MEDIA RELEASE 17th October 2008 Unveiling the Hijab - A Scientific, scriptural and legal unravelling of the Muslim requirement for veiling and sequestering, for violent punishments for adultery, and women being allowed to see only through one eye, for fear that two female eyes will be so attractive they will turn men into beasts.
Redaction of the Decalogue: Circumcision and the Sacrifice
It is difficult to disengange the actual core of Moses teachings from the subsequent overlays of Priestly and Deuteronomic authors. The destruction of the sanctuaries accompanying the book of Deuteronomy is dated to 612 BC, but the Priestly author noted for Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 is dated to the late exilic period around 550 BC (Flanders et. al. 78). The Yahweh-only emphsis of Exodus has thus passed through the Priestly redactor long after the time of Moses and with a very different perspective in mind. The myth surrounding the covenant of the commandments and the golden calf are permeated with Yahweh-only rhetoric and violence characteristic of the later revision in Judea.
1: The Decalogue
The decalogue as it stands is one of the later constructions of the Bible and cannot be construed to be Moses teachings. The opening commandments of the decalogue concern God: (1) Thou shalt have no gods before me. [This does not mean no other gods at all, just primacy]; (2) Thou shalt make no graven image of the heaven, earth or waters under. Do not worship other idols for I am a jealous god who will plague the children of unfaithful parents unto the fourth generation, [a standard era of ancestor worship]; (3) Do not take the Lord's name in vain; (4) Honour the Sabbath.
The rest regulate human relationships: (5) Honor one's father
Do not (6) kill, (7) commit adultery (possess another's spouse), (8) steal, (9) bear false witness, or (10) covet thy neighbour's house, wife, servants, or cattle (a wife having intermediate status between cattle and property).
One should note the Decalogue applys only to relations among the chosen. Not only murder, but genocide of the nations was standard:
Nevertheless many Jews take Decalogue as clearly defining abolition of blood sacrifice and avoid blood in the diet even following the Genesis 1 prescription of vegetarianism.
Jealousy and monotheism: Most monotheists pride themselves in the notion that their god is the ultimate real god, and see this very aspect of Yahweh as the revelation of the true god of creation in history to his chosen people, without reflecting on whether the deity really has the 'right stuff' to be cosmic. A god cannot be jealous unless: (1) they are egotistical and (2) there are other gods or goddesses. If they really are the cosmic real one, it is wisdom and wisdom alone that will prove the difference. Jealousy never will.
There follows a long description of the performance of ceremony, including the use of oracles of chance, the Urim and Thummim, lots cast to invoke Yahweh's judgement on unclear issues.
While Moses sojurns with God, the people below are deviating: Exodus 32: "The people brake off their gold earings and gave them to Aaron and he fashioned it into a golden calf. And they said, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." And they rose up early on the morrow and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." ... Despite the obvious existence of Nehustan, we are expected to believe that Moses was so enraged by the Golden Calf, another symbol of the Moon God that: "When Moses saw that the people were naked; he said unto the Levites: 'Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.' And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men."
The passage in Exodus 32:4 "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." is echoed almost verbatim in 1 Kings 12:28 "behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." The entire passage can thus be deduced to refer to later Judean outrage at the golden calves of Bethel and Dan. There is of course another interpretation of this golden calf as the cow of the golden one, Hathor who is the patron Goddess of Sinai. As noted, both cows and bulls were found at Gezeh, so the portrayal of Moses as the virulent enemy of Hathor could be an instrument of redaction set to underline his death at Nabo for any deviation.
Having broken the precious tablets of God, Moses returns to the mountain and receives the final condemnation of the faithless whoring of Israel and her subjects to be: Exod 34:12 "Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be a snare in the midst of thee: Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods."
A series of probably older commandments are then 'appended' to the decalogue, including first-born male sacrifice: (11) All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle that is male. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. Thou shalt keep: (12) The feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end. (13) Thrice in the year shall all your men-children appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee. (14) Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning. (15) The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God. (16) Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk - a cryptic reference to Orphic sacrifice "Like a kid I have fallen into milk" (Graves 1948 218).
Both male circumcision and before it female circumcision have been an ancient custom among Semitic peoples from very early times (Briffault 3/323), however Jewish circumcision did not assume its present form until as late as the Maccabees (165 BC). Previous to that time it was so minor (possibly merely an incision) that "the jibes of the Gentile women could be evaded, little trace of the operation being perceptible" (Briffault 3/331).
