Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We Would Do The Same Thing

1) Seyed Mehdi Kazemi's appeal for asylum by Dutch authorities has been turned down. Mehdi is a 19 year old gay Iranian, who was 'outed' in Iran when a friend revealed his relationship with Mehdi to the authorities. The friend was subsequently hung on sodomy charges... He faces a possible death sentence in Iran for being a homosexual... Mehdi will be sent back to the United Kingdom. It is likely the Home Office will deport him to Iran. Reference here.

Under Sharia law, the death penalty for homosexuality (defined as "lavat") is being enclosed in a bag and then being thrown into the ravine at the top of a cliff.

Under a Jewish theocracy, we would do the same thing. Vayikra 20:13. The only difference is that the condemned isn't put into a bag before he is flung over the cliff as this could possibly cushion his fall too much and cause him undue pain!

2) Afghanistan is home to numerous invaluable global cultural heritages, mainly Buddhist statues, including two huge stone statues of Buddha (55 meters and 38 meters) believed to have been built between 4th and 6th century AD and located in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. On 26 February 2001, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar issued an edict to destroy all ancient statues in Afghanistan, including Buddhist stone cave carvings, stating that they represented idolatry, which is forbidden by Islam. Reference here.

Under a Jewish theocracy, we would do the same thing. Bamidbar 33:52. (Although you might have a few rabbonim say that Buddhism isn't avodah zarah, or alternatively try and get some Buddhists to "mevatel" the idols!)

3) There are over 100 persons in Pakistani jails accused of blasphemy, and either awaiting trial or under sentence of death. Most are Muslims, although a few are from minorities such as Ahmadis and Christians. Reference here.

Under a Jewish theocracy, we would do the same thing. Vayikra 24:10. (But it must be recognized that under Jewish law, the penalty for blasphemy is restricted to blaspheming God. Under Sharia law, blasphemy against Mohamed is included.)

4) Two Iranian sisters convicted of adultery face being stoned to death after the supreme court upheld the death sentences against them, the Etemad newspaper reported. The two sisters were found guilty of adultery – a capital crime in Islamic Iran – after the husband of one of the pair presented video evidence showing them in the company of other men while he was away. Reference here.

Under a Jewish theocracy, we would do the same thing. Vayikra 20:10, Devarim 22:22. (Hmmm, I wonder if video evidence would count for the Sota procedure?)

5) A man could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under Afghanistan's sharia laws, a judge said yesterday.
Reference here.

Under a Jewish theocracy, we would do the same thing. While it is a well-known machloket as to the status of Christianity vis a vis avodah zarah, I believe most hold that it indeed is considered avodah zarah for a Jew.



Except for some fundamentalist Moslems, I think it fair to say that most folks - including frum yidden - are deeply disturbed by these accounts. We like to say how barbaric Sharia law is but never stop to think how close it is to Jewish law! In capital cases there are, indeed, major differences that restrict the imposition of the death penalty, although a king may have someone executed even without proper warning or witnesses (see Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 3:10). Nevertheless, all of these penalties are still "on the books" and theoretically will be re-instituted if a Jewish theocratic monarchy is re-established. Even if not, we are a malkos happy nation, so I can see the whip being used for not only lavs, but for all kinds of violations of rabbinic enactments, reading of banned books, not wearing an approved sheitel - the sky's the limit!

For most of this, this problem is moot simply because we don't have to deal with it on any practical level. Many take the easy way out and say "I'm not going to worry about it. It'll all be figured out when Moshiach comes". But I find this a profoundly disturbing issue and am not satisfied with such a glib answer. So is there any way out of this dilemma for someone who simply cannot square the strict standards of Torah law with one's own - and I would argue more evolved - ethical standards?

I'll follow up later with my own thoughts but would first like to hear yours!

12 comments:

Daniel said...

I think the point is that while we have an ancient tradition that does believe in capital punishment. Presently in Jewish thought it is purely academic. No “chanyaki” rabbi would dare to consider bringing back the punishments according to Mosaic or Talmudic practice. (They are too busy banning concerts) We also need not apologize for the laws / punishments of the Torah. They must be understood in their historical and revolutionary context. They were written for a society existing in a pagan and idolatrous society. While the Near East society was having temple orgies, the Torah prohibited adultery. As a society we have progressed and what was acceptable back then is not now. Slavery is wrong now and even though the Torah allows it, it is wrong now. There are lots of other examples. Basically what was, was, but for how we progressed in 2008, we can’t go back.

Jewish Sceptic said...

