The Islamist theology of rape

August 14, 2015 • 11:00 am

Yes, the title of this post is provocative, but no more so than the title of the New York Times article by Rukmini Callimachi (“ISIS enshrines a theology of rape”) about ISIS’s buying and selling of Yazidi sex slaves and the rape of young girls who aren’t even in their teens. (This is apparently one of a series of pieces about ISIS that will appear, and this one is particularly horrifying.)

I’m constantly inundated with emails and attacks by people who claim that the perfidies of militant Islam are due to the West, not to Islam itself. Religion is largely exculpated. And yes, I’ll admit that some terrorist attacks by Muslims have been exacerbated by Western activities, but I can’t exculpate religion itself as a cause of this divisiveness.

And when the divisiveness takes the form of ISIS’s systematic, bureaucratically-organized rape of Kurdish non-Muslims—people who can’t be responsible for any colonialism—and when that rape is justified by citing the Qur’an and the will of Allah, then it’s hard to pin the rapes on colonialism. You may say that these rapists are merely using the Qur’an as an excuse, but what would happen without that excuse? Might the situation be at least a little better?

I do want to emphasize that the main point of the New York Times piece (and of my piece here) is the horrors of rape endured by the Yazidis —a religious sect of Kurds characterized by Wikipedia as monothesistic but by ISIS fighters (and the Times) as polytheistic, and therefore a religion of infidels. Because Yazidis are seen as infidels, it’s considered okay—nay, a blessing—to rape their women. That’s where the theological justification comes in, which the Times piece mentions over and over again. What is really horrible is the minute organization of how Yazidi women are abducted (men and boys beyond puberty are simply executed), and how contracts are drawn up for their sale and “use.” A few excerpts, beginning with the powerful opening of Callimachi’s piece:

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

There’s more:

The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

You can read about the horrific details in the piece; some of the accounts of rape of girls as young as 11 and 12 are very hard to take. But of course according to Muslim scripture, Muhammad himself took a nine-year-old as his wife and had intercourse with her.  That, combined with the demonization of non-Muslims, must surely help justify what’s going on with ISIS.

Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s. Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship.

When the Yazidi women are abducted, they’re put in buses with covered windows (because the women themselves aren’t properly covered), transported to holding centers, and then graded as if they were cattle. Then they’re sold.

In the parking lot the same fleet of Hajj buses was waiting to take them to their next destination, said F. Along with 24 other girls and young women, the 15-year-old was driven to an army base in Iraq. It was there in the parking lot that she heard the word “sabayafor the first time.

“They laughed and jeered at us, saying ‘You are our sabaya.’ I didn’t know what that word meant,” she said. Later on, the local Islamic State leader explained it meant slave.

“He told us that Taus Malik” — one of seven angels to whom the Yazidis pray — “is not God. He said that Taus Malik is the devil and that because you worship the devil, you belong to us. We can sell you and use you as we see fit.”

If this is based on colonialism, or revenge toward Western incursions, why have Yazidis been raped but not Christians or Jews? A University of Chicago scholar explains:

[Matthew]. Barber, of the University of Chicago, said that the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as “People of the Book.”

Not all Muslims, of course, agree with the acts themselves or the theology that ISIS uses to sanction rape. I’m not demonizing the entire religion here, though I do consider Islam the world’s most harmful faith. Rather, I’m demonizing its most extreme efflorecence, which is to some extent enabled by not only more moderate Muslims, but those misguided Westerners who completely exculpate religion. As a recent Atlantic article argued, ISIS appears to be bringing back ancient, caliphate-based versions of Islam. And, according to one author quoted in the Times piece, “these institutions need to be revived because that is what the Prophet and his companions did.”

I’ll give just one more excerpt, which suggests that Jewish and Christian captives are now in for the same fate. After all, though they’re “people of the book”, they’re still nonbelievers in Allah. My emphasis in this passage:

The Islamic State recently made it clear that sex with Christian and Jewish women captured in battle is also permissible, according to a new 34-page manual issued this summer by the terror group’s Research and Fatwa Department.

Just about the only prohibition is having sex with a pregnant slave, and the manual describes how an owner must wait for a female captive to have her menstruating cycle, in order to “make sure there is nothing in her womb,” before having intercourse with her. Of the 21 women and girls interviewed for this article, among the only ones who had not been raped were the women who were already pregnant at the moment of their capture, as well as those who were past menopause.

Beyond that, there appears to be no bounds to what is sexually permissible. Child rape is explicitly condoned: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute of a pamphlet published on Twitter last December.

Say what you will about the motivations of ISIS. Say that the theology is just a cover for the natural tendency of men in war to rape their captives (but notice that this is not always official policy).  Say that exactly the same thing would happen if ISIS weren’t a religious organization, but merely some xenophobic group lacking any religion. I don’t believe those claims, but I’m sure some will make them. But what you cannot credibly say is that this is the fault of the West for unfairly maligning Islam or invading Islamic lands.

h/t: Merilee

308 thoughts on “The Islamist theology of rape

    1. In name only? I don’t think so, especially given the Atlantic article on them a while back. They’re just as Muslim as the Followers of Christ are Christian.

      Seriously, “in name only”? What about “in deed”, since they’re restoring the ancient dream of a caliphate>?

      1. They are using a Muslim vocabulary in order to trick frustrated and often ignorant Muslim youth to join them, but believe me, everything they do is totally unrelated to Islam.

        1. Oh, I get it! They follow the letter of the Koranic law to get ignorant Muslims to join them! Very clever. No doubt they are all really just a bunch of Humanists in disguise.

          Hey… did you hear… the moon landing was totally faked! It was filmed in the American southwest on a secret military reservation where alien spaceships are being stored!

            1. Not according to them. Did you even read the article? You comments are nothing but typical apologist drivel.

              1. My comments are based on fact. If ISIS members claim that what they do is according to Coranic law, it doesn’t at all mean that it is true, quite the contrary.

              2. Muhammedanist apologists!? Madness.

                “If ISIS members claim that what they do is according to Coranic law, it doesn’t at all mean that it is true,”.

                It does, it is Quranic law made by Quranic religionists. That other Quranic theologians makes other laws – from the same myth text – does not alter the fact. (It justy´shows that you shouldn’t use myths as basis for jurisdiction.)

                Firs rule of lies/holes: don’t dig deeper.

            2. Not according to them…did you even read the article? They explicitly cite the Quran in defense of their actions, and that is the point. Your comments are nothing but apologist drivel.

            3. Problem is that we’re dealing here with religion and therefore the ONLY valid interpretation is that of God. How can you or anyone demonstrate conclusively that Allah didn’t mean that, He meant this? It inevitably comes down to a matter of ‘faith.’

              Which means wheeeee! Here we go! All is permitted because God has no limitations. Followers meekly follow and see no moral danger or dilemma. They’re just the obedient servant.

            4. If we are lucky, the leaders are “total hypocrites.” If we’re not, then the leaders might be as sincere as their followers.

              Either way, the Muslims we like are no more or less Islamic than the ones we don’t. The Quran does not have one and only one true interpretation UNLESS you are a fervent believer who appeals only to Allah. Humanist Muslims are influenced by humanism and their belief in a version of God influenced by humanism. That’s good– but it’s not the One True Islam.

              1. The thing about religion is that it can be anything the believer wants it to be. If enough people agree, you are a prophet; if enough people disagree, you are a heretic, but religion is infinitely malleable.

            5. Whether it is a ruse or not, they ARE using the Quran to justify their behavior. What the hell difference does it make to the victim whether her captive is sincere or not when he says his repeated and ritualistic assaults on her body are done in service of Allah?

              1. “what they have been mendaciously told is in the Coran.”.

                So you haven’t read the Quran yourself, I take it?

                It is from the same mythology as the christianist texts, and have the same support of slavery, genocide, killing, torture, et cetera. The difference is that the muhammedanist text also insert mindless brainwashing and vaccination against criticism. It is worse, in all ways that matter.

            6. How does that make them insincere believers or not-religiously motivated?

              Let’s assume for argument that they’re getting it all wrong. Its still religiously motivated rape if they’re raping according to what they think Islam says.

              I doubt any Christian today would claim Torquemada was getting Christianity right or following Jesus’ teachings. But his actions still came from his religious beliefs. These guys are just like Torquemada; doesn’t matter if they’re getting their own religion wrong, they’re still religiously motivated.

        2. “Mohammed is Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are harsh
          to the unbelievers but merciful to one another” Quran 48:29

        3. t were the case, then TrueMuslims (TM) would be joining the jihad against the insult that ISIS are making agains TrueIslam (TM).

          1. Real problems with WordPress on this tablet. That should have started with “If that were the case …”

    2. Honestly, vierotchka, that comment dismays me. What would they need to do to qualify as being Islamic “in deed”, too?

        1. There is no Islamic Pope or Vatican to declare something as ‘real’ Islam or ‘fake’.

          Islam at its core is Koran and Hadith, if you follow these 2 texts, pray 5 times, accept Mo’ as the prophet of allah, give charity to other muslims, try to do the hajj, then you are a muslim. End of story.

          Please stop injecting your political and western biases into this matter. Your arguments carry no weight with actual practicing muslims.

          1. did the so called prophet have slaves, yes or no? did the so so called prophet have sex with his female slaves yes or no? Is this not what ISIS is doing, following the so called prophet, yes or no?

