Monday 30 September 2013

Pakistani Clerics Reportedly Reverse Course On DNA Evidence In Rape Cases

Finally coming out of the stone age...too little too late...:(
Pakistan's "Express Tribune" on September 20 quotes an unidentified member of the Islamic council as saying that "the discussion on DNA testing was successful and we were unanimous on the issue that DNA tests can be presented as evidence in rape cases coupled with other circumstances of the crime."

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, has welcomed what he says is a long-overdue decision.

"It's a positive development, because it's a move forward by the council," says Hasan. "It will certainly help in providing a scientific basis for rape convictions. The government is now expected to legislate in light of the council's recommendation."

The council's May 2013 decision to uphold the current Shari'a-inspired law -- enacted in 1979 by then-military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq -- prompted fierce criticism from human rights groups.

Rights groups have said the current law is one of the main reasons for the low rate of rape convictions in Pakistan. Hasan says only around 4 percent of rape cases taken to court result in a conviction.

But he says the council has been under mounting pressure to change course amid public outrage over a number of high-profile rape incidents involving minors, including that of a 5-year-old girl in the city of Lahore earlier this month.

"These [cases] have created a lot of shock within society," he says. "The debate concerning poor conviction rates and the social revulsion over [the lack of action] has, I think, contributed to the council looking at ways in which rape convictions can be made more sound."

Full article:

The truly corrupt and manipulative: What does the Quran say?

Ustad Nouman Ali Khan gave the above lecture in response to the Boston bombings I revisit it now in the aftermath of the truly horrific attacks on Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Here we have murderous men claiming to be Muhajideen indiscriminately and cold-bloodedly killing unarmed, innocent, civilians many of them women and children. It has been reported that young children were found stabbed to death stuffed into fridges, women were shot after being questioned and found to be Muslim because they were not wearing hijab.  Very unfortunately some commentators on Facebook/Twitter have tried to justify this attack, or give explanations for it in light of Kenya’s actions in Somalia  and especially in light of what they think the Quran says.

After all the Quran says we have to fight our enemies it says it says “kill them wherever you find them.”

However , this attack is entirely unacceptable, there can be no justification for murdering innocents. These  self-styled ‘Mujahdeen’ have been defended by people (mis)quoting  the Quran just like Islamophobes who to paint us all as homicidal maniacs and justify their support of military action and drone bombings. 

SubhanAllah the Quran itself speaks of such people and their corruption as Ustad Nouman articulates the Quran says something unique about itself:

 .......By it He misleads many, and many He guides thereby. And He misleads thereby only those who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah). Al-Baqarah:26. 

This means that Allah allows many people to be misguided by means of this very revelation, and He guides many by means of this revelation. When we first listen to this we ask: why would Allah send this revelation and then allow it to be used for misguidance? In fact, misguidance is mentioned first, and then the kind of people that will become misguided are mentioned. 

In fact Allah never misguides anybody at all, by means of revelation except those who are inherently corrupt. They have a deeply rooted corruption in themselves. There are psychological forms of corruption, people who don't even realize they're being manipulated, like young people are very gullible. There are people who are emotionally corrupt or traumatized, there are people who are actually outright evil and corrupt. Corruption takes many forms. It could be purposeful or not purposeful, it could be circumstantial. But you know what, when you come to this book with some kind of corruption – maybe you don't have complete information and you're rushing to conclusions – then the Quran has the option for someone to manipulate it. Someone to make the wrong conclusions.  Someone to use things in the Quran and say “oh this is what that means.”  But that can only happen when something is corrupt. If the intention and the approach and the emotions are corrupt. Something corrupt has to be there for the wrong conclusions to come out. So maybe it is the greatest of all of our true character.

And this is what has happened to the wanna-be Muhajideen and their corrupt supporters, these are people who will always justify violence and suffering.  They will insist “oh this is because of Islam”, or “this is a kind of jihad fee sabeelillah” or whatever else. This is nothing like jihad fee sabeelillah! This is nothing sanctioned by the Quran. It's a form of corruption. It's a form of manipulation of the sacred text. And we have to understand this first, that it's a violation of Allah's Word.

