Where are all the moderate Muslims?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an op/ed up in the Times about “Islam’s silent moderates,” arguing that if Islam is really a religion of goodness then moderates should be pushing that vision, and simultaneously insisting that Islam can’t be a good religion and so there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. I have a lot of respect for Hirsi Ali — she’s a smart, brave woman, and she certainly has valid personal reasons for disliking Islam. But what bothers me about this op/ed, and other op/eds like it, is that the argument is circular and unfair, and it holds Islam and Muslims to a standard that other mainstream religious groups are exempt from. For example, she starts the op/ed out with this passage from the Quran:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)


and eventually uses it to make the point that:

If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?

Selecting one section from a centuries-old religious text and then drawing the conclusion that most followers of that religion follow that text to the word is ridiculous. There are certainly a lot of religious people who do claim to follow the exact word of their religious text, but they’re usually either lying or ignorant. Religion may be the province of God, but how we live religion every day is entirely man-made. Men recorded the word of God onto paper. Even way back then, human beings selected which sections of religious law they wanted to live by; today, we still pick and choose. Notions of human rights and justice have evolved, and along with it, so has our religious understanding. To claim that every single passage in the Quran or the Bible is somehow “proof” of its moderate followers’ mindset is incredibly dishonest. You’d be better suited to see which passages the followers pick and choose themselves — that’s a whole lot more telling. And I guarantee that just as Pat Robertson and Mike Huckabee would pick very different Bible verses than I would to explain my faith, Muslim extremists would pick very different Quranic verses than your average, moderate Muslim person.

Hirsi Ali focuses on the horrendous rape punishment leveled at “the Qatif girl” in Saudi Arabia to make the point that moderate Muslims aren’t actually moderate. She writes:

It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.

But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?

She comes to the conclusion that Muslims are silent about this. Which is kind of a funny conclusion — who does she think raised the issue in the first place? The New York Times?

The girl’s lawyer is a Saudi Muslim. She has been helped by human rights activists across the Middle East. Her story was promoted by Arab journalists. The case has outraged people around the world, including in Saudi Arabia. If moderate Muslims were actually silent, we would have never heard about this case to begin with.

I’m in the middle of finals and so I don’t have time to do an extensive research project on this either, but here’s what a quick google search turned up:

Ruling Jolts Even Saudis: 200 Lashes for Rape Victim
Arab View — Rape: Who Gets Punished And Who Does Not?
Saudi Jeans blog — The Qatif Girl, Again and Justice and Common Sense
Saudi Gazette – The Agony of Qatif Girl
Progressive Muslima News
Arab News: How Culture is Defined in a Global World
Hafeez Anwar’s Website: Lashing Out at the Media Over the Qatif Girl Case
Khaleej Times Online: Saudi Women Furious at Gang-Rape Ruling
Arab News: Violence Against Women is Still a Problem

That just took me all of 10 minutes. And there are dozens of articles and blog posts that I’ve read this week — including posts from very conservative Muslim writers who often make me want to throw something — that have all expressed disgust and outrage over this verdict. Further, the verdict has started a conversation about reforming the Saudi justice system — and the conversation is happening within Saudi Arabia.

There are a whole lot of problems with the way religion is exercised and carried out on all levels. But it’s the most dangerous when people in power use it to uphold their bigotries and to keep themselves at the top of the food chain. That’s what’s happening here — and moderate people of faith are speaking out against it, and against that power structure. This is not a phenomenon that’s inherent to Islam.

Finally, if we actually want moderate Muslims to feel safe speaking out, we have to can the “Islam is horrible” line. Because the more we say that things like female genital surgeries or punishing rape victims are Islam, the more that violent vision of Islam becomes emboldened and strengthened, and the more difficult it becomes for Muslim people to argue, “Wait a minute, that isn’t Islam as I’ve lived it.” And it’s really not the responsibility of Muslim people to be on the constant defensive in the first place — criticize the radicals, but don’t pin their actions on the millions of people who are horrified by them. And certainly don’t draw hasty conclusions about who is and isn’t speaking out when you haven’t even bothered to listen.


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97 comments for “Where are all the moderate Muslims?

  1. Molly
    December 8, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Agreed. I had been paying attention to (and believing) Hirsi Ali for a while, but when my moderate Muslim friends told me they thought she was wrong, I listened.

  2. randomliberal
    December 8, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Hey, at least in Islam, the adulterers get to live. Check out this bass-ackwards religion:

    If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.*

    Boy, i sure am glad that no one claims to take that particular religious text literally…

    *Leviticus 20:10, if you care

  3. alsojill
    December 8, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Just last night, a friend of mine said to me, “The moderate Muslims need to stand up.” And I said, “Why? Why, when moderate Christians aren’t doing the same thing?”

    Who has the loudest, most terrifying Christian voice in this country? The conservative Christian Right, who reject all those who don’t fit their paradigm, and who would be first in line to crucify Jesus if he showed up today.

    Where are the moderate Christians? Where are the moderate Muslims? Well, they’re going about their business, voicing protests against abuses when they cross their paths, but no one is paying attention, as Jill has so rightly shown us here.

  4. Bruce
    December 8, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Random liberal –

    The difference between Islam and Christianity is that there are no predominantly Christian or Jewish (whatever flavor of Christian or Jewish) societies in which women stand a meaningful chance of getting flogged or killed for private non-commercial sexual activity.

    When Poland or Armenia or the Philippines start looking like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or even “moderate” Islamic societies like Malaysia, I will consider it fair to stop singling Islam out. Even the right-wing wack-jobs of our society are Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir combined compared to a society that will flog a woman for failing to die – then double the sentence to drive the point home – during her rape. But it’s the nearly world-wide acquiescence of the “Umma” with such practices that damn Islam most severely. Nice that there are ten websites; when there are three million Muslims pledging not to go on hajj until Saudi Arabia stops treat women worse than it treats goats, call me.

  5. December 8, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I’m no fan of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, not least because she proposes that the solution to Europe’s “muslim problem” is to fully repeal the welfare state, hence her new job at the American Enterprise Institute.

    In chatting with male radicals, I always come up against a limit where you’re not allowed “to think any further” in case it damages your relationship with God. As they said on overcomingbias.com, this is the “affective death spiral.” It can be overcome through intelligent framing of the issue at hand. Challenge the individual bits on the premise of what they actually are – normative political beliefs-and also, who created them. I.E. religious-executive office holders in the empires of old.

    There is something to say about Islam containing a number of limited reforms towards women’s emancipation in a particularly awful period in history. This is the way female Malaysian lawyers are reforming Shariah law (as far as I can remember).

    I can’t do any of this as I’m a extremist-turned-apostate and therefore have no legitimacy in the radicals eyes. The problem that moderates face is that they’re not considered Muslims by the radicals, and they’re considered evil by the new atheists. Moderates have to negotiate the fine line between declaring themselves as fully Muslim AND liberal without the two contradicting.

  6. December 8, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    There are significant and deep differences between Islam and Christianty, the most important one being that Islam has yet to have a reformation.

    While there may be moderate Muslims, the fact remains that Ali is living under credible death treats. When she no loner needs protection, I’ll be convinced that moderate Muslims have more influence. I’m glad there are some – when there are Muslims protesting at the floggings and beheadings in Saudi Arabia and Iran I’ll feel better.

    BTW – since you think being able to publish this oped in the NY Times is a sign of Muslim moderation – is it being syndicated in Saudi Arabia, as part of the “conversation”? I’m doubtful.

  7. Mel
    December 8, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    The societies that currently follow their interpretations of Islamic/Sharia laws, are the biggest Human Right violators at the moment.The treatment of Women in Saudi Arabia, the genocide in Darfur, the religious oppression in Iran, etc.

    Having Muslim and Arab friends, acquaintances and doing my best not be a racist, I know that most of the people in these societies suffer and are not extremists or fundamentalist.
    This doesn’t negate the fact that the most vocal in those societies are the extremists and fundamentalists, not to mention that they are usually the legal and governmental voices.

    I oppose fundamentalism and extremism in every form, from every religion and doctrine. But as of yet, even in Israel where I live, which at this point calls itself a Jewish state in which various religious laws are also civil laws, I will not be punished for exposing my legs, arms and face. Honour killings which happen with alarming regularity in Muslim communities (in Israel) are investigated as murders and are stopped when the authorities can. In other Muslim countries it is another interpretation of the Law.

