JihadWatch Hypocrisy Knows no Bounds

jihadwatch

The tragic earthquake in Haiti has brought an immense amount of suffering, with many people dead, injured, homeless and displaced.  This situation has brought out the best in many, various governments and organizations around the world have contributed emergency aid and funding but there has also been those who have attempted to take advantage of the situation by exploiting Haitians. This is what a group of American Christian missionaries are accused of doing.

The missionaries are accused of engaging in Child Trafficking, of taking missing children who are separated from relatives and smuggling them out of the country.

Baptists Probed in Haiti Case

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

A Haitian judge has questioned a group of US Baptist missionaries arrested while trying to leave earthquake-shattered Haiti with 33 children they claimed had been orphaned by the disaster.

The investigating magistrate question five of the ten missionaries for several hours and will question the remaining five on Wednesday, according to Marie-Laurence Lassegue, Haiti’s communications minister.

The missionaries were questioned behind closed doors and Lassegue said that they did not have a lawyer present at the meeting.

She also denied allegations, levelled by a lawyer for the group, that the Americans were being subject to “inhumane” conditions.

The judge will report to a district attorney who will decide if the 10 Americans are to be formally charged.

Undocumented children

The missionaries were arrested on Friday and are accused of trying to take 33 children – whose ages ranged from two months to 12 years – into the neighbouring Dominican Republic without the correct documents.The group, who are from a Southern Baptist church in the US state of Idaho, say they were only trying to save abandoned children.But legal experts say taking children across the border without documents or government permission can be considered child trafficking.

The children were later taken to the SOS Children’s Village orphanage, where those who were old enough and willing to talk reportedly said they had surviving parents.

Patricia Vargas, regional director of the orphanage, said: “Up until now we have not encountered any who say they are an orphan”.

Vargas said most of the children are between three and six years old, and unable to provide phone numbers or any other details about their origins.She said reports that the orphanage had turned some of the children over to their parents were untrue.

“The Americans apparently enlisted a clergyman who went knocking on doors asking people if they wanted to give away their children,” Jeanne Bernard Pierre, the director of Haiti’s social welfare agency, told the Associated Press news agency.

“One child said to me: ‘When they came knocking on our door asking for children, my mom decided to give me away because we are six children and by giving me away she would have only five kids to care for,’” he said.

‘Live parents’

Max Bellerive, the Haitian prime minister, has suggested that Haiti was open to having the Americans tried in the US since most government buildings, including Haiti’s courts, were crippled by a January 12 earthquake that destroyed much of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Haiti was home to an estimated 380,000 orphans before the earthquake [AFP]

“It is clear now that they were trying to cross the border without papers. It is clear now that some of the children have live parents. And it is clear now that they knew what they were doing was wrong,” Bellerive told the AP.

The prime minister said some parents may have knowingly given their kids to the Americans in hopes they would reach the US – not an uncommon wish for poor families in a country that already had an estimated 380,000 orphans before the earthquake.

Haiti’s overwhelmed government has halted all adoptions unless they were in motion before the disaster amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to being seized and sold.

Bellerive’s personal authorisation is now required for the departure of any child.

Investigators have been trying to determine how the American church group got the children, and whether any of the traffickers that have plagued the impoverished country were involved.

Of course Robert Spencer and his cronies at their hate site didn’t see fit to run this story because it doesn’t fit in nicely into their argument of Christianity=light and goodness and Islam=Evil and darkness.  If it were Muslims who were accused of this crime you can bet that Spencer would preside as judge, jury and executioner and say that the Muslims were just acting on Islam.

Grasping for straws and for some way to deflect attention away from these missionaries Robert Spencer attempted to cast Muslim relief workers as “stealth Jihadists.”

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video
Islamic Relief USA and the Islamic Circle of North America, both groups tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is dedicated in its own words to “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within,” are operating in Haiti — ostensibly working in relief efforts, but no doubt doing a good bit of dawah on the side. Creeping Sharia has the story (thanks to herr Oyal).

| 49 Comments

Take a look at the comments section as well which Spencer claims is moderated. It shows the deep Islamophobia that is instilled in the hearts of Spencer’s followers and echo’s sentiments that Spencer himself holds but won’t dare to verbalize. According to them this is all “taqiyyah,” “stealth Jihad,” “fake.”

Some of the comments by luminaries on JihadWatch:

For so many reasons and for so many years Muslims have made me so deeply skeptical of Islam that I can’t help but look upon this relief effort as being prompted first and foremost not by noble compassion but rather by the desire to insure conversion. If this sounds too cynical, I plead innocent here and direct guilt towards the Islamic world, whose motives no person of sense should ever trust.

Taqiyya at best, looks like humanitarian aid, but disguised as making over the world for Allah’s supremacy and Sharia. Beware of Islamics bearing gifts. Cynical with cause.

Muslims dont help = Evil Muslims

Muslims help = Evil Muslims

A day or two ago, I mentioned that if Muslims were finally going to help with the relief effort in Haiti, then good for them.

I’m not usually so clueless—not anymore, anyway—but I have to admit, this being an opportunity for Da’wa did not really occur to me at the time.

Here’s a generally good article on the subject from Debbie Schlussel:

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/15625/haiti-islamic-relief-the-scientologists/

There is, however, a fair bit of silly moral equivalence between Islam and Scientology presented here. I *am not* a fan of Scientology, but there’s no death for apostasy with them if you decide you no longer want to hang out with Tom Cruise. I wish I could say the same about Islam.

From Hermit, above:

In my city in England, squads of muslims with islamic posters are out in force – stading outside shopping centres with buckets collecting for Haiti.
………………

I wonder how much of that money is actually going to Haiti, and how much will just be considered “Zakat”, and go for whatever Muslim cause—including Jihad—that the “charities” see fit?

Off you go back to Iran parasite, and stop sponging off us, workshy Mohammedan troll.

“Off you go back to Iran parasite, and stop sponging off us, workshy Mohammedan troll.”

Its good to see you disagree with what I said, so you think the Muslims who are helping haitians are not evil and are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, right?

I dont expect you to be able to put together a proper coherent reply which doesnt involve ad hominems and strange assumptions about my birthplace…but what the hell?

It just goes to show that charity is not a primary virtue.

It may be a secondary or tertiary virtue, or perhaps a value, but not a primary virtue as such.

Thugs and thieves are often fond of charitable giving as a way of making a respectable face in public and/or providing themselves with some ego grats for their material magnanimity.

In this particular case, Haiti is an open wound for the maggots to dig into and feed on.

By the way, why aren’t those bastards being run off?

Oh, oh … I forgot. Our Dear Leader, Red Hussein, has made a comittment to combating negative stereotypes of mohammedanism.

What do you want to be that he knows about this and possibly even had a hand in it.

Well, what do you expect? Followers of any totalitarian ideology when they are seemingly showing compassion should never be taken by sensible people as engaging in only charitable behavior. Sensible people know that ideologues (and yes, Muslims are as much ideologues as Marxists and Neo-Nazis) most always are motivated by a hidden agenda, i.e., the promotion of their belief system. Hey, this ain’t rocket science, just simple math, like your equations in your 12:16 P.M. post.

They are collecting in my city in England too. Same buckets and posters.

I wonder if they have registered with the UK authorities as a “charity”? Fake “charities” occur all the time. Perish the thought that those whom the Qur’an describes as the “best of people” would even think of doing such a thing.

I too, wonder where the money is actually going. Buckets with cash in them would be just too easy to “divert” to another cause.

“Hey, this ain’t rocket science, just simple math, like your equations in your 12:16 P.M. post.”

Exactly, if Muslims hadnt sent money they would have been trashed on here as evil Muslims and now that they have sent money they are trashed on here as evil muslims.

You are determined to remain clueless, aren’t you? Endeavor next time taking my full comment into account before commenting on it. Go ahead, try and rip my ENTIRE 3:37 P.M. post apart. Address all of it, not just a portion of it.

What’s so humorous here is that the equations you put forward are valid but you think they confirm narrow-mindedness by those who despise Islam, when, in fact, it is you who is the intellecutally diminutive one possessed of an insouciance that is risible in the first degree. My strong guess is that you’ll never get it. You haven’t to date, now have you?

“A few on the fringes” are all it takes.

“Well, what do you expect? Followers of any totalitarian ideology when they are seemingly showing compassion should never be taken by sensible people as engaging in only charitable behavior.”

Muslims, as followers of a totalitarian ideology, cannot be expected to exhibit purely altruistic behaviors.
“Sensible people know that ideologues (and yes, Muslims are as much ideologues as Marxists and Neo-Nazis) most always are motivated by a hidden agenda, i.e., the promotion of their belief system.”

Muslims. as ideologues, are assumed to be motivated by proselytism, including in instance when they exhibit altruistic behavior.

What’s the deal with the Pepsi and Guinness banners?

Thank you for confirming my overall point which is that any Muslim generosity to non-Muslims is not motivated by a kind of Mother Teresa love but rather by an agenda. See why Islam is becoming more and more despised by more and more non-Muslims with each passing year?

Islam has had a run of it for a few decades now, whereby most ordinary Western folk were prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt, but those days are almost over (even a majority of the extremely tolerant Dutch are sick of Islam). 9/11, tedious Muslim arguments about the importance of “context,” Muslim word games with terms like “innocent,” actual reading of the Koran by non-believers (which has not only putrid sentiments in it but clearly erroneous ones such as Alexander the Great living to an old age (Sura 18) and the Jews believing that Ezra is the Messiah (Sura 9), Muslim terrorism worldwide on virtually a daily basis, and revelation of just how psychopathic and sexually perverted Mohammed actually was (confirmed by Muslim sources which stupidly brag about it) have all insured with each passing year that more millions of non-Muslims are aware of just how fucked up Islam really is.

And that’s why I think that Islam is eventually headed to oblivion, but not before it does a lot more damage, just as other totalitarian ideologies have before they have finally become the stuff for fringe human beings and for no one else. Islam’s final legacy is to be assigned to that collection pile which contains the greatest and stupidest of human errors. It’s so deserved.

After the initial earthquake in Haiti i’m not sure which of the two following aftershocks were the more harrowing for the survivors.
The inevitable : Part 1
The luminaries of Film, Stage, Music rush forward to the first available TV network and tell us unaffected lay-abouts that we aren’t doing enough to help the poor souls of Hawaii (or where ever that AWFUL thing happened) so give money and lots of it and you might save many floundering careers into the bargin.
Have these people never heard of anonymous donations ? – Of course not !
The inevitable : Part 2
The luminaries of the Muslim world, albeit slow off the mark, get in on the act by swapping bottles of water in return for a quick lecture as to why infidels have been so misguided all these years.
Stepping on and over females to find a nice area to pray in, one does ask, who’s water were they giving out anyway ?

Some of them must have been watching the news, oh yea ! and the Jihadist’s.

Sorry, i forgot, a special thanks to Islamic Relief USA for the quite deliberate extended footage of the Guinness Beer Tent amidst the carnage.

“Islam doesn’t have a ghost of a chance establishing itself
in the Caribbean.The Christian faith goes too deep.
Maybe a few on the fringes may be persuaded.”

I would not be so quick to think that the scourge of Islam could not gain a strong foot hold in Haiti.

The Nation of Haiti has been infected with other demonic teachings, Voodoo.

An estimated 80 percent of Haiti’s 8.8 million people practice Voodoo to some extent, including many who claim to be Catholic or another religion.

“Muslims noticeable in cities”

“But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the
public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi
headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in
traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of
several cities.”

“Nawoon Marcellus, who comes from the northern city of
San Raphael, recently became the first Muslim elected
to the Chamber of Deputies, Haiti’s lower house of
parliament.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nygus/3684374231/

http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/haiti/voodoo/islam.htm

http://www.islamawareness.net/Fastest/haiti.html

Voodoo and Islam both originate from the same source, the Devil himself.

baest wrote:

What’s the deal with the Pepsi and Guinness banners?
……………………..

A lot of companies helping with the relief effort have sent tents and trucks and other items emblazoned with their logos. Some people consider this a bit tacky, but it doesn’t really bother me that much. It’s not as though they are only helping victims who have been past customers or anything.

Often these are already existing items—like the tents—that the companies normally use for concerts and festivals.

“Voodoo and Islam both originate from the same source, the Devil himself.”

Agreed, CS.

For some reason the previous post with this link has a problem.

This one should be ok

http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message493957/pg1

“When Muhammad finished ablution, Gabriel sprinkled water on Muhammad’s private parts.”

Yeah, in your DREAMS I did that, Muhammad!!

Angrily,
Gabriel

He should have sprinkled hydrochloric acid.

That would have ended Mohammed’s career as a child raping pedophile.

There is nothing untoward about criticizing Islamist groups using disaster relief to their own advantage.

Many have commented on this in the past.

Islamist groups have long used charity to boost their support amongst poor Muslims . . .“These groups have seized the opportunity to raise their profiles by painting their names on the side of refugee tents and flying flags from the roofs of trucks carrying blankets and other supplies and to “reactivate themselves” and improve their image among the masses.. The Islamists are, as the saying goes “doing well by doing good.” “

“[It is] part of their strategy to achieve political power.”

A further concern that arises from the government allowing militant groups to fill the administrative void in quake‐affected areas is the increased penetration of these groups into other government sectors. Education, for example, is a particular concern. . . .it is easier to set up a madrasa than it is to rebuild a school.
http://fletcher.tufts.edu/al_nakhlah/archives/fall2006/byramji.pdf

Other concerns include: recruiting orphans for the jihad, weapons smuggling, misallocation of funds, money laundering, and harassment of other relief workers.
This is a feature of Islamist operations that has been remarked on by the former President of Pakistan, among many others, but you, mp11, don’t know about it?

Twit. Muslims are there to spread Islam, not help. The only thing they’re supplying is Korans. Nothing else. They’re trying to spread the wicked teachings of Islam to Haiti and create there the sort of Saudi or Pakistani society you’d obviously like to see in the West. So off you go to Pakistan, Sharia-loving barbarian d**khead.

http://www.avraidire.eu/2010/01/fitna-version-francaise-geert-wilders-part-12/

Fitna, version française Geert Wilders part 1/2

sITE EVANGELIQUE FRANCOPHONE VIDEO

At least you undertsand.

Muslims going in to “hekp” while promoting Islam are like the Ku Klux Klan going in to “help” wearing hoods and brandishing burning crosses.

Avraidire wrote:

Fitna, version française Geert Wilders part 1/2
……………….

It’s good to know that Fitna is now available in French.

Avraidire, Robert Spencer is currently having his “Blogging the Qu’ran” series translated into Spanish. Perhaps you—or someone you know—could have the series translated into French?

Izloom’s propagation and proliferation strategy makes perfect sense, logistically. If there is one thing that these a-holes can think clearly about its about how to spread there message of submission to an ideology of barbarism.This might sound perverse but when these barbarians try to procreate with the Haitian natives they will be easy candidates for HIV themselves. This is the only redeeming quality to this invasion.
BTW, I personally do not subscribe to the theory that Voodoo is about the “Devil”; the religion is not about this, but the bottom line here is that the “Devil” is a Christian concept so that negates the understanding that followers of voodoo are conjuring the “Devil”. I would say that if there is anything inherently “evil” about Haiti it is the evil of believing that political demagogues will somehow save the masses from their wretched lives. I would say that Haiti’s lack of up-to-par civilized modes of existence has to do with its subscribing to a belief system that says it is OK to be continually at the mercy of leaders whose only purpose is to use them as scapegoats and pawns for their own agendas. Now, izloom will be the next group of con-artists and whore-masters.

Christian Soldier, thanks for the above. I pasted it into the comments section of one of “Hijab” Heageny’s articles about Rifqa over at the Columbus Dispatch online. One guy already red it and thanked me for it. If we can expose the idiocy and super control of Islam in a way that makes people laugh, we may be onto something. This was superb. Again, thank you.

As you can see being a Muslim is not so easy. Many intricate rules to follow.

Except for bathing. Some simple dirt will do just fine.

“In Islam, it is not compulsory to bathe every day. It is quite all right not to bathe for the six days of a week. The only recommended bath is the bathing on Fridays, to attend the juma prayer, although a perfect ablution might do, in case there is shortage of water, or due to inconvenience. When no water is available tayammum will do. This procedure (tayammum) consists of rinsing oneself with dirt or dust. Imam Nasai (1.316) writes that a Muslim can bathe in dirt and dust simply by rolling his body as a camel or a beast does.”

For all the liberals out there that keeping saying “Islam is a religion of peace”, let us look at that peaceful book the Qur’an:

Sura 7:166 “When in their insolence they transgressed all prohibitions, we said the them “be ye apes, despised and rejected” the “religion of peace” speaking about Jewish people

Sura 2:65 “And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.” again, the “religion of peace” speaking about Jewish people

You Muslims are out of God’s will. May you come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Your “friendly” Allah, will not and never will save ANYONE..

Anti-Sex Laws of Islam: Not as Simple as You May Think

As many of you may well know, I am writing a rebuttal of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  In chapter five of his Islamophobook, Spencer discusses the issue of Sharia and rape.  I have completed part 1 of my rebuttal, which can be found here.  As I was ferociously typing up part 2, it dawned on me that my audience may be unfamiliar with the Quranic verses in question, making it difficult for some of them to properly grasp the issue–or of fully understanding part 2 of my rebuttal.

Hence, I have decided to publish this article as a sort of background piece to part 2 of my rebuttal.  As such, it will not be–like my other articles–a direct refutation of Robert Spencer.  However, I believe that this article will serve a two-fold purpose.  First, it will, as I have discussed, provide the background necessary to properly understand part 2 of my rebuttal.  Second, it will clear up misconceptions about Islam…misconceptions that Islamophobes use as a big stick to whack Muslims over the head with.

Many people erroneously think that all mainstream interpretations of Islam necessarily criminalize zinnah (fornication and adultery)–fornicators are to be lashed and adulterers stoned, no questions asked.  Such a fundamentalist mentality clashes with the Western concept of freedom of choice; it is for this reason that Islamophobes argue that religious Muslims are intrinsically incompatible with Western values.  However, it is important to recognize the multiplicity of Islamic understandings that exist today; I will categorize the various interpretations of the anti-zinnah laws into fundamentalist, conservative, and reformist views.  Clearly, fundamentalist understandings ought not to be tolerated, but I would argue that reformist views (and perhaps conservative ones) are not completely incompatible with Western ideals…at least not any less so than Judaic and Christian views.

Background

According to the Law of Moses, as followed by the early Jewish community, the death penalty was meted out to adulterers; the Old Testament reads:

The adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus, 20:10)

In order to be found guilty of adultery, there had to be two witnesses of good character who testified against the adulterers:

At the testimony of two or three witnesses they must be executed. They cannot be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. (Deuteronomy, 17:6)

Jewish rabbis dealt with this seemingly harsh law by purposefully making it difficult for the “prosecution” to meet the required burden of proof to secure a conviction.  They argued, for instance, that both witnesses must have (1) warned the adulterers of the graveness of their sin prior to the commission of the act, and (2) that they must have witnessed the actual act itself.  Naturally, these restrictions made the enforcement of this penalty a rare event.

Muslims believe in something called “progressive revelation”: accordingly, God revealed the Old Testament to the Jews, then the New Testament to the Christians, and lastly the “Final Testament” (the Quran) to the Muslims.  As such, there is–according to Islamic belief–a divine continuity in religious belief between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Islamic law (Sharia) is based in the Law of Moses, a continuation and “perfection” of it.

According to Islamic tradition, God–out of mercy for the people–softened the harsh Law: the Sharia al-Islam (Law of Islam) is and ought to be, they argue, an “easy law” that is milder than the Sharia al-Yahud (Law of the Jews). The Islamic texts, for example, narrate that some Jews approached the Prophet Muhammad for rulings, saying: “Let us go to this prophet, for he has been sent with an easy law.” [1] (The authenticity of the quote is irrelevant, as it is here being used only to illustrate the Muslim perception of their own law.) Consequently, reason the Muslims, God made the evidentiary requirement for the harsh anti-zinnah laws even more unattainable: the burden of proof was raised from two to four witnesses.  In this manner, the people were saved from severe punishments.

The doubling of the witnesses, from two to four, took place at a time when women were often accused of fornication, adultery, and harlotry.  Even if a woman could not be convicted of this charge, her reputation (and life) would be ruined.  To prevent this occurrence, the Quran stipulated that not only had the burden of proof been raised to four witnesses, but if a man dared accuse a woman of sexual immorality with anything less than that, he would be punished for slander:

And those who accuse chaste women [of fornication or adultery] and then do not produce four witnesses–lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from them testimony ever after. And those are the defiantly disobedient. (Quran, 24:4-5)

The Prophet Muhammad gave details about this verse, seemingly affirming the restrictions placed by the Jewish rabbis, namely that the four witnesses (1) had to be of good character and (2) had to have actually witnessed the act of penetration; as Imam Mawsili and other jurists worded it, the witnesses must see the penis enter the vagina like the “Kohl needle entering the Kohl bottle.” [2]

According to Islamic doctrine, Muslims of good character must not gaze on the private parts of others; as such, the two conditions placed by the Prophet Muhammad seem to negate each other.  If after all the four witnesses had gazed on the private parts, then they could not possibly be considered of good character; why did they not avert their gaze?  Why did they not warn the sinners to cease and desist from their sin?  The burden of proof for zinnah thus became “near impossible” to meet, and in this manner, men were restrained from throwing around accusations of sexual immorality against women, for fear of being lashed for slander.

Fundamentalist Interpretation

Fundamentalist Muslims do not take into consideration mitigating texts.  Instead, they see that a verse in the Quran seems to advocate punishment for zinnah (fornication and adultery), and they rush to judgment, lashing and stoning on whim.  Contrary to popular misconception, fundamentalists usually lack rigorous religious education; at most, they may have attended substandard madrasahs (religious schools), but in general they are ignorant of the vast jurisprudential tradition of Islam.  Most importantly, they do not engage in contextual and inter-textual analytical exegesis of the Quran.  Reformist (and even conservative) Muslims argue that fundamentalists flout the very Quran that they claim to be following: by not assiduously adhering to the high evidentiary requirement prescribed by Islamic law, the fundamentalists have created a persecuting state–where citizens live in mortal fear of the heavy handed government.

Conservative Interpretation

Although on principle they agree that the anti-zinnah laws are Islamic, conservative Muslims follow the traditional Islamic view of what I call “religious obstructionism.”  On the one hand classical jurists affirmed the harsh penalties for lashing and stoning, but on the other hand they set up many roadblocks and obstacles to the enforcement of such penalties, making it “near impossible” to enact them.  This obstructionist approach is not unfamiliar, as it finds prominence in the Jewish rabbinical tradition.  Conservative Muslims today have adopted just such an approach, arguing that the four witnesses requirement is theoretically possible but practically improbable.

Conservative Muslims agree with reformist Muslims that the fundamentalists are incorrect in their haphazard and dangerous interpretation of the law. According to the conservative Muslims, the punishments of stoning and lashing would fall into almost complete (if not complete) disuse.  But it should be understood that they would block the enforcement of such penalties on a case-by-case basis, instead of the top-down approach of reformists.  Furthermore, the stoppage would be based not on a principled indignation but on a micro-technical legalistic level.  Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl writes:

Muslim jurists questioned the morality of the death penalty, and also questioned whether the state should be allowed to execute its own citizens.  The way Muslim jurists responded to these challenges was to seek refuge in the technicalities of the law.  In other words, the juristic response was legalistic and profoundly technical.  Working with the micro-details and technicalities of the law, Muslim jurists challenged the discretion of the state and made it difficult for the state to carry out the death penalty, and also made it difficult for the state to claim that it had complied with all the procedural and evidentiary requirements in its application of this ultimate punishment…

The point is that the juristic response was legalistic, technical, and creative.  In light of the decisive and grave consequences of the death sentence, Muslim jurists were not willing to accept it without qualifications, and they seemed to have struggled with its implications and impact.  As often happens in a legalistic interpretive culture [such as the rabbinical tradition], Muslims jurists did not respond at the conceptualized or broad theory level.  While they accepted the death penalty in principle, at the level of the process and implementation, they made the infliction of the death penalty difficult…The moral paradigm that inspired Muslim jurists to endeavor to avoid the death penalty is well represented in an educational message that teachers of Islamic law in the classical age often repeated and emphasized to their students.  The message provided was this…It is always better to save the life of a thousand guilty persons than to unwittingly murder a single innocent person. [3]

Similar interpretations abound in the Jewish rabbinical tradition, resulting in what the Jewish Encyclopedia calls “the practical impossibility of convicting any adulteress” [4]–a phrase similar to the Islamic “near impossible.”  Conservative Muslims agree that the conviction of adulterers against their will is theoretically but not practically possible.

Reformist Interpretation

Reformist Muslims go one step further, and approach the issue from a more theoretical standpoint.  They focus more on the higher ethical objectives of the Islamic law (maqasid al-Sharia), from which they derive the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).  Reformist Muslims argue that the “near impossible” evidentiary requirement indicates that the anti-zinnah laws are meant not as laws of enforcement but of symbolic deterrence.  They believe that the Sharia was designed in such a way as to promote a more detached government with a very limited scope of powers; accordingly, reformists argue that the personal sexual lives of its citizens do not fall under the jurisdiction of the ideal Islamic state.  What goes on in the privacy of one’s own bedroom between two consenting adults by cover of night is not the business of the state.  As the Prophet Muhammad declared:

All of my community will be fine except for those who commit sin openly. Part of committing sin openly is when a man does something at night and God conceals it, but in the morning he says, “O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.” His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of God. [5]

A similar narration exists from the second Caliph of Islam:

A man came to the Prophet and said: “O Apostle of God! I have mingled with a woman in the outskirts of Medina…So, here am I, judge me according to what you decide.”

Umar bin Khattab replied: “God had kept your secret!  Why then didn’t you?” [6]

This indicates that the Islamic government’s role is primarily only in matters of the public square, not in the bedrooms of its citizens.  Meddling in the personal affairs of citizenry is both unnecessary and inappropriate.  Islam values the privacy of citizens, and forbids the government from spying on its citizens; it is for this reason that many Muslim Americans strongly believe in the fourth amendment and other such “privacy laws” enshrined in the American legal system.  Certainly, reason these Muslims, a government ought not to meddle in a citizen’s personal sex life.  According to Islam, the privacy of a person’s home must be respected by all others and is inviolable, such that even peeking through windows to see inside is forbidden, even for the Caliph (leader) of the Muslims:

The secrecy of the private life is untouchable.

The Qur’an decisively prohibits spying into and disclosing the secrets and private lives of people, and orders keeping secret any detect and sinful act which one has seen in a person: O you believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is a grave sin (liable to God’s punishment); and do not spy (on one another) (Qur’an 49:12). Neither can a Muslim government spy on people to see whether they are committing a sin or crime unless there is decisive proof that they are committing something against the public peace. Likewise, spying into homes, opening and reading letters that belong to others, and listening to the conversations of other people are all wrong.

The second caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab, was once walking on the streets of Medina, the capital, at night. Suddenly he heard noise coming from one of the houses, a noise indicating that somebody was drunk and singing loudly. Umar climbed over the wall, entered the house, and witnessed a very disappointing situation. He complained of the situation to the man inside, and said, “Did you think that God would allow you to hide this fault of yours?” The man replied, “O Caliph of the Muslims, stop and don’t rush. I committed one sin in the eyes of God; however, you have made three mistakes here. First of all, God says, Do not spy on one another (Qur’an 49:12), but you spied on me. Second, God says, Come to dwellings (in the normal way) by their doors (Qur’an 2:189), but you climbed over my wall, and finally God says, O you who believe! Do not enter dwellings other than your own until you have ascertained the permission of their residents and have greeted them with peace (Qur’an 24:27), but you entered my house without getting my permission and you did not greet me with peace.”

Umar was very upset with himself and replied, “If I forgive you, will you forgive me?” The man said, “Yes.” Then Umar said, “I forgive you,” and left the house. [7]

While the reformist Muslims affirm the judicial obstructionism of the conservatives, they bolster it by giving it a principled and conceptual basis.  This top-down understanding then is that private sins are between an individual and God; although such sins carry a heavenly punishment, they are generally not punished in this worldly life.  Of course, God’s heavenly punishment is stricter, which is why believers are commanded to cease and desist from their sins, and to repent sincerely.  “And God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

What’s the Point?

All of this discussion invariably leads a non-believer to ask: what’s the point of a law and a prescribed punishment if its enforcement is “near impossible”?  Wouldn’t it simply have been easier and more intuitive to have no such law to begin with?  Perhaps.  But the faithful believe that God acts in mysterious ways, the true reasons known only to Him.

Nonetheless, contemporary Muslims speculate that God prescribed a punishment that could not realistically be enforced for four reasons: (1) It is a legacy inherited from the Law of Moses, i.e. Sharia al-Yahud (Law of the Jews).  In other words, the punishment for adultery used to be much easier to carry out and was indeed done so.  This was for the people who came before Ummatul Muhammad (nation of Muhammad); it is understood by Muslims that the Law as prescribed to Bani Israel was decidedly much stricter.  Even Moses implored God to have more mercy on the community of Muhammad, fearful that the strict Law would break their backs.  Therefore, the harsh punishment legislated by the Old Law was made impotent by creating such a high evidentiary burden that it became impossible to fulfill.  Such a belief is consistent with the Islamic doctrine of progressive revelation.

To reiterate, the answer to “wouldn’t it be simpler to not have such a law to begin with?” is that the law was inherited from previous nations.  Muslims believe that the Islamic community was honored by inheriting the Abrahamic law and tradition; therefore, although the Law could be tweaked, it ought not to be abandoned or replaced altogether.  Rather, it was–according to an Islamic understanding–modified and “perfected” with mercy.  The anti-zinnah laws are based then in Abrahamic precedence, and are therefore affirmed but in a merciful and lenient way.  This explains why Muslims do not simply do away with the anti-zinnah laws altogether.  They honor the Abrahamic tradition but without the enforcement of harsh penalties for fornication and adultery, which have become symbolic in nature.

(2) The second reason is that the Sharia is making a moral point by associating in the mind of the believer an extremely harsh punishment with fornication and adultery, thereby making clear the gravity of the sin.  In Islamic quarters it is argued that contemporary society has made both fornication and adultery socially acceptable.  The Islamic law, on the other hand, equates these sins with lashing and death, even if these punishments are not generally enforced.

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl writes:

Obviously, in Islamic law the crime of fornication or adultery is hard, if not impossible, to prove. So why have the punishment at all? There are two competing values here.

Illicit sexual relations must be condemned. At the same time, people should mind their own business, and spying or slandering cannot be tolerated. The solution was to make the moral point that fornication and adultery are terrible crimes, and only if they could be proven would they be punished severely. Nevertheless, the issue is generally between a person and God. [8]

(3) Furthermore, in the largely illiterate societies of the past, it is likely that only the Islamic jurists were cognizant of the “judicial obstructionism” that saves believers from punishment.  As such, the law served as a deterrence, even if it were not in reality enforced.  This is similar to a parent threatening a child with an extremely harsh punishment simply as a scare tactic, knowing full well that he/she would never actually enforce it.  The threatening of punishment is thus a mercy in a way, as it causes a person to correct his/her conduct which will benefit him/her both in this life and the next.

