Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Case of the Shrieking Sheiks

It's a bit of a quagmire. On the one hand, Melbourne Sheik Mohammed Omran is causing headaches for John Howard, and when you operate on the principle as I usually do that any enemy of Howard's is a friend of mine, a smug little smirk may creep across your face.

Then, you read Sheik Khalid Yasin, executive director of the Islamic Teaching Institute, saying that university "intellectuality" compromises one's true Islamic direction (maybe not a great attitude for a teacher to have), "disobedient" wives should be beaten and homosexuals should be put to death - "it's not our law, it's the Koran" - and instantly you're reminded that these men could never be true allies. Yasin especially is just another extremist, twisting the words of a sacred book to justify his own hate-filled agenda, as shamelessly as does George Pell or Peter Jensen.

Omran's automatically on the conservative hit-list because he's mouthed that Theory That Cannot Be Named - namely, that the US government was itself responsible for the S11 attacks as part of a long-term strategy to whip up resentment against Islam and invade, bomb and murder accordingly without too much international reprisal. Gasp! What sort of pinko, Commo, Nazi, un-Austrayan, lezzo terrorist could even think such a thing? After all, we all know the only folk who kill their own to further their own cause are those darker-skinned throwers of Children Overboard, right? Oh, that's right, that wasn't actually true. That was just our government lying to us.

And maybe Uncle Sam has told his citizens the odd whopper or two along the way as well? When you remember that earlier TTCBN dating back to the 1980s, when the CIA brought in Columbian cocaine and used Contra agents to distribute to African-American children in the LA ghettos so that they could finance their war in Central America, is it really such a huge leap to even consider the possibility that maybe, perhaps, Omran, or indeed any of the Muslim clerics who have accused the US of the S11 attacks, might be onto something?

I guess the counter-argument to this is to ask where we draw the line on speculating who has been responsible for the subsequent attacks following S11. Are the Australian or Indonesian governments, for example, responsible for the Bali attacks? Or the British government for the London bombings? I don't think so, or at least I strongly hope not. But who knows, perhaps I'm being very naive.

Now, onto Yasin's colourful interpretation of the Koran.

As with the Bible, I haven't read this book from cover to cover or been to a book club meet where it's the novel of the week, so when he insists the Koran states that homosexuals should be put to death, I cannot immediately contradict him. Here, however, is a useful resource on the many contradictions of the Koran, especially with regard to homosexuality. One passage reads:

If two men among you is guilty of lewdness, punish them both...

But then you have these passages which, with all due respect, could be considered soft-core homoerotica on a good day:

(Koran 52:24) Round about them will serve, to them, boys (handsome) as pearls well-guarded.

(Koran 56:17) Round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness.

(Koran 76:19) And round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness: if thou seest them, thou wouldst think them scattered pearls.

The author of the website argues that "Mohammed could not make up his mind about Sodomy. He prohibits it on earth, but then he says that Muslims can enjoy homosexuality in Paradise."

He/she then concludes, in a passage that encapsulates perfectly my personal views on the Bible:

"(T)he Koran is full of contradictions. It is obviously not from God. The contradictions and the difference of writing styles evident in the Koran force us to make the conclusion that either this is a work of an incoherent and delusional individual or the work of not just one, but many people."

As with the Bible, however, this argument is essentially futile and irreconcilable. Some will be able to quote passages that illustrate their beliefs perfectly; others can quote from the same book to illustrate their counter-beliefs just as well. And if you believe Reverend Lovejoy, if we followed the Bible to the letter, "technically we're not allowed to go to the bathroom".

So how do you solve a problem like Yasin? Rodney Croome says we should go straight for the jugular and prosecute the guy under the Anti-Discrimination Act, even though he himself acknowledges that it's virtually impossible for religious leaders to be prosecuted as provisions of the Act allow religious persons and bodies to espouse such hatred without being liable to prosecution. This is why we've successfully been able to go after John Laws, Steve Price and Sam Newman but Jensen, Pell, Nile and now Yasin can continually get away with inciting fear, prejudice and violence.

Croome argues that if a case against Yasin failed there would be a strong argument for law reform, but again I'm very cynical that will ever happen as neither the Coalition or the ALP is about to tell Western churches what they can or cannot teach 'n' preach. Not in NSW anyway. I'm glad there's no legal sanctuary in Tasmania for these people but it's going to be a long time before the mainland follows suit.

