While purporting to clear away "misconceptions" about Islam, Sumbul Ali-Karamali adds some more. Reform or deception? You be the judge. "Ten Questions for the Muslim Next Door," by Kamala at Revuse, December 5:
The November/December 2008 issue of Stanford University's alumni magazine features a story about Stanford grad and author Sumbul Ali-Karamali. She has just published her first book, a guide to Islam that she wrote in part because bookstores only carried "dry textbooks," "the occasional slim volume of Sufi poetry," and—after 9/11—"tomes on terrorism and the 'clash of civilizations.'"
Her book, The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil thing, is in part an effort to avert a "clash of ignorances" because the "Western perception of Islam has become an evil caricature of reality." As she writes, "moderate Muslims try to chip away a great wall of media misinformation."
The book aims to "clear away the misconceptions about Islam," explaining why these "tall tales" continue to "flourish" and "persist." [...]
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law, calls it "one of the best three books published on the Islamic faith in the English language since the tragedy of 9/11." It's "refreshing in its honesty" and "consistently reliable." (A web site run by El Fadl's "Students, Supporters, and Friends" describes him as "the most important intellectual in Islam and Islamic law today." Among other honors, he was "appointed by President George W. Bush as a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.")
Reza Aslan, the "internationally acclaimed" author of No God but God and guest on the Jon Stewart show, calls her "beautiful book" a "corrective" against the "misinformation about Islam" that "most Americans are bombarded with."
According to Dr. Carole Hillenbrand, Professor of Islamic History at the University of Edinburgh, The Muslim Next Door is "refreshingly frank."
The book's back cover asks, "What if you could sit down at a kitchen table with an American Muslim mom and ask anything you wanted about her faith and religious practice?" In the book's acknowledgments, she writes: "And to everyone who ever asked me a well-intentioned question about Islam: this book is a result of your desire to cross cultures."
I am very glad that Ms. Ali-Karamali is open to well-intentioned questions.
Because after reading the book, I still have a few.
Ten, in fact.
I hope she'll answer them.
Muhammad's Wife Aisha
Ali-Karamali writes that Aisha (Aysha) was "the one virgin Muhammad married... She was contracted to the Prophet at a young age, given variously as somewhere between nine to twelve years. However, the marriage was a formality and unconsummated until she was well past puberty. The sources variously cite her as somewhere between twelve and sixteen..." (p. 143, emphasis added)
Ali-Karamali writes, "Aysha's youth seems to have apparently appalled some non-Muslims, much to my surprise," and goes on to explain that it is "unreasonable to be shocked" because it was "consummated only after she was past puberty." In the seventh century, "puberty meant adulthood."
But Al-Tabari, described by Ali-Karamali herself as an "early Muslim scholar" and a "highly respected luminar[y] in Islam," quotes Aisha as having said, "The Messenger of God married me when I was seven; my marriage was consummated when I was nine." (emphasis added)
Consider also the writings of al-Bukhari, whose Sahih Al-Bukhari is "universally acknowledged as the most authentic book after the Qur'an" according to an article at IslamOnline, a web site co-founded by Yusuf al-Qaradawi. (Ali-Karamali calls Qaradawi a "leading Muslim scholar.")
Bukhari writes, "the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old." (emphasis added) [...]
After much more documentation, Kamala pops the question:
1. According to many Islamic scholars past and present—including a scholar you mention and praise in your book, Aisha's marriage was consummated at the age of nine. Why did you write that "the sources variously cite her as somewhere between twelve and sixteen"?
The rest is just as good. Here are the other questions -- all responding to assertions that Ali-Karamali makes in her book:
2. Which Islamic or Arabic scholars have translated the word "Islam" as "peace"?
3. When and where did Timothy McVeigh explain or suggest that "Christian fundamentalist beliefs" motivated the Oklahoma bombing?
4. What is the source for your book's estimate that Muslims make up 3% of the US population? Why did you decide to use this estimate instead of those from other recent studies?
5. Do you condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization? How do you propose convincing Sheikh al-Qaradawi, the "hundreds of scholars" that agree with him, and all of his followers that the tactics of Hamas violate Islamic law?
6. Could you provide the text of Qaradawi's fatwa that declared "Osama bin Laden could not call himself a Muslim"? Why do you think Qaradawi has since refused to acknowledge bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11?
7. In light of (a) Yusuf al-Qaradawi's personal support of female circumcision, (b) the statement from an Al-Azhar lecturer that Muhammad "reaffirmed this custom," and (c) Ibn Qudamah's judgment that female circumcision is an "honour for women," do you still claim female circumcision is "unequivocally antithetical to the principles of Islam"?
8. If Islam does not sanction honor killings, why would Al-Azhar (that "great center for Islamic studies") certify a manual of Islamic law that rules killing one's offspring is not subject to retaliation—and why would any mainstream Islamic group issue a religious ruling that harsher penalties for honor killings would "contradict the Shari'a"?
9. Given al-Qaeda's statement that their conflict with the West "ultimately revolve[s] around one issue"—that Islam forces people "by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually," do you still believe that bin Laden opposes the US only because it's "responsible for the turmoil in some of the Islamic world today"?
10. How do you reconcile the Qur'anic injunctions to make non-Muslims "feel subdued"—and, according to the Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir, "miserable," "disgraced," "humiliated," "degraded," and "belittled"—with your book's point that the "Qur'an forbids discourtesy to Jews and Christians"?
Each one comes with exhaustive documentation of the positions that are contrary to Ali-Karamali's smoothly deceptive claims. Be sure to read it all.