              1. Oh he only had sex with his slaves after he freed them and married them. Sounds very reasonable. How very silly for anyone to say he had sex with his slaves. It was sex with his multiple, former slave, wives!

              2. Consensual is what the Stockholm Syndrome victims did. No one claims it wasn’t enforced by the situation.

          2. “There is no Islamic Pope” makes the mistake of endorsing the Pope’s authority. Does the pope get to tell us who’s a true Christian, or a true catholic? What about someone who’s been excommunicated and declared “not truly catholic” by their peers? These are identity questions, and I don’t think anybody other than the individual can make that declaration. It certainly can get awkward; if my Mormon neighbor says he’s the catholic pope, should I disagree with him?

            1. The Pope and RCC cant tell who is a Christian, but they are an authority on who is Catholic, since the church is a Catholic church.

              There is no authority Sunni world on this matter. There al Azhar and few other famous schools but there is no organizational structure.

              1. I don’t think that position is ultimately supportable. For example, a person is “automatically excommunicated” if they commit schism, defined by Canon Law as “The rejection of the authority and jurisdiction of the pope as head of the Church.” But a schism can also mean there are two rival popes. One of them is supposed to be the “true” pope and the followers of the anti-pope are supposed to be in a state of excommunication. If I acknowledge “the pope” has the authority to decide who’s Catholic, then I have to also agree that one of them is truly the pope and the other is false. If the church was to completely split, with members on each side calling themselves “Catholic” while calling the other side “apostates”, I would have to believe both sides are Catholic and there is no “true” apostasy, just internal division.

        1. These links are pointless. Finding one religious leader to tell you that another religion is false is as simple as… finding a religious leader.

          Does a protestant preacher claiming that the Pope is the anti-christ mean that Catholicism isn’t a religion?

          Please pull out your basic reasoning skills and dust them off.

        2. It is really nice to have found you, vierotchka. We finally have found the one true authority as to what constitutes the one true Islam!

          Please let us know how it works out when you tell the Shia folk that they’re wrong. Or, if I’ve got that upside down, let us know how the Islamic authorities in Saudi Arabia respond when you tell them that the guys over in Iran are the true Muslims!

            1. Perhaps, but it accurately represents my reaction to what is profoundly unreasoned commentary you are providing. I find it hard to suppress sarcasm when talking to anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers, too.

              1. I did not claim you to be either. But I assert that you use the same kind of motivated reasoning as they do. Which accounts for my inability to avoid being sarcastic in this exchange.

              2. Hey!! I approve of vaccination but deny so-called Climate Change for precisely the same reasons I deny religion and astrology, and because I consider science to be the greatest human achievement.

              3. “deny so-called Climate Change for precisely the same reasons I deny religion and astrology”

                But climate change has a scientific underpinning. Are you familiar with the mountain of research?

    3. Do you have an example of a State (historical or present) that has followed the Quran most faithfully? In other words, a government that is Muslim (not in name only).

        1. So you have no ability to identify what is truly Islamic, but you’re super-duper sure that ISIS isn’t it.
          No one is saying that ISIS represents the whole of Islam, we’re saying they’re inspired by it to commit barbaric acts and the evidence to that end is both copious and confirmed by nearly everything ISIS says publicly.
          o reasonable person thinks that The Westboro Baptist Church represents the whole of Christianity, but to say that chruch doctrine does nothing to inform their actions is crass apologetics.
          Your apologetics for ISIS are much, much worse.

        2. Its quite relevant. If someone claims one or a couple people are mercenary conmen exploiting religious teaching for personal gain, but that yes many other sincere believers do evil in the name of faith, that opinion sounds reasonable. We may not agree on which individuals are the con men but we at least start on the same footing of recognizing there are con men and sincere religious bad people.

          OTOH when someone like you claims there are no true Islamic states, strongly implying that pretty much every single Muslim in political power is such a con man, that is a cranked-out conspiracy theory not worth listening to. Its No True Muslim applied to, well, everyone.

            1. Pk: “do you have an example of a State that has followed the Koran faithfully?”

              You: “no”

              You don’t think any islamic political leaders are following the koran.

              So, do you think they are all con men/”users” of religion, or do you think they are religiously motivated but misguided? Because if the former, you have a crazy conspiracy theory. And if you think the latter, then you’re basically admitting that folks like ISIS leaders are religiously motivated.

              1. Pk asked me if I had an example of a State (historical or present) that has followed the Quran most faithfully, adding “In other words, a government that is Muslim (not in name only).” – I answered “no” because I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head. From that simple “no”, you erected quite an enormous straw man by stating that I claimed that there are no true Islamic states, and that by that one word “no” I implied that pretty much every single Muslim in political power is such a con man, that is a cranked-out conspiracy theory not worth listening to.

                I have never seen someone erect such a straw man fallacy upon the single little word “no”! I venture to say it must be a world first!

                In case you didn’t know, for your edification:



              2. “From that simple “no”, you erected quite an enormous straw man by stating that I claimed that there are no true Islamic states,”.

                That is what you are effectively claiming unless you can describe such states. But more importantly it is the naive (aka nice) interpretation of your response.

                Instead of responding to the questions you try to move the goalposts. Why is that?

    4. the leader of Daesh/IS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has a BA, MA and Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Islamic Uni of Baghdad.

      I would think that makes him pretty Muslim and a reliable source on whether his organization is ‘Islamic’ or not.

      So sick of non-muslim western leftist idiots declaring something as islamic or ‘not real islam’.

      1. There are non-Muslims who have just as pretigious academic titles in Islamic studies. It is irrelevant how any titles Abu Bakr al Baghadi may have, he is obviously a power-hungry psychopath who is not a Muslim believer but who is exploiting his knowledge and twisting it to manipulate others for his own monstrous ambitions.

        Stalin studied to be a priest at a seminary in Tbilisi. That did not make him a true Christian believer.

              1. So, I guess all of the other commentors here have one or less functioning brain cells.
                BTW, that’s now several times you decided to ignore my argument in favor of a weak personal insult.

              2. You haven’t offered any argument whatsoever, and my responses were far removed from being insults. If that is how you interpreted them, it means that subconsciously you felt you deserved insults.

              3. I never said that *you* don’t have two functional brain cells. My, my, how susceptible you are.

                When people have a polite dialogue with me, I am equally polite. When people have obnoxious and aggressive dialogues aimed against me, I respond in kind but more gently so.

                As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, and people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

              4. Oh, you didn’t specifically address it to me, well then I guess it doesn’t count.
                I sup;pose we’ll add petty insult attorney right next to apologist on your illustrious resume.

              5. Vierotchka:

                You do realize that people who read this site are mostly at least as capable of logical reasoning as yourself right?

                I fall into the category of “anyone”. I have two functioning brain cells. I disagree with you. Ergo your statement is false (and ridiculous).

                Tahdah I win !!

      2. And I gather that he speaks Arabic, to boot, absolutely necessary according to certain “experts,” I gather, in order to competently “interpret” the Koran. English just won’t do.

    5. Well, this is handy. Now that we have an easy definition of what is or is not Islamic, let’s just sit down Iran and Saudi Arabia and surprise them with which one is really Islamic – they both claim the other one isn’t, obviously, but we know the truth.

      Honestly. There are numerous ways we can define religion – orthodoxic, orthopraxic, perhaps even orthocultural. Within these and amongst them there are disputes over legitimacy, interpretation, etc.. There is no more or less true form of Islam – if someone says they are a Muslim, they are a Muslim, whether you like what they do under that mantle or not.

    6. Ah! Those pesky atheists again, using religion to cloak their real intentions! Well done, you’ve totally exposed ISIS. I bet Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram are all atheist conspiracies too.

      1. No, not “atheist conspiracies” but simply bunches of criminal psychopaths who haven’t given any thought to whether they are atheists but act out their worst and most degenerate fantasies and urges without a second thought.

        1. I agree partly on the psychopath point, but these terrorists do not come from a vacuum. They come from a community that praises Mohammed and his caliphate and dream of bringing that caliphate back. The muslim brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir are two such organisation that are no stranger to certain Dutch mosque’s. (I don’t know about other countries). So to join the caliphate gives these people social status, or so they think.

          I think you disregard the effects of the environment too quickly.

            1. Exactly. They use the language of islamic ideas and concepts (like the caliphate) to convince people to go to war. So how can this be anything other than islamic?

              Unless you want to argue ofcourse that religion hasn’t got anything to do with earthly squabbles about politics, land, justice systems and property. But I assume you’re American and you know that a seperation of church and state is absolutely necessary, precisely because religion is political in nature.

        2. Vierotchka:

          The article says they pray before and after raping girls. Surely that means they in fact DO give a second thought before acting out their fantasies and urges.

          Also, this post and the article referred to in it, speaks about what could be called a rule book, or a doctrine or a pastoral letter, or an encyclical or any other name referring to a document that gives religious reasons for the permissibility of an action. The people who WROTE these documents are not illiterate, so the fact that some rapists are illiterate is somewhat if not completely irrelevant.

          Did you read the OP and linked article?

        3. In general they don’t behave at all like psychopath, they think they do God’s will.
          I think you miss an important point.

            1. That is about the first thing you have said that make sense.

              Funny how it is consistent with what the article says, this is religiously motivated politics (slavery, genocidal rape), not the apologetics you have been spouting above.

