Frak the Koran, and the Bible for that matter

Here’s something I posted on my knitting blog this morning (hence the last sentence). I think this is a fine example to support Sam Harris’s argument that moderate religious folks give cover to all sorts of evils because they place religion outside the realm of rational criticism. I, for one, am through respecting immorality and stupidity just because it’s part of some holy book.


This is just disgusting. It does not belong in modern society. What is this frakking world coming to?

FRANKFURT, March 22 — A German judge has stirred a storm of protest here by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a fast-track divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.

In a remarkable ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which she said it was common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse.

News of the ruling brought swift and sharp condemnation from politicians, legal experts, and Muslim leaders in Germany, many of whom said they were confounded that a German judge would put 7th-century Islamic religious teaching ahead of modern German law in deciding a case involving domestic violence.

The woman’s lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, said she decided to publicize the ruling, which was issued in January, after the court refused her request for a new judge. On Wednesday, the court in Frankfurt abruptly removed Judge Datz-Winter from the case, saying it could not justify her reasoning.

“It was terrible for my client,” Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said of the ruling. “This man beat her seriously from the beginning of their marriage. After they separated, he called her and threatened to kill her.”

Read the rest here:

What a load of shit. This is why separation of church and state is SO important. This is what can and will happen in America if the religious right is allowed to retain and gain power. This is not a world I want to live in, where medieval bullshit is given precedence over modern morality. Yes, that’s what I said modern morality. People who think morality comes from the Bible or the Koran are sadly mistaken. These ancient books are filled with immoral rulings created by tribal civilizations. This kind of thing should be laughed at like the backwards garbage that it is and not cowtowed to because it comes from someone’s holy book. Modern civilization is based on constitutional law, not on ancient superstition. And I for one would like to keep it that way.

Now that I’ve probably pissed off half of my readers, we shall return to our regularly scheduled knitting content.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. ::SIGH:: Once again the beast of multiculturalism rears one of its ugly heads. Shame that it's like a Hydra, in that cutting one head off only causes more to sprout in its place.

    I wish people would realize that having separate laws and separate rulings for different people is a very dangerous thing. I'm not QUITE going to slide all the way down the slippery slope and provide examples of what it CAN lead to. I'm merely going to say that it's ABSURD that someone can be found innocent of spousal abuse merely because they come from a culture that follows one special holy book and not another. If they had been a Christian family, would the divorce have been fast-tracked? Or would this judge have again decided that, since divorce is prohibited in many Christian sects, this abusive man and his wife would have to remain together?

    It's absurd, patently absurd, to bring things to such a relativistic level. I mean, in any situation you should examine the circumstances to determine a fair judgement, of course. But this is typically useful in figuring out whether the situation was, say, a murder, self-defense, an accident, etc. Equivocating in a situation where there was CLEAR, INTENTIONAL violence done is absurdly irresponsible.

    Rule of law is one of the foundations of a functional society. Equality under law is also important: the law SHOULD be blind to things like religion and 'cultural difference'. If we go back far enough, each and every one of us can find some part of our heritage, culture, or what have you that condones an action that would otherwise have legal ramifications. Should we have seperate laws to judge each group or each PERSON based on their culture? Or does it make more sense for everyone in a society to be subject to the same set of laws?

    I realize that's something of a false dichotomy, and that it doesn't have to be SO black and white. But based on the generally high skill of lawyers at finding loopholes, how many 'culturally sensitive' laws or decisions could we expect once we started judging different people in different ways? Should we be providing them with that opportunity?

    Ugh, sorry for the rant. This story just pushes my buttons. I'd forgotten about it since I first read it, and being reminded just brought all my anger back to mind…

  2. Frak the half of your readers that get pissed off. You are completely correct here.

    I wonder how complicit I am with religious fantasy when I don't openly condemn the belief structures inherent within, honestly. For example, I have a friend who professes his faith publicly – in everything else, I respect him, and I make a big show of respecting his religious faith – but when he mentions Jesus, it's almost like hearing about the frakking Easter Bunny (for someone raised a Jew, that's doubly hard to not smirk about). Am I, in not standing up and declaring this God thing to be a work of fiction, somehow responsible for the works of ignorance, violence, and xenophobia committed in the name of "extremist" religious viewpoints?

