Looking out for fraudulent halal meat not so simple

Useful links informing this post.

Tweet by @behalalorg

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2015/06/during_ramadan_keeping_an_eye_out_for_fraudulent_h.html

Other tweets

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/11/jerusalem-top-of-the-line-kosher-slaughterhouse-closed-by-government-for-serious-heath-and-sanitation-violations-567.html

This one from 2009

http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/122143/federal-judge-closes-kosher-poultry-slaughterhouse/

This report from Animal Aid

http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/slaughter//3216//

As a non-Muslim I have been prompted to ask on many occasions, “how halal is halal?” Seemingly we can ask the same of kosher.  Two of the links above refer to kosher slaughter facilities where kosher standards have not been met. In both these cases I have to suggest that the problems were in no small way due to the industrialisation of slaughter. Neither halal nor kosher can scale up easily without possible compromise.

It appears that maintaining kosher/halal practice with industrial scale food processing is not easy. Extended food chains become opaque. Consumers seemingly have to take much on trust.

If we look back to the contexts in which kosher and halal codes were written we will probably be seeing cultures may well not have eaten meat as we do on a near daily basis. Animals and birds were not intensively reared and certainly not reared solely for their meat. If we look at beef I imagine cows were kept for milk so male calves were presumably culled when they were still small. Meat was prepared locally and process were meant to be transparent.

Kosher and halal rules required “high welfare” rearing and much sacrifice/slaughter would have been local. Mostly it would have been reasonably easy to kill each animal on its own. In near modern times in Britain I picture a farmer killing very small numbers of animals on his farm to take to market once or twice a week. Animals would be processed without causing them undue stress so they were relaxed when the final dead was done.

Hygiene is another key issue. Certainly in ancient times the prophets (I guess the academics of the day) would have made connections between bad food hygiene and gastrointestinal diseases such as dysentery. Carcasses were inspected for the wholesomeness and pigs were prone to infestation (liver fluke) and their skin or hides were probably simply too dirty (calves, sheep and goats are “skinned” before cooking).

I won’t comment on the US kosher/hygiene incident but the Israeli closure of a slaughterhouse does warrant a few thoughts. Seemingly the welfare issues were exposed by Australian exporters of live animals to Israel and Muslim countries for “local” slaughter. That practice is questioned by many. For sure Australians are conscious of the need for good supervision. There is no way anyone could condone live export if animals are routinely subjected to maltreatment at slaughter. The surprise for me is that maltreatment could possibly happen in any “kosher” facility. On the other hand perhaps not.

This incident rather confirms my view that industrial scale slaughter and associated food supply chains generally are opaque.

Closer to home in 2015 Animal Aid “hit” a non-stun slaughter facility apparently for the halal market and exposed bad handling of animals. Animal Aid, in fairness, did not target the slaughterhouse specifically because it was producing non-stun meat. In its report it explained reasonably well what halal involved. The bottom line is that maltreated animals cannot be considered halal. If the carcasses of any of the animals shown found their way into the halal food chain there would have been a clear breach of trading standards.

The nj.com report points to conflicts caused by the separation of state and religion and how halal certification can be supervised.

I submit that the real issue here is that secular and religious bodies simply are not all that good at talking to one another.

In my view “good halal/kosher practice” is “good practice”. Good halal/kosher practice will stand up under the strictest of secular animal welfare and food hygiene rules. The added layer is spiritual and in part can also be applied to good secular practice.

Jewish shochet in particular are trained not to kill in anger. Not only must the animal not be stressed but neither should the shochet. In halal practice a prayer is offered as each animal is sacrificed. This prayer (often referred to a blessing) effectively thanks Our Creator for his bounty on the one hand and seeks forgiveness for taking a sacred life on the other. It is supposed to be a solemn moment.

The Animal Aid images and reports from Bowood suggest anything but solemn practice. Seemingly the sheep were not being treated well. A big issue with any industrial slaughter is that slaughterers become desensitized – possibly as a defensive measure because of the gruesome nature of the work.

