OPINION: What Safraz Ahmed did has nothing to do with Islam

SAFRAZ Ahmed - the 34 year-old London man who kept his wife as a slave - was a Muslim.

Many Islamic nations lag behind the western world in terms of gender equality and it is possible, although not proven, that there was at least some cultural element to Ahmed's crime.

However, if you look at the comments this story has received, not just here in Australia but also in the UK where it originated, you'll see that it has quickly become yet another symbol in the debate surrounding Islamic immigration into western democracies.

It has also given rise to the ongoing discussion on whether or not the key Islamic text - the Quran - condones and therefore causes men in Islamic societies to mistreat women.

For example on Independent.co.uk one user cited the following passage from the Quran and said while this was an extreme case Muslim men had "scriptural authority to beat their wives."

"Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them." - Quran 4:34.

On the surface of things this looks like a compelling argument.

The reported facts suggest this couple were deeply religious, the enslaved woman was undertook a masters degree in Islamic studies and if one subscribes to a worldview which is set out in a sacred text, then that book clearly becomes a very good reference point for trying to establish a person's motives and beliefs.

However, for those among you who are reading this column and thinking Islam is the core problem I'd urge you to read the following passages.

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." 1 Timothy 2: 11-12.

Or: "The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home." 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35.

Those who know their Bible would see these are two passages from the New Testament.

However, read deeper and you'll also find quotes like this: "Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another." - Quran 3:195.

Or Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

And therein lies the truth, the gender equality issues people in western democracies perceive when they look at cultures in some Islamic nations, have nothing to do with religion.

Gender equality in my view, is linked more closely to economic and social inequality and this is why we see the worst examples of it occurring in the developing world.

Finally, the West's present battle is with an evil and opportunistic interpretation of Islam, not Islam itself. 

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