Forced Morality

Sunday, August 12, 2007

11 comments
A Nigerian convert to Islam was jailed in Saudi Arabia after he helped a sick 63-year-old woman and was then accused by religious police of immoral behavior, a newspaper reported on Monday. Ibrahim Mohammad Lawal, a student of Islamic studies in Riyadh, took the woman, who is his neighbor, to the hospital after learning that she needed medical attention, Arab News said. After the woman returned home he went to check on her health and found three other women related to her there. Then up to five men identifying themselves as members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrived and took him and the three women visitors into custody, accusing him of being alone with his neighbor. He was later taken to prison, the paper said without elaborating on what happened to the three women. Lawal's help for his neighbor "has landed him 50 days and counting behind bars," Arab News said.


Help the maskeen, be arrested. Prevent someone from dying, go to jail.

While those are general statements, I'm hearing more and more about similar situations where a man or woman is arrested by the religious police because of an act of charity for someone of the opposite gender. In other words, it's better to let someone suffer or die as long as you continue to appear righteous. Which do you think God is more concerned about: true charity or religious facade?

But the thing that I really can't wrap my mind around is the concept of forced morality. What is the purpose of creating a religious police system designed to strong arm people into doing something against their nature? After all, many are only following the rules because they are forced to, and not because they want to. Wouldn't God be more appreciative of those who want to obey him? And since God is all knowing, he is surely aware of the condition of one's heart. How is it then that we are so preoccupied with creating a righteous outward show rather than a contrite inward attitude?

So what is the purpose of forcing someone to do what is religiously required? If I am forced to fast during Ramadan even though I don't want to, I'm sure my forced fasting isn't going to amount to religious "points" because my heart isn't in the right place. And I use this as an example because I see similar situations all day every day: people following the letter of the law, not because they desire to, but because they don't want to a) appear unrighteous b) get in trouble by the zealots c) dishonor their family.

I'm not sure I see the point. Perhaps someone could educate me?

Source: The Jordan Times, August 7, 2007

11 Comments:

Blogger MommaBean said...

I can't educate, but can absolutely agree. It is a true shame when helping others becomes punishable by law. Funny, in the US there are states, cities, etc. that are moving the other direction and making NOT helping others punishable by law. Which direction is right, I wonder? Somehow I suspect netiehr is, both are compelling people to do the "right" thing rather than creating in them the heart and desire to do it...

8/12/2007 12:24 PM  
Anonymous hamede said...

Sad.

8/12/2007 7:18 PM  
Anonymous kinzi said...

Dave, well said. I will await education with you.

8/12/2007 11:14 PM  
Blogger milanoroger said...

I also can't educate, actually I ask the same questions, why to force fasting? why to force morals?
They say God gave people the choice (eternal punishment/reward afterwards based on one's choices) but it seems people took that "gift" away from other people.

I'm in the mood for a fatwa: "Anyone who prevents people from using "gifts" from god, will burn in hell"
there you go, I'll smoke this ramadan in college, and security guys will burn in hell!

PS: THE FATWA WAS A JOKE!

8/13/2007 12:11 AM  
Anonymous Imad said...

lasr year, those same idiots refused to unlock the gate to a girl school after a fire broke out so several students died from the fire.

8/13/2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

Muslims believe that if a man and a woman are alone together the devil will sneak between the two of them and convince them to sin. I'm not really sure about the last part but for sure he will sneak between the two of them. So in order for them to avoid having the devil sneak between the two of them, then they shouldn't be together alone in the first place. Moreover, Muslims believe that a man and a woman shouldn't be together alone unless they can't have sex with one another. In other words it is okay for the man to be alone with his sister, his mother, his aunt, etc because he can never ever have sex with them. At the same time the man is prohibited from being alone with his female next door neighbor because there is a possibility that the devil will sneak between the two of them and convince them to have sex and therefore they would have sinned. So why let the people commit a sin, why not just nip it in the bud and prohibit the male and female from being together. I think that was the idea behind punishing the guy for taking the woman to the hospital. The alternative would have been for him to call another female as a witness to come along with them, or call the ambulance and have her transported via ambulance, why go with her alone, and if he were a Muslim he should have known better that what it is prohibited in Islam and there is a potential for being punished for it especially in places like Saudi Arabia. Grant you in Jordan he probably would have gotten away with it although technically it is still prohibited.
I hope that helps.

8/13/2007 11:50 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hatem, thanks for helping me understand the rationale behind the issue. For me, however, the explanation raises a few more questions.

