Wednesday, February 29, 2012

P Z Myers (associate professor of biology at UMM) takes issue with Hamza Tzortzis ...

Some of you may remember this great piece of theatre from the World Atheist Convention back in late 2011. Well, it seems that that P Z Myers has had some time to read Hamza's latest "paper" on the subject of embryology in the Qur'an and has published his thoughts on his blog: Pharyngula. Since I couldn't put it better myself, I reproduce below the Professor's searing polemic. Truly wonderful... 
I have read the entirety of Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ paper, Embryology in the Qur’an: A scientific-linguistic analysis of chapter 23: With responses to historical, scientific & popular contentions, all 58 pages of it (although, admittedly, it does use very large print). It is quite possibly the most overwrought, absurdly contrived, pretentious expansion of feeble post hoc rationalizations I’ve ever read. As an exercise in agonizing data fitting, it’s a masterpiece.
Here, let me give you the short version…and I do mean short. This is a paper that focuses with obsessive detail on all of two verses from the Quran. You heard me right: the entirety of the embryology in that book, the subject of this lengthy paper, is two goddamned sentences, once translated into English.
We created man from an essence of clay, then We placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place. Then We made that drop of fluid into a clinging form, and then We made that form into a lump of flesh, and We made that lump into bones, and We clothed those bones with flesh, and later We made him into other forms. Glory be to God the best of creators.
Seriously, that’s it. You have just mastered all of developmental biology, as taught by Mohammed.

