Two days before his murder, Stéphane Charbonnier, at that time editor of Charlie Hebdo, finished writing a short book entitled Lettre Ouverte aux Escrocs de l’Islamophobie qui Font le Jeu des Racistes (Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play the Game of the Racists). On Thursday, French magazine L’Obs published some extracts.
Charlie Hebdo was, at the time of the multiple murders by Islamist terrorists in January, on the verge of bankruptcy. The politically correct left as well as religious extremists the magazine criticized had joined forces to attack it. In France, just like in many other Western countries, it is simply not de rigueur to criticize Islam. This was damaging the ability of Charlie Hebdo to survive financially. They had previously had to close down for a time, and were looking at that possibility again. Too many of their fellow liberals in particular had the warped idea that freedom of speech didn’t apply if someone complained that speech offended them, especially of those offended were Islamic fundamentalists.
In the book, Charbonnier hits back at his critics on the left, as well as those on the right, in religion, and in politics, especially from the Sarkozy years. Of course, it is his comments about Islam that are gaining the most attention. He made the point myself and many others have made that criticizing Islam is not the same as criticizing Muslims, and Islam should not be exempt from criticism because of the threat of violence and murder.
Charbonnier has always said his criticism of Islam is specifically related to Islamism, and I have never seen any evidence that isn’t the case. He writes in the book:
… le problème, ce n’est ni le Coran ni la Bible … mais le fidèle qui lit le Coran ou la Bible comme on lit la notice de montage d’une étagère Ikea.”
… the problem is neither the Qur’an nor the Bible … but the faithful who read the Qur’an or the Bible like one would read the installation instructions of an Ikea shelf.
As might be expected from the title of the book, his most stinging attack is on those on the left that call all criticism of Islam Islamophobia. In a section entitled, L’islamophobie, un concept mal taillé (Islamophobia, a badly conceived concept) he wrote:
Si on laisse entendre qu’on peut rire de tout, sauf de certains aspects de l’islam parce que les musulmans sont beaucoup plus susceptibles que le reste de la population, que fait-on, sinon de la discrimination ? Il serait temps d’en finir avec ce paternalisme dégueulasse de l’intellectuel bourgeois blanc ‘de gauche’ qui cherche à exister auprès de ‘pauvres malheureux sous-éduqués’.”
If it means that we can laugh at everything, except for certain aspects of Islam because Muslims are much more susceptible [to offence] than the rest of the population, what is that, if not discrimination? It is time to end this disgusting paternalism of the bourgeois intellectual white ‘left’ that looks to identify with the ‘poor unfortunate under-educated.’ “
(From an article by Henry Samuel in The Telegraph)
Seeking to explain what he saw as intellectuals’ condescension masquerading as solidarity, Charb [Charbonnier’s nickname] writes: “Since I am educated, I understand that Charlie Hebdo is using humour. But out of respect for you [Muslims], since you haven’t yet discovered second-degree humour, I will denounce these Islamophobic drawings that I pretend not to understand. I will put myself at your level to show that I love you.
“These ridiculous demagogues just have a huge need to be the centre of attention and want to satisfy their formidable fantasy to dominate others.”
This is beautiful, and exactly what we would expect Charbonnier to say. Since his death, his best known quote (from 2012) has become:
I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.
I hope the ridiculous SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) will finally listen. Like most of you reading this, I’m lucky enough to live in a Western democracy where I can take my right to freedom of speech for granted. Some of us though are old enough to remember when things like sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and the like were fairly common. Enough of us spoke up against those things that they are no longer socially acceptable. It was only by challenging the norms that this happened. Nowadays, too many have forgotten what real social justice is. While they’re worried about people criticizing Islam, they’re forgetting individual Muslims who live in regimes where women are second-class citizens and being gay or atheist attracts a death sentence. Check out the graph on the right – there are still tens of millions of people who believe stoning is an appropriate punishment for adultery.
There are always some who will find something to attack of course. Although usually pretty good at standing up for the principle of free speech, the American right wing tends to struggle with the idea of praising an atheist, even a dead one. Christopher Dickey of the Daily Beast criticizes Chabonnier’s book, mainly because he doesn’t criticize atheism just as much as religion – he finishes his column with the words:
But the scale of atheist terrorism in the 20th [century], from Stalin to Pol Pot cannot be brushed aside as lightly as that. The fact is, fanaticism is not limited to those who believe in … God, Allah or YHVH. Ideologies, too, have their true believers, and they, too, should be skewered by cartoonists like Charb, may he rest in peace.
As soon as someone starts calling something “atheist terrorism” just because the atrocities were carried out by an atheist, you know either their intelligence or logic are faulty, or they’re brainwashed by religion. Like the illiberal liberals, he just can’t help himself.
His criticisms throughout the article completely miss the mark. For example, he writes:
Charb writes with contempt … about the religious groups, both Muslim and Catholic, that took Charlie Hebdo to court in the past. Why would they need to do that if they truly believed punishment would come in the afterlife, he wonders. Why would “God, the creator of the world, the guy with the big shoulders who plays with our planet like a driver stopped at a red light plays with his boogers” need a lawyer to defend him from cartoonists?
My opinion is Charbonnier has it completely correct here, and I really can’t see what Dickey’s problem is. Why does God/Allah/Yahweh, an omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful being need earthly help? If He wanted Charlie Hebdo stopped, surely He was perfectly capable of doing so. The religious extremists who sought to do that, have instead guaranteed the magazine’s survival.
(And while I’m at it, what is it with all these writers who never knew him suddenly deciding they can call him “Charb”?)
Charbonnier’s critics had not only tried to stop him via legal processes, but illegal ones too. This poster was published in AQAP’s (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) magazine Inspire in March 2013. You can see Charbonnier there on the centre right. He commented at the time (from the Daily Beast article referred to above):
On this poster, I am in more or less good company: there is the inescapable Salman Rushdie; the Dutch extreme-right leader Geert Wilders; Flemming Rose, the editor of the cultural pages of the Danish Jyllands-Posten, at whose initiative the caricatures of Muhammad were published; Terry Jones, a completely crazy American pastor who burned Qurans, and other happy laureates.
And referring to to other “artwork” in Inspire but not displayed here he said:
So that those listed understand well what’s waiting for them, a smoking pistol is shown to the left of the Nazi pastor, on his right, a splash of blood. This clever montage is entitled ‘Yes We Can,’ and under it you can read, ‘A bullet a day keeps the infidel away.’ And finally: Defend the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.’”
I’m not sure why Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Molly Norris don’t get to have their pictures on the poster. Maybe fundamentalist Muslims are like ultra-Orthodox Jews and can’t look at pictures of women. (See Jerry Coyne’s article: Ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper doctors photos of Charlie Hebdo rally to remove women.)
After the murder of Charbonnier and his colleagues, this appeared on Twitter accounts believed to be linked to AQAP:
This is the people that the far left don’t want us to criticize. Whenever you say “but” after you say “I believe in freedom of speech”, you are justifying this behaviour. When the Pope says he would punch someone who criticized his mother, he is justifying violence for hurt feelings. There is no excuse for violence. Yes, you have a right to be offended by, but you do not have a right to turn that offence into violence. The battle of ideas should never be fought physically.
I’ll give Charbonnier the last words:
No, none of us on the left have ever said that criticism of Islam is Islamophobia. No one. I know not one person on the left that has EVER said that. So this is a complete straw man argument.
But of course, you can prove me wrong. So I’ll lay down a challenge for you, Heather. Find me a “SJW” who has said we should not be criticising Islam. If there are a whole bunch of us out there who have said this, then I am sure you’ll be able to find many, many examples. I am asking for just one.
I don’t know whether you have been to France, but I have lived and worked there, and it is absolutely not true that Muslims receive some special privilege in France.
It is also completely wrong to suggest that Charlie Hebdo was suffering financially because they were criticising Islam, and so somehow they were being marginalised. Islamophobia isn’t criticism of Islam – Islamophobia is irrational fear of Islam. Unless you can show me proof that Charlie Hebdo were close to bankruptcy because of their attacks on Islam, then your claim that this was the case is, er, Islamophobia, because you’re irrational fear is making you come to conclusions that have no evidence supporting them.
Anyway, here’s an alternative view of Charlie Hebdo, from a former cartoonist…
Hi AU. I do not think Muslims in France receive special privilege – in fact I’m quite sure they don’t. I also don’t think it was ONLY because they were criticizing Islam that they were going broke. Charlie Hebdo is a left-wing publication, but because it didn’t follow the rules the the extreme left has for who can and can’t be criticized, they suffered. They were upsetting the very people they were aiming their publication at. One of the things the extreme left do not approve of is cartoons including depictions of Muhammad – it is not the only one and not the only unwritten rule of the extreme left Charlie Hebdo broke.
As you rightly point out, criticism of Islam is not Islamophobia. However, that is exactly the way I see SJWs react to ANY criticism of Islam – as if it’s Islamophobia. The response of Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show to Maher and Sam Harris is one I’ve referred to before. Others that come to mind are Reza Aslan and CJ Werleman.
