Guest Post: Why I’m Reluctant to Criticize Islam by Paxton Marshall

Heather asked me recently:

I am curious about your reluctance to criticize Islam. It’s like you’re saying that there is one idea, amongst all the ideas in the world, that is immune from being questioned or challenged.

With another horrific Islamist murder spree having just occurred in Orlando Florida USA, I am impelled to try to answer the question. It’s not so much that I am reluctant to criticize Islam as that I am reluctant to criticize Muslims. Not ISIS, mind you, or Omar Mateen, or any Muslims attacking and killing people. I denounce them unreservedly. But I defend the Muslims in America and around the world who have nothing to do with such incidents, and like most everyone are just trying to make a living and provide for their families. But they are often objects of calumny, discrimination and military bombardment by the West.

I am reluctant to criticize Muslims for the same reason I am reluctant to criticize blacks, Native Americans, Jews, homosexuals, the disabled and transgendered: because my society, the USA, has enslaved, slaughtered, ridiculed, oppressed and/or discriminated against members of these groups BECAUSE of their group identity. Prejudice against most of these groups is still widespread and, among some segments of the American population, increasing. But the only one of these groups the United States military is actively killing at present are Muslims. And there are powerful and influential people and corporations in the USA who want to escalate that killing many-fold.

I am reluctant to denounce Muslims because of the almost continuous terrorism committed by Western nations on Muslim countries over the past century, which has led to the deaths of millions of Muslims and left their societies in ruin. By “Western” I am referring primarily to the US, UK, France, and Israel, with Italy, Spain and other countries joining in from time to time. Western nations have invaded Muslim countries, overthrown their governments, stolen their land and resources, subjected them to brutal tyrants, and slaughtered them by the millions. When they fight back, with the limited weapons available to them, we are outraged and label them as terrorists, refusing to recognize our own far greater terrorism.

I am reluctant to criticize Muslims because Western media and leaders ignore the brutality and mendacity of our attacks on Muslim countries, and spread fear that the West is under assault by Islam “the most oppressive and dangerous of faiths.” By one estimate we have killed 370,000 Muslims, including 210,000 children since the Iraq invasion of 2003. That’s  the equivalent of more than a hundred 9/11 attacks or thousands of Orlando attacks. No Western country has been at risk of Muslim takeover since the Ottoman army was repulsed at the gates of Vienna in 1689. Virtually every Muslim country in the world has been conquered and pillaged by a Western country since then, most of them within the past 100 years. In the past fifteen years western militaries have invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Gaza with modern weapons and overwhelming force, against which they were virtually defenseless. This is not terrorism? And just who is an “existential threat” to whom.

I am reluctant to criticize Muslims while they are the object of continuous denunciations by prominent American politicians, Christian zealots, xenophobic nativists, neo-con militarists, and a surprising number of intellectuals on both the right and the left.

Now some will say, “Yes, but defending Muslims is not the same as defending Islam.” That is true and, being an atheist myself, there is little about Islam I want to defend. But Muslims by definition are those who affiliate with some version of the religion of Islam, and to separate criticism of a religion from criticism of its practitioners is a distinction without a difference. Blaming all bad behavior by Muslims on Islam, is just as misleading as blaming all bad behavior by Christians on Christianity, or blaming all bad behavior by Americans on our constitution. But to my dismay prominent atheists, seeing an easy target for their denunciation of religion, have joined the racist and militarist right in piling on the Muslim community.

I identify as “Islamophobes” those who condemn Islamic practices and attacks by Muslims on the West, without also condemning the far more devastating attacks of the West on Muslims. Islamophobes have an irrational fear of Islam and an inability (or unwillingness) to objectively assess the damage and threat the two groups, Muslims and Westerners, pose to each other.

Islamophobes rationalize their bigotry against Islam in two ways. Firstly, they exaggerate and distort the bad behavior of Muslims relative to that of other cultures; and secondly, they attribute the bad behavior of Muslims to the influence of Islam without adequate evidence or justification.

The first distortion of the Islamophobes, that Muslims behave worse than other groups, can be illustrated by two examples. Islamophobes make much of the misogyny, homophobia, cruelty and violence of Muslims. Muslim women, we are told, only cover their heads or wear distinctive garb because they are compelled to do so by men and will be beaten if they don’t. The forced segregation of the sexes and privilege accorded men, according to one leading Islamophobe, heightens their sexual drive (or lowers their inhibitions) and leads to increased levels of sexual harrassment and violence against women, such as occurred in Germany last year.

But the available data do not indicate that rape and domestic violence are higher among Muslims than other groups. Although statistics on rape are widely under-reported, and their validity may vary widely from country, some data are available. Wikipedia reports rapes per 100,000 population in non-Muslim countries (figures averaged and rounded): South Africa 140, New Zealand 25, Greece 2, Spain 5, Austria 9, USA 30, Sweden 60, Canada 2, and Japan 2. In Muslim countries: Algeria 2, Morocco 3, Turkey 2, Pakistan 26, Bangladesh 8, Kazakhstan 10, Kuwait 5.

The United Nations multi-country study on Men and Violence found the following percentages of men confessing to rape: Bangladesh 10%, Sri Lanka 15%, Cambodia 20%, China 22%, Indonesia 23%, Indonesia-Papua 49%, and Papua New Guinea 62% (numbers rounded). Of these only Bangladesh and Indonesia are predominately Muslim. Sri Lanka and Cambodia are predominately Buddhist, and Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of Papua are largely Christian. The study found that the single greatest motivation cited by men who had raped in all countries studied was a sense of sexual entitlement. This was true of Islamic, Buddhist, and Christian countries but highest in atheist/Maoist China. Looking deeper into the experiences of men who raped (non-partner), the study identified factors (in order of importance): childhood emotional abuse or neglect, childhood sexual abuse and sexual victimization, alcohol and drug use, fights, gang involvement, depression, and current food insecurity.

Connected but separate from the misogyny issue is the accusation that Muslims are more violent and cruel than other cultures. Once again this is belied by the data. Murder rates are an example where the data are generally considered more reliable than rape data. Much is made of ISIS beheadings and Muslim honor killings. Yet, if we look at the data we find that Muslim countries often have murder rates below the world rate of 6.2 per hundred thousand. Wikipedia reports the following homicide rates: Algeria 1.5, Egypt 3.4, Morocco 1.0, Tunisia 3.4, Jordan 2.0, Turkey 2.6, Pakistan 7.7. In comparison some representative non-Muslim countries: Russia 9.5, UK 1.0, Argentina 7.6, US 3.8, Mexico 15.7, Ethiopia 8.1, and New Zealand 0.9.

All of these data may be questioned, but to ignore them while citing anecdotal accounts to demonstrate the misogyny of Islam is disingenuous. Lacking evidence for their claims that Islam is more violent and misogynistic than other societies, the Islamophobes highlight anecdotal and isolated events, and claim without evidence that they are representative. This is a particularly shameful approach for those Islamophobes who are also scientists, as it violates the most basic principles of their profession.

The second distortion employed by Islamophobes to demonize Islam is to attribute Muslim bad behavior to the religion of Islam, and to ignore or deny more compelling and proximate factors, such as revenge for Western terrorism. Many studies have been done of the motives of Islamist terrorism. Factors identified include “social networks,”  and the “tight bonds of family and friendship” inspired alienated young Muslims to join the jihad and kill.”

What the recruits tended to have in common – besides their urbanity, their cosmopolitan backgrounds, their education, their facility with languages, and their computer skills – was displacement. Most who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. … [T]he background of the hundreds of global (as opposed to local) terrorists who were incarcerated or killed and for whom authorities have records, as being surprising for their Westernized background; their lack of religiosity before being “born again” in a foreign country; the high percentage of converts to Islam among them; … 80% of the attackers studied had some kind of physical or mental disability.

Yet such factors seldom enter into the narratives of the Islamophobes, who when challenged will ask “When did we ever say Islam was the ONLY factor in terrorism (or misogyny or other misdeeds attributed to Muslims)?” Yet when each new incident arises, Islam is the primary factor they consider. The outrage over the Orlando murders illustrates this obsession. The killer was an angry, violent young man, apparently conflicted over his sexual identity. Yes, he was a Muslim, but by most accounts not very religious. He saw in DAESH an ideology into which he could channel his rage. His homophobia, if that’s what it was, (maybe it was more Latinophobia) is by no means confined to Islam, as the examples of tweets in Heather’s last post showed. To simply seize on his religion as motivating his crime is simplistic. Yes, he cited DAESH, but I would question if even DAESH is essentially a religious movement. It is led by Sunnis, predominately former Saddamists, who were displaced from their positions of power and privilege by the Bush/Blair invasion, and placed under the control of Shiites seeking revenge. They are all Muslims, with the same Qur’an. Their religious differences are primarily a pretext for a struggle for power and wealth.

Thus I defend Muslims to counter the distortions, put forward by Islamophobes, which currently dominate the discussion in the main stream media. It is critical to combat the prevailing narrative because the military industrial complex, the giant petroleum countries, right-wing bigots, neo-cons, and evangelical Christians are all currently pushing for ever more military action against Muslim countries. Not content with one hundred years of terrorism that have only spread misery and left the Middle East in disarray, these interests, like the Bush/Blair administrations in invading Iraq, always claim the next military action will result in peace, tranquility, and democracy in the countries we savage. And some outspoken Islamophobes who claim to be liberals are engaging in a ruthless attack on fellow leftists who fail to embrace the Islamophobic line. With Islamophobia threatening death and destruction to Muslim countries and discrimination against western Muslims, refraining from attacks on Muslims and Islam, especially claims not based on sound evidence, seems a prudent course for the moment. When Western militarism turns its sights toward China, maybe I will begin to criticize Muslims and defend atheists.

Note: since writing this I have read Ken’s response to my claim in Heather’s last post, that religion is not the root cause of the Orlando shootings. With his usual good sense Ken noted: “While the values came before the religion, the religion reinforces the values and does so in a way that prevents adherents from openly questioning them. That is the insidiousness of religion. It makes it more difficult for the cultures it is embedded in to change over time.” I agree with this and it reinforces my claim that it is Muslims who should be defended, not Islam.