I will leave my much better informed colleagues at behalal.org to develop the integrity of halal certification but suggest that the very same issues apply to secular food production. The processes are opaque and as Animal Aid has shown even RSPCA accredited facilities struggle to get it right. The truth is that we really do not know how humane secular slaughter practice is. Animal Aid suggests that all is further from perfect than we are expected to believe.

I guess that behalal.org is suggesting that Muslims may need to ask questions and go beyond a halal certificate to ensure the quality of their meat. I will close with an anecdote.

My local pizza shop is halal. On enquiry the manager could not say if the meat purchased had been derived from stun or non-stun slaughter. I was seeing opacity. Interestingly, however, he says that he has several Jewish customers. Now that I find odd. Although Muslims accept kosher meat Jews are not supposed to eat halal. I detect that these customers were not fully practising Jews and seemingly they assume that halal equates to non-stun.

Does this not confirm a need for much greater transparency across the board?

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Ramadan

Well I never thought that I’d be singing from the same hymn sheet as the Quilliam Foundation but today I am.

I was trying to imagine Ramadan in Scotland where summer days are quite long after discussing this with my Muslim colleagues at work. That sounds like torture to me. Here my non-Muslim thoughts.

If nothing else Islam is a pragmatic religion. Most of its core customs have a solid earthly but practical foundation – mostly promoting a healthy life style.

Ramadan appears to me to be more spiritual than most other custom – but is no less meaningful. It most certainly means very much to certainly to more pious Muslims and can be applauded. The thing is that rules governing Ramadan were written in the context of day length in and around Mecca and like I say Islam is very practical.

Quilliam apparently has said the same thing.

I am not Muslim but suggest to young Muslims that Muslim traditions must be viewed within the context, time and place where they were codified and why. We also need to appreciate that before the printing press very few people could read and write so halal codes were transmitted by word of mouth.  Rules had to be simple and in a form that was easily understood. There would been little written justification or explanation. People learned by rote – hence ritual.

I guess people toiled on the land to make the most of the daylight hours. Fasting during daylight was practical and feasting at night. The rules for Ramadan were written in the context of days of more equal length than here in the UK.

Ramadan is indeed a very special time for Muslims but please remember that a sick Muslim cannot help others but becomes reliant on them. Islam encourages a healthy lifestyle and an upright way of life but in my view “health trumps religion”. Charity is important and is emphasised at this time but the spiritual value of charity is the giving, which is compromised if you make yourself ill.

My religious background is in Methodism and I always remember the difference in the decoration of my village Anglican Church and the plain Methodist chapel across the road. The latter had a communion table and no ornate decoration and NO symbols – until a benefactor presented a brass cross. Methodists traditionally don’t drink, dance or gamble (certainly not on church premises).  There are similarities with Islam.

One of my uncles was a lay preacher.  He often proclaimed from the pulpit that “you can be so godly that you are of no earthly use”.

As Quilliam has been suggesting that Ramadan should base day length on the daylight hours in or around Mecca I was independently emailing Faith Matters with the same suggestion. It must make sense.

Think about observing Ramadan anywhere near the poles where there is near permanent daylight. You may well want to adopt Mecca daylight hours.

God is pragmatic and doesn’t expect the unreasonable. Islam is practical.

The NewVic3 and Prevent

I have to confess to not understanding the government’s direction of travel with its Prevent and other counter terrorism strategies. I must also say that in recent days I have occasionally had that cold feeling that my online activity – expressing empathy with Islam and criticising the Establishment – is being watched.  I have challenged one core pillar of our Establishment for its corporate attitude to the Islamophobia and have to wonder if it has been mindful to pass my details on. When three students were suspended by the sixth form college apparently just for computer misuse you can quickly see how disaffected young people with Islamic backgrounds are attracted to extremism. I question whether I should ever email my MP via his parliamentary email address. I can feel exclusion. And I am not Muslim.