It is notable that the Harranians were not circumcised. This casts doubt on Abraham's circumcision as an invention of post-exilic Jewish writers, although it may be considered a sin offering for male fertility to the phallic god: Gen 17:9 "And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." Snaith (81) comments "There is no reference to circumcision in the earlier lawsand the rite is nowhere enjoined before the Priestly Code as having any particular significance."
Circumcision is not part of the decalogue. Moses did not yield so easily to circumcision, specifically postponing it in the case of his second son, and it was probably neither a practice of Zipporah. Exod 4:24 "And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, 'Surely a bloody husband art thou to me ... because of the circumcision.' "
One of the most bizarre episodes of purported circumcision is the 'second circumcision rite' in Joshua 5:2 "At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. ... Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. ... And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day". However the longer Greek version tells us that the very flint knives used were buried in his grave at Timnath-serah and remained there 'unto this day'. However artefacts discovered there in 1870 date from the stone-age casting the whole episode as one of fantastic myth invented at the sight of the artefacts (Fox R 230).
Islamic tradition also says it was practised by Sarah on Hagar and that afterwards both Sarah and Abraham circumcised themselves by order of Allah . Circumcision is not provided for in the Qur'an, although Muhammad is suposed to have pronounced circumcision to be "an ordinance for men" and "honourable for women" for whom he is supposed to have said "reduce but do not destroy" in the face of severe practices of female circumcision and infibulation (Briffault 3/323). There is no evidence that any of Muhammad's wives or daughters were circumcised. Men and women of Egypt and the horn of Africa for God's sake stop it! It is an unspoken and unspeakable cycle of opression. 127 million girls worldwide have undergone some form of mutilation and 2 million a year are at risk. As disapproval of the practice mounts, girls at ever younger ages are being subjected to circumcision.
In the face of male (and occasional female) sacrifice, castration, gruesome female circumcision and infibulation and male circumcision, which is sometimes also accompanied by debilitating and very painful mutilation and flaying.
A simple civilized commandment: "Thou shalt not mutilate another person, nor encourage nor allow genital or other self-mutilation for religious sexual or moral purposes".
Please - the 'sunna' is not necessary. Muhammad actually said 'Do not destroy'. If a Jew is really keen to make a blood sacrifice to the God of Virility let him cut himself, but leave no visible scar as a reminder of the shame, that by this act some other person may justify clitorectomy.
"There's a book by Alice Walker called Possessing the Secret of Joy, and it's about mothers taking their daughters to the butcher to have their genitalia removed. That's what the [cornflake girl] is about too. It's like cutting a penis off. Now if we lined all the boys up and cut their penises off, I don't think it would be lunch as usual! I think they'd have something to say about it, and yet the mothers are the ones that take the daughters to do this! Obviously the whole society is involved, but when is a generation of women going to rise up, not to fight, not to war, but to honour themselves and each other?" Tori Amos
Tori is right - for the details see Fighting for their Rites.
In Edessa the Bishop had to go even further. To stop self-castrations to the Goddess he ordered anyone who castrated themselves should also have their hand cut off! (Segal). Christian Sharia!
To all those who would consider female circumcision I would say only this, and I dont mean divorce - only circumcision: "What the Elohim has joined together let no man cast asunder".
The path of life is the path of the clitoris. For the last 100,000 years, the sexes have been approximately the same size, indicating cooperativity and the protection of the family have been key factors in our living emergence. The female orgasm is central to female fertility, helping to ensure the woman conceives by the man she loves. That is why the female as well as the male have evolved to have an orgasm. Female sexuality is not something to fear or destroy. It is something at once the same and different. Mysterious and unbounded. We do not need to cut up or stitch up our partners' vagina' for her to be faithful to us. What joy can there be in conception if you dont have the sensitive tissue the goddess gave you or you get stabbed in the vagina every time you get pregnant?
A shrine to a young martyr: 26th August 1996 "A 14-year-old girl died yesterday after an operation to circumcize her. Amina Abdelhamid Mohammed did not wake up after the surgery." Some Egyptians claim the procedure is based on Islamic teaching, but it has ancient traditional roots and also practised by Christians, and throughout the horn of Africa.
