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Ten Questions for the Muslim Next Door
December 5, 2008
The November/December 2008 issue of Stanford University's alumni magazine features a story about Stanford grad and author Sumbul Ali-Karamali. She has just published her first book, a guide to Islam that she wrote in part because bookstores only carried "dry textbooks," "the occasional slim volume of Sufi poetry," and—after 9/11—"tomes on terrorism and the 'clash of civilizations.'"
Her book, The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil thing, is in part an effort to avert a "clash of ignorances" because the "Western perception of Islam has become an evil caricature of reality." As she writes, "moderate Muslims try to chip away a great wall of media misinformation."
The book aims to "clear away the misconceptions about Islam," explaining why these "tall tales" continue to "flourish" and "persist."
Ali-Karamali seems well suited to write such a book. A Muslim of Indian descent, she has a law degree from the University of California, Davis in addition to her undergraduate degree from Stanford, and a graduate degree in Islamic law from the University of London. Yet she's all-American: she grew up in California, she's married, she's a mother, and she practiced corporate law in San Francisco.
The book has received praise from some big names.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Professor of Islamic Law at the UCLA School of Law, calls it "one of the best three books published on the Islamic faith in the English language since the tragedy of 9/11." It's "refreshing in its honesty" and "consistently reliable." (A web site run by El Fadl's "Students, Supporters, and Friends" describes him as "the most important intellectual in Islam and Islamic law today." Among other honors, he was "appointed by President George W. Bush as a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.")
Reza Aslan, the "internationally acclaimed" author of No God but God and guest on the Jon Stewart show, calls her "beautiful book" a "corrective" against the "misinformation about Islam" that "most Americans are bombarded with."
According to Dr. Carole Hillenbrand, Professor of Islamic History at the University of Edinburgh, The Muslim Next Door is "refreshingly frank."
The book's back cover asks, "What if you could sit down at a kitchen table with an American Muslim mom and ask anything you wanted about her faith and religious practice?" In the book's acknowledgments, she writes: "And to everyone who ever asked me a well-intentioned question about Islam: this book is a result of your desire to cross cultures."
I am very glad that Ms. Ali-Karamali is open to well-intentioned questions.
Because after reading the book, I still have a few.
Ten, in fact.
I hope she'll answer them.
Muhammad's Wife Aisha
Ali-Karamali writes that Aisha (Aysha) was "the one virgin Muhammad married... She was contracted to the Prophet at a young age, given variously as somewhere between nine to twelve years. However, the marriage was a formality and unconsummated until she was well past puberty. The sources variously cite her as somewhere between twelve and sixteen..." (p. 143, emphasis added)
Ali-Karamali writes, "Aysha's youth seems to have apparently appalled some non-Muslims, much to my surprise," and goes on to explain that it is "unreasonable to be shocked" because it was "consummated only after she was past puberty." In the seventh century, "puberty meant adulthood."
But Al-Tabari, described by Ali-Karamali herself as an "early Muslim scholar" and a "highly respected luminar[y] in Islam," quotes Aisha as having said, "The Messenger of God married me when I was seven; my marriage was consummated when I was nine." (emphasis added)
Consider also the writings of al-Bukhari, whose Sahih Al-Bukhari is "universally acknowledged as the most authentic book after the Qur'an" according to an article at IslamOnline, a web site co-founded by Yusuf al-Qaradawi. (Ali-Karamali calls Qaradawi a "leading Muslim scholar." (p. 220))
Bukhari writes, "the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old." (emphasis added)
Also according to Bukhari, Aisha herself said:
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's Blessing and a good luck." Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah's Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (emphasis added)And from Bukhari once more, Aisha also said:
I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for 'Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fateh-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13)(Note that the parenthesized and emphasized comment is from Fateh-al-Bari (Fath al-Bari), the "most celebrated" commentary on Bukhari's book.)
In June of this year, a Saudi "Marriage Officiant" was interviewed on Lebanese television: "The Prophet Muhammad is the model we follow. He took 'Aisha to be his wife when she was six, but he had sex with her only when she was nine.'" His interviewer did not contest this statement. The transcript is here and the video is here.
Similarly, Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-'Ubeidi spoke on Iraqi television in March and defended Muhammad for having sex with a nine-year-old:
Many criminals, the enemies of Islam, ask: "How could the Prophet Muhammad, at 52 years of age, marry 'Aisha when she was only 8 years old, and consummate the marriage when she was 9 years old?" I say to them: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Why do you permit your young girls to fornicate? They consider it one of their liberties.To be sure, Aisha's age at the time of marriage and consummation is today a sensitive—and in some circles, contested—topic.
