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Archive for Sunday, October 5, 2008

Modesty patrols’ sow fear

October 5, 2008

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An ultra-Orthodox man walks past a sign calling on women to dress modestly Sept. 12 in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem. In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law takes a back seat to the rule of God, religious zealots are on a crusade to stamp out unchaste behavior.

An ultra-Orthodox man walks past a sign calling on women to dress modestly Sept. 12 in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem. In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law takes a back seat to the rule of God, religious zealots are on a crusade to stamp out unchaste behavior.

— In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law sometimes takes a back seat to the rule of God, zealots are on a campaign to stamp out behavior they consider unchaste. They hurl stones at women for such "sins" as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet.

In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography.

"These breaches of purity and modesty endanger our community," said 38-year-old Elchanan Blau, defending the bearded, black-robed zealots. "If it takes fire to get them to stop, then so be it."

Many ultra-Orthodox Jews are dismayed by the violence, but the enforcers often enjoy quiet approval from rabbis eager to protect their own reputations as guardians of the faith, community members say. And while some welcome anything that keeps secular culture out of their cloistered world, others feel terrorized, knowing that the mere perception of impropriety could ruin their lives.

"There are eyes and ears all over the place, very similar to what you hear about in countries like Iran," says Israeli-American novelist Naomi Ragen, an observant Jew who has chronicled the troubles that confront some women living in the ultra-Orthodox world.

The violence has already deepened the antagonism between the 600,000 haredim, or God-fearing, and the secular majority, which resents having religious rules dictated to them.

Religious vigilantes operate in a society that has granted their community influence well beyond its numbers - partly out of a commitment to revive the great centers of Jewish scholarship destroyed in the Holocaust, but also because the Orthodox are perennial king-makers in Israeli coalition politics.

Thus public transport is grounded for the Jewish Sabbath each Saturday, and the rabbis control all Jewish marriage and divorce in Israel.

In recent years, however, the haredim have eased up on their long campaign to impose their rules on secular areas, and nowadays many restaurants and suburban shopping centers are open on the Sabbath.

Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the modesty police are not an organized phenomenon, just rogue enforcers carrying out isolated attacks. But Israel's Justice Ministry used the term "modesty patrols" in an indictment against a man accused of assaulting a Jerusalem woman.

The unidentified, 31-year-old woman had left the ultra-Orthodox fold after getting divorced, according to the indictment filed by the Jerusalem district attorney's office. The indictment said her assailant tried to get her to leave her apartment in a haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem by gagging, beating and threatening to kill her. He was paid $2,000 for the attack, it said.

Comments

invictus 5 years, 6 months ago

Rampant immorality in western democracies is a relatively new phenomenon. Moral policing by the population at large is historically the norm. Look at America even 40 or 50 years ago; there was social pressure to act morally. Now the social pressure is to be immoral or amoral. We shall see which civilizations are built on firmer ground, we will see which will collapse.

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autie 5 years, 6 months ago

My gosh, I would say these zealots act in a manner quite similar to some group in middle europe in the 1930's. Irony?

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BuffyloGal 5 years, 6 months ago

What is radical to one is perfectly reasonable to another.

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JohnBrown 5 years, 6 months ago

taliban, n., persons or groups of persons zealously intolerant of others beliefs or practices, and who believe their intolerant acts against others is the will of a god. Usage: The Kansas taliban don't want anyone to know about evolution.taliban, adj., attribute of person, persons, or sects that try to destroy a person's individual freedoms of action and choice, often by violence. Usage: Taliban christians have much in common with Al Qeida.

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Marion Lynn 5 years, 6 months ago

From the BBC:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7651231.stm:Saudi cleric favours one-eye veil A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye. Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive. The question of how much of her face a woman should cover is a controversial topic in many Muslim societies. The niqab is more common in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, but women in much of the Muslim Middle East wear a headscarf which covers only their hair. Sheikh Habadan, an ultra-conservative cleric who is said to have wide influence among religious Saudis, was answering questions on the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd."Lunatics all!

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spiderman 5 years, 6 months ago

not all religions are 'monotheisms'.....hence buddhism

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 6 months ago

Little boys throwing stones at women... pathetic little boys, encouraged by their pathetic little patriarchal "religion."

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dandelion 5 years, 6 months ago

i didn't say all churches, I said the radicals. Radicals are on the same level, despite what book or god they worship. They are dangerous.

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BuffyloGal 5 years, 6 months ago

dandelion I think you will find few churches that do none of the things you mentioned. On a postive note, it's nice to see that some Israelis can agree with their Saudi counterparts on some things. That it is at the expense of women goes without saying.

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dandelion 5 years, 6 months ago

Radicals are radicals. These creeps are no different than the radical muslims or radical Christians like the guy in Waco. Why are people so gullible? When a church of any kind starts telling you how to live your life down to every detail, like how to dress, where to invest your money (usually in their church), who to vote for, etc., you should run away as fast as you can.

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Ragingbear 5 years, 6 months ago

This is what religion, all religion, does to people. Keep your god away from me, or else I will get a restraining order.

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