“Cruel and Usual Punishment” by Nonie Darwish Reviewed by Bill Muehlenberg

Nonie Darwish knows a fair amount about Islam. She was an Egyptian Muslim for the first 30 years of her life. Then she fled to America and she is now a Christian. She has told her story earlier, in her 2007 volume, Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.

In this book she continues her important story, but she does so by highlighting two crucial themes: what sharia law means, and how women are treated in Islam. In 270 pages she spells out in chilling detail what the implications are of Islamic law, and how the West must be very careful indeed about the spread of sharia.

The first half of this important book looks at how women are treated in the world of sharia. The treatment of women in Islam alone should serve as a warning for anyone who thinks sharia is compatible with Western democracy and freedom.

Consider marriage. Muslim women are prohibited under sharia from marrying non-Muslim men. But Muslim men can marry Christian or Jewish women. And the sharia marriage contract “is essentially a document granting sexual intercourse rights to the male and giving him total control over his four wives”.

There are even temporary marriages purely for the purposes of sexual pleasure for the male, called mutaa, or pleasure marriage. This “marriage” can last as little as an hour. Then there is misyar, or traveller’s marriage, which is “designed to accommodate the male sexual appetite while travelling”.

Divorce is of course also all one way traffic in Islam. Men can divorce their wives instantly, simply by saying “I divorce you” three times. A Muslim woman cannot initiate a divorce. In custody cases, children after the age of seven (or sometimes nine) belong to the father.

And a male can beat his wife and sexually abandon her. Under sharia a husband deserves total submission and gratitude. As one revered Muslim scholar, Imam Ghazali has said, “Marriage is a form of slavery. The woman is man’s slave, and her duty therefore is absolute obedience”.

Polygamy is also the right of Muslim men. But even more abhorrent is the practice of sexual gratification with children. There is no legal age for marriage under sharia. Thus the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, for example, said in an official statement, “A man can quench his sexual lusts with a child as young as a baby.”

Muhammad himself had a six-year-old wife with whom he consummated relations when she was just nine. And Islamic leaders argue that his life serves as an example and pattern for all Muslims. This is all codified in surah 65:4 in the Koran.

There are plenty of other misogynist elements to sharia law. Women adulterers are to be stoned to death; girls who fornicate are to be flogged; a woman’s testimony in a court of law is only worth half that of a man’s; women cannot be in the company of men who are not her relatives; female genital mutilation is rife; a Muslim wife needs her husband’s permission to travel; and so on.

Then there is the issue of honor killing. While there is no sharia law that expressly gives men the right to kill their women to protect their family honor, there are existing laws which protect men who do commit such killings. Indeed, sharia states that a killer of an apostate, a robber or an adulterer cannot be punished for murder.

In the rest of the book Darwish looks at life “behind the Muslim curtain” – what life is like for non-Muslims under sharia law. Non-Muslims are treated almost as poorly as women in Muslim-majority countries. Jews and Christians are under dhimmitude, or second-class citizenship. Darwish chronicles the many ways in which non-Muslims are oppressed, discriminated against, and denied basic human rights.

And ordinary Muslims who dare to think independently of sharia are also subject to tremendous opposition and oppression. Criticism of Islam is of course punishable by death. Muhammad himself ordered the killing of those who dared to criticize him.

All the various schools of Islam agree that blasphemy or criticism of Islam is a capital offence. And Muslim imams do not expect to be questioned or challenged in any way. In such a world there is “no intellectual honesty, no dialogue, and no respect”.

Muslim preachers regard Westerners and Jews as the embodiment of evil, the personification of Satan. Therefore they can be cursed, deceived and killed. Indeed, according to sharia, lying and deception are obligatory at times when dealing with the enemies of Islam. This is part of the overall jihad being waged against infidels.

After reading so much detail about what sharia teaches and commands, one is left overwhelmed. As Darwish says, “The West should be clear on the nature of Sharia. It is nothing more than legal tyranny, a terminal disease that destroys the healthy functioning of society where everything is sacrificed for the sake of total control”.

Indeed, say Darwish, Islam is not really a religion as much as it is a system of complete control and social order. It is an intolerant worldview which allows no opposition or questioning. Thus the West should resolutely oppose what she calls “Islamo-Fascism”. We should not tolerate intolerance. She concludes her book with practical suggestions for the West, including keeping sharia illegal, restricting immigration, and monitoring Muslim clerics on what they are preaching and teaching. And the West must rediscover and celebrate its Judeo-Christian heritage and values, and resist the inroads of secularism.

If it does not, the vacuum caused by secularism will be quickly filled by a totalizing Islam which seeks absolute control and the global extension of sharia. The aims of the Islamists are the very opposite of those who champion freedom and democracy. We must choose which system we wish to live under.

Darwish has nicely laid out the implications of life under sharia. It is up to us how we respond.

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