Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Merda taurorum animas conturbit (*)

Some correspondence at Loonwatch ended with them not posting a reply of mine to a very long article (twenty pages printed out, 10,000 plus words) of a blogger by the name of Danios on the Fathima Rifqa Bary apostasy case.  

The original article is here.  Virtually all the comments were in praise of Danios’ take on the issue, which in essence is that Ms Bary (a Muslim convert to Christianity) should be returned to her pious Muslim parents for there is no danger of her being killed for apostasy, since there is no case for that punishment under Islam, at least on the reading of “reform-minded Muslims”.  My first post was published October 23rd 12:16pm: it’s towards the bottom of the link above.  Danios commented on my post, and I in turn addressed his points in the post below, which Danios did not publish:

My response to Danios’ comments, NOT published:
Thanks for your reply and advice.  I thought I had read your article carefully, but you’re right, I did miss the bit about the 1958 fatwa of al-Azhar university opposing the death penalty for apostates.  So I printed out your article (20 pages!) and had a more thorough look at it.  The link to the fatwa you mentioned doesn’t go to that reference, so I found it separately.  (BTW, one could argue that a 1958 fatwa is abrogated by a 1991 certification of the “Reliance of the Traveller” [the Classic Manual of Islamic jurisprudence, which is certified by al-Azhar university] in which death for apostasy is mandated, but let’s not worry about that).  The reference I found was this:
“To Shaykh Tantawi [Grand Imam of al-Azhar], a Muslim who renounced his faith or turned apostate should be left alone as long as he does not pose a threat or belittle Islam” [my emphasis].
The first bit of the qualification “as long as he does not pose a threat…” goes to the point you made repeatedly, that the call for death to apostates in the Hadith needs to be “contextualized” to include sedition/treason (that is also an arguable proposition, but let’s not worry about that either, for now).  But what about that bit I bolded “belittle Islam”?  There’s a loophole one could drive a truck through.  Let’s say you leave Islam and state that you have done so because you found it misogynist or homophobic or…whatever,  that could land you in pretty deep water, I would have thought.  And there's always going to be a reason one left Islam, which if expressed would amount to "belittling", at least in the minds of many Muslims.  [*]

And therein lies the problem with the thesis you have set out above [linked article]: loopholes galore, for “loonies” and for dhimmis alike.  It may be that there are “reform-minded Muslims” who “contextualize” the Koran and reliable hadith to eliminate capital punishment for apostasy.  But equally there are many – indeed many more – on the conservative side of this question who do not “contextualize” death for apostasy and who support it robustly.  That’s not me saying that:  that’s the many Muslim scholars respected in Islam who say that.  To name just a few:  Sayyid Baul Ala Maudidi, Afzal ur-Rahman, Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi,  Al-Razi.   These are all respected, mainstream, credible, Islamic voices who say apostasy is punishable by death.  So when you say “Islamophobes insist that apostates must be killed” [emphasis in the original] are you saying these worthy Islamic scholars are “Islamophobic”?

All that’s “theory”.  Then there’s reality.  Today the following countries have the death penalty for apostasy: Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Mauritania.  Iran joined this list as recently as 2008.  That’s eight countries with a population of over 200 million where people can be killed for changing their belief; killed, in short, for thinking freely.

If you were Ms Bary, would you feel sure that your parents, their co-religionists and their Mosque had “contextualized” the teachings on apostasy such that you were in no danger?  Would you be sure when you knew that other young girls had been killed by their families, in the US and in Europe?  No, you could not be sure.  Neither can professor Valerie Hoffman, nor can professor Sherman Jackson, nor can professor Brett Wilson, nor can reporter Michael Kruse.  The best that Kruse can say in his article is that Bary’s parents “don’t have to” kill her [sic], or that we can’t know “absolutely” that she will be killed [sic].  Is that really good enough??  That we don’t know for sure that she’ll be killed for her beliefs, therefore she can go back home?  (and aren't those shockingly irresponsible statements by Kruse?)

