Deuteronomy, if taken literally, would seem to prescribe execution as the solution to delinquent children. Ah, but then there are those informed commentaries and qualifications, which say the opposite. The problem with Islam is that none can nor dare filter Koranic literalism
As you can imagine, this startles the rabbi. What the heck do you mean?
Well here it is, says Knut. I am reading from a Jewish Bible; in particular from Deuteronomy chapter 21 verses 18 to 21. He duly reads the passage.
“If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they discipline him, but he does not hearken to them; then his father and his mother shall grasp him and take him out to the elders of the city, ‘This son of ours is wayward and rebellious; he does not hearken to our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard’. All the men of his city shall pelt him with stones and he shall die…”
Ah, now, yes, you have to understand the whole process, the rabbi protests. Stoning is very much a last resort. A last resort indeed, he emphasises. First, you must as parents hug you son and buy him presents to convince him to give up his rebellious ways. If this fails then you must give him a good talking to and warn him of the consequences of his bad behaviour. Make him sleep in the shed. Only when all of this fails do you hand him over to be stoned to death. So you see there is nothing at all to see here.
Knut is not mollified. Well, it still seems a tad extreme to me, he says. Surely you must disavow this passage in your Bible? It is the only civilised thing to do. Don’t you think?
OK, you got me! None of the above actually happened. But I guess you guessed that. What is true, however, is my citation of the passage in Deuteronomy. In my Jewish Bible there is an accompanying annotation. It explains that the Sages (great Jewish scholars of old) constrain the applicability of the passage to someone who will “degenerate into a monstrous human being” and moreover “state that there never was and never will be a capital case involving such a son.”
Here is my non-scholarly take. The Jewish religion and, by extension, the Christian religion (as it, too, encompasses the Old Testament) are willing to deviate from taking God at His literal Word, as it is recorded in the Bible. Literalists, they are not. As a Christian, I am personally happy with this. There is a fair amount in the Bible that it’s best not to take too literally. Inspired and guided by God though it is; we should be cognisant that flawed men of their time wrote it; and others, also flawed, selected, translated and compiled its various parts.
Therefore, for example, I remain open to the possibility that a man lying with a man might not be regarded by God as an abomination (Leviticus, 18:22). And, to move to the New Testament and St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (5:22), I seriously doubt that wives “should submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” According to David Horrell (An Introduction to the Study of Paul), this letter might not have been written by Paul at all but by a later disciple of his, concerned about the prominence of women in the early Christian church. Who knows? In any event, in all things, we should not forsake our wits. God gave them to us.
And now to something completely different; to something that actually happened. The path-breaking Andrew Bolt asked Keysar Trad, representing the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, what he thought of Koranic verse IV: 34. Why do I say ‘path-breaking’? Because this is only the second time I have witnessed a commentator quote the Koran to an Islamic representative as a way to put him or her on the spot and forestall the usual distractive spin — that ‘religion of peace’ sophistry. And the first time? That was Bolt too.
The verse is clear enough, though it varies in detail depending on the version of the Koran. Mine is the Pickthall version. “Men are in charge of women,” it says. There is nothing much different here from the passage in Ephesians that I referred to above. However, the Koranic passage goes on to say, “As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them, and banish them to beds apart and scourge them.” Often scourge is written as “beat”, which sounds a bit less barbarous. But, whichever word is used, this is not a good look.
Trad had two options. The first was to defend the passage. The second was to disavow a literal reading. Here is the nub of the problem. The second option was really not available to him. It is heretical. The Koran is not the result of God inspiring flawed men to write it; nor can it be put into historical context. The Koran comprises the verbatim words of God. It comprises the immutable and everlasting very words of God. Get out of that if you can. The same can be said of every hateful, supremacist, discriminatory, intolerant and violent passage in the Koran; and there are many of them.
Unless and until we understand the problem we will be unable to tackle it. And, of course, the many useful idiots among us are determined never to understand the problem. They are only comfortable dwelling in La-La Land. But I shouldn’t be too unkind. Even some of those who well understand the problem, like President el Sisi of Egypt and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, persist in promoting forlorn solutions – calling for an Islamic religious “revolution” or “reformation.” This simply gives false hope. I wrote about this last year when reviewing Hirsi Ali’s book Heretic (“Hirsi Ali’s Quixotic Tilt at Fixing Islam”)
Nothing can be done about the religion itself. Once you take away its bad parts it has nothing left to support itself. For the West, for Australia, the only viable strategy has two parts. One is to severely restrict or stop further Muslim immigration.
The second is to persuade Muslims that their religion is bad for their health and ours and has to be given up in favour of another religion, preferably Christianity, or in favour of secularism. This calls for an ideological battle. In turn, this requires commentators and politicians on our side being willing to prosecute the case by continually spotlighting and challenging the numerous untenable passages in the Koran and canonical hadiths, which underlie the tenets of Islam. Right now there are too few commentators, and almost no politicians, willing to do that.
Make no fatal mistake, unless resolute action is taken the game will be lost and our children and theirs face the prospect of living in a much less enlightened world than the one we inherited. Already freedom of speech is under attack, sharia is creeping, anti-Semitism is rising, and left-wing political parties are willing to throw Israel to the wolves for Muslim votes. This is but a taste. There is no more demanding group, none with a louder voice, none with greater ambition, and none with a more discordant philosophy.