Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fatwa Free For All

My daughter sent me a NY Times article on what is happening in IslamaLand with respect to the religious edicts that are flying out out of every imam's ass like farts out of a bean burrito junkie.

There is no Pope or controlling religious authority in Islam. It's like a hillbilly holy roller convention only they're dancing with knives and AK47's.

CAIRO, June 11 — First came the breast-feeding fatwa. It declared that the Islamic restriction on unmarried men and women being together could be lifted at work if the woman breast-fed her male colleagues five times, to establish family ties. Then came the urine fatwa. It said that drinking the urine of the Prophet Muhammad was deemed a blessing.

For the past few weeks, the breast-feeding and urine fatwas have proved a source of national embarrassment in Egypt, not least because they were issued by representatives of the highest religious authorities in the land.

Urine and breast milk, sounds like Uncle Mo got into the corn likker again and needed a chaser.

“We were very angered when we heard about the Danish cartoons concerning our prophet; however, these two fatwas are harming our Islamic religion and our prophet more than the cartoons,” Galal Amin, a professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, wrote in Al Masry Al Yom, a daily newspaper here.

If any religion can be harmed by a cartoon, then it is not a religion. It is a cult that cannot withstand the scrutiny of Tom and Jerry or Mighty Mouse. Think about it. Christianity was assailed by the most powerful government on the face of the planet, the Roman Empire. And Christianity won. Islam trembled at the sight of Mohammed wearing a bomb hat. What would they do with a picture of the Prophet in a tutu?

For many Muslims, fatwas, or religious edicts, are the bridge between the principles of their faith and modern life. They are supposed to be issued by religious scholars who look to the Koran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad for guidance. While the more sensational pronouncements grab attention, the bulk of the fatwas involve the routine of daily life. In Egypt alone, thousands are issued every month.

The controversy in Cairo has been more than just embarrassing. It comes at a time when religious and political leaders say that there is a crisis in Islam because too many fatwas are being issued, and that many of them rely on ideology more than learning. The complaint has been the subject of recent conferences as government-appointed arbiters of Islamic standards say the fatwa free-for-all has led to the promotion of extremism and intolerance.

The thing is that no one probably has any idea just how many fatwas are issued and by whom and for what. The only ones we hear about are the breast milk swilling, piss drinking, neck chopping variety that make the news. The rest of this crap is under the radar just waiting to erupt in another round of Muslim insanity.

The conflict in Egypt served as a difficult reminder of a central challenge facing Islamic communities as they debate the true nature of the faith and how to accommodate modernity. The fatwa is the front line in the theological battle between often opposing worldviews. It is where interpretation meets daily life.

“It is a very critical issue for us,” said Abdullah Megawer, the former head of the Fatwa Committee at Al Azhar University, the centuries-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning in Egypt. “You are explaining God’s message in ways that really affect people’s lives.”

Imam For A Day may be a better way to arbitrate this mess. Christian doctrine has been pretty well established for two thousand years. Jewish doctrine even longer. That's why it is hard for an independant Baptist minister to start a holy war by declaring that Jesus wants all Christendom to wear tie dyed doo rags. Everyone would know this preacher's cheese slid off his cracker. Not so in Islam.

Technically, the fatwa is nonbinding and recipients are free to look elsewhere for a better ruling. In a faith with no central doctrinal authority, there has been an explosion of places offering fatwas, from Web sites that respond to written queries, to satellite television shows that take phone calls, to radical and terrorist organizations that set up their own fatwa committees.

“There is chaos now,” Mr. Megawer said. “The problem created is confusion in thought, confusion about what is right and what is wrong, religiously.”

And yet CAIR is espousing Muslim guidelines on how American society is supposed to accomodate this religion; a religion that can change course in midstride.

Governments have tried to guide and control the process, but as they struggled with their own legitimacy, they have often undermined the perceived legitimacy of those they appoint as religious leaders. In Egypt, there are two official institutions responsible for religious interpretation: the House of Fatwa, or Dar Al-Ifta, which formally falls under the Ministry of Justice, and Al Azhar University. All court sentences of death must be approved by Dar Al-Ifta, for example.

“These people in fact are defined as agencies of the government,” said Muhammad Serag, a professor of Islamic Studies at the American University in Cairo. “They are not trusted anymore.”

And what do these fatwa factories do? They regulate every activity in your life that you can dream of. Read some of them:

... a young woman entered and sat in the chair opposite him. She held her son, about 4, on her knee as she explained that her husband had married another woman (four wives are allowed in Islam) and that the new wife was only 18. “He said he would spend five nights with her and one with me,” the woman complained. “Can I ask for a divorce?” Under Islam, the sheik advised, all wives must be treated equally. So if she could not work the matter out “peacefully, then yes, she could ask for a divorce.”

A couple approached. The man’s clothes were tattered, and his wife looked distressed. Their 9-year-old son’s clothing was clean, his hair gelled, his smile bright. The man explained that they had adopted the child when he was 9 months old, and that they had just heard that under Islam their son had to be put out of the house, because the mother had not given birth to him or breast-fed him.He would reach puberty as an outsider, and could not, technically, be around the woman he knew as his mother. The imam at their local mosque said it was haram — forbidden under Islam — to live with the boy.

A man wanted to know if he could keep money he had found.

Another wanted to know if he needed to testify at a trial if called.

A third wanted to know if it was O.K. to buy a car on an installment plan.

A mother did not like her son’s wife and wanted to know if she could do anything about the marriage.

This is Islamic, or Sharia, Law. This the type of law that Muslims want to start in Canada. What is scary is that these people seem incapable of making a decision for themselves. They need to run to an authority to tell them what to do even for trival matters. And suppose different fatwas are issued for the exact same circumstances? But that's the way the way it is. as fatwas are non-binding, just shop around! If you don't like the flavor of today's fatwa, maybe tomorrow's or next month's will do the trick.

What a way to run a religion much less a country.

In Egypt, and other Muslim countries, where laws must abide by the Koran, fatwas by government-appointed officials can have the weight of law.

Oh wait, they do run the country. Think about it, some nutjob who thinks that breast milk should determine family status may decide on your criminal or civil court case.

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