    Do "extremists" view religious "moderates" simply as a publicity foil?

    This stuff makes me a bit nauseous….

  3. The judge was a woman even? That's just stupid, and of course sets a dangerous precedent. On the other hand … if I got a good enough lawyer, could I get away with throwing a few christians to the lions?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. The human race is doomed as long as religion holds sway.

    This stuff makes me more than a bit nausiated,too. Gorram stupid rutting religious nut jobs!

  4. It doesn't sound as though the judge is a Muslim herself.

    Having spent some time in Germany, I have to wonder whether the judge's decision didn't have a little something to do with Fremdenfeindlichkeit (xenophobia).

    Germans are bitter that Muslim immigrants (mainly Turks) don't assimilate as much as the Germans would like. The fact that most Germans stick their noses in the air and refuse to interact with foreigners — even those 'foreigners' who were BORN in Germany — forcing non-Germans into the social equivalent of a ghetto, doesn't seem to register.

    The judge could be making a statement like: 'Well, if you won't accept this country's traditions and convert to Christianity, you can follow the rules of your own religion and see how you like that.'

    Not sure that this is the case, but it wouldn't surprise me.

  5. Flea said:

    The judge could be making a statement like: ‘Well, if you won’t accept this country’s traditions and convert to Christianity, you can follow the rules of your own religion and see how you like that.’

    Well, that certainly is better than cowtowing to religious beliefs. But it's still stupid.

  6. Just remember that in the Old Testament, if a man rapes a women, he has to a) pay the father some money, and b) the woman has to marry the man, unless people heard the woman calling out, in which case the man (and maybe the woman, can't entirely remember) gets stoned. ('Cos if the woman isn't heard calling out for help, then it is assumed she liked it!)

  7. If any readers of this blog get upset by how you see this repulsive incident, they sure aren't the ones that regularly post.

    I used consider myself a Christian. Then, not long ago, I realized I was cherry-picking my own doctrine. As I thought on this, and saw how other professed Christians interpreted the Bible to suit themselves, I decided I really had no basis for my faith.

    Now I have little patience with those who impose their religious beliefs on others, especially under the guise of law or public policy. I am with those who find justice in secular law. Sometimes unjust, and far from perfect, but by far preferable to law by religious fiat.

  8. jeremy,

    In my somewhat limited experience, religious "extremists" generally view religious "moderates" as being roughly equivalent to atheists, as opposed to being a publicity foil. We're all (atheists and "moderates" alike) to be burned at the stake – it's just a matter of where you stand in the line! And it's not clear to me, as a self-proclaimed religious moderate, that I wouldn't be AHEAD of the atheists in line to be burned. After all, having been exposed to the Truth, I have even less of an excuse for my heresy than does an atheist!


    As much as I agree with you about the stupidity of this particular case (and this particular judge), I find myself confused by your assertion that this is a "fine example" of Harris' claim that moderates simply function to give the fundies cover. I do agree that sometimes we do exactly that, but I honestly don't see how this situation is a reflection of that idea. I don't follow your logic. Could you please explain in more detail?

  9. SteveT,

    I said that because the judge is giving credence to the rules in the holy book, which are generaly considered off limits to criticism by religious moderates.

    However, it is equally valid to say that postmodernist relativism is to blame. Perhaps that is even more likely in Europe.

    I don't understand religous moderates at all. I mean, if you don't really believe in the holy book and it's rules, than what's the point of playing religous games?


  10. Another possibility is that the bizarre ruling might be the visible surface of some more conventional abuse of justice, such as bribery.

  11. Wrterdd: I would be surprised if half your readers were pissed off by your post. But if any were, then good, for they need pissing off as it may to just enable them to question the stupidity and the irrationality of religious belief in the 21st Century. If it doesn't, then they are probably a lost cause anyway. Sorry, rant over.

  12. Hi John, well it was posted on a knitting blog, and I alway think of those little old christian grannies. Fortunately the knitting community has changed a lot over the past several years. I have told my editor several times (when she worries that I say too much about what I really think on my blog), "If people don't like me and don't like what I have to say, they don't have to read my blog or buy my books."

