Sunday, February 22, 2009

To Stone or Not to Stone

Abdul Wahid PedersenAbdul Wahid Pedersen is a prominent Danish convert to Islam, and has been a controversial figure in the Danish media for quite some time. The latest uproar concerns an interview in which Mr. Pedersen refused to condemn stoning as a punishment, and the resulting reactions by politicians and in the media.

One thing you’ll notice in this interview with Abdul Wahid Pedersen is his use of the fallacy of equivalence: “Why don’t you ask a priest in the state church of his view of crucifixions? Should that be written out of the Bible, too?”

This is more fallacious than most arguments. Nowhere does the Bible prescribe crucifixion as a punishment. The crucifixion of Christ (and the two thieves) was not normative, and to assign it such equivalence is a vile canard.

But Mr. Pedersen, like Mohamed Elmasry, relies on never being called to account for his malicious and spurious analogies. Needless to say, his interviewer obliges him, and asks no hard questions.

Here’s the interview and accompanying article from last week’s Jyllands-Posten (subscription required), as translated by Henrik Ræder Clausen.

“I can’t change the fact that stoning is part of Islam”

by Morten Vestergaard

Extremist? Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen has been called ‘extremist’ based on his earlier statements on stoning and Sharia. But what does he think about stoning?

Abdul Wahid Pedersen is an imam in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, and on the board of directors of Muslimernes Fællesråd (Muslims’ Common Council). He is a frequently quoted imam in the media, and has repeatedly been criticized for not rejecting capital punishment by stoning. Last week Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen (Venstre) called the imam ‘an extremist’ with reference to his statements on stoning.

Abdul Wahid Pedersen, what is your real view on stoning?

“Sharia is the set of rules surrounding Islam, concerning what to eat, how to pray etc. I consider Islam a whole, where you have no option of cherry-picking individual parts, for this would set one above God. When I’m asked about stoning, I must confirm that stoning exists in Islam. I’m no liar. I acknowledge that it exists, and I can’t change the fact that stoning is part of the Islamic system of justice. This, then, has been turned into my ‘supporting stoning’. Of course I’m not enthusiastic about stoning, but this is not an issue of my ‘supporting stoning or not’. The word ‘support’ gives the impression that it is something I find attractive and am aiming to have instituted.”

So stoning is not a form of punishment you think should be adopted?

“It has already been adopted elsewhere in the world, something I have no influence on. Of course it will never be adopted in Denmark, but I can only concern myself with things I can change, and I can’t change the fact that stoning exists in places like Afghanistan.”

But you could state your opinion about it being part of Islam?

“I do not like stoning, and I find it to be a very violent form of punishment. But it is a form of punishment instituted by God as a strong hint to stay away from each others’ spouses. Thus it is absurd to keep inquiring the opinion of me or other Muslims about it. If I would condemn stoning, I’d apostatize myself from Islam.”
- - - - - - - - -
Other Muslims have publicly condemned stoning. Why can’t you do this?

“It’s up to them what they say, I can’t interfere in that. I’ve made a choice, I’ve chosen Islam, and to me Islam is a package deal.”

How do you feel when you see and hear about cases of stoning in, say, Somalia?

“Like everyone else, I find stoning disgusting. But it is madness to spend newspaper ink on a hypothetical question. This is way out of proportion. Worldwide we may be seeing 3-4 cases of stoning annually, all while Denmark has contributed to killing of thousands in Iraq, and we hand over people to torture in Afghanistan. Why not concern ourselves with that, when we have an actual chance of influencing the politicians who decided that Danish forces should be in Iraq? I have no chance to influence the politicians in Afghanistan who adopted stoning. Let us discuss things that bear relevance to Danish society.”

Can you understand that many become confused over your explanations of stoning?

“I don’t know. People keep asking me about stoning, and people keep making me look like the bad guy. Why don’t you ask a priest in the state church of his view of crucifixions? Should that be written out of the Bible, too? It is as impossible for me to ‘condemn stoning’ as it is for a priest to write crucifixions out of Christianity. Both of these would constitute apostatizing from the religion.”

But isn’t the difference that crucifixion is not in use today?

“The theological dilemma remains the same, and then it makes no difference whether it is in use or not. As a Muslim it is not possible to write Sharia out of Islam, no matter how reprehensible we find stoning.”

The case in brief

Last week Minister of Welfare Karen Jespersen (Venstre) in an article in Jyllands-Posten accused imams Abdul Wahid Pedersen and Zubair Butt Hussein from Muslimernes Fællesråd of being Muslim extremists.

The minister criticized the municipality of Copenhagen for working with Muslimernes Fællesråd with a reference to Abdul Wahid Pedersen earlier having refused to condemn the practice of stoning.

The Mayor of Integration in the municipality of Copenhagen, Jakob Hougaard (Social Democrats) rejects the criticism: “We have taken the issue up front with him, and his response was not cause for any concern.”

[A brief English-language article is here.]

Below is a letter to editor of the newspaper Århus Stiftstidende on this topic (available only in the print edition), also translated by Henrik Ræder Clausen:

A stone’s throw from the Middle Ages

Religious texts must never become more important than our Danish laws, morality and common sense.