Ali-Karamali writes, "Muslims revere Muhammad as the embodiment of goodness and human perfection." (p. 34) Muhammad is "the person whose behavior every Muslim strives to emulate." (p. 59, emphasis added) As Ibrahim Hooper (spokesman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) once wrote, "As Muslims, we need to ... ask ourselves, 'What would the Prophet Muhammad do?'"
Some Muslims question the accuracy of Bukhari's above-mentioned hadith (traditions) and/or cite other hadith that suggest different ages. Even so, as Hwaa Irfan wrote in 2004 on Qaradawi's IslamOnline site, such an argument is a "challenge" to the "true records that are referred to by Muslims for guidance," writing that "one of the foremost records depended upon is the collection of hadiths of Prophet Muhammad in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari." Irfan then proceeds to cite yet two more examples from Bukhari (beyond the three mentioned above) stating that Aisha was nine at the age of consummation.
Here is my first question for Ms. Ali-Karamali:
1. According to many Islamic scholars past and present—including a scholar you mention and praise in your book, Aisha's marriage was consummated at the age of nine. Why did you write that "the sources variously cite her as somewhere between twelve and sixteen"?
The Definition of the Word "Islam"
Ali-Karamali writes, "Islam has two meanings in Arabic: 'submission' and 'peace'." (p. 33) The first definition is not in doubt. But according to the Muslim Student Association at USC, defining Islam as "peace" is number one on their list of Ten Misconceptions About Islam:
Misconception 1: Islam is 'the religion of peace' because: the Arabic word Islam is derived from the Arabic word "Al-Salaam" which means peace.The explanation:
It might seem strange to think of this as a misconception, but in fact it is. The root word of Islam is "al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true... A secondary root of Islam may be "Al-Salaam" (peace), however the text of the Qur'an makes it clear that Allah has clearly intended the focus of this way of life to be submission to Him.As further evidence, consider the book War and Peace in the Law of Islam by Majid Khadduri. Ali-Karamali cites this book as a reference nine times in her chapter titled "Jihad and Fundamentalism." Khadduri writes simply that Islam "means 'surrender' or 'submission' to Allah's will." No mention of "peace." (He also happens to describe Islam as a "conquering nation with world domination as its ultimate aim," but that's another matter.)
The Qur'an itself refers to the word "Islam" several times, including verses 2.132, 2.133, 2.136, 2.208, 3.85, 3.102, 43.69, and 46.15. In English versions of the Qur'an, sometimes the word is translated into English, and sometimes it's left as "Islam." Yet every time it is translated, it's translated into some form of "submission" or "surrender", even in the Muhammad Asad translation that Ali-Karamali quotes from.
Hence the next question for Ms. Ali-Karamali:
2. Which Islamic or Arabic scholars have translated the word "Islam" as "peace"?
Ali-Karamali mentions Timothy McVeigh on ten different pages of her book. She argues that "connecting jihad with deplorable crimes like September 11th makes no more sense than connecting the Christian doctrine of holy war with Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building." (p.186) She writes that McVeigh "bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building pursuant to the dictates of his Christian fundamentalist beliefs." (p. 105)
But in a CNN interview in 2001, Lou Michel, co-author of American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, said "McVeigh is agnostic. He doesn't believe in God, but he won't rule out the possibility." Michel and co-author Dan Herbeck write that McVeigh would tell friends, "Science is my religion." Michel also said that McVeigh "didn't accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, so far as I know."
The UK Guardian reported that McVeigh wrote to the Buffalo News saying he was an "agnostic."
In a letter McVeigh wrote to Fox News on April 6, 2001, he begins by writing, "I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City." He writes that the bombing was a "counter attack, for the cumulative raids ... that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years." He sought to "correct the abuse of power we were seeing in federal actions against citizens." But nowhere does he mention Christianity or Christian beliefs.
(As one example of contrast, Osama bin Laden's 1996 Declaration of War against America mentions "Allah" over 100 times and cites 16 verses of the Qur'an. And another: during the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai just last week, "dozens of eyewitness accounts by local Indians said the gunmen shouted 'Allah Akbar' from the Jewish center.")
If McVeigh killed 168 innocents "pursuant to the dictates" of his Christian beliefs, surely there must exist such evidence in his words or writings.
3. When and where did Timothy McVeigh explain or suggest that "Christian fundamentalist beliefs" motivated the Oklahoma bombing?
The Number of American Muslims
Ali-Karamali writes, without citation, that American Muslims constitute "only 3 percent of the American population." (p. 32)
The US population surpassed 300 million in 2006. Three percent would mean 9 million American Muslims.
