Children and The Koran
The End of Empathy
Lessons in Cruelty
As mentioned in the Introduction, the Koran is a short book—by holy book standards—with boundless repetition, which is ideal if your intent is to constantly reinforce the message. A short book also makes for a more concentrated dose of violence, as pointed out by Richard Wright in his seminal text The Evolution of God.
… the Koran is a shorter book than the Bible (by a factor of ten); pound for pound, it no doubt features more exhortations to violence.
So if you ask which book is “worse” in terms of belligerence, you might say that qualitatively the Hebrew Bible (and hence the Christian Bible) takes the trophy—thanks to that unrivalled embrace of genocide in Deuteronomy—but that quantitatively the winner is the Koran, at least in terms of the frequency of belligerent passages, if not in absolute numbers.
And if, on top of the verses espousing violence in the terrestrial world, you add verses gleefully envisioning the suffering of infidels in the afterlife, the Koran wins the quantitative competition more decisively.
One of the most pitiless revelation is also one of the most famous verses of the Koran.
5:38 As for the thieves, whether male or female, cut off their hands in punishment for what they did, as an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty and Wise.
Moderate Islamic scholars and religious leaders spend a lot of time trying to explain away pitiless and cruel so-called revealed truths, immutable facts revealed to a mortal by a god, like the above. It is inevitable that every now and then, the true believers, e.g., Islamic State, the Taliban, Boko Haram, etc., will remind them and us that Allah’s unambiguous instructions are not subject to interpretation. And they are correct, for to do so is to question the wisdom of God, to question God’s very sanity, thereby destroying the foundation of your beliefs.
With the Koran as their legal justification, Taliban gunmen executed women and girls in soccer stadiums. Anonymous, frightened, fragile human beings dressed in oppressive burqas—invisible in life, invisible in death—brought into the stadium in the back of pick-up trucks, forced to kneel on the ground, then shot in the back of the head to the obvious pleasure of the bearded young and older men milling around. Bearded men displaying the same lack of mercy and compassion that we have come to expect from many of those who utter In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful every time Allah’s name is mentioned.
The flattering invocation “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” begins every chapter of the Koran except Chapter 1, The Opening and Chapter 9, Repentance (Ultimatum in some translations), which is mostly about making war. Nonetheless, the reader is reminded at least twice in the first chapter (only seven verses), which must be spoken before every prayer praising Allah’s merciful and compassionate nature.
1:1 In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
1:2 Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds,
1:3 The Compassionate, the Merciful,
1:4 Master of the Day of Judgement,
1:5 Only You do we worship, and only You do we implore for help.
What about the Koran’s relentless graphic description of sadistic torture and pain? As an adult, you may be able to dismiss Allah’s bragging about torturing and burning men, women and children in His Hell as metaphorical excesses, sadistic flights of fancy, but what about Muslim children? Children raised in the Islamic faith are encouraged, if not compelled, to memorize the Koran as early as possible; the prize for the best memorizer is a choice place in Paradise.
What kind of twisted perception of the concept of mercy and compassion will such children be left with after memorizing the following verses about Allah on Judgement Day, not caring about the people He condemns to burn in Hell in perpetuity for not believing in Him and “for what you used to do”?
52:13 On the Day they will be driven into the Fire of Hell by force.
52:14 “This is the Fire which you used to deny.
52:15 “Is this magic or do you not see?
52:16 “Burn in it. Bear up or do not bear up; it is the same for you. You are only rewarded for what you used to do.”
What kind of warped understanding of the concept of mercy and compassion will Muslim children be left with after reading about how the Compassionate One takes obvious pleasure in the punishment He inflicts?
11:105 The day (Judgement Day) it comes, no soul shall speak without His Leave. Some of them shall be wretched, some happy.
11:106 As for the wretched, they shall be in the Fire; they shall have therein groaning and moaning;
What happens to the mind, to the personality of a child who commits, must commit to memory not only the horrific verses we have discussed so far, but others that are even more impressive in their attention to detail when it comes to the deliberate, cold-blooded application of torture? For instance, the Compassionate One replacing the burnt skin of unbelievers burning in His Hell so that the torment of their skin roasting in His Fire never ends.
4:56 Those who have disbelieved Our Signs, We shall surely cast them into the Fire; every time their skins are burnt, We will replace them by other skins, so that they might taste the punishment. Allah indeed is Mighty and Wise!
