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The Happy Heretic

Islam's Captive Women

by Judith Hayes


The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 16, Number 3.


The title of this piece is itself a redundancy. All Muslim women are captives, if they live according to the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad. Muslim women are considered to be one-half of a human. "Honor killing" still exists and calls for the death of women who have lost their virginity before marriage-even if they were raped. Murder because of hymens. Unbelievable. 

One of the most touching, heart wrenching speakers I've ever been privileged to hear was Taslima Nasrin, at a May 2000 conference of the Council for Secular Humanism. Nasrin delivered a talk to a pin-drop quiet audience. She is eloquent; she is an M.D.; she is kind; and she is lovely. She is also living under a death sentence. She outgrew her Muslim upbringing, and began writing against its misogyny. Her novel, Shame, however, was the last straw. It criticized Muslims' cruel persecution of Hindus. Fundamentalists issued a fatwa, a literal death sentence, against her and she was forced to leave her native Bangladesh. She has bodyguards now. Allah be praised. 

How did Islam become so cruel and intolerant? Easy. It began that way. When the Prophet Muhammad uttered his first sura (similar to a biblical chapter) Muslim women were doomed. The introduction to my copy of the Koran is a whopping 58 pages of a defensive harangue about how bad the Koran isn't. Example: "In the matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance women are given the same rights as men." Oh, really? Koran 4:20 tells men that they may take one wife in place of another. They can trade in their wives like used cars. Of course there is no equivalent trade-in policy offered to women. Koran 4:3 says men should marry whichever women appeal to them, "two or three or four"-you know, shop around. Collect a whole set! Since male divorce is so easy (just say a few words like "Get outta here!" and you're divorced-true story) men can have innumerable wives in a lifetime. 

Further, in Koran 4:34 men are described as being superior to women because Allah made them to "excel over the other" and because men spend money supporting women. In Koran 2: 223 wives are described as "tilled fields" that men should, literally, plow through. You know, have a good time, get some kids going. The Prophet Muhammad had a baker's dozen wives, and countless concubines. His third bride was nine years old at the time of consummation. But little Aisha was at least allowed to keep her toys and dolls when she went to Muhammad's bed. I may throw up. Muslim paradise consists of males lounging on couches, being waited on by virgins who don't sleep, perspire, get pregnant, menstruate, or get sick, and intercourse goes on forever. No mention is made of how this could be considered "paradise" for the females.

When stoning men and women for adultery (adultery meaning another man's property, one of his wives, has been tampered with), the offending male is to stand in a clearing while people throw stones at him till he dies. If he runs away, escaping, he's safe. Death sentence over. But a woman to be stoned is put in a pit, waist/chest high, for "decency." Imagine a "decent" stoning. Wouldn't want to see any naughty bits of her body while you're bashing her bloody! Tsk, tsk! Of course escape for her is impossible, isn't it? These still take place, in some countries, as I write. 

Another wonderful writer who spoke at the May conference, Parvin Darabi, wrote a grim book describing fundamentalist Islam titled, Rage Against the Veil. It is about her sister, Homa Darabi, who was a child psychiatrist in Iran. She and others were hounded relentlessly about observing hijab (dress code) in their practices. Seems logical. "Push, Mrs. Ali, it's almost here, but I can't tell if it it's a girl or boy because my veil is in the way." Of course there is nothing funny about veiling, and its sole purpose is to eliminate any possible sense of female personal identity. Because of this nonsensical insistence on veiling, Homa Darabi was finally forced to give up her private practice and then her professorship at the University of Tehran. She never recovered from her despair. On February 21, 1994, in the middle of a square in Tehran, she poured gasoline on herself and set herself on fire to protest the tyranny of her native country. She died, as planned. Allah be praised. 


Judith Hayes's Internet column by the same name can be found at www.thehappyheretic.com.  She is also the author of In God We Trust: But Which One? (1996) and The Happy Heretic (Fall 2000 from Prometheus Books)


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