1. Do Muslims believe that the devil is omnipresent? If the devil were capable of being in all places, tempting all people at all times, then I would be worried. But if the devil, as a single being, is limited to one particular place and time, then the odds of him sneaking between me and another woman are infinitely low.

2. Do Muslims believe that people are powerless against the devil? The rationale assumes that the devil compels people to sin and that they really have no say in the matter. It appears that if the devil gets to you, your sunk. I would like to think we have a fighting chance against the devil's temptations.

3. Why do people think that a man can't have sexual relations with a member of his household (mother, aunt, sister, etc.)? It's called incest, and while it is a sick concept, it does happen. If the devil can tempt two men to desire to have a homosexual relationship, what's to keep him from tempting family members from having an incestial relationship? Should we not allow family members of the opposite gender to be together? How far should we take this?

4. Should a man and women not be together simply because there is the possibility (or potential) to sin? When applied to other situations, this rationale seems fairly absurd. For instance, should I not be allowed to drive because there is the possibility to speed, therefore breaking the law and sinning? Should I not be allowed to converse with others because there is the possibility of lying to them and therefore sinning? Should I not be allowed to do business with someone because there is the possibility to cheat and therefore sin?

I'm of the mindset that man's human nature has certain needs and desires built into it. Kept in check, these desires—such as the desire for companionship and relationship with the opposite sex—can be healthy. But man also has the option of allowing those desires to go to attain an unhealthy level, resulting in immoral, debase behavior. The problem, however, is an internal one. And while I'm not denying the influence of outside temptation, I believe that these issues must first be dealt with in the heart.

I'm not justifying that a men and women should go around alone together. But rather I feel that it would be better for people to do what is right as a conscious, decisive act, rather than to live in fear of the morality and conduct police. Is it not better for me to learn to fight against temptation—to learn to do what is right when no one is watching—rather than live with the attitude that it's only wrong if someone catches me? That's the issue we’re dealing with here.

The morality police are waging a war against the appearance (or should I say possibility?) of evil. But because the morality police have designed to bludgeon people into forced contriteness (even if innocent), they will always be fighting a losing battle since the issues of the heart are being ignored.

8/14/2007 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Badda Bing said...

Dave, Islam tells peole how to wipe their asses and with what hand. If you are tryng to have a logical discussion with a mulsim regarding any subject related to Islam then you are wasting you time.

8/14/2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

Dave,
Please note that I was only adressing the specific situation that was outlined in your post and no any other situation because when it comes to explaining these highly delicate issues one has to be mind full not to wayward too far as each case may be totally different than the next case.

Having said that let me also state in an unambigious transparent way that I'm completely against the religious police that allegedly is propgating virtue and prohibiting vice, I think that it should be dismantled since it is being used as a tool for the state to sway the people's mind from thinking about politics and about the corrupt regime.in reference to your reply I'll attempt to address each point in the best that I know how, there is no guarantee that the reply will be satisfactory to you or to any one else but nevertheless that is what I think and I'm not an authority on Islamic theology or anything like that, I'm just an ordinary citizen trying to make a living.

1. Do Muslims believe that the devil is omnipresent?
Yes, they do. They believe that satan is capable of at least if not comeling the people to commit sin, he is more than capable to empower them to do so.He is capable of drawing a rosy picture about sin, making it very appealing to go for it. It is more or less like a highschool kid is temted to try marijuana for the fist time and the other kids are making that poor vulnerable kid who never tried it be put in a situation that he almost had no choice but to try it even if he had to take just one drag. In another word, the element of risk and vulnerability get converted into beacon.

Do Muslims believe that people are powerless against the devil?
No they don't.They believe that they have the power to resist to a certain extent. However, the risk albiet very minute still exists and why take a risk, just live risk free,or you would be better off living risk free.
Why do people think that a man can't have sexual relations with a member of his household (mother, aunt, sister, etc.)? This is a very complicated topic that needs several pages to answer, but I'm going to be a little biased here and say generally speaking Muslims don't practice incest but obviously I don't have any statistics to back up my claim, you just either accept or reject my claim, it is up to you.

Should a man and women not be together simply because there is the possibility (or potential) to sin?
They can be together any time any place provided that there are witnesses to thei where abouts, what they can't do is be together alone in an isolated location or between four walls,because in that case the satan might intercede between them.

Driving, conversing, and doing business are totally differnt scenarios and the situation at hand is totally different, in other words, they are irrelevent.

I'm not sure that the problem of sinning is only internal, I think that it is a combination of internal as well as external forces.Remember that example I cited earlier about that good kid who didn't want to try the Marijuana.

Finally, I do condemn the morality police, as far as I'm concerned they can go to hell for all I care.

