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"Religious Decree Saying It Is Permissible To Kill the Owners of Satellite TV Networks That Broadcast Immoral Content"

issued by "Saudi Arabia's top judiciary official." So reports the Associated Press:

The 79-year-old Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan said Thursday that satellite channels cause the "deviance of thousands of people." ...

Al-Lihedan is chief of the kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judiciary Council. Saudi Arabia's judiciary is made up of Islamic clerics whose decrees, or fatwas, on everyday issues are widely respected. Their fatwas do not have the weight of law. In the courts, cleric-judges rule according to Islamic law, but interpretations can vary....

TheNational (United Arab Emirates) reports that the judge later "sought ... to play down his comments." Originally,

In reply to a listener's question about "bad programmes" on television, Sheikh Lihedan, 79, said: "What does the owner of these networks think when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity? Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it's permissible to kill them. Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but don't, it is permissible to kill them."

This led to condemnation by "Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al Obaikan, a popular moderate religious scholar closely allied to the [Saudi] government" and by Saudi newspaper editors, al-Linedan issued a "clarification":

He insisted that he had not meant to refer to all "immodest" television programmes, merely to those that broadcast black magic and sorcery. He did not backtrack on the suggestion that network owners could face the death penalty, but said execution could take place only after a "judicial process".

Sheikh Lihedan's views on "sorcery" were, in fact, echoed by another senior Saudi cleric, who was quoted yesterday advancing a similar argument in response to queries about the original controversy.

Sheikh Saleh al Fozan, who is a member of the Higher Council of Clerics, went as far as to say that those who read horoscopes on Arab television should face the death penalty.

"Sorcerers who appear on satellite channels who are proven to be sorcerers have committed a great crime ... and the Muslim consensus is that the apostate's punishment is death by the sword," Sheikh Fozan told Al Madina newspaper. "Those who call in to these shows should not be accorded Muslim rites when they die."

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause).

r78:
Saudi Arabia is our ally in the war on Islamic extremism, so such remarks are acceptable.
9.15.2008 6:27pm
Curt Fischer:

...and the Muslim consensus...


"Consensus"? Setting aside the issue of whether Muslim consensus is really there or not, why invoke consensus to bolster a religious claim?

If Muslims worldwide agreed to change their views, would the religiously mandated penalty change? If consensus is so important, why is Saudi Arabia not a democracy?

Maybe the translation of what the cleric actually said is just bad.
9.15.2008 6:35pm
Fub:
He insisted that he had not meant to refer to all "immodest" television programmes, merely to those that broadcast black magic and sorcery.
Well, that makes it perfectly fine. Nobody likes sorcerers anyhow.
9.15.2008 6:41pm
ejo:
let's hear it for the extension of sharia law into the West (but only for things like contracts, marriage, torts, property, probate). I am sure there would be no bleed into First Amendment or telecom-we'll keep them sharia free.
9.15.2008 6:46pm
Sagar (mail):
ejo,

I just posted a comment on the above post.

UK courts will allow Sharia for "Civil" arbitration and the rulings will be binding (enforced by Her Majesty's Govt. i suppose). It is a matter of time before our Euro looking justices think it will be cool to try it out here.
9.15.2008 6:54pm
Anderson (mail):
satellite channels cause the "deviance of thousands of people"

Only the premium channels.

Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly it's permissible to kill them.

100% in agreement, noting that I consider calls for the deaths of "deviates" and "sorcerers" to be "corrupt beliefs."
9.15.2008 7:06pm
Kazinski:
On first reading I am absolutely appalled, however when reading through the clairification and the only concrete case they use as an example is "those who read horoscopes" on TV, then I think it's being blown a little out of proportion.
9.15.2008 7:19pm
Arkady:
Everybody's a critic.
9.15.2008 7:25pm
Rob M.:

On first reading I am absolutely appalled, however when reading through the clairification and the only concrete case they use as an example is "those who read horoscopes" on TV, then I think it's being blown a little out of proportion.


Would that mean we kill Miss Cleo or any station manager that allows lame psychic infomercials? or both?

I'm not sure where I stand on this. ;)
9.15.2008 7:32pm
neurodoc:
This thread just started a little over an hour ago. It shouldn't be long now before the cavalry comes riding over the hill, bugles blowing, demanding a stop to this libeling of Islam, telling us that other religions have their intolerant clergy too.
9.15.2008 7:36pm
Nunzio:
I wonder what is fatwa on Madden '09 will be like.
9.15.2008 7:40pm
Malvolio:
If this puts an end to the countless Harry Potter sequels, I'm for it.
9.15.2008 7:46pm
EH (mail):
In other words, the Arab Scalia?
9.15.2008 8:00pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
EH: What on earth are you talking about?
9.15.2008 8:02pm
rfg:
Yes, other religions have intolerant clergy. But, in most cases, they are not allowed to use the instruments of state power to further their intolerance. This reduces, but does not eliminate, the amount of mischief they cause.
9.15.2008 8:11pm
Oren:
rfg, that would suggest the prudent course is to prevent the agents of intolerance from assuming government power and let them preach their bullshit in private.
9.15.2008 8:23pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
rfg, Oren: I don't know of any other prominent religions whose prominent modern leaders call for the execution of people who spread alleged sorcery, horoscopes, sedition, or whatever else. Maybe I'm missing some, and surely there are plenty in the past history of Christianity, but I don't know of any others today.
9.15.2008 8:42pm
theobromophile (www):
<blockquote>"Sorcerers who appear on satellite channels who are proven to be sorcerers have committed a great crime ...</blockquote>
How does one be "proven" to be a sorcerer? So I take it that belief in sorcery is not a crime, nor is conducting a judicial enquiry into the ability of a sorcerer a crime, but the sorcery itself is a crime?

I love how they are going to refuse Muslim rites to those who call into those shows.

Planet Earth is a nuthouse.
9.15.2008 8:44pm
Oren:
Eugene, it's not as uncommon as you'd think. Meir Kahane (recently deceased)
And I approve of anybody who commits such acts of violence. Really, I don't think that we can sit back and watch Arabs throwing rocks at buses whenever they feel like it. They must understand that a bomb thrown at a Jewish bus is going to mean a bomb thrown at an Arab bus.
Kahane, might not have been as prominent as our Saudi friend (and it is to the credit of the Jewish faith that his tenets are roundly rejected) but his ideas still have some cachet, especially in a few isolated settlements. The thugs that assassinated him and his sons (separate incidents) didn't help matters either.
9.15.2008 9:01pm
Oren:
Just for balance, lets throw in some classic Falwell (whose prominence can be compared to our Saudi friend):

"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."

And some Randall Terry (leader of Operation Rescue, which had quite a following:

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism.


When I, or people like me, are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we'll execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.
"We'll execute you" has a nice ring to it though, sounds official.
9.15.2008 9:11pm
Oren:

Planet Earth is a nuthouse.

No argument there.
9.15.2008 9:11pm
EH (mail):
EH: What on earth are you talking about?

Perhaps a bit blunt, I was referring to the "outspoken juror" component rather than the "execute them" one. However, Scalia doesn't issue clarifications to my knowledge, which doubly abstracts my analogy.
9.15.2008 9:19pm
Yankev (mail):
Oren, I don't approve of vigilante justice or private acts of revenge -- especially revenge taken against someome because of his ethnic group and not because of what he himself did. But your comparison is inapt. Kahane HYD called for tit for tat violence -- you throw bombs at our buses, we'll throw bombs at your buses. He was in my opinion wrong. But what he advocated falls far short of advocating the killing of those who reject his religious standards, or as Eugene put it

call for the execution of people who spread alleged sorcery, horoscopes, sedition, or whatever else

unless you consider not throwing bombs at a Jewish bus to be a religious standard.
9.15.2008 9:23pm
Yankev (mail):
Okay, Oren, the Randall Terry quote is sobering and frightening. I can't tell whether he means those who do not follow his brand of Christianity, or those who perform abortions, but it is scary either way.