(4) Following the third point, it is understood by contemporary Muslims that the law is one of deterrence, not of enforcement.  As the conservative Islamic scholar Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari writes:

One should always keep in mind the objective and spirit of Shariah concerning the various legal punishments. The idea is not to enforce the punishment and make people suffer; rather the objective is to prevent harm, corruption and immorality in the society. Thus, legal punishments act as deterrents more than actually get people punished…

An example of this which comes to mind is that we see speed cameras being placed on many roads and streets (especially here in the UK!) in order to deter people from speeding in their vehicles. The idea behind these speed cameras is not to catch people speeding, rather to prevent people from speeding and causing accidents. If the aim was to catch people speeding, there would be no warning signs indicating that a camera is present. However, we see that whenever a speed camera is placed, many warnings are given that  beware this road has a speed camera . Many of the times, the camera is not even in operation, hence, the idea is to stop people speeding rather than catch and punish them.

The same is with the various legal punishments prescribed by Shariah, in that they are prescribed to prevent people from committing unlawful actions and corrupting the society, yet the rules and conditions for a legal punishment to be enforced are so stringent that very rarely would an individual be punished. The legal punishment is considered a deterrent, but if an individual did involve him/herself in some unlawful activity, the objective now is not to get the individual punished rather to save him/her from the punishment. [9]

The Sharia’s Objective of Averting Corporal Punishments

The punishment of fornicators and adulterers is historically rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition that Muslims follow.  Yet, Muslims believe that the Sharia al-Islam was tweaked in such a way as to lean heavily towards the accused, thereby saving them from corporal punishments.  (This is not unlike the rabbinical tradition, which similarly mitigates the Law.)  In fact, Islamic authorities are commanded to find a “doubt” so that the accused can be acquitted.   Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari quotes the Prophet Muhammad to this effect:

The Imam should try his best to avoid the legal punishment… This (trying to avert a legal punishment) has been explicitly mentioned in one Hadith. Sayyida Aisha narrates that the Messenger of Allah said:

“Keep the Muslims away from punishments as much as possible. If there is any way out for an offender to escape punishment, acquit him. It is better for a judge to make an error in acquittal than in conviction.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 1424) [10]

Contemporary Muslims understand the command to find “any way out” to be a duty of the Islamic authorities.

Deterring Witnesses from Coming Forward

When four witnesses come forward, they are warned by the authorities that if their testimonies do not hold up, they will each be lashed eighty times.  This creates a great deterrent to any witnesses coming forward, for they know full well that the authorities will seek to acquit the accused based on any possible doubt.  For example, how is it that they could have gazed on the private parts of two having sexual relations?  Why did they not turn away?  Why did they not warn the sinners?  Why were they spying on the two?  And so on and so forth.

The jurisprudential practice is to “generate” a doubt such that the defendant is acquitted and the accusers punished.  This knowledge deters accusers from stepping forward; rather, they should hide the sin of their fellow believer, as it is of no business of theirs.  The accusers are deterred from coming forward for fear that one of the four of them would rescind his testimony, thereby condemning the rest to lashes.

It is for this reason that there exists in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad no single case of someone being convicted of fornication or adultery based on the testimony of four witnesses. Reformist (and even conservative) Muslims point to this as a strong proof that the intent of the Sharia was to deter accusers from stepping forward, barring this route to conviction and punishment.

Both reformist and conservative Muslims understand that it is impossible for the witnesses to see the penis clearly inserted into the vagina, because even “if you were among the four thighs you would never be able to give this testimony.”  In other words, not even the thighs of the two who are fornicating can properly witness the vaginal penetration, so how can anyone else do that?  The conservative “Wahhabi” [11] cleric Ibn Uthaymeen declared:

[The four witnesses] should describe zina in clear terms, such as saying: “I saw his penis in her vagina”. There is no alternative to that. If they say: “We saw him on top of her and they were naked”, that is not acceptable. Even if they say “We saw him doing with her what a man does with his wife,” that is not sufficient as testimony. They must say “We bear witness that his penis was in her vagina.” And this is very difficult, as the man said who was testified against at the time of ‘Umar: “If you were among the (four) thighs you would never be able to give this testimony.” Hence Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah mentioned that at his time no case of zina was proven by means of testimony from the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) until the time of Ibn Taymiyah. If no case was proven from that time until the other, then we do not know of any case that was proven by testimony up till our own times, because it is very difficult. [12]

So it is understood amongst both reformist and conservative Muslims that the “near impossible” requirement of four witnesses has never been fulfilled up until this day.  The ultraconservative site, Islam-qa, says:

This strictness with regard to testimony about zina serves only to achieve the purpose aimed at by sharee’ah, which is to conceal people and not spread immorality, and to make societies avoid accusations against people’s honour and aspersions on their lineages.

Al-Qurtubi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in al-Jaami’ li Ahkaam al-Qur’aan (5/83):

Allaah has stated that testimony in a case of zina must be given by four people, so as to make it hard for those who are testifying to such a thing, and to conceal people. [13]

Photographic Images and DNA

It should be noted that conservative and reformist Muslim scholars agree that the four witnesses must have witnessed the actual act itself.  Photographic images or video footage are not admissible, not only because these can be doctored but because such an allowance would eliminate the Sharia’s objective of making the enforcement of these penalties “near impossible.”  This becomes clear by the fact that the jurists of today even forbid DNA proof to convict a person of fornication or adultery; the ultra-conservative Islamic cleric Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid declared that “zinaa…cannot be proven by DNA testing or by use of cameras and videos.” [14]

Self-Confession

In place of four witnesses, a person may confess four times to the sin.  Yet this too has many stringent requirements:

The confession must be uncoerced.  From an Islamic legal perspective, confessions under duress are inadmissible.  The authorities are legally obligated to investigate each case and ensure that the confessor was not pressured into coming forward by family or friends.  If there is any doubt whatsoever about this, the confession is to be rejected.

The confessor must be an adult of sane mind who confesses on four different occasions, knowing full well the consequences of such a confession. For example, the fourth Caliph of Islam came upon an insane woman who had confessed to adultery and was about to be stoned; he quickly brought a halt to the punishment and declared:

Do you know that there are three people whose actions are not recorded [against them]: a lunatic till he (or she) is restored to reason, a sleeper until he (or she) awakens, and a boy (or girl) until he (or she) becomes baligh (mature)…Why [then] is it that this woman is being stoned? [15]

It should be noted that there is no religious requirement for a Muslim to come forward to confess his/her sin.  In fact, he/she is encouraged to hide it and not reveal it; this is in accordance to the two hadiths which I have already quoted (and other textual proofs as well):

All of my community will be fine except for those who commit sin openly. Part of committing sin openly is when a man does something at night and God conceals it, but in the morning he says, “O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.” His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of God. [16]

And:

A man came to the Prophet and said: “O Apostle of God! I have mingled with a woman in the outskirts of Medina…So, here am I, judge me according to what you decide.”

Umar bin Khattab replied: “God had kept your secret!  Why then didn’t you?” [17]

In fact, the Islamic judge is religiously commanded to dissuade the confessor from going through with the confession.  The confessor is encouraged to simply repent from the sin, as “God is Most Forgiving.”  Muslims believe that sins can be expiated simply by prayer and the commission of good deeds. Seeking corporal punishment is not necessary to attain penance; in fact, it is highly discouraged.

In Sahih al-Bukhari (#6439), for example, it is narrated that a man confessed the sin of adultery to the Prophet Muhammad.  However, the latter kept turning his face away from the confessor, wishing not to hear it.  Such was the reluctance of the Prophet Muhammad when it came to enforcing such harsh punishments.  Commenting on this narration, Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari writes:

The above incident shows the importance of trying to avert a legal punishment as much as possible. The man came and confessed to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that he had committed unlawful sexual intercourse, yet the Messenger of Allah ignored him, in order that he may change his mind. [18]

It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad would turn away from confessors, not wanting to hear what they had to say:

A man of the tribe of Aslam came to the Prophet and testified four times against himself that he had had illicit intercourse with a woman, while all the time the Prophet was turning away from him. [19]

In another instance, a man by the name of Maiz ibn Malik confessed to the Prophet Muhammad that he committed zinnah.  The Prophet replied by saying: “Probably you have only kissed, or touched, or looked at her.”  This was the Prophet’s attempt to save the person from punishment, as only vaginal penetration is punishable; anything less than that–including kissing, fondling, masturbation of oneself or of one’s partner, and even anal and oral sex–is not punishable by the hadud (Islamic corporal punishments).

Based on this, the Islamic judge is instructed to dismiss the confession by saying “probably you have only kissed, or touched, or looked at her.” Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari writes:

This famous incident of Ma’iz ibn Malik also gives the same message, in that the Imam (leader) should try his best to avoid the legal punishment. This is the reason why it is recommended to say to the one who confesses committing fornication that “You may only have touched, you may only have kissed, are you sure you had sex, think again properly of what you are saying and think of the consequences of your confession,” and other such things. [20]

Reformist Muslims argue that there is as such no room for the hanging judge in Islam; rather, Islamic judges ought to be merciful, generally leaning towards acquittal, at least in cases where the sin is against God and not a fellow human being.  The confessor is encouraged not to confess, or if he has already done so, to rescind his confession.  Maiz confessed to the sin of zinnah and told the Prophet Muhammad: “Purify me,” by which he meant to carry out corporal punishment and thus attain penance.  Yet, the Prophet Muhammad told Maiz not to seek the punishment but instead to simply pray to God for forgiveness; the Prophet said to Maiz:

Woe to you!  Go back and ask God for forgiveness and repent to Him. [21]

In fact, it is highly encouraged (mustahhab) in Islam not to self-confess the sin of fornication and adultery, in order that these harsh punishments not be implemented.  When Maiz insisted that he be punished, the Prophet Muhammad told a third person:

If you had covered him with your garment, it would have been better for you. [22]

Muslims believe that God covers up a person’s sins in the same way that clothing covers up a person’s nude and embarrassing parts.  Islam instructs believers to utilize this merciful garment of God, and they are thus encouraged not to “reveal what God has concealed.” Thus, the Prophet’s disciples looked down upon self-confession, even saying about the one who confessed to zinnah:

Look at this man whose fault was concealed by God but who would not leave the matter alone, so that he was stoned like a dog. [23]

The Prophet’s disciples had a dislike for self-confession, saying:

We, the Companions of the Apostle of God, used to talk mutually: “Would it have been that al-Ghamidiyyah and Maiz ibn Malik had but withdrawn [their confession] after their confession…[we] would not have pursued them (for punishment).” [24]

The ultraconservative Saudi scholar Salih al-Munajjid quotes various classical scholars that confirm the view that repentance is better than confession:

Question:

Will the zaani (fornicator) who repents be forgiven even if the hadd punishment is not carried out on him?

I would like to know if a person commits fornication and he truely repents towards Allah would he be forgiven in the hereafter if the hadd of hundred lashes is not carried out on him in this world. Can only repentance expiate him from this sin or unless and untill the hadd is not carried out on him he can never be forgiven and will be punished in the hereafter. Please answer in accordance with Quran and sunnah. I will be very grateful.

Answer:

Praise be to Allaah.

The carrying out of the hadd punishment for a sin for which that punishment has been prescribed is an expiation for that sin.

Sincere repentance from sin is also an expiation for sin, and “the one who repents from sin is like the one who did not sin.” And Allaah will turn his bad deeds into good deeds.

If he is sincere in his repentance, and prays a great deal for forgiveness, then he does not have to confess so that the hadd punishment may be carried out on him. Rather repentance is sufficient, in sha Allaah.

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

And those who invoke not any other ilaah (god) along with Allaah, nor kill such person as Allaah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse–and whoever does this shall receive the punishment.

The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace;

Except those who repent and believe…and do righteous deeds; for those, Allaah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allaah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. And whosoever repents and does righteous good deeds; then verily, he repents towards Allaah with true repentance.

[al-Furqaan 25:68-71]

In Saheeh Muslim (1695) it says that when Maa’iz came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and confessed that he had committed zina and said, “Purify me (i.e., carry out the hadd punishment on me)”, he said to him, “Woe to you, go back and ask Allaah for forgiveness and repent to Him.”

[Imam] Al- Nawawi said:

This hadeeth indicates that the burden of sin is lifted from one who repents from major sins, and this is according to the consensus of the Muslims.

[Imam] Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:

From this case – i.e. the case of Maa’iz when he confessed zina – it may be understood that it is mustahabb [highly recommended] for the one whose case is similar to repent to Allaah and to conceal himself and not mention his sin to anyone… This was affirmed by al-Shaafa’i who said: I prefer for the one who has committed a sin and been concealed by Allaah to conceal it himself and to repent.

Fath al-Baari, 12/124, 125

And it was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Avoid these sins that Allaah has forbidden, but whoever does any of them, let him conceal himself with the concealment of Allaah and repent to Allaah, for whoever tells us of what he has done, we will carry out (the punishment prescribed in) the Book of Allaah on him [and we do not desire that].”

It was also narrated by al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Saheehayn (4/425) and by al-Bayhaqi (8/330); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 149. [25]

And he writes elsewhere:

Repentance that is a matter between a person and his Lord is better for him than confessing his sin before a qaadi (judge) so that the hadd punishment may be carried out on him.

In Saheeh Muslim (1695) it is narrated that when Maa’iz came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “Purify me,” he said, “Woe to you! Go back and pray to Allaah for forgiveness and repent to Him.”

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:

It may be understood from this case – the case of Maa’iz when he confessed to having committed zina – that it is mustahabb for the one who falls into a similar sin to repent to Allaah and conceal his sin and not mention it to anyone, as Abu Bakr and ‘Umar said to Maa’iz. Whoever discovers anything of that nature should conceal it according to what we have mentioned; he should not expose it or refer the matter to the ruler, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in this story: “If you had concealed it with your garment it would have been better for you.” Hence al-Shaafa’i (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “If a person commits a sin and Allaah conceals it for him, I prefer for him to conceal it too and to repent,” and he quoted as evidence the story of Maa’iz with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.

Fath al-Baari, 12/124, 125 [26]

The fatwa site SunniPath.com issued the following religious verdict:

Question:

I committed zina … What should I do? …I know that according to the Shariah, I should face lashings…So what should I do in order to make amends with Allah Ta’ala?

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Conceal Your Sin

It is recommended for the one who commits zina to conceal his mistake and not tell anyone about it.  Rather, he or she should turn to Allah in sincere repentance.  It is not necessary or recommended to confess at an Islamic court and face the hadd punishment, and if someone did confess, it would be recommended for them to withdraw their confession and not be punished (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj + Hashiyat  Abd al-Hamid, 9.113).

The Shafi’is have many proofs for their position.  Among them is that when Ma’iz came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and asked him to purify him, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to him,  “Allah have mercy on you!  Go away and ask Allah’s forgiveness!”   Ma’iz then left but soon returned and asked again to be purified, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) repeated what he had said.  The same thing then happened a third time, and it was only after the fourth time that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked Ma iz some further Questions and ordered him to be punished (related by Muslim + others).  When the hadd punishment was enforced on him, Ma’iz tried to run away but those stoning him chased him down and forcibly enforced the punishment on him.  When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) heard about this, he disapproved and said,  “Why didn’t you let him go? Perhaps he would have made repentance and Allah would have accepted his repentance.”  (Abu Dawud)  Ibn Hajar notes in his Tuhfa that all of the offers made by the Messenger of Allah and his subsequent disapproval of his companions actions indicate that it is superior for one not to confess to committing zina, and that even if one did, it is recommended to withdraw one s confession.  Otherwise, the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) offers would be meaningless (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 9.113).

Another proof is that it is a sign of Allah’s mercy that He has concealed one’s sin from the sight of others, and the Shari’ah does not approve that one cast off this concealment despite Allah s having given it to one.

al-Khatib al-Shirbini explains in his commentary on the Minhaj:

It is sunna for the one who commits zina and anyone else who commits any act of disobedience to conceal his sin from others.  This is because of the hadith,  “Whoever commits any of these awful sins (qadhurat), let him conceal himself with the concealment of Allah, for verily, whoever exposes his action to us (man abda lana safhatahu), we will impose the hadd punishment upon him.”  (related by Hakim and Bayhaqi with a strong (qawiyy) chain of transmission).  Exposing one’s sin, then, in order to be punished by a hadd punishment or a discretionary punishment (tazir) goes against the recommended way…

Allah Loves to Forgive

Allah Most High told us in the Qur an:

“Say,  O my servants who have wronged themselves: despair not of Allah’s mercy; surely Allah forgives all sins; surely, He is Most Merciful and Compassionate.”   (39:53)

Commentators tell us that this verse is the most hope-inspiring verse in the Quran (arja ayatin fi kitabi llah).  Reading this verse should cause every believer to rejoice.

No matter how great the sin, the door of repentance is always open.  Allah loves to forgive.  The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us in a famous hadith that if we did not sin, Allah would create other people who would sin so that He could forgive them.  He also told us that the one who repents from a sin is like the one who has no sin.

May Allah envelop us all with His mercy and forgiveness and gather us together in Paradise. [27]

In fact, a Muslim is obligated to think good of God, and know that His Mercy overcomes His retribution.  Therefore, a believer should not only repent from such sins, but feel confident that his/her repentance was accepted by God; failure to do so is a sign of disbelief in God and His Mercy, for God has already said: “O My slaves, you commit sin night and day, and I forgive all sins, so ask Me for forgiveness.” [28]

Some people erroneously believe that God will not or cannot forgive some sins, or that that they have sinned so much that the doors of repentance have been closed.  The redemptive Islamic faith, however, rejects such notions as being akin to doubting God’s Mercy.  God says in the Quran:

O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by sinning)! Despair not of the Mercy of God, for verily God forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran, 39:53-54)

And God says further:

O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I will forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky, and were you to ask Me for forgiveness, I will forgive you and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins nearly the size of the earth…then I would bring you forgiveness… [29]

The Prophet Muhammad declared:

The one who repents from his sin is like the one who did not sin in the first place. [30]

Not only is the Islamic authority to dissuade the believer from confessing his sins, but he should also leave the opportunity open for the confessor to withdraw his confession, any time before or even during the enactment of the punishment. As Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari writes:

If the confessor takes back his words before the punishment is enforced or during the punishment, he/she will be released and set free. (See: al-Ikhtiyar li talil al-Mukhtar, 2/311-316 and other major Hanafi Fiqh references) [31]

In one narration, a man confesses to adultery and insists upon the punishment for himself.  Yet, when the first stone was thrown at him, he reconsidered his ill-fated decision.  The Prophet Muhammad chastised his disciples for not letting the man go at this point:

While [the man] was being stoned he felt the effect of the stones and could not bear it and fled. But Abdullah ibn Unais [chased] him…and killed him. They then went to the Prophet and reported it to him.  [The Prophet] said: “Why did you not leave him alone? Perhaps he might have repented and been forgiven by God.” [32]

It seems then that it is preferable to simply seek repentance and forgiveness instead of justice and punishment. The Prophet Muhammad and his disciples discouraged self-confession, arguing that people ought to hide their sins and seek repentance from God alone.

The Call for a Moratorium on Corporal Punishments

Reformist Muslims argue that there would hardly be people today who would seek the punishment upon themselves, especially when they know that religiously it is preferable not do that. The atmosphere of the ideal Islamic state, they reason, should be one of forgiveness, not of persecution.  If the Prophet Muhammad detested punishing people based on their own self-confession, then how misguided are those fundamentalists who are known to drag unwilling women to be stoned against their will?

Many reformist Muslims have responded positively to Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s International Call for Moratorium on Corporal Punishment, Stoning and the Death Penalty in the Islamic World, commonly referred to by the less cumbersome name The Call for a Moratorium.  Ramadan, the leading reformist Muslim scholar of the world, argues that the manner in which various fundamentalists are implementing the hadud (corporal punishments) is so radically incorrect that there ought to be a complete moratorium on all such punishments until stringent and up-to-date standards are set.

In the meantime, Ramadan has called for a dialogue in the Islamic world in order to properly understand the matter, and to stop fundamentalist interpretations from spreading.  Whilst some conservative Muslims have reacted cautiously to Ramadan’s wording, they do agree with him that the fundamentalists are implementing the law in an incorrect fashion.

Fundamentalist Interpretations as a Backlash

Dr. Tariq Ramadan notes that the recent resurgence of fundamentalist interpretations can be traced to a reactionary feeling in the post-colonial Islamic world; enforcing such punishments evokes a negative response in the West, and because many in the Muslim world associate the West with colonialism and “neo-colonialism”, this reaction seems to validate their Islamic identity.  In other words, the logic is: the West is bad, the West does not like these punishments, and therefore these punishments are good.  This has more to do with identity politics than religious theology.  Writes Ramadan:

On the question of hudûd [corporal punishments], one sometimes sees popular support hoping or exacting a literal and immediate application because the latter [supposedly] would guarantee henceforth the “Islamic” character of a society…When one studies this phenomenon, two types of reasoning generally motivate these claims:

1. The literal and immediate application of the hudûd legally and socially provides a visible reference to Islam. The legislation, by its harshness, gives the feeling of fidelity to the Qur’anic injunctions that demands rigorous respect of the text…

2. The opposition and condemnations by the West supplies, paradoxically, the popular feeling of fidelity to the Islamic teachings; a reasoning that is antithetical, simple and simplistic. The intense opposition of the West is sufficient proof of the authentic Islamic character of the literal application of hudûd. Some will persuade themselves by asserting that the West has long since lost its moral references and became so permissive that the harshness of the Islamic penal code which punishes behaviors judged immoral, is by antithesis, the true and only alternative “to Western decadence”.

These formalistic and binary reasoning are fundamentally dangerous for they claim and grant an Islamic quality to a legislation, not in what it promotes, protects and applies justice to, but more so because it sanctions harsh and visible punishment to certain behaviors and in stark contrast and opposition to the Western laws, which are perceived as morally permissive and without a reference to religion[3]. One sees today that communities or Muslim people satisfy themselves with this type of legitimacy to back a government or a party that calls for an application of the sharî’a narrowly understood as a literal and immediate application of corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty. When this type of popular passion takes hold, it is the first sign of a will to respond to various forms of frustration and humiliation by asserting an identity that perceives itself as Islamic (and anti-Western). Such an identity is not based on the comprehension of the objectives of the Islamic teachings (al maqâsid) or the different interpretations and conditions relating to the application of the hudûd…[but rather] a binary reasoning (less West is more Islam). [33]

The more the West pushes to remove such laws that are deemed Islamic, the more the people feel threatened by Western domination; they push back harder by calling for even stricter interpretation and implementation.  Such fundamentalist understandings have particular appeal in war-ravaged areas such as Afghanistan and Somalia.  The U.S.’s heavy handed policies in the Islamic world, coupled with a bombardment of traditional Islamic society with Western culture, has created  a reactionary backlash.  Instead of valuing the nuances and richness of Islamic jurisprudence, many Westerners denigrate all of Islam, thereby alienating the very population they are trying to influence.

But there is hope: reformist Muslims are forcing the Islamic world to have the much needed debate.  Even in the ultraconservative country of Saudi Arabia, for example, reformists who challenge the status quo are emerging.  The movement will be gradual in nature, and one cannot simply expect a reformation overnight.  Yet, the process has begun and is gaining momentum.

Pregnancy as a Proof

Pregnancy has been mentioned by some jurists as a proof for fornication in the case of an unmarried woman.  Yet, this requires some elaboration.  The pregnancy alone cannot be used to justify her punishment; the woman can simply deny the act of fornication.  She may for instance have engaged in illicit sexual conduct short of vaginal penetration, which may inadvertently have led to pregnancy. For example, the man could have ejaculated near her thighs and some semen may have entered the vagina that way.  (Remember: the legal punishment only applies to those cases where there is vaginal penetration; if a person confesses to sexual conduct short of vaginal penetration, there is no hadd punishment.)

Furthermore, the woman may have been raped, had sex whilst she was temporarily insane, or been asleep whilst a man ejaculated in her.  These excuses may seem extraordinary, but that’s the point: any doubt whatsoever should be enough to acquit the defendant, which is the goal of the Islamic court.  SunniPath.com, a fatwa site, answers the following question:

Question:

Is pregnancy considered sufficient evidence for the enactment of the hadd punishment for adultery?

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

No.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) commanded us in a famous hadith to ward off the hadd punishments with doubts [shubuhat].  Many punishments prescribed by Islamic Law often seem very harsh, but people forget that these punishments are only applied when certain very stringent conditions are met…

It is mentioned in Bughyat al-Mustarshidin that an unmarried woman who gets pregnant and does not confess to have committed fornication [zina] does not deserve the hadd punishment, since she could have been  accidentally had intercourse with  [wat  ul-shubha], she could have been asleep, she could have been insane (and hence not responsible for her actions) when the intercourse happened, or she could have been coerced, all of which are  doubts  [shubuhat] that make the hadd punishment inapplicable to her.  [Bughyat al-Mustarshidin, 249] [34]

Salman al-Oudah, a Saudi cleric, posted the following fatwa on his website:

Question: Can a single woman be accused and convicted of fornication on the strength of her falling pregnant?

Answered by Sheikh Sulaymân al-`Îsâ, professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh

…The woman will not receive punishment just because of pregnancy. Women can fall pregnant without committing illegal sexual intercourse. A woman could be raped or coerced. In this case, she is a victim and not the perpetrator of a crime.

Therefore, she cannot be punished or even accused of misconduct merely on the strength of her falling pregnant. This opinion is held by many people of knowledge. Ibn Qudâmah said in his book al-Mughnî:

If a woman becomes pregnant without having a husband or a master, she may not be punished and, instead, she should be asked about it, if she claimed that she was coerced into it or that she committed adultery under dubious circumstances, or if she simply does not confess adultery then she will not be punished. This is the saying of Abu Hanîfah and al-Shâfi`î, because she may be pregnant as a result of a forceful intercourse or dubious circumstances. Punishment will be abandoned in case suspicion exists. It is well known that a woman could become pregnant without engaging in true intercourse. The woman may become pregnant if sperm is manually inserted into her vagina. This would explain how a virgin becomes pregnant. [35]

Although theoretically the punishment could be implemented based on pregnancy, practically it is never so, because there is always an element of doubt which wards off punishment.

Al-Li’an

The fourth (and last) means of a conviction is through the process of li’an.  After the Prophet Muhammad enacted such stringent laws barring men from accusing women of fornication and adultery, some of the husbands complained, asking what to do if they entered the home to find another man in their bed.  Should a husband who catches his wife red-handed be barred from testifying against her simply because he cannot fulfill the “near impossible” four witnesses requirement?  While it may be true that a stranger has no business meddling in the private affairs of a woman, isn’t the husband a special case because he is directly affected by her infidelity?

These concerns were brought to the Prophet Muhammad, and the verses of Al-Li’an were then revealed.  I discussed this in part 1 of my rebuttal:

Both the Quran and the Bible deal with the case of a husband accusing his wife of adultery.  The Quran declares that if a wife denies the charges, then she is exonerated by the law–her testimony is accepted over that of her husband’s, and any worldly punishment is waived.  The Quran declares:

As for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves: let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies, swearing by God that he is of those who speaks the truth; And the fifth oath should be invoking the curse of God on himself if he is of those who lie. But it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness/testifies before God four times that the thing he says is indeed false, and if she takes an oath a fifth time that the wrath of God be upon her if he speaks the truth. (Quran, 24:6-9)

This is the Islamic law of Al-Li’an. The Bible, on the other hand, has the Law of Jealousy: if a husband suspects his wife of adultery, then he is to bring her to the priest.  The priest will then dump dust and ink into a container of water, and force her to drink the dirtied water.  If she gets sick from it (or dies), it proves the allegation that she was adulterous; if she does not fall sick, then she is exonerated.  Furthermore, the woman is to drink this water in a state of public humiliation: her head is to be uncovered (a sign of shame back then) and she is forced to stand at the east gate of the temple in sight of the people, so that she might serve as a reminder against lewdness.  (All this even before she drinks the contaminated water.)

The Bible declares:

The Test for an Unfaithful Wife

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act, and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure–then he is to take his wife to the priest…

The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.…Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband”–here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath–”may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away. ” Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering…He is to have the woman drink the water.  If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people.

If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her [i.e. death by stoning]. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’” (Numbers 5:11-31)

Matthew Henry, the eminent seventeenth and eighteenth century commentator on the Bible, explained these verses:

We have here the law concerning the solemn trial of a wife whose husband was jealous of her.

I. What was the case supposed:

1. That a man had some reason to suspect his wife to have committed adultery,

2. It is supposed to be a sin which great care is taken by the sinners to conceal, which there is no witness of…

3. The spirit of jealousy is supposed to come upon the husband…then he may compel her to drink the bitter water.  But the law here does not tie him to that particular method of proving the just cause of his suspicion; it might be otherwise proved. In case it could be proved that she had committed adultery, she was to be put to death (Lev. 20:10); but, if it was uncertain, then this law took place. Hence, (1.) Let all wives be admonished not to give any the least occasion for the suspicion of their chastity; it is not enough that they abstain from the evil of uncleanness, but they must abstain from all appearance of it, from every thing that looks like it, or leads to it, or may give the least umbrage to jealousy; for how great a matter may a little fire kindle! (2.) Let all husbands be admonished not to entertain any causeless or unjust suspicions of their wives…

II. The process of the trial must be thus:

(1.) Her husband must bring her to the priest, with the witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicion, and desire that she might be put upon her trial. The Jews say that the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth…If she confessed, saying, “I am defiled,” she was not put to death, but was divorced and lost her dowry; if she said, “I am pure,” then they proceeded.

