Monday, August 16, 2010

The Tyranny of the Majority

Freedom of religion requires an entire First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because the first tri-corner hatted Americans were no fools and knew damn well that, given the chance, the majority of voters would burn their irreligious compatriots at the stake.

Today, the First Amendment says Moslems have the right to build a mosque on their own private property in New York City two blocks from the site of "Ground Zero" (which means something rather more trenchant in Hiroshima) precisely because 30% of 21st Centurion Americans are pig ignorant Republicans who have had visions of a 900-foot tall Jesus who says they can't.

On the Day of Judgment, Allah asks an infant girl for what crime she was buried alive. That verse against infanticide rather stands alone, but it's not the only such passage. If Islam truly is a "great, peaceful" religion, considering all the sliced-off noses and otherwise disfigured girls you read about in the news, then the only testimony worth listening to is that of the great sororities and sisterhoods of Muslim women. If anyone knows about Islam, it is they.

The imams have no voice and no special standing in the indictments to come — Allah knows what is in the Quran — so they would do well to sit down and shut up and listen to their mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, who know more than they do. Or was Allah never concerned with the human condition? Was Mary not worth ten times the entire Caliphate?

When I read the Quran, I'm baffled by a relentless, sometimes unpleasant, torrent of historical and cultural references. The text itself seems disconnected and does not tell a coherent tale or make a clear argument. And, of course, the classical Arabic is a complete mystery to me. The beauty of the Quran as recited is the principle argument for its unearthly source, but no English translation conveys that sense.

Nevertheless, I intend to finish reading the Princeton University Press translation by the end of Ramadan, and another Beat Zen dharma bum will feel qualified to dig another of the great human passions.

I'm not really a Dharma Bum, although I have leanings. I met Gary Snyder, once. He doesn't remember ;-)

I had to bail after six and a half days. I'll keep an open mind, but without some help in interpretation (history, context, etc.), this won't end well.

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