But I do not see the threats in the Falwell quote, and I am no Falwell fan. He believes his religion is true and is the only correct religion -- how does that call for the execution of those who don't share his beliefs?

Or do you view religious certainty and exclusivity as inseparable from violent intolerance? Because if they are inseparable, my childhood babysitter -- a very sweet, elderly, gentle and extremely anti-violent Baptist lady -- was apparently a menace to the republic.
9.15.2008 9:31pm
Kirk:
Oren,

Is it too much to ask that you address the cognitive dissonance between "not uncommon" and "a few isolated outposts"?
9.15.2008 10:32pm
Oren:
Yankev:

(1) Kahane's statements are on the same level of immorality as our Saudi friend. That interview contains a veritable index of his absurd pronouncements ranging from compulsory religious practice, ethnic cleansing and finally, the quoted part:
Q: Still, one of the members of your party, Richter, is in prison because of terrorist activities. You do admit, don't you, that Richter has committed acts of violence?
A: Yes, of course he has.
Q: And he is a member of your party?
A: Obviously, I completely agree with Richter. But he didn't commit these acts as a member of the Kach party. He committed them on behalf of himself, as a person called Richter. Besides, I can assure you that if the police had the slightest evidence against the Kach, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you now. I'd be in prison. Believe me, Kach won't give them this satisfaction.
Q: Does that mean that Kach does not encourage violence, but if a member of Kach commits acts of violence, you support him?
A: This applies not only to Kach members, but to anybody. And I approve of anybody who commits such acts of violence.
IIRC, this was in the wake of Baruch Goldstein's massacre. The second part about buses and bombs pales in comparison with his approval of such random violence.

(2) Randall Terry was referring to abortion doctors in that second quote (although the first quote is fairly general).

(3) As to Falwell, I think it's a short step from "failure as a human being" to not having the rights of full human being.
9.15.2008 10:43pm
Oren:

Is it too much to ask that you address the cognitive dissonance between "not uncommon" and "a few isolated outposts"?
First, I wasn't making any statements about frequency. Secondly, Judaism commands me to first take stock of my own faults, then those of my community and only then to admonish the rest of the world.
Improve yourself, And only afterwards, try to improve others. (Bava Metzia 107b)
9.15.2008 10:47pm
BGates:
I think it's a short step from "failure as a human being" to not having the rights of full human being.
So if prominent elected officials referred to the President as a miserable failure, they should get a visit from the Secret Service? Or would you say Pelosi is no more objectionable than Falwell.
9.15.2008 11:07pm
Oren:
BGates, it's quite a different thing to be a failure as a President/Senator/Janitor than to be a failure as a human being. Plus, I never liked Pelosi anyway.
9.15.2008 11:08pm
jccamp (mail):
Apropos of absolutely nothing, other comments from the original article:

"Ultraconservative religious leaders in Saudi periodically issue fatwas, or religious opinions, that leave outsiders mystified."


I don't think mystified is the precise word the article's author was looking for. "Appalled", perhaps? "Unsurprised" may fit as well?


"...the head of the Riyadh branch of the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, also referred to as the religious police, recently denounced walking pet dogs as an un-Islamic practice."


Huh? "According to a Sunni Islam Hadith, anything a dog touches must be washed seven times" Maybe that explains the ban on dog walking.

"Those who call in to these shows should not be accorded Muslim rites when they die."


Would this be analogous to those who stop by and post on a black magic or sorcery (i.e. jurisprudence) blog?
9.15.2008 11:15pm
Kirk:
Oren,

You made, in the same comment, two conflicting statements as to the prevalence of this kind of thinking in religions other than Islam. First, that it's "not as uncommon as you'd think"; but followed by the assertion that it's found primarily in "a few isolated settlements".

Of course the reader is going to be a bit confused as to exactly how prevalent such thinking is, but if you don't want to clarify it for us be my guest!
9.15.2008 11:45pm
Hoosier:
A very clear indicator of sorcery: Making pictures that travel through the air, and even through space, and then land in magic moving-picture-boxes on the other side of the world. It's the work of the Devil!
9.15.2008 11:46pm
Hoosier:
These radical religious lunatics are *just like* Joe Biden. (Hey, if EH and Oren can do it . . .)
9.15.2008 11:51pm
jccamp (mail):
More seriously, a very informative book on the subject (Islamic fundamentalists, not magic picture boxes)

"Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror" by Mary Habeck, a Yale historian.

Probably nothing all that surprising, but nice to know your subjective feelings are validated.
9.15.2008 11:57pm
jccamp (mail):
Plus one can add all sorts of exotic words to your vocabulary, for situations when you want to impress and you can't remember the designer of that uncomfortable looking kadinsky chair, like the one Barry has.
9.16.2008 12:01am
Oren:
You made, in the same comment, two conflicting statements as to the prevalence of this kind of thinking in religions other than Islam. First, that it's "not as uncommon as you'd think"; but followed by the assertion that it's found primarily in "a few isolated settlements".
Reading comprehension is key -- those two phrases do not refer to the same antecedent. The former does refer to what you call "this kind of thinking", the latter refers solely to the teachings of Meir Kahane.
9.16.2008 12:09am
Eugene Volokh (www):
EH: I still don't understand -- what "outspoken juror" component? And, more to the point, when did Scalia call for the execution of anyone for their speech, their "sorcery," their spreading of horoscopes, or anything along the lines (as opposed to perhaps for their having murdered someone or molested a child, which strikes me as pretty far removed)?
9.16.2008 12:14am
juris_imprudent (mail):
r78 sez Saudi Arabia is our ally

Saudi Arabia has always been our ally.
9.16.2008 12:15am
SANE (mail):
Oren: you seem to be missing the logic of the argument here. First, it is fundamental and subject to wide ijma or consensus among Shariah authorities today and dating back a millenium that apostasy and kufr or the state of being an infidel (which by the by includes insulting Islam, Allah, Mohammed or Shariah) is punishable by death. That Sudan, Saudia Arabia, Iran and parts of Nigeria and Indonesia are governed by Shariah as the law of the land does in fact make a difference; but Shariah in the minds/hands of non-state actors like your run of the mill Jihadist is also quite dangerous.

Second, a little gemara is dangerous. Your citation to Kahane is not relevant for at least two reasons. One, Kahane was not considered by any substantial number of Jews, including his own Kach or JDL followers, as a halachic authority. He was most certainly a scholar of Jewish writ, but not a Posek or Jewish Law decisor. Two, Kahane's vision of a Jewish State run according to halacha, while contrary to Halacha during the state of Exile, was never meant as a political order for the world. If you haven't read the classic or even modern texts of mainstream Shariah authorities, you might not understand that distinction. Shariah is unabashedly hegeominc.

Like Judaism, Islam, at least institutional Islam, is juridical and bound by the four corners of the law (al fiqh) and more importantly the jurisprudence (usual al fiqh) that puts the law squarely and exclusively into the hands of the classic Shariah authorities. The Saudi authority quoted stands as just one of many such men. Have you ever read Mufti Taqi Usmani, former Shariah Court Justice of Pakistan and a member of the Shariah authority boards of many Western financial institutions, such as HSBC and Dow Jones Islamic Index? Try chapter 11 of his "Islam and Modernism". It has been translated into English. This man is not an extremist or radical. This is pedigreed Shariah.

