Category: Islam


by Andrea Elizabeth

After reading the part in The Deerslayer, the first of The Leatherstocking Tales by James, Fenimore Cooper, where Deerslayer comes across an ornate chess piece in the image of an elephant, I am rethinking idolatry. Not understanding it’s use as a chess piece, Deerslayer at first thinks it’s a graven image and an idol and thus should be disposed of. Even after he understands that it is part of a game, and thus justified (not sure how that makes a difference with his logic) he does not believe it should be given to the Indians who would make an idol of it. Indeed, his faithful Indian companion, Chingachgook, is quite captivated and enraptured by it.

I understand that things are to come after God in our hearts. And I understand that the purest Saints were never attached to things, and in extremely pious cases, rejected even their mother’s milk for Communion. They were unusually attracted to God alone (setting aside the different context in which the Protestants put these two words). In most cases, however, people form attachments to things that either end up breaking their hearts, or they grow out of, or sadly don’t get past while their appetite for it increases.

My current inclination is that idol smashing can be too harshly done. Burning books, which is criticized in this story, though to me the scenario was similar; dynamiting statues; and defacing icons seem heartbreaking instead of relationship to God building. Protestants point to Old Testament examples, but like killing God’s enemies, this can be too easily and simplistically applied. I think people’s bonding to these things should be seen as immature attachments, like to a baby’s security blanket, and not so much as letting evil influences have their way, though I wont totally discount that. I believe these objects should be gently replaced, but in the case of icons, they are part of the replacement, given the proper context, which was needed and amended in the 8th Century.

Weaning too soon and too harshly wounds the person and can cause them to put up walls against the God they are supposed to believe loves them and has a better way. I believe this happened with the American Indians in the lower 48. Canada and Alaska have different stories, and in Alaska’s case, I believe that it is because their fragile hearts were more respected by the Orthodox missionaries.

death and taxes

by Andrea Elizabeth

It was jolting when after KERA’s sensitive documentary on people’s spiritual journeys after 9/11, they immediately air a show on finance. They had talked about how people got in touch with the importance of love and kindness over materialism, then, money starts floating through the air to promote the next show. Yuck.

I remember being told as a teenager after Christian summer camp that it’s hard to go back to the world after these mountain-top, spiritual experiences. Being confronted with death isn’t exactly a mountain-top experience, but it is a very spiritual one. Our culture tells us that we have to put these things behind us and re-engage with the world’s concerns. Materialism and entertainment seem to be at the top of this list. The family members interviewed on NBC last night demonstrated slightly different degrees of separation from 9/11. What happened 10 years ago was still very vivid to all of them, but one lady in particular seemed to be having a hard time coping. She has remained immersed in the sadness of it.

I wonder if there is a way to not despair and to not get distracted by the world’s concerns at the same time. The Fathers tell us to keep death in our minds at all times. Not a morbid fascination, but an awareness that this present circumstance has more dimensions to it than the one we often get caught up in. Somehow death can illuminate these other dimensions. In remembering those who have passed on, hopefully we can see clearer those who are still with us.

One of the most touching reflections on the KERA show was about the people who jumped out of the windows to escape the fire. How their holding hands with others on the way out was a picture of how humans can connect and find love and support amidst the most desperate circumstances. Another person said their leaving the fire in that manner demonstrated a choice to be placed in the hands of God instead of the fire.

There was also a discussion on religious tolerance. One priest generated controversy by wanting to share the pulpit with other religious leaders. I don’t agree with sharing the pulpit in Church, but I do believe God cares for everyone and that he will probably save, or at least give more people the opportunity to be saved than our exclusive claims can suggest. I think at least Orthodoxy best explains and contextualizes what is more commonly experienced. 9/11 brought people in touch with death in a unique, attention-getting way. People felt more connected with the departed in their efforts to save, rescue, and recover people they cared about more that day than they realized. Now, how to remain in that awareness.

Of course we can’t totally forget about money, and even happier thoughts. Perhaps the re-designers of Ground Zero are finding the right balance. It looks like they are keeping the original craters where the twin towers stood empty with water curtains on the basement walls. People describe those sites as sacred and I agree that it shouldn’t be covered up. But they are building an even taller office building right next to it. This is an act of defiance that I agree with. It seems resurrectional to me. As did the two beams of light where the towers once stood that they displayed at the original memorial service. There is a proper way to think about money in context with love for others, but mostly I think finances are way too talked about. Lord have mercy.

