Written by Ketlan Ossowski
There is continuing confusion and controversy concerning the marriage of the Prophet Mohammed to his second wife Aisha (also spelled 'Ayesha'), most of it drummed up by anti-Islamic groups like the English Defence League, who claim loudly and repeatedly that the marriage was consummated when Aisha was just six years old, thus justifying their claim of paedophilia.
It is important to correct pseudo-facts where they are made by the far-right but it is equally important to place events that concern us into their proper context.
Regarding the Prophet's second wife, it is true that they were betrothed when she was just six or seven but we have to ask ourselves if this was proper for those times, no matter what we may think of such a situation from our 21st century perspective.
Mohammed lived 570–632 and marriage at that time and in that part of the world was frequently based on strengthening political or commercial ties, something not entirely unknown in the West throughout history. Anyone who remembers their lessons from school will doubtless recall many tedious explanations of why the Prince of here married the Duchess of there, nearly always based upon consolidation of power/influence or the acquisition of land.
Nor is betrothal or marriage at what to us seems an appallingly early age anything to especially criticise Islam for: in Chester, England in 1564 (yes, nearly a thousand years after Mohammed) a three year old was married to a two year old. In medieval Europe, Gratian, the highly-influential founder of Canon law in the 12th century, accepted the traditional age of puberty for marriage (between 12 and 14) but he also said consent was 'meaningful' if the children were older than seven.
Bringing us a bit more up to date, older readers may remember the controversy surrounding Jerry Lee Lewis, who brought his thirteen year old wife (though he lied and said she was fifteen) to Britain back in 1958, to the horror of the press and subsequently the public, which event promptly caused his career to take a sudden nosedive. Lewis' wife stated that fifteen wasn't too young to marry back home, telling one audience that 'you can marry at 10 if you can find a husband'.
According to Onsomalis, when historian Magnus Hirschfeld surveyed the age of consent of some fifty countries (mostly in Europe and the Americas) at the beginning of the twentieth century, the age of consent was twelve in fifteen countries, thirteen in seven, fourteen in five, fifteen in four, and sixteen in five. In the remaining countries it remained unclear.
Clearly, the age of betrothal has nothing to do with anything except expediency and can thus be ignored. Even the age of marriage itself can be largely ignored. The main controversy then, seems to revolve around the issue of age at consummation and whether that offends our present-day moral or ethical codes.
Inevitably there is confusion over dates. With our current obsession with keeping comprehensive and sometimes intrusive computer records on every aspect of everyone's life, keeping tabs on historical events should be a doddle for future historians, but we're not in that happy position. Instead, the sources produce a number of outcomes.
According to Quaranic Teachings, Aisha's age could, based on the confusing evidence, be anywhere from 15 to 22, an age that seems acceptable (if not entirely legal) to us in modern Britain. The following texts are quotes:
'According to many narratives, Ayesha participated in the battles of Badr and Uhud. No one younger than 15 was allowed to accompany the Prophet's army in the battle of Uhud. This applied across the board to all participants, men and women alike. The battle of Uhud took place around the 2nd Hijrah, a time line close to her marriage with the Prophet. Obviously, she was at least older than 15 at that time.'
'Most historians have consensus on the age of one of the oldest female companions of the Prophet, namely, Asma, the elder sister of Ayesha that was ten years older than Ayesha...Clearly, if Asma was 27 or 28 years old at the time of Hijrah, Ayesha was 17 at the time of Hijrah and 19 at the time of consummation of her marriage with Muhammad.'
Note: Hijrah refers to the migration or journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622.
'Ibn Hisham, the historian, reports that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam quite some time before Umar ibn al-Khattab which only means that Ayesha (ra) accepted Islam close to the time of first revelation (around 610 A.D). This means she must have been at least a young girl at that time. Assuming she was barely 6 or 7 at that time this information puts the age of Ayesha at 20 or more at the time of her marriage with Muhammad (623-624 A.D.).'