  1. How disturbing to read the twisted justification certain people use to condone their own horrific behavior. On the face of it, it appears they KNOW what they are doing is wrong, otherwise they wouldn’t repeatedly remind their victims of their blanket religious get-out-of-jail-free card.

    1. I agree. How useful to have the permission of Allah to do things you might otherwise have at least some qualms about doing. I think horrific secular regimes (Pol Pot, Hitler, etc) also give permission to do things one might normally have some compunction about, but at least the temporal dictator can be overthrown and shown to be a monster.

      1. I think horrific secular regimes (Pol Pot, Hitler, etc) also …

        Except that Hitler’s regime was not secular. Their ideology was steeped in religion, and they often used religion to justify their policies.

        “Hence this song [The German anthem] also constitutes a pledge to the Almighty, to His will and to His work: for man has not created this Volk, but God, that God who stands above us all. He formed this Volk, and it has become what it should according to God’s will, and according to our will, it shall remain, nevermore to fade!” — Hitler, speech, 1937

        1. True, and you could say that this devotion to the supreme leader is a religion in itself, perhaps using whatever pre-existing religion is handy. That applies to the Nazis, who persecuted religionists who didn’t go along with them.

        1. “Gott mit uns” predates Hitler. When you look at the Nazi pomp and circumstance, it owes more to Odin than to Jesus.

          1. Yes, I realize Gott mit uns was a Prussian slogan as well but the fact that the Nazis adopted it and wore it on their belt buckles says a lot about how they viewed themselves and their behaviour vis a vis their deity.

            1. It was certainly on the belt buckles of the German uniforms of WW I, but I suppose the Nazis latched onto it out of tradition rather than because Christianity of any stripe played any part in their views–except maybe the antisemitism that built up for centuries under Christianity.

              1. … rather than because Christianity of any stripe played any part in their views …

                Christianity played a huge part in Nazi views. Nearly all of them regarded themselves as Christian. Indeed, they founded their own Nazified variant of Christianity, called the Deutsche Christen, complete with their own theological institutes.

              2. Exactly. They set about Nazifying the churches early on. I would say the Nazis went in for rituals and mysticism in a big way and used Christianity when it suited them. They didn’t ignore or repudiate religion as long as it was the Nazified version.

            2. But the Nazis didn’t adopt it, sop far as I know. It was on the belt buckles of the German army and they didn’t change it, probably less because they felt strongly that the army should be Christian than because they couldn’t be bothered to make a change, particularly a change that might upset people whose good will they wanted to keep.

        2. When you look at the Nazi pomp and circumstance, it owes more to Odin than to Jesus. “Gott mit uns” predates Hitler.

    2. No; on the face of it the only thing which may be obvious is that they know others will think what they’re doing is wrong. They’re repeatedly proselytizing. I would not assume people who are really sincere in their beliefs never proselytize.

  2. It is amazing to me what people will do in the name of religion. I can’t believe the mass stupidity of these people.

    1. Sure you can. Just walk out your front door and past any christian church in any town in America. They may not directly sell their children into bondage but they don’t mind selling their brains into bondage.

    1. History has plainly shown that, once people think they have a divine warrant for their actions (or some other source of ideological zeal, as occurred with Nazism), ANYTHING goes, and our innate sense of morality – which would usually deter someone from raping children – goes out the window. The fact that this rapist verbally and explicitly excused his crime as divinely warranted provides only one more example. Very sad.

      1. Most Nazis believed they had a divine warrant for what they did. Whether Hitler remained a Catholic to the end of his life is debatable, although he certainly was one when he developed his ideas. However, the Catholicism of most of his High Command is not in dispute. Neither is the role the Vatican played in protecting and enabling the escape of numerous Catholic Nazi officials after the war. Not a single Nazi was ever excommunicated for what they did during their time in power, not even Hitler. They did, of course, continue to excommunicate women who left husbands who abused them.

    2. My response exactly.

      In this case, these men are not “just” raping girls, they are often causing serious injury or even death, and in most if not all cases severe pain. If their religion said it was OK to stab infidels would they do that too?

      1. I think killing infidels is indeed licit, if not outright prescribed.

        The thing that makes me incredulous about the violence some humans can bring themselves to inflict on other humans is that (and, granted, perhaps I am giving myself too much credit) I really don’t think I’d be able to kill and rape even if I were a member of a religion that commanded killing and raping. I do not think I am some kind of mutant with moral superpowers. Why do so many people seem to lack this visceral aversion to barbarity? I know the standard answer about “othering” the targets to a sufficient degree. I’m skeptical that would be enough for me, so why is it enough for others?

        1. For some reason I’m reminded of my youth, sitting in the Southern Baptist church pew, listening to the tale of Abraham and Isaac. IIRC, I was told the moral of this tale was obedience and faithfulness to God. All these adults are sitting around listening. Would have made them right uncomfortable had I started surveying them about whether they’d do such a thing. But I knew better than to do that. I already knew the outcome, so it wasn’t like I was on edge wondering if Abraham would knife/gut Isaac.

          But I think I did wonder, “What if God didn’t stop Abraham?” I also contemplated Abe’s and Sarah’s advanced parental age, and thoughts to the effect that that was a fine thing to rake them over the coals with.

          It’s a good thing God stayed Abe’s hand. If He hadn’t, surely to goodness a lot more good Baptists would question/disapprove, push come to shove. Abody might not want children, afraid that the Almighty might want ’em knifed; there’d be a lot more Onans in the world, who’d rather be killed now then their kids later.

        2. Yeah, I really blew that analogy. Thinking about it, it’s hard to come up with anything one suspects they’d be adverse to.

          I think there must be inherent differences amongst people, some who can be persuaded to do evil, others who can’t. A sort of variation that results in one approach that is adaptive in some circumstances, one in another; and by extension, a trait (the can’t-cause-severe-damage trait) that would be easily artificially selected against in certain societies.

  3. Once again, the (IMO) correct version of the colonialism argument: there (until perfected neuroscience, etc.) always be bastards and nastiness to varying degrees. Colonialisms *create more such*, and also make the ones which are always around have more power, because of power vacua, etc.

  4. From the point of view of many sociologists, even IF a theology originated (in whole or in part) as a rationalization for a prior desire to rape, once the theology was in place, it would STILL THEN be a significant causal factor in influencing behavior, having a life of its own.

    1. Exactly.

      We all know too that people choose the version of their religion that suits them. Some Christians are members of churches that celebrate same-sex marriage, others use their religion as an excuse for bigotry towards LGBT people. DAESH members are no different.

      That you need an excuse for rape, slavery, murder etc shows that deep down you know it’s wrong, which makes religion not only an excuse, but a causal factor.

  5. Muslim logic:

    – The Koran is a perfect book written by Allah.

    Yes, but what about the verses that say to slay infidels, rape children and wage war on ‘kuffar’?

    – Well you are reading that out of context, its not meant to be literal

    But if the Koran is a perfect book, why wouldnt I read it literally?

    – Because people arent perfect you need special other people to read it to you in its context (the clergy class)

    But the clergy isnt perfect either since theyre human, how do I know their version is correct

    – Allah akbar!

        1. Sura 23 verse 5:
          And they who guard their private parts

          Sura 23 verse 6:
          Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed

          Your point was?

          1. After you parse 5 and 6 separately, and claim to see no connection to the case at hand, it seems a waste of effort to explain, but I will. These verses, amongst others, license the rape of slaves, and do so without regard to niceties such as age. This is not a stretch: there are fatwas licensing sex with girls under 10, and traditions of this in the hadith. Ayesha for one.

              1. Pickthall And who guard their modesty –
                Yusuf Ali Who abstain from sex,
                Hilali-Khan And those who guard their chastity (i.e. private parts, from illegal sexual acts)
                Shakir And who guard their private parts,
                Sher Ali And who guard their chastity –
                Khalifa And they maintain their chastity.
                Arberry and guard their private parts
                Palmer And who guard their private parts –
                Rodwell And who restrain their appetites,
                Sale and who keep themselves from carnal knowledge [of any women]

                Pickthall Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy,
                Yusuf Ali Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, – for (in their case) they are free from blame,
                Hilali-Khan Except from their wives or (the captives and slaves) that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame;
                Shakir Except before their mates or those whom their right hands possess, for they surely are not blameable,
                Sher Ali Except from their wives or what their right hands possess, for then they are not to be blamed;
                Khalifa Only with their spouses, or those who are rightfully theirs, do they have sexual relations; they are not to be blamed.
                Arberry save from their wives and what their right hands own then being not blameworthy
                Palmer except for their wives or what their right hands possess for then, verily, they are not to be blamed;-
                Rodwell (Save with their wives, or the slaves whom their right hands possess: for in that case they shall be free from blame:
                Sale except their wives, or the [captives] which their right hands possess; – for [as to them] they shall be blameless:

      1. You really are a useful idiot. Thats a personal attack btw.


        33:50 – “Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.”

        23:5 – “… except with their wives and slave girls, for these are lawful to them:…”

        The passage’s context here (not quoted in full) details how Muslim males are allowed to have sexual relations with their wives and slave girls. Implicit in this is that Muslim males had slave-concubines. 70:30 is basically a repeat of 23:5.

        Muslim men were allowed to have sex anytime with females slaves – Sura 4:3, 4:29, 33:49.


        ol. 7-#137 Narrated Abu al-Khudri: “We got female captives in the war booty and we used to do coitus interruptus with them. So we asked Allah’s messenger about it and he said, “Do you really do that?” repeating the question thrice, “There is no soul that is destined to exist but will come into existence, till the Day of Resurrection.””

