Sunday, October 22, 2006

And beat her (lightly)

An op-ed in the Washington Post talks about Quranic sanction to strike a woman if, as a husband, you "fear desertion" and admonishing them or not sleeping with them hasn't already worked. I remember reading the Quran's translation when I was 15 or something and being completely shocked by this verse. It's far from the only shocking thing about the Quran I found, but it is one that sticks very clearly in my mind, mainly because it's always useful to throw in the face of people who say Islam treats women equally (another thing to throw in such people's faces are hereditary laws laid out in the Quran). I'll stop commenting here because then I'm going to be accused of going after Islam unfairly.

By the way, the author of this piece has actually been in my car. She was in Karachi in 2001/2002 (don't remember exactly). Me and a few friends (including NB and Alien Panda, who I'm sure remember this) used to volunteer at this school for disabled kids on the weekends. Anyways this woman was there and started asking questions. Turns out, she was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, or used to be. She asked if we could show her some of the city. Nice guy that I am, I obliged. What was she doing in Karachi? Nobody knows. But she was a friend of Daniel Pearl, who was also in Karachi at the time doing investigative reporting. We all know how that turned out.

Anyways, the crazy thing about this is how many conspiracy theories centered on this woman. After Omar Sheikh was caught and convicted for Pearl's murder, the Daily Times ran this incredible story alleging she was a RAW agent. Which was absolute nonsense, of course. She was born in India, but not every Indian born person in Pakistan is a RAW agent. Plus, the story said she was "pretending to be a Wall Street Journal reporter", when there was no pretending involved, which tells you straight away the story's bogus. I do happen to know, however, from sources that will remain private, that the ISI was very suspicious of her and followed her on occasion. I should emphasize that doesn't mean anything in and of itself, because the ISI would follow Mickey fucking Mouse.

Be that as it may, reading this story made me remember all the crazy shit I read and heard about her. So I googled her and started reading. One article led to another and before I knew it I was reading conspiracy theories about Pearl's murder, all of which sound very interesting. All I'll say is, if and when I have the time, I'm going to properly research his death. For now, just read the article, especially the part about a survey revealing that 97% of women in Pakistan have suffered some sort of domestic violence.

17 comments:

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f-machine said...

What's wrong with the hereditary laws laid out by the Quran?

And you'll go a long way in accepting the commandments of the Quran about men and women if you realize that they are NOT equal but one is not necessarily preferred over the other. Men and Women have different roles in Islam and the commandments are defined as such.

It is difficult to look at one part in isolation and make a judgement on how the Quran feels about women. Isn't that sort of thing exactly what the fundamentalists are accused of? (Using isolated verses to justify violent attacks on civilians?)

The next time you want to declare your shock and amazement at something presposterous that the Quran declares, please present the complete picture. Please present all the places where rights are given to women too. One example of this is how the Quran declares a woman to be the 'corner-stone' of society and ordains respect from her from all quarters. I will now stop here because I don't have complete knowledge about these things but you would do well to stop referring to Islam and your own culture in general in such mocking and condescending terms. It makes you look extremely pretentious and hollow.

Until you do that please stop throwing out isolated statements and add to the misinterpretation and malignment of Islam.

I feel that you go out of your way to comment (dare I say in a very 'fundamentalist' way) against Islam. You have no reservations in wearing your 'progressive liberalism' on your sleeve. What you do is shove your verdict down the reader's throat and underlying all your posts is the feeling that you and your liberal clique have intellectually progressed beyond Islam. I would argue that a fundamental quality of a liberal is taking the time and effort to present the other point of view and justifying your case on other peoples' terms; a quality that you clearly lack.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me I meant ordains respect FOR women not FROM women although from might be true as well.

Ahsan said...

Out of my way? Excuse me, if you don't think that there's a problem with violence against women in many Islamic countries, you are blind. And forget the violence...women can't even DRIVE in Saudi Arabia! The Quran may well have been progressive 1400 years ago. It's not today and don't try to insult my intelligence my claiming it is so.

And I'm not shoving "my verdict" anywhere. It's funny that you speak in overly generalized terms without actually engaging the post itself. The post talks about something very specific, which you have obviously chosen to ignore. Simply saying I "haven't presented the whole picture" is not a defense of an argument. It is a cop-out. Are you going to argue that the when it says "beat her" it DOESN'T mean "beat her"? If so, please say so. If not, please don't argue with me on whether or not you think I'm a worthy liberal. The post was not titled "I think I'm a progressive liberal". The post was titled "Beat her lightly".

f-machine said...

Ok and the fact that women can't drive or some woman gets beaten in rural Sindh is Islam's fault? A problem with so called 'Muslims' is not a short-coming of Islam.

And do you know why or how that verse was revealed? Do you know anything about the role of men vs. the role of women in Islam? Do you know anything about the context?