(3.) The priest was to prepare the water of jealousy…it must be [in] an earthen vessel, because the coarser and plainer every thing was the more agreeable it was to the occasion. Dust must be put into the water, to signify the reproach she lay under, and the shame she ought to take to herself, putting her mouth in the dust; but dust from the floor of the tabernacle

(4.) The woman was to be set before the Lord, at the east gate of the temple-court (say the Jews), and her head was to be uncovered, in token of her sorrowful condition; and there she stood for a spectacle to the world, that other women might learn not to do after her lewdness, Eze. 23:48

(5.) The priest was to adjure her to tell the truth, and to denounce the curse of God against her if she were guilty, and to declare what would be the effect of her drinking the water of jealousy, v. 19-22. He must assure her that, if she were innocent, the water would do her no harm, v. 19. None need fear the curse of the law if they have not broken the commands of the law. But, if she were guilty, this water would be poison to her, it would make her belly to swell and her thigh to rot, and she should be a curse or abomination among her people, v. 21, 22…

(6.) The priest was to write this curse in a scrip or scroll of parchment, verbatim-word for word, as he had expressed it, and then to wipe or scrape out what he had written into the water (v. 23), to signify that it was that curse which impregnated the water, and gave it its strength to effect what was intended. It signified that, if she were innocent, the curse should be blotted out and never appear against her, as it is written, Isa. 43:25, I am he that blotteth out thy transgression, and Ps. 51:9, Blot out my iniquities; but that, if she were guilty, the curse, as it was written, being infused into the water, would enter into her bowels with the water, even like oil into her bones (Ps. 109:18)…

(7.) The woman must then drink the water (v. 24); it is called the bitter water…

(9.) …If the suspected woman was really guilty, the water she drank would be poison to her (v. 27), her belly would swell and her thigh rot by a vile disease for vile deserts, and she would mourn at the last when her flesh and body were consumed, Prov. 5:11. Bishop Patrick says, from some of the Jewish writers, that the effect of these waters appeared immediately, she grew pale, and her eyes ready to start out of her head…

A special law for husbands exists in both Christianity and Islam.  Under Islamic law, the woman can avert the punishment simply by swearing to God that her husband is lying.  Even if she herself is lying when she does that, she can repent after that.  The Islamic exegist Ibn Kathir comments on the verses of Al-Li’an:

“But she shall avert the punishment” meaning, the prescribed punishment…Then God mentions His grace and kindness to His creation in that He has prescribed for them a way out of their difficulties. God says: “And had it not been for the grace of God and His mercy on you” meaning, many of your affairs would have been too difficult for you, “And that God is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance,” means, from His servants, even if that comes after they have sworn a confirmed oath. [36]

Although it will be counted as a sin against her for lying, she may be able to achieve penance by seeking forgiveness and correcting her ways.  Again, when it comes to convicting people of zinnah, the emphasis is always on acquittal.

The reasons for revelation of these Quranic verses revolved around husbands who walked in on their wives having sex with stranger men. They complained to the Prophet Muhammad, and then a problem arose.  Should these husbands be lashed for claiming that their wives had committed adultery?  After all, they hadn’t fulfilled the “near impossible” requirement of providing four witnesses.  Remember: the purpose of this requirement was to deter men from accusing women of being unchaste, because they should mind their own business; but could anyone doubt the fact that a wife’s disloyalty is a husband’s business?  So the question arose: did a husband have to provide four witnesses if he walked in on his wife having an affair with another man?

One of the Prophet’s disciples, a man by the name of Saad ibn Ubadah, said:

By God, O Messenger of God, I know that it [the verse requiring four witnesses] is true and is from God, but I am surprised. If I found some wicked man lying down with my wife, should I not disturb him until I have brought four witnesses?  By God, he would have finished what he was doing before I could bring them!

And later, a man by the name of Hilal ibn Umayyah walked in on his wife having sex with a stranger man.  He lamented to the Prophet Muhammad:

O Messenger of God, I came to my wife at night and found a man with her, and I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.

The Prophet wanted to punish Hilal, for accusing a woman of being unchaste. Accusing a woman of fornication or adultery is considered a grave crime in Islam, which is the entire reason behind the four witnesses requirement. The Prophet Muhammad replied:

[Bring forth] evidence or the punishment on your back.

A group of the Muslims commented on the situation, saying:

We were being tested by what Saad bin Ubadah said, and now the Messenger of God will punish Hilal bin Umayyah and declare his testimony before people to be unacceptable.

Hilal responded:

By God, I hope that God will make for me a way out from this problem. O Messenger of God, I see how upset you are by what I have said, but God knows that I am telling the truth.

It was at that point that God revealed the verses of Al-Li’an to the Prophet Muhammad, as follows:

And for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves, let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies by God. (Quran, 24:6)

In that way, Hilal was saved from punishment, and the Prophet Muhammad said:

Rejoice, O Hilal, for God has made a way out for you.

The wife denied Hilal’s claim and said:

He is lying.

She swore four times and then a fifth time that she was innocent.  According to the verses of Al-Li’an, the wife’s testimony trumps that of the husband’s.  The Prophet Muhammad declared the two forever divorced, but neither party was to receive any worldly punishment.

The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a child who looked nothing like her husband; in fact, the child looked exactly like the man that Hilal accused of having the affair with his wife.  From this, the Prophet Muhammad knew that the woman was guilty, but he declared:

Were it not for the Book of God, I would deal with her. [37]

In other words, the Quran constrained the people from punishing an adulterous woman, even when there was ample proof against her.  (This is also the reason that jurists today reject photographic evidence or DNA proof.)  Reformist Muslims criticize fundamentalists for convicting women based on spurious evidence, whereas the Prophet Muhammad didn’t do that even when he had rock solid proof.

Non-Muslims

It should be noted that the hadud (corporal punishments) of the Sharia are only applicable to Muslims.  In the classical era, the Islamic state did not enforce such laws upon non-Muslims.  Rather, the non-Muslims were free to rule themselves according to their own religious scriptures, in accordance to the practice of the Prophet Muhammad.  I discussed this in more detail here.

As for Muslims living in non-Muslim lands, it is understood by Islamic jurisprudence that there is no hadud applicable there, even upon Muslims.  The hadud is to be enforced only in the lands of Islam, under the auspices of the Imam or Caliph of the Muslims.  The fatwa site SunniPath.com says:

Hadd punishments are the province of the Imam of the Muslims, and are irrelevant for Muslims living in the West. [38]

Conclusion

There are four ways to secure a conviction for fornication and adultery: (1) four witnesses, (2) self-confession, (3) pregnancy, and (4) Al-Li’an.  Yet, Muslims believe that all four routes have been virtually closed off by the Mercy of God.  (1) The requirement of four witnesses is “near impossible” to fulfill: according to Islamic clerics, not a single case exists in the entire history of Islam in which it was fulfilled.  (2) As for self-confession, the Islamic tradition strongly recommends believers not to confess their sins or seek legal punishments; rather, they should repent to God in private and bask in His Mercy.  (3) As for pregnancy, it is not sufficient proof in and of itself; if an unmarried pregnant woman denies that she committed fornication, this is enough to save her from punishment.  (4) As for Al-Li’an, the wife’s testimony trumps the husband’s, and saves her from any punishment, even if she is really guilty.

The general rule, argue reformist Muslims, is that the government should mind its own business and not interfere in the private lives of its citizens.  As for the sexual escapades of its citizens, this does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Islamic state.  Rather, argue these Muslims, the authorities ought to educate the citizenry about the sinful nature of fornication and adultery, its ill effects on society, and the benefits of chastity.  Ultimately, it is better for people to abstain from sins based on their own moral compass than from the heavy hand of government.  It is for this reason that sexual sins remain unpunished in this world, according to reformist (and even conservative) Muslims.

When it comes to consensual sex between two consenting adults, there is no Islamic legal punishment that is enforced.  Robert Spencer has used this fact to claim that the Sharia takes a similar stance towards rape.  His argument is that the Islamic law requires four witnesses to prove rape, a “near impossible” requirement.  I shall refute his claim in my next article.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4435

refer back to article 2. al-Ikhtiyar li talil al-Mukhtar, 2/312-313

refer back to article 3. Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Death Penalty, Mercy, and Islam: A Call for Retrospection

refer back to article 4. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=865&letter=A

refer back to article 5. Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim

refer back to article 6. Sahih al-Muslim

refer back to article 7. http://www.fountainmagazine.com/article.php?ARTICLEID=1039

refer back to article 8. http://www.scholarofthehouse.org/islamicsexlaws.html

refer back to article 9. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4208&CATE=42

refer back to article 10. Ibid.

refer back to article 11. I have used the term “Wahhabi” here simply because the readers may be unfamiliar with the proper term “Salafi”.

refer back to article 12. al-Sharh al-Mumti’ (6/157)

refer back to article 13. http://islamqa.com/en/ref/88051/pregnancy%20proof

refer back to article 14. http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/6926

refer back to article 15. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4387

refer back to article 16. Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim

refer back to article 17. Sahih al-Muslim

refer back to article 18. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4208&CATE=42

refer back to article 19. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4414

refer back to article 20. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4208&CATE=42

refer back to article 21. Sahih Muslim, #1695

refer back to article 22. Sunan Abu Dawud

refer back to article 23. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4414

refer back to article 24. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4420

refer back to article 25. http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/27113/confession

refer back to article 26. http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/23485

refer back to article 27. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=1549&CATE=389

refer back to article 28. Sahih Muslim, #2577

refer back to article 29. Sahih al-Jami, #4338

refer back to article 30. Sahih al-Jami, #3008

refer back to article 31. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=4208&CATE=42

refer back to article 32. Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4405

refer back to article 33. http://www.tariqramadan.com/spip.php?article264

refer back to article 34. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=1550&CATE=389

refer back to article 35. http://islamtoday.com/show_detail_section.cfm?q_id=158&main_cat_id=6

refer back to article 36. Tafsir ibn Kathir, commentary on chapter 24

refer back to article 37. Ibid.; all quotes from the above story are taken from Tafsir ibn Kathir

refer back to article 38. http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=3&ID=1550&CATE=389

Robert Spencer Rapes the Truth, Part 1: Does Sharia Reject the Testimony of a Rape Victim?

Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer, the author of the Islamophobook The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)

This is a rebuttal of chapter five of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), which is entitled “Islam oppresses women.” On pp.74-76, Spencer claims that the Sharia rejects a rape victim’s testimony.

Robert Spencer’s Claims

Says Spencer in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

Rape: Four witnesses needed

Most threatening of all to women may be the Muslim understanding of rape as it plays out in conjunction with Islamic restrictions on the validity of a woman’s testimony. In court, a woman’s testimony is worth half as much as that of a man. (Quran 2:282)

Islamic legal theorists have restricted the validity of a woman’s testimony even further by limiting it to, in the words of one Muslim legal manual, “cases involving property, or transactions dealing with property, such as sales.”  Otherwise only men can testify. And in cases of sexual misbehavior, four male witnesses are required…

Consequently, it is almost impossible to prove rape in lands that follow the dictates of the Sharia.  Men can commit rape with impunity: As long as they deny the charge and there are no witnesses, they will get off scot-free, because the victim’s testimony is inadmissible.  Even worse, if a woman accuses a man of rape, she may end up incriminating herself.  If the required male witnesses can’t be found, the victim’s charge of rape becomes an admission of adultery. [1]

Spencer also says the exact same thing on his website:

Consequently, it is even today virtually impossible to prove rape in lands that follow the dictates of the Sharia. Even worse, if a woman accuses a man of rape, she may end up incriminating herself. If the required male witnesses can’t be found, the victim’s charge of rape becomes an admission of adultery.

Let us analyze Spencer’s claims one point at a time:

Women as Witnesses under Sharia

Robert Spencer writes:

In court, a woman’s testimony is worth half as much as that of a man. (Quran 2:282)

Islamic legal theorists have restricted the validity of a woman’s testimony even further by limiting it to, in the words of one Muslim legal manual, “cases involving property, or transactions dealing with property, such as sales.”  Otherwise only men can testify.

There are two claims made here: (1) a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s;  (2) a woman’s testimony is accepted only in financial transactions (even then only by half), and rejected altogether in other cases, including rape.

Of course the reality is that Spencer has spoken a half-truth, which is what he normally does.  Spencer’s modus operandi is simple: he presents the absolutely most conservative view as if it is not only the most authoritative one but also the only one.  He then compares this ultraconservative Islamic opinion with the most liberal Judeo-Christian view, and then says aha!

The issue revolves around the following Quranic verse:

O you who believe! When you deal with each other in contracting a debt for a fixed time, then write it down; and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness…and call from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other. (Quran, 2:282)

Some Islamic jurists opined that the Quranic verse only permitted a woman’s testimony in cases related to financial transactions.  Therefore, they reasoned, it ought to be excluded in all other cases.  This opinion was prominent in the writings of medieval jurists, and is clung onto by some ultraconservative Muslims.

However, Spencer neglected to inform his readers of less stringent views that abound today.  Contemporary Muslims argue that the Quranic verse 2:282 has nothing to do with the courts or legal system in general:

…There is no verse anywhere in the Qur’an, which directs a court of law to consider a woman’s witness to be half reliable as that of a man. As for the verse 282 of Al-Baqarah, which is presented to substantiate the viewpoint in question, it has quite a different meaning and implication than what is construed from it…

Actually this verse addresses the common man. It does not relate to the law and thus gives no directive regarding judicial matters. In other words, it does not call upon the state, the legislative council or the legal authorities. This verse just invokes the common man’s attention for taking precautionary measures in case of a particular situation of conflict…

The verse states that when two or more individuals enter into an agreement for a loan for a fixed period of time, they should write it down thereby avoiding any misunderstanding or dispute. As a further safeguard to avoid such misunderstanding, they should make two men witnesses to the agreement. In case they are not able to find two men, then they may take two women instead of a man…Obviously, if this were a directive pertaining to judicial matters, it would have addressed the state or legal authorities. [2]

In other words, these Muslims argue that the Quranic verse cannot be generalized to all court cases; instead, it simply pertains to financial matters, and contracts of debt in specific.  It is argued that the women of pre-Islamic Arabia were generally unaware of the intricacies of the business world.  Tahir Haddad, an Islamic thinker of the early twentieth century, writes:

The fact that woman lagged behind man in all aspects of life [in the pre-Islamic times] made her less proficient in intellectual and mathematical tasks, especially since at that time she did not get her share of education and culture to prepare her for that…[which was taken into] account when it was decided that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man…[in] issue[s]…such as debts. [3]

The lack of business acumen that women of that particular time generally possessed was the reason that a woman’s singular testimony about a contract of debt might be rejected by the common man, resulting in conflicts.  The intent of the Quranic verse was after all to prevent infighting between Muslims, as was often the case between creditors and debtors.  Therefore, argue these contemporary Muslims, witnesses had to be produced who would be accepted by the common man as being authoritative.

Some contemporary Muslims even argue that such a restriction (i.e. the requirement of two women as witnesses instead of one) would not be applicable if the cause for the restriction (i.e. the lack of business acumen on the part of the woman) was not present.  The Islamic cleric Muzammil Siddiqi [4] issued the following fatwa (religious edict):

Question:

Does Islam regard the testimony of women as half of a man’s just in cases of transactions or in every case? Who are the scholars that maintain the first view? What is the evidence of those scholars saying that her testimony is not accepted in cases of murder and adultery?

Answer:

The word shahadah [testimony] in its various forms has occurred in the Qur’an about 156 times. There is only one case (Al-Baqarah 2:282) where there is a reference to gender. Apart from this one reference, there is no other place where the issue of gender is brought in the context of testimony. According to the Qur’an, it does not make any difference whether the person testifying is a male or female; the only objective is to ascertain accuracy and to establish justice and fairness. In one place in the Qur’an, there is an explicit reference that equates the testimonies of the male and female (See Surat An-Nur 24:6-9).

Only in the context of business transactions and loan contracts, it is mentioned that if two men are not available for testimony, then one man and two women are to be provided for that particular purpose (See Surat Al-Baqarah 2:282). The reason is not because of gender; it is given in the Qur’anic verse: If one errs, the other may remind her. Some scholars have suggested that this was due to the fact that most women in the past and even now were not involved in the intricate business dealings. So the Qur’an accepted their testimony, but to insure justice indicated that there should be two.

It is also important to note that the Shari`ah emphasizes that we follow the law exactly in the matters of worship; in economic dealings, however, the issue of justice is the main factor. If a judge sees that there is a woman who is very qualified and has good understanding of business transactions, the judge may consider her testimony equal to the testimony of a man. This will not be against the teachings of the Qur’an. [5]

Jamal Badawi, [6] another Islamic cleric (who Spencer himself quotes as an authority from time to time), comments:

The context of this passage (verse, or ayah) [verse 2:282] relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make blanket generalization [against the testimony of women]…In numerous societies, past and present, women generally may not be heavily involved with and experienced in business transactions. As such, they may not be completely cognizant of what is involved…

It must be added that unlike pure acts of worship, which must be observed exactly as taught by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, testimony is a means to an end, ascertaining justice as a major objective of Islamic law. Therefore, it is the duty of a fair judge to be guided by this objective when assessing the worth and credibility of a given testimony, regardless of the gender of the witness. A witness of a female graduate of a business school is certainly far more worthy than the witness of an illiterate person with no business education or experience. [7]

Robert Spencer claims that the Sharia itself excludes a woman’s testimony in cases of rape; yet, this is not the interpretation of Sharia that many Muslims follow:

The simple point is that this verse peculiarly relates to bearing witness on documentary evidence i.e. sale deeds, leasing agreements, loan agreements, guarantee cards and trust deeds etc. In the above related cases, one is free to choose the witnesses. But, in cases of accidents, theft, murder, robbery, rape, and hijacking etc the witnesses are not a matter of choice. Whosoever is present at the scene should and can be taken as a witness. Thus we cannot say that the witness of a woman in cases other than documentary evidence, as explained above, will be affected by this verse. [8]

Jalal Abualrub [9], a “Wahhabi” [10] cleric, writes:

The Quran states that we need two women [as] witnesses in cases of financial transactions in place of one man.  There is no proof whatsoever that this is also the case in any other dispute, including criminal cases such as rape.  In fact, a woman’s testimony is accepted in the most important aspect of Islam: the religion itself.  Did anyone ask Aishah to bring another witness or a man to support her narrations of the Prophet’s practices and sayings? [11]

What Spencer will do is simple: he will cite various Islamic clerics, mostly classical medieval ones, as a proof that the Sharia itself says such-and-such.  Yet, the reality is that even though most Muslims believe that the Sharia is divinely one, they also acknowledge that there are multiple interpretations of it.  If some Islamic scholars argued that a woman’s testimony ought to be excluded, others argued that it should be considered equal to that of a man’s.  Spencer attempts to portray the ultraconservative interpretation of the Sharia as the only one–and to him it is the only authoritative one, with all other understandings deemed as either “taqiyya based” or simply unorthodox and therefore unrepresentative (as if Spencer is the pope of Islam!).

Yet, contemporary Muslims point out that the opinions of Islamic jurists (including the classical ones) are just that: opinions.  Unlike papal decrees in Catholicism, the rulings of Islamic clerics are neither infallible or binding. Imam Abu Hanifa, the eminent jurist who founded the Hanafi school of thought, decreed:

What comes from the Messenger of God, we accept with our mind and heart, by my father and mother, we cannot oppose it. What comes from the Companions, we choose from. As for what comes from other sources, well, they are human beings as we are. [12]

So while the Muslims find the Quran and authentic hadiths/sunna to be infallible and binding, they do not view the interpretations of them to be such.  Along this line, Jalal Abualrub wrote:

We should avoid thinking of the opinions of the scholars as infallible.  What is infallible is the Quran and Sunnah alone.  Scholars of all schools have their own opinions and fatawa that may either be correct or wrong.  For instance, a Maliki scholar can claim whatever opinion his madhhab says, but we are not bound by and certainly the religion is not bound by it.

So when Allah states in Surat al-Baqarah that in regards to financial transactions the testimony of two women can be used with the testimony of one man, no one has the right to make this specific ruling apply in other cases.  Let me remind you again: the female Companions [of the Prophet] have narrated and testified on countless occasions about aspects of creed, fiqh and other Islamic topics.  Have you heard any of the [male] Companions ever say that their testimony cannot be accepted unless they bring another woman and man to agree?  I mentioned this because money issues and criminal issues are certainly far less important than religious issues that establish a ruling for all times.

It must be remembered that the scholars  are not infallible, and their efforts are only explanatory–they are not the final authority.  We respect the scholars, but we agree that they are human and make mistakes. [13]

Abualrub brings up the point that the testimony of women was accepted on aspects of religion and creed, which are more important than crime and punishment.  This is one proof that contemporary Muslims use, namely that the female Companions bore witness to the actions of the Prophet Muhammad; there is no rule in Islam that the testimony of a woman in this regard be considered half of a man’s.

Another proof that contemporary Muslims use–to prove that a woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man’s–is the Quranic passage 24:6-9 (just two verses down from the verses that Spencer has quoted).  In these verses, the husband may testify against the wife that she has committed adultery, but if the wife gives her own testimony declaring this to be a lie, then the wife’s testimony trumps that of her husband’s.  Muzammil Siddiqi writes:

In one place in the Qur’an, there is an explicit reference that equates the testimonies of the male and female (See Surat An-Nur 24:6-9). [14]

Jamal Badawi comments:

Most Qur’anic references to testimony (witness) do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and females…

[Verse 2:282] cannot be used as an argument that there is a general rule in the Qur’an that the worth of a female’s witness is only half the male’s. This presumed “rule” is voided by the above reference (24:6-9), which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders on the issue at hand. [15]

Contemporary Muslims point out that many classical scholars permitted female judges; how could it be then that a woman would be permitted to serve as a judge but not as a witness, the former of which is in charge of the latter?  The judge uses his wisdom to give judgment, whereas a witness simply retells what he/she witnessed.  Therefore, if a woman is allowed to be a judge, she ought to be permitted to be a witness as well.  Tahir Haddad wryly comments:

The assertion [that women ought to be barred from serving as witnesses]…is even stranger in view of the fact that according to the jurisprudence of the four orthodox Islamic law schools a woman is allowed to act as a judge to rule on differences between people in a role similar to that of a man.  Abu-Hanifa al-Nu’man [Imam Abu Hanifa] who was a contemporary of some of the Prophet’s Companions, confirmed that it is acceptable in Islam [for her to be a judge]…So, do we deduce from this that Islam…[bars her as] a witness…and at the same time elevates her by conferring her the responsibilities of a judge? [16]

Jalal Abualrub notes that the words of some of the fallible scholars contradicts the infallible authentic hadiths; Abualrub quotes the following narration in the Islamic texts:

When a woman went out in the time of the Prophet for prayer, a man attacked her and raped her. She shouted and he went off, and when a man came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me.” And when a company of the emigrants came by, she said: “That man did such and such to me.” They went and seized the man whom they thought had had intercourse with her and brought him to her.

She said: “Yes, this is he.” Then they brought him to the Apostle of God.  When [the Prophet] was about to pass sentence, the man who had [actually] assaulted her stood up and said: “Apostle of God, I am the man who did it to her.”

[The Prophet] said to her: “Go away, for God has forgiven you.” But he told the [innocent] man some good words, and to the [guilty] man who had had raped her, he said: “Stone him to death.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, #4366)

Abualrub points out that contrary to Robert Spencer’s claim that a woman’s testimony is not accepted in cases of rape, the Prophet Muhammad convicted a man based solely on one woman’s testimony.  Abualrub comments:

As for the woman mentioned in the narration, it is clear that no one asked her for four witnesses nor did anyone suspect her character, and her testimony alone was used as proof, and the innocent man who was wrongly accused was set free, while she was not punished even though she identified the wrong man, so how can the critics of Islam today claim that the Shari’ah itself says a woman is to be lashed for failing to bring forth four witnesses, when this woman in the narration not only did not do that but also identified the wrong man!? [17]

Abualrub mentions a number of salient points here, which we shall discuss in greater detail in the next part of this article.  But for now, the bolded part is most relevant to our discussion, as it shows that contemporary Muslims have a very strong proof that in their religion a woman’s testimony is to be accepted in cases of rape, contrary to what Robert Spencer–the self-proclaimed pope of Islam–insists.

Women as Witnesses under the Judeo-Christian Laws

What we have thus far concluded is that yes it is true that some Muslims (such as those living in the medieval times and some ultraconservatives today) believe that a woman’s testimony is rejected in most legal proceedings.  On the other hand, many contemporary Muslims feel otherwise, a fact that Robert Spencer conveniently ignores.

But Spencer’s half-truth does not end there.  He also purposefully neglects to mention that a woman’s testimony is rejected in traditional Halakha (Jewish law) and Biblical law (of the Christians). The Jewish Virtual Library declares that there has been a longstanding “rabbinic rule that a woman is ineligible to testify as a witness.” [18] Rabbi Aaron Mackler writes:

The vast majority of Orthodox rabbis, and some Conservative rabbis, do not accept the legitimacy of women serving as witnesses. [19]

The Talmud forbade Jewish courts from accepting women as witnesses:

The Talmudic interpretation of the law held that women or slaves were not admitted as witnesses; nor could one such testify on the basis of testimony heard form an eye-witness. [20]

It is for this reason that the testimony of a woman is not accepted in the Orthodox rabbinical courts up until this day.  However, like the Muslims, there is a difference of opinion amongst Jewry; Reform Jews and some Conservative rabbis accept women as witnesses.

We see then that the situation of the Muslims and the Jews with regard to this issue is very similar if not identical; why is it then that Robert Spencer arrives at dramatically different conclusions about Islam/Muslims/Quran/Sharia than he does about Judaism/Jews/Talmud/Halakha?  Why does Spencer entitle the chapter of his book as “Islam oppresses women,” but not say “Judaism oppresses women?”  If one criticizes the Quran for one thing, should not such a person criticize the Talmud for the exact same thing?  It seems there is one standard for Islam and another for Judaism and Christianity.  This is indeed the modus operandi for the Islamophobic movement in general; I have already in a previous article detailed Daniel Pipes’ fantastic double standards towards Sharia and Halakha.

The traditional Biblical law also excluded women from serving as witnesses. The Bible says:

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses…The two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. (Deuteronomy 19:15-17)

Notice that Robert Spencer argues that the four witnesses in the Quranic verse 24:4 ought to be males, since the word “witnesses” appears in the masculine.  Yet, this was the exact same logic that Christian scholars used: the Bible uses the word “men” when it refers to witnesses.  John Gill, a well-renowned Biblical scholar of the eighteenth century, commented on this verse that it

teaches that there is no witness by women; and so it is elsewhere said, an oath of witness is made by men, and not by women; on which it is observed that a woman is not fit to bear witness, as it is written “then both the men,” [meaning] men and not women. [21]

Medieval Islamic and Christian scholars opined that witnesses ought to be male, based on the fact that both holy books (the Quran and Bible respectively) used masculine words for “witnesses.”  Yet, for some reason Robert Spencer argues that the Quran specifically requires male witnesses, whereas the Bible does not!  Again, this exposes Spencer’s  bias.

The Testimony of Women in Cases of Adultery

Robert Spencer, likes to contrast the Quran with the Bible; his book is full of such side-by-side comparisons.  Let us play his game then.  Both the Quran and the Bible deal with the case of a husband accusing his wife of adultery.  The Quran declares that if a wife denies the charges, then she is exonerated by the law–her testimony is accepted over that of her husband’s, and any worldly punishment is waived.  The Quran declares:

As for those who accuse their wives but have no witnesses except themselves: let the testimony of one of them be four testimonies, swearing by God that he is of those who speaks the truth; And the fifth oath should be invoking the curse of God on himself if he is of those who lie. But it shall avert the punishment from her if she bears witness/testifies before God four times that the thing he says is indeed false, and if she takes an oath a fifth time that the wrath of God be upon her if he speaks the truth. (Quran, 24:6-9)

This is the Islamic law of Al-Li’an. The Bible, on the other hand, has the Law of Jealousy: if a husband suspects his wife of adultery, then he is to bring her to the priest.  The priest will then dump dust and ink into a container of water, and force her to drink the dirtied water.  If she gets sick from it (or dies), it proves the allegation that she was adulterous; if she does not fall sick, then she is exonerated.  Furthermore, the woman is to drink this water in a state of public humiliation: her head is to be uncovered (a sign of shame back then) and she is forced to stand at the east gate of the temple in sight of the people, so that she might serve as a reminder against lewdness.  (All this even before she drinks the contaminated water.)

The Bible declares:

The Test for an Unfaithful Wife

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act, and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure–then he is to take his wife to the priest…

The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.…Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband”–here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath–”may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away. ” Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering…He is to have the woman drink the water.  If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people.

If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her [i.e. death by stoning]. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’” (Numbers 5:11-31)

Matthew Henry, the eminent seventeenth and eighteenth century commentator on the Bible, explained these verses:

We have here the law concerning the solemn trial of a wife whose husband was jealous of her.

I. What was the case supposed:

1. That a man had some reason to suspect his wife to have committed adultery,

2. It is supposed to be a sin which great care is taken by the sinners to conceal, which there is no witness of…

3. The spirit of jealousy is supposed to come upon the husband…then he may compel her to drink the bitter water.  But the law here does not tie him to that particular method of proving the just cause of his suspicion; it might be otherwise proved. In case it could be proved that she had committed adultery, she was to be put to death (Lev. 20:10); but, if it was uncertain, then this law took place. Hence, (1.) Let all wives be admonished not to give any the least occasion for the suspicion of their chastity; it is not enough that they abstain from the evil of uncleanness, but they must abstain from all appearance of it, from every thing that looks like it, or leads to it, or may give the least umbrage to jealousy; for how great a matter may a little fire kindle! (2.) Let all husbands be admonished not to entertain any causeless or unjust suspicions of their wives…

II. The process of the trial must be thus:

(1.) Her husband must bring her to the priest, with the witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicion, and desire that she might be put upon her trial. The Jews say that the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth…If she confessed, saying, “I am defiled,” she was not put to death, but was divorced and lost her dowry; if she said, “I am pure,” then they proceeded.

(3.) The priest was to prepare the water of jealousy…it must be [in] an earthen vessel, because the coarser and plainer every thing was the more agreeable it was to the occasion. Dust must be put into the water, to signify the reproach she lay under, and the shame she ought to take to herself, putting her mouth in the dust; but dust from the floor of the tabernacle

(4.) The woman was to be set before the Lord, at the east gate of the temple-court (say the Jews), and her head was to be uncovered, in token of her sorrowful condition; and there she stood for a spectacle to the world, that other women might learn not to do after her lewdness, Eze. 23:48

(5.) The priest was to adjure her to tell the truth, and to denounce the curse of God against her if she were guilty, and to declare what would be the effect of her drinking the water of jealousy, v. 19-22. He must assure her that, if she were innocent, the water would do her no harm, v. 19. None need fear the curse of the law if they have not broken the commands of the law. But, if she were guilty, this water would be poison to her, it would make her belly to swell and her thigh to rot, and she should be a curse or abomination among her people, v. 21, 22…

(6.) The priest was to write this curse in a scrip or scroll of parchment, verbatim-word for word, as he had expressed it, and then to wipe or scrape out what he had written into the water (v. 23), to signify that it was that curse which impregnated the water, and gave it its strength to effect what was intended. It signified that, if she were innocent, the curse should be blotted out and never appear against her, as it is written, Isa. 43:25, I am he that blotteth out thy transgression, and Ps. 51:9, Blot out my iniquities; but that, if she were guilty, the curse, as it was written, being infused into the water, would enter into her bowels with the water, even like oil into her bones (Ps. 109:18)…

(7.) The woman must then drink the water (v. 24); it is called the bitter water…

(9.) …If the suspected woman was really guilty, the water she drank would be poison to her (v. 27), her belly would swell and her thigh rot by a vile disease for vile deserts, and she would mourn at the last when her flesh and body were consumed, Prov. 5:11. Bishop Patrick says, from some of the Jewish writers, that the effect of these waters appeared immediately, she grew pale, and her eyes ready to start out of her head… [22]

The husband could not only accuse the woman of adultery during the marriage, but of fornication before the wedding.  His testimony was accepted without question unless her father could provide physical proof saying otherwise; the wife’s testimony on the other hand was not considered at all.  The Bible says:

If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the girl’s father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl’s father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Imagine if this was in the Quran: Spencer would have a field day!  He would wax and wane about how the only way the wife in this case could avert stoning to death would be by her parents somehow producing a blood stained cloth–blood from a broken hymen…evidence which seems mighty hard to come by.  And even if she is found innocent by this physical evidence, in that case the husband pays the wife’s father, not her.  Furthermore, the wife stays married to such a husband “as long as he lives.”  But if no proof can be found, which seems the most probable outcome, then she was to be publicly stoned to death by the men of the town.  Again: imagine Spencer’s rantings and ravings if this all were in the Quran!

