Archive for the “Islam” Category

Muslims and their religion

The tomb of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar in January 2008. Photo: Martha de Jong-LantinkA group of militant Islamists in Mali are carrying out a campaign against idolatry in Timbuktu and destroying treasured monuments in the process. They’ve been at it for a couple of days, as Reuters reports via the New York Times, and they aren’t letting up (locally-cached article):

Ignoring international calls to halt their attacks, Islamist militants in Timbuktu continued to smash the mausoleums of Sufi saints on Sunday, witnesses said.

The hard-line Salafi group Ansar Dine, which supports a puritanical version of Islamic law, consider the centuries-old Sufi shrines in Timbuktu to be idolatrous. About 30 militants armed with assault rifles and pickaxes destroyed three mausoleums on Saturday and three more on Sunday, witnesses said. The group said it planned to destroy all 16 of the city’s main shrines.

Unfortunately, the Mali government can do nothing to stop this; due to a civil war, they don’t have control of the region. UNESCO and other international interests have condemned the desecration, but no one appears inclined to do anything about it, just now.

Of course, this is not the first time Islamofascist thugs have destroyed monuments to sects or religions they despise. The article mentions sites Salafis have demolished elsewhere in the last year. The Taliban in Afghanistan also famously destroyed some Buddhist statues. So this kind of destructive religionism, unfortunately, isn’t without precedent in Islam.

Note that this is a sectarian struggle; Salafis and Sufis are all Muslims, even if they might, themselves, disagree on that.

Photo credit: Martha de Jong-Lantink, via Global Heritage Fund.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis issue isn’t really new. Wired magazine has been reporting on this particular issue for quite some time (cached). It seems anti-terror instruction in the US military has been taken over by Neocrusaders who’ve made any number of outrageous claims about Islam as a whole and are trying to inculcate hatred of Muslims generally among the ranks. I blogged about this particular influence within the FBI when Wired reported on it last year. But the influence of the Neocrusade in the military seems to be worse, more pervasive, and more extensive.

Last year the Pentagon began a review of its anti-terror training materials, and the results of that review are starting to emerge. MSNBC elaborates on an Al Jazeera report on aspects that have come to light already (WebCite cached article):

As the Pentagon reviews all military classes following the disclosure of one that advocated “total war” against Muslims, the news website Al-Jazeera reported Saturday that it had received materials from a similar course and that both were put together by the same group, a nonprofit that offers classes and workshops to military and government officials.

Al-Jazeera said [cached] it received course slides from an unnamed military officer who said “this bigoted conspiracy cabal is both disgusting and so deeply un-American.”

The slides leave the impression that Hamas extremists have infiltrated the U.S. government, media and education via U.S. Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Al-Jazeera said. …

The documents indicated the two courses were prepared by the consulting firm Strategic Engagement Group, Inc., Al-Jazeera said. The website for Strategic Engagement [cached] does include statements similar to those in the materials cited by Al-Jazeera, msnbc.com found.

I decided to nose around in Strategic Engagement’s Web site to see what they offer. The first link I clicked on was this PDF version of a Powerpoint presentation entitled “CAIR Is Hamas” (cached). It didn’t take long for me to discover that these people are spewing factual errors. For instance, slide 3 of the presentation says:

In the 1920’s, after WWI and the Turkish Revolution, Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” became the leader of the new nation-state Turkey. He dissolved the nearly 700 old Islamic State (Caliphate) known as the “Ottoman Empire,” outlawed the wearing of hijab, the growing of Islamic beards, the call to prayer, replaced Arabic with Latin, did away with Shariah (Islamic Law) and replaced it with secular law, and built an army to protect secular Turkey.

First, while it’s true that Ataturk did establish a new, and secular, government in Turkey, his new state did not encompass all of what had once been the Ottoman Empire. That dismantled state was succeeded, in those other regions, by other less secular states, or they became colonies of western powers and only later became independent states. So it’s factually incorrect to state that “the Ottoman Empire” was succeeded uniformly by the “secular” state of Turkey.

Second, the Ottoman Empire was not really a “Caliphate.” While some of its rulers did use that title, sporadically, even when they did, it was not universally recognized across Islam. Moreover, that they did so, doesn’t really mean a lot: Ottoman rulers sometimes arrogated other titles, such as “Roman Emperor,” and that’s also difficult to take very seriously. The title that best applies to the Ottoman rulers was “sultan,” not “caliph,” making the Ottoman Empire a “sultanate” rather than a “caliphate.”