    I'm in a foul mood today anyway, because I'm working on a job from hell where the publisher has been totally disorganized and has totally mismanaged the project, and they're trying to dump a bunch of garbage on me as the freelance editor in the last week before my deadline, all after lowballing me on the fee for this project. Maybe it's time to fire that client? (Sorry, OT rant over!)

  13. Donna,

    You seem to be arguing that religious belief is an all-or-nothing affair. You're not suggesting that the only two tenable philosophical positions are either that of the biblical literalist or that of the atheist, are you? I doubt it, as that would be an extremely simplistic view of the world.

    A proper defense of religious moderates would take me far more time than I have here. Besides the fact that I doubt that I am truly qualified to make such a defense. But I will say that most of the religious people I know well (most of whom are Presbyterians, if that matters) are what I would describe as "moderates". One thing that I would say that characterizes them as a group is that that they are constantly seeking a better understanding of the "truth" of the world and our place in it. We talk, we argue, we ponder. None of us assumes he or she knows the Truth (about God, Jesus, etc.), but we find that the search is a worthwhile thing. It's not so much about the destination as it is about the journey itself – if you follow my drift.

    Speaking for myself, I sometimes view my religious beliefs as a sort of filter for interpreting the world around me. One of MANY filters. An analogy to this might be when an astronomer uses particular types of optical filters to see different aspects of the same object, sometimes seeing things using one filter that he or she would never have noticed using a different filter.

    Anyway, that's all I have the energy for tonight. I hope I have helped you understand at least ONE flavor of religious moderate, even if only a little bit.

  14. First off, I should say that articles regarding court cases are almost never completely accurate and the actual court transcripts should be read. However, this issue has come up all over the world; I recall in Australia they threw out the religious claim to abuse. What was this judge thinking? It seems self-evident that a country should not have separate laws for different groups of people and people should abide by the laws set up in the country they live in, or else work to change them. Would it be OK for someone to sacrifice animals here in the US because of their religion? Apparently here in the US, some Indian group won the case to use peyote since it was part of their religious rituals – OK then, everybody should be able to smoke peyote. I disagreed with that ruling, too, because then you have all sorts of people claiming a religion so they can do this or that. Where does it end?

    I think it's a warped combination of fear and guilt that causes people and government bodies to back down from "offense of religion." And there are many Muslim women who are religious and fighting this kind of Koran-sanctioned abuse, some at great price, and this judge just kicked them in the gut with her ruling. Bizarre.

    Women with chutzpah: (and no, the irony is not lost)

  15. SteveT: "You seem to be arguing that religious belief is an all-or-nothing affair. You’re not suggesting that the only two tenable philosophical positions are either that of the biblical literalist or that of the atheist, are you?"

    I can see the point of wanting some kind of spirituality, but I don't really see the point of religions at all. When I was in college I wrote a paper that said that religion was a pile of crap (basically, I don't remember my exact words). The professor called me aside and said "Don't you mean 'organized' religion?" and I said, "No. I mean all religion." Sprituality without religion is a separate issue as far as I'm concerned.

    I mean, if you are not a biblical literalist and you claim to be a Christian, what does that even mean? If you say your are a Muslim, but you don't believe the Koran, how does that mean anything? You think Jesus was a nice guy who said some decent things? So what? I just don't get it.

    (Oddly, I can understand Jews not beleiving in anything, so I don't know where that leaves me on this argument, but I'm just thinking out loud here.)

    I realize there are many people who gain some sort of comfort from the Bible who are not raging wingnuts, but until these people (like John Shelby Spong) start speaking out loudly condemning the extremists and criticizing the way their holy books are used by them, then I have to stick with my opinion that moderate religion — whatever good it may provide for some people — is overwhelmingly bad because of the way it make criticism of religion in general unacceptable.

    So, the answer is, I just don't get it. Is it about family tradition? Is it about the comfort of ritual? If you don't really believe what your religion teaches, then why do you care about your religion at all? I mean, to me the purpose of being a Christian was to stay out of hell. I can be a good person, enjoy life, and love my family and fellow earthlings without the religious trappings. Now that I don't think god or hell are real, what do I need Christianity for?


