A warning! The following may offend some who read it. The point of this article is to show that attacking Islam by offensively claiming it encourages pedophilia paves the way for your own religion to be attacked with the same accusations. It is not my intention to deliberately offend or attack other religions, but it is my intention to encourage readers to be more circumspect on their own religion and to be more judicious in their approach to other religions.
In researching this, I found a number of articles that complained about how offensive it is to dare suggest that holy scriptures in Christianity and Judaism condone rape, pedophilia, sex slavery and child murder. Yes, it is offensive. However, it was interesting to note, that often those same people were happy to accuse Islam of exactly those things, in particular, accusing Islam's founding prophet, Muhammad of being a pedophile.
Matthew 7:3-5 warns against this type of hypocrisy: 'And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'
To accuse Muhammad of being a pedophile is hypocritical and ignorant of the bible and church history. For instance, even in the Old Testament which is the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, slavery and forced marriage were the norm, as was marriage of girls by the time they reached puberty. Notwithstanding this, today's Christianity is racked with accusations of pedophilia committed by the clergy.
The problem with these accusations against Islam in general, and Muhammad in particular, is that the accusers are making judgements using 21st century culture and values, as well as twisting scripture or taking it out of context.
The accusations against Muhammad are in relation to his marriage to his third wife, Aisha. It is believed that Aisha was married to Muhammad when she was six or seven years old. She remained with her parents until the age of nine or 10 when she went to be with Muhammad, who was around 53, and their marriage was consummated.
Aisha's age is in dispute. While tradition has her aged around 9 or 10 when the marriage was consummated, theories abound in which her age ranges from 9 to 19. The Koran requires marriage to be between consenting adults, and during Muhammad's lifetime adulthood for girls was achieved when they first menstruated. There is a school of opinion that she was at least 10 when she married the Prophet and probably 14 or 15 at time of consummation (1).
If Aisha was pre-pubescent when they married, and if Muhammad was a pedophile surely he would have consummated the marriage on their wedding night. Why would he wait at least two years to consummate it unless there was a compelling reason? The most likely explanation is that he was waiting for her to reach adulthood as it was understood at that time. It makes little sense for him to wait two years and deflower her while she was still a child. It is far more likely that she had reached puberty by the time the marriage was consummated, so it is highly unlikely that Muhammad was a pedophile.
Accusing Muhammad of being a pedophile ignores the fact that it was culturally accepted during that time (and for centuries before and after) for girls to be married off by the time they reached puberty. This was a common practice throughout the Middle East and Europe (2). In the Roman Empire it was common for girls to be married even before puberty.
It is only recently that girls need to be at least 16 to marry. In 1275 in England, the first secular law was passed declaring the age of consent to be 12. Breaking this law was a misdemeanor. In 1576 the law was changed to make it a felony to have sex with a girl under 10, but it was still a misdemeanor if she was between 10 and 11. In 1791, France established the age of consent as being 11. In 1875, England raised the age of consent from 12 to 13 and breaching this law became a felony. In 1885 England again increased the age of consent, this time to 16. In some States of the USA and a number of European countries, the age of consent was as young as 10. Child marriage was common among Hindus in India, so in 1861 the British Raj set the age of consent at 10. In 1891 the Raj changed this to reflect the age of marriage being 10 and the age of consent being 12. This meant that the marriage could not be consummated until the girl reached 12. Even now, in the 21st century the age of consent across the globe ranges from 13 to 18. (3)
In Australia the age of consent laws range from 16 to 18, but often come with exceptions. In the Australian Capital Territory for instance, it is legal for a 10 year old to have sex if the partner is no more than two years older than them. In Queensland and Victoria, it's a defence if the child was 12 years old or older if the 'accused person believed, on reasonable grounds, that the child was of or above the age of 16 years'. Also in Victoria, it's a defence if the accused was no more than two years older than the child. In Tasmania it's a defence if the child was 15 and the accused was no more than five years older, or if the child was 12 and the accused was no more than three years older (4).
For thousands of years, the average life expectancy was significantly lower than it is now. Fewer people lived to old age and there was a very high infant mortality rate. As a result, most cultures expected girls to breed as soon as they were able to. Women didn't have the luxury that they do today of waiting until their 30s to start a family. Having babies wasn't an option they could chose if they wanted. It was a matter of survival. If a girl hadn't given birth by 15 or 16, she was already considered to be getting too old.
Accusing Muhammad of being a pedophile not only ignores the culture of the time but opens up suggestions that most people's ancestors were pedophiles.
For Christians to accuse Muhammad of being child molester is walking a dangerous line. Any number of bible passages can interpreted as condoning pedophilia. The virgins referred to in the following scriptures, would have mainly been early teen or pre-teen as most girls were married off by puberty during this time.
Numbers 31:17-18 - Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.
Verse 35 goes on to explain the plunder of the war included 32,000 young girls 'who have not laid with a man'. Verse 40 requires that 32 of them be given to God as a tribute which was to paid as a heave offering for the use of the priest, who in this case was Eleazor.
Deuteronomy 20:10-15 - Now if the city will not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.