Steven to Cat to Yusuf

by Andrea Elizabeth

I remember this song being in our Baptist hymnbook.

In the Wikipedia article about Cat Stevens‘ sudden conversion to Islam in 1977, I notice the following things.

His birth name was Steven Demetre Georgiou. His father was Greek Orthodox and his mother was Lutheran. They divorced when he was 8 and he attended Catholic school.

Somehow with that background,

While vacationing in Marrakech, Morocco, shortly after visiting Ibiza, Stevens was intrigued by the sound of the Aḏhān, the Islamic ritual call to prayer, which was explained to him as “music for God”. Stevens said, “I thought, music for God? I’d never heard that before – I’d heard of music for money, music for fame, music for personal power, but music for God!”[46]

In 1976 Stevens nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, California and claims to have shouted: “Oh God! If you save me I will work for you.” He says that right afterward a wave appeared and carried him back to shore. This brush with death intensified his long-held quest for spiritual truth. He had looked into “Buddhism, Zen, I Ching, Numerology, tarot cards and Astrology”.[19] Stevens’ brother David Gordon brought him a copy of the Qur’an as a birthday gift from a trip to Jerusalem.[11] Stevens took to it right away, and began his transition to Islam.

During the time he was studying the Qur’an, he began to identify more and more with the name of Joseph, a man bought and sold in the market place, which is how he says he had increasingly felt within the music business.[26] Regarding his conversion, in his 2006 interview with Alan Yentob,[47] he stated, “to some people, it may have seemed like an enormous jump, but for me, it was a gradual move to this.” And, in a Rolling Stone Magazine interview, he reaffirmed this, saying, “I had found the spiritual home I’d been seeking for most of my life. And if you listen to my music and lyrics, like “Peace Train” and “On The Road To Find Out”, it clearly shows my yearning for direction and the spiritual path I was travelling.”[48] Stevens had been seeking inner peace and spiritual answers throughout his career, and now believed he had found what he had been seeking.

Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, seems to have been somewhat naive about Islam’s corporal and capital punishments, which initially got him into trouble with statements about how the Koran’s punishment for blasphemy is death.

The singer attracted controversy in 1989, during an address to students at London’s Kingston University, where he was asked about the fatwa calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie. The media interpreted his response as support for the fatwa. Yusuf released a statement the following day denying that he supported vigilantism, and claiming that he had merely recounted the legal Islamic punishment for blasphemy. In a BBC interview, he displayed a newspaper clipping from that time period, which quotes from his statement. Subsequent comments made by him in 1989 on a British television programme were also seen as being in support of the fatwa. In a statement in the FAQ section of his web site,[55] Yusuf asserted that he was joking and that the show was improperly edited. In the years since these comments, he has repeatedly denied ever calling for the death of Rushdie or supporting the fatwa.

This is one of the most compelling idealistic pros about Islam to me:

Yusuf himself discusses this topic on his website, saying, “It’s true that I have asked my manager to respectfully request lady presenters refrain from embracing me when giving awards or during public appearances, but that has nothing to do with my feelings or respect for them. Islam simply requires me to honour the dignity of ladies or young girls who are not closely related to me, and avoid physical intimacy, however innocent it may be.” He adds, “My four daughters all follow the basic wearing of clothes which modestly cover their God-given beauty. They’re extremely well educated; they do not cover their faces and interact perfectly well with friends and society.”

However, he lives in the more liberal environments of England and Dubai, and he is wealthy.

But this song perhaps holds the key to his initial departure,

Sharia law 3

by Andrea Elizabeth

Regarding what we westerners consider extreme forms of punishment, even though some of them are found in the Old Testament, I think Christ taught us the way to better handle things. Love of the person comes before the rule. The rules are not in opposition to this however. The backlash to severe punishment has been to throw the rules out as well (abstaining from the cliche). But the rules teach us what holiness looks like. Ideally we shouldn’t need fear of punishment to make us behave correctly. This is for the immature and obstinate.