The three students have been dubbed the NewVic3 (#NewVic3) on the social media. They attend the Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIC). Having only the media to rely on for information I gather that because of the government’s Prevent strategy college managers felt obliged to cancel a meeting. Were they right? I do not know but I do know and my recent experience seems to support an observation that secular higher education and academic institutions are genuinely not sure what to do.

Do you let students openly discuss extremism and even debate with people who have dubious views on campus, drive the discussion underground? Answers to that question must wait for a day or two.

Of more immediate concern is the suspension of the three girls just before their exams. I have form here. I work in a large organisation and one circulated something to everyone via the internal email system. I was duly admonished. Perhaps I should have known it was inappropriate behaviour but I screwed up. I was not suspended. I was informed that the action potentially clogs up the email servers. Obviously if three people perform the same action life becomes triply hard for the organisation’s IT technicians. Suspending the students email accounts would have sufficed.

Would the college have suspended other email users for a similar action completely unconnected with Prevent? Has it now created a precedent that will require to suspend anyone else, including members of staff,  who misuse the email system in the same way?

Something else may have prompted these suspensions but the college is reported to be saying the suspensions were solely as a result of computer misuse.

Others much better placed than I will know exactly what has happened here but I wonder if the current Prevent strategy is going to be applied in a one sided manner and reinforce marginalistion.

Apparently children as young as five years old can be identified as potential Islamic extremists. What about children from conservative Christian families who are taught that Muslims worship a false god, when (whether you believe literal Bible narrative or not) it is historical fact that Jews and Muslims share a common God. How can this be so?

For any doubters (whether you are Creationists or merely believe in the Big Bang) there can only have been ONE beginning. If you believe a Creator God there can be only ONE. Ask any Christian how many Gods Abraham worshiped and they will answer ONE. Now Abraham had two sons (of different mothers perhaps but there were two unless we believe in Two Abrahams, Two Noahs before that and two floods and so on) one is said to have been the “father” of the Jewish bloodline and the other the “father” of the Arab bloodline.

Now if primary school children (and their teachers) have learned that the God of Islam is not the God of Christianity they will have been inculcated with an extreme view and it may be dangerous.

I recently learned of an evangelical church, presumably within the Church England that is extremely conservative. It does not allow female preachers and is fiercely homophobic. Its congregation has grown so much that it needs to establish a second one nearby. The evangelical wing of the Christian church is flourishing where less extreme congregations are struggling.

Let us not also forget that after the vicar of St John’s in Waterloo opened his church for a Muslim prayer meeting the Bishop of Southwark very publicly admonished him.

I close by saying that if the government’s Prevent strategy is the best way forward it must be applied evenhandedly. Christian promoters of extreme anti-Muslim sentiment must be treated with equal measure as Muslim extremist preachers. I guess I have now confirmed that I am anti-Establishment.

 

A new dilemma for the BVA

The BVA (the British Veterinary Association) is headed by veterinary surgeons who are unashamedly advocates of banning non-stun slaughter practice. There is no evidence that non-stun slaughter creates unacceptable welfare standards. John Blackwell, the current president, works closely with the FSA (the Food Standards Agency) and the latter was compelled to conduct unannounced detailed inspections of UK slaughterhouses early in 2015 after undercover Animal Aid filming captured images of horrendous welfare practice at a non-stun facility in Bowood. The FSA reported in May. That was a very quick turnaround.

This poses John Blackwell and the BVA a dilemma and a new challenge.

It is vital that we grasp that the FSA survey set out to understand welfare in UK slaughterhouses and its inspectors (mostly veterinarians, I presume) clearly did not report that welfare in non-stun facilities was seriously worse than in stun facilities.

The FSA report can be found at the bottom of this web page:

http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2015/13990/fsa-completes-review-of-animal-welfare-standards-in-slaughterhouses

That FSA does not make reference to “religious slaughter” in the body of the report is conspicuous. John Blackwell is adamant that non-stun slaughter is unnecessarily cruel. Animal Aid produced graphic images from a halal slaughterhouse and the FSA was therefore bound to comment forthrightly if non-stun slaughter practice is seriously more cruel than practices in stun slaughterhouses. It did not.