My post was not a reply to your post. I picked up something that you had said and replied to it. In another part of the Quran it says that kill disbelievers wherever you find them. Shock and Horror! How utterly disgusting! However, if you would care to see what context and for what occasion that verse was revealed perhaps it wouldn't be so shocking any more. If you take that verse in isolation and present it as such obviously Islam is going to seem like the most backward and degenerate religion in the world. That is the problem with the article that you posted a link to and that is the problem with the veil article and many many others that are out there.

f-machine said...

And you tell me not to over-generalize but you tell me that the Quran was progressive 1400 years ago but isn't today. Have you read the Quran? Have you understood it? Have you taken the effort to understand the context in which everything is said? Do you have any sense of what an Islamic society looks like? Do you know what the Islamic social system looks like? Don't go read the opinion of the West, get influenced by it and throw it in my face. Ok so you have a problem with veils. So progression then would be for every woman (and man?) to walk around naked weather permitting. So when a Muslim man is allowed to make demands of his wife (and im not talking about beating) it becomes oppression in your eyes and the eyes of the liberal media.. however when the western woman is stripped naked and plastered all over billboards it is obviosuly not catering to the whims of men.. she is asserting her independance.. and what better way to do it than strip naked for the pleasure of men worldwide..

I suggest you step outside your little bubble and get more of a worldview before arguing about things you don't know about.

I don't know if its a coincidence that everybody who has had an argument with you has had the exact same problem with you regardless of the topic.

Ahsan said...

So, wait, let me see if I have this straight: beating a woman is allowed according to the Quran as long as the "context" is right? Is that your point of view? If so, please say so clearly and categorically.

Stop trying to defend the indefensible, f-machine. Just say something to the effect of "Not everything in the Quran is meant to be taken literally" or something like that, and move on.

Ahsan said...

Oh, and I actually HAVE read the Quran. Three times, the third with translation. And I have no problems with veils AS LONG AS THE WOMAN HERSELF CHOOSES TO (which is the case in say Britain, but not the Talibanized Afghanistan).

You are changing the subject, because as I said, you have no worthy defence of what you are saying. My post was very simple, specific and on one verse of the Quran. If you think my view on that verse is wrong, please go ahead and correct me. But I don't think you'll be able to.

f-machine said...

Where in that article that you posted about veils or in any post that you have made have you said that the veil is ok as long as the woman chooses to. Obviously it is NOT ok if the woman does not choose to.

And you tell me not to over-generalize but what sort of a defence is telling that I have no defence?

"My post was very simple, specific and on one verse of the Quran"

That exactly is the problem. You cannot make judgements based on one verse because the Quran was revealed over a number of years and context changed and situations changed. In order to make judgements you must read the whole thing and get a COMPLETE SENSE of what Islamic society looks like instead of taking it point by point.


That is why just reading the translation isn't enough. I recommend you read not just a translation but a tafseer which includes explanations about the context of each verse. I did try and give you a similar example with the kill the disbelievers verse. How would that look if you took it in isolation and displayed it on your website? Or if you pulled a fox news and wrote a news story about it in isolation? Did you bother to find out what context that verse was revealed in to better understand my point?

Farooq said...

forget it. Ahsan isnt going to listen. His mind was made up years ago.

Ahsan said...

Ok, clearly you misunderstood my post on the veils. I wasn't passing judgemnent on the veil issue, I only linked to it because I thought it was a bloody cool article (a journalist pretending to be someone else for a day and then writing about it). That's the only reason I posted it...it was just really good journalism. Go back and read the post, where my only words on it are: "Great story in the Guardian today, by a British Muslim who's wearing a niqab for the first time in her life" or something to that effect.

My views on the veil are very simple...if you wear it of your own volition, more power to you. You could have gathered this from my post on the IJT/Secular Pakistan one, where I made care to mention that people should be allowed to live their lives HOWEVER they want, whether its wearing a niqab in London or wearing a skirt in Karachi. It's entirely their choice, and the state should have no business telling people what to believe or what to wear.

Now, to your other point. I HAVE read the whole thing. I don't know how many times I have to say this. The point is, I don't see ANY "context or situation" under which it's ok to beat a woman, which is the inference I get from what you are saying. Either that, or you are saying we should not take the Quran literally at every point (thus the need to read explanations WRITTEN BY HUMANS), which is a big no-no, isn't it?

I'm not going to argue about this forever. We're just going in circles. If you think there's a " context or situation" under which this verse was revealed, and that said "context or situation" means it DOESN'T countence violence against women, then I'd like to hear your explanation for it. Otherwise, this is my last comment on this issue.

f-machine said...

Yes I did read your post about how people should be allowed to live their lives and I liked it a lot. I liked what you said about religion and state and how they should be separated but the foundation for law should be derived from the spirit of religion.

