Religious Leaders’ Views on Radical Life Extension

No religious group in the United States has released an official statement on radical life extension. However, here are brief summaries of how some clergy, bioethicists and other scholars from 18 major American religious groups say their traditions might approach this evolving issue. (For an in-depth look at public opinion on radical life extension and related issues, see “Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension.” And for an overview of the scientific research and emerging ethical debate, see “To Count Our Days: The Scientific and Ethical Dimensions of Radical Life Extension.”)

Islam

Radically extending life “probably wouldn’t be a problem for most” Muslims, according to Aisha Musa, a professor of religion at Colgate University who has written about the issue from a Muslim perspective. According to Musa and others, Muslims believe Allah (God) knows the exact life span of each person  from birth to death, or what the Quran calls one’s “term appointed” (Sura 40:67). “Since you can’t really violate God’s plan for you, life extension is alright because it’s part of God’s will,” Musa says.

 

Given this outlook, many Muslims would likely see life-extending technologies as in accordance with God’s plan for humanity. “Whenever there is something new, Muslims believe that it has happened with God’s endorsement,” says Abdulaziz Sachedina, chair of Islamic studies at George Mason University and the author of “Islamic Biomedical Ethics.” “Whatever we do, God has a hand in it.”

 

Neither major branch of Islam (Sunni and Shia) has a central authority that would issue a decree on life extension. But Shia Muslims do follow religious leaders known as grand ayatollahs, who issue religious edicts, called fatwas, that are binding on their followers.

 

According to Mohsen Kadivar, a Shia theologian and philosopher based in Iran but currently teaching at Duke University in Durham, N.C., many Shia ayatollahs would likely sanction life-extension therapies as long as their object was not to extend life indefinitely. “There is a difference between life extension and immortality,” Kadivar says, adding, “The first is acceptable and the second is not acceptable, according to Islam and the Quran.”

 

Musa and Sachedina, who are Sunni, agree that striving for immortality would go against Islamic teachings because it would keep Muslims from heaven. “There is a deep-seated belief that death is a blessing,” Sachedina says. “We look forward to dying.”

 

Man, 75, arrested after home-made bomb found near Walsall mosque

A 75-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing an explosion likely to endanger life or damage property after a home-made bomb exploded near a mosque. West Midlands police said the man was arrested at his home in Walsall on Thursday afternoon by detectives from the counter-terrorism unit. He has been taken to a police station in the West Midlands for questioning. Officers are searching his home address as part of the investigation into the home-made explosive, the remains of which were found in an alleyway adjoining the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in Rutter Street, in the Caldmore area of Walsall.

 

Anyone with information which may aid the investigation is asked to contact West Midlands police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Police call home-made bomb outside Walsall’s Ashia Mosque a ‘hate crime’ and draft in counter-terror police

Counter-terror police have been called in to assist with a major hate crime investigation after a small home-made bomb that had exploded near a mosque was discovered on Saturday night. Around 150 people were evacuated from their homes, and 80 had to stay in temporary accommodation in the Walsall area on Saturday night to allow bomb disposal experts to make the device safe. West Midlands Police confirmed the blast heard by residents on Friday “appeared to be consistent” with the device exploding. No one was injured and the device caused minimal damage. The device was discovered in an alleyway adjoining the Aisha Mosque and Islamic Centre in Rutter Street.

 

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said on Sunday evening: “The force is taking this attack against the mosque very seriously and we have a major investigation under way. “To that end, I have called in support from all over the force, including the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, which has a number of experts supporting the inquiry. She added: “At this stage we are keeping an open mind on a motive, but have recorded it as a hate crime.”

 

The mosque had been a part of the community for more than 40 years and held strong relations with communities of all faiths, often holding open days for non-Muslims. Councillor Zahid Ali, portfolio holder for public health and protection, said the community was standing together “shoulder to shoulder” in support of the police. “Walsall has really shown its mettle in coming together and responding with calm determination.”

Swedish politician threatened

Carl P. Herslow, leader of the right wing populist Skånepartiet, have received threats related to a poster distributed by Skånepartiet showing a drawing of a naked Muhammad holding hands with a likewise naked Aisha. Swedish police says they are taking the threats seriously.

Ammar Daoud, representative of a Muslim Organisation in Malmö says the drawing make him and other Muslims sad and that he regards the poster disrespectful and insulting. But, he continues, no one he knows of has threatened Herslow. It’s important, he says, not to react in a way which could “strengthen the racists case.” But they have reported the poster to the police.

Yet another drawing…

The Right wing, populist Skånepartiet (a local party active in Skåne, the most southern county of Sweden) have managed to create a buzz by using a poster showing a drawing of a naked Muhammad holding hands with a likewise naked Aisha. “Is this the kind of marriages we want in Skåne?” reads a text.

Accused of hate speech, Skånepartiets leader Carl P. Herslow says:”We’re attacking Islam, not the people believing in Islam. We consider Islam a dangerous and contagious psycho-social disease.”

More established politicians oppose Skånepartiet’s poster, and appeal to Muslims not to be provoked.

Barelwi mosque in Oslo rejects accusations of promoting radical Islam

Syed Ali Bukhari, Imam at the Jamaat Ahle Sunnat mosque in Oslo has accused leaders of the Barelwi mosque “Aisha” of trying to attract young men in order to radicalize them. Bukhari says representatives of the Tabliqi-movement running the mosque express a Wahhabi inspired Islam and support terrorism in the name of Islam.

Members of the Barelwi congregation are refuting the accusations, stating that they represent a “mainstream Islam”, work against terrorism and are trying to help these young men to leave their criminality behind.