Saturday 28 September 2013

The Muslim hero of Westgate Mall horror

There was an awkward wrinkle – Muslims too were among the dead. That was not supposed to happen, you know, how come “Islamist terrorists” were killing other Muslims? One of the survivors said he watched in horror when two terrorists asked some women to cite verses of the Quran to prove they were Muslim. They did…then the men shot them at point blank range. Some terrified people who were lying on the ground screamed; “why did you shoot them?”

One of the gunmen replied, “because they were not wearing the hijab”. So, it seems, misogyny and patriarchy trumped religion.

 Please read the entire blogpost @.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Pakistan fighter pilot wins battle of sexes, now she’s ready for war

With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from Punjab province’s historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade - there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

“I don’t feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing,” the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in north Pakistan, where neatly piled warheads sit in sweltering 50 degree Celsius heat (122 F).

A growing number of women have joined Pakistan’s defense forces in recent years as attitudes towards women change.

“Because of terrorism and our geographical location it’s very important that we stay on our toes,” said Farooq, referring to Taliban militancy and a sharp rise in sectarian violence.

Deteriorating security in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year, and an uneasy relationship with arch rival India to the east add to the mix.
Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force.

“In our society most girls don’t even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft,” she said.

Family pressure against the traditionally male domain of the armed forces dissuaded other women from taking the next step to become combat ready, air force officials said. They fly slower aircraft instead, ferrying troops and equipment around the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.

“Less of a taboo”

Centuries-old rule in the tribal belt area along the border with Afghanistan, where rape, mutilation and the killing of women are ordered to mete out justice, underlines conservative Pakistan’s failures in protecting women’s rights.

But women are becoming more aware of those rights and signing up with the air force is about as empowering as it gets.

“More and more ladies are joining now,” said Nasim Abbas, Wing Commander of Squadron 20, made up of 25 pilots, including Farooq, who fly Chinese-made F-7PG fighter jets.

“It’s seen as less of a taboo. There’s been a shift in the nation’s, the society’s, way of thinking,” Abbas told Reuters on the base in Punjab’s Sargodha district, about 280 km (175 miles)east of the capital Islamabad, home base to many jets in the1965 and 1971 wars with India.

There are now about 4,000 women in Pakistan’s armed forces, largely confined to desk jobs and medical work.

But over the last decade, women have become sky marshals, defending Pakistan’s commercial liners against insurgent attacks, and a select few are serving in the elite anti-terrorist force. Like most female soldiers in the world, Pakistani women are still banned from ground combat.

Pakistan now has 316 women in the air force compared to around 100 five years ago, Abbas said.

“In Pakistan, it’s very important to defend our front lines because of terrorism and it’s very important for everyone to be part of it,” said avionics engineer Anam Hassan, 24, as she set out for work on an F-16 fighter aircraft, her thick black hair tucked under a baseball cap.

“It just took a while for the air force to accept this.”

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The Reason For Yemen's Child-Bride Problem Isn't What You'd Expect

Perhaps the most well-known story from Yemen is that of Nujood Ali who, after fleeing her abusive husband in 2008, became the country’s youngest divorcee at the age of 10. Arwa, another Yemeni girl, suffered a similar experience when she was married off to a man in his forties. When her father was asked why he was willing to marry his daughter off at such a young age, he said, “"He gave me 30,000 rial ($150) and promised another 400,000 ($2,000). I was really in need of money and thought it was a solution for the family.”
Nadim, who married his 12-year-old daughters to older men in order to pay off his creditors, is now an advocate against underage marriage, and he warned other parents: “I’d advise any father, mother, or brother not to rush to marry their girls like I did, because that is ignorant.” These child marriages perpetuate the cycle of poverty as the young girls are deprived of opportunities for education and work, face greater health risks, and are more likely to be victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Watching Anthony Bourdain in Palestine

