Monday, July 21, 2008

Who Throws the Rocks?

In Iran, that benevolent and advanced Persian society that claims to follow the ways of Islam, nine people have been sentenced to death for adultery -- by stoning. Eight of them women, of course, since they treat the women so well in such lands.

Most of them were convicted and sentenced because a religious judge said so, and evidence was either scant or none at all. Your husband said you slept with another man? Somebody go collect the rocks. Inshallah.

Here's how it works: The woman is buried to her breasts in a pit and either her male relatives or the public at large, are invited to come round, pick up a rock -- not too small, no pebbles; not too large, nothing that would take you out with one or two hits -- and at a signal, the blood-thirsty throw until the victim is dead. Technically, if she somehow manages to dig herself free and escape, this is a sign that Allah considers her innocent, and she is supposed to be allowed in such cases to live. Seldom happens, and the last time, I believe the woman was shot by an overzealous guard. There is a redundant phrase.

So much for mercy.

Men have it a little easier in this regard -- they are only buried to the waist.

Capital punishment is a controversial subject. When I was a hippie, I was against it. There are some crimes, however, that, for me, make the cut, and in such cases, I support it. I won't detail them, but like a terrier knows a rat, I know them when I see them.

But being strapped to a gurney and given a lethal injection that first knocks you unconscious and then shuts you down? Not quite the same as being buried in a pit with the neighbors given leave to have at you with rocks, vis a vis quick and painless ways to go.

Lot of folks used to use this one, including the Jews, but it has fallen out of favor save in a few of the Middle Eastern countries. (Used to be quite popular; stoning was good for a plethora of crimes, including one who curses his father and mother, or somebody who happened to be touching Mount Sinai while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments.( Long list, here.)

Careful where you lean there, pal. Moses is up the hill. God might decide to give him a few more, hey?

There is much evil done in the name of religion in this world. Put this one on my list. I cannot help but think that the Prophet Mohammad will be advising Allah to give a thumbs-down for anybody who chucked rocks and killed a woman raped by a neighbor.
If not, I don't know anybody who'd want to achieve that version of Paradise.

Jesus didn't much care for it, either. If we are all sinners, and only those without sin get to cast the first stone, that's gonna make it hard to get a good blood bath going.


ShaneShock said...

Such as losing a hand for stealing, an easy relationship to understand, is there a particular relation between stoning and infidelity in their culture?


Steve Perry said...

I think there are a lot of rocks laying around and it's a way to get the community together for a social event.

The punishment is about property, which women are still considered to be in much of the world -- wives, children, betrothed.

Note that in adultery, both sinners are supposed to be stoned. The one man in the group was a teacher who supposedly forced himself on a girl student, but why aren't there eight more men condemned, since it takes two to tango?

It's a barbaric holdover in a culture that doesn't particularly value human life, and values female life less.

Dan Moran said...

They're savages. In the long term, we can't live in the same world with people who hold such values. This really is a life or death issue, and the Bush administration has completely muffed it -- along with so much else.

Nuclear weapons, real WMD, in the hands of a culture like modern Islam, is a recipe for global suicide. MAD only works when people want to live, when they value their own lives more than they want to end yours.

The treatment of women isn't the core of it, but it's sure canary in the coal mine stuff.

Dan Gambiera said...

A lot of evil is done in the name of religion. And much more is done in the name of money, power, ethnicity and national boundaries.

Bad people will find excuses to be bad. Good people will find excuses to be good.

Steve Perry said...

To be sure, the evils of mammon and power and things else are out there, and I wasn't saying otherwise.

None of these in any way mitigate the evil done in God's name, whatever it is.

ShaneShock said...

I often wonder how such traditions are born. Go back far enough, you come to one person. I’m sure it was a man seriously lacking in the self confidence department who decided that women are not worthy of human respect, and he managed to convince those around him to agree.

As for half burying people and throwing rocks at them until they are dead, that sounds like a tradition born in the caveman days. An example of how many cultures have refused to evolve.


Dan Gambiera said...

Dan, the politest thing I can say about your comments on "modern Islam" is that you are woefully misinformed and suffering from a very skewed media viewpoint. None of the major Western religions - Christianity, Communism, Fascism or Capitalism - comes off much better, especially if you average over time or go back a little bit. I won't bore you with all the details. Trust me, you could get buried under the paper.

