Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Muhammad and Child Molestation

I recently received an email from a reader critical of my post Muslims and Muhammad: The Impossible Task. She wrote, "I was a Christian and I left because they always preached the information you have. When I sat with a Muslim from the Sunnah and he explained the truth of the religion from reliable sources I instantly converted.

"As for what you said about Aisha, there is nothing correct in it. For example, he did make a marriage contract with her at 6 years old, but it was not consumated until she reached adulthood at 9. People in those days, even Christians, married and reached adulthood earlier, which has been proven scientifically. Just look at these times it is not uncommon to see young adults pregnant at 9...I can go on and on correcting your misinformation."

I was driving home from work today listening to Dr. Laura. A caller said she was feeling guilty about not wanting to visit her grandfather. Twenty years earlier, when she was 6 years old, he had sexually molested her. Now he was dying in the hospital, and she was conflicted over her feelings towards him.

It took Dr. Laura only a few seconds to get to the point. The caller did not need to feel at all guilty about not wanting to visit the abusive grandfather. It would be good when he died, because at least he could never rape another young child. Hell, it would have been better if he had died 25 years ago, because then he would never have molested her!

The thought struck me like a thunder clap. How was this caller's experience any different than that of Aisha? She was 9 years old when Muhammad robbed her of her childhood and forced her into a sexual relationship. He was 54 - perhaps the same age as the grandfather. Her father Abu Bakr sacrificed the innocence of his daughter for the demands of his Prophet. Aisha went from playing on the swing at her parent's home to playing with her dolls on the floor at the house of Muhammad.

My correspondent only repeated two of the many justifications reached by "Muslims from the Sunnah" who "explain the truth of the religion from reliable sources". The first is that although Aisha was only six when Muhammad told Abu Bakr he wanted her, she was nine when he penetrated her. She was an adult, they argue, at the ripe old age of 9. Really? She was nine years old! Secondly, they claim, it was the culture of the day. Again, really? A Prophet who adapts himself to the culture rather than lifting the culture to new levels?

I think some of the other justifications are much more creative. Some Muslims argue that Allah wanted Aisha to be with Muhammad as many years as possible, since she was the author of more than 3,000 authentic Hadiths. If she had been 14 when he married her, they note, that number would have been cut in half!

Many Western Muslims find it easier to simply deny Hadiths that are offensive to their Prophet, even though these Hadiths have been accepted as authoritative for 1400 years. Aisha was a teenager when she married, they argue, without any original source documentation.

Perhaps the most interesting argument is the circular one used by many Muslim apologists including Turkish writer Fethullah Gulen here. Prophets are perfect and cannot sin. Therefore nothing that a Prophet does can be considered sin. Murder committed by a Prophet cannot be called murder, because a Prophet is perfect and cannot commit murder. Rape done by a Prophet is not rape, because a Prophet is perfect and does not rape. A Prophet's molestation of a nine-year-old child cannot be molestation, because the Prophet is perfect and does not molest.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Iftar at the Ground Zero Mosque (and Rebuilding the World Trade Center)

I went to northern Jersey this weekend to visit a sick relative. When I realized I could view the Manhattan skyline from her hospital window, I decided to take a side trip and see for myself the project that has stirred so much controversy over the past few weeks. A bus and subway ride later I was standing outside the Burlington Coat Factory on Murray Street, home of the proposed lower Manhattan Mosque and Community Center.

I was expecting the building to be locked up, but the door was open and a stern looking man in a black suit stood guard outside. When I asked if  I could enter, he told me I could take a look. I did so, and saw a room to my left with several dozen Muslims and a table filled with food. I had arrived just at the time of Iftar, the breaking of the day's fast during the current month of Ramadan.

The guard followed me inside, and when he realized I was interested in stepping into the prayer room reminded me to take off my shoes. He wouldn't have needed to tell me, as I knew from previous visits to Arab and Islamic countries that Muslims always take off their shoes before entering a mosque. I removed them, walked down into the room, and greeted a young man there. He said they still had two minutes to wait before Iftar, and invited me to join them. Since I had just eaten and had other places to go, I thanked him but declined the invitation.

