Does the Qur’an promote violence or peace?

Signature of Suleiman the Magnificent


Jihadist flag: Victory or Paradise

The short answer is both. The Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, commands men to treat women with respect, enjoins the presumption of innocence and acknowledges a right to keep silent. It also mandates stoning, crucifixion and amputation.  It sanctions slavery, so long as the slave isn’t Muslim. (Jews and Christians and many others in the seventh century also owned slaves.) I am indebted to British barrister Sadakat Kadri and his masterly book that explains shari’a and how it evolved over 12 centuries. Shari’a is “the way to salvation,” Islamic law derived from the Qur’an and the hadith (the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).

In the beginning, Kadri writes, Islam’s penal code differed little from its contemporaries':

Corporal punishments were a feature of the age, while crucifixion owed its popularity in the Middle East to centuries of Persian and Roman practice— and among Muslims, at least in later years, it was intended to be a nonfatal means of humiliation rather than a method of execution. Torture, which was routine under the Christianized Roman law of Byzantium, found no place in the Qur’an…. Repentance was often reason enough to exclude punishment … The Qur’an urges victims of violence to accept compensation or exercise mercy instead of retaliating in kind as they had a right to do.

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ISIS: crucifixion and beheading and FREE healthcare

beheadFoleyLast June Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became caliph, the political and religious leader of the caliphate, which is the territory controlled by the Islamic State. (ISIL is the only Muslim entity, however, that recognizes his authority and the caliphate.) One of the primary duties of the caliph is to expand the caliphate continuously, thereby also increasing the number of Muslims who adhere to the fundamentalist brand of Islam championed by ISIL. Al-Baghdadi delivered a sermon on July 5, and jihadists in unprecedented numbers flocked to the Islamic State from France, the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States— all over the world. The surge hasn’t diminished.

NurseIndiaBelieving that none of the various divisions of Islam practiced today retains the purity of Islam in the seventh century, the Islamic State attempts to follow the prophecy and example of the Prophet to the letter. (Muhammad was inspired by the voice of God, who dictated to him the Qur’an, which is the holy text of Islam.) As a caliphate, ISIL performs the usual responsibilities of a state. Within its sphere of influence, it “collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications,” writes Graeme Wood in the Atlantic. Moreover, “health care is free.”

If this is true, how is it that the murderous and exceedingly violent Islamic State offers health care, let alone free health care? How to reconcile that with the fact that the United States has just begun to offer health care — subsidized, but not free — and against the vehement opposition of the party that is now in the majority?

Anjou Choudary is a strong advocate of the Islamic State. “This provision of social welfare was not, [Choudary] said, a policy choice of the Islamic State, but a policy obligation inherent in God’s law.”

ISIL, which revels in beheadings and immolations, nevertheless understands the moral imperative to provide healthcare to its citizens, even as he also says that “crucifixion and beheading are sacred requirements.”

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Invitation to a beheading


If you have been wondering how a state-sanctioned beheading proceeds in Saudi Arabia, read on, but

Be warned: the following material will make some readers uncomfortable. 

The series of beheadings videotaped by ISIL strikes exceptional fear and revulsion in the West, as it is intended to do. The beheadings and the videos are political: they are meant to terrify and compel action, whether it be retribution for air strikes or the payment of a ransom. Mercy and compassion are absent from ISIL’s vocabulary.

We can look to Saudi Arabia, where beheading is practiced routinely (79 in 2013, 83 in 2014) and often publicly, to find out about the gruesome practice. The Saudis insist that their beheadings are different from the ones executed by ISIS because in Saudi Arabia the criminals are convicted in court. The UN, however, has called the trials “grossly unfair,” because defendants are not allowed legal counsel and death sentences may be imposed after confessions that have been coerced by torture. Westerners are horrified by decapitation, yet its defenders say lethal injection as practiced in the U.S. is no more humane.

The details that follow were reported in Newsweek, based on the 2003 interview with a Saudi executioner and videos provided by a human rights group.  Continue reading


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No more mold, ctd.

6-day-old berries, 5 days after thermotherapy

6-day-old berries, 5 days after thermotherapy

Friday I bought two pounds of strawberries. One was totally gone and two had soft spots. I took them out and refrigerated the rest. On Saturday I treated them as described here. They stayed out on paper towels overnight. On Sunday they went back into their berry basket (with holes) and the refrigerator.

On Wednesday I examined the remaining berries. Slightly wrinkled, as to be expected, but not a spot on any at all, let alone mold!

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The Raven’s many colors

Once upon an evening dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over bunches of notes and notebooks and pages from studies of yore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a banging,
As of something sharply whomping, well outside my chamber door.
“’Tis some blasting there,” I muttered, “blowing up my chamber door—
    Must be that and nothing more.”
So I gazed outside my chamber, and this is what I saw:
Eagerly I kept on watching, watching from my chamber door.
Only that and nothing more.
And the fireworks kept coming, exploding by my chamber door.






“What could they be?” I wondered as I looked and looked some more.

Finally I went to Google, asking and inquiring wherefore.



“For the Chinese New Year,” came the answer.

Only that and nothing more.



Apologies to Edgar Allen Poe

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Alice’s terrible horrible no good very bad day — almost

IMG_0341It started Friday afternoon: The car could barely make it through the snow and ice and scraped against a snow bank. Last week’s 30-inch blizzard was still very much in evidence. The snow lay all around. Beautifully.

Late in the afternoon, Alice went upstairs. It was very chilly, so she checked the thermostat — the temperature hadn’t changed since several hours earlier (48º). Down to the basement. After making several futile attempts to locate the red button that restarts the beast, she called the oil company and for three hours heard nothing but the busy signal. It was far into the night before she got through. Her name got on a list for Saturday morning. “We begin at 8,” the receptionist said, “so if you haven’t heard from us by 8:15, give us a call.”  Continue reading

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No more mold on your berries

MacedoniaA change of pace — With so many hot issues to choose from and very little left of a full and eventful day to do them justice, I’m making an abrupt detour to offer a tip for lovers of fruit, especially berries, instead.

Who hasn’t bought a basket of luscious strawberries that begin to spoil before they can be eaten? Whether ruby raspberries picked under the hot summer sun or blueberries from a hothouse that are nevertheless welcome in the dark of winter, there is a simple way to make them last until every one of them can be enjoyed.

It’s called thermotherapy — treating them not with chemicals, but with heat. As counterintuitive as it sounds, a brief hot bath goes a long way towards killing the mold spores that thrive on the damp skins of berries, stone fruits and grapes.

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