In 2007, the Pew Research Center, a "non-partisan 'fact tank'" that "does not take positions on policy issues," completed a vast study of Muslim Americans. According to their report:
The methodological approach employed was the most comprehensive ever used to study Muslim Americans. Nearly 60,000 respondents were interviewed to find a representative sample of Muslims. Interviews were conducted in Arabic, Urdu, and Farsi, as well as English.Their findings? "The Pew Muslim American study estimates that Muslims constitute 0.6% of the US adult population." By estimating the under-18 population at 850,000, they estimate a "total of 2.35 million Muslims nationwide." That's less than 1% of the US population.
There are other documented estimates.
A 2004 PBS report cited demographer David B. Barrett's estimate of 4.1 million American Muslims, or 1.4% of the population. Barrett's estimate "is the source for several reference texts, including the Encyclopedia Britannica."
In 2001, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sponsored and published a report called "The Mosque in America" that "estimates a total Muslim population of 6-7 million in America." They interviewed by telephone representatives from 416 of America's 1209 mosques, asking each to report "the number of people associated in any way" with the mosque. The average response was 1629, including two mosques that "report 50,000 Muslims associated with them." (For some perspective on the likely accuracy of this figure, the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America, had 3,000 members as of 2004.) By multiplying this average of 1629 by the number of mosques, they arrive at a figure of about 2 million American Muslims associated with a mosque. And how does the report arrive at the total? Estimates of "6-7 million in America seem reasonable in light of the figure of 2 million who associate with a mosque."
Professor Ishan Bagby, currently Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, wrote the CAIR report. In a 2001 AP article, Bagby called his estimate a "guestimation." "I'm not going to hang my hat on 6 million, but I think it's reasonable in terms of guesses," Bagby said. "We need more thorough and accurate studies and more comprehensive studies. I think this is the best that we have now." (Interestingly, Professor Bagby is listed as a member of the outside advisory board for the 2007 Pew study that estimated 2.35 million.)
To provide some insight into why some Muslims might have an incentive to inflate such population figures, consider the words of CAIR's Executive Director Nihad Awad (from a Washington Post article): when "asked why his group settled on an estimate of 7 million in its press statements rather than Bagby's range of 6 million to 7 million," he "said the organization had used 6 million for six years. 'If we still used the number six,' he said, 'people would say, "Haven't we grown?"'"
And yet, even 7 million is still 20% smaller than the 9 million estimate given by Ali-Karamali, which leads to the question:
4. What is the source for your book's estimate that Muslims make up 3% of the US population? Why did you decide to use this estimate instead of those from other recent studies?
Ali-Karamali takes a strong stand against the legitimacy of suicide bombing: "suicide bombers are terrorists ..., and they are not acting within the rules of warfare in Islam." (p. 170) She continues:
Suicide is forbidden in Islam. The use of force against noncombatants is also forbidden in Islam. Moreover, terrorism, defined as the secret and clandestine use of force against civilians, is forbidden.She explains that "some groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad themselves characterize their activities as jihad." (p. 187), and then appears to take a strong stand against their tactics: "Under Islamic law, however, even groups who have legitimate grievances may not use terrorism to achieve their ends." (emphasis added)
Yet the "leading Islamic scholar" Yusuf al-Qaradawi (p. 220) has repeatedly justified suicidal Palestinian attacks against Israeli citizens. And impressively, he somehow manages to express this justification without contradicting Ali-Karamali at all!
- Such an attack is not "suicide" but "martyrdom" because "Allah ... has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do." Indeed:
a clear distinction has to be made here between martyrdom and suicide. Suicide is an act or instance of killing oneself intentionally out of despair, and finding no outlet except putting an end to one’s life. On the other hand, martyrdom is a heroic act of choosing to suffer death in the Cause of Allah, and that’s why it’s considered by most Muslim scholars as one of the greatest forms of Jihad.
- Similarly, in a posting on Qaradawi's IslamOnline web site, we learn that the Islamic Fiqh Council of the international Organization of the Islamic Conference "stresses that martyr operations are a form of jihad, and carrying out those operations is a legitimate right that has nothing to do with suicide or terrorism." (emphasis added)
- Qaradawi has said that Israeli victims are neither noncombatants nor civilians. He told the BBC: "An Israeli woman is not like women in our societies, because she is a soldier." He has also said, "Israeli society was completely military in its make-up and did not include any civilians." (emphasis added)
He said hundreds of other Islamic scholars are of the same opinion. In this respect, he is very much in tune with what the vast majority of people in the Arab world believe.
Given that the man Ali-Karamali calls a "leading Muslim scholar" uses an alternative dictionary—where suicide is "martyrdom," where terrorism is "jihad," and where innocent civilians are "military," forgive me for seeking clarification from her:
5. Do you condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization? How do you propose convincing Sheikh al-Qaradawi, the "hundreds of scholars" that agree with him, and all of his followers that the tactics of Hamas violate Islamic law?
