Recently I offered 38 questions to ask those carrying signs proclaiming, “I’m A Muslim — Ask Me Anything.” Here are answers to questions twenty-four through twenty-nine.
24. This question goes to the matter of how women are treated in Islam. A Muslim man need only repeat “taaleq, taaleq, taaleq” to divorce — according to the Sharia — one of his wives. If the Muslim Interlocutor (M.I.) claims that this is false, you should respond that Muhammad himself divorced a wife in this manner, as is reported in a hadith of Muslim (9:3493). You can also google “triple-talaq” to find contemporary rulings upholding the practice, and examples of it being used, not 1400 years ago, but today. Divorce for women is far more difficult. They can apply to a Muslim judge (qadi) for a divorce, but they must have a “good reason” for it (mere claims of incompatibility will not do). In one of the “canonical” collections of hadith, Sunan Abu Dawood, Muhammad says: “Any woman who asks her husband for a divorce when it is not absolutely necessary, the fragrance of Paradise will be forbidden to her.” Clearly the bar for wives seeking divorce is set much higher than that for triple-talaqing husbands.
25. This question again goes to the misogyny in Islam and the status of women. M.I. is likely to claim that Islam improved the lot of Arab women, compared to what they had to endure in pagan times. This is partly true. Islam did away with the practice of (female) infanticide that the pagan Arabs practiced. Another claim M.I. may make is that among the advances for women under Islam was the right to conduct business by themselves, citing Muhammad’s wife Khadija. But this claim is deceptive: Khadija was a successful businesswoman before she became a Muslim, or met Muhammad, so apparently this right for women to conduct business did not require the advent of Islam. M.I. will claim that the Qur’an provided women with explicit rights to inheritance, to property, the obligation to testify in a court of law, and the right to divorce. To which you are ready to respond that women might now have a chance to testify in court, but their testimony in Islam is worth only half that of a man. Quran 2:282: “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.”
And while women were able to inherit property, they inherited only half of what a male relative would inherit: “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females” (4:11). While women now had the right to divorce, it was, and is, under Shari’a, far easier for the Muslim man to obtain a divorce. And of course men could have plural wives, but a wife only one husband. And men had the right to beat their wives if they were disobedient. Having noted all this, you want to leave your listeners with Muhammad’s explicit description of women as inferior to men. The most effective quote to use for this is Sahih Bukhari (6:301): “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’“
26.Islam arose among the Arabs in Mecca, and it is toward Mecca, a city in the Hejaz, that Muslims everywhere turn in prayer. Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct, was a 7th century Arab with the mores of his time and place. The only version of the Qur’an deemed fully accurate is that in Arabic. Among Muslims, the Arabs enjoy the permanent prestige of having been the ones to bring the Qur’an to the world, and in their language. This matter is raised as well in two other questions, #19 and #34. The charge that Islam is a vehicle of Arab supremacism cannot be refuted, and the experience of informants who have attended mosque open houses suggests that once made, it makes a deep impression on listeners, including not just Infidels but even some non-Arab Muslims who previously had never thought of Islam in such terms.
27. Just a simple historical question, or so it may seem. Muhammad died in 632. Arab armies then swept from the Hejaz, through Egypt and across North Africa, and then crossed into and conquered the Iberian Peninsula by 711, that is, in the span of 80 years. The M.I. might claim that it was the obvious Truth of Islam that explained its rapid spread, not military force. You will concede that there have been a very few places where Islam did spread without the aid of a conquering army – such as in the East Indies, where the conversion of local rulers in Java and Sumatra to Islam meant the adoption of the faith by those they ruled, on the well-known principle of cuius regio, eius religio (“whose realm, his religion”), or today, where demographic conquest by Muslim migrants, assisted by their unwitting victims in Europe, is the chief means for spreading Islam. But this question is designed to note that Islam was spread mainly by armies, not only those that made their way from the Hejaz all the way to and up through the Iberian Peninsula (until stopped outside Poitiers by Charles Martel), but also those Muslim armies that conquered much of the Middle East, including Iran and Syria and Palestine, or other armies that seized much of India and Afghanistan. You want to make sure that the overwhelming role of violence in the spread of early Islam is understood by the onlookers. It was not, as Muslim apologists claim, the undeniable truth of Islam that mainly caused its spread, but the scimitars of its adherents.
28. In a well-known hadith, Muhammad says he will not enter a home where there are “dogs and pictures.” By “pictures” he is held to have meant all depictions of living creatures, so that statues as well as portraiture are considered haram. There are also many other hadith against images of animate beings. The Bamiyan Buddhas were statues that had escaped destruction not because Muslims had granted them some kind of special dispensation, but because until 2001, Muslims had lacked the wherewithal to destroy them. If M.I. claims that the fact that the Bamiyan Buddhas had not been destroyed long ago shows that it was not a religious but a political matter (as if a clear distinction could be made in Islam), with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar supposedly claiming that he was so angered that foreigners were willing to spend money to repair the Buddhas while Afghans were starving that he decided to destroy them, you can point to the consensus of the 400 Afghan clerics who said that the statues violated Islamic law. And remind M.I. – and those listening in — that just as many thousands of statues, stupas, and temples (Buddhist and Hindu) had been destroyed over many centuries all over present-day Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, it was now the turn of the Bamiyan Buddhas, because the Taliban’s explosives proved equal to the appalling task. Even so, it took several weeks of diabolically dedicated dynamiting to thoroughly destroy the Buddhas. You have hereby introduced the theme of Islamic destruction of the world’s artistic heritage, over 1400 years, and also the day before yesterday, with the Islamic State’s destruction of the Temple of Bel (a Mesopotamian monument) and the Roman theatre in Palmyra. Wherever Muslims can destroy non-Muslim heritage sites, it seems they will. From their point of view, why should they be forced to endure reminders of any civilization other than the only one that counts, that of Islam?
29. This question raises the matter of the extreme violence of Muslims in defending the image of Muhammad. In the church of San Petronio in Bologna, a fresco by Giovanni da Modena from 1410 depicts the scene described in Dante’s Inferno, Canto 28, where Muhammad — a sower of discord — is in Hell, pulling at his own entrails. You might even quote Dante as a way of overwhelming your Muslim opponent: «Or vedi com’io mi dilacco! / vedi come storpiato è Mäometto!» (vv. 30-31), which means: “See how I tear myself open! See how maimed Muhammad is!” The Muslim plotters considered this precious fresco, 600 years old, as blasphemous, and consequently believed they had a perfect right to blow up the church, together with the offending fresco. You should be ready to note that although the plot was discovered in time, the fresco now has a grate in front of it, and visitors must view the fresco from a greater distance, so that in its dark side altar it is now hardly visible. A part of Europe’s artistic heritage has now, thanks to Muslim threats, even if present, has been effectively rendered invisible. The point being made is that with millions of Muslims now in Europe, the threat to the West’s artistic heritage is very great now, and can only increase pari passu with the increase in the Muslim population.