By Henriette Kjær
Member of Parliament, political spokesman for the Danish Conservative Party

Stoning:

If a person commits adultery, the punishment according to Sharia law, and by implication imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, is execution by stoning.

Once again the debate about imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen and his opinion of stoning flares up, and even though it may look like a discussion we’ve had several times before, it never ceases to be relevant.

For in the statements of this imam we have a clear example of why we must never take our democracy or the Rule of Law for granted. Persons like Abdul Wahid Pedersen still exist, with their darkened view of humans, who do not respect the equal right of humans to life and the right to decide over their own bodies.

It is impossible to comprehend how one can actually stone another human being to death, setting aside every trace of empathy and common sense. This is beyond my understanding.

Abdul Wahid Pedersen has repeatedly justified his refusal to reject stoning by stating that stoning is a hypothetical problem in Denmark anyway, as this punishment would never be used.

But this justification is no less disturbing. For it does not change the fact that Abdul Wahid Pedersen would support stoning in Denmark if it were possible.

Therefore we have to react. Stoning is one thing. A different problem is that a person like Abdul Wahid Pedersen, born and raised in Denmark, by way of principle sets religious law above the law currently in force in Denmark.

To me, this way of thinking is not understandable, but Abdul Wahid Pedersen is free to think and say what he wants. We must defend freedom of expression, even when we do not like what the imam says.

But that does not imply that we should abstain from criticizing this contempt for humans that stoning constitutes. European human rights are built on respect for humans and a ban on capital punishment. In the same vein, we have a long tradition of freedom of religion, as well as criticism of religion here in Europe — we must protect both of these.

For this reason, we should use our freedom of expression to defend democratic principles and to make clear that religious texts never must become more important than our Danish laws, morality and common sense.

15 comments:

joe six-pack said...

Never say never, pal.

Stoning as a punishiment is an 'authentic' Islamic law in a number of situations.

This issue brings up an important additional issue, the penalty for apostasty is death.

Another 'authentic' law that is also commonly enforced.

These issues are worth fighting a war over and indeed are additional causes of the constant warfare that is present throughout the Islamic world.

Zenster said...

I can’t change the fact that stoning is part of the Islamic system of justice.

Nice to see that fact brought out into the open. For it makes clear that Abdul Wahid Pedersen is both useless and unwilling in regard to reforming or moderating Islam. His "hands off" approach to what he simultaneously recognizes as "a very violent form of punishment" and "disgusting", indicates his tacit acceptance of such brutality.

Just yesterday I was discussing this issue with a Pakistani who had become a naturalized American citizen. He was extolling how Saudi Arabia had very little theft due to its policy of amputation as punishment. I challenged him on how to remedy the problem of false arrest or perjuring witnesses that led to an innocent person's hand being cut off and he made noises about how the evidence had to be overwhelming.

I noted how punishments with permanent effects were best reserved for especially heinous offenses like murder and not simple theft.

I then managed to astonish him by asking what the word "Pakistan" actually meant. He feigned ignorance and I went on to explain how it meant "clarity" or "pure", as in "Land of the Pure". I then asked him to name the five pillars of Islam and, when he again feigned ignorance, I rattled off: The Shehada, Salat, Zakat, Shawm and the Haj, much to his astonishment. He then made mumbling noises about it being prayer time while I struggled not to laugh in his face.

And so it is that violent punishment for misdemeanor crimes continues to enjoy tacit acceptance even while Muslims pretend that such brutality offends their sensibilities.

Like everyone else, I find stoning disgusting. But it is madness to spend newspaper ink on a hypothetical question.

Only because taqiyya spewing bastards like Abdul Wahid Pedersen keep downplaying just how Neanderthal Islam's shari'a law actually is. Stoning is just one small facet of shari'a law's wholesale injustice and savagery.

“The theological dilemma remains the same, and then it makes no difference whether it is in use or not. As a Muslim it is not possible to write Sharia out of Islam, no matter how reprehensible we find stoning.”

Please note how Pedersen manages to exonerate shari'a as a whole solely because stoning cannot be excised from its barbarous code. This is the usual case of Muslims choking on gnats even as they swallow camels whole.

But this justification is no less disturbing. For it does not change the fact that Abdul Wahid Pedersen would support stoning in Denmark if it were possible.

Here, Henriette Kjær nails the issue four square. Again, it is a matter of tacit support that rankles.

A different problem is that a person like Abdul Wahid Pedersen, born and raised in Denmark, by way of principle sets religious law above the law currently in force in Denmark.

Le bingo! Shari'a = Sedition.

For this reason, we should use our freedom of expression to defend democratic principles and to make clear that religious texts never must become more important than our Danish laws, morality and common sense.

Denmark, unlike nearly every other European country, has earned the right to say this. Be it with their soldiers' blood, national economy lost to Muslim boycotts or desecration of its overseas embassies, Denmark has led by sterling example where most of its neighbors have sat on the sidelines quaking in fear.

Finally, special and plentiful thanks for Henrik Ræder Clausen regarding his indefatigueable efforts to give these vital issues the wider exposure they so direly need. Bravo, kind Sir!