Ben Affleck did not say one cannot criticise Islam. Ben Affleck was saying you cannot use the minority of people doing bad acts and then say that they represent the faith. Ben Affleck isn’t a theologian, he doesn’t know much about Islam or any religion for that matter, if Ben Affleck was asked whether the interpretation of Islam that says apostates should be killed is bad, he would say it is, and if he was asked if the interpretation of Islam that says apostates shouldn’t be killed is good, he would say it is.
As for Reza Aslan, you are being highly disingenuous in quoting him selectively. Yes, he has said that Islam doesn’t make people do bad things. But he has also said Islam doesn’t make people do good things. So he is actually speaking out against Muslims who say Islam makes people do good things. I don’t agree with his view, I think it is too simplistic and generalised, but at least he is consistent.
Heather, some of this is too simplistic, your use of the word “but”, your assumptions regarding the goals of the killers, and that you ignore the role Western violence plays in this whole mess. We covered a lot of this ground the first time all this was hashed over.
The word “but” can be used in (at least) two ways. 1) One is indeed “Yes this terrible thing happened, but I have an excuse which justifies it”. 2) The other is “Yes this terrible thing happened and there is no justification, but there is other info we need to consider before deciding what to do about it”.
So not all “buts” are meant to justify. Many are meant to add or explain additional, often critical, information, without which, at minimum, incomplete conclusions will be drawn, leading possibly to calamitous actions that may even make matters worse.
People too often deny the validity of 2). It is the second most frustrating tactic I regularly come across. The first is people who don’t understand the different uses of “faith”, so that you can’t say “I have faith that the scientific community will discover the right answer” without being told “See, your faith in science is no different than my faith in religion”.
You say they are just religious zealots. We also hear they’re just evil or that they hate our freedoms. Even when one or more of these is true, it is almost never the whole explanation (it’s really only ever enough to explain why a lone person kills, and never enough for organisations like al Qeada).
Because, whatever else may be true, it is also true that these organisations have legitimate grievances that motivate them that we refuse to acknowledge. And if we acknowledge them we might be unable to escape the conclusion that we need to modify our behaviour too.
Of course none of this justifies or is even meant to justify terrorist killings. There is no justification, and the Paris killers should be brought to justice. But there is explanation and they are not the same thing.
So many are still either arguing that Islam is the only reason for terrorism, or that Islam has nothing to do with it. Both are wrong. People react to violence differently depending on their cultures of which religion can be a huge part. Islam seems particularly susceptible to being twisted to support violence and that is surely part of the equation. Muslims need to think about how to counter this. (Mind you, since you can justify anything with religious faith, it’s a damn hard thing to counter extremists in your own ranks. Consider that Christian crazies in the US seem to be on the increase. There is no silver bullet to deal with it.)
But likewise, we need to think about the effect so much Western killing in the Middle-East has on the people there. After decades of proactive violence and millions killed, what of our actions and foreign policy should be changed if we want less violence? The British found in Northern Ireland that only when they admitted there were legitimate grievances on the other side could progress be made towards peace.
The Hebdo killers, who act for al Qaeda or similar, do not think they can silence free speech. They are using it for their own ends. They seek to widen and take advantage of divisions in French society to keep the recruits flowing to their causes in the Middle-East. They’re not stupid. They know in fact they’re more likely to strengthen free speech, and that suits their purpose just fine as it heightens the tension even more. And if all the Imams in the world suddenly proclaimed that images of the prophet would cause no more offence, little would change. Such people would just look for other divisions to exploit and there are plenty.
We need to deny them their recruits. Yet without full context, without that second kind of “but”, we can’t discuss or understand all the underlying causes of this terrorism let alone how to address them. All we can do is complain about Islam and free speech, while missing the critical geopolitical steps the West needs to take in the Mid-East as well. If we can’t talk about all their motives out of fear of being labelled apologists, we’ll never reduce terrorism. The only people served by this are the terrorists and of course those with racist attitudes towards Muslims.
Sorry Ken, but imo there can be no “but” in the same sentence as talking about the violence murder. We can look for reasons, explanations etc – in fact we should, and all those you mention are valid. However, as soon as “but” is used it turns the explanations into excuses. There are plenty of examples of societies that have suffered badly at the hands of another throughout history, and sometimes it’s seemed that violence was the only answer, and maybe it was.
I don’t want to label all those looking for the reasons for the violence as apologists – that would shut down enquiry and would be wrong. However, it has to be kept out of the same sentence as the actual violence. If we find that one of the reasons Charbonnier and his colleagues was murdered was because they offended the religious feelings of some, then many say we should not offend them again. This is, of course, simplistic. (I’m not saying you think that.) What we should then be doing then is finding out why those people are moved to murder for their religion, and finding a way to stop that. We have to acknowledge that Charbonnier and his colleagues were not doing anything wrong and murdering them was wrong. There is no justification for their murder, although the murderers thought they had one. So we work on a way to stop people thinking murder is a justification for hurt feelings.
It is complicated, but the fact that the murder is wrong should be simple. Unfortunately, for many it’s not. They conflate finding the reason for the murder with the murder itself. This is faulty logic.
A few days after the Rabaa massacre in Egypt, in which more than 800 largely unarmed Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in what HRW called a crime against humanity that was equal to Tiananmen Square, Charlie Hebdo had the following on their front page:
Can you imagine what our reaction would be if 800 atheists in New Zealand were massacred, and a few days later some Muslim magazine in New Zealand ran a headline making fun of them? There would be outrage, everyone would say they have gone beyond freedom of speech and moved into hate speech, their offices will probably be attacked, the members will definitely receive death threats, and maybe some moron will take things a step too far and physically attack them.
Yet when Charlie Hebdo make fun of Muslims dying, we’re all supposed to sit and say “oh, it isn’t hate speech, or insensitive, it’s just satire, get over it please!”.
We have this strange thing in the West, where people can be complete a**holes their whole life, yet when they die, we’re all supposed to act solemn and say “oh, they were a great person”. So you can have politicians from opposing parties arguing each other their whole life and saying how immoral the other one is, but when one of them dies, everyone suddenly only looks at the good things they did and overlook the bad things they did. Similarly, because Charbonnier was killed, we’re all somehow supposed to overlook how hate-filled Charlie Hebdo had often been in the past. I am sorry, I am not like that, so to me he will always remain an arrogant opportunist, this of course doesn’t justify his killing, and I wish he was still alive, but I won’t lose any sleep whatsoever over the fact he was killed, just as he lost no sleep whatsoever after 800+ civilians were killed during the Rabaa massacre.
I to am appalled by the Rabba massacre. There was no excuse for it. But the thing is, that situation simply wouldn’t occur in New Zealand these days. (Our police don’t even carry guns anyway; they’re kept in the car unless they know they’ll need them.)
It wouldn’t occur because we’re a stable secular democracy where we follow the rule of law. Christianity is the dominant religion, but any time a Christian group enters politics, they are soundly defeated in the polls – they never even get all their adherents voting for them. If a politician here said, “God bless you and God bless New Zealand,” like they do in America, their ratings would plunge overnight and they’d never get voted in again. Religion and government are separate. Religion has their place, along with everyone else, in contributing to legislation, criticizing the government etc, but their place is not to rule us. It is the right of everyone to worship as they see fit, or not worship, and it is the government’s role to ensure they have the freedom to do that. We have protests against the government, some are really big, but it’s been years since even a scuffle broke out. However, the government has changed their minds because of peaceful protests because it’s made them realize the strength of feeling on a particular matter.
There will always be people who will use their freedom of speech to be a**holes. But if you don’t like what someone has to say, you speak out against them, you don’t shut them down, let alone kill them. There is no excuse for that. I don’t agree with everything Charbonnier said – he was a communist for example, and I think communism is a stupid idea. However, I will always defend his right to say it. I will argue against him when I disagree and support him when I agree. As far as I’m concerned, if you consider Charlie Hebdo to be hate-filled, you don’t have to start pretending otherwise because of the massacre, and good on you for sticking to what you believe. There are times I think he went too far with religion too, but I will always defend his right to free speech – to be an a**hole if you like.
And I will lose sleep over both the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and the Rabaa massacre, and all the massacres by DAESH, Boko Haram, and many others, whatever motivated the perpetrators.
Heather, I think you’re being pedantic. Often the type 2 “but” isn’t actually even in the same sentence, yet it is still criticised as apologist. And the word doesn’t even have to be used at all. Even if it’s avoided altogether, any exploration of the motives of the killers beyond religion, any exploration of our own actions as contributing factors in a wider pattern of violence, is more often than not simply disallowed. I accept that you don’t really think all of us SJWs are apologists, but your post, put as it was, says exactly that.
I also don’t accept your assertion that the Hebdo journalists were doing nothing wrong. That they had (or should have) a free speech right to say what they want doesn’t put their actual speech beyond criticism. That criticism shouldn’t be used to justify murder, but very few have actually done that and no one commenting here has done so. Most of us are trying to more fully describe the context the murders occurred in, and that this context has far more to it than simply religious extremism. If this is fact, then to ignore it is also to employ faulty logic. If you think it is not fact, you need to say why, or stop referring to the killers motives as entirely religious.
