One of the many side stories from the Orlando massacre had to do with the fact that the shooter had a history of committing domestic violence.
And one of the hard realities, as the female Muslim writer of this Patheos.com piece notes, is that domestic violence is not uncommon among Muslims.
"I’m not suggesting that this problem is unique to the Muslim community," writes Ismat Mangla, "or that all Muslim men are abusers, or that all abusers will go on to commit crimes of mass violence. But the fact is, one in three women will be victims of intimate partner violence during their lives, and Muslim women are no exception."
In both Islam and Christianity, some adherents have relied on scripture to justify a domineering attitude toward women.
In the Qur'an, for instance, 4:34 says, in part, this: "If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them (of the teachings of God), then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them." (From the translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem.) By contrast, the translation by Laleh Bakhtiar renders the original Arabic this way in that section: "But those whose resistance you fear, then admonish them and abandon them in their sleeping place then go away from them. . ."
"Go way" clearly is different from "hit them," but it is, at this point, still a minority-view translation.
In Christianity, the Apostle Paul's New Testament writings often are cited in defense of male domination (which can lead to domestic violence). Colossians 3:18, for instance, says, in part, "Wives, submit to your husbands. . ." And Ephesians 5:24 essentially repeats the admonition: "So wives submit to their husbands in everything like the church submits to Christ." In another place, Paul tells women not to speak in worship.
As you can imagine, it's not much of a stretch to build a theory of marriage and marital dominance by taking words written in a different context 2,000 years ago and making them apply as inerrant truth today.
But Ismat Mangla, who wrote about domestic violence in Islam in the Patheos piece to which I linked you, is exactly right to "call on our religious leaders to explicitly discuss why domestic violence has no place in Islam. If Ramadan is about reforming ourselves, then this epidemic is something worthy of attention and reform in this holy month. If our goal is to please Allah, then let’s start by making the weakest among us safe."
It is not clear yet whether the Orlando shooter justified his domestic violence by referring to the Qur'an, but we do know that others have done exactly that, just as some Christians have used the Bible as their excuse for treating women like chattel. Religion that crushes, that oppresses, that excuses terrible behavior is unhealthy religion and needs to be healed.
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AN EXHIBIT OF ART AND THE QUR'AN
The Smithsonian this fall is going to offer an exhibit of highly decorated versions of the Qur'an as a way of showing ways in which Muslims have used art to honor their sacred book. Various types of calligraphy and illustration will be displayed. It's fascinating how religion in general and sacred writ in particular always seems to inspire art. It's a sign of the health of a faith tradition.
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P.S.: LOS ANGELES -- I'm here this weekend attending the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. If you want to follow the good times (and, of course, highly educational times), click on the NSNC link I've just given you.
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ANOTHER P.S.: I hope you'll be able to tune in to the KCPT-TV "Beyond Belief" special report on religion in Kansas City at 7:30 tonight. Necessary details are at the link I've given you here.