As I was putting on my shoes, a young woman sitting alone on a chair asked me if I were Muslim. I replied I was not, and asked what had brought her here. She said she was a Christian from a southern state, and wanted to just sit a few minutes to pray for our country. I commented that the proposed mosque seemed to be stirring up a lot of anger, and asked if she felt angry. She said she wasn't, and I said I thought that was good. She then asked if I thought the people inside believed that 9/11 was God's will. I replied, as I have discussed here and here, that Muslims and Christians have different ideas of what constitutes the divine will. In Islam everything that happens, whether good or bad, is part of qadr, the will of Allah. Christians, on the other hand, believe that God allows bad things to happen that are not in his will.

From Murray Street I turned the corner and was facing the empty space that had been the World Trade Center. I couldn't believe this was my first visit; any reader who has not been there but possibly can should go. As I walked around the chain link fence separating spectators from the actual site I had the thought, "Why don't we build the World Trade Center again, higher and mightier and stronger than ever? Isn't that how America replies to threats? What could be a greater blow to our enemies than to see those two buildings (why not three this time?) standing taller and more proud than before along the skyline?"

I know the idea has been discussed and rejected, but I wish I had the influence to put it back on the table. A few minutes later, I struck up a conversation with a late-night security guard on the corner of Broadway and Rector. Like many local residents, he was a treasure trove of knowledge about the immediate area. When I asked what he thought about my idea of rebuilding the towers, he replied one problem was they would have to turn all New York City into a no-fly zone. Every crazy in the world and his brother, he said, would take a small airplane and fly it into the World Trade Center.

I don't think that would be the case. It could occasionally happen of course, as this desperado proved earlier this year in Texas, but why allow that fear to stop us? After all, the old adage still is true that 95% of FEAR is simply False Evidence Appearing Real.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Abdurraheem Green: Muhammad and the Rabbis of Medina

I noted here that non-Muslims often do not fare well in debates with Muslims because the latter easily throw out "facts" the non-Muslim is ill-prepared to counter. I came across a classic example recently while watching a spurious film claiming Muhammad is mentioned by name in the Song of Solomon. In the film, British convert to Islam Anthony Green (now known as Abdurraheem Green) described a conversation with a Jewish Rabbi in London in which the Rabbi insisted that Jews never change their religion. "But," said Green, "Half the Rabbis of Medina became Muslims." The Rabbi replied, "That is true, but still we Jews never change our religion."

Half the Rabbis of Medina accepted Islam? That sounds impressive, but is it true? As is always the case, the only way to find out is not by listening to Muslim apologists but by going back to Islam's original sources.

The most authoritative biography of Muhammad was written 150 years after his death by historian Ibn Ishaq. This biography serves as the main source for current biographies such as In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan and Memories of Muhammad by Omid Safi.

Ibn Ishaq describes in great detail Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD and his initial relationships there. Medina at the time had a majority Jewish population, with educated and prosperous tribes that had migrated there from Jerusalem after being exiled by Roman emperors centuries before. As described in Muhammad and the Jews, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three, Muhammad fully expected these Jews to welcome him as the Prophet he claimed to be. The non-Jewish Arabs of Medina, as noted here, accepted him as their tribal leader in large part to unite them and give them supremacy over the Jews.

Instead of believing in Muhammad, according to Ibn Ishaq, "the Jewish rabbis showed hostility to the Apostle in envy, hatred, and malice, because God had chosen His Apostle from the Arabs...they used to annoy the Apostle with questions and introduce confusion, so as to confound the truth with falsity." Ibn Ishaq even listed some of these questions including this classic, "Why do children sometimes resemble their mothers when the semen comes from the man?" What was the Prophet of God's scientific response? "By God, do you not know that a man's semen is white and thick, while a woman's is yellow and thin? The child will resemble that which first comes to the top!"

Ibn Ishaq went on to name every single Rabbi who opposed Muhammad, as well as those who accepted Islam. Sixty-five Rabbis "stirred up trouble against Islam to try to extingiush it". Only two, Mukhayriq and Abdullah bin Salam, accepted Islam.

There is no indication any of these 65 Rabbis ever accepted Islam. One of them, Labid bin Asam, "bewitched the Prophet of God so that he could not come near his wives" for a year, a little-known fact that most Western Muslims would deny but which has been accepted as true throughout Muslim history.

