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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Ten Cartoonments

Click on cartoonment for larger image. Posted by Picasa

My first five cartoonments lay out the problem (Islam’s rejection of the Ten Commandments). The second five cartoonments lay out a possible solution (a more-than-plausible way to lay much if not all of the blame for Islam's present immorality on the mullahs, the imams and the caliphs rather than on Muhammad). Islam needs a revolution, and the Ten Commandments is the place where tolerant Muslims can most effectively make their stand: Islam is not supposed to reject the Ten Commandments, at least not according to the Koran.

Muhammad’s entire indictment of the Jews was that they supposedly altered the meaning of the “allegorical” parts of the Mosaic scriptures. In contrast, the “basic” parts of the Torah, of which the Ten Commandments is the most basic, are specifically embraced by Muhammad (Koran, 3.2-7). The problem is that every tolerant verse of the Koran is held by Islamic doctrine to have been “abrogated” by later instructions to attack infidels, in clear violation of Muhammad’s explicit instructions for how to interpret seemingly conflicting verses (“nothing do We abrogate,” Koran 2.106).

The violent verses ought to be interpreted as exceptions that prove the Mosaic rules. Yes, the evidence is that Muhammad’s instructions to attack were aggressive, not defensive, but they could have been defensive, with the full facts lost to history. If that was the case, then through the doctrine of abrogation, the imams and the caliphs have turned the exceptions into the rules, systematically perverting the morality of the Koran. Of course it is possible, as the imams claim, that the pervert was Muhammad: that it was he who replaced the rule of peace with the rule of murder; that it was he who abrogated his earlier peaceful principles while saying he was not abrogating them. But since the facts are unknown, it is plausible to blame the imams. We do not know that Muhammad was evil. We do know that the imams of traditional/radical Islam were and are evil.

To any Islamo-fascists who want to get angry: I’ll pit my understanding of Islam against yours any day. Any tolerant Muslims who want to stand up for the Islamic requirement to abide by the Ten Commandments have the text of the Koran 100% behind them. Muhammad is perfectly clear that the Ten Commandments are true revelation. (See The Koran, 3.2-3.7, and The Ninth Cartoonment).

I am not claiming to be an expert on Islam. It doesn’t take an expert to see that, according to the Koran itself, the priority that traditional Islam gives to the Koran’s violent verses, setting them above the Ten Commandments, is the clearest possible error. The Ten Commandments are abrogated? Go to Hell. (Or as Muhammad liked to say, and say and say and say, about those who do not heed the true revelations of the God of Abraham: “They shall become the fuel of the fire.” Koran, 3.10.)

With all the documentation, this exposition gets pretty long. Think of the cartoonments as section headings.

CARTOONMENTS 1-5: how the priority that traditional Islam gives to the Koran’s violent and intolerant verses radically violates the Ten Commandments

The Kaaba Stone is part of the Kaaba, also called the Sacred Mosque, or the Mosque of Abraham (Koran 2.125, 2.144). Muslims don't worship the Kaaba Stone, but they face the Kaaba to pray. Some Muslims refer colloquially to the Kaaba Stone as "the right hand of God." Posted by Picasa

Koran, verse 48.29:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are firm of heart against the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves.

Verse 4.89:
They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

Verse 4.144:
O ye who believe! Take not for friends unbelievers rather than believers: Do ye wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves?

Verse 5.51:
O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

A corollary of the Law of Love (to love your neighbor) is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12.) Islam has a version of the golden rule, but it only calls for goodwill towards other Muslims:
None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself.
[Bukhari 1.2.12, from Muhsin Kahn’s translations of Sahih Bukhari’s compilation of hadiths (the sayings of Muhammad), available here.]
The preceding hadiths back up Kahn’s non-universalist translation of the Muslim version of the Golden Rule. Bukhari 1.2.9 reads:
The Prophet said, "A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands…”
In Islam the principle of reciprocity is extended only between Muslims, which makes it a principle, not of reciprocity at all, but of bigotry and prejudice. Islam is the only religion of any size that does not embrace a universal principle of reciprocity.

Islam rejects even the idea of cooperation:
Koran, verse 9.28:
O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He wills, out of His bounty, for Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
i.e. Go broke rather than have dealings with infidels.
Verse 3.118:
O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom.
Talk about projection.

Non-Muslim readers, feeling no particular inclination to absolve Muhammad of blame, may find it hard to imagine that it could be possible to honestly absolve Muhammad of blame for statements like these. After all, as Jesus instructed, the law-of-love (the Mosaic instruction to love your neighbor as yourself) is all of the commandments. (More specifically, together with the commandment to love God, the commandment of Jesus to love thy neighbor is “all the law and the prophets,” Matthew 22:36-40 And of course Jesus was explicit that “neighbors” included everyone. Luke 10:27-37. ) If Muhammad so clearly rejects the spirit behind the Ten Commandments, it seems more than likely that he would be the source of Islam’s violation of the Ten Commandments.