121 Responses to “Guest Post: Why I’m Reluctant to Criticize Islam by Paxton Marshall”

  1. Yakaru says:

    Thanks for writing so clearly about such a difficult topic, Paxton… A few thoughts:

    “It’s not so much that I am reluctant to criticize Islam as that I am reluctant to criticize Muslims.”

    Yep, and that’s why I prefer the term Muslimophobia to Islamaphobia. The latter too swiftly labels all criticism of Islam as anti-Muslim; the former makes it possible for Muslims (and ex-Muslims) to hear criticism of Islamic ideas and toi say “Yeh, I disagree with those ideas too.” (Thus avoiding the hatred from the left directed at people like Asra Nomani et al.)

    (Really, I’d prefer “anti-Muslim bigotry” or some such term. Adding -phobia tries to mimic “homophobia”, where the use of “-phobia” accurately identifies the psychological cause of the hatred. Bigotry against Muslims is far less complex.)

    I don’t have time to look in detail at the stats you cite, or compare them with others, so I will pass over the red flags I see in there, like comparing rape stats from Sweden (60 per 100k) (with very strict rape laws) to places like Algeria and Bangladesh (single digits). Just how carefully did you check & compare these stats?

    And your use here of the term Islamophobia demonstrates exactly why I disagree with it.

    “And some outspoken Islamophobes who claim to be liberals are engaging in a ruthless attack on fellow leftists who fail to embrace the Islamophobic line. With Islamophobia threatening death and destruction to Muslim countries and discrimination against western Muslims…”

    I would phrase that idea like this:
    And some outspoken critics of Islam who claim to be liberals strongly criticize leftists for refusing to join them in their criticism. With anti-Muslim bigotry threatening death and destruction to some Muslim-majority countries…

    I find you lump way too many people together. If you seriously want to accuse Sam Harris & Jerry Coyne of belonging to the same category as Donald Trump, then okay, but that would need some argument and analysis, not just being shoe-horned into the middle of a sentence.

    • paxton marshall says:

      Thanks Yakaru. All of your points are well made. In truth it is Muslimophobia rather than Islamophobia that I object to, though in practice I think the distinction between the religion and the adherent of the religion is seldom convincing. To say one is criticizing Islam and not Muslims, but then to show surveys that most Muslims believe the things being criticized muddles the two together. But I regret now that I didn’t use some kind of alternative phrasing as you suggested, rather than either -phobia. I deliberately avoided invoking Coyne and Harris in this post, but I think a less hostile and more objective presentation would have been more effective. Hopefully I can learn from this, although it may not be easy, given my tendency to fire off. The data I got from Wikipedia. I admit some of it seems questionable, but I thought I’d let critical commenters provide better data if they have any.

      • Yakaru says:

        “To say one is criticizing Islam and not Muslims, but then to show surveys that most Muslims believe the things being criticized muddles the two together.”

        Yes, I agree. And there is the added conflict that some see religion as a choice, where as for others it is a matter of identity, so it gets doubly conflated.

        I do think it is necessary to criticize bad Islamic ideas, but it is extremely difficult and at times impossible to do when Muslims are discriminated against. But everyone should be supporting Muslims and ex-Muslims who speak out against oppression in their culture, and that has not been happening enough.

        (And as long as that lunatic is still running for president, there is at least one person for whom the term Islamophobe fits exactly.)

        • This is an area where I have difficulty with the post too. I think it’s important to separate the idea of Islam from Muslim people. There’s a big difference between Islamopobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. This is where Paxton and I clashed initially which is where this post came from.

          People do muddle the two, and often it is Muslims themselves who do it – some can’t see themselves as separate from their religion so criticism of Islam becomes for them criticism of Muslims. Imo, this comes from ignorance, which leads to fear, which leads to hate. We all know about that path, and I’m stating the obvious but I think it needs to be said. Most in the West simply don’t know many Muslims or know much about Islam. We know the bad ideas, and we know about terrorists, and for most that’s the limit of their knowledge. It’s the same for someone in Mosul – they only Westerners they know are soldiers attached to armies that killed their family. Ken – you put a good video on Facebook the other day about everyone thinking their cause is the right one; I think that’s worth posting here if you read this.

          I have a problem with the rape statistics in particular. Bangladesh reports 8/100,000. However the UN reports 10% of men there admit to extra-marital rape. Even if those men commit “only” one rape on one woman each, that’s 10,000 not 8.

          Asra Nomani has an excellent piece in the Washington Post: She writes:

          Just one day after the Orlando massacre, a Dutch woman in Qatar was convicted of the crime of “illicit sex” — for coming forward with the complaint that she had been raped.

          Things like this happen because of Islam, and those ideas need to be challenged. Muslims are speaking up about them – Asra Nomani is one of them – but too often they don’t get the support they should from Westerners who are reluctant to criticize Islam because they don’t want to exacerbate anti-Muslim bigotry.

          We need to get to know Muslims better, absorb them better into our society, so that criticism of Islam’s attitudes to women is no different from criticism of the Catholic Church’s attitude to women.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, this bothers me too. In many cases, average people in Islamic countries are in far more immediate danger than Muslims living in the US. While it’s also true that we can have far less effect in other countries than our own, it is still a worry that we might withhold active support for these people – and for how long? It could be quite a while.

            Here’s the link you asked for:

      • Ken says:

        Well, I hesitate to insert Coyne then, but oh dear, has he just illustrated your point or what?

        It’s not that everything he says is wrong, it’s his ability to ignore the political elephant in the room (and basic human dynamics for that matter) and therefore lose all sense of proportion in laying the responsibility for ending terrorism almost entirely at the feet of Muslims via the reform of Islam from within. His blinders are on very tightly here, more than I’ve ever seen. This is an extremely sad and unhelpful piece.

  2. Ken says:

    Thanks for the kind plug, Paxton. Of course, I wrote that in part to argue that some focus on religion is justified, required even, so its interesting that we’ve used it to reach opposite conclusions here. So I’ll repeat another part of what I said, that we should avoid the collective punishment of religious adherents, but go after the funders and promoters of radical doctrine, as summarised in Patrick Cockburn’s recent article:

    As you know, I agree with so much of what you say here, but there are a few exceptions.

    “But Muslims by definition are those who affiliate with some version of the religion of Islam, and to separate criticism of a religion from criticism of its practitioners is a distinction without a difference.”

    The difference is that people have rights and ideas don’t. We have to be able to criticise ideas while defending people’s rights to believe what they want. Of course, the problem is that so many of the people you refer to aren’t doing that – I get it. You’re saying hold back on criticism of Islam right now, because it is putting innocent lives at risk. I think that’s the only justification you need and I’m not sure why you make other arguments that seem to me a bit dubious. Still, the first time we all debated this way back when, your thesis included support for those who outright denied that there was a religious link to terrorism. I think it’s right that you’ve moved on from that, just as Obama has done. It makes your position much more logical and supportable.

    Yet I still struggle to accept it entirely. I think it’s more how we criticise than whether we do. That it should be done in a balanced way and with specific important ends in mind. But I admit this is one of the most difficult things to get right and that we need to think hard about unintended consequences in public debate.

  3. paxton marshall says:

    I don’t think we reach opposite conclusions, Ken. I agree that we should go after the funders and promoters of violence but avoid collective condemnation of Muslims. It’s the latter I was trying to address. But I think distinguishing between criticizing ideas and criticizing the people who hold them is seldom credible. For the most part it is ides and behaviors that we criticize people for. I guess if a person does good charitable work but has hateful beliefs that distinction might be made, but that is seldom the case. Religion is a human artifact. It represents the the attitudes and beliefs of the people who embrace it. What is superficially called the same religion may be very different for different people. I don’t deny a religious link to terrorism, I just think that people make their religion support their predilections. Religion is not so much the cause as the banner that people choose to justify their behavior. Too many people seem to think that religion is something separate from people that makes them behave the way they do. You’re probably right that I should just say ” hold back on criticism of Islam right now, because it is putting innocent lives at risk”, but I feel it is important to call out those who are putting the innocent lives at risk. The refusal of Americans (or USAians as Heather calls us) to recognize the role of our own violence in provoking Muslim violence almost assures more of the same.

  4. Max Wallace says:

    By Mohammed Rad, Member, Arab Humanists
    Recently, a devastating terrorist attack took place in Orlando, where 49 innocent people were murdered. Surely, the majority of people in the Arab world condemn this atrocious act of violence? The most fatal shooting in recent American history cannot possibly be celebrated by such a large number of peace-loving people who, after all, mostly condemn the acts of terror committed in the name of Islam by groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, right? Right?
    As a bilingual Arabic and English speaker from the Middle East, I took the liberty of browsing through Arabic news pages on Facebook earlier today; namely Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, BBC Arabic and a number of Egyptian news outlets to gauge how the Arab world was responding to the Orlando shooting. The results were disappointing, alarming, and depressing to say the least. Each page’s comment section was inundated with posts showing sympathy towards the attacker, praising him for his actions and wishing death upon members of the international LGBT community. Comments ranged from jokes about the incident and how “the gays had it coming,” to long du’as (religious supplications), wishing death upon gays and lesbians, as well as asking God to grant the killer “the highest place in paradise.” I considered collecting screenshots of these comments to raise awareness about the amount of hatred towards the gay community in the Middle East, but it soon dawned on me that such a task would be impossible.
    There were simply too many hateful comments, with thousands celebrating the attack, from Tunisia to Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It was only through deep digging that a single person who expressed so much as a shred of sympathy to the victims and their families, or even condemned the blatant massacre that took place could be found. If you don’t speak Arabic, visit Al Jazeera Arabic’s Facebook page and scroll down until you see a post about the Orlando attack and note what the top three “reactions” (newly added Facebook feature) are.
    Shocked? So am I. It is truly saddening and disturbing to see that such a large number of social media users in the Arab world who voice their opinions on the internet openly and unapologetically condone the killing of innocents because of their sexual orientation. Conversely, you may argue that as a majority of Al Jazeera Arabic viewers and readers are Islamist sympathizers, it is no surprise that they would be homophobic, and you would be right. But bear in mind that this also applies to outlets such as the BBC and Al Arabiya, whose followers you may assume are anti-Islamist because of their condemnation of ISIS. Egyptian news outlets generally have a large pro-Sisi following, and one might be led to think that their anti-brotherhood and anti-Islamism stance means that they condemn acts of terror against members of the LGBT community. Clearly, this is not the case.
    The implications of this are far worse and much more far-reaching than one might initially consider. It has now become commonplace in the Arab world to wish death upon minorities and celebrate their murders. Gays, Christians, Jews, atheists, apostates, heterodox Muslims, liberal Muslims, and secularists are seen as subhuman. Celebrating their deaths is now a norm. At worst, attacks such as the Orlando shooting are met with praise, and at best silence.
    Members of the left who claim such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam need to become aware of the issue at hand that is Islamism, and understand the ramifications of evading discussions on it. The Arab world’s moral collapse is the result of decades of fundamentalist Wahhabi indoctrination across the Muslim world which has culminated in the recent rise of Islamic terrorism. Reform must come from within Muslim communities – I can’t stress this enough. An open and frank discussion on the current understanding and interpretation of Islam is much needed. Yes, it’s great to see Muslims in the west condemning the attack and voicing solidarity with the victims and their families, but there still remains a long way to go. The Muslim world, particularly the Middle East and North Africa, has become rife with followers of either Arab nationalist anti-west ideologies, or Islamism and Wahhabism, both of which are cesspools for hate.
    When the standard response from a lot of liberals is “Christians can be homophobic too” and “this has nothing to do with Islam” right after a terrorist attack where 49 people were killed because of religious fundamentalism, then a frank discussion is desperately needed. No favors are done by denying the presence of homophobia in Muslim communities and repeating far right Islamist rhetoric and propaganda. This only worsens an already bad situation, and the profundity of the consequences this attitude engenders towards Islamic fundamentalism must be recognized. Ignoring Islamic fundamentalism only makes the far right stronger, and its rise will be immediately followed by the persecution of the minorities whose rights the left purports to protect. This makes it harder not only for the LGBT community in the Middle East, but also other minorities and liberal and secular Muslims who fight for change on a daily basis in the Arab world.

