Why Judaism is
By Umma Allergic
In Douglas Adam's comedic novel "Life, the Universe and
Everything", mattresses are not manufactured objects. Rather,
they are a species of "... large, friendly, pocket-sprung creatures
which live quiet private lives in the marshes of Squornshellous
Interestingly enough, all members of this sentient species are called
How would Judaism and Islam compare on Squornshellous Zeta? Far away
from the earth, far away from the
crisis and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, amidst a species of quietly
burbling mattresses (all called Zem), how would Islam and Judaism compare?
What would the mattresses think of these two systems of thought, not as
religions, but simply ideas, simply two systems of ideas, with no
political baggage and no
religious compulsion of any kind?
The answer to this question was unwittingly given by Ismail Haniyeh, head
of the Hamas government in the Palestine Authority in the spring of 2006,
a few days after the party took power.
There was factional violence in the Palestinian authority, beginning with
the murder of the Popular Resistance Committees leader Khalil al-Quqa in a
car bomb. PRC members claimed that Palestinian security forces (and
) had taken part in al-Quqa’s assassination. Riots ensued, along
with exchanges of gunfire between Palestinian security forces and members
of the PRC, killing three more people and injuring 25.
Ismail Haniyeh called on his people to show some unity, and vowed to get
the situation out of control. He called upon the groups to disarm and work
together (perhaps unaware of the irony of this request), and said:
"The culture that dominated the
Palestinian street in past years is a culture that needs time in order to
turn into a culture that keeps law and order and does not resort to using
arms under any condition."
And that is why Judaism is superior to Islam.
On Squornshellous Zeta, at least.
Exclusionary Command and Control vs. Rule of Law
Looked at as a system of ideas for guiding and regulating one's life and
one's society, Islam is what sociologists might call an exclusionary
command and control system. One obeys the *will* of Allah, and the
*words* of the prophet. So there are commanders, and their decisions
are the commands or orders everyone must follow. Commands are
enforced by threats of death, torture, eternal damnation, social ostracism
and rejection, and so on. Compliance is rewarded with approval,
social inclusion, a sense of belonging, eternal sexual bliss for males (a
bit odd, that one...) and a sense of goodness. What is good or bad
is determined by decree (by fatwah). It is all a question of
obeying, of seeing who is being obedient, of rewarding disobedience and
punishing disobedience. Violence is both implicit and explicit in this
kind of command and control system. Those who disobey are punished.
There is no recognition of the fact that every individual is
sovereign, with their own capacities to choose and decide, based on a
natural human sense of ethical reciprocity. The system is really all
about legitimizing the use of force to
The system is also exclusionary. There is an in-group and an
out-group, an 'us' and a 'them', and this becomes a huge moral dividing
line. It becomes okay to kill or dominate 'them', in the name of
'our' beliefs. There is no such thing as universal moral laws for
all beings, including everybody in the in-group *and* out-group as one
human family. This kind of exclusionary mentality leads to a binary
oppositional understanding of conflict. 'We' must be in command. 'Our'
truth is the only truth for ever and all time (a bit odd, that one...).
'We' must dominate. If 'we' don't dominate... Oh my God that must
mean 'they' are dominating! Those are the only two possibilities!
(Extremely, bizarrely and viciously odd, that one...) Those are the
only two possibilities! The idea that 'we' might be sabotaging
ourselves, and 'they' may only be mildly interested in us, but willing to
help us out more if we prove to be good neighbours, that is impossible.
'We' must totally reject and destroy 'them', because 'they' fail to
recognize 'our' God and 'our' prophet (I fail to see the logic here, but
that is apparently what some people believe). 'We' must make 'them'
submit to the commands of 'our' faith.
The mattresses on Squornshellous Zeta might have a hard time understanding
this kind of angry, violent, command and control structure that forces
everybody to think a certain way, if a Quran fell onto their planet from
the sky. Squornshellous Zeta is a very peaceful planet. It's
swampy, and the mattresses mostly just swim around blowing bubbles and
relaxing. Interestingly, all of them are named 'Zem'.
I don't think they would like to be threatened with horrible consequences,
and teased with extreme rewards, until all of them thought the same way
– and here is the important point - JUST BECAUSE SOME PERSON/BEING SAID
SO. Why should they stop just
burbling away in the water? Here is another important point - THEY
AREN'T HURTING ANYONE!! (The only justification for interfering with
the choices of another is when those choices hurt somebody. Everything
else is okay.)
All Islam has, at its ethical heart, are commands and exhortations to
obey. Support other Muslims, no matter what (even if they murder),
and subjugate or convert all non-Muslims (using murder if necessary).
There is no single universal law (murder) by which one
might judge both muslims and non-muslims equally and without prejudice.
There are wild inconsistencies in the Quran partly because of this
fact: it is based on bald assertions and exhortation, not laws or
If a powerful mullah condemns me, his word is law for many people. I
used to be in the 'in' group, but the mullah has now said I am in the
'out' group. It is now not only justified, but glorious and holy for
people to kill me. The mullah has commanded it so, in
the name of Allah who commands everything and the good little soldiers in
the command and control structure will now seek me out, and they will only
be following orders. I cannot simply take the mullah to court and
prove according to objective laws that the charges he leveled against me
were false. It is not the case that both I and the mullah are equals
before the law in all civic disputes, with equal powers to condemn or
exonerate each other.