A senior Muslim leader has said using violence against women is a “last resort” for men.
President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Keysar Trad described beating women as “step three” in a process of dealing with issues in relationships, after counselling and buying chocolates or “taking her out on a dinner”.
The outspoken author and commentator made the remarks on conservative commentator Andrew Bolt’s Sky News program.
Asking how Islam could be considered a “feminist religion”, Bolt quoted a modern interpretation of the Koran.
“It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas,” he read. “Which is better than nothing, but mate, that’s a modern interpretation.”
Trad responded saying he had studied the verse in detail, and said it was all about “human psychology”.
“What that verse is really putting as a scenario is if you come home and you’re really, really angry – we’ve seen many men act violently towards their women – what this verse is saying really is playing on the psychology of the man saying violence is a last resort,” he said.
“The first thing you must do is counselling … Before you even consider using your hand, before you consider an act of violence, have you checked box number one, which is counselling, have you checked boxed number two?
“So what does counselling entail? Maybe next time you should bring her a bunch of flowers, maybe next time you should bring her a box of chocolates, maybe next time you should take her out to dinner.”
Bolt interjected: “And then beat her. If you still don’t see sense, beat her. That’s what that says. I’m reading the Koran.”
Trad argued that what the text was saying was that “a good person would never get to that step because the first step would eliminate the problem”.
He added: “When you sit down and talk about it and say I’ve become angry about something, I go to my wife and say what happens, I say I’m sorry I was wrong, I made the wrong assumption, so you never get to step three,” he said. “This is the psychology.”
Bolt said he hoped his guest’s interpretation of the verse “catches on”.
After widespread outrage over his comments on Sky News, Trad appeared on Channel 10 morning show Studio 10 this morning to defend himself.
“It’s a last resort as mentioned in the verse that you actually never get to,” he said. “You’re never ever meant to get to that resort. Some people who take it literally say that the hit that is referred to is a light touch, or just maybe even – I don’t even believe that you should do that. I believe that the first resort, which is the counselling, the communication, talking to each other, that is the resort that determines whether the relationship should continue or not continue.”
He said the topic had not been the focus of his interview with Bolt and “perhaps more time could have been spent to elaborate on it,” noting that the Prophet Muhammad never hit his wives and told people not to do so.
“I do denounce violence unequivocally,” he insisted. “But when you’re asked to explain a verse that has certain words in it, you have to explain what that verse is.
“Maybe I did not choose my words very carefully … what the verse is saying to you, resolve it amicably, if you can’t, leave each other. Do not get to step number three. You never get to step number three.
“I have been defending women’s rights as far as I can from my position as a member of a minority. I have a sermon tomorrow and that will be part of my sermon, to clearly and categorically condemn violence. We are a peaceful religion.”
The Sky News discussion was following on from the stance taken by ABC identity Yassmin during her recent controversial Q&A appearance, claiming Islam was the “most feminist religion” citing the fact that Muslim women do not take their husband’s last names.
The Sudanese-Australian engineer, author, and television presenter’s comments have led to calls for her sacking, which the ABC has said it will disregard.
Trad has previously come under scrutiny for advocating polygamy, saying he would like to have a second wife, permissible under sharia law, and that his current wife would be OK with it.
But he said on Studio 10 today: “I have been married to the one woman for more than 30 years now, we have a family, children, we love each other very much. And I would never consider even remotely, either emotionally or any other way, bringing any grief to my wife.”
Trad has previously advocated for the legal recognition of aspects of sharia in Australia.