I am a hardcore foodie, which means I love to eat. I was also born with Cerebral Palsy, which means I shake all the time—so cooking is not my thing, as I am banned from being around knives and fire. Those who cannot cook, watch, and I am obsessed with cooking shows. Forget Paula Dean; when it comes to on-air celebrity chefs no one makes my stomach go pitter-patter more than Chef Anthony Bourdain. He is absolutely fearless. He eats and smokes things I'd never have considered touching before I saw him do it first on No Reservations. No Reservations is no more, and the beautiful Bourdain has relocated to CNN. Parts Unknown, his new show now in its second season, is hands-down the best, most informative show on cable news. There is simply no competition, unlike on Bravo's Top Chef Masters where Chef Anthony happens to be my favorite judge.

Full article.

Friday 20 September 2013

Mind your own business!

It seems everyone is interested in everything but their own business. Leave off that which does not concern you. You will not be questioned questioned concerning someone else’s daily activities so why are you so overly concerned about it? This is a disease in the heart of any individual,  remove it instantly. 

Thursday 19 September 2013

Abuse of Asian girls missed because of focus on white victims, says report

The report, Unheard Voices: the sexual exploitation of Asian girls and young women, suggests that Asian girls, including Muslims, are under-reporting abuse to police and authorities because they fear not being believed, or because they are threatened with bringing shame and dishonour on their families.
"I knew we would uncover cases, but I was shocked at the numbers coming forward and the horrific nature of the crimes," said Shaista Gohir, chair of the network, based in Birmingham. "What we discovered is that these sexual predators will target any girls who are vulnerable and accessible, regardless of their background, ethnicity or faith."


Monday 16 September 2013

Female genital mutilation: 'Mothers need to say no'

For Samira, the very idea of this kind of mutilation is incomprehensible. Brought up in London, she was working as a model when she was approached by BBC3 to present a documentary about Somalia. Visiting the war-torn country, she met women who planned to have their daughters cut and saw a six-year-old girl who had been recently subjected to FGM. "I just didn't understand how a mother who had gone through this pain could have it done to her children. I don't blame the women, I blame the society that doesn't stop it."
Since the film came out last year, Samira has been touring schools withSave the Children to highlight issues facing Somalia. "One thing I have learned is that while people may say we are moving on, it still continues."
According to Forward, a leading UK charity that campaigns to end FGM, the practice takes place in many cultures and occurs in several different religious communities. However, mainstream spiritual leaders have denied that the practice stems from religion. Samira believes the desire to control women's sexuality lies behind it.
"I think women here are scared their daughters will become too westernised and not get married – that they will have boyfriends and go out, and this is why they have it done."
Yet the subject, she says, is rarely discussed. "I go into schools with a high number of Somali girls, and they always seem shocked that it is part of our history and culture. We need women to talk about their experiences, men to talk about their marital experiences, clerics to explain it is not linked to religion and doctors to talk about the problems it causes. Then things will change – when we discuss what FGM is really doing."

Thursday 12 September 2013

Feminism a Good Fit for One 'Good Muslim Boy'

Much respect to this brother. 