3: Human Sacrifice
The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century B.C.) reports that once (in the year 310 B.C.) a great disaster was threatening the city of Carthage. The people ascribed their calamity to the anger of Cronos, to whom they once had sacrificed their best children, but then offered him only bought or weakly children. Thereupon the Carthaginians sacrificed two hundred children from the best families. A child was laid in the arms of a bronze statue of Cronos and would then roll off into a burning oven (Library XX, xiv). Philo of Byblos, who wrote a History of the Phoenicians around A.D. 100, reports that child sacrifice was customary among the Phoenicians. In times of national danger, 'The Phoenicians sacrificed their dearest children in a mysterious fashion.' Cathage similarly has a reputation for the sacrificial burning of children sometimes, according to Diodorus even with a great scaffold in which a many-armed sculpture in the form of a god tipped the child sacrifices into a flaming pyre (Ranke-Heinmann 286, Smith R 363, 374).
Recently, doubts have been voiced about such reports of child sacrifice among the Phoenicians. Sabatino Moscati stresses that neither in cosmopolitan Carthage nor in the Phoenician city-states were the gods' favors courted by the systematic burning of children. Child corpses in the children's cemeteries (Tophets), which have often been viewed as sites of child sacrifice, showed no sign of violence. The skeletons were of fetuses, stillborn babies, or children dead from sickness who had been interred in the sacred precincts. Moscati thinks the reports of child sacrifice among the Phoenicians are hostile propaganda by Greek and Roman historians, at least as far as any regular sacrifice of children is concerned." (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 286-8.)
Although there are many passages in the Old Testament condemming child sacrifice among other practices, it is often unclear whether this is for humanitarian reasons or purely because these sacrificial rituals are directed to other gods and particularly the other nations. Deut 18:9 "When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee."
The basis of firstborn sacrifice in the covenant of the Exodus is spelt out more clearly in Exodus 12:51: "the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt ... the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine", echoed again in Numbers 8:17 "For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself."
Ezekiel 20:25 goes so far as to admit that child sacrifice was both ordered by Yahweh and as a punishment for the fact the Hebrews did not destroy the other nations, but mingled with them: "Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the Lord."
There is much debate both about whether the Israelites practised first-born sacrifice traditionally to Yahweh at Tophet outside Jerusalem and whether killing or mere consecration to the god is required. Moloch simply means king - melech with a more ominous intonation and cannot so easily be passed off exclusively to the practices of Ba'al or the Queen of Heaven. Smith (372) comments: "It is plain from various passages of the prophets that the sacrifices of children among the Jews before the captivity, which are commonly known as sacrifices to Moloch, were regarded as oblations to Jehovah, under the title of king, yet they were not presented at the temple, but consumed outside the town at Tophet" - which means pyre. As the Jews did not burn their dead, the ceremony appears to be related to the burning of the god as was the case of Melkarth at Tyre.
Micah appears to consider child sacrifice as a meaningful, if ultimate sacrifice to Yahweh 6:7: "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
This casts clear light on the emphasis of many of the condemnations of child sacrifice, in that the supreme sacrifice is made, but to the wrong deities. One can also see a clear conflict between the aims of Yahweh in Jewish reproduction and any methods of population control or contraception: Gen 15:5 "And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be." 28:14 "And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Old Testament attitude to child sacrfice as a purely sexual practice is indicated by Lev 18:20 "Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
Gezer contains evidence of both adult sacrifice in which people are literally divided in two at the ribs in very much the same way as Abraham's sacrifice under the stars. Gen 15:10 "And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not." Newborn children are also found apparently buried alive head-down in jars in a manner associated with sacrifical offering (Zehren 189).
Although the Yahwistic account of Gen 22:10 of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is read as a symbolic account negating first-born human sacrifice except as sanctifying to god, Yahweh actually commends Abraham for offering his son in sacrifice. Gen 22:16 states: "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven."
This question of whether the firstborn are mine means sacrifice or just 'sanctifying to God' as claimed by some historians gains poetic momentum with Luke's account of Jesus 2:22 "And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." The sacrifice of such doves is also characteristic of Aphrodite and ironically Jesus later meets just such a sacrificial death.
The effectiveness of child sacrifice in dire circumstances, particularly of the high-born offspring of kings is illustrated in 2 Kings 3:26 "And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land."
The story of the Daughter of Jeptath mingles the reality of first-born sacrifice to Yahweh, particularly in times of disaster with a tradition of goddess worship in the high places which lingered ever after: Judges 11:30 "And Jephthah vowed unto the Lord 'If thou shalt deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.' So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. ... And Jephthah came unto his house, and his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; And he rent his clothes, and said, 'Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back'. And she said unto him 'Let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows'. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. At the end of two months, she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year."
