(updated 2012/04/04)

I  monitor some conservative blogs and email lists, and I notice that they often publish hateful anti-Muslim stories meant to show how uncivilized and cruel Muslims supposedly are, and to promote war on Islam, no doubt.

For example, Newsmax recently published

29 Mar 2012 by Steve Emerson
A popular marriage guide that has sold out in one Toronto bookstore is gaining media attention because of the book’s controversial focus–how to beat and control your wife.
The book, titled “A Gift for the Muslim Couple,” is written by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, who, according to the book’s foreword, is a “prolific writer on almost every topic of Islamic learning.” “

I was suspicious because I know that Newsmax is a neo-con blog, so I did some research.  I found out that the book A Gift for Muslim Couples was written 100 years ago — a fact not mentioned in either the Newsmax article or in the Tornoto Sun article that the Newsmax article references. Furthermore, I found out that the Toronto Sun is a neo-con tabloid.

I had received an email about the Newsmax story on an email list and responded thus:

Note that Newsmax Media is a conservative website. I’d be skeptical of material you find there. It is likely to be anti-Muslim and pro-war.  I monitor some conservative email lists, and they often go out of their way to find hateful anti-Muslim material.

According to the wikipedia article on newsmax: “Christopher W. Ruddy started Newsmax.com on September 16, 1998, supported by a group of politically conservative investors, including the family of the  late Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey. Later, Richard Mellon Scaife, Ruddy’s former employer at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and a supporter of conservative causes, invested in the fledging company.[1] One of the initial board members was author James Dale Davidson who edited a financial newsletter, Davidson’s co-editor, Lord Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times and Vice Chair of the BBC, later became chairman of Newsmax Media.[2]
I later got an email from a conservative: “The message here is that (GASP) “conservative’ websites who dare to point out non-touchy-feely aspects of Muslim culture are somehow more reprehensible than wife-beating. Unless the referenced article can be proved wrong, you are a prime example of bleeding-heart-liberal BULLSHIT.” Fair enough. So I researched the issue.

I found that the Toronto Sun (which published the article Book tells Muslim men how to beat and control their wives that the Newsmax article references) is well-known to have a conservative bias.  According to Wikipedia, “Editorially, the paper frequently follows the positions of neo-conservatism in the United States on economic issues and traditional Canadian/British conservatism. Editorials promote individualism, self-reliance, the police, and a strong military and support for troops.”  The article mentions a Toronto bookstore but does not give its name, making it hard to verify the claims.

But this article Islamic bookstore sparks controversy has revealing details.

The book was written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, an Islamic scholar from the late 19th century who passed away in 1943.

“I didn’t read the book, I only bought because of the title,” Ahmad [the bookstore owner] said. “It’s a hundred-year-old book and I don’t know what was inside.”

Imam Shaykh Yusuf Badat of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto feels that the book, originally written in the South Asian language of Urdu, has been taken out of context.

“There’s a whole chapter just on kindness towards women,” he said.

The Toronto Sun article says the book is “sold out”, but does that just mean there are no copies left? In fact, according to the video of an interview with the store owner, he only ever  had one copy of the book.

In the video a (moderate) Muslim leader quotes a Bible verse which says, “you must then amputate her hand” (Deuteronomy 25:1-19). The full quote is “In case men struggle together with one another, and the wife of the one has come near to deliver her husband out of the hand of the one striking him, and she has thrust out her hand and grabbed hold of him by his privates, 12 you must then amputate her hand. Your eye must feel no sorrow”!

I stand behind my statement that conservatives love to hate Islam.     There are Christian groups that sanction corporal punishment of children and male domination of the household. The more interesting question is whether wife beating and such tactics are rejected by mainstream Muslims and whether such issues warrant waging a religious war against them. (No!)