To be clear: I am not trying here to demonize Christianity.  Obviously the Christians of today do not enforce the Law of Jealousy or demand virgins to show proof of their virginity.  Yet, what is apparent here is the double standard with which Spencer approaches the religious texts. Many Islamophobes pride themselves as being the protectors of the Judeo-Christian tradition, yet squirm when we apply the same standards to Judaism or Christianity.

Conclusion

Robert Spencer relies on half-truths: he only mentions the most conservative opinion amongst Muslims, as if it is somehow the only one.  In reality, contemporary Muslims believe that women can testify in trials, including cases of rape.  They interpret the Quranic verse 2:282 to be limited in scope.

Furthermore, Spencer conveniently neglects to mention that Orthodox rabbinical courts to this day refuse to accept women as witnesses, based on Talmudic teachings.  (And such understandings abounded in Christianity as well.)  Spencer ought to be as critical of the Halakha as the Sharia, but his double standard in this regard is reminiscent of Daniel Pipes’ double standards, as I documented  in a previous article.  This biased methodology underlies the Islamophobic mentality in general.

In part 2 of “Robert Spencer Rapes the Truth,” we’ll discuss the rest of Spencer’s spurious claims on the same topic, focusing specifically on his allegation that a rape victim is lashed if she fails to produce four witnesses.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), 74-76. ISBN 0-89526-013-1

refer back to article 2. http://www.renaissance.com.pk/Julrefl12y4.html#1.

refer back to article 3. al-Tahir al-Haddad, Muslim Women in Law and Society: Annotated Translation of al-Tahir al-Haddad, 38. ISBN 0415418879, 9780415418874

refer back to article 4. Muzammil H. Siddiqi is the President of the Fiqh Council of North America

refer back to article 5. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1203515453417&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

refer back to article 6. Jamal Badawi is a member of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Fiqh Council.

refer back to article 7. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar&cid=1119503544348

refer back to article 8. http://www.renaissance.com.pk/Julrefl12y4.html#1.

refer back to article 9. Jalal Abualrub is a prolific Islamic author and translator

refer back to article 10. The proper term is “Salafi”. “Wahhabi” is considered offensive; it has been used here only because readers may be unfamiliar with “Salafi”.

refer back to article 11. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

refer back to article 12. as quoted in Tariq Ramadan’s Radical Reform, 53.

refer back to article 13. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

refer back to article 14. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1203515453417&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

refer back to article 15. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1119503544348&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar%2FFatwaE%2FFatwaEAskTheScholar

refer back to article 16. al-Tahir al-Haddad, Muslim Women in Law and Society: Annotated Translation of al-Tahir al-Haddad, 38.

refer back to article 17. Jalal Abualrub, http://islamlife.com/religion2/

refer back to article 18. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/agunot1.html

refer back to article 19. http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/teshuvot/docs/20052010/mackler_women_witnesses.pdf

refer back to article 20. Jacob Nuesner, Understanding Rabbinic Judaism, 67. ISBN 0870682385, 9780870682384

refer back to article 21. John Gill’s Exposition to the Bible, Commentary on Deuteronomy 19:17, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/deuteronomy-19-17.html

refer back to article 22. Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary, http://biblebrowser.com/numbers/5-29.htm

Robert Spencer Dodges Debate with LoonWatch

One artist's depiction of Robert Spencer

One artist's depiction of Robert Spencer

LoonWatch.com, recently published a devastating rebuttal of chapter four of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades.

The article no doubt knocked Spencer flat on his backside.  In one swift move, LoonWatch completely neutralized one of his main lines of argumentation against Islam and Muslims–his pet issue of “dhimmitude” which he recurrently brings up to fear monger.  One cannot underestimate the importance he gives to this issue–after all, he registered DhimmiWatch[dot]com!  It is arguably his favorite topic.

Spencer issued a half-hearted (non)reply to the rebuttal.  LW immediately counter-replied, completely pummeling Spencer.

And now…silence.  Spencer, who has no real job other than this, has suddenly become as quiet as a mouse.  What happened, Spencer?  Cat got your tongue?  Where did all the bravado go?

It’s not like Spencer is averse to going twelve rounds in debate…In fact, he had a debate with Omer Subhani on this very issue, and Spencer churned out not one but three (!) articles rebutting Subhani.  (See here, here, and here.)  Notice the blustering confidence Spencer exudes in those articles.  Unfortunately, Subhani was by his own admission very busy during the time that he wrote his rebuttal (he’s a law student) and therefore was unable to do the in-depth research that we did.

Notice how detailed Spencer’s replies to Subhani are (complete with photographs that Spencer took of his own personal library and rotund self). It is clear that Spencer’s multiple replies took a lot of effort and time (he doesn’t have a real job like Omer Subhani does).  So how come LoonWatch doesn’t get just one article rebutting our article on the same exact topic that Spencer was earlier willing to write three rebuttals of?  Well, we all know the answer to that: Spencer has been defeated in debate, is boxed in, and has no possible way to respond to the points raised.  And so the once ferocious Muslim eating tiger has turned into a cowardly chicken.

Omer Subhani recently blogged about my rebuttal and Spencer’s non-response:

…An entire chapter of Spencer’s book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), was refuted and his response was monumentally weak and disingenuous…

Spencer is always whining about debating these issues. Now someone has come up and punched him in the nose. Will he respond, or will he avoid the conversation, thus proving the falsity of his claims that Islam treated Jews worse than Christianity? I ain’t holding my breath.

Mr. Subhani, we aren’t holding our breath either.

Further reading:

The Church’s Doctrine of “Perpetual Servitude” was Worse than “Dhimmitude”

Robert Spencer is on the Ropes; Spencer’s Bumbling Reply to LoonWatch

Update:

Robert Spencer argues in his book that the Jews historically fared (much) better in Christian Europe than they did in the Islamic world.  It was this claim which I thoroughly debunked.  After I published my article, two of our readers (hat tip: Reza and Nabeela) pointed out that even Daniel Pipes–an Islamophobe and one of Spencer’s own buddies–said in an interview:

Rachael Kohn: As an historian, you would know that Jews had comparatively better time under Muslim rule than they did under Christian rule. When did it change so radically?

Daniel Pipes: It was very radical and quick. The Jewish experience from the origins of Islam in the 7th century, until rather specifically in 1945, was better under Muslim rule than under Christian rule. And since 1945, it’s been better under Christian rule than Muslim rule. One can see it for example by exchange of populations. Jews fled the Christian countries for the Muslim countries, until 1945.

As late as the 1930s, when Jews fled Germany to go to Turkey. Since then, it’s been the reverse. I think this points to the fact that things change. You know, what looked like it was a permanent thing, the fact that Jews were better off in Muslim countries, just changed on a dime, in a moment, just changed. It also points to the fact that the Muslim world is going through a very difficult stage now, and it’s presumably a temporary one. It’s comparable again to Germany in the middle of the last century. It was a horrible, horrible period, did a lot of damage to Germany and to the outside world, but the Germans came out of it. And so the key now is to figure out how the Muslim world can come out of this particularly difficult time that it’s in.

Daniel Pipes even refers to Professor Mark R. Cohen’s book Under Crescent and Cross as an “excellent study.”  (It is this book which I used as a template, and which convincingly outlines why life for Jews was so much more tolerable in the Islamic East as compared to the Christian West.)

Pipes noted (as did I in my rebuttal) that although dhimmis were second-class citizens, at least they were citizens–unlike the Christian world where they were excluded from society altogether; says Pipes:

…Non-Muslims were allowed to live under Muslim rule with the legal status of dhimmis (protected persons). They paid higher taxes and enjoyed fewer privileges, in return for which they had the right to practice their own religions. Such sanctioned toleration has no Christian counterpart; under Islam, Jews were second-class citizens but they were part of the legal landscape, not the problematic anomaly they presented the Christian world.

And he concludes:

In pre-modern times, they lived markedly better under Islam than under Christianity.

(Notice the words “markedly better.”)

To be clear, I don’t consider Daniel Pipes to be a reliable source, simply because he is a biased Islamophobe.  But the point here is that Spencer considers Pipes to be a reliable scholar.  Furthermore, it illustrates how even a staunchly anti-Islam ideologue such as Pipes (and Spencer’s comrade-in-arms) is forced to admit what Spencer in his unbelievable revisionism cannot: Jews fared better in the Islamic world than the Christian one.  In other words, Pipes could not keep a straight face and argue Spencer’s point. This indicates the depths of Spencer’s lack of scholarship and sophistication.

Robert Spencer is on the Ropes; Spencer’s Bumbling Reply to LoonWatch

For those of you just joining us, let’s recap: Robert Spencer wrote a book entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades.  Chapter four of this book is entitled “Islam: Religion of Intolerance.”  On p.47, he summarizes the chapter into three points:

*Islamic law mandates second-class status for Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims in Islamic society.

*These laws have never been abrogated or revised by any authority.

*The idea that Jews fared better in Islamic lands than in Christian Europe is false. [1]

I then wrote a rebuttal of the third point, promising to write a follow up article dealing with the first two.  Spencer took a look at my rebuttal and replied, as follows:

As for the one you did link, I took a look. It is an extended (very extended) example of the familiar tu quoque fallacy in which Islamic apologists always indulge: other people have done evil, and therefore our evil is not so bad or not to be spoken of. There are two chief problems with this:

1. I have never said or implied that Muslims have a monopoly on evil. Every group has been guilty of some wrongdoing. Does this mean we should not discuss the threats to human rights constituted by Islamic supremacism? I don’t think so.

2. Even if what this person is saying were true, the whole premise is wrong: the church never had a “doctrine” regarding these matters. These were practices applied in various times and places, never universally, and not based on any church law. In fact, the Popes consistently opposed the persecution of the Jews. This is in sharp contrast to the laws of dhimmitude that are taught by all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

And most importantly, no church is behaving in such ways as are described in this article today, but Islamic jihadists in Gaza and elsewhere have declared their intention to reimpose the dhimma on Jews and Christians when they are able to do so.

Cordially
Robert Spencer

Here is my counter-reply, as follows:

Dear Robert Spencer,

You said:

It is an extended (very extended) example of the familiar tu quoque fallacy in which Islamic apologists always indulge: other people have done evil, and therefore our evil is not so bad or not to be spoken of.

I certainly never said that the “evil is not so bad.”  What I said was that the “evil” (your choice of words) done to infidels in the Islamic realm was historically less than that done to infidels in Christendom.  And I said that to negate chapter four of your book, in which you specifically wrote “the idea that Jews fared better in Islamic lands than in Christian Europe is false,” and “the Muslim laws were much harsher for Jews than those of Christendom.”  I am fact-checking your book, and you made a claim, and I refuted it.  Simple as that.  Now it is up to you to either defend your initial claim or concede that you were wrong to state it.

You have a problem with Islamic apologists who downplay or whitewash the abuses of the Islamic past.  But you yourself are a Catholic apologist who downplays and whitewashes the abuses of the Christian past. You replace myth with counter-myth.  I, on the other hand, look at the cold hard facts.  And the facts are quite clear: the Islamic apologists are wrong to claim that there was an interfaith utopia, but you were wrong to claim that it was worse for infidels in the Islamic world than in Christendom.

As for the claim that I think the “evil…is not to be spoken of,” I never said that either.   My article was rigidly fair, speaking of the discrimination prevalent in the Islamic world.  The issue here, however, is you, who speaks so much on the topic, yet downplays and completely ignores the even greater abuses in Christian history.

The reason that you are forced to downplay and ignore the abuses in Christian history is obvious: it would completely neutralize your argument which could then no longer be used as a stick to beat the Muslims over the head with.  I don’t have a problem with discussing history.  I do, however, have a problem with weaponizing history, which is what you do; you downplay and ignore one side’s abuses, exaggerate the other sides, and then top it off with sensationalist fear mongering.  In your own words on the cover of your book: “Muslim persecution of Christians has continued for 13 centuries.”  I guess replacing that with the more balanced “Muslims and Christians persecuted each other” would not sell as many books, eh?

You call it a tu quoque fallacy.  I call it common sense.  You cannot possibly single out and demonize the Muslim community–and Islam–when in fact the same criticisms apply equally if not more to all other religious communities and religions–and yours in specific! It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  One can and should discuss shortcomings and even horrific abuses of the past, but this can be done without the singling out and demonizing which you specialize in and have made into a career.

But in any case, we need not discuss the implications of your statement yet.  Right now, the issue is about the veracity of your statement that the Jews were persecuted more in the Islamic world than in Christendom.  That is a false claim.  You can try to muddy the waters as much as you want, but the bottom line is that your book is based on a horrendous error at best–if not a boldfaced lie.

You said:

1. I have never said or implied that Muslims have a monopoly on evil. Every group has been guilty of some wrongdoing.

Did I ever say that you said the Muslims have a monopoly on evil?  Or that you deny that every group has “some” wrongdoing?  You implied in your book that historically the Muslims persecuted Jews much more than Christians ever did.  That was your statement which I refuted, so stop moving the goalposts.  Either defend the thesis in your book, or admit that you were wrong.

You then said:

Does this mean we should not discuss the threats to human rights constituted by Islamic supremacism?

Who said otherwise?  Once again, stop trying to squirm your way out of this.  It’s very simple: you made a claim in your book, and I refuted it.  Your claim was that the Muslims persecuted Jews more than the Christians did.  This was your explicit claim, and your implicit claim was that there was a monumental difference between the persecuting Islamic society on the one hand and the supposedly freedom-loving Christian society on the other.  (As you put it: “In Christian lands there was the idea, however imperfect, of the equality of dignity and rights for all people.” [2])  The reality of course is anything but.  Again: either defend your thesis, or concede; don’t change the topic to something else.

You said:

…the church never had a “doctrine” regarding these matters. These were practices applied in various times and places, never universally, and not based on any church law.

Spencer, this is now getting frustrating.  Yes, the Church had a doctrine; they are the ones who founded it!  The doctrine of Witness, and of Perpetual Servitude of the Jews,  was enunciated by the Church, and the state later adopted it into their concept of Serfs of the Royal Chamber. This was adopted virtually “universally” in the realm of Christendom.  Perhaps you ought to read my rebuttal again.  Clearly, it was the Church who originated the concept of Perpetual Servitude, propagated it, and championed it.  In fact, as I discussed in my rebuttal the Church competed with the state over which would own the Jews.

The anti-Jewish laws were based in Church doctrine.  Again, read my rebuttal again before saying something so absolutely false.  It leads me to believe that either (1) you don’t possess adequate reading comprehension abilities, or (2) you’ve been refuted so thoroughly that you can’t come up with any counter-point.

Then you said:

In fact, the Popes consistently opposed the persecution of the Jews.

It was through the infallible papal bulls that such ideas as Perpetual Servitude became preponderant in Christendom.  Just to give one such example: the Pope in 1452 issued a bull that called for the Christians to “reduce into perpetual servitude” the infidels.

It is true that the papacy forbade killing off the Jews, but the reason for that–as I discussed in my rebuttal–was due to the doctrine of the Witness: Jews were to endure in order to witness the triumph of Christianity and Christ.  According to this doctrine, the Jews were to live in a miserable state of “perpetual servitude” which would then serve as a living proof of their misguidance.  So yes, the popes did prevent the complete elimination of the Jews, but only that they may live in serfdom/slavery.  Similarly, the Church fathers ruled that all of a Jew’s property could be confiscated except the absolute bare minimum which was needed for his survival; again, the Jew must endure to serve as Witness.

Spencer’s statement was challenged by the anti-Islam bigot sheik yer’mami

With all due respect, Robert: “In fact, the Popes consistently opposed the persecution of the Jews” – really? I have a problem with that.

There were some pretty awful popes in the history of the church, and all the things that were done to Jews could hardly have been done without their consent. Throughout the history of the Catholic church we see consolidated efforts to reign in the bishops who were getting too powerful and who were also warlords, something which is probably very little known.

That aside, I don’t think you can find much evidence that popes were opposed to the persecution of Jews….

Spencer then replied with:

Sheik

The record is not monochromatic, but actually, yes, I can find plenty.

First, the bad news. Pope Zachary reaffirmed a prohibition on intermarriage. Leo VII directed the archbishop of Mainz to expel Jews who refused to convert to Christianity from cities within his diocese. Pope Gregory VII forbade Jews to hold authority over Christians.

The Fourth Lateran Council decreed in 1215 that Jews must wear distinctive garb—a directive initially emphasized, then suspended, then insisted upon again by Pope Honorius III. Gregory IX led a campaign against Jewish books that led to a massive book-burning in Paris. Nicholas III required Jews to assemble to hear proselytizing sermons and ordered that those who had been baptized but then returned to Judaism be “turned over to the secular power”—which meant almost certain execution. Honorius IV wrote a letter to the English bishops warning them about Jewish efforts to convert Christians—which ultimately led to the expulsion of the Jews from England. Pope John XXII resumed the campaign against Jewish books, ordering the Talmud suppressed. Centuries later, in 1858, police of the Papal States seized a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, from his family because a Catholic servant girl who worked for the family had baptized him. Pope Pius IX refused numerous entreaties to return the boy to his family. Mortara became a Catholic priest and died in 1940. Many consider the incident one of the chief obstacles to the canonization of Pius IX.

But as I said, the papal record is not monochromatic. Historian and Rabbi David Dalin says this: “The historical fact is that popes have often spoken out in defense of the Jews, have protected them during times of persecution and pogroms, and have protected their right to worship freely in their synagogues. Popes have traditionally defended Jews from wild anti-Semitic allegations. Popes regularly condemned anti-Semites who sought to incite violence against Jews.”

This is not, as some might think, a strictly modern phenomenon. For instance, Pope Gregory I, who wrote harshly of the Jews’ rejection of Christ, nevertheless issued an edict dictating that Jews “should have no infringement of their rights. … We forbid to vilify the Jews. We allow them to live as Romans and to have full authority over their possessions.” When a bishop in Palermo seized a synagogue and converted it into a church, the building could not be returned to its former owner because it had now been consecrated; however, Gregory ordered the bishop to pay the owners a fair price, so that the Jews “should in no way appear to be oppressed, or to suffer an injustice.” He also forbade forced conversion of Jews, a prohibition later repeated by Gregory IV.

Pope Gregory I’s directives formed the basis of the Jews’ status in Western Europe for a considerable time thereafter. Pope Alexander II commended bishops in Narbonne and Spain for protecting Jews from attacks by Christians. When would-be Crusaders massacred Jews in Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Cologne, and elsewhere before the First Crusade, it is noteworthy that local bishops often acted to end these slaughters. Pope Calixtus II thereafter reaffirmed Gregory’s prohibition of attacks on Jews, and also forbade forced conversion and attacks on synagogues.

The popes also held fast against forced conversions and attacks on the Jews. Pope Innocent III, although he condemned Jews as “the sons of the crucifiers, against whom to this day the blood cries to the Father’s ears,” stated: “For we make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism.
Too, no Christian ought to presume…wickedly to injure their persons, or with violence to take away their property, or to change the good customs which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit. Besides, in the celebration of their own festivals, no one ought to disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe, except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform. In addition to these, We decree…that no one ought to dare to mutilate or diminish a Jewish cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have been buried.”

Those who dared transgress these prohibitions were threatened with excommunication. Innocent also noted that Calixtus and four other popes had extended the same protections to the Jews. According to Dalin, “Calixtus’s defense of the Jews, with its promise of continuing papal protection, was reissued at least twenty-two times by successive popes between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.”

Of course, this reissuing wouldn’t have been necessary if Jews were not continually being attacked in Europe. Many of these attacks centered around the “blood libel,” the contention that Jews killed Christian children and mixed their blood into their Passover matzoh. Pope Innocent IV issued a strong denial of the blood libel, as did Gregory X, Martin V, and Sixtus IV. Paul III denounced those who “pretend, in order to despoil them of their goods, that the Jews kill little children and drink their blood.” That this had to be repeated over several centuries testifies to the persistence of the libel in Christian Europe, but nevertheless, excommunication was consistently the penalty for those who spread such stories or victimized Jews on such a basis.

Gregory X also affirmed the validity of Jewish testimony, declaring, “An accusation against Jews based solely on the testimony of Christians was invalid; Jewish witnesses must also appear.” Clement VI defended Jews from charges that they were responsible for the Black Death; Boniface IX granted full Roman citizenship to Jews; Martin V directed that “every Christian treat the Jews with a humane kindness” and forbade preachers “to preach against the Jews, to attempt to interrupt their normal relations with their neighbors, to infringe upon their religious rights, or to exclude them from normal activities (including attendance at universities).” He also reaffirmed the repudiation of the blood libel.

Leo X ordered the entire Talmud to be printed by a Christian printer in Rome so as to discourage anti-Semitic rumors about its contents. Clement VII commissioned a new translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin, to be completed by six Christians and six Jews working together.

Innocent X and Benedict XIV both worked to end the blood libel and the persecution of Jews in Poland. Leo XIII spoke out in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer wrongly accused of treason in a notorious case. Pius X and Benedict XV acted against anti-Semitism in Italian politics and media. It was thus not without justification that Pius XI was able to write in 1928: “Moved by this Christian charity, the Holy See has always protected this people [the Jews] against unjust vexations, and just as it reprobates all rancour and conflicts between peoples, it particularly condemns unreservedly hatred against the people once chosen by God: the hatred that commonly goes by the name of anti-Semitism.” Pius XI used his encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge — pointedly written in German instead of Latin, and directed to the German bishops — to condemn the anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. The Nazis, in response, forbade its publication in Germany and denounced Pius XI as half-Jewish. That encyclical, drafted by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who two years later became Pope Pius XII, declared: “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community—however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things—whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.”

When Vienna’s Cardinal Innitzer rang the city’s church bells to celebrate Hitler’s entry into the city after the Anchluss in 1938, Pius XI called Innitzer to Rome and rebuked him — and, according to historian Michael Phayer, had the rebuke “communicated through diplomatic channels to the United States so that world governments would know where the Vatican stood regarding Hitler’s Germany.” On September 6, 1938, he told a group of pilgrims from Belgium that “anti-Semitism is inadmissible; spiritually, we are all Semites.”

The record of Pope Pius XII is controversial, but there has been a good deal of misinformation publicized about it. In reality, he helped save many hundreds of thousands of Jews and was memorialized at Yad Veshem. The campaign to blacken his name began later.

Cordially
Robert Spencer

With regards to the papacy, it held a somewhat contradictory position throughout history; it was a source of great intolerance but at the same time it placed some limits to intolerance which benefited the Jews.  This is all because the Church adopted the doctrine of Witness, which–as I have explained in some detail in my rebuttal (and reiterated above)–argued that Jews ought not to be killed in order that they might endure as living witnesses of the triumph of Christianity and Christ.  But they were to live in a state of perpetual servitude, in order that their pitiful condition prove to the world their defeat for supposedly slaying Jesus.  To this effect, we read:

The Catholic Church, in its triumphant march toward the spiritual unification of the world, was mortified that among all the cults that had flourished in the Roman Empire, only the Synagogue had been able to withstand Christian propaganda.  The only obstacle in the path of the Christians toward religious supremacy was the handful of Jews “stubbornly entrenched in their satanic blindness.”  It is not surprising that the Church yielded to the temptation of using its secular power and influence with the princes to reduce these stubborn, unyielding unbelievers to a state of pariahdom on the fringes of society.

A distinction must be drawn, however, between the attitude of the Papacy and that of the lower clergy.  The Papacy was on the whole much less hostile, and maintained in principle the attitude of genuine ambivalence that had developed out of the original schism.

The official attitude of the Church had been defined by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) in his Constitutio pro Judeis, wherein he established the principles protecting the religious practices of the Jews within the strict limits of the Law.  The thirteenth century Popes reaffirmed the principles of Gregory I but emphasized the more hostile aspects of his pronouncements.  Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) defined the theological position of the Jews in Christian world thus:

“The Jews’ guilt of the crucifixion of Jesus consigned them to perpetual servitude, and, like Cain, they are to be wanderers and fugitives…the Jews will not dare to raise their necks, bowed under the yoke of perpetual slavery, against the reverence of the Christian faith.”

And yet these same thirteenth century Popes appealed to Christian charity to protect the Jews from excessive persecution.  The theological reasons adduced from this protection were that the Jews were witnesses of the true Christian faith; their very existence was proof of the Gospels and their abasement proof of the triumph of Christianity…Therefore, though the Jews might be oppressed, they must not be exterminated–another example of the strange paradox of tolerance and hatred which has always characterized Christian ambivalence towards Judaism. [3]

This explains the ambivalence of the Church; on the one hand they were promoting a doctrine of intolerance, but at the same time they were placing limits to the manifestation of this intolerance, stopping short of wholesale slaughter.

Spencer, you said:

Historian and Rabbi David Dalin says this: “The historical fact is that popes have often spoken out in defense of the Jews, have protected them during times of persecution and pogroms, and have protected their right to worship freely in their synagogues. Popes have traditionally defended Jews from wild anti-Semitic allegations. Popes regularly condemned anti-Semites who sought to incite violence against Jews.”

This is consistent with what I have said earlier.  It is true that the papacy often stepped in to prevent wanton violence against Jews (such as massacres and forced conversions or baptisms), because–loyal to the doctrine of Witness–they wished the Jews to survive so that they might remain as perpetual serfs.

Professor Mark R. Cohen of Princeton University writes:

In his writings, Augustine articulated the doctrine of “witness,” which, over the centuries, served to justify the preservation of the Jews within Christendom…The Augustinian doctrine of witness, with its pragmatic rationale for accepting Judaism within Christendom, may have restrained Christian intolerance; but it could not efface a fundamental and potentially dangerous ambivalence in early Christianity regarding the other…

Inevitably, Jewry law appeared in pronouncements by the Catholic church…In keeping with both Augustinian doctrine and the protections guaranteed in the bull Sicut Judeis, throughout the Middle Ages the papacy maintained staunch and fairly consistent opposition to forced conversion of the Jews as well as to unwarranted physical brutality toward them.  Indeed, from time to time, a Pope might even add a clause to the “Constitutio pro Judeis” defending the Jews against some new, current threat.  For example, in 1247, Innocent IV reissued his own version of the bull within a year of the first promulgation, adding a section denouncing the newly risen blood libel.

I do not mean to imply that the papacy went out of its way to nurture Jewish life among Christians.  Quite the contrary, during the eleventh, twelfth, and especially the thirteenth centuries, as the papacy struggled to assert its supremacy over secular rulers, it also asserted its authority of the Jews.  This was done by inculcating the complementary ideas of Jewish subservience and inferiority.  Beginning with Pope Innocent III, in 1205, the idea of subservience was expressed in the revival of an old patristic doctrine about the “perpetual servitude” of the Jews, which gave ideological ballast to Innocent’s newly intensified campaign to segregate and subjugate the Jews. [4]

Spencer, you then said:

This is not, as some might think, a strictly modern phenomenon. For instance, Pope Gregory I, who wrote harshly of the Jews’ rejection of Christ, nevertheless issued an edict dictating that Jews “should have no infringement of their rights. … We forbid to vilify the Jews. We allow them to live as Romans and to have full authority over their possessions.” When a bishop in Palermo seized a synagogue and converted it into a church, the building could not be returned to its former owner because it had now been consecrated; however, Gregory ordered the bishop to pay the owners a fair price, so that the Jews “should in no way appear to be oppressed, or to suffer an injustice.” He also forbade forced conversion of Jews, a prohibition later repeated by Gregory IV.

Pope Gregory I’s directives formed the basis of the Jews’ status in Western Europe for a considerable time thereafter.

Indeed, it did.  I completely agree with you Spencer that Pope Gregory I’s directives “formed the basis of the Jews’ status in Western Europe for a considerable time thereafter.”  But again, you are only showing one side of the coin, not the other.  As I quoted above:

The official attitude of the Church had been defined by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) in his Constitutio pro Judeis, wherein he established the principles protecting the religious practices of the Jews within the strict limits of the Law.  The thirteenth century Popes reaffirmed the principles of Gregory I but emphasized the more hostile aspects of his pronouncements…Though the Jews might be oppressed, they must not be exterminated–another example of the strange paradox of tolerance and hatred which has always characterized Christian ambivalence towards Judaism. [5]

Spencer, you then said:

Pope Alexander II commended bishops in Narbonne and Spain for protecting Jews from attacks by Christians. When would-be Crusaders massacred Jews in Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Cologne, and elsewhere before the First Crusade, it is noteworthy that local bishops often acted to end these slaughters.

Yes, Pope Alexander II stepped in to prevent the wholesale slaughter of Jews by Crusaders.  But you didn’t tell us why.  The reason was, in the words of Pope Alexander II himself, that the Jews–unlike the Muslims–were willing to be the perpetual serfs of the Christians, and thus ought to be tolerated:

[A] Papal pronouncement mentioning Jewish servitude was issued by Alexander II in the middle of the eleventh century…In a letter to the archbishop of Narbonne, the local viscount and the bishops of Spain, Alexander II praised them for protecting the Jews from persecution by knights setting out for war in Spain.  He [Alexander II] wrote:

“…the case of Jews and Moslems is certainly different.  For one may justly fight those who persecuted Christians and drive them from their towns and habituation.  They [the Jews], however, are willing to serve Christians everywhere.”

Alexander II used the service of the Jews as a reason to justify their protection–even though his wording was derived from the pejorative language commonly employed in relation to Jews and Judaism.  The entire phrase was incorporated by Gratian into canon law…

Theologians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries undermined the civil status of the Jews in both theory and practice.  They made outright statements to this effect, and increased the restrictions on the Jews.  Councils of the Church naturally fell in step, and sometimes used even stronger language [against Jews].  Bernard of Clairvaux, in a letter warning crusaders not to kill Jews, also referred to the punishment the Jews were receiving [i.e. perpetual servitude] for their crime [of killing Jesus].  On another occasion, he stated: ‘There is no more dishonourable or serious serfdom than that of the Jews.  They carry it with them wherever they go, and everywhere they find their masters.’ This view was shared by Rupert of Deutz, Thomas Aquinas and other theologians.  Thomas, among others, drew practical conclusions from the theological argument: ’since by law[!], Jews were subject to perpetual servitude, thus the rulers of the land may receive their property as if it were theirs [the rulers’s]‘ and, since the Jews were the servi of the Church, the Church could dispose of their property. [6]

Spencer you go on to say:

Pope Calixtus II thereafter reaffirmed Gregory’s prohibition of attacks on Jews, and also forbade forced conversion and attacks on synagogues.