But the matter is not quite that simple. It can still be necessary, in exigent circumstances, to fight your neighbor, even against the precepts of individual justice. War replaces the treatment of people as individuals with the treatment of people according to group membership, and war can be just. Muhammad’s instructions were issued in time of conflict, the nature of which we cannot fully know. What we do know is that radical/traditional imams have made these instructions the law for Muslims in all times and places, and that in doing so they violate “all the law and the prophets,” whether Muhammad did or not. Traditional Islam simply gives priority to the violent parts of the Koran, flushing one commandment after another down the drain.

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In verse 2.217, Muhammad explains why it is good to kill during Ramadan.
They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering (men) from Allah's way and denying Him, and (hindering men from) the Sacred Mosque and turning its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver than slaughter; and they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever-- these it is whose works shall go for nothing in this world and the hereafter, and they are the inmates of the fire; therein they shall abide.
Denying Allah and urging others away from Islam are considered a “persecution” that is “graver than slaughter” because it condemns men to hell who might have otherwise become Muslims.

The Spanish Conquistadors said the same thing when in the 16th century they slaughtered Aztecs, Incas and Mayans: that if these infidels weren’t converted, they would go to hell, which was worse than death, so killing in the cause was justified. But there never was any scriptural basis for this rationalization, and everyone in the Judeo-Christian world accepts today that that killing on such a pretext is murder. Western Culture is united in understanding that any killing not in defense against forceful aggression, or to interdict a plot of forceful aggression, is murder. (We have debates about abortion and euthanasia and the death penalty, but these are questions about who is a person, what is aggression, and what are the limits of response to aggression.)

Unfortunately, Conquistadoran murderousness remains a core precept of Islam. Every significant Islamic sect regards any criticism of Islam or Muhammad as blasphemy and demands death as punishment, and since there is no separation of church and state in Islam, these sentences are carried out. Severe punishments for criticism or perceived insult to Islam typical practice throughout the Islamic world: in Pak-i-stan (60 prosecutions in the first half of 2005), in Saudi Arabia, in I-r-a-n (Iran), in Afghanistan, in In In-do ne-sia, and of course, Islam’s murderous death penalties for insult are not limited to the Islamic world.

By adverting to the Conquistador excuse, the radical/traditional Muslims are granting themselves exemption from the 6th Commandment.

When the streets of Europe fill up with Muslims promising to butcher, slaughter and behead in response to insult, they are only threatening to follow the Koran (or at least its traditional interpretation):

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Killing over ideational opposition is not self-defense. It is murder, but this is exactly what the Koran has been traditionally held to demand, until all ideational opposition has been exterminated.
Koran, verse 9.29:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Another murderous verse is the infamous “verse of the sword,” so central to traditional Islamic doctrine:
“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.” (Koran 9:5)
"When We resolve to raze a city,” says Muhammad in verses 17.16-17.17, “We first give warning to those of its people who live in comfort. If they persist in sin, judgment is irrevocably passed, and We destroy it utterly."

Then there are verses 21.11-15:
How many were the populations We utterly destroyed because of their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples?
Yet, when they felt Our Punishment (coming), behold, they (tried to) flee from it.
Flee not, but return to the good things of this life which were given you, and to your homes in order that ye may be called to account.
They said: "Ah! woe to us! We were indeed wrong-doers!"
And that cry of theirs ceased not, till We made them as a field that is mown, as ashes silent and quenched.
Doesn’t sound like self-defense to me.

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The quote in the cartoon (“Allah taught them how to divide the spoil. He made it lawful and said, ‘A fifth of the booty belongs to the Apostle.’”) is from Ibn Ishaq’s Life of Muhammad. The 324 could be either the page number, or some other heading. I’m not sure. I don’t have a copy.

Further authorities:
Koran 8.1:
They ask thee (O Muhammad) of the spoils of war. Say: The spoils of war belong to Allah and the messenger, so keep your duty to Allah, and adjust the matter of your difference, and obey Allah and His messenger, if ye are (true) believers.

Koran 8:69:
So enjoy what you took as booty; the spoils are lawful and good.

Ishaq, 327:
Allah made booty lawful and good. He used it to incite the Muslims to unity of purpose. So enjoy what you have captured.

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Koran 4.24:
Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess. …

Koran 33:50:
Prophet, We have made lawful to you ... the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.

Ishaq, 511:
The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims.

Koran 4.3:
If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with orphans, marry women of your choice who seem good to you, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to do justice (to so many), then only one, or (a slave) that you possess, that will be more suitable.
According to the hadiths of Sahih Muslim, Muhammad explicitly sanctioned the rape of females captured as booty:
Book 8, number 3371:
Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): 0 Abu Sa'id, did you hear Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-'azl? He said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi'l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

Book 8, number 3372:
A hadith like this has been narrated on the authority of Habban with the same chain of transmitters (but with this alteration) that he said:" Allah has ordained whom he has to create until the Day of judgment."