I don’t think any speech is beyond criticism, BUT, speech is never a justification for violence. I try to be careful about separating when criticism is justifying violence and when it is explaining violence. I am not responsible for what others do.
You are someone who does it the right way from everything I’ve seen, but unfortunately people like you are not the majority.
When saying Charlie Hebdo were doing nothing wrong, I can see from your point of view I could have expressed that differently – I accept that. It’s about the definition of wrong. I use the word when writing on my website as the opposite of what they had the ‘right’ to do, and I will continue to do that I think. It doesn’t mean I agree with a particular thing someone has written.
I have never said the motivation of Islamist terrorists is entirely religious, and it is not what I think. However, I do consider it a main factor. It is, I think, the way the leaders of these groups are able to motivate their members to commit such horrendous acts with such impunity; they are able to convince them that their god and prophet would approve their actions.
Ok, points taken, Heather, and that’s exactly what the leaders do, and exactly what many religious people don’t want to admit. Coming at it from the SJW’s side, though (see, I can avoid “but”), religion is not the issue to focus on if we wish to lessen violence from terrorism, because while religion is a factor, it is not the main motivation of the violence. The main motivation is the far greater violent interventions that have been perpetrated against mid-east peoples for a hundred years and particularly the last thirty.
We can encourage a reformation in Islam all we want, but we have little to no power to make it happen, while it is entirely within our power to greatly reduce our own violence in the mid-east. This is the essential SJW argument, and it is not only correct, but absolutely indispensable if we’re going to make any progress. Arguing about reform in Islam is a side show by comparison (in this context, not when it comes to many other issues like the plight of women in Islamic countries, of course).
“… the problem is neither the Qur’an nor the Bible … but the faithful who read the Qur’an or the Bible like one would read the installation instructions of an Ikea shelf.”
I’d say the problem is very specifically the Quran (and Hadith) and the Bible, that they can so very easily be used, not as the installation instructions of an Ikea shelf, but as explicit instructions for holy war, as recruitment material for those with a literalist frame of mind.
Some liberals have mocked the idea that ISIS has anything to do with ‘real’ Islam because some recruits have been carrying ‘Islam for Dummies’ or some such books. Even this isn’t something that supports a case for Islam. The Quran is often portrayed as being the perfect holy book that’s so obviously valid for all time – except when terrorists use it, then all sorts of scholarly nuance is required.
You are saying that just because something can be interpreted in two ways, there is something inherently wrong with it? So if the Constitution of a country says that killing other people if you have to defend yourself is ok, and then a President illegally goes to war in Iraq and kills a whole load of people based on the argument “they might be a danger to us in the future, so we should defend ourselves and kill them now”, then you are saying the Constitution is the problem because people can misinterpret it?
24:2 “The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah , if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.”
Anything like that in the US constitution? The US constitution has to be distorted to derive bad acts from it. The Quran has to be distorted to explain away the bad prescriptions in it.
You play with words yourself:
“a President illegally goes to war in Iraq and kills a whole load of people”
Was that the explicit intent, in the sense of the prescribed lashes in the Quran? Or was the killing a result of incompetence, ignorant expectations of the clinical capability of a military system, ignorant of the brutalisation of troops dealing with the trauma they witness and the trauma they cause, and indifference from some of those benefitting from the war? Do you think that given the chance the US government would not wish that Saddam be ousted and democracy installed – given that this would have served the US interests even more than the protracted problems we are witnessing now?
LOL@”US Constitution has to be distorted to derive bad acts” – then again, I can’t really blame you, because you have probably been brainwashed since birth that the US Constitution is the most perfect Constitution ever written, driven by a sense of morality, instead of the reality that it was driven by needs.
I don’t have the time to discuss this in detail yet, but if a country has routinely, over the course of two centuries, gone to wars, driven by self-interest, and killed lots of people, and supported many despotic regimes, and neither the leaders or the population have spoken out against it, then either there is something wrong with the Constitution that allows the wanton slaughter of others for your own benefit, or, the Constitution isn’t worth the paper it is written on because no one follows it!
Hey, what do you think about the death penalty? Why does the Constitution allow Federal Laws to allow the death penalty? Why does the Constitution allow Federal Laws to incarcerate people for life with no parole for financial fraud? I mean, come on, if a 40 year old does massive financial fraud in an Islamic country, he will have his hand chopped off (bad), but he will still be a free man. If a 40 year old does massive financial fraud in the USA, he won;t have his hand chopped off (good) but he will be incarcerated for life. If this person lives to be a 100, that means he will have spent 60 years behind bars. Most people would agree that the punishment this person gets under Islamic Law will be much better for him.
Why does the Constitution allow The Three Strikes Law? Why did the Constitution allow laws where blacks had to sit at the back of the buses? Why did the Constitution not allow gay marriage? Why does the Constitution not allow women to walk around topless? Why does the Constitution not give people the freedom to walk naked in the street? Surely, for a Constitution to be meaningful, it should stop barbaric and discriminatory federal laws.
“the Constitution isn’t worth the paper it is written on because no one follows it!”
I would happily agree with that. But that then is consistent with my point:
If all the crap done by the US is done by ignoring the Constitution, then indeed, the Constitution isn’t worth the paper it is written on because no one follows it.
But to do bad things **in the name of** the Constitution does require a distortion of the Constitution. So, for example, the ‘in God we trust’, ‘one Nation under God’, in public statements, on bank notes or in pledges of allegiance, or ‘we are a Christian nation, and the Constitution says so’, as distorted by many on the religious right, amounts to a case of having to distort the Constitution.
And still you play with words: “you have probably been brainwashed since birth that the US Constitution is the most perfect Constitution ever written, driven by a sense of morality, instead of the reality that it was driven by needs”
No. Thanks for your concern, but I haven’t been brainwashed. I don’t have such a simplistic, dare I say religious, view of perfection. Humans are fallible and the very notion of perfection as anything more than poetic licence when applied to anything in a chaotic universe like ours would be ridiculous.
I think it fair to say that both needs and morality guided the founding fathers, to various and individual degrees, as would and does happen in any government made up of individuals. You only have to read something like Paine’s Rights of Man to see both the pragmatic and the moral merging, the pragmatic solutions to moral dilemmas of other forms of government (say, balancing one’s personal choice to agree to the submission to divine right of Kings, against the potential alternative of the rejection of that by one’s descendants).
Death penalty and lifetime incarceration? Well, this pretty much brings us back to my point about Quran.
The Constitution isn’t an inerrant document. Couldn’t be. I’m not claiming it is. There are amendments after all, so that’s already recognised. If the Constitution needs to change to meet the needs and moral desires of more enlightened times, then change it. But even so, I still think that for their time the founding fathers did a pretty good job even by today’s standards.
I would agree that much about the law as applied in the US is screwed. But then ask how much of that is due to the influence of religious zealots in the US? How much do conservative commercial interests was fewer controls so that they can get on with their nefarious acquisition of power and money, at the expense of fellow citizens?
The conservative religious right hides behind the Constitution, but both ignoring it and distorting it when they use it to justify their own interests. But the Constitution is still one of the better ones of any nation. Shame it’s not lived up to.
The Quran is supposedly an inerrant word of God, and the Hadith continue in that tradition. They were bad for their time and they are worse for this time. It’s a shame they are being lived down to.
I am not asking anyone to defend Islam or the Quran. I just don’t like hypocrisy, be it by a religious person or an atheist or have you what.
You say the Quran was “bad” for it’s time – actually, for the 7th century, it was pretty good. It gave women rights that women did not have in Arabia at that time. It talks against female infanticide which was common in Arabia at that time. Sure, it doesn’t give the level of human rights we expect today, but for it’s time it gave lots more rights than many people had.
So your hypocrisy is quite amazing – when it comes to the Constitution, you decide whether it is good or bad according to the standards of the time when it was written, and not modern standards, but when it comes to the Quran, you decide whether it is good or bad according to modern standards, and not the standards of the time it was written.
Anyway, I would say the Founding Fathers did a rubbish job. The Constitution was selfish, it was written to protect themselves and their families from the kind of tyranny seen in Europe, but it didn’t stop Americans from being tyrants themselves. So America could go to war and kill people and overthrow governments if it benefited America – I think that is evil.
As for your point that the US laws being screwed up because of Conservative religious zealots – what utter nonsense. Are the people in Wall Street religious zealots? Are the corporations religious zealots? Are the politicians trying to get the TPP Trade Agreement passed religious zealots? No, no and no. The high incarceration rates in American prisons isn’t because of religious zealots – it is because America is a police state where power and authority must be worshipped, where people need to be controlled, and where businesses make huge profits from the Prison-Industrial Complex.
You’re missing the distinction between the points I was making re Quran v Constitution:
– Quran: bad then, bad now. For the time, worse than some in some respects, better than some in others. But still has plenty of bad. I was making the point that it contains bad stuff that is not excused by the good stuff. My comparison was between the bad and good. I WAS NOT comparing it with other books at that time.
