A strange opinion piece by Matthew Syed in the Times today, on the wretched woman who beat her 7-year-old son to death for failing to memorise passages in the Koran - It’s not hate that makes Muslims kill. It’s love (£):
Peter Murphy, the defence barrister, stated that Sara Ege had been “a loving mother” who had “high expectations” of her son. He said that she had been “devoted” and “kind”. These may seem like rather jarring claims given that Ege was convicted for beating Yaseen, her beautiful seven-year-old, to death. But I suspect that the barrister was right.
Maternal instinct is one of the most powerful things in the world. And Ege almost certainly believed she was acting out of love, albeit a twisted kind, when she took a pestle to Yaseen’s body. She probably had to steel herself to continue with the beating, even as he lay cowering in pain. Perhaps even now she feels as if she did the right thing, albeit in the wrong way.
Yaseen’s crime was to fall behind in his religious education. Ege hoped he would become a hafiz, someone who can recite the Koran by heart. Coercing children for this purpose is not unusual in certain Islamic traditions. Parents think they are acting out of the noblest, most loving of motives. “It’s very easy to be critical of the amount of things Yaseen was doing,” said Mr Murphy. “But that was the norm in the ethnic community she was from.” Such are the ironies of religious fundamentalism....
To many extremists, violent coercion is acceptable, even obligatory. One of my cousins, born and raised in Pakistan, openly states that those who convert from Islam to Christianity should be put to death, although thankfully he doesn’t believe that he is called by Allah to perform the execution. He is delightful, bright and courteous. His innate decency shines through every conversation, provided that it steers away from religion. But these qualities are twisted — like the love of Ege for her son — by his fundamentalism. When he commends Islamic terrorism, he does so not out of hatred, but out of love. Because obeying God’s will is to him the highest love of all.
As the great Randy Newman sang - in a rather different context - "they don't know what love is".
For a start it's an acknowledged feature of the hafiz that they can intercede on behalf of their family, up to and including guaranteeing for them a place in paradise. So the motive for an obsessive controlling parent becomes all too grimly clear. But we don't really need to show up Sara Ege's selfish concerns. Quite clearly beating a child to death has nothing to do with love. We might grant that she loved her son, and yet despite this she beat him to death - her love, as it were, being pushed aside by what she saw as the requirements of her faith - but to explain the beating itself as a misplaced expression of love is to remove any meaning from the word.
Similarly for Syed's delightful cousin. He may like to think that putting apostates to death is an expression of love, but he should be disabused of the notion. It's not. He doesn't know what love is.