    Islam isn’t inherently bad, just like no religion or doctrine are bad. It is the people that use it to impose a single truth on others that make the society in which that happens morally corrupt.
    There are currently no other religious societies that show this kind of disregard to human dignity and life.

  8. December 8, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Bruce:

    Societies change over time. It’s not really all that long ago that it was considered acceptable to drown, burn or hang women for the slightest transgressions. For that matter, wanna talk about the punishments regularly carried out in the Deep South of the USA in the last century?

    For that matter, wanna talk about the fact that a prostitute who was raped at gunpoint just a couple of months back, was told by a US judge that she hadn’t been raped, but merely suffered “theft of services”?

    As for, “when there are three million Muslims pledging not to go on hajj until Saudi Arabia stops treat women worse than it treats goats, call me.” So, what – you think people should give up one of the central pillars of their belief system, to make a political point? My understanding is that Hajj is not an optional thing for Muslims. It’s hard to think of an equivalent in Western democracy that might help you understand how dumb your suggestion is.

  9. December 8, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    The girl’s lawyer is a Saudi Muslim. She has been helped by human rights activists across the Middle East. Her story was promoted by Arab journalists. The case has outraged people around the world, including in Saudi Arabia. If moderate Muslims were actually silent, we would have never heard about this case to begin with.

    In addition to that, the Muslim youth peak body – can’t be bothered googling for the name just now – immediately spoke out in disgust. And we’ve just had the other example two Muslim MPs from the UK interceding on behalf of the teacher in the teddy-bear incident. “Where are the Muslim moderates”, indeed.

    “…doing my best not be a racist,…”

    Er, because Islam is a religion, not a race, perhaps?

    “There are currently no other religious societies that show this kind of disregard to human dignity and life.”

    Try this. No, not Muslims, even though it’s in Iraq. Which brings home the point that it’s the backwardness of village societies which is responsible rather than the content of your religion’s texts (as the commenter above pointed out, the Bible advocates death rather than lashes.) A backwardness which the Coalition of the Willing only perpetuates by continually bombing those societies back into the Stone age.
    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2007/05/05/vile/

  10. Mel
    December 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Er, because Islam is a religion, not a race, perhaps?

    I think it’s fairly obvious that when discussing Muslim societies in this context and in this post, we aren’t talking about the practitioners of Islam outside the Muslim nations in North Africa and the Middle East.
    Though everyone should know better, Islam isn’t viewed in the mainstream media as being separate from Arabs.

  11. RacyT
    December 8, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Naadir Jeewa:

    The problem that moderates [muslims] face … they’re considered evil by the new atheists

    Atheists consider moderate Muslims “evil”? News to me. A citation, perhaps? Because I agree with the other things you said, but I do not believe this at all.

  12. December 8, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Why should that be obvious, Mel?

  13. Mel
    December 8, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Why should that be obvious, Mel?

    I thought it was obvious due to the context.
    Obviously I was mistaken.

  14. Brad Jackson
    December 8, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    While I certainly won’t deny that there *are* moderate Muslims, and that they are working to change their society, it is also impossible to deny that the radical Muslims have power that the radical Christians can only lust after, and that does put a different complexion on things.

    I’m down on Christian radicals, but if Pat Robertson called for someone to be killed it wouldn’t really have much effect, but a Fatwa issued against an individual is, realistically speaking, a death sentence. If for no other reason that makes the question of dealing with radical Islam both more urgent and more difficult than the problem of dealing with radical Christianity; especially for the (vast majority I hope) of Muslims who aren’t radical.

    I’ll definitely agree that by denying the existence of moderate Muslims people play into the hands of the radicals, who as radical religionists of all creeds do attempt to claim that any non-radical is not really part of the religion.

    But where does that leave us? Moderates in the nations dominated by Islam are literally taking their lives into their own hands if they voice their moderation, and moderates in Europe and America are regarded by many in the nations dominated by Islam as apostate.

  15. December 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Ali is a scholar for the American Enterprise Institute a right wing think tank a major lobbyist for bombing Iran. Lynne Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle and a whole slew of right wingers are part of AEI. Charles Murray the race quack scientist who did the “bell curve” is also part of this apparatus.

    Ali is being used for war-mongering purposes.

  16. Farhat
    December 8, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Is there a special school where people go to learn to talk about “Xianity is just as bad” anytime someone talks about Islam’s ills? At least Xian bigots don’t justify their stupidity by appealing to ‘Islam is just as bad’. Fucking ridiculous.

  17. Farhat
    December 8, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Also, well, there’s the reactions in the Muslim world to different events that supposedly tarnish the image of Islam. E.g.,

    1. Naming a teddy bear Mohammed. Thousands chanting death to the teacher.
    2. Punishing the rape victim by 200 lashes. No response
    3. Mohammed cartoons. Thousands in multiple countries wanting death. Danish embassy invaded. Nun raped in retaliation.
    4. Burning schoolgirls for not being properly dressed . No response

    and I could go on.

    The reactions are so far apart that much as I don’t care for the right wing think tanks, I can’t help but agree with people like Hirsi Ali for saying what they say. Either we accept that Muslims and their countries are backward and that we can’t expect better from them. Or we call them on the bullshit. As an apostate, I have people openly saying that apostates should be punished by death and that scares me and should scare you as well. The scary part is for may Muslim apostates the only support they may receive is from the right-wing. Thus, they are forced to go to them or go into a submissive hidden lifestyle or sometimes die like Hirsi’s friend Theo.

  18. Juan Stoppable
    December 8, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    It seems like the people talking about how much better Christianity is than Islam are only looking at Christianity in the West.

    SnowdropExplodes Says:
    Bruce:

    Societies change over time. It’s not really all that long ago that it was considered acceptable to drown, burn or hang women for the slightest transgressions. For that matter, wanna talk about the punishments regularly carried out in the Deep South of the USA in the last century?

    For that matter, wanna talk about the fact that a prostitute who was raped at gunpoint just a couple of months back, was told by a US judge that she hadn’t been raped, but merely suffered “theft of services”?

    Exactly. And all that occurred after the magical ‘reformation’ that Christianity had.

  19. Banisteriopsis
    December 8, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I”m always surprised how quick people who believe in unprovable things are to jump all over people who believe different unprovable things. I think the conflict between knowing that you believe something you can’t prove, and simultaneously deriding the beliefs of everyone else, makes people crazy.

    AFAIK there’s no good reason for muslims to hate christians more than say, hindus. All that “clash of civilizations” noise TV is pushing is bullshit.

  20. December 8, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    It seems like the people talking about how much better Christianity is than Islam are only looking at Christianity in the West.

    Exactly. And all that occurred after the magical ‘reformation’ that Christianity had.

    I didn’t say Christianity was better – you did. I didn’t say the reformation was magical – you did. If you want to argue with strawmen you’ll do so alone.

  21. December 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I think it’s fairly obvious that when discussing Muslim societies in this context and in this post, we aren’t talking about the practitioners of Islam outside the Muslim nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

    So people say Islam is backwards as code for meaning arabs and africans are backwards.

    Nice.

  22. December 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Wow, Farhat’s a moron.

    1. Naming a teddy bear Mohammed. Thousands chanting death to the teacher.

    More like “hundreds of government employees who were told to be there or lose their jobs.” No one else cared, but the government sure got their pretty pictures on the media and got you to believe it was widespread, didn’t they?

    2. Punishing the rape victim by 200 lashes. No response

    You mean other than the widespread outrage and denunciation of the sentence within the country and people demanding that the Saudi justice system be reformed?

    3. Mohammed cartoons. Thousands in multiple countries wanting death. Danish embassy invaded. Nun raped in retaliation.

    When right-wing assholes announce that they’re going to do something provocative and insulting, they then get to pretend that they’re shocked — shocked! — that people were insulted and provoked. Even though moderate Muslim groups begged the publishers not to do it, they wouldn’t listen.

    Sorry, this is like Bush complaining that those mean ol’ Iraqis are killing American soldiers. Take responsibility for what you deliberately unleashed, you wankers.

