Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wilders is Right about Islam, but Wrong to Call Muhammad a “Pedophile”

Geert Wilders, the Dutch member of Parliament known for his resistance to the Islamification of Europe, has rightly noted that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is viewed as model for Muslims. He cites Muhammad’s militancy as the basis for militant Islam. However, I caution critics of Islam not to insult Islam’s most revered figure unnecessarily.

For example, Geert Wilders called Muhammad a “pedophile.” Muhammad married a young teenager, but she was not a child in the biological sense, which is what is meant by the word, as she had reached puberty, meaning she was capable of reproduction, which is the biological definition of adulthood. This distinction between pedophilia (a deviant sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children) and pederasty (attraction to teenagers who have reached puberty) is not a legal one, which is why there are laws in many jurisdictions against statutory rape (sexual relations with a minor regardless of whether or not the minor is a biological adult), for example, and why parental consent is required for marriage below certain ages, depending on the jurisdiction, although it is allowed for older teenagers without even parental consent.

Although she may have been too young to fully give informed consent under contemporary Western legal standards, Muhammad’s marriage to his young bride is thus not the equivalent of pedophilia. I would also note the significantly lower life expectancy during the Seventh Century in Arabia as a mitigating factor. A similar charge of “pedophilia” is being made by the enemies of the Christian Church against the Catholic priests who are accused of abuse in order to make the scandal seem even worse than it is, even though most of the cases involved alleged victims who were not pre-pubescent children. Therefore, we as Christians ought to be sensitive to Muslims about this matter by being careful with our choices of words.

Muhammad is similarly often accused of “adultery” because of his practice of polygamy. Although it is true that Muhammad had several wives, Muslims cite his marriages as proof of his magnanimity, for he would marry widows in order to rescue them from poverty, into to which women, who had no property rights, would be plunged if they had no children to care for them. Although one can certainly make a reasonable and convincing argument about the immorality of polygamy, the point is that we should be more educated about Muhammad and the origin of Islam in order to avoid counterproductive statements that unnecessary insult and provoke Muslims, and instead make the most reasonable and effective arguments that cannot be easily dismissed as unreasonable insults. It is not necessary, for example, to call Muhammad an “adulterer” in order to refute Islam, when one can instead argue the merits of monogamy versus polygamy.

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