Archive for the “Islam” Category
Muslims and their religion
For years now I’ve blogged about what I call “the Great Neocrusade.” In the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Neocrusade has gone from a rhetorical effort to a physical and violent one.
President Obama took note of this, it seems. Taking a page from his predecessor, as the New York Times reports, he knocked the Neocrusade when he visited a Baltimore mosque (WebCite cached article):
President Obama on Wednesday embraced Muslims in the United States as part of “one American family” and implicitly criticized the Republican presidential candidates in a warning to citizens to not be “bystanders to bigotry.”
In a visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first to a mosque in the United States as president, Mr. Obama recited phrases from the Quran and praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future.
“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Mr. Obama said.
The Right is, as one would expect, outraged over this. A lot of them still think he’s a “secret Muslim” (cached), and this visit will — for them — only confirm that delusion.
Look, I get it. These folk are angry. They hear about Islamist attacks and want all Muslims to be gone. The problem is, not all Muslims are terrorists. Being violent right back at Muslims who aren’t, themselves, violent Islamists is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.
Another problem is, Islamists aren’t the only terrorists who prey on Americans. Something else I’ve blogged about is the phenomenon of domestic Right-wing terror, which — despite our aversion to admitting it — exists, is real, and is at least as dangerous for Americans as Islamist terror.
Photo credit: Drew Angerer / New York Times.
, baltimore MD
, barack hussein obama
, barack obama
, great neocrusade
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I bet you had no idea the game of chess … you know, the ancient game played with special pieces on a checkerboard … was profane in the eyes of the Almighty. Yeah, I know, it was news to me too. It took an Islamic scholar to figure that out. As the New York Times explains, that scholar is no less than Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric (WebCite cached article):
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric has declared the playing of chess “forbidden,” calling it a waste of time and money that creates hatred between players.
In a fatwa, or religious decree, issued in response to a question from a caller to a Saudi television show, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said that the game was “the work of Satan,” like alcohol and gambling, despite its long history in the Middle East. Chess is played across the Arab world.…
In his statement on the show, the grand mufti equated chess with gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.
“It makes the rich man poor, and makes the poor man rich,” he said. “It causes hostility and wastes time where it should not be spent.”
I suppose people can bet on chess matches, but as a game, chess doesn’t involve any gambling. So I’m not sure what Al-Shiekh’s beef is really about. It seems nonsensical.
Ironically, it was Arabs’ embrace of chess — which had originated in India, then moved on into Persia — which carried the game to the western world. As the Times reports, it remains popular in the Arab world, and this fatwa isn’t likely to accomplish much of anything, since people will continue playing chess in spite of it.
The lesson here is that religionism leads to all sorts of adsurdity. It grants undeserved authority and influence to dolts and clowns with the power to promulgate rulings and doctrines based on ignorance and idiocy.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Hat tip: Rational Wiki.
Tags: abdul-aziz ibn abdullah al ash-sheikh
, abdulaziz al-sheikh
, chess and islam
, grand mufti sheikh abdulaziz al-sheikh
, saudi arabia
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Christianity’s history is dotted with controversies, rifts and schisms. They range in severity from differences over heresy (with each side calling the other “heretical”) in which different Christian congregations existed side-by-side for a time, such as the Donatist schism, to conflicts over doctrines and dogma that occasionally erupted in violence (either in the short term, e.g. the Nestorian heresy, or longer term, e.g. as the Iconoclast controversies), as well as schisms that ended up creating entirely-separate churches (e.g. the Great Eastern Schism or the Reformation).
The result of this long history is that Christianity isn’t a single entity, but rather, a collection of many different institutions whose only point in common is that they revere the figure known as Jesus Christ and ostensibly follow his putative teachings. (As it turns out, going all the way back to its origins, Christianity has always been a collection of varied movements. At no point in its history was it ever a single group following a single set of doctrines.) When Westerners think of religious schisms and conflicts, this history is what they tend to think of.
Even so, Christianity isn’t unique in this regard. All major religions have had their rifts, conflicts, “heresies,” and variant teachings.
Perhaps the most famous of these outside of Christianity is the Islamic schism; dividing that religion into Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims (with around 85% of the world’s Muslims belonging to the former sect).
