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The Ongoing Separation of the Absurd

By: B.W. Ellis

A lively and ever increasingly diverse debate is raging on the connection of ISIS and the whole of Islam. While the President has inferred that no such relationship exists others such as Bill Maher have suggested a “connecting tissue” between these supposedly separate parts of this particular body politic.

In an attempt to further the distinction, or to at least derive a distinction between the faith and the newly risen terrorist outfit, a representative body of Muslim clerics and other authority figures have distributed the response. A long and at times misleading account of the differences between the “pure” faith and the manner in which this faith is being lived by these particular people calling themselves the Islamic State.

Coming from a foreigner’s perspective there is a finite amount of criticism I am allowed to levy against this attempt to divide the two camps in this absurd game but even within that narrowly defined segment of dissent and blasphemy, much can be hoisted upon this particular petard.

The petard, an explosive of renaissance era used to breach fortifications, makes for a stunningly appropriate metaphor for the document these holy men seek to use in forcing open the gates of ISIS to allow the light of modernity to enter within. For now, like the petardier who must escape the blast of his own device once planted, these men must run away from the implications of the explosive they have left at the ideological enemy’s gates.

These implications could turn on these moderates within the centers of their own support and seek to undermine the legitimacy of their claims of Islam being a “religion of peace”.

Mind you, all religions have obvious absurdities within them and a rare few can legitimately call them peaceful, yet unlike many faiths that are violent (such as Christianity, Judaism, and a whole host of others that instantly spring to the mind of anyone paying attention) Islam’s more fundamental followers are providing a particularly violent set of examples that moderate Islam needs to answer for.

As Sam Harris once said and I now paraphrase, it is not only the religious fundamentalists but the fundamentals of the religion that need be looked upon with a suspicious eye.

Below is the executive summery of the petard that these “moderate Muslims” positioned at the front gate of the ISIS fortifications, let’s just see all the unintended consequences that this explosion hoists high up into the air for us all to see.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts.

Here we start with the efforts of a group to school another in their theology. As an Atheist, I find that these attempts to instruct on matters scriptural or confessional upon others less educated to not be well accepted. Perhaps not the best place to start.

The mere suggestion is condescending to assume in your “laws” that the person reading the document has not done their homework yet even more perplexing is the “necessary learning requirements” and the “Classical texts” statements.

Does that not lead to the question what is considered a complete list of reading materials? Who gets to decide what should be included in the canon of Islamic thought and what does not? Doesn’t the simple fact that you are stating that there is a “required” learning suggest that those who have not completed this learning by your definition are therefore unable to issue the fatwas? Or in this case, call themselves Muslims?

What if the person who is issuing the fatwas has done the “required learning” and came to the very same conclusion that these “moderates” disagree with? Are they not just Muslims that disagree with these clerics?

These well intended men start the process by exposing themselves to a fallacy that ISIS will drive a truck through. They will simply state that they interpret the Qur’an differently that these other people and continue calling themselves Muslims despite whatever actions they take.

1.(cont) It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.

Here they try to prevent the “cherry picking” of the Qur’an for specific purposes. There are two problems with this, first off where does the relevant part of the text begin and the irrelevant part end, secondly are you cherry picking if you include or exclude other texts?

Let’s say I quote the Qur’an to support my idea and another accuses me of cherry picking only the good or bad. Who is to say that the quote I chose is not just as valid alone as it is when linked to other parts of the scripture? On the other hand why is it appropriate for you to say I have included to little yet not appropriate for me to say that you are including too much? This falls into the “do as I say, not as I do” fallacy every parent relies upon.

Now we have a disagreement about the quote and to further support it I bring in another quote from one of the “Classical texts” that were alluded to earlier. Now my quote has context, just outside of the holy book. Who gets to decide which is more genuine or praise worthy or true to god’s meaning in the publication?

It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.

Believe it or not this little gem caused some real conflict for the Catholic Church and eventually led to the separation of the faith. Once upon a time Latin was the only language the Christian bible could be presented within and far too many people died and were tortured as a result of breaking or otherwise avoiding that law.

In this situation the language limitation offers some wiggle room in interpretation of the book since variants of the Arabic language could be used to suggest different definitions in the ancient text.

By way of example, the founding documents of the United States use terminology that is alien to modern society and vice versa. During the rise of our current security state those who supported greater levels of personal invasion by the government stated that the word “privacy” was not included in the text so the founders did not mean personal privacy as we now know it.

