[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

What’s the difference between religious sectarianism, ethnic sectarianism, or political sectarianism? They can all become violent and result in wars.

Sectarianism by any other name is still sectarianism.

Let’s not blame humans’ penchant for sectarian conflict (the obvious conclusion) and instead start making ridiculous connections like “Allah must condone this”, or “it must be in Nordic peoples’ genes to turn into roving bands of marauding Vikings” (see how well that turned out?) or “Republicans are racist rednecks intent on committing genocide in Muslim nations, and anyone who has ever voted Republican automatically becomes complicit in this”.


you raise two different issues, and not to be blunt about it, but you do seem to be putting words in my mouth.

There’s a separate comment in here, quite good, about how that headline is essentially trolling, because in particular it uses rhetorical language and basically denigrates a diverse people’s godhead.

my comment should not be interpreted to agree with the trolling aspects of what are being said; in my opinion it’s a moot point since allah/god/whatever is just an idea, so the pleasing of that idea makes no sense anyway.

however, what i do raise is the issue that religion can be and is regularly used to enable violence. Further, in my opinion, it is one of the most effective motivators in taking what you very correctly identify as humanity’s penchant for conflict and motivating and directing it.

that picture, if seen at its core, is this: some kid who is probably depressed, sexually frustrated, having been misguided for a grand majority of his life, under/unemployed and most importantly completely lacking in opportunities to exercise self-empowerment, is systematically empowered until he is given the opportunity to become a shareholder in the universe’s largest pie of power. he cashes in his stock with an act of violence.

i love the south park episode about religious wars, where the hamsters/gophers fight these epic wars for science. it’s a coolheaded reminder that religion is not the cause of violence, the violence is inside all of us, it is a manifestation of our thirst for power that is likely travelling in our genetics.

having said that, however, religion is still dangerous and can still be singled out because it is so effective at tripping our other social systems and providing power to the disempowered (thus it can be both a positive or negative thing): it can do so without proof, without a visible effect, with nothing but an idea allowed to take hold and prosper in the mind. identity is the other great empowering agent, as your raise through reference to ethnic/political confllict.


however, what i do raise is the issue that religion can be and is regularly used to enable violence. Further, in my opinion, it is one of the most effective motivators in taking what you very correctly identify as humanity’s penchant for conflict and motivating and directing it.

I think ethnic and even tribal (which is nowadays called political) sectarianism has been far worse than religious sectarianism throughout humanity’s history. I don’t know of many who would disagree with at least ethnic sectarianism being worse than the religious kind.

So if ethnicity is such a huge motivator in violence, how about we blame DNA and evolution? Evil, evil things…

I’m being facetious but how about we blame all such ideas (ethnocentrism), which today encompasses nationalism.

Why isn’t anyone harping on the evils of nationalism? Which probably resulted in more deaths due to violence in one century than all religious wars combined. Even many religious conflicts boil down to ethnic or tribal/political/national conflicts at heart.

Reminds me of this game I used to play, Command & Conquer: Generals, which had an Al-Qaeda type faction versus the USA versus China. The Chinese troops would say “nationalism will bring us victory!” as they went into battle.

having said that, however, religion is still dangerous and can still be singled out because it is so effective at tripping our other social systems and providing power to the disempowered (thus it can be both a positive or negative thing): it can do so without proof, without a visible effect, with nothing but an idea allowed to take hold and prosper in the mind. identity is the other great empowering agent, as your raise through reference to ethnic/political confllict.

Identity is obviously stronger than religion, even many religious conflicts, as I said, boil down to identity (religious identity) conflicts at heart and aren’t truly because of any religious ideas.

I think religion is too high level of an idea or concept to be blamed for such low level behavior as simple violence. Ethnic or tribal sectarianism seem a better fit in most cases. Even the premiere example of religious violence in history, the Crusades, probably have more to do with other causes than purely religious ideas.


You raise a really excellent point. given our collective wealth of bloodshed, rape, pillaging and general family friendly fun, religion is probably a distant second when it comes to the reasons for said mayhem…

identity is a pretty core component in the politics of almost all major conflicts; but i think we are talking about two slightly different things (correct me if you disagree).

One is the politics of a conflict. That is, which side are we one, what are we fighting for, how do we define us vs. them and thus create a logical system for conflict.

Second is the agency that enables an individual to commit the acts of violence. In some cases, identity is enough. A soldier (in theory) is able to commit acts of violence simply because he is allied for something and against something else, but I think when you look at the individual actors in these scenarios, what is really enabling their violence and their freedom from fear of death is religion.

The crusades, and arguably every so called ‘religious’ conflict we are confuddled with these days, in reality are little more than the true and tried land grabs, wars for assets and in some cases simple identity politics, but the tool that enables the individual in these conflicts is very often religion. It is freedom from fear of death that enables the suicide bomber, enabled the crusader, and i would argue enables a lot of regular terrorists, freedom fighters, criminals, soldiers and you name it.

once there is just life, no invisible system to cash into, suddenly dying for an idea or for anything loses a great deal of value… it does not become completely devalued of course, some people are really willing to die for ideas, and these people can be great people or maniacs, but i would content that a great majority of ordinary joes need that magic safety net to enable their acts of war.

the two issues are thus conflated: while religion may not be the reason for a conflict, the use of religion is an important tool in these conflict nonetheless, because it is a simple, cheap and resource-free way to convince a person to kill and to die, in short to trip the systems that are in place in their mind that protect them from self-destruction.


Second is the agency that enables an individual to commit the acts of violence.

but the tool that enables the individual in these conflicts is very often religion.

You bring up good points except that as religion has faded away in the West, wars have not abated at all. The United States is involved in many wars for resources and control. There is a strongly vocal Christian contingent in the US heartland, strongly represented in the US’ armed forces, and you could argue that without it, the US would have no army willing to die overseas. It’s an arguable point.

But the Soviet Union also had such an army. And so does North Korea. And so does China. Lack of religion didn’t stop them.

I’m not sure what part religion had to play in the actions of Japan in World War 2, but those kamikaze pilots certainly didn’t seem inspired by Shintoism. And I’m not sure I buy into the idea that they were dying for their Emperor who took on a religious importance in their culture.

There are plenty of troops fighting for the US or Europe today (NATO) who don’t believe in God. What frees these people from the fear of death?


There are plenty of troops fighting for the US or Europe today (NATO) who don’t believe in God. What frees these people from the fear of death?

An excellent point and well taken. In the US, wars have not faded but the risk of dying in wars has. I think that creates a sort of gamble system for those who would become soldiers: chance of surviving is high, rewards are high, sounds like a game i can play… As soon as ‘shit got real’ in the current conflicts, army recruiting took a major nosedive…

As for China, USSR et al, and the kamikazes, I have no idea really… Ultimately for those one does have to get back to the simplicity of dying for an idea, and of course killing for an idea.

In China/Japan/Korea I wonder if their system of understanding life comes into play, i.e. drawing from buddhist ideas of reincartion, karma, the separation of spirit from the body etc. that helps trip that system, enable the soldier…


I didn’t respond further as I thought the point had been adequately made that religion or no religion, human violence would still exist and to the same extent it has and does.

Also, note that China and North Korea are communist countries (Buddhism is in vogue in China in the west and most definitely not in any official capacity if you’ve read up on the Chinese government’s history with Buddhists).

Who invented modern terrorism tactics like suicide bombing?

Ask the Japanese in World War 2 or the Tamil Tigers whom the FBI says pioneered the use of suicide belts in modern terrorism (where the Muslims learned it).

As terrorist groups go, it has quite a résumé:

Perfected the use of suicide bombers;

Invented the suicide belt;

Pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks;


Why is there terrorism?

People sometimes act shocked by terrorism when all it is is desperation in war. An outmatched opponent resorts to targeting civilians and other vulnerable spots in an attempt to sap the will of the larger opponent to fight. Why is there terrorism? Well, terrorism always exists in the context of the war in which it takes place. Contrary to popular belief, terrorism doesn’t just spontaneously come out of a political vacuum. Which war is it? How did it start?

For 9/11, you need to look at the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and Gulf War 1 and Osama Bin Laden’s relation to it. Also, one needs to analyze the history of Osama’s teachers and associates, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which case one needs to look at the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Sayyid Qutb and his life and his scholarly works in relation to traditional Islamic scholarship and place all this into its proper place and context. Once you’ve fully assembled the complete picture can you see what’s going on.

The Taliban are much easier to do this with. Afghanistan before Russia (ancient and early 20th century), during Russia, after Russia (Civil War), then take into account Pakistan’s ethnic and ideological kinship with Afghanistan, Pakistan’s relationship with India (don’t need to get too involved here because this is a ton of stuff to research in and of itself), and then finally… you can see the picture surrounding the emergence of the Taliban as a political movement in the 1990s, including their philosophy and motivations and the role of those in the runup to the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan.


How many Muslims are terrorists?

https://difaa0.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/how-many-muslims-are-terrorists/


Where are the moderate Muslims condemning terrorism?


Everywhere:

http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php

A post from a forum:

From the Taliban’s own backyard:

http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2008/06/terrorism-fatwa-india-islam

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080226/jsp/frontpage/story_8949471.jsp

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080602/jsp/jharkhand/story_9352455.jsp

Pakistani Deobandis:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4711003.stm

Almost all of Afghanistan is Deobandi, especially all the Pashtun. So both Karzai and Mullah Omar. Deobandis also make up hundreds of millions of people in the subcontinent alone and most South Asian Muslims in the West follow Deobandi clerics. So this was the closest link between the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan and mainstream Islam.

Needless to say, the rest of the entire Muslim world has already condemned terrorism.

And if you can, how do they intend to work from within their faith to change that? Send me one. Send me three.

Does she mean the scholars? All they can do is issue fatwas as emphatically as possible and teach their students not to get caught up in all this. That’s all they can do, really.

Also, Pakistan is a Muslim country. The Pakistani Army (and the country itself) has lost more people in the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda than the United States. Tell your mother that when people display such ignorance, it’s spitting in the face of all the people who sacrificed loved ones to this cause. In fact, Pakistanis are asking whatshe’s doing? What has she sacrificed? The Taliban aside, Al-Qaeda is purely the United States’ responsibility. That they found a safehaven in Afghanistan is also the US’ responsibility (even if the Taliban hadn’t come to power, Al-Qaeda and the former mujahideen would always have been welcome). What has she done? What has she sacrificed? Why does she bother dictating and lecturing to others when she herself likely hasn’t done squat?

The vast majority of the Muslim world is concerned with putting food on the table and putting their kids through school… safely. They don’t have time to sit on Fox News everyday and keep up to date with the latest propaganda, many don’t get time to follow the news at all except through word of mouth.

In fact, maybe she should watch Fox News more often. How many times had George W. Bush defended Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror in speeches? Plenty of times. The Saudis as well. The two countries usually picked on. How many times had President Bush, President Obama, Cheney, Biden, etc, everyone said that the war on terror is not a war on Islam and that terrorism had nothing to do with Islam? If she doesn’t trust either Republicans or Democrats, perhaps her most pressing concern isn’t Islam or Muslims but her own country and people…

[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

First, click here for the legal proof and history behind the ruling (as well as its applicability to non-Muslims).

Re: My view on the Salman Rushdie affair (in response to a question)

…my own opinion is that it’s hardly fair to apply laws outside of their jurisdiction to people who don’t accept them. We’ve all seen it first hand in the actions and speech of the United States and other Western countries (particularly lately with regards to Julian Assange). We obviously wouldn’t want to do that ourselves.

In this case, my opinion overlaps with that of the basic rulings in Islamic law (that it is applicable only under the jurisdiction of an Islamic state with a proper ruler and court system, and if someone doesn’t like it… they can leave and are not held to account against their will to a law system they do not agree with).

In the case of Rushdie, I honestly consider him an Islamophobe like any other who just gained notoriety because of the Iranian Ayatollah’s sensational fatwa.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) be thought police. Though what that means, I admit, will vary (for some, any sort of law against any sort of speech whatsoever is acting as thought police… even if it’s hate speech… an issue which came to light recently under the brouhaha in Europe over the Islamophobic cartoons). I define thought police as trying to police anyone’s personal freedoms but don’t include public behavior under that because then one enters the realm of the social contract (agreement with society on how to live together) and becomes subject to the views of the society around one’s self.


…my own opinion is that it’s hardly fair to apply laws outside of their jurisdiction to people who don’t accept them. We’ve all seen it first hand in the actions and speech of the United States and other Western countries (particularly lately with regards to Julian Assange). We obviously wouldn’t want to do that ourselves.

I’m not entirely sure I understand this statement. Are you suggestion that feelings and thoughts are considered to fall under territorial law, or that morality should be viewed relativistically based on geographic location? Or am I off completely?

In this case, my opinion overlaps with that of the basic rulings in Islamic law (that it is applicable only under the jurisdiction of an Islamic state with a proper ruler and court system, and if someone doesn’t like it… they can leave and are not held to account against their will to a law system they do not agree with).

Doesn’t this run contra to Islamic laws concerning apostasy? Genuine question, btw, not a “gotcha” response.

In the case of Rushdie, I honestly consider him an Islamophobe

In all honesty, I despise the word “Islamophobe.” First, Rushdie, of all people, certainly has good cause to be afraid of Islam– it has brought a great deal of suffering onto his family, and onto those who’ve worked with him. Second, to say that anyone who actively combats or speaks against something is “afraid” of it is painting with entirely too broad a stroke. I know very little of Rushdie the man, but I don’t really find such terms of discourse to be productive for anyone– even if he were a living embodiment of the word “Islamophobe,” it would be irrelevant. What’s important here are the ideas and moral/ethical standards behind the discussion.

I define thought police as trying to police anyone’s personal freedoms but don’t include public behavior under that because then one enters the realm of the social contract (agreement with society on how to live together) and becomes subject to the views of the society around one’s self.

Here’s the issue– in a truly free society, this holds true IN COMPLETE ABSENCE of hate laws and speech laws. What anyone has to say is subject to the views of the society in which its said… however, the only acceptable response is verbal, and takes place in the arena of ideas. No physical harm is visited, no use of force initiated. The moment a “social contract” concerning thoughts and speech is codified into law, however, you run into two primary issues: (1) You most certainly are becoming the thought police, and in doing so are created a true fascism– you’re justifying the use of force under threat of violence as a legal response to words. To anyone with an interest in living free, this is simply unacceptable. (2) Who “writes” this social contract, and decides what speech is offensive? How do we find such a person who is so enlightened and knowledgeable that he/she may decide not only what one may say, but what one may hear? Do not forget, it is the latter that is the most essential and important aspect of living in a society with completely free speech– the freedom to hear every opinion and piece of information, and decide for oneself what one believes or doesn’t believe.