    • I posted that article on the Heather’s Homilies Facebook page as well. While many of us are concerned at the prejudice suffered by Muslims in the West where they’re a minority, there are plenty of places where they’re the majority and there’s a lot worse prejudice being directed towards atheists, LGBT people, women, and even just those advocating for a separation of mosque and state like Raif Badawi.

      I don’t want us to sink to that level – I want us to maintain the moral high ground and not use what’s happening to atheists etc in places like Saudi Arabia as an excuse to treat any human being badly. But some on the far left also need to remember that many of those they’re sticking up for would literally stab them in the back if they got the chance and could get away with it. This post is eighteen months old now, but I think it still makes some valid points: (Trigger Warning Ken and Paxton – I support Harris and Coyne in this one!)

    • somer says:

      As i say again and again in several fora. The answer is not war in this it is firm cultural stance that Liberal humanism is better and we will not let it be taken over by extreme religion. Its not against Muslims – its for modernising the Islamic religion which for various reasons I argue is more resistant to change than Christianity but must change. The flip side of Islamic intransigence is this astonishing internal sectarianism (aggravated now but been going on since 20 yeas after the death of the prophet). They cannot go back to the 7th century in the modern world – for the good of Muslims themselves they must humanise their religion. I explain elsewhere (Sermon in Cincinnatti: Women must stay at home and serve their husbands) why Christianity (except a small fringe of extreme evangelicals) is more open to secular influences and of course Paxton will disagree.

      Paxton is immune to the suggestions that other powers, such as Russia, might be genuinely aggressive in the region and have been so for a long time or that superpowers might ever threaten us or that any wars in the middle east might be primarily a result of sectarianism.

      Also he alleges the media is dominated by right wing responses on this. I would argue its equally dominated by the regressive left. Its only people in the centre – arguing for a Maajid Nawaz type stance and insistence on upholding liberal humanism – that are too often shown the exit.

  5. Ken says:

    I won’t go there, Heather! I’m more interested in the present and what you think of Coyne’s conclusion in the piece I posted above:

    “But the problem of both American and foreign terrorism will not end until Islam itself undergoes a profound reform. Not just ISIS and other terrorist organizations, but Muslims as a whole, who, by and large, hold views incompatible with democracy, equality, and Enlightenment values.”

    Life is easy when it’s all the other guy’s fault. As I read somewhere once, how dare they hide our oil under their sand!

    • Max Wallace says:

      That’s a red herring, Ken. The author in the above piece is an Arab.


      • Ken says:

        Max, I’m talking about Coyne’s views in this blog post:

        Coyne is not an Arab, nor even an Arab-American. Not that this matters to my point. The view would be woefully inadequate no matter who expressed it.

        • Okay, I’ve read it again. I’d already read it of course, but although I remembered disagreeing with something he wrote, it wasn’t that bit, and I mostly agreed with him. As he points out those who suffer most from Islamist violence are other Muslims, and it’s extremists who are pushing the ultra-conservative agenda from the Middle East. The current situation is partly a reaction to what the West has done in the Middle East and elsewhere, but some pretty awful stuff elsewhere too and those communities have managed to shrug off the mantle of oppression and thrive without the same reaction as Islamists. (e.g. see this comment by Malgorzata on another Coyne post: ) Saudi Arabia exported Wahhabism and it is those extremist beliefs that are informing the actions of the terrorists. They believe that what they are doing is getting them a special place in the afterlife.

          Islam does need to reform. As long as so many of the religion’s adherents hold beliefs that literally encourage the murder of anyone who doesn’t accept it there cannot be peace. It’s not up to Jerry to force those people to reform. There are many within the religion working on it, and many of them are in mortal danger because of it.

          And he didn’t put it all on other either – he also mentioned things like the availability of guns in the US that needs to be sorted.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            Jerry Coyne expresses great concern for the harm Islamists do to other Muslims as well as the harm they do to westerners. When did he ever express concern for the Muslims that have been harmed by the west? Wouldn’t you think he would at least occasionally give a nod to his own country’s brutality, imperialism and terrorism as part of the problem? And if he wants to attribute all the violence to religion, why is there never a mention of the role of Christianity and Judaism in acts of terrorism against Muslims?

          • I probably read a lot more of what Jerry write than you do, and I can assure you he does express his concern for those things. He does not, however, use the terms you want him to use, which is where part of the problem comes I think. You want everyone to call what the US etc has done to Iraq etc terrorism. I call what they did an illegal, unjustified war. The suffering is the same of course. “At this point, what difference does it make?” (Hillary Clinton at Benghazi hearings.) I know you have an answer for that, and I know what it is, but it doesn’t convince me and I’m not currently up to thrashing it out again.

          • The Paxton marshall says:

            What we’ve done to them is worse than terrorism, because it was done not by rogue malcontents but by elected democratic governments.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, if you boil down the last 18 months of debate here, the single most important point both Paxton and I have tried to make is that the primary cause of terrorism is geopolitics. We can rehearse all the arguments again, but I actually thought from your more recent comments that you very largely agreed. I agree with much of Coyne’s post too, but that he can offer a solution to terrorism that entirely ignores the biggest cause is deplorable and a perfect example of what causes Paxton to write in defence of Muslims so passionately.

          • (See my reply to Paxton also) The primary cause is geopolitics, but I think the reaction of many Muslims is informed by Islam. I defend Muslims too, but not Islam. If a Muslim is sexist or a homophobe or believes atheists and apostates should be put to death I’m going to criticize them. I’m not going to give them a pass because so many Muslims have suffered at the hands of people from my part of the world (i.e. the West). I will also continue to criticize fellow Westerners who want to “make the sand glow” around Raqqa (Cruz) or torture the families of terrorists (Trump). I have my set of principles and I stick to them though I’ll change any if and when I’m convinced I’m wrong by a better argument. And the argument MUST continue. Leaving Muslims out of the criticism side of the conversation is counter-productive imo. There are things about countries like Saudi that I think MUST be changed, and I’m not going to stop saying so. Saudi Arabia would have killed Raif Badawi by now if it wasn’t for people in the West speaking up for him, and if no political pressure was put on them there’s no chance they would change on their own.

          • Yakaru says:

            “Wouldn’t you think he would at least occasionally give a nod to his own country’s brutality, imperialism and terrorism as part of the problem?”

            He does frequently, but only where it’s directly relevant.

            I do agree that it is worth giving a nod to opposing arguments at times, but not in a blogpost written on the hop. And also not in a context where his general politics are well known at least by regular readers, and also not in a context where he is trying to highlight issues that (he argues) get ignored by the mainstream press.

          • Ken says:

            Yakaru, I’m baffled as Coyne’s omissions in this case are critically relevant. First, he extends the discussion from mass killings in the US to world-wide terrorism. Second, he says that to “hasten the waning of the prestige of Islamism”, as he imagines Pinker to be advocating, is “the only solution—if you conceive of the problem as deaths not just in the U.S., but throughout the world.”

            The only solution? He continues:

            “But the problem of both American and foreign terrorism will not end until Islam itself undergoes a profound reform. Not just ISIS and other terrorist organizations, but Muslims as a whole, who, by and large, hold views incompatible with democracy, equality, and Enlightenment values.”

            “And we need to start naming the problem for what it is: mass murder based on a religious ideology.”

            So it’s the only solution to world-wide terrorism and “Muslims as a whole” are responsible for implementing it. The West can presumably carry on killing as usual.

            The only way one can reach such a horribly wrong conclusion is to completely ignore the history of Western intervention, which is exactly what he did. That he has mentioned it in the past doesn’t make it ok, and it doesn’t sound like he made a mistake “on the hop” either. Any other position he ever had on this has been completely overwritten here.

            And yes, blaming “Muslims as a whole” as the sole cause of terrorism, plays right into Trump’s hate game.

          • He doesn’t blame Muslims as a whole but Islam as a whole and those Muslims who, because of it, accept that women are second-class citizens, and LGBT people, adulterers, atheists, and apostates deserve death. Drawing a cartoon or writing a book or making a film that gives a negative interpretation of Islam shouldn’t cause people to be murdered and in most religions it doesn’t. Muslims who think it should, and it’s Islam that cause them to think that, need to stop being so fucking precious.

            I could do a post full of anti-Catholic cartoons and j.a.m. wouldn’t like it very much and he’d have plenty to say, but it wouldn’t cross his mind to search me out and kill me, just like none of us has ever even thought to try and identify him and kill him for the stuff he says about atheists. The idea is ridiculous. But that’s what Salman Rushdie and Ayan Hirsi Ali live with every day.