In Allah’s Hell, the fantastical vision of pain and torment quickly gives way to the more mundane, but just as gruesome, just as painful torture and never-ending suffering with which any child can relate. For a non-believing adult, the following brutality may seem like the plot of some of the more violent Saturday morning cartoons their kids watch. For believing children the following is real, not the product of a cartoonist’s imagination. Somewhere in time and space, in Allah’s bizarre universe, God is actually doing to real people what some children may fantasize about but eventually dismiss, as they grow older, as immoral, sadistic behaviour.
14:16 Behind him is Hell, and he is given stinking water to drink.
14:17 He sips it but can hardly swallow it, and death surrounds him from every side, but he will not die; and beyond this is still a terrible punishment.
18:29 And say: “The Truth is from your Lord. Whoever wishes, let him believe; and whoever wishes, let him disbelieve.” We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose canopy encompasses them all. If they call for relief, they will be relieved with water like molten brass which scalds the faces. Wretched is that drink and wretched is the resting-place!
22:19 Here are two adversaries who dispute about their Lord. To the unbelievers, garments of fire shall be cut up and over their heads boiling water shall be poured;
22:20 Whereby whatever is in their bellies and in their skin shall be melted.
22:21 And for them are iron rods (to beat their heads with).
22:22 Every time they want, in their gloom, to get out of it (the Fire), they are brought back into it. [And it is said to them]: “Taste the agony of burning.”
Such is the punishment from Allah for not believing in His Book and the person who preached its content to mankind, and don’t bother saying you’re sorry; it won’t do you any good.
23:101 And when the Trumpet is blown, they will have no kinship to bind them on that Day and they will not question one another.
23:102 Then, those whose scales are heavy – those are the prosperous.
23:103 But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls. In Hell they will dwell forever.
23:104 The Fire lashes their faces, and therein they shrivel.
23:105 “Were not My Signs (this Qur’an) recited to you, but you used to denounced them as lies?”
23:106 They will say: “Lord, our misery overcame us and we were are an erring people.
23:107 “Lord, bring us out of it (Hell); then, if we revert we are indeed wrongdoers.”
23:108 He (Allah) said: “Rot in it and do not talk to Me.
It’s all about winners and losers, with the losers getting all the pain and the winners, all the pleasure.
23:109 “There was a group of My servants who used to say: ‘Lord, we believe, so forgive us and have mercy on us; you are the best of the merciful.’
23:110 “But you took them for a laughingstock, till they made you forget My Name, while you were mocking them.
23:111 “I have rewarded them this day for their forbearance, making them the winners.”
Pleasure or pain, which will it be?
47:15 The likeness of the Garden which the God-fearing have been promised is this: rivers of water not stagnant, rivers of milk whose taste has not changed, rivers of wine delighting its drinkers and rivers of distilled honey. Therein they have every variety of fruit and forgiveness from their Lord too. Are they to be compared with those who dwell in the Fire forever and are given to drink boiling water which will rip up their bowels?
What happens to the mind of a child who commits to memory not only the appalling descriptions of what Allah will do in His Hereafter to those who refused to submit to His Will, but what He expects the believers to do, in the here-and-now, to those who would abandon Islam?
On at least three occasions, God, in the person of Pharaoh, will remind the child labouring to memorize verses of inconceivable brutality that His recommended punishment for leaving Islam is to have your hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, then to be crucified upon the trunks of trees, palm trees if they can be found.
7:124 “I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides; then I will crucify you altogether.”
20:71 He (Pharaoh) said: “Do you believe in him before I give you leave? It must be your chief who has taught you magic. I shall then cut your hands and feet on alternate sides, and I will crucify you upon the trunks of palm trees, and you will certainly know whose punishment is sterner and more lasting.”
26:49 He (Pharaoh) said: “You have believed before I gave you leave. He (Moses) is indeed your chief, who taught you sorcery, and so you will learn. I shall cut off your hands and feet alternately and will crucify you all.”
As the child memorizes these techniques for inflicting unbelievable pain and humiliation on those who would dare leave Allah’s perfect religion for one less perfect, or for no religion at all, he will be reminded that childhood offers no protection from a vengeful, unforgiving god when it comes to unbelievers and apostates. The spontaneous, cold-blooded murder of a child by a fellow by the name Khidr because Allah fears his lack of commitment to Islam will cause his parents distress, forever etched in the young impressionable mind: this God does not flinch at killing children who don’t do as they are told and replacing them with children who will.
18:74 Then they departed; but when they met a boy, he (Khidr) killed him. Moses said: “Have you killed an innocent person who has not killed another? You have surely committed a horrible deed.”
18:80 “As for the boy, his parents were believers; so we feared that he might overwhelm them with oppression and unbelief. 18:81 “So we wanted that their Lord might replace him with someone better in purity and closer to mercy.