I’m not entirely sure I understand this statement. Are you suggestion that feelings and thoughts are considered to fall under territorial law, or that morality should be viewed relativistically based on geographic location? Or am I off completely?

I believe morality should be viewed relatively based on culture. As it usually is.

Doesn’t this run contra to Islamic laws concerning apostasy? Genuine question, btw, not a “gotcha” response.

Not at all. Nobody’s stopping an apostate from leaving, and once the apostate leaves the state, they are as good as dead as far as the law is concerned. Pursuing them beyond the state’s borders is expressly prohibited (at least in the version of Sunni law followed in Turkey/Central Asia/the Indian subcontinent which I’m familiar with). Anytime the apostate says they are Muslim, they’re free to go. If Islamic law is followed to the letter, anyway. If it is, then the only reason an apostate would ever be standing trial would be if they wanted to (to set an example or become a martyr for their anti-Islamic cause).

Keeping in mind that modern notions of blasphemy and apostasy in today’s Muslim countries are usually excuses to settle personal grudges via corrupt government. For instance, the other story about the doctor in Pakistan who had charges filed against him for throwing out a business card with the name “Muhammad” on it. Ridiculous to say the least. I’m actually in Pakistan, and I can assure you, that guy probably made enemies with someone who had connections. If someone is somehow arrested for apostasy (a joke in today’s world considering how many apostates there are who just don’t go around advertising it) in Afghanistan, even if they said “oh, no, wait, I’m a Muslim, you’ve got it all wrong, let me go”, they probably wouldn’t be let go. Which contradicts Islamic law.

In all honesty, I despise the word “Islamophobe.”

I usually take that to be a warning sign that one harbors Islamophobic thoughts or sympathizes with such views. I’d use “anti-semite” had the Jews not already taken that word and excluded other semitic peoples and faiths from using it.

Second, to say that anyone who actively combats or speaks against something is “afraid” of it is painting with entirely too broad a stroke.

You’re taking it literally. Just as how “anti-semite” means “anti-Jew” and not literally anti-semite anymore (in which case, Islam and Arabs qualify). Islamophobe colloquially means anti-Islam, and arose from the definition of an irrational fear of Islam, the religion. Not a fear of some Muslims which could be justified and rational.

Here’s the issue– in a truly free society, this holds true IN COMPLETE ABSENCE of hate laws and speech laws. What anyone has to say is subject to the views of the society in which its said… however, the only acceptable response is verbal, and takes place in the arena of ideas. No physical harm is visited, no use of force initiated.

You’re really not making sense here. Name me any society and I’ll give you a few sentences you can shout to immediately get yourself arrested and beat down.

You most certainly are becoming the thought police,

As I’ve already said, if the action enters the realm of public behavior, then I no longer consider it behaving as the thought police. Obviously a thought preceded that action, as happens for all human action, but I don’t consider it an impingement on the personal freedom of thought that every human has.

Does someone who walks around a quiet neighborhood in the US at night while screaming things who is then arrested for disturbing the peace, who then starts screaming “THOUGHT POLICE! THOUGHT POLICE! YOU’RE NOT LETTING ME THINK FREELY!” really have a case? You’re free to think whatever you want until you become loud enough to bother others (past norms established by the society around you).

and in doing so are created a true fascism–

I don’t think fascism means what you think it means. I don’t mean that as an insult. The term is quite complicated, ambiguous, and is also contemporary in origin, used to describe 20th century political movements (and isn’t much applicable to anything else which came before).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

the term fascist has been used as a pejorative word,[76] often referring to widely varying movements across the political spectrum.[77] In political discourse, the term “fascist” is commonly used to denote authoritarian tendencies, but is often used as a pejorative epithet by adherents to both left-wing and right-wing politics to denigrate those with opposing viewpoints. George Orwell wrote in 1944 that “the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless … almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist'”.[78] Richard Griffiths argued in 2005 that “fascism” is the “most misused, and over-used word, of our times”.[34] “Fascist” is sometimes applied to post-war organisations and ways of thinking that academics more commonly term “neo-fascist”.[79]

The key points of fascism which completely contradict all Islamic ideologies is xenophobia and of course, anti-tradition/pro-modernity stances. These are all considered to be integral to fascism and no Islamic ideology can really fit that. It would be like trying to call a monarchy a fascist state. Besides, fascism excludes theocracy and is secular.

I do think that modern Muslim societies might be vulnerable to fascism, but then again… all current countries are due to the prevailing economic conditions, not least of all the US itself. But fascism in the Muslim world in the last few decades has happened, it’s called Ba’athism (the ruling party of Syria today, Saddam Hussein’s old party). Needless to say, they wouldn’t exactly be described as Islamists.

you’re justifying the use of force under threat of violence as a legal response to words. To anyone with an interest in living free, this is simply unacceptable.

As I said earlier, name any country, and I’ll give you a few sentences you can shout in public that would get you arrested in quick fashion.

As a Muslim, I’d love to be able to walk around in New York City while shouting “Allahu Akbar” but I can realistically accept this isn’t gonna happen without the police getting involved. Despite there being thousands of Muslims in that city.

Who “writes” this social contract, and decides what speech is offensive?

The majority of the people. Whether through outright voting (although I don’t think people vote on specific issues in any democracy today), or through tacit endorsement of an existing culture generated by those very people themselves.

Do not forget, it is the latter that is the most essential and important aspect of living in a society with completely free speech– the freedom to hear every opinion and piece of information, and decide for oneself what one believes or doesn’t believe.

There was no shortage of criticism of Islam in ancient Islamic theocracies. You seem to equate insults which have no relevance to any sort of intellectual process to actual criticism, debate, information.

Islamic theology itself arose out of philosophical discourse (kalam). Especially with non-Muslim philosophical/theological attacks on Islam. This would be the most serious and potent form of verbal/oral/literary criticism of Islam because it seeks to undermine the entire religion and has actually had success (in leading to the emergence of various sects which the orthodox would consider deviant). Yet aside from the politics of the time (which admittedly, involved jail and torture for pretty much anyone who didn’t see eye to eye with the government, including many scholars or clerics whose views later became the views of the government itself), the discourse took place… for centuries. People weren’t rounded up and executed or deported for their views. If that happened, there wouldn’t be a developed Islamic theology today. But could you draw obscene cartoons of Muhammad and make other such insults of Islamic symbols? No. Did this happen in Non-Muslim countries back then? All the time. Did Muslims care? No.

I don’t classify hate speech as something that should be protected under free speech legislation. I think I’ve said this already.

[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

Jumping right into the middle of a discussion… (I’ve extracted the parts relevant to the apostasy issue)

The law’s [in the modern day in certain Muslim countries today] mostly for show. It makes no sense in non-theocratic governments, it’s there to appease the segment of the population that is fundamentalist, but uneducated.

Also even within original Shariah law (at least the Hanafi school, which was used in both the Ottoman and Mughal empires) there are “loopholes” (not really loopholes if they’re intentioned to be as such). Anyone who apostates is free to do whatever they want aside from publicly announce their apostasy on the streets. Nothing’s stopping an apostate from leaving the country, and if they do that, they are as good as dead according to the government, and cannot be pursued outside of the state’s jurisdiction. That’s stated in clear terms in Hanafi legal texts.

If you apostate in a theocratic state and want to declare that publicly, and refuse to repent when given multiple chances to do so (all you need to do is just say you’re Muslim to avoid the punishment), then you’re getting exactly what you want. You’re dying to become a martyr for your cause. Most real apostates throughout Islamic history likely never did that. They probably just got up and left or just kept their beliefs to themselves and lived out their lives in the same place.

Also, last I remember, the Ottoman Caliphate rescinded the death penalty, but I don’t remember if it was for apostasy or adultery. [Note: It was for apostasy]

There’s wiggle room in the enforcement of Shariah, or there traditionally has been. The Muslim world’s been without real Shariah since the Ottoman Empire’s days and the demand for it mostly comes from poor areas where secular justice has proven to be a myth. So these people don’t know anything of history or Shariah itself, just the basics they’ve heard from other people (they mostly don’t understand Arabic either so it’s not like they’re getting it from the Qur’an or Hadith).


So basically, “don’t ask don’t tell” for apostates, with a special little “and if you insist on telling anyway, we kill you” clause. And you don’t see that as a major problem.

Quite telling, really.


So basically, “don’t ask don’t tell” for apostates,

Yes, which is a far cry from your narrative of Mullahs hunting down apostates with swords. Don’t try to abandon your position now, we all read your posts and your implications.

Btw, I love this analogy, I’m going to use it from now on to simplify the explanation.

clause. And you don’t see that as a major problem.

I definitely see it as a major problem if it’s instituted in a secular state or even in a theocratic Muslim state today.

But oh wait, we’re just jumping to conclusions and putting words in other people’s mouths here, aren’t we?

See, even most conservative clerics from the Muslim world today would actually not be in favor of enforcing such a punishment. Oh, they all want it on the books to act as a deterrent, but in their own lectures and writings they acknowledge that massive chunks of the population are inadvertently apostating from (and sometimes reverting to) Islam all over the place. If you actually tried to enforce this law today, it would be un-enforceable. It would be tantamount to oppression and tyranny.

And these are the most conservative clerics, including those higher up on the same chains as the clerics followed by most fundamentalists (such as the Taliban who are still Sunnis and follow Sunni scholars although it should be noted they deviate to follow their own opinions on legal/political issues under the excuse that their situation is “special” and requires new rulings).

So like most situations where you actually have to govern people, things become more complicated and not just black and white. The most conservative Muslims still within the scope of Sunni Islam want to institute the law to literally scare people away from apostating, but don’t want to actually enforce it (aside from cases where people do it publicly for political reasons and are pretty much hoping to become martyrs for their political cause).

What’s interesting is how Pakistani clerics (who have a much older and richer tradition of scholarship and have many extremely highly ranked clerics… they probably have thousands of Sunni equivalents to the Shi’ite position of ‘Ayatollah’ which in Sunni Islam is a Mufti… my own aunt is one, actually) differ from their cousins on the Afghan side of the border, yet both don’t question the other. Because in Pakistan, there’s 170 million people and apostasy is common and the country has mostly secular law, and there’s all sorts of stuff. There’s a huge split even within the Sunni Hanafi camp, there’s all manner of different flavors of Muslims and sects. In Afghanistan, like 90% of the population is one sect (Sunni, Hanafi, following the Deobandi interpretation). Like 90% of the population follows one culture. Even the US-backed Afghan government of Karzai is instituting Shariah laws that the US government told us were abhorrent under the Taliban regime.

I’m implying you and many other Westerners don’t think for yourselves. The US government and its unofficial media arms dictated to you what you should be upset about, which you all readily obeyed, but when their behavior changes, you lag behind in getting with the program. So didn’t you get the memo? Even the most harsh interpretation of Shariah is okay by Western government, media, and military principles even if you’re personally at odds with them. Why would you listen to them when they tell you one thing, claim that you were thinking for yourself (when you weren’t, because most Westerners knew jack about Islam before 9/11), then turn around and stop listening to them when it no longer suited your fancy? Curious.

[…]

When they [the conservative/fundamentalist clerics] discuss Shariah they seem to acknowledge that sanctioned killing implies sanction only when it’s protecting other human life. The death penalty is an extreme way to keep social order in extreme cases (basically, “once we have a homogeneous Muslim society that is ideal then we institute this law and enforce it to preserve said society and limit any actual executions”). They understand this. This is the modern interpretation of apostasy laws by the most conservative Sunnis in the world.

[…]

As for how those conservative clerics see the apostasy law in light of its original historical context. In a theocratic state, when you undermine the state religion, you undermine everything from the basis of citizenship to the mode of government, to, well… everything. Doing so promotes chaos and anarchy and must be harshly dealt with in a preventative manner. I mean, aren’t these the reasons that Westerners call for the head of Julian Assange? Yet Islamic law still goes with a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy even under the most ideal situations (i.e, medieval heyday… theocratic empire, where apostasy really was a big deal… because people often didn’t become atheists, they switched to religions which had their own states… Christianity meant allegiance to the Papacy which was waging a very real war against the Islamic states… in this context, if you apostated and became a Christian, it very well could be considered treason even by modern modes of thought… yet Islamic law still persists with the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, even in this critical situation). Looks like some turbaned Mullahs make more sense than some Western leaders (by some, I mean all). Can you imagine if someone was allowed in America to say “I side with the Taliban”? They’d probably be immediately placed on a watchlist. If they actually were in Afghanistan (out of the view of your media’s eyes) they would be lynched, tortured, possibly killed by the US army or their Afghan allies. That is the recipe for your culture. A big helping of hypocrisy with a pinch of sleight of hand.


Yes, which is a far cry from your narrative of Mullahs hunting down apostates with swords. Don’t try to abandon your position now, we all read your posts and your implications.

My original position was what it still is, and what has been corroborated by what you wrote: a complete lack of religious freedom, under threat of death, in over half a dozen Muslim countries.

I definitely see it as a major problem if it’s instituted in a secular state or even in a theocratic Muslim state today. But oh wait, we’re just jumping to conclusions and putting words in other people’s mouths here, aren’t we? See, even most conservative clerics from the Muslim world today would actually not be in favor of enforcing such a punishment. Oh, they all want it on the books to act as a deterrent, but in their own lectures and writings they acknowledge that massive chunks of the population are inadvertently apostating from (and sometimes reverting to) Islam all over the place. If you actually tried to enforce this law today, it would be un-enforceable. It would be tantamount to oppression and tyranny. And these are the most conservative clerics, including those higher up on the same chains as the clerics followed by the Taliban (I’m referring specifically to Pakistan, where I am now, and where I have lots of family). So like most situations where you actually have to govern people, things become more complicated and not just black and white. The most conservative Muslims still within the scope of Sunni Islam want to institute the law to literally scare people away from apostating, but don’t want to actually enforce it (aside from cases where people do it publicly for political reasons and are pretty much hoping to become martyrs for their political cause).

Right. So they don’t want to enforce the law unless people actually break it (including the chance to repent and all, which is an integral part of the Shariah version). And because of that, you have no problem with it.

That leaves us with… you having no problem with having the death penalty for apostasy. Gotcha.