– Constinution: good now, and relatively good for its time. I WAS comparing it with other forms of government at the time.
The Quran contains the lashing verse. That’s bad for all times, then and now. Find me one part of the Constitution that compares. It seems like your SJW mindset is determined to find the Constitution to be bad.
“individuals have a right to choose which ones they will focus on.”
Yes they do.
“But to focus on abuses in the Muslim world while completely ignoring the western meddling”
Greenwald focuses on US internal and global stuff and ignores Islamic state stuff. Is that enough to call him a neocon? I don’t see him making anywhere near enough fuss over cases like Raif Badawi. Can I label him an ISIS sympathiser for that? Only this is the type of rhetoric Greenwald and other SJWs engage in With us or against us. No nuance – oh, unless it’s necessary to explain the hoops SJWs have to jump through. Maajid Nawas – is he a champion of liberal Islam, in spite of being filmed at a lap dancing club? Well, SJW Ophelia Benson thinks so. But he’s sexist and a neocon fake Muslim, isn’t he? All gets very difficult when your world is black and white.
“And how can we consider the civilian casualties of the Iraq and Gazan invasions as anything other than human rights violations?”
“Of course Islamic treatment of women and LGBTs is horrible … But .. even the most advanced societies and it has been a long struggle ..,”
“support for authoritarian governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia)”
“And to focus on social conventions of traditional societies as an excuse for conquest and exploitation is simply rationalization for imperialism.”
“When people justify the Israeli attack on Gaza, which killed over 2000 in a few months”
You’re making these statements in this thread in opposition to things said here. It seems only reasonable to conclude that you are suggesting that because we would criticise Islam that these others are our beliefs and are entailed by lack of criticism of them. This is utter nonsense.
“What I’m calling for is a sense of balance. ”
The balance is elsewhere. There are plenty of guilt ridden western liberals already taking care of much of that. And I too support them on other sites I comment on when they make a good and ‘balanced’ case.
But I don’t know if you’ve noticed that Westboro Baptists, among the most vile religious people in the US, do little more than demonstrate with placards. Meanwhile, ISIS is beheading people that don’t agree with them and they are using Islam to justify much of that. And people like Raif Badawi have received lashes under Islamic edict (and would continue to be lashed were it not for liberal objections – including people like Sam Harris, not just Amnesty). On more than one occasion western women have been raped in Islamic countries, and then criminalised for sex outside marriage, because that’s what Islam requires. And who knows how often that’s happened to Muslim women nationals in those states. Gays are hung in Iran.
It’s big news in the US that some states are promoting anti-gay legislation. Well, that’s not quite right – they are promoting laws that interpret religious freedom, a good thing, in such a way that it allows discrimination against gays. And, this is really big news because, well, it’s the USA, where freedom, equality and progress is so honoured.
But even that is peanuts compared to the dreadful discrimination and persecution that goes on in Islamic countries. Yes, often the motives are entirely political and Islamic laws is being used as cover. But that’s not a plus point for Islamic law. That’s a good enough reason for criticising it.
All religion is bad in its divisiveness and its justification for persecution. But Judaism as a whole is small fry, and extremist Judaism is tiny. Christianity, in Europe, and even South America and parts of Asia, is at most a social problem that allows discrimination against women and LBGT, and against atheists. There are real social problems caused by religion in Ireland, for example.
But all these are light weight compared to the toxic mix caused by the historic role of religion in the middle east, the source of so many religions, and of the big three Abraham religions, with their own divisive internal sects. A few years ago the Christian/Muslim conflict in Lebanon was big news, and there was due cause to criticise both religions. But currently Islam is the centre of most conflicts around the world.
It’s easy to throw up some exceptions, such as the Buddhists in a few places from time to time, but Buddhists cannot use Buddhist texts to justify that, so you don’t so much get Buddhists around the world being easily persuaded to take up Buddhist Jihad the way its easy to take up Islamic Jihad. Even the crusades aren’t mentioned in the Bible – they were an invention using some aspects of ‘Christendom’ and holy places as justification. But Islam is very explicit in its call to spread Islam and to discriminate against non-Muslims (either through taxes, by preventing preaching to Muslims, by enacting apostasy and blasphemy laws).
If the difference of religious belief were removed from all conflict areas where it occurs, there would be far less division. It would be no problem for a Jewish man to marry a Muslim woman, if neither identified themselves by their religion, or, say, if their religions actively encouraged such mixes for the sake of social cohesion. Imagine that arranged marriages necessitate you marry someone from another religion, and your children get to swap religion, or choose to have none, themselves as they grow. That would still be an imposition on the personal freedom of the married couple to choose their own partner, but imagine the consequences compared to insisting on arranged marriages within one’s religion and race.
That’s not to say it would all be plain sailing with just religion changing. Race issues persist in the US exist despite most of the racists being Christian – but there is historic slavery and racism to contend with there. Even in Islamic states, in spite of Islam being race agnostic, racism persists as Arabs often look down on and abuse non-Arab migrant workers.
But religion is a big problem. And Islam is currently its worst implementation. And when a liberal says that it does not mean that liberal is excusing US foreign policy, drone strikes or any of the other stuff that persuades SJWs that we are now neocons by default. It’s dishonest BS.
“So what’s your quarrel with Social Justice Warriors?” – The them and us interpretation of other liberals and the misrepresentations and the attribution of neocon status. Drop the Warrior bit and we’re on the same page.
“Aren’t you arguing for social justice yourself?”
Absolutely. But much injustice is going on under the dishonest label of ‘the religion of peace’ that persecutes non-Muslims, and hides behind the ‘no compulsion’ while demonising and in some states criminalising apostasy and blasphemy.
The US Constitution, like the magna Carta, and most such documents, was written by the rich and powerful to protect their interests. But you can’t blame everything Americans have done subsequently on the Constitution, and more than you can blame what Christians have done on the Bible, or blame what Muslims have done on the Quran.
Governments continue to represent the interests of the rich and powerful, although democracies offer some potential to protect the interests of the people. But people are gullible and can be manipulated by fear, greed, and religious bigotry.
Heather is a champion of free speech, which is also a protection against the tyranny of the rich and powerful. But such safeguards are turned on their heads when the speech that is protected is speech which denigrates the poor and minority groups, and speech which defends vulnerable groups is dismissed as “It is time to end this disgusting paternalism of the bourgeois intellectual white ‘left’ that looks to identify with the ‘poor unfortunate under-educated.’“.
The rich and powerful also write history, and the biggest hypocrisy is exaggerating the faults of the targeted minority groups, while ignoring the atrocities of the privileged groups. Thus we get bent out of shape by the Hebdo massacres, but somehow classify the much greater western slaughter of Muslims in Iraq and Gaza as justified. Oh yes, we have people who admit the Iraq invasion was a mistake, and even some who regret the massacre of the Gazans, but who will call them what they are, terrorist attacks of the powerful on populations with no means to defend themselves against modern weapons. People cite the Hebdo incident as reflective of the inherent evils of the Quran and the muslim religion, yet Hebdo was performed by individuals and groups who in no way represented the larger Muslim population. The Iraq and Gazan massacres were the official acts of the so-called democratic nations of US/UK/Israel and their allies.
But we’re not just talking about the past. There are rich powerful interests in the western nations (including Israel)who want to launch a military assault on Iran. The moneyed interests have launched a propaganda campaign to instill fear in the people and build up support for military action, just like they did in Iraq. It is the liberal left who opposes this rush to war. But now we are being decried as social justice warriors by those who should be our allies. In the name of free speech they defend the right of rich westerners to demonize Mulims, while ridiculing those who oppose them as opponents of free speech, and likening us to those who advocated “sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and the like”.
The struggle for social justice for the poor and weak against the rich and powerful is a never ending effort. It was the message of the Hebrew prophets, it was the message of Jesus, it was in large part the message of Muhammad. But the rich and powerful have many ways to divert and subvert these teachings. It would behoove us, and the so-called new atheists who are focused on highlighting the faults of Islam and Muslims, to decide whether we are on the side of the Social Justice warriors, or on the side of imperialism of the strong over the weak.
That is not the two choices, and making those the two choices is, I think, where we come apart. I am on the side of truth and justice. I speak up for what I think is right, and against what I think is wrong, where ever that is. When I think Islam is wrong I will say so, but I will also defend Muslims when they are suffering. Sometimes the US or any other government gets it right, and sometimes they get it wrong. I will speak for or against them depending on the situation. It seems to me that those I refer to as SJWs blindly support one side or another whatever the facts of the situation. Imo they often choose not to recognize complexities and can even be just as one-eyed as a southern red-neck WASP at times. Their hearts are in the right place (unlike the red-necks), but they sometimes need to be a bit more objective. Of course, that’s hard when you’re passionate about something as they are, and I will admit to being a bit more detached.
That is just weird. Really weird. Glenn did write about Badawi – you can read it here.