This schism has its origins with the aftermath of the prophet Mohammad’s death in 632 CE. The two men who were his most likely successors as leaders of Islam were his first male convert, Abu Bakr, and his son-in-law Ali. Abu Bakr ended up being chosen, over the protests of Ali and his followers (the Shi’atu Ali or “partisans of Ali,” hence the name of their sect). The degree to which Ali himself conceded this choice isn’t entirely clear; aside from hard feelings over it, not much happened during Abu Bakr’s rule (which only lasted a couple of years), and Ali acted as an advisor to Abu Bakr’s successor Umar, so there was some comity at that point, although resentments undoubtedly lingered. Ali finally was named caliph, or leader of Islam, only in 656 (almost 25 years after Mohammad’s death) during the chaos that erupted after Umar’s successor Uthman was killed by rioters.
That Ali wouldn’t order the execution of those rioters caused the low simmering resentments between Uthman’s and Ali’s supporters to break out in the open, launching a civil war within Islam now called “the First Fitna.” Ali was assassinated and his son succeeded him, but within months abdicated in favor of Muawiyah, a leader of Uthman’s faction, thus ending the Fitna.
The conflict erupted anew in 680 when Muawiyah died and Husayn, another son of Ali, refused to accept Yazid, Muawiyah’s son, as the next caliph. Husayn was killed during the Battle of Karbala that very year.
This turned out to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back; at several points during the preceding decades, both sects had at least tried to get along, and the one war that had broken out in full fury had been settled; but Husayn’s death at Karbala proved to be too much for the Shi’ites to take. There would never again be any meaningful attempted accord. What’s more, there were rifts within each side; Ali’s assassin had belonged to a group within his own faction who’d rebelled against Ali’s efforts to negotiate an end to the First Fitna. And Yazid and his immediate successors ended up dealing with rebels that broke away from their original faction, as well.
In other words, the whole thing ended up being one monstrous clusterfuck.
The tensions and differences opened up by these 7th century conflicts — which at that time could have been ameliorated, had cooler heads prevailed back in 680 — still reverberate today. An example of this was made evident this weekend in Teheran, where — as the Washington Post reports — the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia’s execution of a famous Shi’ite triggered massive protests (WebCite cached article):
Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.
The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.
In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”
The execution of Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has ignited sectarian tensions across the already inflamed region and jeopardized U.S. diplomacy aimed at tamping down conflicts in the Middle East.…
The Saudi consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad was also set on fire during the protests that erupted after Nimr’s execution was announced.
As WaPo explains, the Saudi executions were hardly some kind of Shi’ite purge:
Most of the 47 executed on Saturday were Sunnis accused of participating in Al Qaeda attacks.
As a side note, it looks as though Iranians have some kind of obsession with attacking embassies.
This outburst of violence isn’t actually the worst of the Sunni-vs-Shia conflict going on in the world. The Syrian Civil War has been, among other things, a proxy war between the (Sunni) Saudis and the (Shi’ite) Iranians, both making use of their own partisans in the region (such as Hezbollah, which is patronized by Teheran). Compared to the carnage there, setting an embassy ablaze might seem like small potatoes. But such are the tensions between Islam’s two main sects that violence can break out over virtually anything at all, almost anywhere there are Muslims.
And the worst part of it is, there’s no stopping it. No Sunni-Shia accord is on the horizon and there’s no chance of any reconciliation. It’s not going to happen. Just goes to show what can result from people obsessing over metaphysics — i.e. nothing good.
Photo credit: Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA, via AP, via Washington Post.
, islamic schism
, religious war
, religious wars
, saudi arabia
, shi'ite islam
, shia islam
, shia schism
, sunni islam
, syrian civil war
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Back in March I blogged about a woman from Kabul (about as cosmopolitan a city as one can find in Afghanistan) who was killed by a mob after having been accused of burning a Qur’an that she never actually burned. I predicted, at the time — in spite of condemnations by the Afghan government — that justice almost certainly would not be done for this woman. Yes, many people were arrested and prosecuted for this crime, but as the New York Times reports, pretty much everyone involved is going to get away with it nonetheless (WebCite cached article):
At first, the trial and convictions that followed seemed a victory in the long struggle to give Afghan women their due in a court of law. But a deeper look suggests otherwise. The fortuneteller who several investigators believe set the events in motion was found not guilty on appeal. The shrine’s custodian, who concocted the false charge of Quran burning and incited the mob, had his death sentence commuted. Police officers who failed to send help and others who stood by received slaps on the wrist, at most. Some attackers identifiable in the videos avoided capture altogether.