When they discuss Shariah they seem to acknowledge that sanctioned killing implies sanction only when it’s protecting other human life. The death penalty is an extreme way to keep social order in extreme cases (basically, “once we have a homogeneous Muslim society that is ideal then we institute this law and enforce it to preserve said society and limit any actual executions“). They understand this. This is the modern interpretation of apostasy laws by the most conservative Sunnis in the world. You apparently don’t (because you’re avoiding the issue when I say that Sudan and Afghanistan have more pressing concerns than apostasy laws). Now, since I don’t want to be sticking words in your mouth (I don’t want to descend to your level), how about you clarify the issue here? Is that really your position? That apostasy laws are more important than the fact there are ongoing wars (even genocides in Sudan’s case) in these countries?

Bolded for emphasis.

Their goal, as interpreted by you: create a homogeneous Muslim society, and execute those who disturb the order by voicing opinions that are deemed incompatible with Islam.

And, again, you apparently support this.

As for how those conservative clerics see the apostasy law in light of its original historical context. In a theocratic state, when you undermine the state religion, you undermine everything from the basis of citizenship to the mode of government, to, well… everything. Doing so promotes chaos and anarchy and must be harshly dealt with in a preventative manner. I mean, aren’t these the reasons that Westerners call for the head of Julian Assange? Yet Islamic law still goes with a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy even under the most ideal situations (i.e, medieval heyday… theocratic empire, where apostasy really was a big deal… because people often didn’t become atheists, they switched to religions which had their own states… Christianity meant allegiance to the Papacy which was waging a very real war against the Islamic states… in this context, if you apostated and became a Christian, it very well could be considered treason even by modern modes of thought… yet Islamic law still persists with the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, even in this critical situation). Looks like some turbaned Mullahs make more sense than some Western leaders (by some, I mean all). Can you imagine if someone was allowed in America to say “I side with the Taliban”? They’d probably be immediately placed on a watchlist. If they actually were in Afghanistan (out of the view of your media’s eyes) they would be lynched, tortured, possibly killed by the US army or their Afghan allies. That is the recipe for your culture. A big helping of hypocrisy with a pinch of sleight of hand.

So you’re saying that current laws forbidding apostasy under penalty of death are okay because Christianity during the Crusades was really quite awful, Americans don’t like Julian Assange and saying that you side with the Taliban in America will get you placed on a watchlist?

What?

And you equate this garbled nonsense with the whole of western culture?


My original position was what it still is, and what has been corroborated by what you wrote: a complete lack of religious freedom, under threat of death, in over half a dozen Muslim countries.

And my original response still stands. That at least two (was it three?) of them are Wahhabis who tend to be all for the lack of religious freedom and against the interpretation of Shariah in modern constraints. Two others are warzones.

Right. So they don’t want to enforce the law unless people actually break it (including the chance to repent and all, which is an integral part of the Shariah version). And because of that, you have no problem with it.

No, they don’t want to enforce it precisely because people are breaking it. The law is to scare people. Muslim clerics have traditionally used it as a bluff, but now they’re being called on it.

Most of the conservative clerics themselves say about Pakistan that this is a country not fit for Shariah.

How do you execute people for apostasy if that could mean tens of millions of individuals? Something’s wrong there.

It’s akin to the situation where ‘Umar, the second Caliph, rescinded the amputation punishment for theft during a period of drought/famine.

At this point you can go ahead and mock/ridicule Muhammad’s best friend and father-in-law (which is akin to insulting Muhammad himself) for not sticking to your preconceived notions of what Islam should be (you’re constructing an Islam to dislike solely for the purpose of disliking it), but that’s kind of silly.

Maybe Islam isn’t what you want it to be? In this case, for the better.

Their goal, as interpreted by you: create a homogeneous Muslim society, and execute those who disturb the order by voicing opinions that are deemed incompatible with Islam.

Voicing an opinion? Changing your religion in a theocratic state is more than voicing an opinion. It’s revoking your own citizenship and depending on the religion to which you switch, announcing an allegience to a foreign state (as was the case back then).

What is a theocracy? What is its relationship to religion?

These have very clear cut answers.

You might shun theocracy but it’s in the West’s own history and leading Western countries to this day acknowledge it is a system of government that can function just fine (owing to the fact that they seek close alliances and relationships with theocratic countries like Saudi-Arabia).

Again, you seem to take issue with the death for apostasy on principle. I don’t. To me, it made sense… in the 7th century. Even the 8th. The 9th, the 10th, and so on. Until the Ottomans (the Sunni Caliphate) stopped making an issue of it in the 19th century.

I’m trying to show you how it made sense in its time and in its place. I’ve already stated that neither I, nor the vast majority of the most senior conservative Sunni clerics in places like Pakistan where I have direct experience, do not think this is either the time or the place for re-enforcing it.

However their goal is to turn Pakistan into a true “Islamic Republic” (a government by Muslims for Muslims) which is a new and experimental take on the whole democracy thing (Iran kind of set the standard for this with its semi-democratic theocracy). They’ve even formed political alliances with Shi’ites, Sunnis, Wahhabis (who have their own distinct political organization here), and other sects joining to form one big religious political coalition seeking to implement more Shariah laws through democratic vote. It overlaps with their idea that Shariah is only for people who want it. If the people want it, they vote us in and we push it through.

If you can’t recognize that the world was different just 200 or 300 years ago than it is now, you have some serious, serious issues. The apostasy law has not been seriously implemented by a Muslim state in over a hundred years (more like at least a hundred and fifty) anywhere except during the 1996-2001 rule of the Taliban, during which they must have executed something like a couple of apostates, in a country of tens of millions of people (owing to what I described earlier as the cultural, religious, even theological homogeneity of Afghanistan’s population… in strong contrast to Pakistan, the best comparison for Afghanistan).

The best proof of this is the fact that we’re talking about handfuls of invidiuals when it’s common knowledge that the number of people who convert away from Islam is much, much, larger. There should be at least 20 to 50 million dead people in the last 150 years just from apostasy executions if it were a serious phenomenon.

Instead, the Sunni Caliphate of the Ottoman Empire was inviting “infidel” Westerners in to remodel its government and armed forces! To even serve as commanders, generals, or admirals.

The other Sunni government of the time, the Mughal empire, even had an emperor that apostated.

I’m going to quote the Kirkpatrick Doctrine,

Although most governments in the world are, as they always have been, autocracies of one kind or another, no idea hold greater sway in the mind of educated Americans than the belief that it is possible to democratize governments, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances…. (But) decades, if not centuries, are normally required for people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits.

Even the people you now claim to oppose make more sense than you! [The opponent had previously mentioned they were not American and were opposed to American foreign policy but in this case they make even less sense than the staunch conservatives in old American governments like that of Reagan’s]

So you’re saying that current laws forbidding apostasy under penalty of death are okay because Christianity during the Crusades was really quite awful, Americans don’t like Julian Assange and saying that you side with the Taliban in America will get you placed on a watchlist?

I’ve elaborated my position before, several times. It seems in your zeal to reply as quickly as possible, you’re not reading my posts fully. This is, to be frank, lame.

I’ll requote myself,

I’m trying to show you how it made sense in its time and in its place. I’ve already stated that neither I, nor the vast majority of the most senior conservative Sunni clerics in places like Pakistan where I have direct experience, think this is either the time or the place for re-enforcing it.

As for my position on just putting the law on the books, I’m not sure. As a person living in Pakistan, I couldn’t care less. It’s a part of Islam so why should I object? On principle, I don’t disagree with it, it’s a part of the religion. However, there are Islamic grounds to objection. Half-assing Shariah (with parallel court systems, a divided and sectarian populace, general ignorance about Islam, and rampant poverty/illiteracy) has often led to abuses and oppression/tyranny, and on those grounds alone, I actually think I could make for a pretty reasonable argument or case against even the enacting of the law to any religious cleric on the planet and force them to concede my point. At worst they’d just acknowledge that we both agree on a problem but have differing solutions (well they have a solution, I don’t, I’d just object to theirs).

That’s the difference between someone who values learning, knowledge, thinking, and human empathy over blind adherence to one’s own value system (like you’ve been doing).

Which is also why opinions like mine were used when shooting down bills to reinstate the apostasy law that keep coming up before the Pakistani parliament, by a country that is actually overwhelmingly in favor of it (except the populace doesn’t realize that apostasy is not just converting to Christianity… converting inbetween Islamic sects would qualify too… if they knew this, and knew the potential for abuse, they’d shut up, but they are quite uneducated in religion).

Opinions like yours? Useless.

What?

And you equate this garbled nonsense with the whole of western culture?

The ones with the biggest armies that dictate the economic and military policies of the rest of the West have all called for Assange’s arrest, with certain domestic political elements (that are part of the government) calling for his execution.

Yes, it’s the whole of the West as far as its government or army goes, even if there’s a small but vocal minority arguing to the contrary (most polls indicate Americans agreed with their government and there are 300 million Americans, they dominate the demographic of Westerners).

You assume I’m going to do like you and say “well some vocal and influential Westerners do these wrong things but so many are not like them… just like Muslims!” except Westerners live in democracies, most polls show they agree with their governments, they actively elect their governments into power and continue to support them.

ALL OF WHICH are luxuries the Muslim world DOES NOT have (dictators and the like).

I mean, if your governments are that messed up that they totally do not represent the will of the people, shouldn’t fixing that be a full time 24-7 priority? Even before simply working, eating, and supporting your own family? Shouldn’t you all be taking to the streets in violent revolution? Give me liberty or give me death and all that, yeah?

TL;DR To reject the punishment of death for apostasy on principle (meaning, saying that the Prophet (saw) was wrong when he himself used it) would in fact make one an apostate (or close enough), so it’s not something Muslims can do. All we have room (considerable room, in fact) to maneuver in is the enforcement of the law, even leading to a complete moratorium on enforcement (which there has been plenty of historical precedent for). So putting the law on the books… not so much of an issue for a Muslim (because no one is going to cross the Qur’an or the Hadith), except where it relates to how the law would be enforced (because if implemented, it could violate numerous injunctions of the Qur’an and Hadith… and when that happens, you should be questioning the entire situation to begin with, because Shariah is meant for Muslim societies and the society in question might not actually be one).


Opponent stopped responding.


Second Discussion

Just a small excerpt

Nobody’s stopping an apostate from leaving, and once the apostate leaves the state, they are as good as dead as far as the law is concerned. Pursuing them beyond the state’s borders is expressly prohibited (at least in the Hanafi school of law followed by over 40% of Sunnis and popular in  Turkey/Central Asia/Indian subcontinent). Anytime the apostate says they are Muslim, they’re free to go. If Islamic law is followed to the letter, anyway. If it is, then the only reason an apostate would ever be standing trial would be if they wanted to (to set an example or become a martyr for their anti-Islamic cause).

Keeping in mind that modern notions of blasphemy and apostasy in today’s Muslim countries are usually excuses to settle personal grudges via corrupt government. For instance, the other story about the doctor in Pakistan who had charges filed against him for throwing out a business card with the name “Muhammad” on it. Ridiculous to say the least. I’m actually in Pakistan, and I can assure you, that guy probably made enemies with someone who had connections. If someone is somehow arrested for apostasy (a joke in today’s world considering how many apostates there are who just don’t go around advertising it) in Afghanistan, even if they said “oh, no, wait, I’m a Muslim, you’ve got it all wrong, let me go”, they probably wouldn’t be let go. Which contradicts Islamic law.


Third Discussion

Here are a series of lectures by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf entitled “The Science of Shariah” which discuss the higher objectives (maqasid) of Shariah or what’s often known as “the spirit of the law”.

There isn’t a single government in the world today with a real apostasy law unless you want to count perhaps Somali Islamists or the Taliban, and those are not real recognized governments.

The Hudud laws in Shariah can only be implemented by an Islamic government, and according to many Islamic scholars, only a Caliphate (as opposed to say some sort of Islamic Republic or other hybrid type).

The Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) was the seat of the Sunni Caliphate until the 1920s when Turkey abolished it during a program of secularization. That was the Caliphate tracing its way back to Egypt, the Abbasids, the Ummayads, the Khulufa Rashidin, and prophet Muhammad’s Islamic city-state in Medina.

The Ottoman Caliphate abolished the apostasy punishment in 1839.

From Newsweek:

“The Ottoman Caliphate, the supreme representative of Sunni Islam, formally abolished this penalty in the aftermath of the so-called Tanzimat reforms launched in 1839. The Sheykh al-Islam, the supreme head of the religious courts and colleges, ratified this major shift in traditional legal doctrine. It was pointed out that there is no verse in the Qur’an that lays down a punishment for apostasy (although chapter 5 verse 54 and chapter 2 verse 217 predict a punishment in the next world). It was also pointed out that the ambiguities in the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet) suggest that apostasy is only an offense when combined with the crime of treason. These ambiguities led some medieval Muslims, long before the advent of modernisation, to reject the majority view. Prominent among them one may name al-Nakha’i (d.713), al-Thawri (d.772), al-Sarakhsi (d. 1090), al-Baji (d. 1081), and al-Sha’rani (d.1565). The debate triggered by the Ottoman reform was continued when al-Azhar University in Cairo, the supreme religious authority in the Arab world, delivered a formal fatwa (religious edict) in 1958, which confirmed the abolition of the classical law in this area. Among radical Salafis and Wahhabis who do not accept the verdicts of the Ottoman or the Azhar scholars, it is generally believed that the majority medieval view should still be enforced.”

However, due to the decentralized nature of Islam and the lack of a “clergy” class, even the Caliph is more of an “Executive Branch”, and any number of scholars are free to reinstitute or revive old rulings (in a theoretical Caliphate in the case of apostasy).

The “apostasy only as treason” view is pretty much the effective majority view of all Muslims today, because as I mention in a reply below this, instituting any kind of punishment for apostasy at this point, with all the sects of Islam that exist, is pretty much impossible and cannot occur without massacring a ton of people. Something the original law was never used as a pretext for (the same reason the Ottomans reverted to the other old ruling). Even all the Salafis, Wahhabis, terrorists, everyone, will say that while death for apostasy is a part of Shariah and wasinstituted, it can no longer be used (it is literally impossible to implement outside of a very small scale such as Somalia or Afghanistan, even Pakistan couldn’t enforce it). What happened? Islam fractured into a ton of small sects. A situation that did not exist during its early years to the same extent that it does now. The only way to actually really bring it back is via some new ruling that is invented to make it possible (meaning, “modern” Islam would have to make it possible by inventing a new, more specific law, as “traditional” Islam has made it impossible… some Wahhabis/Salafis might attempt to do this however Sunnis and Shi’ites stick to “traditional” and Sunnis no longer engage in ijtihad, making inventing new rulings extremely difficult). The other option is to actually start committing genocide (that’s sarcasm).


so do you agree that, should there be a caliphate, it would follow Islamic law, which would take seriously the decree of the Prophet as transmitted in the following hadith:

Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17:

Narrated ‘Abdullah:

Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

Or, in other words, doesn’t the prophet clearly state that apostates may according to the law be killed? If so, I assume that this would be incorporated into Islamic law.


