Archive for Translating-Jihad

Loon Victory: Muslim Doctor Ousted for FGM Thought Crime

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2012 by loonwatch
Dr. Hatem al-HajDr. Hatem al-Haj

by Ilisha

All across the Looniverse, hate mongers are congratulating themselves on a stunning victory.

They’ve managed to oust Dr. Hatem (Elhagaly) al-Haj from his role as a pediatrician at the prestigious, US-based Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for nothing more than a thought crime.  There is no evidence Dr. al-Haj has injured, neglected, or in any way harmed any of his patients, and furthermore, there are no formal complaints against him stemming from his practice.

The successful campaign was spearheaded, according to loons, by a lone Jihad Watcher, who garnered hundreds of signatures on a petition submitted to the Mayo Clinic alleging the doctor endorsed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and therefore posed a potential danger to his patients. The “smoking gun” and centerpiece of  the campaign against Dr. al-Haj is a paper he wrote seven years ago as part of his doctoral thesis. The paper was translated from Arabic into English by a notorious translator already exposed as incompetent by Loonwatch here.

The translation appears to be deliberately manipulative, and falsely attributes a quote to Dr. al-Haj saying FGM  is “an honor for women.” It is unclear whether Dr. al-Haj resigned under pressure or was fired by the Mayo Clinic in the wake of the manufactured “controversy,” but it is nevertheless an astounding achievement for bigots devoted to marginalizing Muslims in the West and demonizing Islam.

Dr. al-Haj is the latest victim caught in the crosshairs of a relentless, coordinated campaign to portray Muslims as misogynist and barbaric by falsely attributing FGM to Islam. In fact, FGM does not have its origins in Islam, is not practiced exclusively by Muslims, and is virtually unheard of in many Muslim-majority countries.

What is FGM?

Female Genital Mutilation is a term used by most human rights groups to describe various degrees of genital cutting performed on girls and women. The United Nations categorizes four major types:

Type 1:

Excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part or all of the clitoris.

Type 2:

Excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora.

Type 3:

Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infibulation).

Type 4:

Others, such as pricking, piercing or incising, stretching, burning the clitoris, scraping of itssue surrounding the vaginal orifice, cutting of the vagina, introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or to tighten the opening.

How prevalent are these procedures?

Although bigots always cite the most extreme forms of FGM and the corresponding side effects, Types I and II are most common, accounting for about 85% of all FGM procedures. Type III is mostly confined to Somalia, northern Sudan and Djibouti, and the highest rates of FGM today are found in parts of Africa:

FGM Map

Why is FGM performed?

FGM is sometimes viewed as necessary to control a woman’s sexuality, and though evidence contradicts this notion, some believe FGM helps to to ensure virginity and fidelity by diminishing sexual desire. In some tribal communities, FGM is part of traditional initiation rituals for girls entering womanhood, and continuation of the practice is sometimes bolstered by myths, such as the notion an uncut clitoris will grow to the size of a penis.

In other cases FGM is incorrectly thought to enhance fertility and improve hygiene, and some perceive it as more aesthetically pleasing. Some practitioners also believe it is religiously sanctioned or mandated, and in some communities, it is a prerequisite to marriage.

Is FGM a Muslim problem?

FGM does not have its origins in Islam, but it does need to be discussed among Muslims for several reasons. The practice is widespread in some Muslim majority countries, especially in Africa, and in countries like Somalia and Egypt, large majorities of girls undergo some form of FGM.

There is no direct correlation between religion and FGM. However, Muslims in areas where the practice is common often conflate this cultural inheritance with religion, believing FGM is either mandated or at least recommended, in Islam.

What is the origin of FGM?

Despite the fact many hate sites refer to FGM as “Islamic,” its is an ancient practice that predates Islam by centuries. FGM is thought to have originated under the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt, which is why Type III procedures are sometimes referred to as “pharaonic circumcision.” Archeologists have found circumcised female mummies, and in the fifth century BCE, Herodotus reported the practice among the Phoenicians and Ethiopians, as well as Egyptians, which means FGM predates Christianity as well.

Various forms of female genital cutting have also been traced to parts of Africa, the Philippines, the Upper Amazon in South America, and to parts of Australia where aborigines performed FGM and in some areas, still do. Female genital cutting also occurred among the early Romans.

In Victorian times, clitoridectomies were performed in Western countries.  The first reported clitoridectomy in the West was carried out in Berlin in 1822 by Isaac Baker Brown, an English gynecologist who was the president of the Medical Society of London. He believed that “unnatural irritation” of the clitoris caused epilepsy, hysteria, and mania, and would remove it whenever he had the opportunity. His views sparked outrage and he was eventually expelled from the Obstetrical Society, though he certainly was not alone in believing removal of the clitoris was a legitimate treatment. As recently as the 1950s, clitoridectomies were sometimes performed in Western Europe and the United States to treat various “ailments,” including hysteria, epilepsy, mental disorders, masturbation, nymphomania, melancholia and lesbianism.

What’s being done to end the practice worldwide?

Fortunately, FGM has already been eradicated in many regions, and in 2003, the United Nations launched the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation as part of a campaign to end the practice worldwide. In recent years, a growing number of countries have passed laws banning FGM. However, laws alone are not enough to eradicate the practice, and may in some cases, merely drive FGM underground.

Firmly entrenched in some societies where it has been practiced for centuries, FGM is viewed as essential by some families, regardless of their religious affiliation. If physicians are banned by law from performing any form of FGM, families sometimes resort to an unlicensed practitioner who may use crude tools in an unsanitary environment, causing further pain, trauma, and potential complications. Stiff penalties also may deter families from seeking proper medical attention if complications arise, further endangering the lives of girls who undergo the procedure despite the ban.

This brings us back to Dr. Al-Haj, who discussed in his paper the “ritual nick” as a possible alternative to other forms of FGM, which in some cases may appease families convinced FGM is necessary without causing permanent harm to the girl or woman. This suggestion caused a firestorm of protest, yet it is noteworthy that the supposedly “radical” position espoused by Dr. al-Haj in his paper was endorsed in 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics as reported in the New York Times. Criticizing a federal law that prohibits all forms of female genital procedures, including the ritual nick, the group said:

It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm. ~ The American Academy of Pediatrics

No matter how adamant and eager activists may be to end the practice, social change is a process, and it takes time. The strategy for eliminating the practice should first and foremost take into account the health and well being of girls and women, and not the politics of bigotry.

The Other Side of the Story

Many of the hate sites crowing about their victory include a link to Dr. al-Haj’s website, despite the fact his thoughtful explanation undermines their case against him:

I have always condemned Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM. Moreover, I have unequivocally voiced both orally and in written form the condemnation of all harmful forms of Female Genital Cutting FGC, justifiably known as FGM. Furthermore, I have taught that nothing in Islamic Law and religious texts supports such a heinous crime. In fact, it is repugnant to Islamic principles and values to inflict such trauma and suffering on any female. The severest forms of this practice are akin to killing in Islamic Law.

The statements I have made, that are now being unfairly distorted against me, are those regarding a subtype of Female Genital Cutting FGC, a harmless procedure called the ritual nick. This subtype doesn’t involve any form of clitorectomy. It is merely an incision (or a minimal excision, as explained in the details below) of part of the clitoral hood, the counterpart to the foreskin in males, and does not remove any part of the clitoris. This opinion is scientifically irrefutable and shared by many American non-Muslim pediatricians. It is the position expressed by the Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. [Pediatrics Vol. 125 No. 5 May 1, 2010 pp. ‎‎1088 -1093‎.], which noted:

“This [the ritual nick] is no more of an alteration than ear piercing. A legitimate concern is that parents who are denied the cooperation of a physician will send their girls back to their home country for a much more severe and dangerous procedure or use the services of a non–medically trained person in North America.”…

The claim that I said, “Female genital mutilation is an honor” is so repugnant. The statement sounds to me like an intractable conflict. However, my opponents have used against me every other logical fallacy in their campaign, such as generalization, poisoning the well, straw man, etc. Therefore, it does not surprise me that they ascribed such statement to me.

Despite my acknowledgment of the harmlessness of the ritual nick, I have unwaveringly discouraged all people from having it done because of its illegality in the US. I have never advised, suggested or encouraged any of my patients or their families to undertake any type of female circumcision, including the ritual nick…

The smear campaigns against me are unfounded in that they are based on religious bias, ignorance and misconceptions of my real positions and actions on the issues at hand. These defamers have misquoted me, taken excerpted words out of context, distorted my position and plainly fabricated lies against me in order to vilify me as some type of evil, backward extremist physician. I am none of these things. Quite the contrary, I give medical care to my young female patients, as I would my own daughters…”

Read the Rest here: http://www.drhatemalhaj.com/

Whatever one thinks of the “lesser evil” of a ritual nick, it doesn’t seem as if mere discussion of the prospect should cost a doctor his job. As Dr. al-Haj has said, and even the loons admit, he has never performed any form of FGM, has never seen any such procedure performed, and has never actually recommended it to any patient. His paper merely provided an overview of Muslim opinion with respect to FGM.

Circumcision in Islam: A Wide Range of Opinions

Hate sites put an emphasis on any evidence they can harvest to suggest FGM is mandated by Sharia (Islamic Law). Fortunately, they are not able to present evidence from the Qur’an, nor reliable hadith, promoting the practice of FGM. They must resort to quoting dubious sources, ranging from uneducated villagers to imams whose credibility is highly questionable, and who are not recognized authorities in the Muslim community. In the absence of a comprehensive global survey, it is impossible to determine how widespread support for FGM is among Muslim scholars. However, it is clear there is a broad range of opinion regarding the practice.

Despite Pamela Geller’s constant reference to “clitoridectomies” as being “Islamic,” there is apparently no credible Muslim scholar who believes removal of the clitoris is mandated in Islam. Based on his interpretation of the ”Reliance of the Traveller,” a classical manual for the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence written over 600 years ago, American-born Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller has said that circumcision is mandatory, and includes removing the prepuce of the penis in men and the prepuce of the clitoris in women. His opinion is based not on the Qur’an, but an interpretation of the Sunnah, and he makes it clear that this does not include removal of the clitoris itself. Keller distinguishes between the procedure he advocates, which he refers to as “circumcision,” and what he considers to be female genital mutilation.

Other prominent Muslim scholars have issued fatwas against FGM in all its forms. In 2006, leaders from around the world gathered in Egypt and ruled female circumcision un-Islamic, and the following year, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa against the practice. Gomaa said FGM is not commanded in the Qur’an, nor the hadith, and while it may have been accepted in the past, studies showing dangers to health make it unacceptable today.

Gomaa also pointed out that there is no record of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives or daughters ever having undergone the procedure, and suggested it was an unwelcome innovation stemming from cultural tradition. The full fatwa can be read on his website here.

Gomaa received support from the Grand Sheikh of Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University, Muhammad Sayyed Thanthawi. Thanthawi said female circumcision is prohibited and cannot be justified on religious grounds. Despite the loons consistent efforts to present inauthentic hadiths as evidence of support for FGM, Thanthawi also confirmed that FGM is justified neither by the Qur’an nor reliable hadith, and further stated that circumcision in Islam applies only to men.

While the circumcision of men is a majority opinion, it is further testament to diversity that some Muslim scholars believe all forms of circumcision are prohibited in Islam. They cite passages in the Qur’an (40:64, 64:3, 95:4, 4:119, and 6:38) as evidence that God created the human being in the desired state, without need for alteration, and argue that circumcision violates the central theme of compassion in Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad is said to have been born without a foreskin (aposthetic), and while some Muslims argue boys should be circumcised in order to emulate the Prophet, opponents point out it is possible to glean the opposite message: since the Prophet Muhammad obviously didn’t undergo circumcision, boys today can best follow his example by not being circumcised.