          • Yakaru says:

            Yes, I also balked at “Muslims as a whole”. But, despite what Paxton argues here, there are clearly enormous problems with the general culture of Islam as a whole — problematic for children in Muslim families who get labeled and possessed by their religion, forced to follow arbitrary and discriminatory rules (I’m talking about fairly “moderate” families here — I see it in my work here in Germany)… The problems are profound and far too glibly passed over or explained away with “well Christians have problems too”.

            Coyne writes a blog, not finished well rounded journalistic pieces. I don’t pay much attention to his writings on Islam. Same with Sam Harris. I take interests me, but generally, he focuses on issues that get ignored by the mainstream press, so I don’t well rounded coverage of issues from him.

          • Ken says:

            Yakaru, I haven’t challenged any of the matters that Coyne raised in his post except for his conclusions. And Paxton doesn’t deny that Islam has many problems either; he says the opposite. Paxton’s concern is how we deal with such matters in a political climate that sees collective punishment of Muslims as acceptable and even desirable.

            We’ve no reason to think Coyne wouldn’t stand by his piece. And it’s the editorial portion that is in question, so journalistic polish is not the issue at all. He set out to write about global terrorism, using as his starting point an article about mass killings in the US. I expect he knew what he wanted to say and did so quite specifically. He expressed an opinion about the cause of terrorism and who’s responsible. He was very clear, including that Muslims should be held responsible as a group. If he misrepresented his own views, I suppose we’ll know when he retracts them. In the meantime, that he raised matters often ignored by the mainstream media is surely no excuse for coming to illogical and abhorrent conclusions about the same matters.

          • Ken says:

            Heather, while I think Paxton’s concerns are real, I’ve never argued Muslims should be left out of the argument, nor have I ever given them a pass. Criticising Islam doesn’t require erroneously concluding that it is the sole cause of global terrorism, nor that Muslims should be held exclusively and collectively responsible for it’s end. That Coyne does so here deserves strong criticism, regardless of anything else he may have right.

          • Ken says:

            Again, Heather, no argument (except that “Muslims as a whole” is a direct quote), but it’s still wrong for Coyne to then stretch that and claim Islam is the sole cause of global terrorism, as though the bigger causes didn’t exist.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Ken wrote: “the single most important point both Paxton and I have tried to make is that the primary cause of terrorism is geopolitics.”

            Well, yes Ken, but I think that is a euphemistic way of describing it. The primary motivation for Islamic terrorism is western aggression (or terrorism as I would call it) against Muslims and their countries. Osama bin Laden was very explicit about that. If some country had done the same things to the US as we have done to Iraq, I might support terrorism against that country also. But for all our vaunted enlightenment rationality, few can consider how the Muslims we have savaged must see the situation.

          • Ken says:

            No argument, Paxton, just wanted to keep it as wide as possible, because the geopolitical web includes other factors like US support for repressive govts of various flavours (from Israel to Saudi), the destabilising of govts like Iraq, turning a blind eye to the funding of radical religious doctrine, directly supporting some of the groups that started modern organised terrorism, and gaining control of ME natural resources, none of which Coyne felt worth mentioning as a contributor to our current strife.

          • Ken says:

            This is a good post-US-election debate between two classical liberals, Gaad Sad and Nick Cohen, about particularly Islamism and the growing right-wing populism. I post it here via Jerry Coyne’s blog post, because it is heartily endorsed by Coyne, who says he takes Cohen’s side in this argument. And this is relevant, because Cohen (who I’ve also taken issue with in the past, but agree with here) strenuously argues that Saad’s focus on Islam in general, rather than on specific dangerous individuals be they Islamists or from the alt-right, is wrong from a classical liberal perspective. I’m glad to hear Coyne say he supports Cohen here, given Coyne expresses a very different view about the collective responsibility of Muslims in the piece above, though in fact, I can’t reconcile the two sentiments, as they seem so opposed. I’m slightly concerned that Coyne says he hasn’t yet listened to the whole conversation yet too, but I hope his view of it doesn’t change when he does.


          • I listened to this a couple of days ago and was going to write about it, but other things got in the way, and now I’m writing about something else. It’s an interesting conversation. I’m with Cohen all the way on this one, although like you, I don’t always agree with him.

            Jerry is a big fan of Cohen and having listened to it all, I would say that Jerry would be on Cohen’s side for all of it.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            “I’ve noticed a further and further right leaning trend in the ‘atheist’ community…a trend that may have helped give rise to the alt right/white nationalist movement”. Nice Mangoes

        • Ken says:

          Hey Pax, long time. Who’s Nice Mangoes? I expect there’s more context around this quote that I’m unaware of, but on its own, I’d say it gives “right leaning” atheists way too much credit. While I think they, often without intention, give support to such extremists groups as we’ve often discussed before and Cohen challenges Saad about, I don’t think those groups would look at all different if Saad, Harris, Rubin, etc, had never opened their mouths.

          • Nice Mangoes is a Canadian Blogger. She’s a former Muslim atheist who writes under the name Eiynah because she receives death threats etc for her apostasy. She often advises Muslims re sexual stuff too, which gets a lot of conservative Muslims very upset with her. She wrote a children’s book called ‘My Chacha [Pakistan – uncle] is Gay’ which has received a lot of criticism from the Muslim community too. She recently started an excellent podcast as well. Here’s her blog, where you can find links to the rest of her stuff:

          • Ken says:

            Thanks, will have a look. I think I have heard of her now that you describe her.

          • Yakaru says:

            Thanks for commenting on this, Ken — I am happy to agree with you entirely on this. And while I still thinnk it is important to deal with Islamic extremism and to criticise the doctrines from which it arises, I also think that since the US election a greater and more immanent threat is right wing extremism/stupidity and its attendant Putinism.

            As far as I understand Jerry Coyne’s perspective, I also assume he would entirely agree with Eiynah on this too, and I suspect he already had a good idea that he would agree, when he decided to give her opinions prominence on his blog. I was very pleased to see him support her like that. He’s supported her for sometime.

            She has Pakistani parents, and grew up in Saudi Arabia, and now lives in Canada. I’ve listened to many of her podcasts. She is happy to talk to people she disagrees with, and I think, deals with disagreements very calmly and sensibly, while also stating her positions clearly. She’s been criticising Rubin et al for sometime and of course gets attacked from all sides in the most ridiculous ways.

            (I think it’s unfair to count Harris in with Rubin and Saad BTW — regardless of occasions where he seems to make the same mistake Saad makes of lumping all Muslims in with extremists, he does have a level of intellectual honesty that Saad & Rubin entirely lack. And he had a very amicable interview with Eiynah, which *didn’t* wind up with him calling her a Jew-hater like Saad is doing!)

            Eiynah’s podcasts are here.

          • Ken says:

            Cheers, Yakaru. Because of your comments, I have finally realised that Eiynah was the one who tipped off Coyne to the video and is of course mentioned in his post! I honestly didn’t pay any attention to who it was when I read it, so really didn’t know who she was when I asked Paxton. Things make more sense now 🙂

            Your comment on Harris/Rubin/Saad is interesting too as I’ve not seen anything that suggests much difference between them. Certainly in this video, I didn’t spot anything Saad says that I think Harris would disagree with. And while I stopped watching Rubin at least six months ago (except for his recent interview with Larry Krauss), he seemed entirely of the same ilk as Harris then. Is there more to it than Saad’s name calling, which I agree seems pretty bad?

          • Yakaru says:

            I hadn’t kept up at all with what Rubin was up to until found out that he was presenting the Pegida movement as an “acceptable reaction to problems with immigration”, (which is a bit like saying Milli Vanilli was an acceptable reaction to punk rock).

            Saad has a few differences with Sam H, in my opinion. Sam far more aware of the dangers of treating Muslims as a homogeneous group, despite at times making annoyingly unclear comments on the subject. He has very clearly disavowed the right wing nuts he attracted as followers and often said how shocked and upset he was to discover they had taken his message as supporting them.

            He is also far better informed and reflective than Saad in general, and way smarter. Saad clearly didn’t realize how far out of his intellectual depth he was when interviewing Cohen, and kept trying to make the same point again and again, without even realizing that Cohen was already several steps ahead of him and had already demolished the point he was hoping to make. I just can’t imagine Sam being such a dumbass.

            I think what bothers me the most in cases like this, is not so much ideas that might sound bigoted, but the level of stupidity involved in it, and the appalling behavior of some. I disagree with some things that Sam Harris says about immigration, for example, or even more so, Douglas Murray, but both of them present their ideas clearly and are up for a debate. Though, as of now, no one should be criticising Islam unless they have already spent twice as long kicking the so called alt-right as hard as they can.

            (I understand that Saad has been flirting happily with some of them, and obviously Rubin too. Sam hasn’t been, and his recent podcasts, including one with Eiynah, he has been very clear about his total opposition to them.)

            …Still not done…. I must say I would find it hard to pin down Sam’s positions on some things, but that is partly because I get bored with them sometimes — I don’t know exactly what he thinks about profiling or torture or immigration, because he is very convoluted sometimes and says one thing and then takes it back, etc. But temperamentally and from his behavior, I don’t think he is anything close to a bigot, and in areas where do think I understand his views quite clearly (spirituality/meditation especially) he doesn’t talk like an intolerant or incurious person.

            This is difficult territory, and it’s hard to know when to write off and ignore someone, to pay attention and learn and disagree, and when to vocally oppose without getting sucked into some petty bunfight….

          • I’ve asked Ken to write a post so we can have a proper discussion about this in a new forum. He’s very busy at work, but has agreed to do it as soon as he can. There’s a lot to digest here, and we’ll be able to get into it better in a new post I think.

          • Yakaru says:

            Sorry for all this ranting…. SIWOTI…. Just looked at twitter. Now Rubin is also attacking Eiynah, saying that he and Saad are putting their lives on the line while she is being anonymous in Canada.

          • Disgusting! She’s anonymous because of multiple death threats!!!

          • Ken says:

            Thanks for that. Seems like they’re starting to believe their own hype.

          • Yakaru says:

            Sounds great — thanks, Heather and Ken!