Finally, to the Christian sources. Falwell's example is silly. You ought to go read EV's long article on slippery slopes. Yours is more than a stretch given Western liberties and institutionalized barriers to such slopes. The other source you cite would be appropriate but again it is not a statement of Christian law or dogma but a single charismatic leader of a cult. Certainly you must understand the difference in danger between the two even in the abstract. Then add to that that Christians or Jews in the West who cross the line from theologically hurtful speech to actual violence or incitement to violence can and are prosecuted. In the Muslim world, anywhere in the Muslim world, to say that apostates and infidels must be murdered, will merely bring a shrug, "Of course!" But should you go into any Muslim nation and merely insult Islam/Allah/Mohammed in the public square, what do you suppose your chances of survival are? And it is not because there are "extremists" or "radicals", but because there are men who take Shariah seriously.
9.16.2008 12:24am
Elliot123 (mail):
When radio was first demonstrated to Saudi King Abdul Aziz, his religious advisors called it the work of Satan. The more practical king asked the operators to read the Quran over the radio, thus stumping the clerics.

Regarding the these types of fatwas, most Saudia laugh at them. During the first Gulf War, many of the US military truck drivers were women. This caused quite a stir among the Saudis who had never seen a woman driving anything. To quell any notions that women were actually driving in Saudi, a member of the Ulema in Riyadh issued a statement saying they were simply men with female characteristics. The Saudis laughed at this, too. Most take their religious nuts about as seriously as we take ours.

These are the same guys who condemned satellite TV as unIslamic and an insult to god. All through the Nineties, they insisted there were no satellite dishes in Saudi. I got mine for $250 installed. All you had to do was drive down the street and they were everywhere, but the clerics continud their denial.

It's a very, very different place, and we err by taking these things too seriously. The Saudis don't.
9.16.2008 12:27am
SANE (mail):
Elliot123: you are either an armchair "expert" with no expertise or have only visited parts of Saudi Arabia open to the infidels. Shariah is the law of the land. Men and women are subject to capital punishment for the crime of apostasy. This is not some Muslim Jerry Falwell writhing in religious fervor on the Sunday pulpit; this is a senior legal authority with real institutional power. Non-muslims, what few exist in any Shariah governed regime, are brutalized. That western educated Saudis in the million dollar palaces laugh at such things is fine; but when they go out in public, you won't find them laughing there and you certainly won't find televisions tuning into cable or women driving.
9.16.2008 12:36am
Kirk:
Oren,

Very well: produce some additional example besides Kahane and his little group, or I'll continue to assume instances of the first are every bit as sparse as the numbers of his followers.
9.16.2008 1:47am
Kazinski:
Execution and torture have been part and parcel of enforcing religious orthodoxy for thousands of years and was common part of Christianity up until the 30 Years War about 390 years ago. So it can't be said that Islam is an aberation among religions. We should also note that in the 20th Century communism also enforced orthodoxy with death and torture. It is not enough to point out various western religious nuts that have made similar statements in the US or other countries; it isn't just this one cleric that advocates death for sorcery, death is the official penalty for apostasy in Saudi Arabia and many other Islamic countries, so this can't be merely labeled a meaningless exception.

So I guess we can say some strains of Islam and to some extent communism are 400 years behind the rest of the world when in comes to orthodoxy, heresy and apostasy.
9.16.2008 2:47am
Milhouse (www):
Oren, Rabbi Kahane HYD could not have been commenting about Baruch Goldstein, because he had already been dead for several years by that time. In fact the line you quote was precisely about revenge attacks on Arab buses. He was asked about one person by the name of Richter, who was in jail for an attack on an Arab bus, which was in direct retaliation for the fatal bombing of an Israeli bus. He said he applauded such revenge attacks, because it is a form of communal self defense, and seems to be the only way to bring home to the Arab terrorists that violence is not a one-way street. In this he was following the example of Etzel in '36, when it refused to sit silent in the face of escalating Arab murder and mayhem; it is intolerable that Jews should cower in fear while their enemies swagger in safety, knowing that the Jews will be too "ethical" to strike back.

As for Randall Terry, he meant exactly what he said. "We'll execute" you sounds official because it is. He was not talking about lynch mobs but about law and order, once sanity had returned on abortion. The day will come when abortion is once more recognised as the murder that it is, and those who engaged in it will be put on trial, and if found guilty they will be executed. They will claim ex post facto law, but they will get no farther with it than did Eichmann or the Nuremberg Ten; murder is always a crime, and doesn't depend on the whim of a legislature or a judiciary. Governments are established among men to secure their pre-existing rights, not to grant those rights, which means that murder has been a crime since before there were governments or laws, and it will remain a crime even if all governments and laws disappear. Every abortionist should know this, and bear it in mind.
9.16.2008 2:49am
Kirk:
Umm, Milhouse.

I can envision a few states banning abortion outright if Roe V Wade were overturned. But making it aggravated first degree murder? Not too likely.
9.16.2008 4:53am
Anderson (mail):
But making it aggravated first degree murder? Not too likely.

Well, that's always been the difficulty with taking the right-to-lifers seriously, hasn't it?

If you're not willing to convict abortionists and their patients of first-degree murder, then you're not really serious that "it's a child, not a choice."

Quite honestly, I expect that murder convictions for abortion are the next step in the program, once abortion's illegal. I doubt most Americans would go for that, but the legislatures in Mississippi &suchlike might go for it. (Especially since the more affluent folk could go to Memphis or New Orleans.)
9.16.2008 10:04am
Zubon (www):
If they really have sorcerers, they are missing a great national resource by not exploiting them to the hilt. What is the appropriate US immigration category for magic-users? We can always use more. We keep wasting military resources on missiles when we could be raining fireballs on the enemy with just a few spell components.
9.16.2008 10:35am
Oren:

He said he applauded such revenge attacks, because it is a form of communal self defense

Attacking a random bus that happens to be carrying members of the same ethnicity that attacked your bus is not self defense, communal or otherwise. How you could even begin to characterize such an act as self defense is entirely beyond me and beyond even the most basic norms of civilization.

PS. You are right of course about Goldstein, I got him mixed up with Richter (stupid, because the reference was right there!). My apologies.

PPS. If had read through you entire post, instead of taking it point-by-point, I wouldn't have bothered. Sanity will come to abortion when the sanctimonious arrogance of those that dare to assert the right to control others lives is converted back into the traditional humble respect for god.
9.16.2008 11:16am
Yankev (mail):
Oren, I looked at the interview that you linked to. I certainly do not agree with or defend everything that R. Kahane HYD taught. But please note that when asked if he envisioned a state where apostasy or other departure from the Jewish norm would be punishable by death, he said no. Whether you consider his views on self-defense, revenge attacks, democracy, or Jewish nationhood to be immoral or not, it is clear that he was advocating neither governmental execution nor private murder of those who do not meet his religious norms.

As to Falwell, others have already addressed the fallacy of equating the belief that there are moral standards for human beings with a belief that one who does not meet those standards forefeits the right to be treated as human. That's a huge leap.
9.16.2008 11:22am
Oren:

So I guess we can say some strains of Islam and to some extent communism are 400 years behind the rest of the world when in comes to orthodoxy, heresy and apostasy.

No argument there, although perhaps you could start the clock when the religion is founded. Christianity took ~1500 years to come to its sense (Council of Nicea to the end of the major religious wars in Europe). Since Islam was founded in 650 or so, we can expect them to come to their senses around 2150.

Of course, Europe did so without external pressure, which tends to slow down internal reconciliation by diverting attention to external threats, real or imaginary. I'll leave adjusting the numerical answer for that difference as an exercise for the reader.
9.16.2008 11:27am
Yankev (mail):
Oren,


Attacking a random bus that happens to be carrying members of the same ethnicity that attacked your bus is not self defense, communal or otherwise.
Agreed. It is more akin to war or terrorism, and cannot be entrusted to the hands of private actors.


