Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law
By Nonie Darwish
Nelson, $24.99, 272 pp.
In the wake of the terror attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush, in a vain attempt to persuade the world’s Muslims to side with America against the murderous jihadists, famously declared, "Islam means peace."
That’s as linguistically correct -- and just as genuine -- as saying, "Pravda means truth."
In fact, a literal interpretation of the Qur'an would justify the idea that a more accurate statement would be "Islam means slavery."
A close reading of works by Darwish, the Egyptian-born author of Cruel and Usual Punishment, and Ayan Hirsi Ali, the Somali refugee who became a Dutch legislator, shows that a literal interpretation of the Qur’an means that whatever "peace" results from Islam is that of the master and the non-rebellious slave.
Americans, however, shy away from such offensive talk. We are brought up drinking the tolerance Kool-Aid that all religions basically have the same moral goals and are just different ways to get to the same place. Thus, we project the specifically Judeo-Christian perspective of the Fatherhood of God -- and, therefore, the brotherhood of man — onto such faiths as Islam, too.
As a result, it's easy for us to fall for the line that militant Islamists have "hijacked a noble religion" or "are taking passages in the Qur’an out of context to justify violence."
But those who try to argue Islamic theology with jihadists find there is a reason why no Muslim countries have developed Western-style democracies or human rights from within. The undeniable fact is that the so-called "extremists" have a better textual basis in the Qur’an for their methods and beliefs than do the "moderates."
The Qur’an, after all, simply does not give reasonable Muslims a textual leg to stand on.
In her autobiography, Now They Call Me Infidel, Darwish writes of the shock she felt when she realized Christian marriage was about two equals becoming one, with rights and responsibilities going both ways. When she learned that Christians taught that God is their Father, it was about as religiously alien to her as the practice of shrinking heads.
In her latest book, Cruel and Usual Punishment, Darwish makes short work of this naïveté, using passages from the Qur’an and other teachings to prove her point:
"The ultimate goal of Islam is not simply to convert people to follow the religion of Islam; it is to establish Sharia law over the entire world. It is nothing less than the achievement of totalitarian power and the subjugation of humanity to the most brutal set of laws of enslavement, and to Arabize world culture, laws and politics.
"Islam does not urge Muslims to have personal relationship with Allah, but instead it seeks to bring back laws of medieval cruelty that take away the dignity of the human spirit and suck dry the very soul of freedom."
In fact, Darwish asserts, by the definition most Americans use, Islam is hardly a religion at all, but is "anti-religious" in he manner of other authoritarian and totalitarian systems of controlling people.
Darwish, along with Hirsi Ali, is best known for exposing the plight of women in Islamic societies. Here, she broadens her approach to examine the totality of Sharia law and the dire implications of its growing practice beyond the borders of Muslim countries.
When Americans think about "Sharia law," they tend to dwell on such particulars as demanding modest coverings for women, chopping off thieves' hands or stoning adulterers. Darwish, however, explains in much greater detail:
"Sharia law is the body of Islamic law. It deals with all aspects of day to day life including politics, economics, banking, business law, contract law, marriage, divorce, child rearing and custody, sexuality, sin, crime and social issues. It makes no distinction between public and private life, treating all aspects of human relations as governable by Allah’s law.
"The Sharia laws are based on the Qur’an, the hadiths (sayings and example of the Prophet) as well as centuries of debate, interpretation and precedent. There are literally thousands of Sharia laws. …
"Thus, Sharia was written down, codifying 7th Century Arabian Peninsula culture as law for all Muslims to follow in any time and in any place."
As Darwish explores the whole of Sharia law, she uncovers a pyramid of tyranny: From ayatollahs to secular dictators, Muslim leaders ruled with an iron fist, with the men feeling the illusion of power by their control over women. Islamic law and theology are defined at every level by master-servant relationships.
This philosophical base is the reason that Muslim societies facilitated the worldwide slave trade. They gave it up only by the force of Western arms but still tolerate slavery on a small scale to this day.
