I am still reading The Sword of the Prophet and finding myself quite surprised by what I read. I don't intend to stop at one book on the topic; I do plan to read a little more extensively, but the author refers to many books written by both westerners and Muslims, so I am not too worried about an unfair bias.
I actually was going to entitle this post, How to Create a Totally Dysfunctional Society Without Even Trying, but that was too long and tedious. The chapters I finished recently are on marriage and women in the Arab/Muslim world.
When one looks at western society and attempts to find the causes of societal dysfunction, certain things are obvious and the statistical data is there to offer proof: divorce, absent or emotionally distant fathers, poverty and lack of education, abuse-- all of these contribute to creating wacky people who have difficulty functioning as healthy, productive members of society. Certainly there are exceptions, by the grace of God, but for the most part people incur some kind of emotional damage when some of these factors come into play.
Now take a look at Islam and marriage in the Arab world. First of all, women are looked at as a commodity. According to Muhammad, a woman is pretty much a cursed thing, stupid and faithless, whose only chance of gaining paradise is to have a husband who is pleased with her at the time of her demise. Marital intimacy is not a matter of love or tenderness, but an expression of the husband's domination. Polygamy is permissible because some men have such a "compelling sexual desire" that one wife is not enough to satisfy. Divorce is easy, and a man need not even inform his wife that he is divorcing her. When a Muslim man takes on another wife, she does not live with the former wife and her husband, but in a separate household where she raises her children. She may be visited by her husband, depending on his whims, weekly, monthly or hardly at all. In this decentralized family, the many children rotate around not their father, but their mothers. The father is "generally perceived as an absence. Instead of the father figure essential to normal development," the author points out, "there is a void, from Ishmael to Muhammad to Bin Laden, one of fifteen children by one of ten wives."
I could go on and on, but I will try to keep this up in segments as I continue reading.