December 23, 2008

My Issues with Islam
Istanbul, Turkey

I'll tell you right off that I'm not a fan of organized religion—any of 'em. There's a line between faith and religion that I won't go into, but it's there, and I believe the latter to be nothing but problems for this planet.

So, Islam—Muslims.

If people want to abstain from eating the flesh of a pig and consuming alcohol, that's totally fine. If men want to practice extreme chauvinism, keep their women covered up, sexually repressed and in the kitchen, well that sort of machismo mentality is rampant the world over.

If a person's adopted religious doctrine makes one pray so much, and in such a fashion, that they develop a callus on their forehead, that's not my concern.

But what does concern me is when a religion washes over me with a sea of noise pollution. When it's forced down my throat—or in this case, in my ears.

I have problems with the adhan.

The Adhan

Wherever Muslims live in substantial numbers throughout the world, the call to prayer, or adhan, is repeated five times a day by a muezzin (crier) from a mosque, the Muslim place of worship. Muslims are encouraged to pray together in mosques, but group prayer is only a religious obligation for the noon prayer on Friday.

I understand why Islam spread so quickly and so efficiently here in the Middle East. This has been an area of the world dominated by nomads for countless centuries. Islam took the middlemen—the priests—out of equation. Wanderers could 'communicate with God' regardless the location or conditions they were enduring. (…Of course, the spread was also aided significantly by military conquest.)

But this was also a time before electricity, and amplified megaphones. It was a time when the muezzin would actually climb the minaret of a mosque and proclaim that 'Allah is great, and there's no god except the One God (Allah)'.

A mosque in Üsküdar

A problem with the contemporary spin on Islam is that these criers don't climb the minarets any longer—there's not necessarily even a real person singing, sometimes (especially for the pre-dawn prayers) a mosque will just play a tape with the recorded wailing. Loudspeakers—typically four, pointing in every direction off the minarets—blare out the call to prayer at near ear-bleeding levels. It's so loud that the sound penetrates the thickest of concrete walls, often awaking the occupants (chiefly, me and my family) from some much needed slumber.

It gets even worse in places like Istanbul, where there's a mosque on every street corner. And come prayer time, each mosque belches out their own amplified karaoke session, dedicated to that big guy up there watchin' down over us—Allah.

This world has enough types of pollution in it today—there's really no need to add more noise to an already noisy environment.

This religion should take down the speakers and bring back real men in the minarets. Maybe then I'd be able to say "oooo, how spiritual and magical that sound is" like the rest of the tourists.

( video: Islamic Call to Prayer Excerpt )

Honor Killings and Honor Suicides

My other beef is with any religion that encourages (or condones) the murder of a family member in the name of 'honor'.

An honor killing is the murder of a family or clan member by one or more fellow family members, when the murderers (and potentially the wider community) believe the victim to have brought dishonor upon the family, clan, or community, normally by (a) utilizing dress codes unacceptable to certain people or (b) engaging in certain sexual acts. These killings result from the perception that defense of honor justifies killing a person whose behavior dishonors their clan or family.

A recent phenomenon of Honour suicides occurs in Turkey. There has been many cases when people order or pressure a woman to kill herself; this may be done so that the people avoid penalties for murdering her.

Over 80 Iraqi women in Diyala province committed suicide, to escape the shame of having been raped. They choose to become suicide bombers to escape the shame; startlingly, their rapes were planned in advance by 51 year old Iraqi woman Samira Jassam, who confessed to Iraqi police that she organized their rapes so she could later persuade each of them that to become a suicide bomber was the only way to escape their shame.

Many young Muslim women are killed every year for offenses that range from stealing a glance at a boy to wearing a short skirt, wanting to go to the movies, being raped by a stranger or relative or having consensual sex.

Here are some excerpts from a trio of articles I dug up:

The Prime Ministry's Human Rights Directorate issued a report on "honor killings," which contains discouraging findings, daily Radikal reported Friday.

In Istanbul, at least one person dies every week because of honor killings according to the report, which is the most comprehensive in its field. The number of murders committed for honor in the last five years has exceeded 1,000. The murderers are treated as heroes in prisons and they do not regret their crimes.

According to the report, the number of honor killings was 150 in 2002, while it rose to 220 in 2007. Occurrence of honor killings is inversely proportional with education levels. Not only women but also men fall victim to honor killings. Besides, around 9 percent of the murders are committed by children.

The report declares that metropolitan cities are leading crime scenes of honor killings. In the last five years, 167 people were murdered in Istanbul. Ankara followed with 144, İzmir with 121, and Diyarbakır with 69. The crimes were mostly perpetrated by people with origins in eastern Turkey. The report states that the number of honor killings in Istanbul increased to 53 in 2007 from 27 in 2006.

Girls as young as 12 have been stabbed, stoned or bludgeoned to death for conversing with strangers or "dishonoring" relatives by being raped. Experts believe that, with many of the murders passed off as suicides, up to 300 take place every year.

Most of the killings occur in the Kurdish-populated south-east where females fall victim to customs dating back generations. Brothers or cousins of a victim are called upon by a family council to conduct the murder, often in broad daylight.

The clan member named to conduct the killing is usually a teenage male, who would receive a lighter sentence because of his age.

A 2006 survey found 37 percent of people in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, believe a woman who has an extra-marital affair should be killed.

As many as 133 women were killed in the Iraqi city of Basra alone in 2006—79 for violation of "Islamic teachings" and 47 for honor killings, according to IRIN, the news branch of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

UNICEF reported that in the Gaza strip and the West bank that "According to 1999 estimates, more than two-thirds of all murders were most likely 'honor' killings."

In April 2008 it came to light that some months prior, a Saudi woman was killed by her father for chatting on Facebook to a man. The murder only came to light when a Saudi Cleric referred to the case in an attempt to demonstrate the 'strife' that the website 'causes'.

Additionally, this 2006 piece over at the New York Times is worth a read: How to Avoid Honor Killing in Turkey? Honor Suicide

…Women's groups here say the evidence suggests that a growing number of girls considered to be dishonored are being locked in a room for days with rat poison, a pistol or a rope, and told by their families that the only thing resting between their disgrace and redemption is death.



Wade Vagabond

February 22nd, 2009

Yeah, all cultures have pretty much one thing in common: they are all pretty stupid. It is interesting to travel the world and realize how stupid everyone is acculturated into being. All natural sense and logic are knocked out and marginalized through the great lens of nurture.

At least it makes for interesting traveling.


The United Kingdom


February 23rd, 2009

Each to their own, I suppose. The call to prayer was one of my favourite things about Istanbul, I found it beautiful and not at all annoying.

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