The Quran and Paper Bags

Christopher Hitchens in Slate:

Toward the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, when music had already been banned and women excluded from Islamic rituals by being immured in their homes, and when new non-Quranic punishments—such as being buried alive—had been promulgated for homosexuals, an arcane point arose among the fierce Islamists who ran the place: Should paper bags also be haram, or forbidden? The point was an exquisitely delicate one. It was known that such bags were made from recycled paper. It had been alleged that old and torn copies of the Quran had been thrown, or must have been thrown, somewhere and sometime, into the vats of pulp. Was there, therefore, not a real risk that each paper bag might contain a profaned fragment of the divine word? The thought of toilet paper being made in this manner may have been too obscene even to consider, but in the event, paper bags were banned, just as most reading material had already been.

It’s essential that we understand the deep irrationality that underlies all faith and that can take these fetishistic forms…

More here.