'Tabari reports that before migrating to Habashah, Abu Bakr planned to hand over his daughter, Ayesha to Mut'am's son to whom she was engaged. But fearing persecution by the Quraish, Mut'am refused and his son divorced Ayesha [meaning that he ended the engagement to - not, in the modern sense, divorced]. The migration to Habashah happened 8 years before Hijrah...If she married Muhammad in the 2nd Hijrah (623-624 A.D), she could not be less than 19 years of age.'
'Not all sources agree with Bukhari about Ayesha's age, Bukhari's Hadith were not collated until 300-odd years after Muhammad's death. Other sources give Ayesha's age as being 16 at marriage and 19 at consummation.'
Whatever the likes of the EDL may say, the fact is that the Prophet was clearly no paedophile, To say otherwise is both uninformed and dishonest, particularly given the ease with which such facts can be refuted. But the English Defence League and its chums on the far-right have never been interested in truth, preferring to use lies to bolster up their anti-Islamic agenda.Add a comment
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 April 2012 06:19
Written by Ketlan Ossowski
On the mend - Fabrice Muamba
Yesterday saw the release of a picture of Fabrice Muamba (above) posted on the Bolton midfielder's Twitter feed. It shows the 23-year-old former England under-21 international, who collapsed with cardiac arrest during Bolton's FA Cup match with Tottenham earlier this month, sitting up and smiling along with the message; 'Fab wanted me to post this pic for you all and to also say thank you for such overwhelming support'.
Indeed, the support that Zaire-born Muamba has received has been both overwhelming and near-universal (the one exception I spotted being a rant on an EDL page against England players who were born elsewhere), with tributes from across the football world, a flood of stars who have visited him in hospital, a massive display of solidarity among football fans and a minute's applause for his recovery before the rescheduled FA Cup tie was finally played this week.
The responses to Muamba's heart attack and recovery have shown once again that the rhetoric of those who despise multiculturalism is misguided. When it comes to the crunch, people care about people, and it doesn't matter what colour they are or where they happened to be born. The far-right always has and will continue to misunderstand this, as amply proven over and over by its election results and the continuing contempt of the vast majority of the British public.
This weekend sees the English Defence League at the Danish town of Aarhus for the first ever European summit in a bid to set up a continent-wide alliance of anti-Islamic organisations, with the leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson AKA Stephen Yaxley-Lennon arriving at Copenhagen yesterday complete with his entourage of thugs and hangers-on.
They may be in for a shock. An estimated four thousand anti-fascists are also expected to attend, the majority from Denmark itself but many travelling from the UK and Germany.
Opposition to the summit has been pronounced. Last week, around five thousand people attended an anti-EDL concert in the town. A statement from the Mayor’s Office said the concert was set up to show that Aarhus 'does not want to be associated with extremist groups [which represent] everything we want to distance ourselves from'.
That is precisely what is said every time the EDL decides to infect a British town or city with its own brand of extremism. The EDL has NEVER been welcomed into any community and never will be because intolerance is despised by anyone with an ounce of sense. Robinson/Yaxley-Lennon may have electoral ambitions and may even win a seat on a local authority (because, above all, Brits have a nicely ironic sense of humour and like to have an occasional dig at the established order) but the EDL is loathed as a divisive drunken rabble that stirs up trouble wherever it goes. An alliance with other European rabble-rousers is unlikely to change that.
Robinson's army of violent pissheads is shrinking. The EDL's heyday has already been and gone, and has made very little difference to everyday life in this country. This has been amply demonstrated by the spontaneous outpouring of goodwill for Fabrice Muamba. It has been a dark time for the young footballer, but the attitude of his fans and supporters has shone through like a beacon. They don't care where he was born, they don't care if he's black, they just care that he's okay. If that's not a sign of hope for the future, I don't know what is.Add a comment
Last Updated on Saturday, 31 March 2012 04:17
Written by Ketlan Ossowski
Are there any valid reasons why artifacts from the Holocaust should be bought and sold? Yes, and I can think of two that satisfy my own sense of standards. The first is historical: the teaching of history is physically validated by fossils, Grecian urns and great paintings, for example. The second is in remembrance: as a memorial to those affected by or who were involved in the shaping of historical events.