    4. Burning schoolgirls for not being properly dressed . No response

    Again, I suppose an enormous outcry against the religious authorities doesn’t count as a “response.”

    Unfortunately, the people of Saudi Arabia don’t have any political recourse since the country is an absolute monarchy with no elected officials other than the municipal ones that the government finally allowed in 2005.

    It’s easy to sit in a democratic country with a government that we can elect or not elect at will and whine about how people living under a dictatorship aren’t “doing anything.” I guess Farhat won’t be happy until there’s a Saudi Robespierre, with all that implies.

  23. December 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    There are significant and deep differences between Islam and Christianty, the most important one being that Islam has yet to have a reformation.

    Considering that the Christian reformation led to several hundred years of Catholics and various Protestant groups slaughtering one another (try Googling “Mary Tudor” or “St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre” for a few minor highlights), I don’t think the West can really get on their high horse and claim that all Islam needs is a nice reformation.

    There’s a reason the United States was founded on a promise of religious freedom — it was to prevent stuff like the persecution of Quakers by the Puritans from happening again.

  24. December 8, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    yeah, i agree farhat really does come across as a moron. i mean:

    Punishing the rape victim by 200 lashes. No response

    didn’t he even read this very post? as reported above, jill found numerous responses and even gave links for them.

  25. December 8, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Mnemosyne,

    Go back and read what I wrote. I did not say Islam needs a reformation, and I most certainly did not say that it needs a bloody reformation like the West had.

    I said that the fact that one occurred is a fundamental difference. Do you disagree?

  26. December 8, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Islam has yet to have a reformation.

    whenever i see someone repeat that line (and it is an oft-repeated one), i wonder if the speaker has even heard of al-nahda.

    i expect not.

  27. Farhat
    December 8, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    I may be a moron but those schoolgirls are definitely dead and so are tens of ‘missing’ feminists in Muslims countries and hundreds of women killed for honor. Much as I’d like to say things are improving, they are not. Iraq and Afghanistan are getting more fundamentalist, not less. Indonesia is sliding backward. Even Turkey’s secularist leadership is facing stronger challenges.

  28. December 8, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Much as I’d like to say things are improving, they are not. Iraq and Afghanistan are getting more fundamentalist, not less. Indonesia is sliding backward. Even Turkey’s secularist leadership is facing stronger challenges.

    Now why in the world could that be? What’s happened in the past decade that may have fueled fundamentalism in those countries? Hmmm…. truly a mystery.

  29. December 8, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    upyernoz – I, for one, had not. I’ll look into it

  30. December 8, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    farhat,

    i completely agree that honor killings, “missing feminist”, and rising fundamentalism in the muslim world is horrible. but it’s simply inaccurate to say that there is no response to those things within the muslim community.

    and when you say so here, commenting on a post that made that very same point and supplied links showing a muslim reponse to one of your examples, then yes, you look like a moron..

    critics of islam spend too much time using examples of honor killings or extreme shariah decrees as a way to attack all of islam. doesn’t it make more sense to just attack honor killings themselves? that way, you can work together with muslim feminist groups who are already fighting that very same fight. by ignoring their efforts and then decreeing that islam itself is the problem, you’re just burning bridges and making the actual issue harder to deal with.

  31. Morningstar
    December 8, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    Islam doesn’t need a reformation, it needs an end to Saudi Arabian funded Wahhabism (and an end to the Saudis completely) and a complete change in the West’s foreign policy.

    Most of the Muslim world is stagnant, it’s economically and politically underdeveloped. There’s plenty of atrocities happening all over the third world against women (just read up on the sex trade in e. asia and the rapes in congo) and none of these things will change until there is a rule of law established in this nations.

    Unfortunately, since Radical Islam is seen as the de facto defender against colonialism, things are going to get worse for the Muslim world before it gets better.

  32. December 8, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I said that the fact that one occurred is a fundamental difference. Do you disagree?

    Yes, because you seem to be saying that all Muslims, everywhere, believe the same thing and follow the same leaders. Are you even familiar with terms like “Wahhabist,” “Sunni,” “Shia,” or “Bah’ai”?

    And upyernoz exposed your ignorance quite nicely with her link, I think.

  33. December 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Much as I’d like to say things are improving, they are not. Iraq and Afghanistan are getting more fundamentalist, not less. Indonesia is sliding backward. Even Turkey’s secularist leadership is facing stronger challenges.

    Now why in the world could that be? What’s happened in the past decade that may have fueled fundamentalism in those countries? Hmmm…. truly a mystery.

    You’d almost think that something happened in the past few years that destabilized the Middle East.

    Nah, that’s crazy talk. Why look at world events when you can complain about Them Crazy Mooslims instead?

  34. December 8, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Morningstar said:

    Unfortunately, since Radical Islam is seen as the de facto defender against colonialism, things are going to get worse for the Muslim world before it gets better.

    Bingo. That’s just it — call it the “Osama/Che” phenomenon, in which at least some disaffected youth who might once have been intrigued by Marxist revolution now see fundamentalism as the only strong bulwark against American hegemony.

  35. December 8, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    Yes, because you seem to be saying that all Muslims, everywhere, believe the same thing and follow the same leaders. Are you even familiar with terms like “Wahhabist,” “Sunni,” “Shia,” or “Bah’ai”?

    And upyernoz exposed your ignorance quite nicely with her link, I think.

    My ignorance will wane because I learn from others – yours will not.

  36. December 8, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    RacyT: I’m just doing a bit of shortcutting and being needlessly polemical.

    Upyernoz: I believe you could go as far back as Ibn Rush’d (Averroes). If he didn’t rehabilitate aristotelianism back into the Abrahaimic faiths, where would the European Reformation have come from?

    Farhat: You’ll get more mileage from reading Davis’ Planet of Slums. Such horribly reactionary protests are the norm for places where you have lots of unemployed males in failing economies-which was also the reason for the rise of fascism in Europe.

    On another note, what if we redeployed the words moderate/radical muslims. Aren’t the truly radical Muslims precisely those who believe that liberalism is incompatible with Islam? You couldn’t call Luther or Calvin Christian moderates.

  37. MizDarwin
    December 8, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Slightly off-thread religious geekery here, but Islam isn’t likely to have a “reformation” akin to that which happened in Christianity. If the religion liberalizes on a significant scale, it would probably be a process more similar to the Jewish Haskalah (Enlightenment). Christianity doesn’t have a legal code; Judaism and Islam do, and this is a fundamental difference between them and Christianity. Reform Judaism provides an intellectually coherent way for liberal Jews to connect to their community, religious texts, traditions, and theology without having to accept Jewish law. A liberal Muslim movement could, theoretically, divorce itself from sharia while still maintaining the sense of identity, rituals, underlying philosophy, and values of Islam.

    Or maybe not. I’m not a scholar of Islam, maybe it’s not possible to get the sharia out the way Reform Judaism has gotten the halacha out. But it’s a better analogy than “reformation” for what a liberalized Islam would look like. The Reformation had to do with a centralized yet non-legal religious authority holding sway over a largely illiterate base. Islam is decentralized, legalistic, and text-based.

    Religious geekery now at an end. Thanks for listening.

  38. Shayne
    December 8, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    The moderate Muslims are probably in the same place the moderate Christians were during the Inquisition.

    It’s really great we can sit in our homes and type demands on our computers about where are the moderate Muslims. If they are living in radically run countries, I’m gonna hazard a guess they are hiding. And for damn good reason.

  39. Leo
    December 8, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Wow. Someone is who deals regularly with a form of Islam in having her(his?) life threatened for being an apostate and not believing as they do. One of those beliefs being that Islam can never be insulted in any way. Being an apostate or drawing a cartoon result in death. I don’t care how offensive that is, the reaction to these actions by SOME Muslims is unacceptable. Blaming the victim for exercising what is a fundamental human right (speech and religion) and calling them a moron isn’t going to help. And you wonder why Ali and others end up with the Right. The Right is the only medium to give them a voice. The left is afraid of Offending.

  40. Mnemosyne
    December 8, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    My ignorance will wane because I learn from others – yours will not.

    Gosh, I’m sorry I pointed out that you were wrong. I guess I should have “learned” from you and started spreading the same misinformation rather than trying to get the facts.