Among the most vocal of the Jewish Rabbis who questioned Muhammad were three brothers named Huyayy, Abu Yasir, and Judayy. They were exiled a few years later when Muhammad forced their Nadir tribe from Medina and expropriated their goods and property. Huyayy and his young son happened to be back in Medina the following year and were included among the 800 men and boys Muhammad beheaded in his final expulsion of all remaining Jews from the city. Huyayy's daughter Sofiya was exiled to Khaybar where she married a young man named Kinana. When Muhammad raided Khaybar the following year, he tortured and beheaded Kinana to steal his money, and then "married" Sofiya the same night. Muslims still believe this brutal rape was just another example of a young woman "choosing" Muhammad as her husband.

I invite any Muslim scholar who reads this post to verify Green's claim that half the Rabbis of Medina accepted Islam. Until they do so, I'll believe this is just another example of a Muslim apologist deliberately presenting false information to convince non-Muslims (and perhaps quell the doubts of thinking and questioning Muslims) that Muhammad is indeed a Prophet of God and the religion he created is true.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Truth Will Prevail - Muhammad in the Song of Solomon

Truth Will Prevail Productions has released a film rated Approved for All Audiences by the International Motion Picture Association entitled The Absolute Truth About Muhammad in the Bible. The 19 minute film claims that the name of Muhammad is mentioned in the Bible's Song of Songs, and can be viewed here and here.

The Arab media, including the Egyptian press and satellite TV channels, has picked up on the story. With great gusto and pride, talk show pundits boast that now it is "American and Jewish scholars, not just us Muslims" who recognize Muhammad was prophesied in the Bible.

Rashid at Daring Question on the Arabic Al Hayat channel has produced an extensive analysis of the production, as well as its claim that Muhammad was foretold in the Song of Solomon. Arabic speakers can watch it here.

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is a Biblical love poem recited by both a man and his dark-skinned lover (this website has put some of it into music). The erotic language of the poem has been long criticized by both secularists, who accuse it of being pornographic, and Muslims who claim its explicit vocabulary renders it unworthy to be considered sacred (and must be another example of how those nefarious Jews deliberately tampered with their Scriptures!). Some Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians, also uncomfortable with the sexuality of the poem, have seen in it allegorical references to Moses (for the Jews) and Jesus (for the Christians). In a sudden turn of events, the producers at Truth Will Prevail have gone from considering the poem unworthy of being in Scripture at all to being a prediction of the coming of Muhammad!

The problem is that the film itself is a complete fake. There is no Truth Will Prevail production company, and the International Motion Picture Association has never rated a film entitled The Absolute Truth About Muhammad in the Bible. The entire film consists of clips pulled from Youtube including some with voiceovers that say something completely different than the original text. One scene of a man poring over texts, which the film portends is a scholar discovering references to Muhammad from the Hebrew Scriptures, was taken from a National Geographic documentary that had nothing to do with the subject of the film.

What about the claim that Muhammad is in the Song of Solomon? In the first place, it is curious that Muslims even consider that poem part of Scripture. Muslims understand revelation from the perspective of how it was allegedly given to Muhammad. Under some physical influence (some writers described perspiration dripping from him), he uttered sentences given him directly by the angel Gabriel. Muslims believe that although there were many prophets, only five were given a risalah or revelation from God.  These were Abraham, (whose message was lost to history), Moses (the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament), David (the Zabur or Psalms), Jesus (whose risalah was included in the Injil or Gospels written by his disciples), and Muhammad.

The Song of Solomon was written by Solomon, who was not one of those five prophets. Muhammad, who perhaps never even heard of Biblical authors such as Amos or Obadiah, did not indicate that any of Solomon's writings were Scripture. Why would Muslims today claim that Muhammad's name is found in a text of which their Prophet was perhaps not even aware, let alone recognized as sacred?

The supposed mention of Islam's prophet occurs in Song of Solomon 5:16. Concluding a description of the physical beauty of her lover, the woman says, "His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." How does the film conclude the adjective "altogether lovely" is the name of Muhammad?