Judges 21:11-12 - And this is the thing that you shall do: You shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has known a man intimately.” So they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins who had not known a man intimately; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
Judges 21:20-23 - Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. Then it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them, ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath.’” And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught.
The bible could be accused of condoning sex slavery:
Exodus 21:7-10 - “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.
The bible could be accused of encouraging the murder of infants and children:
Psalm 137:8-9 states 'O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!'.
Deuteronomy 20:16 - demands that 'of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive'.
While there are a number of scriptures that forbid incest between immediate family members, there are scriptures that describe a number of events in which there was sex between immediate members. Abraham for instance, married his half-sister, Sarah (Genesis 20:12 - 'But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife').
One of the cornerstone events in the bible is the immaculate conception of Jesus. His mother, Mary, was only a child when betrothed to Joseph. While the bible doesn't give her age, scholars believe she was only 12. Before she married Joseph, God sent the Holy Spirit upon her and she became pregnant without having sexual relations. Mary was a pregnant, unmarried teenager. She probably had Jesus when she was 13. Joseph is likely to have been much older than Mary as it is believed he had died by the time Jesus began his adult ministry as he is not mentioned during this time. (5) Would anyone see the immaculate conception rape or her marriage to Joseph as pedophilia? Unlikely, yet under modern laws it could be. It certainly doesn't meet today's cultural expectations of marriage, consent and conception.
In Judaism, the Old Testament scriptures above appear in one form or another in the Tanakh (which includes the Torah). In addition, the Baylonian Talmud, Yebamoth 60b states 'A proselyte who is under the age of three years and one day is permitted to marry a priest' (6). Rabbi Singer has refuted accusations that the Talmud encourages the marrying of children, claiming the scriptures are being manipulated (7) by both Muslims and Christians. He attacks Christian and Muslim scriptures, including the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world.
The offence that Rabbi Singer has taken is understandable and is applicable to any attempt to tear down a religion, whether it be Islam, Judaism or Christianity by using that religion's own scripture. The attacks by each religion on each other is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. All three can be accused of some of the most heinous crimes against humanity and of twisting each other's truth, simply by quoting each of their scriptures whether in context or not.
For every accusation against one of the three Abrahamic religions, there will be someone from that religion who will refute the accusation, usually through placing it in context ... or maybe even taking it further out of context to sanitise it. Those who attack Islam do not give Muslims the same latitude to defend themselves. Yet, if Christianity and Judaism are going to defend themselves through explanation, justification and context, Muslims should also have the same opportunity.
There are no specific scriptures in the Koran that promote pedophilia, so to accuse the religion of encouraging it is deceitful and hypocritical considering the bible verses above and the extent of pedophilia in the modern church. It is also extremely offensive to accuse Islam of this. How many Christians were offended by the use of the above scriptures to question the bible's attitude to pedophilia, rape, incest, sex slavery and child murder? Offended? Then it is hypocritical to offend Muslims by doing the same thing to them. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!
Instead of attacking other religions, people should focus on their own religion and their own relationship with God.
It is easy to attack any religion and twist scriptures and events to suit whatever agenda one may have. In reality, most Jews, Christians and Muslims are abhorred by pedophilia and will condemn it regardless of the religion, race or nationality of the perpetrator. Pedophiles exist in all religions, cultures and walks of life. It is ludicrous to believe that any religion actually encourages pedophilia. Those who use the scriptures of another religion to justify hatred are themselves guilty of lying and fear-mongering.
The world would be far better off if each person took care of their own issues and stopped attacking others.
Get that damn plank out of your own eye.
1. Zahid Azis, 'Age of Aisha', http://www.muslim.org/islam/aisha-age.htm. Accessed 28 December 2014.
2. Myriam Francois-Cerrah, 'The truth about Muhammad and Aisha'. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/sep/17/muhammad-aisha-truth. Accessed 28 December 2014.
3. Stephen Robertson, 'Age of Consent Laws', in Children and Youth in History, Item #230, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/230 (accessed 28 December 2014)
4. Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia. 'Age of consent laws'. CFCA Fact Sheet - December 2014. https://www3.aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/age-consent-laws. Accessed 28 December 2014.
5. Truth or Tradition? 'Mary, a Teenage Bride and Mother', as well as video by John W. Schoenheit, 'How old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus'. Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/mary-a-teenage-bride-and-mother. Accessed 28 December 2014.
6. The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth, Folio 60b. http://www.come-and-hear.com/yebamoth/yebamoth_60.html#PARTb. Accessed 28 December 2014.
7. Tovia Singer, Let's Get Biblical (Part 23 of 24), 'Does the Talmud Condone Murder, Pedophilia and Idolatry'. http://outreachjudaism.org/talmud-condone-murder-pedophilia-and-idolatry/ Accessed 28 December 2014.
This is one of a number of articles in the 'Remove the plank' series, regarding the hypocrisy of criticising Islam. Other articles include:
- Bacon and dregs - Pork wars and Christianity
- Truth and lies - Taqiyya in Islam and Christianity
- The light of love and a bushell of bigotry
- Religion of Peace & Love?