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American Mohammed

You can find a lot of interesting parallels between Joseph Smith and Mohammed, enough to justify calling Joseph Smith an American Mohammed. I just realize that both claimed to have revelations that authorized them to take their daughters to wife.

Mohammed married Aisha, the daughter of his brother-by-oath. They were married when she was six. They consummated their marriage when she was nine. He was 54. While marriages at such ages were apparently common, I understand that it went against custom to marry the daughter of your brother, even if only by oath.

Even Aisha held suspicion about Mohammed’s self-serving revelation that allowed him to marry any wife who desired him:

Narrated Aisha:

I used to look down upon those ladies who had given themselves to Allah’s Apostle [Mohammed] and I used to say, “Can a lady give herself (to a man)?” But when Allah revealed: “You (O Muhammad) can postpone (the turn of) whom you will of them (your wives), and you may receive any of them whom you will; and there is no blame on you if you invite one whose turn you have set aside (temporarily).’ (33.51) I said (to the Prophet), “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 60:311)

Joseph married Maria and Sarah Lawrence whose father had died. They lived in Joseph’s household as foster daughters. In fact, William Law filed a lawsuit in the spring of 1844 against accusing him of marrying Maria Lawrence in an attempt to make public his practice of polygamy.

Joseph had secretly proposed a polyandrous marriage with William Law’s wife. She refused and William—then First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Mormon church—asked Joseph whom he considered a fallen prophet to renounce polygamy. Joseph refused and subsequently excommunicated William.

William then attempted to expose Joseph’s duplicity in the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph ordered its printing press destroyed. Joseph was arrested on charges related to the destruction of the printing press and imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois where a mob killed him in the summer of 1844. So Joseph’s marriage to his foster daughters contributed to his death.

It’s interesting to me that both of these men used self-serving, alleged revelations to justify sex with their followers, including those who could be considered their daughters.

(Inspired by Jesus and Mo.)

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A Tale of Two Polygamous Sects

Sam Harris made a provocative comparison between the FLDS and Islam:

A point of comparison: The controversy of over Fitna was immediately followed by ubiquitous media coverage of a scandal involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). In Texas, police raided an FLDS compound and took hundreds of women and underage girls into custody to spare them the continued, sacramental predations of their menfolk. While mainstream Mormonism is now granted the deference accorded to all major religions in the United States, its fundamentalist branch, with its commitment to polygamy, spousal abuse, forced marriage, child brides (and, therefore, child rape) is often portrayed in the press as a depraved cult. But one could easily argue that Islam, considered both in the aggregate and in terms of its most negative instances, is far more despicable than fundamentalist Mormonism. The Muslim world can match the FLDS sin for sin–Muslims commonly practice polygamy, forced-marriage (often between underage girls and older men), and wife-beating–but add to these indiscretions the surpassing evils of honor killing, female “circumcision,” widespread support for terrorism, a pornographic fascination with videos showing the butchery of infidels and apostates, a vibrant form of anti-semitism that is explicitly genocidal in its aspirations, and an aptitude for producing children’s books and television programs which exalt suicide-bombing and depict Jews as “apes and pigs.”

Any honest comparison between these two faiths reveals a bizarre double standard in our treatment of religion. We can openly celebrate the marginalization of FLDS men and the rescue of their women and children. But, leaving aside the practical and political impossibility of doing so, could we even allow ourselves to contemplate liberating the women and children of traditional Islam?

Update: Jesus and Mo’ weigh in on the issue.

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Warning: This video contains disturbing depictions of violence.

Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, recently released Fitna, a film representing his views on the Islamization of Europe and its consequences for liberal democracy.

I object to the film’s conflation of Islam with extremism. There are many Muslims who do not follow the kind of Islam portrayed in this film.

Having said that, the film speaks the truth about the barbarity of humanity and its relationship to religion. Liberal Muslims face similar challenges to the Judeo-Christian West when we contemplate our past and its holy books. The Qur’an and the Bible are both farces of antiquated violence, reminders of how far civilization has come. There are beautiful pearls of wisdom in their verses, but they are buried in page after page of shit. This confusion of wisdom and madness makes it easy for bigots to cloak themselves in the robes of a priest, pastor, or imam. Religion is often the torch bearer for our brute past. Religion often makes this kind of hatred and bigotry look respectable and good.

Gone are the days when we can hold a live-and-let-live attitude regarding religious extremism. Everyone who values the freedoms that came out of the Enlightenment—such as freedom of religion, speech, and the printing press—must fight side-by-side to give birth to a better world where humanity has left behind its violent past. We cannot, however, win this fight by reverting to violence ourselves, but must be willing to disrespect violent religious beliefs while preserving the right to hold those beliefs. We must be willing to break the social taboo against openly criticizing another’s religious beliefs. We must start a verbal war against those who would take our freedoms from us. Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers, humans of all stripes must find common cause against fundamentalist religion which clings so tightly to our violent past.

Update: Fitna was taken down for a few days due to death threats received by Some Muslims out there are doing a good job persuading me that Islam in fact is a religion of violence. Accuse Islam of being a religion of violence and get threatened with violence. Ironic, n’est-ce pas?

30/3/2008: Liveleak Update **

On the 28th of March was left with no other choice but to remove the film “fitna” from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don’t consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted. (emphasis added)

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Muhammad Comics

Remember the Muhammad comics from Denmark that got some Muslims in an uproar? Here they are just in case you haven’t seen them yet because newspapers in the U.S. don’t want to take the heat (I don’t really blame them).


Jyllands-Posten (the newpaper that originally published the comics) reports that “all of [Denmark's] major dailies decided to re-print it on Wednesday after it was discovered that Muslim extremists had plotted to assassinate the man who drew it, Kurt Westergaard.”

We have a conflict of ideas: the idea that a person’s religious sensibilities must be respected under penalty of violence versus the idea that we must all be free to say what we want within very liberal bounds. Tolerance of opposing viewpoints in a liberal democracy must find its limit when people plot murder, yet the freedom of conscience of innocent Muslims must be respected. Religious extremism like this might be the poison pill that kills democracy if we can’t strike a proper balance in response.

Having said that, the whole point of this post was just for me to stick up for freedom of speech in my little way.

(via Jesus and Mo)

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Pretenders to Revelation

And who could be more wicked than he who invents a lie about God, or says “This has been revealed unto me,” the while nothing has been revealed to him? (Qur’an 6:93, as translated by Muhammad Asad)

You can request a free copy of the Qur’an (you pay for shipping). I was pleasantly surprised with the high quality of the hardcover edition provided by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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