The constant claims of the far-right that the Holocaust either never happened at all or occurred on a much smaller scale can be countered by a great deal of evidentiary material; photographs, maps, the Nazi's own records and so on. But far more important is the evidence that came from witness testimony from those who survived the camps, the liberating troops and yes, those Nazis from whom accurate statements were obtained. That, along with the historical evidence, gives the Holocaust its resonance and allows us to engage, inasmuch as it is possible and/or desirable, with the shameful events of those terrible times.
Controversy has recently attached itself to the auction/sale of Nazi and Holocaust-related memorabilia. Labour MP Fabian Hamilton tabled a Commons motion a week or two ago, condemning such sales as 'profiteering on items promoting and glorifying hatred and violence'.
Companies such as eBay refuse to sell this type of material, as do auction houses Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams. Sadly, other companies do not and we have recently seen the sale of such worthless crap as Hitler's bed linen (sold at the knockdown price of £2,000 - what a bargain!), and a tray that was presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday by Albert Speer, his Minister of Armaments and Munitions. The tray, embossed as it was with Hitler's personal German eagle crest and initials, fetched £28,000 at auction.
Rather more disturbing (to me) was the sale of an arm band designating the wearer a Jew, pass document and Star of David cloth insignia (pictured above). Worth a mere £360, these items represent to me the horror of a people who have been designated less than human and thus become societally worthless, with all that implies.
Even worse, though I guess that's a matter of personal interpretation, was the proposed auction of surgical equipment that was believed to have been owned by Major Anton Burger, one-time commandant of Theresienstadt concentration camp, where over 33,000 inmates died as a result of hunger, sickness or the treatment meted out by their captors. Theresienstadt was also used as a transit camp for European Jews en route to Auschwitz. And here's a hellish statistic - some 1,600 Jewish children from Bialystok, Poland, were deported to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt, none of whom survived.
This proposed sale was withdrawn from an auction in Cornwall after phone and email threats, and I will state very clearly here that I applaud those who protested this sale and got it stopped, no matter how it was achieved.
As it happens, Bristol auctioneers Dreweatts, who were responsible for some of these sales, have now announced that it is to stop selling items directly associated with the Holocaust (though bizarrely it will continue to sell other Nazi memorabilia). Furthermore, it announced this week that it will make a donation to the Holocaust Education Trust, presumably by way of making some sort of amends. Fair enough, and well done to Dreweatts for going as far as it has, but there are better ways of dealing with this trade in horror.
Nazi memorabilia sales are illegal in France, Germany, Austria and Hungary. Isn't it about time that these types of sales were made illegal over the whole of the EU, except where bona-fide historians are concerned (which does NOT include people like Holocaust-revisionist and Hitler-apologist David Irving)?
Apart from the historical and personal trade in Holocaust-related material, there is no valid reason for it to be bought and sold, as far as I can see. As Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, said recently; 'It's immoral to have a trade and profit from the personal effects of the victims of the Holocaust'.
Time to stop it, then, and the first stage is to write to your local MEP. And who is my local MEP? BNP leader Nick bloody Griffin, long-time nazi and Holocaust-denier.
Fabian Hamilton's Parliamentary motion stated that; 'this House deeply deplores the sale of dozens of items of Nazi memorabilia, including items of oppression belonging to Holocaust victims...' and described such sales as 'this abhorrent trade'.
He's right and it's time that it was stopped. If you agree, you can write to Mr Hamilton, giving your support for his Parliamentary motion and maybe asking him to refer your letter on to a sensible and non-racist MEP with his endorsment, here.Add a comment
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 04:59