Some are Muslim men like him, men with British passports and roots in Pakistan who can’t get their head around one of their own pointing the finger at forced marriages and honor crimes and “giving racists another stick to beat us with.” Others come from Britain’s far-right fringe and can’t get their head around a Muslim being a chief prosecutor for “their” queen and “their” country. They once wrote a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, demanding that he fire and deport Mr. Afzal.
Mr. Afzal, 51, chuckles. “I was born in Birmingham, England, and I’m not going back there.”
One of 13 chief crown prosecutors in Britain, he oversees 100,000 prosecutions a year and manages 800 lawyers and paralegals in the prosecution service’s North West Area, the most populous after London. He was the first minority chief prosecutor ever appointed and remains the most senior Muslim lawyer in the country.
Mr. Afzal has prosecuted ordinary thieves, white-collar criminals and hooligans. But this fast-talking man with spiky salt-and-pepper hair and a slightly restless manner is also Britain’s national czar on violence against women. He has perhaps made his biggest mark in aggressively prosecuting crimes against women in minority communities.
Before Mr. Afzal came along, few in multicultural Britain talked openly about the 10,000 girls married off against their will every year, let alone the dozen or so murdered each year in the name of family honor. He has helped set up a national hot line for women at risk of forced marriage — something the U.S. government is currently talking to him about — and is working with the Home Office to criminalize the practice (a law is expected next spring). Last year, he prosecuted nine South Asian men for raping and trafficking white girls in the former mill town of Rochdale in a high-profile case that was branded a “wake-up call” by many in the community.
Human rights, he says, must always trump cultural rights: “There are problems in minority communities that can’t be taboo.”
Being a man, a practicing Muslim and the son of immigrants from the conservative tribal area in northwestern Pakistan might make him an unlikely feminist in the eyes of some. But that’s just what Mr. Afzal calls himself — and his gender, he says, is by far his biggest asset.
“I’m not the first person to take up this fight in Britain; I’m just the first man, and that makes it a lot easier,” he said.
Women’s rights campaigners have gladly welcomed Mr. Afzal into their sisterhood. Efua Dorkenoo, advocacy director on female genital mutilation for Equality Now, said male allies were “critical” for the success of gender equality campaigns, especially where abuses are cloaked in cultural terms. “When men like Afzal speak up about violence against women, it has much more resonance in Asian and African communities,” Ms. Dorkenoo said.
It was in 2004 that Mr. Afzal, a father of four, had his own wake-up call. A group of women came to see him. One told of a girl who had burned herself to death to avoid a forced marriage; she had been 17, the same age as his daughter is now. Another recounted how a woman had been on the run from her family for more than eight years after refusing to marry a man she didn’t know.
“I didn’t know this was happening in this country,” Mr. Afzal said. That same year, he organized a conference in London to learn more. Shortly after, he sat down with the police to create a national database of so-called honor crimes. “Before I knew it we had dozens and dozens of cases,” he said.
Two years later, he successfully prosecuted the cousin and brother of Samaira Nazir for her murder. She had wanted to marry someone her family objected to. They stabbed her 18 times in front of two infant nieces who were splattered with her blood.
It was one of the first occasions that an honor killing entered public consciousness.
In 2008, one of Mr. Afzal’s own relatives in Peshawar was killed by her husband’s family for demanding a divorce. But Mr. Afzal’s crusade for women’s rights is even more personal than that. Born a “brown boy” in middle England a year after his parents arrived in 1961, he, too, bears the scars of inequality. He was bullied and beaten at school often. His father, a caterer for the British, told him: “Get used to it.” And he did.
“I thought this was how it was, and I put up with it, and I think a lot of women feel the same about the abuse they suffer,” he said.
His work on gender equality often intersects with his efforts to be a bridge between white Britons and the South Asian community, particularly after suicide bombers attacked the London transport system on July 7, 2005, killing 52 and injuring nearly 800.
Mr. Afzal remembers speaking at London City Hall a few weeks later. The mood in the country was tense, Islamophobia on the rise. Mr. Afzal, then deputy chief prosecutor in London, had been asked to help engage the Muslim community, but his comments on gender-based violence irked some. A man stood up in the audience and said: “Nazir, why are you giving these racists another stick to beat us with?” His response: “The community should carry their own stick.”
He has long since stopped using Twitter because the abuse got to be too much. Following last year’s Rochdale case, a police guard was placed outside his house. But Mr. Afzal is not one to lose his spirit. “I’ve done my bit for multifaith engagement,” he likes to point out. “As a good Muslim boy, I’ve been married three times. First to an Irish Catholic, then to an Indian Hindu and then to a British Sikh.”

