[The following is Robert Spencer's letter to the editor at TheDartmouth.com]
In “‘Islamo-fascism’ speaker met with controversy” (Oct. 29), Chloe Mulderig ‘05 says that “Robert Spencer is unfortunately bringing hate speech on campus and hates Islam itself.” She offers no evidence for this. I ask anyone and everyone, including Chloe Mulderig, to listen to the talk I gave at Dartmouth and to come up with even a single example of “hate speech.” (Video at: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8551343616805295050&hl=en.)
Later on she says that “[Spencer’s assertion] that the Koran says it is okay to beat women is incorrect and offensive.”
Is that so?
Koran 4:34 tells men to beat their disobedient wives after first warning them and then sending them to sleep in separate beds. This is, of course, an extremely controversial verse, so it is worth noting how several translators render the key word here, waidriboohunna:
Pickthall: “and scourge them”
Yusuf Ali: “(And last) beat them (lightly)”
Al-Hilali/Khan: “(and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)”
Shakir: “and beat them”
Sher Ali: “and chastise them”
Khalifa: “then you may (as a last alternative) beat them”
Arberry: “and beat them”
Rodwell: “and scourge them”
Sale: “and chastise them”
Asad: “then beat them”
Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Al-Hilali/Khan, Shakir, Sher Ali, Khalifa and Asad are Muslims. Are their translations all “incorrect and offensive?”
Laleh Bakhtiar, in a new translation that has received wide publicity, translates Koran 4:34 as “go away from them.” In light of this unanimity among the translators, both Muslim and non-Muslim, this seems difficult to sustain — all of these authorities got the passage wrong until Bakhtiar? But her impulse is understandable, as many Muslims today regard this verse with acute embarrassment. Asad adduces numerous traditions in which Muhammad “forbade the beating of any woman,” concluding that wife-beating is “barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided.”
Unfortunately, however, this is not a unanimous view. Sheikh Syed Mahmud Allusi in his commentary Ruhul Ma’ani gives four reasons that a man may beat his wife: “if she refuses to beautify herself for him,” if she refuses sex when he asks for it, if she refuses to pray or perform ritual ablutions, and “if she goes out of the house without a valid excuse.”
But Mulderig would apparently prefer to pretend that I made this up rather than deal with Muslim approval of wife-beating.
Mulderig also says: “Though a part of Spencer’s agenda is to increase awareness [of terrorism], the other part is to hate on Muslims.”
These are false and libelous charges. I argued during the talk that peaceful Muslims were among the victims of jihadists who deem them insufficiently Muslim. It is an act of hate to make false and libelous charges against someone one opposes. Mulderig should retract these charges, and apologize.