You’ve got to hand it to the gallant gals at ‘Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia’. They certainly know how to overturn the tables of convention and give the chattering classes a sharp poke in the ribs.
Mission Australia has just rolled out its winter campaign highlighting the struggle of parents trying to escape the scourge of domestic violence, which is thought to affect up to 1 in 5 Australian women. And it’s even worse for Indigenous women, who are estimated to be 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family and domestic violence-related assaults than non-Indigenous women.
Then, just as a Saudi woman seeking asylum in Australia from her abusive family was allegedly bundled back to Riyadh by her ‘uncles’, the Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir gave the go-ahead for Muslim men to strike their wives. But only in a symbolic way, insisted Ms Reem Allouche and Ms Atika Latifi. It must be done in a “managed” way with a short stick, a scrap of fabric, or a coiled scarf.
It was all part of a panel discussion attended by Muslim women and posted by Hizb ut-Tahrir to its Facebook page. The women agreed that discipline was “a beautiful blessing” and sometimes necessary to “promote tranquillity” in the family home. A husband is entitled to discipline a wife, the women said, if she has been disobedient, acted in an immoral way, or has cheated in some way.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (which means ‘Party of Liberation’) is no stranger to controversy. Banned as an extremist organisation in Britain, the Australian chapter was last year hauled before the Equal Opportunity Tribunal by journalist Alison Bevege who denounced sharia-based gender segregation at public meetings. The Tribunal found in her favour. But has the Hizb had changed its ways?
The organisation says on its website that it works “in order to govern by Islam and strives against the Kafir colonialists to uproot their influence. It also struggles against the agents of colonialism” – which probably means you and me, and just about everyone we know between us. And it’s likely that Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the women’s section, stands by the organisation and all its stated aims.
Prominent Australian Muslims, including Waleed Aly, swiftly condemned the women’s video declaring that Islam absolutely prohibited the abuse of women. Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash said it was “abhorrent”, and Muslim MP, Ed Husic, stated that any form of striking – “either between husband or wife or anywhere” – was “not acceptable.” The Prophet, they said, condemned violence.
If Ms Allouche and Ms Latifi are wrong about what the Qu’ran permits a husband to do to his wife to restore “tranquillity” in the home, presumably they are guilty of promulgating heretical interpretations of Islam. But if Mr Aly, Senator Cash, and Mr Husic are all wrong about what the Prophet permits, aren’t they guilty of promoting Islamophobia by their ‘ignorance’ and obvious ‘hatred’?
Yet the Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia, so prominent in recent denunciations of anti-Islamist activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been strangely silent. Nor anything, as yet, from ‘Persons of Interest’ which protested against Hirsi Ali, crying, “Shame on you for carrying water for the Islamists, for trying to shut people up who are trying to raise awareness about sharia law.”
Our embrace of multiculturalism, diversity, and the politics of identity has led us to be wary of judging the behaviours and traditions of those whose moral codes differ from our own. Oppressive, colonialist attitudes are often alleged to blight the lives of minority groups living in Australia. Some even use such accusations as a cudgel with which to beat our legal system and the rule of law.
What, then, are we to make of Islamic traditions, some of which do not fit our Australian way of life? Female genital mutilation and forced marriage — brutal practices executed without consent of the young girls who are the victims — are illegal in every state and territory. But we’re not quite so confident what to do in response to Islam’s blunt and uncompromising teaching on homosexuality.
Same-sex marriage advocates, quick to condemn as ‘homophobic’ anyone who dares question the prevailing ‘rainbow’ orthodoxy, fall eerily silent in the face of sermons issuing from Islamic preachers about the fate homosexuals can expect to meet — for the social justice warriors who pursue marriage equality are often the same ones determined to stamp out Islamophobia.
Australian Muslims are in a tight spot, however, when it comes to the rights Islam affords to women. Sheik Shady Alsuleiman, for example, a leading Muslim who criticized the Hizb u-Tahrir video, is, himself, on record as having asserted the right of a husband to demand sex from his wife, saying that when she refuses her husband, “the angels will continue to curse her until morning.”
Yet Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who declared on ABC’s Q&A earlier this year that Islam was “the most feminist religion” – and who, herself, later admitted to having sought advice from Hizb ut-Tahrir – has decided the two women are wrong on the Qu’ran’s teaching about the beauty of symbolic discipline. Yassmin says domestic violence is unacceptable. Which, of course, it is.
And, indeed, any form of blow, even if delivered with a folded hankie or a toothbrush, constitutes an assault according to the criminal law. Yet this is just the latest example of the prevarication we’ve come to expect from Muslim leaders whenever Islam rubs up against Western rights, values and laws. Some claim the Qu’ran says one thing, while others deny it and declare that it says another.
And what of the activists busy promoting ‘Safe Schools’ campaigns advocating transgender identity rights, gender theory, and other forms of social engineering to our children in order (they say) to stop bullying and violent behaviour? The silence from that quarter about the importance of stopping domestic violence and all assaults against women has been total.
But this is the price we are paying for striving to stamp out the ‘sins’ of racism and discrimination. Promoting ‘diversity’ has long trumped affirming the primacy of our national culture. Yet now we are remembering that every Australian, regardless of race or creed, has full protection under the law. Diffidence in the face of the illegal and the unacceptable leads not to liberty, but to tyranny.
Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies
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