I prefer Croome's more touchy-huggy approach of "a full-hearted attempt to win over Islamic opinion to social and sexual pluralism". Islam and homosexuality are not oxymoronic - think of Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble with Islam Today". And yes, the number of death threats she received subsequent to that book being published demonstrates how far we still have to go, but hey, it's the first step of a million-mile journey.


At 26/7/05 11:46 am, Blogger 'Thought & Humor' said...

We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose. A
time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison."

'Thought & Humor' by Howdy
CyberHumor, CyberThought
CyberRiddles for your divertissement!!!

At 26/7/05 12:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bit hard to follow an act like the last comment but it's telling that the author of that book was a woman not an Islamic man. Women and queers will never win over bigots of any persuasion. JT

At 26/7/05 1:04 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Indeed JT - not too sure where the last commenter sprang from! He seems to be having a good time, which is the main thing, I guess.

At 26/7/05 2:48 pm, Blogger Sam said...

And since when can you be the
"Editor" of your own blog?

At 1/8/05 4:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is important that we look at the author of some pages and see where there thoughts stem from. This person of the page you linked to "Here, however, is a useful resource" was from someone who is angry at a religion....... So how is this useful? Here is something my parter sent after I questioned the page.

I just thought, queer penguin is usually very good, so I was surprised to see him using this as a source.
I think the assumption that because the Koran includes words which seem contradictory to us, therefore it could not be written by God is a big assumption to make. And I think you are right - this kind of literalism, where you just cherry-pick bits and pieces out of a religious text makes no sense, and brings you no closer to the core message. For all we know, some apparent "contradictions" may in fact be included as a message for people to think twice before wielding a phrase or two in order to pronounce whether a particular act is allowed or not allowed. Ie maybe they are in there to let you know that obsessing over textual details and telling others how to live their lives is missing the point. ie margaret cho's jesus: "that's not what i MEANT!!"

I think religion in many ways is a lot like family - you may not agree with everything that everyone within it says, but it is still family and it is still where you belong, and where you draw your strength from.

At 1/8/05 4:54 pm, Blogger Sam said...

A fair enough point, anon. Personally I found this site useful because it educated me to contradictions of the Koran regarding homosexuality that I previously didn't know about, and while the author of that site no doubt has an agenda, they were still illustrative quotations.

And I don't think the intent of the author necessarily negates a possible counter-argument to the sheik's blanket assertion that the Koran demands homosexuals be put to death.

I don't believe in God/Allah/Mohammed so I obviously can't believe the Bible/Koran is the true word of a figure I don't believe exists, and I guess that's why I was sympathetic to this article.

At 3/5/07 11:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This subject is too complicated and too important to be left to the soundbytes and snippits of people with agendas lacking wisdom or folks who don't know any better but to simply be reactionary. Neither are correct.

The reality (which all credible Muslim scholarship will tell you is the case) is that the soul rewarded with Jannah (Paradise) will have whatever it's heart desires. This is because they've given the token of there obedience but for a little while (this life) for God's sake, and He richly rewards it with unending bliss. Very generous indeed!

For example, there are some pretty big limitations upon conduct in this life. A man, for example, can only have four intimate females in his life (under normal circumstances). But if he does this, he enjoins other limitations - like the obligation those women have a God-given right to demand of him; not merely his wealth, but his protection, his affection, and his time. Not to mention his obligation to the children they may have together.

Well, all of that is removed in Paradise. Ditto with foods - there can be no gluttony. It's impossible by definition.

But further, the quality of that "next life", while it can be spoken of here and now, is so exalted that this world really doesn't hold a candle to it. Paradise has it's own physics, it's own rules - it's a different, higher reality.

Further, we are told in reliable Islamic sources that in the case of many detestable things (disfavoured but not utterly impermissable) like frivilous songs, or outright forbidden things (like alcohol), that the reward for staying away from them for the sake of God will be to receive something better in the afterlife, just especially for you. In the case of the mentioned music, the hadith say that God Himself will sing to you - yes, the Lord of All, will sing for your pleasure. And in the case of alcohol, we'll have given to us rivers of clean spirits, which do nothing but delight but have none of the defects of intoxicants (compromising the will, often harming health directly or indirectly, etc.)

