Take Sides in Islam's War of Ideas

Global Challenges Counter-extremism

Take Sides in Islam's War of Ideas

Posted on: 29th July 2014
Ed Husain
Former senior adviser

I am a Muslim and a father of two daughters - nothing hits me deeper in the gut than seeing a defenceless woman being attacked by a mob. In the last two weeks, the ISIS 'caliphate' stoned two women to death separately in the span of 24 hours. And they did so in the name of my religion.

One woman was in her thirties, and another was 26-years-old. Their names are withheld, but their alleged is crime is not. The younger woman's husband claimed that she was not a virgin when they married. Of diminished importance to us, but not to the mind-set of tribal men who value a woman's honour by chastity.

This happened in Syria's northern province of Raqqa. And mark my words, this will happen again and again for as long as the warlords rule over territory straddling Syria and Iraq. Their wretched 'Islamic state' is defined by their ability to carry out such evil acts. For them, they are implementing Islam's penal code, they are applying the sharia as state law. That is, for them, the caliphate.

The expulsion of Christians from Mosul, levying a special tax on those who wish to remain, the killing of Shia Muslims, the destruction of age-old Sufi shrines are all linked directly to their rigid, literalist, and shallow understanding of sharia.

They seek to cover their criminal actions with the veil of religion, but we must not let them. Bullies that they are, they attack the most vulnerable in society – women, religious minorities, even the dead. They seek to cover their criminal actions with the veil of religion, but we must not let them. We cannot shy away from exposing these barbarians and mutter at our breakfast tables, "Oh well, that's just their religion."

The Quran does not prescribe stoning anybody for anything

The Quran does not prescribe this form of punishment. There is no reference to stoning anybody for anything in the Quran. Known as al-Rajm, it was taken by early Muslims from Jewish practices of the time. Before the time of the Prophet Mohamed, we know that Jesus was approached by the Pharisees (a Jewish sect) to pass a verdict on an adulteress. They asked, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law of Moses we are commanded to stone such women. So what do you say?" Jesus' famous response that "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Muslim extremists are following the Pharisees, while most Muslims around the globe are with Jesus.

There are 56 Muslim majority nations today. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and ISIS have adopted a Pharisaic approach, while the vast majority of the world's Muslims have firmly rejected such punishments. This fact is most important because it illustrates a global consensus (or ijma in the language of the sharia) against the stoning of women. Based on this Muslim consensus or ijma, it is therefore categorically forbidden in the eyes of Islam to kill women (or men) in this manner.

The so-called 'caliphate' of ISIS has been in existence for less than a month, and they have already executed two public stonings. In contrast, the Ottoman Empire spanned the globe for almost seven hundred years. In 1680, there was one such incident of al-Rajm and the outrage and horror was such that it was subsequently forbidden for four centuries. Even in Saudi Arabia, the Ottomans forbade this inhuman practice - it was only under the current House of Saud that it was enforced.

The Quran, global Muslim consensus and several centuries of an Ottoman Muslim history all point toward modern civilization and peaceful Muslims, not the barbarity of ISIS.

Will we speak up? Will my fellow Muslims in Iraq march on Mosul? Will Syrians expel ISIS from Raqqa?

These atrocities are mere symptoms of a deeper problem: fear of female freedom in many Muslim societies. From Turkey to Indonesia there is a civil war of ideas happening within Islam and the role for women in society is at the crux of it. To be different from the West, radicals lean more towards the Pharisees than they do the Prophet Mohamed or Jesus. I want my two daughters to grow up proud as Muslim women, fully liberated, fully Muslim, and fully Western. Only when we stop muttering over our breakfast, and take a side in the battle of ideas will we begin to see an end to Pharisaic influences on one of the world's great religions.

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