Bin Laden: Muslim?
A leading Muslim scholar, Yusef al-Qaradawi, issued a fatwa immediately after the attacks, declaring that Osama bin Laden could not call himself a Muslim. (p. 220)This would in fact be a big deal. In 2005, Judea Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (executed by al-Qaeda), criticized an American "fatwa" against terrorism for not being strong enough:
A fatwa that specifically condemned Bin Laden, that invoked the strongest punishments available under Muslim law, that clarified the meaning of terrorism, and that singled out for condemnation religious figures who support violence—those would be the words the entire world needs to hear.
Unfortunately, on Qaradawi's IslamOnline web site, the fatwa makes no mention of bin Laden. An English press release from September 14 reads: "Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a world renowned Muslim scholar, was among the first to issue a fatwa (religious degree) denouncing the actions of terrorists, regardless of their faith and nationalities." But nothing about bin Laden.
Even in the automatically-translated version of the longer Arabic article, there is no mention of Osama bin Laden.
Further, just a few days later, on September 16, Qaradawi appeared on his weekly Al-Jazeera television program, Shari'a and Life and said, "I ... think that Osama bin Laden no longer has the means to carry out something like this."
In October 2001, a question in the "Ask the Scholar" section of Qaradawi's web site asked if bin Laden is a terrorist. Dr. Ali Jum ah Muhammad, Mufti of Egypt and holder of a PhD in Islamic Jurisprudence from Al-Azhar, responded:
To say that Ibn Laden and his group are terrorists is something related to personal judgment rather than a fatwa. It is better that such matter be left for an impartial judiciary to decide, by probing into evidence and addressing related issues that will help it reach final decisions, instead of playing tricks with people’s minds and avoid dealing with the issue extensively.
This past March, almost seven years later, Qaradawi echoed the same sentiments—despite the fact that bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks in 2004:
"I ask Osama bin Laden to surrender and to hand himself over to an international tribunal in order to respond to the charge that he ordered the attacks of September 11," said al-Qaradawi in an interview with the Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
According to the well-known Muslim scholar, it is still not established "in a definitive way by the American secret services in their reports," of bin Laden's responsibility in the attacks that occurred in New York and Washington in 2001.So apparently Qaradawi issued a ruling that Osama bin Laden could not call himself a Muslim just two days after the 9/11 attacks; he removed any bin Laden references from the condemnations on his web site; and he then proceeded to spend six and a half years questioning whether bin Laden is behind 9/11, even after bin Laden himself claimed responsibility.
Perhaps the Muslim next door can help with this mystery:
6. Could you provide the text of Qaradawi's fatwa that declared "Osama bin Laden could not call himself a Muslim"? Why do you think Qaradawi has since refused to acknowledge bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11?
Consider the following two statements:
- "Clitoridectomy is a loathsome procedure unequivocally antithetical to the principles of Islam."
- "Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called khufaad)."
The other is from Reliance of the Traveller, a manual of Islamic law certified in 1991 by Al-Azhar University as a reliable guide to the "practice and faith of orthodox Sunni Islam." (Ali-Karamali calls Al-Azhar "one of the great centers for Islamic studies." (p. 115)).
As inconvenient as it may be, #1 is from the Muslim Next Door.
The other one, from Reliance of the Traveller, is referenced here and here.
As Ali-Karamali points out, Egyptian Islamic clerics banned female circumcision in 2007. This is of course good news, but one can't help but ask: if it's "unequivocally antithetical to the principles of Islam," what took them so long?
In fact, the ban in Egypt is a product of years of debate and international pressure, and was only (finally) instituted after a 12-year-old girl died undergoing the procedure—a little tidbit Ms. Ali-Karamali doesn't mention.
The Reliance of the Traveller isn't the only Islamic source to decree female circumcision as part of Islam. Here are a few more:
- In 2003, Dr. Munir Muhammad Fawzy, a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics at 'Ein Shams University Medical School in Egypt, was quoted in the weekly Al-Haqiqa: "The Prophet [Muhammad] commanded women to perform circumcision using the expression, 'Perform circumcision for girls.'"
- Dr. Abu Leila, a lecturer at Al-Azhar (that "great center for Islamic studies") said in 2003: "The Prophet [Muhammad] reaffirmed this custom, and we inherited it as Muslims..."
- In 2000, the ever-present and "leading Islamic scholar" Sheikh al-Qaradawi ruled in a fatwa on the issue, "Anyone who thinks that circumcision is the best way to protect his daughters should do it ... I support this, particularly in the period in which we live."
