The Australian branch of the radical Islamic political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir is under fire for sharing a video in which two women demonstrate how Muslim men can beat their wives.
By trying to interpret a controversial Quranic verse, and explain the "right way" in which men can beat their wives, the group was accused of promoting domestic violence and making light of the plight of abuse victims.
The video has drawn heavy backlash, and Australia's Federal Minister for Women Michaelia Cash has described it as "abhorrent", according to the Huffington Post.
Even Muslims have condemned Hizb ut-Tahrir's video, including a Muslim member of parliament as well as a coalition of Muslim leaders and commentators.
The video was shot during a conference for Muslim women held in Sydney earlier this month, according to The Daily Telegraph. The women leading the conversation, who have been identified as Atika Latifi and elementary school teacher Reem Allouche, discuss the 34th ayah in the Quranic surat An-Nisa:
The second half of the verse states how men are advised to deal with their wives in case of dispute. In the video, Allouche and Latifi outline the "disciplinary measures" men ought to use with their wives.
"This particular text has been put forth as being problematic... that it appears to be an incitement to violence against women," says Allouche.
Latifi notes that there are three steps established in the surah, with the third being the most controversial because it can be interpreted in a way that allows men to strike their wives. The duo emphasize that the striking is purely "symbolic" and is not meant to cause any harm.
The first step, says Latifi, is to "encourage her [the wife] to be obedient and warn her against disobedience". If this proves fruitless, the couple can resort to sleeping on separate beds.
She continues to say that if these two steps do "not bring the desired effect", a third measure is permitted. "I want to make this point very clear that he is permitted, not obliged, not encouraged, but he is permitted to hit her," she says.
When is this permitted? "Disobedience to the husband. Immoral acts or cheating. Admitting anyone to the home that the husband doesn't like," Latifi explains.
"Subhan Allah what a beautiful blessing from Allah," says Latifi, referring to the fact that the beating only comes as a last resort. "He [Allah] said not to take all the steps at one time, he said one after the other."
"May I have the honor?" Allouche, a Sydney primary school teacher, asks Latifi, before playfully striking her co-host with a siwak, the traditional teeth cleaning twig.
Latifi then suggests that husbands can use a coiled scarf or handkerchief, citing Shafi jurists. Again, Allouche takes out a handkerchief and strikes her co-host, and the two start laughing.
"Striking should be done in such a way as not cause harm or pain," Latifi concludes.
After facing severe backlash, Hizb ut-Tahrir's Facebook page shared a statement acknowledging the negative impact the video has incurred on the image of Islam, especially with the rise of Islamophobia in non-Muslim communities.
"We firmly believe that we, as a community, must not shy away from the clarification of Islamic injunctions, however controversial, let alone succumb to reinterpretations of Islam forced by liberal hounding.
We would especially like to acknowledge in this regard sisters in our community involved in the Domestic Violence space and their advice on how things can be misconstrued on this topic and we thank them for their tremendous ongoing work. Domestic Violence is an abomination that Islam rejects in the strongest terms."
Still, the video has not been removed.
Australian Muslims: "Violence is against the spirit and letter of Islam"
Australia's first Muslim member of federal parliament, Ed Husic, condemned the video and spoke out against domestic violence.
"It’s not acceptable in any form to strike anyone, either between husband and wife or anywhere, Husic told the Australian. "Violence is not an answer or acceptable outcome whatsoever and I believe they are right to describe it as thus."
Also, on Thursday, an Australian Muslim collaborative including some prominent Australian Muslims issued a statement that asserts that any form of domestic violence contradicts Islamic teachings.
"Islam categorically prohibits and denounces the abuse of women. There is absolutely no justification for men to demean, threaten or abuse women, whether symbolically or otherwise," the statement reads. "Any promotion of violence is against the spirit and letter of Islam."
What is Hizb ut-Tahrir?
The radical Islamic group's biggest aim is to establish the Islamic Sharia law across the world through a global Islamic superstate. The group is active across the Middle East, central and south-east Asia and Europe.
The group's draft constitution contains several contentious issues, including an article that mandates the execution of ex-Muslims.
The group is also known for spewing anti-Semitic hate, with a spokesman for the Australian branch describing Jews as a "cancerous tumor" and saying, "The Jews are the most evil creatures of Allah. Moral corruption is linked to the Jews."
Hizb ut-Tahrir is considered a terrorist group in Russia and has been banned by countries including Germany, China, Egypt and Turkey.
The leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, Ismail Alwahwah, has promoted violence on several occasions. In 2015, he described the terror attacks against Charlie Hebdo staff in France as a "cure". Last year, he called upon Turkish audience to lead armies that will conquer Europe and America, describing the latter as "enemies".