Don’t expect to see this wide range of opinion on the issue of circumcision on hate sites devoted to portraying Muslims as a monolith. Anyone sincerely devoted to ending the practice of FGM should be promoting statements by Grand Mufti Gomaa and like minded scholars to spread the good news FGM is not mandated in Islam. Instead, bigots masquerading as “human rights activists” use their considerable resources to spread the opposite message, putting their agenda ahead of the interests of the girls and women whose rights they pretend to represent.

The Fate of Dr. al-Haj

Emboldened by their ill-conceived victory, anti-Muslim bigots have waged a new campaign aimed at having the doctor’s license to practice medicine revoked as well. Because their baseless accusations can’t stand up to even rudimentary scrutiny, the new campaign should fail. Unfortunately, in the current climate, where irrationality and knee-jerk reactions often prevail, they may very well succeed in sacrificing Dr. al-Haj’s career and reputation on the alter of anti-Muslim bigotry.

It is shocking and disappointing that the Mayo Clinic would take action based on this devious and dishonest witch hunt. Dr. al-Haj is guilty of nothing more than being a Muslim and engaging in a “thought crime,” perpetrated years ago in a paper written as part of his doctoral thesis. If the prestigious Mayo Clinic is willing to cave into a few loud-mouthed bigots based on a campaign of lies and distortions, what’s next for Western Muslims?

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When Anti-Muslim Websites Use Bogus Translations…and Then Try to Cover it Up!

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by loonwatch

by: Dawood and Danios

The Translating-Jihad site is one of the newest additions to the anti-Muslim blogosphere.  Its creator,Al-Mutarjim (The Translator), defines his site’s goal as translating Arabic documents into English in order to “expose this darkness” of Islam and to “to open the eyes of those already enslaved by Islam.”

The fact that Islamophobes routinely use bogus translations and out-of-context quotes is well-known.  But as if only to prove our case, the Translating-Jihad website challenged us to “refute this translation”, referring to an Arabic fatwa that he “translated” on his website. We accepted this challenge and exposed his “translation” as completely bogus.  Al-Mutarjim had completely mistranslated words and purposefully neglected to translate 4/5ths of the fatwa, including the mufti’s conclusion–a conclusion which directly contradicts what Al-Mutarjim claimed the fatwa said (and which he incidentally chose as the title of his article!).

Eventually, Al-Mutarjim was forced to reply to our site.  Instead of admitting fault, he issued an “updated” translation in which he attempted to “explain away” his academic dishonesty.  Al-Mutarjim whined:

First of all, I have no desire or need to take anything about Islam out of context. This is the tired old accusation that CAIR-types like to drag out whenever anybody in the West points out some of the objectionable material inherent in Islam.

Both Al-Mutarjim and his anti-Muslim colleague Staring at the View (SATV) use “whenever” and “anybody” arguments quite frequently.  Whenever anybody in the West…”  LoonWatch is not talking about “anybody”.  We’re talking about one particular person and one particular site here: Al-Mutarjimspecifically and his site specifically.

Just as Al-Mutarjim quite stupidly chose to use a bogus translation when he challenged us to “refute this translation”, once again he quite stupidly validates “the tired old accusation” –namely, that Islamophobes take Islamic texts out of context.  Think, McFly, think! Al-Mutarjim ends up unknowingly validating the “the tired old accusation” by “translating” a fatwa completely out of context, which is evident for everyone to see!

Nikah as “Sexual Intercourse” or “Betrothal/Marriage”?

Al-Mutarjim mistranslated the following:

فيؤخذ من الآية جواز نكاح البنت قبل البلوغ”

As this:

we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl.

When it actually translates as:

and from this verse we take the permissibility of betrothal/marriage (nikah) with pre-pubescent girls.

In Al-Mutarjim’s response, he bumbles:

That being said, Loonwatch is being dishonest when they say that the Arabic wordnikah, which they translated as ‘marriage/betrothal’, “does not mean sexual intercourse at all.” The truth is, nikah can mean either ‘sexual intercourse’ or ‘marriage.’ (Need proof? Plug نكاح into Google Translate.)

Al-Mutarjim accusing LoonWatch of being dishonest? How rich!  Once again, Al-Mutarjim is guilty of “half-quoting”, splicing up quotes to support his argument.  In fact, what LoonWatch actually said was (emphasis added):

The word nikah here does not mean “sexual intercourse” at all.

Notice the key word “here”, which Al-Mutarjim leaves out.  Even if–for argument’s sake only–we conceded that “nikah” could sometimes mean “sexual intercourse”, can this meaning work in the sentence above?  For example, the English word “sex” can refer to intimate relations in one sentence, but gender in another.  The meaning “intimate relations” cannot be used to explain the meaning of sex in the following sentence:

Please state your name, sex, and age.

Would Al-Mutarjim have a case if he were to claim that the word “sex” above could also mean “intimate relations”?  Of course not.  And neither does he have a leg to stand on when he claims that “nikah” means “sex” in the sentence reproduced from the fatwa.  Even his primary “academic” proof–Google Translator–does not back his claim: when we enter the entire Arabic sentence into it, here’s what Google says:

We are of course not surprised that Al-Mutarjim invoked “Google Translator” since we have long since suspected–based on noticeable similarities–that Al-Mutarjim’s and Robert Spencer’s translations are simply “cleaned up” versions of Google Translator.  Again, this speaks to the profound academic qualifications of the self-appointed experts of Islam.  Perhaps The Translator ought to change his name to The Google Translator.

How about we rely on some real academic sources, instead of Google Translator?  Here’s what Al-Mawrid, arguably the most commonly used Arabic-to-English and English-to-Arabic lexicon, says:

As can be clearly seen above, the highlighted areas dealing both with nikah and nakaha (the verb/root nikah comes from), all relate to marriage. In fact, the compiler of the dictionary equates nikah with zawaj, which Al-Mutarjim himself translates as “marriage” in the fatwa.  Similarly, the verb nakaha is equated to tazawwaj, which means “to be married”.

The authoritative Hans Wehr dictionary, regarded as an essential tool for the English-speaking student of Arabic, says:

Notice that every single word the dictionary gives from the root letters “n k h”–including nikah–all refer to marriage.

When we look at Al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit, which is an established and popular Arabic-Arabic dictionary (similar to the Oxford English Dictionary in English, for example), we find likewise:

The underlines within the red box show the word zawaj (marriage) as being synonymous to nikah–and in fact to all the various words from the root “n k h”. In other words, all refer to marriage, marrying and the procedure of marriage.

Nowhere do we see the meaning of “sexual intercourse” in any of these dictionaries!  It is the reader’s decision whether to rely on Google Translator in its beta form or to refer to actual academic sources.

Al-Mutarjim whines:

I concede that the Mufti could have meant marriage, but he also could have meant sexual intercourse.

No, he couldn’t have.  If Al-Mutarjim had not used ellipses (…) everywhere to mask the fatwa’s real meaning, he would have noted this immediately above:

ومن المهم كذلك أن نعرف أن الفقهاء وإن أجازوا تزويج الصغيرة فإنهم منعوا زوجها أن يطأها حتى تطيق الوطء ، وهذا يختلف باختلاف الأزمنة والأمكنة والبيئات.

And it is important for us to know that even though the jurists approved betrothing a child, they prevented her husband from having intercourse with her until she could bear it [lit. intercourse], which can differ according to the time, place and environment.

What is amazing is that Al-Mutarjim himself–in his updated version–is forced to translate the passage above, which he renders as:

It is also important that we understand that the scholars, while they permitted marrying off young girls, they forbade her husband from having intercourse with her until she could bear it…

This sentence in and of itself completely invalidates his “translation” of the sentence (“we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl”) as well as the title given to his article (“It Is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”).  This is the case even using his own translation!  The Mufti could not possibly mean “sexual intercourse” in the sentence translated, since he clearly states that the jurists forbade/prevented it.

What the mufti was saying, quite clearly, was:

(1) Betrothal/marriage of young (prepubescent) girls is technically permitted.

(2) However, this does not mean that sexual intercourse may take place.

(3) Later on in the fatwa, he states that the ruling permitting such early betrothals/marriages is archaic and does not apply to today’s situation.

Al-Mutarjim’s deceitful manipulation of the fatwa changed (1) above to say that sexual intercourse is permitted, and completely omitted points (2) and (3).  If this is not academic dishonesty, then what is?

Yet, Al-Mutarjim says:

Translation is an art, not a science, and translators can and do argue over the correct translation of certain words and phrases.

In this case, the only art that Al-Mutarjim has mastered is the art of deception!  (Yet another example of how the Islamophobes are guilty of projection when they cry about taqiyya.)

Al-Mutarjim continues to build a case against himself, explaining why he chose “sexual intercourse” instead of “betrothal/marriage”:

In this case, I went with ‘sexual intercourse’ because from the context, it seems clear to me that the Mufti is not just talking about signing a marriage contract without consummating it. Right after that statement he talks about how Muhammad not only married ‘A’isha but then had sex with her when she was only nine years old, i.e. a prepubescent girl.

Here, Al-Mutarjim’s lack of educational qualifications and profound ignorance of Islam come to the fore!  Here’s what the fatwa said, which he refers to:

وقد صح أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم عقد على عائشة وهي بنت ست سنين إلا أنه لم يدخل بها إلا وهي بنت تسع سنين، رواه البخاري.

And it is verified that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had contracted with Aisha when she was six years old, but he did not have intercourse with her, until she was 9 years old, as narrated by Bukhari.

Does he not see that this is a great proof against his claim!?  The mufti is saying that Aisha was betrothed/married to the Prophet Muhammad at the age of six, but sexual intercourse did not take place for three years.  This three year delay supports the idea that the mufti was permitting betrothal/marriage of prepubescent girls (hence, the marriage at the age of six) but forbidding sexual intercourse (for three years in this case), until the girl was able to bear it without harm coming to her, which he says is “the age of puberty.”

Although many reformist Muslims question the age of Aisha, the traditionalist opinion has been that Aisha had passed through puberty at the age of nine, which is why sexual intercourse was–according to this opinion–permissible.  Clearly, the mufti’s invocation of Aisha is wholly consistent with the idea that betrothal/marriage was permitted before puberty, but sexual intercourse allowed only after it.  Traditionalists believe that Aisha was betrothed before puberty, and that the marriage was consummated after puberty.

“Sexual Intercourse” is a “Tropical Meaning”

The primary, well-known, and common meaning of nikah is “betrothal/marriage”.  This is the meaning that any competent Arabic translator would know to use.  As for the meaning of “sexual intercourse”, this is considered an unusual translation of the word.  In fact, Lane’s Lexicon–widely considered the best classical Arabic-English dictionary in the world–notes that such usage is a “tropical expression”, something outside the normal range of meaning. [Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon (1968), Vol. 8, p. 2848]

This fact is something very easily verifiable by simply asking any (neutral) Arabic speaker.  And this is certainly confirmed by the images of the dictionary pages we have reproduced above, where we do not even see the meaning given!  That is how obscure that definition is!

