Score one for the "religion of peace"

From the Beeb:

At least eight women and one man are reported to have been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

The group, convicted of adultery and sex offences, could be executed at any time, lawyers defending them say.

Under Iran’s strict penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. The stones used should not be large enough to kill the person immediately.

Men up to their waists; women up to their chests. Fair enough, I mean, you don’t want them to run away or be able to cower and protect themselves, but I suppose you don’t want to hurt their breasts or genitals either (or even admit they exist, this is fundamentalist Islam after all). Also, good that the stones shouldn’t be big enough to kill them immediately. It’s perfectly understandable that you’d want to cause someone immense pain through dozens, maybe hundreds of blunt force traumas first. You want to draw it out so the stoners can enjoy their work. They could perhaps have competitions to see who can blind the prisoner or break their nose first. Don’t throw too hard though – perhaps the vicious, sinful sex criminal could suffer some kind of brain damage first or even slip into unconsciousness which would mean they wouldn’t feel the rest of the stones hitting their face and body. Can’t have that – they have to realise the error of their ways before they slip into unconsciousness and have their heads bashed in.

I thought Catholicism and Christianity in general was Dark-Ages retarded (retarded in the literal sense of the word, as in “held back or delayed”). Most of the time when I rant I concentrate on Christianity because it’s the religion I’m familiar with, but I often seem to forget how Islam – which makes similar claims to Absolute Truth and Moral Certainty – always manages to eclipse Christianity in almost every way. Sexual discrimination/homophobia/sexual hangups in general? Islam wins. Brutal punishments like the above? Islam again. Strident demands to not be offended by someone who disagrees? We can all recall the Danish cartoon fiasco and the poor teacher in the Sudan who had to be spirited out of the country after her students, not her, named a teddy Mohammed – then she apologised!! Vicious demonstrations calling for the deaths of critics? Think of the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie (his is still in effect twenty years later – these people don’t forgive or forget). What about actual deaths of critics? Think of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. He was found gunned down & stabbed to death in the street. Pinned to his chest with a knife was a note, addressed to Somali-born, Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which said “you’re next”. As an apostate and vocal, public critic of Islam, Ms Ali has her own fatwa against her and requires 24hr protection wherever she goes. I probably don’t need to mention honour killings or 72 virgins or Bali, do I?

I got your Religion of Peace right here:

Of course, it would be completely unfair to characterise all Muslims as potential faith-based murderers. I won’t lie and tell you that some of my best friends are Muslims, but I have many Muslim co-workers and they’re all decent, gentle, caring people (this is a humanitarian organisation after all). The last thing on my mind would be to feel uncomfortable or frightened around them. What would not be unfair would be to say that, simply looking at the numbers, their religion, unfortunately, produces more than its fair share of brutal violence. Violence which, more often than not according to the very words of the perpetrators of such violence, is scripturally-inspired. How many pre-suicide bomb films have we seen where the soon-to-be martyr proclaims the greatness of Allah? Not even that – just look at theocracies like Iran & Saudi Arabi where punishments like stonings and beheadings are carried out daily and where Koran-based prohibitions on what an adult can do are ruthlessly enfored by “Public Decency Police” or what-have-you. Look at what happens to gay people/adulterers – even hetero, umarried couples who dare to defy their families in those countries (more often than not it’s the woman who takes the brunt of punishment). Look at the world Osama bin Laden & his ilk want to create – everyone under the bootheel of Wahabbi Islam, the strictest, most fundamentalist version that can be found.

Yes, obviously it’s always the extremists that cause the problems, that small minority that make all moderate, decent believers look bad. But when can we expect the moderates all over the world to say “No! That’s not our Islam, that’s their Islam, ours is about peace and quiet coexistence and acceptance. Those ranting muftis do not speak for us!” And what if the moderates did stand up for decency? The extremists would say “Their moderate Islam is wrong; ours commands us to spread the word of Allah by whatever means are necessary; our Islam demands we wage jihad! Their Islam is weak and diluted and corrupted by decadent, permissive, infidel Western whores!”

That, by and large, is my biggest problem with religion. With so many different competing sects, versions and levels of literalism when it comes to interpreting the texts, how can anyone be sure that theirs is the right one? How can any of these people, apart from the fact they were marinated in it for their entire lives, actually know they’re doing it right? This is a point frequently raised by atheists/agnostics/rationalists and to my knowledge it’s never been adequately addressed by a believer or priest or theologist. What if your moderate version of the religion is actually wrong and God actually wants you to behave like an illiterate desert shepherd from two or three thousand years ago? What if he actually does want you to execute infidels and de-converts and people who work on weekends? What if he will condemn you to hell for the slightest infraction? Face it, you and your sect have evolved & adapted your faith to conform with your own personal morality and that of your modern society. But you had absolutley no right to do that; God’s word is law and it’s the only law you need. How dare you defy God’s will and make up your own rules? May God have mercy on your soul!

Sam Harris and others have said that it’s the moderate form of any religion which provides the environment in which the extreme element survives (after all, pretty much all religions start of as fundamentalist and then evolve toward moderation through time – today’s fundamentalists are just getting back to basics). The moderates provide cover for the extremists to grow and thrive, like weeds in a cornfield. Some weeds manage to exert a disproportionate influence on the rest of the crop though – in cases like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the weeds have full control. It’s not the spread of Islam that the world must be on its guard against (it’s the fastest-growing faith in the world and it’s everywhere anyway); it’s the stunted, poisonous, parasitic weeds that Islam allows to grow and spread that we should stamp out and uproot wherever we find them.