Tzortzis bloats this scrap into a long, tedious potboiler by doing a phrase by phrase analysis, and by comparing it to the work of Aristotle and Galen, who got lots of things wrong. How, he wonders many times, could Mohammed have written down only the correct parts of the Greek and Roman embryological tradition, and avoided their errors, if he weren’t divinely inspired? My answer is easy: because Mohammed only made a vague and fleeting reference to the science of the time, boiling down Aristotle’s key concept of an epigenetic transformation into a few non-specific lines of poetry. Aristotle and Galen got a lot wrong because they tried to be specific and wrote whole books on the subject; you can read the entirety of Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals. Galen was prolific and left us about 20,000 pages on physiology and medicine.
So, yes, you can find lots of examples in their work where they got the biology completely wrong, and it’s harder to do that in the Quran…because the Quran contains negligible embryological content, and what there is is so sketchy and hazy that it allows his defenders to make spectacular leaps of interpretation. Mohammed avoided the trap of being caught in an overt error here by blathering generalized bullshit, and saying next to nothing. This is neither an accomplishment nor a miracle.
I’ll go through his argument piece by piece, but at nowhere near the length. It’s hard to believe anyone is using this feeble fragment to claim proof of divinity, but then, Christians do exactly the same thing.
“essence of clay”. Tzortzis happily announces that clay contains “Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Chlorine, Sodium, Magnesium and Silicon; all of which are required for human functioning and development”. These are irrelevant factlets. Clay is a fine-grained hydrous aluminum phyllosilicate; carbon, which is the element to consider in organic chemistry, is present as a contaminant, but the primary elements are aluminum and silicon. It’s nothing like the composition of the human body. This part of Tzortzis case is simply a lie.
“drop of fluid”. Tzortzis tells us that the Arabic word here is “nutfah”, which has a number of meanings, but he likes the interpretation that it implies mingled fluids. Then he babbles on about oocytes and spermatazoa and secretions of the oviduct, none of which are mentioned in the Quran and are completely irrelevant. Bottom line: Arabs noticed long ago that sex involves a mingling of fluids. Brilliant. I think most of us could figure that out without divine inspiration.
He spends a fair amount of time pointing out that both Aristotle and Galen had a male-centric view of procreation, where the man’s contribution was the dynamic agent and the woman was a passive vessel. They were wrong. In order to rescue the Quran, though, Tzortzis has to bring in Ibn Qayyim, a 13th century Islamic scholar, who pointed out that women have to provide a significant contribution to inheritance, since their traits are also present in the children. This, again, is an obvious and observable property, and the Greeks also argued over the relative contributions of male and female. There is nothing in the Quran that is beyond casual observation or non-existent in the scholarly works of the time.
“in a safe place”. Tzortzis quotes modern embryologists and throws around the terms endometrium, syntrophoblast, implantation, uterine mucosa, proteolytic enzymes, etc., etc., etc. I ask you, is any of that in the quoted verse from the Quran? No. Total bullshit from the apologists. That the embryo grows in a “safe place” — the woman’s belly — is another obvious property.
“a clinging form”. It seems that the word used here means just about anything.
The Qur’an describes the next stage of the developing human embryo with the word `alaqah. This word carries various meanings including: to hang, to be suspended, to be dangled, to stick, to cling, to cleave and to adhere. It can also mean to catch, to get caught, to be affixed or subjoined. Other connotations of the word `alaqah include a leech-like substance, having the resemblance of a worm; or being of a ‘creeping’ disposition inclined to the sucking of blood. Finally, its meaning includes clay that clings to the hand and thick, clotted blood – because of its clinging together.
I could call the embryo a sticky blob, too, and stretch and twist the words to match it in the vaguest possible way to a technical description, too…but it doesn’t make it a technical description, and it doesn’t make it informative.
This section concludes by claiming that the “leech” interpretation of ‘alaqah is accurate, because later in development it looks, he claims, like a leech. Only to a blind man. And further, he applies this term “like a leech” to every stage in the first month of development; the accuracy of the comparison seems irrelevant.
“a lump of flesh”. More of the same. Take the Arabic word (“mudghah”), throw out a bunch of definitions for the word, then force-fit them all into the actual science.
The next stage of human development defined in the Qur’an is mudghah. This term means to chew, mastication, chewing, to be chewed, and a small piece of meat. It also describes the embryo after it passes to another stage and becomes flesh. Other meanings include something that teeth have chewed and left visible marks on; and marks that change in the process of chewing due to the repetitive act.
No. I refuse. I’m sorry, but this is patently ridiculous. You do not get to quote the Quran talking about a chawed on scrap o’ meat, and then go on with four pages of windy exegesis claiming that corresponds to the 4th week of human development, the pharyngula stage, as if it is an insightful and detailed and specific description of an embryo. It is not. It is the incomprehending grunt of an ignorant philistine.
“into bones”. Yeah. There is a mingling of fluids in sex, and at birth you have a baby with bones. Somewhere in between, bones must have formed. You do not get credit for noting the obvious without any specifics. Furthermore, turning the phrase “into bones” (‘idhaam) into this:
There are clear parallels between the qur’anic `idhaam stage and the view modern embryology takes i.e. the development of the axial, limb and appendicular skeleton.
is pure hyperbole and bunkum. But then, that’s all we get from Tzortzis.
“clothed the bones with flesh”. Tzortzis now talks about myoblasts aggretating and migrating distally, formation of dorsal and ventral muscle masses, innervation of the tissue, and specification of muscle groups. Good god, just stop. The Quran says nothing about any of this. And then to complain that This level of detail is not, however, included in Aristotle’s description, is absurd and ironic. It’s not in Mohammed’s description, either.
It must be noted that the migration of the myoblasts surrounding the bones cannot be seen with the naked eye. This fact creates an impression of the Divine nature of the Qur’an and reiterates its role as a signpost to the transcendent.
Crap. The Quran doesn’t describe myoblast migration. There isn’t even a hint that Mohammed saw something you need a microscope to see.
“made him into other forms”. Then Allah did all the other stuff that he needed to do to turn a chunk of chewed meat made of bone and flesh into a person. Presto, alakazam, abracadabra. Oooh, I am dazzled with the scrupulous particularity of that scientific description.
There’s absolutely nothing novel or unexplainable in the Quran’s account of development. It is a vague and poetic pair of verses about progressive development, expressed in the most general terms, so nebulous that there is very little opportunity for disproof, and they can be made to fit just about any reasonable observation. They can be entirely derived from Aristotle’s well-known statement about epigenesis, “Why not admit straight away that the semen…is such that out of it blood and flesh can be formed, instead of maintaining that semen is both blood and flesh?”, which is also a very broad statement about the gradual emergence of differentiated tissues from an amorphous fluid.
Only a blinkered fanatic could turn that mush into an overwrought, overextended, overblown, strained comparison with legitimate modern science. Tzortzis’s paper is risible crackpottery.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Secret Bible which predicts coming of Mohammed discovered by Daily Mail...