On the question of “The Reliance of the Traveller” vs. the “Summa Theologica”, with respect, the comparison is not valid.  The provisions on apostasy are routinely referred to by Muslims in all countries of the world, today.    No Christian, today, in any country, refers to the “Summa Theologica” to justify death for apostasy.  In Judeo-Christian discourse, death for apostasy is just not on the agenda and hasn’t been for centuries.  In Islam death for apostasy is very much an alive issue.  Even your own article recognizes this, in the quote from Sherman Jackson: the issue of apostasy is “the heart of a burning debate among modern Muslims” [emphasis in the original].  Why the “burning issue”, Danios, if you have had “…the Final Word on Islam and Apostasy” [the part-title of Danios' essay]?

If there are many “reform-minded Muslims” who want to do away with a barbaric penalty for thinking for oneself, that’s encouraging.  But they do have a rather long row to hoe, the ground is hard and the hoe blade is bent.  To mix the metaphor, they are playing from a rather poor hand (not their fault!).  After all, if one has to spend so much time “contextualizing” , then one’s job is rather tough.  Those  “ultra-conservatives” and other “classical scholars”, by contrast, need only refer to the words of the “Traveller” or reliable hadith, plain and simple.
Still,  I do wish them well these “reform-minded Muslims”.  They may have a long row to hoe, so they will really have to bend to their work and I wish them luck in that endeavour.  We, the world, needs it.

[*] Postscript (not in the post):
Re Tantawi and the 1958 fatwa allegedly opposing the death penalty for apostasy: “Sayyid Tantawi, Grand Imam of al-Azhar in Cairo since 17 March 1996, is seen as the highest spiritual authority by  most Sunnis worldwide…. his statements are often contradictory and vacillating on issues ranging from female genital mutilation and the wearing of the hijab (the Islamic headscarf for women) to jihad and suicide bombings.”  Tantawi is shown to say sharply different things to Muslim and to non-Muslim audiences.  (Global Jihad, by Patrick Sookhdeo, p 206 et seq, chapter on Taqiyya.).  So the obvious question is: can we trust even that very conditional “opposition” to the death penalty quoted above, which was in a website aimed at non-Muslim audiences?

Danios answers my query on why the above not published; October 27th 3:01 am

Because it was too long and I do not have time to respond to huge posts by people who refuse to read my article in the first place. Keep your post short, raise only one point instead of a series of points, and most importantly please make sure that I haven’t already dealt with your point in my article.
In your last post, there were once again points I had already addressed but which you seem to have missed. I do not have the time to repeat myself, as that will only hamper my ability to post new articles aimed at Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Bat Ye’or, and Pam Geller.
As I have said in other threads on this site, I have a more rigid policy of moderation than other mods here. The Jihad Watch type crew has a lot of foot-soldiers who can force me to waste my time responding to them, but I don’t care to do that. I want to debate Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Bat Ye’or, and Pam Geller directly. So if any of them post rebuttals to my articles, then I will reply in great detail. Quite frankly, I don’t have the time to waste on you.

Couple of points:
(i)  Danios could have just published my post without comment and let the readers decide if what I had to say was too long, too tedious, missed the point, or was simply a tendentious farrago of falsehoods.
(ii)   I don’t see where there are “points I [Danios] had already addressed but which you seem to have missed”.  It would clearly be trespassing on readers’ patience to ask for these to be pointed out to me, but if there are any that jump out at one, I’d be happy to see them…
(iii)  On the site Loonwatch loves to hate, Jihadwatch.org, they allow comments to be published immediately and without editing.  They are only removed if they are against the terms of the site, eg abusive or racist.  Even then, that happens rarely. There are therefore often commentors on the site who argue against Spencer et.al.  I wonder why the folks at loonwatch don’t do that; what do they fear?
(iv)  A kind of BTW: my post above is 820 words; Danios original is 10,720.  OK, so Danios is one of the “motley group of hate-allergic bloggers” who run the site, but still, not to give a respondent 8% of the space to answer?  It’s unlimited space Danios, let the readers decide what they read!
(v)  There are many other errors in the Danios piece, including the false equivalence between the Bible (Deuteronomy) and the Koran -- the old "cherry picking" argument -- and the downplaying of the importance of the Hadith either out of ignorance or disingenuousness.
(vi)  Good luck with your Islamophobe-hunting, Loonwatch!  I am proud of a would-be pejorative when it’s flung by the likes of a site that is scared of publishing opposing views!

Loquendi Libertatum Custodiamus! [let's guard free speech]

(*) Merda taurorum animas conturbit: Bullshit baffles brains