Your whole example doesn’t make sense. No one has ever accused anyone of being pro-X because they don’t often write about the wrongs of X. No one has ever accused someone of being pro-Israel because they don’t write about Israel each day. That would be totally stupid – there is only so much time people have to do things, there is absolutely no way to write and cover everything.
The problem arises when people overplay the wrong done by someone else, but downplay the wrong done by others. Glenn has never done anything of the sort. His positions are clear – everyone should have freedom of speech. If you deny someone freedom of speech, you are doing something terrible. So anyone with any common sense will know that Glenn thinks Muslims who deny others freedom of speech are doing something very wrong. Glenn has never excused their behaviour. So to suggest he is somehow an apologist for Islamic extremism is just plain nonsense.
Of course, Glenn has talked a lot about how our actions often lead Muslims to extremism. This poses a great problem to neocons, and New Atheists (who generally tend to be neocons). Your worldview is a very simple one – the secular West is great, and those people over there are evil because of their religion. So you hate it when people like Glenn change your narrative, because now we have to share some of the blame, and if we have to share some of the blame, then we are not as good as we want to believe, and they are not as bad as we want to believe.
Have you ever read the Quran? Have you ever studied it from both a pro and anti view? I bet you haven’t – so how can you possibly claim to know how good or bad it is? I haven’t read the whole of the Quran, but I have read large chunks of it. I have read commentary of the Quran from an Evangelical Christian view, from a Muslim view, and from a secular view, and for the time, it was a lot more progressive than your really vague statement.
Of course, people like you and Dawkins (who admits he hasn’t read it) just cherry-pick the most intolerant verses, take them out of historical context, and then shout “Quran bad!!!!!!!!!!”. You’re not interested in a detailed, nuanced debate – you just want to take literal interpretations when it suits you. This is exactly what religious fundamentalists do, and that’s the irony – New Atheists say religion is really bad, they point to the actions of religious fundamentalists as proof, yet New Atheists interpret religion in the same way as the religious fundamentalists.
Ignoring the childish ad hominem, no, I am not determined to find the Constitution bad. I am just stating that the Constitution was a Constitution that was written by people for their own self-interest. These people did not ever want the situation that had been happening in Europe for centuries, where a Monarch could become a tyrant. Therefore, these people made laws to stop this from happening.
Now if you want to sit there and believe that the Constitution was written because the Founding Fathers were great civilised men who were driven by a sense of equality and justice for all human beings, and not because of their own self-interest, then that is your prerogative.
Which is exactly how the world of you, Harris and Dawkins is when it comes to religion!
Your wrong conclusion of what Paxton was saying is, at the danger of sounding rude, “utter nonsense”.
If members of Westboro Church had been killed, you could be sure they would also be using violence.
Your level of hero-worshipping of people like Sam Harris is quite scary. Do you really believe that nonsense you just wrote?
Utter rubbish. What you describe is one very fundamentalist interpretation of Islam – it is by no means the only one. But that’s what New Atheists do – they take the worst interpretation of Islam, and present it as a normal representation of Islam.
Everyone loves freedom for themselves. The real test of whether you love freedom is whether you want it for everyone else. If you are happy for your nation to support tyrants abroad, to overthrow democratically elected leaders, all because it benefits your own economy and global influence, then you do not really believe in freedom, you only believe in freedom when it benefits you.
Equality? Yes, equality is really cherished in America, I mean, only a few years ago the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton were saying gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry! Equality really matters in America, where 0.7% of whites are in jail compared to 4.7% blacks. In other words, if you are black, you are almost 7 times more likely to end up in prison than a white person. Equality matters so much to Americans that there have never been any reparations for slavery. Equality matters so much to Americans that 0.1% of the population own as much money as the bottom 90%.
Funny how you didn’t mention Christianity in Africa, I wonder why …
That is absolutely HILARIOUS! You think Buddhism is all about sitting under a tree meditating? HAHAHAHA! You obviously have absolutely no clue about religions, do you? Buddhism, like all religions, can have different interpretations. The Nirvana Sutra contains some really violent verses – it talks about killing non-believers, it talks about how they will never attain salvation, how they are the lowest of creatures, how even an ant is better than someone who rejects the way of the Buddha. Does this mean Buddhism is evil, of course it doesn’t, there are many pacifist verses, but the idea that Buddhist texts contain no violence and are all peaceful is just nonsense, but you definitely won’t hear Sam Harris talking about those not-so-peaceful verses.
Utter rubbish. Christians love practising Christians. An Evangelical Christian is more likely to like a black Christian than a white atheist.
No, you do not get called neocons because you criticise Islam. That is dishonest BS.
Or perhaps it’s not the Qur’an or the Bible, but the fact that people believe they’re sacred.
There are creation myths the world over. Most are recognized as myths and appreciated for what they are. If I accidentally (I can’t imagine burning any book for real) burned a book of Maori myths, I wouldn’t end up on any death list. My Maori family members wouldn’t refuse contact with me or disown me.
No book is worth more than a human life. If your religion teaches you something else, there’s a fundamental problem there.
The difference is, with the Bible, and to a greater extent with the Quran, is the lock-in contained within the texts:
The Bible and Quran tell the believer that the God described in them is telling them this is the word of God.
The significant difference between the Quran and the Bible, at least with respect to Christianity, is that Christianity is given the opportunity to ignore the OT and see it as specifically historical in many regards. The Quran is sold as being applicable for all time, the final word of God, revealed to just one prophet rather than many spread over time. It even contains an explanation about where the Jews and Christians have gone wrong. It’s so complete, according to its own declaration, that a Muslim is required to believe that.
And unlike many older myths, which have clear contradictions with our modern understanding of the world, the JCI three have a long history of dealing with dissent and have incorporated all the tools to battle that: hiding their God from physical inspection, using blasphemy and apostasy as means to quell dissent and encourage a one-way ticket into the religion.
But sure, the problem is the believers. But believers wrote these books, so the books now contain the ‘wisdom’ of the believers. So the books are now the infectious agents, the carriers, that infect new believers.
I agree with you Ron – not sure how I managed to give the impression otherwise.
The only thing I would query, is where you say the NT gives Christians the option of ignoring the OT, as in the NT Jesus specifically says that the OT still stands. There are several verses. One is Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.”
There are so many aspects of NT that are up for grabs. We have to be sceptical of ANY of the words of Jesus actually being his words. But my points are only that Jesus provides a point of departure, and that the OT is clearly a long term history of the Jews with various changing phases in their perceived relationship with God; so this is what gives Christians what amounts to an excuse to ignore a lot of the OT.
It is all rather flexible though, in that all religious people get to decide which parts of their holy books they choose to be literal and which allegorical, metaphorical, only historically applicable.
It’s not as if critics of Islam are denying any wrong doing or incompetence on the part of the US and allies – either for the war on Iraq, or the long term commercial and political exploitation in the region.
So, the US and allies screwed up big time in Iraq and unleashed a holy mess. The holy mess was there in the first place. Islam is there with its internal divisions as well as its opposition to anything different. Acknowledging all the incompetence and skulduggery in the US leadership isn’t detracting anything from the awful nature of Islam.
There’s a plausible case to be made that there would be much more incompetence and skulduggery if Islam were the dominant religion in the US, because it’s much harder to separate church and state under Islam. Isn’t it bad enough that Christianity permeates US politics as unofficially as it does, rather than having a more explicit requirement for it that Islam demands?
So if Islam has opposition to anything different, why didn’t the Muslims destroy everything they ever came across that was different to them?
It’s not all Muslims of course, and it’s certainly not necessarily physical destruction. For example, the goal or hope of many is just to convert non-believers to Islam, and they only consider doing that by peaceful means.
Actually, Ron, it is precisely true that many critics of Islam do deny that the US has done wrong (incompetence is not the issue). The right wing in the States can’t possibly concede US actions contribute to terrorism, of course, nor really can the supposed left like Hillary, who supported the Iraq war for instance, but some actuals liberals like Sam Harris also ignore that there is a huge political dimension to Islamic terrorism fed by Western interventions in the Middle-East. I’ve had Harris say this to me directly in email.
That there have always been problems in the Mid-East does not explain modern terrorism against the West, but Western intervention there does. And your final point about the impact if Islam was the dominant religion in the US is almost certainly true, but unless your purpose is to justify already bad behaviour, I can’t see why it is relevant.
“So many are still either arguing that Islam is the only reason for terrorism, or that Islam has nothing to do with it. Both are wrong.”
A few have tried the latter – Reza Aslan – but are having to change their tune. Who do you think is included in the former ‘so many’?
Well, Heather did so in this very post, and as I said above, Sam Harris does too. Actually, a year ago Sam watched the film, Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill and finally admitted there might be a political dimension to terrorism, but funnily enough, he hasn’t mentioned it since, preferring to still argue that all acts by Islamists are motivated solely by their religions beliefs.
But when I say “so many”, I’m referring to most of what I read out of the States or otherwise in the media. Heather is not wrong insofar as many on the left at least downplay the role of religion. Most are religious themselves, so really don’t want to go there. On the other side are heaps of people who agree with US interventionism (Democrats and Republicans only argue about the degree and tactics) so latch onto religion as the only cause.
