So let's do a little thought experiment, here. You're a prominent Muslim cleric, and you read the litany of bad news. You're concerned not only about how the rest of the world views your belief system, but how Muslims themselves must feel when they hear about the atrocities being done in the name of their religion. What do you do?
- You make a strongly-worded statement repudiating violence in the name of religion.
- You put pressure on religious and governmental leaders to consider human rights reform.
- You encourage your followers to donate money to groups that are fighting terrorism.
- You open a discussion of the passages in the Qu'ran that encourage such behavior.
- You issue a fatwa against snowmen.
If you picked #5, you understand the leadership of Islam all too well. Muslim leaders have been far more willing to mess around with prohibitions against random behaviors than to stand up against the horrors perpetrated in Islam's name. (Some leaders have done so, fortunately; there have been several Islamic groups who have spoken out, especially regarding Charlie Hebdo.)
But in theocratic Saudi Arabia, mostly what we've heard on the topic of human rights, freedom of speech, and eliminating terrorism is: silence.
But woe unto you if you build a snowman. Saudi cleric Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid said that it was forbidden to build a snowman, "even in fun:"
It is not permitted to make a statue out of snow, even by way of play and fun... God has given people space to make whatever they want which does not have a soul, including trees, ships, fruits, buildings and so on.So now snowmen have souls? What, did this guy think that Frosty the Snowman was a historical documentary?
While some Muslims are shaking their heads about how ridiculous this is, there are a lot who apparently think this is perfectly reasonable. "May God preserve the scholars, for they enjoy sharp vision and recognize matters that even Satan does not think about," one responder wrote. "It (building snowmen) is imitating the infidels, it promotes lustiness and eroticism."
My opinion is that if seeing snowmen makes you feel lusty and erotic, you have an entirely different problem, unrelated to matters of religion.
[image courtesy of photographer Thomas Cook and the Creative Commons]
But rationality has little to do with this. If Islamic leaders keep tightening the grip on every move their followers make, even in realms that have little to do with reality, it'll obviate them of the need to focus on the real issues. It reinforces the message that Allah is watching, that he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows when you've been bad or good, so be good or you get 1,000 lashes on your bare back.
Even if it does convince most of the rest of the world that the worldview is, at its basis, completely insane.