Would it take it seriously? Absolutely. Who’s to say what ruling it would actually enforce though? Especially in light of the abolishment of the penalty by the last Caliphate.

There are other factors which could be used to predict the behavior of a possible Caliphate depending on environmental factors (since even if the law is one thing, the Caliph is free in his enforcement of the law to actually not enforce the law).

The most sound observation seems to be that, the larger and more “legitimate” the Islamic government, the more likely it will liberally enforce laws. But when it’s imposed by a group like the Taliban or Al-Shabab in environments like wartorn Afghanistan or Somalia, they’ll more likely stick to conservative rulings.

Even that can be further qualified by more observations. For instance, the Muslims over the border in Pakistan, are doctrinally identical to Afghanistan’s. Sunni sect, Hanafi legal school, and of those, about half are of the same Deobandi movement. That’s Afghanistan’s flavor of Islam. This same strain is very well represented amongst Pakistan’s populace and the vast majority of clerics/scholars from this movement are in Pakistan. Yet an apostasy law has been repeatedly shut down whenever it’s come up in Parliament. In Pakistan, it’s a case of religious parties trying to appeal to their conservative bases, which are similar to the Afghans, but only making a show out of it. In actuality, such a law would be unimplementable in a country like Pakistan.

Unlike Afghanistan, which has a cohesive Islamic identity (an overwhelming majority of Sunni-Hanafi-Deobandis) Pakistan has a billion different sects. Even the Sunni-Hanafis are split down the middle between Barelwi and Deobandi and they’ve been at each other’s throats before. Already some Barelwis have used the existing blasphemy law in Pakistan against some Deobandis, despite both being Sunni-Hanafis (and despite I think Deobandis writing the law!). Were an apostasy law ever to be instituted, half the country would literally be calling for the other half’s execution, because they don’t consider each other Muslim, but apostates. Sunnis, Shi’ites, Ismailis, etc would all claim the other should be executed in general on top of that. There’s just too many different versions of Islam. This is reflected in the Pakistani government’s implementation of Shariah, called the “Nizam-e-Adl” regulations which state that each sect technically gets their own Shariah courts and judges. How could you possibly implement a punishment for apostasy in such an environment? Even the religious scholars recognize it would be impossible. The common people do not, however, because as they see it, there’s only one version of Islam. Their version. Which is why you see such high numbers of people in Muslim countries who say they would not be opposed to an apostasy law. Those people are simply refusing to deny what they feel is a part of the religion, made easier by the fact that the possibility of that law ever being seriously implemented on a large scale basis is very remote.

So, were a Caliphate that is larger than say, a few Pashtun or Somali tribes to re-emerge, it would likely uphold the ruling of the Ottomans out of necessity. This is likely the main reason that the Ottomans even made such a ruling in the first place. That ruling is not new, it’s as old as the other more popular ruling in favor of punishing all apostasy cases. But a time came (around the 19th century) when apostasy became so common that punishing it was no longer feasible, even as a deterrent. There existed a ruling for the Ottomans to fall back on.

As for the Caliph suspending enforcement of laws as he sees fit, this has the highest precedent in Islamic history.

The second Caliph, ‘Umar, temporarily imposed a moratorium on the penalty of amputation for theft during a period of drought (because people might steal just to feed themselves or their families and with theft becoming more common you’d suddenly be lopping off the hands of a large number of people which means something has gone horribly awry, as that is tyranny and oppression something which itself must be fought by Shariah).

The practice of falling back on minority rulings or even switching legal schools also has quite a bit of precedence, even right in Sunni-Hanafi-Deobandi history (of which the Taliban are a purist offshoot).

The hadith you’ve quoted is addressed by the quote about the ruling of the Ottomans.

I should add, there’s also the precedent of the Apostasy Wars immediately after the Prophet’s (saw) death when various tribes who had only been Muslim for a short and had converted out of political expedience immediately apostated. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, went to war with them. The apostasy law was not instituted as a personal execution, but rather the rules of war were enforced in which case the apostates were treated as prisoners of war and not executed, and the apostates who died did so as members of their tribes on the battlefield.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ridda_wars

In fact, it is on the basis of Abu Bakr’s actions that the current apostasy law (as written several centuries ago) says that a person who does not know the basic theological doctrines of Islam cannot be held accountable for apostasy (because these tribes basically gave allegiance to Muhammad as a political ruler, knew little about Islam, then went to war with the Islamic city-state of Medina after his death by rebelling against its control, then re-pledged allegiance to Muhammad’s successor, Abu Bakr, who had shown that Islam was going to stick around without Muhammad by putting down the rebellions). This is also the basis for the ruling that apostasy should be enforced as treason.


I think the main contention is that, according to the prophet of Islam, it is lawful to kill an apostate. It is a further matter as to whether Muslims follow him or not and to what degree.


You can raise that contention, but Muslims just wouldn’t care. They don’t question their prophet.

You didn’t mention anything about how apostasy in a theocratic government amounts to a renunciation of citizenship at the very least, and at the very worst (in conjunction with other acts), can be treason which is still punished by death in most (if not all) Western countries today. Thus the popular interpretation of apostasy as treason.

Also you didn’t point out that how they follow the Prophet is really the essence of the religion. All the various flavors of Islam, what are they all about? They are all basically different viewpoints or methodologies in how to follow the Prophet.

Some (actually most) will say, “but the Prophet (saw) was compassionate, fair, and opposed to tyranny and oppression, therefore the overriding principle of Shariah law must be to fight that and not become that” and in so doing, will exercise their judgement on “to what degree” (and this is where Shariah, Ijtihad, all that stuff comes in).

That compassionate nature of Prophet Muhammad, which is basically a reflection of what Muslims believe God orders humanity to do in the Qur’an, forms the entire moral basis for the religion.

If you don’t understand every injunction of Islam in that order, in that context, you make the same mistake terrorists do. The only reason Islam ever took off and became popular to begin with is because Muslims codified that process. It’s not that “doing things by the book” was bad because it was devoid of spiritual context. It’s that Muslims made all that context part of the book. Everything I just said is verbally attested to in all the various writings of Islamic legal scholars.

As for the terrorists and extremists, they ignore Islamic scholars and all of their precedent (all those thousands upon thousands of books written before them) and make themselves scholars and write their own books.

That movie, Four Lions, is a fantastic watch because the interplay of the main protagonist/antagonist and his religious brother reflects this reality.


Fourth Discussion


Regarding the incident where ‘Umar (ra) killed an apostate of his own judgment and accord

Why wasn’t Umar punished for killing a Muslim?

Non-Muslim here. Peace be with you all.

Here’s the exact narration of a story of Umar:

“His words, Exalted is He, ‘Then no! By your Lord, they do not believe …’ (Qur’an 4: 65) to the end of the ayah. I say that its story has been narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Mardawayh from Abu’l-Aswad. He said: Two men brought a dispute to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family and grant them peace, and he gave judgement between them. The one who had judgement given against him said, ‘Let us go to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab,’ and so the two of them went to him. The man said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave judgement in my favour against this man and he said, “Let us go to ‘Umar.”’ ‘Umar said, ‘Is it like that?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ So ‘Umar said, ‘Stay where you are until I come out to you.’ Then he came out to them wrapping his sword in his garment and struck the one who had said, ‘Let us go to ‘Umar,’ and killed him. The other returned and said, ‘Messenger of Allah, ‘Umar killed – by Allah! – my companion.’ So he said, ‘I wouldn’t have thought that ‘Umar would have ventured to kill a believer.’ Then Allah revealed, ‘Then no! By your Lord they do not believe …’ to the end of the ayah. He declared, there was to be no retaliation or compensation for the blood of the man and declared ‘Umar free from any wrong in his killing. There is another connected text that supports this story which I have related in at-Tafsir al-Musnad.”

But that’s unjust and contradictory. Why wasn’t Umar punished for that? What do you learn from that? Does that mean you should chop someone’s head off if he disagrees with the Prophet?

Even if someone becomes a Murthad (apostate) there’s no direct order for killing him. And if there is then the head of the Islamic state should execute him and Umar wasn’t a khalifa at that time.

P.S: I am here for a friendly discussion:)


Even if someone becomes a Murthad (apostate) there’s no direct order for killing him. And if there is then the head of the Islamic state should execute him and Umar wasn’t a khalifa at that time.

It’s not possible for the head of state to personally take part in all criminal procedures or judicial executions.

Part of the apostasy law is that anyone who kills an apostate cannot be prosecuted for that, because the law only protects Muslim and non-Muslim citizens (Dhimmis) and apostates are non-Muslim non-citizens illegally in Muslim lands (Harbis). Sort of like illegal aliens (as opposed to Ambassadors or Diplomats or other visitors from abroad who enter with a visa of sorts).

The official judicial procedure for apostasy is to offer them a chance to repent during a few days in jail. But if an apostate is killed due to another circumstance, no action is legislated against the person who did it as it’s considered a case of a Muslim defending himself and the people’s common property (the country) from an infiltrator (you can see why quite a few people say the apostasy punishment is really treason).

The Prophet (saw) summoned ‘Umar (ra) and got his explanation. He then waited for revelation from Allah and another of the verses indicating a part of Islam was to accept the judgments of the Prophet (saw) was revealed and ‘Umar’s honesty/sincerity was made known to the Prophet (saw) (though in this case, the facts of the event were known and verifiable). In any case, both the revealed verse, existing verses, and the Prophet’s (saw) behavior serve to illustrate the fact that he did little of his own accord and was divinely inspired in most of his acts and judgment (especially in his capacity of interpreting the Qur’an to pronounce legal judgments… such as the death penalty for apostasy which isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an but is clearly backed up here).

As for the apostasy law, it’s possible for an Imam (as in, head of state) or Caliph to legislate new laws, including one prohibiting extrajudicial punishments, but it would be a discretionary crime and punishment as no such law existed back then (even then, ‘Umar (ra) was considered one of Islam’s biggest authorities and certainly within his capacity to issue rulings in the Prophet’s (saw) absence, something the Prophet (saw) allowed a few Sahaba to do).

Hazrat ‘Umar’s (ra) actions are also reflective of his disposition at that time in his life and are also taken in the historical context of what life was like in 7th century Arabia. It’s certainly possible/allowable to legislate discretionary punishments for extrajudicial or vigilante-esque actions in keeping with the cultural norms of a people and period (greater fitna could result from not doing so depending on the environment). Also because no Muslims are left who are of the caliber of the Sahaba so most of the later jurists no longer allow such a thing.

So were a fully Islamic state to exist today (or for instance, the old Ottoman Empire or older states), the judicial process is incumbent in any cases of apostasy. However, were the extrajudicial killing of an apostate to take place, it would need to be verified first of all that the person was indeed an apostate. If they weren’t or it is not verifiable and the defendant isn’t considered a trustworthy person, then they could be in trouble for murder. But if it is proven that the person killed was an apostate, then he can be subject to a discretionary punishment from a judge for creating disorder and circumventing the judicial process, but cannot be held responsible for killing the apostate as the citizen granted legal recognition and protection from the government gets the benefit of the doubt over any illegal. [Also because the retaliation/compensation laws are not for outlawing killing but for protecting the lives of citizens who are under a contract/trust of citizenship with the government for that right of protection… So what I’m saying is separate laws can be instituted to outlaw killing of non-citizens (and should) but these laws in question here (retaliation/compensation) are for protecting citizens by ensuring retaliation (death penalty) or compensation (blood money) for their lives. So a Shariah government could arrest and jail someone for killing an apostate or harbi (non-Muslim non-citizen, sort of like an “illegal alien”), but the victims’ families are not entitled to blood money and the perpetrator would not get an automatic death penalty under request of the victim’ families (retaliation). If the Caliph or Imam chose to implement a death penalty for some other legal/political purpose as part of an additional law, that’s a separate matter.]

As one can see, there is clearly an aspect of treason involved in the case of capital punishment for apostates, but the line is blurred by our viewpoint as religion and politics/government were one and the same back then. Apostasy becomes an act of forfeiture of citizenship and any legal rights, since Islam is the law of the land and the apostate has just declared their intention to the effect of “no law remains on the table” for them. That’s political. However, not allowing an apostate to become a Dhimmi is more of a religiously natured aspect to the ruling.

The Imam or Caliph of the Muslims is under his right to enforce this as he sees fit (which is also based on the precedence of Hazrat ‘Umar (ra)). Furthermore, taking into consideration the nature of the ruling and the maqasid al-shariah, there is room for additional legislation on this if the original conditions for the upholding of the law no longer exist (for instance, the Ottoman Empire’s 1839 ruling by jurists backed by the Caliph that the apostasy punishment would no longer be in effect and it was judged to no longer be an equivalent crime to apostasy in older periods). The original legislation built on the ijtihad of the four mujtahid Imams (five if you include Shi’ites) cannot be “repealed” or “overruled” but it can be expanded upon as the need arises and this would technically not qualify as ijtihad (ijtihad would be to repeal the ruling altogether or to modify it… in this case, a new scenario was added to cover situations where the previous law was no longer applicable).

Kafir


There are various degrees of “kafir” as well. It’s not theologically correct to call all non-Muslims “kafir” as that traditionally referred to mushrikeen (idolators/pagans) of Arabia. However, it is legally, because in Islamic law, all non-Muslims (even People of the Book) were just described with kafir, because with respect to the law, differences among non-Muslims didn’t matter (instead, there were legal statuses like… Muslim, Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen), Harbi (non-Muslim non-Citizen illegally in Muslim lands), etc).

This is where the habit of just grouping all non-Muslim under “kafir” came from.

Even Muslims have their own categories. Mumin would be a “true” Muslim or is a synonym for Muslim depending on who you’re talking to, normal Muslims, Fasiqs (Muslim sinners), etc. Though with respect to Islamic law, all Muslims are considered just one category… believers.