It’s a sad story that you write. Sad that medeval minded theists believe that murder best serves thier purpose and sad that free speech is under such attack. I expect that we will see more acrimony before we see less.
It is sad, and I agree. What was Douglas Adams wrote in Mostly Harmless? Something like, “wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could just be nice to one another.” Bit naïve of me I suppose. 🙁
Heather, I am astounded that anyone can compare mockery and ridicule of Islam and Muslims, with speaking out against racism and homophobia. (“Some of us though are old enough to remember when things like sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and the like were fairly common. Enough of us spoke up against those things that they are no longer socially acceptable.”) In fact it is those who are decrying the proliferation of animosity towards Muslims and other minorities in our countries, not the critics of Islam, who are carrying on the tradition of opposing hatred based on race, sex, religion, etc.
Have you not heard that many in the US are supporting Netanyahu’s call for another war against a Muslim nation. Do you not think the terrorism inflicted by the US/UK/Israel in Iraq and Gaza makes it hypocritical for us to pass moral judgment on Muslim societies? Yes, I disagree with many Muslim practices and doctrines of Islam, and especially practices like those of ISIS. But we will not change these practices by invading Islamic countries and slaughtering Muslims. Stirring up animosity against Islam only enables the right-wing warmongers.
Call me a Social Justice Warrior, but I see enough injustice in my own country that I don’t have look for other countries to invade to correct their problems. Of course you are not advocating war, but continuing to vilify Muslims and Islam while ignoring the atrocities of the west supports those who do. Zionist Netanyahu and Christians Bush and Blair assured us that Iraq had WMD and that ousting Saddam would bring peace to the middle east. No terrorism by Muslims, before or after that invasion can compare in its infliction of death and misery on people. Could you not even give a nod to the other side of the story?
Hi Paxton. At least you acknowledge that I’ve never advocated for war in the Middle East. I was also vocally opposed to the Iraq War at the time. I wanted Saddam gone, I just didn’t think the West invading was the best way to achieve that.
Yes, I do know what Netanyahu is up to. I was really hoping he’d lose the election. There needs to be a two state solution, and it’s not going to happen as long as he’s in power, especially as he relies on the support of the extreme right-wing to keep him there. It’s also another reason I fear a GOP victory in 2016.
You are conflating criticism of Islam with that of Muslims imo, which is where I particularly come unstuck with SJWs. Criticizing Islam is NOT the same as criticizing Muslim people. I do the first a lot; I don’t do the second without a valid reason – such as your name being Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (leader of DAESH). In fact I speak out in support of Muslims if they are being victimized in the exact same way I would any other group. For example, I thought the group that wanted to build a mosque near Ground Zero should have been allowed to. I’m also a strong supporter of those Muslims who are trying to bring an equivalent of the Enlightenment to Islam from within.
SJWs too often, imo, provide their support unquestioningly. They see the horrors occurring in Palestine, for example, but fail to recognize how much of that is caused by Hamas, and even when they do, they make excuses for Hamas. As a result, there is a lot of anti-Semitism raising its ugly head. My position recognizes there are faults on both sides. At the moment the two sides are locked in a blame game, and they’re completely unable to solve the problem. They have to get past this if there’s to be peace in the region.
As you say Heather “There is no excuse for violence.” Islamophobes ignore the mass officially condoned violence of the west while focusing over and over on isolated incidents of violence by rogue Muslims against a relatively few people. They justify mass slaughter against Gazans by a few Israeli casualties inflicted by caged people crying for independence. They deny there is any such thing as Islamophobia, while raising cries of ant-Semitism at every opportunity. Yes, there is a rise in anti-Semitism, and it’s a direct response to Israel’s brutal captivity of the Palestinians.
Free speech, when used by those with power to invoke violence against those without, whether they be blacks, native Americans, Australians or New Zealanders, or muslims, or calling for invasions of countries with no defense against our military power, is not something to celebrate. It is hateful, cowardly, bullying, and dangerous. Free speech is cherished as a means of speaking truth to power. J-street, ReformedJewsfor Peace and other Jewish organizations who are speaking against the Netanyahu-Adelson steamroller attempting to discredit any Jews who oppose them, are exercising free speech in the best tradition. Those with the courage to resist the Bush/Cheney rush to war in Iraq, were making good use of free speech. People who are attempting to defend and extend the persecution and oppression of homosexuals are using free speech for an ugly purpose, as were those who agitated for civil war in the US to defend slavery, and those who said women could not be entrusted with the vote, and those that said Japanese citizens could not be trusted to be free during WWII, and Joe McCarthy and others who promoted anti-communist blacklists.
Those who justify western imperialism, discriminatory laws (e.g. against the burqa), invasions and slaughter of innocents, because of what the Quran says, or because some countries’ laws are not as enlightened as ours are, are not working for enlightenment or peace, but are engaging in the age old oppression of the weak by the strong. Those atheists who claim to reject all religions, but who focus their animosity on one religion which stands in the way of their own religion (which they deny having) are simply being duplicitous.
To say that the rise in anti-Semitism is caused by Israel’s actions in Gaza could be interpreted as justifying the prejudice. Also, I think there are plenty of anti-Semites who have no understanding of the situation there, there are plenty latching on to that excuse (such as by calling it anti-Zionism, although there is genuine anti-Zionism too of course), and I think there are always been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in some European countries.
Personally I don’t deny there is real Islamophobia, because there is Islamophobia, and it disgusts me just as much as any other prejudice. (I’ve even stood up for my nemesis Reza Aslan when he’s been a victim of it!) I do deny that criticizing Islam for its stance on women and LGBT people, for example, is Islamophobia. I equally criticize other religions. I wrote an article concluding that the GOP’s ‘War on Women’ war real for example. (See here.)
I agree there are plenty who aren’t very good at looking at their own country critically, but also it cannot be denied that the internal human rights records of Western democracies is infinitely better than most, if not all, other countries.
I know there are some leading new atheists that you consider focus their efforts on Islam to the exclusion of others, but I can’t answer for them. I don’t quite see it that way because at the moment there are simply more human rights atrocities being committed in countries where the law is Sharia, so that is where attention tends to get focused. There are more of course; I’m also pretty sickened by the Christian country of Uganda and will be writing about that sometime in the future. Others that need attention are China and North Korea. Christians consider North Korea atheist, but worship of the Dear Leader is not atheist in my opinion. None of this is duplicity, again imo, it’s just there’s a limit to how much any one person can do. Harris, Dawkins, Hirsi Ali, Dennett, Coyne, Nawaz et al have a voice, and they use it where they feel it can do the most good or where they feel they have the most knowledge. I’m not about to tell them what they should and shouldn’t talk about.
People like me actually wear the term “SJW” as a badge of honour – it’s a term very popular with neocons who pretend they’re liberal but are really liberal only when they want to be and hate the fact when those of us who are actually liberal call them out on it.
As for Hamas, no, the majority of the horrors are not caused by Hamas. Hamas is a symptom, and not the cause, of the violence that occurs in Palestine. There were suicide bombings and kidnappings and have you what being done by the secular Palestinian organisations like the PLO before any of the Islamist ones like Hamas or Islamic Jihad even existed.
Social Justice is great. The term Social Justice Warrior is used by conservatives and liberals alike to describe those social justice advocates that tend become so ideological that reason goes out the window.
Here’s an example: http://ronmurp.net/2015/04/12/social-justice-the-pz-way/
There’s a lot of hypocrisy in parts of the liberal left – they are not so liberal, not so tolerant that they can’t disagree with another liberal on some points without disavowing them and taking every opportunity to pick up on everything that can be turned against them. SJWs are theocratic in their attacks on other liberals they don’t agree with.
“it’s a term very popular with neocons who pretend they’re liberal”
That usually means a liberal that a SJW has decided is a neocon. So, for example, Sam Harris is a liberal, but with some libertarian persuasion that goes beyond my liberalism. I can live with that and agree with him on many things. But for some SJW that’s enough to call Harris a neocon. Cenk Ugyur did just that recently and even said Harris is basically like Dick Cheney. He also made a big deal that Fox News agreed with some things Harris said, making the point that Fox agreeing with you damns you – as if there is zero common ground, as if everything is so black and white, you’re with us or against us, your on our side or their side (terms SJW Richard Carrier actually uses). It’s stupid. Especially in Cenk Ugyur’s case, since through Wolf-Pac he’s been promoting the cooperation of liberals and conservatives.
People can be liberal when it comes to certain things, and not be a liberal when it comes to others.
I know someone who hates racism, hates sexism, yet wants to ban religion and not let parents teach their kids religion. Is this guy a liberal? Yes and no.
To be a true liberal, you must meet certain criteria – this includes:
1) You are very self-critical of the wrongs that are done by people of your own country/belief
2) You are not driven by tribalism
Harris and Dawkins fail miserably when it comes to this, and that’s why they are called neocons, and not because of some other weird explanation you seem to have in your mind.
