American Muslims must "cut out the cancer of coercion" in Islam

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A friend posted this essay on Facebook, and I think he gets to the heart of the problem with Islam in America and the west. With his permission I'm reposting it here.

An Open Letter to Muslim Women in America
By Scott Pendleton

As a young journalist, I spent two years in Saudi Arabia. I did not dwell on a military base or in a company "compound", but in an apartment in a building otherwise occupied by a large Saudi family. I ate many meals with Saudis, including with women present. I photographed a wedding for a Saudi friend, which meant attending the evening festivity that was for women only, followed by the morning festivity for the men. In less happy circumstances, I took food to the local prison for my roommate, who had been arrested for drinking alcohol. I also witnessed an execution by stoning of a rapist/murderer.

Like most Westerners living in Arabia at that time, I was eager for peaceful co-existence among Muslims, Christians, and Jews. And eager for mutual appreciation, because there is much we can appreciate about each other.

While that remains true, well-wishers and dialog-promoters in the West are often embarrassed by the coercive aspects of Islam. Coercion cannot be reconciled to nor accommodated by the laws of the United States of America. To the extent that Islam is coercive, it cannot even be regarded by Americans as a valid religion. Well-wishers hope that Islam's coercive aspects stay out of sight. That is a naïve and dangerous impulse. The coercion has to be acknowledged and addressed.

For example, Islam declares any person who abandons that religion to be deserving of death. (Like the American's wife whom Sudanese authorities had sentenced to hang.) America was founded by people who were seeking the freedom to worship as they chose, a right that is now enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

So if you are a Muslim and live in the United States, you face this dilemma: If you disagree that apostates to Islam deserve death, what are you doing in Islam? But if you agree that they should die, what are you doing in America?

Something's gotta give.

Religious coercion versus American law is a topic of vital importance for American women who are thinking of marrying a Muslim and converting to that faith. Should they ever relocate to their husband's country, they forfeit the considerable protection afforded by American law against the coercive, anti-woman dictates of Islam.

As for foreign-born Muslim women currently living in America, hopefully they have become informed that American law endows them with rights and protections unavailable to women under an Islamic government.

Does Islam really discriminate against women? Consider the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is a civil-rights organization that advocates prominently on behalf of Muslims. Because of the shooting of the unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, CAIR issued a call for imams (preachers) to give sermons on racial equality in American mosques. That's commendable enough, though not surprising since so many immigrant Muslims are non-white.

Since CAIR weighed in on Ferguson, did it also respond to the NFL domestic violence scandal by asking imams to preach against wife-beating? No indeed, nor could it have done so, since many Muslims regard Islam as giving men explicit permission to beat their wives.

In the Koran, verse 4:34 tells how a husband who is at his wits' end over his wife's behavior may bring her back into line. Notice that, in a case of marital strife, the wife is automatically perceived as the problem, and the husband is authorized to exert discipline.

Husbands in such a dilemma are instructed by the Koran to take three steps of increasing pressure. First, try talking some sense into her. Second, stop having sex with her. Third, "daraba". This is the root of an Arabic word, kind of like "pound" or "drive" in English, which can mean anything from make a point verbally to someone, to have sex with someone, to hit someone.

Some Islamic scholars are adamant that a Muslim man may never under any circumstance hit his wives (he's allowed up to four). But the opposite view is very widely held, which is logical. Daraba in this usage wouldn't mean make a point, because that's what the husband did in step one. And it wouldn't mean have sex, because that's what he stopped doing in step two. So, for many Muslims, daraba as step three means to hit. They only debate how much force is allowed.

A Muslim woman better hope that her husband subscribes to the gentlest interpretation of daraba. Either that, or she better be living in America, where the law of the land trumps Islam.

Oklahoma State Sen. John Bennett caused a stir when he called Islam a cancer that must be cut out of America. I disagree. It is really Muslims residing in America who must cut out the cancer, the cancer of coercion, from their religion. They must speak up. They must repudiate those elements of Islam that are irreconcilable to American law. It's not merely a question of denouncing the beheading of innocent journalists. It's everything in Islam that makes an individual feel divinely empowered to judge and punish others - husbands over wives, the faithful over apostates.

Unless that repudiation is voluntarily, publicly, consistently forthcoming, then dialog with Muslims is out of the question. America is the land of the free.


For your reference, here is a link to three parallel English translations of the Qu'ran. Sura 4 contains the verse Pendleton mentions above.

Pendleton's caution to American women considering marrying a Muslim, converting, and moving back to the husband's country brings to mind the story of Betty Mahmoody and six-year-old daughter Mahtob, whose escape from revolutionary Iran was recounted in the 1991 movie "Not without My Daughter." That link connects to the "Reel Faces" website, which compares films to the true stories behind them.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 30, 2014 8:23 AM.

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