Sanity will come to abortion when the sanctimonious arrogance of those that dare to assert the right to control others lives is converted back into the traditional humble respect for god.
What is so humble in asserting the right to aborting a life? How does it show humble respect to G-d to destroy a life that He created or view that life as nothing more than a bit of tissue? Society "assert[s] the right to control others lives" all the time, whether it is banning tobacco use, mandating the use of seatbelts, or defining and punishing theft and murder.
9.16.2008 11:30am
Oren:
Yankev (and all), I never meant to make a 1-to-1 moral correspondence between Kahane, Terry, Falwell and our Saudi friend. It is indisputable that extremist views of Sharia are much more prevalent and their supporters are in much more influential positions (including gov't sanctioned posts) than their counterparts in the Western world.

I only meant to point out that the logical thread that is in common -- an absolute certainty about the will of god and the desire to force that conception on others (which always comes with a strong distaste for democracy and human freedom -- I was particularly impressed by Kahane's astute observation that he was closer philosophically to the Immams in Riyadh than Locke or Rousseau). That thread is present in all religions though, as Kazinski rightfully points out, Judaism and Christianity seem to have largely come to their sense.
9.16.2008 11:41am
Gary McGath (www):
He wants them murdered only if they broadcast Harry Potter or Charmed. Not a big consolation.
9.16.2008 11:42am
Oren:

What is so humble in asserting the right to aborting a life? How does it show humble respect to G-d to destroy a life that He created or view that life as nothing more than a bit of tissue? Society "assert[s] the right to control others lives" all the time, whether it is banning tobacco use, mandating the use of seatbelts, or defining and punishing theft and murder.

First of all, you know well that (at least in Jewish law) a fetus is not morally equivalent to a living human being until crowning.

Second, it is my (somewhat heretical, I'll grant) opinion that God never intended for man to sit in judgment of another man's faith. I have no problem with anyone coming to whatever moral conclusion they want about abortion, but I do not believe that it is their place to impose that judgment on another.
9.16.2008 11:44am
wfjag:
Dear Zubon:

See "The Men Who Stare at Goats", described in Wikipedia:


The Men Who Stare at Goats is a 2004 non-fiction book by Jon Ronson about the US Army's exploration of New Age concepts and the potential military applications of the paranormal. The title refers to attempts to kill goats by staring at them.


I believe it was made into a movie starring George Clooney and Bernie Mack, so if you're a visual person, you can see the movie instead of reading the book.

And, check out Major General Albert "Bert" N. Stubblebine III, former Commanding General, US Army Intelligence and Security Command. He is known for his strong interest in and advocacy of parapsychology and was a strong supporter of the Stargate Project. Currently, he and his wife, Dr. Rima E. Laibow, M.D., a psychiatrist, are deeply involved in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine movement through Natural Solutions Foundation, a non-profit they founded. Bertie Stubblebine, however, still seems to be involved in paranormal investigations and experimentation (check PSI-TECH and "remote viewing") and is a 9/11 Truther.

Why depend on foreign sources for foreign sorcerers? Personally, I believe in the "Made in the USA" label.
9.16.2008 11:44am
Oren:

Society "assert[s] the right to control others lives" all the time, whether it is banning tobacco use, mandating the use of seatbelts, or defining and punishing theft and murder.

The first two and the last two are manifestly different things. Theft and murder are crimes of man against man, tobacco and seatbelts are crimes of man against god (via being crimes against himself, that whole spiel that you know well).
9.16.2008 11:46am
Oren:
wfjag, cool link!
9.16.2008 11:48am
Ken Arromdee:
It is indisputable that extremist views of Sharia are much more prevalent and their supporters are in much more influential positions (including gov't sanctioned posts) than their counterparts in the Western world.

Isn't that pretty much the point?
9.16.2008 12:28pm
ejo:
blah blah blah, I'm not making a one to one comparison. if this were a thread or discussion on threats against abortion providers, I wouldn't feel some overwhelming urge to bring in the issue of the actual bloodiness of Islam today. If christians were making such threats on a regular basis, I would think someone bringing Hindu conduct into the discussion was either ignorant or engaging in some misdirection. It would be irrelevant to the debate. Yet, somehow, despite the disclaimer, it always is somehow woven into these discussions of the actual islamic thought today.
9.16.2008 12:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It's a distraction, a comforting distraction--which is the point--when faced with an Islamofascist threat of violence to point to Falwell, or, for that matter, Torquemada.
9.16.2008 12:41pm
wfjag:
Welcome Oren.

And, while you're at it, see "Report: Saudi Cleric Says Mickey Mouse 'Must Die'", Tuesday, September 16, 2008, www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423304,00.html Outside the method described in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (a work of fiction), I'm not sure how one kills a Cartoon Mouse.

Any suggestions? Anyone?
9.16.2008 12:50pm
Oren:
Ken, Richard: I don't consider it a distraction. I have a responsibility to keep my own house in order. Talking about someone else's faults is a distraction from confronting our own.
9.16.2008 12:54pm
Hoosier:
Outside the method described in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (a work of fiction), I'm not sure how one kills a Cartoon Mouse.

Any suggestions? Anyone?


Poisoned cartoon cheese(?).
9.16.2008 12:58pm
Hoosier:
Oren:
Ken, Richard: I don't consider it a distraction. I have a responsibility to keep my own house in order. Talking about someone else's faults is a distraction from confronting our own.


Confucius spoke to Lao Tzu of goodness and duty. Said Lao Tzu: "Chaff from the winnower's fan can so blear the eyes that we do not know if we are looking north, south, east, or west: or if we are looking at heaven or hell . . ."
--From The Works of Chuang Tzu
9.16.2008 1:08pm
ejo:
but your house isn't at issue. further, if your house had some housekeeping issues (hadn't been dusted in a while, some siding needed repair) while your neighbor was a serial killer burying bodies in his basement, I would find your obsession with your own house a little silly and just a bit irrelevant to the topic of your neighbor's conduct. so, I think the word distraction fits. there's a little me-tooism involved as well. sure, you have sharia law and if you violate it, you get stoned, but I have christians near me who lobby their elected representatives on the issue of abortion. man, we both have it rough.
9.16.2008 1:10pm
Milhouse (www):
Oren:

First of all, you know well that (at least in Jewish law) a fetus is not morally equivalent to a living human being until crowning.

I don't know that at all. Jewish law regards a foetus as a person from 40 days after conception (which "just so happens" to be around when the brain starts working). After that the only valid reason to kill it is the mother's right to self-defense.

<jewish-minutiae>
There are indications that while a foetus is regarded as a person, it's not regarded as a separate person from the mother; rather, it shares her identity. Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean that if a woman aborts her own baby it's a form of suicide; not that that would help her, since Jewish law does not recognise a right to suicide, and regards it as just as culpable as any other murder.
</jewish-minutiae>
9.16.2008 1:16pm
neurodoc:
SANE, thank you for your effective rebuttal of Oren @ 11:24 PM. His understanding of that Jewish precept he cites, that similar to a Christian one (Matthew 7:3, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"), is simpleminded. It leads him to believe he shouldn't say anything of Islamic fundamentalism and the threats it poses before he has made mention of Christian clery he finds objectionable and exhaustively critiqued his own community, that is Jews, a never ending assignment. So, he reaches back 20 years to pull in the late Meir Kahane, who EV tried to tell Oren is an irrelevancy here. Oren is not to be dissuaded, though, convinced as he is that he is only doing what Judaism commmands that he do.