That John Blackwell is on a mission is not in doubt. He praised Scotland for its standards and minimal use of non-stun slaughter. Here is a report of recent comments.

http://www.farminguk.com/news/Veterinary-President-warns-of-creep-of-non-stun-slaughter-in-Scotland_35678.html

“Scotland was praised for its high standards of welfare at slaughter, having very little non-stun slaughter. But the BVA President warned that there were challenges, … and that the country needed to ensure that the amount of non-stun slaughter did not rise.”

In the meantime the EU has conducted a survey on labelling meat. Here is the Farmers Weekly take on the report.

http://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/72-percent-want-non-stun-meat-labelling-eu-survey-reveals.htm

“He [John Blackwell] added: “The long-awaited release of this report gives renewed vigour to the BVA’s campaign for better consumer information on animal welfare at slaughter and the need for meat from non-stun slaughter to be clearly labelled.”

This report is actually flawed because it assumes that stun-slaughter is a guaranteed perfect “clinical” procedure. Given that the last best data collected from across the EU was in 2004 and concluded that mis-stun rates varied from 6% to 31% this assumption is not reliable. A mis-stun is cruel. I imagine that a mis-stun is eminently many times more distressing than the use of an electric goad, the use of which is strictly regulated. No one actually knows how common or rare mis-stuns are. As I understand it the FSA’s Official Veterinary Inspectors are only required to visit stun rooms once a day and their presence potentially influences operator behaviour. The Animal Aid images, even if they provide a subjective appraisal of what has happened show that stun-slaughter facilities, including those accredited by the RSPCA, show that we do not have perfect practice.

One problem with the EU survey is that most EU languages may not have a word that corresponds to our word “stun” when it is used in this context. The stun gun was introduced as better alternative to “poleaxing” or “bludgeoning” (especially of cattle).

In this context the word “stun” most closely translates to “anaesthetise” or “render unconscious” – words normally associated with the operating room in a hospital and affectionately dramatised in Holby City. In hospitals the anaesthetist makes a little scratch on the back of your hand and as they say, “you will feel a little prick”. Thus the concept of “stunning” does not conjure violent images.

What the EU report found was that, unless prompted, most people do not much thought to how their meat is produced. People seemingly aren’t bothered. No more than 2% of those questioned were Muslims or Jews. Jews were too few in number to be relevant. Of the Muslims interviewed (no more than about twenty from the UK) how many normally ask many questions when buying meat. I suspect that if 500 Muslims were questioned in the High Street a large number would report that they do not delve too closely into production practices for their meat. Many accept a halal label and many may assume “halal = non-stun”. Some halal traders do not even ask and could not tell their customers is they were asked*.

Here is the paradox for the BVA and John Blackwell.

Let’s assume that any labelling standards assumed that stun-slaughter is the default standard. That’s quite reasonable and it means that most people will not see any difference. They won’t suddenly see packs of meat labelled “non-stun” in their normal supermarket. They already know their local farmers’ market sells stunned meat. On the other hand more conscientious Muslims will ask why their meat does not carry a “non-stun” label.

Muslim food information agencies, such as behalal.org, will have a new quality mark to use when promoting good halal cuisine. The demand for non-stun meat should increase.

This will present a paradox and a real dilemma for John Blackwell and British Vets and others. MPs such as Neil Parish (http://www.neilparish.co.uk/) also want to ban non-stun slaughter but political correctness prevents them from campaigning forthrightly so they too are hoping that “non-stun” labelling will encourage secular purchasers, who outnumber Muslims, will shun the “non-stun” labels that they will probably never see as a matter of course.

How then will John Blackwell and Neil Parish develop their campaigns? In the absence of data that shows that here in the UK non-stun slaughter operators work outside unacceptable welfare standards what criteria will they use? What new pseudo-sciences will they invent or seek?

