Islamophobia. People keep trying to convert me to it, and I keep resisting. Most recently, a dear friend passed me an advance reader copy of a 224-page book titled The Submission of Women and Slaves, published by the Center for the Study of Political Islam.
I gave the book an honest try, but it is stupefyingly dull stuff. A lot of it is quotes from what the author (unnamed) calls “the Islamic Trilogy” — that is, the three holy texts of Islam: Koran, Sira (life of Mohammed), and Hadith (the traditions about Mohammed). Those are really dull stuff. At random, this quote from something called Bukhari’s Hadith, 3:46:717.Ibn Aun wrote a letter to Nafi. Nafi wrote in reply that the Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq tribe without warning while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of water. Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives; the Prophet got Juwairiya on that day.
Well, great. The point of the book quoting this is... Well, I’m not clear what it is. The quote is in a section headed “Mohammed and Sexual Slavery,” and prefaced with the sentence: “Here is another situation in jihad where Mohammed got a new sexual partner.” Uh-huh. And I should care... why? Things were pretty rough back in seventh-century Arabia. I knew that.
This put me in mind of Hugh Fitzgerald's superb piece from a few months back, "Is anyone else getting bored?" In it, Hugh says this:
We're all bored, just as bored, even more bored, than you are with Islam, and Jihad, and with having to listen to solemn parsing of speeches by Bin Laden, or Ahmadinejad, or Mahathir Mohammed, or with having to analyze some promise made by Hosni Mubarak or Pervez Musharraf or Mahmoud Abbas. Why should primitive peoples with primitive belief-systems take up our time? Because they can. Because they must. Because the Western world made a big mistake, over the past four decades, and now it is paying for it.
And it's the same thing here. Why should we care about what Muhammad did? Because millions of Muslims around the world regard him as an "excellent example" of conduct (Qur'an 33:21). Because hundreds of millions would agree with Muqtedar Khan's statement: "No religious leader has as much influence on his followers as does Muhammad (Peace be upon him) the last Prophet of Islam….So much so that the words, deeds and silences (that which he saw and did not forbid) of Muhammad became an independent source of Islamic law. Muslims, as a part of religious observance, not only obey, but also seek to emulate and imitate their Prophet in every aspect of life. Thus Muhammad is the medium as well as a source of the divine law.”
Thus if Muhammad took women as captives after battles and used them as concubines, it is a matter of some concern for non-Muslims, as boring as it may be, since such behavior could recur at any time, unless it is addressed and rejected as a pattern for future action by Islamic reformers, and those reforms gain serious traction in the Islamic world. But that isn't happening.
The argument of this book, and of the many like it that have been thrust into my hands this past few years by well-meaning friends, is that Islam is a beastly, horrible religion founded by a heartless, crazy guy, and that it is coming to get me. To prove this, someone who really needs to get a life has spent months picking apart the holy texts of Islam — scriptures that great swathes of Islamia can’t understand anyway, not being able to speak Arabic, and which actual believers, like believers (except for a few crazy fanatics) in all other religions, selectively ignore when it suits them to.
Of course they do. And then the jihad recruiters come and call them back to observance of the portions they're ignoring. And this has proven successful as a recruiting tactic even in the U.S. (notoriously, in the Lackwanna Six case), and thus it seems to me at least that we are unwise to ignore it or wave it away, rather than trying to formulate positive ways to deal with it.
If I don’t go along with the author’s conclusions — which were also, of course, his premises — I am a dhimmi, waiting with a stupid, trusting smile on my face to greet our new overlords. Fiddlesticks!
The cover of this book assures me that: “Historically, Islam has enslaved members of all races. It has a complete and detailed doctrine of slavery. A dualistic ethical system makes enslavement an act of good.”
O.K., so let’s see. Last month I was in a ship that docked at Casablanca, which is in a Muslim country. I didn’t bother to get off; but if I had, in which direction should I have headed to get to the slave market? Where is the slave market in Amman? In Istanbul? In Karachi? In Daka? In Kuala Lumpur? What are the prices of slaves in those cities? Can I get a futures contract? Perhaps the author of this book can tell me.