Daniel,

I think the same could be said of Islam. Before Mohummed, the arabs were all pagans - and Islamic law is so close to Jewish law because it was designed that way. Mohummed wanted to be considered a sub-sect of Judaism, but the Jewish authorities said "NO WAY!" What a shame!! If only we could turn back the clocks and accept that offer, perhaps the whole Jew-Muslim/ Israel-Arab conflicts played out through time would never have happened...

FH,
The only thing I can think to say is, although Jews believe all that, they wouldn't actually do it in today's society. Unless I'm mistaken, Shas and other religious Jewish parties in Israel have never proposed stoning for adulterers.

As far as the Jews in the disapora go, we don't punish people with death either - whereas honour killings and the like in "frum" muslim communities are.

Frum Heretic said...

Daniel: Presently in Jewish thought it is purely academic. No “chanyaki” rabbi would dare to consider bringing back the punishments according to Mosaic or Talmudic practice.

JS: The only thing I can think to say is, although Jews believe all that, they wouldn't actually do it in today's society.

Before this gets any further, I want to emphasize that I am not comparing Judaism of today with Sharia law of today. But Orthodox Jews that take great offense at Sharia need to recognize that there are very clear parallels between it and the "ideal" as expressed in the Torah.

I am also not suggesting that anyone mainstream (there are always a few whackos wherever you go) is attempting to reinstate Torah law today in Israel; that is clearly impossible.

My point relates to a future time that all Orthodox Jews pray for 3 times a day - the re-establishment of Malchus Ben David. Rabbinic laws mitigating Torah-specified punishments (like the elimination of capital punishment in 30 CE) were often the result of the loss of the Jewish theocracy and the need to interact within a more pluralistic society.

Jewish Sceptic said...

Hmm. I wrote a blog similar to this the other day, where someone I met in yeshiva did compare modern day Islam and Jewish Orthodoxy, and I thought they did it quite well...

If you consider agreement of action to be endorsing an action, then if there was a canaani here and a Jew killed him, we would all have to applaud. Even though OJ might not be killing canaanim the only reason is because we dont know who they are, and if we did, OJ'd have to do it. But his point was, the fact that OJ believes it, it is enough to place us on the same scale of the Muslims who dance in the streets at the death of a Jew. I disagreed, but thought he argued the case very well.

FedUp said...

Great consciousness raiser! I love to see stuff like this. I think that if the average OJ would see something like this he would be shocked. The morals of mankind have changed yet they are still looking to ancient history to figure out what is right and wrong. Judaism, the ancient unchanging religion, is nothing like it used to be. The question is how did it get to this point. Since they don't propose that God gave us a new Torah then I would have to chuck it up to man. This leads to the obvious conclusion that Judaism is man made just like the rest of religion. Keep up the good work.

bluke said...

I posted about this a while back, A Halachik state, Saudia Arabia, Clarification about Judaism and the Taliban and How much different is Charedi society then Saudia Arabia? and people jumped all over me.

-suitepotato- said...

It's a sad commentary in mankind but it is true that when any group of humans are in power, there's a certain mental insulation between them and their conscience, a deadening of empathy and a heightening of victimhood and thus a predilection for vengeance over mercy.

It was easy to be fire and brimstone as they say when the kingdom was in power. Not so easy in diaspora and those wielding the fire and brimstone are not your people. Now on the receiving end, you naturally wish for mercy out of self-preservation. You might even deserve it. You just don't have the power to insure that.

If the Muslims were in diaspora around the world and not in power, I guarantee you they would go all kumbayah touchy-feely peace and love hippy.

Sadly the Christians never got the import of Jewish standards regarding justice and vengeance and just read the books straight and didn't consider anything else. Even today you have ministers preaching an eye for an eye without the slightest understanding of the merciful and conscientious imposition of law of the people from whom they began.

Anyhow, it's just another reason to not worry about ego and who's right, but to see the Torah as chock full of meaning, especially about the ancient people who are there recorded, their world, and their nature which is really not changed. We're just as fallible innately. We just are blessed with a society that has stayed (relatively) stable and peaceful enough long enough to put into everyday practice nicer ways of dealing with each other than thousands of years past.

Woodrow/Conservadox said...

Of course, all of this is just the written Torah ... but we aren't Karaites. Chazal and their successors took the Torah and beat it into submission until it resembled the nice, lovey-peacey Torah that we all know (or think we know) and love!

Yirmiahu said...

