The British publication “The Economist” published a story Feb. 8 titled “Dark Secrets.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch-Somali politician who rode to parliament, perhaps opportunistically, on the wave of anti-immigrant sentiments, presenting herself as an oppressed Muslim woman. She actually came from a westernized and educated Somali family.

According to “The Economist,” the Dutch media suggest that she built her career on portraying herself as a victim of fanatical Muslims. Her portrayal hardly bears out. She blames Islam for the miseries of the Muslim world. Her new autobiography shows that life is too complex for that simple explanation.

When the truth about her life started to come out, she left the Netherlands. She has now been adopted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The institute has helped her publish a book in England and the United States called “Infidel.” It was called “My Freedom” in the Netherlands. It shows that her life, like those of other Muslims, is more complex than many people in the West may have realized. But the West’s tendency to seek simplistic explanations is a weakness that Hirsi Ali has been happy to exploit.

This all sounds too fictional and like movie material, so I will stick to the basics.

Trying to be a practicing Muslim, I can share the following from the Islamic traditions, what Quran and traditions of the prophet Muhammad recommend in regards to women.

In a truly Islamic society, women have the following rights (starting 1,500 years ago):

-It is not only a right but also a duty to obtain education.

-The women have the right to own independent property. They may share with husband and family if they wish.

-They have the right to work to earn money if they need it or want it, with the condition that it does not disrupt the family and is in consultation with the family unit.

-Equality of Devine rewards for equal deeds.

-The right to express their opinion and be heard. However, indecent speech and false testimony is prohibited for both men and women.

-The right to provisions from the husband for all her needs and more. A man cannot ask the same from his wife.

-The right to negotiate marriage terms of her choice, within the commandments of God. Marriage is highly encouraged for both men and women. It is, however, a contract and not a sacrament.

-The Right to Mahr (a marriage gift of her choice) or right to waive it.

-The women have the right to vote in public and political affairs.

For further understanding, I am helping organize the following educational event in the “Know Thy Neighbor, Love Thy Neighbor” educational series.

The event, “Women of Islam,” is a talk and question-and-answer session by a panel of Muslim women. It will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at the Tracy Public Library, 20 E. Eaton Ave., Tracy. Please attend and pass the word.

Riaz Hasan is a former director of outreach for the Tracy Islamic Center. He is now active in Islamic Outreach in the greater Bay Area and San Joaquin County. For more information, call (209) 830-6286 or e-mail .


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