Christian/Muslim Dialogue Question # 3 – The Role of Women

This is the transcript of the third part of a dialogue held in August of 2010 in Baltimore between Howie Gardner, pastor of Bel Air Assembly of God and Kamal Nawash; President of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism.  Question # 3 invloves the proper place of women within our religions.  

John Morine (moderator):  Question number 3: What do you feel is the proper role for women within your religion? And, Howie, you’ll go first with this one.

Howie:

Let me first point out that whenever the Christian Gospel has been welcomed into a land, women have gained freedom. In the Greco Roman world, which dominated Israel at the time of Jesus’ birth, women were not even considered human. They were routinely flogged, could not attend school, or even learn to read. Many were thrown into the water and left to drown as infants. They could not even testify on their own behalf when a rape occurred. And, even in the Hebrew culture, they were routinely stoned for crimes such as adultery, while the men went free. When asked about this last law, Jesus responded to a woman’s accusers by asking which of them was without sin. Only that individual would be allowed to cast the first stone. He then proceeded to write on the ground. Many think He was writing down a list of their sins. Regardless, each of them went away in frustration.

Now, in regards to women’s rights, the only major area in which we would differ with feminists is in regards to abortion. We are firmly convinced and we believe that science has demonstrated that an unborn child is indeed entitled to the same rights as any human being.

Several years ago, I proposed a bill, which was ultimately tabled by the Maryland Senate, but has since been picked up on by other states. I proposed giving every woman seeking an abortion the option to view her sonogram, first. Statistics have shown that, if given this opportunity, 85% of women will conclude that it is indeed a human being and opt not to have the abortion. The pro-abortion crowd has challenged us on this and, we think, merely because it would cost them money. If they really view the right to an abortion as a service to humanity, as they claim, then why not give women the right to make an informed choice? Doing so would remove much of the guilt and suicidal tendencies of the women who have had abortions.

Now, in regards to family structure, psychologists have determined that women tend to function more out of the intuitive and caring right side of the brain, while men tend to favor the more logistical left side. We feel that the structure, which the Apostle Paul set forth, that of the man being the head of the household, but at the same time loving his wife as Christ loved the Church (which he died for) and thus placing more value on her opinion that his own, is the best pattern under normal circumstances.

We are mostly concerned by reports from Asian countries about women being routinely abused, about public stonings for the crime of adultery, and about so-called honor killings in which family members have reportedly killed a daughter or a sister because of such things as her manner of dress or even for keeping company with men who are Christian or Jew. We would request an urgent fatwa being issued by the Muslim Leadership in opposition to such things.

There is a story contained within the Hadith, which says that a woman by the name of Asma bint Marwan wrote a poem critical of Muhammad and that he in turn had her killed. This passage is often cited as proof that Muhammad approved of the abuse of women. However, its source seems to be a man by the name of Muhammad Ibn Al-Hajjaj. I don’t see any basis within the Muslim religion of treating women as anything but our equals, loved by God, and having the potential to be greatly used of Him, since I have a list of 14 individuals here that are on record as saying that Al-Hajjaj forged the story.

Kitab At-Tabaqat

Al-Kabir

Kinz-ul-‘Ummal

Ibn Sa’d

Ibn ‘Adiyy

Ibn ‘Asaker

Ja’far Ibn Ahmad

Ibn Muhammad

Ibn As-Sabah

Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim

Ash-Shami

Mujalid

Ash-Shu’abi

Ibn ‘Abbas

Now, there was a Muslim cleric on Bahrain TV by the name of Abdullah Aal Mahmud (June 20, 2005) who stated that the Qu’ran permits wife beating. And, he went into great detail on just how the man should strike the woman. What he was referring to was a passage in Surah 4:34, which reads: “As for those women on whose part you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart,” (and last) . . . . and, the Arabic word here is “adribu,” which is frequently translated as “beat or strike them.” Now, I have gone throughout a number of Arabic commentaries and read the words of several Arabic translators and there seems to be unanimous agreement that the word is actually better translated as “to avoid contact with.” In other words, the passage would read that if a man has a wife who is rebellious or ungodly, then do not seek to have children by her, otherwise, you would be raising up the child in a home that is unequally yoked. This same word is found 58 other times in the Qu’ran itself and never is it translated as “to hit or to strike.” I don’t know just who or why someone elected to use such a translation here, but I’ll bet it was a man who did it. Such a translation is false.

But now, having said that, it still irks me that a Muslim cleric was giving out such advice on national television. This is my Pentecostal background showing through, but I think if someone told me that God said to go out and beat up a woman, I would still resist. I think the Holy Spirit would tug on me at this point and say, “There’s something wrong here.” And again, there is something wrong – they have mistranslated the verse. But the fact of a religious leader encouraging such abuse gnaws at me. This implies a cultic tendency.