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Rejecting the Myth of Sanctioned Child Marriage in Islam

Excellent article :)
Name one thing Muslims and Christians share? Their level effort pointing fingers elsewhere whenever pedophilia comes up. Catholic priests are an obvious and easy target, but when my 16-year-old daughter raised $26,000 in her high school to combat North America's growing child-sex-slavery trade, her grandmother complained that she wasn't doing enough about misogyny and abuse in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan. Although she wasn't very clear how Marley would get there. My pen on the other hand? We'll see.
Another similarity? Neither Muslims nor Christians blame Christianity for the problem, but the same can't be said for Islam. You've got to give pedophiles their props though. Most sane people consider them something beyond abhorrent, and yet on this issue they have convinced even Christian leaders to climb into bed with them, and with some Sunni and Shiite scholars to boot. And it's time to pull the sheets back and see what's really going on for the sake of women and children everywhere.
There are really only three reasons to insist -- as so many do -- that Aisha was only 9 years old when Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) married her: Either you are such a crazy Islamophile that you are willing to go to your grave insisting Muhammad could do whatever he wanted, or you are such a crazy Islamophobe that you want to insist he did, or you are such a weirdly religious sex-crazed pervert that you hope accusing him makes it OK for you to do it too.
There is absolutely no other reason to either make or repeat that disgusting claim. Aisha was married in 622 C.E., and although her exact birthday is unknown, Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari recorded that it happened before Islam was revealed in 610. The earliest surviving biography of Muhammad, Abu Muhammad 'Abd al-Malik bin Hisham's recension of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah -- The Life of the Messenger of Godrecords that Aisha accepted Islam shortly after it was revealed -- 12 years before her marriage -- and there is no way she could have done so as an infant or toddler.
Furthermore, it is a matter of incontrovertible historical record that Aisha was involved in the Battles of Badr in 624 and Uhud in 625, in neither of which was anyone under the age of 15 allowed.
Finally, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, dead for more than 700 years, recorded in the biographical section of Miskat al-Masabih that Asma, her elder sister of 10 years, died at the age of 100, 72 years after Aisha's wedding. This makes Aisha's age at the time of her marriage at least 14, and at the time of her marriage's consummation almost 20.
Although those dates make it obvious that Aisha's child-marriage couldn't have taken place, according to Arab tribal traditions of the time it could have, and apparently it can still happen in Arabia today. A case that recently raged through the international press and Saudi courts -- of an 8-year-old girl who had been married by her father to a 47 year-old "friend" to settle Dad's debts -- shows how little things there have changed. However, that's despite Islam, not because of it.
Prior to Muhammad in Arabia, it is common knowledge that females were considered property, and that female infants were often discarded like refuse when born. However, one of Islam's primary revelations was that men and women had equal status before God, with different though equal rights and obligations. Another was God's condemnation of Arab female sacrifice, proclaiming that girl-children were just as valuable as boy-children to God and to humankind.
Obviously, those ignorant tribal prejudices and practices persist. However the most important reason Aisha's child-marriage couldn't have happened is this: Muhammad couldn't do anything any more than any other Muslim can. Muhammad was the finest example of true Islamic living there could ever be, and having marital relations with a woman of less than the "age of majority" -- an age that varies from culture to culture but presupposes the ability to become pregnant, have children and make decisions for those children as an adult -- was, is and always will be completely contrary to the example set by our Prophet, and the message of Islam's Holy Quran.