The Times explains the twists and turns this case took, the trials, appeals, etc. Strangely, a lot of the trials and appeals hinged mainly on the issue of who struck the first blow against Farkhunda, rather than delving into what was, essentially, a conspiracy to arrange her murder, and holding those who orchestrated it accountable for their participation. Given his public’s general approval of Farkhunda’s murder, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has essentially caved in on the matter. And Farkhunda’s family has had to flee the country.
Back when I blogged about this senseless and unjust slaughter, I said:
Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!
And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.
Yup, looks like I called this one … sad to say. The Afghan government and people managed to live down to all my expectations of them … and then some. I’m sure they’re very proud of their backwardness, stupidity, childishness, and cowardice. Well done, Afghans! I’m also sure your al-Lah is proud of you, too!
Photo credit: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times.
, kabul afghanistan
, koran burning
, qur'an burning
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As I’ve blogged already, the Great Neocrusade has broken open. Christianists around the country have had it with Islam and they’re just not going to put up with it any more. Many are exacting vigilante justice on their chief rival religion. Any whiff of anything being somehow pro-Islam has aroused their ire.
A great example of this is in Virginia. As Mediaite reports, the Augusta County School District closed all its schools today due to a torrent of militant Christianist outrage (WebCite cached article):
Augusta County School District in Virginia cancelled school Friday citing security concerns after a teacher’s lesson on calligraphy garnered hateful messages from across the country.
The assignment by Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy the shahada, a Muslim statement of faith that translates as “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
During a forum Tuesday night, parents expressed outrage over the school’s “indoctrination.” Augusta County parent Kimberly Herndon said the teacher took away the rights of the students, telling the forum, “if my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools.”
The teacher and the school district denied this was “indoctrination.” Instead, it was a calligraphy exercise … nothing more. Here is a scan of the offending lesson:
Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: ‘Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.’ / via Mediaite
The value of this lesson is explained within its text: By asking the student to try replicating this calligraphic shahada
, students will find out something about Arabic calligraphy, in a way they never could, merely by reading descriptions of how it’s done.
While the shahada, literally “testimony,” is one of the Pillars of Islam and therefore has religious significance for Muslims, having to replicate it does not — contrary to common Christian belief — automatically make one a Muslim. No one can convert to any religion, Islam included, against his or her will. There is no magic inherent in speaking or writing out the shahada … or any other ritual phrase from any religion, for that matter. Saying the shahada publicly can signify one has converted to Islam, but this must be intentional.
Allow me to demonstrate by typing out the shahada myself (in English):
There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.
There. Done. Now … does this make me a Muslim? No. It doesn’t. I remain as non-religious as I’ve ever been. I’ve never had any intention of joining Islam or living by its precepts, and I will continue never being part of it and never obeying it.
Now, if I can do this and not magically be made a Muslim, then Riverheads High School students aren’t going to be magically made Muslims by trying to copy out the shahada in Arabic script. Hence, there is no indoctrination here. None. Not a fucking speck of it!
I find it amazing that so many Christians — a lot of whom don’t even think al-Lah, Islam’s deity, is real — could actually be afraid of the supposed magical power of one of Islam’s ritual phrases. It’s almost laughable. (Please note: Truthfully, Jews, Muslims and Christians all effectively worship the same deity, the God of Abraham. They just think differently about him.)
It’s long past time for American Christendom to fucking grow the hell up already and stop caterwauling about shit they cannot change. Islam exists; it’s not going away; there are lots of Muslims in the world; and it’s best just to accept that reality rather than continue bellyaching against it.
Photo credit: Top, Art Passions; middle, Mediaite.
Tags: arabic calligraphy
, augusta county school district
, augusta cty VA
, pillars of islam
, public school
, public schools
, riverheads high school
, staunton VA
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Add former Pennsylvania Senator — and current back-of-the-pack GOP presidential candidate — Rick Santorum to the list of militant Christianists who claim Islam isn’t really a religion and therefore isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights — which, ironically, was ratified 224 years ago this very day (WebCite cached article). Mediate reports on the Rickster’s idiotic Christofascist blather (cached):
Santorum even argued that Islamic principles are not entitled to complete religious protections due to the religion’s embrace of beliefs that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.