This argument demonstrates an ignorance of colonial English more so than a knowledge of the intent of the founding fathers. If you walked up to Ben Franklin and stated that the Bill of Rights needed to include privacy he would have thought you mad. Back then the term referred to the privacy of using the bathroom. That is why a restroom during that time was called a “privy”.

Now, if our language has altered so much in a mere 240 years, imagine the vast array of alteration in Arabic over all those different tribes and spanning those 14 centuries.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.

This can be easily dismissed with the same argument concerning “cherry picking”. One cleric’s oversimplification is another’s removal of irrelevant femora.

The reason I singled this edict out is the phrase “Islamic sciences”. I have to wonder if the phrase is an odd translation from the Arabic or if this is an actual thing that my infidel mind has yet to be introduced to. Are we talking about the Muslim version of Intelligent Design or some other way of looking at reality through the lens of Islamic scripture.

Do those sciences include biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics? Are they willing to accept a conclusion that differs or directly contradicts the tenants of their faith? That one seems a very difficult hurtle for the Christians to accept so I wonder how the Muslims handle it.

  1. It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.

 

So now we have another fallacy of definitions. My definition of what is not a fundamental of the Muslim faith can be your declaration of closely held religious tenant. Since this becomes a difference of opinion rather than a declarative from god the actions based upon this interpretation are just as Muslim as the words spoken against it.

Also note the specification “[for scholars]” in the edict. This is a wonderful way of setting up an Ad Hoc argument before the debate begins. Simple infer that your ideological opponent is not a scholar and impugn their qualifications rather than address the point being made. A pre-packaged fallacy.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.

I think all the women in the room just perked up, and the LGBT community for that matter. Does that mean that the laws of Islam, laid down by God and delivered by the Archangel Gabriel, are open to the scrutiny of modern society?

Does this mean that the Saudi’s that are beheading homosexuals by the dozen are not being true to Islam? That the country that houses Mecca and Medina are not being true to the edicts of these “moderate Muslims”?

Would they like to also include laws against child brides, female genital mutilation, the forcing of women to wear the hijab, and the consideration of a woman’s testimony as only half as valuable as a man’s? Can women at least be allowed to drive a car?

Never mind the fact that the majority of the Middle East disagrees with this, the whole of Islam rejects the ideology of modernity in everything from depictions of the prophet to apostasy. This one is a cute theory but is no where near substantiated in practice.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.
  2. It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.
  3. It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.
  4. It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

These I have taken slightly out of order and as a group since the responding argument can be focused on them all evenly.

The innocent. Such a wonderfully ambiguous phrase that can be intended to mean so many things that it literally has no meaning. Is a person of the scriptures to be considered innocent? Is a person who is not of the scriptures to be considered not an innocent?

Again as an Atheist, I find the idea that certain people qualify as innocents and others do not as a vile loophole in the scripture and an unforgivable display of deliberate ignorance on the part of these men who have set down these edicts.

In a faith where vast majorities view apostasy (the crime of leaving the faith) to be punishable by stoning, imprisonment, and death I find this august body’s attempt at separation and supplication to be criminally offensive.

I would be stoned to death in many if not most Islamic cities for nothing more that saying “I do not believe in Allah, I am an Atheist.” That simple statement of belief would be justification in the courts of law for imprisonment and/or death, especially if I were once an “innocent” Muslim.

If Islam is a moral religion and a “religion of peace” then why have the separation in the first place? It should not matter if another person is Muslim in the eyes of the law, but it does. Later in this list is a prohibition of forced indoctrination, but if they are a moral religion toward non-Muslims why would any indoctrination be required.

This is the world of us versus them that is codified within the scriptures of most if not all religions. There can be no “separate but equal” in a society, I thought we proved that during the civil rights era. I guess we still have work to do.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

They try to include the “emissaries” in the collection of “innocent” people who should not be killed yet they are using the same document to suggest that if someone declares that they are not a believer then they are not innocent and therefore can be killed.

I am guilty of blasphemy for my simple proclamation that “I do not believe in Allah” and since I am an unbeliever I loose any protections of scriptures in any other faith so I am disposable? No longer to be considered “innocent”?