Circumcision is obligatory for men, and it is an honour for women, but it is not obligatory for them. This is the opinion of many scholars. (Imam) Ahmad said: For men it is more strictly required, but for women it is less strictly required.The response goes on to quote Muhammad as having said, "Circumcision is a Sunnah for men, and an honour for women," though "there is some debate" as to this statement's authenticity.
The page showing this question and answer is actually an image of the Mosque's FAQ page as it existed on October 1, 2008.
It has since been removed.
Because the Mosque leaders finally realized that female circumcision is indeed "unequivocally antithetical to the principles of Islam"?
Or perhaps because the Toronto Star exposed this teaching (and many others) in November 2008?
Ali-Karamali laments, "the popular media in the West still often portrays this practice as Islamic."
One wonders why.
Here's one more question for Ms. Ali-Karamali:
7. In light of (a) Yusuf al-Qaradawi's personal support of female circumcision, (b) the statement from an Al-Azhar lecturer that Muhammad "reaffirmed this custom," and (c) Ibn Qudamah's judgment that female circumcision is an "honour for women," do you still claim female circumcision is "unequivocally antithetical to the principles of Islam"?
As the United Nations Population Fund explains,
Throughout the world, perhaps as many as 5,000 women and girls a year are murdered by members of their own families, many of them for the "dishonour" of having been raped, often as not by a member of their own extended family.
Honor killings are "associated with the community's or the family's demand for sexual chastity and virginity."
Ali-Karamali tackles the subject head-on: "Honor killings are not Islamic... Islam does not require, sanction, or encourage honor killings." (p. 160)
But if this is the case, why does Reliance of the Traveller, certified in 1991 by Al-Azhar as a guide that "conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community," state "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right," but "not subject to retaliation" is "a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring"?
In line with this, consider Article 340 of the Jordanian penal code as of 1999:
(a) He who discovers his wife, or one of his maharim [female relatives of such a degree of consanguinity as precludes marriage], while committing adultery with another man and kills, wounds, or injures one or both of them, is exempt from any penalty; (b) He who discovers his wife, or one of his sisters or female relatives, with another in an illegitimate bed, and kills, wounds, or injures [one or both of them] benefits from a reduction of penalty. (emphasis added)
Commendably, according to MEMRI, "in mid-1999, Jordanian human-rights activists managed to enlist the Jordanian crown and government to assist its campaign to win tougher penalties for honor-murderers." But attempts to abolish or amend Article 340 "met with fierce resistance from the public and its leaders alike":
In the heat of the Jordanian debate, this parliamentary coalition of several Islamist groups, most of whom affiliate with the Muslim Brethren, issued a fatwa that declared honor-killings are seen as favorable by Islam; male relatives should punish their female relatives and not leave this duty to the state. Ibrahim Zayd al-Kaylani, head of the Jordanian Islamic Action Front (IAF)'s Ifta ' committee, said that a man who restrains himself from committing an honor killing, leaving this unpleasant burden to the government, "negates the values of virility advocated by Islam." Article 340, Kaylani added, is based on "the Islamic principle that allows a Muslim to defend his honor, property, and blood." Muhammad ‘Uwayda, dean of Zarqa University's Shari‘a College and a member of the lower house, stated that while the Shari‘a does prohibit individuals from taking the law into their own hands, "cases where a man catches his wife committing adultery are the exception." The IAF issued a fatwa to the effect that "canceling Article 340 would contradict the Shari‘a." (emphasis added)
The Women's International Network reported on the same fatwa (religious ruling); on the same day that thousands of protesters denounced Article 340 outside the Jordanian Parliament,
The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a fatwa ... stating that 'cancelling Article 340 contradicts Islamic Sharia.'The Muslim Brotherhood, of course, is no fringe group. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whom Ali-Karamali calls a "leading Muslim scholar," is "one of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leaders in the world." The Muslim American Society, which claims to be "America's Largest Muslim Grassroots Organization," was founded by Muslim Brotherhood leaders in America and according to the Chicago Tribune is simply the operating name for the Muslim Brotherhood in the USA.
Nonetheless, in December, 2001, minor amendments were made to Article 340. A guilty man would receive only a "reduction of penalty" instead of full exemption from penalty, and women who find and kill their husbands for committing adultery would receive the same "benefit." Unfortunately, over the next year, the amendments appeared "to have made little difference": there were more than 20 honor killings and killers received "lenient sentences—not exceeding one year." In 2006, 15 - 20 Jordanian women were killed by relatives.