  6. Yakaru says:

    Interesting interview(s) by Rachel Maddow, with a former Muslim extremist who had been psychologically unhinged by Salafist anti-gay teachings. Link to Youtube

    Regardless of whether or not such ideas lead to terrorism, they should be publicly condemned and opposed.

    • This is an excellent video, and explains a lot of what some of us have said – that people become extremely religious to make up for past actions or, in the case of genuine criminals, their skill set is diverted to working for God so they can feel good about doing those criminal acts.

  7. Yakaru says:

    Paxton wrote:
    “The primary motivation for Islamic terrorism is western aggression”

    I won’t write anything more than simply to register my revulsion at this assertion, and to insist blankly that I don’t think history or human behavior are so simple; nor that Muslims are by nature such reflexive automatons.

    • The Paxton marshall says:

      Yakaru, to say that western aggression is the primary cause of Muslim terrorism doesn’t make them reflexive automatons, (although determinists like Jerry Coyne would say we are all reflexive automatons). It makes them fully evolved Homo sapiens, who tend to fight or flee when attacked. What would you do if your people were being invaded, like the Iraqis, or held prisoner for 50 years like the Palestinians? Empathy, which is supposedly an evolved trait of humans, mean to be able to envision yourself in the place of the other. Reason, for which we pride ourselves as “enlightened” people, means to be able to be able to objectively assess a situation without bias. The west is committing a gigantic empathy and reason fail in its dealings with Muslim peoples.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        Does saying that German aggression was the primary cause of allied counter attacks, make the allies reflexive automatons?

        • Yakaru says:

          You appear to be entirely unaware of what actions these terrorists undertake. And entirely unaware of the stated aims of many of these terrorist groups.

          Effective resistance against a hated occupier does not include walking into a Tel Aviv restaurant and opening fire. They’re not resisting a hated occupation or trying to win their rights. They are continuing their multi-generational attempt to rid the Middle east of Jews and make the streets of Tel Aviv run with rivers of blood.

          Nor — as in one video they proudly posted online — is machine gunning 50 Muslim children while shouting God is great a response to invasion.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Whether resistance is “effective” or not has nothing to do with its motive. Was John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry motivated by his detestation for slavery. Was his action effective? Certainly not in the short run.

            To say of Palestinian murderers of Israelis “They’re not resisting a hated occupation or trying to win their rights. They are continuing their multi-generational attempt to rid the Middle east of Jews and make the streets of Tel Aviv run with rivers of blood.” demonstrates little knowledge or empathy for people being imprisoned for nothing they have done. The TA shooter, like the hundreds of children slaughtered in Gaza in 2014 were not even alive in 1948 or 1967 or 1973. Yet they are victims.

            I’m well aware of the actions of terrorists, both Muslims and westerners. I’m aware of the stated aims of the terrorist groups, such as to get western militaries out of Muslim countries. Yes, some want to rid the middle east of Jews just as some Israeli politicians want to rid the west bank of Muslims and confiscate their land, as they have already made a good start in doing. Actions speak louder than words.

        • Yakaru says:

          Please. Bush = Hitler, ISIS = the Allies.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Please. I didn’t make either analogy. Perhaps you’d understand my point better is I said that the primary motive for Britain’s naval action against Argentina was Argentina’s invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands. Did that make the Brits reflexive automatons? To cite something as a primary motivation for something else does not imply who is right or wrong.

      • I’m pretty bloody sure that my response to the situation the Palestinians are in would not be to murder innocents, send rockets to attack civilian targets, or use my own children as human fucking shields. But if, from childhood, I was taught to hate Jews, that they were evil personified, that I had practiced military assaults against them even in kindergarten, if my religion taught me that the only way to please God was to fight and die for my religion, etc. etc., then I might respond the way Hamas and Hezbollah do. Yes, we are determinists, and I’m surprised you don’t accept that.

  8. paxton marshall says:

    In another example of moral obtuseness, Jerry Coyne quotes Salon, ““Everybody who was in the bathroom who survived could hear him talking to 911, saying the reason why he’s doing this is because he wanted America to stop bombing his country.”. Coyne’s response was to say that to not publish Omar Mateen’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS in his 911 call is to “slant the news in such a way that Islam is exculpated in mass murders by Muslims,”. No recognition that we are bombing his country (Afghanistan) and we have been occupying his country for 14 years. How many innocent civilians have we killed there? Hundreds? Thousands? Not a concern to Coyne, whose laser focus is on Islam as the motivation for “mass murder by Muslims”. Mass murder by Americans seems an incomprehensible concept to Jerry Coyne, as is the notion that attacks against us may be in response to attacks against them.

    • The US is still in Afghanistan because the elected government has asked them to stay and continue to help train their police and military. They themselves don’t feel they’re ready to deal with the Taliban on their own and need more training. Several times they have ASKED the US to extend their mission. The only people the US is bombing in Afghanistan are targets that the Afghan government has identified as terrorist fighters and asked them to bomb. I’m not saying they’re perfect, and they haven’t got it wrong sometimes but you’re way off base here. Look at the independent assessments of deaths in Afghanistan – the vast majority of the civilian deaths are attributed to the Taliban, and that majority is increasing all the time.

      • The Paxton marshall says:

        Hmm, and I’ve got a bridge for sale. We have done everything possible to get a government of our choosing, to buy off leaders of different factions, and to bribe and pressure the government to do what we tell them to do. For more than a century the Afghans have been buffered about by foreign powers: British, Russian. American. The US helped to establish al Qaeda there, and indirectly the taliban as a means of resisting the Russians. How would you feel if New Zealand were in the position of Afghanistan? You wouldn’t feel like striking out against the foreign occupiers? If you and your family and friends had been held captive by a foreign occupier for 50 years, you would still consider citizens of the occupying country “innocent” of your captivity. Even if the country is a democracy and the government supposedly represents the will of the citizens? How do you apportion responsibility for the crimes of a democracy?

        • The Afghans have been treated abysmally. The Russians went in because it’s been discovered that there’re huge deposits of mineral wealth there that they wanted to get their hands on, and instead of directly supporting the government the US supported the rebels, which worked short term but was a bloody stupid idea long term. It was the US who initially trained the Taliban, which is why they’re so good and why they’re having so much trouble getting rid of them.

          At least the US were trying to support what the people actually wanted, although that was better for the US too because they would have been the ones helping develop the resource and they would have made plenty out of it and they didn’t want the Russians to get hold of it. Or the Chinese for that matter who were also trying to get in there. If and when peace is restored Afghanistan could be a very wealthy country. That’s why the Taliban so desperate to regain control of the government and why DAESH is there too. It’s not for any high-falutin’ reasons, it’s for the money.

          Whatever the US has done wrong, and there’s plenty, long term they are the ones who want to support the country to be a self-directed democracy in control of its own resources. And most of the country doesn’t want to be ruled by the Taliban, they want their democratically elected government to be in charge.

          And I haven’t read the transcript yet, but I thought the Orlando killer was moaning about bombing in Iraq and Syria, not Afghanistan, anyway.

          • Ken says:

            I read it was Afghanistan, as that’s where his family was from.

            Heather, you first describe quite well enough how everyone was in it for their own gain, including the US, but then claim they’re the only ones who want what’s best for the people long term. I can’t see any evidence for that. That they were happy to support the Taliban in the past surely shows that they only prefer democracy when it coincides with US interests and will jettison that preference very easily. Kissinger called it realpolitik and nothing significant has really changed since his day.

          • His family is from Afghanistan, but it was specifically Iraq and Syria where he wanted the bombing to stop:

            I’m not saying the US are the only ones who aren’t in it for themselves (they are), just that they’re the only ones who will also, as far as their own interests let them, do what is right by the Afghans. They’re not good, just by far the best of a bad bunch.

            But yes, the US support of the Taliban in the past was one of those shameful episodes that the CIA will never live down.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I second Ken’s remarks. Note that today Jerry Coyne doubles down on the religion motive, while completely ignoring Mateen’s statement that his actions were motivated by US bombing of Syria and Iraq. He just cannot consider that Islamic terrorism is a response to American terrorism. Moral obtuseness is probably too kind a characterization. It’s hard to avoid recognizing it as deliberate obfuscation and yes, Islamophobia.

          • I guess you read a different article to me.

            The release of a redacted form of what he said, which is what Jerry’s original article was about, was clearly specifically designed to remove reference to ISIS and Islam from his comments. It was a stupid move by the administration because they made things worse instead of better by giving ammunition to their opponents regarding excessive political correctness. This was especially stupid as just about every news outlet was already reporting on the DAESH link because all the people in the bathroom stall who survived heard him say those things.

            The only explanation the shooter himself offered was support for DAESH and al-Baghdadi. He said that’s why he was doing it. Why do you accept the word of a Christian shooting up an abortion clinic for his motives, but not the word of this murderer. We don’t know for sure he was gay – that’s only being surmised. We have no evidence for mental illness. Gun laws would not have stopped him – he was a security contractor and legally entitled to buy firearms. However, there is evidence going back to childhood that he had extremist religious views. And the murderer was American, born in New York, living a comfortable middle-class life. His ancestry was Afghani, but he didn’t talk about what was happening there, he talked about DAESH.

            And I’m not sure that Jerry’s conclusion is a doubling down:

            As for whether or not you believe Mateen was motivated at least in part by his faith, well, you can judge for yourself. It’s possible that Mateen simply cited ISIS and its leader as false reasons, and the real motivation was, as some surmise, homophobia. It’s now seems likely that both religion and homophobia were involved in this, for as a British gay Muslim who almost committed terrorism said on the Rachel Maddow show, that’s an explosive mix. For those who claim that only homophobia was involved, and that religion had nothing to do with it, one then must postulate why Mateen still mentioned Islam. After all, when Christians kill abortion doctors in the name of their faith, there’s no rush to deny that.

          • Yakaru says:

            Agreed. And agreed about the reaction of the Palestinians. Their leadership has let them down woefully for generations. Running through the streets stabbing randomly at innocent civilians makes no sense whatsoever either as a political or militaristic response. Doing it in the middle of Tel Aviv simply shows that this has nothing to do with self defense and instead is part of an insane Jihadist war against Jews, praying for their imminent mass slaughter and destruction of their state.

