In 2014 a woman called Saud Saleh made some extraordinary statements. These statements were made on Al-Hayat TV (Egypt) and can be heard in a clip by Memri TV on YouTube. In the clip she talks of slavery having occurred widely before the advent of Islam and how Islam had “put (slavery) into order, by limiting it to legitimate wars between Muslims and their enemies.”
“The female prisoners of war are ‘those whom you own’. In order to humiliate them they become the property of the army commander, or of a Muslim, and he can have sex with them just like he has sex with his wives.” In other words, he can rape them.
“Legitimately owned slaves,” she explains, “come from among prisoners from a war, which is waged against the Muslims, to plunder land, a war against our faith, and so on.”
“Legitimate wars between Muslims and their enemies” at the time of the founding of Islam really meant the bloody warfare waged by Mohammed against those of other faiths who did not wish to espouse his allegedly divinely-revealed belief system. Female prisoners were often killed, ransomed or made sex-slaves. In this way, using the lure of these poor women as booty, Mohammed enticed men to join him and the ranks of his followers swelled.
Slavery subsequently became part of Islam for many centuries and it is sanctioned in the Koran from which Saud Saleh is quoting and which Muslims believe is the word of Allah. There have been many battles between Muslims and non-Muslims historically because jihad (holy warfare) is central to Islam. So slavery unfortunately went on as a consequence.
However, getting back to Saud Saleh, even in modern times using women as sex slaves is okay, according to her. She states:
“What some people are doing now is an aggression against Allah and against Allah’s legal texts in the Koran and we must not be influenced by this at all.” Effectively Saud Saleh is giving Muslims a free pass to rape non-Muslim women because to a devout Muslim the very existence of non-Muslims is an affront to Allah. As author and expert on Islam Raymond Ibrahim says:
“Obligatory jihad is best expressed by Islam’s dichotomous worldview that pits the realm of Islam against the realm of war. The first, dar al-Islam, is the “realm of submission,” the world where Shari’a governs; the second, dar al-Harb (the realm of war), is the non-Islamic world. A struggle continues until the realm of Islam subsumes the non-Islamic world – a perpetual affair that continues to the present day.”
Statements such as Saud Saleh’s may convey “approval for the enslavement of Yazidi women [and Christian women] by ISIS,” according to Dr Andrew Holt, professor of History at Florida State College. It has also been expressed that the existence of mainly-Muslim rape gangs of young girls in the UK (and also the Netherlands and Finland) is rooted in a culture based on Islamic teachings which legitimise sex-slavery.
Also when someone like Saleh makes such pronouncements it is especially worrying. She is a Professor of Theology at Al-Azhar University, which is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and which is described as the “chief centre of Islamic and Arabic learning in the world.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
This may ring a bell with readers as Pope Francis on his recent trip to the United Arab Emirates met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayyeb. Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb is of considerable prominence, almost an icon, in the Muslim world. There they took part in a religious conference entitled the Global Conference of Human Fraternity and he and the Grand Imam co-signed the document “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” in Abu Dhabi. It was hailed as “historic” and of “global importance”.
As London-based media site focusing on Arab affairs 7D News reported in the run-up to the Pope’s three-day visits:
“The Pope’s visit allows three days and will discuss many things, including: ways to create common ground between Christianity and Islam; fighting poverty, injustice, backwardness and ignorance and consolidating peace in various countries, especially in the Arab world. The visit carries several messages and objectives, most importantly promoting the concept of tolerance, discarding divisions, fanaticism and seclusion, correcting false perceptions tying terrorism to Islam and combating Islamophobia.”
These words ignite hope that there may be many positive elements to this visit and the signing of this document by Pope Francis, who may be appearing to break new ground in improving relations with the Islamic world. However, the words “combating Islamophobia” strike a discordant note, as the very term Islamophobia is a construct often propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood and has been widely disseminated as a tool to attempt to stifle any criticism of Islam.
Soon after the visit to the UAE by Pope Francis some conservative writers registered their dismay. Rev. Dr Jules Gomez, writing for Church Militant, says:
“‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ is neither a treaty nor a convention. It is a declaration. Theologically and legally, such a declaration is not legally binding. Strategically, though, it is a masterstroke for Islamic mission (dawa). Muslims will use the document to intensify dawa in the West, but will extend no such reciprocity to Christians.”
Is Pope Francis’s soft, open and tolerant approach the wise one? Many would argue that it is the only Christian one. Yet in earlier times the saints were not so charitable…..
“He [Mohammed] seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.”
(Extract from “De Rationibus Fidei Contra Saracenos, Graecos, et Armenos” by St Thomas Aquinas, Theologian and Doctor of the Church.)
Islamic State bride Shamima Begum has testified that she found executions and beheadings to be “Islamically acceptable”. Yet criticism of Islam is Islamically unacceptable.
Ignoring and not contending with belief systems like Shamima Begum’s, and Saud Saleh’s, may risk us as a Church becoming distanced from the early clarity of vision of great teachers like Aquinas.