In this, Oren reminds me of some like-minded Jews for whom "improvement" of the larger Jewish community, Israel in particular, is a remarkable pre-occupation. They will not allow themselves to be distracted from the task. (See, for example, Richard Silverstein's "Tikun Olam" blog and the pseudonymous Jerry Haber's "Magnes Zionist" one.) Often marching under the banner of another much misunderstood and abused Jewish concept, that of tikun olam, these usually "progressive" Jews belabor Israel ceaselessly, all the while rejecting out of hand anything that smacks of context, "balance," proportion, and the like. (See Hillel Halkin on tikun olam, "How Not to Repair the World," in the July-August issue of Commentary.)
9.16.2008 1:31pm
ejo:
actually, the world view is the converse of the biblical precept-obsess over the speck in your eye while ignoring the beam about to crack you over the head in the hand of the bad guy about two inches in front of your nose. is self obsession to the point of blindness about real tangible and growing evil the centerpiece of any moral philosophy-it seems like the school of thought would go extinct very quickly.
9.16.2008 1:37pm
neurodoc:
...it seems like the school of thought would go extinct very quickly.
It is a bit like pacificism, which survives because only a small minority are blindly devoted to it, while others around them are both more earnest defenders of right and not inclined to suicide.
9.16.2008 1:45pm
ejo:
so, if someone comes to you to discuss their inoperable brain tumor, you don't switch the topic to that annoying rotator cuff tear that has been bothering you. if it is a school of jewish thought, perhaps you could name it the Seinfeld School of Philosophy.
9.16.2008 2:23pm
The Cabbage (mail):
Of course, Europe did so without external pressure, which tends to slow down internal reconciliation by diverting attention to external threats, real or imaginary.

In a past life, I was Suleiman the Magnificent, so I am getting a kick out of these replies.
9.16.2008 2:44pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
oren.
Falwell and Torquemada are dead. Good luck getting them to clean up their acts.
IOW, nonsense. As in...nonsense.
It's a comforting distraction, not to mention allowing you to feel superior to the folks who, as one poster described, are seeing that beam coming at their head.
And it removes any requirement for inconvenient action.
9.16.2008 3:30pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Richard - you can't Torquemada anything. [hat tip to Mel Brooks]

Nick
9.16.2008 3:41pm
David Schwartz (mail):
Just a few days ago, in an email discussion with a colleague, I said, "I hate Astrology as much as anyone." I just sent him a correction.
9.16.2008 4:11pm
Yankev (mail):

First of all, you know well that (at least in Jewish law) a fetus is not morally equivalent to a living human being until crowning.
See Milhouse's answer above. More important, although not considering the fetus to have all the rights of a person, Jewish law still grants considerable protection to the fetus, and generally prohibits abortion except to save the mother from death or the equivalent of death. Or, as a friend of mine who, like me, is "reluctantly pro-choice" (and who unlike me has semicha) explained to a Catholic priest recently, under Jewish law abortion is either mandatory or prohibited, and almost never optional.

Presumably you also know that Jewish law prohibits a ben Noach to perform an abortion under any circumstances -- see Rashi to Ber. 9:6.

My point is that who claim to "know" that abortion is merely a personal choice is no more humble than to believe that G-d wants society to prohibit or limit it. And the latter -- particularly those who would say limit to saving the mother from death or its equivalent -- at least have several millennia of sources to back up their argument.


Second, it is my (somewhat heretical, I'll grant) opinion that God never intended for man to sit in judgment of another man's faith. I have no problem with anyone coming to whatever moral conclusion they want about abortion, but I do not believe that it is their place to impose that judgment on another.
Oren, who said anything about judging someone's BELIEFS about abortion? Society (or individuals for that matter) can judge a belief immoral or moral, wise or foolish, but in Western society we do not impose punishment for those beliefs (although Canada at least is approaching that point, and has punished people for expressing non-approved beliefs about Islamist terror and about homosexual behavior). You seem to be blurring the distinction between punishing someone for his beliefs (which I generally oppose) and punishing him for acting on those beliefs. If we could not do the latter, society could not survive -- there would be no way to punish Thuggee for ritual murder, nor those who would throw a widow on her husband's funeral pyre, or those who expose a deformed infant on a mountain top to die.
9.16.2008 4:14pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Elliot123: you are either an armchair "expert" with no expertise or have only visited parts of Saudi Arabia open to the infidels. Shariah is the law of the land. Men and women are subject to capital punishment for the crime of apostasy. This is not some Muslim Jerry Falwell writhing in religious fervor on the Sunday pulpit; this is a senior legal authority with real institutional power. Non-muslims, what few exist in any Shariah governed regime, are brutalized. That western educated Saudis in the million dollar palaces laugh at such things is fine; but when they go out in public, you won't find them laughing there and you certainly won't find televisions tuning into cable or women driving."

Can you tell us where you get your information about Saudi? I get mine from living and working there full time for many years.
9.16.2008 8:52pm
Oren:

I have christians near me who lobby their elected representatives on the issue of abortion.

That is an accurate description of the activities of Operation Rescue.
9.16.2008 9:53pm
Oren:

And it removes any requirement for inconvenient action.

I don't ever see it as my duty to force another man in another country to conform to my morals. There is no action required here -- he may live his life under whatever beliefs he damn well pleases.
9.16.2008 9:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren.
Not speaking of beliefs. You pretend to think calling for murder is merely a private belief.
Fool anybody much?
9.16.2008 10:07pm
Oren:
Yankev, if you don't mind (that's a rhetorical question) I'm going to address your post backwards-to-forwards:
You seem to be blurring the distinction between punishing someone for his beliefs (which I generally oppose) and punishing him for acting on those beliefs. If we could not do the latter, society could not survive -- there would be no way to punish Thuggee for ritual murder, nor those who would throw a widow on her husband's funeral pyre, or those who expose a deformed infant on a mountain top to die.
First of all, I concede that I was unclear. Punishing people for beliefs is off the table.

Substantively, the distinction that needs to be made is crimes of man against man versus crimes of man against god. The former, of course, must be implemented by coercive force. The latter, on the other hand, are not required for any sort of social order and are properly the concern only between the individual and god.


More important, although not considering the fetus to have all the rights of a person, Jewish law still grants considerable protection to the fetus, and generally prohibits abortion except to save the mother from death or the equivalent of death.

Disagree entirely. You've succinctly summarized the Orthodox position and entirely glossed over the position of all other denominations (e.g. the other 70% of Jews). In those positions, you will find considerable diversity of opinion and nuance on these matters.

We do not, however, need to parse the ins-and-outs of Jewish law on the mater of abortion, however, because there is a huge distinction between the morality of abortion itself and the morality of social policies on abortion. You have conflated the two when they are completely separate matters. Rabbi David Ellenson (HUC), summed it up quite nicely:
This [partial-birth abortion] law as it has been enacted unquestionably diminishes the inviolable status and worth that ought to be granted women as moral agents created in the image of God.

Which makes an interesting contrast with your statement:

My point is that who claim to "know" that abortion is merely a personal choice is no more humble than to believe that G-d wants society to prohibit or limit it.

The core of humility, as I understand it, is not interposing yourself in the decisions of others. Since I start with the presumption that God granted man sechel (intellect/sense) in order for him to exercise independent moral judgment, I cannot in good faith say that I have some sort of superior moral judgment. If I cannot convince another man by force of reason that he ought to change his mind, I am no more right to impose my judgment on him than he is to impose his judgment on me.

Like I said before, this is somewhat heretical, especially in a somewhat authoritarian religion, but I believe it is an essential prerequisite for moral judgment.
9.16.2008 11:00pm
Oren:

Oren.
Not speaking of beliefs. You pretend to think calling for murder is merely a private belief.
Fool anybody much?