            I note that BDS campaigners/supporters — sorry, Paxton, I must include you in this — are not so cautious about apportioning blame when it comes to Jews. And obviously it’s pathetically inept political activism to fail to make allies with groups within Israel, like the universities, who are among the most powerful and effective critics of oppressive Israeli policies, and other Israeli groups that campaign for peace. It ignores every single lesson about effective political action, except perhaps for the lessons about effective fundraising.

            I find it hypocritical to, on the one hand refuse to mention any of the problems with Islam and the way it affects human behavior, for fear of miraculously inciting hatred, yet labeling Jews “Zionists” and then attacking anyone seen in their company. (I don’t mean you in this regard, Paxton, but it is the way the BDS movement behaves.)

            Meanwhile, what’s the death toll in Yemen? 7000? No sense of proportion.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Hi Yakaru. No offense taken. I have not supported BDS, but neither have I opposed it. I am a member of, and take my lead from J Street, which does not support BDS, but warns that if Israel persists in the occupation (I call it imprisonment or captivity) the whole world will be against it. I agree that it is essential to work with Jewish groups inside and outside of Israel, and that is what J Street does.

            Clearly there is plenty to criticize about both sides (at least the leaders), but Israel has the power. Israel’s continuing expansion of settlements in the west bank and East Jerusalem makes it clear that they (or at least the Netanyahu government) have no intention of accepting a just two-state solution. Maybe Ya’alon and Barak can lead a reversal of course, but as it is I grieve that Israel is squandering the 3000 year old Jewish tradition of justice and mercy. There is no justice or mercy in the occupation.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Oh, the Yemeni’s blood is on US hands also, and Israel is also complicit. It is the US that provided the Saudis the weapons to bombard Yemen, and while we are supposedly “protecting” the people of Iraq and Syria against ISIS, we are doing nothing to protect the Houthis in Yemen. Israel is in collusion with the Saudis on opposing Iranian influence, which includes the removal of Assad in Syria, and opposition to the Shia in Yemen. Our participation in these struggles has only inflamed the situation. We should but out.

            Also, I forgot to mention that although I do not support BDS, I do support withholding all American military aid to Israel until they start disbanding settlements and show a real commitment to a peaceful resolution. If Israel is not prepared to give up Judea and Samaria they can annex the land and the people as full citizens. But they can’t have the land without the people, or as they are doing, squeeze the people into tiny enclaves and appropriate the rest

          • Ken says:

            CIA, Heather? It was a Democrat President’s policy, in return for an oil pipeline.

            Yakaru, would love to see how the situation in Israel changed if they took a two-state solution seriously. There is a reason Israel’s other Arab neighbours are not attacking them in the streets of Tel Aviv. It isn’t because they are less religions, but has a lot to do with the fact that Israel is not oppressing them daily. That’s not a justification for abhorrent Palestinian actions, just a relevant fact.

          • Yakaru says:

            I’d love to see them all take a two state solution more seriously. It’s Palestinians who rejected the idea at least four times. Sadly, their leadership has always been controlled from outside, and inasmuch as they are autonomous, have hung on to personal power in a failing state rather than try to build a functioning society, as Israel has done.

            There is also the fact that some of the countries with whom Israel has ok relations with — Jordan and Egypt — both tried to wage genocidal wars against Israel and failed. It is ok for the moment.

            I mention the attacks in Tel Aviv, applauded by the Hamas leadership, because it demonstrates that such action is not a response to oppression, but a response to the presence of Jews on “Islamic land”.

  9. Ken says:

    Of course, Israel doesn’t have to overtly reject two-state, they just make it an impossibility on the ground. You are just as wrong as Coyne to blame terrorism solely on Islam.

    • Is this directed at me? I don’t blame terrorism solely on Islam, and neither does Jerry.

      • Ken says:

        No, sorry, to Yakaru. I put it in the wrong place. I know you don’t, but Yakaru suggests such and Jerry certainly does in the post cited above, as we’ve been discussing.

    • Yakaru says:

      I don’t blame terrorism solely on Islam.

      • Ken says:

        So if Palestinian terrorism “is not a response to oppression”, what else is involved besides Islam?

        • Yakaru says:

          The recent shootings in Tel Aviv are obviously inspired by Islamic jihadist ideology which rejects the existence of Israel.

          Terrorism is not a response to oppression. It’s an attempt to achieve massive political gains with minimum expenditure. With suicide attacks there’s the added advantage that the terrorists think that heaven exists.

          Palestinians who want to live peacefully and have their rights respected — even of they were prepared to use force — would have no motivation at all to murder innocent civilians in non-disputed areas. If they did do it, it would demonstrate bad leadership and absolutely idea about military or political strategy. I would not accuse them of being that stupid.

          • Ken says:

            But you’re back to saying it’s only Islam again.

            Terrorism can be a response to oppression, and be means to achieve massive political gains with minimum expenditure, and be part of a radical religious ideology, and be stupid all at once. These are just not mutually exclusive things. In fact, it is usually all of these things in some proportion and very rare that only one is involved. In this case, you’d have to show that the massive oppression that Palestinians experience is irrelevant to the violence and that the violence would occur no matter what the Israelis do. Surely that is too high a bar.

          • Yakaru says:

            I don’t deny that Palestinians suffer oppression, nor that they have the right to resist. But terror attacks in undisputed areas of Israel obviously do not belong in that category. Imams call for random attacks against Jews as part of a global Jihad, just as they call for the slaughter of Hindus. When people obey, it has something to do with Islam.

            If Israel stopped oppressing Palestinians somehow, by some miracle, the attacks and the hatred would — obviously — not stop. History shows that, as does the anti-Jew rhetoric of far too many Arab and Muslim leaders.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Yakaru, are there any undisputed areas of Palestine? What do you call Jewish terror attacks in the West Bank? What do you call IDF destruction of Palestinian houses? What did you call the slaughter of 2000 Gazans in 2014? How would you suggest that people who have been held captive for 50 years should resist? Letters to the editor?

          • Ken says:

            Of course it has something to do with Islam. That’s never been in question. But it can’t be obvious that terrorism has nothing to do with oppression. That we may find a reaction abhorrent is irrelevant to whether it is related. And it also can’t be obvious that an end to the massive Israeli terrorism that Paxton describes would have no effect whatsoever on Palestinian terrorism in return. Religious-based hatred can exist separately to other factors, but how it is expressed is hugely determined by those other factors. It has been increased many-fold by the actions of Israel in Palestine to the point of violence in Tel Aviv. There is no logical reason to suggest there would be no impact on that same terrorism if the extreme provocations ceased.

          • Yakaru says:

            Paxton & Ken,
            I specifically mentioned attacks on civilians in Tel Aviv and indicated the calls for genocide against Jews and destruction of Israel called for by Hamas and by Arab leaders since the early half of last century. I take them at their word.

            Such attacks are not in the interests of Palestinians who simply want their homes back and their rights respected.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Yakaru, so what exactly should Palestinians do “who simply want their homes back and their rights respected.”? Israel has made it very clear that they will not allow Palestinians back to the homes they were driven from in 1948, and are making it clear now that they are going to take their homes in the west bank also. Maybe the Palestinians should just commit suicide because there cause is hopeless. Or like the Vietnamese, the Kenyans, the Poles, the Algerians, and many peoples before them, they can fight their oppressors even against seemingly impossible odds.

          • Ken says:

            So we’re back to it being only about Islam yet again.

          • Yakaru says:

            In the specific case I specifically mentioned, yes. Obviously. Calls for genocide against Jews and the destruction of Israel is about Jihadist Islam, is specifically called for in the Koran and repeatedly referenced by fanatics. I take them at their word. You need to convince them that they have other motives that they are not aware of, not me.

          • Ken says:

            Well, I don’t know why you’ve been denying it then, but since we’re going around in circles, I’ll just finish by repeating again that you are just as wrong as Coyne to blame terrorism solely on Islam.

          • Yakaru says:

            Ken, I’m making a distinction which you don’t make, and haven’t noticed that I’m making. That *kind of terror* — inside Israel — is obviously part of their openly declared war on Jews and refusal to recognize Israel. That form of insanity can only be motivated by extremist Islamic belief.


            Random attacks on Jews in, say, Jerusalem, have more complex origins, and if the misguided lunatics who carry them out had been treated better by the Israelis, such attacks would arguably be fewer. As well as Israeli oppression in such cases, there is also blind hatred, ignorance and generations of atrocious, stupid and corrupt leadership on the Arab/Palestinian side to factor in as well.

            Personally, I take religion seriously as a motivating factor for people’s behavior. I have never met any devout religious person — Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist — who would deny it.

          • Ken says:

            No, Yakaru, I did notice your distinction and argued against it quite specifically above. Terrorism, particularly when organised, always has more than a single motivation. It’s just too big a claim to make that despite the history of the region, land grabs, racism, ethnic cleansing and the rest, that religion is all it’s about.

          • Yakaru says:

            I don’t deny the other factors, but attacks inside Israel which are declared as part of a Jihad against Jews, carried out by people who think they will go to heaven are permeated by religious ideals.

            One might also add some extra factors to your list, like the Palestinian rejection of statehood in favor of Jihad, for example.

          • Ken says:

            Seems to me you deny it one day and not the next, but as we’re on a “don’t deny” day, let’s just call it quits. For the record, on no day have I denied that religion is a factor.

            Can you point me to your source of “Palestinian rejection of statehood in favor of Jihad”? Wiki says the opposite, and add:

            ‘[On 30 November 2012], Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu announced the building of 3,000 new homes on land to the east of East Jerusalem, in an area referred to as “E-1”. The move was immediately criticized by several countries, including the United States, with Israeli ambassadors being personally called for meetings with government representatives in the UK, France and Germany, among others. Israel’s decision to build the homes was described by the Obama administration as “counterproductive”, while Australia said that the building plans “threaten the viability of a two-state solution”. This is because they claim the proposed E-1 settlement would physically split the lands under the control of the Palestinian National Authority in two, as the extent of the PNA’s authority does not extend all the way to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea.’

            The biggest barrier to a two-state solution is the illegal Israeli settlements programme. If they are ever forced to change their tune and negotiate in good faith, two-state will happen.