This is going to be interesting. It may require some of these activists to “come out” and admit their innate anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. That may not be a bad thing. We will then be able to start filling the chasms in their knowledge.

* I know this to be so. I use a local halal pizza shop engaged the manager. Interestingly he has a number of Jewish customers. Indeed. Jews normally would not eat halal meat and certainly would not eat meat stunned at slaughter. I suspect that kosher meat is not easily accessed so halal is a good low-priced alternative. Most secular people do not realise that most halal meat is actually derived from stunned animals so I guess these Jews make the same assumption. It’s only one anecdote but most Muslims that I know are not best informed.

Promoting Interfaith – How not to do it!

 

A recent Church Times headline read

Canon Goddard apologises for Muslim prayers in his church

Interfaith relations have been dealt a huge blow.

In the article the Bishop of Southwark is quoted:

A spokesperson said: “The Bishop of Southwark takes very seriously his responsibility to uphold the teaching of the Church and to work within its framework of legislation and guidance.”

On Tuesday, the spokesperson said: “Whilst it is very important to build good interfaith relations, it is clear that an act of worship from a non-Christian faith tradition is not permitted within a consecrated Church of England building.”

Further clarification was provided on Wednesday: “Canon B1 sets out what services can be used in the Church of England:  these are the Book of Common Prayer or those authorised or commended through the appropriate processes. This does not include services from another faith tradition.”

Oh dear!

The Rt Rev Christopher Chessun has surely set back interfaith relations back a long way. OK, let’s run with the letter of the CofE rules, however outdated they may be, and accept that Canon Goddard was wrong why go so public with the admonition? Surely the matter could have been dealt with over a cup of tea, in private and very well away from the prying eyes of the media, even the religious media. Words on these lines would have sufficed: “We can’t turn the clock back. What’s happened as happened, There is nothing to be gained by crying over spilt milk, but don’t do it again, my son.”

I am mindful of a column written by a Canon Eric Woods, whose views are probably diametrically opposed to those of Canon Goddard. He wrote of the “Islamification” of our country. I for one made a formal complaint, correctly through the Diocesan offices. The Rt Rev Nicholas Roderick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, also refused to make a pot of tea, take Canon Woods to one side and suggest temperance in sensitive times when the country’s established church needs find ways of building bridges.

In their respective ways these two Bishops may have affirmed the Church of England’s inherent “institutional Islamophobia” – that is its fear of Islam arising from ignorance.

I struggle with Bishop Chessun’s ruling in particular. What constitutes a different faith? I have a Methodist background. My home is bounded both by an ailing CofE parish church and an ailing Methodist church. The parish church is very “low church” and for as long as I can remember both churches have held regular joint services. Does the letter of canonical law allow ministers from a non-conformist faith to lead prayers on Anglican premises? Are or have exceptions been made? If they have, is there a case for doing likewise to embrace Islam?

But in reality where do you draw the line? I know of one cathedral where Muslims are made to feel very welcome but they should be excluded if their thoughts and prayers turn to “another God”. How would one identify Muslims who wear western dress?

Sadly, it does not stop there. One of the Queen’s chaplains has attacked Islam in recent days and not only attacked it but very defended his stance after criticism.  A robust but figurative rap on the knuckles would have been in order here.

If these were the actions of a small minority of rogue Anglican vicars it would be easy to brush the incidents to one side but the individuals either hold high office within the Church of England and the “establishment” or are very highly respected for their past work. You cannot get much higher than the rank of bishop. Where are the most senior bishops?

The Rt Revs Chessun and Holtam may well not have thought through the impact of their interventions, or have been badly advised by their administrative support. That’s sad. We have pretty a Islamophobic media – again I use the term phobia in its literal sense of fear (typically from ignorance) – that delight in having pops at Islam whenever they can.

When will the established Church not realise that it has to take one of the lead roles in improving our understanding of Islam.