    I have learned many things from people online. You are not one of them. Sorry if I hurt your fee-fees.

  41. Mnemosyne
    December 8, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t care how offensive that is, the reaction to these actions by SOME Muslims is unacceptable.

    I’m not quite sure how you got the impression that when we say “not all Muslims should be blamed,” we’re really saying, “no Muslims anywhere should be blamed no matter what they did.”

    Theo van Gogh’s killer was sentenced to life in prison without parole, a completely right and just sentence. People who act out violently need to be imprisoned. That doesn’t mean that strangers who happen to share the same religion are equally guilty, which is what Ali is arguing. Collective punishment is always wrong.

  42. exholt
    December 8, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    I may be dim, but I was under the impression that honor killings predated the founding of Islam and thus, a cultural inheritance from the cultures which eventually adopted the Islamic religion. This was an explanation I heard as to why most honor killings tended to take place in areas where this cultural practice was already widespread before Islam was adopted such as the Arabian Peninsula or Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province…..whereas such practices were until recently, rarely practiced in Indonesia or Malaysia as their pre-Islamic cultures did not have such practices.

  43. Jens
    December 8, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Mnemosyne: I believe when Leo pointed out your “blaming the victim”, he was referring to your post #22 at 5:26. Also, you were pretty quick to call an apostate ignorant about Islam and a moron.

  44. Leo
    December 8, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Exactly, Jens. Thanks.

  45. December 8, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Gosh, I’m sorry I pointed out that you were wrong.

    Upyernoz pointed out something I was not aware of. Not you. You were too busy reading things into what I said.

  46. Schmorgluck
    December 8, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    exholt : Indeed, and it’s the same with excision, which is totally unrelated to Islam.

    As for the story behind Jylland Postens’ Muhammad caricatures, it’s a complicated one, but basically it demonstrates how a carefully orchestrated manipulation by some radical islamists (mostly Muslim Brothers) is able to cause an international crises over twelve cartoons that were dumb at worst (not to mention the three ones they added themselves to be sure to get the reactions they needed). These people are really dangerous for they are very loud and have plenty of political connexions to play with.

    As for the moderates, the problem is that they tend to be soft-spoken, which is a pretty common trait to people who are, y’know, moderate. So they are not always easy to hear. But there is no worse deaf…

  47. December 9, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Mnemosyne: I believe when Leo pointed out your “blaming the victim”, he was referring to your post #22 at 5:26. Also, you were pretty quick to call an apostate ignorant about Islam and a moron.

    huh? maybe i’m reading comment #22 differently than everyone else, but it seems to me that farhat claimed that various incidents had “no response” in the muslim community when, in fact, they had a response. i don’t think she was branding any “apostates” a moron. she was pointing out that farhat was simply wrong.

  48. December 9, 2007 at 12:39 am

    sweating through fog,

    don’t sweat not being aware of al-nahda. a lot of westerners have never heard of it. i didn’t either until i got far enough in my arabic studies that they started assigning me these dry artlces about modern arabic history.

    the problem is that a lot of the reforms that took place during al-nahda have been reversed in more recent years. as others have pointed out above, the problem is that fundamentalism has become the predominant anti-colonialist ideology in the arab world (replacing pan-arab nationalism and communism) and that creates pressure to reject reforms that are viewed as western influenced. so while you could view al-nahda as being the “islamic reformation” that already happened, we’re currently in a period analogous to the counter-reformation. (of course, the whole “reformation”/”counter-reformation” analogy has all sorts of problems)

  49. December 9, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Mnemosyne: I believe when Leo pointed out your “blaming the victim”, he was referring to your post #22 at 5:26.

    I’ve re-read the post of mine that you refer to. Please point out where I blamed the victim. Thank you.

    Also, you were pretty quick to call an apostate ignorant about Islam and a moron.

    From what Leo posted:

    Someone is who deals regularly with a form of Islam in having her(his?) life threatened for being an apostate and not believing as they do.

    I understood that he was not the person being threatened and that he was referring to the threats against Hirsi Ali. You seem to think that Leo was referring to his/her own persecution for being an apostate. Leo, please clarify for us.

  50. December 9, 2007 at 4:13 am

    You were too busy reading things into what I said.

    Then what were you trying to say? Yes, Islam has not had a reformation the exact way that Christianity did. As MizDarwin pointed out, neither has Judaism, for very similar reasons, and yet you don’t hear most normal people saying that there’s no way that Jews can be integrated into modern life and still be observant Jews the way they talk about Muslims. So what was your point?

  51. December 9, 2007 at 4:30 am

    And as long as I’m overposting tonight ;-)

    People who think that death threats over religious issues are exclusive to the Middle East or Muslims really need to read up on the Chocolate Jesus.

    But, hey, I’m sure those death threats didn’t really count because everyone knows we don’t have religious fanatics who murder people in the US, right?

  52. December 9, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Mnemosyne:

    When right-wing assholes announce that they’re going to do something provocative and insulting, they then get to pretend that they’re shocked — shocked! — that people were insulted and provoked. Even though moderate Muslim groups begged the publishers not to do it, they wouldn’t listen… Take responsibility for what you deliberately unleashed, you wankers.

    This is pathetic. Free speech extends until anyone, anywhere (even 1000s of kilometres away) may be insulted?

    Classic victim blaming. It’s not the fault of the embassy burners for their embassy burning. We should instead blame a few of Danish cartoonists.

    And it is also insulting to Muslims. It presumes that those who reacted violently (of course a small minority), reacted ‘naturally’ (they couldn’t help their behavour, it was the drawings).

    Why were millions of Muslims able to not riot? Is it because they aren’t true Muslims? Or is it because they are mature enough to ignore some cartoons.

    So, Mnemosyne, you’ve managed to sell out basic human rights so as not to offend religious nutcases, while also slandering millions of moderate believers. Good job.

  53. December 9, 2007 at 7:09 am

    Mnemosyne: Not to mention the death threats the cast of “Jerry Springer – The Opera” got.

    The writer, Stewart Lee, opened his stand up show by drawing a chalk show around himself, like medieval jesters did outside churches to protect themselves from being persecuted for heresy.
    He then remarked that a court case against him over blasphemy was thrown out because “it wasn’t the tenth century.”

  54. MizDarwin
    December 9, 2007 at 10:26 am

    As MizDarwin pointed out, neither has Judaism, for very similar reasons, and yet you don’t hear most normal people saying that there’s no way that Jews can be integrated into modern life and still be observant Jews the way they talk about Muslims.

    Actually, I do think it can be a problem for strictly observant Jews to be integrated into modern life, and from reading Ha’Aretz, a fair number of Israelis agree with that. Anything to the right of Modern Orthodoxy can be very tricky to navigate; if you belong to one of those communities, you mostly have to be a separatist from the rest of the world.

    Reform, and even most Conservative, Jews either aren’t observant of Jewish Law or are very liberally observant. They’ve found another way to connect to their tradition than through law. This makes us able to be fully a part of a diverse and modernized society.

    To the extent that I have a dog in that fight–which is to say, acknowledging that I am not a Muslim but that I passionately support intelligent, ardent, yet liberal religion–I’d like to see Islam move in that direction. Toward a movement that’s based on other aspects of the religion besides shari’a. There doesn’t seem to be a movement afoot to do so, which I don’t attribute to any intrinsic properties of the religion, but rather to historical factors. (Shorter version: Muslims have their own countries, albeit colonized; Jews had to live in the nations of others. Also there’s way, way more Muslims than Jews. So the costs and benefits of modernization are completely different.)

    This is my theory which is mine (cf. Monty Python); if any scholars of Islam/comparative religion think my information or logic is amiss, I’d welcome a critique!

  55. EG
    December 9, 2007 at 11:36 am

    the problem that moderates face is that they’re not considered Muslims by the radicals, and they’re considered evil by the new atheists.

    I can only assume that by “the new atheists,” you mean Christopher Hitchens, as he’s the only atheist I know who thinks that Muslims are evil. But he’s a nut job, to put it kindly, or a drink-sodden former Trotskyist poppinjay, to put it less so. He’s also anti-abortion and always has been. His thoughts on anything other than the non-existence of God do not reflect what atheists, new or old, think. Don’t blame the hostility of the west toward Muslims on atheists. We have enough problems of our own.

