Not long ago, I discussed an article on Islam by Cynthia Boaz. In her article, Boaz attempted to correct several misconceptions regarding Islam and presented us with a progressive, liberal, and tolerant interpretation of Islam. While there are Muslims outside of the US who interpret Islam in the way Boaz does, there are also Muslims outside the US who interpret Islam quite differently.
As I have emphasized again and again in this blog, there is no singular Islam or Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No faith tradition is unified and there is no “correct” or “authentic” version.
One of the falsehoods about “Islam” (which is an empty category) that Boaz attempted to correct was this: “Misconception 2: Islam calls for the oppression of women.”
While in Boaz’ version of Islam this may be a misconception, it is not so in others. While I pointed out the problems with Boaz’ argument using words, this picture is a more powerful rebuttal:
This woman’s name is Aisha and she lives in Afghanistan. She recently appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and this additional photo was taken by a Time photographer.
Her marriage was arranged according to Islamic custom, and after being abused by her husband and in laws, she ran away. She was, in her words, “treated like a slave.” Upon being re-captured, she was punished by the Taliban, her husband, and in-laws according to their reading of Islam and sharia law.
This gruesome punishment consisted of having her ears and nose cut-off. She was left for dead (which would have occurred slowly through loss of blood) but found by US soldiers, treated, and now lives in a safehouse.
Again, this is not the sort of thing I enjoy pointing out because it adds to the mass hysteria and ignorance that most Americans have regarding the imaginary thing they call “Islam.” But I feel compelled to point this out because the educated and progressive left, in their efforts to minimize the hysteria and ameliorate the ignorance, often go too far: they fail to see that Islam is many different things to many different people.
Like all religious traditions, Islam is hydra headed. In some versions, the religiously inspired practices are positively heinous and the oppression of women — which may include torture or murder — is perfectly acceptable. Several versions of Vedic faiths sanction similar treatments of women.
Would Boaz look at this picture, consider Aisha’s story, and conclude that the Taliban’s version of Islam is wrong, false, incorrect, or inauthentic? If so, I suggest that she read Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory or Stanley Fish’s Is There a Text in This Class?, and then get back to us with a revised essay on the many faces of Islam.
Postscript — I just visited Missives from Marx and one of my favorite bloggers has a different and important take on Aisha’s picture and the accompanying cover story. I completely agree with his comments, and my blog post in no way addresses Time‘s article or the political-power interests that story may serve. In addition, all this interest in a photograph attests to the power of images.