This morning FrontPage carries a Symposium on women’s rights in Islam. This is actually the second Symposium on this topic in which I have participated; the first two Muslim participants dropped out after the first round of responses from Ali Sina and me. This one, which is quite lengthy, carries this introduction:
Does Islam have the keys within itself to liberate women within Muslim social structures? To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. On the side of the possibility of a feminist Islam, joining us today are:
Mohamed El-Mallah, a board member of Al-Ittihad Mosque in Vista, former board member of Islamic Center of San Diego, and an associate member of the Muslim American Society. A native of Egypt who migrated to the U.S. seven years ago, he is an activist in the Muslim Community of San Diego who has given many series of presentations on Islamic History,
Julia Roach, a UCSD student currently pursuing a bachelor’s in literatures of the world, specializing in gender issues and women in literature. She converted to Islam in 2003.
On the side of Islam being mutually exclusive with women’s rights, we are joined by:
Ali Sina, the founder of Faith Freedom International (www.faithfreedom.org), a movement of ex-Muslims created to provide support for those who want to leave Islam and give factual information about Islam for others,
Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West (Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).
It is a heated and revealing exchange. Ali Sina in particular is devastatingly effective. Read it all, or as much you have time for. Here is just a little bit from my closing remarks:
Spencer: Ms. Roach begins her concluding remarks by quoting Tolkien: “What can one do against such reckless hate?” The idea that Mr. Sina and I must hate Muslims because we dare to tell the truth about what Islam teaches is a common calumny straight out of the playbook of those who revere as a prophet the man who said, “War is deceit” (Bukhari IV:52:267). Yet it was neither Mr. Sina nor I who put this question and answer exchange, complete with supporting hadiths at the Muslim Students’ Association website of the University of Houston:
Question: We always hear the Hadith, “Women have a shortcoming in understanding and religion.” Some of the men state it to insult women. We would like you to explain to us the meaning of that Hadith.
Response: The Prophet’s words and their explanation is as follows:
“I have seen none having more of a shortcoming in reasoning and religion yet, at the same time, robbing the wisdom of the wisest men than you.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) what is the shortcoming in our reasoning?” He said “Is it not the case that the testimony of two women is equivalent to that of one man” They said, “O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), what is the shortcoming in our religion” He said, “Is it not the case that when you have your menses you neither pray or fast?”1
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that their shortcoming in reasoning is found in the fact that their memory is weak and that their witness is in need of another woman to corroborate it….This also does not mean that she is less than men in every matter or that men are superior to her in every aspect. Yes, as a class, men are superior to women in general. This is true for a number of reasons, as Allah has stated,
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend [to support them] from their means” (al-Nisa 34).
However, she may excel him in many matters. How many women are greater than many men with respect to their intelligence, religion and proficiency. It has been narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that women as a species or class are less than men in understanding and religion from the point of view of the matters that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself explained….Shaikh ibn Baz
I suppose Sheikh ibn Baz and Muhammad himself hate Muslims too? Or is it just I who must hate Muslims because I dare to quote them? Ms. Roach is dealing in a patent absurdity. This is a symposium about women’s rights in Islam, but instead of forthrightly acknowledging the obstacles and difficulties women face in Islamic lands and offering positive solutions, Mr. El-Mallah and Ms. Roach have denied, obfuscated, distorted, smeared Mr. Sina and me, and tried to deflect attention to Christianity. If this is what we can expect from Islamic “moderates,” the future for women in Islam looks bleak indeed.