Oversimplifying Islam


There is nothing wrong with criticizing anything, even Islam. What is wrong is doing so without understanding.

Annette D’Amato’s letter [in the Minnesota Daily] from Monday, Oct. 22, brings to light an important point about those who criticize Islam as an ideology, religion, or otherwise: Observed Muslim conduct does not necessarily constitute the teachings of Islam. Substituting the former for the latter in one’s criticism is at its least blatantly unfair and at its worst lazy or malicious.

As a Muslim, I don’t think there is anything wrong with questioning the state of women “living under Islam,” but at least I have a proper reference point for what “living under Islam” constitutes. For the record, Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology while Islam is a way of life that addresses the human soul’s need for spiritual resolution with itself and surroundings; and the world as we know it does not contain a single nation which holistically applies Islamic rule of law.

As for what Islam actually teaches, the prophet Muhammad made clear that the soul of a woman is equal in value to a man’s; the Quran does not say that Eve alone ate from The Tree, but that both Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s suggestion; the prophet said that Paradise is located under the feet of one’s mother (not father).

Furthermore, Islamic law explicitly supports a woman’s right to marry, own wealth/ property and inherit without undue influence. Needless to say, women have equal rights to education “under Islam,” considering the first verse revealed to the prophet commands the human being to read, without any gender qualification.

Similar to nuns and many orthodox Jews, many Muslim women choose to wear clothing that covers their hair and physique from public view, as prescribed in Islam. What some cultures may do in using such rules to justify paternalistic non-Islamic traditions is certainly well beyond the scope of this article, but definitely more related with what D’Amato takes issue with.

To abstractly ask about what’s “wrong” with some aspect of life “under Islam” is a misdirected inquiry from the beginning, because in most cases used to support such criticism, there is almost never an Islamic rule of law in place.

A much better question to ask is why many countries with Muslim majorities have high rates of mistreatment of women when the prophet explicitly stated in his final sermon, for example, that men should be the protectors of women and should not transgress the latter’s God-given rights.

Then the questioner, if fair, can understand what roles disenfranchisement, illiteracy, and political dictatorship play in the perpetration of human rights abuses, as opposed to inherent Islamic values. A much more fruitful discussion can occur from this line of questioning when the critic decides to make an honest examination of the object of her criticism.

Would it be fair to ask why “living under Democracy” does not allow blacks or women equal treatment under the law? Say “no” if you want, but you’ll admit ridiculous ignorance of Title IX and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among myriad other points of history and legislation. In fact, the degree to which Christianity was used to hold back these two groups is well-documented. Why is it that we never give Islam a fair shake, although we’re more than willing to split hairs of subtle moderation in critiquing almost anything else, no matter how ridiculous and uncalled for?

I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with criticizing anything, even Islam. This is really the crux of civilization in many ways: to be able to peacefully and respectfully question another and argue one’s viewpoint. However, before allowing that point to linger to nodding heads or self-absorbed enlightenment, let it be openly said that an equally valid and polite criticism of Zionist ideology or the Jewish religion (two completely different things) would draw much scrutiny on this newspaper and maybe even garner censure by politicians, media and faculty alike.

This is another extreme, but for some reason everyone loves to ask Muslims what exactly their problem is when people level claims against their way of life without even attempting to finesse their understanding. Next time you have a problem with what’s going on in the so-called Muslim world, please have the courtesy to pick up a world history book and read an introductory text on Islam and Muslims before asking.

Taqee Khaled is a University alumnus.