Book 8, number 3373:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported: We took women captives, and we wanted to do 'azl with them. We then asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) about it, and he said to us: Verily you do it, verily you do it, verily you do it, but the soul which has to be born until the Day of judgment must be born.
i.e. Verily you put the organ in, but do not be concerned about pulling it out.
Book 008, number 3374:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) (was asked if he had heard it himself), to which he said: Yes. (I heard) Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: There is no harm if you do not practise it, for it (the birth of the child) is something ordained (by Allah).
A central focus of every other religion is to control irresponsible childbearing. Reproduction is brought within the institution of marriage, which in most traditional societies requires that the man first attains reasonable prospects of being able to support a family. Islam does maintain such strictures on relations between Muslims. See for instance verse 24.33 of the Koran:
Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is Allah, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them).
Unfortunately, as is typical of Islam, the Ten Commandments are only adhered to in relations between Muslims. Females captured as booty can be raped: “Verily you do it, verily you do it, verily you do it,” but don’t hold back from impregnating them! What are you thinking!

It is also better if Muslims don’t force all of their slave girls into prostitution, but doing so will not occasion punishment. It is only a failure to “make a gain in the goods of this life.” The slave girls will be forgiven by god, so what is the worry? There is nothing so bad here as ideological opposition to Islam, which keeps people from heaven, and hence is worse than murder. There is only a small shortfall from perfection. No big deal. But if the slave girls happen to be “excellent,” just don’t forget to rape them, and no holding back!

That the only options for infidels are death, conversion, or the payment of protection money is traditional doctrine, following verse 9.29, op. cit. Posted by Picasa

Muhammad’s excuse for despoiling Christians and Jews was the accusation that these “people of the Book” had abandoned the word of God as received by Moses.
Koran 5.13:
But because of their breach of their covenant We cursed the Jews, and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places and forget and abandon a good part of the message that was sent them. Nor will you cease to find deceit in them. And because of their breaking their covenant We have cursed them. They altered words from their context and they neglected a portion of the message they were reminded of.

Koran 2.140:
Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma'il Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? but Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!

Koran 2.59:
The [Jewish] transgressors changed and perverted the word from that which had been spoken to them to a word distorted; so We sent a plague upon them from heaven, for their evil-doing.

Koran 2.64:
But you [Jews] went back on your word and were lost losers. You know that you have broken the sanctity of the Sabbath, so We said: ‘Become monkeys despised and hated.’ We made this punishment an example and a warning for those who fear Allah.

Koran 2.79:
But woe to the Jews who fake the Scriptures and say, ‘This is from God,’ so that they might earn some profit thereby.’ And woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn from it.’

Koran 2.174:
Those who conceal Allah's revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit,- they swallow into themselves naught but Fire; Allah will not address them on the Day of Resurrection. Nor purify them: Grievous will be their penalty.
Right. It’s the Jews who have perverted the Mosaic law in order to profit from murder, theft, slavery and woman stealing. I don’t think so.

CARTOONMENTS 6-10: How replacing the textually prohibited doctrine of abrogation with the textually supported exception-that-proves-the-rule could transfer control of Islam from the murderous to the moral

The conclusion from cartoonments 1-5 is that Islam, at least as currently interpreted, is a pre-moral, pre-Ten-Commandments religion, with a deeply evil history: a gang of pirates, making a religion out of their criminality.

Every nation and people have a pre-moral heritage. The Vikings were a pre-moral gang of raiders, thieves, rapists and murderers, just as Islam has been, but the Vikings were conquered by the morality of Christianity a thousand years ago, and ceased their criminal ways. Not Islam. Islam is as murderous today as ever. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islamic doctrine. Every major school of Islamic doctrine embraces murder, rape and pillage. As presently constituted, Islam has no more place in the modern world than Viking raiders do. But where does the fault lie? Was it Muhammad who created a religion out of rejection of the Ten Commandments? Or does responsibility for Islam’s long history of criminality lie with the imams, the mullahs and the caliphs who came after Muhammad?

The Koran is replete with conflicting instructions. In addition to its many incitements to violence, the Koran also includes broad statements of tolerance and non-aggression. The pre-Ten-Commandments nature of established Islamic doctrine is largely a consequence of the rule that centuries of imams and caliphs chose for deciding which conflicting Koranic instructions to follow. The rule they decided on is called the principle of “abrogation” (naskh), where later verses are held to abrogate, or cancel, all conflicting earlier verses, which in effect are excised from the Koran. This doctrine is in contradiction to the express instructions of Muhammad on exactly this point.

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Koran, verse 2.106:
None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?