Secret Bible: The 1,500-year-old tome was is said to contain Jesus' early teachings and a prediction of the Prophet's coming
The Daily Mail has recently published an article that has the Muslim blogging community buzzing with excitement and self-righteousness.
The article claims that the "secret Bible", which has been "rediscovered" in Turkey, predicts the coming of Mohammed and denies the Trinity and the crucifixion of Jesus. (The Qur'an states that Jesus was a prophet and not the Son of God, that the Trinity is a pagan heresy and that Jesus wasn't crucified but was taken up to Heaven alive and someone else put on the cross in his place.)
This "Bible", it turns out, is a version of the Gospel of Barnabas -  which is known to exist in two copies which date from the 16th century. Wikipedia has this to say about the Gospel:
The Gospel of Barnabas is a book depicting the life of Jesus, and claiming to be by Jesus' disciple Barnabas, who in this work is one of the twelve apostles. Two manuscripts are known to have existed, both dated to the late 16th century and written respectively in Italian and in Spanish—although the Spanish manuscript is now lost, its text surviving only in a partial 18th-century transcript.

It was also mentioned in 1734 by George Sale in The Preliminary Discourse to the Koran:
The Mohammedans have also a Gospel in Arabic, attributed to St. Barnabas, wherein the history of Jesus Christ is related in a manner very different from what we find in the true Gospels, and correspondent to those traditions which Mohammed has followed in his Koran. Of this Gospel the Moriscoes in Africa have a translation in Spanish; and there is in the library of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a manuscript of some antiquity, containing an Italian translation of the same Gospel, made, it is to be supposed, for the use of renegades. This book appears to be no original forgery of the Mohammedans, though they have no doubt interpolated and altered it since, the better to serve their purpose; and in particular, instead of the Paraclete or Comforter, they have, in this apocryphal gospel, inserted the word Periclyte, that is, the famous or illustrious, by which they pretend their prophet was foretold by name, that being the signification of Mohammed in Arabic; and this they say to justify that passage in the Koran where Jesus Christ is formally asserted to have foretold his coming under his other name Ahmed, which is derived from the same root as Mohammed and of the same import.
"Ah, but you are taking a very Judeo-Christian view of this discovery", Muslim apologists will say. So let us turn to an apparently academic study of the Gospel of Barnabas by a German Muslim specialist at the IslamInstitut, Prof., Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, Academic Director of the Islamic Studies Institute in Bonn
Dr Schirrmacher seems to be fairly dismissive of the gospel for the following reasons:

In the Gospel of Barnabas, the command is given by God to Mary and Joseph to keep Jesus away from wine, strong drink, and impure meat —that is, pork: the prohibition of pork and wine is, however, an Islamic prohibition, not a Christian one.
In the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus announces the coming of Muhammad and already speaks the name of Muhammad. Jesus asks God to send Muhammad to save the world. In Jesus’time, no one knew that, six centuries after Jesus’ death, Muhammad, on the Arabian peninsula, would claim to be sent by God and to preach the truth. In the Christian view, it is impossible that Jesus announced Muhammad and asked God, his father, to send Muhammad Also inconsistent with the Koran is the oft-repeated statement in the Gospel of Barnabas that Muhammad is the Messiah, while it at the same time repeatedly denies that Jesus is the Messiah. It characterizes Jesus, however, as “chrissto” (Christ). The assumption, therefore, is that the author did not know that “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for “Messiah” (“the Anointed”).
The Gospel of Barnabas itself stresses that the original Biblical gospel was falsified. If Barnabas actually would have been a contemporary of Jesus, then the formation of the New
Testament would not yet have been concluded. With this statement, the Gospel of Barnabas would have forecast its own fate. In addition, his geographical and historical mistakes make clear that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas can neither ever have visited Palestine nor can he have lived in the first post-Christian century In the Gospel of Barnabas, Nazareth is a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Nazareth,however, stands upon a hill some distance from the Sea of Galilee. According to the report in the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus ascends from the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Capernaum, however, lies directly on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. According to the description in the Gospel of Barnabas, Nineveh lies near the Mediterranean coast. It, however, is to be found in the interior on the banks of the Tigris.
The editors of the first Italian-English edition of the Gospel of Barnabas, Lonsdale and Laura
Ragg, in addition, point to conspicuous parallels between the Barnabas gospel and the works
of the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), such as La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), and, in particular, to Dante’s representation of Heaven, Hell, and Paradise.So, for example, the number of nine or, including Paradise, ten heavens, as well as the subdivision of Hell into seven centers in the Gospel of Barnabas agrees with Dante’s discussion of the ten heavens...The most probable date of composition of the Gospel of Barnabas lies, for Lonsdale Ragg, between 1300 and 1350 Subsequent investigators have expanded this time span to aslate as the sixteenth century.
So what of the idea that this is a secret gospel, hidden from the public by embarrassed Christians? Let us turn to the professor again:

