Friday, 22 July 2011

Curious Reading: Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, Part 2

And here we go with the second installment of my ripping through Dr Naik's booklet "Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam".  So without further ado, let's get to it!

Chapter 3. Hijab for Women

Here we go into another tricky topic for those with an interest in Islam and Women's Rights.  Doctor Naik begins the chapter by pointing out how ancient civilisations of the past have degraded their women, citing Babylon, Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations.  He uses Pandora as an example for Greek civilisation's degradation of women, for being the root cause of misfortune to human beings world wide. Please tell me I'm not the only one who felt like laughing at the irony that he used a myth as an example?  Not only that, but he himself calls her an 'imaginary woman'.  But I digress.  He also mentions in all these civilisations, sexual perversion and prostitution is rife, with women at the bottom tier of all societies.  Even in Pre-Islamic Arabia, he says that Arabs looked down on women.  (No change there, really).

So, what of his argument for the hijab?  Well, first he extols Islam as giving women equality and expects them to maintain status.  He hastens to add that men also have hijabs.
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." (Al-Qur'an an 24:30)
So, a man's hijab is merely to look away if he starts thinking 'brazen or unashamed thoughts' about a woman he's looking at.  But if that's the case, then any honest man will end up walking into walls or lamposts more often.  Let's face it, men are no strangers to sexual thoughts, just like women.  And what of women?
"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appeart thereof; that they should draw veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons..." (Al Qur'an an 24:31)
Doesn't that seem a little one sided to anyone?  A man has to look away, but a woman has to cover up?  I have nothing against modesty - I think every woman has her day where she doesn't want to slap up but really, is full body coverage necessary?

So, Doctor Naik, what are the criterion for hijab?  Well, first off, he very briefly lays out the obligatory dress code for men, namely 'to cover the body at least from the navel to the knees'. For women, 'the extent of covering obligatory is to cover the complete body except the face and hands upto the wrist.  If they wish to, they can cover even these parts of the body'.  All right...still not helping on the one-sidedness there. And there's more as well, although this time it applies to both genders.
  • The clothes worn should be loose and should not reveal the figure.
  • The clothes worn should not be transparent such that someone can see through them.
  • The clothes worn should not be so glamourous as to attract the opposite sex.
  • The clothes worn should not resemble that of the opposite sex.
  • The clothes worn should not resemble that of the unbelievers i.e. they should not wear clothes that are specifically identities or symbols of the unbelievers' religions.
Quite the dress code there.  Pass me that potato sack, Doctor Naik, I'm feeling decidedly exposed now compared to that list.

Oh wait, fuck that!

There is nothing wrong with the human body that it requires a complete camoflage like that.  As for resembling the opposite sex, that's a point against encouraging transexuals or effeminate or butch dressers in their community as well.  And we all know that sexual attraction ranks lowest when we view the opposite sex, obviously!  That's why we don't have to even look at them or be interesting to look at; how dare we?  Actually, that's something I don't get - the suggested covering for men is only from the belly button to the knees, and yet you can't attract the opposite sex with the way you dress.  Don't they think a woman would catch a big eyeful if guys went along with that, or is that too immodest for the woman as well? (Oh wait, of course it is.  We're not supposed to be sexually aware).

But the hijab isn't all about how you dress.  It's about how you act as well.  Everything should be modest, from how we walk, talk, behave.  Bland, dull and homogenous.  I don't know if it occured to Dr Naik and others like him, but we're humans, not sheep.  We possess a thing called individuality.  Personality.  Some of us will be louder than others, more confident.  This enforced dress code is simply a way to drain independant thought from people, not just women.  And when you take that away from people, then they are far easier to preach to with no argument.