  56. EG
    December 9, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Unless Hirsi Ali is an atheist? In which case, that’s two.

  57. December 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Classic victim blaming. It’s not the fault of the embassy burners for their embassy burning. We should instead blame a few of Danish cartoonists.

    Ah, I see the disconnect here.

    Is it the fault of the original Danish cartoonists? No. When they originally published in September of 2005, there were a few peaceful protests, some filing of human rights complaints within Denmark, and that was about it.

    The problems started over a year later after the cartoons were re-published in various publications and rumors started growing about what the cartoons were “really” like and that there were supposedly far worse ones out there. The embassies weren’t set on fire until February of 2006, almost 18 months after the original publication.

    The riots weren’t the fault of the cartoonists by any means, but they certainly didn’t arise spontaneously from nowhere. They were nurtured along carefully until they finally happened long after the original publication. You can see the whole timeline here.

    Hmm, I wonder who out there has a stake in keeping their underclass constantly angry and convinced that even if they did try to adopt Western ways, they would be rejected by the West. Hmmm. It’s an unsolvable mystery, I guess. Better to blame the rioters than the people who manipulated them into rioting.

  58. Morningstar
    December 9, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Unless Hirsi Ali is an atheist? In which case, that’s two.

    she is.

  59. Sylvia
    December 9, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I think people seem to be forgetting that “Rule of Law” is the key here. The only difference between Darfur and Mississippi is that there are punitive measures in place for those who trangress. Those laws came to be because of Congress, the House, the Constitution, etc etc.

    Give me an instance of ” Islamic evil” (as if any one religion has it’s own version of evil) and I’ll show you a community with issues that go beyond religion (i.e. employment, poverty, lack of education, lack of representation, etc).

  60. Sylvia
    December 9, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    *erm..that was supposed to read “unemployment”…

    :: sigh ::

  61. December 9, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Mnemosyne, did you even read the Wikipedia entry you linked to?

    The cartoons were published in Denmark on 30 September 2005. The riots took place place in February 2006 in Syria Beirut, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Only 4-5 months after the original printing.

    You also forgot to mention that Danish imans, “dissatisfied with the reaction of the Danish Government and Jyllands-Posten”, toured the Middle East showing the cartoons in order to drum up support for thier censorship.

    Included in this dossier carried by the Danish imans were “more offensive” photos and drawings not published by the Danish newspaper.

    But regardless, you still seem to be blaming newspapers printing cartoons rather than those who reacted violently to them.

    Your last paragraph is a bit closer to the truth. Undoubtly rulers in some Muslim countries encouraged the rioting and allowed Danish embassies to be attacked.

    But don’t you see that by attacking the cartoons, the cartoonists and newspapers for printing them, you are in some ways agreeing with the leaders who encouraged the rioting.

    Surely, no matter how much a religion is mocked or ridiculed, there is no justification for a violent response.

  62. Shankar Gupta
    December 9, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    But, hey, I’m sure those death threats didn’t really count because everyone knows we don’t have religious fanatics who murder people in the US, right?

    The key difference being that, when religious fanatics in the U.S. kill people in the name of god, they serve life in prison with no possibility for parole.

  63. Pingback: The Debate Link
  64. Sylvia
    December 10, 2007 at 3:56 am

    You know it’s people like Shankar, Farhat, etc that forget that before the extremists tried to kill “foreigners” and apostates, they killed moderates. I want to know which one of them would have the balls to risk their lives and the lives of their families for the sake of “freedom”?

  65. December 10, 2007 at 6:18 am

    First off – I am by no means a scholar of Islam. I practice my faith to the best of my abilities and I READ about my faith. Which, if you knew anything about the way most Muslims live nowadays, is a pretty big deal (Muslim friends of mine are positively stunned when I tell them I’ve read, and continue to read, the Quran cover to cover).

    I think there are two important things to cover right now:

    1. Ali has not only just taken the verse out of context, she has completely failed to discuss the rather huge string attached when it comes to punishing adulterers. Most Muslims agree that the punishment for pre-marital sex is flogging; the punishment for marital infidelity is death by stoning. Pretty atrocious when you hear it put that way, right? How different would you feel if I bring in the part a lot of fundamentalists love to ignore: in order for any individual to be flogged/killed, FOUR adults must have witnessed the actual act of sexual intercourse.

    Correct me if I’m wrong – but unless you’re Paris Hilton or a porn star – that is not likely to ever happen.

    Furthermore, the Prophet encouraged Muslims to ‘hide their sins’ – the emphasis in his preaching was always on private repentance as opposed to public humiliation. I’m sure there are people out there who will disagree with me, but in light of everything I just mentioned, I’ve come to view the punishments for adultery as largely symbolic.

    2. I believe linear comparisons between the East and the West are unfair, but for the purpose of my argument right now, it helps to compare the European Middle Ages with the modern day Middle East in one crucial aspect: literacy. As it stands today, Arabic has two main forms – Modern Standard Arabic (the more ‘official’ Arabic of the news media and the written word) and colloquial Arabic (which differs in varying degrees depending on the region of the Arab world in question). With pretty staggering illiteracy rates in the region (30% for Egypt, where I’m from), Quranic Arabic – even loftier and more complicated in its form than the Modern Standard version – eludes a pretty huge segment of the population. This creates a problem remeniscent of the time when Bibles were only written in Latin: if the general population (the vast majority of whom are moderate Muslims) can’t read the single most authoritative text of the faith, what is to stop crazy fundamentalists from convincing them of their warped interpretation?

    The above becomes even more messy when you consider the rather awful economic and social conditions under which millions of people across the Middle East are living. Allow me to quote another statistic: 44% of the Egyptian population is living under the poverty line (defined as subsisting on less than 2 dollars a day). While I’m not, by an means, suggesting that poverty=terrorism, I recognize the desperation that could (and does) lead many people to ‘escape’ through religion. And because fundamentalists are often the ones bringing food/aid to these people, it is no surprise that crazy ideology is being doled out along with the bread.

    Bottom line: moderate Muslims are both the most numerous and the most silent. And until we step up to speak for ourselves, interpretations of our religion will be bastardized both by the Bin Ladens AND the Ayan Hirsi Alis of this world.

  66. December 10, 2007 at 6:22 am

    Oops – forgot to unbold. Chalk it up to how frustrated I was when I was writing!

  67. Shankar Gupta
    December 10, 2007 at 9:28 am

    You know it’s people like Shankar…

    Why am I lumped in here for making essentially the same point you made in #59? Also,

    I want to know which one of them would have the balls to risk their lives and the lives of their families for the sake of “freedom”?

    is ad hominem. “You wrong because you’re probably a coward.” Very incisive.

  68. December 10, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    The key difference being that, when religious fanatics in the U.S. kill people in the name of god, they serve life in prison with no possibility for parole.

    So do religious fanatics in Denmark — you did see the link about the verdict for Theo van Gogh’s killer, right?

    In Saudi Arabia, the religious fanatics have been put in charge of the government by the country’s absolute monarch. Is that the fault of Islam or the fault of King Abdullah, the guy in charge who won’t allow free elections?

  69. December 10, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Yes, I’m a bad counter — apologies. But my point stands that the original publication was not what caused the rioting — it was the repeated publication by right-wing journals in Europe.

    But regardless, you still seem to be blaming newspapers printing cartoons rather than those who reacted violently to them.

    I don’t blame the original newspaper, though their management probably could have been a little less confrontational in their “apologies.” That’s not the same as blaming the artists, however, which is what it seemed I was being accused of.

    Your last paragraph is a bit closer to the truth. Undoubtly rulers in some Muslim countries encouraged the rioting and allowed Danish embassies to be attacked.

    But don’t you see that by attacking the cartoons, the cartoonists and newspapers for printing them, you are in some ways agreeing with the leaders who encouraged the rioting.

    Not at all. Again, the problem was not the cartoons in and of themselves. The problem was the publishers who publicly made anti-Muslim statements and did much posturing about free speech while not allowing Muslims to respond.