Third, Ataturk did not “replace Arabic with Latin.” Within Ataturk’s new state of Turkey, the dominant language had been Turkish, not Arabic, and it remains so. While Turkish had long been written mostly using the Arabic alphabet, it was less than ideal; Ataturk did encourage the use of a Latin-based alphabet instead. But it is simply not true that Turkey went from speaking Arabic to speaking Latin.

I hardly need to investigate these Neocrusading wingnuts any further, given their loose command of basic history. Listen, I get it. Really I do. I get that the United States has been attacked by Islamic terrorists who feel compelled to kill others — and themselves — out of a violent religiofascistic impulse. I also get that there are immature, violent Muslims who are prone to explode in insane fury at the slightest provocation. I concede there are still some dangerously fanatical Muslims out there who think their religion orders them to maim and kill. That’s very much in evidence, and only a fool would say otherwise. What concerns me are these two basic premises of the Neocrusade:

  1. Islamofascist terrorists are not the “fringe” of Islam, they are its heart; which means that all Muslims, not just some, are murderous fanatics.
  2. Only Islam has any murderous impulses; other religions, particularly Christianity, do not.

The former premise is just not true, as witnessed by the fact that there are plenty of “moderate,” non-terrorist Muslims around the world, who at this moment are fighting the terrorist element of their religion. And other religions, including Christianity, most certainly also have their own terrorizing, murderous extremists. Eradicating Islam completely — which is the Neocrusade’s ultimate goal — cannot and will never end terrorism. To assume so is not only irrational, it’s delusional. The cold fact is that nearly any religion, anywhere, is capable of inciting violence and even terrorism in its followers. None is immune to it. The sooner we understand this, the better off we’ll all be.

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1933-may-10-berlin-book-burningNeocrusading pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville FL is no stranger to this blog. I’ve mentioned his childish antics any number of times in the past, and even pointed out his shady history while he was a “missionary” in Germany. Jones is absolutely beside himself with fury, you see, because there’s this horrific religion out there called “Islam,” and its followers (Muslims), you see, have this holy book, called the “Qur’an.” Jones just can’t handle the fact that these Muslims dare to revere and read their Qur’an, you see. Why, it’s an outrage! It can’t be tolerated! In Jones’s juvenile mind, no one but Christians are allowed to have any holy books, and the only holy book they’re allowed to have, is his own (Protestant, of course!) Bible.

Jones was so enraged that these Muslim types have so insolently dared keep their own holy book, that he threatened to burn some Qur’ans; after catching flak for that, Jones waffled and said he might cancel it; then, he dropped his uncertainty and promised to burn them anyway; then Jones inexplicably let the deadline pass without burning any Qur’ans; and burned one only later on, when no one was looking.

It seems Jones still hasn’t gotten over his sanctimonious outrage that Muslims still exist and still revere their Qur’an. The New York Post reports that he went and burned some more (WebCite cached article):

A controversial Florida pastor held another Koran-burning ceremony outside his church to protest the imprisonment of a Christian clergyman in Iran, The Gainesville Sun reported.

Jones, who made headlines worldwide by videotaping a similar Koran-burning ceremony in March 2011, burned several copies of the Islamic holy book alongside an image depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad on Saturday evening.

Jones uses Iran’s imprisonment of Youcef Nadarkhani as a pretense for his “protest.” But somehow, I’m not sure getting into a pissing contest with the Iranian government over who can be more religiously intolerant, is really all that great of an idea. It amounts to “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious. And I can’t see how it can get Iran’s theocratic mullahs to release Nadarkhani.

The sad part of this is, I’m sure Jones’s childish antics will be met with even more childish and violent antics by Muslims elsewhere in the world, as happened previously when he’d first stirred up this controversy. Ground zero for the flare-up is almost certain to be Afghanistan, home to hovels full of enraged Muslims who — just like Jones — cannot seem to handle the idea that there are actually people in the world who dare refuse to believe as they do.

Well, I have news for both Jones and any Muslims who respond to his Qur’an-burning by rioting, looting, pillaging, and/or killing: Here’s one skeptical, godless agnostic heathen who refuses to believe what either of you demands I believe. Don’t like it? Burn away. I’m not changing my mind, and there is nothing in the universe you can do to stop me.

