Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Allahu akbar, Frosty!

Islam has had some serious problem with its PR in the past couple of weeks, what with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a series of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria that left an estimated 2,000 dead, a horrific incident involving a ten-year-old female suicide bomber, and the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi for "insulting Islam."

So let's do a little thought experiment, here.  You're a prominent Muslim cleric, and you read the litany of bad news.  You're concerned not only about how the rest of the world views your belief system, but how Muslims themselves must feel when they hear about the atrocities being done in the name of their religion.  What do you do?
  1. You make a strongly-worded statement repudiating violence in the name of religion.
  2. You put pressure on religious and governmental leaders to consider human rights reform.
  3. You encourage your followers to donate money to groups that are fighting terrorism.
  4. You open a discussion of the passages in the Qu'ran that encourage such behavior.
  5. You issue a fatwa against snowmen.
If you picked #5, you understand the leadership of Islam all too well.  Muslim leaders have been far more willing to mess around with prohibitions against random behaviors than to stand up against the horrors perpetrated in Islam's name.  (Some leaders have done so, fortunately; there have been several Islamic groups who have spoken out, especially regarding Charlie Hebdo.)

But in theocratic Saudi Arabia, mostly what we've heard on the topic of human rights, freedom of speech, and eliminating terrorism is: silence.

But woe unto you if you build a snowman.  Saudi cleric Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid said that it was forbidden to build a snowman, "even in fun:"
It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun...  God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on.
So now snowmen have souls?  What, did this guy think that Frosty the Snowman was a historical documentary?

While some Muslims are shaking their heads about how ridiculous this is, there are a lot who apparently think this is perfectly reasonable.  "May God preserve the scholars, for they enjoy sharp vision and recognize matters that even Satan does not think about," one responder wrote.  "It (building snowmen) is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism."

My opinion is that if seeing snowmen makes you feel lusty and erotic, you have an entirely different problem, unrelated to matters of religion.

[image courtesy of photographer Thomas Cook and the Creative Commons]

And seriously.  Do they really have that big a snowman problem in Saudi Arabia?  It's no wonder that Satan hasn't thought about it.  Last I looked, Saudi Arabia is basically a big desert.  Prohibiting snowmen in Saudi Arabia is about as reasonable as me, up here in the arctic wasteland of upstate New York, issuing a fatwa against palm trees.

But rationality has little to do with this.  If Islamic leaders keep tightening the grip on every move their followers make, even in realms that have little to do with reality, it'll obviate them of the need to focus on the real issues.  It reinforces the message that Allah is watching, that he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows when you've been bad or good, so be good or you get 1,000 lashes on your bare back.

Even if it does convince most of the rest of the world that the worldview is, at its basis, completely insane.

1 comment:

  1. Watching Syrian war footage on youtube, I found that fighters on both sides yelled out "Allahu Akbar!" literally constantly. If they were in a 2 hour fire fight they were saying it, without pause, the entire time... as if it's some buffer against the horrors they were engaged in. Raping, pillaging... it's all good, as long as they're ingratiating themselves to God the whole time, their soul is buffered from the horrible things they're doing. It's such pretzel logic, it makes my brain hurt, my heart ache, and my stomache turn.

    Completely insane.