Australia’s moderate Muslims have been quick to condemn Sheik al-Hilali for blaming woman for inciting rape. All power to them.
But before we start to congratulate ourselves over the sensible attitudes of the vast majority of moderates, there’s a question worth asking: did any of the 500 or so people who attended the Ramadan sermon raise concerns before the Sheik’s comments sparked outrage in The Australian?
It’s natural that we should be falling over ourselves to believe there’s a clear distinction between moderate Islam and the Islamism of terror and jihad — the alternative amounts to a disturbing challenge to secular liberalism.
Yet British novelist Martin Amis recently argued in The Observer that the distinction between the two is collapsing:
Until recently it was being said that what we are confronted with, here, is ‘a civil war’ within Islam. That’s what all this was supposed to be: not a clash of civilisations or anything like that, but a civil war within Islam. Well, the civil war appears to be over. And Islamism won it. The loser, moderate Islam, is always deceptively well-represented on the level of the op-ed page and the public debate; elsewhere, it is supine and inaudible.
Hilali’s words are no clumsy aberration — he was reciting one of the core themes of Islamists, that of the woman as temptress. Here’s Hilali, translated by The Australian:
“It’s she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then it’s a look, then a smile, then a conversation, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail… But when it comes to this disaster, who started it?”
And here’s Amis describing the formative experiences of Sayyid Qutb, the father of radical Islam.
He didn’t like New York: materialistic, mechanistic, trivial, idolatrous, wanton, depraved, and so on and so forth. Washington was a little better. But here, sickly Sayyid (lungs) was hospitalised, introducing him to another dire hazard that he wouldn’t have faced at home: female nurses. One of them, tricked out with ‘thirsty lips, bulging breasts, smooth legs’ and a coquettish manner (‘the calling eye, the provocative laugh’), regaled him with her wish-list of endowments for the ideal lover. But ‘the father of Islamism’, as he is often called, remained calm, later developing the incident into a diatribe against Arab men who succumb to the allure of American women.
For an even-handed explanation of Qutb’s political philosophy I prefer Paul Berman to Amis, but we can take the novelist’s word for this much: Islamists have a serious problem with women. Their political philosophy reeks of it.
And if Australian Muslims want to draw a distinction between their views and those of the Islamists they’re going to need to do more than blandly accept the sort of women-hating nonsense Hilali served up.
Striking the right pose when prodded into it by the press is a start — but it’s not enough to inspire confidence that the distinction between moderate Islam and Islamism is what it’s cracked up to be.