    1. I actually prefer that interpretation. It’s BS of course but at least it is results in more ethical and humanist beliefs.

  6. And as with former President Carter’s 21st Century statement publicly … … finally, I repeat as re this particular instance of doing what they are going to do — no matter what —, “The words and acts of the Oldest Old Men passing themselves off as just the Messengers From Back When (of those invisible fictions) give today’s abusers more than enough of all of the power and control over the World’s female human beings that any particular day’s worth of subjugating can possibly require.”


    1. I think it’s absurd to suggest that religion has no power to affect people’s acts. For that is what this comment implies. And if maintain that religion can inspire people to do good things they wouldn’t have done otherwise, you must perforce accept that it can inspire people to do bad things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

      Seriously, you are maintaining that no system of belief or ideology can affect peoples’ behavior?

      1. It certainly affected my behavior, growing up in the Southern Baptist church and a quite homogenous community, looking back on it. And they did not (have to) make physical threats to me.

  7. As a corrective to Vierotchka’s nonsense I suggest reading some hadith. This is a broad, but admittedly tendentious, selection.

    However the fact it’s a bit tendentious does not matter for this discussion, as the question is whether certain opinions have a basis in some hadith. I suggest that actual hadith are more reliable on this point than Vierotchka.

    1. actual Hadith and the actual actions by the religion’s followers.

      Even if you take out the absolute barbarism of IS, the vast majority of Muslims have absolutely horrendous views on issues like free speech, freedom from religion, gay rights (you can forget about transgenders), women’s rights.

      Sam Harris made a number of points regarding this, that in virtually every poll taken of Muslim attitudes towards these issues, the responses were horrendous, from Egypt to Indonesia.

      What we think of basic ‘human rights’ in the West has no correlation in Muslim-majority states (except for very few recent exceptions like Tunisia)

        1. That Iran is so messed up by its religiously-based homophobia that it views trans people through the same lens, and uses sex reassignment surgery to “cure” a trans person’s “gayness”? That it has nothing at all to do with providing the patient the body type they feel best suited to, but has everything to do with making sure that if you like men, you’re a woman, and vice versa?

          Not surprised at all, actually. Black and white thinking that ignores the complexity of reality? That’s par for the course when it comes to religion.

  8. Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, a friend of mine who is a liberal Christian pastor remarked, “If we claim the Charlie Hebdo attackers were Muslim, that would be like saying Scott Roeder [who assassinated an abortion doctor at a church meeting] is a Christian.” The obvious problem with this argument is that Scott Roeder IS a Christian, and his act of murder was exclusively motivated by his religious ideology. Roeder was part of a radical anti-abortion Christian movement who believe the Bible condemns abortion as murder. Now, the Bible almost certainly does not condemn abortion (it is notoriously vague on many such points), but what matters is that Roeder’s faction believes that the Bible condemns abortion, and they believe the Bible is the inerrant word of god. Those are the elements of religious conviction and motivation. That’s why it’s so exasperating when people debate the “correct” interpretation of the Koran or whatever other scripture. It doesn’t matter whether ISIS is wrong about the Koran, what matters is that they are motivated by their interpretation of it, and if they didn’t believe in the Koran then they wouldn’t be motivated by this or any other interpretation of it.

    It’s so stinking convenient to manipulate semantics in order to dissociate yourself from the warts in your own ideology, but it’s also dishonest and potentially dangerous. We have to acknowledge those dangerous corners in order to learn lessons from them. Here, I can do it: secularists during the French Reign of Terror played a major role in the attempt to forcibly eradicate Christianity. They were motivated by secularism and a strong belief in the evils of religion. So I think it’s important for modern secularists to denounce the use of force to advance our social goals, and instead pursue the arts of persuasion and critical thinking, which we do (for the most part). There, why is that so hard?

    At this time I would like to propose establishing a “True Scotsman” award for this thread, and I nominate vierotchka.

      1. You have be trolling. You’re hilarious.

        Seriously, though, you’re hardly the only one here with Muslim friends, family and colleagues. If you get to know enough of them, you find that many of them are free-thinking social critics. On a number of occasions they’ve confided in me that they have Atheist leanings. A few of them are bold enough to identify as ex-Muslims, but my experience is that most are not able to take the social risk of publicly leaving the faith. They instead adopt an increasingly common cultural or ethnic definition of Muslim, and try to cautiously express their diverse viewpoints within that label. Your position of trying to externally endorse a fundamentalist notion of “true Islam” does them a disservice.

          1. Your “vast experience” does not entitle you to define the experiences and understandings of other people. I could easily gather a bus full of Muslims and ex-Muslims who would contradict your viewpoint. But perhaps you would say they aren’t “true” Muslims, and their experiences aren’t as valid as your own.

              1. Again, it looks like you are just trolling here. You aren’t even making an effort to discuss or persuade or to answer counter-points in a coherent way.

              2. Sheesh. You sound like a chat bot. Your responses neither address any of my points in any fashion, nor do they even make coherent sense. I’m sure you’ll want the last word, so feel free to add some more gibberish after this comment.

              3. Oh get over yourself.
                If it weren’t for the respect that I have for this forum, you’d need a a profanity thesaurus to decode the missive I’d dearly love to toss your way.
                Which, you very richly deserve.

    1. Exactly. Religion is most definitely not exonerated. It’s all the same shifting shades of belief reinforcing the fantasy of some ethereal magical world beyond our own. The so-called liberal Christian or liberal Muslim’s outlook may seem more reasonable at first blush, but what are they doing if not enabling the more dramatic make-believers a comfortable jumping off point.

      1. Indeed. The grown son of a local family became a member of the Branch Davidians. When matters were coming to a head in Waco, the father was interviewed by the local press.

        “I don’t know where he got those crazy ideas,” the father said. “We raised him as a traditional Seventh Day Adventist.” (paraphrased from memory)

        I remember thinking at the time that once you legitimize any form of belief in the supernatural, what is there to stop someone from believing in another form?

  9. “You may say that these rapists are merely using the Qur’an as an excuse”

    Well it would have been nice of the Qur’an outlawed rape. That would have settled everything.

              1. vierotchka says that the Quran is being used as an “excuse” by ISIS and their ilk; then it follows that if the Quran didn’t exist, they wouldn’t have an excuse, then, would they? Might vierotchka offer some idea of what they WOULD use for an excuse, were this the case? “Oh, we’re just a bunch of psychopaths who get off on murdering, pillaging, and enslaving and raping women (funny how you don’t hear much about them making MALE captives slaves, although this was common for centuries and was the cause of America’s first armed conflict with Islam)”.

                That’s the most dangerous problem with “sacred” writings: as one commenter said earlier, it doesn’t matter what they SAY; it’s what the “believer” THINKS they say. Science, on the other hand, is not easily used to justify murder, etc.- when was the last time you heard of someone saying, “I killed them because the Earth rotates around the sun”, or, “because the nucleotides are represented by the letter, A, C, G, and T.” Not being based on reality (other than the subjective “reality” of the believer), these texts lie around, sometimes “dormant” for years, but always ready to be used to justify virtually anything with the proper, “interpretation”. So long as the slightest bit of interpretation is allowed, you will NEVER determine what, “true” Islam is (or true Christianity, or Buddhism, etc., for that matter)- the best one can do in this regard, then, is to follow the literal words of the texts as closely as possible. This brings us clear back around to “square one”, as that is precisely what ISIS is doing.

  10. Jerry,

    interesting post, I wasn’t aware of this piece and will definitely read it.
    There was an article in Guardian by Scott Atran, titled “Jihad’s fatal attraction”. This is an excerpt:

    As I testified to the US Senate armed services committee, what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious and cool.

    So I was wondering what’s your opinion on Atran’s position? I’m not sure if one could argue that this is standard apologetic rhetoric, since Atran is well known for his studies on demographics of terrorist groups and I believe that his stance is backed by data.

    1. Not to speak for PCC, but I don’t see why jihad’s appeal needs to be reduced to a single cause or even a dominant cause. I also don’t see how it’s possible to get much “data” about their motivations. There are lots of thrill seekers who may identify with one cause or another, but it must take a lot more than that to be attracted to a notoriously brutal horde of torturers and rapists. Maybe it isn’t so surprising that, during WWII, patriotic citizens and supporters from regional neighbors flocked to support the Nazi army, who tried to avoid drawing attention to their atrocities. When the truth came out about the holocaust, and people saw the horrible photos and newsreel footage, most of that patriotic fervor dissolved into shame. The really crazy thing about ISIS is that they advertise the horror, and it’s a reason why people join. Even neo-Nazis will usually try and deny that the Nazis perpetrated the holocaust. But ISIS supporters are evidently cheering it on. That can’t be just because they’re into team sports and want to be popular.

    2. ” . . . not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious and cool.”

      That being the case, maybe they should rather strive to emulate that narcissistic self-described “creative genius,” rapper Kanye West, and his ilk.

    3. Atran may be making an obvious point about the motivations of young men (and a few women, no doubt). At a time of war many thousands enlist enthusiastically who are otherwise totally unpolitical because of the adventure of it. This has always been the case. This is likely true of many ISIS volunteers as well.
      However, the responsibility for war is not to be placed on impressionable youth. It is with the leadership primarily. The leader of ISIS is an Islamic scholar. An advocate for the religion of peace.
      Indeed, there are probably many contributing factors to the war ISIS is perusing. It likely differs for each individual, each faction, each demographic. It would be silly though to pick one of these to excuse the contribution of Islam as an ideology.