    Not to mention that, again, the right-wing journals (IMO deliberately) handed those repressive governments in the Middle East exactly the tools they needed to get people whipped up into a frenzy and reacting against the cartoons rather than reacting against the government. As I said, it’s absolutely in the best interests of xenophobic politicians in both Europe and the Middle East to prevent people from thinking that they can get out from under the thumb of religious authorities and have more freedom in Europe.

    Here’s my metaphor about the riots: say you walk up to a black guy in a bar and start calling him a “nigger.” He tries to ignore you, he tries arguing back, but you keep going. So he hauls off and hits you.

    Should he have hit you? No, and he’ll probably get a fine for that, while your only punishment will be that punch from him. But you don’t get to go around claiming to be a pure victim for free speech, either, because you were being an asshole. The publishers were being assholes. That doesn’t mean they deserved death threats, but I don’t see any reason why I should view them as martyrs for free speech, either.

  70. Shankar Gupta
    December 10, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    So do religious fanatics in Denmark — you did see the link about the verdict for Theo van Gogh’s killer, right?

    Of course. Denmark is not under shar’ia. I want to put an ironic “Yet!!!!!” here, but I fear it would be taken for the real thing.

    In Saudi Arabia, the religious fanatics have been put in charge of the government by the country’s absolute monarch. Is that the fault of Islam or the fault of King Abdullah, the guy in charge who won’t allow free elections?

    A little from Column A, a little from Column B?

  71. December 10, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Great post.

    Oddly enough, the times had on December 1, 2007 published an article that started with:

    “The case of a 20-year-old woman who was sentenced to be lashed after pressing charges against seven men who raped her and a male companion has provoked a rare and angry public debate in Saudi Arabia, leading to renewed calls for reform of the Saudi judicial system.”

    All too often we see one side of the story and are never shown the other side and if we just took the time as you have done in this post – we’d see that often there is a reaction by the very people who live in these societies.

    I know that I’ve been asked to take a look at video translated by MEMRI in which a Saudi reporter had been badly beaten by her husband and how the husband justifies his beating women – but what kills me is that no one takes the time to notice how ridiculed the man is by the reporter (male) conducting the interview and beyond that this is a video from a broadcast in mainstream media.

  72. Morningstar
    December 10, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    1. Ali has not only just taken the verse out of context, she has completely failed to discuss the rather huge string attached when it comes to punishing adulterers. Most Muslims agree that the punishment for pre-marital sex is flogging; the punishment for marital infidelity is death by stoning. Pretty atrocious when you hear it put that way, right? How different would you feel if I bring in the part a lot of fundamentalists love to ignore: in order for any individual to be flogged/killed, FOUR adults must have witnessed the actual act of sexual intercourse.

    most wahabbi scholars believe that the punishment for adultery is death, because they are morons.

    where did they get that punishment from?

    it isn’t anywhere in the koran.

    it is a misrepresentation of several hadiths. the prophet applied mosaic (biblical) law to his people until there was a koranic verse saying otherwise.

    once the quran said that the punishment was 100 lashes, then that’s what the punishment changed into. as you correctly point out, however, the law was rarely if ever enforced due to the fact that you needed 4 witnesses. in fact, it was usually the adulterer who asked to be punished as a form of repentance for his crime.

    sharia has also been (purposefully?) misinterpreted with regards to apostates. there is no quranic law calling for the death of people turning away from islam. instead, it has been reiterated over and over that the punishment is only meted out by God, and that there is no compulsion in religion.

  73. Mnemosyne
    December 10, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Of course. Denmark is not under shar’ia. I want to put an ironic “Yet!!!!!” here, but I fear it would be taken for the real thing.

    And yet there are people (cough*MichelleMalkin*cough) who are absolutely, 100% convinced that the United States is going to be “taken over” by Muslims and all 300 million Americans are going to be forced to follow shar’ia law. I’d still like to know which navy is going to invade our shores, overthrow our government, and institute that, but no one seems to have an answer.

  74. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    The funny thing is that many people who have never studied a thing about Islam (and believe me I count my self in this category) like to offer fatwa’s and interpret religion for themselves. If you can’t speak and read Quranic Arabic and haven’t studied in an Islamic University, you have no business offering Fatwa’s.

    For people who suggest Islam should do away with Shariah…or not make it a focus in Islam. I completely disagree. Shariah is Islamic law, and ALL actions must be governed by Shariah. If you want a Muslim country, it will be governed by Shariah…

    On the issue of the publication in the newspapers. On one hand of course, Muslim behavior was completely unacceptable.. the type of behavior that was done just reinforces stereotypes about Islam. On the other hand, I think Freedom of the Press shouldn’t include the ability to mock religion…Freedom in my opinion should be used responsibly…. both are at fault.

  75. December 10, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Nora:

    Most Muslims agree that the punishment for pre-marital sex is flogging; the punishment for marital infidelity is death by stoning. Pretty atrocious when you hear it put that way, right? How different would you feel if I bring in the part a lot of fundamentalists love to ignore: in order for any individual to be flogged/killed, FOUR adults must have witnessed the actual act of sexual intercourse.

    It doesn’t make me feel better at all. It makes me feel worse that a vistor to this blog would defend corporal punishment for pre-marital sex and captial punishment for infidelity.

    I don’t care if your book calls for 100 witnesses, sex between consenting adults should never be punished, and certainly not by lashings or death.

    Correct me if I’m wrong – but unless you’re Paris Hilton or a porn star – that is not likely to ever happen.

    So according to the Koran, all porn stars and Paris Hilton should be flogged/killed? What an excellent way to run a society.

    Please someone tell me that Nora has misread the Koran. Or at least that her statement, that “most muslims” believe this, is wrong.

  76. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    It doesn’t make me feel better at all. It makes me feel worse that a vistor to this blog would defend corporal punishment for pre-marital sex and captial punishment for infidelity.

    I don’t care if your book calls for 100 witnesses, sex between consenting adults should never be punished, and certainly not by lashings or death.

    That is your opinion…. in Islam sex is supposed to occur between man and wife….. just because you have this viewpoint doesn’t mean it’s “correct”. If people are having sex with four or more people being witnesses… that (in the Islamic viewpoint) shows that society is very messed up. If men and women are supposed to cover their awrah in public, and at the same time you can find four witnesses to this act…. its a complete opposite.

    So according to the Koran, all porn stars and Paris Hilton should be flogged/killed? What an excellent way to run a society.

    Allah hu Alim I will not offer my own verdict on this. I will simply say that pornography and porn stars have absolutely no place in Islam….. so a punishment like this I don’t see why it’s so “weird”

    Your viewpoint is simply different.

  77. December 10, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    Mnemosyne

    Your metaphor does not apply to the Danish cartoons and the following riots.

    Firstly there is big difference between race and religion. The colour of your skin is something you are born with and cannot change. It involves no set of ideas. It is impossible, for example, to say all white people believe ‘x’. There is therefore nothing you can rationally critique about the colour of someone’s skin.

    Religion on the other hand is a choice. Why you may be brought up in a faith you can always leave it and choose another faith or no faith at all. Religion involves a set of ideas. For example, all Christians believe in one god. There are many rational grounds on which to argue with someone’s faith.

    In your metaphor the reason the racist would be punched is more to do with the fact he/she is invading the personal space of the black person. Even if the racist in your metaphor way yelling ‘cupcakes’ he/she would be acting like an arsehole. So I wouldn’t be defending someone who went up to a Muslim in a bar (if he could find one) and yelled at them for having a silly religion.

    There is a massive difference between printing a cartoon and yelling continuously at someone in a bar. Your attempt to equate them, and equate racism and criticism of religion, does not make sense.

  78. December 10, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Allah hu Alim I will not offer my own verdict on this. I will simply say that pornography and porn stars have absolutely no place in Islam….. so a punishment like this I don’t see why it’s so “weird”

    Well, “weird” isn’t the word I would select, but “wrong and fundamentally unjust” do the trick.

    Cultural relativism only goes so far. And I draw the line pretty solidly at empowering the state and/or religious authorities to kill or beat people as criminal punishment.

    AA’s viewpoint is indeed “different” and I agree with a lot of what s/he has said in this thread, but I also believe in the very fundamental human rights to life and bodily integrity, and I don’t think those are negotiable just because religious authorities dislike your sexual choices. And I have very little issue saying that it is flat-out wrong to flog, stone, or execute anyone.