Categories of non-believers, (from the Sunni perspective):

Munafiq – One who pretends to be Muslim, but isn’t. This is considered the worst category for any human to be in.

Murtad – Ex-Muslim. Second worst.

Then the rest in no particular order,

Mushrik – Polytheist… The Mushrikeen of Arabia have a special place above (or rather, below) all others and could be considered as “bad” as the aforementioned categories. Various Mushrikeen have been included under the purview of Dhimmi status in Islamic law over the centuries as Islamic states spread to places where more such people lived (like India).

Kitaabi (Ahl-e-Kitaab) – Christians, Jews

Dahriyyah – “One who believes in the eternity of time and ascribes creation to time is termed dahriyyah.” (I think some modern day atheists would fall into this category, those who try to argue against monotheist cosmological arguments by claiming the universe created itself or never began to exist, or believe in some multidimensional structure which gave way to the universe… the difference between an atheist is that these people are engaging in a fallacy of logic by believing that an infinite amount of time preceded us, because an infinite amount of time cannot pass before us in reality… these people also tend to use evolution as an almost sentient idea in and of itself, like they “believe” in it or even worship it (it’s not rational like pure science-minded atheists who just say “we don’t know yet how the universe originated, we’re trying to find out”… i.e, truly lacking in belief)… anyone who says “evolution did this, evolution did that” might be thinking along these lines as evolution can’t do anything and is itself a function of time, so they’re anthropomorphizing time)

Mulhid – Atheists

Zindeeq – “A Zindeeq is a person who acknowledges the Nubuwwat of Rasoolullah [SAW] and proclaims the Shiaar [salient features, e.g. Salaat, Hajj] of Islaam , but at the same time adheres to beliefs which are unanimously branded as kufr in the Shari’ah.” (Other sects of Muslims which are considered no longer Muslim but share many basic beliefs in line with Islam still… this would include groups like the Nation of Islam and the Ahmadiyya or the Rashad Khalifa crew)

Notice how Agnostics are not considered a category here, however the modern notion of Agnostic might deserve its own (some people decide in advance that they will remain “unsure” for the rest of their lives, so it’s like a position unto itself).

EDIT: I forgot a category, though nobody uses it anymore I think. “Hanif”… an Abrahamic monotheist who isn’t a Jew, Christian, or Muslim. There were some of these around at the time of Islam’s inception. I guess they were disillusioned Jews or Christians (though there were Ebionite or Unitarian Christians around back then so mostly just disillusioned Jews I guess).


Kufr

Quoted from an Islamic forum:

THE FOUR CATEGORIES OF KUFR

There are four kinds of kufr, viz. Kufr Jahl, Kufr Juhood, Kufr Shakk and Kufr Ta’weel. The o*ne guilty of any of these types of kufr is described as a kaafir in the Shariah.

KUFR JAHL:

This means kufr occasioned by ignorance. Islam or the teachings of Islam are denied o*n the basis of ignorance. The rejector believes that the claim of Islam is false. This was the type of kufr of Abu Jahl and his compatriots.

KUFR JUHOOD:

This means deliberate kufr. The denial of Islam or its teachings is occasioned deliberately, inspite of realising its truth. This type of kufr is the result of rebellion and obstinacy. This was the type of kufr of the Ahl-e-Kitaab (the Jews and Christians). This is also the kufr of Iblees (shaitaan).

KUFR SHAKK:

This means kufr occasioned by doubt. The denier doubts the truth of Islam.

KUFR TA’WEEL:

This means kufr by way of interpretation. The kufr is not committed by outright rejection, but is rendered by means of interpretation. A belief or teaching of Islam is distorted or given an interpretation or meaning other than what was the meaning ascribed to it by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Of the four types of kufr, the last viz. Kufr Ta’weel is the most common nowadays among those who were born Muslim. Corrupt interpretation is widely employed by Muslims to distort the true beliefs and teachings of Islam. By such baatil ta’weel (baseless and corrupt interpretation), Qur’aanic verses and Ahaadith are given meanings which conflict with their true and original meanings explained by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). By means of this type of kufr, numerous born Muslims have become kaafirs.

Taken from a discussion:

If you add up all the terrorists in the world, and the numbers of every extremist group in the world, by the estimates you see on the CIA’s site, and in news articles, you get somewhere in the tens of thousands.

Even if there were over 80,000 Muslim terrorists and suicide bombers that still amounts to 0.00005% of Muslims worldwide.

Yet there are over 100,000 US and NATO soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands more in Iraq, doing such a bang up job that even RAWA, the heavily leftist anti-Islamist, anti-Taliban women’s rights organization from Afghanistan has spoken out against the US and NATO and their war.

So no, simply turning on the TV and watching the crap that the government tells the media to push on the people in order to support that government’s increasingly unpopular, ongoing wars in Muslim countries is not an accurate measure of anything.

If even 1% of Muslims wanted to “destroy the West”, that would be like 16 million people, larger than the armed forces of China, the US, and Russia combined and they would have succeeded a long time ago. The fact that this is a ridiculous scenario illustrates my point in the way you might prefer (having previously done the ridiculous thing of believing what you saw on TV in wartime).

[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

 

Clearly religious debates such as these can be resolved by discussion and appeal to evidence. That’s why there are no sects in any religion.


90% of the world’s Muslims are from one sect (Sunnis), and that sect is split into four schools of law, two schools of theology, and several spiritual orders, all of which agree to coexist peacefully and respect each other’s methodologies and intentions, based precisely on discussion and appeal to evidence. So it can go a long way.

Shi’a would be another 5-10%, and the remaining would include fundamentalist sects and extremists. However, even 5% of 1.57 billion people is a lot.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/22652672/The-500-most-influential-Muslims-in-the-world

Page 13.

90% are Sunnis. 96% is for traditionalist Islam, which includes both Sunni and Shi’ite.

That’s a far cry from the sort of divisions in Judaism or Christianity where, to my knowledge, there is no one dominant sect that arose. Sunni Islam is actually a unification of the aforementioned different schools of thought in law, theology, and spirituality. A unification which came about through discourse/discussion and “appeal to evidence” as mentioned earlier. There still exists quite a bit of variety in all the various schools of law, but theology is a bit more uniform, although also split among two major schools of thought.


But Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all just splinter groups of the same monotheistic root. If you could resolve religious disputes with an appeal to evidence, there wouldn’t be any good faith divisions at all.

You can’t dodge that result by saying that there’s one group of people without real divisions, simply by carefully ignoring all the other slices of the same pie.


I’m saying that the Sunni sect is the biggest slice of the pie in Islam, by a large amount. In fact, Sunni Islam is the largest religion in the world. Islam trails Christianity, but Sunni Islam has more followers than Roman Catholicism or any other major Christian sect.

You can only resolve religious disputes with an appeal to evidence if all parties involved agree on sources/evidence. So Muslims agree on the Qur’an, so there’s still hope for a Sunni and Shi’a reconciliation perhaps, however dim the prospects may appear now. Sunnis agree on the Qur’an and Sunni Hadith. Shi’a agree on the Qur’an and Shi’a Hadith. This can’t happen between Christianity and Islam because Christians do not recognize the Qur’an (Muslims do recognize the Bible, but in historical context… that it is a heavily edited and altered text… nonetheless, Christians and Jews are ordered left alone in the Qur’an and can stick with their Scripture).


I’m happy to acknowledge that there are a lot of Sunnis, and maybe that discourse brought them together. That hardly engages my point.

The mere existence of any sustained debates by reasonable and informed parties on any theological disputes indicates that there is no possible resolution to any of the relevant debates here. The impossibility of theological resolution should help you realize that the theological statements by these groups lack any coherent content whatsoever. Who cares whether burqas are required, mandatory, or permitted? God certainly does not, or he would have resolved the dispute. As long as there is one practicing Shiite, the claims of Sunnis are suspect (and vice versa).

But maybe you’re right that all of Islam will one day unite on all theological issues. Unlikely, but let’s suppose. How far does that get us? God cares about the burqa, but is silent on whether or not Jesus is his son or Mohammed his prophet? When people sit down in honest prayer, asking God’s will, do you not notice that they all stand up to march in different directions?

As we move outward, the importance and variety of knowledge claims get bigger, and the populations even more split. In the afterlife, do we face Hades, hell, purgatory, limbo, heaven, reincarnation, nirvana, the pure land? Or do we fight mock battles with our friends and feast and drink mead all night, until one day we all die at the hands of trolls at the ending of the world? It is impossible to know. This impossibility of knowledge tells us one clear thing, because it is incoherent with a God who cares one whit about what we think or how we live our lives. The impossibility of knowledge here makes one thing obvious: all religions are false.


Needless to say, I disagree.

There is dispute because it is in human nature to disagree, differ, and dispute. Everyone’s different, so differences will arise.

Here are some bits which shed light on Islam’s views about differences:

“When a haakim (i.e. absolute or restricted mujtahid (mujtahid – person authorized to perform ijtihad, a.k.a. make religious rulings)) gives a legal ruling and is actually correct, he has two rewards. When a haakim gives a legal ruling and is actually wrong, he still gets one reward.” -Muhammad (saw)

“Disagreement of the scholars of din (religion) [in this world] is [reason for] a mercy for the members of my ummah (community of Muslims) [in the next world].” -Muhammad (saw)

Discourse is encouraged so long as its done out of sincere good intentions (not simply for the sake of bickering, but to express ourselves, since humans are different).

It is impossible to know.

Obviously not for members of a religion. Everyone ‘knows’ their narrative is the correct one.


There is dispute because it is in human nature to disagree, differ, and dispute. Everyone’s different, so differences will arise.

If human nature is inclined towards disagreements, that makes my case stronger, not weaker.

If we were naturally disposed towards different opinions, you’d think He couldn’t be that invested in the outcome.

Yet, that’s actually one area where so many religions agree. If you pick the wrong religion, god will torture you forever. What a tyrannical guessing game we’re involved in, when our nature is not to win it.

You made the right move, don’t get me wrong. Ecumenicalism is absolutely essential to maintain the coherency of any religion. It’s a shame it’s not endorsed by any of the underlying texts, least of all the Quran.

“It is impossible to know.” Obviously not for members of a religion. Everyone ‘knows’ their narrative is the correct one.

Here you’re just equivocating. Knowledge, in the sense I meant it, involved some sort of justified true belief. In your sense, you just meant a strongly held belief. Everyone has strongly held contradictory beliefs, even though they’re all trying really hard to know the truth. That was my basic premise, I get that.

Or maybe you meant to imply there is no truth, only narratives. I’m fine with that, it sounds a lot like what I’ve been saying this whole time.


I had stopped responding but will make a response to his final statement here.

 

If human nature is inclined towards disagreements, that makes my case stronger, not weaker.

If we were naturally disposed towards different opinions, you’d think He couldn’t be that invested in the outcome.

Yet, that’s actually one area where so many religions agree. If you pick the wrong religion, god will torture you forever. What a tyrannical guessing game we’re involved in, when our nature is not to win it.

You made the right move, don’t get me wrong. Ecumenicalism is absolutely essential to maintain the coherency of any religion. It’s a shame it’s not endorsed by any of the underlying texts, least of all the Quran.

You’ve moved the goalposts in the argument. Allowable human difference of opinion doesn’t extend to belief in God. Humans (in the Islamic narrative) are naturally disposed to belief in God. For the few exceptions, looking to the majority to explain this belief should suffice.

It is in our nature to win it.

You’re also flat out wrong in your last statement. Prophet Muhammad (saw) does not contradict the Qur’an. I gave you two quotes which basically said it’s okay to be wrong so long as you had the right intention (to the extent where you sincerely tried the best possible mental strategy for executing that right intention). The Qur’an is replete with verses ordering Muslims to stay united and not split off into sects and inviting Christians, Jews, and others to join Islam as a universal faith in God.

Here you’re just equivocating. Knowledge, in the sense I meant it, involved some sort of justified true belief. In your sense, you just meant a strongly held belief. Everyone has strongly held contradictory beliefs, even though they’re all trying really hard to know the truth. That was my basic premise, I get that.

Or maybe you meant to imply there is no truth, only narratives. I’m fine with that, it sounds a lot like what I’ve been saying this whole time.

Close, but not what I meant to get at. I was simply stating that everyone believes themselves to be correct.

To cover your points however, in Western epistemology, there is no “truth”. So people began engaging in justificationism (that truth is “justified” belief). Then Western epistemology moved on to accepting that even justificationism is flawed and that’s not possible (thus my countering your traditional notion of “justified true belief” with merely “strongly held belief”). Verificationism is also out of vogue.

Love

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Culture: Western vs. Islamic, Sufism
Tags:

Love is complicated and ridiculous like that.

I think it’s a lot more simple than that. For most people, love is a passive activity. Thus, they have no control over their feelings and emotions. Their “love” is locked on to a predetermined or predefined set of criteria or profile. [Thus many people struggle against the constraints set by their own mind.]

What made me realize love can be something more than that (i.e, active) was actually reading poetry. Rumi, especially. Now that’s love being complicated, but also way more powerful. Love can be way more than just romantic love (because if you think about it, romantic love, love of child by parent… stuff you get from the hormone oxytocin, is based in biology so it’s the best example of  it being a “passive” activity) but romantic love itself can also be scaled up.

There just aren’t many people (among common society) who have an attitude like… “Screw it, I’m going to be happy. Forget what the world says about it”

However, more people become capable of that as they get older because they let go of their biological constrictions a bit (decrease in hormones and all that). That’s also when there’s greater odds of two people with that attitude running into each other. Which, imho, is the only way you get real happy endings to [Western] romantic relationships. [Needless to say, in the Islamic idea of marriage/society, the biological factor is dealt with as best as it possibly can be.]

TL;DR Love is incredibly simple if you’re not locked down into mammal-mode by default from the “factory” (your mother’s uterus).

[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

 

 

What do you have against virgins? o_0 There are lots of them on reddit, perhaps you should rethink your presence here.

Believing men are promised pure companions (wives) in Heaven from the women of Heaven (houris who are not women from Earth). This is in addition to whether they have any wives from Earth (polygamy). These women/wives/companions will be virgins. This is a characteristic of them.

It should also be noted that women from Earth “outrank” or are considered higher in station than the houris.