I never said that. I said "he can live under whatever beliefs he wants", which is to say he can structure his society (including coercive force) how he wants. Of course, I've condemned the absurd and immoral positions that he's taken but it's a far cry from condemning his decision to saying he's got no right to make those decision for himself.
9.16.2008 11:04pm
Ursus Maritimus:
If Ferdinand, Phillip, Gustavus and Louis 13 had had nukes, how do you think Europe would have looked in 1648?
9.17.2008 3:03am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren.
This post didn't start out about believing, it started out with calling for murder.
The response has been, predictably, to point at Falwell &Co. yours among it.
For what reason if not to avoid action. Nobody said we have to be concerned about nutty thoughts about middle east television. It was calls for murder, and, most likely, eventual murder.
Therefore, saying you would allow anybody to believe anything is nice, but not exactly on point. It does, however, by changing the subject to belief, remove any need for inconvenient action.
9.17.2008 9:39am
Oren:
"Inconvenient action" here being a clever phrase for arrogance run wild. It's not my place to be fixing other countries, whether or not they murder sorcerers or elect them to high office.
9.17.2008 10:52am
wfjag:
If . . . Phillip . . had had nukes --

Elizabeth would have changed the spelling of her name to to "Elisabeth", married Phillip's nephew, started saying the Rosary, and "Virginia" would have a different name.
9.17.2008 12:17pm
ejo:
so, under the Oren philosophy, what happens in other countries shouldn't even be discussed, let alone responded to? I was wrong about the Seinfeld stuff-Jerry actually had a more credible moral philosophy than the Oren School of Thought.
9.17.2008 12:22pm
Oren:
ejo, who said anything about not discussing it. Every reasonable person condemns it. I just get a bit worried when hotheads like RA start talking about 'action' as if it were our place to start monkeying around . . .
9.17.2008 1:50pm
SANE (mail):
I also note Oren tends to focus on the weakest links in the argument of the comment thread. And. to neurodoc, you are spot on re R Silverstein and "tikun olam".

By the time Oren is done responding in an almost manic fashion, he is left as a top spinning in a space consisting of his "beliefs" disjointed from any sense of reality.
9.17.2008 7:22pm
Oren:
SANE, why don't you number your points and tell me in what order to address them. That should settle it.
9.17.2008 7:52pm
SANE (mail):
I want to add a word or two about Oren's "spinning" on Judaism and abortion.

On the one hand, he cites to the gemara about tending to his own house first but then he opines about some metaphysical distinction between mitvot bain adom l'chaveirah and adom bain l'makom (his man-man vs. man-Gd distinction) whereas the Jewish sages of the gemara and certainly the Gd of the Tanach makes no such distinction. So that raises the question, what is Oren's Judaism?

Of course we know what it is: "belief"--personal, pietistic and radically uncertain except that it is his belief. Meaningless to all of humanity and Jews but Oren.

Now, to abortion. Again, Oren wants to quote Jewish law on the status of an Ubar or fetus. Jewish law considers the fetus to be a sofek nefesh or doubtful life and therefore when a mother's life is at risk, abortion is permissable by most authorities. Indeed, the status of a new born for 30 days is different from a full fledged life but that is a degree of nuance this blog does not require.

But, Oren propounds the view, hardly Jewish all of a sudden, the Gd is not interested in political order and the sanctity of the life in the womb. Apparently, he has not found the English translation to those sections of the gemara which speak of the status of the fetus in great detail or the learned discussion of these matters by such Talmudic scholars as R. Auerbach, z'l.

So, let us ask Oren a question. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that the question of when "life" begins for purposes of our secular notions of due process is "up in the air". That is, Gd knows but only hubris suggests that feeble man might fathom the sacred answer and therefore, given our political system, we fear to impose the power of the state to answer that question. Now, given that state of affairs, what are we left with? We have the "right to life" for a fetus that is in doubt versus the "right to choose" (not necessarily granted explicitly in the Const.) by a women. But that means statistically, that the women's "right to choose" could terminate -- that is, murder--life 50% of the time. It would be akin to a game of Truth or Consequences where the women must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a fetus which is sanctified and protected life. Behind another door is at best an appendage of her body. She nor we can know which is which because we lack the hubris to "know the mind of Gd". Morality and logic of course suggests that given that situation, no political order would allow "choice" because that could sanction murder. But alas, we ignore the moral quandary and allow the woman "to choose" between life and death.
9.17.2008 8:00pm
SANE (mail):
And, to respond to Elliot123 about where I have learned of Saudi Arabia and its penchant for Shariah. From a careful analysis of Shariah and the corpus juris of usul al fiqh, Saudi Arabian law in actu, and the documented cases of capital punishment and other criminal punishments imposed upon infidels and apostates. You see, I, as a Jew, am not allowed to even visit Saudi Arabia and you, if you are a non-Muslim, are not allowed into many of the holy cities of Saudi Arabia. The myth that a man can "know" a place simply by working and living there is at best a foolish myth. If that were true, every man who "lived and worked" in the US could opine on Anglo-American jurisprudence and political order. That on its face is an absurdity since most men who "live and work" in America could not opine intelligently on these subjects nor would we expect them to. It is fine that you "lived and worked" there for a while. That means literally nothing in this discussion.
9.17.2008 8:08pm
SANE (mail):
Oren: I haven't but posted two or three posts here. What am I to number?
9.17.2008 8:49pm
Oren:
On the one hand, he cites to the gemara about tending to his own house first but then he opines about some metaphysical distinction between mitvot bain adom l'chaveirah and adom bain l'makom (his man-man vs. man-Gd distinction) whereas the Jewish sages of the gemara and certainly the Gd of the Tanach makes no such distinction.
Well, that distinction clearly came from somewhere (insofar as I didn't invent it whole cloth), so maybe you could elucidate on why we distinguish those categories at all?

So that raises the question, what is Oren's Judaism?

I wasn't aware that my faith needed to fit in you grand taxonomic scheme of Judaism. Now that I know, I'll do my best to conform it to some category.

Of course we know what it is: "belief"--personal, pietistic and radically uncertain except that it is his belief. Meaningless to all of humanity and Jews but Oren.

Once again, you've enlightened me. I had no idea that my personal relationship with my faith was meaningful to the rest of the world. Most of the time, people seem curiously uninterested in the particulars.

Now, to abortion. Again, Oren wants to quote Jewish law on the status of an Ubar or fetus. Jewish law considers the fetus to be a sofek nefesh or doubtful life and therefore when a mother's life is at risk, abortion is permissable by most authorities. Indeed, the status of a new born for 30 days is different from a full fledged life but that is a degree of nuance this blog does not require.

On that we agree, these particulars are not required.
9.17.2008 9:15pm
Oren:
But, Oren propounds the view, hardly Jewish all of a sudden, the Gd is not interested in political order and the sanctity of the life in the womb.
No and no. God is interested in both the political order and the sanctity of life. I'll get back to that in a few paragraphs (trying to organize this online is a bit dicey . . )

Apparently, he has not found the English translation to those sections of the gemara which speak of the status of the fetus in great detail or the learned discussion of these matters by such Talmudic scholars as R. Auerbach, z'l.
First, I've read through the entire Talmud in hebrew (a primary language -- you'd think the name 'Oren' would give it away, eh?).

Second, I've read those portions and found them to be quite enlightening as to the moral questions inherent in abortion but less so in the field of social policy (not the Talmud's strong spot, generally speaking).
9.17.2008 9:24pm
Oren:

Now, given that state of affairs, what are we left with? We have the "right to life" for a fetus that is in doubt versus the "right to choose" by a women. But that means statistically, that the women's "right to choose" could terminate -- that is, murder--life 50% of the time. It would be akin to a game of Truth or Consequences where the women must choose between two doors.

Once again, we agree. We have before us a thinking human being, conceived in the image of God, that has to make a moral choice in her life. She may chose correctly, she may chose incorrectly (which depends highly on the relevant facts of her case).

To me, the other alternative is worse: We have a woman who is coerced by violence not to seek an abortion. She does not chose to do the right thing in this scenario because she does not chose at all -- she is no longer acting as an intelligent human being capable of moral choice but is more akin to an animal doing the bidding of someone else for fear of retribution. This is not what God intended when he created us in his image -- to be ruled by fear instead of thinking and understanding for ourselves.
9.17.2008 9:33pm
Oren:

But alas, we ignore the moral quandary and allow the woman "to choose" between life and death.

I do not advocate ignoring the moral quandary -- it's quite the opposite! I insist that it be met head-on by the woman making the moral decision instead of enforced upon her by external violence.