There are better reasons to love God and neighbor. Mainly it’s because that’s how God made us. My Priest said Sunday that God did not create us already obedient, but gave us free will instead. Now that we do have more freedoms of choice, after a backlash of too much permissiveness and its inability to fulfill a person, I  wonder if more will freely choose a more ascetic religion and will want to come taste and see Orthodox Christianity.

Sharia law 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

More from this Wikipedia article.

I am pretty traditional regarding women’s roles, and thus am not too upset by these rules:

There are no priests or clergy needed in order to perform rites and sacraments in Islam. The leader of prayer is known as an imam. Men can lead both men and women in prayer, but women do not traditionally lead men in prayer.[177] In practice, it is much more common for men to be scholars than women, however in the early days of Islam, female scholars were much more common.[178] Islam does not prohibit women from working, as it says “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”[179] Married women may seek employment although it is often thought in patriarchal societies that the woman’s role as a wife and mother should have first priority.

Islam unequivocally allows both single and married women to own property in their own right.[180] Islam grants women the right to inherit property from other family members, and these rights are detailed in the Qur’an. A woman’s inheritance is different from a man’s, both in quantity and attached obligations. [Qur’an 4:12] For instance, a daughter’s inheritance is usually half that of her brothers [Qur’an 4:11]. Sharia law requires family members females or males to support each other as needed; compare female inheritance in Salic law. Men are fully obliged to financially maintain their household, whereas women are not; it is often said that even if the woman is a millionaire and he is poor, he is still obliged to spend on her. She is not obliged to share her wealth with her husband unless she does so out of kindness.

It is pointed out that formerly women under British law had less rights than is described above. All these patriarchal rules work if the men are present and lovingly respect their wives, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Traditionally women and disadvantaged children relied on the charity of others if things didn’t work out well with the father of the children. The argument that people in society felt more obligated to care for these unfortunates carries some weight, and perhaps when women demanded more rights, there was  a sort of response from God, “you want to be king too? here, then, see how you like it” with the result that now it is harder for a woman to stay home with her kids even if she wants to. Or maybe, women are just less willing to live in a trailer home nowadays.

Having grown up with the idea that freedom is the highest, worth dying for, priority, I like that women can choose to be educated and have a career, but I agree with the above that children should be the first priority. With emphasis on an individual mother’s right to pursue her own happiness, I feel like children have been left behind, generally speaking.

I never had to take the stand in the court cases we were drawn into, and I am glad. But if a crime had been committed against me, and there wasn’t a credible man (or I guess 4 men) to take up my cause, it would be sad that I couldn’t be heard. But again, if men loose that responsibility, there could be a backlash where men take less care. I don’t know. Seems like a lot of bad things got overlooked in these one-sided societies.

But now that equal rights is the priority in our society, with global pressure on all societies, the cat’s out of the bag. To force Sharia law on people who are used to women being given more equal treatment wont work, imo, unless the woman really is tired of that freedom (and I believe women, as the weaker sex, have less strength to provide for a family and thus burn out quicker). Orthodoxy is facing the accusation of being backward now. Women pastors and priests have almost become normal for most people, so for the Orthodox to deny this is shock enough. Add to that some traditionalist mindset where women are treated like brainless children (though even in Orthodoxy, originally women had more intellectual credibility. What happened at the turn of the millennium? the Schism?), then there’s going to be a clash. I don’t think women should blindly surrender themselves to an autocratic ruler. Maybe I want to have my cake and eat it too. (Told you I like cliche’s. To me they are a way to uphold tradition and community.)

The article’s treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic lands seems a bit white-washed. I have heard numerous accounts of forced conversions and stifling of Christian worship, though it has not been totalitarian since many Christian Churches survive in Islamic lands.

Sharia law

by Andrea Elizabeth

If I’m going to say, “the evils of Sharia law”, I reckon I need to know more about it besides the brutal punishments I’ve heard about, so…. Wikipedia ironically says, “In archaic Arabic, the term sharì’a means ‘path to the water hole.’…” at the beginning of their extensive article.

The article goes on to describe how Muslim practices aren’t to deviate from Koran’s truth, but that tribal bodies need to interpret how they are worked out in local life. Sounds familiar.