Furthermore, using the translation “sexual intercourse” is even stranger in the context of a fatwa (religious verdict).  It is well-known that fatwas use Islamic legalese.  Religious terms that are used in Islamic law have very specific meanings.  Words like halalharamcaliphimamzinasahih, etc…These are all religious terms that even non-Arabic speaking Muslims will know, because they have special religious significance.  The word nikah is most definitely one such “religious term”, used for example even by Pakistani Muslims who don’t usually speak Arabic.

The well-known religious meaning of the word is found in the Quran itself.  Prof. Joseph Schacht, who is considered by many to be the pioneer of Islamic legal studies in the West, notes in theEncyclopedia of Islam (2nd Edition) that while “sexual intercourse” is a meaning, “in the Kur’an [it is] used exclusively for the contract of marriage.”  Wherever the word nikah is used in the Quran, it means the contract of betrothal/marriage–not sexual intercourse.  (For the record, Prof. Schacht is hardly known to be sympathic towards Islam, and his work is routinely cited by the Islamphobic polemicist Ibn Warraq.)

This trend is found in the books of hadith and the Islamic legal literature as well. For example, the hadith collection known as Sahih al-Muslim has a chapter entitled “Book of Marriage (Kitab al-Nikah)”–in it are sayings regarding marriage, i.e. who should marry, who one can marry, who one can propose marriage to, conditions of marriage, etc. etc.  Nary a soul would dare claim it is the Book of Sex, since its topics are far more wide-ranging than that.

As for Islamic legal literature, we can cite a book that Islamophobes love to cite, The Reliance of the Traveler, that also has in it a “Book of Marriage (Kitab al-Nikah)”–which cannot possibly be understood to be the Book of Sex.  The examples we could cite are numerous.

It is quite telling that Al-Mutarjim invoked a “tropical definition” to a term that Arabic speakers–even non-Arabic speaking Muslims–know immediately as meaning “betrothal/marriage.”  Additionally, the mufti uses three different words to clearly refer to sexual intercourse:

يدخل عليها (he enters into her)
الوطء (mounting)
الجماع (coming together)

There is no ambiguity here.  But to top off the absurdity of using a “tropical meaning” is the fact that the context of the fatwa itself–as noted in the above section–would completely negate such an unusual usage.  The desire to do so can only be born out of a specific agenda.

Conclusion

We must reiterate here that we do not agree with the IslamOnline fatwa.  Therefore, we do not see the need to defend its substance.  (Future articles will tackle the dispute about Aisha’s age, the minimum age of marriage in Islam [although it was briefly discussed here], etc.)  The focus here ought to be Al-Mutarjim’s misleading and dishonest translations. Our readers simply need to compare the original “translation” he provided to the updated translation he was forced to publish after we exposed his original. The dramatic difference–between his own initial translation and the new one we forced him to provide–speaks volumes!

Al-Mutarjim argues:

Regardless of whatever personal (and vague) advice the Mufti gives much later in his fatwa, the case is already closed per the Qur’an and Sunnah.

We are not going to argue what the Quran and Sunna say regarding the matter, as that is another topic altogether.  The fact that the mufti himself does not understand the Quran and Sunna to imply what al-Mutarjim states it implies, is itself telling. The issue here is that Al-Mutarjim translated a fatwa from an IslamOnline mufti, making it seem as if the mufti was perfectly fine with sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls.  But here is what Al-Mutarjim purposefully excluded from his “translation”:

(1) The mufti forbade sexual intercourse before puberty, arguing that “at the very least” puberty should be the minimum age for marriage.

(2) The mufti noted that sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls should be prevented because it can cause severe “negative physical and emotional ramifications that would stay with her for the rest of her life.”

(3) Betrothal/marriage of prepubescent girls is, according to the mufti, a thing of the past and no longer applicable.

All of this was hidden in those ever so strategic ellipses.  Al-Mutarjim’s response seems to imply that our criticism of his translation revolved solely around that one word (nikah) and that one sentence. 

Yet, even if we pretend, for argument’s sake only, that he translated it correctly (which he didn’t), this does not change the fact that he has produced a highly misleading and dishonest translation.  He purposefully deleted all three points above (and 4/5ths of the fatwa), a deception that is even greater than simply mistranslating one sentence.

The fact that Al-Mutarjim and his defenders are trying to make it all about one word and one sentence indicates their desire to obfuscate the issue.  So let’s be very clear: Al-Mutarjim’s translation is fraudulent not just because of one sentence but because he purposefully omitted key information from the fatwa.

This begs the question: why?  Why did Al-Mutarjim hide these very important points?  Why did he neglect to translate 4/5th’s of the fatwa?  Why was there even a need for an “updated version” of the translation, which magically only appeared when we criticized his first one?  Had his first translation been an honest one, why the need for an update?  We think the reasons for this are patently obvious.

To conclude: Al-Mutarjim had “translated” a fatwa making it seem as if it permitted sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, even though it said the exact opposite–namely, that the age of puberty is to be considered the minimum age “at the very least.”  Using ellipses, the Translating-Jihad site manipulates texts…kind of like if we rendered Al-Mutarjim’s words like so:

I previously produced an excerpted translation…deliberately taking things out of context…

My goal…is being dishonest.

Addendum I:

SATV’s dishonesty can be gauged by his conciliatory comment on our site:

I believe that much of your response to Translating-Jihad was also quite good. I won’t speak for him, but I agreed with much of your grammatical analysis. Where I disagree is your assumption that people critical of Islam deliberately mistranslate Arabic.

and his completely opposite attitude on his blog.  Would SATV like to be honest and state on his blog that he agrees with our grammatical analysis of Al-Mutarjim’s “translation”?

Also, note here the invocation of a “whenever” and “anybody” argument once again: “your assumption that people critical of Islam deliberately mistranslate Arabic“.  Here, we are talking about oneparticular person and one particular site.  Each stands on its own merits. Al-Mutarjim specifically and Translating-Jihad specifically are deliberately mistranslating and obfuscating Arabic.  The evidence speaks for itself, and SATV’s refusal to admit this speaks to his own dishonesty.

Update I:

Staring at the View (SATV) has issued a response to our article, saying (emphasis added):

I have carefully read Loonwatch’s grammatical analysis of the Fatwa that caused this duststorm, and I can say that I agree with that analysis. I agree that the primary meaning of the word Nikah is marriage, and I agree that the Mufti who issued theFatwa was not advocating sex with young girls.

We must give credit where credit is due.  It is pretty stand up of him to admit this.

Of course, the fact that even SATV agrees with our analysis of Al-Mutarjim’s flawed translation does not fare well for Al-Mutarjm and the Translating-Jihad website.  What’s interesting though is that SATV himself seems to be connected to the Translating Jihad website; Al-Mutarjim introduced SATV on his website as follows:

My buddy over at Staring at the View has agreed to start cross-posting his excellent articles here at Translating Jihad.

It’s just barely a stretch then to say that even Translating Jihad doesn’t think Translating Jihad is reliable!

Proof that Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch.org Relies on Bogus Translations

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by loonwatch
Robert Spencer

Translating-Jihad is one of the newer anti-Muslim blogs to make its debut to the world wide web.  The site’s creator, Al-Mutarjim, fancies himself as a professional Arabic translator and states that his objective is to translate Arabic texts into English in order “to expose [the] darkness [of Islam].”

Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org (arguably the internet’s most popular anti-Muslim website), was absolutely delighted by the emergence of Translating-Jihad.  Spencer gushed about Al-Mutarjim:

You are great. I love your work… Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing.

On January 14th of 2011, Al-Mutarjim posted a supposed translation of an Arabic fatwa on his website; he entitled his translation as follows: Fatwa: “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”.  Guess who reproduced this “translation” on his website?  None other than Robert Spencer.  See JihadWatch.org: Fatwa: “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”.  Spencer opined:

Here is evidence that mainstream Muslims…consider child marriage to be completely justified by the Sharia.

This “translation” by Al-Mutarjim’s Translating-Jihad blog was the “evidence” that the fake scholarRobert Spencer gives to justify his claims.

We here at LoonWatch investigated the matter and discovered that Translating-Jihad’s “translation” was utterly bogus.  Read our expose: Translating-Jihad’s Completely Fraudulent Translations.  To summarize, Al-Mutarjim claimed that the fatwa says: “It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl”, when in fact the fatwa says the exact opposite. The fatwa forbids sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, and warns:

It is clear that the marriage of children has health concerns, because their reproductive organs are not ready for sexual intercourse yet, nor are they emotionally prepared for sexual intercourse, especially the female child who will most likely be physically damaged. This is especially if her husband is an old man! Sexual intercourse might cause negative physical and emotional ramifications that would stay with her for the rest of her life and affect her sexual future!

Not only did Al-Mutarjim not translate the above (all tactfully hidden in those ever so strategic ellipses), but he also purposefully omitted to translate the fatwa’s conclusion: “In view of medical grounds, we admonish against marriage before puberty at the very least.

Translating-Jihad’s translation is the epitome of academic dishonesty,  and Al-Mutarjim is a fraud, cheat, and liar.  But, Robert Spencer has no problem with that, so long as Al-Mutarjim is anti-Muslim.  Not only does Al-Mutarjim get high praises from Spencer, but the bogus “sex with prepubescent girls” translation was reproduced on JihadWatch.  It can still be found here.  As of yet, Spencer has not removed it or issued a correction of any sort.

There can be only a few reasons why Robert Spencer reproduced such a bogus translation on his website:

(1)  Robert Spencer is lying when he claims the ability to read and understand Arabic fluently.  In that case, maybe he couldn’t understand the fatwa.  If that is the case, then he is a liar for falsely pretending to read the language.  How can anyone rely on a liar as a credible source?

(2)  If #1 is not the case, then maybe Spencer reproduced the translation without bothering to click the link to the original fatwa.  If that is the case (which is highly unlikely), then what kind of editorial standards and vetting process does JihadWatch.org have!?  What kind of a “scholar” would reproduce something like that without bothering to check the original (which is just a click away)?  How reliable can a site be that just believes anything on the internet?

(3) But the most likely explanation is that Robert Spencer is completely dishonest and has absolutely no problems reproducing bogus translations to further his anti-Muslim agenda.  Would you really rely on such a guy for your knowledge of Islam?

We wouldn’t be surprised, however, if Spencer comes up with one of his classic explanations about how someone else logged into his user name and posted it, without him first taking a look, yadda yadda yadda.  This sort of explanation–which Spencer has used in the past (remember the whole “I got tricked into joining a genocidal facebook group” thing?)–is just about as believable as the teenage kid telling his mom that the marijuana or porn under his bed is really his friends.

Whatever the case, will Robert Spencer have at least the academic honesty to issue a correction?  Will he take back his glowing praise of Al-Mutajim and the Translating-Jihad blog? We sincerely doubt it.

It is troublesome to think that Robert Spencer is considered an “expert” on Islam, when clearly he is merely a pro-Christian anti-Muslim fanatic–just like Al-Mutarjim of Translating-Jihad is a religious wing nut.  It is frightening to think that Spencer–who has no problems using absolutely bogus translations to further his Islam-bashing ideology–was even used to educate the FBI.  No wonder the FBI is completely misguided in its “war on terror”.  This country is in trouble when it relies on complete frauds and liars to learn about the world’s second largest religion.

 

Translating-Jihad: The Holy Spirit Inspires Me to be an Intolerant Bigot

Posted in Loon Blogs, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by loonwatch
“Don’t take away our guns!”

This is a follow-up article to this here.

