Tackling “stereotypes” and “misconceptions” at a Philosophy Tea at Buena Vista University in Iowa. “Jihad and human rights,” by Jennifer Yeske for The Tack Online of BVU:
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, Americans have strived to put together some understanding of why it happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
While doing this some Americans have developed stereotypes and wrong ways of thinking about Islam.
On Tuesday, Wood’s House hosted a Philosophy Tea entitled, “Jihad and Human Rights” held by senior Amy Servantez and junior Courtney McGarry. Their goal was to clarify any misconceptions that people had about the Islam religion.
“What we really wanted people to get out of our Philosophy Tea was that Islam is not a violent religion. There is nothing in the Qur’an that violates human rights. It is the interpretation and the governments that use Islam as a blanket to cover their crimes and violations,” Servantez said….
“There is nothing in the Qur’an that violates human rights.”
Rather than regarding women as human beings equal to men, 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).
The Qur’an also 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).
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).
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).
The Qur’an 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).
It allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Islamic divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” (65:4).
And of course it counsels Muslims to make war against Jews and Christians until they submit to Islamic authority and pay a special tax: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
And it says that those who “make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land” — an elastic term that could mean almost anything — should be punished by crucifixion, double amputation, or exile: “The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land” (5:33).
Now, in light of all that and more, please don’t tell us that “there is nothing in the Qur’an that violates human rights.” We can read, and at face value passages like these are clearly in violation of numerous human rights norms. Now, it may be that these passages and others like them are interpreted in some benign way in mainstream Islam, although that is often asserted and seldom buttressed with any evidence. In that case, it would be more honest to acknowledge that there are many problematic passages in the Qur’an, but that mainstream Islam has spiritualized them, or rejected their universal validity, or some such.
But if you just deny they’re there at all, Ms. Servantez, you give the impression that you are either uninformed or dishonest. And I’m sure you don’t want that.
“I chose to add Jihad to the philosophy tea because it is such a controversial topic after 9/11. It’s misconceptions that give Muslims around the world bad stereotypes and I wanted to try and fight those stereotypes,” McGarry said.
“I thought it was a good chance for people to hear a different perspective about Jihad and human rights. Until I took the Islam class, I thought Jihad meant war; but as outlined so eloquently by Courtney and Amy; it was shown to mean personal struggle. I was happy by the turn out and hope more people take the opportunity to educate themselves about Islamic traditions and rituals,” Golonka said.
Unfortunately, the hadith in which Muhammad makes a distinction between “greater jihad” of spiritual struggle and the “lesser jihad” of warfare doesn’t appear in any of the hadith collections that Muslims consider most reliable. Jihad understood as warfare against unbelievers in order to establish the hegemony of Islamic law has much greater support in Islamic scripture, tradition, and historical practice — and leading jihad theorists including Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s friend and intellectual mentor and co-founder with him of Al-Qaeda, challenge the authenticity of the saying in their writings.
Instead of ignoring or denying this, the BVU students would do better to acknowledge it, and then to try to formulate positive ways to deal with it — including asking their Muslim friends to try to develop some way to respond to and blunt the force of the challenge from Al-Banna, Azzam, and their ilk.