Verse 33.62:
(Such has been) the course of Allah with respect to those who have gone before; and you shall not find any change in the course of Allah.

Verse 6.115:
Perfected are the words of your Lord in truth and justice. None can change His words. (Dawood translation.)
If the current practice of abrogation is a direct violation of the Koran, how then might contradictions in the Koran be resolved? The obvious candidate is the principle of the exception that proves the rule.

When a seeming contradiction exists between general principles of tolerance and non-aggression and particular instructions of intolerance and aggression, the exception would prove the rule if it were assumed that the particular instructions are accompanied by particular circumstances in which intolerance or violent attack is necessary in order to maintain the underlying principle. An example would be limits to the toleration of intolerance. If toleration is extended too far towards the toleration of intolerance, then the underlying principle of tolerance is not upheld. Similarly, instructions to attack are consistent with an underlying principle of non-aggression so long as the attack is in self-defense, which includes the interdiction of conspiracies to attack.

The most straightforward reading of the Koran, and the best historical evidence, is that Muhammad’s wars were indeed aggressive rather than defensive in nature. On the other hand, we can all admit that the historical evidence is quite meager. At the same time, Muhammad’s exhortations to attack usually include at least some tissue of defensive rationale, which could be emphasized as a necessary condition for satisfying the demands of reconciliation between Koran’s broad assertions of peace and tolerance and its particular exhortations to violence.

Consider verse 2.191, which is a companion verse to sura 2.217 (cited earlier for its assertion that hindering a person's belief in Islam is worse than murder):
And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
Again we see the Islamic rejection of any principle of reciprocal treatment: “tumult” by infidels warrants "slaughter" by Muslims. But 2.191 is preceded by a qualification that could be interpreted as defensive:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.
Historically, and in context, this could well be an instruction for Muslims to fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight back when they are attacked, but that Muslims should not kill those who try to surrender when attacked. Still, the wording is ambiguous, and the only way to render it consistent with the Koran’s general statements of non-aggression is assume that it is an instruction for Muslims not to attack people who don’t attack first. (N.J. Dawood’s translation of 2.190 makes the defensive instruction explicit: “Fight for the sake of God those who fight against you, but do not attack them first.”)

If the Koran is interpreted in terms of the exception that proves the rule instead of by the explicitly prohibited principle of abrogation then all of its violent passages would be seen as conditional on the exigencies of defensive war. The Koran’s general statements of peace and tolerance take their proper priority and Islam would cease to be a pre-moral, pre-Ten-Commandments, religion. Then Muhammad could legitimately be seen as a moral man and conceivably even the prophet of a moral God. Under current doctine, Islam is an evil religion. If responsibility for it is to be placed on Muhammad, he can only be seen as one of history’s greatest criminals, and if a prophet, he could only be the prophet of an immoral force. Thus any who want to maintain Muhammad as a true prophet of the God of Abraham must renounce the doctrine of abrogation.

How certain is the prohibition on abrogation? Translations of 2.106 vary substantially. The Yusufali translation (cited in the Sixth Cartoonment) and the Pickthal translation both declare up front that nothing is abrogated. Shakir and Dawood both start out sounding pretty much the opposite.
Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things?

If we abrogate a verse, we will replace it by a better one, or one similar.
I have no idea what accounts for such divergent translations, but notice that all finish the sentence with something akin to Yusufali’s: “We substitute something better or similar.” Similar or better suggests an improvement, not an abandonment. That squares with the concept of adding exceptions that prove the rule. It does not square with the doctrine of abrogation. The only thing that should be abrogated is the idea that a rule is not subject to improvement, as exceptions necessary to the fulfillment of underlying principle are discovered.

Then there are the second and third verses cited at the top of this section. 33.62 unambiguously rejects abrogation, while 6.115 simply asserts that all revelations are perfect. The only other verse I have found in the Koran that touches on the question of how conflicting verses are to be interpreted is 16.101, which falls into the category of the Shakir and Dawood translations of 2.106: it gives the abrogators a bit of a reed to lean on, but is more suggestive of an exception-that-proves-the-rule interpretation:
16.101: When We substitute one revelation for another,- and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages),- they say, "Thou art but a forger": but most of them understand not.
“Substitution” here could be taken to imply abrogation, but what does revelation in stages suggest? It suggests refinement, not reversal.

But the ultimate argument against abrogation is that the principle of abrogation has been used, as described in the first Five Cartoonments, to admit every violation of the Ten Commandments as broadly allowed behavior, so long as the victims are only infidels. For this to be tenable, the Ten Commandments themselves would have to abrogated, a thing which no imam would ever dare suggest explicitly, on pain of becoming certain firewood, according to dozens of Koranic verses. The doctrine of abrogation can’t be right, because the murder, theft and rape that it gives priority to can’t be right, according to any religion that accepts Moses as a true prophet of God.