In his response to our site, Al-Mutarjim (creator of the anti-Muslim website Translating-Jihad) exposed himself to be a religious wing nut, saying:

…This country and its constitution were founded by the hand of God, and that it was His destiny for His children that we should be free to worship Him according to the dictates of our consciences…

Being familiar with the teachings of Christ and the influence of His Holy Spirit, I was able to discern between the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the darkness of these sacred texts of Islam. With this knowledge, I resolved to work to expose this darkness, in order to defend this country and its inhabitants, and also to open the eyes of those already enslaved by Islam…

I know that the Lord has given me a gift to be able to learn Arabic. I do not understand all the purposes of the Lord, but I do believe that He has a purpose for me in this work. So I will press on, and continue to work tirelessly to help the non-Arabic-speaking audience understand what Islam really teaches.

Al-Mutarjim has set himself to the task of exposing the intolerant, violent, and totalitarian faith of Islam. Yet, in fighting the envisioned monster, he has become the monster. Al-Mutarjim is certainly intolerant: one can simply insert the word “Christianity” for “Islam” and see that. For example, he says in his response that “there was something very dark about the teachings of Islam itself…” and called the religion of Islam “violent, intolerant, and totalitarian.” If Al-Mutarjim came across the words of some mufti who said the exact same of Christianity–if this mufti said that “there is something very dark about the teachings of Christianity…” and that Christianity is “violent, intolerant, and totalitarian”–it would be on Al-Mutarjim’s blog the very next day (with the help of Google Translator of course)! In fact, he has already done so! Al-Mutarjim posted a fatwa in which a mufti stated that Christianity is “vain and perverted”. Al-Mutarjim cannot see that he is the mirror image of the Islamic crazies he rants against!

More importantly, however, we don’t really see the point of his site. He has endeavored, in his own words, to translate Arabic texts into English because:

It is common to hear these doctrines expressed candidly by Muslims when they are speaking to other Muslims in Arabic, but it is not so common to hear them expressed freely by Muslims speaking to Western audiences.

Islamophobes believe in this conspiracy theory: those “smooth-speaking Muslim spokesmen” say one thing in English to “gullible” non-Muslim audiences, but meanwhile–when they are amongst their own evil selves–they sing another tune in Arabic. This adds another lair to the conspiracy. It also adds to the novelty of the Islam-basher: “I am going to translate Muslim stuff that they don’t want you to see!” With that as a selling point (“leaked Arabic documents reveal…!!!”), the reader is drawn in to see what is so secretive.  More importantly, this accomplishes the task of making the Mooz-lums seem even more villainous–”you just can’t trust them!”

But the truth is that there is no such conspiracy. To the chagrin of many Muslims, there is no shortage of Islamic crazies saying all sorts of nutty things in the English language. Al-Mutarjim hardly had to go to an Arabic website to find Islamic fundamentalists saying it’s OK to marry off a girl at a young age. Has he never heard of the Saudi Wahhabi fatwa site Islam-qa.com or the even crazier Taliban and Usama bin Ladin-supporting fatwa site Ask-Imam.com? Both websites provide endless ammunition to Islam-bashers, making the need to translate “secretive” Arabic documents hardly necessary. This is all a gimmick invented by Islamophobes. Both English-speaking websites (see here and here) say similar to the Arabic fatwa that Al-Mutarjim “translated” for us. Indeed, even the English section of the IslamOnline website has fatwas that say exactly the same thing as Al-Mutarjim’s selection from the Arabic section. (This becomes apparent once we corrected his false translation.) So again, we wonder: what is the point of his site?

Robert Spencer of the nefariously anti-Muslim website JihadWatch.org has made a living out of documenting the Islamic crazies in order to falsely portray them as representative of all Muslims–which is why we call him the police-blotter “scholar”. Al-Mutarjim has simply used the same strategy using Arabic sources. Because his audience does not read Arabic (and he barely does either), nobody is the wiser to the fact that he is very selectively choosing material. He assiduously avoids reproducing liberal voices from the Arabic-speaking world. But at the end of the day, Al-Mutarjim adds nothing new to the discussion, since we have never denied the presence of the Islamic crazies. Our disagreement with the anti-Islam blogosphere is that they define the entire Muslim community by the crazies, not that the crazies don’t exist (or don’t need to be intellectually opposed).

Response to Staring at the View

Al-Mutarjim has posted a second (and third) response from a blogger who goes by the name ofStaring at the View (good thing this blogger didn’t make the mistake of going by the name of “Starred at the View”). We’ll call him SATV for short. SATV tries downplaying Al-Mutarjim’s mistake by saying it’s just the error of using a fatha instead of a kasra. It’s just an error in one vowel! Big deal, right?

The example I gave before–of a Chinese immigrant applying for the position of fifth-grade English teacher–applies here. If the applicant were to say “I work as professional translated”, he wouldn’t get the job. He could certainly protest that “it’s only the difference between two letters!” To a person who doesn’t speak English fluently, the difference between the word “translator” and “translated” seems minuscule. It is, after all, just the difference between -or and -ed. But, to one fluent in English, this mistake is huge! Similarly, the difference between the two vowels (fatha and kasra) is huge in Arabic.

SATV tries to downplay the issue even more, saying:

I can’t tell you how many times I have been listening to an Arabic lecture or interview and heard the speaker self-correct as in, “wal-mutarjam la la, al-mutarjim” – “and the Mutarjam…no, I meant to say the Mutarjim.”

Certainly everyone misspeaks once in awhile. Had Al-Mutarjim simply said “and the Mutarjam…no, I meant to say the Mutarjim”, there would have been no issue. The problem arises in that it wasn’t simply misspeaking or a typo or even “hastily speaking”. It was a consistent error that went on for a year. For Pete’s sake, it was his user name! Show me a fluent Arabic speaker that would keep his user name as Al-Mutarajjam! Show me! The idea that fluent Arabic speakers say Al-Mutarajjam instead of Al-Mutarjim is as false as saying that fluent English speakers say The Translated instead of The Translator.

Furthermore, even if we accept that Arabic speakers might say “and the Mutarjam…no, I meant to say the Mutarjim”, they certainly wouldn’t say “and the Mutarajjam…”.  Al-Mutarjim did not simply make a mistake of one vowel. He used the name Al-Mutarajjam–a word that simply does not exist. It was only after we allowed him leeway in transliteration that we even get to Al-Mutarjam (The Translated). Therefore, it is not true that it is simply a one vowel mistake that Al-Mutarjim made. Rather, it is the error in a vowel as well as the addition of an extra letter–a shadda. Al-Mutarjim didn’t just make the error of writing Al-Mutarjam, but Al-Mutarajjam–which should have been Al-Mutarjim!

SATV issued a second response (or one can count this as Translating-Jihad’s third response, depending on how one is counting), in which he pointed out several English grammar mistakes in our original article. By so doing, SATV is trying to invoke a Sarah Palin-esque defense. When Palin was questioned about her invented word “repudiate”, she and her defenders pointed out other “misspeaks” from leading politicians. For example, Joe Biden made several speaking gaffes, so can’t we call it even? Yet, the truth is that Biden’s slip-ups were in no way comparable to that of Palin’s masterful “refudiate”. Had SATV found a “refudiate” equivalent error in LoonWatch’s writing, then perhaps he would have a case to make.

Similarly, LoonWatch’s petty grammar mistakes in English are in no way comparable to Al-Mutarjim’s epic fail in Arabic. Ours were just typos or–as SATV himself says–a case of “writing hastily”. But can Al-Mutarjim’s error be attributed to “writing hastily”? Not at all. He has been using this user name for a year now. He has posted numerous times on various websites, each time repeating this error. For Pete’s sake, it’s his name that he chose for himself! Therefore, it’s not an equivalent comparison between minor slip-ups in our articles and Al-Mutarjim’s name. On the other hand, if LoonWatch had been written as LoonWach (with the ‘t’ missing), and if we repeated this mistake for over a year whenever we sign off, then that would be equivalent. And in that case, you would be justified in laughing at our English speaking abilities all you want. But even in that case, it’s not really relevant since our site is not an English translation site. If you wished to have your documents translated, wouldn’t you steer far away from a company that got its name dead wrong!?

We didn’t write an article pointing out the minor mistakes in Al-Mutarjim’s translations (which are plentiful), because those are certainly different than getting his name completely wrong for a year! It is even more comical when that name was meant to be The Translator. Surely SATV appreciates the humor in that.

Naturally, if someone cannot speak a language properly, that doesn’t mean they have nothing worthy to say. SATV is claiming that this is what we are saying. To bolster his case, he provides an example, which he likens to us:

I came across a scathing review by a Muslim Arabic-speaking professor of a State Department diplomat who had delivered a lecture in Arabic. The criticism was not directed at the ideology of the diplomat, nor the content of his lecture. What aroused the ire of the professor was that the speaker had misprounced an Arabic word; he had pronounced it with a fatha (the short “a” vowel), when it should have been akesra (the short “i” vowel). “What could he possibly have to say of value,” fulminated the professor, “When he cannot even speak Arabic properly?”

Yet, his example of the diplomat is hardly analogous to that of Al-Mutarjim. The diplomat was simply giving a talk in Arabic; he was not claiming to be a professional Arabic translator. Had Robert Spencer made the mistake of writing Al-Mutarajjam instead of Al-Mutarjim, we might have passingly mentioned the error, but we certainly wouldn’t have made such a big deal of it. The reason it is a big deal here is only because Al-Mutarjim claims to be a professional Arabic translator. More than that, his very name is The Translator! Had the diplomat in the example claimed that he was a professional Arabic translator–and if he had said in Arabic that he was a professional Arabic translated (instead of translator)–then everyone would be quite justified in having a good laugh at him. The fact that SATV doesn’t see the difference between these two very different situations is telling.

Furthermore, the diplomat made one mistake–we all do from time to time. But going around saying you are The Translated–using it as your user name–is truly something quite funny! Again, imagine a Chinese immigrant advertising his translation skills, using the pseudonym of The Translated. That’s totally different than a Chinese professor of science mistakenly slipping on an English word or two when speaking of science–something that has no relation to translation.

In any case, we were hardly trying to prove that Al-Mutarjim has nothing worthy of saying simply because he got the word “Al-Mutarjim” wrong. What we are trying to say is that he is not a qualified Arabic translator, which is what his whole website is geared around. What we here at LoonWatch were trying to prove was that Al-Mutarjim–like the whole list of Islamophobes we cited (including Al-Mutarjim’s hero, Robert Spencer)–is not academically qualified. These are not scholars, experts, or academics. No real scholar, expert, or academic would rely on Al-Mutarjim for translation.

Al-Mutarjim has nothing to do with academia. And his response to us reveals something even worse: he learned about Islam not through academic sources but through Robert Spencer’s joke of a book,The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)–and of course, “self-study”. Why is it that not a single one of these leading Islamophobes studied Islam in a proper academic environment? Why do academic scholars reach far more sober conclusions about Islam than the childish ones reached by these wikipedia educated “Islam experts”? Why do they use Bat Ye’or’s instead of real scholars?

There is another interesting nugget from SATV’s response to us, as follows:

…Loonwatch then mocked the fact that after he recognized his grammatical faux pas he went back and corrected it. Hello? Is anybody home? That is what makes America great. When we make mistakes we correct them.

The issue is that he tried to cover up his mistake, as we painstakingly show with our snapshots of his ever changing site. Admitting and correcting mistakes might be what “makes America great”, but covering up mistakes is only American in the sense of trying to crush Wikileaks to hide the truth from getting out. First, Al-Mutarjim tried to deny the importance of his error, by saying “so what?” On the other hand, he went back and deleted all evidence of his mistake. He quickly removed the comments critiquing his name, and disabled comments altogether from his website. If he was simply correcting a mistake, why did he remove all the comments criticizing his name!? Is this what “makes America great”?

