Harvard Muslim chaplain sees wisdom in my killing!

Talk Islam points to a controversy over a comment that the Muslim chaplain made in regards to apostasy on a listserv. First he outlines the dominant legal position with Islam today & historically in regards to apostasy:

There are a few places on the Net where one can find informed discussions of this issue (Search ["Abdul Hakim Murad"|Faraz Rabbani" AND "apostasy"]) . The preponderant position in all of the 4 sunni madhahib (and apparently others of the remaining eight according to one contemporary `alim) is that the verdict is capital punishment.

Of concern for us is that this can only occur in the_domain and under supervision of Muslim governmental authority and can not be performed by non-state, private actors._

He then outlines the dissents from the dominant position, i.e., those who argue that apostasy should not be punished by capital punishment, but concludes with a nice synthesis of postcolonial jargon and neo-medieval apologia:

I would finally note that there is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand. The formal consideration of excuses for the accused and the absence of Muslim governmental authority in our case here in the North/West is for dealing with the issue practically.

I had to laugh about the "hegemonic" part, because regular readers know that I like to be a retard and use postcolonial/postmodern gibberish to defend the indefensible. Well, here you go with an instance of the real deal.

For what it's worth, Taha Abdul-Basser, the chaplain, was born and raised in New York City and a graduate of Harvard.

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Perhaps I'm way off (which is entirely possible), but I thought that the idea of Taghut would make it so a "Muslim governmental authority" could not legitimately exist. [1]

[1] And yes, I know "how a religion is practiced" is a different thing from an axiomatic approach to religious texts.

I actually have to agree with the chaplin, on hegemony of the human rights issues in particular, and the judicial system in general. This is yet another area where America's narrow minded ignorance and jigonism has prevented progress.

Canada for instance has worked towards bringing greater diversity of justice to the traditionally neo-liberal western human rights establishment.

By parodymonkey (not verified) on 03 Apr 2009 #permalink

This wouldn't bother me nearly as much as it does if not for the fact that a) there are many Islamic governments and b) many even so called moderate Muslims want to establish Islamic governments where none exist.

It is interesting to contrast this viewpoint to that of many Orthodox Jews who have similar attitudes about what the appropriate punishments are for apostasy, idol worship, adultery, sabbath breaking (if Jewish), etc. However, they generally believe that these cannot be enforced by any extant government and that they will not be enforcable until a messianic era. So the views share the same degree of obnoxiousness but with much less in the way of real world consequences.

Meanwhile, I am once again amused by how much post-modern rhetoric is used to justify pre-modern or anti-modern views.

He can't can Khan, can he?

By bioIgnoramus (not verified) on 03 Apr 2009 #permalink

Huh, you're an apostate Razib? Anyway, I don't know what you're moaning about. The law is the law and everyone knows it and every Muslim is meant to follow the laws of the Quran and Sunnah. What else were you expecting from a Muslim?

By Shadow Caster (not verified) on 03 Apr 2009 #permalink

there were some murders for apostasy in early 19th century eastern europe among jews. mostly this was less about conversions to christianity or atheism than it was the rise of what became reformed judaism.

...For what it's worth, Taha Abdul-Basser, the chaplain, was born and raised in New York City and a graduate of Harvard...

Just goes to show what high intelligence and an elite education can do for you.

I believe Pol Pot got his education at top French schools.

wisdom in your killing a camel, to gain hikma?

or as a genie of genes, a 'fruit fly', to gain data?

all living things on earth eventually get the death sentence.

that's one coda that Nature, Kuda, Buddha, and the one from Judah all agree upon.

(selam menyelam caliphilisraelia)

Tom Bri, right you are. Crazy, medieval thought is like a mind-virus. You can catch it even if you are smart and well educated and live in a modern society.

Yes, it should be clear that such occurrences have occurred and in fact there have been such incidents even in the 20th century. Their rate of occurrence has generally been small. On the other hand, people leaving chareidi communities are still subject to serious harassment including being beaten up and having property burned. So even without murders occurring the situation still isn't nice.

Zelinsky, I understand that Scientologists harass their apostates too.

Anyway allow me to present a secular case for killing apostates:

If we accept that order is better than disorder - and we should - then we should support means to preserve order. One proven guarantor of order is hierarchical religion. It doesn't matter what the religion is, as long as it has a structure. We'll need that structure when it comes to enforcing laws, like that of apostasy.

If anyone is allowed to abandon their (hierarchical) religion, this increases entropy in that religion. The disease of not taking religion seriously could spread to other creeds. It could spread to not taking hierarchy itself seriously. The result? A weakened society that cannot fend off against outside threats, who DO manage to police their own.

Changing religions could be punished with a fine, but what if that fine is laughed off? What if the apostate is rich enough to front the 200 quid or whatever it is? Prison terms are also possible, but someone might escape from that prison. Plus, prison costs money. And there's a threat of violence associated with prison anyway; if he tries to beat up the guard in his way, the guard can't just defend himself, the guard has to ensure he doesn't leave.

There's something to be learnt from the prison analogy, but we prefer to see it as a ship in the high seas. A ship needs a captain, a first mate, and steady hands at the rigging. Everyone in it has to pull together.

There's also an Islamic case for killing apostates of any religion to any religion, even if they apostasise toward Islam. I have found in the Muwatta of Malik and Sahih of al-Bukhari the Prophetic commandment "who changes his deen, kill him". That doesn't seem to leave any exceptions. And was not the Prophet sent to deliver his message to all mankind?

(How did I do?)

Of course, the easy way out is to avoid the hegemonic modern obsession with airing your true religious beliefs in public all the time. The Islamic Khmer Rouge will no doubt take over afpak and other such backwaters, but when Islam comes to America, it will include provision for modern capitalism and much else besides. Compliance with the apostasy laws will not feel that harsh....

The problem is that there is no objective way to measure how one scholar in the humanities is better than another, and all of them have egos which make them want to be the best. So, their way of defining themselves as more elevated than the rest is to think of something more absurd than the next person can think of.

The ability to view fundamental human rights as "hegemonic" is an example of this.

Reminds me of the professor at U of Chicago that criticizes those who work to ban genital mutilation.


Anyways, I like your site. Come visit my blog, please?


The problem with the notion that certain kinds of barbaric law are enforceable only by a Legitimate Religious Government is not just that those who believe in such will strive to bring it about, but that, inevitably, some will interpret mundane and real governments as meeting that criterion.

The notion that anyone, any time, any where, should be punished for apostasy is the most extreme assault on freedom.

"Crazy, medieval thought is like a mind-virus. You can catch it even if you are smart and well educated and live in a modern society."

True, and in order to catch that virus, you need to be capable of believing absurdities.
The sun rises every morning, oooh, there must be a magical being dragging it acroiss the sky on a choo-choo train...yeah, that must be it! and anyone who doubts it, off with their head!!!