Heather: ” there are simply more human rights atrocities being committed in countries where the law is Sharia, so that is where attention tends to get focused”
Do you have data for that Heather. Human rights violations are worst in countries in turmoil. Civil war (Syria and Iraq), Failed governments (Somalia). But the US has the largest prison population in the world. China has the most executions. Israel human rights violations against the Palestinians have been widely documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN.
And how can we consider the civilian casualties of the Iraq and Gazan invasions as anything other than human rights violations? Helpless people with no defense being bombarded with 21st century weaponry.
I know there are many wrongs to criticize in the world and individuals have a right to choose which ones they will focus on. But to focus on abuses in the Muslim world while completely ignoring the western meddling, support for authoritarian governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia), overthrow of elected governments (Iran), and military invasions that have killed hundred of thousands, is to abandon all claims of objectivity. And to focus on social conventions of traditional societies as an excuse for conquest and exploitation is simply rationalization for imperialism. Some talk as if imperialism were a thing of the past, and can’t be used as an excuse for bad behavior today. That’s bull, imperialism is alive and well and those who engage in demeaning the primitive ways of traditional societies without recognizing the harm done by imperialistic interventions, are enabling the imperialists.
Of course Islamic treatment of women and LGBTs is horrible and worthy of criticism. But these groups don’t have full equality in even the most advanced societies and it has been a long struggle to win rights for these groups, as well as racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.
Anti-Semitism is at least as old as Christianity, and through most of history Muslim societies have been more welcoming to Jews than have Christian societies. The holocaust was the work of western Christians and secularists, not Muslims. The decision of western states to carve a “Jewish state” out of what had been Muslim territory for a thousand years, was an act of incredible aggression.
What I’m calling for is a sense of balance. When people justify the Israeli attack on Gaza, which killed over 2000 in a few months, by pointing out the missiles fired from Gaza, which killed a handful of people over 20 years, without mentioning that the Gazans have been under a humiliating Israel captivity for almost 50 years, I know they are not trying to be rational or objective, but are just looking to justify the action.
I am not justifying anti-Semitism by pointing out that much of it is due to Israel’s captivity of the Palestinians, nor am I justifying the Charlie Hebdo murders by pointing out that much of their humor was childish and insulting. But in either case, to ignore the latter as a contributing factor in the former is to distort the situation.
You say you’re not about to tell Harris, Coyne et al what they should and shouldn’t talk about but you told President Obama how he should talk about Islamist radicals. So what’s your quarrel with Social Justice Warriors? Aren’t you arguing for social justice yourself? I think so, and I hope so.
I’d be happy to see your selection from the Constitution that’s anything like Quran 24:2.
Other than that, this is my last comment to you on this thread, because your misrepresentations are expanding at such a rate and my responses are necessarily getting longer. You’re just finding more ways to make the same misrepresentations.
“Glenn did write about Badawi – you can read it here”
Yes, Greenwald mentioned it in passing, in an article that was primarily about NSA co-operation with Saudi – more of Greenwald ‘s usual interest. Similarly, Sam Harris would mention the all too close links with US government and Saudi while writing about the Islamic influence in Saudi law that is used against Badawi. You are confirming my point: just as it would be ridiculous to claim Greenwald is an ISIS sympatheiser for not making **anywhere near enough** fuss [not none, note] over cases like Raif Badawi, so too it would be rediculous for Greenwald to make the statements he does about the ‘Islamophobia’ of Harris, accusing of hating all Muslims, etc., just because Harris is always writing about US foreign policy.
“New Atheists (who generally tend to be neocons)”
What? FFS! Name the New Atheists you think are neocons, and provide some evidence from their writing that they are.
“So you hate it when people like Glenn change your narrative”
Well, yes, it’s a nuicence having to correct his misrepresentation. That’s what it is when you “change someone’s narrative” so that it seems like they mean what you wnat them to mean rather than what they actually mean. Well, done “change someone’s narrative”, you’ve nailed Greenwalds misrepresentation quite well there.
“I bet you haven’t – so how can you possibly claim to know how good or bad it is?”
Well, having read it I can assure you you don’t need to read it all to figure out it’s a stupid book.
“I haven’t read the whole of the Quran, but I have read large chunks of it. I have read commentary of the Quran from an Evangelical Christian view, from a Muslim view, and from a secular view, and for the time, it was a lot more progressive than your really vague statement.”
Only a few aspects of it are progressive for its time, and there are a lot of places where the progressive stuff is negated by much bad stuff, and often contradicted.
“Of course, people like you and Dawkins (who admits he hasn’t read it) just cherry-pick the most intolerant verses”
Well, yes. That’s enough. If those verses are in there and it’s the inerrant word of God then that says a lot about the kind of God it’s portraying. This isn’t rocket science.
“take them out of historical context”
It applies for all time! It’s inerrant! many Muslims tell us so. That’s why reformers like Maajid Nawaz get death threats for suggesting it can be changed. That’s why many Muslims when asked, “Do you categorically reject X?” [where X is something like 24:2] they fudge and evade. Don’t you get that? Can’t you see the contradictions inherent in Islam?
– Any book that declares itself to be the word of God and then starts to tell you about that God is flawed from the start. Anyone can write such a book. That applies to the Bible too, of course.
– It is full of contradictory declarations of God’s mercy mixed in with verses of awful punishment.
“You’re not interested in a detailed, nuanced debate”
The only nuance is invented apologetics. Would you like me to use nuance, allegory and BS to explain how Mein Kampf is an enlightened book for its time that contains much peace and love but is cherry picked for the bad bits? Easy to do, by inventing nuance. Apologetics for these ancient ‘holy’ books is just fantasy. This is what happens with Chtistianity from ‘sophisticated’ theologians who now declare that the ancients didn’t take any of the literal nonsense literally. BS.
“you just want to take literal interpretations when it suits you”
I’m quite happy to have someone explain the nuanced interpretation of these books. Pleas do explain the nuance of 24:2 that I referred to. Go on, please do.
“the Constitution was a Constitution that was written by people for their own self-interest”
Well, trivially so. If I declare I believe in free speech then surely it is in my self interest. But I can also want it to apply for everyones’ benefit, and that too was the intent of the founding fathers. Again, try Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man – he’s referring to future generations. Hardly self interest.
“Now if you want to sit there and believe that the Constitution was written because the Founding Fathers were great civilised men who were driven by a sense of equality and justice for all human beings, and not because of their own self-interest, then that is your prerogative.”
Could it not be for both? Again, this is very much a SJW tactic – all or nothing, black and white, us and them, the selfish founding fatehrs couldn’t also have had wider social justice motives.
Of course your point could be turned on SJWs – your doing it for your own self interest: female SJW feminists are doing it out of self interest of improving their lot and male SJW feminists are doing it to get laid – or at least that’s the common facetiously jocular framing use.
“Which is exactly how the world of you, Harris and Dawkins is when it comes to religion!”
No it isn’t. Really. Here’s how it is, with Harris, Dawkins and many others:
– There’s bad religious texts that include bad prescriptions and proscriptions.
– There are some religious people that on faith take the bad stuff literally – and that’s bad.
– There are some religious people that on faith take only the good stuff – and that’s better, and in some cases the outcomes are even good.
– But faith is an unreliable method of coming to a belief – that’s bad, but less bad if only the good stuff is believed.
– It’s generally a bad idea to belief stuff without evidence.
– There is no evidence for any god ever presented that isn’t also consistent with BS being made up by some religious nut, like Ron L Hubbard.
– But, people are still free to believe what they want, and spend their days praying if they wish – freedom of belief.
I’ll even quote you Bill Maher, Batman’s favourate hate figure: “You [Harris] and I have been trying to make the case that liberals need to stand up for liberal principles: freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities including homosexuals. These are liberal principles.”
You can find the same in pretty much any major piece by Harris and Dawkins. In that context, Islam is directly opposed to those in its doctrine, in the Quran and Hadith. Again, I give you Westboro Baptists for Christianity, another target for Harris, Dawkins and Maher.
“Utter rubbish” [that On more than one occasion western women have been raped in Islamic countries, and then criminalised for sex outside marriage, because that’s what Islam requires]
Your ignorance is astonishing.
Extreme? Are you under the impression that the liberal Muslims in the west are representative of Muslims around the world? Seriusly, just look at the figures among those Muslims that think Sharia should be the law of the land and also think stoning adulterers is justified – and remember, stoning for adulters is in the Hadith, not the Quran – the Hadith cannot be neglected. Then look at the figures for apostasy.
Some of those figures explain why there are riots at the drop of a cartoonist hat, followed some time later by his head.
“If you are happy for your nation to support tyrants abroad, to overthrow democratically elected leaders”
I’m not. Why do you wilfully misrepresent me so? Because you’re SJW. And I say so. I’ll say it again, just so you have no reason to misrepresent my view: I do not support anti-democratic action anywhere. Now, that means I don’t support any of the Islamic states that are undemocratic and persecutory towards there own citizens. Just for the record, that includes the failure of the US to get its cops in line rather than letting the all too common shooting of African Americans. I can also say I’m right behind Greewald’s publications of stories of bad US foreign policy and the nafarious activities of the NSA.
