Cruel and Unusual Punishment

DolceDolce’s Daphne Lavers reviews Cruel and Unusual Punishment by Nonie Darwish: 

In this first decade of the 21st century, the global practice of Islam is a mystery to many in the West. The five daily sets of prayers, Islamic holidays, and the Hajj — or pilgrimage to Mecca — are the mostly vague outlines of Western familiarity.
 
But Muslims, according to author Nonie Darwish, also are unfamiliar with Islam, with its precepts, with its historical genesis, and with its rigid body of non-negotiable laws. Islam is Sharia and Sharia is Islam, the all-encompassing Islamic law which “deals with all aspects of day-to-day life” and “makes no distinction between public and private life, treating all aspects of human relations as governable by Allah’s law.”
 
Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law is Darwish’s stark, provocative warning to the Western world about a doctrine she asserts is not a religion, but a misogynist totalitarian ideology working openly and successfully towards world domination.
 
“Islam is at the gates. Western democracies are underestimating a major threat that will push their futures to a point of no return. The west must either wake up to the danger today or submit unconditionally tomorrow,” she warns.
 
This Egyptian-born, former-Muslim American author has written an informed critique of Islam from the inside, a prism through which the actions and activities of the Islamic world can be seen in an entirely different light from the ‘diversity’ and multicultural’ orthodoxy adopted in Western democracies.
 
Quoting liberally from the Koran – or Quran — itself, Darwish has created an eminently-readable, blunt, and unflinching guide to the essence and specifics of Islam that create unease in Western culture. Further, she traces what were logical historical roots of Islamic practice and ritual to the present-day irrational and constrictive embodiments of the doctrine.
 
One familiar example is the head-to-toe covering, the burqa, demanded as public clothing for Muslim women and loathed in Western cultures as bizarre and imprisoning. Darwish described these origins in the nomadic Bedouin tribal culture of the Arabian peninsula. “Long before Islam, both men and women had to wear head cover and robes as protection from both the sun and severe sand storms,” she writes, describing a stark, open empty landscape with no protection from the elements where tribal life necessitated a highly-regulated social environment. This “adaptation to the physical environment” transformed into the required anonymity of the burqa, but only for women.
 
Historical antecedents run throughout Islam. “Arabian desert culture,” i.e. tribal, nomadic culture, embodied dual justice systems, one for one’s own tribe, and another for all others. This remains the basis of contemporary Islam.
 
The most virulent cornerstone of this particular tenet is the generalized death penalty for apostates – those who renounce Islam – and for unbelievers, everyone else who never was Muslim. The concept of jihad, Islamic war against the outside non-Muslim world “was not only honourable but also a mandate for every Muslim,” said Darwish. But while the rewards of jihad, of course, were bestowed only on men, the reward actually included bounty and women.
 
The continuation of Islam to the 21st century has changed virtually not at all from the seventh century Arabian peninsula ideology. Polygamy is both allowed and practiced, with up to four wives for Muslim men; “(t)he religious sanction of polygamy utterly destroys the idea that a man and a woman are one in marriage.” Divorce, instant and final, is a right only for men, enacted by a simple verbal statement; men, under their rights of ownership, are also entitled to wifely obedience, in all things, and granted Koranic approval for beating a disobedient wife – disobedience itself is a crime for a Muslim woman. Men get custody of children after age 7 to 9; men are also allowed what are euphemistically called ‘temporary marriages,’ that can last, for example, for an hour, or ‘traveller’s marriages’ designed for men away from home. Also explicitly defined are payments to women in exchange for sex, whether consensual or forced. Perhaps most distressing to Western cultures, “(t)he Islamic law knows no minimum age for a legal marriage,” Darwish writes. “The most shocking sexual privilege Sharia grants to men is that they are allowed to seek sexual gratification with children,” specifically following the model of their prophet Mohammed.
 
Darwish explains Sharia control over virtually all public and private life, portions of which are relatively unknown in the West. For example, under Sharia, Islamic rulers enforce the law, but are above the law, and are exempt from prosecution for “theft, adultery, killing and drinking.” Non-Muslims in Muslim countries pay an extra tax for the sin of being non-Muslims. Further, “(a)ccording to Muslim scriptures, a land that has a mosque built on it becomes Muslim land and must forever remain a mosque. Land acquisition for the purpose of building Islamic institutions is a major priority of the Muslim agenda in the West.”
 
The tradition of free speech is also unknown is Islam. “Blasphemy, criticizing or defaming Islam and the prophet is punishable by death in all the different Sharia schools, no exception,” Darwish writes. In fact, “Muslims are currently attempting to introduce blasphemy laws in Western countries” where legal action for “insulting Islam” is combined with death threats and intimidation. Even international law is subsumed to the demands of Islam; the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, signed by 45 Muslim countries, said that Sharia overrides any other law of human rights including the United Nations 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.
 
Nonie Darwish was born and raised Muslim in Egypt, a once-Christian land of the pyramids, the NileRiver and ancient and powerful queens. For 30 years, she lived under Sharia law, “a virtual slave,” where religious authorities “recently forbade Muslims from visiting the Egyptian pyramids because they are tombs of ‘infidels.’”
 
“To live under Islamic Sharia law is to live in the world’s largest maximum-security prison,” Darwish warns. “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.”
 
The events of 9/11 dropped Islam into global consciousness. Born and raised in the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Western world, I’ve found it challenging to try to make sense of that event and the belief system that precipitated it. As more Islamic traditions have come to light, the underlying currents of misogyny and surreal throw-back conceptions of women as property have been reflected in the ‘honour killings’ of women in Western countries and the increasing numbers of black-clad ‘ghosts,’ as Darwish calls women in burqas, appearing on Western streets. The evening news continues to be filled with attempted bombings of Western targets and the increasingly-fractious debate about the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero – and indeed such construction across North America.
 
But it is the increasingly-strident calls for the institution of Sharia law across North America and Europe that prompted me to read ‘Cruel and Unusual Punishment’ carefully and in considerable depth. While Islam is touted as one of the three great faiths, “the word ‘love’ is never mentioned, not even once, in the Quran,” Darwish writes. Further, “there is no commandment in Islam to treat the other the way you want to be treated, what the West calls the golden rule.” While I am not a fervently-religious person, my familiarity with Judeo-Christian traditions is reasonably substantial. And as the references to the approvals and permissions to consider women as property, as wicked and deceptive, as “domestic animals,” and as “half-devils,” increased, I was strongly reminded of that ancient Catholic invective, the Malleus Maleficarum, issued under Pope Innocent VIII in 1484, which justified the witchcraft trials that cursed European women for centuries.
 
I cross-referenced most of Darwish’s quotations from a copy of the Koran. As those quotations increasingly came up absolutely accurate, I realized that this is one book that all women across all countries need to read. It is our freedom that is at stake, again.
Share



A lyrical summer read

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is a mystical tale, set in a fictional post-apocalypse Africa. The future is still haunted by some of the same horrific problems of violence, rape, war, and superstition that plague the continent today.

 
Who Fears Death tells the story of a young woman born out of rape and violence. She uses her “supernatural powers and strength of character to show her peel a better way. Nnedi Okorafor’s writing is at times almost poetic. The situations she places her characters in could be ripped from today’s headlines. She skillfully interweaves the story of an awkward young woman’s coming of age with a commentary on violence, war, systematic rape, racism, and mysticism. The result is compelling and unforgettable. This is a young writer to watch. Who Fear’s Death is available this June, just in time to take to the beach!

 

Share