Replacing abrogation with the-exception-that-proves-the-rule yields the next four cartoonments.

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More Hamza (on poisoning and ambushing non-believers as opportunity presents): "You must have a stand with your heart, with your tongue, with your money, with your hand, with your sword, with your Kalashnikov. Don't ask shall I do this, just do it."

A compilation of quotes from the half-exploded Abu Hamza al-Masri here.

Hamza is not at all out of the mainstream of the Saudi Arabian Wahabbi sect of Islam, which the Saudis have spent many billions of petro-dollars spreading around the globe in recent decades. An estimated 80% of all mosques in the United States are Wahabbi mosques.

The Koran DOES have peaceful and tolerant verses, and they typically are stated much less conditionally than the violent ones:
Verses 90.12 to 90.18:
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Ascent is! -
(It is) to free a slave,
And to feed in the day of hunger.
An orphan near of kin,
Or some poor wretch in misery,
And to be of those who believe and exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to pity.
Their place will be on the right hand.
There is a principle of proportionality in the Koran:
Verses 2.178-179:
O ye who believe! the law of equality is prescribed to you in cases of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman. But if any remission is made by the brother of the slain, then grant any reasonable demand, and compensate him with handsome gratitude, this is a concession and a Mercy from your Lord. After this whoever exceeds the limits shall be in grave penalty.

In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) Life to you, o ye men of understanding; that ye may restrain yourselves.
There is quite a bit of genuine morality in the Koran. It just needs to be given its proper priority, which switching from abrogation to the-exception-that-proves-the-rule would confer.

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Full authorites cited in Cartoonment Eight:
Koran, verse 2.256:
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

verses 109.1-6:
Say : O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.
The Hadiths of Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57:

Narrated 'Ikrima:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'"
Here the imams of traditional Islam are using a hadith (a report of the sayings of Muhammad) to abrogate the tolerant verses of the Koran. That is a fundamental violation of Islamic principle. The Koran is supposed to be direct revelation from God. The hadiths are admitted to be intermediated by human fallibility. To use the Hadiths to abrogate revelation should be considered blasphemy.

According to Ibn Warraq, some imams get around this by citing 4.89 as a general instruction from the Koran to kill those who change their religion:
They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.
(A long excerpt from Ibn Warraq’s analysis is available in this DhimmiWatch post by Robert Spencer.

But here we see the nuts-and-bolts sense of the exception-that-proves-the-rule scheme of interpretation. A look at the verses surrounding 4.89 shows it to be a highly circumstantial instruction, having to do with a situation of ongoing violent conflict where allegiances may be faked for strategic purposes. In this instance, only pretending to be a Muslim could be seen as analogous to wearing the uniform of the enemy in time of war, which is punishable even under the Geneva Convention with execution on the spot. The next verse after 4.89 actually makes explicit how conditional the instruction to kill those of uncertain loyalty is:
Verse 4.90:
Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them).
In contrast to these qualified and requalified instructions about who to kill (all dependent on circumstances that are lost to history) the verses that call for religious toleration are completely unqualified. Obviously in this case the unqualified instructions should take precedence except where the specific circumstantial instructions can be seen to apply. No set of rules can be interpreted logically without such an exception-that-proves-the-rule method of interpretation. American constitutional law, for instance, would be incoherent without it. Consider an example.

Our Constitution includes a general protection for freedom of speech, and a specific prohibition on treason. That means that, despite the general protection for speech, anyone who leaks important national security secrets to the New York Times, or publishes them in the New York Times, should properly be put to death. The exception proves the rule, meaning that it consists with the underlying principle. The underlying principle in this case is that all of the progress that anyone makes in discovering and pursuing value in the world is dependent on their liberty to pursue discoveries of value, making protection for liberty of thought, liberty of expression and liberty of action the foundation for all good. The exception comes from the fact that there is in turn a foundation for liberty itself: namely the republic that secures it, and protection for that tree of liberty must take priority over all. Where speech would hew the tree of liberty, the underlying concern for protecting liberty gives protection for the tree of liberty priority over protection for the fruits of the tree of liberty, creating an exception to protection for the fruits of the tree of liberty.

By taking abrogation as its interpretive rule, traditional Islam has taken the exceptions and made them into the rules. It is as if we took the free speech exception in the case of treason and made it the rule for all speech, so that anyone who opened their mouths about anything would be executed. That is how fundamentally irrational the Islamic doctrine of abrogation is. It was instituted by caliphs who wanted to be empowered by Islam to commit every kind of crime against the laws of the God of Abraham. The evidence is that Muhammad also indulged extensively in this perversion, but no one can assert this with certainty. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that truly exigent circumstances did actually justify Muhammad’s particular instructions to slaughter, pillage and even woman stealing.