I'll take stoning for adultery and put it up against knouting serfs up until the reign of Nikolas II or 1000 strokes of the lash in the British Navy. Both are death by torture. Cutting off the hand of a thief is bad. So is hanging eight year olds for the theft of a handkerchief. That was on the books into the early 19th century if memory serves.

The West had the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, the horrors and glories of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the Middle and Working classes. Parliamentary reforms and the World Wars changed things in ways it's hard to imagine. When Europe and North America underwent the demographic transition it allowed whole classes of untermenschen to get a stake and demand better lives. And so on.

Much of the Muslim world is in a high birth, low death phase with poor industrialization, hyperurbanization, immature political systems, and unwillingness or inability to handle these problems. In many places the mosque is the only acceptable outlet for discontent.

It's easy to point that in two directions - outwards at the Christians and Jews and inwards at behavior that violates ever-stricter codes of conduct. Xenophobia and neurosis are easier to satisfy than solving real problems. The rise of the clan of Ibn Wahab and its prominent place in Saudi politics insured that moderate and progressive voices would get shouted down or outspent around the world.

Books have been written. Many, many books have been written.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

One of the pitfalls of religion is the carryover customs of the region it originated from. We could make this same argument about any religion at different moments in time, all have glaringly obvious shortcomings. In the case of Islam, it has failed to separate ancient Arabic tribal customs from religious doctrine, since the Middle East is still the central hub of the religion itself. The most common occurrences of religious unrest in the "converted" countries, such as Indonesia, are when the religious leaders are trying to emulate the mother country to show how great their righteousness is. Otherwise, the religions tend to gradient into one another (Bandung is a good example of this.)

And then the irony returns like a half-brick to the occipital lobe when you consider how foreigners of ANY culture are considered by the Imams of the Middle East, even if they are Muslim: Lower than dogs.

Religions, by and large, have to promote a set of rules or laws to be enforced to show how the purported "God" of that religion is the One True Voice. This gives righteous diplomatic immunity to religious leaders to enforce such laws in any manner they see fit, "Acting on behalf of God". Also, there must be a carrot-or-a-stick situation involved somewhere along the way: Sing in Heaven or burn in Hell. Otherwise, what will motivate you to follow the religion?

Catholicism has had it's dark ages, as have every other religion. The Jews are perhaps still undergoing theirs with their actions over the conflict in Israel. George Bush (senior) once said that he wasn't sure if people who were Atheists should even be considered American citizens. That made me pause for a second...Hearing an echo of the Crusades. If his son had even a teaspoon of intelligence, we might have had it much worse this past decade than we did. Which is hard to imagine.

Getting back to the point, Islam was once touted as the intellectual seat of the world. Now, it's only famous for blood and murder.

What I'm hoping for is a continuation of the historical pattern: Things eventually settle down. People wake up. The Inquisition ends and people see how stupid it was that they once thought that way. I would have to say that the Middle East won't achieve anything resembling true religion or humanity as long as their are laws still in place that allow the degradation and murder of another human being to feed the madness of crowds.

I have some close friends who are Muslim, and of course, if they are my friends then they'll have to be something different than the Muslims you read about in these horrific instances. But I would say they are the exceptions, not the rules. And they do indeed get upset when I write things like this, and I will readily admit that ALL of the Muslim League isn't like Osama bin Laden, but it's the prevailing leaders of Islam who really sabotage their arguments, not me: The public face of modern Islam is one of unreasonable intolerance and hatred, and until there is just as big a force for GOOD in Islam, active and visible, then the rest of the world will still be overwhelmed with these images of savagery and soulless brutality. And from there, we can only make the exact same judgment calls we have been since 9-11. How can we not? What evidence is there to the contrary?

Islam, too, will have to evolve before it can be considered a true religion. It will have to lose it's one-way swinging door policy of conversion. Only when Muslims are just as free NOT to be Muslim will Islam come into it's own. Until then, Islam demonstrates behavior more attuned to a cult rather than a religion.

Dan Moran said...

