Obama has an ‘adviser on Muslim affairs,’ Dalia Mogahed; she appeared on a British tv show hosted by a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, Ibtihal Bsis. Mogahed is on ‘the President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships,’ which is something the president shouldn’t have in the first place. On this tv show she said, according to the Telegraph, that the Western view of sharia is ‘oversimplified’ and ‘the majority of women around the world associate it with gender justice.’

Well if they do they’re crazy, but I don’t believe they do. The majority of women around the world aren’t Muslim, for a start, and not all Muslims are fond of sharia, so Mogahed’s statistic sounds made up.

Mogahed appeared alongside Hizb ut Tahrir’s national women’s officer, Nazreen Nawaz. During the 45-minute discussion, on the Islam Channel programme Muslimah Dilemma earlier this week, the two members of the group made repeated attacks on secular “man-made law” and the West’s “lethal cocktail of liberty and capitalism”. They called for Sharia Law to be “the source of legislation” and said that women should not be “permitted to hold a position of leadership in government”. Mogahed made no challenge to these demands and said that “promiscuity” and the “breakdown of traditional values” were what Muslims admired least about the West.

That’s bad. That stinks.

She said: “I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of sharia than the common perception in Western media. The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance. The portrayal of Sharia has been oversimplified in many cases.”

Well that’s just wrong – it’s not about the common perception in Western media, it’s about the real-world implementations of sharia. As far as I know – and do correct me if I have this wrong – there have so far been no implementations of sharia that were mild and egalitarian and obviously just. All the implementations of sharia that I know about – in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Somalia, in Sudan, in Saudi Arabia, in Afghanistan, in Malaysia, in northern Nigeria – have been harshly punitive and grossly unequal as between women and men. Seriously – if there is an example of sharia in the world that treats women fairly and doesn’t inflict savage punishments on people and especially women – do point it out. But in the meantime – there’s something revoltingly irresponsible about pretending that sharia is misunderstood, in the face of the horrible cruelties and injustices that we know about.

In that context, it’s worrying that the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center has lost its funding.

For the past five years, researchers in a modest office overlooking the New Haven green have carefully documented cases of assassination and torture of democracy activists in Iran…But just as the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center was ramping up to investigate abuses of protesters after this summer’s disputed presidential election, the group received word that – for the first time since it was formed – its federal funding request had been denied…Many see the sudden, unexplained cutoff of funding as a shift by the Obama administration away from high-profile democracy promotion in Iran, which had become a signature issue for President Bush.

It’s actually not a matter of democracy but one of rights. If a majority in Iran favored torturing protesters, that wouldn’t make it okay. In any case, I don’t like to find myself preferring a Bush policy to an Obama policy, but in this case it seems that I do. I also find myself agreeing with Joe Lieberman and somebody at the American Enterprise Institute. Come on, Barack, don’t put me in this position! Reach out, good; talk to people, good; but don’t abandon human rights and women’s rights.

22 Responses to “Misunderstood”