Arabic and Hebrew are both related Semitic languages, and many words in both languages have similar meanings. They both have a triliteral verb system, which means that many words with a related definition are formed from one three-letter root. In Arabic, the verb ha-ma-da means to praise. The passive particle of this verb, mu-ham-mad or Muhammad, is "the Praised One".

The three-letter verb in Hebrew ha-ma-da means to covet or desire. The adjectival form of this verb,  that which is desired, is mu-ha-meed. Adjectives are made plural in Hebrew by adding -eem, and the Hebrew word in Song of Solomon 5:16 translated as altogether lovely is mu-ha-meed-eem.

Believe it or not, the creator of the film found an online audio file of a Rabbi reading Song of Solomon 5:16 in Hebrew. When the Rabbi read the word "muhameedeem", the filmmaker clipped off  "-eem" and claimed the Rabbi was repeating the name "Muhammad". To make the whole story even more ridiculous, the filmmaker found an online English voice audio service that read in stilted English the text inserted by the filmmaker which he claimed was being said by Jewish Rabbis and Biblical scholars.

A forged film using non-existent evidence to prove Muhammad was a Prophet of God! It would all be funny if it weren't so sad. The sadness stems from the fact that hundreds of millions of Muslim young people around the world, who are not allowed to think critically or creatively, are exposed to rubbish like this and taught that it is true.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Barack Obama's 2010 Iftar Speech

The following section of President Obama's 2010 Iftar speech for Muslim guests at the White House caught my attention, "Let us also remember who we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam - it’s a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders - they’re terrorists who murder innocent men and women and children. In fact, Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion - and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11."

There's nothing unusual about the President's statement that Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. As I noted here, Muslims have been doing that for a long time. What I question, however, is his assertion that al Qaeda's cause is not Islam, its leaders are not religious, and that it is a gross distortion of Islam.

We in the West seem to have a peculiar but fatal ability to believe that we understand people better than they understand themselves. We listen to them, but don't really hear them. We allow them to explain their beliefs and motivation, and then conclude they must not really believe what they say they believe, or that can't really be their motivation.

Who are we to say that Al Qaeda's cause is not Islam, and that its leaders are not motivated by the belief system of its Prophet? Even more important, why are we all so desperate - from the President on down - to believe that?

I doubt if the President has carefully read The Al Qaeda Reader, edited and translated by Raymond Ibrahim, or Al Qaeda In Its Own Words, edited by Gilles Kepel and Jean-Pierre Milelli. These aren't the books his Muslim aides and advisors suggest he keep on his nightstand. Ibrahim notes in his foreword that the writings of Al Qaeda second-in-command Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri "are grounded in Islam's roots of jurisprudence; in fact, of the many thousands of words translated here from his three treatises, well more than half are direct quotations from the Koran, the sunna of Muhammad, and the consensus and conclusions of the ulema." Ibrahim also quotes Osama bin Ladin reminding his followers that "our Prophet...did not remain more than three months in Medina without leading or sending a raiding party into the lands of the infidels to beat down their strongholds and seize their possessions, their lives, and their women."

In his translation of Dr. al-Zawahiri's text "The Basis of Loyalty and Separation in Islam", Kepel notes that al-Zawahiri explains at great length from both the Koran, the life of Muhammad, and the exegesis of Muslim scholars why Muslims should not collaborate with non-Muslims, why they should not befriend them, why they should not place them in positions of authority, and why they should not respect them and their laws. As I noted here, Muslims Shaykhs recently used these same texts to argue that Muslims should not admire non-Muslim members of World Cup soccer teams, or even watch the matches.

But we don't want to face it. We don't want to believe that those whom we dismiss as "terrorists" are the ones who have dedicated their lives to following their Prophet in the most minute details of his life and commands. We don't want to acknowledge that thousands of Jews in Medina, who had lived in peace and prosperity for hundreds of years before Muhammad arrived from Mecca in 622 AD, were all dead or exiled within just a few years simply for refusing to accept him as the Prophet he claimed to be, and that all the Christian and Jewish tribes of Arabia experienced the same fate a few short years later.

