Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Fundamentalism

On 15 August 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka. She was convicted of Crimes against chastity and of adultery. The Iranian state newspaper said she was 22. In truth she was only 16 and not married but the charge of adultery was just one of many things in this case that made no sense. And while she was hanged for her sexual crimes the man who was also implicated got a mere 95 lashes for what was essentially a continuous and systematic rape of the young girl. But Iran is a fundamentalist state and one of the many things that fundamentalists have in common whether they be Islam, Jewish or Christian, is that there is no such thing as rape.

This incident mirrors of all things the BIBLE. In the notorious adulterous woman chapter, where Jesus is challenged to stone the accused woman, the man is never mentioned as if the woman was caught masturbating to Playgirl. But Judaism at the time was also a fundamentalist religion. And while Jesus asked that the person without sin should cast the first stone maybe he should have asked another question: What’s up with the fear of female sexuality and why do only the Abraham based religions have it?

Maybe the root lies with Abraham himself. It took both him and Hagar to produce Ishmael, and he was the one who did not trust God to give him a son, yet Hagar was the one banished. All bets are off when female sexuality comes into play and nothing is the man’s fault. Nobody understands this better than fundamentalists. Couple years ago, an Iranian pamphlet was circulated about the world of sin that existed in the body of a woman. Women were walking Pandora’s boxes capable of inciting even the most virtuous man to fall into an inglorious sexual stupor and even a small slit in a chador showing nothing but the eye could still cause a man to stumble. Sayid Qutb, the father of islamic fundamentalism (Islamism) came to his radical philosphy not because he was concerned about the unholiness of the world but because he couldn't stand being so horny all the time when he was in America in the 1940's. Add to that the end of the last islamic world power (the Ottoman) and you're left with a man who was both dick obsessed and dickless. In Iran there must be 4 male witnesses to corroborate a rape and in many cases the woman is the one punished. But how can a country even conceive of such a thing as rape when the age of consent in Iran is 9?

And that’s another thing about fundamentalism. Not only does it abound in fear of female sexuality but it also drips of sexual hypocrisy. Picture an Islamic martyr philosophy that promises suicide bombers a virgin filled orgy in heaven (72 virgins for every man!). To ensure that he is ready, many suicide bombers wrap their genitals in a protective material so that if nothing else, the penis will make it to heaven. Just what today’s bomb crazy fanatic needs, a paradise of women too inexperienced to judge his non-existent sexual skills. A good thing that, because these religious sects are nothing if not homosocial. So Boboshanti Rastafarians move in packs of men who call one man father, and the Taliban when not killing women, paint lipstick and eye shadow on their photographs and cross that messy line between homosocial and homosexual. For a pack of men who hate gays fundamentalists sure love to hang together.

But lest anybody think I’m anti Islam, the Christian nutcases aren’t much better. So in Jamaica, Pentecostal preachers still rail against the use of contemporary music in church, lambaste women for dancing, wearing pants or using hair products, and frequently leave women with the impression that rape is their fault. And while fundamentalist religion is devoutly religious, it has the intellectual certitude of a housefly. This is because thinking is anathema to religion and any form of intellectual discourse is tantamount to having kids with Satan. Fundamentalists have a virulent hatred of books, of philosophy and of the why? Question. Theirs is not the way to think, provoke or challenge. It is to obey, force and command others to be just like them. This flies in the face of Jesus Christ, and Mohammed who believed that the work of God began in the mind, not the fist.

Of course being anti-book serves a purpose. Because Fundamentalism is also one other thing: False. Reading is one of the surest ways to find that out. The big lie about fundamentalists, from the Ayatollah, to the Christian Coalition, to the I-served-in Germany-but- I wasn’t-a-Nazi-Pope, to that preacher in Jamaica who though gang rape could be dealt with by prayer, is that they are returning to something, a lost, cherished value. Fundamentalism preaches to be just that, a return to the fundamentals, the basics, and the core of the faith before years of bad influence corrupted things. But even a cursory glance at the three Abraham based religions proves that to be absolutely untrue.

There’s not a single religion that began as fundamentalist. Not Islam, which in the Crusades was exemplary for its open-mindedness, Not Judaism and certainly not Christianity whose Jesus was killed precisely because he did not conform to a fundamentalist vision of a messiah. On the contrary, these religions began as open-minded reactions to rigid institutions and that is why they attracted numbers to begin with, in particular, women. Fundamentalism on the other hand is a reactionary movement. A return to a warped idea of basics that never existed, that comes frequently with a violent agenda. In this regard the conservative Christian is no different from the Taliban. Nothing in the bible says to support the Iraq invasion or prayer in schools. Nothing in the Koran says that while sex with an 8 year old is statutory rape, sex with a 9 year old is ok. These are laws invented by repressed men to suppress everybody else. And nobody suppresses like a repressed man. What these movements also have is large populations of disenfranchised men, lacking relevance in their own countries that are suddenly empowered to take things by force. Fundamentalism is as much about economics and social disenfranchisement as it is about religion.

In Christianity there are virtues and vices. But there is a third direction, a far opposite of vice but just as bad. This is called perversion. For example, purity is the virtue. Licentiousness is the vice. But there is a perversion as well and that’s called puritan. A warped, extreme version of the original value that causes as much damage as the vice. So a puritan is a pervert. So is a fundamentalist. In their world a righteous man can do no wrong, rape is the woman’s fault, everybody else is going to hell and they never ever have to hold themselves accountable. Rastafari is not much better in this regard as the Rastafarian frequently “licks out” against the Babylon in front of him but never holds a mirror to himself. And let’s not even get started on how Rastas treat women having their period.

I know this sounds like an unfocused rant, but the execution of 16-year-old girls pisses me off. A preacher scolding a congregation for telling the police that a deacon orchestrated a gang rape horrifies me. A false doctrine trying to pass itself off as an older vision insults my intelligence and the bloodshed these religions leave in their wake convinces me that there is no God in them. The great thing about Fundamentalism is that something blazing that intense is bound to burn itself out. There is only so much that victims can take. So next time, Capleton screams More Fire, slip some dynamite in his pocket and light it.