  16. Donna,

    That was very well said. It's pretty much what I've always thought. I've known some people who drink and swear and are mean to others and who never even go to church. Yet they smugly call themselves christian and look down their noses at me, secure in the knowledge that I'll burn in hell. If you don't follow the doctrines of your religion, I don't see how you ca

  17. It was my assumption that the Koran doesn't actually condone violence… perhaps domestic violence and violence in general are different, but I heard Shirin Ebadi ( speak, recently, and I seem to remember her saying that the Koran doesn't support most/any of the negative views toward women that are so often done for "religious" reasons.

    So, if this is true, the judge doesn't really have any knowledge of the Koran. I really should read it, myself, though I imagine it's difficult to find a good translation and I don't know that I would have the time any time soon.

  18. Amanda,

    One point. I will not take issue with the statements you attribute to Ms. Ebadi concerning physical violence, women, and the Koran. And indeed it was the Koran that was cited by the judge in question. Nevertheless, a mistake often made by persons not familiar with Islam (and I claim no deep knowledge, myself) is looking only to the Koran as the last word. Shariah, Islamic law, is not limited only to the Koran; the sayings of Mohammad, and his actions, are also taken into account when deciding matters upon which the Koran seems vague or even silent–at least, that is how I understand it.


    Regarding religious moderates and Harris. The three major mono-theisms with which most of us are familiar (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are, in their modern iterations, heavily dependent upon "received texts," which purport themselves to be transcribed from the lips of "God," at some remove. These texts contain passages that advocate for actions and mindsets that many modern people do not accept as moral, e.g., stoning to death those who commit adultery. Modern "moderate" religionists have yet to elucidate a method whereby their religion can continue to be based upon a "divine" text, while at the same time rejecting greater of lesser portions of it as immoral, and still be defended as orthodox, literally "right belief." That at least, is how I understand Harris to critique those of moderate faith.

    An analogy: Many in the US object to the current President's claim that wiretaps instigated without a court warrant are legal. They point to the Constitution for the United States and the Bill of Rights, foundational documents of US Government, as providing that citizens shall not subject to warrantless search and seizure by the government. In response, the President appeals to his power as Commander in Chief of the armed forces (found in the Constitution), and certain powers extended him by the Congress, AS A WAY of getting around the Constitutional protections he feels are in his way.

    Moderate religionists need to do the same thing. They need to find a way based on (and in) the text to get around (or discard) the inconvenient (immoral) bits of the founding text of their religion.

  19. Braynestorme,

    First, nice posting-name! It sounds like it should belong to a superhero (or arch-villain!).

    On more substantive matters, your argument is well-stated. I have not yet read Harris' book, sad to say. It's on my list, but it may take quite some time to get to it. The point you raise in regard to the challenges raised by the idea of "received texts" is quite valid. Although it may not look like it from outside, this issue is a source of huge debates within the Presbyterian faith. We have a broad spectrum of people ranging from very progressive to very conservative who regularly get into shouting matches about this stuff! It remains to be seen whether or not the traditional Protestant denominations will survive this debate without splitting into schism'ing. So never assume that, just because no solution has been found, that people aren't thinking about it very much! One of the things I have found to be true of Presbyterians is that they LOVE to argue about things. It is said that in a group of 20 Presbyterians, you will find 33 different opinions. This may be one explanation for why we don't spend as much time as we should publicly condemning the fundies. We are too busy arguing with ourselves!

    Your analogy to the US government is quite interesting, especially given how much of our government is based on the Presbyterian system of church government. A reflection of the strong influence Presbyterians had in the founding of our country.

  20. Did people read the entire article? Towards the end it reports:

    "Judge Datz-Winter narrowly avoided being killed 10 years ago in a case involving a man and woman whose relationship had come apart. The man emptied a gun in her courtroom — killing his former partner and wounding her lawyer. The judge survived by diving under her desk."

    This reads as possibly being just plain old intimidation to me. As in maybe the judge just jumped through mental hoops to find a way not to go against the guy. Be interesting to do a bit of a check on her general decisions regarding DV since that shooting perhaps.