As for why their status of virgins is considered worth describing at all, that indicates that they’re “true” soulmates in that they have never been with any other man other than who they’re destined to be with in Heaven after the Day of Judgement. Men and women who’ve been with multiple partners in their lives develop a generalized idea of the opposite sex to which they then hold others accountable. That won’t be the case there, obviously (though nor would it be for the women of Earth who make it into Heaven, because they’re above that).

What I don’t understand is how on the one hand, some Westerners and atheists snicker to each other about virginity, both in favor of finding mates that are virgins and/or putting down others for being virgins, then suddenly turn into hypocrites when addressing Muslims about this verse in the Qur’an. What. You hate virgins? Then get off reddit. You like virgins? These aren’t the same kind of virgins, but even then, what’s your problem them? You hate that virginity is made an issue yet there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that you yourself are obsessed with it and routinely make it an issue (in fact you have done so right here in this exchange with your irrational attachment to this issue).

Being a virgin is not a big deal but the implications of virginity are. A virgin’s view of their first mate/spouse is going to be a bit different than the typical attitude of seasoned veterans in the relationship game.


I think for many people, the idea of human beings specifically being made as sex companions by your God is what turns people off, not just the virgin part. Also, polygamy has a large stigma on it.


Many people? Doesn’t seem like the case in the West at all. In fact, the entire basis for relationships in the West seems to be sex.

Also, they’re not sex companions. They’re mates, or companions, period. The sexual relationship is one aspect of it, but a big one. When you think of a girlfriend, a wife, whatever, sex will seem to initially define the relationship but it isn’t everything. In fact, in Islam, beauty or other criteria that factor into sexual attraction are considered less important than piety when marrying.

I can’t be the only one who’s grown up beyond the level of Disney movies where they seem to indicate there’s all this stuff to being “in love” when it’s really mostly just about sex for most people. For some people, this doesn’t detract at all from romance (that romance seems to be this big complicated thing but it’s really just about a basic and simple act), for others, it does, and they become cynical about the idea of romance. A “lover” is many more things than just the physical lover, though that is a big deal as it is the physical manifestation of the action.

For the pious believing men, they’re promised mates in Heaven who will be true soulmates, true lovers, and true companions.

Have you or anyone reading this ever been loved or consider themselves knowledgeable on what it is like to be loved? Most redditors might say yes. But then there’s no shortage of redditors who would’ve answered yes once, but wound up being betrayed by those whom they thought loved them. So was that love then? As far as romantic love in this world is concerned, it might have been. But it’s absolutely nothing compared to the next world. People tend to believe that love beyond what they’ve experienced is not possible. It is. However much your girlfriend loves you, you don’t know what’s in her heart. The odds are even against your relationship surviving. Imagine having a mate who isn’t some idiot (what we usually associate with the inexperienced[1]) but is in fact extremely pious and intelligent beyond any concept we have in this world, and beautiful beyond any concept we have in this world, and who is “meant” for you in that you will be their first and only husband. This is the connotation implied with “pure companion”. They will really love you, and you will know it.

[1] Even our concept of virginity is warped today because most virgins are exposed to sex through a pornographic culture way before they ever lose their virginity. They’re already socialized, already develop expectations, all of that (and this can definitely be a bad thing, because many people develop unrealistic expectations for others and unhealthy expectations of themselves).


When you think of a girlfriend, a wife, whatever, sex will seem to initially define the relationship but it isn’t everything.

I see your point, but in my personal experience, this is not the case. I was a virgin until after I was married to my wife and we both have an understanding that our relationship is not about sex. I love my wife deeply, not because of sex.

Are women able to have multiple companions as well, or is it just the men? I guess I don’t understand how one could have a loving, deep connection with multiple people. In the Christian faith, we consider love to involve sacrifice. Is there any sacrifice for the man in this companionship, or are these companions bound to love this man just because Allah willed them to?


I see your point, but in my personal experience, this is not the case. I was a virgin until after I was married to my wife and we both have an understanding that our relationship is not about sex. I love my wife deeply, not because of sex.

If you’ve got a religious Christian marriage, you’re unfortunately in the minority in the West…

Are women able to have multiple companions as well, or is it just the men?

Just the men.

I guess I don’t understand how one could have a loving, deep connection with multiple people.

Talk with some Mormons? They might be your closest frame of reference.

In the Christian faith, we consider love to involve sacrifice.

I’m not sure I understand. So how will you love after you’re in Heaven, when there is no more sacrifice?

Is there any sacrifice for the man in this companionship, or are these companions bound to love this man just because Allah willed them to?

They’ll be humans of complete free will. They’ll love each other just because they’ll be soulmates (getting back to the point of the virginity thing, it’s indicating this). It’ll be like all that stuff people pretend to do in this world (“it was love at first sight” “we’re soulmates”) but for real.

Allah basically does the matchmaking up there.


If you’ve got a religious Christian marriage, you’re unfortunately in the minority in the West…

Don’t I know it:)

Just the men.

If women are considered equal, then why wouldn’t they have this same reward? Or do they get a different reward from Allah?

I’m not sure I understand. So how will you love after you’re in Heaven, when there is no more sacrifice?

Our love will be complete in Christ, who paid the greatest sacrifice by his death, according to the Bible. Jesus also said their would be no marrying in heaven, so we do not believe in marriage after death.


I had stopped responding, but I’ll address his final question here:

 

If women are considered equal, then why wouldn’t they have this same reward? Or do they get a different reward from Allah?

Because equal doesn’t mean the same. Women are different from men and have a different view of relationships, overall, than men as well as having different desires. Women can love a man fully even if they’re “sharing” him. Men are created quite jealous for the most part and are generally unable to do this. Sharing a man wouldn’t ruin the experience for a woman in Heaven. It would for the man. Are there exceptions in this world? Many, because there’s billions of people, but the exceptions aren’t enough to challenge the rule.

No specific reward is laid out, but then why would anyone expect the Qur’an to answer the question of “what do women want” when they often are reluctant to answer it themselves? My opinion is that it will likely vary from women to women as to whom they would rather be with in Heaven, so it’s between each woman and Allah.

[Responses will be colored with Red for the opponent, Blue for me, and separated by a line. Separate discussions will be marked as such.]

 

This post is split into these sections:

The Legal Ruling on Burqa / Veil in Islam

The Idea of Banning Burqas

Is the Burqa unfair? Oppressive? Comparing it to Western culture



The Legal Ruling on Burqa / Veil in Islam

 

Re: Saudi Muslim Cleric Issues Fatwa Saying Its OK to Uncover Face in Anti-Burqa Countries

 

sort of reminds me of when Mormon ‘prophets’ got the order from on high that polygamy was no longer cool

just as the country decided it was illegal.


This isn’t exactly the same. In some legal schools of thought in Sunni Islam, covering the face is viewed asrequired. Including the one followed by Saudis (who are predominantly Wahhabis or Hanbali Sunnis). Meaning, it’s a sin to not do so. The cleric is merely informing Saudi women that, under compulsion by the law of the land in which you reside, it would be permissible to not wear the veil. So they can at least try to live their lives.


wow, wait what? which legal school of thought in Sunni Islam is this coverying of the face REQUIRED? citation please.


The Wahhabis that fall under the Sunni category (the most famous Saudi clerics and their royalty… some of the more extreme Wahhabis might not actually be Sunnis). Kind of a no-brainer.

As for the other four, it’s usually considered wajib. However, the difference between wajib and fardh only exists in the Hanafi school, meaning it’s only truly wajib in the Hanafi school and is tantamount to a fardh in the others, as they treat wajib and fardh equally (or at least, in the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools). The two positions are that veiling is required or that covering everything but the hands and face is required. There is significant difference of opinion in this but both camps have many esteemed and renown scholars in them.

Here’s a good one from a Western Sunni question and answer site that does have some traditional scholars among its ranks:

http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=7123&CATE=328

As you can see, one prominent modern Shafi’i scholar even says women living in Western countries should not wear it. Of course there are plenty of opinions from equally big (or bigger) scholars advocating the opposite.

For example, after Shaykh Tantawi of Egypt pretty much “dissed” the niqab and a young female student who wore it, the Hanafis were outraged and up in arms. And this is considering it’s not required in the Hanafi school (or you could say, it’s required if there’s no real good reason to not wear it, but at worst its just a sin if not worn if wearing was possible and accessible).

This is the Hanafi response to Shaykh Tantawi:

http://www.askimam.org/fatwa/fatwa.php?askid=0d243c005780c9c2862495adbbc85ff4

If you can’t read/understand Arabic and/or aren’t a Muslim, you’ll be lost at that link.

It is exhaustive in the scope of the proofs provided and even lists many prominent scholars from all four schools who view it as required (keeping in mind that means different things for Hanafis and others…).

So… to sum it up in case that was a bit confusing:

There are two opinions in all 4 schools that came from the Prophet and his companions.

1) Face is part of awrah (should be covered). (wajib)

2) Face is not part of awrah (permitted to be unveiled).

A) Unveiling is permitted if it happens by accident or due to some other legal necessity (stronger opinion than B) (wajib *in most cases*)
B) Just permitted in general (weaker opinion than A, as most all cases where it's mentioned as 'permitted', it is qualified by certain conditions) (not wajib)

The majority of Hanafis fall under 2A. Traditionally, the majority of the other schools followed 1, though there were plenty who also followed 2 or 2A.

Then there’s also the issue that ‘wajib’ and ‘fardh’ have similar definitions in the Hanbali, Shafi’i, and Maliki schools but there is a distinct difference in the understanding thereof in the Hanafi school. Denying a wajib in the other 3 is a doctrinal difference and is the same as denying a fardh (which effectively removes one from the Sunni sect). Denying a wajib in the Hanafi school is just a sin.

LASTLY, the ‘wajib’ ruling from the 2nd opinion (that it is not a part of awrah but still wajib to cover) comes from other rulings, regarding modesty and safeguarding society from fitna (mentioned in the above linked Hanafi ruling from AskImam.org). Now, people who have made it that far into the debate and try to pick a difference here (that it’s not wajib because society can handle it, move with the times, etc) are fighting an uphill battle. Because in our day and age, society can’t handle it. Zina (premarital or extramarital sex) is absolutely rampant and then there’s the issue of sexualized images that society is constantly bombarded with. If anything, that argument that society ‘could handle it’ would have made sense 1000 years ago but makes no sense today. If it was to be ruled as obligatory in any time by Islamic scholars in order to uphold Islamic ideals in a society, now would be that time (the latter half of the 20th century and onwards). Technology has exacerbated the problem by making communication easier. The problem of premarital relationships and adultery is rampant even in Wahhabi countries where, for example, men use mobile phones or the internet to find hookups as they roam about malls or whatever.

tl;dr A comment from an Islam forum I ran into during my Google search:

The fact is, the niqab does have a place in Islam. Now we can argue about its status (fardh/wajib/etc) all day long but the argument that its merely cultural is idiotic.


Regarding whether its allowed to veil the face during prayer or pilgrimage:

 

I’ve heard that face covering is makrooh (disliked/hated, but allowed/legal) based on the rationale that it prevents sujjud, where the forehead must touch the ground. I also heard it’s not allowed during hajj (pilgrimage).

Very few Muslim women wear niqab. Even fewer wear burqa. It’s pretty much a non-issue except that it fascinates and horrifies Westerners, so they focus on it and conflate the issue to massive proportions. Muslims are not accountable for burqa.


I don’t know about it being makrooh. it is, however, forbidden to wear a burqa during prayer, umrah, or hajj.


It’s not forbidden to wear it during prayer, it depends on the situation:

The Great Shafi’i Jurist Ash Sheikh Taqiyud Din Al Hisni said,

“And it is makrūh (hated) that one makes Salāh in a garment with pictures on it, and that a woman wear niqāb,unless she is in the masjid and in it are men who are ajānib, and they are not caring about looking, so if she fears that they are looking at her, it is harām for her to lift the niqāb, and this happens in a lot of places such as the going to Bayt Al Maqdis…” [Kifāyatul Akhyār 1/181]

This is the position of all the schools of thought. One ruling takes precedence over the other.


 

Banning the Burqa

 

Jon Stewart and Kristen Schaal put it best:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-1-2009/burka-ban

 

 

Is the Burqa unfair? Oppressive? Comparing it to Western culture

 

Women go bananas if you take away their main mean to attract men. They are so sensitive to the issue, they even go nuts if other women get taken away that right (never mind what the veiled women think). Next time you’re girl friend tells you she has all these nice sexy clothes to look pretty for YOU, think again:

http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/35988-science-of-sex-appeal-flirting-females-video.htm (watch until the end)

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/53770.php

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=1469078


Ok, and what does that have to do with burkhas again?


Click the links. I am explaining the true reason why she is so upset about burkhas. Vitamin D deficiency my ass. Not one line does she worry about the actual feelings of these women.

Women dress for reproductive success. Asking women to veil up is like asking all men to drive Honda Civics.

I was pointing out the irony of her mocking veiled women for buying pretty clothes while the rate of girls telling their boyfriends that they only dress up to be sexy “for him” is close to 100%.

And no, I am not a Muslim (or Christian or whatever).


I’m married, and very happily so. I have two kids, which is all the reproductive success I want to have. I still don’t want to wear something that, while I haven’t worn it, has been described as uncomfortable, stifling, restrictive, causing difficulty seeing around you, and basically making life difficult, not to mention causing health problems.

The author stated that she has no problem with the Koran’s view of modesty – cover your arms and legs – or hair coverings. She just feels that burkas are a sign of subservience – and I see why she would feel that way. It’s ownership – no one gets to look at your woman but you, she belongs to you. And she doesn’t get a say in it.


“no one gets to look at your woman but you, she belongs to you.”

Let me be somewhat more provocative here so people get the logic: What the fuck is so bad about that? Why do other men need to see your beauty?

Especially if you are married. Isn’t that sexual ownership by definition? Did he not sign that he will hand over half of the money he made during your time together if you catch him not completely belonging to you?

How about your husband shows off his penis to other women at some occasions because underwear is so uncomfortable, stifling, restrictive and – by the way – can cause health problems too?

I am not advocating burkhas. I am just pointing out that this is about the biological drive to be desired, to keep options open – and not about political correctness or health. Many Arabic women get older than obese Americans. I am not saying women like you would actually go for another man they feel attracted if they get the chance, but it’s not a coincidence all your miniskirts will vanish once you’re past your menopause.


So, me not wearing a burka is the equivalent of my husband wearing no pants? Not so much, really. I’m not talking about wandering around naked, and neither are these women.