It is far better for a man to be chose incorrectly for himself than to have the correct choice forced upon him. In the former, there is at least the possibility that he will do the moral thing but in the latter, there is no chance at all. Without choice, there is no morality. God could have created a beast in such a way that it is constitutively bound to follow the mitzvot, but such a creature would not be man nor would he be created in the image of god.
9.17.2008 9:38pm
SANE (mail):
Oren: it was you, not I, nor any of the commentators to this thread, who introduced your version of Judaism as if it were meaningful to the rest of us, even going so far as to quote mesechta BM and pointing us to the actual daf and amud as if meaningful. If your J is arbitrary -- that is, it has no objective quality beyond your "belief", why bother citing to the gemara? Further, it would seem to the casual observer, and a fortiori to the careful one, that the entire gemara is a repudiation of your very notion of J! I just cannot fathom your motivations here.

Now, as to the distinction between m-m vs. m-G, the chachamim z"l have long talked about these two "types" of MITVOT--commandments-- but they also tell us that their source is precisely the same and indeed their telos is also the same. Further, they have often said quite instructively, that the former can be learned from cats, ants, and other assorted creations belonging to the natural world (although what we learn from what becomes the mystery), whereas the laws that bind us to our Creator tap into a deeper knowledge -- what is sometimes referred to as faith. Now, to our chachomim, faith was not belief.

For you and your fellow travelers, you live in a Reciprocal. On the one side is the CERTAINTY that comes with the mathesis universalis or mathematical physics. On the other side, and that is literally everything else "of man", is the absolute UNCERTAINTY of "belief". In other words, you have reduced man's existence to the search for CERTAINTY. Do you not see that even in your UNCERTAINTY you have gained certainty?

But let's leave this topic-- which you will simply toss away as meaningless gibberish since it fits neither pole of your reciprocal-- for a moment because clearly we certainly can't be arguing here about the gemara or Judasim since you profess to know nothing of it objectively and you most manifestly have not studied either seriously.

So, let's stick to the law or let's have a casual discussion about logic and morality. Let's talk, for example, about your "belief" that abortion should not be regulated by the state.
9.17.2008 9:38pm
SANE (mail):
OK, now we are getting somewhere.

First, I know many Orens who know no hebrew and more importantly I have spent my life with Israelis who speak, write and read a beautiful Ivrit who can not hold a candle to my pre-Bar Mitvah 12 year old son, who can struggle with Tosfos. The gemara is not understandable to a Hebrew speaker in any meaningful way. You must know Aramaic. Now, if you have studied some Hebrew translation, then you are at a huge disadvantage because that very translation is an incorporation of some commentary--be it Rashi or some other. And, if Rashi, what of Tosfos and his supercommentary? Or, Rabbeinu Gershom or the Maharshal? A translation is a start for a man who needs a cumbersome crutch. That is not a bad thing, but it is nonetheless a huge handicap.

Second, given your use of the gemara, and this is not meant as an insult, I cannot believe that you have studied at any level of depth even part of Shas much less "all of it". I am 52 years old, have rabbinical ordination and am several years toward dayanut and I can't lay claim to that.

So, let's go back to the abortion mashal.

You have a wonderful respect for the woman's independence of soul, and therefore of bechira chofshit. Fine. But you have ignored in toto the moral quandary. If we concede as we must that the fetus could be sanctified life--at least behind one of the two doors--why does not the fetus have the right to state protection? If I simply change the case to a young child behind one door and an appendage behind the other, you most certainly would have the state step in and prohibit the women from choosing death based upon her subjective morality. What is the difference?
9.17.2008 9:54pm
Oren:

I cannot believe that you have studied at any level of depth even part of Shas much less "all of it".

I've read all of it. Most of it not in depth. I thought I made that clear originally, but if not, my fault.
9.17.2008 10:01pm
SANE (mail):
Fine, let's not twist over these matters. You are a bright and well respected law professor. I enjoy your writings on the 4th amendment, even if I don't agree with all of them. But, I will say your Harvard article on the 4th Amendment's entry into the digital age was fascinating.

But, you have failed to address the moral quandary still.
9.17.2008 10:03pm
Oren:

If your J is arbitrary -- that is, it has no objective quality beyond your "belief", why bother citing to the gemara?

I'd like to think that my faith is in no small part derived from the sages et. al. that have contributed their wisdom in the past. I don't think my J is arbitrary but I also do not think it is bound inside the four corners of what has been written before me. I am willing to concede that this is something of a contradiction but it seems to me absolutely necessary in any meaningful sense.
9.17.2008 10:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren.
Well, the Brits have taken action: Sharia courts, even in cases of domestic violence.
I was thinking of something more or less in the opposite direction in this country, instead of pointing at Falwell, making reference to different cultures and going along with it. You know, avoiding inconvenient action.
We have, various plots and Sudden Jihaid syndrome issues aside, managed to avoid the alienation of the younger generation of Muslims in the UK and western Europe. That might be an accident. If so, perhaps some Saudi money might go into reversing it. Then what? Oops. Thinking of their madrassa syllabi, they're already at it.
9.17.2008 10:08pm
Oren:

On the other side, and that is literally everything else "of man", is the absolute UNCERTAINTY of "belief". In other words, you have reduced man's existence to the search for CERTAINTY. Do you not see that even in your UNCERTAINTY you have gained certainty?

I prefer to think of it conversely -- every man should be uncertain of his beliefs until he can understand them as an individual. Insofar as he has understood for himself the whats and whys of his belief, his certainty is justified.

On the other hand, this means that we must allow him the space to understand it himself before we start to move together as a community. IOW, a community that does not allow for uncertainty in its common understanding makes individual understanding much more difficult.
9.17.2008 10:11pm
Oren:
Sane, I'm no law professor!

These are quite enlightening though.
9.17.2008 10:12pm
SANE (mail):
Oren, I must concede to you that you are confused on this point. But this is a deep discussion between two men sitting face to face at a chassidishe fahrbrenghen saying l'chaim and speaking carefully and deeply from the heart. Second best would be to conduct a very lengthy and scholarly epistolary exchange. A blog is certainly not the venue or the forum.
9.17.2008 10:12pm
SANE (mail):
Ah, my mistake. I don't frequent this blog enough to recognize that Orin Kerr spells his name with an 'i'. My apologies to both Oren and Orin for the confusion.
9.17.2008 10:14pm
SANE (mail):
The "confusion" of which I speak was:


I'd like to think that my faith is in no small part derived from the sages et. al. that have contributed their wisdom in the past. I don't think my J is arbitrary but I also do not think it is bound inside the four corners of what has been written before me. I am willing to concede that this is something of a contradiction but it seems to me absolutely necessary in any meaningful sense.
9.17.2008 10:17pm
Oren:
Right forum or not, I think this is quite helpful (but of course, if you have other things to do, I understand and respect that). It is indisputable that you have the far better understanding of Jewish law and so enrich the whole discussion.

If we concede as we must that the fetus could be sanctified life--at least behind one of the two doors--why does not the fetus have the right to state protection? If I simply change the case to a young child behind one door and an appendage behind the other, you most certainly would have the state step in and prohibit the women from choosing death based upon her subjective morality. What is the difference?

State protection acrues to independent life (bar kayamah). Comparisons between a fetus and a young child are inapt -- Exodus, for instance, provides that the intentional causing of a miscarriage is not murder.

As I understand it (which I admit is poorly), there are two instances in the Talmud where it is made clear that a fetus is not an independent life. The sale of the pregnant cow (which was ruled to have included the fetus) and the conversion of a woman that is pregnant (which was ruled to cover the fetus as well). In poorly transliterated Hebrew, "ubar yerech eemo" -- "the fetus is as the thigh of its mother", which is to say, part of his mother's body.

