Wife Beating, Secular Feminism and Sharia

The recent case [1] of a battered British woman made headlines; her lover broke her jaw and nose, then her eyes were gouged out – it sounds like a horror flick. Only the bare facts got reported, as if it was just an isolated incident; there was very little analysis given in the media. There was hardly any mention of the man’s background, his ethnicity or religion, and no mention if he had any ideological affiliation, and nothing to indicate how widespread domestic violence is in the UK.

Media analysis is often tacit; by dropping hints of religious or ethnic background of the perpetrator, and selectively citing out other similar cases it paints a general picture, indicating the source of the problem. For sure, that would have been the case, had the man been of a foreign complexion with a name like Ahmed, instead of Shane; the Islamophobes and closet racists would have argued that this wife-beating episode is another example proving that it is an Islamic phenomenon. Such Melanie Phillips like analysis usually gets endorsed by nasty comments found below it.

Domestic violence is almost universal; it is just as prevalent, if not more, in countries that claim to be spearheading women’s rights. It is amusing to see countries like the US raising such issues, whilst it’s blind to the rapists filling the ranks of its army [2] and homes. In a survey [3], two-thirds of teenage men said they would commit date-rape if they could get away with it. Yet these types of men were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq to liberate women!

Indeed, as numerous surveys confirm, rape and domestic violence is widespread inside the US, and other Western European countries like France, the UK and Germany. However, the point is, it gets reported as just domestic violence, and rape; there is no connection with liberalism, democracy, freedom, secularism or Christianity. Why does this sort of systematic violence occur in societies that are supposed to be the bastion of women’s rights? In contrast, if there is a report of Ahmed or Mohammed beating his wife, the secular zealots argue it as a religious phenomenon. Such hypocrisy is familiar, just like the death penalty in the US is a civilised capital punishment, but in Saudi it’s a medieval barbaric religious practice!

The clear double standards in the Western media are no excuse for the failure of Muslims to tackle wife-beating and forced ‘marriages’. The religious scholars and groups are not eager to tackle such issues on a practical level. All you constantly hear from them is how Islam gives women rights, which were enshrined 1400 years ago, and this gets repeated on and on. Agreed, but then why do we see a culture of wife-beating and forced marriages, particularly amongst some Muslim communities? There is absolutely no example of the Prophet (saw) and his companions inflicting a light slap, let alone using the wife as a punch bag. Likewise, there is no example of forcing anyone to marry against their will. Note, I say ‘force’, meaning someone has objected to a marriage and then being ordered to continue with it.

All the textual evidences point to the duty of being kind to your wife, and nurturing a loving relationship, this is definitely the default position, and I suspect this is also the view in most other religions. Those who refer to the Quranic verse of “beating the wife lightly” for a disobedient wife know that it is a metaphoric statement, otherwise you would have seen volumes of cases of wife beating from the early period of Islamic history, and volumes of legal documents depicting the rules to inflict physical violence on the wife. I know there are some ‘enlightening’ YouTube videos of some Wahabi cleric demonstrating the rules of Wife beating –” but its bida (innovation)! It’s time they got their own medicine of bida. The Prophet and his companions, and the early generation (Salaf) never practised wife beating, so why introduce such innovation.

Over the years, in denial, some have dismissed wife-beating as a Hindu custom seeping into the Muslim community, something foreign inherited, not our problem. This is hard to reconcile living in a dominant Muslim community, whose Hindu ancestors go back centuries.

My perception of wife-beating is: it’s a specific problem largely confined to the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. I have not seen this in other communities (Arabs, Malays, Iranians, and Turks etc.) except the odd cases of ‘honour’ (shameful) killing. If I were to rank the countries or communities, I would probably place Bangladesh at the top of the list. Maybe the geeks can provide the stats and correct me, but for sure wife-beating is prevalent in the Bengali community, and I say this based on my personal experience.

Form my early childhood I have witnessed acts of violence meted out against innocent and vulnerable women. There were always cases being discussed in the close-knit community. I still recall the morning in Bangladesh, woken up by screaming kids and women knocking on our door. They took me to the house in the poorer parts, people gathered there like if there was a public spectacle, eventually I could see the police leaving the house with the Rickshaw driver in handcuffs, his ‘crime’ was that he spent the entire night beating his wife, who remains unconscious on the floor. She is someone’s daughter and someone’s mother and someone’s sisters. Can you imagine the impact on the screaming kids through the night? The kids having to hear their mother screaming for cover, crying in pain and agony all night, and the noise emanating from the beatings, as well as the growling of the father! Her screams will continue to haunt them for years to come.

Another incident that still haunts me is that of a young girl brought from the village as a poor servant, to work in a neighbour’s house. I was barely 7-years old. The girl cries almost every afternoon and morning; naturally she is missing her loved ones, and is all alone in a big city. One of the older ladies starts to scold her for being inefficient, spending time on crying instead of working; and then eventually one of the older male members grabs her by the hair and pulls her toward him, bends her over and his fist lands on her back. She starts to scream loudly crying for her mother, and other members intervene to get her released. I was dumbfounded at the needless violence inflicted on a girl who was barely a teenager. Did they not once reflect that she is someone’s daughter? I am not an advocate of feminism or masculinism (if there is such a thing), and would like to say this as an impartial genderless judge: some men are not fully evolved, just animals on two legs!

In later years, another trend started to emerge in Bangladesh – throwing acid on the girl’s face by the jilted boyfriend. I guess the crude ‘logic’ is: if I can’t have her, then nobody else can. I wonder if these beasts will ever realise they have daughters and sisters too in their own family, who could be subjected to the same awful logic.

In the meantime, our scholars and groups are busy talking and dreaming about the merits of an ideal Islamic society or debating trivial issues. In the absence of any real effort to tackle real issues like wife-beating, forced ‘marriages’ (legalised rape), honour killings and rape, the secular feminists are proposing men-hating feminism as a solution, overlooking what it has achieved in the West. Such crude ideas, built on knee-jerk reaction, are hardly an enlightening solution for social progress.


[1]. http://tinyurl.com/7g4jn3z
[2]. http://tinyurl.com/84dkcf8
[3]. http://tinyurl.com/245dov