  79. December 10, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Religion on the other hand is a choice. Why you may be brought up in a faith you can always leave it and choose another faith or no faith at all. Religion involves a set of ideas. For example, all Christians believe in one god. There are many rational grounds on which to argue with someone’s faith.

    Well… sort of. Religion is also cultural in a lot of communities. It’s not as simple as drawing a line between “believers” and “non-believers.” For example, there are a whole lot of people I know who identify as atheist or agnostic Jews — that is, they’re culturally Jewish and they identify with the Jewish community and diaspora, but they don’t believe in God. Clearly Islam is a religion, but it’s not totally divorced from perceptions of race, and in everyday life that matters.

  80. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Well, “weird” isn’t the word I would select, but “wrong and fundamentally unjust” do the trick.

    Cultural relativism only goes so far. And I draw the line pretty solidly at empowering the state and/or religious authorities to kill or beat people as criminal punishment.

    AA’s viewpoint is indeed “different” and I agree with a lot of what s/he has said in this thread, but I also believe in the very fundamental human rights to life and bodily integrity, and I don’t think those are negotiable just because religious authorities dislike your sexual choices. And I have very little issue saying that it is flat-out wrong to flog, stone, or execute anyone.

    In America we have the Death Penalty. Whether or not you agree with it is besides the point, the current prevailing ideology is that some crimes forfeit your “right to life”. In Islam a similar mentality is present. Some crimes have the punishment of death.

    Flogging was common in the British Army AND Navy. They found little problem with it at that time, that shows that morality is relative in this case….. there weren’t moral qualms at the time it was used…. and just because you have little issue saying flogging is “wrong” doesn’t mean it is. This is simply your perception.

  81. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    This might also clear up the Islamic Definition of Flogging.

    Question:
    The punishment for zina For unmarried person as in islam is
    “The fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allaah” [al-Noor 24:2]
    For this punishment to be applicable, Allaah has laid down the condition that the act be witnessed by four men whose word can be trusted; a confession does away with the requirement of four witnesses.
    1) My quistion is after 100 lashes the genrally( if person is of normal personality or not very strong) the man will remain alive or not ?
    2) How hard or powerful this lashes will be? is there any standard to apply so much strength on each lash?.
    Answer:
    Praise be to Allaah.

    Flogging in the case of hudood punishments is not meant to kill, rather it is intended as a form of discipline and rebuke, and to purify the person of sin. Hence many fuqaha’ have pointed out that it must be done with moderate force, and the person carrying out the punishment should not raise his arm so high that his armpit shows, and he should not use a new whip, or strip the person of his clothing unless it is something like a thick coat, which should be removed. The person being punished should be flogged standing, according to the majority of scholars; he should not be made to lie down and he should not be bound, and blows to the face, head and genitals are to be avoided.

    Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Rather the blows should be distributed all over the body, so that each limb will have its share, but most of them should be on the fleshy parts such as the buttocks and thighs, and the sensitive areas should be avoided, namely the head, face and genitals of men and women alike.

    He said concerning the person being punished that he should not be made to lie down, or be bound, and we do not know of any difference of opinion concerning that.

    Ibn Mas’ood said: It is not prescribed in our religion to make the offender lie down or to tie him up or remove his clothing. The companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) flogged offenders but there is no report that any of them made the offender lie down or tied him up or removed his clothing.

    His garment should not be removed, rather he is it acceptable if he is wearing one or two garments, but if he is wearing a thick coat, it should be removed, because if it is left on he will not feel the blows. Ahmad said: If winter garments are left on him, he will not feel the blows. Maalik said: His clothes should be removed [apart from that which covers the ‘awrah], because the command to flog implies that the blows should be directly to his body. We have the view of Ibn Mas’ood, and we do not know of any of the Sahaabah who differed with him. Allaah did not command us to strip the offender, rather he commanded us to flog him, so whoever is flogged through his clothes has been flogged.

    And he said: Once this is established, then the whip should be of moderate quality, not so new that it would cause injury and not so worn out that it hardly hurts him. It was narrated that a man confessed to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that he had committed zina, so the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called for a whip and he was given a broken whip. He said, “Better than this.” So he was brought a brand new whip. He said, “Something between these two.” Narrated by Maalik from Zayd ibn Aslam in a mursal report; and it was narrated from Abu Hurayrah in a musnad report.

    It was narrated from ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he said: Moderate blows with a moderate whip. Not so harsh as to kill and not so weak as to be no deterrent. He should not raise his arm completely, or keep it so low that it causes no pain. Ahmad said: His armpit should not show in any of the hudood punishments, i.e., he should not raise his arm so high, because the point is to discipline him, not kill him.

    From al-Mughni, 1/141-142.

    From the above it is clear that an ordinary person will not usually be killed by flogging; the purpose is to serve as a rebuke and discipline. And the believers should witness this punishment, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “The fornicatress and the fornicator, flog each of them with a hundred stripes. Let not pity withhold you in their case, in a punishment prescribed by Allaah, if you believe in Allaah and the Last Day. And let a party of the believers witness their punishment”

    [al-Noor 24:2]

    And Allaah knows best.

  82. December 10, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    And I disagree vehemently with the death penalty in the United States. It is unequivocally wrong according to most human rights theories.

    So if it’s “simply my perception” then who gets to decide right from wrong? If I decide that I want to kill you, is that wrong? What if you did something that I find offensive? What if I have community support being me? The rule of law?

    See where this goes?

    I agree that morality is relative, but I think it also has limits. And I think that as human societies have developed and human rights norms have advanced, our moralities need to adjust.

  83. Turkish Citizen
    December 10, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Replying to the topic of this thread, the answer is really quite simple. The moderate moslems are just scared to express their voice in fear of retaliation from the very active fundamentalists. In truth, the Koran is very open to interpretation when you discuss peace and moderation. It is stated that it is every moslems duty to spread the religion. The twisted interpretation is that it is allowed to do anything to achieve this. Unfortunately, these same fundamentalists violently oppose any modern day interpretation of the Koran that would bring Islam out of the middle age mentality. I do not want to sound racist but the fact that Islam is wrongfully owned by the backward tribes of the Arabian desert there is little to no chance that anything will change in the foreseeable future. First, these people have to be educated and modernized so as to leave their primitive tribal customs.
    As long as people are forced this twisted interpretation of Islam down their throats, there is no chance that these fundamentalists can coexist with those who do not share their views. It is just futile to argue with them.
    The western countries have a big responsibility there, they need to stop looking the other way when their interests are threatened and follow a solid and fair policy to bring that part of the world out of the middle ages.
    Fortunately we had someone like Ataturk who founded the modern Turkish republic as a secular and laic state (in this respect it is different than the US). Experience has shown that reasoning and negotiating with a fundamentalist ideology is not possible. It has to be exterminated by education over a period of several generations.

  84. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    And I disagree vehemently with the death penalty in the United States. It is unequivocally wrong according to most human rights theories.

    So if it’s “simply my perception” then who gets to decide right from wrong? If I decide that I want to kill you, is that wrong? What if you did something that I find offensive? What if I have community support being me? The rule of law?

    See where this goes?

    I agree that morality is relative, but I think it also has limits. And I think that as human societies have developed and human rights norms have advanced, our moralities need to adjust.

    This is one of the main reasons I’m Muslim. Human Morality is inherently flawed and relative…if I wasn’t Muslim I’d be giving the exact same defenses you are. However…. I think “God-given” morality is (in my opinion) not relative… since it never changes. Regardless of the time period…. a given crime will always have the same punishment.. Human Morality can arbitrarily decide that homosexuality is “immoral” or “moral” how can you say what is right? you can’t.

  85. December 10, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    “Cultural relativism only goes so far.”

    My feelings as well, after reading about flogging, and “Let not pity withhold you in their case…”

  86. December 10, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    This is one of the main reasons I’m Muslim. Human Morality is inherently flawed and relative…if I wasn’t Muslim I’d be giving the exact same defenses you are. However…. I think “God-given” morality is (in my opinion) not relative… since it never changes. Regardless of the time period…. a given crime will always have the same punishment.. Human Morality can arbitrarily decide that homosexuality is “immoral” or “moral” how can you say what is right? you can’t.