I own him just as much as he owns me – marriage is equal. Do I get to ask him to cover himself from head to toe, too? And don’t start on divorce court inequality, because no one’s saying that’s not just as wrong. Everyone likes to look good, not just women. It’s still a double standard, and that’s why it’s about women being subservient. The woman doesn’t get to assert the same level of ownership over the man.

To rephrase your question, what would be wrong with men hiding their faces? Why do other women need to see him?

I understand what you’re saying about biological imperatives, and I’m sure there’s some influence there, but they’re really not part of the bigger picture here. I’ve already addressed the fact that both sexes want to look good, but only women are so restricted. But the fact remains that there are other, bigger factors involved here. If this is a factor in the argument, it’s not the most important one by a long shot.


Excuse me for the very long post I’m about to butt into this debate with.

The problem with these kinds of debates is that people sometimes get fixated on random inane issues with no real relevance to the overall problem. Let’s step back a moment.

Do I get to ask him to cover himself from head to toe, too?

Traditional Muslim dress for a man is a beard and some kind of head covering. Most of their face winds up getting covered too. These aren’t classified as obligatory in most Islamic traditions because the male’s traditional role is outside the home, working, where it might be required for him to remove some clothing. Likewise, the traditional role for women has been to manage the household affairs, where she’d obviously not need to cover. The design of the home in the ancient (and still in a lot of places) Muslim world is also important here. Expansive homes, but not in the expensive sort of way. Often times the homes would even have giant atriums and be populated with several servants. The woman would be in charge of all of this. She’d also be tasked with receiving visitors and guests, and she wouldn’t allow in strange men either by default (she could have them escorted to a receiving area or something). So men can’t go around entering the ‘home’ zone. On the other hand, when women leave the home, they’d don the whole burqa/niqab dress so strange men would not be able to see them.

If you look at the verses of the Quran which order the hijab, it’s pretty clear the social context:

Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. (33:58-59)

It was originally ordered for free women who’d leave the house and get harassed by men loitering around street corners. Literally, that’s what would happen, and it was an epidemic at the time.

You’ll find Muslim women in more rural areas were often more relaxed in strictly observing this, though nowadays no rural area is really as rural anymore (I think there were a little over 200 million people in the entire world back during Islam’s inception). It’s a city problem.

Now, let’s switch gears to apply this to our modern context. Every culture has cohesive rules that are mostly uniform, including dress. Including Western civilization. It tries very hard to transcend cultural limitations but everyone knows there is a distinctive Western culture (not only that, the rest of the world often resents us for what they see as cultural imperialism). So Islamic civilization has a dress code. Now take the average situation in cities across the entire world, throughout time. What would be the situation for women? Would there be any use for them walking around and being gawked at and all the ensuing problems?

You might say that it should be open ended, so people can apply various rules for their own situations as circumstances dictate. Wearing burqas might make sense in 7th century Arabia, 21st century Mogadishu, or 20th century New York (pretty bad during the ’70s and ’80s). Let people do what ‘they’ want. But that just means a dress code WILL develop, one in which you (or in this case, Islam) do not have a say. Muslims are the ‘they’ and they ARE doing what they want. Western dress code is not open ended. The culture has a very tolerant policy in some manifestations (such as in the United States) but even then you will stick out like a sore thumb or be ostracized in various, subtle ways if you don’t stick to the standard image that’s projected through Western cultural outlets (like TV, advertisements, music, etc). Sure nobody’s gonna come and arrest you, but some very key components of the human life experience (a social life) might be locked out to you. So even in the alleged absence of a proper dress code, one develops anyway. And this will always happen. You think all Muslim women in a burqa are clones of one another and Western women are all very individualistic? Walk down a street in New York. People are all wearing almost the same things. And New York would be one of the most varied places out there. Sub-cultures develop in Western culture because of how open-ended it is. Saying that someone can dress punk, goth, whatever isn’t variety. If you don’t pick a sub-culture, don’t find a niche for yourself, you’re going to lose out on a key component of the human life experience. People do not have a choice. You gotta pick SOME crew, or wind up wanting for more human contact. So people who wind up in one niche or another, will wind up adhering to those ‘dress codes’ almost all like clones of one another. And all this in a society that is supposedly completely free and open.

So if all this is going to happen no matter what (and Western culture is the main example people use, if you use ANY other culture, Japanese, colonial European, African, anything… before it was supplanted by Western culture today, you’ll find the same uniformity of dress), Islamic civilization spelled it out from day one. And whatever you want to say about the burqa, it clearly follows all the existing logic of every other rule in Islam and its views on society and civilization. And in this case, the view that the burqa is some form of ownership by a man over a woman, is something that is not seen anywhere within the religion. That conclusion is arrived at by people when they see an individual man forcing an individual woman to wear the burqa. That’s a separate issue. Within Islam, people are not each other’s property. Remember, Islam gave women lots of rights, including to own property and inherit, in a time where women themselves were property everywhere else in the world, including in Christendom. People are, however, “God’s property”. You’ll find the distinction in a lot of Islamic legal texts between various forms of rights. The rights of a person’s soul over themselves (not really big in terms of legal importance though), the right of people over one another (breaking down by various human relationships… the essence of Shariah), and the rights of God over people. For an example of how important this is, any sort of sin which violates God’s right over a person, can be forgiven by God, who is reputed to be very merciful and forgiving. It’s almost a mantra in Islamic literature that God will instantly forgive any sincere repentance. However, God will not forgive a sin which is a violation of one person’s rights over another person. That person will get the chance to forgive or get justice on the Day of Judgement (and in this world, their recourse is through Shariah). The burqa and these other rules do not fall under the rights of a husband over a wife, and marital rights in Islam are a subject talked about very extensively, especially amongst Western Muslims too these days where the idea of Islamic marriages (in terms of what a marriage is, what are the roles, what are the rights of the spouses over one another, and the spiritual nature of marriage) has become more appealing since the Western idea of marriage has a 50% failure rate. I’ve sat in on various lectures by American Muslim speakers at various conventions (often including a guest Rabbi or Christian cleric) and listened to those available online or on YouTube, as well as read works of even the most conservative clerics in the Muslim world, both ancient and current. I have not seen anywhere the hijab/burqa being a right of a husband over a wife. If a husband wants a wife who observes hijab, he should marry one. On the other hand, it IS a standard right of spouses to expect the other to be adherent to the religion. So indirectly, it becomes a right. Except you cannot really force people on the second part of that ‘connection’. A Muslim man or woman can force the issue with their spouse on general religiousness or whatever, but not immediately on the specifics. The idea being, if someone decides to become more religious, observing the dress code automatically becomes a part of that. However, sometimes the only issue is the dress code, and in ‘backwards’ societies such as those in Afghanistan or perhaps rural areas of Pakistan, that’s all there really is. What else can a Muslim woman do to renege on her religion? She’s observing everything else. The default culture that one is socialized with is generally Islam. So people don’t know what “Islam” consciously is, because for them it’s like “society’s subconscious”. So if anything breaks with tradition, that immediately sticks out and indicates the person is headed in a different direction. And that leads me to the last point I’d like to make.

In the last 100 years or so, there has been a huge backlash against Western culture and perceived cultural imperialism. One thing that before was just something people did, like not properly cover up to legal codes, has now become associated with Westerners and their culture. That is how the association between a woman not wearing a burqa and automatically becoming of questionable character in other areas (such as fidelity or even beliefs) came about. I’m not sure what went wrong there, because on the face of it, it starts to follow logic. Few people marry in Western civilization and extramarital relationships are common, and even glorified in the culture we export overseas. There’s also the political and military imperialism lending to the backlash against perceived cultural imperialism. All of this is evident the most in Iran today (because it has a theocratic government trying to control the limit of Western cultural influence in society via laws). If you don’t cover up, you’re no longer just not covering up, you’re picking Western values over Islamic values, and it automatically brings into question all of those values. On the other hand, let’s take an example of a young Muslim married couple in the West who decide, for whatever reason, to become more religious. Even without going to the extent of wearing hijab, the man will see the increased concern for religon on the part of the woman and automatically start associating Islamic qualities to her character. He’ll be less likely to associate her as behaving like a Western woman with relationships, even though she might still be dressed exactly the same. If she adopts the hijab, it would perhaps only imperceptibly change that. Because it’s not really the hijab that matters (when it comes to his ‘judgement’ of her), but what it’s representing.

In that personal relationship of course. That’s where the onus is on voluntary adoption of hijab, and to make that happen, an “Islamic culture” is needed. However, on a sociological level, the hijab becomes more important, because as we saw from the Quran verse, that’s the context in which its primary impact was to be. Women are no longer harassed individually because they’re all covered up. This is another way of saying they are no longer judged for their physical beauty by all but their close family. And face it, appreciating a person’s physical beauty IS a form of judgement. However, the other side effect of this is that men no longer have a standard by which to judge the women (except the women in their own family). How attractive do you think you’d be to a man who doesn’t look at other women? And let’s also assume that he also didn’t have the unrealistic standard portrayed by Western culture in his head either (which even Western women complain about). Suffice to say, even in long term marriages, there would be a noticeable boost to basic physical attraction between the spouses. On a widescale level, that’s enough to alter the society completely. It’d be like going from a 50% divorce rate today to a 30% one. Just throwing out numbers there, but imagine all the far reaching consequences, both observable and not, which that would have. Even 40-45% would have huge repercussions and result in a society very different some years down the line.

We have history as a testament to the effectiveness of the Islamic social system (or rather, its part in the civilization), which was completely built on the family unit, because as far as civilizations and empires go, the original government of Muhammad in the 7th century AD was relevant until the 20th century (when the Ottoman empire fell). It gave a solid foundation to the Islamic legal, military, political, and even economic systems so a lifespan that long isn’t seen anywhere else. It worked. Whereas after 200 years, the United States is already imploding on itself, and nobody would claim that the current social culture or values are helping. Broken families fuck up humans, that’s a fact. And we haven’t evolved beyond that yet. The British Empire (not sure which one would consider the most powerful of all time) also lasted about 300 years at its peak. Islamic civilization due precisely to its strongly codified nature, embodied in this debate, transcends empires. The civilization produced the empires, not vice versa. The Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mameluke, Ottoman states were all the same government, with a succession going back straight to Muhammad himself. Not counting the spinoff caliphates and sultanates. The Islamic government survived annihilation by the Mongol hordes (the entire Abbasid state was destroyed). The Soviets couldn’t survive just Afghanistan and Reagan. We’re having trouble surviving a banking crisis and even smaller engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan… against guerillas. All of the current turmoil in the Muslim world is because everything is still revolving around the political ghost of the Ottoman Empire and subsequent European colonialism (the British alone were responsible for the Israel-Palestine, Iraq-Kuwait, Pakistan-India disputes). The resiliency of Islamic civilization (and all of the advances brought forth in terms of science/tech is also dependent on this) is all grounded in its social system, which is made up of the family unit, which is modelled around Muhammad.

I can understand having issues with mixing Western civilization with Islamic civilization, made more complicated by the fact that Western civilization forcibly ‘mixed’ with Islamic civilization, on its soil, for the last 200 years or so. Theleast we could do is at least be somewhat ideologically tolerant. So yeah, asking whether the burqa should be banned or not isn’t a bad question at all. Questioning whether the burqa turns women into slaves or something however, is. Besides, ideology isn’t the end all be all by which to judge a civilization. We espouse some fantastic ideology today in Western civilization but it doesn’t reflect any on our behavior or our continued imperialist aspirations. No matter how harsh Islamic ideology has seemed in the past, whenever they’ve been on top, they’ve been a bit more genuinely tolerant.

Btw, if you’re curious about whether I’m Muslim, I’m an American Muslim. The women in my family do not really wear hijab/burqa except when we visit Islamic countries. My mom sometimes wears a loose daputta. In my extended family from overseas, some of my aunts started wearing full burqa/niqabs after they became educated. One of them (the youngest) is a medical doctor and an Islamic scholar (Mufti… like a legal PhD for Islamic law), and in the course of doing the latter, she started wearing the burqa. She’s also not married. The others are a chemistry teacher and another doctor (who both learned about it from the Islamic scholar aunt). Both married with a buncha kids each. My mom, who does not wear it, married early and left home (for the US) before my youngest aunt started wearing it and is a housewife (she has a degree in Psychology though).


I have to admit to playing a bit of devil’s advocate with the commenter above me. I am actually fairly understanding about dress codes – what is considered modest for my family isn’t for another. I disagree, but I’m not from that culture and my viewpoint is different. I also know that some women are uncomfortable without their burkhas, and that’s one reason I don’t think they should be banned – they should be able to choose to wear them.

What I object to is that some women ARE forced to wear them – they can be beaten, either by family members or random strangers in the streets. Sure, it’s wrong, but if your choices are to either submit to wearing something you by rights shouldn’t have to wear or risk having acid thrown in your face, it’s a strong woman (stronger than I am) who chooses the latter.

And no, I don’t think that all women who wear the burkha are clones. And I’m under no illusions about the individuality of people in the United States in the face of trends. But you can choose punk, goth, retro, country, whatever, and you can change the next day, without fear of getting in trouble from someone in a position of authority over you. And there are places where wearing non-traditional clothing gets you into trouble.

Also, I’m not aware of what problems women face by being gawked at. We are looked at, I’m sure, but, well, we look at men, too, and it’s not like we just wander around harassing each other.

I still feel strongly that it does subjugate women when it’s forced. But it’s more of a symptom in those circumstances – places where it’s forced are often places where women do have less rights anyway. And that’s where the focus needs to be.

What was bothering me about the commenter I was responding to was the fact that he assumed that it’s all about sexual attraction, which it’s not, and that injustices done to one group (men) justify injustices to another group (women). I went further on the argument than I normally would because of this. But I still do support women who live in the areas where they are subjugated when they want to stop wearing burkhas – because what seems like a small step can lead to bigger ones.

Edit: Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the debate.


You’ve made several excellent points.

I also know that some women are uncomfortable without their burkhas, and that’s one reason I don’t think they should be banned

I think that’s the biggest argument for not banning them. And I think the French, if they are really represented by their elected leaders, are quite frankly, ignorant for not recognizing this. Sunni Islam makes up 90% of the 1+ billion Muslims in the world. Of this, 3 of the 4 legal schools (so let’s say at least 500 million people worldwide), have judged the niqab (the ninja-like face veil which leaves the eyes open) to be required. Doesn’t matter if many Muslim women do or do not observe it, what if they ever wanted to? And many people are in various stages of their life, either coming from or going back to their religion.