We have a group of people here in the States known as Jehovah’s Witnesses who call themselves Christian. They maintain that the Bible teaches that it is evil to have a blood transfusion. Truth is, it doesn’t. There is a verse in the Book of Acts, which advises against eating the blood of strangled animals and this is good advice medically. But, it says nothing that would forbid a blood transfusion. Yet, great numbers of Jehovah Witnesses have refused the procedure at the risk of their own lives. Many have died needlessly. Still, others have denied the procedure to their own children and watched them die when a simple procedure could have saved them. Again, this is a cultic response and it has caused great harm.

But, back to what I was saying. The fact of a religious leader going on national television to encourage spouse abuse makes me shudder. So, I want to voice a bit of a rebuke to the Muslim clergy for not silencing this man and others who have done so.

John Morine:

Okay, let’s hear from Kamal.

Kamal:  Again, the Qu’ran and the Bible are subject to different interpretations. Until Jesus Christ comes to straighten us out, we can work toward good together. And, this would explain this guy you mentioned who thinks the Qu’ran instructs us to beat women.

I would bring your attention to a group known as “The Lord’s Resistance Army” in Uganda, a Christian group that wants to add an 11th or 12th commandment saying that it is okay to take kids, force them to become soldiers, force them to become sex slaves, and if they say no, then you chop their hands off, you chop their head off. They started in Uganda and now they’ve worked themselves up to southern Sudan, killing people all along the way, all in the name of Christianity.

So, how can we have two groups of Christians, one like Rev. Howie Gardner and the other like the Lord’s Resistance Army? How can they be so different? There are a lot of answers to this. When you listen to Rev. Gardner, he seems to know the Qu’ran better than I do. He has had a good education. He lives in a first world country and his attitude reflects his education and his background.

But, please don’t forget that the Islam of the 20th century is not the Islam of old. Islam has declined. We were wiped out and we started all over again. The Muslim world was swimming in ignorance like you couldn’t imagine. And, so the different beliefs in the different countries reflect their own circumstances. The first Muslim who graduated from Harvard and received a Law Degree might very well view the world differently from a Muslim in Africa who grew up having to fight for food everyday and didn’t get any education. So, I don’t think it’s really rocket science to understand why you have these diverse opinions in Islam.

I will be the first to admit Islam reached the top and then went to the bottom. Even in Christianity, you still talk about the medieval ages. By the 20th century, Islam was finished. Every Muslim country was occupied. We were swimming in ignorance and this produced the various results we see.

Again, how you feel about women depends upon your perspective, upon your environment. In the Qu’ran, it tells us that everything you read about men you also read about women in equal terms. For example, you read about men who married 9-year old girls in Yemen and other places. Well, our prophet, he was 20-something and his wife was 40-something. The woman he loved most was 25 years older than him. She was a merchant. He was unemployed. Our prophet was unemployed. He was a minister. She brought home the bacon – even though we don’t eat pork,

(laughter)

she brought home the bacon. So okay, someone like me looks at our prophet and says, “his wife earned the money, she was 20+ years older than him and till his deathbed, he loved her more than anybody else.”

Now, someone who grew up in the caves in Afghanistan may see things differently. His world is different. Again, I don’t think this is rocket science. There is something to be said for your education. There is something to be said for your sophistication. But, he may not even know how to read the book.

But just like Rev. Gardner mentioned his studies into the book of Ezekiel and some issues in the Qu’ran and about his looking into what the meaning was really about. So, some guy in Afghanistan who has not had any education and someone comes to him and says, hey, you need to beat your wife, he may not have the skills to be able to look into it and see whether this is true or not. So, there is a lot to be said for education.

And, quite frankly, the 20th century wasn’t a good century for us. But, things are improving. I’m a lawyer now. If you happen to get into a car accident, here’s my card.

(looks at audience and laughs at indiscernible comment) Okay. I’ll quit while I’m ahead. (laughter and applause)

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About openlettertoday

Howie Gardner has been pastor of Bel Air Assembly of God in Bel Air, Maryland since 1987. He is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and has done graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, United Theological Seminary and ORU's Graduate school of Theology. He is the author of two books; "Oral Exam" (originally titled "Oral Roberts in the Eyes of One of His Students") and "The Church and Terri Schiavo." Gardner is a three time cancer survivor and, as recorded in "Church & Terri" has had a "clinical death" experience and a personal glimpse of the other side" He is quite an active distance runner with a number of awards; most recently a bronze medal in the Senior Olympics. Howie and his wife Angie have three children: daughter Lindsey (whose bone marrow donation spared his life) and twin boys Bernie and David. They live in Bel Air.
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