Not more than a week after my rant about the absurdities that poured from the mouth of Pat Robertson regarding Haiti's earthquake, I have the bittersweet experience of reading this headline: "Iranian Cleric: Promiscuous Women Cause Earthquakes." Essentially, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior cleric, made this preposterous claim while leading the Jumma prayers in Tehran. His logic was simple, albeit dumb: "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."
Hold on, the logic there was so utterly, deafeningly absurd that I think you should reread it. That's like saying, "Many people eat unhealthy foods, which leads to weight gain. Weight gain leads to the spread of obesity in society, which (consequently) increases the chance that rabid wolves will attack you in your sleep."
We could continue with the inanity of the statement, or the fact he blames "promiscuous women" but doesn't equally hold men at fault, or even the irony of the fact that Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, with Tehran lying on a fault line. But once again I think the bigger issue is this: why are our religious leaders saying such ungodly things?
In my recent article, "Who Would Jesus Hate?", I perhaps was too rhetorical to make my point clear. While I do not believe that Jesus, who, according to the Gospels, forgave those who carried out his execution, would hate anyone. My point was to show the great void between the teachings that define our faith and those we rely on to convey the message. However, I found that to those for whom it mattered most, the point wasn't taken.
By ten in the morning on the day of my previous article posted, I received a voicemail from Pat Robertson's publicist, Chris Roslan, who also penned the official statement on behalf of Pat Robertson on the CBN website. "Your article," he said, "was...incorrect."
Wanting to be fair, I called Chris back to hear him out. "You wrote that Pat Robertson 'claimed the earthquake was God's judgment' when in fact he said it was 'because of a curse caused by a pact with the devil.'" I was stunned. Of the entire article, this was their problem?
I researched and found his qualm held merit, and wrote a correction on the World Faith blog. However, I feel that this intellectual crevasse has deepened immensely between religious leaders and their communities, where they can't see the forest for a field of bad ideas.
Now, as a non-Muslim, I realize I must be more concise in my critique of the cleric's comments. However, at a time when there are so many young, educated Muslims who strive to keep their faith in big cities, often in countries not those of their parents, this does little to tend to their religious needs. It is not only unproductive but un-Islamic: Islam, with a long history of pioneering philosophy, science, and law, is not about unfounded judgments on behalf of wrathful God. The Qur'an and the Hadiths don't support these absurd notions. Just as I call for my Christian brothers and sisters to challenge religious leaders who misrepresent the faith, I encourage our Muslim cousins to do that same, not only through ijtihad but through examples in the sunnah.
I just hope next week, a Hindu Swami won't blame earthquakes on unethical banking practices.