    Im no cheerleader for organised religion but Im not quite seeing the link to 'moderate' religion here either. It was decried by Muslims as a decision, and a rationale for disagreeing with it has been found "“Our prophet never struck a woman, and he is our example,” Ayyub Axel Köhler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said in an interview."

  21. Bit of a strech for a rationale though. Yes the holy book says it, but did anyone actually see the prophet do it?? oh then it doesn't count. Are we to infer that they will be abandoning the Koran and simply using the actions of the prophet as their guide? Perhaps if christians would do the same (with jesus) then we'd all be in a better position today.

    disclaimer: anyone getting the impression I'm calling them an asshole or something should realise I'm not. Unless they are one, in which case. Asshole.

  22. > Im not quite seeing the link to ‘moderate’ religion here either.

    Without moderate religion, there would be no hesitation to start an all out war against fanatics and fundamentalist.

    But, because we have moderate religious folks, the argument always comes up, "You can't say that because not all Muslims (or Christians, or Jews, whatever) are wingnuts." As if that should be the end of the discussion and we can not criticize religion or the holy books, because there are moderate religious people who are not crazy like the fundies. The fact is, these moderates are the way they are because they ignore much or most of the prescriptions of their holy books, but they still want to stop the criticizing of these books for some reason.

    So, moderate religous folks cause a hesitancy to speak out against religion in general, giving the fundies lots of room to hide under their umbrella of protection.

  23. Donna,

    As usual, I can really only speak for myself when I say that I openly welcome criticism of both religion and the Bible. And although I certainly can't point to any statistics, I know personally of others that feel the same as I. I think the words posted in my church's senior high room say it best: "The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty."

    I do object to criticisms (as I have seen here) of the form "All Christians are …" in the same way I object to "All Democrats are …" or "All Republicans are …". These kinds of blanket generalizations are almost always devoid of value or real content. They ignore the complexity of the world and of people on general. They are not invitations to dialogue and debate as much as they are assertions of dogma.

    I have never heard ANYONE in the churches I have attended express the idea that criticism of religion or the Bible should be prohibited or prevented. Now, I am not suggesting that there aren't plenty of people who DO believe exactly that, but as I have said before, religion contains a pretty broad spectrum of people. So just as I counsel my religious friends that there are a lot of different flavors of atheist, many of which have some fairly interesting things to say, I would counsel my atheist friends that the same is true of religious people.

    On a final note, I will say that I can think of very few arguments against faith, or criticisms of the Bible, that have been raised in this blog forum that have not also been raised independently at some point among my religious friends. So, at the very least, I thank you for continuing to raise interesting questions that I can toss out at upcoming fellowship gatherings!

  24. A poorly done newspaper article is all it take to turn a bunch of skeptics into a raging mob of zealots? I am disappointed that no one is skeptic hear about this headline…

    Full truth is that the female german judge did sentence a restraining order against the husband, disallowing him to approach his wife. She did also rule that the jointly owned flat becomes the wife's possession. She also ruled that an express divorce was not warranted. The express divorce is reserved for exceptional cases only. The judge ruled that the exerted violence was within the usual range happening in divorces of couples with that specific ethnic background. This does not mean that the husband's violence is accepted. It just says that an express divorce was not warranted since the circumstances were rather commen (however sad this may be).

    This hurdle to express divorces is meant to be quite high. Probably it is just meant as protection for both parties, based on the experience that after a year has passed many couples do change their mind and give it another try. (Fools I'd say, but it is not for me nor the public law to decide for someone else how to choose their partner.) Apparently violence (to which degree? we don't know either) seemed not to be enough of a proof that this couple will be divorced for good, based on their ethnic background and the judge's experience with many divorce cases. The law says that the couple's background is to be regarded when determining whether an "express divorce" is warranted. It is certainly not regarded when punishing violence, which was not the concern of this particular lawsuit.

    So the Koran nor the Bible had anything to do with the sentence. The judge was withdrawn due to the media outrage, but her sentence was reinforced, albeit the reasoning behind the sentence has been reformulated in a politically correct way, speaking of general ethinic differences rather than Moroccan/Muslim. So what was won? That a judge cannot say that in her experience violence that occured in a muslim couple is not a sure thing that the two won't get back together again, for whatever wrong reasons? Meh…

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