      1. Atran – he’s an intelligent man and writes well on many things, but although he’s right to point to the eagerness of young people to sign up for some cause or other (read Rupert Brook on jumping into clean-ness – i.e., going to war), that is not the whole story, and there after all causes and causes. I haven’t his book on terrorism now, but remember being shocked about how unmoved he seemed to be when talking to some Islamic terrorist pal of his in Indonesia: it was not in Bali (which is course principally Hindu), but on some mainly Muslim part of the country, but some Balinese immigrants were celebrating a wedding, as I recall, Balinese-style. ‘Animals!’ said Atran’s pal. ‘I’d like to stick a bomb among them!’ (Those aren’t the exact words, but that was pretty well what he said.)

  11. Religious beliefs are defined by the believers, so, when one says, “Those people aren’t really Muslim, or Christian or Mormon”, the more accurate statement is “those people are not the same kind of Muslim, Christian or Mormon as I” or “Those people are not the kind of Muslim, Christian or Mormon that I like”. There are *no* true religions. And all of them are equally false. One can make factual comments like, “ISIS practices a form of Islam that deviates from the practice in Saudi, deviates more so from the practice in Iran (mainly because ISIS is Sunni) and substantially from the practice of moderate Islam in Britain”. Mormon polygamists (‘fundamentalist’ Mormons) consider themselves true to the letter of the Book as translated (i.e., pulled out of his butt) by Joseph Smith and mainstream Mormons to be apostates.

    Do individuals, groups and governments ever use religious justification of political ends? Of course. The Crusades were about religion, political influence, control of the lucrative trade routes to the East to name a few. But for many, the crusades were only about religions; for many, they were merely a means to an end. Are Mormon polygamist men just looking for an excuse to have sex with more than one woman? Some of them appear to be predators and ephebophiles who have found religion a convenient shield. But most, probably, live in real families (with all the usual familial complications).

    So, my principal thesis is that individuals and governments who profess a particular religion are of necessity moved to their acts by both religion and political (and personal) expediency. The jihadi raping a captive may believe that the act is worship and, at the same time, recognize that this means he can buy and rape a couple more of the infidel girls.

      1. Indeed. Great minds and all. Really, the point is that there is no such thing as the true or correct interpretation of a religion. And that point has been made more eloquently and persuasively by The Professor.

  12. If the Qu’ran were merely an excuse for these acts then the justification would be provided ad hoc. But this rape is ritualized, with prayer both before and after the act. It is an act of religious devotion, period. Would these men persist in raping if there were no religious element to the enterprise? Possibly, but since it has become a scripture-supported institution with a supporting infrastructure, the immoral thugs have justification for their acts and any non-sociopathic members of that group dare not go against it. In fact, the promotion of the acts on religious grounds give young men justification for carrying out urges that their otherwise better angels would prevent by simply sprinkling in a little prayer and calling it “making God happy”.

    Thus, religion poisons everything.

    And, Religion isn’t just a book, it’s everything that grows up around that book and the idea that a vague assemblage of words can be taken as literal in whatever sense that suits the reader is one of the reasons why religion poisons everything. Just because two groups can interpret that book in very different ways does not render that book inculpable. Just because you can read rainbows and sunshine in death and mayhem does not mean there is no death and mayhem for others to glean. It’s time to put these relics of human failing and weakness onto the shelf and refer to them merely as historic literature rather than holy scripture.

    1. So you have actually witnessed them rape women and girls and seen them pray before and after? That simply is not how it happens – they do it in a bestial manner with no thoughts of religion, as per the testimonies of their victims who managed to escape them.

      1. “In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

        He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

        When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

        “I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.”

        Did you even read the original post? I doubt it.

    2. It’s reminiscent of fundamentalist Mormon sects who fixated on certain statements from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other of their prophets. These statements endorse polygamy as a divine institution and even claim it is a mandatory sacrament for attaining exaltation in the afterlife. So they have ritualized and beurocratized a system of arranged plural marriages that has some common features with the ISIS sex slaves. Of course the “mainstream ” Mormons abandoned polygamy more than a century ago, and they insist that polygamists are not true Mormons, since they have rejected the authority of the “true” church based in Salt Lake City. So maybe the fundamentalists are a distinct spinoff sect. So what? They are still driven by religious ideology to do the extreme things that they do, and there is a steady flow of recruits from mainstream Mormonism into fundamentalist ideology. I have no basis to say they aren’t “true” Mormons since that would require me to endorse the authority of the Salt Lake City leadership. It would be absurd for me, an Atheist, to make such an endorsement. The best I can do is identify them as different but ideologically overlapping sects. If this is true for Mormon extremists, why should Islam be different? What makes it a logically special case so that it can be divorced from its most extreme incarnations?

        1. A little lesson, vierotchka: when you say, “perhaps”, or, “maybe”, what follows, although technically possible, is generally no more than just a wild, “guess”, totally unsupported by any facts. Statements like these have absolutely no value in any rational discussion and are automatically disregarded by any rational thinker.

  13. Well, I’m outta here. Nobody seems capable to respond to me with any kind of respect or politeness, simply because I bring in contrary arguments which seems to be so upsetting and destabilizing of their beliefs.

    1. Well, chicken out if you like, but facts are facts.

      In their glossy publication “Dabiq”, these people lay out their reasoning for raping the Yazadis. They quote the Quran rather extensively. They refer to numerous Hadiths. Their reasoning is entirely logical, given their premise.

      How is this not Islam? How can they use the clarity of the verses from their book of rules to reach a wrong conclusion? How can they misinterpret the very clear writings of their Imams and other “scholars”? It’s all there in the words.

      No, Islam is at the core of their rationale. It justifies their actions, it absolves them of all responsibility and it feeds their inhumanity.

    2. No, people aren’t being polite because you’re not actually arguing – you are stating. You declare your position correct, and when pressed you respond either with links (which are fine if used to support a point, but not as the point), or you give a one or two sentence response where you claim an aggrieved status while simply restating your original remarks.

      Give us full, fleshed out thoughts. Don’t try to give us reading assignments when we’re trying to converse. Give us premises that lead to a conclusion so we can examine the reasoning involved. Don’t do those things, and yes, you will come across as either trolling or as obstinately, ignorantly asserting rather than discussing in good faith.

          1. Perhaps not, but it doesn’t do anything to inspire respect either. Any Internet denizen should know that trolls are not going to get positive responses, and when one’s comments are short and intentionally inflammatory as many of yours are; when one simply asserts rather than argues; when one at no point acknowledges cases of being shown conclusively wrong; when one doesn’t seem to have even read in full the original post, such as in your response to comment 20; when one posts all over the thread in a similar manner rather than trying to work one or two real conversations… When the above is true, as it currently is in your case, then others are justified in assuming one to be a troll.

            Don’t want to be treated like a troll? Don’t act like one. Want to be shown respect? Earn it, and show it yourself. Want to look like a better person than people insulting you? Don’t insult them back.

              1. Good. The entire reason I’m posting to you was the hope that you were simply coming across badly, and I’m pleased that is the case. But as an observer of your posts, and the responses to them, I cannot agree that you aren’t acting in some ways similarly to a troll, which is why I outlined a number of behaviors above that are carrying this impression – behaviors you have repeatedly demonstrated in this thread.

                For another example of behaviors that, intentionally or not, come across as trollish, consider above where you said that anyone with two brain cells would agree with you – and then you claimed that it wasn’t meant as an insult against anyone in particular. That is absurd. Saying that is absolutely a direct insult to anyone who does not agree with you, including those like myself who disagree but have levied no insults, and the attempt to claim it isn’t shows either a severe lack of thought on your part or simple dishonesty. I’m happy to assume the former – we are all sometimes thoughtless, and I can forgive that easily when apologized for, but the apology matters.

                If you want people here to stop treating you badly, lead by example.

              2. It was not severe lack of thought nor dishonesty. It was a reflex reaction to the vexing tone of the comment I responded to. I will gladly apologize to him if he apologizes to me.

              3. Um… Reflexive reactions are, by definition, lacking thought. And as I mentioned, you didn’t just insult one person – you insulted me and many others as well.

                That, however, isn’t really something I care to focus on. My broader point is that a handful of gestures on your part could get rid of much of the ill will that you have gained here – and as I said earlier, you gained it not by challenging people (we’re used to that), but by the manner in which you did so. Your later posts have gotten longer and better in this regard, and you may notice that they’re being largely received better because of it, but things started off on the wrong foot by your posts coming across as being more interested in telling people they were wrong rather than in convincing them of it. You haven’t acknowledged this at all, and doing so would probably go a long way to keeping discussions more civil.

                Also, you may want to consider in the thread below that few if any people here are moral relativists – because children married younger in past times doesn’t mean that we are likely to excuse it now. Slavery wasn’t right then either, no matter how common.

              4. My first comments were simply stating what I have learnt from experience and from people knowledgeable in the subject at hand. The responses were offensive, and I do admit I have a natural tendency to counter-attack. I never attack first.

                I have never intimated that children married younger in past times and even recent times is morally right, nor morally wrong. I merely pointed out facts. In no way have I excused it, neither have I condemned it. I simply said what was.

