Remind me to pick up a hat on my way to work, preferably a rather ostentatious one. You see, I feel like asking my boss to swap his salary for mine, and in my opinion this is the best way to get away with what on a normal day would be regarded as a shocking impudence. Heavens, you know what? The more I think about it, I reckon I’m in with a shot. After all, if Monday night’s Q&A episode is a guide, it seems you can get away with spouting utter absurdity provided you wear a quaint and colourful headpiece.
This is, of course, in reference to Senator Jacqui Lambie and media commentator Yassmin Abdel-Magied getting into a shouting match when the former asserted that proponents of sharia law need to be deported from Australia. There was also the matter of enacting a measure similar to Trump’s stalled Executive Order, which attempted to ban arrivals from seven failed and overwhelmingly Muslim states where it is impossible to adequately check the backgrounds of visa applicants.
Whilst Lambie did make some salient points, albeit already established ones, arguing the interests of Australians must be put first before we look after those overseas, as is the way with most panellists on the program she failed to argue her points with any epistemic control or, for that matter, self-control. Instead, she fulminated in a manner the ABC’s admirers routinely paint as typifying those nasty conservatives. We’re actually rather measured, us conservativs, but Quadrant readers know that already. Lambie at times carried herself like a quarrelsome fool, her lesser moments were eclipsed by Abdel-Magied’s own ear-assaulting rejoinders; the latter shouting the most incoherent rant since Mohammed dictated the Quran. “Islam to me…is the most feminist religion,” was one of her paste gems.
In a video subsequently posted on Junkee, Abdel-Magied attempted to clarify the position she had taken on Q&A — and with a straight face, mind you. Sharia “is about justice and equality”, she said. Then, as can be expected of any accomplished rhetorician of the Left who is forced to address female oppression in the Middle East, Abdel-Magied suggested that it was the “conservative and patriarchal nature” of certain Islamic nations’, rather than Koranic example and injunction which sees stonings, child marriages and honour killings. That these abominations occur in lands where Islam holds sway is, apparently, no more than unfortunate coincidence.
Abdel-Magied’s claim that “Islam is the most feminist religion” rests on her notion that Islamic women “were given the right to own land” and “got equal rights well before the Europeans”. Truth hides in the shadow of Abdel-Magied’s contention; one need only consider the Wife of Bath, who Chaucer tells us was wealthy, owned a cloth business and had done very nicely as the legatee of five husbands.
Whilst Islamic women do have the right to own land, if a dispute over that land arises in an Islamic nation where sharia informs the judicial system, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan for example, and if the dispute is with a man, because certain interpretations of the Quran promulgate that a women’s testimony counts as only half that of a man’s, under the auspices of sharia the disputed land could come under the man’s ownership. Think of it as a game of he said/she said with the male’s testimony and claim being awarded greater weight.
In Australia, or any Western country for that matter, both parties would be afforded afforded equal standing before the court. Need it be said that, ideally, any verdict will hang on the credibility of evidence, not gender. A quick aside: if that land was left to a brother and sister, more often than not the brother would be entitled to double of what his sister inherits.
Then there is the issue of Islam and homosexuality. When asked by Lambie “why gays are killed?”, Abdel-Magied curtly responded “that is not my religion.” A quick consultation of Quran 4:16 not only refutes this, but advocates homosexual conversion: “If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, leave them alone.” Imagine the outrage if progressives and same-sex marriage crusaders ever found out about that!
The Hadith also offers insight on gay trysting. Sunan Abu Dawad (Book of Prescribed Punishments) suggests the faithful “kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” Of course, I could cherry-pick hateful verses all day long, just as Abdel-Magied could cherry-pick lyrical lines of love, which she did for Junkee when citing Koran 5:32: “…whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land, it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.” Well that line is in there alright, not doubt about it, but Abdel-Magied seems to have overlooked its introduction, which goes like this (according to your favoured translation), “We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.” A law “decreed upon the Children of Israel” prescribes a rather more narrow demographic than the purported universalism of Abdel-Magied’s abridged quotation.
The point is this: you can’t wash away routine acts of cruelty by touting a few rosy lines of scripture. Many Islamic scholars, leaders and everyday followers—the kind now petitioning the ABC for an apology—continue to refute the idea that certain interpretations of their faith are fundamentally harmful or, at the very least, guilty of a particularly nasty intolerance.
Most disappointing is that the testimony of those who have actually lived under Islam law doesn’t matter to the creed’s apologists. Nor do the criticisms from notable experts conversant with the stifling effects of Sharia when applied with literal devotion. The insights of informed figures such as Sam Harris, Ayaan Harsi Ali and Christopher Hitchens mean nothing to them. I guess that’s the nature of do-gooders: they rarely do good. Memories of the late Hitchens bring to mind an earlier Q&A episode in which another angry Muslima also insisted that black is white. The video of that encounter is below.
And this clip is also worthwhile. But I digress.
Even if “culture is separate from what is faith”, as Abdel-Magied claims, religion does inform cultures to greater and lesser degrees — Poles or Italians and Catholicism, for example, or China and Confucianism. Abdel-Magied would most likely agree with those examples (how could she not without resorting to dissembling?), yet she blithely dismisses the routine struggles and oppression of women in the Middle East as nothing more than “cultural” aberrations — cultures very much informed by Islam, as it happens, and to a degree markedly more than anything observable in Rome, Warsaw or Beijing. She might also consult a bipartisan study conducted in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre which found the opposite of what she claims in regard to Islam and female emancipation: “Muslims who want sharia to be the law of the land in their country often, though not uniformly, are less likely to support equal rights for women and more likely to favor traditional gender roles.”
Working on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the Left has made common cause with Islam, which explains why we find none other Anne Summers, who can take offence at a conservative male in a blue tie, endorsing Abdel-Magied’s book. Progressives, as they like to call themselves while endorsing sixth-century dress codes, are inspired and affirmed in their political identities by the repetitious idiomatic veneers of second-rate text books taught by third-rate professors. Terms like ‘the patriarchy, ‘white privilege’, and, inevitably, ‘Islamophobia’ are easy even for simpletons to remember and, if deployed with the appropriate degree of withering and self-righteous scorn, can stop a civil discussion in its tracks. No one likes to be called a racist, nor to be confronted with an interlocutor whose case, such as it may be, boils down to “Shut, she argued.”
Nevertheless, as cheap and shallow slogans are all the rage, especially when Abdel-Magied and her like-minded sisters are within cooee of a camera and microphone, I thought I’d offer my own catchy quip. It is this:
Fundamental Islam is dangerous because Islam is fundamentally dangerous.
That is more or less what Jacqui Lambie was attempting to articulate. Perhaps one day, and soon, the ABC will invite a guest who can put that point of view politely but emphatically. Perhaps the ABC will do that, but it is a big ‘perhaps’. I won’t be holding my breath in the meantime.