The Wall Street Journal, which should know better but obviously doesn't, has published a list of five recommended books about Islam (thanks to all who sent this in). Among them:
"Muhammad" by Karen Armstrong (HarperCollins, 1992).
To understand Islam, one needs to understand the central role played by the Prophet Muhammad in the religion's creation and propagation. Orphaned at a young age, he was a successful trader when the divine revelations began. In Karen Armstrong's sympathetic and sometimes academic profile, she argues that, unlike Jesus, who could be a pacifist because he lived during Pax Romana, Muhammad faced warring tribes across Arabia. She paints a portrait of a very human prophet who is expedient and clever, who loves women and--despite having multiple wives--even mends his own clothes. But at his death, divisions over succession lead to the murder of three of the first four caliphs, or leaders, who followed--setting in motion the Sunni/Shia struggles that continue today.
So Muhammad was forced away from pacifism by his circumstances? Then why did he enjoin his followers to offer unbelievers conversion, subjugation, or death? Why did he tell the pagan Quraysh: "Will you listen to me, O Quraysh? By him who holds my life in His hand, I bring you slaughter" (Ibn Ishaq 131)?
Why not instead preach peaceful coexistence as equals? And he "mends his own clothes"! Heavens to betsy! He must be a feminist!
Never mind that rather than regarding women as human beings equal to men, the Qur'an likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: "Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will" (2:223).
The Qur'an also declares that a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man: "Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her" (2:282).
It allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice" (4:3).
It rules that a son's inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: "Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females" (4:11).
Worst of all, the Qur’an tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them" (4:34).
It allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Islamic divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” (65:4).
I am not surprised to see this arrant apologetic nonsense coming from Karen Armstrong. But to see it in the Wall Street Journal is disheartening.
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