Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Women and Islam

Multiple articles over the past several days have piqued my interest about Islam and the alleged abuses against women that are actually encouraged and supported by the teaching of the Qu'ran (Koran). The March 3 edition of World magazine featured an article about Islamic dissident Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a devout-Muslim-turned-atheist Somali woman who is an outspoken critic of Islam, and as you might imagine, a high-profile target for Islamic extremists who want her dead. Her fame grew as a result of a 10-minute documentary she wrote for filmmaker Theo Van Gogh called Submission (watch film here; disclaimer: the women's naked bodies are veiled with a semi-transparent shroud with Qur'anic verses unfavorable toward women painted on their bodies in Arabic) which tells the story of four abused Muslim women. The story depicts the abuse of a woman flogged for fornication, a girl raped by her uncle, a wife beaten by her husband, and another woman forced into marriage. Van Gogh was later murdered by a Moroccan Muslim as he cycled to work, slitting his throat with a butcher knife and then stabbing a death threat made out to Hirsi Ali into his chest.

Today I came across an article about a 19-year old Saudi woman who was kidnapped, brutally raped, threatened to be killed, and had photos taken of her by seven men who has been sentenced to receive 90 lashes for the crime of being alone with a man not related to her in conjunction with Saudi Arabia's Islamic based law. The assault was the result of a blackmail attempt to extort the woman because she feared being exposed for having a relationship outside of wedlock, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia. After agreeing to meet the man with whom she had a relationship, they drove off and were later stopped by two other cars with men wielding knives and meat cleavers. She was then beaten and raped 14 times by the seven men. The ruling for her punishment comes as a result of her agreeing to meet the man in the car alone. Those found guilty of rape were sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison because there were not witnesses to the crime and the men later recanted their confessions during interrogation.

While Christians view their relationship with God as one like that of a Father-son, Father-daughter relationship, Muslims have a much more distant view of relationship with Allah. They define this relationship in terms of master-servant or master-slave. The Word of God tells us that Jesus has pursued His bride to the cross, and that husbands should love their wives in the same way (Eph 5). But this is a foreign concept to Muslims, in part, because of the nature of their relationship with God. Men are to serve as protector and provider for their wives, in part because they view women as the weaker sex, and in part because their view of marriage mirrors their theology. As Marvin Olasky said, "...a husband is to a wife as a master is to a servant or slave."

Because of this view of marriage, it should not surprise us to hear of gross abuses of women within Islamic culture (though this is certainly not true of all Muslims and is a broad generalization). However broad it may be, we must not ignore that reality that the Qu'ran, the most holy, sacred book for Muslims, advocates the mistreatment of women. The Qu'ran calls husbands "guardians" and notes in chapter 4 verse 34 that women can be beaten: "admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them." Muslims can be polygamous, based loosely on the model of Muhammed. They can have a maximum of four wives. Within traditional Muslim societies women are subject to the authority of a father and then a husband. A Muslim woman is not to go out by herself. She must not draw attention to her beauty by showing skin or by failing to wear a head covering. This is intended to commend respect for women and deter lustful fantasies by Muslim men.

All of this to suggest that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, who marvel at and cherish the image of God within every person, should pray often for Muslim women as God brings them to mind. The Islamic culture is not a culture that values the role of women in exercising dominion of the earth the way that we are called to value women biblically. We must pray that God would set Muslim women free from oppression and abuse where it exists. We should pray for this young 19-year old rape victim, that God would fight on her behalf and vindicate her and justice would be served. We should pray for the gospel to go forth in Muslim countries and that women, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali would come to faith in Jesus Christ. And we should learn as much as we can about Islamic faith and culture. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and if statistics hold true, Muslims will soon be the religious majority in Europe. We must learn, as followers of Jesus, how to dialogue and engage Muslims for the sake of the gospel. Eternity is at stake for billions.


At 7:39 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

I saw "Submission." It was really powerful and made me think about how ungrateful I am. God's been working on that with me lately. I want to pray for these women to come to Christ because I think of all the rest and love they will experience in Him. I take this for granted most of the time. Thanks for the post to keep me in check.

At 12:52 PM , Blogger Mindy said...

If you haven't already, check out this course & text book--www.encounteringislam.org-- it's a ministry of the Caleb Project and is offered through local churches. I'm taking it at Lakeview right now on Tuesday nights and it is powerful. I love it because there's a new instructor each week from a different part of the U.S. Some are Muslim background believers, others are missionaries who've lived for years in Muslim countries and still others have made their homes in strategic cities in the U.S. where they can minister to Muslim communities. The wealth of knowledge on Islam and how to reach Muslims is fascinating!!


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