Pope Calixtus II had a similar view to Alexander II, in that he goaded Christians to fight the Muslim infidels instead of killing Jews.  (If I were Spencer and this was about Muslims, I would ask: why did Christians have this bloodthirsty desire to slaughter Jews instead of fighting on the front against the enemy?  As I mentioned in my rebuttal, some 100,000 European Jews were slaughtered by the Crusaders. [7]) Again, the entire issue revolved around the Islamic intransigence and the (supposed) Jewish willingness to accept subjugation.  Even though he did protect the Jews from wholesale slaughter, Calixtus II reinforced the Church’s possessory control over Jews:

It is not surprising, then, that Innocent III and his thirteenth-century successors began playing up the theme of Jewish serfdom in an unprecedented fashion.  The very Constitutio pro Judaeis, first hesitantly enacted by Calixtus II, became an instrument in the hands of his powerful successors for the reassertion of the Papacy’s ultimate control over Jews.  This is why Innocent III, anything but a friend of Jews, considered it his duty to renew that bull on September 15, 1199, within a year after his ascendancy to the see of Saint Peter…The phrasing, quos propria culpa submisit perpetue servituti and sub timore servili became a standard usage in the vocabulary of later popes and canon jurists. [8]

Spencer, you then said:

The popes also held fast against forced conversions and attacks on the Jews. Pope Innocent III, although he condemned Jews as “the sons of the crucifiers, against whom to this day the blood cries to the Father’s ears,” stated: “For we make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or refusing, by violence to come to baptism. Too, no Christian ought to presume…wickedly to injure their persons, or with violence to take away their property…”

I almost agree with you Spencer when you say that the papacy “held fast against forced conversions and attacks on the Jews.”  Generally (though not always), that part is true.  However, what you fail to mention is that the papacy argued that although the Jews ought not to be subjected to wanton physical violence (such as “forced conversions and attacks”), they also held that the Jews were to be perpetual serfs; in fact, the only reason the papacy forbade the former was so that the Jews may endure as the latter!  Spencer, you used the example of Pope Innocent III above as a proof that the popes forbade wanton physical violence against Jews.  But Pope Innocent III said all the above because he adhered to the doctrine of Witness (and the belief of Perpetual Servitude); here’s what you didn’t quote from the words of Innocent III:

Crucifiers of Christ [the Jews] ought to be held in continual subjection. [9]

Pope Innocent III relegated the Jews to a status of perpetual servitude, saying:

Christian piety accepts and sustains living with Jews who, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord. [10]

And Innocent III said further:

…The Jews, as servants rejected by that Savior Whose death they wickedly contrived, should recognize themselves in fact and in creed the servants of those whom the death of Christ has set free, even as it has rendered them bondmen. [11]

In complete consistency with the doctrine of Witness–and of Perpetual Servitude–Pope Innocent III likened the Jews to Cain, who would not be killed but rather live an existence worse than death, one of shame and misery; Innocent III opined:

The Lord made Cain a wanderer and a fugitive over the earth, but set a mark upon him, making his head to shake, lest anyone finding him should slay him.  Thus the Jews, against whom the blood of Christ calls out, although they ought not to be wiped out, nevertheless, as wanderers they must remain upon the earth until their faces are filled with shame and they seek the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. [12]

So yes, the papacy protected the Jews from annihilation.  (Spencer, if this had been about Muslims, you would have said something nasty like “Muslim mobs had a propensity to annihilate the Jews.” )  The reason for the papal protection was so that the Jews may live in perpetual servitude as a proof of the victory of Christianity over the Jewish serfs.

Spencer, you go on to say:

According to Dalin, “Calixtus’s defense of the Jews, with its promise of continuing papal protection, was reissued at least twenty-two times by successive popes between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.”

Yes, it was–invariably along with the doctrine of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude.  In fact, “papal protection” was in the form of papal possession.

Spencer, you say:

Pope Innocent IV issued a strong denial of the blood libel

Yes, and he also ordered the King to burn the Talmud, leading to the burning of twelve thousand Jewish religious books, which the Jews would call a religious “catastrophe”. [13] Pope Innocent IV decreed:

[I order] that you [the King] order both the aforesaid abusive books [Talmud]…to be burned by fire wherever they can be found throughout your entire kingdom. [14]

And again, he was a strong proponent of the doctrine of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude; Pope Innocent IV decreed:

The Jews…[have] been punished by the Lord to be slaves as it were, for whose death they sinfully plotted, they shall recognize themselves, as a result of this act, as slaves of those whom the death of Christ set free, and made them slaves. [15]

Spencer, the rest of your post is along the same vein.  You simply cherry picked the good things the popes did, and highlighted those, ignoring all the “evil” they did.  So for instance, if a pope opposed the ritual murder libel (which many did), then you would make sure to mention that, without also discussing how the same pope burned tens of thousands of copies of the Talmud.  If a pope overturned a ban on the Talmud, you would make mention of this, but not mention that the same pope only permitted heavily censored versions of the Talmud to be read.  And so on and so forth.

It is of course a game that you easily play because most of your receptive right-wing audience is ignorant, and unable to see the other side of the coin.  The reality, however, is that the papacy had both a protectionist and intolerant role to play in the treatment of the Jews.  The Jews were protected from wanton physical violence and loss of life, but at the same time severely restricted and forced into perpetual servitude.  The Augustinian doctrine of Witness–and its corollary of Perpetual Servitude–was the papacy’s general attitude towards Jews. To give just a few more examples…

Pope Pius V declared:

We order that, within 90 days, all Jews in our entire earthly realm of justice–in all towns, districts, and places–must depart these regions…their property [to be] confiscated and handed over to the Siscus, and they shall become slaves of the Roman Church, live in perpetual servitude and the Roman Church will have the same rights over them as the remaining [worldly] lords [have] over slaves and property. [16]

Pope Alexander III opined:

Jews ought to be slaves to Christians. [17]

Pope Gregory IX decreed:

We order all our brother bishops absolutely to suppress the blasphemy of Jews in your dioceses, churches, and communities, so that they do not dare raise their necks, bent under eternal slavery, to revile the Redeemer. [18]

And he said further:

They ought to know the yoke of perpetual enslavement because of their guilt.  See to it that the perfidious Jews never in the future become insolent, but that they always suffer publicly the shame of their sin in servile fear. [19]

Pope Innocent III declared:

It is absurd and improper that Jews–whose own guilt has consigned them to perpetual servitude–under the pretext that Christian piety receives them and tolerates their presence should be ingrates [adeo sint ingrati] to Christians, so that they attempt to exchange the servitude they owe to Christians for dominion over them. [20]

Pope Benedict XIV observed:

It is fitting for Jews to serve Christians…The Jews, as slaves rejected by that Saviour Whose death they wickedly contrived, should recognize themselves in fact and in creed the slaves of those whom the death of Christ has set free, even as it has rendered them bondmen. [21]

Keep in mind that Benedict XIV was one of the many popes who condemned the blood libel; yet, at the same time, he was an adherent of the doctrine of Perpetual Servitude.  It is in fact his very loyalty to this doctrine which caused him to prevent the blood libel massacres.  Again, there was a protectionist aspect coupled with great intolerance–all of which typified the Church’s ambivalent attitude towards Jews.

The Church’s doctrine was a seemingly intolerant policy, but in Christian Europe–where Jews lived in a “veritable hell” [22]–it did afford Jews protection from the antagonistic Christian masses.  It should be noted that the papacy often did seek to prevent physical assault on the Jews, but even this was marked by recurrent lapses, and Jews were often expelled at the behest of none other than the pope.  Yet, we ought to be fair and speak in generalities–unlike our opponents who take exceptional cases and posit them as the norm–so we must say that the papacy generally operated to preserve the lives of Jews in order that they serve as perpetual serfs:

The repeated mention of Jewish servitude in papal pronouncements lost none of its pungency; when applied to practical affairs, it lost none of its efficacy…[and] pointedly underscored the…perfidy of the Jews, who were condemned to perpetual slavery (perpetua servitute) because they called upon themselves and upon their children the blood of Christ…the Jews’ own sin subjected them to perpetual servitude, and they should suffer the shame of their sin in servile fear (sub timore servili)…In 1263 Urban IV…consigned both Jews and Moslems to ‘perpetual servitude.’…The servitus of the Jews was repeated by popes and other churchmen. [23]

Spencer, going back to your original reply, let me now deal with what you said here:

In fact, the Popes consistently opposed the persecution of the Jews. This is in sharp contrast to the laws of dhimmitude that are taught by all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

It is important here to understand what you mean by the word “persecution.”  If by it you mean discrimination, humiliation, and the like, then in that case the papacy did not at all oppose that.  In fact, they consistently supported the reduction of Jews to a status of perpetual servitude.  But if by “persecution” you mean physical violence (massacres, forced conversions, expulsions, etc.), then in that case it cannot at all be said that the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence condone that.  In fact, the dhimma pact granted the dhimmis protection from such persecution.  So quite the contrary, all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence forbid such persecution, to such an extent that Muslims were obligated to fight to defend the dhimmis should they come under attack.

Therefore, no matter which way we interpret your argument, it is weak.  If you use the former definition of the word “persecution” then in that case the papacy reduced the infidels to a far worse state of degradation than the Islamic clerics ever did–for it was the difference between perpetual servitude/slavery on the one hand and free (albeit second-class) citizenship on the other.  But if you rely on the second definition of “persecution,” in that case it is simply an inaccurate statement, for even the discriminatory Pact of Umar strictly forbade any persecution (i.e. physical violence) against infidels.

Furthermore, it is altogether curious how you first say that “the Popes consistently opposed the persecution of the Jews,” but when sheik yer’mami questioned your statement, you responded by saying “the papal record is not monochromatic” and even listed some of the “bad news.”  Well, which is it?  Do you see how you have contradicted yourself here?

In any case, it is debatable whether or not the papacy was consistent in its prevention of persecution–by either definition.  Yes, the papacy generally reigned in on wanton physical violence, but not always.  Indeed, there were numerous instances in which the Church took part in the expulsion of the Jews. But if we expand our definition of persecution to discrimination (as you seem to do when talking about the realm of Islam), then there is no question at all about the matter: the papacy surpassed the Muslim discrimination by far.

Lastly, it is important to note here that it would be inappropriate to exclusively focus on the papacy, as you have done.  Rather, we must look at the Church overall and the realm of Christianity in general.  The clergy underneath the papacy were generally far more intolerant.  Indeed, when the papacy did step in to prevent wholesale slaughter of Jews, it was often the clergy who were involved in the persecution.  Why should you exclude this from our analysis, Spencer?  The reality is that the actions of the clergy in general–not just the popes–had significant impact on the Jews.  When we take into consideration the fact that the intolerant papacy was the better of the two, one can begin to imagine the plight of the Jews under the even more intolerant clergy.

Moving on, you conclude:

And most importantly, no church is behaving in such ways as are described in this article today, but Islamic jihadists in Gaza and elsewhere have declared their intention to reimpose the dhimma on Jews and Christians when they are able to do so.

Spencer, did I not explicitly say in my rebuttal that I will address the first two points in a follow-up article?  My rebuttal was simply of your third point.  We can debate about the first two points after I churn out my follow up article (which I guarantee will not disappoint).  But until then, let’s focus on the third point instead of trying desperately to move the goalposts.

You made the explicit claim in your book that Jews fared better in Christendom than in the Islamic world, and your implicit argument was that it was a monumental difference between the two, in that one was freedom and dignity loving and the other discriminatory and persecuting.  The reality is that your entire claim is false.

Is it any wonder that your reply did not deal with the actual point I refuted at all?  The reason you were forced to move the goalposts is obvious: you have no leg to stand on.  The entire premise of your line of attack was this made up idea that history was characterized by an evil Islamic menace that terrorized the Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims. My rebuttal deflated your entire cartoonish paradigm, because it rightly pointed out that the Judeo-Christian tradition that you so champion has been–to use your words and your standards–more “evil”.  When this fact becomes known, that mighty stick you use to beat Muslims over the head with–that dishonest weaponization of history–becomes as useless a blunt object as the daintiest of feathers.

All you ever do is cherry pick the absolute worst examples from Islam and compare them with the cherry picked best examples from Christianity, and then draw erroneous conclusions from this unequal comparison.  This sort of selective and shoddy scholarship typifies your entire ideological camp, and epitomizes your modus operandi.  And it is for this very reason that refuting your book will be ever so easy for me, because I will continue to expose your hypocrisy and absurd double standards.  With regard to this particular issue, if you repeatedly harp on dhimmitude, we will remind you of perpetual servitude, in order that your xenophobia be thwarted.

Perhaps it be that when your own religion and religious community is held to the same absurd standard that you set for Islam and Muslims [24] you might realize the error in your ways.  It is my sincere hope that you reflect on your behavior, and correct yourself.  Robert, I call on you to eschew xenophobia and fear-mongering, opting instead for tolerance and cautious optimism. Do you really want hate to be the sum total of your life’s work?  It is not too late to set your course aright.

Sincerely,
Danios.

Summary:

1. Robert Spencer’s hypothesis is that the Jews were historically (far) better off in the Christian world than the Islamic one. He is wrong about this. Nothing in his counter-reply to my rebuttal addresses this point, making his entire reply extraneous.

2. He claims that the Church never had a doctrine regarding these matters.  He is wrong.  The Church had the doctrine of Witness, and of Perpetual Servitude, as enunciated by the papacy repeatedly.

3. Spencer claims that such discriminatory policies were never applied universally, nor based in Church law.  He is wrong on both counts.  The discriminatory laws were applied almost universally throughout Christendom and were widespread, often originating from the Church’s direct and indirect influence.

4. He claims that the papacy consistently acted to prevent the persecution of Jews.  He is wrong.  Spencer’s own follow up comment directed to sheik yer’mami refutes his claim!  (It’s tough to stay consistent when you have no fidelity to facts.)  Second, the papacy was involved in the expulsion of Jews on numerous occasions, something which by all definitions would be considered persecution, and therefore negates the idea that the papacy was very consistent.

5.  Yes, the papacy did frequently step in to prevent the wholesale slaughter of Jews (from none other than Christians–which Spencer seems to think doesn’t count in our analysis of the Christian and Islamic realms), but it was in order to preserve the Jews as perpetual serfs.

6. Spencer claims that all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence advocate persecution of dhimmis.  He is wrong.  None of them do.  Physical violence, forced conversions, and expulsions against dhimmis were not permitted–which is what the papacy would often reign in on, so we must assume that this is what Robert Spencer is referring to, due to his usage of the words “this is in sharp contrast to…”

7. His last point about Gaza is a red herring designed to move the goalposts.  Spencer’s hypothesis–which I refuted–had nothing to do with the situation nowadays.  I simply refuted his argument that Jews were historically treated worse in the Islamic world than in Christendom.  The situation in Gaza today does not prove or disprove the hypothesis.  I have promised to debate this ancillary topic in a future article, but it has no relevance to Spencer’s hypothesis above.  Even if I concede that Muslims today want to reimpose the dhimmitude (which I do not), this would not prove Spencer’s hypothesis that Jews were historically treated better in Christendom than in the Islamic world.

Update: Click here to read my refutation of Cassidy, a frequent visitor to our site.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades, 47. ISBN 0-89526-013-1

refer back to article 2. Ibid., 59

refer back to article 3. Rudolph M. Lowenstein, Christians and Jews: A Psychoanalytic Study, 97-98. ISBN 140675868X, 9781406758689

refer back to article 4. Mark R. Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross: Jews in the Middle Ages, 20-38. ISBN 069101082X, 9780691010823

refer back to article 5. Rudolph M. Lowenstein, Christians and Jews: A Psychoanalytic Study, 97-98. ISBN 140675868X, 9781406758689

refer back to article 6. Shlomo Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews, 98. ISBN 0888441096, 9780888441096

refer back to article 7. David H. Solomon, A History of My Family, 8

refer back to article 8. Salo Wittmayer Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 137-138. ISBN 0231088469, 9780231088466

refer back to article 9. Innocent III, Epistle to the Hierarchy of France, 7/15/1205, PL 215

refer back to article 10. Norman Roth, Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia, 131. ISBN 0415937124, 9780415937122

refer back to article 11. Nathan Zuckerman, The Wine of Violence: An Anthology on Anti-Semitism. Association Press, 1947. 138

refer back to article 12. Innocent III, Epistle to the Count of Nevers

refer back to article 13. Isaac Unterman, The Talmud: An Analytical Guide to its History and Teachings, 260

refer back to article 14. Lynn Thorndike, University Records and Life in the Middle Ages. Columbia University Press, 1949. 50

refer back to article 15. Shlomo Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews, 100

refer back to article 16. Pius V, Hebraeorum Gens

refer back to article 17. Third Lateran Ecumenical Council, Canon 26

refer back to article 18. Maurice Pinay, The Plot against the Church. St. Anthony Press, 1967. 651

refer back to article 19. Gregory IX, Epistle to the Hierarchy of Germany

refer back to article 20. Magda Teter, Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland, 16. ISBN 0521856736, 9780521856737

refer back to article 21. Quoting Pope Innocent III, Etsi Judaeos

refer back to article 22. Nissim Rejwan, Israel’s Place in the Middle East: A Pluralistic Perspective, 47. ISBN 0813016010, 9780813016016

refer back to article 23. Shlomo Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews, 100-101

refer back to article 24. It is important here to note that I am not at all trying to bash Christianity, Catholicism, or even the papacy. I understand that times were different back then and that the papacy was not “monochromatic”. Furthermore, I certainly do not wish to weaponize history; it would be despicable to use Christian history as a stick to beat Christians over the head with. But detailing Christian history in order to counter the bigotry of some Christian Islamophobes–to bring them to their senses–is a powerful means of exposing the horrific double standards that are at play.

Update

A frequent visitor to our site, Cassidy, tried desperately to respond to my rebuttal, as follows:

Actually Jews in Ireland, Scotland and Wales were treated better than Jews in the Islamic world; Ireland only had one violent incident of anti-semitism in it’s history, the limerick pogrom which took place in the 20th century and was widely criticized outside of limerick. Scotland also provided a sanctuary for Jews fleeing England, here’s a quote from the Scottish declaration of  Arbroath:

“there is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or English”

My response is as follows:

Not only is everything Cassidy said incorrect, but it is not even in the same ballpark as reality.  Cassidy wrote:

Actually Jews in Ireland, Scotland and Wales were treated better than Jews in the Islamic worlds

1. Ireland:

No record of or reference to Jewish life in Ireland exists up until the eleventh century.  The first mention we have of Jews in the region is in 1079, when five Jews migrated to Ireland, only to be turned back.  Five Jews in Ireland were considered five too many, and a ban on Jewish residency was established:

‘Five Jews’ we read ‘came from over sea with gifts to Toirdelbach, and they were sent back again over the sea’. [25]

Historians lose any reference to Irish Jews for about another century.  In 1174, Jews are afforded the right to exist in Ireland, but only as the property of the King–the familiar theme of Serfs of the Royal Chamber (refer to my rebuttal), the Christian state’s corollary to the Church’s Perpetual Servitude.  In 1290, Jews are expelled from Ireland, and do not return for hundreds of years…until about 1665.  (You’re really making this argument right, Cassidy?)

Upon their return to Ireland, Jews faced severe discrimination, and legislation proposing citizenship for Jews was roundly defeated in 1743.  Irish Jews, like their coreligionists in the rest of Christian Europe, were forbidden from entering guilds–a crushing occupational and financial burden that explains why Jews of Europe had it so much worse than their counterparts in Islamdom (refer here).

In the 1890’s and early 1900’s, antisemitism made a resurgence, resulting in a boycott of Jews and culminating in the Lemirick pogrom which you mention.  In the 1920’s and 30’s, antisemitism reached a fever pitch due to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy.  In the 1940’s, thousands of Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany were denied refuge in Ireland.  In the 1960’s, a Jewish synagogue–one of only four in Ireland–was burned down to the ground…It burned to the ground just like Cassidy’s argument that Irish Jews fared better than the Jews of Islam.

We read:

The earliest evidence of Jewish settlement in Ireland is a grant made in 1232 to a certain Peter de Rivall, giving him “custody of the King’s Jews in Ireland.”  In 1290, Irish Jews, like their English brethren, were expelled from Ireland and did not return until around 1655. [26]

And:

Although officially refused residency in 1079, a number of Jews immigrated to Ireland after the Anglo-Norman invasion…The Irish Jews were expelled along with the English Jews in 1290, and with the exception of a few Spanish conversos [Jewish converts to Christianity], there were no Jews in Ireland until the Cromwellian Settlement [during the mid-seventeenth century]…Jews, along with Catholics, were excluded from the guilds in the eighteenth century: Legislation offering Jews citizenship was defeated in 1743…

In the 1890s, there were anti-Jewish demonstrations in Dublin and Cork and a major anti-Jewish boycott and attack in Limerick in 1904.  This mirrored an increase in anti-Semitism…Throughout the 1920s and 1930s…[there was] virulent anti-Semitism premised on the Protocols…During the Holocaust, thousands of entry requests were denied on economic and anti-Semitic grounds.  After the war, a few Jews were admitted. In the 1960s, a Dublin synagogue was set on fire.  To describe modern alienation and exile, James Joyce made the protagonist of his masterpiece Ulysses (1922) a Jew. [27]

And:

Jews are first mentioned as resident in Ireland in eleventh-century documents; Henry II acknowledged their presence (and legitimated it) by assigning custody of the King’s Judaism in Ireland to one of his lords in 1174.  From the time of the Norman Conquest the King’s Judaism meant that the Jews were literally the king’s chattel…Jews were expelled from Ireland, as from England, in 1290 and were resettled in both countries under Cromwell in the mid-seventeenth century. [28]

2. Wales:

Perhaps one of the reasons Cassidy mentions Wales is because there were no Jewish communities in the region up until the eighteenth century, a fact which of course reveals her ignorance on the subject.  Yes, the Jews were treated wonderfully because they did not exist!  (Actually Jews were denied residence.)  Nonetheless, there may have been a few Jews here and there, who were then expelled in 1290:

Jews were expelled from Wales in 1290 with the rest of the Jews in Britain, but in the eighteenth century they began to return. Prior to the Expulsion, there were individual Jews living in places like Caerleon and Chepstow, but Wales was not a hospitable place for Jews, and regions of the country were legally permitted to deny Jews residence. [29]

Subsequently, there is no historical record of any Jewish existence in Wales up until 1665.  The first Jewish community in Wales came into existence as late as the eighteenth century!

3. Scotland

Similarly, “the first reference to a Jewish settler in Scotland is on 1st September, 1665.” [30] The Jewish immigrants faced anti-Jewry laws, as Scotland was under the jurisdiction of the British.  Admittedly, the Scottish Jews faced far less discrimination than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.  For example, they were not barred from universities as in other Christian nations: in 1787, the first Jewish graduate from Glasgow University matriculated, and the first Scottish Jew entered the field of medicine.  [31] (Jews in the Islamic world had always been able to attend university, and had long since excelled in the field of medicine.)

Scottish historian David Daiches argued that Scotland was the only European country in which there was no state persecution of the Jews. [32] At first, this statement would seem to support Cassidy’s stance–yet in reality it is a damning statement of Christendom’s treatment of Jews.  In other words, there was only one small sliver of land–no more than 32,000 square miles–in which Jews were not persecuted by the Christian state…And that too only after the 1700’s when Jewish communities emerged in the area.  To further illustrate the complete absurdity of such a comparison, it is interesting to note that–according to a 2001 census–there are only 6,400 Jews in Scotland…as if the treatment of a handful of Jews can offset the way the great majority of them were treated in Christendom!

Cassidy’s approach typifies the Islamophobic mindset, as I already discussed in my reply to Robert Spencer above:

All you ever do is cherry pick the absolute worst examples from Islam and compare them with the cherry picked best examples from Christianity, and then draw erroneous conclusions from this unequal comparison.  This sort of selective and shoddy scholarship typifies your entire ideological camp, and epitomizes your modus operandi.

Robert Spencer’s argument was that the Jews of Europe were treated better than the Jews of the Islamic world.  Clearly then, we should compare the overall treatment of Jews in all of Christendom, with that of the general treatment of Jews in all of Islamdom.  Instead, Cassidy is trying to foist upon us this unfair comparison, taking the absolute best of Christian Europe and comparing it with that of the absolute worst–or even the average–situation in the realm of Islam.

Even if I were to concede that Irish Jews were treated better than their counterparts in the Islamic world (which I do not!), this would not at all prove Spencer’s claim that the Jews were treated better in Christendom than in the Islamic East, because an exception to the rule (which Scotland clearly was!) can hardly be used in a just comparison.  If Cassidy wants to use the absolute best case scenario under Christendom, then she ought to compare it to the best case scenario in the realm of Islam.  Certainly there were times during Islamic history in which the dhimmis flourished, with little discrimination.

Instead, it is as if the Islamophobes seek to compare the Almohad tyranny with that of the best situation in the realm of Christianity!  This is of course quite typical of their entire approach.  Furthermore, even if I concede that the Jews of Scotland were treated better than the Jews of Islam (which I do not!), then I could argue back that the Jews of Islam were treated better than all of the rest of Europe other than a few thousand Jews on a small sliver of land in a remote corner of the continent!  If perpetual servitude was the miserable lot of Jews throughout all of Europe but a tiny area, what then would be the efficacy of the anti-Muslim battle cry of “dhimmitude”?

In any case, Cassidy would have to prove that the Jews of Scotland were treated better than the Jews of Islam by providing a citation from a reliable academic/historian/expert, as I have done.  I will not simply take her word for it, considering how unbelievably off the mark she was about Ireland and Wales!

Cassidy wrote:

Scotland also provided a sanctuary for Jews fleeing England, here’s a quote from the Scottish declaration of  Arbroath:

“there is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or English”

This is a deceptive argument, which relies on the reader’s ignorance of said document.  Historians consider the Document of Arboath to have been “royal propaganda.”  It was simply a letter written to the pope to convince him of Scottish independence.  As such, it cannot be used as a reliable indication of what the actual situation was in Scotland:

The unanimity implied by the Declaration of Arbroath was much more apparent than real…The Declaration was primarily a piece of propaganda, directed at an audience both within and outside Scotland. [33]

And:

Such language is dramatic and inspiring but should be read in its context…The letter of the barons was, like these documents, a piece of royal propaganda, presenting a case to the curia. [34]

In any case, I am not denying that the Jews of Scotland fared relatively well as compared to their coreligionists in the rest of Europe.  I have already addressed this point above.

To conclude: Cassidy attempted (futilely)  to find a way to overcome my rebuttal, but was unable to.  Her claims–that Jews were treated better in Ireland and Wales as compared to the Islamic world–are comically incorrect.  As for Scotland, she has no proof to verify her claim; furthermore, the condition of a few thousand Jews in Scotland–who only lived there since the eighteenth century–is hardly relevant to a discussion of the historical treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages. As for the treatment of minorities in the modern day, that is an issue I have promised to tackle in a follow-up article.

SECOND UPDATE: First things first, Cassidy is a male, so I apologize for mixing that up in my response above. Secondly, he has conceded the debate, saying: “I admit I was wrong about Ireland, Scotland and Wales.” Well, thank you for your honesty and courage to admit fault.  Cheers.

Footnotes

refer back to article 25. Aubrey Gwynn, The Irish Church in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. 383. ISBN 1851820957, 9781851820955

refer back to article 26. Mordecai Schreiber, The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia, 126. ISBN 0520253973, 9780520253971

refer back to article 27. Lelia Ruckenstein, Everything Irish: The History, Literature, Art, Music, People, and Places of Ireland, From A-Z, 211. ISBN 034544129X, 9780345441294

refer back to article 28. Don Gifford, Ulyesses Annotated: Notes from James Joyce’s Ulysses, 40. ISBN 0520253973, 9780520253971

refer back to article 29. Toni Kamins, The Complete Jewish Guide to Britain and Ireland, 107-108. ISBN 0312244487, 9780312244484

refer back to article 30. The Jewish Quarterly, V. 3-5. Jewish Literary Trust, 1972. 30

refer back to article 31. Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Scotland.html

refer back to article 32. David Daiches, Two worlds: An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood. Canongate, 1987. ISBN 0862411483, 9780862411480

refer back to article 33. Andrew D.M. Barrell, Medieval Scotland, 122. ISBN 052158602X, 9780521586023

refer back to article 34. Michael Brown, The Wars of Scotland, 218. ISBN 0748612386, 9780748612383

Robert Spencer: Here’s Hoping for an anti-Muslim Backlash

Here's praying that Islam and Muslims face the blame for Fort Hood

Here's praying that Islam and Muslims face the blame for Fort Hood

 Since news of the heinous Fort Hood massacre at the hands of Major Malik Nidal Hassan first broke out, “Islam Scholar” Robert Spencer, of f**kislam fame, has been like a gluttonous kid in a candy shop, frantically blogging over three dozen times with one goal in mind: slap down the blame on Islam and Muslims at large.

That is precisely the line that every sane responder has warned against. Whether it was the American Muslim leadership, the US military leadership, the mainstream media, or the President of the United States. But to Spencer who is rubbing his hands praying that a massive backlash could befall the American Muslim community, the sanity that he is hearing and seeing from mainstream America is cause for anger, bitterness, and complaints.

For the “Islam Scholar,” everyone including the US Military leadership are “dhimmi” wimps afraid of the Mooslims. Fancy that, a sedentary blogger who barely gets off his backside where he sits day and night punching away at a keyboard sees fit to accuse those who venture on the war frontiers risking their lives to protect this country (including his) of being cowardly sell-out wimps.

As pretentious and downright sick as that is, Spencer who is drenched in his own bias and deafened by the screeching sound of his own propaganda will likely fail to take notice.

Spencer’s mad response of course is entirely predictable, after all he has shown tremendous consistency and undying loyalty to a line of arguments whose sole agenda is to drive a wedge between America’s faith communities and make a compelling case for the widespread hate of Islam and distrust of Muslims.

Accordingly, only moments after news of the shooting was made public, the opportunistic preacher wasted no time getting on his e-pulpit and positing that the shooter was carrying out a legitimate Islamic Jihad, a religious requirement of all Muslims (unbeknownst to you and them for that matter). Since then, he has immersed himself in whipping out a flurry of dishonest and sinister propaganda posts, cherry picking items to strengthen his case, and completely ignoring those that do not.

For example, Spencer seems to the be the only one who missed the tremendous outpouring of support from the American Muslim community and their organizations of whom CAIR, MPAC, ISNA, and virtually every registered Muslim organization – if not Mosque – in the United States were quick to issue condemnation and condolences as they expressed that such action has no support in their Islamic faith. Some even started support networks for the victims. Not a peep from Spencer. Instead, all the expedient Spencer could see was that one 18 year old kid and this one Imam in Yemen (condemned by Muslim orgs in the US and refuted by American imams) who supported the killing. Oh and wait, there is a radical web forum out there too. “Aha! There you have it, it’s a MOOOSLIM thing! It’s Izlaahm! Am I lying about anything I posted?”

Lying by highly selective reporting and glaring omission, yet another example of the objective scholarly ways of the “Islam Scholar” Robert Spencer.

