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One of the problems with investing people with divinely-derived moral authority is that there is the tendency for such trust to be abused. Most famously, of course, this has been shown in the Catholic Church's persistent problems with child abuse scandals. Yet this is, obviously, not just a Catholic problem. Authority always brings with it the temptation of corruption, as any look at history shows. Abuse of power always radiates out and affects society, shuddering the foundations of mutual trust that necessarily lie at the core of civilization; all economic and political and social acts have to rely on a certain level of trust, no matter how short term. The social effects of such betrayals of authority-derived trust are especially negative when they are carried out by clerics, because the priest, the rabbi, the imam, and so on, functions as man's link to the divine, and so the abuses of even a small minority of such figures draws stigma across the whole structure.
Although in the West people are well acquainted with the failings of a minority of Catholic priests, generally speaking people are unaware of such issues elsewhere. So, recently, I've read two articles about such issues in the Muslim world that I thought were interesting and worth passing on.
First off, via GNXP, comes this article from something called the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society, which links to a BBC story about child molestation within Pakistani madrasas, the strict Islamic academies that educate huge numbers of Pakistani children.
"A Pakistani minister has revealed hundreds of cases of alleged child sex abuse at Islamic schools, or madrassas.
There were 500 complaints this year of abuse allegedly committed by clerics, Aamer Liaquat Hussain, a minister in the religious affairs department, said.
That compares with 2,000 last year, but as yet there have been no successful prosecutions, Mr Hussain told the BBC.
The minister's revelations have sparked death threats and infuriated some religious political leaders.
Mr Hussain said he had received death threats from clerics, but that he had done his job and his conscience was clear."
The writer of the ISIS piece, Irfan Khawaja, also has a go at what he sees as the profoundly unhealthy attitude towards sexuality cultivated by the Islamists:
"If you believe that your sexuality is the doing of a wild, alien animal that resides inside of you, your sexuality isn’t really yours; it’s an alien phenomenon that runs by its own inexplicable urges and impulses, operating wholly beyond your ken. But sometimes, alas, the beast within must be placated, and why should there be any shame in doing so? Its needs aren’t yours; it wallows in the muck, while your immortal soul soars to the heavens. Since “its” needs are a purely animal function unrelated to romantic love, naturally the sexual choices you’re left with will be the decidedly unromantic ones.
Take romantic love entirely out of the sexual equation, and you take reciprocity out of the sexual act. Take reciprocity entirely out, and you subtract both equality and consent. Take consent out, and you’re left with rape or bestiality. Combine rape with bestiality—and dress them both in the garb of pedagogy—and you have pedophilia. Combine pedophilia with misology, misogyny, neurosis, and political power, and you have the Deobandi/Wahhabi madrasa system of Pakistan. The ulema of Pakistan may not have advanced the cause of human knowledge by a single centimeter, but let’s give them credit: they have doctorates in the algebra of human exploitation."
This is, I think, a pretty good guide to the bizarre sexual neuroses of all the orthodox monotheisms, not just Islam. This is one of those things that I find most off-putting about religious orthodoxy; the unhealthily neurotic approach to sexuality, the sort of faith-inspired repression that attempts to de-sexualize life yet ends up eroticizing the world to a far greater degree than a secular approach (otherwise why would the Rev. Jerry Falwell have thought that the children's television show "The Teletubbies' were promoting homosexuality?) Now, I'm not someone who believes in quote-unquote 'free love' - promiscuity is not a psychologically healthy lifestyle for the vast majority of people, but the sort of religiously-inspired terror of sex that is often propagated by hardline conservative religious movement is hardly healthy either.
Anyways, this reminded me of another thing I read about a week ago, an excerpt from Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran, an autobiography by Azadeh Moaveni:
"My father had taught me that clerics were lazy; more specifically, that they were unsuited to run a country because their work kept them in seminaries, sipping tea in robes, and that sort of languid profession did not lend itself to the more challenging task of administering a government. Convinced their worst sin was sloth, I had not assumed they were equally lecherous. One really could not have a proper conversation with a cleric. They were absurd. A one-hour interview with a mullah inevitably cycled like so:
First fifteen minutes: Gaze averted, stares at own feet, wall, space, anywhere but two-foot radius around opposing female.
Second fifteen minutes: Slowly casts glances in direction of head and talking voice.
Third fifteen minutes: Makes eye contact and conducts normal conversation.
Last fifteen minutes: Begins making googooly eyes, smiling in impious fashion, and requesting one's mobile phone number.
I didn't understand why they did this with me, since they are supposed to favor round women and fair women, and I was neither. Some actually complained about this, with mock concern for my health ("Miss Moaveni, have you been ill? You've lost so much weight. . . . Don't you like Iranian food?"). How they could detect a body underneath the billowing tent I wore, let alone its fluctuations, was beyond me. I asked Khaleh Farzi, who explained that clerics had x-ray vision. That was why they didn't mind keeping women veiled."