Some who read my writings claim I am either being brave or stupid for out rightly opposing Islam, that it is possible that I might find myself near enough to or within an Islamic country and therefore might get taken and put on trial for writing this very article.

That act of attempting to imprison someone like myself for nothing more than publically stating “I am an Atheist” and that “I do not believe in Islam” are both “crimes” that this document claims religious support of.

For me and millions of others like me, even the moderate form of Islam is not a “religion of peace”.

  1. Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.

This one reminds me of the quote from Bush 41, “There’s no better defense than a good offense.” That would be the first thing out of the mouth of the religious extremist holding a machete to the neck of one of his intended victims.

The rules of war that dictate the treatment of soldiers, prisoners of war, and the use of certain weapons are not compatible with Islamic law as depicted within this very document.

How can we expect that these radicalized militants are going to follow them?

  1. The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

While this is a beautiful thing, I wonder at how many clerics and other men of the faith work to halt the sex trade in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia where Islam has really taken root. The hypocrisy of this statement is almost as blunt and in your face as the history of America’s “original sin” of institutionalized slavery.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

Say that to the non-believer serving time or the believer seeking to leave the faith. Kind of hard to say that the non-Muslim who is no longer “innocent” is being handed the soft sell on whether or not to become a Muslim with a prison sentence or death looming overhead.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
  2. It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.

This is where we get into some really controversial territory, not that we have not already been in the thick of it.

Does a child born in Saudi Arabia have a right to become anything but a Muslim? Does a woman in Saudi Arabia have the right to drive a car or leave the house without a male family member as an escort?

Does a child bride (both a child and a woman) have the right to refuse to marry someone her father has arranged a marriage to? I know that the US does not subscribe to the International Rights of the Child due to our bloodlust over the death penalty but is it the position of the Muslim faith as defined by these learned men that these rights of the child be supported by scriptural law?

An example of child rape does appear in the Hadith. Muhammad’s third wife was 6 when wed and 9 when the marriage was consummated. There are those who seek to alter this determination of her age to save their prophet the disgrace of occupying the same space as child molesters but the example this passage sets has doomed thousands or even millions of little girls over the centuries to be set upon by their husbands well before puberty or physiology allows for such invasions.

How is it not an act of following in the prophet’s example to arrange a marriage with a young girl and consummate that marriage?

How can these “moderate Muslim” men look at the life of Aisia, third wife of the prophet, and claim that this man was supporting the rights of that child or that woman (girl)?

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.

From determining the definition of “correct” to the decision of what texts to include in the definition of “procedures” this particular passage is the very definition of fallacy.

Whose justice will be administrated? The people being judged have no say in the writing of the laws, those were supposedly handed down by god.

How can we say that god’s judgment was moral when (as previously discussed) the laws surrounding slavery had to be altered? If god was not moral enough to outlaw the practice of owning another human being then how can we say that he is moral enough to administrate the practice of any of the other laws?

The entire basis for law in the 21st century has to be reliant upon the will of the people. As hypocritical as this sounds coming from an American who knows full well the oligarchy Americans now live in, how dare these men intend to state that they are the better Muslims when the immorality of the laws in Islam are not defensible, even as the moderates have defined them?

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.

So to this I ask these men if they know and understand the term “honor rape” in Islamic cultures. Would they define rape as a form of torture?

Are they willing to ostracize the communities of Muslims that support the practice of honor rape in their application of the Muslim faith?

If you do not see these very same men, the ones in the image associated with this document, stepping out into these barbaric lands and preaching to the masses the evils of raping women as a part of the application of Islamic laws then you know them as being just as vile hypocrites as the people they seek to distance themselves from.

For how can a Muslim not condone torture yet in the same scripture condone raping a virgin so that they may be legally executed. Is that not the mark of something truly barbaric?

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

The only argument I have against this is if you consider organ harvesting as a form of disfigurement. I can see how removing organs and tissue for donation as being a desecration of the body but since those body parts can save the lives of others, lets not allow religious dogma into the discussion.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God.

Wow, that is sure convenient for god! No more do we call earthquakes, hurricanes, or any other natural catastrophe an act of God for fear of insulting Islam.

It also does something unthinkable in the discourse of logical thought, it puts a figure above judgment or criticism. It is from this simple premise that blasphemy gets its criminal status, and to anyone who values freedom of speech the thought of loosing blasphemy as a tool in the arsenal of speaking truth to power is as revolting as prohibiting the righteous judgments against anyone, even ISIS.