              5. I get that, on both points. What I’m trying to get across is that much of the negative reaction to you stems from the way you made your points, not that you made them. It has been my experience that a position presented here is not going to get much respect, and will often receive sarcasm in response, if they are simply stated as fact without supporting arguments or evidence. The people here are used to trolls, as well as used to non-trolls who are somewhat impervious to logic, and I think your early way of stating your views as fact came across as such. I’m just trying to help that not happen again by pointing out how.

                Like I said before, if your posts are fleshed out and supported by argument, they will probably be fairly received, even if only by attempts to explain why you are wrong. 😉 Just saying “X is the case” here, however, is not going to be received well. At best, it will be ignored, because anything presented without evidence can be ignored on the same basis. At worst, we get threads like this one.

        1. Nonsense. I’ve challenged ideas here plenty of times over the years, and never been treated rudely. But then, I actually argue my cases – I don’t just tell people they are wrong.

            1. No. Quite honestly I have no memory of anyone here insulting me. And I’ve made points by using references out of Star Wars books, so you’d think at least a “NERD!” would’ve been earned. 😉

              1. That’s because you’re a man, no doubt, and an academic, no doubt. I have never read a Star Wars book, so I have not the foggiest idea what you are referring to, but it does sound like a veiled insult, in spite of the winkie.

              2. I’m no academic – a college drop-out, I work a corner store and have the great aspiration of becoming a bartender – and I strongly doubt anyone here knows a thing about my personal life or identity. You being a woman might have some influence on the reactions to you, but that assumption would ignore the early negative reactions where most were making the tentative assumption that you were male yourself. My point regarding Star Wars was to lightheartedly state that my use of Star Wars would have justified someone calling me a nerd (and they would have been right) but that did not happen. I’ve yet to receive even a veiled insult here, unless I’m just failing to notice them.

              3. Thus far, nothing you have written to me remotely invites even the lightest of veiled insults. You have, in your interactions with me, shown nothing but respect, courtesy and non-aggression, and thus have received no less from me. That is how I expect adults to converse and react to each other. Sadly, I am often disappointed here in that respect with regard to people’s attitude towards me and my contributions when I share what knowledge and/or experience I have. I am also amazed at how much and how quickly many of them jump to erroneous conclusions and how presumtuous they ca be with regard to my person. Perhaps it stems from the fact that English is not my first language but my fourth, and I might easily not express my thoughts exactly the way I thought them.

              4. Man, this thread is getting really tiresome! I wish I had never sent the article to Jerry…

              5. True, dat, but if you were to look at Da Roolz it seems you are taking up at least 50% of the comments…Off to bed;-)

    3. An interesting case: I notice that “vierotchka” posted for four hours- I have run across his “type” before, and I call them, “contrarians”: although confirmation-bias, of course, is in full effect, the topic itself does not seem to be his motivation; it is the holding of an unorthodox and/or unpopular viewpoint against ALL comers that seems to give people like this a visceral, “thrill”. One indicator of this is the fact that, despite his vehement defense of “true” Islam, he himself is not a Muslim (?). There seems to be a hint of masochism in it as well, as these types thrive on abusive replies and will often say no more than what is necessary to elicit one (they are somewhat of a different, “breed” than common, “trolls”, however)- I suspect the reason he’s leaving the discussion is NOT because he wasn’t given respect or politeness, but that he wasn’t supplied with enough of the kind of abuse he craves, which proves to him that he is being sufficiently, “contrary”.

      I just ended a discussion with a guy who went on for pages about “anomalies” in the C-14 dating of ancient coal and oil deposits: even though the very paper he cited as the source of this “serious problem” supplied several hypotheses as to why it was occurring, he kept re-printing it, in toto, as the “smoking gun” for this “serious problem”. I accused him of being a, “stealth-creationist” and asked him if he, himself, believed that God created the world according to the Babble’s timeline. His reply? “I believe in a Creator-God” – he refused to elaborate on what he believed, although a couple of earlier comments by him made it clear that he opposed, “secularism”; he simply kept referring back to the article and pumping out enough one-line replies to keep things going. Several people called him everything but a white man, yet he kept coming back for more, as they often do.

      vierotchka’s last sentence is telling: “… simply because I bring in contrary arguments which seems to be so upsetting and destabilizing of their beliefs.” – THAT’S what really, “trips his trigger!”

      Best advice for these types: after five attempts, DISENGAGE.

          1. Vierotchka is trolling. He/she said “I’m out of here, I can’t get no respect” only to return and repeat the same nonsense. Classic.

              1. The word you are looking for is “paraphrase”. And I think I captured you quite accurately.

                “Well, I’m outta here. Nobody seems capable to respond to me with any kind of respect or politeness, simply because I bring in contrary arguments which seems to be so upsetting and destabilizing of their beliefs.”


    4. I respect your ability to maintain your position with a relentless application of the “No true Scotsman Fallacy”, to every point and counterpoint.
      Well done.

  14. What I wonder, though, is why an organization like ISIS exists in the first place. Some might say “because it’s in the Koran”… but why just ISIS? Why, if it’s in the Koran, aren’t 100% of Muslims in or supporting them?

    I have these same sort of questions about any religious demographic: Why are women more religious than men? Why are black people more religious than white people? The poor more religious than the rich? Old more than the young? Etc.

    The surface level, intuitive answer (e.g., “duh, black people are just dumber than white people”) is almost always incorrect. Human beings are social creatures, so my bet would be something about how these groups socialize, or how those groups are treated by larger society, that creates their propensity for believe, and further for extremism.

    1. Of course it should be related to “how these groups socialize,” and also how they are treated by “larger society” (though concerning Muslims in Muslim countries I think you mean world powers external to their societies). But what matters more is the perceived treatment by external groups, and the expected status to which the group feels itself entitled. I live in Utah, populated almost entirely by Caucasian Mormons. There are plenty of extremist groups here who are motivated to protect themselves from perceived threats against their religion and their personal safety. These threats do not exist, maybe never existed in the way they imagine. Their perceptions of “persecution” (which is a crucial part of the Mormon narrative) are often based on outsiders failing to respect Mormon supremacy. There are lots of persecuted and oppressed groups in the world, but they don’t all create ISIS-like horrors. Most oppressed groups react in pragmatic ways to try and improve their conditions or avoid making them worse. I would argue that ISIS is born from an Islamist supremacist ideology that motivates extremist reactions rather than pragmatic ones.

  15. This shows that any kinds of horrors can be justified in many religions. When I read these accounts, I can’t help but think that this is exactly what it must have been like when the Israelites justified the rape and sexual slavery of the other Canaanite tribes who “worshipped false gods”. All the same elements are there in the judeo-Christian holy book. Take all the virgins. Kill everybody else. Marry them after killing their families, that makes it all right.

    I have pointed this out on some Christian sites, like BioLogos and Hump of the Camel, and what I get in response sounds very much like the defenses of these ISIS guys. “Oh, this isn’t rape, they marry them first” or “Things were different then, the guys were doing these girls a favor, how could the girls live without a man (after their families were killed by the people taking them as sex slaves/wives).

    These are supposedly decent people justifying these atrocities, normal people from our own culture.

    What does that say about how religion poisons everything?

    It also suggests that, since Christians don’t actually do this raping now, there is more to it than just the religion. But the religion is a big part of it.

    1. It’s almost a carbon copy of the genocide of the Amalekites.

      A Christian apologist once made the argument that the Amalekites were to blame for the murder of their own children because they ‘didn’t move away in time’

      Hey, ancient armies were slow moving! Surely they had enough warning! If they chose to stick around get murdered it’s their own darn fault!

    2. I’m sure nearly everyone here knows these verses of the Judeo-Christian scripture very well, but here they are in case some readers don’t remember how similar they are to the ISIS doctrines:
      (Deuteronomy 20:10-14):
      As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you. [End of extract]

      Here’s more from Deut. 21:10-14

      When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her. [End of extract]

      Here is a direct quote from Yahewh about slavery in Leviticus 25:39-46, clearly condoning slavery as long as the slave is not Hebrew:

      39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are my servants,[e] whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. 44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly. [End of extract]

      You can read how modern, seemingly decent Jews and Christians responded here:

      It still sends shivers down my spine to see how ordinary intelligent people in our own societies justify these acts:

      Scroll down to 01/03/2014 for these comments.

    3. “Things were different then, the guys were doing these girls a favor, how could the girls live without a man (after their families were killed by the people taking them as sex slaves/wives).”

      Reminds me of certain Republicans and conservatives talking about how Africans were better off as slaves in the U.S., as compared to their otherwise staying in Africa.

      1. Or Republicans and Christians who write that women were better off in the 1950s, when they were put on a pedestal for their babymaking and homemaking duties. Apparently feminism ruined the lives of women, enabling them to become ‘just like men’. Whereas women have a ‘spiritual gift’, ‘straight from God’ that has granted them the ability that, sadly, men don’t have, to make babies and clean house.

        If only men were so lucky! But instead, men have the onerous burden of a fulfilling career, and being head of the household!

  16. We had soldiers in World War II who raped french women. This is something very common as Jerry pointed out. Disgusting. I don’t get it. I cannot imagine wanting to be with a woman who did not want to be with me. Maybe it’s my giant ego or something.

