A Saudi Arabian court recently added injury to, well, injury when it sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison for "being in [a} car with an unrelated male at the time of the [gang] rape".
By contrast, her six armed attackers were merely sentenced to prison.
Predictably, this has provoked a wide range of outrage. But none is more profound than that expressed by Vancouver's Jiti Khanna, who protested the treatment of the young woman in a letter to The National Post:
"The whipping and jailing of a 19-year-old women for being "in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the [gang] rape" shows, once again, the inherent discrimination and violence against women contained within Shariah law. Saudi Arabia practises a specially puritan form of Islam that it has exported worldwide through its funding of mosques and training of mosque leaders. Furthermore, every year Shariah attitudes are reinforced in millions of Muslims when they go on the prescribed Hajj pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. To prevent such practices from finding resonance in Western Muslims, we must express our abhorrence and ask Saudi Arabia to re-form its Islamic practices.Amen.
We should also ask Western Muslims to loudly denounce such examples of Shariahbased discrimination and violence against women."
While many in the Western world look upon Islam with a great deal of (arguably well-justified) concern -- or sometimes outright hostility -- it's important to remember that a Westernized, moderate brand of Islam could prove to be a light upon the Muslim world.
People like Jiti Khanna serve as a reminder of this.
Nor is she alone. For a distinctly Western brand of Islam to emerge, people like Irshad Manji will have to continue to challenge Islam, and movements such as the Dawoodi Bohras will have to step up its efforts to engrain progressive values within Islam.
Of course, a westernized, progressive Islam will only emerge through open and honest debate. As such, Muslim conservative movements will need to have an opportunity to have their say, as well.
As for the rest of us, we'll need to provide this modernized brand of Islam room to grow. As such, it will fall to ordinary non-Muslims to protect Muslims from unreasonable discrimination. People like Jiti Khanna need to be given room to advance their cause, and people like Robert Spencer cannot be allowed to cynically denounce Islam into a rhetorical vacuum.
In the meantime, peace be upon you, Jiti Khanna. You're a credit to your faith.