For the world’s billion-plus Sunni Muslims, al-Azhar University in Cairo is the center of the theological universe, its faculty and scholars the most authoritative voice on the meaning of Islam. It is not very far from Tahrir Square, ground zero of Egypt’s revolution.
It was in Tahrir Square last Friday that the Muslim Brotherhood began shunting aside other opposition leaders, including Google executive Wael Ghonim. The million Muslims jamming the square hadn’t turned out to hear a good corporate citizen of the Left. In this nation, where a strong majority of the population desires the implementation of sharia, Islam’s legal and political system, the throng turned out to hear and hail Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s top adviser — who, with his al-Azhar doctorate in Islamic jurisprudence, is sharia personified.
Tahrir Square is also the place where, in the frenzy after Hosni Mubarak’s fall, CBS news correspondent Lara Logan was seized and subjected to a savage sexual assault by an Egyptian gang. Coverage of the attack has been muted. There have been testimonials to Ms. Logan’s courage, and one anti-American leftist lost his comfortable fellowship at NYU Law School for failing to conceal his glee over the atrocity. We have heard much about the attack, but have heard next to nothing about the attackers. You are just supposed to assume it was a “mob” — the sort of thing that could have happened in any setting where raw emotion erupts, say, Wisconsin’s capitol.
Except it doesn’t happen in Madison. It happens in Egypt. It happened in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, in the riots that led to Suharto’s fall — as Sharon Lapkin recounts, human-rights groups interviewed more than 100 women who had been captured and gang raped, including many Chinese women, who were told this was their fate as non-Muslims. It happens in Muslim countries and in the Muslim enclaves of Europe and Australia, perpetrated by Islamic supremacists acting on a sense of entitlement derived from their scriptures, fueled by the rage of their jihad, and enabled by the deafening silence of the media.
As Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer has detailed, al-Azhar University endorses a sharia manual called Umdat al-Salik. It is quite clear on the subject of women who become captives of Muslim forces: “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.” This is so the woman can then be made a concubine of her captor.
This arrangement is encouraged by the Koran. Sura 4:23–24, for example, forbids Muslim men from consorting with the wives of other Muslims but declares sexual open season on any women these men have enslaved. (“Forbidden to you are . . . married women, except those whom you own as slaves.”) Moreover, Mohammed — whose life Muslims are exhorted by scripture to emulate — rewarded his fighters by distributing as slaves the women of the Jewish Qurazyzah tribe after Muslim forces had beheaded their husbands, fathers, and sons. The prophet himself also took one of the captured women, Rayhanna, as his concubine. And, as Spencer further notes, Mohammed directed his jihadists that they should not practice coitus interruptus with their slaves — they were encouraged to ravish them, but only in a manner that might produce Muslim offspring.
As I documented in an earlier column, Sheikh Qaradawi contends that women bring sexual abuse on themselves if they fail to conform to Islamist conventions of modest dress. Shahid Mehdi, a top Islamic cleric in Denmark, has explained that women who fail to don a headscarf are asking to be raped, an admonition echoed by Sheikh Faiz Mohammed, a prominent Lebanese cleric, during a lecture he delivered in Australia.
In light of these exhortations, should it be any surprise that the sexual abuse of women is Islam’s silent scandal? In Europe’s expanding Muslim enclaves, it is a terror tactic to extort women — Muslim and non-Muslim — into adopting the hijab and other Islamic sartorial standards. Rape has become so prevalent, and so identifiably a Muslim scourge, that embarrassed and hyper–politically correct Swedish authorities have discouraged police in cities such as heavily Muslim Malmo from collecting data that point to Islam as the common denominator in rape reports.
We can keep ignoring it, we can hope against hope for a reformation (while continuing to pretend that the reformation has already happened). The fact, however, is that, as long as al-Azhar and figures like Qaradawi continue to be the voice of Islam — al-Azhar, the site President Obama chose for his June 2009 address to the Muslim world; Qaradawi, whom the State Department has hailed as an “intelligent and thoughtful voice from the region . . . an important figure that deserves our attention” — Islam will not change, and women will be little more than chattel.
It is a challenge we do not want to acknowledge, because the Islamic scholars have doctrine on their side. The Koran pronounces that “Allah has made men superior to women” (Sura 4:34). As documented in “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims,” a study published by the Center for the Study of Political Islam, Mohammed declared that women are inferior to men in both intelligence and religious devotion (Bukhari hadith 1.6.301), and that women will make up most of those condemned to Hell. (Bukahri 7.62.132). Sexual abuse is encouraged not only by hadith but — as I related in discussing the recent case of a teenager flogged to death in Bangladesh — by sharia standards that make rape practically impossible to prove and subject women to a death sentence for adultery or fornication if they come forward with an accusation but cannot prove it.
Islamic scriptures endorse wife-beating (Koran 4:34 again). Female genital mutilation is rampant in the Muslim world and scripturally based. As Caroline Glick notes, the World Health Organization reports that 97 percent of Egyptian women and girls have been subjected to this form of barbarism.
This despicable treatment is fortified by standards that treat women’s testimony as inferior to men’s, permit men to marry up to four women, and deny women the right to hold many public offices — particularly those that involve the construction of Islamic law and issuance of fatwas.
The unmistakable message at the core of sharia is that women, like non-Muslims, are less than fully human. It is a message we continue ignoring at the peril of tomorrow’s Lara Logans, and our own.
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.