What would happen if we all were just a little less fearful and a little more honest? What if non-Muslims in positions of influence, such as America's president, had the integrity to challenge Muslims with the actions from the life of their Prophet and the texts of the Quran and the Hadith that are incompatible with peace and freedom in the 21st century? What would happen if Muslims had the courage to respond, "Yes, it is true that is what Muhammad did, and that is what the Quran says, but we don't do or believe that anymore." After all, that is how Jews respond when told that the Torah called for the stoning of adulterers, and Christians respond when reminded that Paul said it was a shame for a man to have long hair or for a woman to cut her hair.

Echoing the words of Martin Luther King Jr., I also "have a dream". It's for the day when Muslims, Jews, and Christians will stand together and say, "Yeah, that was some weird stuff going on back in the day, some strange things for Moses / Paul / Muhammad to do and say. Must of had something to do with their own hangups, maybe something in the water, or the culture of the time. But thank God, we don't do that anymore."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time Magazine: What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan

It had been years since I bought a copy of TIME magazine, and the 29 July issue with the picture of yet another mutilated Muslim woman on the cover explains why. I didn't even have to read the article to get author Aryn Baker's point. The Taliban are really bad. They throw acid on young girls who want to go to school, and cut off the noses of young women like Aisha who want to escape abusive family situations. If we leave, things could get worse.

I'd like to make two comments. The first is that all that is happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan is that Muslims are doing what they have been doing for the last 14 centuries with great abandonment and delight; fighting and slaughtering other Muslims. The second is that the key to helping girls like Aisha experience freedom and wholeness does not lie in defeating the Taliban.

Even during my lifetime the litany of Muslim on Muslim killing, starting from North Africa and moving eastward, has been impressive. The Moroccan Mauritanian war of the 1980's drained the economies of both countries and cost thousands of lives. Who knows how many tens of thousands (some estimates are much higher) were tortured and killed in Algeria during the nineties insurgency of Islamists against the government? Libya started a senseless war with Chad, and Egypt's President Nasser invaded Yemen in a war that was just as stupid. Yasser Arafat's PLO flexed their muscles in Jordan one too many times, with the result that King Hussain expelled them to Lebanon where they again tried to tip the balance of power and were influential in the start of Lebanon's Civil War. Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad's response to criticism in the city of Hama was to slaughter 15,000 Syrians. Iran and Iraq lunged headlong into a war that left one million dead (who even remembers what started it or why?). Further East, thousands of East Bengalis were murdered and raped by Pakistani soldiers before those two countries divided into Pakistan and Bangladesh in the early 1970's.

Everyone has their own theory about why President Bush invaded Iraq in 2002. Whatever his reason, he certainly had no idea what would result. The Sunni - Shia divide that is so little understood in the West resulted in the death and displacement of millions of Iraqis, to say nothing of the death of over 5,000 American soldiers and a cost of literally trillions of dollars.

One would think that President Obama could have learned. George Bush didn't have a clue about Islam (I'd bet a month's salary he went into the war unable to tell the difference between the Sunnis and the Shia), but President Obama thinks he understands Islam. With his advisors and his generals, he divides the playing field into good guys and bad guys, reconcilables with incorrigibles. For the first time in history thousands of young American soldiers are being killed, with arms and legs flying all over the place and irreparable burn and brain damage caused by homemade Improvised Explosive Devices, just to fight Muslims who hate us only more than they hate each other.

We're placing our bets on the hope that young girls like Aisha will have better lives if we but defeat the Taliban, but totally ignoring the reality that they will reach their full potential only when they and the men who control their lives leave their Prophet Muhammad far behind.

Morocco, considered by many to be a modern, prosperous, Western-leaning country, has a rural literacy rate for women of ten percent. Afghanistan has always been far behind that. Ask any Saudi girl who has graduated from one of her country's universities to honestly describe her classroom environment, where she was forced to sit in separate classroom and watch lectures via video, with that of her male compatriots. Listen to students describe how no Muslim girl has ever graduated from the Pardada Pardadi School for Girls in India because their families place no value on their education. Consider the fact that Muhammad placed no interest in the education of his own wives, and ask yourself why in the name of God's great earth would we imagine that his followers in Afghanistan 14 centuries later really want to give young girls like Aisha the opportunity to believe whatever they choose, accomplish whatever they can, marry whomever they love, and be whatever they were created to be?