Islamic scripture does not support the abuse of women, said a student presenter at the 12th Annual Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU Feb. 19.

Kelsey Perry, a senior in public health, who presented a paper titled “Female Rights in Islam: The Contextual Qur’an,” said the violations and offenses against Islamic women are a result of the culture and not dictated by religious doctrine.

“According to the doctrine, men are to be protectors of women, not so much the masters and rulers,” Perry said, quoting from Sura 4:32 in the Koran.

Her in-depth study of the Islamic scripture cited the male-female relationship as one that ought to be complementary and in harmony, she said.

The offenses against Muslim women — having virtually no rights or legal standing, being forced to hide themselves in public, expecting women to endure domestic violence, enter into arranged marriages, undergo brutal female circumcisions — are allowed and even encouraged because the scriptures are misunderstood and not interpreted correctly.

Even the Prophet Muhammad asked how a man could hit his wife and then embrace her, Perry said.

Honor killings — where a woman is put to death for suspected moral infractions including being a victim of a rape — are never mentioned in the Koran.

The Laws of Zina or the practice of requiring four male witnesses to support a woman’s claim of rape actually come from an instance where a husband was trying to protect his wife from accusations of adultery, Perry said, and should never have been used to make it nearly impossible for a rape victim to obtain justice in Islam.

“The Qur’an must be correctly interpreted,” Perry said. “The Muslim prophet would not have condoned the violence and the abuse.”

Perry said the best way to help correct the problems in the Middle East culture is to educate the people, especially the female population.

“Unfortunately, most Muslim women are illiterate. For 14 centuries, the Koran has been interpreted almost exclusively by men,” she said.

Perry, who has detailed documentation of her findings, quoted female Muslim scholars, including Sakena Yacoobi, who says the Koran has quotation after quotation that say men must treat women and child-bearers well.

Those who claim Muslim women are content with their lives and the treatment they receive are not accurately reporting the situation.

Overwhelmingly, Muslim females express a yearning for equality, she said.

Perry said education opens minds and extremist patriarchal traditions will begin to fade, making true to Qur’anic verse: “O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).”

This article originally appeared in the Mormon Times