Permitted and forbidden

I saw a segment on Deutsche Welle’s European Journal the other day about a new Swedish tv show, rebarbatively named ‘Halal-TV,’ that is hosted by three women wearing hijab and calling themselves (of course) ‘devout’ Muslims. The DW item included a woman of Muslim background saying state tv had no business telling us all we have to love Islam. Good, but it also had one of the hijab-wearing hosts informing us that ‘halal’ means ‘right’ and ‘haram’ means ‘wrong.’ That’s sugar-coating the pill with a vengeance, and it’s bullshit. Halal means ‘permitted,’ not ‘right,’ and haram means ‘forbidden,’ not ‘wrong.’ There’s a major difference. There’s a huge difference, and a difference that could hardly be more important. What is ‘permitted’ can be profoundly wrong and cruel and wicked; what is ‘forbidden’ can be entirely harmless or enormously beneficial. To many people, girls going to school is haram, and stoning girls to death for being raped is halal. Confusing the concept ‘permitted’ with the concept ‘right’ is a recipe for the worst kind of moral blindness and stupidity. By the same token, being ‘devout’ is not the same thing as being good, or kind, or compassionate, or generous. In the case of a vicious misogynist thuggish god, it has no chance of being any of those things.

A Swedish news source in English has more.

Controversy about Halal-TV erupted even before the first episode aired on Monday night when author and commentator Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey who moved to Sweden at the age of six, pointed out that one of the show’s hosts had previously said she thought that stoning a woman to death was an appropriate punishment for adultery.

See? They care about what’s ‘permitted,’ and can’t even figure out what is ‘right.’ They’re misguided, and deluded, and dangerous – yet the show (from what I saw of it) portrays them (as such shows so often do) as hip and happenin’ hijab-chicks.

“There are many ways for public broadcasting to use high standards of journalism to address the diversity issues which affect the Muslim part of the population without reducing the group to deeply faithful, headscarf bearing, homophobic teetotalers who believe that women should be virgins until they are married and support stoning for adultery,” Demirbag-Sten wrote in a column published last week in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Yeah. Hooray for Dilsa Demirbag-Sten.

In one of the segments, Awad and El Khabiry refuse to shake the hand of Aftonbladet newspaper columnist Carl Hamilton, electing instead to greet the guest by putting their hands on their chests, leaving Hamilton’s extended hand hanging in the air and prompting a sharp exchange.

Halal, you see. Rude, degrading, insulting, slavish, but halal. And devout.

Where this kind of thinking gets you is well illustrated by a story from Australia.

Some Muslim religious leaders are condoning rape within marriage, domestic violence, polygamy, welfare fraud and the exploitation of women, a report on imam training has found…The report says the 24-man board ignored or did not directly answer many of the questions. It says women, community and legal workers and police were particularly concerned about domestic violence and suggested that imams aimed to preserve the family at the cost of women. It says the husbands of some women who were legally separated but not religiously divorced entered their houses, demanded sexual intercourse and took it by force. “Workers who have assisted women in this situation said that the advice women received from the imams was that it was halal – permitted – because there was a valid nikah – marriage,” the report says.

See? It’s halal. It’s wrong, it’s shitty, it’s brutal, it’s greedy, it tramples on the woman’s wishes and her dignity and her right to her own body and self, but so what? It’s halal. Spread your legs.

2 Responses to “Permitted and forbidden”