Spencer’s three dozen posts on the Fort Hood massacre fall into one of three rants:

1) Incriminate the faith of 1.5 billion Muslims who had nothing to do with Hassan’s actions, and 7 million American Muslims who condemned his act (moved ironically by their faith to do so). Question the loyalty of Muslims in the military, ignoring that there are 3500 active Muslim service men and women in excellent standing.

2) Cherry pick any instance of support for the massacre regardless of how off the beaten path they are while turning a blind eye to the zillions of instances of more credible and representative Muslim voices condemning it.

3) Whine when others take a pass on your loon rants. Throw a temper tantrum at the mainstream media, the US military, the public and everyone else; respond by ridiculing them as dhimmis and wimps. (Take solace in the fact that at least Lou Dobbs and slimey Senator Joe Lieberman may come through for you).

Here is a fun little exercise for our wonderful readers, see if you can match each of Spencer’s posts below to its appropriate category above:

  • In the wake of Fort Hood jihad, Houston authorities try to assure non-Muslims that steps are being taken to keep them safe — no, wait…

  • AP: “Anti-Muslim Backlash Immediate” — but offers not even one example

  • Muslim vets group: No reports of harassment of Muslim soldiers. None.

  • “Everybody knows Islam is a Religion of Peace”

  • Muslims in New York celebrate the deaths of Americans in the Fort Hood jihad

  • DHS Secretary warns that Fort Hood jihad must not be repeated — no, wait…

  • Muslim at Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, Texas: “I honestly have no pity” for victims of the Fort Hood jihad

  • U.S.-born Islamic cleric: Nidal Hasan “Did the Right Thing”

  • Fitzgerald: A Nest of Ninnies

  • U.S. government vows revenge after jihadist commits mass murder at Fort Hood — no, wait…

  • Why He Shouted “Allahu Akbar”

  • It wasn’t jihad, it was heartburn

  • U.S.-born Muslim cleric praises Fort Hood jihadist

  • Lindsey Graham: “At the end of the day this is not about his religion — the fact that this man was a Muslim”

  • U.S. Army General: Lack of diversity in Army is worse than mass murder

  • Playing the victim card: Florida mosque requests extra police protection, even though it wasn’t threatened

  • Fort Hood jihadist’s coworkers saw warning signs, but said nothing for fear of seeming bigoted

  • Muslims at Fort Hood blame army command for jihad massacre

  • It’s getting harder by the minute to say he just “snapped”: Fort Hood jihadist linked to 9/11 jihadists

  • In the wake of Fort Hood jihad, Houston authorities try to assure non-Muslims that steps are being taken to keep them safe — no, wait…

  • Fort Hood shooter regularly described war on terror as “war on Islam”

  • Fort Hood shooter taught Koran when he was supposed to be giving a medical lecture

  • Just before his jihad

  • Al-Qaeda last week called for attacks on “any crusaders whenever you find one of them, like at the airports of the crusader Western countries that participate in the wars against Islam, or their living compounds, trains etc.”

  • “A person behind counter stood up, and he said, ‘Allah Akbar!’ And just opened up on everybody”

  • Fort Hood jihad shooter handed out Korans the morning of his attack

  • Fort Hood jihad shooter was disciplined for Islamic proselytizing

  • Spencer: Jihad at Fort Hood

  • Fort Hood jihadist is alive

  • Fort Hood shooter a devout, observant Muslim

  • Fort Hood jihad shooter said “Muslims have to stand up against the aggressor”

  • Jihad at Fort Hood? Shooter: Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan

  • Islamic Awakening Forum on Fort Hood shooter: “What a brave mujahid”

  • Fort Hood shooter was member of Homeland Security Panel advising Obama

Muslim Americans Must Obey U.S. Laws; Nidal Hasan Disobeyed Islamic Doctrine

Major Nidal Malik Hasan

Major Nidal Malik Hasan

The Islamophobic blogosphere has gone buck-wild.  Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and the rest of the goof troop are pretty ecstatic that Major Nidal Hasan, a Muslim American, killed thirteen U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood.  Nothing makes a neo-conservative happier than an attack on American soil; as the family of the victims mourn the dead, the anti-Muslim ideologues gleefully co-opt the situation to market their hate-filled beliefs.

The Islamophobes claim that Major Hasan was simply “being a devout Muslim” when he opened fire on his fellow soldiers.  According to them, this is a part of Jihad, an obligation in Islam.  As such, the enemy is not just extremists, radicals, or terrorists; but rather, it is Islam itself.  It is not then a gross perversion of a religion by zealots that result in such horrific attacks, but rather the exact opposite: it is a faithful understanding of the Islamic religion which results in terrorism.  That’s what they claim at least.

There is, according to these anti-Muslim bigots, a conspiracy by Muslim Americans to overtake the country from within.  The tactics to do so can be non-violent (“Stealth Jihad”) or overtly violent (such as 9/11 or the Fort Hood Massacre), but the goal is the same: to overthrow the U.S. government, rip the Constitution to shreds, and enact Sharia (Islamic law) in the West.  It is for this reason, you–the average American Joe–need to fear your Muslim neighbor.

The Covenant of Security

But experts of the Islamic legal tradition say differently.  The Islamic religion commands believers to obey the laws of the land they live in, even if it be one ruled by nonbelievers.  Muslim jurists consider citizenship (or visa) to be a covenant (aqd) held between the citizen (or visa holder) and the state, one which guarantees safe passage/security (amaan) in exchange for certain obligations (such as obeying the laws of the land); covenants are considered sacredly binding in Islam.  The Quran commands:

And fulfill every covenant.  Verily, you will be held accountable with regard to the covenants. (Quran, 17:34)

The Quran condemns those who break covenants as not being true believers:

It is not the case that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throws it aside. Nay! The truth is most of them believe not. (Quran, 2:100)

The Islamic prophet Muhammad described the religious hypocrite as follows:

When he enters into a covenant, he proves treacherous. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Citizenship (and visa) is called in Islamic legal parlance as a “covenant of security” (aqd al-aman).  For over a thousand years, Muslim scholars have rigorously affirmed the binding nature of the covenant of security.  This covenant of security can be of two types: (1) a contractual agreement or (2) a customary understanding.

Naturalized citizens in the United States enter into a contractual agreement with the government when they declare the oath of allegiance, as follows:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

A Muslim is obliged to keep to his word, and thus this oath is religiously binding upon him.

Natural born citizens, on the other hand, do not utter any such oath, so they fall under the second category under Islamic law.  The covenant of security is considered for them a customary understanding, in the sense that even though they did not physically say an oath or sign a document of loyalty, it is understood that there exists between the citizen and the government a covenant of security; this, i.e. customary understanding, is considered by Islamic law to be just as binding as the contractual agreement.  There is no difference between the two.

Betraying the Covenant is Forbidden

What the 9/11 hijackers did was a violation of Islamic law for multiple reasons.  The most obvious of these is the prohibition of killing civilians, but it should also be pointed out that they violated the covenant of security between them and the United States, which granted them visas to enter the country.  Using Islamic lingo, the U.S. government granted safe passage (amaan) to the 19 hijackers, and thus they entered into a covenant (aqd), which they subsequently violated.

The United States government granted them visas with the understanding that they would come to the country to study, or seek medical treatment, or for sightseeing, etc., but not for waging war within their lands or killing their citizenry.  Even if a Muslim country is at war with a non-Muslim one, it would not be permissible for a Muslim fighter to enter into enemy territory by requesting safe passage (amaan) and then subsequently killing enemy troops once he crosses over.

The classical Islamic jurist, Muhammad al-Shaybani (died 805 A.D.) expounded:

If it happens that a company of Muslims pass through the enemy’s front lines by deceptively pretending to be messengers of the Muslim’s ruler carrying official documents–or if they were just allowed to pass through the enemy lines–they are not allowed to engage in any hostilities with the enemy troops. Neither are they entitled to seize any of their money or properties as long as they are in their area of authority.

Both the 9/11 hijackers and Major Nidal Hasan violated this sacred principle of Islam.  They gained the trust of those whom they considered their enemies, and then when those they consider enemies were caught unaware, they killed them.  In other words, these criminals took advantage of the fact that they had been trusted, and violated this trust.  Such a thing is considered unacceptable in Islam.

(It should be noted that Muslim Americans don’t see themselves as living in “enemy territory,” but the point is that even if Nidal Hasan saw the U.S. in that light, then he still wouldn’t be allowed under the Islamic belief system to do what he did.  Of course, the point applies even more to those Muslim Americans who see themselves as distinctly American and who love the country.)

The Quran does say that if the believers are being oppressed in some land, then the Muslims should come to their assistance.  But it forbids fighting against those with whom a covenant exists.  The Quran says:

If [your coreligionists] ask for your aid in religion, then you must help them, except against people with whom you have covenants with. (Quran, 8:72)

A Muslim American Must Obey the Constitution and Never Rebel Against the U.S. Government

A Muslim must abide by his covenant, which includes obeying the laws of the land he lives in, no matter how he entered into the country, be it by birth, legal (or even illegal) immigration.  (Entering countries illegally with forged documents is considered forbidden in Islam, but if one commits this sin, he cannot commit the further sin of then using it as an excuse to violate the laws of the land.)  Salman al-Oudah, a senior religious cleric, says:

[Islamic] scholars have stated that those who enter non-Muslim countries have to adhere to their respective laws and regulations even if they entered those countries illegally, and they have no excuse for breaking those laws, since they were entrusted to abide by those laws upon entry into those countries…As long as [a Muslim] agrees to live in a non-Muslim country, he is never to rebel against the people living in his choice of residence, even it seems too hard for him to endure.

From a religious angle, Muslim Americans are forbidden to rebel against the U.S. government.  They are not allowed to seek to overthrow the government, rip up the Constitution (which they gave an oath to uphold!), etc.  They are not allowed to cheat on taxes, steal from anyone, kill or harm any of their fellow citizens, etc.  Instead, they should be law-abiding citizens–according to the Islamic religion and the consensus (ijma) of the Muslim clerics since the last 1,400 years, in spite of Al-Qaeda’s reinterpretation (perversion) of religious doctrine.

Even if hypothetically the U.S. law were to stipulate a condition which was against Islamic teachings, the Muslim American would still have to follow it, as the Islamic cleric I quoted above says:

[Muslims] have to avoid whatever contradicts Islamic teachings. In case they are obliged by law to uphold something contrary to Islamic teachings, they have to adhere to the minimum that the law requires of them.

This idea–that Muslim Americans should uphold the laws of the land–is taught in mosques across the country with great unanimity, so the Islamophobic fear mongering is ill-founded.

Conclusion

The actions of Islamic extremists–such as the 9/11 hijackers and Major Nidal Hasan–flout the normative tradition of Islam and the teachings which millions of Muslim Americans follow.  It is therefore inappropriate to conclude that the religion of Islam itself advocates such things, or that these attackers were simply following their religion.  Such a thing is offensive to say and quite frankly inaccurate.

In any case, it is too early to say with any level of certainty what Major Hasan’s motivations were.  Was he an extremist or simply a guy who lost his marbles like so many other shooters?  Whatever the case, one thing is for sure: his actions do not reflect the Islamic teachings nor the millions of law-abiding Muslim Americans.

UPDATE: I recently found a similar article to mine found here, from BBC News.

SECOND UPDATE: Another article that raises some good points can be found here, this one by a Muslim cleric specifically about the Fort Hood Shooting.

Churches involved in Torture, Murder of Thousands of African Children Denounced as Witches

This Aug. 18, 2009 photo shows children accused of witchcraft waiting for food at the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network in Eket, Nigeria. The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria's 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba) (SUNDAY ALAMBA, AP / August 18, 2009)

This Aug. 18, 2009 photo shows children accused of witchcraft waiting for food at the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network in Eket, Nigeria.

In a grisly article, the LA Times reports via the AP that thousands of African children have been tortured and murdered in the name of Christianity because they were thought to be witches. The burning and murdering of “witches” is something that was thought to have died out in the 17th century with the Salem Witch Trials but it is all too real in some places around the world, especially in Africa where Evangelicalism has been on the rise.

Rest assured Robert Spencer won’t be reporting on this any time soon, nor will the mainstream media say (rightly so) “Christianity” is to blame for this because it is not; human beings are the cause. This highlights a double standard, the continuing saga of “what if they were Muslim?” If we replaced the word Christian here with Muslim and the word Churches with Mosques, we know very well that this would be plastered all over the internet in a second. The anti-Muslim blogosphere would be erupting in delirium and pundits would be pontificating on how Islam is the cause, Islam is barbaric, Islam is irreconcilable to modernity and must be stopped, etc.

Churches Involved in Torture, Murder of Thousands of African Children

by, Katharine Hourfeld

EKET, Nigeria (AP) — The nine-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

“It is an outrage what they are allowing to take place in the name of Christianity,” said Gary Foxcroft, head of nonprofit Stepping Stones Nigeria.

For their part, the families are often extremely poor, and sometimes even relieved to have one less mouth to feed. Poverty, conflict and poor education lay the foundation for accusations, which are then triggered by the death of a relative, the loss of a job or the denunciation of a pastor on the make, said Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“When communities come under pressure, they look for scapegoats,” he said. “It plays into traditional beliefs that someone is responsible for a negative change … and children are defenseless.”

____

The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria’s 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children’s Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Church signs sprout around every twist of the road snaking through the jungle between Uyo, the capital of the southern Akwa Ibom state where Nwanaokwo lay, and Eket, home to many more rejected “witch children.” Churches outnumber schools, clinics and banks put together. Many promise to solve parishioner’s material worries as well as spiritual ones — eight out of ten Nigerians struggle by on less than $2 a day.

“Poverty must catch fire,” insists the Born 2 Rule Crusade on one of Uyo’s main streets.

“Where little shots become big shots in a short time,” promises the Winner’s Chapel down the road.

“Pray your way to riches,” advises Embassy of Christ a few blocks away.

It’s hard for churches to carve out a congregation with so much competition. So some pastors establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft.

Nwanaokwo said he knew the pastor who accused him only as Pastor King. Mount Zion Lighthouse in Nigeria at first confirmed that a Pastor King worked for them, then denied that they knew any such person.

Bishop A.D. Ayakndue, the head of the church in Nigeria, said pastors were encouraged to pray about witchcraft, but not to abuse children.

“We pray over that problem (of witchcraft) very powerfully,” he said. “But we can never hurt a child.”

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago.

“I had no idea,” said church elder Carrie King by phone from Tracy, Calif. “I knew people believed in witchcraft over there but we believe in the power of prayer, not physically harming people.”

The Mount Zion Lighthouse — also named by three other families as the accuser of their children — is part of the powerful Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. The Fellowship’s president, Ayo Oritsejafor, said the Fellowship was the fastest-growing religious group in Nigeria, with more than 30 million members.

“We have grown so much in the past few years we cannot keep an eye on everybody,” he explained.

But Foxcroft, the head of Stepping Stones, said if the organization was able to collect membership fees, it could also police its members better. He had already written to the organization twice to alert it to the abuse, he said. He suggested the fellowship ask members to sign forms denouncing abuse or hold meetings to educate pastors about the new child rights law in the state of Akwa Ibom, which makes it illegal to denounce children as witches. Similar laws and education were needed in other states, he said.

Sam Itauma of the Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network said it is the most vulnerable children — the orphaned, sick, disabled or poor — who are most often denounced. In Nwanaokwo’s case, his poor father and dead mother made him an easy target.

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition,” said Itauma. “They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

That’s what Margaret Eyekang did when her 8-year-old daughter Abigail was accused by a “prophet” from the Apostolic Church, because the girl liked to sleep outside on hot nights — interpreted as meaning she might be flying off to join a coven. A series of exorcisms cost Eyekang eight months’ wages, or US$270. The payments bankrupted her.

Neighbors also attacked her daughter.

“They beat her with sticks and asked me why I was bringing them a witch child,” she said. A relative offered Eyekang floor space but Abigail was not welcome and had to sleep in the streets.

Members of two other families said pastors from the Apostolic Church had accused their children of witchcraft, but asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

The Nigeria Apostolic Church refused repeated requests made by phone, e-mail and in person for comment.

___

At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about the laughing, grubby kids playing hopscotch or reading from a tattered Dick and Jane book by the graffiti-scrawled cinderblock house. But this is where children like Abigail end up after being labeled witches by churches and abandoned or tortured by their families.

There’s a scar above Jane’s shy smile: her mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and repeated exorcisms costing a total of $60 didn’t cure her of witchcraft. Mary, 15, is just beginning to think about boys and how they will look at the scar tissue on her face caused when her mother doused her in caustic soda. Twelve-year-old Rachel dreamed of being a banker but instead was chained up by her pastor, starved and beaten with sticks repeatedly; her uncle paid him $60 for the exorcism.

Israel’s cousin tried to bury him alive, Nwaekwa’s father drove a nail through her head, and sweet-tempered Jerry — all knees, elbows and toothy grin — was beaten by his pastor, starved, made to eat cement and then set on fire by his father as his pastor’s wife cheered it on.

The children at the home run by Itauma’s organization have been mutilated as casually as the praying mantises they play with. Home officials asked for the children’s last names not to be used to protect them from retaliation.

The home was founded in 2003 with seven children; it now has 120 to 200 at any given time as children are reconciled with their families and new victims arrive.

Helen Ukpabio is one of the few evangelists publicly linked to the denunciation of child witches. She heads the enormous Liberty Gospel church in Calabar, where Nwanaokwo used to live. Ukpabio makes and distributes popular books and DVDs on witchcraft; in one film, a group of child witches pull out a man’s eyeballs. In another book, she advises that 60 percent of the inability to bear children is caused by witchcraft.

In an interview with the AP, Ukpabio is accompanied by her lawyer, church officials and personal film crew.

“Witchcraft is real,” Ukpabio insisted, before denouncing the physical abuse of children. Ukpabio says she performs non-abusive exorcisms for free and was not aware of or responsible for any misinterpretation of her materials.

“I don’t know about that,” she declared.

However, she then acknowledged that she had seen a pastor from the Apostolic Church break a girl’s jaw during an exorcism. Ukpabio said she prayed over her that night and cast out the demon. She did not respond to questions on whether she took the girl to hospital or complained about the injury to church authorities.

After activists publicly identified Liberty Gospel as denouncing “child witches,” armed police arrived at Itauma’s home accompanied by a church lawyer. Three children were injured in the fracas. Itauma asked that other churches identified by children not be named to protect their victims.

“We cannot afford to make enemies of all the churches around here,” he said. “But we know the vast majority of them are involved in the abuse even if their headquarters aren’t aware.”

Just mentioning the name of a church is enough to frighten a group of bubbly children at the home.

“Please stop the pastors who hurt us,” said Jerry quietly, touching the scars on his face. “I believe in God and God knows I am not a witch.”

Fathima Bary Needs to Read Her Bible; Final Word on Islam and Apostasy

apostasy

An emotional Fathima Rifqa Barywhose personal writings reaveal that she wants to be a modern day prophet–said of her parents:

“My parents are Muslim…I don’t know if you know about honor killing…They have to kill me…Because if they love Allah more than me, they have to do it. It’s in the Quran. And you can, like, give them knowledge about it [gestures to someone off camera, who says something unintelligible].”

It seems that Fathima’s understanding of the Quran comes from whomever she pointed to, whom I can only assume is her pastor (or pastor’s underling more likely). A few more dry runs could have perfected the performance. She just had to memorize a few verses to prove her claim:

13:6 If–your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend, which is as your own soul–entice you secretly, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” which you have not known–not you, nor your fathers;

13:7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, near to you, or far off from you, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

13:8 You shall not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall your eye pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him:

13:9 But you must surely kill him; your hand must be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

13:10 And you must stone him with stones, that he die; because he has sought to thrust you away from the LORD your God.

Well, that’s pretty damning evidence right there. That sounds a lot like “honor” killing: “If your brother…or your son or your daughter….entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’…You must kill him…you must stone him with stones, that he die.” Well, if that’s in the Quran, then we better ban all Muslim immigration to America!

But before we call Homeland Security, I hope you don’t mind if I check the Quran to verify if those verses exist.

[Flipping through pages of Quran]

Hmmm, can’t seem to find it.

Oh wait, *smacks forehead*, I remember now where those verses are from. Ahh yes, they are from the Bible (Deuteronomy, 13:6-10). There are of course many other Biblical verses in the same vein, such as 2 Chronicles 15:13 which reads:  “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”

Oopsie doopsie!

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to randomly quote someone else’s scripture or medieval texts without any context as a proof to demonize a people or to fear monger.

Introduction

Islamophobes insist that Islam says that apostates must be killed. These ardent critics of the faith are of the view that Islam is for this reason simply incompatible with the Western Judeo-Christian tradition.  Their view–which they try to propagate–is that Islam is somehow so inherently different from all other religions that it should be singled out as the one faith that we just absolutely cannot tolerate.

The issue of course is that “Islam” doesn’t “say” anything, since it is not a person.  Islam is in fact polyvalent: it has within it different understandings and interpretations of the religion.  On this particular issue, Islam itself doesn’t “say” anything.  Valerie Hoffman, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Illinois, commented on the issue of apostasy in Islam: “You can’t say Islam says this or Islam says that.” The question of course is “whose Islam” and “which Islam?”

Yes, the majority “classical” and “traditional” opinion codified hundreds of years ago was indeed that apostates from Islam should be killed. However, such views are abundantly present in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well, yet Jews and Christians have over the course of time reanalyzed their canonical texts and come to different understandings today.

Before the Great War, the Ottoman Empire united Muslim lands under one symbolic leadership. (Perhaps an oversimplification but it suffices for our discussion here.)  It is interesting to note that the Ottoman government eventually stopped enforcing the punishment for apostasy and finally abolished it altogether in 1844, more than one hundred and sixty years ago:

Punishment for apostasy (in any case, extremely rare) was not in practice enforced in later times and was completely abolished by the [Ottoman] Turks by a decree of the Ottoman government in 1260/1844.

(The New Encyclopedia of Islam, by Cyril Glasse, p.54)

And we read:

The Ottoman Caliphate, the supreme representative of Sunni Islam, formally abolished this penalty…The Shaykh 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…

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.

(T.J. Winters writing for Newsweek)

It should be kept in mind that the Ottomans had embraced change, pushing what came to be known as the Tanzimat reforms, a drive to modernize the Islamic state to be compatible with the contemporary age.  They abolished the jizya and dhimmi system; the Hatt-i Humayun of 1856 promised full legal equality for citizens of all religions, and the Nationality Law of 1869 created a common Ottoman citizenship irrespective of religious or ethnic divisions.

The point is that the Islamic state had embraced change and reform of their religious understanding.  The debate had begun, but after World War I, the Allies occupied Turkey and Arab lands.  They broke up the Ottoman Empire, and carved out mandate states, installing despots into power, something which of course retarded further Muslim intellectual growth.

The modern Muslim world is living with the consequences of these events.  Unfortunately, feelings of anti-Westernism have emerged as a backlash to colonialism and subsequent events.  Extremists and religious fundamentalists began to define themselves in opposition to the West; the more the West condemned their extreme understandings of Islam, the more “street cred” these fundamentalists garnered.  Hey, if the West hates you, and the West is the colonialist, then you must be right!  Such was the thought process.

So harsher understandings replaced more tolerant ones, and the punishment for apostates–which had been long abandoned by the Ottoman Empire–was re-instituted in a few Muslim majority countries.  As Dr. Tariq Ramadan put it:

The opposition and condemnations by the West supplies, paradoxically, the popular feeling of fidelity to the Islamic teachings; a reasoning that is antithetical, simple and simplistic.  The intense opposition of the West is sufficient proof [for them] of the [supposed] authentic Islamic character of the literal application of hudûd (Islamic penal code).

In the context of relationships between countries, we often tend to remember only the conflicts and the wars.  We focus on the battles and wars between the Muslim world and the Judeo-Christian West,  but on  a deeper level, there is another more significant aspect, which is an ideological cultural exchange.  Muslims now live in the West; when Western Muslims approach the Islamic texts, they come with a certain background and upbringing which necessarily affects their understanding.

What we have witnessed in the last couple decades is a growing trend of a return back to early reformist understanding of freedom of religion. These reform-minded Muslims have realized that not only is the modern concept of freedom of religion permissible in their religion–and not only is it wholly compatible with the Quran–but rather it is mandated and obligatory in Islam.

A “soft reformation” is taking place in Islam, as mentioned by Dr. Tariq Ramadan and others.  The reformists are challenging traditional interpretations and understandings of the religion, and pushing for a repeal of apostasy laws in specific where they exist.  The struggle is on, and change cannot and will not happen overnight; the post-colonial mess that the Muslim world finds itself in only retards intellectual growth but the process has begun.

Enter the Islamophobes

Instead of seeking to help the reform-minded Muslims, the Islamophobes have demonized virtually all Muslims, except of course a few self-hating Muslims who simply repeat whatever the Islamophobes want to hear (for which they are rewarded handsomely).

The main argument used by Islamophobes is that Islam as a religion itself advocates the death penalty for apostates, and therefore it is the religion itself–not the interpretation of it–that is the problem, an unusually obtuse and altogether unhelpful assertion. Furthermore, some of them argue, Muslims must abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran.  In other words, the Islamophobes posit that the only possible way for Muslims to become “civilized” is to view the Quran as any other text, deleting what they dislike from it and adding whatever they wish to it–or as Daniel Pipes puts it: to make it “defunct.”

While, certainly, that may seem like a plausible solution to an outsider, the problem is that for the vast majority of Muslims it is quite simply not a possibility; it is anathema to question the Quran’s veracity.  Regardless of the arguments back and forth on the issue, the practical reality is that the Muslim masses cannot countenance such a thing; the Islamophobes know this, and that’s why they set up this formula.  In other words, they know that the Muslims cannot do this and therefore it has become for the Islamophobes the “only possible solution” to the problem.

Yet, it is hardly the case that the Muslims can only take one possible route to modernization.  Reform-minded Muslims believe that a change in the texts is not required, but only a change in the understanding and interpretation of said texts.

Open Texts

The Quran is an open text, because it generally refrains from specifics.  In fact, names are almost never used in it, in order that its verses have not only a specific meaning but also a more general import.  For example, a verse may have been revealed to placate the Islamic prophet Muhammad during a particularly difficult time in his struggle; so even though the verse will have a specific reason for revelation (to one particular man in one specific situation), it can also be used in a general context: Muslims will use that same verse when they themselves are going through tough times.

Because of this unique structure of the Quranic text, what one gets out of it depends a lot on the reader, who tends to inject into verses his own background and biases, for better or for worse.   Having said that, it seems to the author that an unbiased and neutral reading validates the argument of the reform-minded Muslims: nowhere in the Quran does it clearly and definitively say one must kill apostates.  In fact, it seems to say the exact opposite.

If Muslims can understand it in that way, why this continual insistence by the Islamophobes that the Muslims “must” abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran?  (Again, it is in order to set up a situation whereby Muslims simply cannot fulfill the requirements to be accepted into society, which is exactly what the Islamophobes desire.)

But enough jibber jabber; the proof is in the pudding.

The Quran

Ms. Fathima Rifqa Bary was incorrect: unlike the Bible, the Quran does not at all say to kill apostates if they choose to leave Islam. Rather, it says the exact opposite. The Quran declares emphatically:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth is distinct from error!” (Quran, 2:256)

Almost every Muslim knows this verse by heart. It categorically closes the door to religious compulsion, and is used by reform-minded Muslims to promote freedom of religion and the idea that the people have a right to follow whatever religion they so choose. Because “truth is distinct from error,” people should be able to discern it for themselves without having to be forced.

Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a classical Islamic text, says of this verse: “This was revealed concerning the Ansar who tried to compel their sons to enter into Islam.” Some of their children were Jewish, and the parents wished to force them to become Muslims. In Al-Suyuti’s classical text Asbab al-Nuzul (Reasons for Revelation), it also says that there was a Muslim father by the name of Husayn bin Salim bin Awf who had two daughters both of whom were Christians. After failing to convince them to convert to Islam of their own free will, he went to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and requested permission to compel them into Islam. It was for this that the verse “Let there be no compulsion in religion” was revealed, to forbid parents from forcibly converting their children to Islam.

The relevance to the Fathima Rifqa Bary case cannot be understated: contrary to Fathima’s claim, the Quran forbids religious compulsion in general.  The verse in question was specifically revealed for parents in regard to their children of different faiths. Amazingly, the Quranic verse was revealed to forbid a Muslim father from forcing his Christian daughters into Islam. Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like Mr. Bary and his daughter! So how accurate was Fathima’s claim that the Quran commands parents to force their children into Islam or kill them if they refuse?

Ironically, it is the Bible–the same one that Fathima holds–that has verses in it commanding parents to stone their daughters should they worship gods other than the Christian one. Considering that Fathima espouses a hardliner literalistic Christian fundamentalist mentality, we wonder if she would even contextualize the verse like the Christian mainstream does? (This is not about Christianity vs Islam; this is about extremists vs moderates; Fathima and the Global Revolution Church are not representative of mainstream Christianity, at least not any more than Al-Muhajiroon is of the Islamic mainstream!)

Alas, I digress. Back to the Quran, which says:

“And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” (Quran, 10:99)

Reform-minded Muslims use the above verse to argue that forcing people into Islam is wrong because God Himself did not do that.  They believe that the power to guide and misguide people rests only with God, and nobody can share in that.  The next verse is used by reformists to show that Muslims should just worry about what they themselves do, instead of trying to force people into guidance:

“And had God willed, He could have made you all one [religious] community, but He sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills.  But you shall certainly be called to account for what you (yourself) used to do [i.e. not what others used to do].” (Quran, 16:93)

The phrase–“God guides Whom He wills” and that He “misguides Whom He wills”–appears in dozens of Quranic verses.  All of these references are commanding believers that they cannot force or will people into the religion, but that only God can do that.

The Quran commands:

“The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.” (Quran, 18:29)

And the Quran says:

“Exhort them to believe; your task is only to exhort. You cannot compel them to believe.”  (Quran, 88:21-22)

Another verse in the Quran indicates that during the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, there were people who believed and disbelieved–and then believed only to disbelieve once again; in other words, people entered into and out of the religion freely. The Quran says that such people are weak in faith and God will never guide them in this worldly life. The verse reads:

“Those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to the Way.” (Quran, 4:137)

Reform-minded Muslims use this verse as a proof that there can be no punishment for apostasy. If that had been the case, then those who believe and then disbelieved (i.e. apostates) would have been put to death and therefore no chance would have been given to them to once again believe and disbelieve. Furthermore, the verse says that God will never guide them back to Islam, indicating that the Muslims are to ignore such a person: if God did not guide them to the Way, then why should Muslims?

So there are clear and explicit verses of the Quran that reform-minded Muslims naturally understand to mean that freedom of religion must be extended to all, and that compulsion into Islam is not to be tolerated.