    Ok, but what about people who don’t believe in God, or in your God or your religion? Why should they have to be subject to your religious law?

    Also, God-given morality is not static. Just look at the variations in how Sharia is practiced between Islamic states — there are a whole lot of differences. So depending on God’s word doesn’t solve these issues.

  87. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Ok, but what about people who don’t believe in God, or in your God or your religion? Why should they have to be subject to your religious law?

    Also, God-given morality is not static. Just look at the variations in how Sharia is practiced between Islamic states — there are a whole lot of differences. So depending on God’s word doesn’t solve these issues.

    In America of course since it has Freed of Religion… if the majority doesn’t want lashing that’s fine with me. Islam doesn’t rule America, so I’m completely fine living in a country where morality changes with the times… or the death penalty is wrong. In a Muslim country governed by Shariah however, I go with the opinion I stated above.

    Also, Muslim countries that use Shariah (in my opinion) are very inept at doing so. A good example is the bear named Muhammad.

  88. Umar K.
    December 10, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    *Freedom

  89. Barbara Simpson-L.
    December 11, 2007 at 12:39 am

    I think it’s very sad to see her HUSBAND stands by her side, so who makes it okay for everybody else to judge if they weren’t eye witnesses? Or were one of these judges of others disguised as a pillow to be so sure…consult Allah first before judging another! If you don’t consult with Allah, then you have no fear of Him, and if you don’t, then you’re not praying 5 times a day! How dare anybody be so ignorant and backwards to judge another! Do you think the husband or the lawyer would have come forward to defend this young woman if she were a whore? Don’t you have mothers, sisters, or other women in your lives who have been a positive influence you love? Or are all women who surround you so ignorant and deserving to be treated like animals? Wake UP!

  90. Morningstar
    December 11, 2007 at 12:42 am

    For people who suggest Islam should do away with Shariah…or not make it a focus in Islam. I completely disagree. Shariah is Islamic law, and ALL actions must be governed by Shariah. If you want a Muslim country, it will be governed by Shariah…

    what is shariah?

    and which scholar’s version of shariah will a muslim nation be following? which sect’s interpretations will supercede? will the scholars be seperate from the rest of the branches of government?

    sharia cannot be forced upon from above, and in this day in age, with so many different beliefs so many different ways of even following islam, it is absolutely impossible to impose it. today’s society is so far removed from the society of the prophet, that it’s absurd to think that it would work right now. the prophet’s society actually wanted shariah, they were at a level where it worked for them.

    but it’ll never work in today’s world.

    the fact is, muslims are more free in the west to practice their religion than they are even in nations that trie(d) to implement sharia. you don’t need sharia law to pray 5 times a day, or to be honest.

  91. Erika
    December 11, 2007 at 12:52 am

    It’s very much like the reasoning in the olden days when the black community was expected to apologize for the bad behavior of any black person anywhere. In fact, when a black person, or a group of black people (the Louisville double murder comes to mind), attacks a white person, the community is still expected to apologize.

    It’s an impossible standard. But, you know what, it’s meant to be, because racists never like to cut their targets a break.

  92. Morningstar
    December 11, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Also, Muslim countries that use Shariah (in my opinion) are very inept at doing so. A good example is the bear named Muhammad.

    which is why it should never be implemented.

    the prevailing notion within the koran is “absolute justice”. in muhammad’s time, the jews of medina did not recognize his religious authority, but they did recognize his political authority. when they brought disputes to him, muhammad enforced judaic laws, not islamic law.

    but it’s absolutely impossible in today’s society to have a plethora of courts for hindus, jews, atheists, agnostics, whatever. you just can’t do it.

    a secular system provides absolute justice for all citizens.

  93. December 11, 2007 at 2:27 am

    Thank you for this post.

    There has been a lot of responses.

    You may keep a tab on IJTEMA for such issues.

    http://mezba.blogspot.com/2007/11/woman-arrested-for-naming-horse-after.html

    http://www.ijtema.net/2007/11/27/teddy-bear-crisis/

    indianmuslims.in also had some pieces on it.

    They are not the only ones. I have seen tens of responses. And I didn’t have to search for them.

    But I have two issues- why should CAIR or others be required to response to every issue around the globe?

    Second- the woman was not punished for being raped. She was punished for something else- a fact conveniently ignored by media. She was punished for being with her boyfriend and for going to the media.

  94. December 11, 2007 at 4:11 am

    Morningstar – thank you for saying everything I wanted to say.

    Australian Atheist. I actually want to thank you for pointing out a flaw in my argument. I wasn’t trying to say that Paris Hilton etc… should be flogged. I was trying to make the point that the system has attached so many rules to corporal punishment that, in effect, its use beyond a symbolic manifestation of how heinous the sin is has been proven virtually impossible.

    On another note, and as morningstar pointed out, ANY ruling within the Quran is only supposed to be implented upon people who identify themselves as practicing Muslims. But because so many ‘leaders’ manipulate this to suppress minorities, political dissidents etc…, I would never vote for an Islamist state – I don’t trust political leaders to use my religion in its proper form.

  95. Turkish Citizen
    December 11, 2007 at 6:03 am

    A secular and laic system to be sure.
    I would like to write a brief history from the Turkish perspective in the hope that it may help people in the west understand some things better.
    During the last 400 years Europe fought religious wars: the 30-Year-War, the 100-Year War, many massacres an finally in the 19th century Western and Northern Europe settled with the Christian churches: Both The State and the Church would co-exist in the public domain, but would be separate from each other and would not interfere with each other. In the United States, this was expressed as the separation of Church from State. That means that the Church would not get into politics, and the State would not interfere in religion. This was called “secularism”.
    In France, the Revolution of 1789 broke the backbone of the Catholic Church. There was no settlement with the Church. The Church was simply totally excluded from the public domain. The public domain belonged completely to the State. That was called “Laicism”.
    In order to understand why Ataturk chose Laicism for Turkey, we need to study a little history. In 1905 -1906 a class of General Staff officers, including Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), were worrying about the future of the Ottoman Empire. They were wondering why European states were flourishing while the Ottoman Empire was crumbling. They knew their own country well. So, they studied the European history of the last 300 years and read the books of the French enlightenment writers. At the end of this study, Mustafa Kemal reached the conclusion that to be fit to survive in the 20th Century, Turkey had to be just like Europe. That meant that Turks had to be educated. They had to learn to make their daily decisions based on science and not on religion, tradition, and superstition. Mustafa Kemal found that the Islamic religion was part of the problem: The Sheria that defined human relations had to be outlawed, women had to be emancipated, religious schools had to be closed and replaced by schools that teach math, science, Turkish, foreign languages, history, geography and philosophy. The Koran could not be discussed, or interpreted, it was considered an absolute truth. It states that all knowledge and science is contained in it, and there is no science outside it. This part of the Koran had obviously to be disregarded in order to do science. To the contrary, in science one had to question everything in order to find the truth and advance. Thus, Turks could not allow any part of the Muslim religion in the Public Domain, because in many cases it contradicted what the State schools were teaching.
    Secularism which was perfectly feasible with Christianity was impossible with Islam, because, if allowed to be equal with the State, soon Islam would take over the State. Islam just could not be tolerated in the Public Domain and Ataturk had no other choice than to choose Laicism for Turkey. A nation that is over 99 % Moslem could become a modern nation only by curtailing Islam to personal beliefs, by outlawing all Islamic human relations (Sheria, incl. polygamy, etc), and by excluding the religion from the Public Domain.
    The American press often has articles that Turkey is a proof that Islam and Democracy can coexist. It is simply not true. Democracy can coexist only with an Islam devoid of Sheria, and excluded from the Public Domain. It cannot coexist with the full Islam. President Bush the evangelist has a misguided conception such as “moderate Islam”, this makes just as much sense as being “moderately pregnant”.
    Laicism has been put into the Turkish constitution, because it is the guarantee of modernity and survivability in the modern world. That is why the Turkish military wants to preserve it at any cost.

  96. December 12, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Eventually got around to writing a post about our discussion here:

    But it requires four adult witnesses.

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