The endorsement of this gospel’s authenticity always goes hand in hand with the Muslim claim that the Christian church has attempted to conceal this true gospel from the public. The opposite, however, is the case: the first efforts to produce a complete text of the gospel were made by Christians in 1907. Since this time, the Gospel of Barnabas has been available in a number of languages. No one in Europe had any interest in a new apocryphal text before the increase of Muslim statements in favor of the gospel.
In conclusion then, what we have is another attempt by Muslims to try to lend authenticity to their religion by dubious, not to say, underhand means.
Muslim Educational Trust (MET)
LAHORE (no date)
A typical miracle seekers attempt to convince readers that the Gospel of Barnabas is ancient and was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls

Post script: For those interested in how the Muslim miracle seekers lie to their own followers and to anyone else gullible enough to swallow their rubbish, here is a site sponsored by the Sabr Foundation all about how the Gospel of Barnabas is a genuine Gospel dating from the first century.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hajj and the Saudi Religious Tourism bandwagon

London Muslim,one of my favourite Muslim bloggers (because he doesn't take himself too seriously and is not averse to a bit of google-whoring by posting pictures of scantily clad Muslim girls, all the while claiming moral outrage as he counts his hits) is off on the Hajj.
This got me to thinking about this goose which lays such sparkling golden eggs for the poor impoverished princes and sheiks of Saudi.
As every GCSE RE student knows, performing the Hajj (pilgrimage to the Ka'bah) is one of the pillars of Islam and every one of the more than two billion of the world's Muslims must perform it at least once in their lifetime (as long as they are fit and rich enough...).
Just imagine having a tourist attraction that 2 billion people are obliged to visit...

Actually we don't have to try too hard since a Guardian article entitled Mecca makeover: How the Hajj has become big business for Saudi Arabia from November 2010 has helpfully done some research for us:
Business reports conclude that Saudi tourism, especially the religious variety, is recession proof. The government's commission for tourism and antiquities said revenue from tourism this year would reach $17.6bn, then almost double again by 2015. Business Monitor International forecasts there will be 319,000 rooms, up from 218,000 in 2009 in Saudi Arabia.

The country's strengths, it adds, are its "strong and growing" religious tourism industry and, with some understatement perhaps, "the financial resources" for infrastructure investments.
I'll leave you with this heart-warming vision of modest faith-based accommodation available for the "pilgrims" which has recently won the prestigious World Travel Awards prize for leading "Luxury All Suite Hotel"
Raffles Makkah Palace Raffles Makkah Palace Declared World’s Leading Luxury All Suite Hotel by World Travel Awards
If you look carefully you can just about make out the faithful pilgrims in the foreground who are somewhat dwarfed by the Raffles Makkah Palace. As the awards site helpfully explains:
The hotel has been very carefully built in an Islamic architectural style and boasts of exceptional amenities. This award is the second significant award the hotel has received in just eight months. It is a proof of their dedication and unsullied service.
The suites in the hotel are spacious and extravagantly decorated but in harmony with the ambiance of the Islamic holy land of Makkah.(!)