See, I have no trouble doing any of that. But still the SJW can’t bring themselves to support Harris on anything.
“Obama and Hillary Clinton”
They’re religious. What more need I say.
“Equality really matters in America, where 0.7% of whites are in jail compared to 4.7% blacks. In other words, if you are black, you are almost 7 times more likely to end up in prison than a white person.”
I think you’re missing the point. This is exactly what Sam Harris has had to say. And he too thinks a lot of this is down to the majority conservative Christian demographic that runs America. Point well made. Religion is divisive.
“Equality matters so much to Americans”
Let’s just take stock of your rhetoric again here, and do a little comparison. Sam Harris makes points about Islam, and SJW opponents accuse him of bigotry against ALL Muslims. You now make a statement about ‘Americans’ and about the lack of equality in America? Can we say not that you hate all Americans and that you are tarring American SJWs with the same inequality brush?
The thing is, all liberal minded secular people (including many religious secularists, not just athiests) are genuinely all for freedom and equality, as expressed in the Constitution. And that includes, SJW. The problem is that SJWs such as yourself are the ideologues here. I can live with the fact that PZ Myers is over the top in some of his hetoric and early pre-judegment of people – I’m happy to call him h=out on that, and then go right ahead and retweet a SJ case of his I agree with.
“Funny how you didn’t mention Christianity in Africa, I wonder why …”
Because it is more than a simple social problem there. But still far less of a problem generally than Islam. The problem for Christianity in Africa is not the Christianity but the association and mixing with other traditions around witchcraft. That’s not Christianity. Whereas Quran 24:2 is undeniably Islam. See the difference?
“Buddhism, like all religions, can have different interpretations. The Nirvana Sutra contains some really violent verses”
As does the Bible. But who is practiving that now? Where are the explicit texts being put to use so fully? Remember, again, the Quran is the inerrant word of God, valid for all time. Even if all Muslims today became fully paid up members of liberal democracy and decided to ignore every bad verse in the Quran, it would still be there to be re-interpreted for violent means in the future. That’s basically what’s happening now, so easily.
And, unlike Mohammed, Buddha himself was a pacifist, and Jesus was all about peace. The differences are quite straight forward.
Also, the Buddah was, what, no later than 4th century BCE, while the Nirvana Sutra came much later, so yes, there has been teh potential for various interpretations. But the Quran is one single document attributed to God through Mohammed, and it’s inerrant and applicable for all time.
This is part of the problem with Islam and why reformers like Maajid Nawaz get such a lot of pushback even from ‘moderate’ Muslims.
So, I stand by the notion that Islam is far worse than Christianity or Buddhism, TODAY, HERE, NOW.
“No, you do not get called neocons because you criticise Islam. That is dishonest BS.”
I didn’t say that [called neocons for criticising Islam]. The piece you quoted from me didn’t say that. It said we get called neocons for not focusing on US neocon foreign policy issues, so it’s assumed we must agree with those policies and are therefore neocons, or that some neocons agree with the criticism of Islam, agree with Harris on it, so Harris must be a neocon, or because Aayan Hirsi Ali was neglected by many liberals and some neocons supported here move to the US, so she must be a neocon.
Ron, the reason so many of your comments are getting getting caught up in moderation is because they are so long and contain so many links – my software suspects you of being a spammer. Feel free to keep the discussion going (as long as you don’t get abusive of course) but please keep those things in mind.
Thanks Heather. I appreciate the opportunity to join in here.
Well, I am glad it’s your last comment, because your post is full of so much hyperbole, straw men and ad hominem, it isn’t even worth my time responding.
And, no, I do not say this to everyone I disagree with. Heather and I have disagreed more times than we have agreed, but at least with her I can have an intelligent debate, where she presents her views in a succinct and concise manner, and at least she doesn’t see the world in the black and white view you see it in.
Coincidentally, this piece addresses Charlie Hebdo and New Atheists generally, and focuses on Bill Maher’s attacks on religion. It stands as a pretty good explanation for continuing to focus on religion.
http://www.salon.com/2015/04/26/bill_maher_american_hero_laughing_at_religion_is_exactly_what_the_world_needs/ (h/t Jerry Coyne’s site)
We don’t have to let Islam off the hook while we also try to sort out the problems our own governments cause.
Our governments are ridiculous when they do ridiculous things, and they are cruel and divisive when the do cruel and divisive things. They are failing to live up to their own declared standards and rightly should be called out on it.
But religion’s standards are ridiculous, divisive and cruel from the outset, because they are are living down to the standards set in their holy texts written in ignorant times.
There are probably no more than a dozen or so simple worthwhile statements that can be teased out of these old books that are worth keeping today, and many of those statements would be found in independent sources from yet other cultures. And all of the useful statements can have God extracted from them. Example: The mercy of God can be recommended instead as the mercy of humans towards each other when we screw up – so getting rid of the death penalty across the US would be a start (hint to those among the religious that seem to be all for the death penalty).
I don’t understand why people add the “but”: “I believe in free speech, but…”
This tweet to Sam Harris says it best:
It takes a moment to parse that sentence, but once you get it, it’s quite profound.
I explained at length why I add the “but”, so not sure what you don’t understand about that. Further hint: My “but” is not in the least bit incompatible with Sam’s tweet, which I fully agree with.
I want to take issue with the Sam Harris quote: “We either support free speech, or we support the right of others to kill us if we say something they don’t like”
Could we substitute “the right of gays to marry” or “the right to own guns” in that sentence. Opposing something doesn’t imply we think anyone should be killed for doing it. How about the right of a KKK member to give a fiery speech urging members to lynch someone? Is that free speech? Eugene Debs and others were jailed for speaking out against the draft in WWI. In this case I think the speech should have been protected. But at least they weren’t killed, just jailed. What about making threats or verbal harassment? Or provoking an armed rebellion against your country? Are they protected? I’m all for free speech, but I think there are legitimate limits, where other goods trump the good of free speech. And to say if you don’t support the right of people to say anything at all is to support the right to kill them for saying it is ridiculous.
You’re right, Sam’s quote is too strong, particularly out of context. I assumed the context was that of the Hebdo murders, in which the objections of some to “I am Charlie” were taken as a refusal to defend free speech. That may even have been true for some, but not for many of us for whom there are valid “but”s to be raised even while fully supporting the right of Hebdo to publish. I don’t think there is an argument that the Hebdo case is analogous to your examples where free speech may be rightfully curtailed. And in general, the bar for curtailing speech should be extremely high. I would usually err on the side of speech being permissible unless a clear and immediate danger can be identified, akin to yelling fire in a crowded theatre.
First, just a correction in the interest of clarity. It is not a Sam Harris quote, someone else tweeted it and mentioned Sam Harris, so it appeared in his stream.
I read your explanation and, in my opinion, it looks like you don’t understand it. I don’t know how you can agree with the quote, but also think any kind of “but” is okay. To use an actual quote from Sam Harris: “People have been murdered over cartoons; End of moral analysis.”
Would you say, “Well I’m sorry that biker gang killed that guy, but he should have known better than to wear that t-shirt into the bar.”? No. There is no “but”, no matter how insulting the t-shirt.
Would you say, “It pains me no end that my daughter was raped, but she should not have worn that little skirt in that neighborhood.”? No. The attackers should be brought to justice, that’s it.
The moment you insert a “but”, you’re well on path to victim-blaming. And victims should not be held accountable for the crimes committed against them, irrespective of the provocation.
paxton marshall said:
Reading your explanation makes me wonder if you may have slightly missed the point of the quote. The moment someone adds the “but”, they have just given permission to the attacker to take action.
I argue that the following position is irrational for someone who believes in free speech: “I am totally against those people killing the editors of Charlie Hebdo, but come on, they should have expected something bad would happen.”
You can’t be for free speech, and then tolerate incursions against it.
If you say to someone, “You look funny,” you would not excuse violence against you for that. Nor should you if you say to someone, “You’re god isn’t real.” The intensity of the provocation shouldn’t change the dynamics.
Here’s my but: ““I am totally against those people killing the editors of Charlie Hebdo, but that event pales so much in comparison with the US terrorist attack on Iraq (2003) and the Israeli terrorist attacks on Gaza (20o8, 2012, 2014)that I can hardly take note of it. I am more concerned with understanding and controlling the terroristic impulses of my own country than that of a few rogue Muslims. They have killed thousands, we have killed hundreds of thousands.
No, I wouldn’t say either of those things, as I made clear. Those are examples of the first type of “but”, which I agree is not valid as it justifies the criminal action.
However, your examples in no way invalidate the second type of “but” I discussed, which does not seek to justify criminal action. Instead it is “meant to add or explain additional, often critical, information, without which, at minimum, incomplete conclusions will be drawn, leading possibly to calamitous actions that may even make matters worse”.
In the US several people have been fired for posting support for the Charleston, SC killer, on social media. Has their right to free speech been violated? No legal action was taken against them. If we support the right of the employer to fire these people for something having nothing to do with their work, should we expect to be killed?