The Associated Press published a “fact check” of Donald Trump’s claim during Thursday’s GOP debate that “Islam treats women horribly,” saying it is untrue, even though there is ample evidence for such a statement.
“No such generalization is supported by the diverse circumstances for women in the Muslim world,” writes the AP’s Calvin Woodward.
Woodward backs up his argument with several statements.
“The United States has yet to see a woman as president, many years after Muslim women achieved national leadership in other countries, most prominently Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto back in the late 1980s and in the 1990s,” he says, glossing over the fact Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, and that her rise was enabled by the fact she was in an extremely powerful political dynasty.
Woodward also dismisses other ways Islamic doctrine leads to women being legally or socially limited, arguing that many women prefer it that way.
“Some Muslim societies are indeed repressive by Western standards, enforcing or pressing for norms such as clothing that covers all but their eyes or faces; bans on driving, voting and education; and restrictions on interacting with the other sex,” he writes. “But many Muslim women adhere to Islamic norms not out of fear or repression, but in observance of faith and their own preference.”
While Woodward is correct that it is impossible to describe all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world the same way, there are plenty of reasons to regard Trump’s statement as generally true.
For instance, a 2012 report by the World Economic Forum ranked 135 countries based on their level of gender equality — measured by women’s level of education, political empowerment, health and economic opportunity. Of the 135 countries on the list, the most highly-ranked one with a Muslim majority was Kyrgyzstan at 35th. Fifteen of the bottom 20 countries are Muslim, while three more have large Muslim minorities.
Several of the world’s most severe violations of women’s rights are most common in Islamic countries. For example, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is seen most often in the Islamic world, as the practice occurs frequently in central Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen and Indonesia. Most Muslim countries allow men, but not women, to practice polygamy. Child marriage is a major issue in several Muslim countries because Islam generally allows women to be married off at a very young age. In Pakistan, an effort to ban child marriage was blocked after clerics declared it un-Islamic.
There are many ways in which women are treated as inferior to men under Islamic law (Sharia). In many Muslim countries, a woman’s testimony is treated as one-half of a man’s testimony in certain trials. Women may initiate divorce in Islam, but are at a disadvantage relative to men. When women are murdered or are otherwise the victims of crime, Islamic jurisprudence holds that less blood money be paid out than in the case of a man. Women may collect inheritances, but in most cases their share is half that of men’s.
Is that all enough to say Islam treats women “horribly”? That’s a matter of opinion. But Trump’s statement wasn’t as baseless as the AP suggests.
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