W: William David Spencer
A: Ajai (male)
M: Maureena (female)
W: I notice that some Muslim women wear head coverings one hundred percent of the time.
M: Yes, all the time. It is a very totally different culture in the Muslim world. That’s why, when we went to the Middle East, the first thing we were taught—do not walk around with your hair open. Because they consider you are a prostitute. Because they consider that, if you show your hair, you are tempting men to the sexual immoral sin. You are enticing them. This is according to the Qur’an.
W: They wear the black veil?
M: In the Muslim world, it is called abaya. It is used. They will never go without abaya for covering themselves.
A: You know, some of them we have seen. Very orthodox. They wear a black thing like this covering their eyes. It is just black, covering like this, and black here covering their mouth.
M: This is called burka.
W: And that just covers the eyes.
M: No, that just covers the nose, the full face. Only the eyes are seen.
A: Now, if you see them in real life, they look all closed up.
M: There is no doubt that, in the Muslim world, there is very less freedom for the women. But, there is a whole lot of freedom for men. Men can do—there is so much—so free, but women have so many restrictions. She is bound by the rules of the mullahs—the priests in the mosque—they are bound so much by the Qur’an; they are bound so much by the law of their husband, the law of Muhammad, the law of Qur’an. They don’t have any freedom.
A: See, the men are also bound by the law. But the women are bound by the law more than the men. But, men are also bound by the law. They can not wear whatever they feel like. They have to wear the head gear. They have to wear the flowing garments.
M: That’s all.
A: Yes, and they are not allowed to do certain things in public. But, they would want to do certain things, I know, in public. They would like to dress the way they would wish to.
M: I feel we are talking about women’s freedom. Women definitely don’t have freedom. Like a man can sit in a restaurant and can look around everywhere. A woman, she cannot. She is more bound. She is more bound to her husband.
A: But, I have heard some stories from Muslim women, too.
M: What I mean to say is that, here, the topic is how much a woman is bound to the law. So, about the covering of the head, for men, there is no rule for the covering.
A: No, they have to cover their head. They wear a turban.
M: What he is saying is also right. The men also have to cover their head, but . . .
A: They don’t cover their face, they cover their head. The thing is, when they go to the mosque, and even in general public, there is a reason to cover their head. And their perspective is that, in the presence of God, we need to cover our head. We are smaller than God. We don’t have that status of a god. That is why, when we are in the presence of the Almighty, we need to cover our head.
M: Yes, and I also feel that, in the Islamic world, the Qur’an, Muhammad, this message is very hard for women. Because, even Muhammad has mentioned in the Qur’an that, if a woman does not agree with her husband for a sexual relationship, he should beat her.
W: Beat her?
A: Beat her.
M: And I met one lady, one American lady, she married into this dilemma. I think I can give you a verse when I go home where it is written in the Qur’an that a husband should beat his wife. Because that is why I always feel that, in Qur’an, that it is written that, yes, it is very hard. But the Qur’an, Muhammad’s message, was very hard. It was really being partial against women. That is why the Muslim world does not have much respect for women, because of the way Muhammad has portrayed a woman. She is unclean when she is menstruating; she should cover her head. So, it is restricting her freedom, and her husband should beat her. And, also, he has mentioned that she is bound by law to her husband, whatever he says. And, the other freedom Muhammad has taken away from women: a man can marry four times. But a woman cannot.
M: He can have four wives at one time, but a woman cannot have a second husband.
A: She cannot have more than one husband.
W: The woman is restricted to one husband?
A and M: Yes.
W: The husband can have up to four wives?
W: He can’t go to five wives?
A: Some of them have five, six, ten even. But his restriction was four.
W: So, when these men have five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, are they breaking the law of Muhammad?
M: If they do five, they break the law of Muhammad.
A: Yes, but the thing is, they do it because they have enough money. The more money you have, the more women you can keep.
W: I see. But that would be against the law, wouldn’t it?
A: I know, but some of them—they still have it.
W: They’re above the law? So, then the laws aren’t that binding on the men. They don’t take them out and stone them?
M: It is so expensive to have even two marriages, you see, in a Muslim world.
A: In the Muslim world, the dowry has to be paid by the boy to the girl’s father. So, it is very heavy.
W: The boy pays the dowry?
A: Yes. And it is very heavy.
M: So, let’s talk about the wrap-up of what I’m trying to summarize: why Muslim world, the Qur’an, and Muhammad were very harsh on women.
W: All right.
M: They have to cover their heads. They have such a hard dress code. They have no freedom. They are unclean, which is not true, because from Jesus in our New Testament, in Christianity, we don’t have any clean or unclean. Then, they cannot marry, like if she is divorced. If her husband dies, they cannot marry. Then, her husband should beat his wife, you know. So, that is all, I don’t think it is in favor of women.
A: Well, when they divorce, they can get married to someone else. And, you know, there is one law in Islam that, once a man divorces a woman, he cannot remarry her until she gets married to someone else and is divorced from that person.
M: Yes, in a nutshell, there are very few laws for men and there are huge laws and very strict laws for women.
W: I see what you’re saying. So, as a Christian woman now . . .
M: I feel, as a Christian woman, I am free in Christ.
W: Free in Christ.
M: Because, in the Bible, Jesus did not differentiate between men and women, as such. You know.
A: Because the Christian husband gives a lot of freedom. [All laughing]
M: But, in India’s culture, it’s very bad. The woman is loaded with tons of work. Man just sits at home and does outside work, that’s all.
A: Other Muslim cultures are like that, too.
M: Others are worse. They have to serve. They use the word; they have to serve men. That’s very bad. Muslim woman is the most frustrated woman.
W: Is that right?
M: Because many women shared with me. The nurses I taught used to share with me. And especially, you know, the man’s freedom of marrying another. One woman had three children, and, suddenly, her husband tells her, “I’m going to marry another one.” And he started to treat this one bad. And she can’t take it. So, a woman is basically like a slave and she can’t do anything. Many a Muslim in our city in the Middle East used to come and share with me their problems, because it used to affect their work.
M: Monday, they don’t come up for work. So, we used to ask them, “What happened? Why didn’t you come for work?” So, they’d tell all their problems. One girl told me, “I hate to be a Muslim because of the way my situation is as a woman.”
M: She said, “You’re an Indian. Your husbands are very faithful to you. And you have freedom. You can wear whatever you want. But, I don’t have all those freedoms.” As a Christian, by grace we are saved, by grace we are freed. And we are not bound by law anymore.