Sexual jihad is a bit much

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

In case a heavily-armed man or woman ever asks you to name Mohammed’s mother, the answer is Aminah bint Wahb, although the prophet did live with his foster mother Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb until he was two.

This could be important, life-preserving information. One of the Swahili-speaking attackers in this week’s Kenyan massacre asked an Indian man to name Mohammed’s mother. When the Indian couldn’t do so, he was shot dead.

That’s sick beyond belief. The whole attack, in which more than 60 people were killed, was a perversion of one of the world’s great religions. Other recent examples include the double suicide bomb attack on a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. The blasts killed at least 78 people, including 34 women and seven children.

In one of the more bizarre twists in the interpretations of Islam, Tunisia’s Interior Minister, Lotfi Bin Jeddo, says girls from his country are becoming pregnant after participating in “sexual jihad” in Syria. He says girls who go there for jihad al-nikah (sexual holy war) sometimes service up to 100 anti-Assad rebels a day each. I should think pregnancy is not the only after-effect of such encounters.

Apparently some hardline Sunni Muslim Salafists regard extramarital sex with multiple partners as a legitimate form of holy war. It’s difficult to reconcile this with a religion where some adherents insist that women must be covered from head to toe, with only a narrow slit for the eyes.

I bought my first Koran more than 40 years ago and read it keenly, imbued with a youthful hunger for meaning, as some of us are wont to be at a certain age. I don’t remember any of this stuff about extreme violence. Certainly there was nothing to suggest sexual jihad as a way to salvation.

Too many religious texts are open to too many interpretations. For example, for centuries Christians justified mass murder and conquest in the name of their saviour. Slaughtering what they regarded as infidels in the holy land formed a constant backdrop for medieval western Europeans. A Christian could redeem his honour by embarking on a pilgrimage of killing.

None of this justifies what is carried out in the name of Islam today. But the religion doesn’t deserve the bad name it now carries.

There are at least 1.7 billion Muslims, making up about a quarter of the world’s population. Most, around 62%, live in the Asia-Pacific region, with only 20% in the Middle East and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about 15%. It is absurd to ascribe to such vast numbers of people the extreme views held by jihadists, sexual and otherwise. Islam is at heart a religion of peace.

We often hear that peace-loving Muslims should speak out, distancing their faith from heinous deeds, as though they have a responsibility to do so. I am not sure that’s a valid argument. Do peace-loving Christians practice what they preach in this regard? For example, they don’t find it necessary to remind the world that the Lord’s Resistance Army is not mainstream, or that a pastor who burns Korans doesn’t do so in the name of Christians everywhere.

Jihadist extremists are indeed a serious threat to peace. The dangers are compounded if we lump them with all Muslims.

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