Dan, the politest thing I can say about your comments on "modern Islam" is that you are woefully misinformed and suffering from a very skewed media viewpoint.

Wouldn't be the first time.

None of the major Western religions - Christianity, Communism, Fascism or Capitalism - comes off much better, especially if you average over time or go back a little bit. I won't bore you with all the details. Trust me, you could get buried under the paper.

Yeah, but you have to average over time, because right now fundamentalist Islam is the hot spot. Sure, in a generation or two things can move a lot -- Germans aren't presently sending people off to concentration camps for being Jewish, or gypsy, or gay. But back in 1945 I'd have said about Germans, "we can't live in the same world with people who hold such values."

I'm very open to the idea that in a couple generations Islam can be cured of this. The Germans and Japanese were, but they got some brutal shock treatment.

The rest of your post is a long diagnosis of how the Western world used to be as bad as the Islamic world is today. I don't dispute any of it, particularly including the "used to be" part.

Books have been written. Many, many books have been written.

Other people than you have read them, if you can believe it. :-)

Bobbe Edmonds said...

While I was writing my first reply, I see Todd has responded with a great insight as well. He puts a few of my points in balance with the world stage, so I just want to add that I am pointing out HOW THINGS ARE, how the chess pieces on the board currently stand. That's not to say it couldn't change, or maybe even is doing so now.

Steve Perry said...

What I said was "There is much evil done in the name of religion in this world."

And some good, of course, but my original comment stands, and nobody has said anything that shakes it at all.

We aren't talking about spirituality, we are talking about made-made organized religions. Not offering that Jesus or Muhammad or Gautama or others didn't have a flash of the Cosmic Relampago, only that the people who came later and interpreted the stories didn't have the same experience, nor necessarily the same motivations.

I don't care how many books have been written. The writers weren't *there.* They don't know. It's all guesswork at this late date, and the few who have the same touch of God's hand are extrapolating from their experience backward.

The map ain't the territory.

Note I didn't say that all followers of Islam are evil, nor all Christians, Jews, Jains, nor Buddhists, nor Hindus, nor any of whichever one you want to point out. Good people do find place wherein they can do good things.

I'm not ready to nuke 'em all and let God sort them out.

But: When God is on your side and you are willing to do heinous things because you believe that's what God wants, then that is an ugly can of worms. Stoning people. Burning witches. The Inquisition. Lynching. Slavery. All perpetrated by God-fearing and faithful, doing what they believed was right.

Burying a thirteen-year-old girl to her chest in the dirt and then stoning her to death because her uncle molested her is a vile and detestable act. The uncle? Still bad, but maybe easier to justify -- only he seldom gets that sentence. Men are pure. Women are temptresses?


If anybody wants to step and defend such murderous actions regarding adultery, be my guest. Best you wear your asbestos undies when you do, because I *will* cook you like the Joker did Harvey Dent.

If the Bible or the Koran or the Book of Billy Bob says such things are okay, then maybe you might understand how some of us could look upon these things askance, and perhaps doubt that the good books are to be taken literally.

And I wonder, how is that anyone can possibly look at it that way.

Steve Perry said...

The question that is the title is what popped into my mind when I read about the Iranian death sentences in last Sunday's paper. I think the answer is telling, regarding a society.

The first short story I had publlshed thirty years ago -- second one I sold -- was called "With Clean Hands," and it depicted a near-future society in the U.S. in which condemned prisoners were sent into an arena, locked in armed GE carts, to shoot it out.

It's interesting how close we have come in this country to bringing back public executions.

We still have pointed teeth, and very few of us live too far from The Lord of the Flies.

Some of us are farther than others, personally or as a society, but we aren't really civilized.

Things that puzzle this other goddess.... said...

I don't often respond to other's blogs, but this one got to me. For me this goes back to a male attitude of who is 'worthy' to throw the rocks and make that judgement.

I don't think many women, at least the ones I know, would be willing to make such a final judgement on activity that had multiple participants.

Especially if the victim is the one who is being punished. We're seeing more and more in these harsh religious scenarios that compassion for the suffering is thrown to the side of the road. Following Old Testament, Islam, and others as well. When will we (as a world of individuals) wake up and see that compassion and caring for our fellow man/woman is part of the requirement for us to live together as a race?