“There is no denying that Islam, in its contemporary expression, is obsessed with women’s sexuality, and considers it a fundamental problem. The hijab, the niqab, the burka and polygamy are all manifestations of this phobia.”
Almost as soon as news broke that the murders of three Afghan-Canadian teenage sisters and their father’s first wife in Kingston, Ont., were possible “honour killings,” some in the Muslim community reacted in the most predictable fashion: defensiveness and denial.
Instead of voicing outrage at the murders, two Muslim callers to my CFRB radio show in Toronto slammed me for raising the subject, and suggested I had some hidden agenda. “This has nothing to do with Islam,” said one caller, despite the fact no one on the show had, to that point, even mentioned the word “Islam,” let alone accused the religion of sanctioning honour killings.
The callers were not alone. The head of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) told the CBC more or less the same thing – that the story was unrelated to Islam, which apparently does not permit honour killings.
They are both right and wrong. It is true that Islam’s holy book, the Koran, does not sanction honour killings. But to deny the fact that many incidents of honour killings are conducted by Muslim fathers, sons and brothers, and that many victims are Muslim women, is to exercise intellectual dishonesty. At worst, it is an attempt to shut off debate.
When Mississauga, Ont., teenager Aqsa Pervez was killed, everyone from Mullahs to so-called Muslim feminists claimed it was not an honour killing – even though there were allegations she had run afoul of her family for socializing with non-Muslim friends and not wearing a hijab. Critics then charged that to refer to the murder in such words was to be an anti-Muslim bigot. Humbug.
As I said, it is true that the Koran does not sanction such murders, but man-made sharia law, which has been falsely imputed divine status, does allow for the killing of women if they indulge in pre-marital or extra-marital consensual sex. This is precisely why so many progressive and liberal Muslims have opposed the introduction of sharia law in Canada.
There is no denying that Islam, in its contemporary expression, is obsessed with women’s sexuality, and considers it a fundamental problem. The hijab, the niqab, the burka and polygamy are all manifestations of this phobia.
The mullahs and the mosque leadership may deny their role in ensuring that Muslim women are second-class citizens within the community, but the place they reserve for women in the house of God, the Mosque, reveals their real conviction. Other than one mosque in Toronto, not a single other is willing to let Muslim women sit in the front row. They are sent to the back, or behind curtains, or pushed into basements or balconies, for they are considered not as our mothers or daughters and sisters, but as sexual triggers that may ignite male passions.
Honour killings take place because some Muslims have been convinced by their mullahs that the burden of their family’s honour and their religion is vested in the virginity of their daughters and sisters. Most mullahs acknowledge that according to sharia law, a woman who has consensual sex with a man outside marriage deserves to be lashed in public or stoned to death by an Islamic State or an Islamic court. Don’t these Islamists see how this interpretation can be taken as a license by men to take the law into their own hands?
Not until Muslim clerics and imams seriously abandon their notion about women being the possession of men will we begin to address the cancer of honour killings, which take more than 5,000 lives in South Asia and the Middle East alone.
The underlying mentality is a problem in virtually all parts of the world. In October 2006, for instance, an Australian imam of Lebanese descent, the country’s most senior Muslim cleric, triggered outrage when he described women who dress immodestly (in his view) as “uncovered meat” who invite sexual attacks. Sheikh Taj Al-din al-Hilali, the so-called Mufti of Australia, condemned women who, he said, “sway suggestively,” wear makeup, and do not wear the hijab.
Until 2007, only men had translated the Koran and interpreted it. That’s because the very idea of a woman translating the holy book offends Islamists. Consider, for example, the reaction to the first-ever translation by a woman – Laleh Bakhtiar’s The Sublime Quran – two years ago.
Mohammad Ashraf of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) – the same gentleman who this week told the CBC that there was no provision for honour killings in Islam – told The Toronto Star that he would not permit The Sublime Quran to be sold in the ISNA bookstore. “Our bookstore would not allow this kind of translation,” he said. “I will consider banning it … This woman-friendly translation will be out of line and will not fly too far.”
What had Laleh Bakhtiar done to deserve the punishment of having her translation of the Koran banned from ISNA’s Islamic bookstores? Her fault, in the eyes of Islamists, is that she believes the Koran does not condone spousal abuse, as claimed by Islamists.
If a woman’s translation of the Koran is banned from an Islamic bookstore, what is available at such places. At one Toronto bookstore, the title of a gaudy paperback screamed at passersby: Women Who Deserve to Go to Hell. The book, which is also widely available in British libraries and mosques, lists the type of women who will face eternal damnation.
Among them are:
“The Grumbler … the woman who complains against her husband every now and then is one of Hell.”
“The Woman Who Adorns Herself.”
“The Woman Who Apes Men, Tattoos, Cuts Hair Short and Alters Nature.”
Not until the leadership of the Muslim clergy takes steps to end gender apartheid and misogyny will they be taken seriously when they say, “honour killing” is not permitted by Islam. They cannot have it both ways: proclaim women as the source of sin as well as deserving of death for consensual sex, and then claim the men who carry out the death sentence are acting against Islamic law.