It could start by teaching Anglicans that Muslims revere Jesus and his mother Mary. They teach the immaculate conception. Arguably they teach that Jesus is the son of God because we are all children of the One Creator, the One God and that we are all brothers and sisters of One Global Family – even if we squabble rather a lot.

Link:

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/20-march/news/uk/canon-goddard-apologises-for-muslim-prayers-in-his-church

Why would I have been blocked by the RSPCA?

I have been openly critical of the a RSPCA’s stance on non-stun slaughter and tweeted a reference to Animals Aid’s covert filming inside slaughterhouses. It’s last hit was a facility where non-stun slaughter for the halal is practised. Animal Aid claims that it did not know that at the outset (posing the question; how do they select their targets?) and seemingly is not playing religious politics.

@RSPCA_official has blocked my Twitter account. It can no longer see what I write. What is the RSPCA trying to avoid?

Animal Aid has now “hit” ten slaughterhouses – only one being halal. Nine facilities killed with prior stunning. Of those nine two were approved by the Soil Association and one was accredited under the RSPCA Freedom Foods scheme. All three would be considered “high welfare status” facilities.

The Animal Aid “hits” are too random to be considered to provide a reliable picture of slaughterhouse practice generally. They film for only a few days and who knows whether or not they were “lucky” to have caught the untoward incidents that make the  news media and are amplified thereafter.

What we can conclude, however, is that things go catastrophically wrong even in the nest run facilities, without or without stunning.  Questions have to be asked about slaughterhouse welfare right across the board. No structure exist for systematically collecting data of welfare practice. I tell a lie. Defra started an audit procedure in 2011 with one repeat in 2013. It collects data on a set week in September – in essence ensuring slaughter operators know well in advance when they are being formally audited.

This tells me that no one can say with any certainty how good or how bad practices are either across the board or at individual abattoirs. Data on the frequency of non-stun practice is not collected routinely – suggesting that in government (not parliament) circles there is no overwhelming concern that the welfare of non-stun slaughter is a bigger issue than across the entire industry. Of course it could be that ministers are merely burying their heads in the sand. It’s better not to collect data than collect information and ignore it.

One way to monitor standards continuously would be to mandate the installation CCTV. There is no appetite to do so to date.

Frankly I do not believe that the @RSPCA_official (nor @Britishvets) actually have robust evidence to support their joint political cause. It (or they) cannot robustly defend their case(s).

I have written to the RSPCA Chairman (via the website). Here is a copy of the letter. I am not expecting a response.

For your Chairman’s attention

Dear Mr Tomlinson

This is a formal complaint prompted by your blocking my twitter account.

As you will be aware if this reaches you I have been critical of your charity’s campaign opposing non-stun slaughter. Frankly the more I think about this the more I am coming to realise that we are not having an informed debate.

Veterinarians do not train to slaughter and it’s counter-intuitive. Now these days most Brits are pretty much disconnected from the source of the meat we consume. Not even farmers have the full involvement that my late father had. In his day many farmers killed their animals on the farm. I gather small animals were not stunned and merely slipped away. There has been no on-farm slaughter for meat for sale for half a century. Many farmers are now not necessarily engaged with the slaughter process.

Dr Temple Grandin says that when non-stun slaughter performed correctly animals do not recoil from the cut. She is an expert as they come. Intuitively this is surely so. At least for small animals whatever sensation animals feel is delayed and unconsciousness must be quick. If not immediate, our own personal experiences of a rapid drop in cerebral blood pressure suggests sense of lightheadedness. Pain? what type of pain? A good shechita/dhabiha cut, an incision actually causes very little tissue damage and no collateral damage. Internal organs do not have pain receptors. Indeed, pain receptors are stimulated but what sort of pain. Intuition suggests it may not be unbearable – nothing like the pain from mis-stunning.

You are not going to be moved by my science but I am curious to know why you would block twitter accounts that oppose your political views. I am now free to criticise with impunity while you have denied your own right of redress. You won’t be aware of my comments.