And reading explanations by humans is not a no no. There are many scholars out there that have devoted their lives to these things. Reading the Quran, referring to historical texts, the life of the Prophet etc. etc.

So no, I think you can read a good explanation and take something from it.

And in what context do you think 'kill the disbelievers' is ok? I have read the context and I can assure you that IN THAT CONTEXT its ok. I wish I had the time and inclination to look up the reasoning behind the beat the woman verse and offer you an explanation. In fact I might just if I thought you were willing to listen.

In the mean time why don't you consider all what rights Islam DOES give to women above and beyond the rights of men. Maybe you should try and get a sense of the different roles of men and women today.

Let me give you one more example. In the days of the Prophet the rich and affluent would wear long flowing robes. Hence, at that point a verse was revealed telling men not to be arrogant, be humble on earth, and to raise their garments above their ankles.

However, men still do it today. Why? If you understand the context of that argument you will realize that the point of that verse is NOT to make men raise their shalwars above their ankles but to stress how displeasurable arrogance is to Allah. Hence, we should refrain from anything that displays arrogance whether it be wearing long flowing robes or whatever might be relevant in the world today. That is why I believe Islam is a progressive religion.

And before you tell me how irrelevant my argument is I want to reiterate that I meant the above example in order to make you understand that context is as important as the literal meaning of the Quran.

Ahsan said...

The flowing robes one is one I've heard before (I think from NB, if my memory serves me correctly), for whatever its worth.

"I wish I had the time and inclination to look up the reasoning behind the beat the woman verse and offer you an explanation. In fact I might just if I thought you were willing to listen." Please do. This blog isn't going anywhere. Take a month if you have to, I'll be right here.

f-machine said...

Ok I will whenever I get time. But you won't understand unless you are willing to look beyond the literal commands (which are important in their own right) and understand the social structure and the spirit of an Islamic society that the Quran prescribes.

Anyway, we'll have this discussion when I get around to it.

f-machine said...

Just out of curiosity. What do you think is wrong with the hereditary laws laid out by the Quran?

nikhil said...

I'd love to hear more about the context behind the "kill the disbelievers" quote...it's bound to be interesting.

I, obviously, have not read the Quran and know very little of Islam. However, I can't think of any context whatsoever under which it would be permissible for a man to beat a woman.

Taking that, as a single sentence, is not a misrepresentation of Islam simply because there is NO situtation at all that could justify a woman being beaten.

Name one, please; one situation that makes it okay.

this isn't taking away from choot's tendency to shove his opinion down people's throats - but unfortunately, it's his blog, so he has every right to.

and also - he often doesn't listen to what people are saying, instead preferring to select bits and pieces of what they say (often irrelevant bits) to pick apart and mock.

but in this case - i'm wholly and completely on his side...as expected, i suppose.

but don't let that take away from your attempt at justifying the beating of women by establishing context. i'd love to hear it - with an open mind, i promise.

f-machine said...

Let's say I had told you the Quran says 'Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them' in isolation. Would you at that point be ready to accept that there is ANY situation in the world where that would be acceptable?

Anyways, I really don't think its worth my time to research and present an argument on this blog because its not going to be received with an open mind. Its going to be received with skepticism (did i spell that right?) and disdain. Its going to have holes poked in it all over the place not for its reasoning (well maybe for its reasoning too) but more for trivial details such as who said what and who actually meant what.

Anyways, you and I can have this conversation over the phone sometime. I can't promise I will have done research over this but I can present to you a complete picture after which you will come to better understand why such things are said in the Quran. I don't think that you will ever be convinced that beating your wife is the right thing to do, and for that matter neither will I. But the problem with quoting verses in isolation is that you don't know WHY it was said. Was there a particular incident that triggered that verse? Is it a commandment that says every man must beat his wife? Is it a liberty that a man is given in certain situations (I know you can't see any situations that its permissible but bear with me here) ? Is a woman allowed something similar? Is it allowed but strongly discouraged? And finally my most important point.. Is beating your wife consistent with the character of a Muslim and the foundations of an Islamic society that are laid out throughout the Quran and the life of the Prophet which is supposed to be an implementation of the Quran?

You see, the problem is that the writer of that article has chosen to neglect all these question. She has taken that verse and written an article as if that were the foundation of a marriage. As if that encompasses the essence of a man's relationship with a woman. She did not bother to look at all the places where harmony, peace, and marital stability is said to be the foundation of society. She did not look at a well known story about the Prophet where he would have garbage thrown on him by a woman as he walked by her house. But when she fell sick he went to visit her and prayed for her. Does that sound like a man who would beat his wife?

Trying to convince the public at large about Islam's opinion of women by quoting that one verse is like Ahsan picking up a typo or a misquotation of his words in my posts and saying my whole argument is invalidated by that ONE error.

Anyways, till our phone conversation then.