Vs. ShariaFrontline February 1, 2010
Maryam Namazie — rights activist, commentator, broadcaster, and spokesperson for One Law for All — on resisting the misogynist, medieval and barbaric Islamic code. There is a world of difference between sexists and bigots who believe religion gives them the go ahead to think that gays are perverts and unveiled women whores and a state that puts those beliefs into laws, under which gays are executed and badly veiled women are fined, imprisoned or have acid thrown in their faces by Hezbollah and Basiji thugs.
Sharia. Just the word to me is like a kick in the stomach, particularly when I hear it being mentioned favourably. I know in this day and age of multiculturalism, it is not surprising to find tolerance for even the most intolerable of things, but, I still have to catch my breath when I hear the very word.
I suppose it is because I can not hear it without remembering sixteen-year-old Atefeh Rajabi hung for crimes against chastity; mother of three Maryam Ayoubi stoned to death for sex outside of marriage; Shirin Alam-Hoei who was sentenced to life in prison for enmity against God; and Neda Agha-Soltan who was shot dead at a June 2009 protest in Tehran, and whose twentieth birthday would have been on January 23, 2010.
Now, I know there are those who will say that these examples I give, or the many others we have come to know so well, are merely harsh interpretations of Sharia law — that Sharia law is misunderstood, and that it is not entirely medieval and draconian. But, one need only take a glance around the world to see the extent of its brutality.
To say it is misunderstood is merely an exercise in PR, which aims to make Sharia more palatable to a western audience and pave the way for its, at least partial, implementation in places like the United Kingdom. The Islamists have no time for such niceties when you are living under their rule.
Of course Sharia law rulings on divorce and child custody are not the same as its rulings on stoning and amputation. Yet, even in civil matters, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; she does not have the right to child custody after a prescribed age regardless of the child’s welfare. A woman has limited rights to divorce whereas men have unilateral rights to divorce. Men can marry up to four wives, and, in the Shia tradition, have as many temporary wives as they want as well. Women can not even sign their own marriage contract; a male guardian must sign it on their behalf and so on and so forth.
The misogyny behind a law that stones a woman to death, and one that denies her the right to divorce from a violent husband, is a matter of degree — the fundamentals are the same. In fact, the civil aspects of Sharia law are some of the pillars of women’s oppression and the reason why so many have fled their homes and sought refuge elsewhere.
Clearly, Sharia law is seen to be draconian because it is.
It is perceived to be misogynist, medieval and barbaric because it is.
And it is not just a question of interpretation. I have never seen an interpretation by Islamic feminists — an oxymoron in my opinion — that is suitable for the rights and freedoms worthy of twenty-first century humanity. It is only when it comes to religion in general and Islam in particular, that any nonsense can be passed as being pro people’s rights.
One example we often hear of is regarding the verse in the Quran sanctioning violence against women. The feminists say that Islam only permits violence after admonishment and confinement and as a last resort and that since men would beat their wives mercilessly at that time, this is a restriction on men to beat women more mercifully.
How thoughtful. As if that is any consolation to the woman being beaten. And as if condoning violence against women can be interpreted to be anything but. The reality is that religion and women’s rights are antithetical to and incompatible with each other. You can not defend both at the same time; you have to choose which one should and must take precedence.
Of course it is not just Islam that is such. This is true of all religions, which is why secularism and the separation of religion from the state, law and educational system as a minimum is so crucial. You can find just as much misogyny in the Bible for example. But, Christianity in political power has been pushed back by an enlightenment so the pope or this or that archbishop does not decide if one lives or dies because of what they wear, believe, say, do…
I think it is a cop-out to say that Sharia law is sacred guidance or rules for religious observation of Muslims, and, we should oppose the Islamists who seek to make it state law and not Sharia itself. But, it is already the state law in many countries — Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Aceh, a large part of Nigeria… and it is one of the tactics for the advancement of the Islamists everywhere.
In Afghanistan, it is not enough that British troops are setting up informal Sharia councils and Sharia is the law of the land, but they have even established rape laws for Shia women, which states that a woman must have sex with her husband on demand whether she wants to or not. In liberated Iraq too, a rapist can get off scot-free if he agrees to marry the woman he has just raped.
Wherever Sharia law is implemented — whether fully in Somalia or in some sections in the UK — it is the reflection of the strength and presence of the Islamists.
I am sorry but it is just not good enough to talk about Sharia as a personal matter in this day and age. Just because one wishes it to be so, does not make it such. And this is clearly not the case.
There is a world of difference between sexists and bigots who believe religion gives them the go ahead to think that gays are perverts and unveiled women whores and a state that puts those beliefs into laws, under which gays are executed and badly veiled women are fined, imprisoned or have acid thrown in their faces by Hezbollah and Basiji thugs. When this is the case, speaking of personal beliefs is at best misleading.
This of course has nothing to do with attacking Muslims. There are many Muslims — or those labelled as such — who are opposed to Sharia law. After all, they are most often than not the first victims and on the frontline of resistance. Iran is an excellent case in point where a revolutionary movement is bringing a pillar of political Islam to its knees.
Whilst people have a right to their religious beliefs or atheism, you can not limit Sharia law to a personal matter when you are living through an inquisition. Then, all of us are duty-bound to challenge it and push it back so that it does become the personal affair of adults.
As Mansoor Hekmat, the late Marxist thinker, said: “It has been proved time and time again that pushing back religiosity and religious reaction is not possible except through unequivocal defence of human values against religion. It has been proved time and time again that preventing religious barbarism does not come about through bribing it and trying to give it a human face, but, through the fight against reactionary religious beliefs and practices. What price should be paid… to realise that Islam and religion do not have a progressive, supportable faction?”♦