Does God Hate Women?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

That’s the title of a book, by Jeremy Stangroom and Ophelia Benson, due to be published this week, in English, by the London-based academic publishing company Continuum. Spoiler alert: the authors conclude that the answer must be “Yes,” since according to their analysis most of the world’s major religions are anti-women.

So far, so provocative, but the explosive element in this mixture – as you might expect – is the inclusion of Islam in this scrutiny. In fact, an examination of Islam’s attitude towards women, and the Prophet Mohammed’s in particular, makes up a large part of the book. This raises the prospect of another worldwide boiling-over of Muslim rage in reaction, such as that which followed the publication in late 2005 of the infamous “Danish cartoons” and the earlier release, in 1988, of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Interestingly, I don’t see any treatment of the new book anywhere in the Danish press – save in an article by Tobias Stern Johansen (New book: Prophet Mohammend was misogynistic) in the Danish Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.

But yes, even in Johansen’s brief treatment there is plenty of inflammatory material about Islam forthcoming in Stangroom and Benson’s book. It examines especially closely the Prophet’s relations with his third wife, Aisha, who reportedly was only nine years old when they married, and goes on to report modern-day incidents of supposed contempt by Islam towards woman such as the infamous girls’ school fire of 2002 in Saudi Arabia, when the students were not allowed by the religious police to flee a burning building because they could not do so while continuing to keep their entire bodies covered in public, as religious law demands. Johansen’s piece does also include a link to the fuller treatment of the book’s publication in the London Times, including a more-thorough description of how Continuum knows that it is courting the usual threats and danger by publishing it, but is determined to go ahead and do so anyway.

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