There’s an Arabic word commonly spelled in English as fiqh and pronounced as “fick”. It refers to the corpus of regulations derived from scriptural sources. For 14 centuries, Islamic religious scholars developed all kinds of rules from scripture. And for the past decade or so, my “Aussie Mossie” mates have developed a polite way of responding to the more imbecilic rulings.

So when I read this morning of the crazy rants of someone described by Herald Sun as “Coburg’s self-styled cleric”, I used that same polite response, asking myself: “What the fiqh?” And when I watched the actual video (consisting of clumsily edited excerpts from two separate lectures), I found myself wondering what bits had been left out.

Samir Abu Hamza was shown saying hitting and bashing one’s wife was forbidden. As a last resort, a man may hit their wives with a toothbrush. The traditional brush used by the Prophet Muhammad (known as a miswak and which looks like this) is much lighter than your average Oral-B. Did Abu Hamza remind his audience that not a single incident is recorded in Islamic scriptures of the Prophet even so much as raising his voice at any woman? I’m not sure. What I do know is this — my mum would happily squirt toothpaste in Abu Hamza’s eyes and up his nostrils if he tried lecturing her husband and/or son on the merits of even the “mildest” form of toothbrush tantrum.

The second excerpt showed Abu Hamza talking about the spiritual and moral causes of alcoholism, crime, gambling and other social ills. He accuses Muslims of being selfish in not sharing their religious values with others. Apparently, we are meant to be offended by this. Apparently, the Jensens and Pells of this world don’t deliver similar sermons.

So where is the real story in all this? Abu Hamza defended using an instrument of “discipline” that can still poke someone’s eye out whilst effectively denying the existence of marital rape in religious law. It’s a claim without foundation. To suggest marital rape is tolerated in any religious tradition (let alone Middle Eastern faiths like Christianity, Judaism and Islam) is complete nonsense. What kind of sick man gets his kicks out of forcing any woman, let alone his own wife, to have s-x with him?

Domestic violence (including marital rape) is far too common across all Australian communities. The Herald Sun poll asked whether readers thought Abu Hamza’s comments are out of touch with Australian values. If Aussie values are defined using crime statistics, well the White Ribbon Day website provides disturbing statistics; for example, nearly two-thirds of women experience physical or sexual violence at least once during their life time.

Yet sadly, as is so often the case, religious teachers are out of step with the rest of us. Some months back, The Age covered a Melbourne University conference where the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council delivered a paper on the attitudes of imams toward gender issues. Muslim women deserve not just the protection of the law but also the support of their menfolk. How can this happen when male religious leaders continue to be caught out making despicable remarks? And how can the problem be resolved when moronic tabloids across the land turn issues like domestic violence into yet another exercise in shoring up “Australian values” despite the fact that men of all backgrounds are perpetrators and women of all background are victims?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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