The Quran is clear that a divorced woman cannot marry another man until she completes a period of waiting to confirm she isn't already pregnant, and such an impediment would be unnecessary were pregnancy not possible. However, the roots of Islamic pedophilia lie in exactly what the verse (At-Talaq -- "The Divorce" 65:4) about that waiting period says. Yousuf Ali's English translation is a pretty good approximation:
Waalla-ee ya-isna mina almaheedi min nisa-ikum ini irtabtum fa'iddatuhunna thalathatu ashhurin waalla-ee lam yahidna waolatu al-ahmali ajaluhunna an yada'ana hamlahunna waman yattaqi Allaha yaj'al lahu min amrihi yusran.
Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same): for those who carry (life within their wombs), their period is until they deliver their burdens: and for those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy.
Now, I've discussed the verse with progressive Islamic scholars and learned that "Lam Yahidna" negates menstruation in the past tense and the jussive mode and means "did not menstruate," with the expectation that the woman should be menstruating, since that natural cycle is part of her normal state.
Then again, I know that there are Islamic scholars from Arabia and Pakistan -- another place with long traditions of both child-marriage and misogyny -- and Islamophobes from around the world who interpret it as if it says "has not menstruated yet," with the jussive mode implying the girl is impatient to begin, ensuring that it seems to perpetuate the pre-Islamic practice of having sex with pre-pubescent girls.
Between those two incredibly divergent positions, how does one choose?
When Muslims face difficult questions, we have the Sunnah, an Arabic word meaning "the acts of Muhammad," to guide us, and that's why Aisha's age is such an issue. But the thing is, whether Aisha was still a child when her marriage was consummated has never been a question: all scholars agree that occurred after Aisha's menarche. Islamophobes inevitably claim otherwise, but they do so based on a completely fictitious interpretation of events.
And that means the problem that we should be addressing is the root one, that of men devaluing and disenfranchising girls and women: Husbands and fathers treating girls as property and forcing them to marry against their will.
And in that, the condemnation of the Quran and Sunnah are very clear: The Quran states a woman's consent is essential, and the Sunnah confirms that both Aisha's betrothal and consummation occurred with Aisha's enthusiastic agreement. In fact, some even imply she went against the initial wishes of her Dad!
Those guides unequivocally confirm that men and woman have equal status before God, equal though different rights when wed, and that a woman cannot be given in marriage without her express approval. Absent that, the Sunnah also records that Muhammad dissolved marriages on the woman's testimony alone. That is what Muslims should be proclaiming, rather than the purported right of Muslim men to marry underage brides.
The cause of the confusion is simple. Imam Bukhari, compiler of the famous Hadithcollection (Hadith in this context meaning stories about Muhammad) Sahih Bukhari included one recalling that Aisha said she was 6 when betrothed and 9 when she was wed. However, Bukhari included another recording that Aisha was a young girl and remembered when Surah Al-Qamar was revealed -- 9 years before her wedding -- as well. Obviously, both Hadiths can't be true, and that's the problem with relying too much on Hadiths, and too little on the Quran and common sense.
Even if you believe -- as I do -- that the Quran is a divinely protected book, the same cannot be said about all Hadiths. In fact, there is even an Ayah in the Quran that warns about the dangers of thinking otherwise. Luqman 31:6 cautions:
Wamina alnnasi man yashtaree lahwa alhadithi liyudilla aaan sabeeli Allahi bighayri aailmin wayattakhithaha huzuwan ola-ika lahum aaathabun muheenun.
But there are, among men, those who purchase idle Hadiths, without knowledge (or meaning), to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah and throw ridicule (on the Path): for such there will be a Humiliating Penalty.
While there are Muslim scholars who claim that Luqman 6 is actually a warning about musical performers like Madonna, there are others who respond that unless those performers are Muslim nothing they do throws ridicule on any path but their own. And personally, I think the Ayah is instead a frank and literal warning about the dangers of trafficking in false and idle Hadiths, just like it says.
I also can't think of a better set of examples of what it's talking about than the damage that's been done by confusion over Aisha's age of consummation.
I have read a great deal of speculation about why Hadiths that make Aisha seem immature might be wrong. Most of them came out of what is now Iraq, through one specific source named Hisham ibn Urwah. And it's worth noting that his student Muslim -- who collated the Hadiths of Sahih Muslim -- specifically chose not to include any from his respected teacher after Hisham went to Iraq. Some say it's because Hisham's memory became spotty, others say it was because Iraq was a political hotbed of "anti-Aisha" feeling and some evil men fabricated Hadiths in Hisham's name.
But none of the speculation matters. The only thing you need to realize is that both the tales Bukhari included can't both be true. That fact, put together with the Quran's warning, means that Hadiths can't be as authoritative to Muslims as the Holy Quran and the Sunnah are.

