May 21, 2024

Moderation in What, Exactly?

Ex-Muslim poster girl Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote today in the NY Times:

IN the last few weeks, in three widely publicized episodes, we have seen Islamic justice enacted in ways that should make Muslim moderates rise up in horror.

A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal. Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.

Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she’s usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.

We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a 54-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced 40 lashes. When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Ms. Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.

Then there’s Taslima Nasreen, the 45-year-old Bangladeshi writer who bravely defends women’s rights in the Muslim world. Forced to flee Bangladesh, she has been living in India. But Muslim groups there want her expelled, and one has offered 500,000 rupees for her head. In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.

It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.

But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?

Where indeed?

With what shreds of respect are due to cultural relativity, can there be any doubt as to the inherent disproportionateness of the so-called crime committed by the girl from Qatif and the punishment meted out by the Saudi state?  I think not, as I said here:

The same vein of fundamentalist certitude that flows so hotly through the veins of a terrorist boarding a school bus wearing a vest of C-4 evidently pumps through their judges’ hearts as well.  Cold hearts not warmed by compassion, mercy, or even fairness.  I would have thought being raped by multiple assailants – who presumedly thought they would either get away with their crime scot-free or be hailed as applicators of Allah’s sword of justice – would have been punishment enough.

Ali concludes:

If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?

When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.

In my opinion that’s correct.  If moderate Muslims keep their compassion hidden behind a facade of support for the bloodily repressive status quo then it does equate to moderation at all.  And if Muslims of good heart are cowed into silence for fear of their lives and their governments placate the evil festering within their borders as a means to retain power then there is no such thing as a moderate majority, merely a featureless mass of humanity that silently gives assent to future acts just like these.

h/t memeorandum


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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