If the Muslims were truly fighting a defensive war then there would not be anything wrong with subsidizing it with what booty could be stripped from their attackers, and if self-defense left no choice but to slaughter the infidel husbands, then maintaining the wives of these dispatched enemies could have been benign. The admonition to rape stolen women can’t be justified by the exigencies of defensive war, but this was in the hadiths, which are considered less reliable. Since these reports are inconsistent with a consistent reading of the Koran, they could conceivably on that grounds be set aside.

Alternatively, if Muhammad intended the doctrine of abrogation--if he intended to replace general principles of tolerance with general instructions to commit murder--then he was something close to a purely evil man who is individually responsible for Islam’s 1400 year history of immeasurable evil. Take your pick, but I have no trouble believing that actual responsibility for the annihilation of the tolerant half of the Koran falls heavily on the caliphs and the imams. It is the principle of abrogation that gives the words of Muhammad the most evil possible effect and inspection of the Koran places blame for the doctrine of abrogation squarely on later interpreters. Muhammad is pretty clear about rejecting abrogation himself.

Recall the terms in which Muhammad condemned the Jews: “they neglected a portion of the message they were reminded of.” [5.13] Can Muslims believe that this man intended to set aside the very core of what all followers of the God of Abraham had been reminded of in the clearest possible terms: the Ten Commandments?

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The third book of the Koran (The House of 'Imran) begins:
Allah! There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal.

It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).

Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution.

From Allah, verily nothing is hidden on earth or in the heavens.

He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.
Here Muhammad is explicit that the part of The Book (the Jewish and Christian scriptures) that he accuses Christians and Jews of perverting is not the basic verses of scripture, but the allegorical ones. The Ten Commandments are the most basic and non-allegorical in the entire Book. Thus whatever else Muhammad is referring to here as true revelation in Torah and Gospel, he is at the very least declaring that the Ten Commandments are a true revelation from the one God.

The Ten Commandments could either be subsumed under “the Law (of Moses),” or it could be referred to separately by “the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong),” which Muhammad describes as having been sent down before the scriptures. What else could this refer to but the Ten Commandments, which according to the Mosaic scriptures were sent down on tablets?

This interpretation is supported by verse 2.54 of the Koran:
And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (Between right and wrong): There was a chance for you to be guided aright.
Here the “Criterion (Between right and wrong)” is described as having been handed down to Moses, separate from the scriptures. It has to be the Ten Commandments.

As for the Gospels, the most “basic” part here is the assertion by Jesus that the spirit of the laws is the law of love, which Christians are henceforth called upon to follow in preference to the letter of the old laws wherever the two can be determined to be in conflict, as with working on the Sabbath when love requires it. More generally, see the second letter of Paul to the Corinthinans, 3:6: “…God…has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the spirit gives life.”

In moving from the letter to the spirit of the law, Christianity moves to a higher morality (discovering exceptions to the Mosaic law that demonstrate the underlying law-of-love principle, exceptions like sometimes working on the Sabbath). Ultimately Islam, in accepting the “basic” parts of the Christian gospel as true revelation, should take that step as well, but it first has to achieve the basic morality of the Ten Commandments.

Time and again, Muhammad claimed to be defending the word of God that was passed down to the Jews. If the so-called followers of such a man think they can claim exemption from the Ten Commandments, let’s hear them say it out loud.

O wait, they have been:

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Whether people like this should be allowed to run free anywhere in the world is a borderline question for the toleration of intolerance. They certainly should not be allowed admittance to any free country.

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The prohibition on depictions of Muhammad is the epitome of the imams taking liberties with the Islamic religion that directly violate basic tenets asserted by Muhammad. The same with the fetish many devout Muslims have of ritually saying or writing PBUH (peace be upon him) after every mention of Muhammad’s name, as if this were a religious requirement. Any such ritual or requirement sacralizes Muhammad’s name, which is the first prohibition in Islam. Can’t this religion bother to make sense for two seconds in a row?

But how could it, after answering all criticism with execution for a thousand years? Thus the Islam of the Mullahs has becomes devoid of any real meaning. Idolatry becomes an empty concept as the religion sinks deeper and deeper into idolatry. The Ten Commandments become empty concepts as the religion sinks deeper and deeper into theft, rape, murder and false witness.

Islam needs a REVOLUTION. Come on Muslims, are you going to let a bunch of evil-trash Salafists and Wahabbists tell you that your religion rejects the Ten Commandments? Wake up, before the world has no alternative but to put you to sleep.

Self-defense truly can justify anything. Muslims can either use that fact to create an understanding of the Koran that is consistent with basic morality, reading the violent verses of the Koran as conditional on the exigencies of defensive war, or they can die by the sword that many of them are now conspiring to swing at people who are far better armed than the whole Muslim world put together.

Muslims must either engage the moral capacity that is the common endowment of all mankind, or be exiled from the modern world. There is no other choice. They can’t come in the way they are, and for those criminally minded Muslims who think they are already in, we will soon enough have the brain-scanning lie-detection technology to sort you out and kick you out.