I've been told otherwise by many good Muslims, and I know there are even places in the world where you can spark a riot by saying otherwise, but I think that's part of what Luqman warns us about. I love Hadiths for the illuminating light they can shine on the interpretation of a difficult passage, or on my own attempts navigating a difficult juncture in my life, but I've also participated in Islamic dinner events that have fallen apart discussing the Hadith condemning Muslims who smell their food before they eat it.
Now, the role, authority and validity of individual Hadiths is not an issue that is going to be put to rest by someone like me; there is an entire scholarly science devoted to it. And personally, I think that debate and discussion, both between scholars and "grass-roots" Muslims, is useful and instructive whether the Hadiths being discussed are actually "true" or not, as long as that discussion is respectful of both our religion of Islam and our fellow participants.
But while we're on the subject of how Muslims settle Islamic controversies, there's an important question that begs asking. I actually understand the Islamophobic focus on false and embarrassing Islamic interpretations: they're just trying to score points the best way they know how, with tools we Muslims have given them. But all these facts I've shared are just common knowledge that's easily verifiable and my conclusions little more than simple common sense.
If Muslim scholars are so concerned that Muslim practices follow Islam's revelation and Muhammad's memory, and if they truly want to defend Islam and our Prophet, then what have they been doing for the last thousand years?
No question men (and women) can be pigs when it comes to sex and gender issues -- when I'm asked to explain why we can't eat pork I generally explain the problem might be cannibalism -- but religion is supposed to help us combat those dark urges not pander to them.
And while we're on the subject of marriage, the Quran doesn't condone wife-beating either. In pre-Islamic Arabia, men did not need permission to beat their wives. And although the Arabic root Dzaraba does mean "beat" it also means "heal." Dzaraba denotes action for a higher purpose, such as "striking (or minting) a coin," or "striking out on a new path." Coupled with the Quran's warning to husbands that God is watching everything we do, and a reminder that we must serve our marriage rather than ourselves, particularly after proclaiming married men to be tasked as providers and protectors rather than rulers all in the same passage, in Muhammad's day Islam actually took that permission away, despite misogynist Muslim and Islamophobic claims to the contrary.
With all the suffering in Somalia, so much of it caused by misapplied and misinterpreted misreadings of Islam, why are Somalia's scholars focusing on sexualizing hand-holding?
How is it that Saudi Arabia still allows child marriage when they've known Aisha's real age all along (the biographies I reference are written in Arabic, for Heaven's sake!), or that Pakistan's rape laws cleave to British colonial precedent?
In Pakistan, a woman can be punished for being raped if the rapist denies her claims. But when Muhammad was faced with a woman who told him she'd been raped, he had the man in question executed on the testimony of the woman, whom he pronounced blameless, alone.
The simple truth is that all our Muslim scholars since Islam began have been human, limited by the human ability to pander, avoid conflict by bowing to popular opinion, or make mistakes. And when scholars fail their sacred trust, to transmit Islam with fidelity, they lose their right to any authority, Islamic or otherwise, and frankly, it's up to the rest of us to do a better job of keeping them honest.

Because if any of us care about things like "truth" and "fidelity" as much as so many of us claim, "Too busy to check the facts out for myself" just doesn't seem like much of an excuse.
What's my bottom line? The age Aisha attained before she married the Prophet is one issue we have to put to rest -- for the sake of children everywhere. There is absolutely no question that Aisha was an adult when she consummated her marriage with Muhammad of her own free will, and she lived out her life in the earliest days of Islam the un-harassed and proudly participatory equal of everyone, just like every other man, woman or child under God.
That is our Muslim legacy that we should be striving to live up to, and anyone who claims otherwise is simply crazy, one way or another.