But that's not all.  The other reason for hijab for women - their own protection!  The hijab is supposed to be a billboard for men; that the woman is of the modest sort and it will put them off raping her.  There's also a situational example provided - the Example of Twin Sisters.
Suppose two sisters who are twins, and who are equally beautiful, walk down the street.  One of them is attired in the Islamic hijab i.e. the complete body is covered, except for the face and the hands up to the wrists.  The other sister is wearing western clothes or a mini skirt.  Just around the corner there is a hooligan or ruffian who is waiting for a catch, to tease a girl.  Whom will he tease?  The girl wearing the Islamic Hijab or the girl wearing the mini skirt?  Naturally he will tease the girl wearing the mini skirt.  Such dresses are an indirect invitation to the opposite sex for teasing and molestation.  The Qur'an rightly says that hijab prevents women from being molested.
Hmm, now, I'm not a criminal psychologist, but won't a rapist firstly focus on assaulting a woman walking by on her own?  Not with her sister or friends or whatever?  They don't particularly want to be caught, after all.  It won't matter if that woman was modestly dressed - if a man already has it in his head he wants to rape a woman, he will do it, hijab or not.  And is it me, or does the whole dress thing also smack heavily of "blame the victim"?  I'll be frank, I once thought like that.  That if you dress like a whore, expect to be treated like one.  However, I had since looked in the mirror.  I have walked out the door in shorts or mini skirts before.  It's not me inviting men, indirectly or otherwise, to molest me.  Oh, and incidentally, the men who do see me dressed like that don't instantly decide to attack me.  Oh no, don't tell me, it must be that those men ARE NOT MINDLESS FUCKING ANIMALS!  They are free to appreciate a woman's beauty, but it's not as if they're going to instantly want to rape them!  Leave that to the ruffians, hooligans and people whom other men would not want representing their gender. 

The argument Dr Naik presents about Western society's false claim of women's liberation being a disguised form of exploitation then becomes laughable.  We are not degraded in body, soul and honour.  Having pride in our appearance is not degrading, and our souls are not any more tarnished for it.  We are not "mere tools in the hands of pleasure seekers and sex marketeers". 

The closing sentiment in this chapter is the kicker as well.  After his talk of the hijab preserving a woman's modesty, he brings out statistics on rape cases in America, which leads onto, wait for it....

Implementation of Islamic Sharia law!

You KNEW that was coming.

But wait!  It makes PERFECT sense.  Sharia law implements capital punishment for rapists, so that should be reason enough.  What husband doesn't want to punish a man who rapes his wife?  What father wouldn't want to kill the man who would hurt his little girl?  But hang on a sec.  Isn't this Sharia Law the same one that demands that a woman brings four male witnesses OF THE RAPE IN ACTION to prove it!?  Isn't this the same law that decrees that a married woman cannot be raped because sex is part of her duties as a wife, no questions asked?  Isn't this the same law that punishes raped women who cannot find witnesses to their rapes, executing them and labelling them adulterers? 

Umm, excuse me Dr Naik, but keep your Sharia Law.  I much prefer living in secular Britain, where religion has no place in politics and law, where a woman isn't blamed for her sexual assault, where a woman's testimony is enough to start an investigation and where she is not at risk of being executed for being a liar. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Curious Reading: Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, Part 1

I have recently bought myself some booklets off eBay about Islam, produced by the Islamic Dawah Centre International (I.D.C.I), thinking they should be an interesting read.  And interesting they are.  The first one I opened up is titled Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, written by Dr Zakir Naik.  I did a little background research on him, and let's just say he's not very well liked in Muslim circles either.  So, this already picqued my curiosity on what he has to say...

Chapter 1.  Polygamy

And we hurtle headlong into one of my favourite topics in Islam.  And wow, does it get the blood boiling.  Here, Dr Naik attempts to justify polygyny (a man taking on multiple wives), firstly by pointing out that the Qur'an is the only holy text that encourages men to "marry only one", quoting this verse
"Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one." (Al-Qur'an an 4:3)
 The clause there is that you should deal justly with all of them, but how many men can say they can?  Ah, there's a verse for that as well.
"You are never able to be fair and just as between women..." (Al- Qur'an an 4:129)
He goes on to say therefore that polygyny isn't a rule, but an exception.  It's permissible in Islam, but not compulsory.  But then why is is even mentioned in the first place?  Well, Dr Naik says that it isn't PRACTICAL for a man to only have one wife.  The ratio of men to women in the world leans too greatly to the women, therefore, there's not enough potential husbands out there for these women.  And the alternative for these women, living as unmarried spinsters, isn't even an option for him.
"Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in the USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in the USA.  The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes 'public property'.  There is no other option.  All those who are modest will opt for the first."  (Emphasis mine)
 "Most women would not like to share their husband with other women.  But in Islam when the situation deems it necessary Muslim women endued with faith could bear a small personal loss to prevent a greater loss of letting other Muslim sisters becoming 'public properties'."
 Public property!?  Women are not objects to be shared around the community and yet unless she's married, she's fair game?  And I love the cheek of the second paragraph.  It's down to the already married woman to show grace and allow her husband to take a second wife so that her 'sister' doesn't end up living the shameful life of being public property.  So by not allowing her husband to commit polygamy, it's the wife who's at fault.  Nice one.  After all, it's the lesser of two evils, isn't it?