I must admit I didn't know that having a f*cking great pastiche of the Big Ben clock tower perched on top of your grotesque hotel was "Islamic architectural style" - but we live and learn.
Anyway, good to know that the wonderful Saudi regime is sitting on such a gold-mine, isn't it? I mean, the oil can't last for ever, can it? Thank goodness Allah had the foresight to put the holiest shrine in Islam in such a deserving place, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Human evolution and Islam

Islam is quite clear on the subject of human evolution: there was none.
This is how About explains the issue...
While Islam recognizes the general idea of the development of life in stages, over a period of time, human beings are considered as a special act of creation. Islam teaches that human beings are a unique life form that was created by Allah in a special way, with unique gifts and abilities unlike any other: a soul and conscience, knowledge, and free will. In short, Muslims do not believe that human beings randomly evolved from apes. The life of human beings began with the creation of two people, a male and a female named Adam and Hawwa (Eve).
Notice how the author already muddies the issue by confusing the idea of man and apes evolving from a common ancestor (what anthropologists believe and what we have evidence for) with man evolving from apes (what no anthropologist or scientist has ever suggested). Notice also the sly use of the word randomly - meaning what exactly in this context?

My Muslim friend and I were debating this issue some years ago. If, he said, "a missing link between men and apes" (meaning between man and his hominid ancestors) were ever discovered, he would abandon his faith since the creation of Adam and Eve as the originators of mankind is a basic tenet of Islam.

So what do Muslims make of the ever-increasing amount of fossil evidence for the so-called missing links. How do they fit homo erectus and homo habilis for example, into their world view?

Let us return to the Muslim view of the creation of Man for one moment as described once again by About Islam. (and lest anyone accuse me of picking on Islam here, let's remember that Mohammed got his "facts" from the Judeo-Christian creation stories, which in turn were borrowed from more ancient myths and so on and so on...)

The Qur'an describes how Allah created Adam: "We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape..." (15:26). And, "He began the creation of man from clay, and made his progeny from a quintessence of fluid" (32:7-8). Thus, human beings have a fundamental attachment to the earth.

While the creation of Eve is not described in detail, the Qur'an does make it clear that a "mate" was created with Adam, from the same nature and soul. "It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her in love" (7:189). She is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, but in Islamic tradition she is known as "Hawwa" (Eve).

From these two individuals, generations of human beings have inhabited the earth. "Oh humankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured among you in the sight of Allah is the who is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)" (49:13).
As can be seen from the above surah, there is no escaping the very explicit reference to "two individuals" and "a single pair of male and female".
No Muslim can allow himself or herself to accept what modern science tells us to be our origins. If they do, they must, logically, reject their faith and will burn in Hell for all eternity...Because rememeber, Allah is "the most merciful of all those who are merciful"...

Doe this perhaps explain the despicable rantings of our favourite lunatic revert, Yusuf Estes?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Islamic troubles and the media...

This latest in reply to a letter from my Muslim friend in which he referred to the Lavon Affair to persuade me that the "troubles" in Nigeria and Sudan and elsewhere in the Muslim world were as likely caused by external instigators as by Muslims. He also stated that he was neither a detractor nor a supporter of the Iranian regime and suggested that we mustn't jump to conclusions each time the "media feed us a story" from an Islamic country. I get frustrated that he seems unable to admit any Islamic country might have itself to blame...

 I agree that Middle Eastern politics are murky and that often things are not as simple as they first appear. I agree that the Israeli secret services have carried out morally dubious operations. A pity you so often seem unwilling to admit any fault on the part of any Muslim nation. (even to the point of ignoring Islam's pivotal role in the slave trade, I seem to remember...)
With regards to Iran, of course none of us knows for sure what is going on there, but sometimes what we hear must make you at least a little concerned for the region (and the rest of the world...).
Here's a report I came across today:

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says uprisings in the Middle East region are part of the battle against Zionist autocracy in the world.

Ayatollah Khamenei said the Zionists, US, and Western powers feel weak in the face of Islamic Awakening and “this feeling of weakness and defeat will grow by the day.”

The Leader said humanity is standing at a critical juncture and is on the verge of a “grand development.”

“Humanity has passed all material and ideological schools such as Marxism, Liberal Democracy and Secular Nationalism and is at the beginning of a new era,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei further urged the revolutionary youths to vigilantly guard the fruit of their efforts and not allow arrogant powers to “hijack” and “derail” their revolutions.

The Leader stressed that despite social, historical and geographical differences, Muslim nations are “everyone is against the satanic US and Israeli dominance and cannot tolerate the cancerous tumor of Israel.” 

