The Baltimore Sun has an interview with Malcolm Clark, author of Islam for Dummies: “Required reading for American officers: ‘Islam for Dummies’ author hopes to dispel, correct misconceptions.” (Thanks to Anthony for the link.) The deathless classic Islam for Dummies, of course, has made it to General Vines’ infamous reading list.
Predictably, Clark seems to have a few misconceptions of his own.
I think of the way women are regarded in Islam. That’s an area I might have trouble with. To see women heavily veiled – this varies greatly from one Islamic context to another, from the head scarves that cover almost nothing to cloaks that cover the whole body – usually causes a negative reaction. Or seeing a woman walk behind her husband. This subject is a matter of debate within Islam. Muslim feminists say repression of women is cultural and has nothing to do with Islam. There’s scriptural support for that view.
I wonder if Malcolm Clark has been discussing this with Julia Roach. But in any case, whatever scriptural support he might have in mind for the idea that the repression of women in cultural, there is also considerable scriptural support for the repression of women itself. How many of these do you think he quotes in Islam for Dummies?
1. The Qur’an likens a woman 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” (2:223);
2. 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” (2:282);
3. 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” (4:3);
4. 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” (4:11);
5. It tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So 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” (4:34).
Clark also says:
Many Americans equate Islam and terrorism. That’s not historically true. Go back 20 years; the majority of terrorist acts against America happened in South America and came from a leftist ideology. Still, there’s a feeling that Muslim groups in the U.S. haven’t been forthcoming enough about condemning Islamic terrorism. In fact, all the major Islamic organizations in the U.S., such as the Islamic Society of North America, unequivocally condemned the [9/11] attacks.
Yes, ISNA did condemn the attacks. I wonder if Clark knows that the Senate Finance Committee in January 2004 included ISNA on a list of groups that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence“? Does Clark know that ISNA has received funding from the Saudis — that’s right, the Wahhabi bogeymen that Islamic apologists and their allies try to convince us are responsible for all Islamic terror?
When asked by the interviewer if the Qur’an permits Muslims to lie to non-Muslims, Clark answers:
I don’t recall the specific passage that gets cited to that effect. But no, it’s not a general notion that it’s OK to deceive others.
I’ll refresh Clark’s memory: the Qur’an verses referring to religious deception (taqiyya and kitman) are 3:28 and 16:106. I have made frequent reference to these on this site, and have been criticized by some for applying what they think is solely a Shi’ite concept to all of Islam. In the first place, there is abundant evidence that taqiyya is practiced today by Sunni Salafis; I discuss some of it in Onward Muslim Soldiers. Here also is an extended and extremely revealing argument by a Shi’ite that taqiyya attempts to “demonstrate and prove that the concept of “al-Taqiyya” is an integral part of Islam, and that it is NOT a Shi’ite concoction.” It contains numerous important hadith references.
Finally, it turns out that Clark, like the Saudi interior minister and the tinfoil hat crowd, believes that the West created jihadist Islam. I guess that means that he doesn’t realize that any jihads were fought before the existence of the United States:
Do you agree with President Bush that Islam is a peaceful religion that has been “hijacked” by extremists?
Generally, yes, but “hijacked by fanatics” suggests the fault lies completely with that group. Western and American actions have created a climate … for that hijacking to occur.