What happens to the mind of a child who commits these horrifying descriptions of pain and suffering to memory? What happens to the mind of a child who is required to repeat many of these cruel, pitiless, sadistic verses as part of the five daily mandatory prayers to a god who claims to be the personification, the embodiment of compassion and mercy?
What do Muslim children dream about after reading about the Smasher and people bound to pillars while the Smasher creeps towards their hearts to burn them?
In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
104:1 Woe unto every backbiter and slanderer,
104:2 Who amasses wealth and counts it diligently.
104:3 He thinks that his wealth will make him immortal.
104:4 Not at all; he shall be cast into the Smasher.
104:5 And if only you knew what is the Smasher.
104:6 It is Allah’s kindled Fire,
104:7 Which attains even the hearts.
104:8 Upon them it is closing in;
104:9 On pillars stretch out.
What do they fantasize about during their waking hours? Do they ever forget the tortured and tormented verses, including those that encourage mutilation of alleged wrongdoers, which they memorized under the benevolent encouragement of their teachers, imams, parents and guardians?
What do these well-intentioned teachers of Islamic “morality” think they are doing? What do they think they are doing when they tell the children to pay particular attention to revelations about Allah’s heroes such as the many prophets who disowned parents, family members and close relatives who refused to submit to His Will?
What do they think they are doing when they invite children to read Allah’s often repeated instructions not to associate with unbelievers, and the even more compelling revelations that demand that Christians and Jews who are invited to become Muslim but decline, and refuse to pay a ransom to save their lives, be murdered in cold blood?
What do they think they are doing when they invite children to read revelations that damn and curse people who believe in more than one god, Indians for example, and instruct the believers to kill them on the spot if they are invited to become Muslim but refuse; that for polytheists, not even a ransom can save their lives?
3:85 Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.
48:28 It is He Who sent forth His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may exalt it above every other religion. Allah suffices as Witness.
Are the Saudis, perhaps unwittingly, taking a page out of Mein Kampf by funding madrassas on the Wahhabi model around the world, schools that teach children that Islam is the master religion and all that this implies, including murder on a genocidal scale?
Hitler, in Mein Kampf, looked to the East for what he called lebensraum, literally “living space” for the master race. This living space was to be acquired through extermination, enslavement and sterilization of non-Aryan races. It was the moral duty of every Nazi to ensure the survival of the master race by whatever means at his or her disposal.
35:39 It is He Who made you successors in the lands. Then he who disbelieves, his unbelief will recoil upon him; and their unbelief will only increase the unbelievers in contempt in the sight of their Lord. No, their unbelief will only increase the unbelievers in perdition.
Will the practitioners of the master religion one day, with the authority granted them by the Koran as “successors in the lands,” see it as their religious and moral duty to cull an overpopulated, starving planet to ensure not only the survival but the supremacy of the master religion, and those who believe, until their god can bring an end to His Creation?
Will this piece of entitlement dogma and lessons in cruelty lead to even greater atrocities than when it was the alleged superior race that laid claim to exclusivity of living space?
Are Islamic schools and mosques raising another generation of willing executioners unable to empathize with the people, the unbelievers, for whom Allah shows no mercy and reserves such a gruesome, agonizing fate?
In his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen presents evidence that the demonizing of the Jews by Christian churches for the alleged murder of Christ and other offences pre-disposed Germans to accept and participate in the murder of millions of Jews.
What kind of monsters does the Koran give birth to through its relentless, unremitting insistence that unbelievers are creatures not worthy of mercy or compassion? That unbelievers are only deserving of the most horrible punishment imaginable?
Most parents try to protect their children from the make-believe violence on television, reminding them that it is all make-believe and that this is not how normal, civilized people behave.
In madrassas, teachers are not expected to tell the children, who are memorizing the Koran under their supervision, that the violence is not real or that pitiless cruelty or brutality is unacceptable when dealing with those who won’t submit to the will of Allah.
Maybe it is time for the West to restrict religious teachings to places of worship and the home so that children get a respite from the relentless bombardment of the word of God and learn to appreciate the values inherent in a secular society free from religion’s more nefarious influence.
If nothing is done to curb this schooling in hate and sadism, what truly horrifying events are we setting in motion as the world gives rise to the next generation of Hitler-like leadership, similar to the one we find in Iran, where burning the unbelievers in an atomic fire is seen as doing God’s work? Only doing what He would do if He were here—gather the “kindling for His Hell,” the “fuel for His Fire.”
I realize I may be placing too much emphasis on one preponderant aspect of the Koran, the sadism and the horrific cruelty, but that is in large part what the book is all about. Muslims and non-Muslims should be concerned with the impact of reading, of memorizing, such violent, pitiless text on young minds.