Since god created everything in their faith and ISIS is part of that creation are we to suspend logic in order to give god a free ride on the whole creation of Islamic terrorism thing?

If there is an act that you consider evil but that I consider good, am I breaking the law by stating that I think god was great for making me a blasphemer?

Not only does “evil” need a more clear definition, but God needs to be taken off the pedestal in order for this edict to not be turned on the “moderates” that wrote it.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

This one seems a little odd in the human rights discussion. If you are going to protect the graves of people, shouldn’t that include the “good Muslims”, or is that inconvenient and therefore not within the power of Allah?

Who determines the role of Champions in the Islamic society? Why can’t the shrine the ISIS commander built to himself fall into that very same consideration?

  1. Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.

So this group of “moderate Muslims” are laying down an ecumenical determination for the ways that societies should decide to shun their oppressors? I mean it’s the obvious question, what if a devout Muslim dictator steals from the people and closes the borders, brutalizes the populace, and violates what the UN declares are basic human rights? Is he all good if he professes a deep love of Allah and the Prophet while praying 5 times a day?

Or in the reverse, if a benevolent leader ushers in a new age of diversity and prosperity for his people but it is revealed that he was an Atheist all along? Are the people then required to rise up and overthrow him, turn back that progress in support of a Muslim who is not qualified?

This is one of many reasons why the separation of church and state is so vitally important.

  1. It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

Is that a 100% consensus? When we see elections with a victor getting more than 90% of the vote we tend to think there was foul play involved. With the divisions in Islam running so deep I would be amazed if any one caliphate got the majority of votes.

Is that a Shite or a Sunni caliphate or does the rule apply equally to both sects?

Does this mean that these “moderate Muslims” are suggesting that the rules of Islam effectively prohibit any caliphate from being established? Good luck getting ISIS to follow that one, or at least not to rig the election.

  1. Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

Is it? If that loyalty requires the follower to do something that is outside his faith, would it be permissible for the follower to put country before god?

Come now, it is incredibly simple to come up with a situation where a Muslim man in America would be obligated by the laws of this country to do something that violated the laws of Islam, would that be permissible?

Especially in a military setting, if a pilot of the US Air Force was ordered to bomb a fellow Muslim and his female child (as they will be ordered to in this fight with ISIS) would that person still be considered a good Muslim for violating the before mentioned edicts in this very document?

If that is the case, then could not any government use that loophole to do some awful things and still call itself an Islamic State?

  1. After the death of the Prophet, Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

 

Since the prophet died over 1300 years ago I think we can assume that the rule is solid and unchanging.

Is it not a de facto push to forced emigration of people like me? Lets say that I lived in a “moderate” Muslim country and survived my 40 years without being killed as an Atheist thus far. Wouldn’t a fundamentalist adherence to this very document and the laws of Islam put me at risk of being arrested and quite possibly killed for my vocal and outspoken writings?

Isn’t the religious response to my exercise of freedom of speech such that if I did not emigrate from the country in question I would suffer punishments? How is that not forcing me to emigrate in that situation.

In a more specific point, if a Muslim was to renounce the faith of Muhammad and embrace the non-believer lifestyle, would they loose the status of “innocent” and therefore become exposed to being imprisoned and likely killed by the courts enforcing Sharia Law?

These are just a few of the casualties of logic left on the battlefield by this concussive petard these men have hoisted themselves upon. Unfortunately this absurd list of religious doctrinal excuses may just be the means that Muslims the world over seek to separate themselves from the carnage and brutality of their confessional relations in Iraq and Syria.

The men who wrote it will celebrate in the ecumenical victory they have achieved over the ill prepared masses of illiterate ISIS members who probably will never read them.

These edicts were not meant for the Muslim in the trenches, they were meant for the western media to supply talking points in the attempt to hold at arm’s length the wayward spirits of their own faith.

The thing is that it fails scrutiny by even a simple logical review. The tenants of this ancient text reflect the lifestyles of an underdeveloped society by modern standards. The fundamentals of this faith are where the failures lie, not only the disturbed and violent people who follow them or the mistakes or differing opinions they have about them.

We need to acknowledge that the true danger that we face is much more dire than a simple distortion in the reading of the text, its closer to a massive distortion in the writing of it.