THE SPINE AUGUST 17, 2010
There is no gloating in my finding Barack Obama's view of Islam more than a bit fatuous. Oh, how I wish it were true...
But a searing article by Rod Norland in the New York Times should put an end to the president's fantasies which he has tried to foist on the American people by the sheer even tone of his voice. How can I say this? For all his pretensions to knowledge of the faith and its peoples, he is an ignoramus. Not that I'm a man of real learning about the field. But I do read and read...and also see.
Yes, of course, Islam is an intricate religion and the Muslim world is a complicated civilization. Sill, human rights does not command true respect anywhere but in a few enclaves in the orbit of the prophet. And it is not only human life that is threatened but simple human choice. William Dalrymple has published on today's Times op-ed page a little essay trying to disprove these generalizations. Of course, he relies on the Sufi sect which as a whole is a tiny proportion of the faith and, in any case, itself divided into dozens of sectlets. Now, over the centuries, Sufi Islam has also influenced both Christian and Jewish streams in the world of faith, including in the area of Spain where I have been vacationing. But the fact is that Dalrymple's case is best made by his own argument that Sufi religious have been persecuted--truly persecuted--by other factions, much larger, more worldly, state-connected, simply brutal.
The Norland article (I read it in the International Herald Tribune) is headlined "2 eloping Afghans are stoned to death."
Here are the first five paragraphs of the story:
The Taliban on Sunday ordered their first public executions by stoning since their fall from power nine years ago, killing a young couple who had eloped, according to Afghan officials and a witness.
The punishment was carried out by hundreds of the victims’ neighbors in a village in northern Kunduz Province, according to Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, who was interviewed by telephone. Even family members were involved, both in the stoning and in tricking the couple into returning after they had fled.
Mr. Khan said that as a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious court, the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,’ ” Mr. Khan said.
The executions were the latest in a series of cases where the Taliban have imposed their harsh version of Shariah law for social crimes, reminiscent of their behavior during their decade of ruling the country. In recent years, Taliban officials have sought to play down their bloody punishments of the past, as they concentrated on building up popular support.
“We see it as a sign of a new confidence on the part of the Taliban in the application of their rules, like they did in the ’90s,” said Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner on the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “We do see it as a trend. They’re showing more strength in recent months, not just in attacks, but including their own way of implementing laws, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.”
But this is only a snippet of the Afghan narrative:
Failure to carry out such “Islamic provisions,” the council statement said, was hindering the peace process and encouraging crime.
The controversy could have implications for efforts by Afghan officials to reconcile with Taliban leaders and draw them into power-sharing talks[...]
Time magazine focused widespread indignation on Afghanistan recently by putting on its cover a picture of an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan Province whose nose and ears were cut off by her Taliban husband after she had fled her child marriage to him.
Amnesty International condemned the latest stonings, calling them the first such executions since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. “The Taliban and other insurgent groups are growing increasingly brutal in their abuses against Afghans,” said Sam Zarifi, an Amnesty International official.
The fact is that there are atrocities committed by Muslim groups in power, both formal and informal, every day. Sometimes they are committed against lovers, homosexuals, adulterers, other among the myriads of "criminals" who populate the demonology of Islam. There are almost no registered protests against these transgressions of simple human decency.
The other form of atrocity is the collective punishment of the utterly innocent. These are the literally thousands and thousands who have been caught at prayer or in a bus, at a soccer game or in an outdoor market by suicide bombers who are willing--more to the point, eager--to give their own lives in order to take the lives of others. I do not know of one protest against these random killings that suffuse the Muslim world and are blithely tolerated by the entire ummah.
And, frankly, I do not believe that Barack Obama knows of one either.