The Stoning of Soraya M. is a riveting, immensely important film that unforgettably and unflinchingly depicts the horror of the Islamic Sharia punishment of stoning for adultery. But in today’s politically correct environment, reviewers are rushing to divert attention away from or downplay the root causes of the crime the film indelibly depicts – and by doing so, are condemning more women to suffer Soraya’s fate.
This phenomenon – which I call Islamophobophobia – was vividly manifested in a review of the film by Kevin Thomas that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
Islamophobophobia: John Derbyshire coined the term to refer to his distaste for those (foremost among them me) who study how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam in order to justify terrorism and Islamic supremacism, and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. But now that Derbyshire has coined the term, I think it should be applied not only to a distaste for so-called “Islamophobes” (an appellation that I reject in any case), but also to an anxiety not to appear “anti-Islamic,” no matter what contortions one may be forced into as a result. This kind of Islamophobophobia especially manifests itself among politically correct types who find themselves for whatever reason in the position of discussing some human rights abuse or terrorist activity that its perpetrators justify by reference to Islamic teachings -- they will discuss it, all right, but will go to any length to make sure nobody thinks that it really has anything to do with Islam, or that it is any different from what those nasty Christians do.
This form of “Islamophobophobia” is in abundant display at the release of the excellent movie The Stoning of Soraya M. Many fall victim to Islamophobophobia not just because they are addled multiculturalists or politically correct cowards, but because they really don’t want innocent people to be victimized, and they think that it is somehow an act of generosity or fairness to downplay the Islamic connection to whatever wrongdoing they are discussing, and to play up the evils of Christianity. What they fail to realize is that by deflecting attention away from the real causes of the phenomena they oppose, they are only helping ensure that those phenomena will continue.
And so it is with the Los Angeles Times review. It starts out well, and even mentions Sharia. But inevitably there comes the almost obligatory “Christians are -- well, at least were -- just as bad” reference. Thomas points out that stoning remains prevalent “not just in Iran, the film’s setting, but in countries throughout the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa that follow Islamic Sharia law.” Give him points for not claiming that this is a cultural practice that has nothing to do with Islam. Stoning for adultery is indeed part of Sharia, and pretending that it isn’t, as actress Shohreh Aghdashloo has falsely claimed, is not going to do anything to end this practice. Why not? Because if one has decided that stoning is a cultural practice that has nothing to do with Sharia, one will not oppose the imposition of Sharia in any given place -- and with Sharia will come stoning, sooner or later.
Thomas says that “what is so compelling about this film, directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, an American of Iranian descent who adapted Sahebjam’s 1994 book with his wife, Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh, is the way religion can be exploited in the most obscene and hypocritical manner by those in power to oppress others -- and how total power over others can corrupt totally. Islam happens to be the religion here, but what happens in the course of this important and uncompromising film recalls evils perpetrated in the name of Christianity and other organized religions as well.”
Actually, the particular horrors depicted in The Stoning of Soraya M. could not have happened in any non-Islamic cultural context, for only Islam sanctions stoning (and when the Islamic apologists start quoting the Hebrew Scriptures, they should be informed that Judaism has interpreted those passages quite differently for two millennia or more, and that Christianity holds them to be superseded by John 7:53-8:11). Have Christians and believers in “other organized religions” perpetrated evils? Of course. But to remind readers of that in a review of this film is simply gratuitous Islamophobophobia on Thomas’s part.
After all, what point does Thomas wish us to take away from his review? That it doesn’t really matter if Iranian authorities are still stoning women (and they are), because after all, Christians have done bad things also? Surely not -- surely he doesn’t want us to be passive and silent about this human rights abuse, does he? Or is his point that we shouldn’t criticize Islam because of stoning, since Christianity has also given rise to evil deeds? But here again, it doesn’t matter, in regard to stoning, if Christianity were the most evil belief system ever conceived in the mind of man. Even if it were, if Muslims are stoning people in the name of Islamic texts and teachings, there is no chance to end that practice unless those texts and teachings are discussed critically and protested against. What Christians may have done or not done is simply irrelevant.
So either way, Thomas’s Islamophobophobia only abets the perpetuation of stoning. But to discard this Islamophobophobia and to speak honesty about why stoning is practiced today would have landed him in the camp of the “Islamophobes” -- and for some, a hideous and painful death would be more welcome than that.