As is usual with the disguise of seasonal cult in the Old Testament, the sacrifice of seven men to the barley harvest after a three-year famine is described in terms of political history with heart-wrenching ovetones for Rizpah the concubine:
2 Samuel 21:1 "Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. ... And [the Gibeonites] answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose. And the king said, I will give them. But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the Lord's oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite: And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead ... and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. ... And after that God was intreated for the land."
Hiel of Bethel (9th century B.C.) "built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub" (1 Kings 16:34). They may however have died accidentally in fulfillment of a curse hovering over the site (Josh. 6:26)" Ahaz, the king of Judah (8th century B.C.): "even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel" (2 Kings 16:3). The same is told of King Manasseh (7th century B.C.) in 2 Kings 21:6.
Such child sacrifices took place primarily in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem, which is still called the Valley of Fire today, and which gave its name to the New Testament Hell, Gehenna. Some of these may be exaggerated accounts by opponents of the syncretic practices of the monarchy... But not all the Old Testament reports on child sacrifice are based on hostile propaganda, and not all child sacrifices are rejected as Gentile abominations. ... The Old Testament author reports [Jephtha's sacrifice of his daughter] without a word of blame; and in the New Testament Jephtha is praised along with Abraham as a hero of faith (Heb. 11:32; 11:17).
The Passover and Jesus as the Sacrificed Firstborn of God
The passover, the greatest Jewish rite is a commemmoration of a great first-born sacrifice of God, who in passing over the blood-spattered doorposts of the Hebrews in Egypt spared their first-born but sacrificed the Egyptian children. Jesus in turn commemorates his own sacrifice as first-born of God in a passover crucifixion.
"As far as sacrificing one's own children goes, however, an interesting shift takes place in Christianity: The charge that had generally been leveled at one's enemies is now applied by Christians to God. Pre-Christian atrocity stories turn into the good news of Christianity: God sacrifices his first-born, only Son. From the Christian standpoint, the joyous new feature of this teaching is supposed to be this: God sacrifices his Son not for his own advantage, but for ours. Thus he is seeking nothing for himself but for humanity. The most that man ever did for God is what God now does for man. In Christian terms this is also called grace. In the Old Testament the story of the binding of Isaac is told to show that God rejects child sacrifice (a ram is sacrificed instead of Isaac). But in the New Testament, God slaughters his own Son instead of a lamb, and Abraham is seen as the precursor of such filicide.
The progress from Judaism to Christianity is obvious. God, "the Destroyer of the first-born:' as he is called in the Letter to the Hebrews (11:28) because he slew the first-born of the Egyptians, now slays his own first-born.
This God with bloody hands has his priests repeat the bloody sacrifice of atonement ... for all Christians the core of Christianity. ... The idea that one should sacrifice to God the dearest thing of all, namely, human life, is as alive among Christians as it was among pagans. Ernst Bloch described the insanity of this central Christian tenet: "But the ultimate source of the doctrine of sacrificial death is not only particularly bloody, but also particularly archaic.- It derives from the most ancient form of sacrifice, the kind so long avoided, human sacrifice.... " (Ranke-Heinmann 1992 291).
Newborn Sacrifice: Gender, Morality and Diversity
The sacrifice of newborn was a common practice in the ancient world, which may have served the social purpose of population control, as it does in primitive societies from the Amazon to Africa, particularly if the mother has another nursing child. The first-born rule may have thus evolved as a solemn pracitice which indirectly helped maintain a sustainable population.
The debate concerning abortion today covers the same difficult ground. While opponents equate abortion with infanticide, defenders stress the need for women to have personal choice over their own fertility and its consequences. The invective against the Queen of Heaven is partly one about the very same issues as in the abortion debate today.
In a world of finite resources, we need to act in the best interests of sustainable diversity. This requires some sacrifice of our individual potential for offspring, ideally through contraception. Scientific advances provide us with safer and more sensitive solutions to these problems, but introduce new ethical issues, which require greater maturity of judgement and foresight.
However this does not and should not come at the cost of gender 'genocide'. What Exodus reports the pharoah as doing - selectively sacrificing male children has become a shadow that has hung for centuries over all female offspring. In India and parts of China today , the entire gender balance of the population is skewed as a result of female infanticide, representing perhaps one girl killed in each ten live births. Love your girls, don't kill them!
We should also act to maintain the sanctity of individual life. Those of who are here in this world should learn to respect ourselves and oneanother as living deities who are playing a role in shaping the future world. This value of individual life is precious recent and hard-won. Preserving the ecosystemic order does not mean suppressing individual creativity and conscience. The two should meet as wave and particle.