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'Derision of West misguided'

Published: May 17, 2010 23:48 Updated: May 17, 2010 23:48 

US more in alignment with Islamic values than many Muslim states: Al-Qarni

ALKHOBAR: A popular Saudi author and religious scholar has raised some 
questions about governmental and societal practices across the Arab world and 
asserts that the United States is more in alignment with many Islamic values 
than many countries represented as Muslim states.

Aaidh ibn Abdullah Al-Qarni, whose self-help book "Don't Be Sad" sells briskly 
both in English and Arabic, made the remarks in two recent columns published in 
Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News.

In the columns, Al-Qarni compared a Saudi woman's experience after being beaten 
by an abusive husband in the United States with what often happens - or doesn't 
happen - in her native land. In the second column, Al-Qarni explored the 
reasons so many Muslims move to the US and find both greater opportunity and 
more tolerance that they could expect in their homelands. The thought-provoking 
articles have prompted many discussions at coffee shops and dinner tables.

"The US deals with its subjects through systems that look like they were based 
on Islamic teachings while Muslims fail to implement such systems," Al-Qarni 
wrote in his column about domestic violence, which focused on a family that 
moved to the US while the husband was working on a university degree.

Physically and verbally abused, the wife appealed to his family and her family 
to intervene but to no avail.

"In fact she was rejected, insulted and threatened by them," Al-Qarni wrote of 
the family members back home. "Having reached a dead end, the wife decided to 
put a stop to the physical and psychological pain she and her children were 
suffering; she contacted the police and told them about her husband."

He then described the response of several police squads visiting the residence 
and getting the story from both spouses and the children before deducing the 
man indeed was beating his wife. The husband was arrested and the wife and 
children moved to a hotel at the state's expense and under police protection. 
Later, the wife was given financial assistance and an American attorney 
represented her for no charge.

Authorities found her an appropriate job, escorted her children to school and 
made the husband agree not to come near any of them before the court hearing on 
the matter, at which time he was convicted of domestic violence. The wife was 
awarded custody of the children.

"Now, after listening to the story, let us ask how many women are beaten, 
insulted and hurt without anybody coming to their aid? I am aware of many 
terrifying stories of the worst kind of abuse and oppression that women 
experience day and night," Al-Qarni wrote.

"I fear that after people read this story, many women in the Arab world would 
want to go to the US. I believe that there should be a secret police force 
whose task is to rescue women who are being assaulted and suffering abuse. Any 
husband carrying out such abuse should share the same fate as the Saudi student 
in the US mentioned in the story above."

Al-Qarni wrote it reminded him of a classic figure in Islam.

"Over 14 centuries ago, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph, defended an 
abused woman when he went to her husband's house with his sword and rescued the 
woman and taught her husband a lesson, but in accordance with the principles of 
Shariah," he wrote. He continued: "I remember that some colleagues and I toured 
21 American states, and whenever we saw the accuracy and excellence of the 
traffic system, and witnessed people's commitment to environment-protection 
laws, and the way daily affairs are managed, we thought of the words we read in 
the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Even some of the 
Muslim professors there once said to us: 'We swear it is as if the Americans 
took it from our religion word for word, while we ignore these great texts.'"

In the column about Arabs fleeing their homelands and traveling to the West, 
Al-Qarni notes that greater opportunities exist there than in many Arab nations.

"Some of them have fled from repression, whipping, torture, gagging, 
confiscation of freedom, with the traces of torture still on their backs and 
chests. Others have gone to look for a source of living after being stricken by 
poverty, stung by hunger and destroyed by unemployment and idleness. Others 
have gone to seek knowledge, leaving behind their countries where universities 
are ranked last in the list of the universities of the world," he wrote.

Al-Qarni related the story of a Libyan man who fled his own country and found 
happiness and a good life in the US. "We were amazed. Amazingly enough, here is 
a man who fled his homeland after being terribly harassed, tortured, and 
maltreated there and came to a state that we are insulting day and night, and 
that some of us call the 'Great Satan,' a country that our preachers are 
cursing and wishing it bad," Al-Qarni wrote. "Then, this poor Muslim man who 
was driven out of his country, tortured in his homeland, becomes rich, having a 
home, a farm and a job and enjoying a good life full happiness in an American 

Al-Qarni questions why the West is demonized when it provides so many 
opportunities to Muslims and is far more tolerant of Muslim sensitivities than 
many Muslim countries are to people of differing faiths.

"Why don't we Arabs think about our tragedies and disasters, and admit that 
many of our states have discarded justice, confiscated liberties, taken over 
rights and erased the freedom of expression? This is at a time when, in the 
West, they discuss their affairs calmly, solve their crises with dialogue and 
govern their subjects with justice," he wrote.

He suggests the Arab world needs to take a long look at itself.

"In our Shariah, we read about order, justice, good character, calls for peace 
and human rights, respect for others, avoiding hurting other peoples' feelings, 
showing interest in the environment, seeking knowledge, encouraging work and 
production, and fighting poverty, ignorance, disease, and injustice. We notice 
that they are observing all this in the West whereas we find that many Arabs 
are only paying lip service to it in their bitter reality."

Al-Qarni said there was much to be learned from the countries of the West. 
"Please, let us stop cursing and insulting them and wishing them bad, and let 
us preoccupy ourselves with reforming ourselves, improving our level, promoting 
our universities, cleaning our environment, building our land, and rectifying 
our mistakes."

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