Well, given this...while some reactionary types may have a hard time with this, I can't see why the man who may find other males sexually appealing, but who resists acting upon this temptation for the sake of God Almighty, won't have this in Paradise if this is still what he's interested in. The houri and male-servants in Paradise are immortal and ever youthful, with no defect as will be the Righteous rewarded with Paradise. They will not be physically harmed, nor will there be negative consequences in society for whatever happens there.

This may shock prudes who confuse Islamic morality with the arbitrary prudery of the Christians (whose ideas owe more to a certain Stoic-philosophical tendency to be contemputous and distrustful of life, than they ever could be said to owe anything to the historical Jesus or the Prophets of Israel). Islam is ultimately about justice - everything it's place, everyone's rights (as defined by their Maker) for the purposes of the dunya (earthly life) respected, all looking to their Creator. And in exchange for this, an incomparably greater end - the "real life" we should have in mind, the one which will never end.

For example, many credible scholars have basically stated that if what a woman in Paradise WANTS is "different men", that's what she'll get. She'll still have the husband of her choice, if he made it to Paradise (and he'll be entirely pleasing to her), but otherwise she'll get whatever she wants. Of course the key here is that this is something she wants. It might not be. If she had refined tastes in this life, she probably won't. God knows best.

So, as should be apparent, there is NO CONTRADICTION in the Qur'an and Sunnah with regard to the status of homosexuality, intoxicants, etc. The problem is, rather, trying to read the Qur'an and Hadith with crypto/overt-Christian goggles, which when all is said and done are not really "Christian at all", if we define Christianity (ideally) by what the historical Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did and revealed.

The iconic personality for the Muslims, Jews, and Christians (oddly enough) is Abraham (pbuh.) He's so important, because in a time in the darkness of polytheism, he professed reason - One God, without divisions, without partners. For this, God called him (alone amongst the Prophets) His "friend" (like a pal, a buddy.)

Well, Abraham (p) also did something else to prove his worthiness - something which many misunderstanding people would consider madness; when commanded by God Almighty, he was willing to sacrifice his only son to Him. In this, was perceived the ultimate basis for morality in this universe - God. So if He truly commands something, even if it doesn't strike our fancy for personal or societal reasons (all passing things - you're passing, nations and peoples are passing), that's how it should be. Abraham (p) "got this", so he complied - God only stopped him at the last second. God is pleased with the WILLING obedience of His servants. Hence why there cannot be compulsion in religion. You can persuade someone with better reasoning and a better way - but threats do nothing. If violence need arise, it will be because the Shari'ah requires it, because God requires it for our own sake as individuals and as citizens of this temporary universe.

So, if someone finds themselves sorely tempted to do something haraam, their reward will be in struggling against this (the "greater jihad", the war within the soul; the prerequisit to the war with the "sword") for the sake of Al'lah (swt.) And such obedience for His sake will not go unrewarded, whatever the origin of one's habit of desire for that which is decreed (by God) "haraam" (forbidden.)

This is also why I think a lot of the debate about the origin(s) of significant/dominant homosexual desire is irrelevent, at least for Islam. Islam doesn't foolishly think it has to try to "let God off the hook", so it has nothing to lose from the demonstrable conclusions of scientists and scholars of any field of knowledge. So even if it can be demonstrated that homosexual desire has certain genetic/physiological origins (even if only for some defined "homosexuals"), or roots in social/psychological influences which cannot be said to have been "chosen" by the person in question...the thinking Muslim, who knows of the REAL scholars of Islam (and not government payrolled hacks in Wahhabi-Arabia) both ancient ahd modern, can only say "so what?"

It would have ZERO bearing on Islamic jurisprudence, since Muslims by default already accept that everything that exists is either a direct act of God's will, OR is WITHIN His will and full foreknowledge. IOW. if someone is sexually confused after being molested in their youth OR perhaps has a certain chemical/genetic disposition towards other men... that was ALLOWED to be by God. If He absolutely did not want this to be, it wouldn't be. Period.

So, it's for the person in that situation to do the best they can to follow the revealed will of God, even if it's very difficult for them. The more difficult, the greater the reward.

IT's no different than for the person born into a poor family, or who is born blind. If he can overcome this, not be angry with God for testing him (as it is His right do with us as He pleases - we are His, wholly and entirely...it's illogical to fight this), etc. he will be the best amongst men, without a doubt.

Al'lah knows best.


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