Islam's influence on honor killings extends beyond Jordan. Just this year in Iraq, 17-year-old Rand Abel-Qader was murdered by her father. He did it, he proclaimed to his neighbors, to "cleanse his honour" because she worked alongside (and had been seen "conversing intimately") with a British soldier.
According to Rand's mother, he used his feet to press down on her throat until she suffocated, at which point he called for a knife and began to stab her.
Rand's mother said, "I screamed and called out for her two brothers so they could get their father away from her. But when he told them the reason, instead of saving her they helped him end her life."
The father was arrested, but, according to Rand's mother, "he was released two hours later because it was an 'honour killing'. And, unfortunately, that is something to be proud of for any Iraqi man."
Why exactly was he released?
At the police station where the father was held Sergeant Ali Jabbar told The Observer last week: "Not much can be done when we have an 'honour killing' case. You are in a Muslim society and women should live under religious laws." (emphasis added)
Hence the eighth question for Ms. Ali-Karamali:
8. If Islam does not sanction honor killings, why would Al-Azhar (that "great center for Islamic studies") certify a manual of Islamic law that rules killing one's offspring is not subject to retaliation—and why would any mainstream Islamic group issue a religious ruling that harsher penalties for honor killings would "contradict the Shari'a"?
Bin Laden's Motivations
... although people like Osama bin Laden use religious symbolism and terminology to legitimize their attacks, their purpose is not to wage war against all non-Muslims. I hear frequently the view that bin Laden fights the U.S. because we're a country of Jews and Christians. This is incorrect. Bin Laden does not oppose the U.S. because it is a non-Muslim country ... but because he sees the U.S. as responsible for the turmoil in some of the Islamic world today. (p.192, emphasis added)Yet an essay authorized (or perhaps even written) by Osama bin Laden himself says otherwise:
... what the debate truly revolves around ... is the word of the Messenger [Muhammad] as has been relayed by Ahmad and others from Ibn Omar: "I have been sent in the final hours with the sword, so that none is worshipped but Allah alone, partnerless. My provision has been provided under the shadow of my spear, and humiliation and contempt is upon whoever opposes my command. Whoever imitates a people is of them." And his saying in the two authentic [accounts of Bukhari and Muslim] as relayed by Ibn Omar: "I have been commanded to battle mankind until they declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. [Let them] uphold prayer and render alms; if they do so, they safeguard their blood and possessions from me, except for Islam's due, and their fate is with Allah."The essay was originally published in Arabic for a Saudi audience, and hence—unlike most of the propaganda al-Qaeda has produced over the years—was not intended for American non-Muslim eyes. It was translated for the first time by Raymond Ibrahim and published in his book, The Al-Qaeda Reader. A scanned version of the excerpt begins here and ends here.
He also said, per Berida as found in Muslim and Ahmad: "Whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed someone as leader of an army or detachment, he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and be good to the Muslims with him. Then he would say: 'Attack in the name of Allah and in the path of Allah do battle with whoever rejects Allah. Attack!—but do not embezzle [the spoils], nor behave treacherously, nor mutilate [the dead], nor kill the children. If you happen upon your idolatrous enemies, call them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, accept it and stay yourself from them.  Call them to Islam: If they respond [i.e., convert], accept this and cease fighting them...  If they refuse to accept Islam, demand of them the jizya [poll tax]: If they respond, accept it and cease fighting them.  But if they refuse, seek the aid of Allah and fight them."
Thus our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue—one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice—and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword—for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die... Are these options a part of the faith or not? (emphasis added)
Beyond serving as a complete contradiction to Ali-Karamali's claim regarding bin Laden's motivations, this excerpt sheds light on several additional arguments that Ali-Karamali makes:
Firstly, Osama bin Laden goes well beyond "religious symbolism and terminology." In fact, his entire argument here is based on three hadith [sayings of Muhammad] from authentic Islamic sources. These three hadith are easily verifiable: Ahmad 2.50/Abu Dawud 4.314, Sahih Muslim 1.33, and Sahih Muslim 19.4294.
Secondly, despite Ali-Karamali's repeated assurances that Muhammad "never entered into a war that was not defensive" (p. 55), these hadith demonstrate Muhammad's offensive intentions toward fighting all of mankind—and certainly are used by al-Qaeda and bin Laden to argue to their audience that they are simply living up to the authentic requirements of their Islamic faith. (Could this be the reason scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi are so reluctant to explicitly condemn or "excommunicate" Osama bin Laden?)
Finally, Ali-Karamali writes that the purpose of the Qur'an's fighting verses,
contrary to media impressions, was not to command Muslims to unconditionally go find themselves some unbelievers and kill them if they did not immediately convert at sword-point. If it had been ... Muhammad would have attacked the various non-Muslim peoples living around him and killed them for the sole reason that they were unbelievers. That is something he never did. (p.174)
This is a very interesting statement. Twice, in just two sentences, Ali-Karamali refutes the claim that Islam calls for unbelievers to convert or be killed.