Of course, the center of oppression in the Muslim world is the treatment of women. Darwish includes a marriage contract from "moderate" Egypt that should have feminists screaming. She quotes from laws and hadiths that allow a man to not only beat a "rebellious" wife but also withhold food and medical care.
Anyone who reads Cruel and Usual Punishment will see why the "moderate" Muslim owner of a television station in Buffalo, N.Y., would feel justified in beheading his wife, Aasiya Z. Hassan, who filed for divorce.
But it is not only husbands and fathers who have authority over women under Sharia law. As Darwish states, a man who knows how to play the system in a Sharia state can rape and abuse females of almost any age without consequence.
Furthermore, Darwish shows, the various forms of formal and informal polygamy practiced in Sharia states poisons the relationship between husband and wife and feeds jihad by limiting the marriage choices of low-income men.
Sharia law only restricts women in their sexual activities; men — those of means, at least — are allowed a "wife buffet" of sexual choices. And there is no prohibition in the Qur’an for men with authority over them to sexually exploit very young female children — though you’ll be relieved to know that Iran's Ayatollah Khomeni wrote that penetration of an infant is not recommended.
While the subjugation of women is fairly well known in the West, the extent is generally glossed over. However, men are no less enslaved, but their authority over women distracts them from the fact that under Sharia, each of them are subjects to dictators and religious authorities, with only the well to do having a great degree of control of their own lives.
Moreover, Darwish contends, by separating love from marriage and perverting relations between men and women, Sharia law — not poverty or Western imperialism -- becomes the engine that fuels jihad:
"Terrorists are desperate Muslim men who cannot relate to life and the idea of human happiness as a right. … Jihad for the sake of Allah is essential to the growth of Islam. A man cannot love a woman, his children, or life and choose to die in the process of spreading jihad, which is not a defensive war. So to make the idea attractive, jihad became an honorable duty for every Muslim and the only guarantee of heaven. Do not worry that you will miss your wife on earth, he is told. Allah will reward you with seventy-two virgins…"
Sharia law would seem the unlikeliest candidate for liberal sympathies. Multiculturalists who scream that Dr, James Dobson, leader of the Christian-based Focused on the Family, is trying to establish a theocracy are striving to make accommodations for Sharia-based practices in public arenas in the West. Whether it’s because they consider Christianity to be the religion of oppression while Islam is that of the oppressed -- or it’s just knee-jerk hatred of America leading them to support the current opponent of the Great Satan -- the cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.
And Muslim political organizations know how to play the game and push the buttons in the liberal societies they so despise, Darwish writes:
"Even when the number of Muslims is only 1 or 2 percent of the country, they start pushing the envelope very early, making demands from the larger community, such as foot-level faucets for washing feet before praying in public schools, businesses and airports. …"
But multiculturalists are not the only ones who whitewash the reality of Islam. Commentators like Dinesh D’Souza try to claim common ground with Islam by saying conservatives and Muslims both value marriage, traditional values and are against abortion. But this is like saying the slaveholder and a family farmer owner both value hard work.
The beheading of Aasiya Z. Hassan, the barring of Dutch political leader Geert Wilders from Britain at the same time the buffoonish Archbishop of Canterbury is declaring Sharia law to be a legitimate way for British Muslims to be governed, all serve notice that Nonie Darwish’s warning must not to be ignored.
(For a masterful examination of how Europe got to this point, check out historian Michael Burleigh’s two-volume history, Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes. Burleigh powerfully tells the story of how politics first supplanted Christianity in Europe after the French Revolution and eventually formed the bloody secular religions of fascism and communism in the 20th Century. Now, Islam is filling the spiritual vacuum in Europe.)
Cruel and Usual Punishment is a searing indictment of the politically correct stance adopted by Western Europe and is creeping into American life. It's jam packed with overwhelming evidence about the clash of Eastern and Western civilizations, presented in a clear and readable manner. For her more personal take, readers should also seek out Darwish’s autobiography, Now They Call Me Infidel.
Nonie Darwish is a brave voice in this cowardly new world. Whether her warnings are heeded like Paul Revere’s or she is a voice in the wilderness like John the Baptist, (whose ultimate end some of her enemies no doubt wish for her), now I call her "hero."