Letter to the Editor: Islam column should have featured Muslim opinions, thoughts

There is plenty that I found disturbing about Will Wright’s recent opinion piece in the Kentucky Kernel.

For example, Wright leans a major portion of his article against the statement, “Muhammad openly took sex slaves and allowed his soldiers to rape slaves during their conquests.”

Related: Time for an honest discussion about Islam

Not only is this a vast over-generalization of an incredibly nuanced topic in Islam jurisprudence (the handling of prisoners of war), the statement is also objectively incorrect. Ightisaab, or a transgression against women by rape, is unequivocally forbidden in Islam and carries both a monetary and physical punishment (which, according to some scholars, is death). This is not some sort of modern reinterpretation, either; one of the earliest books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), “Al-Muwatta” by Imam Malik, explicitly outlines the punishments for rape.

Related: Letter to the editor: Islam column insulting to UK Muslims

Despite this wrongheaded assertion, Wright attempts to – in nearly the same breath no less – both validate the actions of ISIS using Islamic law and emphatically declare the Prophet Muhammad a rapist and murderer.

Muslims and Muslim scholars near-universally condemn ISIS. Over 100 Muslim scholars from around the world outlined the argument against ISIS in an “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi.” This same letter also outlines the explicit prohibition, a prohibition followed emphatically by the Prophet Muhammad, against killing the innocent.

What I also find disturbing about the article is embodied within the op-ed’s title. Rather than learn from or have an actual discussion with the Muslim community, Wright finds it prudent to engage in a monologue, leveraging his position as editor-in-chief to air his grievances, come to his own conclusions and call it an “honest discussion.”

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with a non-Muslim criticizing Islam. It is, in fact, a time-honored tradition in the Muslim world to hold lively religious discussion and debate that included Christians, Jews and atheists, a tradition that began with the Prophet Muhammad.

What is problematic is the implicit “West knows best” attitude that oftentimes results from one-sided discussions. Without equal voice, Muslims are all-too-often diminished to a crude caricature of themselves, completely devoid of the weightiness and intellectual complexity that governs our way of life. We see this attitude in Wright’s straw man arguments: I know of no Muslim educated on their faith that would ever use the argument that “other religions are worse” or “oh, it was a long time ago” to defend the Prophet.

That being said, as much as I would like to provide a response to every misguided notion and straw man presented in Wright’s op-ed, matters of faith and moral consequence cannot and should not be reduced to oversimplified sound bites in the back of a newspaper.

I encourage you to go and speak with the university’s Arabic and Islamic Studies professors or the Muslim Student Association, both of which are readily accessible. I also encourage you to sit down and read more on the life of the Prophet Muhammad from an authoritative source. While there are many places you could start, “The Sealed Nectar” or Martin Lings’ biography “Muhammad: His life based on the earliest sources,” are excellent resources.

No doubt, there are many unfortunate issues deserving of criticism going on in predominantly Muslim countries today. Let’s have an honest discussion about them, their causes, and potential solutions. But this time, let’s include the Muslims.

Matt Longacre is a UK alumnus.

[email protected]