What I object to is that some women ARE forced to wear them – they can be beaten, either by family members or random strangers in the streets. Sure, it’s wrong, but if your choices are to either submit to wearing something you by rights shouldn’t have to wear or risk having acid thrown in your face, it’s a strong woman (stronger than I am) who chooses the latter.

This is also a very good point, but here the problem is the men, not the burqa. If you take the burqa out of the equation, do you really believe that these relationships will suddenly become perfect and abuse free?

The solution for domestic abuse and violence is not an easy one. It’s like trying to figure out how to stop rape in South Africa (interesting piece on the BBC’s website about that today). It means altering a culture which has ingrained itself into the population for at least the last few generations. And in South Africa’s case, the culture is decidedly Western in outlook to begin with. It’s not as traditionally African. Gang rape is even seen as a form of male bonding. How do you fix something like that?

As for the acid… I haven’t heard of people throwing acid on women’s faces for not wearing the burqa. For one thing, in Afghanistan, the last reports I heard about acid being thrown on women involved schoolgirls who were actually wearing the burqa (I don’t know how much it managed to protect them from the acid in this case). No idea if it was a Taliban attack (for going to school) or some personal thing. All the other cases I’ve read about usually involve jilted lovers or rejected marriage proposals. However, the problem there is the same. A fundamental disrespect of women which leads men to use any excuse to attack them, even physically. This is present in the West too, but swept under the rug. They might not throw acid on their faces, but they’ll upload private pictures or the like online. I used to be a frequent poster at a major automotive enthusiast forum, and in our private moderator forum, it was routine for the guys to post compromising pictures of their ex-girlfriends after breakups. This practice has even led to suicide on the part of some women. And plain old domestic abuse in general is obviously not rare in the West at all.

Thanks for the elaboration, I understand about the playing devil’s advocate bit. Allow me to do that here. It might not be ‘all’ about sexual attraction but can you really answer the question of whether each gender’s entire appeal to the other (including psychological, emotional) is not rooted in our sex drives? People change their entire thinking because of it. You know, the standard scenario of waking up next to someone after a one night stand and thinking “/facepalm… what was I thinking”. It isn’t all alcohol (although what causes people to use alcohol in this manner to begin with would also be a pertinent question). And if you took a time machine back to the night before, nothing you can say or do would stop them. It’s almost as if they’re different people. We can even identify hormones which play a critical role in the love of a mother for a child (oxytocin… which also helps bonding between sexual partners). We are very biological creatures and our psychology is very dependent on that biology.


  1. I do understand that our psychology is dependent on our biology – I did agree with that above. It’s just not the whole story here. Equal treatment is the issue. As a woman, I can’t imagine wearing something hot and restrictive every time I wanted to go out. I’d be uncomfortable, I’d be unable to get things done, I’d be less able to express myself with my face covered, and there is a range of things I would be unable to do due to the bulk of the clothing and the lack of peripheral vision. All for the sake of not getting glanced at. There is no reason it should be considered immodest for a woman to uncover her face, but not a man. It doesn’t make sense for it to be required for women to do this.
  2. “This is also a very good point, but here the problem is the men, not the burqa. If you take the burqa out of the equation, do you really believe that these relationships will suddenly become perfect and abuse free?”

That’s why I said it’s a symptom in those circumstances. However, women in this situation need to start somewhere, and choosing not to wear something that you’re normally forced to wear is one way of asserting control over your own life. They know they can’t just wake up one day and make everything change. There’s always a first step, and this is as good a place to start as any.

  1. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I am certain I have been reports about patrols of men enforcing traditional dress (particularly covered faces or hair) by throwing acid or beating women, as well as stopping them from going to school or stories about romantic rejection. If I’m wrong, I apologize. I’ll look it up later, when I have more time.
  2. Believe me, I am well aware of domestic violence in the west, and it’s terrible. I’m not objecting to domestic violence in one region while condoning it in another. I don’t object more to violence against women than I do to violence against men. THIS thread was about a specific topic, and I’ve voiced my feelings about it. That doesn’t mean I don’t also feel strongly about others as well. I’m also aware that revenge happens after break ups – on both sides, women do it too. Women just tend to be more indirect, and find non-physical ways to cause harm in most cases. Again, saying that one thing is wrong does not mean that I don’t also feel that other things are also wrong. And yes, I couldn’t agree more that the rape situation in South Africa is completely disturbing. While I have no idea how to change these attitudes and cultures, I can show support for the people inside them who are standing up for themselves and trying to make a change.
  3. There are other types of force, rather than physical. If the niqab is required, and a woman chooses not to wear it, what are the consequences? Is she expelled from her religion? What will her family say or do? I am very aware of these decisions can alienate someone from their entire community, especially in communities where religion is very important. I also know how trapped a person feels when they are confronted with a decision like this.

Thanks for the conversation.


Sure, just two or three things I think will address most of your questions.

I can show support for the people inside them who are standing up for themselves and trying to make a change.

I think the issue is that there really is no widespread movement for change of the status of the burqa within Islamic society. As people elsewhere have commented, this site, Muslims Against Shariah, well… this is just the sort of thing you’d expect to find on there. And just as many others in this thread have already done, I also question whether the people behind the site are or were ever Muslim at all, since quite a few of their articles come off as sounding bigoted. And again, this is something observed by many people who visit this site as evident from the comments here and in older threads about postings from there. It’s very easy to write an article like this, every culture will find practices in any other culture alien, perhaps even reprehensible. All you need to do is pick an opposing viewpoint from another culture then write from within that to pull up some sort of moral authority to essentially bash a different culture. This sort of behavior between cultures is also the root essence of most human conflict and war in general. You can distinguish these attempts because they confuse one set of values (in this case, Western) as universal. Human dress is not a universal value shared by all cultures, aside from covering basic nakedness. That leaves a lot of room open for cultures to improvise.

The reason there isn’t a movement to change the burqa? Because there’s no need. This is addressing your last question I guess. I think my post above deals with the question of the social implications of wearing or not wearing the burqa in our time.

The women who don’t want to wear the burqa, the vast majority of them simply aren’t wearing it. So the people advocating the view that there’s a repressed population of Muslim women forced into wearing the burqa are talking about a minority community of like poor Afghans or perhaps Pakistanis in their border regions. That’s the only place I know of where the burqa is so culturally ingrained and under attack by the West. The other would be some Arab countries, like Saudi-Arabia. The situation there is different though, because for one thing, they’re our ally. So few, if any, US leaders will bring up these issues with them. Secondly, they follow an even more extreme brand of Islam than even the most strictest Sunnis or Shi’a. Wahabbism. Unlike Sunni Islam, which while having different legally valid opinions on the obligatory nature of the burqa, definitely does not believe in forcing it on people, Wahabbism does not make any of these social distinctions. It’s too simplistic. Not only would forcing a woman to wear a burqa (even by force under the worst case scenario) be easy to imagine there, it’s morally justified by their view of the world and their sense of rationality and reason. This was the choice of the Saudi ruling family, and Great Britain and the United States chose to support them way back in World War 1, help them defeat the Sunnis (the Ottoman Empire), and give Ibn Saud his Kingdom. The Saudi problem is 100% the consequence of the efforts of the UK and the US. So you’ll have to answer to yourselves about them. Muslims knew all about their minority movement for hundreds of years and we never listened or gave them any influence. The West did. As for Afghanistan/Pakistan, you’re talking about a few million women in a worldwide Muslim community of over a billion. Therefore, the burqa really is a non-issue. If you’d like to take up the cause, it would be better done by focusing in on that region in particular. But don’t expect to make much, if any, headway. They have the same issue I describe above… they are incredibly distrusting of Western influence and essentially hate Western culture. The Soviets already tried to brutally force some of these values on them so it’s become impossible to bring up debate about these in any legitimate fashion. You’ll immediately be viewed as an outsider or a traitor to your people and your religion. This makes sense when you consider the situation in Afghanistan in the ’80s where there were lots of local “communist” Afghans propped up by the USSR. The moment it left, they all fled or defected back to traditional Afghan values. Most of the movements for changing views on the burqa you found back then were from ‘Westernized’ Afghan women living in Kabul, often Russian-speaking. Needless to say, the rest of the Afghans aren’t impressed. You could travel to any remote village and the sentiment will be ‘it sounds like not wearing the burqa would be convenient in physically doing this or that’ but you won’t find anyone willing to actually take it off, even if their men didn’t care. For one thing, the women have become extremely sensitized to being looked at by other men. They’d view it as immodest to display yourself in front of strange men, and just wouldn’t do it. Just as how it makes no sense to you to cover your face, it makes no sense to them to walk around in public with it uncovered. And from personal experience I can tell you that’s what happens for many of them… they’ll be acutely aware that all of a sudden all these eyes are on them, and it’s an uncomfortable and alien experience for them. My own aunt, who adopted it out of a conscious decision after studying Islamic texts, now has that as her more immediate reasoning for wearing it. She first thought ‘this makes sense’ and started wearing it. Now she feels that, and would be horrified at the prospect of not wearing it, because it would actually make her feel very vulnerable and alien.

Lastly, the actual rulings from within Sunni Islam on the obligatory nature of covering the face are all based on the same logic. Aside from the fact that that’s how the original Muslim women did things, nearly all the jurists from 3 of the 4 legal schools concluded that a woman’s face is a part of her awrah, or that part of her which is covered out of basic modesty (‘nakedness’ isn’t the right term, but it’s a similar sentiment in that it’s common sense to cover that up, and people actually included a woman’s hands and her face in that, except the eyes). The Hanafi school, the largest (followed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent too), does not view a woman’s face as part of her awrah but Hanafi jurists concluded that veiling the face (but the eyes) is practically required though not actually required, because of the potential to create fitna (disorder and chaos) in society. For an example of that disorder and chaos, current Western culture is a prime example. That’s exactly what they did not want. Besides all the moral implications, it also eventually stagnates a society and makes it more vulnerable to harm and even collapse. So for Hanafis, not veiling the face is a matter of that. If it results in that sort of fitna, then it would be a sin, but it is still not legally required (unless a direct case of resulting “fitna” is provable in a court somehow). It’s okay to even disagree with the idea of wearing a burqa/niqab, as that would at worst be just a sin, but it would not challenge a person’s faith or status as a Muslim (questioning the basic hijab, or covering the hair, would). However, in the other 3 schools, questioning the validity of the burqa/niqab is essentially questioning the Quran, and could potentially be a challenge to a person’s own faith. And yet despite this, there is no problem with not wearing it in the vast majority of the non-Hanafi Muslim world. You really have to go out of your way to find a lot of women wearing the burqa, however it has made a comeback after 9/11 throughout a lot of the Muslim world. That fact alone should clue you in to the forces at play.


I appreciate the point of view. I wouldn’t be surprised if the extremity of the issue is exaggerated by Western news – most things are. I will keep an eye on the news I read.

However, it still doesn’t make sense, and smacks of sexism, that the face and hands of a woman are considered awrah, but a man’s aren’t. It also makes no sense that a woman’s face creates fitna, but a mans does not. And I’m not entirely certain what you mean by disorder and chaos in Western culture. What do you mean by that?


Well right off the bat, Islam doesn’t believe the sexes are the same. The same philosophy isn’t rare even in Western circles, “equal, but different”. Men are more attracted by visuals, and this has panned out in every scientific study they do on the matter. Men are also way more aggressive. There’s a reason why groups of men standing around loitering are more liable to harass women passerby than vice-versa.

Personally, I think this is something that needs to be remembered more often. In the original context of the Quran’s verse, the command to cover up was for women’s defense. So those who persecute women in its name are really off their rocker.

As for disorder/chaos, I mean the destruction of the ‘family’ unit as Islam sees it. That’s the underpinning of Islam. Broken families, premarital/extramarital relationships, children born out of wedlock, are all abhorred by Islamic values. Muslims often point to the similar Christian reaction to all this as confirmation.


 

Alright, but my understanding is that those things happen in Muslim countries, too – covered women or not.

I actually agree with separate but equal – each sex has its strengths and weaknesses. But this only applies to a certain extent. Honestly, I think some of the sexual behaviors displayed by the sexes – catcalling, for example – are learned behaviors based on societal expectations. It can be expected of men – in fact, it might be a male-bonding thing at some point (late teens, standing around being stupid, guys start doing it, you have to too or you’re not cool – that sort of thing). Whereas good girls don’t do that.

I believe that requiring women to be covered reinforces this – seeing a woman elicits a greater response because it’s more uncommon. For example, my husband was asked by Iraqi’s if it was true that our men swim with our women. When he said yes, he asked how they control themselves. Making women forbidden seems to result in the opposite of the desired effect by making women more exotic and mysterious, and therefore more attractive.

**I was out of town for a few days, and will be leaving again, so I’m not sure if I’ll get back to this, but I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.


Making women forbidden seems to result in the opposite of the desired effect by making women more exotic and mysterious, and therefore more attractive.

I actually agree with everything you’ve said here. But that, to me, is the biggest point of reason behind the ruling regarding covering. Making men sensitized to a woman’s physical appearance like that will do wonders for his own married life. So long as its his own wife that he’s seeing uncovered, but the effect will also spread to any woman he sees in this manner as you noted. Of course a woman won’t be more attractive while she’s covered, only when she’s uncovered is where the change in sensitization will mostly take place. It’s difficult to be attracted to something you can’t see… but when you do see it, the attraction will be greater. Which is a point of incompatibility between traditional Islamic culture and modern Western culture. Which goes back to what I was saying earlier regarding the wider ramifications of this practice on the society. Islamic society had a pretty solid footing to last as long as it did as a world power, from the 7th century until the 19th-20th. And this was centered around its family system as the family unit is emphasized in Islam. All the rulings together pretty clearly serve the function of trying to hold together families in peace, not just from this, but also with regards to common points of conflict such as inheritance and other rights (who has say over who, etc).

A common argument against covering in the Islamic world isn’t against the logic or reasoning behind it, but simply that it’s not practical in today’s world where Western culture dominates. If only some women are covering up, the men are still seeing other women who aren’t, especially in popular media, so it’s impossible to achieve that effect. And the men who do restrain their gazes (as important a part of this ruling as the actual covering for the women), will have a tougher time being that now they’ll be sensitizing themselves more not just to their spouses, but their attention will perhaps be easily caught by random advertisements, billboards, or other uncovered women, etc. Moreso than before, and thus undoing its own effects.