Dave,

Please note that I was only addressing the specific situation that was outlined in your post and no any other situation because when it comes to explaining these highly delicate issues one has to be mind full not to wayward too far as each case may be totally different than the next case.

Having said that let me also state in an unambiguous transparent way that I'm completely against the religious police that allegedly propagating virtue and prohibiting vice, I think that it should be dismantled since it is being used as a tool for the state to sway the people's mind from thinking about politics and about the corrupt regime. in reference to your reply I'll attempt to address each point in the best that I know how, there is no guarantee that the reply will be satisfactory to you or to any one else but nevertheless that is what I think and I'm not an authority on Islamic theology or anything like that, I'm just an ordinary citizen trying to make a living.

1. Do Muslims believe that the devil is omnipresent?
Yes, they do. They believe that Satan is capable of at least if not compelling the people to commit sin; he is more than capable to empower them to do so. He is capable of drawing a rosy picture about sin, making it very appealing to go for it. It is more or less like a high school kid that is tempted to try marijuana for the fist time and the other kids are making that poor vulnerable kid who never tried it [be] put in a situation that he almost had no choice but to try it even if he had to take just one drag. In another word, the element of risk and vulnerability get converted into beacon.

Do Muslims believe that people are powerless against the devil?
No they don’t. They believe that they have the power to resist to a certain extent. However, the risk albeit very minute still exists and why take a risk, just live risk free, or you would be better off living risk free.
Why do people think that a man can't have sexual relations with a member of his household (mother, aunt, sister, etc.)? This is a very complicated topic that needs several pages to answer, but I'm going to be a little biased here and say generally speaking Muslims don't practice incest but obviously I don't have any statistics to back up my claim, you just either accept or reject my claim, it is up to you.

Should a man and women not be together simply because there is the possibility (or potential) to sin?
They can be together any time any place provided that there are witnesses to their where about, what they can't do is be together alone in an isolated location or between four walls, because in that case the Satan might intercede between them.

Driving, conversing, and doing business are totally different scenarios and the situation at hand is totally different, in other words, they are irrelevant.

I'm not sure that the problem of sinning is only internal; I think that it is a combination of internal as well as external forces. Remember that example I cited earlier about that good kid who didn't want to try the Marijuana.

Finally, I do condemn the morality police, as far as I'm concerned they can go to hell for all I care.

8/14/2007 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Badda Bing said...

Arabs and Muslims in general are sexually deprived so they come up with this rediculous notion that the devil is trying to trap you into jumping each other's bones once alone in a room. Maybe that's why that one Imam from Egypt came out with this fatwa a couple of months ago saying its OK for a woman to breastfeed her co-workers...lol I guess thats one way to prevent him from getting in her panties.

8/14/2007 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Ismail said...

I got attracted to this story mainly because this guy is Nigerian --I am also Nigerian. I pray they resolve the situation sooner than later and free the guy because what is apparent to us is that he was rendering some help. At the same time, I am also a Muslim just as the guy is.

I would just like to shed some light on some things about satan/devil. Every "sin" committed is not just by the devil's power. We have our desire too to deal with.

A man and a woman can be together in secluded play over 30 years and nothing happens. In another scenario a man and a woman can be together for 5 minute and all things that you want and can image can happen. Thus since we can’t know who would do what, it is forbidden for all.

As we all know the vices of this act is unwanted babies that get abandoned, killed, running the streets doing drugs etc.

To "avoid" considered "racist", I would like is be know that I am black and live in the United States. I can’t speak for the rest of the world but look at the black communities in the U.S. A good portion of them are in a deplorable state that it is an eye sore for the society. Check out crime in Baltimore.

Going back to the guy and the reaction of the "police", what might be apparent to the police at the time of the arrest is that he broke the law. Upon interrogation they now "know" what his intent is. To be fair I think 50 days is a lot of time behind bars for doing a good deed but he might be going through the legal process of the country to prove his innocence.

Let’s consider the man in I think Nevada, United States who recently turned in a tape of a 3yrs girl that was sexually assaulted after having the tape for 5 months. This man despite the fact he did a good thing to turn in the tape he would be prosecuted for breaking the law. (Possession and exhibiting of child pornography --10 yrs if found guilty)

Also, The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is Monarchy "based" on Islamic Law. This is quite contradicting because in Islam only the fit so be chosen as a leader.

Also, I would like to say that because people who profess the Islam as a religion do things that do not make it part of Islam. Not all Arabs are Muslim, there are Arab Jews, Christians even atheist.

I hope they clear the guy in Saudi soon based on what is apparent --he was helping the needy.

10/03/2007 3:56 PM  

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