This is interesting and more nuanced than I had thought:

The categories of human behavior

Fiqh classifies behavior into the following types or grades: fard (obligatory), mustahabb (recommended), mubah (neutral), makruh (discouraged), and haraam (forbidden). Every human action belongs in one of these five categories.[67]

[pretend this is indented too] Actions in the fard category are those required of all Muslims. They include the five daily prayers, fasting, articles of faith, obligatory charity, and the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.[67]
The mustahabb category includes proper behavior in matters such as marriage, funeral rites and family life. As such, it covers many of the same areas as civil law in the West. Sharia courts attempt to reconcile parties to disputes in this area using the recommended behavior as their guide. A person whose behavior is not mustahabb can be ruled against by the judge.[68]
All behavior which is neither discouraged nor recommended, neither forbidden, recommended nor required is of the Mubah; it is permissible.[67]
Makruh behavior, while it is not sinful of itself, is considered undesirable among Muslims. It may also make a Muslim liable to criminal penalties under certain circumstances.[68]
Haraam behavior is explicitly forbidden. It is both sinful and criminal. It includes all actions expressly forbidden in both the Old Testament and the Qur’an. Violating any of the Ten Commandments is considered haraam. Certain Muslim dietary and clothing restrictions also fall into this category.[67] [/pretending]

The recommended, permissible and discouraged categories are drawn largely from accounts of the life of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. To say a behavior is sunnah is to say it is recommended as an example from the life and sayings of Muhammad. These categories form the basis for proper behavior in matters such as courtesy and manners, interpersonal relations, generosity, personal habits and hygiene.[67]

Sharia law can be organized in different ways.

Sharia can be divided into five main branches: 1) ibadah (ritual worship), 2) mu’amalat (transactions and contracts), 3) adab (morals and manners), 4) i’tiqadat (beliefs) and 5) ‘uqubat (punishments).

So far (2/3 down the scroll bar) I am surprised to learn the details of Sharia law concerning economic trade (interesting), marriages (surprisingly tolerant of fornication), and courts. The main criticisms brought out are concern women only inheriting half as much as men and are not being eligible witnesses in court, as well as the amputations for theft, stonings for adultery and the death penalty for defaming Allah. The other aspects of Sharia legal proceedings are interesting – much simpler and less red tape than western systems. They are based on respect for verbal oaths, not paper documents. Apparently people take lying much more seriously there.

I’ll have to finish tomorrow, and think about Old Testament penalties and “permissive” societies some more.

Cultures of Incitement

by Andrea Elizabeth

When I think of the Muslim “problem”, the main thing that comes to my mind is the culture of incitement. They work themselves up into a frenzy that can only be relieved by torching something. Lest we point fingers too much in their direction, I think we can find many cases of how this is done in other circles too. And not just Christian ones.

Whenever one group is pitted against another group, the leaders who try to pep up the base and incite them to go conquer the other group. Before I read about the years before the Revolutionary War, I thought that the Colonists mutually were all mad at the Redcoats because of an automatic reaction to “atrocities” across the board. Turns out there was a lot of propaganda promulgated by the founding fathers laying the groundwork to motivate people to rebel. Yesterday while watching the Cowboy game, George told me that teams are so equally matched nowadays that it’s usually the team with the most adrenaline that wins. Rocky and I call it the eye of the tiger.

This is not to say there isn’t a problem of lethargy and a tendency towards que sera sera that must be combated. Sometimes framing things in simple, black and white terms is what it takes to get people to put a bad thing to an end. Deciphering too much fine print can wear a person out before they get started. It’s complicated. So complicated that I don’t trust most people to sort it out comprehensively enough to justify how upset they’re making people.

People talk about the evils of Sharia law, and I agree, but to talk about how bad Muslims in general are is too simplistic and inciting. My son’s university has a huge Muslim population, and a good portion of his friends are Muslim. I appreciate how modestly they dress and how they have a more moral sense about them than many of the white folks he encounters. While fear and abuse is part of their religion, I think there are elements of a desire and love for a distorted view of God and proper living that is respectable. People want rules and structure and a holistic view of religious life that Islam provides, and I think that is why it gets a foothold in other regions. Christianity is seen as lax and pervaded by secularism. Not that we deserve to be torched, but if Orthodox are going to preach that we don’t believe in a God who torches people either, then neither should we. Literally or figuratively.

Now have I just torched people who verbally torch people? Maybe so. Please forgive me, here’s a cup of cold water.