Fatima Naoot and The Intended Sacrifice of Isaac

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Egyptian poet Fatima Naoot threatened with imprisonment, for saying the intended sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham was a nightmare and the sacrificing of animals during Eid Al-Adha is a massacre. Yet that story, and notion of child sacrifice, needs to be heard.

One way to prevent criticism of religion is to call it insulting, offensive and blasphemous. To even suggest that your criticism is designed to cause violence and discrimination against others. That is an easy charge to dismiss – no one should be killed or discriminated on account of religion. Also religious people can make the same observation. Criticising religion, its stories, characters and figures is not the same as demonising and dehumanising people as a group. Conflating the two is sophistry, which we have seen too many times to prevent the free speech of others that challenge supposed orthodoxy.

For there comes a point where the tenet of a faith, like Abraham being so willing to obey God that he would kill his son for Him, must be challenged for the idea that it perpetuates. Abrahamic faiths celebrate this moment, with the hand holding the blade raised ready to obey, as the love of Him even before the life of their own child. Your child must be expendable to God.

Egyptian poet Fatima Naoot is appearing before the courts for making this observation of how Islam commemorates the intended sacrifice:

“Happy massacre,” Fatima Naoot wrote on her Facebook page in October during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice.

Animals are slaughtered during Eid to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to fulfil God’s command to sacrifice his own son, although in the end God provided him with a sheep.

“Massacre committed by men over the past 10 centuries and followed by men each year with a smile,” Naoot wrote at the time.

“Annual massacre observed because of a nightmare of one (prophet) about his son… ,” she wrote in Arabic.

“Although the nightmare has passed for the prophet and his son, each year helpless animals pay with their lives the price of this sacred nightmare.” [France 24]

It is a nightmare that religion continues to remember. Whether the ritualistic slaughtering of animals (Eid), that the first born of Egypt were sacrificed to deliver the Sons of Israel (Passover), or that God’s Son was sacrificed to deliver humanity (Easter). It reverberates in the consciousness of Abrahamic religious culture throughout the world.

We do not dwell on the terror of a blade reflecting the rays of the sun, as a son contemplates his last sunrise. Nor the screaming of Egyptian parents holding their lifeless child. All because a God that could part the Red Sea for Moses, and make the Sun stand still for Joshua to slaughter a routed enemy, could not whisk his chosen people away. He could kill children on mass, with the angel of death, no problem. Angel of transportation was a wing and a prayer too far.

Do we think of the drenched cold sweated Jesus beseeching God to remove the burden of crucifixion on his last night? Maybe we could imagine Isaac doing the same, as he is led to his intended place of execution. Instead Christianity is grateful for the suffering that Jesus went through. His death saved you with his blood, from his nailed hands and feet, made you clean. As he gave up his spirit you were no longer tainted by original sin. This is your good news: to rejoice in the torture of a human being to death, to bathe in the blood of the lamb. Hallelujah indeed. Not in my name would anyone have to do that for me.

To believe any of this is historically true is a nonsense. To want this to be theologically true and ordained by God is twisted by any ethical standard. For here is the bitter irony for those pro life agitators outside abortion clinics. Real child sacrifice rituals in human history had an impact on your holy texts, and you cherish the concept as part of your modern faith. It is even possible that some versions of the original story had Isaac killed, that it was carried through as God had commanded. For the love of God would you do this? Or would you repeat Hitchens to anyone that demanded it of you “no, fuck you!” as the righteous answer.

Fatima Naoot saw no contradiction to her faith calling out that moment as a nightmare, and the ritual animal slaughter as a massacre. Yet she faces up to three years in prison for contempt of Islam, promoting sectarianism and disturbing the public peace. Because she dared to speak the truth about killing animals, and anyone ordering a father to kill his son.

[Human rights groups] also say those seen as offending Islam have been targeted by the state and jailed on charges ranging from blasphemy to contempt of religion – but say this has been happening since the 2011 overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, not just since Mursi was deposed following mass protests.

The country’s courts convicted 27 of 42 defendants accused of contempt for religion in 2011-2013, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. [Reuters]

Religion has stories which are the product of it’s time. I live in a country where my freedom of speech allows me to say what I will about religion, without holding back. The nightmare today is so many in the world lack that freedom in matters of religion.

That is a misery for the world. Too many side with the offended and not with the Fatima Naoot and Raif Badawi of this world. Let alone a Charlie Hebdo cover of Mohammed crying, which the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation deemed an “extreme act.” Satirists of religion are the extremists, just as atheists are terrorists, to Saudi Arabia where the organisation is based. A country where they behead and flog liberals and apostates, oppress violently the Shia minority viewing them as to be hunted down and killed. A policy they have done much to regionalise. No God cries out to them to sheath their blade.

The British government in turn shows it’s friendship to the House of Saud, by lowering the flag on the death of it’s King. Their allies want the oil to flow, and let the blood spilt as clerical jurisprudence wash away. The British government has shown this by deciding now is a good time to send civil servants to assist with the Saudi Arabian prison system, as a commercial undertaking, but giving no assurances they will uphold human rights or not take part in facilitating their breach.

If faith sets you free, it has to let those that question your belief be so too. Yet, if God can make Abraham holy by being prepared to kill his son for him for no reason, what chance do poets, bloggers, or cartoonists have when they offend devout religious sensitivities? When our own secular governments are prepared to do business and even condone the theocratic system that incarcerates them, the need for us to stand up for freedom of conscience is even more pressing.

This might mean being less free with your offence, as you try to prove that you love God more than your own children. Too many are losing their freedom because of this. Instead, be more vocal for the freedom of religion and free speech which protects what the devout and what the infidel have to say as equal citizens. Let the story of Abraham and Isaac tell you that today no child should be made to suffer for the faith of their parent.

For the love of God love your children more, and teach them that they are free to make up their own minds on religion. Make that the world they will inherit.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog

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2 Comments

Filed under atheism, Religion, secular, World

2 responses to “Fatima Naoot and The Intended Sacrifice of Isaac

  1. K P Spong

    Re “It is even possible that some versions of the original story had Isaac killed.” Geza Vermes, (in his book, The Changing Faces of Jesus), points out that there are different versions of “the binding of Isaac.” The Isaac’s age is not mentioned in Genesis 22, but later Jewish literature (Josephus, Rabbinic literature, The Dead Sea Scrolls, etc,) offers us an Isaac who is a full grown man in his 20’s or 30’s. Given Genesis 22’s ambiguity on the point, this seems reasonable. However, these later sources change the emphasis of the story by adding that Abraham tells Isaac of gods demand for sacrifice, and that Isaac then joyfully submits to it, running towards the alter, then asking to be bound. This changes the story completely, from a story of a man killing his son at gods command, to a story of a son’s offering himself as sacrifice in order to please his god and his father. Vermes posited that this interpretation of “the binding” had a great effect on Paul’s view of Christ’s death.

    I would suggest that anyone interested in differing versions of biblical stories should compare genesis 19 to Judges 19. Both seem to tell a different version of the same myth, – a father offers his daughter to a rapacious mob in order to save the male guests that the mob has come for-, but with differing details and outcomes. This repetition seems to have been missed by the various editors of the bible. The vile implications of the story -male rape is abominable, but female rape is acceptable,- seems not to have occurred to the editors, either.

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