The idea that slavery can only exist in the form of open slave markets in large cities is, to say the least, unfounded, as is the idea that if slavery doesn't exist openly today in Islamic countries, this refutes the idea that Islam condones slavery. It is also interesting that Mr. Derbyshire didn't ask for directions to the slave market in Khartoum. The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun, the minister for humanitarian affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kosheib, a leader of that country’s notorious janjaweed militia. The Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two for prosecution. Charges include murder, rape, torture and “imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty.” Severe deprivation of liberty – that is, slavery. Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly observed that in Sudan, “slavery, sanctioned by religious zealots, ravaged the southern parts of the country and much of the west as well.”
Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. According to the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), a human rights and abolitionist movement, “The current Khartoum government wants to bring the non-Muslim Black South in line with Sharia law, laid down and interpreted by conservative Muslim clergy. The Black animist and Christian South remembers many years of slave raids by Arabs from the north and east and resists Muslim religious rule and the perceived economic, cultural, and religious expansion behind it.”
The BBC reported in March 2007 that slave raids “were a common feature of Sudan’s 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005….According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border -- many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan….Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.” One modern-day Sudanese Christian slave, James Pareng Alier, was kidnapped and enslaved when he was twelve years old. Religion was a major element of his ordeal: “I was forced to learn the Koran and re-baptised Ahmed. They told me that Christianity was a bad religion. After a time we were given military training and they told us we would be sent to fight.” Alier has no idea of his family’s whereabouts.
Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well -- notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.
Some of the evidence that Islamic slavery still goes on consists of a spate of slavery cases involving Muslims in the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan Al-Turki was sentenced in September 2006 to 27 years to life in prison, for keeping a woman as a slave in his home in Colorado. For his part, Al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias. He told the judge: “Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.”
There is plenty more evidence of the persistence of Islamic slavery. I am sorry Mr. Derbyshire is bored, but I do think that in defense of the human rights of the slaves, this problem -- again -- should not be ignored or waved away with a reference to the lack of slave markets in Casablanca, but should be addressed by the UN and human rights organizations.
Derbyshire says a little farther down:
We have a problem for sure; but what would the people who publish these books like us to do about it? Separationism — expel our own Muslims and seal ourselves off from the Moslem world? For goodness’ sake: We can’t even muster the will to expel illegal immigrants from next door. You want us to expel citizens? To half-way round the world? In any case, when I once called one of these folk a separationist, he hotly denied it, and told me, and the rest of the world, that I am an idiot. So whadda they want? Beats me.
"One of these folk" links here to Jihad Watch, and I expect that Mr. Derbyshire is referring to my post here. In reality, as you can see, I took issue with his claim that I supported "bribing foreign Muslims to leave the U.S.A." I think this is a stupid idea, and still think so even though the Sarkozy government is going to try it out in France. It's basic economics: offer money for something, and a supply will be created to meet your demand. If you pay immigrants to leave, more will come, just to get the payment. Some might even turn around and come back to get another payment. Since 2003 I have called for immigration restrictions, and there are any number of ways this could be done, but paying people to leave is not one of them, and I have never advocated it, contrary to Derbyshire's claim.
He goes on:
If finding out the answer involves reading books as boring as this one (let alone as wrist-slittingly boring as the Koran), I’ll stay ignorant, thanks all the same. Idiocy is not a state I aspire to; but if the alternative is plowing through books filled with the ruminations of 7th-century desert mystics, decorated with comments thereon by 21st-century monomaniacs — well, at that point, idiocy starts to look pretty good.
London bombings. A couple of car bombs failed to go off in London. Forgive me for not being very stirred. I was in London when two terrorist bombs actually did go off, one of them just a couple of hundred yards away from me. That was in 1982. It was darn loud, I can tell you. (I was sitting in a diner having lunch. “What the heck was that?” I asked the proprietor, who was making sandwiches behind the counter. “Car bomb, probably,” he said, without looking up. Talk about unflappable.)
Those terrorists were Irish Christians. So I guess I had better get to work trawling through the New Testament to figure out how the Christians plan to conquer the world and enslave me, before it’s too late.
Here is yet another example of the moral equivalence (including Derbyshire's own) that I address in my forthcoming book, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Regnery, August 13). Derbyshire is attempting here to construct a reductio ad absurdum, but it fails for several reasons: the IRA were indeed terrorists, but they did not and could not base their actions on Christian principles, they did not and could not point to Christian religious texts to justify their violence, and they were not working from a broad and deeply rooted Christian legal/theological tradition justifying warfare against unbelievers.
The Islamic jihadists, however, are doing all those things, and sneers and expressions of boredom will do nothing to make them stop.