Mohammad wife novel ‘Jewel of Medina’ released early in U.S.

A book about the prophet Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha, was rushed to US booksellers nine days ahead of shchedule, after the office of the book’s British publisher was attacked. Beaufort Books picked up “the Jewel of Medina” after it was dropped by Random House, after it was deemed controversial and could incite violence. The fictional novel by Sherry Jones traces the life of Aisha from her engagement to the prophet until the prophet’s death. The book has received criticism for its disrespectful misrepresentation of history, and has also been welcomed by some erring on the side of literary freedom.

See full-text articles:

Reuters

BBC

Los Angeles Times

Controversy Over Novel About Muhammad’s Bride Continues

U.S. publishing company Random House will not publish a planned novel by Sherry Jones, called “The Jewel of Medina,” that was expected to hit stores on August 12th. The Islamically-themed novel explores Aisha, the child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame a number of obstacles to reach her potential as a revered woman and leader in Islam. Random House said that it has been advised that the fictional novel, might be offensive to some Muslims, and “could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” “The Jewel of Medina” traces the life of Aisha, who is often cited to have been Muhammad’s favorite wife, and is believed to have been engaged to the prophet from the age of six. Muslim writer and feminist Asra Nomani published a column in the Wall Street Journal, saying that she was “saddened” by the book’s scrapping, saying that the move is “a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.” Others, including Denise Spellberg, a professor from the University of Texas in Austin, said that the book was “ugly,” “stupid,” and was “soft core pornography.” The decision to indefinitely delay the novel’s release was made in consideration for the safety of the author, employees of the publisher, booksellers, and others involved in the distribution or sale of the novel.

See full-text articles:

Chronicle of Higher Education

Washington Post

The Guardian

United Press International

BBC

The Telegraph

Controversy Over Novel About Muhammad’s Bride Continues

U.S. publishing company Random House will not publish a planned novel by Sherry Jones, called The Jewel of Medina, that was expected to hit stores on August 12th. The Islamically-themed novel explores Aisha, the child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame a number of obstacles to reach her potential as a revered woman and leader in Islam. Random House said that it has been advised that the fictional novel, might be offensive to some Muslims, and could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment. The Jewel of Medina traces the life of Aisha, who is often cited to have been Muhammad’s favorite wife, and is believed to have been engaged to the prophet from the age of six. Muslim writer and feminist Asra Nomani published a column in the Wall Street Journal, saying that she was saddened by the book’s scrapping, saying that the move is a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world. Others, including Denise Spellberg, a professor from the University of Texas in Austin, said that the book was ugly, stupid, and was soft core pornography. The decision to indefinitely delay the novel’s release was made in consideration for the safety of the author, employees of the publisher, booksellers, and others involved in the distribution or sale of the novel.

The Caged Virgin (Reviewed): The Sins Of Islam

{Media review: Carlin Romano’s article about Hirsi Ali’s new book, The Caged Virgin, is doing the rounds in the syndicated American press.} By Carlin Romano (Philadelphia Inquirer) “I do not despise Islam,” writes Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the outset of her first book, “The Caged Virgin,” a best seller in Europe that consolidated her reputation as that continent’s sternest critic of Islam. “I am thoroughly conscious of the noble values that the religion promotes, such as charity, hospitality and compassion for the weak and poor.” Sounds reasonable and moderate. Why, then, must Hirsi Ali live under 24/7 guard from Dutch security after years of death threats? Why did a Moroccan-Dutch jihadist murder the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who helped Hirsi Ali make a TV documentary about Muslim abuse of women, then vow that Hirsi Ali would be next? The answer, “The Caged Virgin” makes clear, is that Hirsi Ali refuses to accept what she considers immoral aspects of the religion in which she was raised just because many Muslims are good people. Within Islam, this thinking is often deemed heresy, and in the view of some, Hirsi Ali is very heretical indeed. In her view, the chief sin of Islam is how it treats women. “In the name of Islam,” she writes, “women are subjected to cruel and horrible practices, including female genital mutilation and disownment.” A Koranic verse “gives men the right to beat their wives.” Muslim tradition allows fathers to marry off a daughter by fiat, a practice Hirsi Ali describes as “an arranged rape approved of by her whole family.” Muslim women are virtually excluded from public life, and legislation “puts women at a severe disadvantage.” The cause is what Hirsi Ali calls “tribal morality,” Islam’s obsession with a woman’s virginity. She writes, “a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore” and the “essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen.” Yet Hirsi Ali brings more to bear against these beliefs and practices than mere anger. She draws on Western champions of critical reason with stinging force: “I’d like to invite all people like me who had an Islamic upbringing” to “contrast J.S. Mill’s essay, ‘On the Subjection of Women’ (1869) with what the Prophet Muhammad has to say.” This is not pretty to watch. Muhammad, she notes, “fell in love with Aisha, his best friend’s 9-year-old daughter. Her father said, ‘Please wait until she has reached adulthood.’ But Muhammad did not want to wait.” Muhammad married Aisha when she was 9. “By our Western standards,” Hirsi Ali writes, Muhammad is “perverse” and “a despicable individual.” To Muslims who reject Western mores in judging Muhammad, she retorts, “the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture.” “The Caged Virgin” interweaves this critique with reporting on the plight of Muslim women and the author’s own history as a woman subjected to genital mutilation, beaten in her youth by a Koranic teacher who fractured her skull and bequeathed in marriage by her father to a man she’d never met — the final straw that led her to seek asylum in the West. At certain moments in cultural history, a particular book or pamphlet catches fire by taking a spark already burning in people’s hearts and minds and setting it ablaze on the printed page. “The Caged Virgin” is such a book. We live in such a moment.