Thursday, July 12, 2007


Curious the way the Internet works. I periodically look at some stats of visits to this blog. They are always kind of spotty, but you learn funny things ... especally the Google search terms that might lead to my blog. So someone searched Jaffar Kiani, the poor sod who got his head bashed in with rocks by the peacock-proud strutting mullahs who terrorize the Persians these days. I clicked on the search link, and my blog is the top reference. The fifth reference was to an Indonesian site,, and they, quoting Deutsche Welle, had some more lugubrious details of the slaughter. It turns out I read Indonesian, and so I translate:

Jaffar Kiani and Mokkarameh were sentenced to death by the judge at trial, and the condemned had their hands tied behind the back and were buried in the ground up to the waist for the man, and the neck for the woman. Then the witnesses pelted the condemned with rocks until they were dead.

Jaffar Kiani dan Mokkarameh dijatuhi hukum rajam oleh pengadilan. dalam aturannya, terpidana diikat tangannya ke belakang dan dikubur dalam tanah hingga pinggang untuk lelaki, dan hingga leher bagi perempuan. Lalu penonton melempari si terpidana dengan batu hingga mati.

These details did not make the English language press that I read, and I could not locate a reference on either the English or German language Deutsche Welle. Capital punishment is about the details, because just counting up the cadavers obscures the horror. The New York Times article implied that the woman had been spared, but the Indonesian implies that she too got to meet god's mercy a little earlier than perhaps she had planned. There is some vagueness there, and I might alter my translation when I manage to go to a dictionary.

Note that the witnesses throw the rocks. Witnessing is big in Islam ... as in the profession of faith: "I bear witness that there is no god but god ... " The Indonesian in the reference above uses the word penonton which is an Indonesian rather than Arabic root, and might as easily be translated audience or onlookers. The Arabic root word in Indonesian would be syahid. One wonders how a "witness" got so lucky as to be selected to huck large rocks into the immobilized head of a living sentient human being. More to the point, one wonders what kind of bloodthirsty upbringing would prevent such a witness from vomitting in horror, or passing out in fear, or running in disgust and disgrace. Shame on them.

The witnessing thing points out a difference between christianity and islam that is obscured by the feel good multiculturalism of "we are all people of faith" nonsense. Christianity is about faith ... becoming a christian means surrendering your rationality in favor of that famous foolish fairy tale that is evidently fictional and bears the clear marks of oral formulaic storytelling. Islam is not about faith ... it is about surrender and submission. The fairy tale is less important than the submission. In actual practice, of course, notwithstanding all the angry words and lectern banging and parched throats that pass for muslim discourse these days, the fairy tales are important for keeping the unwashed in line. But they too are required to bear witness by professing the religion and publicly submitting to it. Remember our poor Palestinian and his sac of flour.

I think that the closest thing to the word "faith" in Arabic is dîn, but I may be wrong on that. You can see this word in names like Nûr ud'dîn (light of religion). I don't think it matters much.

Muslims like to say that "it is written" (maktûb), and in this sense god, notwithstanding his ineffability, is knowable. The Quran is described as uncreated in the sense that it is the eternal unchanging statement of everything. Christians these day like to stomp around holding the bible above the shoulder and aslant from the head at a 60 degree angle, clutched at the lower right side between the thumb and the crooked forefinger, and thunder knowingly, snidely, menacingly, "This is the literal word of god." "Literal" ... i.e., that which is written. Now these persistent but archaic religious traditions arose in societies where literacy was the possession of a caste, if I may, of professionals, sometimes honored, sometimes enslaved. Literacy skills were something that you had to purchase from someone. So written words were a mystery to most, and when the charismatic possessed them, and wielded them, they had a power rather greater than we can feel at this point in time when the written word is our daily companion. The foregrounding of the literate god is a hangover, but one that has its resonances, yessirree bob.

So stomping around saying that god can read and write doesn't make a lot of sense. But in the climate of fear that religion creates ... whether by crushing heads with stones or by the sanctimonious tut-tutting and sturdy finger wagging which is what the Enlightenment reduced our christian bigots to ... this god with a pencil seeks to overwhelm all the writing that ignores or supersedes him. The muslims are open about it ... as with pretty much everything, they want to slaughter anybody who writes against them. The christians can only perform their slaughters in the remote parts of their world, but they can always fantasize. But they love to fulminate against texts that do not do their work. I like to remember this gem ... I used to watch late night religious TV back in the early 80s, before the Bakkers brought the whole scam to such low repute. There was this fabulous moment with the sweating, prancing Jimmy Swaggart ... what a performer ... holding that bible characteristically twixt his thumb and crooked forefinger at that precise heaven-pointing angle ... talking about movies and the temptation to watch them and bellowing to the swaying faithful gathered as if at his feet ... "Just walk on by." Just walk on by, yes, brothers and sisters, just walk on by.

Of course, in due course, Swaggart got caught in his own web of adultery. His preferred sexual peccadillo was to have naked prostitutes in fur coats walk around his car and flash him as he, presumably, pleasured himself in a most ungodly way. Now I applaud the creativity of his preferred perversion ... and I firmly believe that perversions are the stuff of literature and life and a rollicking good time ... but isn't it odd that his professional madness about "just walk on by" was also his private madness about adultery and horniness.

And so it is with words ... if god is the reading and writing god, if what he has written (since he cannot write, in the present, because that would make him temporal and not eternal) is all that you need to know, why can't he make his intentions known? Why is there so much doubt and so much ambiguity? Why do his texts make so little sense? Why is god just as relentlessly local as a Swaggart in a car with a naked prostitute doing cartwheels in a back alley?

And why do his stalwarts ignore his words and pick up stones instead and cast them bodily at the immobilized heads of those who do not fit? Why? Why does the proof of god require a smashed skull on the body of a man buried to his waist in a cemetery with a bunch of zealots applauding and drooling and patting each other on the back?

Why? ... because he is not there, and the cynics and bastards and preachers and mullahs who make themselves proud and powerful in his name are liars and muggers and bloodthirty murderers.

Never forget poor Jaffar Kiani, friends. He is what religion means. His crushed skull if what it portends for you.

Photo by Arod, of a mural on the side of a bar on 16th Street above Valencia.

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