          • Yakaru says:

            I don’t deny one day and not the next:
            “attacks inside Israel which are declared as part of a Jihad against Jews, carried out by people who think they will go to heaven are permeated by religious ideals”

            Regarding rejecting a state in favor of Jihad, I refer to the entire history of Arab/Palestinian negotiations since at least the 1930s.

            Going by the past behavior of the surrounding countries’ treatment of Palestinian people and land, Israel is the only country in the entire middle east which would be prepared to live peacefully with a democratic Palestinian state.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Yakaru, here’s what Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, had to say after the killings: “We, as a state, are the only ones in the world with another people living among us under our occupation, denying them any civil rights,” “The problem is that when there is no terrorism, no one talks about [the occupation],” Huldai said. “Nobody has the guts to take a step towards trying to make some kind of [final status] arrangement. We are 49 years into an occupation that I was a participant in, and I recognize the reality”

          • Ken says:

            Please, Yakaru, we haven’t been debating whether religion is a motivator of terrorism since we both agree it is, so why bring it up again?

            Re Palestine, I’m astonished that you put the bulk of the responsibility for the present state of affairs on the occupied rather than the occupier. That’s a page right out of Bibi’s horrid playbook.

          • Yakaru says:

            It’s all about making the point that is rarely emphasized or even noted.

          • Yakaru says:

            ….because the hatred of and opposition to Israel is not proportional to the response to other human rights abuses and political problems.

          • Ken says:

            Germany must be much different than the US if that is the case. Netanyahu and others talk of almost nothing other than their need for security against the provocative Palestinians. And despite claiming to be a neutral arbiter in the dispute, the US backs Israeli policy to the hilt, paying lip service to the occupation, but fully supporting Israel’s version of their need for security. Certainly the response is not proportional, as it has been so skewed in favour of Israel for many decades.

  10. paxton marshall says:

    The Brexit vote takes me back to a fawning interview of Tommy Robinson by Dave Rubin. It makes me wonder how much coddling of racist, xenophobic, neo-fascists by so-called liberals like Rubin, Sam Harris and Nick Cohen contributed to the result. Students who protested against this tide were labelled as snowflakes and regressive leftists. Allies of the loathsome Islamophobe, Geert Wilders, have been lionized. Muslims are regularly portrayed as supporting terrorism, stoning for adultery, honor killings, and various other misdeeds. The role of extremist Christians like Bush and Blair in provoking Islamist reactions is ignored and denied, while desperate Muslim reaction to being invaded, bombed, held captive for fifty years, and systematically abused are attributed to the teachings of a guy 1400 years ago. And we have not received this message from Donald Trump or Geert Wilders or neo-Nazis, but of people who call themselves liberals, some calling themselves New Atheists, but who are demonizing their fellow liberals and coddling fascists. Brexit is a victory for Islamophobia. Geert Wilders is ecstatically preparing to spread the movement. Liberals who have enabled this should be ashamed.

    • Yakaru says:

      Paxton, you wrote: “Islamophobes…exaggerate and distort the bad behavior of Muslims relative to that of other cultures”

      Then you claim that rape is 30 times higher in Sweden than in Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, and six times higher than Kazakhstan, etc, all without breaking a sweat.

      “they attribute the bad behavior of Muslims to the influence of Islam without adequate evidence or justification.”

      Then you label Bush and Blair “extremist Christians” and people like Nick Cohen as “neo-fascists”, without, as one might put it, “adequate evidence or justification”.

      It’s very clumsy use of language, reflecting a lack of serious analysis. Have you ever met a neo-fascist? Just wondering.

      • Paxton marshall says:

        Yakaru, I was reporting rape statistics from Wikipedia. I noted that rape statistics were often unreliable. But no one has provided better stats to correct me. Have some?

        Read carefully. I did not call Nick Cohen a neo-fascist. I said he and others who call themselves liberals coddle neo-fascists. Do you question whether Bush and Blair are Christians? Do you question whether their invasion of Iraq was an extremist act? I do believe I’ve met neo-fascists, though they would probably dispute the label.

        I try to use language as precisely as possible, but no doubt my writing is sometimes clumsy. I’m in awe of Ken for his ability to make a point clearly and succinctly. That’s why we’re here, to learn from each other, right?

        Do you disagree with my comments about Brexit? Not being a Brit, I realize it may be a bit presumptuous to see Brexit as a victory for Idlamophobia. But I welcome contrary views. That’s what a discussion is for.

        • Ken says:

          Cheers, Pax! Isn’t it so easy to get muddled and so difficult to be precise. But I usually find you to be plenty clear enough in what you say. I really don’t feel I’m very good at writing, but only get there sometimes by trying very hard indeed, and by spending way too much time here when I should be doing something else 🙂

        • Yakaru says:

          Sorry – I read that wrong about N Cohen.

          But I would still disagree that he and Sam Harris “coddle neo-fascists”. It’s an unfounded and implausible accusation.

          And I reject the idea that Bush and Blair are “extremist” Christians. If you use the word extremist for such people, you have nothing to use for genuinely extremist beliefs.

          Regarding Brexit, I would disagree with the term the term Islamophobia of course, but I would agree that it’s a victory for anti-Muslim bigotry, which, like anti-Western bigotry, is a victory for small minded hatred, stupidity and violence.

          Rather than trying to argue that Muslims are less violent or less misogynistic than other groups, I would prefer that we simply affirm religious freedom as a human right (regardless of how stupid or dangerous a given religion might be), and affirm human rights and equal treatment in general.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Yakaru, I don’t know the details of Bush and Blsirs religious views. I suspect one believed in the “real presence” and one doesn’t. But can you tell me a Christian who has done something more extremes recently than invading Irsq and killing 200,000 or so? It makes snake handling see moderate. I agree with your last paragraph. I defend Islam only because others are blaming it for things like terrorism.

    • All the liberals I know voted Remain. Is there nothing you won’t blame Sam Harris for?

      • Paxton marshall says:

        Well, I don’t blame it all on Harris, but hasn’t he been telling everyone to wake up because we’ve been sleepwalking towards Armageddon by not recognizing the extreme danger that radical Islam represents to the west. This was a wake up. What does he want? But yes, he had plenty of help promoting fear of Myslims.

      • paxton marshall says:

        A short search convinces me there are no verses in the Quran that specifically call for killing Jews, much less call for “genocide against Jews and the destruction of Israel”. If there is such a passage please cite it. If there is not, this is another example of distorting the truth to disparage Islam.

        The whole point of my post was that those people trying to disparage Islam and Muslims 1) suggest without evidence, other than anecdotal, that Muslim countries are worse than other countries on a variety of measures of violence, and 2) that when Muslims do bad things, these “Islamophobes” often attribute the cause to the religion of Islam, without consideration of other more compelling causes. I stand by those assertions. The data I presented were examples to support those assertions. I did not claim more than that. The full data sets are linked to.

        Yakaru, I’m glad to hear of your work with Muslims in Germany. In my 26 years as a US engineering professor I knew many Muslims as faculty, other professionals, and students. I’m good friends with a few. I believe that Heather is right that getting to know people is the best way to get over phobias. Multiculturalism should not be a dirty word.

        • Yakaru says:

          The infamous verse I was thinking of is in fact in the Hadith — “The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him”

          The Koran merely has them getting turned into apes and pigs for incurring the wrath of God, and condemns them to hell. This is one verse that fanatical Muslims use to justify their calls for mass slaughter of non-believers, of whom Jews are usually at the top of the list.

          Religions, like social structures, have advantages and disadvantages. I don’t think I focus too exclusively on Islam as a problem, rather I feel myself forced to highlight the problem because others try to deny that the problems exist. I don’t agree with everything S Harris et al say, but I do agree that it is necessary to shine a light specifically on areas that are being denied coverage.

          I would prefer that Islam could be treated the same as any other religion, and Muslims held to the same standards as anyone else. I don’t tolerate anti-semitism or excuse their terrorism in as much as those things occur. I don’t think I single them out. I do see plenty of the “the subtle bigotry of low expectations”, however.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Hi Yakaru. There seems to be a difference of opinion on what problem is highlighted. I defend Islam because I think anti-Islamic rhetoric prevails in the western media. You criticize Islam because you think the dangers of Islam are being denied coverage. Is there an objective way to resolve this question.

            Muhammad had a complex relationship with Jewish communities in the Arabian peninsula, who he felt turned on him after initially supporting him. But for 1500 years it was primarily Christians who vilified and targeted Jews. When the Spanish Christians expelled Jews from Spain, they were welcomed by the Muslim Ottomans. The reason Muslims target Jews so much today has nothing to do with ancient rivalries. It is all about Israel.

          • The Muslim Ottomans did not treat Jews well, they just treated them better than the Inquisitors. They were second-class citizens in Muslim countries, had to pay large extra taxes, and their lives were limited is various ways.

          • paxton marshall says:

            No one treated the Jews well at the time of the Spanish and portuguese expulsions. The Jews had been expelled from England in 1290 and would not be legally readmitted until the reign of Henry 8. But throughout most of the middle ages, in most places, Muslims treated Jews better than Christians. That may have been true until the 20th century as the conditions in the Russian “Pale of Settlement” where most Ashkenazi Jews lived were atrocious, with arbitrary punishments and violent pograms on a regular basis. The Dreyfus affair illustrated how Jews were regarded in France. Hitler’s antisemitism wasn’t an innovation in Germany, as Wagner and the whole “romantic” movement wre suffused with it. Disraeli would never have become PM if his father hadn’t converted to Christianity. Worse, like the English during the Iberian expulsions, the western world turned their backs on millions of Jews who would have left if they had a place to go. Any suggestion of western superiority regard to the treatment of Jews is not only a lie, it is shameful.

          • Did I say Christians treated Jews better than Muslims? No I did not.

            However, defending Islamic anti-Semitism on the grounds that historically it wasn’t as bad as Christian anti-Semitism is hardly a tenable position.

            The Qur’an is full of anti-Jewish verses, and there are strong hadithat calling for them to be killed.

            Both Christians and Muslims have a lot to answer for.

            There is more anti-Jewish than anti-Muslim hate crime in the US today. Check the data.

          • paxton marshall says:

            Did I claim that you said “Christians treated Jews better than Muslims?” No I did not.

            Did I defend antisemitism by anyone, Muslim, Christian, or atheist? No I did not.

            Did I claim there are no anti-Jewish passages in the Quran? No I did not.