Just saying

Lost in translation – what is death?

Several years ago my reading pointed me to a suggestion that in a theological context the words “death” and “dead” were often used symbolically  rather than literally. I was interested in the concept but didn’t expect to be blogging anything related to it. I wasn’t then taking my interest in the ancient history and history of religion too seriously. The political climate was also very different.

I am writing this within a year of the emergence of ISIS or ISIL or DAESH, which is a terrorist group that claims to want to  establish an Islamic caliphate. Islamic it surely isn’t. Why? In essence Islam is based on living in harmony with  nature. One of Islam’s underlying principles is that of doing no harm to living beings. This is a sentiment shared by all religions emanating from the Middle East and Asia. The Internet is awash with pictures and videos of horrendous cruelty to fellow humans. These include burning and beheading.

It’s not only ISIS but other Islamic societies that do so. We hear of people literally being stoned to death in a number of Islamic countries. Death is penalty for blasphemy. Blasphemy is taking God and his prophets and Islam in vain. But hang on a moment, was not blasphemy a crime in many western Christian societies until fairly recently?

This blog was prompted by an article by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and published in standpoint in March 2015.

My understanding is that Islamic penalties can only be applied to people who have “signed up” for them. There is a similarity with Masonic penalties, which are gruesome to say the least but are clearly symbolic because sworn an oath not to divulge what few “trade secrets” Freemasonry may have one should not divulge them. Masonic ritual is allegorical and symbolic.

Without giving too much away the basis of Craft Freemasonry is a “symbolic” death and rebirth. In Christianity we have the concept of the “born again Christian”. We also have a concept of “life after death”. But what is death?

My original reading pointed to the concept of death meaning “being outside a community”. It was pointing to a person who was not signed up to or accepting the rules or beliefs or ideals of a community. They were spiritually dead. One example given was that of Lazarus who was not physically dead but was spiritually or morally dead but he was persuaded by Jesus to see the wisdom of the community rules. He was admitted and was “raised from the dead”.

If we reverse the concept we arrive at the situation whereby a member of the community either breaks its rules (e.g. a wive, who may have been seen as property, may have been unfaithful) or  denounces the accepted rules of the community (an apostate) will be ejected from the community and thereby be sentenced to death – that’s a symbolic death. One way of warding people off and protecting the community may have been to throw stones at them – hence “stoning to death”.

We can look at this concept of “death” in another way. Once we have signed up to the rules of our community we are raised from the dead and the life we are living now is “life after death”.

I am merely promoting a concept here. There are for sure many practices undertaken, as it were, in the name of religion whose origins have long since been lost in history. Our written history really only begins with the founding of the civilisation in Sumer and the fertile crescent bounded by the rivers Euphrates and Tiger – now part of Iraq – but many then current practices would no doubt have been passed down by the oral tradition. There were taught by rote. There were good and bad ways of doing things – for example preparing meat to eat, ensuring hygiene and even chosing animals whose provenance one knew (so no bush meat, for example). Clearly, as with the party game Chinese Whispers, over the years information and detail have been lost. I guess even today some people like merely to told how to do some things and do not want to get bogged down with reasons. Knowledge is degraded.

The other source of knowledge degradation is a problem of translation. No two languages have dictionaries or lexicons that translate word for word. Translations will invariably reflect the translator’s understanding of a concept, especially if it is allegorical, and interests – as indeed does this blog. Thus much gets “lost in translation”.

Returning to ISIS and its beheadings. Two thoughts occur.

  1. Punishments can only be served on people who are “signed up” to them. They cannot be applied to outsiders or non-believers.
  2. If beheading were ever to be a reasonable punishment there would actually be a humane way of doing it – probably the guillotine or someone weilding a very heavy axe to ensure instant death. The pictures on the Internet suggest the use of a very un-Islamic method of execution.

I have promoted a concept here and invite those better qualified than I to comment and take the ideas for if they are found reasonable.

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