      1. I have read extensively on WWII, and I’ve never seen anything as to proof that this was the “S.O.P.” of the German Army (although it may well occurred in concentration camps)- better check your sources. However, there WAS a “rape-tradition” amongst the Japanese soldiers in China: it was commonplace and, almost expected, for a soldier to kill any Chinese woman after raping her, often with a bayonet. The reasons behind this were manifold: the, “culture of brutality” impressed into the average Japanese soldier in their training, which was most easily carried out on the weakest and most vulnerable of the “enemy”; the, “macho”, repressed sexual culture of the Japanese (despite their casual attitudes towards nudity, they’re still all messed up: ever watch any Japanese porn? The women cry and whimper like they’re being raped, even when they’re supposed to be enjoying it), and perhaps a somewhat unconscious desire to “cover up” the sin of having sex with a Chinese, whom the Japanese considered, “sub-human”.

    1. It’s amazing to me how thin and fragile the lines (and how few the generations) that separate us from loss of what we sometimes take for granted as the morality of modern civilization.
      Just this week one of the US candidates for President proudly boasted of how he would bring back torture as a part of the officially approved extra-judicial policy of America, a statement that would have been considered unthinkably barbaric in my grandmother’s time.

  17. A few years back there was a video on youtube of a fat guy in a bathrobe explaining in arabic that Mohammad was not a pedophile because even if he married Aisha at age 6, he didn’t have sex with her until she was 9 but it apparently been taken down. How this 7th century barbarism has survived until this day shows the power of belief

        1. In view of the extremely short life-expectancy (compared to ours today) in those days and in that climate, it was important that girls should give birth to their first-borns at such a young age so that they would live long enough to raise them. Therefore it was common, as was such a early menarche. Or so have I often been told by people knowledgeable on that very subject.

          1. Incorrect.

            People were not dying off at the ages of 30 and 40 back then. It’s just that infant mortality rates were far far higher back then, and that skews the numbers.

            OH, and pregnancy and birth at 9 years old is *more* likely to kill the girl and the fetus, as a little girls hips are NOT wide enough to give birth. Also, miscarriage and other complications are more likely since a child is still growing, and the fetus takes all of the nutrients meant for her to use for itself. This is why girls who get pregnant in their teens often suffer from osteoperosis because the fetus takes calcium from their growing bones, depriving them of needed nutrients.

            1. The demographics of medieval Islamic society varied in some significant aspects from other agricultural societies, including a decline in birth rates as well as a change in life expectancy. Other traditional agrarian societies are estimated to have had an average life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, while ancient Rome and medieval Europe are estimated at 20 to 30 years. Conrad I. Lawrence estimates the average lifespan in the early Islamic Caliphate to be above 35 years for the general population, and several studies on the life spans of Islamic scholars concluded that members of this occupational group had a life expectancy between 69 and 75 years, though this longevity was not representative of the general population.

              Mind you, in Europe and even in the USA, it was not all that uncommon that girls were married at a very young age – my American husband’s grandmother was married at the age of 9 and had her first-born when she was 11.

              I came across the following which is quite interesting:

              Aisha was married in 622 C.E., and although her exact birthday is unknown, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari recorded that it happened before Islam was revealed in 610. The earliest surviving biography of Muhammad, Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Malik bin Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah — The Life of the Messenger of God records that Aisha accepted Islam shortly after it was revealed — 12 years before her marriage — and there is no way she could have done so as an infant or toddler.

              Furthermore, it is a matter of incontrovertible historical record that Aisha was involved in the Battles of Badr in 624 and Uhud in 625, in neither of which was anyone under the age of 15 allowed.
              Finally, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, dead for more than 700 years, recorded in the biographical section of Miskat al-Masabih that Asma, her elder sister of 10 years, died at the age of 100, 72 years after Aisha’s wedding. This makes Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage at least 14, and at the time of her marriage’s consummation almost 20.

              1. 9 years old is never and will never be a healthy age to give birth.

                Hips too small fetus too big. Wanna kill off a population? Breed all the girls at 9 years old.

              2. No, it wasn’t. Girls went into menarche much later, often around 14-16.

                Childbirth killls 9 year olds. This is not debateable. Fetuses are too large to pass through their narrow hips. Death by obstructed labour.

              3. You mean like Hilda Trujillo? (google it)

                Nevertheless, child marriages of girls under the age of 10 were fairly common in the USA util the end of the 19th century – my US husband’s grandmother was married at the age of 9 and gave birth when she was 11 in the beginning of the 20th century. Child marriages of girls under the age of 10 were also quite common in Europe. Anyway, did I ever say anything about giving birth at the age of 9? Note that although menarche marks a mature stage in the development of girls, it does not signify a full reproductive function. Early periods are irregular and 70% are anovulatory.

                Also, the width of hips in 9 year old girls varies a lot, depending on their physical characteristics. Some are narrow-hipped, some are wide-hipped, some have feminine shapes, some have masculine shapes.

                At my boarding school, when I was 12 in 1959, I was the last girl in my class to get my first period, and I also was one of the oldest in my class. I was teased by the other girls because I got my first period so late.

              4. Yes, and they mainly occur in women who were infibulated. They also occur in women who were fully mature and developed when they first gave birth. They are caused by obstructed labour, namely a large or abnormally positioned baby, a small pelvis, and problems with the birth canal. Abnormal positioning includes shoulder dystocia where the anterior shoulder does not pass easily below the pubic bone. Risk factors for a small pelvis include malnutrition and a lack of exposure to sunlight causing vitamin D deficiency. Problems with the birth canal include a narrow vagina and perineum which may be due to female genital mutilation or tumors.

              5. Happens primarily in pre teen girls because the pelvis is too sm all for a 7-9lb fetus. Labour is obstructed. If 9 year old was the standard, according to you, more than 1% of women would be dead from pregnancy, historically. And rates of infant mortality would be higher, because a growing girl can’t get enough nutrition for her *and* a fetus.

              6. And that perhaps is one of the reason that demographics were both relatively stable and sustainable for millenia. Survival of the fittest, and all that. Also, infants in such young mothers seldom are as heavy as 7 to 9 lbs at birth.

              7. An 11 year old just gave birth by c section and it was 7.5 lbs.

                Furthermore, you are full of shit because precocious puberty is s relatively modern phenomenon. Girls generally didn’t reach pubety until 14+ in ancient and Medieval times. If they did, it was due to a health issue, and the pregnancy would kill them, due to their bodies being underdeveloped.

              8. You were talking about 9 year-old girls and not 11 year-old girls. And the majority of grown American women give birth to babies even smaller than that by C section every year.

                As you should know, Wikipedia is one of the least credible of sources, and to call me full of shit is unworthy of a supposedly decent and intelligent woman.

              9. Yeah, you are full of shit, because you don’t know what you are talking about. If it was normal for 9 to girls to have babies throughout all of human history, we probably wouldn’t be around right now due to the high rates of maternal and infant mortality.

                And the Mayo Clinic agrees with me and wikipedia hat early pubety isn’t normal or healthy:

                I also suspect that you are trolling and that you are actually a man. Women don’t generally excuse child rape so nonchalantly.

              10. I never said that it was normal for girls to have babies at the age of 9 years, neither nowadays nor throughout humanity, so please re-read all my comments slowly. Quite frankly, your back-alley vocabulary is neither comely for a woman nor is it warranted at all in this discussion.

                Furthermore, never have I for one nanosecond excused child rape, and yes, I am very much a woman who moreover was in fact raped as a child. That might explain my susceptibility and reactiveness, I’ll grant you that.

              11. Not true.

                You said that because people had such a short lifespan, that it was necessary to impregnate girls as young as 9.

                You don’t know what you are talking about and your attitude smacks of child rape apology, since you know that the girls had no say in the matter.

              12. I never said anything of the sort. You must have totally misread or misunderstood me. I know full well what I talk about, and it is most disingenuous of you to infer from anything I wrote that I expressed any kind child rape apology. Of course girls never had say in the matter, and most fully grown women in the world today don’t either. Yet I am sure you are an intelligent young woman, and I mean that unironically.

            2. The demographics of medieval Islamic society varied in some significant aspects from other agricultural societies, including a decline in birth rates as well as a change in life expectancy. Other traditional agrarian societies are estimated to have had an average life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, while ancient Rome and medieval Europe are estimated at 20 to 30 years. Conrad I. Lawrence estimates the average lifespan in the early Islamic Caliphate to be above 35 years for the general population, and several studies on the life spans of Islamic scholars concluded that members of this occupational group had a life expectancy between 69 and 75 years, though this longevity was not representative of the general population.

              1. I wish I had known you were female when I posted my analysis of you earlier: for a woman to be an advocate of and an apologist for child rape is, to me, particularly abominable; I don’t care how “direct” of a contact you THINK your so-called, “prophet” had with God. Even his own wife commented that she found it curious that whenever he wanted something, he soon received a, “new” message from Allah granting him it! Joseph Smith the “prophet” of the wholly-fabricated Mormon religion, was prone to this, as well.

              2. In no way have I been an advocate of and an apologist for child rape. As a matter of fact, I myself was raped as a child, so quite frankly, your attitude is inexcusable and downright contemptuous simply because I am a woman. Furthermore, I have no prophet. You are exceedingly presumptive and haughty. I find that shameful and unworthy.

            3. Mind you, in Europe and even in the USA, it was not all that uncommon that girls were married at a very young age – my American husband’s grandmother was married at the age of 9 and had her first-born when she was 11.