Zenster said...

joe six-pack: These issues are worth fighting a war over ...

You tell 'em, Joe. Keep repeating this until people are chanting it like a mantra!

Henrik R Clausen said...

Thanks, Zenster :)

Actually I think the interviewer does a fair job of giving AWP enough rope to hang himself. One question I'm missing, though:

If a god mandates 'disgusting' punishments, what does that tell about the nature of that god?

Czechmade said...

More rope: Mohammad stole and did enough to be stoned or amputated. The law-giver might be exempted? Thanx a lot for such laws...

I propose a "New Hajj" - go stoning figure of Mohammad instead of devil.

A real "islamic revolution".

Henrik R Clausen said...

Ehm, 'instead' of the Devil..?

BTW, the stoning and all other rituals of the Hajj are completely pagan.

Czechmade said...

Since stoning of that guy called shaitan does not bring much relief, it must be a mistake.

Or should we imply that without stoning that figure, islam would be "much worse"?

Henrik R Clausen said...

I think Satan plays too large a role (that is, more than 0) in Islam already - check out Satanic Verses, 2nd Pledge of Al-Aqabah etc.

Related, modern-day Satanists would not hesitate to kick Mo from their ranks due to his behaviour.

Alexis said...

Gosh, if a sacred tapeworm in my abdomen tells me to stone abd-al-Wahid Pederson to death, should I do what the tapeworm tells me to do?

Many folks claim to be God and that includes Jim Jones, but that doesn't mean I going to drink the Kool-Aid.

Alexis said...

I have often wondered what would happen if sharia were interpreted to mean that people guilty of offenses (for which stoning would be the punishment) would be required to smoke a few joints of marijuana.

One could even imagine people falsely admitting to offenses in order to "get stoned".

Devilfish said...

Well atleast he's honest about it, I'll give him that. I'd rather have an imam like him, than one ho feels te same way but who lies about it to the public. Presenting a distorted image of Islam, knowing that it isn't true.

Atleast now we know who we're dealing with.

Robin Shadowes said...

"If a god mandates 'disgusting' punishments, what does that tell about the nature of that god?"

That to me says a lot about that god. He's a monster, no more no less. He's not a benevolent god with an insatiable bloodthirst like that, with all that cruelty and sadism. What kind of god wants to control every minute of your life from the cradle to the grave?
I can only speak for myself but for me it is crystal clear that islam is a religion from hell.

Zenster said...

Henrik R Clausen: Actually I think the interviewer does a fair job of giving AWP enough rope to hang himself.

I agree. The line of questioning repeatedly gave AWP numerous chances to moderate or temper his own regard for shari'a and the SOB passed the buck every single time. What remains even more difficult is comprehending how the overwhelming majority of Muslims DO THE EXACT SAME THING whenever they are confronted with their barbaric belief system and its monstrous legal code.

One question I'm missing, though:

If a god mandates 'disgusting' punishments, what does that tell about the nature of that god?


Much as Robin Shadowes finds Allah to be cruel and sadistic, I propose going one step further by suggesting that Allah cannot posibly be any sort of divine deity.

Although I am a devout agnostic, that does not prevent me from speculating upon the nature of God and what characteristics He must possess.

I spent many hours discussing these exact questions with the Monsignor and Fathers of Naga City's Metropolitan Cathedral while I was in the Philippines just recently.

We unanimously agreed that if God is to have one central and abiding charateristic above all others, IT MUST BE LOVE. The intrinsic nature of constructive creation and genuine creativity itself all derive from love.

Furthermore, it is absolutely impossible that any divine being could simultaneously create human life and then reward those same creations with paradise for the wanton slaughter of His own works.

Such an entity would be inherently self-destructive and incapable of expressing or manifesting authentic love. Remarkably, the barren lovelessness of most Muslim cultures is a direct reflection of their own artificial and warped deistic construct. Islam's casual attitude about human suffering and callous disregard for human life all betrays a profound conflating of personal or political power with true worthiness and honor.

This is easily enough seen in the Muslim practice of so-called "honor" killings. The victim, who should solicit pity and sympathy is instead made the object of scorn and treated as a source of humiliation. Besmirched Muslim women are treated like a broodmare who has broken free of her stall and paired up with some spavined old stallion instead of the desired stud. The only difference being that the broodmare is treated more humanely.

BTW, the stoning and all other rituals of the Hajj are completely pagan.

Henrik, as with your brilliant essay on zakat, would you please consider penning a similar monograph about the origins and practices of shari'a law? Especially those aspects of it that defy all norms of Western civility. Concocting such a compact guide to Islam's bestial machinations would be a tremendous service to those of us who bring the battle to our Muslim foes.

Henrik R Clausen said...

Thanks again, Zenster :)

No, I think Sharia would be too big a mouthful. That's not easy to do in 10-20 pages.

You might like my similar essay on Ramadan, though.

I have one more in the pipeline, but Spencer's sortof overloaded these days, it seems. It's a tad longer than the other ones.

Czechmade said...

What about stoning Pederson to help Humphry in Canada to think about the empact.

Sometimes I feel quite inspired and enriched by that "religion".

Let us get richer.