But as the hadith (and bin Laden) explicitly call out above, Muhammad did not call Muslims to kill unbelievers "if they did not immediately convert." He did not kill non-Muslims "for the sole reason that they were unbelievers." There was—and always has been in Islam—the critical third option for unbelievers to submit to Islam's authority in body if not in spirit.
Straw man, Ms. Ali-Karamali?
Indeed, the third choice for non-Muslims under Islamic rule (other than conversion or death) was to become dhimmis. Dhimmis are second-class citizens in Islamic society, forced to pay an additional tax known as the jizya to their Muslim rulers and forced to obey a wide range of humiliating rules to feel "subdued." All of this is encapsulated in a single Qur'anic verse, 9.29—for Muslims, the literal word of God:
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 [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Ali-Karamali writes later that non-Muslims "paid the jizya in return for retention of their religion and culture, exemption from military duty, and protection from the state against aggressors." (p. 179) No mention of the humiliating and oppressive rules that went along with the tax to make them feel "subdued"; I'll save that topic for my final question.
But first, let's ask Ms. Ali-Karamali about bin Laden and his objectives:
9. Given al-Qaeda's statement that their conflict with the West "ultimately revolve[s] around one issue"—that Islam forces people "by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually," do you still believe that bin Laden opposes the US only because it's "responsible for the turmoil in some of the Islamic world today"?
Christians and Jews Under Islam
As mentioned above, Islam allowed non-Muslims to keep their religion while submitting to Islamic rule.
An often-quoted Qur'anic verse states "there should be no compulsion in religion"; Ali-Karamali cites it as well. (p. 193)
While there are many disagreements about the context of this verse, the Islamic scholar Tabari (a "highly respected luminary" according to Ali-Karamali) explained that Jews and Christians "are not to be compelled to enter Islam if they submit to paying the jizyah."
Ali-Karamali writes that "the Qur'an did not mandate" the jizya "as a necessarily theological practice." (p. 194) And yet, verse 9.29 of the Qur'an seems to suggest otherwise:
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 [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (emphasis added)(Curiously, Ali-Karamali does not mention this verse in her discussion of the Qur'an's "fighting verses.")
Regardless, while Ali-Karamali concedes the jizya as a price for tolerance of non-Muslims under Islamic rule, she ignores the final element of verse 9.29: "and feel themselves subdued."
Ibn Kathir, described on Qaradawi's web site as a "great scholar," offers his perspective on this verse:
- Paying the jizya is a sign of "disgrace," paid "in defeat and subservience."
- The dhimmis (Jews and Christians under Islamic rule) should feel "disgraced, humiliated, and belittled;" Muslims "are not allowed to honor" them. They are "miserable, disgraced, and humiliated."
For Ali-Karamali, the second caliph Umar's treatment of Christians provides evidence of Islamic tolerance:
...when the second caliph of Islam, Umar, conquered Jerusalem in 638, the Muslims left Christians free to practice Christianity and visit the holy places. (p. 195, emphasis added)The "famous exegete" Ibn Kathir, again in his commentary of verse 9.29, gives a bit more detail surrounding the second caliph's treatment of Christians:
'Umar bin Al-Khattab ... demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation, and disgrace. (emphasis added)According to Ibn Kathir, the Christians agreed to many of Umar's conditions, including:
- Not to build new churches
- Not to restore existing churches
- Not to publicly practice Christianity
- Not to invite anyone to Christianity
- Not to sound their church bells
- To "move from the places we sit" if Muslims "choose to sit in them"
If we break any of these promises ... you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.
As for the Jews, Ali-Karamali writes that a "big myth in the making is the idea that Jews and Muslims have always been deep ... enemies." (p. 230) She continues, "It is a myth. Muslim Spain is just one example of how Jews and Muslims (and Christians, as well) lived in a multicultural, multireligious society..."
Unfortunately, Islamic oppression of dhimmi Jews was still alive and well in Muslim Spain.
Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher, was born in 1135 in Muslim Spain. Fouad Ajami, Professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, explained that Maimonides fled Spain because the Muslim rulers "made the life of Spain's Jews ... utter hell."
Maimonides himself wrote:
... God has hurled us in the midst of this people, the Arabs, who have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us, as Scripture has forewarned us, 'Our enemies themselves shall judge us' (Deuteronomy 32:31). Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase and hate us as much as they. (emphasis added)Ali-Karamali argues that the jizya tax "according to the modern view, is not an Islamic requirement for today's world, where no differences at all should be made on the basis of religion." (p. 194)
Unfortunately, not all Muslims agree.