Even now, Al-Mutarjim pretends that it was someone other than Dawood who pointed out his mistake. Yet, somehow magically the timing worked out that exactly after Dawood pointed it out on LoonWatch, suddenly Al-Mutarjim changed his user name, his website, his contact address, his About section, removed and disabled comments, etc. (In fact, after we published our featured piece on his site, he changed his About page once again, removing altogether the troublesome “About the Name” section.) All of this cover-up, denial, and lying is hardly something laudable–it’s dishonest, deceitful, and fraudulent. These are not good qualities to have in a translator.  Al-Mutarjim’s translations are exactly that: dishonest, deceitful, and fraudulent–as we clearly saw here.

 

Translating-Jihad’s Completely Fraudulent Translations

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2011 by loonwatch

By: Dawood (guest contributor) and Danios

The smoking gun against Al-Mutarjim, creator of the Translating-Jihad blog

We recently published an article criticizing the anti-Islam website known as Translating-Jihad.  The owner of this website, Al-Mutarjim (the blogger formerly known as Al-Mutarajjam), parades around as a qualified and reliable Arabic translator.  Our article questioned his Arabic language skills, and we showed that he can’t even translate the word “translator”–which he kept as his user name for months on end.  For an entire year, he was calling himself The Translated (Al-Mutarajjam) instead of The Translator (Al-Mutarjim)…he only changed it after we pointed out the error (and then he scrambled to cover up his mistake).

Al-Mutarjim issued a rebuttal.  The gist of his response is that he made a mistake (“so what?”) but that doesn’t change the fact that his translations are accurate.  He argued that we are focusing on this “minor mistake” because we can’t deal with the substance of his translations.  Al-Mutarjim challenged us (emphasis added):

Translating Jihad

I started this blog in winter 2010 to expose the violent, intolerant, and totalitarian doctrines of Islam. It is common to hear these doctrines expressed candidly by Muslims when they are speaking to other Muslims in Arabic, but it is not so common to hear them expressed freely by Muslims speaking to Western audiences.

A perfect example of this comes in a fatwa posted on the Arabic-language section of Islamonline.net, which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, regarding the Prophet Muhammad having intercourse with his prepubescent wife ‘Aisha. An excerpt of my translation follows:

…it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl. The Qur’an is not like the books of jurisprudence which mention what the implications of things are, even if they are prohibited. It is true that the prophet (PBUH) entered into a marriage contract with A’isha when she was six years old, however he did not have sex with her until she was nine years old.

A fatwa on the same topic on the English side of the site smooths over this uncomfortable bit of Islamic history:

As for the Prophet’s condition before this marriage, it clearly explained what we’ve said that it was a purely sublime aim and purpose that motivated him to marry `Aisha. That’s why the marriage was not consummated until sometime after the emigration to Madinah, when she had reached maturity.

The author of the [LoonWatch] article which calls me a fraud was unable to refute this translation, or any of my other translations. He spent hours on my site over several days, scrutinizing every piece of it. If he could have refuted any of them, he would have. I take pride in my work, which is to produce accurate translations exposing the violent and intolerant doctrines of Islam to the English-speaking audience. I invite all to come and scrutinize my work.

We are delighted to accept Al-Mutarjim’s challenge.  The only reason that [Dawood] did not criticize this translation before was that Al-Mutarjim had disabled comments after [Dawood] refuted him.  Al-Mutarjim says that [Dawood] “was unable to refute this translation, or any of my other translations…”  Well yes, since Al-Mutarjim disabled commenting, it was not possible to post rebuttals! [Danios], on the other hand, has been M.I.A. from the LoonWatch site for several months and just returned.

But now that Al-Mutarjim has challenged us, we are but compelled to expose him.  Al-Mutarjim, remember how you said in your response that you never received any formal schooling to learn Arabic?  Well, sit back and relax, because you are about to get some schooling today.

In his response to us, Al-Mutarjim has claimed that the Arabic version of IslamOnline.net permits sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, whereas the English version misleadingly avoids mentioning this.  As proof, Al-Mutarjim claims that the Arabic fatwa on IslamOnline says “it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl.” This line is critical to Al-Mutarjim’s claim, so surely he translated it correctly, right?

In fact, Al-Mutarjim’s translation is completely fraudulent.  The proper translation of this line is actually as follows: “and from this verse we take the permissibility of betrothal/marriage (nikah) with prepubescent girls.”  The word nikah here does not mean “sexual intercourse” at all.   In fact, the mufti issuing the fatwa says the exact opposite: namely that although a girl may be betrothed when she is prepubescent, no sexual intercourse ought to occur until (1) at least after she passes puberty and (2) she can physically bear it without any harm to her.

To understand the duplicity of Al-Mutarjim’s claims, let’s review: Al-Mutarjim claims that the fatwa says that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, but in reality the fatwa actually says that sexual intercourse may occur only after puberty and once the female can bear it without any harm to her.  Quite simply, the fatwa says the exact opposite of what Al-Mutarjim claims!

Here is the original Arabic:

فيؤخذ من الآية جواز نكاح البنت قبل البلوغ”

which Al-Mutarjim translated as:

we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl.

When it actually translates as:

and from this verse we take the permissibility of betrothal/marriage (nikah) with pre-pubescent girls.

Al-Mutarjim’s dishonest translation becomes even more apparent when we look at the rest of the fatwa.  But first, let’s look at the way his blog, Translating-Jihad, translated the fatwa:  Fatwa: “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”.  (This is the original blog post that Al-Mutarjim was referring to in his response to us–the one we supposedly couldn’t refute.)

Notice how he uses ellipses (…) everywhere.  As with other authors in the anti-Islam blogosphere, the use of ellipsis is of strategic importance, purposefully placed to mislead the reader and to superimpose false meanings onto the text.  Al-Mutarjim’s translation is under 400 words long, whereas the actual fatwa on IslamOnline [when translated in full] is just under 2,000 words.  In other words, his “translation” is less than 1/5th the actual length of the fatwa.  The other 4/5ths of the fatwa is tactfully hidden within the ellipses.  Most troubling is the fact that Al-Mutarjim hid the mufti’s final verdict regarding the issue, which directly contradicts Al-Mutarjim’s claims.

So what exactly did Al-Mutarjim hide inside those ever so helpful ellipses?

The following key part was mysteriously not translated by Al-Mutarjim:

. ومن المهم كذلك أن نعرف أن الفقهاء وإن أجازوا تزويج الصغيرة فإنهم منعوا زوجها أن يطأها حتى تطيق الوطء ، وهذا يختلف باختلاف الأزمنة والأمكنة والبيئات.

And it is important for us to know that even though the jurists approved betrothing a child [before puberty], they prevented her husband from having sexual intercourse with her until she could bear it, which differs according to the time, place, and environment.

Al-Mutarjim’s deceit becomes quite clear from this!  The fatwa states that sexual intercourse before puberty would not be proper as it would bring great harm to the female.  It says (editor’s note: we’ve broken down the English text into two paragraphs just for ease in reading, though in Arabic it appears as one paragraph):

ولا يخفى بأن زواج الصغار لا يخلو من محاذير صحية ، لأن أجهزتهم التناسلية لا تكون مهيأة للجماع بعد ، كما أن الصغار لا يكونون مهيئين نفسياً لممارسة الجنس ، وبخاصة البنت الصغيرة التي يغلب أن تتضرر جسدياً ولاسيما إذا كان زوجها رجلاً كبيراً ! فقد يسبب جماعها مضاعفات نفسية وجسدية سيئة ترافقها طوال حياتها وتؤثر في مستقبلها الجنسي ! ولهذا ذهب الفقهاء إلى أن الزوجة الصغيرة التي لا تحتمل الوطء لا تُسلَّم إلى زوجها حتى تكبر وتصبح في سـن تتحمل فيه الوطء ، حتى وإن كان الزوج عاقلاً أميناً وتعهد ألا يقربها ، لأن هيجان الشهوة فيه قد يحمله على وطئها فيؤذيها

It is clear that the marriage of children has health concerns, because their reproductive organs are not ready for sexual intercourse yet, nor are they emotionally prepared for sexual intercourse, especially the female child who will most likely be physically damaged. This is especially if her husband is an old man! Sexual intercourse might cause negative physical and emotional ramifications that would stay with her for the rest of her life and affect her sexual future!

And that is why the majority of jurists say that the child wife who cannot bear sexual intercourse must not be given to her husband, until she is grown and is of age in which she could bear sexual intercourse, even if the husband was intelligent and trustworthy and promised not to touch her, since the force of the sexual need in him might compel him to have intercourse with her and harm her.

Oh, how convenient that all of this was removed from the Translating-Jihad translation!  And yet Al-Mutarjim has the gall to say to us:

The author of the [LoonWatch] article which calls me a fraud was unable to refute this translation, or any of my other translations. He spent hours on my site over several days, scrutinizing every piece of it. If he could have refuted any of them, he would have. I take pride in my work, which is to produce accurate translations…

The mufti asks:

إذا كان من يريدون ذلك يبحثون حقا عن المصلحة العامة فلماذا لم يكتفوا بسن البلوغ؟ وهل يقول الأطباء : إن وطء البالغة مضر بها؟

If they really were looking for public interest, then why not suffice with the age of puberty [as the minimum age for sexual intercourse in marriage]? And do doctors say that intercourse with a girl that had reached puberty brings harm to her?

This is a rhetorical question he is asking, and he means to say that sex after puberty is not harmful.  (This is where the mufti is sadly mistaken, but the point is that the fatwa does not at all permit sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, as Al-Mutarjim claims.)  The IslamOnline mufti argues that puberty ought to be the absolute minimum age for sexual intercourse.  In his concluding paragraph, the mufti issues his final verdict:

ونحن بدورنا ننصح من الوجهة الطبية بعدم الزواج قبل البلوغ على أقل تقدير؛ لأن البلوغ مؤشر فطري يدل على أن الجسم أصبح مهيأً للمعاشرة الزوجية ، كما أن الإنسان بالبلوغ يصل إلى درجة مقبولة من الوعي الاجتماعي الذي يساعده على تكوين الأسرة .. علماً بأن معظم القوانين المعمول بها في البلدان الإسلامية وغير الإسلامية تمنع الزواجَ قبل سِنِّ الرُّشْدِ ، أو سنِّ ثماني عشرة سنة .

In view of medical grounds, we admonish against marriage before puberty at the very least, because puberty is an intuitive sign which indicates that the body is ready for marital intercourse, and because humans at puberty reach an acceptable degree of social awareness that would help them in forming a family unit, especially since most applied laws in Islamic countries and non-Islamic countries prohibit marriage before the age of puberty or before the age of eighteen.

Amazing how the mufti’s conclusion did not appear anywhere in Al-Mutarjim’s translation!  All of this hidden in those magical ellipses.  As we stated before, Al-Mutarjim deceitfully translated the fatwa as follows:

we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl.

which should read:

and from this verse we take the permissibility of betrothal/marriage (nikah) with prepubescent girls.

