By Siraj Wahab, Arab News
A popular Saudi author and religious scholar has raised some questions about governmental and societal practices across the Arab world and asserts that the United States is more in alignment with many Islamic values than many countries represented as Muslim states.
Sheikh Aaidh ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni, whose self-help book â€œDonâ€™t Be Sadâ€ sells briskly both in English and Arabic, made the remarks in two recent columns published in the pan-Arab mass-circulation Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
In the columns, Al-Qarni compared a Saudi womanâ€™s experience after being beaten by an abusive husband in the United States with what often happens â€” or doesnâ€™t happen â€” in her native land. In the second column, Al-Qarni explored the reasons so many Muslims move to the US and find both greater opportunity and more tolerance than they could expect in their homelands. The thought-provoking articles have prompted many discussions at coffee shops and dinner tables.
â€œThe US deals with its subjects through systems that look like they were based on Islamic teachings while Muslims fail to implement such systems,â€ Al-Qarni wrote in his column about domestic violence, which focused on a family that moved to the US while the husband was working on a university degree.
Physically and verbally abused, the wife appealed to his family and her family to intervene but to no avail.
â€œIn fact she was rejected, insulted and threatened by them,â€ Al-Qarni wrote of the family members back home. â€œHaving reached a dead end, the wife decided to put a stop to the physical and psychological pain she and her children were suffering; she contacted the police and told them about her husband.â€
He then described the response of several police squads visiting the residence and getting the story from both spouses and the children before deducing the man indeed was beating his wife. The husband was arrested and the wife and children moved to a hotel at the stateâ€™s expense and under police protection. Later, the wife was given financial assistance and an American attorney represented her for no charge.
Authorities found her an appropriate job, escorted her children to school and made the husband agree not to come near any of them before the court hearing on the matter, at which time he was convicted of domestic violence. The wife was awarded custody of the children.
â€œNow, after listening to the story, let us ask how many women are beaten, insulted and hurt without anybody coming to their aid? I am aware of many terrifying stories of the worst kind of abuse and oppression that women experience day and night in our world,â€ Al-Qarni wrote.
â€œI fear that after people read this story, many women in the Arab world would want to go to the US. I believe that there should be a secret police force in our countries whose task is to rescue women who are being assaulted and suffering abuse. Any husband carrying out such abuse should share the same fate as the Saudi student in the US mentioned in the story above.â€
Al-Qarni wrote it reminded him of a classic figure in Islam.
â€œOver 14 centuries ago, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, defended an abused woman when he went to her husbandâ€™s house with his sword and rescued the woman and taught her husband a lesson, but in accordance with the principles of Shariah,â€ he wrote. He continued: â€œI remember that some colleagues and I toured 21 American states, and whenever we saw the accuracy and excellence of the traffic system, and witnessed peopleâ€™s commitment to environment-protection laws, and the way daily affairs are managed, we thought of the words we read in the Qurâ€™an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s). Even some of the Muslim professors there once said to us: â€˜We swear it is as if the Americans took it from our religion word for word, while we ignore these great texts.â€™â€
In the column about Arabs fleeing their homelands and traveling to the West, Al-Qarni notes that greater opportunities exist there than in many Muslim nations.
â€œSome of them have fled from repression, whipping, torture, gagging, confiscation of freedom, with the traces of torture still on their backs and chests. Others have gone to look for a source of living after being stricken by poverty, stung by hunger and destroyed by unemployment and idleness. Others have gone to seek knowledge, leaving behind their countries where universities are ranked last in the list of the universities of the world,â€ he wrote.
Al-Qarni related the story of a Libyan man who fled his own country and found happiness and a good life in the US. â€œWe were amazed. Amazingly enough, here is a man who fled his homeland after being terribly harassed, tortured, and maltreated there and came to a state that we are insulting day and night, and that some of us call the â€˜Great Satan,â€™ a country that our preachers are cursing and wishing it bad,â€ Al-Qarni wrote. â€œThen, this poor Muslim man who was driven out of his country, tortured in his homeland, becomes rich, having a home, a farm and a job and enjoying a good life full happiness in an American state.â€
Al-Qarni questions why the West is demonized when it provides so many opportunities to Muslims and is far more tolerant of Muslim sensitivities than many Muslim countries are to people of differing faiths.
â€œWhy donâ€™t we Muslims think about our tragedies and disasters, and admit that many of our states have discarded justice, confiscated liberties, taken over rights and erased the freedom of expression? This is at a time when, in the West, they discuss their affairs calmly, solve their crises with dialogue and govern their subjects with justice,â€ he wrote.
He suggests the Muslim world needs to take a long look at itself.
â€œIn our Shariah, we read about order, justice, good character, calls for peace and human rights, respect for others, avoiding hurting other peoplesâ€™ feelings, showing interest in the environment, seeking knowledge, encouraging work and production, and fighting poverty, ignorance, disease, and injustice. We notice that they are observing all this in the West whereas we find that many Muslims are only paying lip service to it in their bitter reality.â€
Al-Qarni said there was much to be learned from the countries of the West. â€œPlease, let us stop cursing and insulting them and wishing them bad, and let us preoccupy ourselves with reforming ourselves, improving our level, promoting our universities, cleaning our environment, building our land, and rectifying our mistakes.â€