Chapter 2. Polyandry

And what of the other side of the coin?  Why is polygyny allowed, but not polyandry (woman taking on multiple husbands)?  Here's what he says
"Let me first state emphatically, that the foundation of an Islamic society is justice and equality.  Allah has created men and women as equal, but with different capabilities and different responsibilities.  Men and women are different, physiologically and psychologically.  Their roles and responsibilities are different.  Men and women are equal in Islam, but not identical."
Here we go, straight into the roundabout nature of gender roles.  So, what reasons does he give?
1. If a man has more than one wife, the parents of the children born of such marriages can easily be identified.  In case of a woman marrying more than one husband, only the mother of the children born of such marriages will be identified and not the father.
This was his longest reason, going on to say how psychologically damaging it is for a child to not know their parents and that if a woman with more than one husband had to enrol her child into school, she would have to endure the shame of submitting two names for the child.  He does admit DNA tests nowadays can remove that confusion, citing "this point was applicable for the past may not be applocable for the present".  No shit.  Besides, there are plenty of children in the world who don't know their parents.  It's not nice, but they don't all instantly become psychologically damaged - it's down to how they are raised with the guardians they do have.  Hell, my youngest niece barely knows what her father looks like and she's the brightest, smartest and most well adjusted child I know.  And that's because she has a wonderful mother to raise her.
2. Man is more polygamous by nature as compared to a woman.
What?  Wow, so by nature, a man wants more sex than a woman?  That's why he's allowed more than one wife?  So, what of the women out there who do have multiple partners?  I suppose they're the exception to the rule, or are they 'public property'?
3. Biologically, it is easier for a man to perform his duties as a husband despite having several wives.  A woman, in a similar position, having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife.  A woman undergoes several psychological and behavioural changes due to different phases of the menstural cycle.
And he tries delving into science for this one.  So, a man is completely capable of sleeping with more women, but a woman can't possibly sleep with more than one man?  Because she's biologically incapable to do so?  Oh, and lastly...
4. A woman who has more than one husband will have several sexual partners at the same time and has a high chance of acquiring venereal or sexually transmitted diseases which can also be transmitted back to her husband even if all of them have no extra-marital sex.  This is not the case in a man having more than one wife, and none of them having extra-marital sex.
I don't know how to break it to you, "Doctor" Naik, but STIs don't work like that.  All it takes is for one of either gender to have an infection for all of them to catch it through sex.  It doesn't matter if it's one wife between a couple of husbands or one husband between a couple of wives and none of them sleep with someone outside of the marriage.

And just in case those reasons don't leave you scratching your head, this chapter's closing statement is this.
The above reasons are those that one can easily identify.  There are probably many more reasons why Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has prohibited polyandry.
These reasons all scream extreme bullshit to me.  Although he tries to paint polygamy as inherrently good for women, he has done nothing but insult both women AND men in his reasonings.  Men are promiscuous, so having multiple partners is a good thing for him.  It's like saying men are inherrently violent, so we should allow them to beat the crap out of other people.  And women are not honourable unless they marry, even if it mean marrying a man who is already married, or else she becomes 'public property' and lives an unprotected and undignified life.  Well, excuse me Dr Naik, but I am my own woman.  I am not public property and by implying I am such is incredibly insulting and frankly, false.

There are many problems associated with polygamy, whichever gender follows it.  I find it very difficult to understand why someone would attempt to defend it, especially when they argue on behalf of one gender and not the other.  It just screams of entitlement and in this case, male supremacy.  Which, to be honest, Zakir Naik is a massive fan of. 

I'll stop the post here for now.  There're more chapters of this booklet which I will tear through in a later blog post, just so I don't overload this one.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bob Larson: The Pimpin' Exorcist.

