suhail, the fundamental problem is that wife-beaters, jihadists and the clerics who encourage them can point to Muhammad’s own purported words as their mandate. Not some secondary figure, but the main man himself – and while channelling Allah, allegedly. For Suhail’s analogy to be credible, you’d have to imagine Pat Robertson being able to quote Jesus himself as extolling the virtues of a good beating, or championing the murder of his critics, or demanding his followers slay unbelievers to ensure eternal paradise.

Thuggery, intolerance and barbarism have been conducted by adherents of every major faith, often contradicting the faith’s basic tenets; but it makes a huge difference to how widespread and intractable that behaviour is if the founder of the religion is the main inspiration for it and its ultimate sanction. It isn’t clear to me how moderate believers can challenge this “divine” sanction effectively without undermining Muhammad’s role in their own beliefs.

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