Who Deserves Our Sympathy: Embarrassed Muslims or Mutilated Muslims?

July 28, 2008

Recently, the president of the UN Human Rights Council placed a ban on religious debates in their council. As a result, a discussion about stoning women, marriages for girls as young as nine, FGM (female genital mutilation) and honor killings was stifled. All of these practices are based on Islamic law and/or are considered Islamic by those Muslims who practice them. So, in the case of Islam, stifling discussion about religion means stifling discussion about human rights violations.

According to a joint statement prepared by the Association for World Education and the International Humanist and Ethical Union for the UN, 96% of Egyptian women’s genitals are mutilated despite the fact the practice of FGM was outlawed in 1997. Yet the Egyptian UN delegate was only concerned about exposing the link between Islam and FGM, not about the plight of mutilated girls and women. It seems he cares more about protecting Muslims from embarrassment than he cares about protecting Muslims from mutilation.

Similarly, the Muslim delegates seemed to be more concerned about embarrassment than about the victims of honor killings, stonings, and child marriages.

If these issues were more broadly discussed, solutions may be found. This shows that stifling free speech which may offend “religious sensibilities” has real victims, in the form of mutilated and/or dead women, and married little girls. Is it more important to protect Muslims from being embarrassed, or to protect the real victims? Remember this question the next time you read about how important it is not to offend Muslims.


Revolutionary Revision of the Hadith in Turkey?

February 28, 2008

[Update: Reports of Turkey’s revision plans may have been exaggerated.]

According to the BBC, Turkey’s “Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith….” The Hadith are oral traditions about Mohammed and his cohorts, certain collections of which are generally regarded as sacred by Muslims. Here are a few noteworthy items:

  • The Turks apparently want the Hadith to support their efforts at creating a modern, secular democracy.
  • They are claiming that in their reform, they are actually returning to an original Islam (a claim which may be subject to debate).
  • They are rejecting the doctrine of abrogation (later, violent verses of the Quran replacing the earlier, peaceful verses).
  • They want to end Islamic justification for honor killings and female genital mutilation.
  • It is theoretically possible their efforts could result in a radically reformed version of Sharia, or even an official doctrine of non-Sharia. We’ll see.
  • This is the only instance I’m aware of in which Muslims with this degree of official authority have admitted problems within Islam to this extent. This in itself is a welcome step in the right direction.

And here are some issues that are not discussed in this article:

  • Time will tell how the rest of the Muslim world will respond to this reform. Let’s not expect a sudden utopia.
  • Their reform may turn out to be a worthwhile one, we don’t know yet. However, even if it does, it is quite possible that it will be used by Islamists as taqiyya. The Islamists can say, “See! Sharia’s not so bad,” to sell the West on Sharia, and then do “bait and switch” on us. We need to stay vigilant with those pesky Islamists (or, more accurately, we need to become vigilant in the first place.)
  • From this article, it is difficult to see how their approach can neutralize the many problems in the Quran, such as the calls for Jihad, Jizya tax (extra tax on non-Muslims), and massive Jew hatred.

It is good to see a sign of progress, even if it’s too soon to break out the champagne.