In a recent piece
on Salon Qasim Rashid, described as "the national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya
Muslim Community USA and Visiting Fellow at Harvard University’s Prince
al-Waleed bin Talal School of Islamic Studies," takes Ben Carson to task for "absurd lies" about Islam. Some of Carson's claims about Islam may well be false—it is not true, for instance, that "Under Shariah law ... people following other religions must be killed.” Most Americans do not know much about other religions; there is no reason to expect Carson to be an exception.
Rashid, who surely is well informed, writes:
Islam gave women equal rights in 610 that our own United States
haven’t given even in 2015. To this day America has not passed the Equal
Rights Amendment. Meanwhile the Quran 33:36 emphatically declares the equality of men and women:
“Surely, men who submit themselves to God and women who submit themselves to Him…God has prepared for all of them forgiveness and a great reward.”
God may treat men and women equally but Islamic law, fiqh, does not. A daughter under Islamic law receives half the inheritance of a son—a rule directly from the Quran. A man is permitted to marry up to four wives, a woman one husband. A man may freely divorce his wife, a woman is not free to divorce her husband. Each spouse has rights to sexual intercourse with the other, but the rights are not the same.
In truth, the Qur’an only permits fighting in self-defense, or to protect “churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques” from attack. Prophet Muhammad issued numerous charters with
Christians, Jews, and pagans to affirm his commitment to universal
religious freedom and equal human rights for all people regardless of
Mohammed attacked and destroyed the Jewish villages near Medina. In one case, after the village surrendered, all of the male inhabitants were killed at his orders. He fought a long war with the Quaraysh, his fellow tribesmen in Mecca, which ended only when they surrendered and converted.
When Islam began, the two great powers of that part of the world were the Persian Sassanid empire and the Byzantine empire. In the course of the first century after Mohammed's death his followers conquered all of the first and a large chunk of the second, one of the more impressive accomplishments of human history. It was not done by fighting in self defense.
Under Islamic law, the other peoples of the book—Christians, Jews and (probably) Sabeans—were permitted to live under Islamic rule. But they did not have "equal human rights." A Muslim man could marry a Christian or Jewish woman, a Christian or Jewish man could not marry a Muslim woman. Christians and Jews were required to pay a special tax, the jizya.
According to the Shafi'i school of law, the indemnity for killing a woman is half that for killing a man, the indemnity for killing a Jew or a Christian is one third that for killing a Muslim, the indemnity paid for a Zoroastrian is one fifteenth that of a Muslim (The Reliance of the Traveler
o 4.9). Details vary among the four schools.
Rashid never mentions that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community
for which he is the spokesman is a heterodox offshoot of orthodox Islam originating in India in the late 19th century, one that regards its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as the Messiah. For all I know his claims are true about current Ahmadiyya doctrine. But presenting them as doctrines of Islam without qualification, when his sect represents about one percent of the total Islamic population, is roughly equivalent to a Mormon presenting Mormon doctrine as Christianity without qualification or explanation to an audience unfamiliar with Christianity.
And, while his sect is free to choose its own legal rules, it is not free to change the historical facts to suit.