Not only does the mufti forbid sexual intercourse before puberty, he also speaks against marriage before puberty (even if the married couple abstain from intercourse).  The IslamOnline mufti explains that the permissibility to betroth prepubescent girls is a thing of the past, due to the societal needs of a time gone by.  The mufti argues that hundreds of years ago, the vast majority of people were illiterate.  Without schooling in the way, it was the norm for early marriage to occur.  But today, most people are educated for several years, and early marriage would interrupt this.  Therefore, it is not proper to betroth/marry off a child.  Says the mufti (again, not translated by our dishonest Translating-Jihad translator):

ولا ننسى كذلك أن الثقافة وقتها كانت محدودة، فقد كان بمقدورها أن تحيط بها في سن صغيرة، ولم يكن الحال كما هو عليه الآن من أن الولد ذكرا، أو أنثى يظل يتعثر في القراءة والكتابة حتى يجاوز العاشرة.

And we should not forget also that the culture at the time was quite limited, and so she could easily be familiar with it [i.e. get to know everything she would need to know for adult life] at a young age, and things were not the way they are now, in which the child, male or female, remains stumbling through schooling [lit. reading and writing] beyond the age of ten.

In another IslamOnline fatwa–also in Arabic–it says:

ومعنى هذا … أن زواج الصغار جائز من حيث الأصل، ولكن قد يمنع من باب المصلحة ، والسياسة الشرعية.

The meaning of this [is that] the marriage [note: betrothal, not sexual intercourse] of youngsters is permissible in terms of theoretical principle; however, it may be better to prevent it so as to guarantee the well-being of the community and [conformity with] Islamic societal policies

He argues that although there is a theoretical permissibility, in actuality it would be harmful in today’s day and age.  Therefore, it would go against the maslaha (public welfare), and the ruler is permitted in Islam to ban it and ought to do so.

And the fatwa concludes:

We admonish against marriage before puberty at the very least.

The original fatwa, mistranslated by Al-Mutarjim, concludes that betrothal/marriage and sexual intercourse ought not to be initiated until at least after puberty.  Yet, if one were to read Al-Mutarjim’s translation of the fatwa, one would get a completely different understanding of the text.  Al-Mutarjim is wholly unreliable, completely dishonest, and indubitably fraudulent.

This topic–minimum age of marriage in Islam–is a hefty one and one which [Danios] will write on in the future.  Unfortunately, many misconceptions circulate the internet regarding this issue.  For example, it is commonly assumed that traditional Sharia dictates that the consummation of marriage may take place at puberty, and that the onset of puberty is considered to be menarche (the start of a female’s menstrual cycles).  This is not true.  Traditional Sharia did not dictate a specific age of the consummation of marriage and only dictated that a “woman may be able to bear it (i.e. sexual intercourse)” without any harm coming to her from it.  Prof. Suad Joseph of U.C. Davis writes on p.57 of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures:

From cases that were brought to court we learn that muftis and qadis would ensure that the minor girl was able to “endure” intercourse (tutiq al-wat’).  This explains why there was no need to mention to mention a “minimum age” [of consummation of marriage]: It was the girl’s physical appearance (“plump and boxom”) that signaled whether the marriage could be consummated without undue harm [to the female].

In other words, consummation of marriage was to be permitted only if the female’s body had developed, undergoing pubertal changes such as the development of breasts and other womanly features.  The very dictum regarding a minimum age of marriage is exactly opposite of what is commonly assumed about Islam: it requires the female to have the body of a woman, not a child.  Islamic jurists abstained from specifying a specific age, as they reasoned that different girls matured at different ages.  Instead, they argued that each case should be judged individually on a case by case basis.  Furthermore, clerics point out that the average age of puberty can vary from one generation to another and from one location to another.

It should of course be noted that we here at LoonWatch don’t agree with the mufti’s fatwa and find many things objectionable in it. However, what Al-Mutarjim and the other Islamophobes do is pretend that the IslamOnline mufti’s opinion is the only one in the Islamic world.  In fact, many Islamic clerics have argued that the age of marriage ought to be eighteen, regardless of any other factors.  Even in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia, there are clerics like the prominent Mohsen al-Obaikan and the Justice Minister Mohammed al-Eissa (both links are from none other than IslamOnline) who are pushing to ban marriage below the age of eighteen.

These clerics argue that Islam does not specify a specific age for marriage, but rather leaves it up to each society and generation to adjust it according to the needs of the time.  More specifically, a female may not be married (and certainly may not engage in sexual intercourse) “until she could bear it, which differs according to time, place, and environment”.  These quoted words appear in the same IslamOnline fatwa that Al-Mutarjim translated (if we can call it a translation), except that these other clerics would argue that a girl who is post-pubertal but still young would not be able to “bear it (i.e. sexual intercourse)”.  Indeed, the medical evidence is overwhelming that such marriages are harmful to girls.  Since the only requirement under Islamic law for ascertaining a minimum age of marriage is that no harm come to the female, the conclusion then is that marriage ought to be prohibited before eighteen years of age.  Furthermore, they argue that instead of issuing such rulings on a case by case basis (which has a large potential for abuse by forceful men), the government should pass a general law, since generally it is harmful for a female to marry before the age of eighteen.

Their opponents–both Islamic and anti-Islamic–would argue that it would not be permitted in Islam to place an arbitrary age of marriage like this, since the Islamic scriptural sources do not seem to mandate it.  How can Muslims prohibit what God didn’t?  However, the more reform-minded Islamic clerics argue that a temporal ban is permitted in Islam.  They argue that Islam leaves the question wide open so that each generation and society can adjust the minimum age of marriage to their needs.  Therefore, it might make sense to ban marriage under the age of eighteen in the modern day United States, but it may not have been appropriate for a pre-industrial society on the remote outskirts of Africa one hundred years ago.  If times change again, then the age can be adjusted as well, either up or down.

In essence then, the fact that Islam does not specify a specific age for marriage is a blessing and part of the leeway given to the people by the Merciful God.  The permission to marry before the age of eighteen is not a requirement (i.e. a female is not obligated or commanded to get married at this time; it is not sinful for her to postpone marriage until she is older); therefore, it would not be forbidden to issue a temporal ban on it, in order to fulfill one of the higher ethical objectives of Islamic law, i.e. the right of a female to obtain happiness, the removal of harm, etc.  Indeed, not placing such a restriction–in an attempt to maintain rigid fidelity to the letter of the law–would end up destroying the spirit of the law.  By prohibiting marriage before the age of eighteen, the ruler is upholding the higher objective of the Sharia in an ever changing time.  Such a restriction would only be prohibited if the ruler were to argue that this is a divine and immutable law, instead of a temporal and adjustable one.

Mohammad Hashim Kamali writes on p.227 of Shari’ah Law: An Introduction:

Government decisions are not always based on legal text [scriptural texts and fatawa] and principle. Legal text as well as political and economic considerations, custom and even exceptional conditions all play a role and constitute the premises of decision-making. Siyasah shar‘iyyah aims at securing benefit for the people and efficient management of their affairs, even if the measures so taken are not stipulated in the [religious] text…It also enables the state to change the operative rules, law and policy as the conditions of the society may demand.

He concludes on p.229:

Essential harmony with the spirit of the Shari‘ah may at times even justify a certain departure from its letter.

Heavy stuff, right?  Not for wikipedia-educated “experts on Islam”, no doubt.

The fact is that amongst the religious establishment in Islam, there is a lively debate about what the minimum age of marriage should be. The IslamOnline website itself gives two differing opinions on the issue.  A questioner asks the site:

Recently, we have heard about some Muslim countries issuing laws stating a minimum age for marriage.  Is there a minimum age for marriage in Islam?  Is enacting such laws permitted?

The fatwa site responds:

As far as the issue of enacting laws specifying the minimum age of marriage , this issue is subject to debate among Muslim scholars. Some of them say that the ruler cannot enact such a law, while others say the ruler is entitled to issue such laws as long as the public interest of the society is maintained.

They give both opinions by two separate clerics; the second opinion, by the former Head of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, rules:

I think that enacting some laws to specify the age of marriage as done by some governments, is a good step. However, these governments should take into consideration all the circumstances relating to the subject and specific to the society. Obeying the ruler in following such laws is surely an obligation so long as they bring about benefit to the whole society.

The fatwa concludes:

Based on the above fatwas, it can be said that the issue of enacting laws specifying the age of marriage is governed by the public interest of the Muslim society taking into consideration the Shari`ah-based objectives in this regard.

In other words, it is permitted to enact laws specifying the minimum age of marriage as eighteen.

One might be bothered by the fact that there exists no shortage of clerics who think it’s OK for really young girls to get married, and that’s a legitimate gripe that we share.  But it would be dishonest to say that no other views exist in the Muslim world.  Many Islamic clerics think otherwise, and most Muslims in general would never marry their daughters off at a young age.  The last point is the most relevant, since–contrary to what Islamophobes and conservative Muslims believe–Islam is not limited to its religious establishment, which–like other religions–is generally far more conservative than the lay follower.

Had Al-Mutarjim limited his website to the criticism of fundamentalist, extremist, and/or ultraconservative Islam, we’d have no problem with his site.  But to place all of Islam–and all Muslims–into one box, is just not right.  It’s just not honest.  Not only are there other views about this topic in the Islamic world, there are other views on the topic even on the IslamOnline website itself!  If the website itself is not a monolith, then why would one think that the entire Muslim world is?

Jewish and Christian Views

In his response to us, Al-Mutarjim reveals himself to be a religious wing nut:

…This country and its constitution were founded by the hand of God, and that it was His destiny for His children that we should be free to worship Him according to the dictates of our consciences…

Being familiar with the teachings of Christ and the influence of His Holy Spirit, I was able to discern between the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the darkness of these sacred texts of Islam. With this knowledge, I resolved to work to expose this darkness, in order to defend this country and its inhabitants, and also to open the eyes of those already enslaved by Islam…

I know that the Lord has given me a gift to be able to learn Arabic. I do not understand all the purposes of the Lord, but I do believe that He has a purpose for me in this work. So I will press on, and continue to work tirelessly to help the non-Arabic-speaking audience understand what Islam really teaches.

Surprise, surprise–another leading Islam-basher just happens to be either a hawkish Zionist Jew or a fervent Christian proselytizer!  But of course Robert Spencer will reassure us that his being Catholic has absolutely nothing to do with his criticisms of Islam.  This, even though Spencer has penned the proselytizing book entitled Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.  That Spencer and Al-Mutarjim are Christian proselytizers is ignored in an attempt to portray them as neutral “analysts” and “terrorism experts”.

It is a bit troubling that Al-Mutarjim thinks the Holy Spirit divinely inspired him to become a bigot.  But, since he invoked the Judeo-Christian tradition, and because in his response he specifically compared the “light” of Christianity to the “darkness” of Islam (“I was able to discern between the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the darkness of these sacred texts of Islam”)–it seems completely fair and fitting to apply the same standards he uses against Islam to the Judeo-Christian tradition he exalts.  As I stated in my previous article, Islam is hardly the only religion that has “uncomfortable” traditional opinions.

Both the Torah and Talmud permit child marriage of girls, which includes sexual intercourse.  If Al-Mutarjim will cite the IslamOnline fatwa site, let us cite a Jewish “fatwa” site.  Rabbi Naftali Silberberg of AskMoses.com (which boasts that it is the “world’s most popular Jewish website”) issued the following religious verdict:

What is the minimum age of marriage according to Jewish law?

…Technically speaking, a girl may be betrothed the moment she is born, and married at the age of three.  A boy may betroth and marry at the age of thirteen.