In this sense, abortion is viewed as a form of self-mutilation. Now, SM is absolutely forbidden in Jewish law and is not a minor sin but it does not rise to the level of 'ason' that requires legal intervention. No serious Jewish thinkers propose making tattoo or piercing shops illegal despite the absolute prohibition of their activities in Jewish Law.
9.17.2008 10:26pm
Oren:
I should hasten to add that this particular judgment of the public duty with respect to the life of a fetus is not meant to be dispositive to anyone's private views. A woman that will not get an abortion because she views the fetus as 'bar nefesh' has earned nothing but my respect and admiration. I just do not believe that I (or the State) should compell her to make that choice.
9.17.2008 10:28pm
Oren:
SANE, I admit freely that the desire to be rooted to the past inherently conflicts with the need to grow into the future. This is not a new conflict in J and I think we are all acutely aware of the need for balance, even if we answer that particular question differently.
9.17.2008 10:33pm
SANE (mail):
But here you are confusing apples and oranges. If we were to have a discussion of Halacha-Jewish law--on the question of abortion, then most assuredly we should do so off line because it would not be of interest to the VC crowd in the main (or probably in the margins). There is no question, per halacha, abortion is not murder of a 'nefesh' in the sense of murder of a bar kayama but just because punishment for causing a miscarriage is mamon, that does not mean it is not murder. See Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat II: 69B.

But, let's go back to your secular libertarian view, which is certainly not born of your study of the gemara. Without reaching for some analogical support from some sugya that may or may not support your view, on what basis do you reject the state's protection of the fetus? Again, if we both agree that man cannot know whether the fetus is sanctified life or not, the woman's choice becomes an arbitrary (i.e., personal choice) which has a 50% statistical chance to be murder. The state protects all kinds of "creatures" and even inanimate "things" from such reckless "choices".
9.17.2008 10:37pm
Oren:

Again, if we both agree that man cannot know whether the fetus is sanctified life or not, the woman's choice becomes an arbitrary (i.e., personal choice) which has a 50% statistical chance to be murder.

And in those cases where it is uncertain, I prefer to err on the side of letting the individual make his choice. If a man sins because he has made the wrong choice that is regrettable but if society does not allow its citizens to have meaningful moral choice, that seems to me far worse.
9.17.2008 10:46pm
Oren:
Also, the wide range of Jewish opinion on State intervention in marriage ought to counsel restraint.
9.17.2008 10:49pm
SANE (mail):
But that suggests the following: a woman desires to shoot her gun into the forest. She is told there is a 50% chance that the object moving is not a tree limb blowing in the wind but a living creature, possibly even a person. The same doubt, the same moral choice. In this case, we both agree that the state should have a law that says if you shoot into the forest in that case even if you don't hit anything, you are guilty of a crime--reckless endangerment-- and will pay the price. If you accept the predicate of our abortion case, the moral quandary is the same and the duty of the state to step in and protect against a bad choice is similarly the same.

Now, if you reject the predicate, and say that science (CERTAINTY) demonstrates that there is no ontological value to "life" -- that all things are just matter arranged in different quantities and arrangements, then in one sense I lose. But you don't win because that would destroy the libertarian's claim to any value in choice.
9.17.2008 10:57pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"And, to respond to Elliot123 about where I have learned of Saudi Arabia and its penchant for Shariah. From a careful analysis of Shariah and the corpus juris of usul al fiqh, Saudi Arabian law in actu, and the documented cases of capital punishment and other criminal punishments imposed upon infidels and apostates. You see, I, as a Jew, am not allowed to even visit Saudi Arabia and you, if you are a non-Muslim, are not allowed into many of the holy cities of Saudi Arabia. The myth that a man can "know" a place simply by working and living there is at best a foolish myth. If that were true, every man who "lived and worked" in the US could opine on Anglo-American jurisprudence and political order. That on its face is an absurdity since most men who "live and work" in America could not opine intelligently on these subjects nor would we expect them to. It is fine that you "lived and worked" there for a while. That means literally nothing in this discussion."

Perhaps it's time you got up from your armchair, because you don't know anything about actual life in Saudi. One can learn a great deal about Sharia in the armchair, but the Lazy Boy offers no insight into the actual day-to day life in the country.

You tell us you are a Jew. So what? Are you under the impression the country welcomes tourists except for Jews? Neither Jews nor Russians nor Nigerians can simply visit. Foreigners who go there must have a visa, usually a work visa, and a sponsoring company or institution. If you don't have one, the airlines won't take you there. There are no tourist visas. But, since you have not visited, I see where the gap in your understanding of the people comes from. Still, this is somehting that could be learned from an armchair.

Foreign Hajis who make the pilgramage must have a Haj visa which are issued by their home country.

"Many of the holy cities of Saudi Arabia?" Many? Just how many are there? There are two: Mecca and Medina. This is also something that can be learned in an armchair. And you are correct that non-Mulsims cannot visit them. When I was lost in the Medina region, I encountered a military checkpoint approaching Medina. They knew I was an infidel, yet they served me tea, gave me a few bottles of water, and directed me to my destination. Hardly brutal treatment for an infidel.

From the comfort of your armchair you tell us, "Non-Muslims, what few exist in any Shariah governed regime, are brutalized." Nonsense. Those "few" are actually six million. They come from mainly from India, Philipines, and Sri Lanka. Another fact that is readily available from your armchair.

I agree that simply living in a place does not make one an expert on the nation. However, it does offer an insight into the people, what they value, what they laugh at, what they respect, and what they ignore. And it's quite obvious that they laugh at the clerics you take so seriously. They see a fool and laugh at him.

Saudis pay their religious leaders no more attention than Christians pay theirs. And they laugh at their foolish clerics just as people all over the world do. During the first Gulf War, the head cleric in Riyadh issued an edict saying that the American Army women driving the trucks all over were really men with female characteristics, since no women could drive in Saudi. The people laughed. The same guy said the earth was flat. People laughed. Now another says Mickey Mouse must die. People laugh. Do you?

Did your armchair research reveal that Christian services are held all over the country every Friday? Friday is the Muslim sabbath, and Thursday and Friday are the weekend. Christians adopt Friday as their sabbath, and hold their services. The services are low key and for foreigners only. The authorities know this, and tolerate it. It is completely against Sharia. The Muttawa don't like it, but it goes on. Did your careful analysis of the corpus juris of usul al fiqh reveal this? Probably not, but if you lived in Saudi, you would know it.

I have personally brought infidel Christian bibles into the country about twenty times. I just say it is for my family. I was never brutalized. Then I give them to Indian Christians who ask me to bring them in.

You are correct that "you certainly won't find televisions tuning into cable." They actually tune into satellite TV rather than cable. If you could drive down the street you, too, could see the thousands of dishes sprouting from rooftops. There are lots of Arab satellite TV channels.

So, I wish you luck in your study of Saudi. But I'd recommend expanding your library a bit.
9.18.2008 11:58pm
wfjag:

Now another says Mickey Mouse must die. People laugh. Do you?

Of course not, Elliot. Killing an inanimate drawing is of intense concern.

Dear SANE:

I believe that you are incorrect in believing that VC readers would be uninterested in your explanations of Jewish law and traditions. There are a large number of them who realize that not everyone shares their backgrounds and values, or who views the world the way they do. If you've lived abroad, and to a lesser extent, if you've lived in various places around the U.S., for reasons Elliot illustrates, you learn this at a level reading books cannot adequately explain. In my experience, frequently that increases curiosity. I suspect that quite a few people have found your explanations interesting and informative. Thank you.

Oh, and Elliot -- Out of the mouths of babes. I mentioned the call to kill Mickey Mouse in front of some kids (around age 5) and wondered how one could kill a Cartoon Mouse. One response: "You erase it." I guess we should send the Saudi cleric a large supply of No.2 pencils.
9.19.2008 11:54am