America represents ‘true’ Islamic principles
– By Tammam Adi and Patricia Adi.
Afghanistan’s Taliban government has outlawed work and education for women in the name of Islam. Is this based on Islamic scripture? Definitely not.
The prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was hired by a businesswoman named Khadija. She later proposed to him and they had a happy marriage which lasted until she died. And Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is a religious duty for every Muslim man and woman.” The Prophet also said, “The best of you is the one who treats his wife best.”
In fact, singing under the balcony of the beloved, kissing a lady’s hand, kneeling before the fiancee and other European gallantries were inspired by the Islamic treatment of women in the Middle Ages.
The abuse of women in some Islamic countries is therefore clearly unIslamic. What the Taliban are doing with women is merely an authoritarian measure they claim is based on Islam. It has as little to do with Islam as a burning cross has to do with Jesus.
The Quran states that women have the same rights as they have duties. Men and women are addressed as equal in many verses. Spousal disputes are resolved by mediation and although the fathers are responsible for child support and alimony, the Quran prohibits using children to harrass divorced fathers or mothers.
Another example is the Shiite “Islamic revolutionaries” of Iran, who call America “the Great Satan.” In many Muslim countries ruled by more or less undemocratic governments, there is propaganda against America as an enemy of Islam. Some American “experts” claim that Islam is hostile to the American way of life.
But the Islamic scripture, the Quran, proclaims just the opposite. “O humanity, I have created you all from one man and one woman and spread you out into races and nations so that you recognize each other as members of one family. The only difference between you is the one God will make in the hereafter, based on your faith and behavior.”
In Islamic Spain, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived as brothers and sisters in one society. Spanish Muslims implemented another Quranic verse, “There should be no compulsion in religion” (freedom of religion). This period, from the 8th to the 15th centuries, is remembered as the Golden Age of religious tolerance.
What we hear today, instead of religious pluralism, is the polarization of some authoritarian governments, which use an “us versus them” mentality to rally unhappy people around an oppressive government.
Fundamentalist and radical “Islamic” organizations and governments are a result of authoritarian thinking that has nothing to do with the religion of Islam and its holy books.
The Quran says, “Do not spy on each other” (protection from illegal search). “Do not pressure clerks or witnesses” (no coerced testimony, no self-incrimination but also no subpoenas). The Islamic burden of proof must stand up to many rigorous tests before a guilty verdict is pronounced. For example, prosecutors must bring good eyewitnesses or they will be punished. Muslim judges have to encourage the accused to recant their confessions. These practices, which are aimed at protecting the innocent and giving the guilty maximum rights, fly in the face of what we hear about “Islamic justice,” with military tribunals, summary executions, and so on.
Of course, authoritarian governments and the “Muslim” organizations they foster keep misquoting the Quran and using it out of context. And you can get away with misquoting and misusing any holy book if there is no free press and no public discussion.
Authoritarianism has been ruling Muslim populations for centuries. Colonialism followed during the last two centuries. The peoples’ attempts to be free and democratic have been crushed over and over. Defeatism and despair are widespread. Poverty and fear are everywhere. Without help from powerful nations, it is very unlikely that people will be able to free themselves, as the example of Iraq and Afghanistan shows.
When a friend of ours was visiting his relatives in Indonesia, he asked a Muslim scholar about the “true Islam” as opposed to the many misrepresentations of Islam. The scholar answered, “If you want to know what true Islam is, go back to America and ask the people there. Americans are the ones who know best what true Islam is about.”
America may be the most Islamic country in the world. With our Bill of Rights and our national history, we have struggled to implement the central Islamic principle which commands pluralism in matters of gender, race, national origin and religion. An American-born Islamic scholar believes that the visions of some of our founding fathers were inspired by Islamic history.
It is ironic that in 1492, the Spanish monarchy not only conquered the last Islamic-pluralistic city-state of Granada, but also sent Christopher Columbus to discover the New World, where a second great pluralistic society took root.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2001, The Register-Guard.
Tammam Adi Ph.D is the Director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Eugene, Oregon, USA. Originally from Syria, he is a computational linguist specializing in Arabic.
Read other articles by Tammam Adi here.