Strange goings-on at the Guardian's CiF. A rather silly piece by Myriam Francois-Cerrah, The truth about Muhammad and Aisha, argues that the charge of paedophilia levelled at Muhammad due to Aisha's age - six at the time of betrothal, nine at the time of consummation - is really not quite as clear-cut as critics claim. Or, since she's studying for a D.Phil. at Oxford:
The Islamophobic depiction of Muhammad's marriage to Aisha as motivated by misplaced desire fits within a broader Orientalist depiction of Muhammad as a philanderer.
It turns out that there are in fact doubts among Muslim scholars about Aisha's real age and she may well have been, ooh, a lot older. Happily, though, this is the only point where there's any room for doubt about her. Otherwise all is clear:
To paint Aisha as a victim is completely at odds with her persona. She was certainly no wallflower. During a controversial battle in Muslim history, she emerged riding a camel to lead the troops. She was known for her assertive temperament and mischievous sense of humour – with Muhammad sometimes bearing the brunt of the jokes. During his lifetime, he established her authority by telling Muslims to consult her in his absence; after his death, she went to be become one of the most prolific and distinguished scholars of her time.
A stateswoman, scholar, mufti, and judge, Aisha combined spirituality, activism and knowledge and remains a role model for many Muslim women today. The gulf between her true legacy and her depiction in Islamophobic materials is not merely historically inaccurate, it is an insult to the memory of a pioneering woman.
So there you have it.
And anyway, King John married the 12-year-old Isabella of Angoulême - so no taking the high ground from you Westerners, if you don't mind.
In general the response from CiF commenters has been less than positive: for instance on the rather selective approach to the hadiths, whereby some bits - notably, Aisha's age - are open to question, whereas other bits - everything else - are not. It was also noted that comparisons with King John rather spectacularly miss the point, since we don't hold King John up as the perfect model of a life lived, than which there can be no better.
Never mind, there was the odd supportive comment. For instance:
Thank you for this article, but I don't think it will do anything to change people's perception of Islam. Most people prefer to stay blind and ignorant to the truth. Islam is a religion of peace but we only see what the media reports - which isn't about Islam it's about politics and culture which are not the same.
When I looked yesterday, recommends for the critical comments numbered in the hundreds, whereas the more positive comments, like this one, had recommends in single figures. But now, in the space of less than a day, that comment has surged ahead to lead the pack, with a spectacular 2298 recommends!
It's a miracle!