Following the example of Al-Mutarjim, we could leave it at that, using our ellipses as strategic weapons of misinformation.  However, unlike Al-Mutarjim and Translating-Jihad, we’re honest–so we’ll fill in what the website is actually saying:

There is the technical rule, and then there is the proper, practical, and wise thing to do. The Talmud, too, agrees that technically according to Torah law a girl can be married at a very young age, but the rabbis imposed a prohibition on such an unwise practice.

And here’s what we hid in the ellipses:

Our Sages state that it is forbidden for one to marry off his daughter until she is an adult and says ‘this is the one I want to marry.’

Under Jewish law (Halacha), a female becomes an “adult” at puberty, estimated to be twelve years of age: the same website, AskMoses, says: “a girl is considered to reach adulthood at 12.”  When we consider that IslamOnline says that Islamic law requires the consent of the female for marriage, we find that the traditional (and now orthodox) views in Judaism and Islam are virtually identical–both websites (AskMoses and IslamOnline) say that technically marriage before puberty is permitted (keep in mind that unlike Al-Mutarjim’s claim, IslamOnline still forbids sexual intercourse), but practically it (marriage) must be done after puberty. JewFaq.com says: “The minimum age of marriage  under Jewish law is 13 for boys, 12 for girls; however, the kiddushin can take place before that, and often did in medieval times.”  The kiddushin is the equivalent of the nikah; according to the same website, it means that the “woman is legally the wife of the man.”

Al-Mutarjim’s own religion, Christianity, is hardly any better.  The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

The marriageable age is fourteen full years in males and twelve full years in females, under penalty of nullity (unless natural puberty supplies the want of years).

Although we do not claim to be experts of Christianity, the words in parenthesis seem to mean that a girl can be married off before the age of twelve if she goes through puberty before that (“natural puberty supplies the want of years”).  Prof. Cathy Yandell confirms this, saying on p.37 of Carpe Corpus that although twelve years old was the general rule, “if one is capable of carnal cohabitation before this age, marriage is permitted.” A Christian man who married underage girls avoided punishment if he already had sexual relations with her, this fact proving that her body was in fact mature enough for marriage.

Child Marriage: A Muslim-Only Problem?

Our opponents will quickly switch their argument to “well, nowadays Jews and Christians no longer engage in child marriage, whereas Muslims still do.”  Then, they’ll reproduce a few stories of child marriage in the Islamic world.  Yes, it is true that child marriage is a major problem in many parts of the Muslim-majority world.  Yet, it is hardly a Muslim-only problem. According to UNICEF, forty percent of the world’s child marriages occur in Hindu-majority India.  Traditional Hindu texts permit marriage of girls at the age of seven or eight.  Should we now demonize Hinduism?  But you will find that the anti-Islam bashers will single out Islam and Muslims alone, which is what prompted our series entitled “What if they were Muslims?”

Meanwhile, only 5% of child marriages take place in the Middle East and North Africa combined.  On the other hand, double this number (10%) of child marriages take place in Latin America and the Caribbean (where the majority of inhabitants are Christian, not Muslim). Over 91% of child marriages take place in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia, and the Pacific.  Even if we account for the fact that there are some Muslim majority regions in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, it would hardly be the case that child marriage would be a Muslim-only problem.  It is a global problem, and tied to poverty and lack of education.  Religion is a lesser factor.

As always, our anti-Islam opponents wish to compare Europe, the U.S, Canada, and Israel–all part of the “First World”–with the impoverished “Third World” Muslim countries in South Asia and Africa.  Yet, it would be far more reasonable to compare Christian parts of Africa with the Muslim majority world (or alternatively to compare the Christian-majority parts of Africa with the Muslim-majority parts of Africa).  Once we do this, it seems that the matter has less to do with religion and more to do with socio-economic factors.  But the truth is that the Islam-bashers who speak about Islam and child marriage have absolutely no interest in actually saving girls from child marriage; rather, they just want to exploit the suffering of these girls to further their hateful agendas and use it to score proselytizing  points, giving Team Jesus one more point against Team Muhammad.

Conclusion

Al-Mutarjim’s translations are dishonest, deceitful, and fraudulent.  We’ve shown that he completely manipulated the fatwa on IslamOnline, purposefully misleading his audience to further his pro-Christian anti-Islam agenda.  He entitled the fatwa as “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”, even though the fatwa says the exact opposite. Al-Mutarjim’s translation could not possibly have been more dishonest and misleading.

What makes this truly remarkable is the fact that he chose to use this particular translation of his in his response to us, taunting us by saying we are “unable to refute this translation” and challenging us by “invit[ing] all to come and scrutinize my work.”  This religious wing nut was dense enough to give us an absolute freebie by posting such a dishonest translation when he challenged us. We didn’t even need to search.  For this, we should thank him.

Certainly, it is a horribly fraudulent translation, and had Al-Mutarjim actually been in academia, our critique of his “translation” would have ended his career.  He would rightfully be condemned to the academic waste bin along with plagiarists, cheats, and frauds.  But even in the internet world–which unfortunately sets a very low bar for “expert”–we think Al-Mutarjim is done for.  No amount of damage control can repair his reputation after this article is published.  His translation is just too dishonest, misleading, and fraudulent.

Or would Al-Mutarjim have us believe that his fraudulent translation of the IslamOnline fatwa is simply a case of a fatha instead of a kasra?

(Read an addendum to this article here.)

 

Epic Arabic 101 Fail: “Translating-Jihad” Arabic Translator Can’t Translate the Word “Translator”

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2011 by loonwatch

By: Dawood (guest contributor) and Danios

So-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam” rely on Arabic 101 level translator for their “anti-Jihad” work.

Translating-Jihad, a new blog purporting to expose “Islamic totalitarianism and intolerance by translating it from Arabic into English”, has recently appeared online. The site has received glowing praise from such Islamophobic luminaries as Robert Spencer, Nonie Darwish, and Andrew Bostom. The site’s creator, Al-Mutarajjam (more regarding this choice of name later), boasts on one anti-Muslim website:

[M]y blog is already regularly read by experts on Islam such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Dr. Andrew Bostom, and nearly half of my translations have been featured on the highly-popular website jihadwatch.org

The controversial blog aims to become the premier translation wing of the so-called “anti-jihad” movement, and was created by someone who openly states that he works as a professional Arabic translator. As always, the anti-Islam bloggers seek to portray themselves as bona fide experts of the field. But is Al-Mutarajjam, the site’s creator, really an expert in the Arabic language?

The evidence suggests otherwise. His Arabic language abilities are consistent with the level of an Arabic 101 student. (Arabic 101 is the introductory class to the language.)  His “epic Arabic 101 fail” speaks to that: he chose his pseudonym to be “Al-Mutarajjam”.  When he chose this alias, he thought it meant “The Translator.” It doesn’t. Even if we account for a “slip” in transliteration, it would mean: “The Translated.”

This word is the passive participle (ism maf3ul) and means the object translated (see Hans Wehr, p. 93)—not “translator” (which would be al-mutarjim). This is an issue of very basic Arabic grammar, something learned very early on in Arabic language study. To understand how truly basic this is, we see that it is one of the very first words learned in the near-standard text used in American universities to teach Arabic: Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-‘Arabiyya.  That’s an Arabic 101 textbook.

The word “mutarjim” (translator) on p. 19 of standard Arabic 101 textbook (Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-’Arabiyya)

When this error was pointed out to the blog’s creator [by Dawood], he responded to this critique with “so what?” The “so what” is of course that it’s a huge mistake, understood best if we give an English equivalent. Just imagine if a Chinese immigrant applied to be a fifth grade English teacher in Texas and if he stated that “I was official translated at other school I work for.” Immediately the employer would know that this applicant has very poor English and would not be appropriate for the position of English teacher. If this is the case for an elementary school position, shouldn’t the standard be at least as high for the official “translation wing” for so-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam”?

The difference between “the writer” and “the written” is clear, as is the difference between “the translator” and “the translated”. Calling yourself “the written” or “the translated” instead of “the writer” or “the translator” is almost something worthy of being featured on Engrish.com (a website that documents humorous English language gaffes in Asian countries). For someone attempting to portray himself as a competent Arabic translator, this is a huge mistake. It certainly calls into question the credentials of a person who has taken on such a lofty role as anti-Jihad translator extraordinaire.

Al-Mutarajjam’s Reaction

Al-Mutarajjam’s blunder was pointed out on LoonWatch.com here [see comment by Dawood]:

First of all, I am not entirely sure how strong your Arabic is. For a state your name “Al-Mutarajjam” (by which I think you mean “al-mutarjam”) is the passive participle (ism maf3ul), and means the object translated—not translator (which would be “al-mutarjim”). See Hans Wehr, p.93

To which Al-Mutarajjam responded:

(…Yes, I know that the correct transliteration of ‘translator’ is al-Mutarjim—so what? It’s just an alias.)

His reaction is reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s tweets explaining her usage of the word “refudiate”.   In any case, Al-Mutarajjam attempted to make it seem as if the critique of his name did not faze him, or that it did not warrant sufficient attention. He responded with “so what?” But Al-Mutarajjam’s actionsbelied his words. He in fact had a frenzied reaction and immediately removed his name (Al-Mutarajjam) from the blog.  If you go to his website now, the error has disappeared into oblivion. He changed his name and even his email address.

Here’s what his site looked like before we pointed out his epic fail (we’ve circled the relevant parts):

Then Al-Mutarajjam quickly took the incriminating error off his site and changed his contact info as well:

 

After a few days had passed, Al-Mutarajjam quietly fixed his name and put the corrected name up.  As of today, his site looks like this now (notice the dramatic change):

He also corrected the mistake on other sites where his articles were found, such as Andrew Breitbart’s site.  (We’ll ignore the fact that Al-Mutarajjam’s work features on a site like Andrew Breitbart’s website which lost what little credibility it had by posting manipulated videos of Shirley Sherrod and ACORN.)  This means Al-Mutarajjam was so worried about his blunder that he went through the effort of frantically contacting Breitbart’s site.  Here is what Breitbart’s site looked likebefore the change:

And here is what it looked like after Al-Mutarajjam attempted to do damage control:

 

Most importantly, he immediately shut down the comments section—all the previous comments critiquing his choice of name vanished.

Here is what the Translating-Jihad blog looked like before the vanishing comments:

After the comments [by Dawood] criticizing Al-Mutarajjam’s name were posted, suddenly the comments were removed and commenting on the site was banned altogether:

Such a dramatic reaction–making the comments on the entire site vanish and disabling commenting altogether–belies the “so what?” response.  So what indeed!

Not satisfied with the So What Defense, Al-Mutarajjam started to think of ways to explain away his mistake.  This is similar to how Sarah Palin later came out and stated that she simply made a typo.  No doubt aware of the catastrophic nature of his mistake, Al-Mutarajjam came up with the “likely” story that he chose his user name long time ago during his earlier days of Arabic study.  In other words, the mistake was supposedly made when he was a newbie to the Arabic language, but now he is a seasoned veteran.  Not only did he post this explanation in the comments, but he also felt the need to add an “About the Name” section to his website:

Note that this “explanation” only appeared on his website after his name was critiqued on LoonWatch.  (In fact, the explanation appeared right after we questioned him about it.)  Prior to us bringing up this issue, not only was there no explanation about the curious choice of “Al-Mutarajjam” but in fact there was no “About” section to his website at all.  Here is what his site looked like before the change (notice no “About” section in the top right hand corner):

But after we pointed out the error, suddenly he found the need to create an “About Me” section:

All of these changes–from changing his pseudonym altogether, changing his contact address, scrambling to contact other friendly websites to correct the mistake, adding an About section, etc.–show how concerned he was about his epic fail.  His explanation that this was simply a mistake of the past is hardly believable.  If he later learned that his pseudonym was incorrect, why didn’t he have an explanation on his website (the About Me/About My Name) section?  Why did that only appear right after we pointed out to him this error?  If this was indeed a “so what?” problem, then why did he find the need to scramble to make changes right after being exposed on LoonWatch? Al-Mutarajjam was quite happy to use the name ever since the creation of the blog…until after the critique came up on LoonWatch. Why did he delete all the comments made on his website about this topic?  It seems far more likely that he had no clue about this mistake until it was pointed out to him.  Then he tried to cover it up.

