Robert Spencer: Islam Oppresses Women

It’s widely accepted, almost to the point of being axiomatic, that Islamic mistreatment of women is cultural and does not stem from the Qur’an — and that Islam actually offers women a better life than they can enjoy in the West.  The Los-Angeles-based Muslim Women’s League claims that “spiritual equality, responsibility, and accountability for both men and women is a well-developed theme in the Qur’an.  Spiritual equality between men and women in the sight of God is not limited to purely spiritual, religious issues, but is the basis for equality in all temporal aspects of human endeavor” [3].

Another Muslim women’s advocate, the Egyptian Dr. Nawal el-Saadawi, who has run afoul of Egyptian authorities because Muslim divines consider her opinions less than Islamic, goes still further:  “Our Islamic religion has given women more rights than any another religion has, and has guaranteed her honour and pride” [4].

In the same vein, the Christian Science Monitor in December 2004 featured several Latin American female converts to Islam [5].  One of them, Jasmine Pinet, explained that she “has found greater respect as a woman by converting to Islam”… The Monitor reports that there are forty thousand Latin American Muslims in the United States today, and that “many of the Latina converts say that their belief that women are better treated in Islam was a significant factor in converting.”

For readers who might find this surprising — given the burqa, polygamy, the prohibition of female drivers in Saudi Arabia, and other elements of the Islamic record on women that are well known in the West — the Monitor quotes Leila Ahmed, professor of women’s studies and religion at Harvard:  “It astounds me, the extent to which people think Afghanistan and the Taliban represent women and Islam.”  Ahmed says that “we’re in the early stages of a major rethinking of Islam that will open Islam for women.  Muslim scholars are rereading the core texts of Islam — from the Koran to legal texts — in every possible way.”

But did the Taliban really originate the features of Islam that discriminate against women?  Will a “rereading” of the Qur’an and other core texts of Islam really help “open Islam for women”?  These are some of the texts that will have to be “reread”:

Women are inferior to men, and must be ruled by them:  “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other” (Qur’an 4:34)

The Qur’an likens a women to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills:  “Your women are a tilth for you to cultivate so go to your tilth as ye will” (Qur’an 2:223)

It declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man:  “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (Qur’an 2:282)

It allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also:  “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one, or a captive that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” (Qur’an 4:3)

It rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter:  “Allah thus directs you as regards your children’s inheritance:  to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (Qur’an 4:11)

It tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives:  “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 scourge them” (Qur’an 4:34)…

Individual Muslims may respect and honor women, but Islam doesn’t.

[3]  Muslim Women’s League, “Gender Equality in Islam,” September 1995, http://www.mwlusa.org/pub_gender.html

[4]  Nawal El-Saadawi, quoted in Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi, The Ideal Muslimah:  The True Islamic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’an and Sunnah, International Islamic Publishing House, 1998, http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/humanrelations/womeninislam/idealmuslimah

[5]  Christine Amario, “U.S. Latinas seeks answers in Islam,” Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 2004.

Robert Spencer
Chapter 5, “Islam Oppresses Women”
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and The Crusades)

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