I think that it is worthwhile to bear in mind that "force" is seen in our tradition as a way to maintain societies standards, not create them. While I wouldn't say that our system is exactly democratic there has to be overwhelming consent of the governed. The Beis Din HaGadol even removed itself from trying murderers when murder became too common.

Yirmiahu said...

I think that it is worthwhile to bear in mind that "force" is seen in our tradition as a way to maintain societies standards, not create them. While I wouldn't say that our system is exactly democratic there has to be overwhelming consent of the governed. The Beis Din HaGadol even removed itself from trying murderers when murder became too common.

Anonymous said...

Let's deal with each point one by one shall we.

1) YOU ARE WRONG> This is not the punishment in sharia for homosexuality. This is simply an isolated incident. In sharia you aren't punished for being gay, you are punished if you engage in sexual activities itself. And the punishment is 30 lashes, NOT being thrown off a cliff.

Even then, you have to bare in mind that muslim law makes it almost impossible to convict a homosexual. This is because the requirement is 4 just and righteous witnesses, which is almost an impossible requirement to meet in convicting anyone. And I believe God made it that way so that the adulterer may have ample opportunity to repent on their own accord. And yes I do feel homosexual behaviour is wrong.

2) Ah! A very bad example. The Taliban are a group of psychoes created by the US. Your CIA is the one that trained them and created this militarism that uses islam for its own purposes.

The Quran forbids such behaviour anyhow. The most famous ayat in the Quran is "there is no compulsion in religion". I suggest you read up on the great pluralism and tolerance of Mohammed's era. You do know that sharia run Muslim Spain (which was the most enlightened civilization of its time) is what gave you guys Maimonides; the greatest Jewish sage in all of history. He took many sufi concepts from islam and incorporated them into judaism to give the legalistic religion a spirituality. Islamic law was codified 200 years before Jewish law, and the similarities between the two comes from the fact that Islamic influence (particularly the caliphate) is what created rabbinical Judaism.

Perhaps some books from Karen Armstrong will suffice.

3)You do realize Pakistan is run under secular law, not sharia law. Religion is just a tool to jail anyone who doesn't agree with the authorities in charge, who btw are all secular upper class males.

4) Ah! You did read the part where it says he provided the courts video-tape evidence of the crime. And please stop imposing western liberal values on a populace which doesn't adhere to them. To them such punishments for adultery are legitimate. Your ethnocentrism wins you nothing here.

5) LOL! I'm sorry but Afghanistan is run under secular law, not sharia.

As for the apostacy thing. Well here's the issue. Originally this was never forbidden. However, during the Prophetic era there was a group of Jews who decided to convert during the day, then apostacize during the night in order to break the faith of muslims. So this sharia ruling was made to put an end to it, and it worked.

Today, that isn't happening hence the apostacy ruling is invalid. Now only if western countries, would leave muslims alone and let them do with their oil as they wish, then indeed we may see more progressive streams of sharia.

Fact is Afghanistan was doing great before the Soviets and the US ruined them. So if that place is a hell-hole, with religion being a tool for power, then you only have endless invasions by super-powers to blame for it

Frum Heretic said...

Anonymous: Let's deal with each point one by one shall we.

Thanks for your very detailed comments.

1) There is no punishment in Jewish law for being gay either. But there is the death penalty for committing certain homosexual acts (possibly only anal intercourse). Similar to what you explain for Muslim law, it is extremely difficult to administer such a punishment by Torah law. Indeed, both the Torah and the Quran demand due process. However we also see that some Islamic countries - like Iran - are great advocates of applying the death penalty.

2) I don't disagree with the fact that the USA was largely responsible for the creation of the Taliban. Nor do I disagree that their interpretation of Islamic law is extreme (possibly the most extreme in history). But this point was about the destruction of the Buddhist statues. Can you tell me which Islamic religious authorities protested the destruction or attempted to intercede?

As for your implication that Muslim Spain was so great for Jews, this is a myth. Jews were second-class, oppressed citizens, and were often massacred by the "enlightened" Muslim rulers. And that includes Spain. Tell me, what happened on December 30, 1066?

3) I agree, religion is often a convenient political tool. Which is why fundamentalist religion is so very dangerous.

4) C'mon, it appears that you didn't read the reference. There was no evidence of adultery, only that they were seen in the company of other men!!! Regardless, my post won't win any sympathy for those who wish to administer the death penalty for adultery, as you do.

5) Irrelevant. The penalty is ostensibly a religious one for apostasy. Why would "secular law" as you call it have anything to do with apostasy?