Personally, I’d like to see the great majority of Muslims be able to stay, but that will be up to them, one by one, unless the bad-apples actually succeed in starting all-out war, in which case Muslims may have to be treated en masse. That’s the problem with war: it substitutes collective exigency for individual justice. Any Muslims who think they want to go there are very much mistaken.

To any who think I am insulting Islam (are there any?): debate me. If you are serious I will post your replies, and if you make any sense I’ll admit it. But that’s the challenge: you have to make sense. Do you think your God doesn’t make sense?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Diamond not just in the rough, but out of bounds

Pasted below is my new Stanford Review article about Stanford Professor Larry Diamond's lawsuit against NSA spying. (Link.) Diamond is Stanford's version of Richard Clarke, a Democrat who is welcomed into a Republican administration and uses the credibility so gained to turn around and make the most unfounded partisan accusations. When will Republicans ever learn? NO DEMOCRATS.

Some important Review news: The Stanford Review has been indicted by Stanford University for violating Stanford's severe limits on door to door distribution of publications to students, a policy whose main purpose is to stop the Review from being distributed on campus. (Disclosure, I am on the Board of Directors of the Stanford Review). The conflict has gotten very serious and suit against the university is likely. Check the Review's website for the latest. You can also subscribe to the email version of the Review (a list of links to articles) here.

Diamond not just in the rough, but out of bounds

By Alec Rawls, published in The Stanford Review, 2/6/2006

President Bush, explaining the National Security Agency’s policy of spying on international communications in and out of America involving suspected terrorists: “[I]f somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why.”[1]

Stanford Professor Larry Diamond: “If people from these parts of the world believe, or have reasonable cause to fear, that their communications with Americans will be intercepted by the United States government, will they continue to communicate?”[2]

Earth to Professor Diamond: That is one more reason to hang the traitors who revealed the secret surveillance program to the world, not a reason to sue the government for taking the most obviously necessary steps to protect the nation from terrorist attack.

“[T]he fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States,” says President Bush.[3] Indeed, shortly after the program’s cover was blown, suspicious store clerks around the country started alerting the FBI about Middle Eastern men buying fifty and a hundred disposable cell phones at a time, likely in an attempt to evade NSA surveillance.[4]

But Diamond is not angry at the traitors who created problems for his work by revealing top secret surveillance. He reserves his ire for the President, joining in the ACLU’s lawsuit against the NSA’s warrantless spying program. “It is not simply what the president is having the NSA do,” says Diamond, “It is the unilateral and unconstitutional means by which he is doing it.”

Unilateral and unconstitutional? Pure demagoguery, on both counts. First, the Constitution most certainly does give the president the power unilaterally (without the consent of Congress) conduct warrantless surveillance of international security threats. As Attorney General Alberto Gonzales put it in his Georgetown speech last week:
It has long been recognized that the President’s constitutional powers include the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance aimed at detecting and preventing armed attacks on the United States. Presidents have uniformly relied on their inherent power to gather foreign intelligence for reasons both diplomatic and military, and the federal courts have consistently upheld this longstanding practice.[5]
Legal precedents on the other side: zero. Congress cannot by legislation limit the president’s constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches of enemy threats any more than the president can by executive order curtail any of Congress’s constitutional authorities.[6] When Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1981 (FISA), the boundary between Congress’s power and the president’s power on national security issues was bound to come up. In 2002, the FISA Court that was created by the act settled the question as follows:
The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.[7]
Thus President Bush could have acted unilaterally to protect the nation with warrantless surveillance, but in fact he did not act unilaterally. The FISA act includes a provision that:
Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for a period not to exceed fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by the Congress.[8]

The presumption was not that any war would only last fifteen days, but that Congress would within those 15 days authorize whatever further powers were called for to enable the conduct of a war, which is exactly what happened. We don’t actually have declarations of war anymore, but we did have, three days after the 9/11 attacks, the Congressional authorizations of power that the FISA act envisioned. The use-of-force resolution (which passed 420-1) authorized the President:
to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.[9]
Justice O’Connor held for the Court in Rumsfeld v. Hamdi that this Force Resolution authorized the normal incidents of military force (including military detainment of enemy combatants like Hamdi).[10] Intelligence gathering is certainly a normal incident of military force, so the Force Resolution empowers the NSA spying. As a result, the question of the exact boundary between congressional powers and presidential powers over warrantless searches is never reached. Congress authorized the president’s uses of power in this case, so there is no conflict to be resolved.

President Bush also briefed Congress regularly on the warrantless spying, and received hardly a protest. Even with all the post-exposure posturing, not one Congressman has called for the program to be stopped.[11] Unilateral? Unanimous is more like it. But Professor Diamond is “disturbed.” As capital “d” Democrats often do when the democratic process leads to results they don’t like, he declares our government’s nearly unanimous backing of warrantless searches “undemocratic.”[12] How can it be democratic, when it bothers him?