              I came across the following which is quite interesting:

              Aisha was married in 622 C.E., and although her exact birthday is unknown, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari recorded that it happened before Islam was revealed in 610. The earliest surviving biography of Muhammad, Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Malik bin Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah — The Life of the Messenger of God records that Aisha accepted Islam shortly after it was revealed — 12 years before her marriage — and there is no way she could have done so as an infant or toddler.

              Furthermore, it is a matter of incontrovertible historical record that Aisha was involved in the Battles of Badr in 624 and Uhud in 625, in neither of which was anyone under the age of 15 allowed.
              Finally, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, dead for more than 700 years, recorded in the biographical section of Miskat al-Masabih that Asma, her elder sister of 10 years, died at the age of 100, 72 years after Aisha’s wedding. This makes Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage at least 14, and at the time of her marriage’s consummation almost 20.

  18. Like most people I found that NYT article difficult to read. The combination of sadness, despair and anger it generated was dizzying. Those poor women and girls (not to mention all the men rounded up and executed).

    The reactions of Christians to the stories of ISIS is always something to behold. In the NYT comments section on the article, for instance, there were those (clearly Christian) who were decrying the horrors committed by those “godless people.”

    The irony is that this is the reaction Christians are having to seeing what is essentially their Old Testament Laws played out in real time before them! The every-excuse-possible-to-kill someone, the regulating of slavery, genocide, you name it.
    This is what it looked like when your OT God was in command, folks! Take a good look, like what you see?

    But when atheists dare point this out, suggesting that…maybe we should re-think this idea of The Bible being the best guide we have for morality then we get hisses of “How arrogant and disrespectful of you to attack my religion! Militant Atheists are the worst!”

  19. I find the attitude of some of your Western liberals towards Islam appalling. The comments of ‘Vierotchka’ on this thread can serve as a particularly illustrative example.

    They think they have an authoritative understanding of Islam just because they have a “practicing Muslim friend” or they happen to own a copy of the Quran. But, in fact, their view of Islamic doctrine is laughably outlandish.

    Take, for example, a link that the aforementioned commenter cited in an attempt to deny the clear Quranic endorsement of sex slaves. The website she cited ( states that such injunctions “are derived from the corruption deliberately spread in the books called Hadith and Sunna which were written about 200 years after the death of the prophet Muhammad. These books do not represent Islam nor the Islamic law, but rather represent man made laws written against the commands of the prophet Muhammed and the commands of God in the Quran.”

    This is typical of an all-too-common tactic among keyboard apologists of Islam: a radical re-interpretation of a Quranic verse along with a wholesale rejection of the Hadith literature as well as 1400 years of traditional exegetical scholarship in all the established sects of Islam. But it is the height of ignorance to claim that this approach will enjoy any sort of credibility in the Muslim world.

    Even the Quraniyoon intellectuals(i.e. the Quranists)- those who reject the canonical status of Hadith, and wish to derive all their laws from the Quran itself- do not reject all Hadith and Tafsir scholarship. And, mind you, the Quraniyoon are an exceedingly rare breed in the Muslim world. Almost a myth. They can be identified with neither Sunni, nor Shia, nor the Ibadi tradition. I have never met a single one in Pakistan, where I live.

    1. I got most of my above information from spending many long hours discussing with highly respected and knowledgeable Sufi scholars in Rawalpindi and Karachi, in 1972.

      1. I am sure you know that Sufism is not an independent school of thought. Rather, there are Sufi orders within all major Islamic sects. Even the Hanafi Deobandi movement (which boasts of such adherents as the Taliban and the TTP) has a strong Sufi tradition.

        So, exactly which Sufi order did the respected scholars you met belong to?

          1. I should like to add, however, that the making of the Muslim world as a whole responsible for ISIS, when it is clear that a great many Muslims are appalled at what is being perpetrated by ISIS and are standing against it, does not strike me as being helpful. As Amartya Sen, among others, has pointed out, Islam is not a simple phenomenon; and moderate Muslims need to be supported in the fight against the fundamentalists. The New Atheist mantra about moderates (belonging to any religion) facilitating, by the mere fact of their being believers, the enormities of fanatics is in the end dangerously undiscriminating and politically foolish. I think the idea was first proposed by Christopher Hitchens, who was at one point in his life, a Trotskyite, and it bears a strong resemblance to Marxist-Leninist dicta about people who, merely by virtue of being born into a bourgeois family, or who have a preference for the paintings of, say, Paul Klee rather than socialist-realist kitsch, being ‘objectively’ ‘enemies of the people’ even if they support socialist ideals. I certainly do not regard my secular Jewish friends or my religiously observant and politically liberal Israeli friends as being in any way responsible for the recent outrage perpetrated by the grandson of Meir Kahane and his terrorist group.

            1. or by virtue of having a preference for the paintings of, say, Paul Klee…

              Sorry, typing too fast, missed it. Please correct in your minds.

            2. “The New Atheist mantra about moderates (belonging to any religion) facilitating, by the mere fact of their being believers, the enormities of fanatics is in the end dangerously undiscriminating and politically foolish.”

              Since the “new” atheists = same old, it is an old idea. I don’t know its historical roots, but no one else but Paul – he of Paul’s theory of religion – has researched it.

              “The Data Does Not Lie: Moderate Religion is NOT Good for Societies”

              [ ]

              It is not a mantra either, it is an area of contention.

              “5. Liberal and Moderate Religion Justifies Religious Extremism

              This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. This is not a “myth” atheists have about religion, or a “mistake” we make about it. This is a topic on which believers and many atheists disagree. … The point is not that liberal and moderate religion justifies religious extremism. The point is that liberal and moderate religion justifies religion.”
              [ ]

              I fail to see how discriminating between moderate and extreme religion is undiscriminating, or how it is politically foolish when it adheres to how the world works, i.e. Paul’s statistics.

              As for the unwarranted connection with communism, I would say you godwined yourself by replacing Hitler with Stalin.

              1. ‘I fail to see how discriminating between moderate and extreme religion is undiscriminating, or how it is politically foolish when it adheres to how the world works…’ It is good to hear from you, Torbjorn, because your remarks are always perceptive and thoughtful, but this last sentence of yours seems to say much the same as I am saying. I certainly cannot see how how it contradicts what I am suggesting. Did you perhaps mean to write something other than you wrote? I am honestly puzzled.

                From the paper you cite: ‘Even though religious moderation is not societally toxic the way theo-conservatism is, it cannot survive the onset of secure prosperity that is invariably toxic to mass religious supernaturalism. No matter what its flavor, religion can never be the solution the way that democratic atheism can and is.’ And: ‘And because the best run societies are the most atheistic, that means the best way to make cultures more atheistic is by running them as well as possible…’

                Yes. But most Muslim societies are not, alas, very well-run societies and they have little ‘secure prosperity’ – and those that do have secure prosperity, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states, Brunei, do not seem to be remarkable for the liberalism of their politics or social arrangements – though perhaps the author of the paper you cite knows better. And even in supposedly well-run European societies, a significant number of young Muslims in particular seem to be susceptible to the call of fundamentalism. There is a struggle going on within Islam, as there is within Christianity, particularly of the American variety, between moderates and fundamentalists. It is surely important to distinguish between moderates and fundamentalists and to give support to the former, rather than throwing up our hands and saying they are all bloody Muslims (or Christians, or Jews) and therefore all tarred with the same brush, which is what Sam Harris (it was not Hitchens, so I must apologise to his shade)was essentially saying. I make no apology for making a comparison with the Marxist-Leninist concept of ‘objective class enemies’ since Harris’s dictum, although no doubt useful as a goad to make moderates think more seriously about the beliefs they espouse and the way those beliefs may be translated into practice, has, in the wrong hands or the wrong minds, the danger of
                simply blotting out the thoughts and emotions of a great many people. Do you, Torbjorn, think it right to hold your Jewish friends responsible for the actions of Meir Kahane’s grandson?

            3. I myself don’t, “make the Muslim world as a whole responsible for ISIS”: I lay the blame on Islam itself: without the absurd notion that a particular set of teachings is, “directly from God” (which, of course, is a characteristic of ALL organized religions), there would be no foundation for ISIS, Boko Harum, etc.
              I don’t know, or deal with, any Muslims myself, but I’m sure that if I did my interactions with them would be directly influenced by just how thoroughly they “buy into” Islamic dogma (of course, if you don’t accept Mohammed as God’s one true prophet; which kinda implies that you believe everything he said was directly from God, technically, you’re not a “Muslim”, anyway)- I could be a co-worker, or a friend with one, but if they try to impress their notions on me, they’ll have to listen to my response, at which point we would probably cease being “friends”. I would treat a fundamentalist Christian or an Orthodox Jew in exactly the same manner, although their belief systems do not (directly, at least) include the domination of the world and the killing, or, at the very least, taxing, of those who do not believe as they do.

              It’s ironic that Islam, meaning, “submission”, is actually about everyone else “submitting” to them!

  20. I,ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, ISIS are doing nothing in their Barbarities that isn’t allowed for in the Q’uran, you could say they are the only pure Muslims as they themselves believe, everything bad in this World has its roots in Religion and its way beyond time it was all done away with.

  21. Why do so many people keep responding to vierotchka’s nonsense on here? It’s obvious Vera holds herself as the one true keeper of all the world’s knowledge. A troll by any other name, even if she remains clueless to the fact she is one. The Dunning-Kruger effect is on full display here and my email inbox cannot take any more!

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