The Hadiths

Enter the Hadiths. For those who don’t know, the Hadiths are a body of collection of the prophet Muhammad’s sayings or traditions. In other words, the Quran is considered by Muslims to be the word of God, and the Hadiths are the words of their prophet. Unlike the Quran however, Muslims do not believe that all of the Hadiths are authentic. Rather, many of them are apocryphal and therefore rejected. In other words, if some Islamophobe claims that such-and-such Hadith exists, be aware of the fact that many of them are rejected by Muslims. The Hadiths do not occupy the same rank as the Quran, but are rather a secondary source open to criticism.

In this huge body of collection, we find the Hadith that Islamophobes rely on as their trump card in this debate, which reads as follows: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” At first glance, that seems pretty clear and unambiguous but has the Islamophobe proven his case? Well, let’s take into consideration that the Bible has many seemingly clear and unambiguous verses which call to kill apostates, yet we never assume that Christians today believe this, nor do we insist that Christianity itself demands it.

A Christian–when confronted with those verses in the Bible–would respond by saying something like the following:

“Well, that’s the Old Testament, and Jesus abrogated that part of the law. Back then during Biblical times, the believers were few and there was a real fear that they would be eliminated so punishing apostates was a deterrent. Furthermore, at that time apostasy was akin to high treason.”

And this answer would completely placate the Islamophobes. In other words, verses that seemed unambiguous and clear from a religious book seemed to indicate one thing at face value, but the people who follow that book have a different way of understanding it: they give an explanation that contextualizes the verses.

Let’s be clear here: we’re not trying to bash Christianity at all. What we are saying however is that if we extend the common courtesy to Christians that they can contextualize such verses in the Bible, then why do we not extend the same courtesy to the Muslims when it comes to the Hadiths? Keep in mind also that Muslims believe that their Bible–so to speak–is the Quran and not the Hadiths. In other words, if Christianity’s primary source seems to say that apostates are to be killed, then why do we not accept any explanation from Muslims about their secondary source? (Hint: Islamophobia is the answer!) It is this terrible double standard that bothers Muslims and those who believe in religious tolerance.

So how do reform-minded Muslims contextualize the Hadith in question (i.e. “whoever changes his religion, kill him.”)? First of all, they point out that these are not the words of the Islamic prophet Muhammad to begin with; rather, these are the the words of a man named Ibn Abbas who was paraphrasing the words of the Islamic prophet. The full text of that particular Hadith is as follows:

Some Zanadiqa were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying: Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire). I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle: Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, Number 57)

If this was a paraphrase, what were the actual words of the Islamic prophet Muhammad? We find one such Hadith which says:

“The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that there is no God but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: (1) In penalty for murder, (2) a married person who commits adultery and (3) the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the community.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 12, Book ad-Diyat, Number 6878, p.209)

Based on this, reformists say that a person cannot be given capital punishment except for three offenses: (1) murder, (2) adultery, and (3) apostasy combined with “leav[ing] the community.” Such Muslims say that apostasy is not punished except for when it is combined with “leav[ing] the community,” which they say refers to high treason against the Islamic state. What is meant specifically by “leaving the community” is of leaving the community to join the enemy forces. To bolster this claim, reformists point to another similarly narrated Hadith, which reads:

“The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that none has the right to be worshiped but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: (1) a married person who commits adultery; he is to be stoned and (2) a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger; he is to be killed or crucified or exiled from the land and (3) a man who murders another person; he is to be killed on account of it.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 4, Number 4353, p. 126)

In other words, we have the exact same three instances in which a person may be put to death: (1) murder, (2) adultery, and (3) “a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger.” Reform-minded Muslims reason that since the Islamic prophet restricted capital punishment to three classes of people, the third instance must be referring to the same group. In other words “leav[ing] the community” refers to “a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger.” Reform-minded Muslims tie these Hadiths to the following Quranic verse:

“The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: this is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” (Quran, 5:33)

Notice how similar the above verse is to the Hadith mentioned in Sunan Abu Dawud (above). The Hadith mentions the one “who went out fighting against God and His Messenger” whilst the Quran says “those who wage war against God and His Apostle,” and the punishment for such is also the same in both: “killed or crucified or exiled from the land.” Reformists point out that the opinion of the ultraconservative Muslims–that peaceful apostates are to be killed–does not jive with the above, since that would mean that a person is to be killed for other than the three reasons, even though the Islamic prophet limited it to only three reasons, not four.

And even if we say that the Hadiths do not limit capital punishment to only three reasons, argue reformists, the issue is that the two Hadiths (as found in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sunan Abu Dawood) both mention three sins–murder, adultery, and apostasy/waging war. It is abundantly clear then that the third sin (other than murder and adultery) is in reference to the same thing in both narrations, due to the congruency of the two Hadiths–which firmly establishes the linkage so the linking of apostasy to treason is firmly established by the congruency of the two Hadiths. This argument stands alone in itself and is not dependent on limiting capital punishment to three sins.

Reasons for Revelation

At the time that this Hadith was said (i.e. to kill apostates that left the community), the Muslims of the city of Medina were under attack by the Quraish “idolaters” of Mecca (which at that time was predominantly non-Muslim). Many of the Muslims in Medina were emigrants from Mecca, who had converted to Islam. Do you see now why religion and national identity was fused at the hip back then? If you were a Meccan who converted from paganism to Islam, you’d be persecuted or even killed by your former co-religionists. So those who converted to Islam would “leave the community” of Mecca to join Medina.

The Meccans reacted harshly to this new religion of Islam and desired to wipe it off the map. They gathered armies and marched towards the fledgling Islamic city-state. Naturally, since the converts to Islam came from pagan families, such battles between Mecca and Medina would result in brother being pitted against brother, and father against son. Some of the newly converted Muslims naturally felt uncomfortable having to fight their families, and therefore would apostatize to the side of the idolatrous Meccans. Others were simply weak in faith and felt overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the invaders, so they defected to the pagan army.

More insidiously, there were some in Medina who conspired with the people of Mecca to betray the Muslims in battle. They hatched a plan that they would “convert” to Islam to join the forces of Medina, only to apostatize and abandon the Muslims in the thick of things, in order to destroy the morale of the Muslim army. The Quran says of this:

“A section of the People of the Book say: ‘Believe in the morning what is revealed to those who believe, and reject it at the end of the day, perchance they may themselves turn back.” (Quran, 3:72)

In the classical Tafsir (commentary) entitled Asbab al-Nuzul (Reasons for Revelation) it says of this verse:

…The town of Uraynah conspired with each other, saying: “Pretend to join the religion of Muhammad at the beginning of the day and declare your disbelief in it at the end of the day. Say: ‘We have looked in our Scriptures and consulted our scholars and found that Muhammad is not genuine; it is clear to us now that he is lying and that his religion is false.’ If you do this, his Companions will doubt their religion. They will say: ‘these are people of the Book and they are more knowledgeable than us. They will then abandon their religion and embrace yours.’”

Reformists believe it was in this particular situation that the Hadiths about killing “apostates” who “leave the community” and “wage war against God and His Messenger” were said. “Leaving the community” is a reference to leaving the community of Medina to join the invaders. Therefore, they reason, it was not merely “peaceful apostasy” which is to be punished, but rather high treason, i.e. trying to destroy the Islamic state’s army. It was a specific plot of the unbelievers to convert to Islam in order to mass apostatize and defect to the pagan side to destroy the Muslims.

One can see then how apostasy and defection are linked; back then, there was a pagan army and a Muslim army. If you were pagan, you fought for the pagan army. If you were Muslim, you fought for the Muslim army. If you converted from one to the other, then you’d likely abandon one army and defect to the other. Hence the phrase “the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the community.”

Furthermore, the act of assisting in battle the unbelievers against the believers was in itself considered an act of apostasy. This is why reformists believe that back then religious identity was fused with national identity and state loyalty. This is what professor M. Cherif Bassiouni meant when he wrote,

My position on apostasy…[is] that at the time of the Prophet it was not considered as only changing one’s mind but that it was the equivalent of joining the enemy and thus constituting high treason.

Going back to the now famous Hadith (“Whoever changes his religion, kill him”) this was–revealed about the Zanadiqa:

Some Zanadiqa were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying: Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire). I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle: Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, Number 57)

The word “Zanadiqa” translates to heretics, and here is referring to a group known as the Saba’iyya. The founder of this group, Ibn Saba, was believed by Muslims to be an enemy of the Islamic state who pretended to convert to Islam in order to instigate civil war and strife. Although his existence is a matter of dispute amongst scholars, his group–the Saba’iyya (Zanadiqa)–did exist. They claimed that the prophet Muhammad’s cousin–a man by the name of Ali ibn Abi Talib–was god incarnate. They instigated revolts against the government and eventually orchestrated the murder of the Caliph (Muslim leader) of the time, a man named Uthman ibn Affan. We read:

Ibn Saba…[whose] activity began during the caliphate of Uthman when he travelled from Hijaz to Syria, stirr[ed] up unrest and rebellion in Egypt, Basrah, and Kufah and incit[ed] to the murder of the caliph by the Egyptian rebels…Ibn Saba was also responsible for the outbreak of fighting between the armies of Ali and Aisha at Basrah. (Shi’ite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions, by Lynda Clarke, pp.9-10)

And:

The Khalif Ali caused the adherents of Abd Allah ibn Saba to be burnt to death…But when Ibn Abbas learned of the occurrence, he said: “I should indeed have put them to death, but certainly not burned them, for the Prophet has forbidden that any one shall be punished by fire, because this is the mode of punishment exclusively to Allah.”

(Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Edited by James Hastings, p.625)

In other words, the Zanadiqa being referred to here were not “peaceful apostates” who simply changed their mind, but rather they were guilty of high treason, causing a civil war, instigating a rebellion in Egypt, and ultimately killing the Caliph. Indeed, they were similar to the group of people who had pretended to convert to Islam in order to apostatize during the thick of things (i.e. in the battle between Medina and Mecca). The bottom line then is that even the Hadith that the Islamophobes rely upon can be used as a proof that only those apostates who wage war against the state are to be killed.

The Traditional Opinion

Yes, it is true that the majority “classical” and traditional opinion of Islamic jurists was that apostasy–even “peaceful apostasy”–should be punished by death. This belief was enshrined into Islamic jurisprudence in the medieval era, and therefore many “classical” Islamic texts do indeed say this. It is for this reason that Alan Kornman of ACT for America–a fervently Islamophobic group–was waving around a copy of Reliance of the Traveler, a fourteenth century manual of Islamic jurisprudence, which does say that apostates should be killed. Is it possible to point out the obvious? The text was written hundreds of years ago in the medieval era. The absurdity of using it as some sort of proof against contemporary Muslims is absurd. Muslims do not consider this book to be religiously binding upon them. The words of the classical scholars are not considered a part of the Islamic canon. Only the Quran and some of the Hadiths are said to have any divine origin.

Contemporary Muslims believe that they are free to agree or disagree with the words of classical scholars. There is no equivalent to the pope in Islam. Yes, they do respect the classical scholars, and do view them as some of the greatest scholars of all time, but that does not mean that they agree with them on all issues. As for “classical texts” like the Reliance of the Traveler, yes many moderate Muslims consider such treatises to be a good source of attaining their Islamic knowledge, but they don’t believe that they must accept every single sentence or dot therein! As the famous Islamic saying goes: they take the good in it, and leave the rest!

Even within the classical Islamic texts, one can find great disagreement therein. For example, there are classical texts which refute some of the views expressed in the Reliance of the Traveler. If that is the case–that Islamic scholars of that time disagreed with some views within that text and others–why shouldn’t contemporary Islamic scholars–and Muslims in general–disagree with some of its views? Is this really so hard to comprehend? I don’t think so.

We understand it perfectly well with classical Christian texts. Let’s look at the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Christian scholars in history. The Vatican considers him as “the model teacher” for those pursuing priesthood.

The Summa Theologica, a book written by St. Thomas Aquinas, is considered one of the best summaries of Catholic doctrine to this day, and continues to be relied upon. In other words, here we have a text that is certainly more central to the Catholic faith than the Reliance of the Traveler is to Muslims. Well, let’s take a look-see into what the Summa Theologica says about apostasy; the first part talks about how Jews are apostates and thus worse than regular disbelievers, and the second part talks about how apostates ought to be compelled by the sword to Christianity:

Question 10: Unbelief in General

… It is written (2 Peter 2:21): “It had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back.” Now the heathens have not known the way of justice, whereas heretics and Jews have abandoned it after knowing it in some way. Therefore theirs is the graver sin…He who resists the faith after accepting it, sins more grievously against faith, than he who resists it without having accepted it…[The Jews] accepted the figure of that faith in the Old Law, which they corrupt by their false interpretations, [so] their unbelief is a more grievous sin than that of the heathens, because the latter have not accepted the Gospel faith in any way at all…

Article 8. Whether unbelievers ought to be compelled to the faith?

…I answer that, Among unbelievers there are some who have never received the faith, such as the heathens and the Jews: and these are by no means to be compelled to the faith…On the other hand, there are unbelievers who at some time have accepted the faith, and professed it, such as heretics and all apostates: such should be submitted even to bodily compulsion, that they may fulfil what they have promised, and hold what they, at one time, received…

For, Augustine says “…When a man’s crime [apostasy] is so publicly known, and so hateful to all, that he has no defenders, or none such as might cause a schism, the severity of discipline should not slacken”…Those Jews who have in no way received the faith, ought not by no means to be compelled to the faith: if, however, they have received it, they ought to be compelled to keep itChrist at first compelled Paul and afterwards taught Him…the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated…

Do we then think it is justified to wave around this seven hundred year old text in the air as a proof that Christians believe that apostates should be killed? Or that “since the Jews are the slaves of the Church, she can dispose of their possessions” and the “the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated?” No sensible person can say so. Rather, Catholics are free to read the book, taking what they like and disagreeing with whatever they dislike.

So why then can’t these people understand the same thing for the Reliance of the Traveler, which says the exact same thing about apostasy as does the Summa Theologica?  Muslims use it in a similar manner to learn about traditional Islamic jurisprudence just as Catholics use the Summa Theologica to learn traditional Catholic doctrine, taking the good and leaving the rest. In fact, the Muslim translator of the book, Nuh Keller, did not even translate parts of the book into English which he deemed totally irrelevant to the modern day and age, which shows that Muslims do not consider whatever is in the text as religiously binding. It doesn’t mean that Muslims must abandon the book in its entirety, just as Catholics don’t need to abandon the Summa Theologica altogether.

The Four Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence

A critic of Islam argued back:

Yes there may be moderate Muslims but at this moment in time there is no moderate Islam, as defined by the [four] main schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

First, it is absurd to say that there is no moderate Islam; moderate Islam is what the vast majority of Muslims follow, and how they define it. As for the argument that “all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence demand the death penalty for apostasy,” isn’t this simply restating the obvious? Contemporary Muslims already admit that the traditional and classical opinion of Islamic jurists was that apostates were to be killed (which by the way was also amongst the “traditional and classical opinions” in Judaism and Christianity as well).

Since the four schools of thought were defined and codified hundreds of years ago, doesn’t it already go without saying that the four schools of jurisprudence would take the traditional and classical opinion on the matter? Stated another way: as the four schools were codified hundreds of years ago, is it any surprise that they should follow the old way of looking at the matter as opposed to the new?  So what exactly is the critic trying to say? It is simply restating and repackaging the obvious attack in attempt to give an air of authority to it.

His statement also betrays a superficial understanding of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The four schools are not defined by their final rulings or verdicts, but rather based on their methodology (Usul). Within a school itself, all sorts of conflicting opinions can be found, since a school is defined not by a ruling but by the methodology one uses to arrive at such a ruling. In other words, contemporary Muslims can still follow the same methodology and arrive at different conclusions, without betraying the school of thought itself. Many followers of the four schools have done so with regard to the issue of apostasy.

So the fact that a person follows a school of jurisprudence does not at all mean that he must commit himself to one particular ruling. Furthermore, many Muslims do not follow a school of jurisprudence at all, with still others claiming that it is wrong to follow the four schools whatsoever. Bottom line: there are diverse opinions on this matter, and to pigeonhole Muslims into a particular belief is wrong.  It is just wrong to speak on behalf of Muslims; let them speak for themselves!

Contemporary Muslims argue that their rejection of an opinion held by the classical scholars does not amount to rejection of the scholars themselves, nor of the schools of thought they founded.  Rather, they insist that respectful disagreement is not only permitted but mandated in Islam. Furthermore, the new opinion of contemporary Muslims is simply a reflection of changed circumstances which have allowed Muslims to properly understand the issue. Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq says:

Undeniably, the traditional position of Muslim scholars and jurists has been that apostasy [riddah] is punishable by death. The longstanding problem of the traditional position, as held by Classical jurists or scholars, can be explained and excused as not being able to see apostasy, an issue of pure freedom of faith and conscience, separate from treason against the community or the state. However, the accumulated experience over the history in terms of abuse of this position about apostasy even against Muslims as well as the changed context of a globally-connected, pluralistic society should help us appreciate the contemporary challenges in light of the Qur’anic norms and the Prophetic legacy. In this context, while the classical misunderstanding about this issue of apostasy is excusable, the position of some of the well-known contemporary scholars is not.

Contemporary Scholars

Whilst ultraconservative scholars tenaciously cling to medieval opinions, moderate Muslim scholars are increasingly adopting the opinion that absolute freedom of religion is mandated in Islam. Hundreds of Islamic clerics have accepted this view as correct. Representatives from all the major Western Muslim organizations have spoken out against the death penalty for apostates.

Indeed, Islam is witnessing a “soft revolution” nowadays, and a reformation is taking place. It seems almost every other day another major Islamic scholar announces that he has studied the issue and come to the conclusion that there should be no punishment for apostasy.

Ijma

The conservative Muslims (and in turn the Islamophobes) insist that there is an Ijma (consensus) on the view that apostates are to be killed. This is an Islamic legal term which connotes a sort of authoritativeness to a ruling, almost like a papal decree. However, this is a hotly contested topic, and this article here explains why it is inappropriate to use Ijma as a proof.

Imam al-Shawkani argued:

“The one who claims that ijma constitutes proof is not correct, for such [a claim] constitutes mere conjecture (zann) on the part of an individual from the community of Muslims. No believer can worship God on the basis of this.”

Refuting Robert Spencer’s Drivel

Robert Spencer of JihadWatch argues that Fathima Rifqa Bary was correct for claiming that the Quran mandates death for apostasy. We have already outlined the numerous verses in the Quran that state the contrary. But let us now deal with Spencer’s “proof.” He claims that the following verse is “direct proof” that apostates are to be killed:

“And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.” (Quran, 2:217)

Sorry, Spencer, but I don’t see how that’s “direct proof,” especially in light of the explicit verses in the Quran that I have cited above which clearly and unambiguously forbid compulsion in religion. In fact, contemporary Islamic scholars use this verse (the one Spencer just used) as a proof that there is no worldly punishment for apostasy, only a heavenly one. For example, Dr. Jamal Badawi says:

There is no single verse in the Qur’an that prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy. Verses about apostasy in the Qur’an speak only about God’s punishment of the apostate in the Hereafter [such as] “…But if any of you should turn away from his/her faith and die as a denier [of the truth] – these it is whose works will bear no fruit in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.” ([Quran] Al-Baqarah 2:217)

…The silence of the Qur’an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is quite revealing. More revealing is the fact that there is overwhelming evidence in the Qur’an of freedom of conscious, belief, and worship.

Of course, Spencer quotes an Islamic scholar who lived hundreds of years ago as a proof. Sorry, but that’s not a proof to Muslims, nor is it binding. Whilst moderate Muslims respect Imam al-Qurtubi like Catholics respect St. Thomas Aquinas, they don’t believe his words are divine and simply disagree with them. That is in actuality the bulk of Spencer’s argument, since the verse itself is not at all “direct proof” of anything!

Then Spencer uses verse 4:89 as a “proof:”

“If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them.” (Quran, 4:89)

But he does not quote what comes right before and after it, thereby removing the context of the verse. The Quran says:

“Why should you be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? …If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them; Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty of peace, or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If God had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you and fight you not, and instead send you guarantees of peace, then God Has opened no way for you to war against them…Therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and do not offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given you a clear authority (to war against).” (Quran, 4:89-91)

This verse is talking about a group of apostates who are pretending to be Muslims (and are thus Hypocrites), so that they can turn renegade during war and destroy the Muslim army from the inside. In actuality, this verse shows the mercy of Islam, in the sense that the Islamic prophet was forbidden to make war against these people until they picked up arms against the Muslims; if, however, they did not pick up arms and instead sent guarantees of peace, then Muslims were forbidden from fighting them. This verse can be used as a proof for the reformist position, namely that peaceful apostates cannot be killed, but those who wage war against the Islamic state (i.e. high treason) should be.

Spencer quotes Tafsir al-Jalalayn as a proof, yet doesn’t realize that the text itself negates his view. Tafsir al-Jalalayn says of the very next verse (4:90):

[Those who come to you] refraining from fighting either you or them, then do not interfere with them, neither taking them as captives nor slaying them…If they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.

Abrogation

Christianity was militarized after Jesus died, by latter day thinkers.  A similar thing happened with Islam.  The Quranic text prohibits military aggression, allowing war only in self-defense; it also gives absolute freedom of religion.  Latter day thinkers within Islam had such a hard time dealing with these issues that they simply decided to “abrogate” the peaceful and tolerant verses in order to make Islam “more compatible” with the warlike times.  For example, the author of Tafsir al-Jalalayn had such a hard time reconciling verse 4:90 with the view–that apostates are to be killed–that he rationalized that: “this statement and what follows was abrogated.”

This has importance here: Spencer uses the verse (4:90) as a proof that apostasy is mandated in the Quran, yet the classical scholar he quoted as a proof was so “frustrated” by this same verse–since it seemed to imply freedom of religion–that he was forced to abrogate it.  In other words, even those Muslim scholars who believe that apostates are to be killed had to get rid of this Quranic verse in order to make their claim, so how can Spencer now use the verse as a proof?

For those of you who don’t know what abrogation means, it means that a verse was rescinded and basically no longer counts. Translation: the verse still appears in the Quran but it has no legal import to it.  Contemporary moderate Muslim scholars reject such a haphazard abrogation of Quranic verses. For example, a Muslim cleric by the name of Shabir Ally says:

[Question:] Now this idea of abrogation altogether seems odd. You have a book–you say it’s from God–and you say ‘well, He didn’t really mean this.’ How does one justify this?

[Answer:] Well, Imam al-Tabari is in a way the father of tafsirs. And his tafsir is the monumental one that came to be used widely in later tafsirs…and he said very clearly that if a verse is to be agrogated, you have to have some definitive information from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself which says that this verse is abrogated, otherwise how would you know if a certain verse is abrogated? You shouldn’t claim that a verse is abrogated without this type of definitive information.

Dr. Jamal Badawi says:

While some scholars have claimed that hundreds of verses of the Qur’an were abrogated, the majority of scholars reject that claim.

Interestingly, the ultraconservative Muslim scholars are inconsistent in their own understanding of the Quran.  For example, the ultraconservative Saudi scholar Ibn Baz affirmed the idea that abrogation is to be used only as a last resort when understanding two seemingly “contradictory” verses of the Quran; Ibn Baz stated:

Whenever it is possible to show agreement or reconciliation between various narrations, in a manner which is suitable, without stretching their meanings, it becomes obligatory to do so.  Making Reconciliation (al-Jam) between the texts takes precedence over the other two methods of resolving apparent contradiction between proofs–the two other methods being Outweighing (al-Tarjih) and Abrogation (al-Naskh).  This is what has been agreed upon in the Science of Usul al-Fiqh.

The above might be very confusing to the layperson, so to summarize: he is basically saying that when two texts seem to contradict each other, then one should first try to reconcile them (al-Jam) before one claims that one is abrogated by the other (al-Naskh). In other words, when we have one text saying “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and another saying “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” there seems to be an apparent contradiction between the two.  One way to resolve these two texts would be to say that the latter abrogated the former (and this is the argument of Bin Baz and other ultraconservative scholars).  Ibn Baz is quoted by an ultraconservative Saudi website as saying:

[Question:] Some friends say that whoever does not enter Islam, that is his choice and he should not be forced to become Muslim, quoting as evidence the verses in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning)…“There is no compulsion in religion” [al-Baqarah 2:256] What is your opinion concerning that?

[Answer:] …Ayat al-Sayf (the verse of the sword)…and similar verses abrogate the verses which say that there is no compulsion to become Muslim.

Oddly however Bin Baz does not follow his own rule that Reconciliation of texts takes precedence over Abrogation!  Reform-minded Muslims reconcile the texts by simply contextualizing the second narration, which indicates that peaceful apostates are not to be killed but those apostates who “wage war” (i.e. high treason) are.

The way in which Ibn Baz, other ultraconservatives, and some classical scholars abrogated the peaceful verses without direct proof of that must be rejected, argue reform-minded Muslims.  As Ibn Al-Hassar, a classical Islamic scholar himself, stated:

It is not acceptable, in the matter of Abrogation, to accept statements of the interpreters of the Quran, not even the ijtihad (reasoning) of those engaging in ijtihad without authentic reports or clear evidence…What is acceptable in that matter is the [explicit] narration [of the Prophet] and history [Sunna/Sira] not opinion or ijtihad.

Therefore, reform-minded Muslims reject any classical or contemporary scholar’s opinion that such-and-such verse was abrogated, unless the claimant brings unequivocal proof of that, such as a direct statement from the Islamic prophet to that effect.  But in the absence of that, such arguments are rejected; otherwise, every single verse in the Quran could be abrogated by mere desire!  Therefore, when Islamophobes try to build their whole case on Tafsirs (commentaries) written hundreds of years ago, be extremely wary!  A Tafsir is not a proof in and of itself; it is simply one man’s interpretation of the Quran open to criticism.

Reform-minded Muslim scholars argue that their understanding of the Quran’s view on this matter is more accurate and truer to the text, since they take into consideration all of the verses instead of simply doing away with whatever verses they cannot reconcile to their preconceived view. Meanwhile, the ultraconservatives are forced to abrogate verses of the Quran without any proof for that, such as the verse that forbids compulsion in religion. Certainly, it is unacceptable to just abrogate verses that one does not agree with!

In other words, neither the ultraconservative Muslims nor the Islamophobes can make their case, i.e. that the Quran says to kill apostates, without having to get rid of certain Quranic verses, those that are abundantly clear that religious compulsion is forbidden.  This in actuality shows the strength of the reformist view, namely that if one looks at the Quran as a whole, it mandates religious freedom.

Hypocrites Worse than Disbelievers

In the Quran, it is clear that the worst of mankind are the Hypocrites, a group of people who pretended to be Muslims but were really disbelievers in their hearts.  They were a group that sought to destroy Islam from the inside.  Reformists point out that forcing people into Islam–be they disbelievers or apostates–would create a legion of Hypocrites within the ranks of the Muslims, something far more dangerous than people simply peacefully following whatever religion they want.  Dr. Jamal Badawi argues:

The fear of such assumed [capital] punishment [for apostasy] may lead many to hypocrisy; by pretending to remain Muslims just to save their lives. In the final analysis, hypocrisy is a greater danger to the community than apostasy in itself. Hypocrites may implode the Muslim community from within.

Reform-minded Muslims also point out the fact that there was a Bedouin who apostatized in the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, leaving the Islamic city-state of Medina; he abandoned both his religious and national identity (as the two were fused back then).  Instead of punishing the man, the prophet Muhammad simply replied by saying: “Medina is like a pair of bellows (i.e. a furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.” (Sahih al-Bukhari,Vol.9, No.316, pp.241)  Reformists use this narration as a proof that someone leaving the religion is–in a way–a  good thing: it purifies the religion from those weak in faith who could become Hypocrites.  Is it not better to have a few strong believers rather than many weak Hypocrites?

Dr. Jamal Badawi notes that this incident involving the Bedouin took place after the Islamic city-state of Medina was up and running, so the Islamophobes cannot claim that this was before some mass abrogation of verses:

This incident took place in Madinah when Muslims were living in an independent Islamic “state,” where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had full authority to implement Shari`ah law.

If indeed the “revealed” prescribed punishment for apostasy is death, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have been the first to carry out the punishment. In fact, he did not even prescribe any punishment at all against that Bedouin, nor did he send any one to arrest him as an “apostate,” imprison, or ask him to recant or even reconsider his decision as later jurists prescribed. Nor is there any solid ground to claim that this and other similar hadiths were “abrogated.” In fact, these Hadiths are in conformity with the Qur’an and consistent with its central value of freedom of conscious and rejection of any compulsion in matters of faith (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

Nonsensical Defense

Some conservative Muslims argue that the death penalty for apostasy makes “perfect sense,” since “people choose to enter Islam knowing that it is a lifetime decision punishable by death” and therefore “it serves to ensure that their intention is strong” and “dissuades those weak in faith from entering it.”

Reform-minded Muslims argue that this argument is weak from many angles.  It is negated by the fact that the conservative Muslims do not differentiate in this matter between converts to Islam and those born into the religion: in fact, some of the classical scholars opined that born Muslims who apostatize (murtad fitri)  are more liable to punishment than those who had converted to Islam (murtad milli).  The question reform-minded Muslims ask is: does a born Muslim get the chance to enter the religion knowing that he will be killed if he ever leaves it?  The answer is of course no; one simply grows up following the religion of one’s parents; therefore, the justification that “apostates knew what they were getting into” falls flat on its face.

Reform-minded Muslims also say that it is quite simply common sense that people change their minds.  This is quite obvious: one day a person thinks Islam is the religion for him, but maybe ten years down the line he doesn’t.

Additionally, reform-minded Muslims argue that killing an apostate robs him of the chance to repent later in life.  There are for example many youth who leave religion only to come back to it in their elderly years when they become fearful of death and what follows that.  A person who apostates today could become Islam’s best follower some day in the future.

Lastly, reform-minded Muslims point out that the Quranic principle is that God has granted humans free will: they have the right to accept Islam or reject it. Nobody can force them to do so.  Why would God command Muslims to force people into Islam when it is He Himself Who gave people the ability to leave the religion?

An Important Clarification

Even if Fathima’s parents held the “traditional view,” this does not mean that they were going to kill her.  In fact, the traditional view–as espoused by the classical scholars and now championed by the ultraconservatives–has always been that corporal punishments–such as killing of apostates–must be done by the government and not individuals.

Vigilante justice has always been strictly forbidden, and in fact severely punished.  The second Caliph of Islam was in fact killed, and his son ended up killing the murderer, vigilante style.  Even though his case seemed just, the Muslim authorities punished him for murder, due to it being vigilante justice outside the court system.

We can read this from ultraconservative Islamic websites themselves, which quote classical scholars; for example, the Saudi based Islam-QA strictly forbids “honor killing” on the grounds that it is vigilante justice:

Al-Qurtubi said:

There is no dispute among the scholars that qisaas (retaliatory punishments) such as execution cannot be carried out except by those in authority who are obliged to carry out the qisaas and carry out hadd punishments etc, because Allaah has addressed the command regarding qisaas to all the Muslims, and it is not possible for all the Muslims to get together to carry out the qisaas, which is why they appointed a leader who may represent them in carrying out the qisaas and hadd punishments.

Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 2/245, 246.

No one should carry out the hadd punishments without the permission of the ruler. If there is no ruler who rules according to sharee’ah then it is not permissible for the ordinary people to carry out the hadd [corporal] punishments. Whoever does that is sinning, because carrying out the hadd punishments requires examining the matter and requires shar’i knowledge in order to know the conditions of proof.

The ordinary people have no knowledge of such things, and the carrying out of one of the hadd punishments by the ordinary people leads to many evils and the loss of security, whereby people will attack one another and kill one another or chop off one another’s hands on the grounds that they are carrying out hadd punishments.

Islam-QA: Honor Killings Forbidden in Islam

And that’s the opposite of a reformist site.  So even they don’t advocate honor killings or vigilante justice.  The point here is not to justify the ultraconservative view.  Rather, it is simply to show that this entire thing has been a hyped up situation used to demonize Islam and Muslims in general.  Most Western Muslims don’t believe in killing apostates, and even the small fraction that do don’t believe it can be done in the West.

Conclusion

The Quran does not at all say to kill apostates. As for the Hadiths, yes there are some texts which could be interpreted as such, but reform-minded Muslims believe that if you properly contextualize them, this is not the case.  Furthermore, they believe that if a Hadith contradicts a basic tenet of the Quran, it is to be rejected; in other words, the Quran takes precedence over all other texts.

As for a parent forcing a child to convert to Islam, an explicit verse in the Quran rejects this practice, which was specifically revealed for a Muslim father who was trying to force his Christian daughters to accept Islam, a remarkably similar situation to what we see in the Fathima Rifqa Bary case today.

What seems apparent is that Fathima’s parents never threatened to kill her; rather, she was brainwashed by some Christian extremists (who by the way look down on the Christian mainstream) into thinking that Islam itself–and the Quran in particular–mandates death for apostates.  Notice in her emotional interview that she clearly was of the view that: the Quran mandates it, ergo religious Muslims believe in it.  This logic is faulty and problematic.

The Islamophobes have jumped on this opportunity to spread fear and hate, insisting that Islam is intrinsically culpable, a pagan and heathen religion incompatible with those who love Christ.

Yes, a legitimate criticism is that it is unfortunate that there are Muslims–even some big time scholars who are not ultraconservatives–hold onto this view.  This is in fact a self-criticism that the reform-minded Muslims themselves engage in, and if the critics limited their input to this, there would have been no problem.  But the Islamophobes wanted to impugn Islam as a whole, and the Muslims in generality.

The issue of apostasy is at  “the heart of a burning debate among modern Muslims,” explained Sherman Jackson, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan.  It is a time of reassessment, flux, and hopefully change.  But to reduce that all down to “Muslims (or Islam) say that apostates are to be killed” is preposterous.  Muslims are undergoing a soft reformation, led by the Western Muslims and the likes of Dr. Tariq Ramadan.  But it will take time, just like Europe did not reform overnight.

Even if there happens to be a case of Muslim parents killing their children for changing religions, this shouldn’t be used as an example of what Islam advocates, or what Muslims in general think.  Such demonization is altogether unhelpful and only helps to strengthen a binary worldview.  If indeed such a case takes place (and they do from time to time), then the fault lies with the murderers, not Islam and not the Muslims in generality.  Certainly we shouldn’t encourage extremists and xenophobes who seek to co-opt such tragedies for their own nefarious agendas of fear mongering and singling out of Muslims, who are already one of the most maligned minority groups in the West.

Bat Ye’or: Anti-Muslim Loon with a Crazy Conspiracy Theory Named “Eurabia”

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

We all have them: crazy uncles or senile grandparents raving about one conspiracy theory or the other on the dinner table. “Man landing on the moon was a big hoax,” or something about Kennedy’s assassination.  We’d smile and continue eating our leftover mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, then politely ask to be excused on account of work early the next morning, the car ride back home full of mirthful post-dinner analysis of the crazy dinner table conspiracy talk.

So when we first read about Bat Ye’or, a lady with no educational qualifications to speak of, who came up with the crazy conspiracy theory entitled “Eurabia,” we here at LoonWatch barely reacted. If a zany lady comes up with some insane theory, we’re certainly not going to take her seriously, at least not any more than the crazy old McCain lady.

The sad reality, however, is that Bat Ye’or is now being used by leading Islamophobes as a primary source for their research and subsequent analysis.  So who is Bat Ye’or?  Well, first of all, her name is not Bat Ye’or.  That’s just her “screen-name.”  For many years, she kept her real identity a secret, and only wrote under this moniker, which is Hebrew for “daughter of the Nile.”  She also had another screen-name, which was Yahudiya Masriya, Arabic for “Egyptian Jewess.”  Her real name is Gisele Littman, and she’s vitriolically anti-Muslim and anti-Islam.

She has written a handful of articles and books–with the basic theme that Muslims have savagely oppressed Non-Muslims (“dhimmis”) throughout history.  These resources written by her are used as reference sources by famous Islamophobes like Robert Spencer (the face behind the xenophobic websites Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch). Spencer hailed Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude, of the institutionalized discrimination and harassment of non-Muslims under Islamic law.”  Daniel Pipes, an Islamophobic professor, cites her work numerous times. She has emerged from relative obscurity to fame, her work being the backbone of Islamophobic (mis)characterization of Islamic history.

Pamela Geller, admin of the anti-Muslim site Atlas Shrugs, declares: “Bat Ye’or is the world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam.” Amazing how the “world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam” has no educational background and absolutely no credentials at all from a recognized university; truly amazing that anyone can become the world’s leading scholar on Islam with just a library card, a keyboard and internet connection, and of course the key ingredient of all–an all encompassing hatred of Islam.  Can one imagine the world’s leading scholar on Judaism being an Anti-Semite?  This just in: the world’s foremost leading scholar on Judaism is an Anti-Semitic Hamas member. Absurd!

Bat Ye’or is Not a Scholar

Bat Ye’or is not a scholar; she does not have the credentials of a historian from any recognized university.  She is referred to as an “independent researcher,” a euphemism for a random person who goes to the library, opens up some books, and starts writing. Adi Shwartz, a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, rightfully points out Bat Ye’or’s lack of credentials:

Europe allowed the immigration of millions of Muslims to its territories…and will ultimately…transform Europe into a continent under the thumb of the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is dead, and in its stead “Eurabia” has arisen.

This controversial thesis belongs to Bat Ye’or, the pen name of a self-taught Jewish intellectual who was born in Egypt and who currently lives in Switzerland. She refuses to reveal her real name for security reasons, she says, but her thesis is just the prologue to far-reaching conclusions and extreme statements…While her ideas were once almost completely ignored, nowadays, because of the prevailing consternation in Europe regarding its complex relations with the Muslim world, she is receiving more attention, though she is still quite far from entering the European mainstream…

Bat Ye’or’s opinions have made her a controversial figure, as has the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university. She conducts her research independently.

Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, says of her:

Up until the 1980s, she was not accepted at all. In academic circles they scorned her publications…A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years.

In other words, Bat Ye’or was never taken seriously by academics; it was only recently due to the political climate of Islamophobia that her works have become oft-cited by certain elements of society.  Interestingly enough, Bat Ye’or herself admits this:

They didn’t even mention my name in publications. In the United States, I am certain that the September 11 attacks woke people up, including the Jewish community that had previously ignored me…

It truly calls to question the legitimacy of the Islamophobes that they use as their main source a woman who has no credentials and whose work was scorned and ignored by academics and only became popular due to a wave of xenophobia:

[Professor Wistrich said:] “In a survey conducted in Germany recently 83 percent gave the answer ‘fanaticism’ to the question ‘What is Islam?’ Sixty percent said there was a clash of civilizations. This is why Bat Ye’or is getting more attention these days.”

Her opinions on the integration of the Muslims and Europe’s bleak future are acquiring many supporters for her in Europe’s extreme right-wing circles.

Those numbers are staggering, and frightening.  An overwhelming majority (83%) of Germans believe that Islam is fanaticism. (One can imagine what a similar poll conducted in the early 1930’s or 40’s-during the reign of the Nazis-would have shown had it asked what their view of Judaism was.)  It is such a climate that leads to pogroms, and it seems that Bat Ye’or wishes to tap into this potential.  She admits that her works are embraced by “the extreme right and in racist movements.” She gives them the wink and nod, with the usual half-hearted disclaimer that “attacking Muslims, sometimes even physically, is stupid.” Any bigotry short of that, of course, is fine and dandy.  Wistrich, who invited her to speak at a conference in Jerusalem, cracked a crass joke:

At the conference I said half-joking that it was possible to call this [her book] ‘the protocols of the elders of Brussels.’

It is interesting that Wistrich could be so mirthful about such a serious topic, as if it is somehow comical for a person to write a document that would result in ethnic strife.  Again, a frightening idea.  Adi Schwartz, the Israeli journalist who questioned her credentials, aptly titled his article on her “The Protocols of the Elders of Brussels.”

Bat Ye’or: Neutral Academic or Biased Ideologue?

Bat Yeor: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye'or: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye’or has an axe to grind; there could be no one more biased than her.  Her antipathy towards Islam stems from her stormy past: in 1957, she was expelled from Egypt during the Israeli invasion of Sinai.  Although one can and should most definitely sympathize with her plight, it seems that she has–like so many racists before her–reacted to bigotry by becoming a bigot.  She was wronged by Muslims, and now she wants to take vengeance, which has blinded her.  Bat Ye’or said in an interview:

I wrote these books because I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. I saw the disintegration and flight of families, dispossessed and humiliated, the destruction of their synagogues, the bombing of the Jewish quarters and the terrorizing of a peaceful population. I have personally experienced the hardships of exile, the misery of statelessness-and I wanted to get to the root cause of all this. I wanted to understand why the Jews from Arab countries, nearly a million, had shared my experience.

This is not unbiased and dispassionate academic study; for Bat Ye’or, this is personal.  From the above quote alone, one can see the inconsistency in Bat Ye’or’s views.  During the Israeli occupation of Sinai, anti-Semitism surged in Egypt and within “a few short years” an end was brought to “a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years.”  Does she not see the inconsistency here?  Over one thousand of those 2,600 years were during Muslim rule of Egypt, which began in 639 AD.  During that time period, there was a Jewish community which thrived, or as Bat Ye’or words it, was “vibrant.”  Surely then it makes no sense to generalize the “few short years” to all of Islamic history.

Conspiracy Theory: Palestinians Don’t Exist; Europeans Created Them

It is an irony that Bat Ye’or laments about “the hardships of exile, [and the] misery of statelessness,” which is exactly what the Palestinian people have suffered from.  Yet, Bat Ye’or, a fervent supporter of Israel goes even further than some of the most extreme Right-Wing Israelis and even denies the existence of a Palestinian people, arguing that “the Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe.”   To put her quote into context, she says:

The Kurds, the Berbers, the Basques (Spain) and the Corsicans (France) have nationalist characteristics, but not the Palestinians.  The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe…

So Kurds, Berbers, Basques, and Corsicans are all peoples, but not the Palestinians, who are an imaginary peoples invented by Europe.  So why exactly did Europe create the Palestinian people?  She explains:

The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe, with the purpose to transfer onto the Palestinians the Jewish history in order to delegitimize Israel and to absolve Europe from the Holocaust by throwing onto Israel its own European history of Nazism, apartheid and colonialism.

Let us allow the reader to properly understand her conspiracy theory: she is arguing that the Palestinian people were created by Europe in order to paint Israel as being guilty of Nazism, apartheid, and colonialism–in order to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust which created the state of Israel.  One can imagine the European leaders convening in some secret lair–shoddy lighting and a room full of cigar smoke–contemplating how to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust.  “I got it!” exclaims one especially wily European intellectual.  “We’ll invent a people–let’s call them ‘Palestinians’–and say that they existed in the land of Israel!”  They passed it to a vote, and voila!  The Europeans then made a few calls and engineered the Palestinian race.  As Jon Stewart said mockingly about the Obama-being-a-stealth-Jihadist-from-Yemen theory: “It was just too easy.”

Bat Ye’or’s conspiracy theory is creative no doubt, but ludicrous.  This is the woman whom Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller cite as a primary source for their views on Islam, thus highlighting that they have absolutely no academic integrity or credibility.

Conspiracy Theory: Europe Will Become a Vassal State to the Arab World

Bat Ye’or is a fringe conspiracy theorist who argues that “Europe will become a vassal [state], a satellite of the Arab world.” Such alarmist drivel that no sane person could take her seriously.  The irony is that the reality is the exact opposite: it is the Arab world that plays second fiddle compared to the West.  Tell us, Bat Ye’or, how will the Arabs make a vassal state out of Europe?  Them and which army?  The combined Arab might pales in front of Israel; how can the Arab world then vanquish all of Europe?  Such senseless fear mongering.

Conspiracy Theory: European Universities are Controlled by Palestinians

As part of her global conspiracy theory, Bat Ye’or argues that “[European] universities, for example, are controlled by the Palestinians.” Oh why of course!  In fact, the deans of the European universities are all “stealth Palestinians;” every year they travel to the Gaza Strip for an annual ceremony, where Hamas leaders dictate what the curriculum will be for the year, and indoctrinate them in all things jihad.  It is in fact funding from Palestine that is keeping the European universities afloat.  (deadpan face)

Can one imagine the reaction of Islamophobes if some Moozlim-looking person said that the Western universities were controlled by “the Jews?”  They would call such a person not only a crazy conspiracy theorist but a racist, and rightfully so, but the issue here is the profound double standard.  You want to say something outlandish about Jews or any other minority?  Not acceptable  (Rightfully so).  But say the same thing about Muslims?  Then you get your own show on Fox News, and your books will become best-sellers (of the “What’s Wrong with Islam” or “Why I’m Not a Muslim” variety).

Conspiracy Theory: The Rise of Eurabia

The culmination of Bat Ye’or’s theories is what she coins as “Eurabia,” a (not so) clever combination of the words “Europe” and “Arabia.”  Basically, the theory is that Arab and Muslim immigration (of “stealth jihadists”) will soon overwhelm Europe, destroy Western culture and civilization forever, and replace the democratic governments with Taliban style theocracies.   While that does sound like an interesting plot for a fictional movie, it is pure insanity to take this seriously.  Bat Ye’or is simply delusional.  David Aaronovitch, a journalist for The Times, labels Bat Ye’or as a conspiracy theorist:

Pinch me a third time while we get to grips with “Eurabia”. This is a concept created by a writer called Bat Ye’or who, according to the publicity for her most recent book, “chronicles Arab determination to subdue Europe as a cultural appendage to the Muslim world-and Europe’s willingness to be so subjugated”. This, as students of conspiracy theories will recognise, is the addition of the Sad Dupes thesis to the Enemy Within idea.

Aaronovitch would know; he wrote the book entitled Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History.  (Aaronovitch is no “dhimmi” as the Islamophobes would say; he produced a pro-Israeli documentary titled Blaming the Jews.)

Conspiracy Theory: The Churches of Europe are Colluding with Muslims

Bat Ye’or’s lunacy can be ascertained by some of her even more outlandish claims.  For example, she accuses the churches in Europe of being in a state of “collusion with the Muslims,” which she says have of their own volition become “Christian slave militias” that will “spearhead…the Islamic war against Christianity.”  According to her, the churches of Europe “reject…the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding.”  She goes on to say that European Christians “are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus.” Can any sober academic–or even sensible layman–take such drivel seriously?  But perhaps the reader thinks that we have taken her words out of context (after all, who could say something so crazy!), so let us reproduce her entire nonsensical answer verbatim so that her madness can be firmly established in the eyes of the reader:

JW: You’re accusing churches of collusion with the Muslims?

BY [Bat Ye’or]: Yes. Those churches know perfectly well the dire condition of Christians in Muslim lands. But instead of denouncing it, they adopt the militancy of the Janissaries, those Christian slave militias that were the spearhead of the Islamic war against Christianity. They forbid Christians to reveal the iniquities of modern dhimmitude in Arab countries, the enslavement of Christians in Sudan, the abductions and jihadic terror against innocent population. Those churches follow an arcionist theological line which separates the Gospels from the Hebrew Bible. They reject the historical legitimacy of Israel in its own land and, therefore, reject also the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding. They are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus. In my book, I call them the Islamized churches because their rejection of Israel’s history implies their refusal of the Bible and their acceptance of the Koranic version of the Bible that considers Christianity as a deformation of Islam.

This lunacy has been affirmed by another well-known loon–Daniel Pipes–who writes:

The historian Bat Ye’or, the first person to comprehend the gradual process of Europe accepting the dhimmi status, observes that this fundamental shift began with the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, when the continent began moving “into the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence, thus breaking the traditional trans-Atlantic solidarity.”

Translation: not only has Europe fallen under the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence–and not only has it become a subservient “dhimmi” to the Arab world–it is doing so willingly and of its own volition.  Riiiight, riiiight.  So Pipes is not far behind Bat Ye’or in looniness, which explains his reliance on her work.

Voice of Reason

Adam Keller, a well-known Israeli peace activist and cofounder of Gush Shalom, wrote a letter of protest to the Israeli publisher of Bat Ye’or’s book:

In 1886 the French antisemite Edouard Drumont published ‘La France Juive’ (Jewish France), creating the false nightmarish image of a France dominated by Jews, and sowing the poisonous seeds which came to fruit when Vichi French officials collaborated in the mass murder of French Jewry…

Bat Yeor’, [is] a British inflammatory writer who presumes to be a historian and who, I regret to note, is Jewish.  In this book – which, like the other works of this writer, is little more than a rabid anti-Muslim tract – ‘Bat Yeor’ follows in notorious footsteps indeed by creating the false nightmarish image of a Europe dominated by Arabs and Muslims. As Edouard Drumont sought to arouse the French people to persecute and kill their Jewish neighbours, so does Ms. Littman intend to drive Europeans into a continent-wide orgy of hatred and violence against the Muslim immigrants who are now a significant ethnic minority throughout the continent, and the great majority of whom seek nothing but to live useful and fruitful lives in their new homelands.

Ms. Littman’s reasons for writing her racist and inflammatory book are all too obvious. The reasons why you, a respectable publishing house, have chosen to present it to the Israeli public are far more obscure. Whatever these reasons might be, surely – now that you already taken this step – it would be appropriate to complete your task and produce also a companion volume, i.e. a Hebrew translation of ‘La France Juive’? After all, the informed Israeli reading public deserves to be given the chance of comparing the classical work of a master racist demagogue with that of his loyal present-day disciple and successor.

Craigh Smith of The New York Times refers to Bat Ye’or as one “of the most extreme voices” of the right:

A curious thing is happening in Belgium these days: a small but vocal number of Jews are supporting a far-right party whose founders were Nazi collaborators. The xenophobic party, Vlaams Belang, plays on fears of Arab immigrants and, unlike the prewar parties from which it is descended, courts Jewish votes…

Those fears shape some of the most extreme voices on the new Jewish right. Giselle Littman, who was expelled from Egypt in 1957 and now publishes under the pseudonym Bat Yeor, argues in her latest book, ”Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis,” that Europe has consciously allied itself with the Arab world at the expense of Jews and the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Johann Hari of The Independent writes of Bat Ye’or:

There are intellectuals on the British right who are propagating a conspiracy theory about Muslims that teeters very close to being a 21st century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. Meet Bat Ye’or, a “scholar” who argues that Europe is on the brink of being transformed into a conquered continent called “Eurabia”.

In this new land, Christians and Jews will be reduced by the new Muslim majority to the status of “dhimmis” – second-class citizens forced to “walk in the gutter”. This will not happen by accident. It is part of a deliberate and “occult” plan, concocted between the Arab League and leading European politicians like Jacques Chirac and Mary Robinson, who secretly love Islam and are deliberately flooding the continent with Muslim immigrants. As Orianna Fallacci – one of the best-selling writers in Italy – has summarised the thesis in her hymns of praise to Ye’or, “Muslims have been told to come here and breed like rats.”

Rather than dismissing her preposterous assertions, high-profile writers like Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes and Niall Ferguson laud Ye’or as a suppressed hero, silenced by (you guessed it) “political correctness”. Her name is brandished as a gold standard in right-wing Tory circles. It’s interesting that writers so alert to anti-Semitism have lent their names to an ideology that is so startlingly similar. In this theory, the Star of David has simply been replaced by the Islamic crescent. If the term has any meaning, this is authentic Islamophobia, treating virtually all Muslims as verminous sharia-carriers. So why are these people still treated as serious and sane by the BBC and its editors?

Selective and Shoddy “Scholarship”

Bat Ye’or’s idea of history is nothing short of propaganda.  She said in one interview:

The Arab invaders arrived in [Jerusalem in] the 7th century, devastated the country, massacred and enslaved the population and expropriated the Jewish and Christian indigenous populations, as is related by contemporaneous sources.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As for her actual work on dhimmis (Non-Muslims under Muslim rule) is concerned, it is selective and shoddy “scholarship.”  Professor Robert Brenton Betts, a well-renowned American historian who worked for the Library of Congress and the Department of State, criticizes Bet Ye’or’s book:

The general tone of the book is strident and anti-Muslim. This is coupled with selective scholarship designed to pick out the worst examples of anti-Christian behavior by Muslim governments, usually in time of war and threats to their own destruction (as in the case of the deplorable Armenian genocide of 1915). Add to this the attempt to demonize the so-called Islamic threat to Western civilization and the end-product is generally unedifying and frequently irritating.

(source: Robert Brenton Betts, “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude” Middle East Policy 5-3 ; September 1997, pp. 200-2003)

Professor Michael Sells of the University of Chicago writes:

By obscuring the existence of pre-Christian and other old, non-Christian communities in Europe as well as the reason for their disappearance in other areas of Europe [due to Christian persecution], Bat Ye’or constructs an invidious comparison between the allegedly humane Europe of Christian and Enlightenment values and the ever present persecution within Islam. Whenever the possibility is raised of actually comparing circumstances of non-Christians in Europe to non-Muslims under Islamic governance in a careful, thoughtful manner, Bat Ye’or forecloses such comparison.

(source: The New Crusades: Construction the Muslim Enemy, by Professor Michael Sells, p.364)

In other words, the comparison that Bat Ye’or–and Islamophobes in general–flee from is the one between the Muslim lands in the pre-modern era with the contemporaneous Christian Europe.  Instead, they choose to compare medieval Islamdom with post-enlightenment and postmodern standards, a most unequal and unusually obtuse comparison.  Jan Platvoet sums it up best with a very nuanced answer (emphasis is mine):

Arab scholars praise the tolerance of Islam towards the ‘protected population’.  The Egyptian Qasim ‘Abduh Qasim, for instance, who has published several works on the dhimmis in Muslim lands in general, and Egypt in particular, emphasizes the positive attitude of Muslims towards non-Muslims, even under the regime of the eleventh-century Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, known for his persecution of minorities, especially the Christians.

The opposite point of view is represented by a number of researchers, notably a writer who [uses] the pseudonym Bat Ye’or, i.e. Daughter of the Nile.  She has managed to select from the body of historiographical evidence, chronicles and documents, only that material which portrays the negative aspects.  Some such materials can occasionally be found, relating to various episodes, periods, and areas; it is therefore no wonder that she has succeeded in filling a complete volume, now published in several languages, on the maltreatment of the dhimmis by Muslims.  Bat Ye’or has recently published a new book dedicated exclusively to the long history of Christians under Muslim rule; this book is characterized by the same spirit as her previous book on the dhimmis.

…It seems that the truth lies somewhere in between [Qasim and Bat Ye’or’s version]…The life of the dhimmis in the shade of Islam was certainly not easy, but at least their physical security (aman) and the safety of their property was assured, almost without exception.

(Pluralism and Identity, by Jan Platvoet, p.169)

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

In other words, Bat Ye’or scours historical texts to find all the negative points she possibly can, and then she compiles them into a book.  Naturally, the span of Islamic history was over a thousand years, so she can easily fill up hundreds of pages, giving the credulous reader the false impression that Islamic history was incredibly dastardly.  To give a suitable analogy, let’s say Rodney King were to scour all the reports throughout the country for the last fifty years for all acts of police brutality–and then compiled them into a book–he could easily fill hundreds of pages.  A person who relied on his book would get the false impression that the police were–and are–always brutal, or at least more so than not.  One gets a skewed picture from such a selective analysis.

The Islamophobe Robert Spencer argues that Bat Ye’or’s book is convincing because it is “full…[of] almost half primary source documents so that one can see the voracity of what she is saying from very ancient texts.” Yet it is convincing only because it is selective and biased; Bat Ye’or simply sifted throughout Islamic history to selectively find all the instances of anti-Jewish and anti-Christian persecution, ignoring the overwhelming majority of Islamic history which was characterized according to the overwhelming number of scholars by relative tolerance (for the times, and certainly compared to Christendom); if Bat Ye’or could fill a book with her quotes, it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that we could fill an entire anthology with quotes highlighting the relative tolerance of Muslims.  Taken selectively, Bat Ye’or’s choice of quotes seem damning, but diluted within the proper context, they would be less convincing of an argument.  One can easily carry out such a hatchet job on Christian (and even Jewish) history in a similar fashion.

World renowned Jewish-Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan warns:

By way of conclusion, a word of caution is in order…It must be pointed out that the picture has not been uniformly so rosy and that instances of religious intolerance toward and discriminatory treatment of Jews under Islam are by no means difficult to find. This point is of special relevance at a time in which, following a reawakening of interest in the history of Arab-Jewish relations among Jewish writers and intellectuals, certain interested circles have been trying to…[question the] Judeo-Arabic tradition or symbiosis by digging up scattered pieces of evidence to show that Islam is essentially intolerant…and that Muslims’ contempt for Jews was even greater and more deep-seated than that manifested by Christians…

Such caricatures of the history of Jews under Islam continue to be disseminated by scholars as well as by interested publicists and ideologues. Indeed, all discussion of relations between Jews and Muslims…is beset by the most burning emotions and by highly charged sensitivities. In their eagerness to repudiate the generally accepted version of these relations (a version which, it is worthwhile pointing out, originates not in Muslim books of history but with Jewish historians and Orientalists in nineteenth-century Europe), certain partisan students of the Middle East conflict today seem to go out of their way to show that, far from being the record of harmonious coexistence it is often claimed to be, the story of Jewish-Muslim relations since the time of Muhammad was “a sorry array of conquest, massacre, subjection, spoilation in goods and women and children, contempt, expulsion-[and] even the yellow badge…”

Informed by a fervor seldom encountered in scholarly discourse, some of these latter-day historians have gone so far as to question even the motives of those European-Jewish scholars of the past century who virtually founded modern Oriental and Arabic studies and managed to unearth the impressive legacy of Judeo-Arabic culture, a culture that was undeniably an outcome of a long and symbiotic encounter between Muslims and Jews.

…[But] by the standards then prevailing-and they are plainly the only ones by which a historian is entitled to pass judgment-Spanish Islamic tolerance was no myth but a reality of which present-day Muslim Arabs are fully justified in reminding their contemporaries…Tolerance, then, is a highly relative concept, and the only sensible way of gauging the extent of tolerance in a given society or culture in a given age is to compare it with that prevailing in other societies and cultures in the same period…

The only plausible conclusion one could draw from the whole debate is that, while Jewish life in Muslim Spain-and under Islam generally-was not exactly the idyllic paradise some would want us to believe, it was far from the veritable hell that was the Jews’ consistent lot under Christendom.

Bat Ye’or: The Pioneer of “Dhimmitude”

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Robert Spencer

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Robert Spencer

It should be noted that the Islamophobe Robert Spencer refers to Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude” (emphasis is ours).  The word “pioneer” indicates that she is the first to voice such views.  In other words, the traditional and long-established understanding of academics and historians is at variance with Bat Ye’or’s assessment: Muslim history was characterized by relative lenience and tolerance towards dhimmis.  (Again, all things are relative; while certainly it wouldn’t be considered tolerant to today’s standards and norms, back then it certainly was, evidenced by historical statements from the “dhimmis” themselves.)

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to challenge traditional and established opinion is evidenced by what J.G. Jansen, an outspoken Dutch critic of militant Islam, says:

In 1985, Bat Ye’or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality.

While Jansen’s view that Bat Ye’or’s book is “convincing” is certainly questionable coming from him, his quote is significant in that it shows that up until Bat Ye’or’s book the traditional and predominant scholarly opinion was that Islamic history was characterized by relative tolerance, certainly in comparison to contemporaneous Christendom. Bat Ye’or is after all the one who coined the term “dhimmitude,” which Islamophobes–including Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes–make recurrent use of.

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Pamela Geller

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Pamela Geller

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to counter traditional opinion does not mean that the predominant view of scholars has changed, as Bat Ye’or “is still quite far from entering the European mainstream,” according to Shwartz.  But–according to Wistrich–”a real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years,” as she became accepted in “extreme right-wing circles.”  It is this motley group which is trying through sheer force and fear to influence academia, and push pseudo-intellectuals like Bat Ye’or into the arena of historical discourse.  The fact that the leading Islamophobes reference her (including Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller) indicates the weakness of their sources, and calls to question their own credibility.

Spencer argues that it is only “political correctness” that prevents people from taking Bat Ye’or seriously; no, my Islamophobic friend, it is not political correctness, but academic integrity.  When you consider an Islamophobe to be the leading scholar of Islam in the world, then something is profoundly wrong.  Simply substitute the word “Jews” for “Muslims” in the following sentence and the matter becomes clear: “Muslims will take over Europe.”  Anyone who said that about Jews would be branded an Anti-Semite and academically ostracized, yet hey, it’s open season for Muslim-bashing!

The Bottom Line

Even if we were to accept the fallacious argument that Muslim history was characterized by profound and incessant intolerance, then what does that mean for us today?  The Mongols were historically known to be intolerant, at least the Genghis Khan variety; how should that affect our opinion of Mongolians today?  Do we discriminate against them based on their historical record?  What do the present day Mongolians have to do with those of the past?  Do people inherit sins?

The relevance of Islamic history to today’s popular discourse is questionable.  It is in fact designed to demonize Muslims, but the reality is that the question shouldn’t even arise.  Why is it that Muslims of today are on trial for what their ancestors supposedly did?  Should all nations now demand their pound of flesh from all who wronged their people in ancient times?  Maybe we should create a system of reparations…?

Then what is the end goal for Islamophobes like Bat Ye’or?  Why does she spend so much time pontificating about the historical record?  It all boils down to one thing: immigration. She has highlighted the negative aspects of Islamic history in order to push the argument for a tight control (or rather, full cessation) of Arab and Muslim immigration to Europe.  Indeed, Islamophobia is simply another flavor of xenophobia.

In every generation, there have been xenophobes, who have this irrational fear of the other.  In American history, it started with the Irish and Italian immigrants who were both heavily discriminated against due to their religion and skin color.  Then it was against the Chinese who were brought to build railroads, the Japanese in World War II, and so on.  What history has born out consistently however is that the xenophobes always end up with egg on their faces.  They are on the wrong side; tolerance and multiculturalism always win out over intolerance and bigotry.  The question is: which side are you on?

UPDATE: A related article on dhimmitude can be found here.