“Islam is different. I mean that sincerely, Islam is not just a religion,” Santorum said. “It is a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, a civil government, a form of government. So the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.
Note Rickie’s yammering and whining about shari’a law. He presumes it’s part and parcel of Islam and that anyone who follows that religion is obliged to follow shari’a law as well. He forgets two important things: First, there is no single entity known as shari’a law … different sects and cultures view it differently; and not all Muslims, even devout ones, want to live by any form of shari’a law at all (many came to places like the US and Europe specifically in order to get away from it).
Like many Christofascists Rickie-boy employs his own subjective definition of “Islam” in order to argue that Islam is something other than a religion and therefore isn’t entitled to the religious freedom provisions of US law. It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but these folk are so sanctimoniously outraged that Islam exists — and that there are actually Muslims still living in the world! — that they just can’t control themselves long enough to understand how fucking childish they are. They view Islam as Christianity’s main rival, on a global scale, and simply can’t get over that some people prefer it to their faith.
About the only thing I agree with the Rickster about is that, as far as I know, barring Muslims from entering the country isn’t specifically unconstitutional. Yes, it would be stupid. It would paint people with far too broad a brush. It would be difficult to enforce; visa applications, as far I’m aware, have no line item for “religion,” but even if they did, people could certainly lie. It would wall off the US from the entire Muslim world, which is enormous. It would, quite simply, be a petulant and childish overreaction to Islamist terror … which could be better handled in other ways. But even with all that said, people who aren’t American citizens and who are trying to enter the country, don’t — as far as I know — have any Constitutional right of entry. (I invite any Constitutional scholars who read this, and think otherwise, to instruct me further on the matter.)
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.
Tags: 2016 gop presidential primary
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, 2016 presidential election
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, christian right
, freedom of religion
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, shari'a law
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I blogged just a few days ago that the Great Neocrusade — a movement within the Religious Right that I labeled as such a few years ago — had moved from being an instrument of propaganda and Christian apologetics, into outright violence. At the time I specified a number of anti-Mulsim attacks that had taken place, in support of this trend.
Sadly, I must report, this trend continues … and it’s accelerated. Here’s just a sampling of stories over the last couple days:
- One woman shot at, another driven off road, in Tampa, FL (WebCite cached article)
- Mosque firebombed and man arrested, in Coachella, CA (cached)
- Several more anti-Muslim attacks, in New York (cached)
- Woman attacked by student, in Bloomington, IL (cached)
- Muslim student attacked, in Austin, TX (cached)
- Somali restaurant firebombed, in Grand Forks, SD (cached)
Even more sadly, it looks as though the violent Neocrusaders aren’t very discriminating. They’ve gone after people who aren’t even Muslims, apparently without even realizing it:
Two notes: This list is not exhaustive! There have been many more anti-Muslim incidents across the country. Second, I acknowledge some of these are victims’ reports, and have yet to be corroborated. Some might turn out to be hoaxes, or may not have been motivated by hatred of Muslims. I will do my best to check these over the next couple of months to verify them.
Yesterday I received angry, private correspondence from someone I presume to be a Neocrusader, accusing me of not realizing that Muslims attacked both Paris and San Bernardino — which I obviously know about, since I blogged about Paris and mentioned San Bernardino; of not “understanding” the nature of the problem and of people’s anger over it — again, I’m obviously aware of that, since I’ve blogged about Islamist terror on countless occasions; and of sympathizing with Islamist terrorists — which also is obviously untrue since I’ve consistently condemned them.
Look, I get it. I do. Really. Honest! Yes, I understand the rage Neocrusaders feel. But I don’t fucking care how much rage seethes inside them! They simply can’t act out on that rage. Grown adults are able to deal with their anger and suppress it, and I expect them to do so. What’s more, the idea that it’s somehow OK to attack innocent Muslims at will, because some terrorists who happen to be Muslim have attacked innocents, is “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is quite fallacious.
Go ahead, Neocrusaders, be angry, if it makes you feel better to do so. Have at it! Enjoy yourselves. Be as sanctimoniously furious as you want! But … keep it to yourselves. Taking your anger out on others is illegal, and is itself a form of the very same terrorism that got you all enraged in the first place. The better course would be to grow up, suck it up, and fucking control yourselves for once.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: albuquerque NM
, austin TX
, bloomington IL
, charlotte NC
, coachella CA
, great neocrusade
, new york NY
, tampa FL
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