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks in a meeting with foreign guests participating in the "Islamic Awakening and Youth Conference" in Tehran. The two-day event kicked off on Sunday with some 15-hundred participants from 73 countries.

The conference mainly focuses on the pivotal role of the youth in the wave of Islamic Awakening that is sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa. 

Heart-warming stuff, eh? Does it make the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Do you feel a swelling in your Islamic breast?
I'm joking. But I'm not sure the Ayatollah was. And certainly the blood-thirsty anti-Semitic morons who left their comments at the end of the article didn't think he was joking, either.

Understandably your first reaction might be to distrust the report's authenticity (and perhaps blame it on Zionist/US/Western etc etc. fear mongering) 
The fact that I found this on Press TV (I assume you agree Press TV is unlikely to have Western bias or swallow lies fed to them by the West...) should go some way to reassure you. 
But I'm sure they're all really peace-loving, misunderstood friendly chaps who follow the Prophet's injunction to love thy neighbour (oh no - that was the other chap, wasn't it...) and there's nothing at all to worry about. But just in case... I think it may be worth watching developments pretty closely from now on...

AN alarming number of under-age girls – some as young as nine – are being forced into marriage in Islington, according to a leading campaign group.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) claim that at least 30 girls in the borough  were forced into marriage in 2010.
The practice was condemned by the Imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, who said such marriages were against Islam and “unacceptable”.
He pledged to invalidate any marriage which he said were carried out by “back-street Imams”.
IKWRO, which made headlines last month when they revealed there had been almost 3,000 “honour-based” violence cases in 2010, has shown the Tribune records which revealed at least three 11-year-old girls and two nine-year-olds had been forced into marriage with older men within Islington. The oldest girls involved were 16.
They have warned that hundreds of Islington girls could be suffering sexual, emotional and physical scars as a result of the child marriages every year and are calling for teachers, social workers and police to be better trained to spot and manage the abuse.
Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, explained that the girls are married in a mosque’s sharia court. This means they are not legally married according to British law, rendering the Home Office unable to recognise or prove the abuse.
“They are still expected to carry out their wifely duties, though, and that includes sleeping with their husband,” she said.
“They have to cook for them, wash their clothes, everything. They are still attending schools in Islington, struggling to do their primary school homework, and at thesame time being practically raped by a middle-aged man regularly and being abused by their families. So they are a wife, but in a primary school uniform.
“I have heard of this happening in Islington by back-street imams. They are imams who have little knowledge of Islam – they are not educated, and they simply lead prayers, and yes they will do this and it is very quietly kept a secret with no one admitting to it.
“Islam says both parties must truly consent in their hearts, and if the girl was forced into it in any way then she can invalidate her Sharia marriage with or without the husband’s permission.
“I will personally do that for anyone who comes to me. This is simply child abuse, as a child does not know what they are doing.
“My heart goes out to the girls.”
Imam Saad explained that Sharia law stated an individual can marry when they begin puberty, with the most important stipulation being that they are “rushd”, or mature enough to understand marriage.
A spokesman for the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) said he was “unsure” whether the lack of legal status of the marriages affected whether the they could intervene or not, but directed the Tribune to government practice guidelines on dealing with forced marriage.
Presumably you'll say that this is not what Islam advises or teaches. But aren't you supposed to follow the Prophet's example? And it seems fairly clear to me that this is what these "uneducated back-street Imams" are doing:

Sahih Bukhari 7.62.88: "The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)."
Why does God allow his religion to be so misunderstood? Why do so many who follow Islam get the wrong end of the stick and use it to excuse hatred and bullying, genital mutilation and rape? Why, if Islam is truly the final revelation, is it so abused and misused? Why did God make it so easy to misinterpret that it seems to have a higher proportion of "misunderstanders" than any other religion? Have you considered these questions? 

Islamic Hell - Allah must be evil

A recurring theme in my discussions with my Muslim friend is the Islamic concept of Hell. How is it, I ask him, that the "Most Merciful of all those who are merciful" can consign his creation to everlasting torment. Does it seem just that my (God given!) curiosity should lead  me to use logic and science to reject faith and then punish me by burning the skin off my back for eternity.
If such a God does exist then he is most surely an evil God and we should reject Him.
The above video makes the point very clearly. Do please watch it.