Several readers thought that I was a mite unfair to Muslims in comments I made in Killing Her Softly. The consensus among those readers was that I was portraying an extreme view among Muslims, that it's okay to beat, and even kill one's wife, as though it were a common view among moderate Muslims. It is.
In many Muslim societies, especially among Arab Muslims, wife-beating is considered a husband's prerogative. It's not helpful to pretend that this is not so just because one wishes that it weren't so. Nor does it mean that all Muslims accept or practice it. I'm sure many don't, but the fact is that millions obviously do and among these millions are people, like the man who beheaded his wife, who are considered moderates because they dress like Westerners and don't actively support terrorism.
The status of women in many Muslim societies is not unlike the status of slaves in the antebellum South. Not all slave-owners beat their slaves, but if someone did it wasn't considered extraordinary or extremist, and a man could even kill a slave (if it was his slave) and incur no punishment because the slave was his property to do with as he wished.
Should we withhold our condemnation of this attitude and behavior among slave-owners just because there were some who didn't engage in it? Does the fact that some people, perhaps most people, refused to own slaves mean that slave ownership was not a typical feature of the South? Just so, the mistreatment of women is a typical feature of much of the Islamic world. Indeed, one of the reasons the West is despised in the Arab Muslim world is because women in Western societies are treated as equal to men.
It might be pointed out that there are a billion Muslims in the world. If only 1% of them thinks like this imam that's ten million people:
Read Kaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns for some anecdotal insight into this cultural phenomenon and/or google "honor killings" to get a sense of the dimensions of the problem. If you do google it you'll get about six million hits.RLC