Demon possession and exorcisms are a great money-spinner for those eloquent readers of holy scripture who want to swindle a bit of cash from the gullible and vulnerable, we all know this.  They glamourise their so-called profession, making it seem like it's almost a neccessity to have them around, to protect us from the evils of Satan.  Even though these fraudsters are often debunked and revealed for the fakes they are, they have fooled enough people to believe what they do is real and to stand up and vouch for them.

One guy I'm focussing on this time is one Reverend Bob Larson.  I only hit upon him by chance today whilst browsing the magazine rack at work, bored out of my mind.  It was the headline "I'm a TEENAGE EXORCIST" that caught me.  So, succumbing to my curiosity, I shelled out the 70p for the magazine.

The article was about a young woman called Savannah Scherkenback, a nineteen year old from Arizona.  She talks about her studies under Reverend Larson, how she's studying to be an exorcist after she went to his ministry for an exorcism (which, to be honest, sounded more like she needed a Senokot and a good fart). 

And young Savannah isn't the only young exorcist in the ministry.  In fact, Bob Larson has quite a few young ladies under his wing, training them in the ways of scamming the vulnerable exorcising demons.  In fact, in the Reverend's own words,
We've found that our female, teenage exorcists are particularly effective, because they're so sensitive and very pure.
Excuse me whilst I suppress this ominous shudder down my back.  

Others in Savannah's class include her younger sister Tess, Larson's own 16 year old daughter Brynne and Melanie and Christina Massih.  All of them under 20 years old, all of them very beautful girls and all of them believing this bull of demons possessing people and stalking the planet for prey.  I will commend them for their intended spirit - by all accounts, they believe they're doing good in the world.  But I can't help but gawk at them.  The people they help sound genuinely in need of professional medical and psychiatric help, like most victims of exorcisms.  Unfortunately, these girls have been brainwashed into a cult, thinking themselves as warriors for God.  I dread to think what would happen to one of these girls if one of their exorcisms goes wrong and either they or their client ends up seriously hurt or dead?  

In my search for info about this guy, I found his website, a Facebook page dedicated to him and a Youtube account with videos of his exorcisms.  Incidentally, his website offers a "Demon Test" so you can find out if you're in need of his ministry (although you do need to pay $4.99 for the privilege, which I am just not inclined to do right now); his Youtube channel is probably not for the faint-hearted.  I only watched the most recent video which was uploaded in April, but it did take a lot for me to sit and watch it as he exorcised a demon from two women.  Even though it was him shouting a lot and waving his Bible around, I have a certain awful taste at the back of my throat about it.  I suppose because I know how easy it is to fool someone into thinking they are possessed.  I know, being someone who believed that themselves (I might blog about that some day, actually).  

This isn't his first apperance in any media, by any means, but learning about Bob Larson has made me wonder - just how many of these people are there?   And just how much do people believe them?  It kinda makes me sad to think about it too much.

And yeah, I'm still raising a skeptical eyebrow over his popular team of sensitive and pure teenaged female exorcists.  I'm sure I've seen that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Musical Monday - Children of Africa

If you haven't heard of Symphony of Science, I suggest you look up their playlist now.  They're heavy on the auto-tune, but it works. 

Not my favourite of their collection (it's still We're All Connected), but this is still a good song and it does grow on you.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Faith in World essay competition

I have to admit, I was a massive geek in high school. Essay writing was my forte; there was something about researching a topic and writing it out in your own words with your own opinions that always stirred something in me. 

So, hearing about the Faith in World essay competition really picqued my interest, and really made me wish I was back in high school so I could join in (though what I would have written then would probably make me cringe now).  Run by the Archbishop of Canterbury, I wrongly thought he would only extol essays that lauded over faith and belief in God.  Indeed, the essays that have won or received honourable commendations have ranged greatly in their handling of faith.  And as said by the Archbishop, it's encouraging to see the level of thinking teenagers nowadays extending to something greater than who the next X-Factor winner should be. 

It would be interesting to read the full essays of the winners and commended writers, but for now, I will put down my favourite quote from one of the commended writers, by Richard Picardo, aged 15.
“We, as an intelligent race, are born with the innate ability to empathise with others, and with a strong desire to help people, even if our efforts go unrecognised or unrewarded. Indeed, many values which are fundamental principles of our modern society were not acquired because of religion, but rather due to visionaries who had the courage to fight organised religion and the state for what they believed in. Do we need to be religious to be good? Absolutely not.”