Does God hate women? Ooh, who would say such a thing? That’s disrespectful, and inflammatory, and evil, and crude.

An Afghan law which legalised rape has been sent back to parliament with a clause letting husbands starve their wives if they refuse to have sex…The women’s rights activist Wazhma Frough, who was involved in the review, said that conservative religious leaders had pressured the Justice Ministry to keep many of the most controversial clauses…”For example, if the wife doesn’t accept her husband’s sexual requirements then he can deny her food.” According to civil society groups, the law, which regulates the personal affairs of Afghanistan’s minority Shia community, still includes clauses which allow rapists to marry their victims as a way of absolving their crime and it tacitly approves child marriage. The law sparked riots in Kabul. Hundreds of Shia women took to the streets in protest. They were attacked by mobs of angry men who launched counter demonstrations outside the capital’s largest Shia madrassa…Critics claim that Mr Karzai signed the law to appease Shia leaders.

Oh. Really? Conservative religious leaders want husbands to have a legal right to starve their wives if the wives refuse sex? This is a law for the ‘Shia community’? Mobs of angry men attacked protesting women outside a madrassa? So this all does have something to do with religion then?

That’s odd. I’d have thought The Independent frowned on connecting misogynist laws and practices with religion, especially Islam. Why would I have thought that? Because they published a review of our book by one Sholto Byrnes which is filled with assertions that are not true and they refused to retract any of those assertions, partly on the grounds that the book really is just as ‘inflammatory’ as Sholto Byrnes said it was. But in truth, the book talks about issues and facts like the ones in that article. So….what’s the difference?

I don’t know. Maybe the literary section of the Indy has its very own policy which the news department does not share.

Want a sample of assertions that are not true?

…amid the torrents of invective, they allude to many matters worthy of calm examination…This could have been the starting point for a thoughtful discussion about textual literalism and modernity. Instead, Benson and Stangroom attempt to trash the reputation of Karen Armstrong…and quote, without qualification or disapproval, the view of an American Baptist leader that Muhammad’s marriage means that the Prophet was a “demon-possessed paedophile”. This is inflammatory in the extreme. But that appears to be the point. Self-proclaimed champions of the secular right to challenge and insult others’ beliefs, Benson and Stangroom show no desire to go beyond name-calling and distortion.

There are no torrents of invective; there is some strong rhetoric at the very end, on the penultimate page, but that does not amount to such ‘torrents’ that the rest of the book is merely sandwiched in ‘amid’ them. There is a large amount of thoughtful discussion. We don’t analyze Armstrong ‘instead’ of thoughtful discussion but as part of it. We don’t attempt to trash her reputation, we dispute her scholarship. Our distance from the Baptist guy’s comment is obvious to any sane reader, though it’s true that we did not think it necessary to add ‘We do not endorse this view.’ It is not inflammatory in the extreme, at least not unless the article about the Afghan law is also inflammatory in the extreme. We are not champions of the right to insult anything. We show every desire to go beyond name-calling and distortion, and we do in fact go well beyond name-calling and distortion.

Meanwhile, as zealous defenders of religion like Madeleine Bunting and Sholto Byrnes hawk great gobs of spit all over Does God Hate Women?, religious men physically attack women for protesting laws that would make it legal to rape them or starve them for refusing sex. Does that God hate women? Well obviously, yes.

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