As noted by Andrew Bostom, the December 23-26, 2005 edition of the Wall Street Journal included an interview with Hassam El-Masalmeh, a Hamas leader from Bethlehem, who said this of the jizya for non-Muslims:
We in Hamas intend to implement this tax someday. We say it openly—we welcome everyone to Palestine but only if they agree to live under our rules.As Bostom writes, El-Masalmeh wasn't the first Palestinian leader to speak publicly about bringing back the jizya. Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Madhi conveyed a similar message during a sermon broadcast live on Palestinian Authority Television in 2001:
We welcome, as we did in the past, any Jew who wants to live in this land as a Dhimmi, just as the Jews have lived in our countries, as Dhimmis, and have earned appreciation, and some of them have even reached the positions of counselor or minister here and there. We welcome the Jews to live as Dhimmis, but the rule in this land and in all the Muslim countries must be the rule of Allah.With that, it's time for the last question for Ms. Ali-Karamali:
10. How do you reconcile the Qur'anic injunctions to make non-Muslims "feel subdued"—and, according to the Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir, "miserable," "disgraced," "humiliated," "degraded," and "belittled"—with your book's point that the "Qur'an forbids discourtesy to Jews and Christians"?
At the end of her book, Ali-Karamali writes that "it is time for genuine understanding and dialogue," with a wish that "we can separate the daily distortions from the reality."
Hopefully, in that spirit, she will be willing to answer the ten questions presented here.
But the questions aren't just for her.
Eight world-renowned experts on Islam have praised The Muslim Next Door for its "honesty" and for being "refreshingly frank," "consistently reliable," "comprehensive," and "intelligent."
I invite them to respond as well:
- Dr. John Esposito
- Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl
- Dr. Eboo Patel
- Dr. Chibli Mallat
- Reza Aslan
- Dr. Ali Asani
- Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
- Dr. Carole Hillenbrand
January 31, 2012:
- Robert Spencer wrote about these questions at JihadWatch.
- Ms. Ali-Karamali and seven of the eight experts mentioned above have now been explicitly invited via email to address these questions; no one has responded so far.
- Ms. Ali-Karamali was invited to speak at a Palo Alto, CA public high school this past Friday.
- Ms. Ali-Karamali is scheduled to speak at Kepler's Book Store in Menlo Park, CA on Tuesday, February 10. Perhaps she'll be taking questions?
- One reader had this reaction to these questions: "To equate all expressions of Islam with bin Laden, Hamas, and other terrorist arms of fundamentalism is the same brand of blood libel that led to the slaughter of my own people under another brand of fanatacism." Yet nowhere above do I write anything even close to this. In fact, some courageous Muslim reformers have been working very hard to advocate "expressions of Islam" that are truthful and completely peaceful: Tawfik Hamid, the late Tashbih Sayyed, and Khalim Massoud, to name a few.
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|Anonymous||Try other sources for Islam||0||Jun 11 2012, 9:24 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Jun 11 2012, 9:24 PM EDT Watch
I think it is very critical to understand Islam but i consider it more effective if one look into other resources other than Muslim writer who supposed to be writing positively about his or her religion. I would recommend checking out another book with the same title The Muslim Next Door by Dr. Alfonse Javed www.themuslimnextdoor.info
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|Anonymous||The Muslim Next Door by Dr. Alfonse Javed||0||Mar 26 2012, 3:19 AM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Mar 26 2012, 3:19 AM EDT Watch
It is very interesting that Ali-Karamali has simply said what most of the western Muslims have been saying since 9/11. However I have came across a new book with the same title but different author. The author was born and raised in Pakistan same culture as Ali-Karamali comes from, he was educated in Pakistan (Masters in Science and Masters in Business Administration) and in the US he started his education all over again from undergraduate degree-PhD in leadership from Liberty University, VA. themuslimnextdoor.info
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|Anonymous||Speaking Truth||0||Nov 24 2011, 11:56 PM EST by Anonymous|
Thread started: Nov 24 2011, 11:56 PM EST Watch
First of all, western liberals are trying more and more ways to attack and alienate Islam and Muslims so you cannot say at a ll they are "welcoming" radical Islam. And what constitutes "radical" anyway? The fact that I *chose* to obey the teachings and want to pray 5 times a day?
A response to "Anonymous":
However, when they (western liberals- which can also be Muslims btw) are open-minded, they realize that Islam and Muslims live a very logical way of life- a natural state of listening or opening their minds to God's commandments.
FYI, no one threatened the christmas trees in schools. Everyone actually finds them cute and pretty.
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