THE BLOG
08/18/2015 10:18 am ET Updated Aug 18, 2016

The Governance of ISIS and of Much of the Muslim World Are Uncomfortably Similar

Abode of Chaos/Flickr

It must be clearly stated again that ISIS (or Daesh as many of us Muslims like to call it) has bastardized Islam beyond recognition.

Justifying rape as a form of worship, as reported in the New York Times' article "ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape," encapsulates the dehumanization of girls and women as sex objects in the name of Islam.

If you want a simple theological rebuttal for Daesh's violations against humanity, you can read the open letter to Baghdadi from 126 Sunni male scholars and religious leaders published last year on an open platform, inviting others to sign on.

As an imam myself and a representative of the human rights organization Muslims for Progressive Values, I did not sign on. I didn't sign because I and many Muslims take issue with the exclusively self-appointed male religious authoritarianism. Could they have not found one single female scholar of Islam or a female imam to include? After all, the first female imam was appointed by Prophet Muhammad himself, and the earliest scholars of Islam were women.

How are Shari'a laws in many of the Muslim-majority countries any different than Daesh's laws?

Though I commend the 126 scholars and religious leaders for their efforts in producing the letter, I would like to challenge them to go further:

Why do you not challenge the same misogynistic, intolerant, hateful and supremacist theology in your own institutions, communities and countries?

Let's put this bluntly. How are Shari'a laws in many of the Muslim-majority countries any different than Daesh's laws? To exemplify the point, let's examine five of the 24 issues the letter scrutinizes of Daesh's human rights abuses in the name of Islam.

#1. "It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings."

Shari'a is Islam's legal rulings. It did not exist during Prophet Muhammad's times and is a man-made construct -- a mash-up of medieval interpretations of the Qur'an with political influence at its root. Caliphs of the day would hand over their Shari'a to the clergy on their payroll for the official religious seal of approval.

Shari'a of today has not changed much through the centuries and is more of an oppressive system rather than one that lifts up peoples' lives. From marriage, divorce, inheritance laws, the arts, music, freedom of speech and beliefs, in its current state, Shari'a is an unjust system that benefits the powerful rather than the poor, the underprivileged, women and children.

Shari'a today is far from living up to the "reality of contemporary times." It is time for scholars of Islam to set a new Shari'a that fulfills the Qur'an's mandate of justice, compassion and mercy and that reflects the 21st century.

#2. "It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent."

The omission of the senseless killing of homosexuals in the letter speaks for itself.

Homosexuals in Daesh's territory are killed by shoving them off of tall buildings. If they survive, they are stoned to death. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Mauritania, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, homosexual acts are criminalized and punishable by death.

There is no difference in the theology of hate against sexual orientation and gender minorities from which these punishments are derived. They are absolutely man-made and not in the Qur'an.

At its root is the interpretation of the account on Sodom and Gomorrah, found in both the Old Testament and the Qur'an, which some claim to mean that God killed everyone solely because of the homosexual acts.

But didn't these evildoers rape men, women and children too? Is this not about sexual assault and rape much like the way Daesh has institutionalized its wicked sex slavery, lust, rape and violence?

Daesh is Sodom and Gomorrah.

#13. "It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert."

This is the most blatantly violated teaching of the Qur'an. The Qur'an states, "Let there be no compulsion in faith," (2:256), and "the truth [comes] from your Lord; so whoever will, let him believe, and whoever will, let him disbelieve" (18:29).

In the Daesh world, the Yazidis are forced to convert or get killed, and the lives of Christians are made so hellish that it would be better for them to convert or leave. Imams who fought against their ideology were assassinated too.

Given the clear freedom to choose one's beliefs and the absence of any earthly punishments for leaving the religion of Islam, why is apostasy criminalized in much of the Muslim world?

In Saudi Arabia, apostasy is punishable with a public beheading, and to ensure its religious façade, it takes place after the Friday prayers. In Malaysia, you will be sent off to the "rehabilitation" center until you re-proclaim yourself as Muslim.

#14. "It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights. In simple terms, you treat women like detainees and prisoners. They dress according to your whims. They are not allowed to leave their homes, and they are not allowed to go to school."

Muslim women are wondering: how is it that we have to fight for the rights given to us in the Qur'an and advocated for by Prophet Muhammad?

The denial of women's rights is built on a cultural, not Islamic, system of "honor." In the Muslim world, it is often equated to one's level of religiosity -- the more covered, the more honorable you are, and the more honorable, the more the men in the family pride themselves.

"A woman is like a ticking time bomb who can dishonor the family any second," say the men interviewed in the film "Casablanca Calling." "The sooner they are married off, the better."

Honor in this context is not about one's integrity, deeds, intellect or kind-heartedness but about sexuality of the woman's body -- her skin, arm, hair, face and voice.

This warped honor belief has resulted in the ruined lives of too many women to count. It has deprived them of education, of free will, of life. We know how women in Daesh territories are treated but in some Muslim countries, women and girls don't fare much better.

#17. "It is forbidden in Islam to torture people."

Even as a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Saudi Arabia still flogs (beats with a whip or stick) people like Raif Badawi and many others for expressing their God-given right to think.

In Egypt, torture in the form of sexual assault, such as sodomizing men and raping female prisoners, is common practice.

Much of the Muslim world is broken, tumultuous, morally corrupted and void of justice.

As exemplified in these five principles, everything proclaimed by these religious authorities looks pretty but just on paper. In the West and in Muslim-majority countries, most Muslims in leadership perpetuate a mindset that is patriarchal, misogynistic, oppressive and unjust.

Sadly, there is not much difference between the governance of Daesh and much of the Muslim world. The theology from which much of the brutality and injustice are born varies only in the degree of the punishment carried out.

Much of the Muslim world is broken, tumultuous, morally corrupted and void of justice. We need an interpretation of Islam that is relevant for the 21st century -- one that is pinned on a just system void of corruption. It is only with justice that peace can be attained.

I challenge the same 126 signatories of the letter to Baghdadi to convene and to reassess their own values and this time, to practice what you preach.

It is only when boys, girls, women and men can live with dignity, in safety and with freedom of conscience as the Qur'an demands (2:256) that a country can rightfully call itself "Islamic."

PHOTO GALLERY
Women and children freed from ISIS