Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ex-Wahabbi takes on his former ideological soulmates

Ed Husain is a Brit of Pakistani heritage who, after a time as a Wahabbi extremist, turned his back on that dead-end path and now works to prevent others from doing so. He has an excellent piece today on how the Muslim Council of Britain is standing more with the extremists than the moderates on the issue of forced marriage for Muslim women in Britain:
When I met Amina she was still in love with this man but her father insisted she marry her cousin from Pakistan, who happened, rather conveniently, to be visiting England. Her father also had a heart condition and used his illness to emotionally blackmail her. Eventually Amina gave way. She sacrificed love to south Asian culture and married Mr Pakistan.

White, liberal eyes reading this article will be astounded to know these things happen in Britain. I am sorry, but they do. And it gets worse.

Amina was repeatedly raped by Mr Pakistan, but her mother told her that a Muslim man has such rights over his wife, and in Islam there is no such thing as marital rape.

I wanted to help Amina. I suggested she divorce her husband and marry her true love but she told me her husband would kill her if she even mentioned divorce. Eventually, she risked everything and escaped to a women's refuge. When she asked for a divorce her husband refused and was supported in this by the Islamic Shariah Council, a powerful all-male outfit controlling women's lives.

So, a new marriage contract is proposed, and the Muslim Council of Britain weighs in:
The new Muslim marriage contract sought to update and develop fiqh, or Muslim personal jurisprudence, by shifting the power balance in a marriage to empower women to trigger divorce, feel safe from rape or abuse, prevent husbands from taking second wives, and set up accommodation separated from a husband's parents.

All common sense, one would have thought. It went further. Witnesses at wedding ceremonies could be women and even non-Muslim, since the Qur'an is gender and faith neutral on this issue. And a Muslim woman does not need a wali, or male guardian (based on Hanafi school of Islamic law, to which the majority of Britain's Muslims adhere).

Had Amina and her husband signed this contract, she would have had every right to escape her miserable marriage, or even marry her first love. For those who need scriptural justification for every step of their life, the Muslim scholars behind this contract provided evidence and shariah-based arguments.

It was all too good to be true. Misogynist, Saudi-trained clerics don't simply stand by and watch their last grip over Muslim family life slip away so easily. First, as expected, came an Arab male cleric with extreme Wahhabi leanings, denouncing the contract as kufr, or non-belief. His rant can be watched on YouTube.

Last Friday, after initially endorsing the new contract, the MCB back-tracked and issued a statement to "clarify" is position. It spoke of "misinterpretation of shariah by those who the MCB had trusted to take the lead" and said: "The MCB rejects the misguided and incorrect assertions made by and ascribed to the Muslim Institute."

This all goes to show that the Tolerance War I've spoken of is internal to many religions, including Islam. Kudos to Ed Husain for fighting the good fight to help modernize and moderate his faith. Unfortunately, the MCB has chosen to stand in the way, showing once again it is not the moderate organization it claims to be. Shades of CAIR here in the United States, but that's a discussion for another time.

Hat Tip: Harry's Place

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