“Given the sort of people I am involved with,” he says, “there are strong grounds to believe that some of my telephone calls, and especially e-mail, have been intercepted.” Other people willingly submit to being searched at the airport or singled out for questioning because they understand that these steps must be taken in order to protect us all. Diamond can’t see that bigger picture. He feels put out, and that is what matters. He can’t even stand back far enough to blame his concerns about foreigners not being willing to talk to him on the traitors who exposed the surveillance.

Diamond’s statement on the ACLU website is replete with unfounded accusations of lawbreaking. Does it really not dawn on this professor that presidents have always had the power under our Constitution to intercept enemy communications in time of war? Where is he a professor again? Unbelievable.

No Mr. Diamond, what you say to people who are suspected of being terrorists is not a private matter between you and them. It is a matter of national security. You should have the grace to welcome surveillance, and save your ire for those who betray our secrets, instead of maliciously slandering the President who is working within the Constitution to defend our nation.


[1] In response to question asked by a reporter while the President was visiting troops at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Texas. Full transcript available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/01/20060101.html.

[2] From “Why Stanford prof is suing Bush over NSA spying,” by Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 1/19/2006: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/living/education/13660737.htm. Quote seems to be excerpted from Diamond’s full statement on the ACLU website: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/23495res20060116.html.

[3] Also from the President’s remarks at Brook Army Medical Center, op cit.

[4] Surge in Sale of Disposable Cell Phones May Have Terror Link, ABC News, 1/12/2006: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1499905.

[5] From: “Prepared Remarks for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at the Georgetown University Law Center, January 24, 2006”: http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/speeches/2006/ag_speech_0601241.html.

[6] A point made by John Hindraker in this excellent early post on NSA spying (Dec. 22nd): http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012631.php.

[7] From FISA court’s Sealed Case No. 02-001, discussed by John Hindraker at: http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012631.php. Hindraker reviews the precedents that Truong was following here: http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012975.php. Also, see the last of his “Ahabs” here: http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012969.php (critiquing NYT’s egregious misrepresentations of law and precedent).

[8] The “notwithstanding any other law” wording is a bit peculiar, since legislation cannot bind future legislation. The implication is that it is clarifying the backwards reference, that this provision is to supersede any existing restrictions on the conduct of surveillance.

This interpretation is backed up by the qualification stated in the section 1809 of the FISA act that a punishable violation has been committed only if the surveillance in question was “not authorized by statute,” indicating an anticipation that the FISA act would work in conjunction with later congressional authorizations. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode50/usc_sec_50_00001809----000-.html (Other sources refer to this code section as section 109 of the FISA act. I do not know what accounts for this discrepancy).

[9] CNN, “Congress approves resolution authorizing force,” 11/15/2001: http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/15/congress.terrorism/

[10] Findlaw summarizes the majority ruling:
Justice O'Connor, joined by The Chief Justice, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Breyer, concluded that although Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged in this case, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker. Pp. 14-15. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=03-6696

[11] The few who are complaining are complaining only that they did not specifically authorize the program. (See “Hill seeks oversight of NSA wiretapping,” Baltimore Sun, 1/23/2006: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.terror23jan23,1,3346093.story?coll=bal-attack-headlines.) But Congress is not constitutionally empowered to lay out the specifics of the president’s war-fighting. Congress can declare war, but it cannot tell the president how to fight a war. Thus it is the complainers who are seeking to act outside of their constitutional authority.

Diamond, as a supposed advocate for rule of law, should be behind the president, since the Constitution is behind the president. Instead, he acts as if only Congress is elected by the people, and is an agent of democracy. A more ignorant position is hardly conceivable.

UPDATE: an editorial from the NYT 1-29-06 makes the same claim I do about no Democrats having come out against the spying program, only against its supposed lack of proper authorization. Powerline discuses the editorial here: http://powerlineblog.com/archives/012975.php. They quote the Times as writing:
"President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," [Karl Rove] told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing....

FURTHER UPDATE: Powerline reports on the Senate’s NSA hearings that as of February 7th, the Democrats are trying many different positions on spying, but still not a one of them is suggesting that we shouldn’t be doing it. http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013073.php

[12] On Diamond’s Democrat party membership, I only have a partial quote, but it seems pretty conclusive. It is from a Commentary article by Joshua Muravchik called “Iraq and the Conservatives” that mentions Diamond, but only a few snippets are accessible without subscription, including the following: “…Although a Democrat, and an opponent of the Iraq war, he was invited by Condoleezza Rice, then Bush’s national security adviser, to join the occupation authority in late 2003 as an adviser on democratization…” I think that can only be a reference to Diamond. (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/Summaries/V120I3P52-1.htm.)

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