It seems that Al-Mutarajjam thinks that he has gotten away with his mistake, since now he has removed the explanation from his site altogether. Here’s what the About Me section looked like shortly after we pointed out his mistake and his subsequent name change to Al Mutarjim:

After some time had passed and he was hopeful that his mistake was forgotten, Al-Mutarajjam carefully deleted the sentences about his previous name–hoping no doubt to remove any evidence of his initial gaffe:

In any case, even if we believe Al-Mutarajjam’s “likely” story, then this does not exonerate him.  His explanation was that “he mistransliterated the name way back when he first began blogging.”  Well, when was “way back”?  In fact, his very first blog posting was only one year ago (on Feb. 21, 2010).  So in just one year he went from being an Arabic 101 level student to a professional full-time Arabic translator!?  This is reminiscent of Pamela Geller’s claim that she became an “expert on Islam” afterjust one year of reading anti-Islam books.  The fact that these jokers think they can become “experts” after a year indicates their disdain for true academia.

Additionally, this raises another issue: why was he parading around on the internet as “The Translator” during his early days of Arabic study (just one year ago)? If at that time he didn’t even know the basics of Arabic 101, why was he feeling confident enough to call himself The Translator? The fact is that whenever he made the cocky name of “The Translator”, he didn’t even know how to translate the word “translator”! Whether he was guilty of this mistake now or before (the difference being only one year), it shows that he is a complete fraud who has no qualms in pretending to be what he is not.

The Frauds and Hucksters of the Anti-Muslim Blogosphere

This of course means that Al-Mutarajjam (who is now Al-Mutarjim) fits right in with the anti-Islam blogosphere, which is full of frauds pretending to be experts on Islam. Similarly does Robert Spencer’s website boast that Spencer is “the acclaimed scholar of Islam.” This, even though Robert Spencer has not obtained a single degree in an Islam-related subject from any recognized university. Al-Mutarajjam’s standards of what constitutes an “expert” can be ascertained by the fact that he considers Robert Spencer one of the “experts on Islam” (see above quote). Interestingly enough, Spencer doesn’t even have Al-Mutarajjam’s “concentration in Middle Eastern Studies” (noting of course that a “concentration” in something is not equal to a degree in it).

One could go down the list of notable Islamophobes and not find a single scholar amongst the entire lot, even though they all claim to be erudite scholars and esteemed experts in the subjects they propound. From Andrew Bostom who is a professor of Islam medicine to Pamela Geller who spent awhole year reading anti-Islam books to become an expert on the subject, one cannot find a scholar. The same is the case with the legion of other Islamophobes: Bat Ye’or, Brigitte Gabriel, Debbie Schlussel, Walid Shoebat, Joe Kaufman, Wafa Sultan, etc. The notable exception is Daniel Pipes, but he doesn’t count since he retired from academia in the 1980′s. (In his own unusually honest words: “I have the simple politics of a truck driver, not the complex ones of an academic. My viewpoint is not congenial with institutions of higher learning.”)

The lack of academic qualifications of these so-called “Islam experts” is apparent in their usage of an Arabic 101 level speaker as a source.  Robert Spencer, who uses Al-Mutarajjam’s work (and had gushing praise of Al-Mutarajjam’s site) never noticed the glaring mistake in Al-Mutarajjam’s alias. Spencer has repeatedly claimed to be fluent in Arabic. The fact that Spencer didn’t pick up on this grave mistake speaks volumes. Imagine, for example, if an anti-American Iranian website claimed to have an expert English translator, and how much fun we would poke if that “expert English translator” went around claiming he was “The Translated”. Wouldn’t we notice the mistake immediately? Well, why didn’t Robert Spencer ever notice that Al-Mutarajjam’s name was completely off? It seems like Al-Mutarajjam is not the only one faking his Arabic abilities!  This indicates the completely unprofessional and sophomoric nature of the self-proclaimed “Islam experts” of the internet.

Why Translating-Jihad and Other Islamophobic Websites are not Taken Seriously By Academics

The absolute lack of qualifications and credentials of the Islam-bashers is something we’ve harped on again and again. Robert Spencer and the other Islam-bashers diligently try avoiding the topic. Their minions on the other hand will say “so what?” or “their qualifications or lack thereof does not impact the content of what they are saying.” Of course, we know this is not true by the fact that the Islam-bashers wouldn’t be seeking to portray themselves as “experts and the acclaimed scholars of Islam” if it were not important to be so.

But more than this, the anti-academic background of these people has very real consequences in the substance of what they argue. While their arguments may appeal to non-academic minds (like their vitriolic foaming-at-the-mouth fans who comment on their sites), these arguments would be ripped asunder by actual scholars. This is certainly the case with Al-Mutarajjam’s website. For example, he earlier debated with us about a fatwa (religious edict) he translated about Muslims being forbidden from transporting Christians to church. Al-Mutarajjam posted this fatwa following a bomb blast in Alexandria, Egypt (after which many Egyptian Muslims called for solidarity with the Christian community). Al-Mutarajjam posted:

Lest all the calls of Muslim-Christian solidarity from smooth-speaking Muslim spokesmen in the wake of the Alexandria bombing fool you, here comes this fatwa from the highly-popular Islamic website Islamweb.net ruling that Muslims are not allowed to drive Christians to church, as that is tantamount to “support[ing] them in their vain and perverted rites and religion.” Apparently Muslim-Christian outreach and understanding is only one-sided.

Notice how he uses the term “smooth-speaking Muslim spokesmen”, implying that they are being deceitful and lying. To “prove” this, he cites a fatwa that implies the exact opposite of solidarity. Thus, he concludes, these Muslim spokesmen must have understood solidarity as only one-sided. The non-academic Islam-haters nod in agreement and wonder in amazement at their great discovery.

Yet, such a line of argumentation would hardly be taken seriously in an academic setting. No scholar—no person with even an above average intelligence—would take this seriously. Obviously, the problem with Al-Mutarajjam’s argument is that the “calls of Muslim-Christian solidarity from smooth-speaking Muslim spokesmen” did not come from the mufti who issued the fatwa on the Islamwebsite. The fact that Muslims are not the Borg—one singular organism where what one Muslim says or does means another Muslim is also responsible for that—is lost on Islamophobes.

There are over a billion Muslims in the world; one mufti issuing one fatwa doesn’t represent the views of them all. Some Muslims would support solidarity with Christians, while others would oppose it. Similarly, some Christians support solidarity with Muslims, and others oppose it. Would finding one Muslim from the second group prove that the first group is lying? What odd logic!

The “Fatwa Team” on the Islamweb site consists of “a group of licentiate graduates from the Islamic University, Al-Imaam Muhammad Bin Sa’oud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia.” The fact that the site has nothing to do with Egypt (remember, it was Egyptian Muslims calling for solidarity with Christians) means nothing to Al-Mutarajjam. The fact that the fatwa site belongs to the ultraconservative Wahhabi (Salafi) sect of Islam—which only a very tiny percentage of Egyptian Muslims follow—means nothing to him. Somehow they are all interchangeable, so when an Egyptian Muslim spokesman says one thing and a Saudi Wahhabi cleric says something else, then aha!, I told you they can’t be trusted!

The Wahhabi (Salafi) mufti makes clear at the end of his fatwa that transporting Christians anywhereexcept to church or religious festivities is absolutely permissible. Considering that this represents the hardline approach of Wahhabi Islam, it goes without saying that more liberal Islamic interpretations would differ.  This is especially true since no clear Quranic support can be found for such a restriction, nor even in the more nebulous Prophetic traditions (Sunnah).  In light of this fact, no Islamic cleric can compel a Muslim to do or not do anything.  Fatwas–contrary to popular misconception in the Western world–are considered completely non-binding on the Islamic faithful.  They are just opinions, and Muslims can look for other fatwas with completely differing conclusions.  Even hundreds of years ago, the Hanafi school of thought permitted transporting Christians to church and their religious festivals. If that was the case then, one can imagine the liberality with it now.  Indeed, it takes place all the time in the Islamic world, such that it is only the rare exception that a cab driver would refuse such a service.  The fact that this type of situation happens in real life all the time in the Middle East shows that the mufti is projecting an imagined reality into the world, instead of dealing with the facts as they are.

Also absent from Al-Mutarajjam’s sensationalist analysis is the fact that such views are hardly singular to Islam: one only need look at Orthodox Judaism’s views towards interaction with unbelievers to see similar (and often times harsher) restrictions.  While for instance we are talking about cab drivers, let’s take a look at this interesting Orthodox Jewish rule in Halacha (Jewish Law, which is the Jewish equivalent of the nefarious Sharia); Jewish-American professor Dov S. Zakheim (who has served under various posts in the Department of Defense) explains how peaceful Jewish interaction with non-Jews is

based on Jewish self-interest…[something] that continues to resonate in contemporary halakhic literature.  For example, in discussing whether a Jewish taxi driver must compensate his non-Jewish counterpart for damages caused in an accident, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, when still residing in Johannesburg, argued that the primary criterion is whether the non-Jewish taxi driver is aware that his vehicle was damaged by a Jew.  If he knows this was the case, the Jew must pay damages…If the non-Jew is unaware that the Jew was the actual cause of the accident, however, Rabbi Sternbuch ruled that there is no need for the Jew to pay anything. (Dov S. Zakheim on p.499 of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition)

But perhaps the Jewish taxi-driver might at least be able to drive the injured non-Jew to church if that’s where he happened to be going…?  (Actually, Orthodox Jews are not allowed to step foot inside churches–and since we don’t fancy ourselves as experts of Jewish law–we hope our more informed readers might let us know if Orthodox Jews are allowed to drive Christians to church.)  In any case, one can only imagine how the Islam-bashers would use this divine Hit-and-Run Law against Muslims had this been part of Islamic and not Jewish law.  Islam is certainly not alone in having uncomfortable opinions found in its hundreds year old religious tradition and honored by its ultraconservative followers in the modern day; one can easily find similar examples in Judaism and Christianity.  Such revelations, which provide proper contextual understanding to scholars, are dismissed by anti-Islam ideologues as “tu quoque fallacies” that shouldn’t get in the way of bashing Islam.  Meanwhile, the most fundamentalist, ultraconservative, and extremist views of Islam should be cited as proof that Muslims with more tolerant, pluralistic, and liberal views are being deceitful and lying.

In any case, the “calls of Muslim-Christian solidarity” were heeded by Egyptian Muslims and were certainly not understood by them as being “one-sided.” Just as Egyptian Christians sought to protect Muslims with their lives, so too did Egyptian Muslims act as “human shields” to protect the lives of Christians praying in churches. That seems like pretty reciprocal solidarity to us.  But to the fraudster—The Translated—these hundreds of Muslims risking their lives for Christians are just putting up an act—those “smooth-speaking Mooz-lums” just can’t be trusted!

Trusting an Arabic “translator” who can’t even translate the word “translator” on the other hand? No problem with that.