            What I did state was that the claim “genocide against Jews and the destruction of Israel” is specifically called for in the Quran, is false. Am I wrong? I did not mention the Hadiths, as I have not read the Hadiths, and their authority for Muslims is less than that of the Quran.

            Hate crimes against any group are reprehensible, but I am not sure what point you are trying to make by comparing the different groups. Donald Trump is not on the verge of being elected President by calling for a ban on all Jews coming to the US.

          • Yakaru says:

            I would say that Islamofascism, as developed during the middle of last century uses opposition to Israel as a pretext for fanning flames against the Jews, and of course uses Koranic texts and interpretation thereof as a justification.

            Anyone supporting Palestinian rights needs to distinguish between genuine attempts to fight for rights and social justice, and Jihadist terrorism calling for the destruction of Israel. Islamofascism uses the structures of normal Islam as a cloak. At least that’s what’s been happening here in Germany and in the UK.

            And, incidentally, I would prefer interculturalism over multiculturalism — foster connections among communities, not cement those divisions along religious lines….

  11. paxton marshall says:

    Yakaru, can you reference the calls in the Quran for “genocide against Jews and the destruction of Israel”? I know the Bible has calls for genocide and the destruction of a number of nations, not Islamic of course because there was no Islam then, but some were no doubt ancestors of today’s Arabs and palestinians. But neither was there a nation of Israel when the Quran was written.

    • Yakaru says:

      Obviously there are no calls for the destruction of Israel in the Koran, and genocide is a modern term. The Hadith, quoted in the Hamas Charter speaks of the day the Jews will be slaughtered.

      The Bible calls for mass slaughter etc, and I would oppose any Christians who wanted to act on it.

      A moment on google finds this fellow interpreting Koran verses to mean killing Jews.

      There is really a great deal of this kind of thing freely available on the internet and being spewed forth on a daily basis.

      I must return to your post. You made some, to put it diplomatically, highly unlikely claims about rape and misogyny being, for example, far worse in Sweden than Bangladesh. You still haven’t backed off from or corrected those extraordinary (and needless) assertions. I would think that was your job, not the job of your readers to get your facts straight. It looks a lot like you’ve just lined up a string of stats, gathered using different methods, using measures, under wildly varying circumstances.

      For the record, I would still support human rights for Muslims even those stats don’t stack up, and even if they do have greater problems in some areas than other groups.

      Here in Germany I am always arguing against discrimination, doing what I can to help refugees, and arguing that with a war going on in Syria we have to simply take it on the chin. Far more Jihadists have left Germany for Syria than have come in (like probably 100/1). Women I know who are not easily bothered, suddenly don’t feel safe on the streets at night because of the behavior of newly arrived groups of men. It’s easy for me to say simply, “Yeh, watch out, but there is no other choice than letting them in and taking care.” It’s a little more difficult for them to agree, no doubt, but they do agree.

      I have also spent the last 15 years here working with Muslim families and their children, helping them deal with discrimination, and supporting them in maintaining their religious freedom here. Like every close knit, well structured social order, it is difficult for people who don’t fit or don’t want to fit. In general, that is where their social structure has a grave deficit in terms of openness and human rights. It also provides a structure where, through Islamic schools and mosques, radicals can find cover. According to Muslims here, that has been going on for almost as long as in England.

      Pretending that these problems don’t exist is counterproductive.

    • Paxton – read Peter Townsend’s book Investigating Islam. It outlines, among other things, the verses in the Qur’an and hadithat that tell Muslims they should kill Jews. It’s easy to read and clearly set out, and is not an anti-Muslim hate-fest.

      Amazon link:

  12. somer says:

    “The Primary motive for Islamic terrorism is western aggression”
    why aren’t Hindus, who endured multiple famines at british hands in the 19thC and during WW2, doing jihad against the West, or Chinese people, or South Americans, or indigenous people in Australia and North America or non muslim Africans? Westerners changed – if unevenly – and their technology has been able change society for the good did you know that women had to have 6-8 children for the population to be stable in the west and everywhere else since roman times till modern innoculations, primary let alone hospital health care,and clean water technology radically reduced infant mortality such that there was a population explosion world wide after the second world war.

    Islamic scriptures have their own aggression – but are less susceptible to change. Islam has no tradition of separation of church and state as Western Christianity does. And the Quran is considered the Actual speech of god and the Quran mandates that what it doesnt cover is covered in the sunnah of the Prophet (account of his life and hadiths accounting things he approved of or said or did)

    • Ken says:

      Because Hindus reacted to aggression differently, because their culture, including their religion, is different. So what? That is not an argument against western aggression being the primary motive for Islamic terrorism. Religion is another cause, and no one here has argued otherwise.

      • somer says:

        nothing is an argument against western aggression – you see all history as western aggression – this is where we just don’t meet.

        • Ken says:

          You have no basis on which to make that claim. We’re never going to “meet” if you think you can spend five minutes on a site and then make sweeping generalisations about people’s views.

  13. somer says:

    Islamic conquest and slavery was just as bad as any other conquest and slavery, and unlike Christianity – it is specifically mandated against unbelievers of other faiths and none in the classical texts. The vile stuff in the Old testament is directed to peoples who no longer exist and don’t call for war to convert the world to judaism. Moreover most Jews today are reform jews and only ultra orthodox jews take any of the old testament literally – and they aren’t allowed to carry out most of its laws (like stoning etc).

    The law books of the Islamic Schools develop the hadith and Quran
    Qur’an Al-Anfal 8:38-39 (N.J. Dawood translation, Penguin) says :
    Tell the unbelievers that if they mend their ways their past shall be forgiven; but if they persist in sin, let them reflect apon the fate of bygone nations
    Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.
    This is what needs to change – the approach to the religion – the debates that went on within or critiqued Christianity in the 17thCentury following the wars of religion that saw the enlightenment and continually changing values in direction of openness to critiquing injustice as in subordination and exploitation (as opposed to stability of the right – religious – order) since. Like the salafis, the muslim brotherhood have never condemned slavery and they are just as numerous in the western world as salafis or wahabis.

    For an example of Islamic slavery existing in Iran prior to introduction of a secular constitution (It hasn’t been reintroduced because Iran is obliged to be a member of the UN in order to get recognition and the UN does not allow it and now it is perceived to look too bad, and possibly the mullahs have changed their minds on it. Ive seen articles on critique of slavery in Islam from the London School of Economics which maintain Islam had germs of anti slavery movement within itself but they note that the Muslem Brotherhood remains pro slavery.

    According to historian of slavery, Adam Hochschild, slavery never became the publicly fought moral and political issue in the Muslim world that it did in the United States and Europe. An article by William Gervase Clarence-Smith of the London School of Economics also notes that fundamentalists are now calling for a reinstatement of slavery. Moreover according to John Reader of Africa: Biography of a Continent although the West devastated Africa with the North Atlantic slave trade and its commercial aftermath, they only every captured around 200 slaves themselves at the very beginning. All the rest were captured by other African peoples or by Muslim Berber or Arab slave raiders for sale to the westerners. Moreover when the western powers banned slavery in the nineteenth century, Muslim powers in North Africa and the rulers of current Oman maintained millions of slaves for plantations, mostly in Eastern Africa.

  14. somer says:

    According to Bernard Lewis’ and Ronald Segals studies of Islamic slavery in history Muslim slaves were about 60% female servants eligible for sex by the master from the age of nine. They had to be captured from infidel lands, and both authors agree those who were not taken as slaves were often killed. According to Ronald Segal roughly equal numbers of slaves were taken by the Muslim world in its history as were taken by the Atlantic slave trade.

    Chaman Andam, slavery in early 20th century Iran By Massoume Price Sept. 2002
    “The last time we talked she [my friend] told me about an old servant and her story as the maid told it. I find the story significant since it involved a topic hardly ever discussed in our culture, slavery – a common institution in the area till the early 20th century….. Chaman Andam was born in Africa; she did not know where or when. All she remembered was the day when armed men attacked their village, killed many adults and took the young and the children. … She was taken to Mecca An Iranian merchant while on pilgrimage bought her; he was to be known as Hajji. ….The Hajji gave her a new name, Chaman Andam, once in Tehran she lived with the other servants in squalid quarters outside the main house….. When she was 10 or 12, ….she was given the task of taking Hajji’s bath accessories to the private bathhouse, ….she was ordered to bath and wash the old man, and …she was raped by the Hajji. …..Slaves like Chaman Andam were not given Muslim names deliberately to make it clear that they were not Muslims and therefore remained slaves, and masters maintained their sexual rights over them. ….
    Hajji’s sexual adventures with the little slave girl created resentment in the family and turned Hajji’s wife and their children against her with increased humiliation and abuse. …[the Hajji never showed Chaman any affection or favour but had frequent sex with her] … She got pregnant and gave birth, the newborn girl never received any attention, kindness or money from Hajji. …..[the daughter was married off] …Chaman Andam never saw her daughter again.
    Soon after her daughter’s wedding ….Hajji died from a heart attack. Right after his death, she was kicked out of the house without a penny or any compensation.”

  15. somer says:

    I took the age of permitted intercourse with slaves at nine because for the sunni lawbooks the age of marriage is from puberty (menstruation) on – some scholars set this as low as 9 some set it to 18. But there is no age mentioned for slaves, and of course Aisha’s marriage was consummated when she was 9.
    Saudi Salafi cleric Shakh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid gave a fatwa
    “Owners of female slaves may have sexual intercourse with them at any age, there is no age limit, so long as she is physically capable of sex” Answer to question 26067. Apart from age of sex, the books I referred to were
    Robert Ronald Segal is author of “Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora,”, Ronald Segal, November 1998, New York:Farrar, Straus & Giroux
    Bernard Lewis Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Oxford University Press 1994.

    A Muslim man may have up to four wives, but unlimited concubines; these must be the women of unbelievers who fight the Muslims, or purchased slaves, or the children of slaves. Whilst a man may have sexual relations with his concubine, the same license is not granted to women owning male slaves. For example, Qur’an Sura 12, Verse 30 (Yusuf translation) “And women in the city said: The chief’s wife seeks her slave to yield himself (to her), surely he has affected her deeply with (his) love; most surely we see her in manifest error.” The lawbooks e.g. Hideya also spell out that slave sex relations are between master and female slave.

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