Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fits And Seizures

An epilepsy support organization that suggested Muhammad might have been an epileptic hasn't had its offices firebombed yet, but the rhetoric from some offended Muslims has been no less incendiary:

Geoff Bobb, executive director of Epilepsy Toronto, is anything but a spineless sort of guy. So when hundreds of letters from the Muslim community began flooding into his office, asking that the Prophet Mohammed's name be removed from Epilepsy Toronto's list of famous people with the disorder, his first instinct was to stand firm.

The on-line list, which sweeps its way through a huge cast of characters beginning with Socrates, Saint Paul and Joan of Arc and moving through to Napoleon, Newton, Alfred Nobel, Flaubert, Agatha Christie and Danny Glover, is there to empower people who suffer seizures. If you think that epilepsy stands in the way of achievement, the names are there to make you think again.

Now, however, Mohammed's name is no longer on the list. Mr. Bobb says he removed it because the complaints -- some of which came from as far away as Egypt and India -- convinced him that the Muslim Prophet's medical condition could not be historically confirmed.


A writer who identified himself only as Yousuf wrote, "Make an apology and repentence [sic] to Almighty, for you will be accounted for your deeds On The Day Of Judgment. Amen."

At least one letter writer, who declined to speak with The Globe and Mail, also visited Epilepsy Toronto's King Street office.

But Mr. Bobb, who discussed the issue with staff after the letters began to arrive in February, says the Toronto group wasn't forced into the decision.

"We were challenged by a number of members of the Muslim community to authenticate our source. The best we could come up with, in the history books, were comments from [author] Fyodor Dostoyevsky to the effect that Mohammed's visions were, in reality, seizures. While entirely possible, our challengers were quick to take issue with this view of history and suggested that it was motivated by Christian-based propaganda to discredit Islam.

Given the rest of Muhammad's history, epilepsy would have been among the least of his problems.

Or perhaps, the most fateful grand mal seizures in history.

Source: Globe and Mail

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