For the record, while I support the right to blaspheme, I consider book-burning — of any kind of book, aside maybe from one which one is actually disposing of because it’s been ruined somehow — to be a crime against the intellect, and an action which is far too Nazi-like for my taste.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Wikimedia Commons / Michael Mukasey / File:20070917 Michael B Mukasey.jpgConnecticut isn’t in the Bible Belt (or should I call it, as its natives do, the Bobble Bayelt?), nor is it intensely religious, in spite of the fact that it’s home to a triad of reactionary-activist Catholic bishops. Thus, I’m astonished to note that a Neocrusader came to deliver another of their classic denunciations of Islam, at — of all things! — a business gathering. The Torrington Register-Citizen reports on how former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey used his speech to northwestern Connecticut businesspeople to dress down a religion he despises (WebCite cached version):

President George W. Bush is long gone from the White House, but one of the stalwarts of his tenure appeared Friday in northwest Connecticut in the form of U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, inparting [sic] fear of the Muslim Brotherhood, jihad and Shariah law to a predominantly business-driven crowd at Fairview Farm Golf Course.

Mukasey served as the 81st U.S. Attorney General under Bush, and on Friday, served the business community as a keynote speaker during Thomaston Savings Bank’s 14th Annual Business Breakfast.

Pardon me if I don’t see the propriety of this speech. It defies reason — even if there was a very loose pretense:

Before Thomaston Savings Bank donated a check to Wounded Warriors through Mukasey, the former law firm co-worker of Rudy Giuliani dove headfirst into warning the crowd of Islamic terrorists.

“Jihad is obligatory on every Muslim,” he said. “[An] obligatory struggle on Shariah law in the Western world.”

Yes, I get it. All Muslims are required by their religion to kill constantly … all the time, everywhere, without relenting. I wasn’t aware they were all doing that, but I suppose I should take Mukasey’s word for it, no? Of course, Christianity has its own notion of “just war,” which it has used to evoke violence all over the world, numerous times … but Mukasey, like all the rest of the dutiful Neocrusaders, ignores that. What a fucking hypocrite!

The R-C thoughtfully provides video of this Neocrusader’s speech, which you can see here:

Again, I’m stunned that Mukasey chose this type of event, and this type of audience, to deliver his anti-Islam speech. I suggest he — and everyone else — worry more about the excesses of domestic religious militants rather than those abroad. They threaten our freedom, too.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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An Afghan policeman keeps watch as locals inspect the wreckage of a car at the site of a suicide attack in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, Feb. 27, 2012. (Getty)

An Afghan policeman keeps watch as locals inspect the wreckage of a car at the site of a suicide attack in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, Feb. 27, 2012. (Getty)

The people of Afghanistan continue to express their sanctimonious rage over the burnings of some Qur’ans at the Bagram military base. As CBS News reports, nine people were killed at Jalalabad because of it (WebCite cached version):

A suicide car bomber struck early Monday at the gates of Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, killing nine people in an attack insurgents said was revenge for U.S. troops burning Korans. …

The explosion comes after six days of deadly protests in Afghanistan over the disposal of Korans and other Islamic texts in a burn pit last week at a U.S. military base north of the capital. …

More than 30 people have been killed in protests and related attacks since the incident came to light this past Tuesday, including four U.S. soldiers.

As I’ve noted previously, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to this violence and little to no effort is being made by the Afghan government to calm their people. If anything, the government seems to be stoking the fires of protest — at the same time that it mouths acceptance of apologies by the US and has sent police in to break up some protests. What a wonderful crew.

Oh, and to any Christians out there who may be feeling smugly superior to the Afghans because you don’t think your fellow Christians can’t handle blasphemy … guess again. Christians have been known to react badly when they think Jesus is being “dissed,” too, and have threatened people who dare to get in their way. So get off your high horses about it. OK?

Photo credit: Getty photo, via CBS News.

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Afghan demonstrators destroy a U.S. flag during a protest against Quran desecration in Helmand province, Feb. 23, 2012. (Getty)Having already displayed their raging, sanctimonious immaturity over some Qur’ans that had been burned at the Bagram military base in their country, Afghans decided to ramp it up even further, and have killed over it. CBS News reports on this murderous childishness (WebCite cached article):

Two U.S. troops have been shot to death and four more wounded by an Afghan solider who turned his gun on his allies in apparent anger over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, an Afghan official tells CBS News.

A statement from the International Security Assistance Force – Afghanistan, the international coalition in the country, confirmed that two troops were killed in Eastern Afghanistan on Thursday by “an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform.” …

The source also said the shooting appeared to be motivated by the burning of Qurans at the sprawling U.S. Bagram air base, north of Kabul, but he did not provide additional details as to what led him to that conclusion.

Way to go, Afghans. Congratulations. Well done! I’m impressed. You must all be so proud of your accomplishment!

Update 1: Afghan immaturity continues to impress. As of Saturday, 2/25/2012, the violent protests continue, and more people have died as a result (cached). There doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.

Photo credit: Getty photo, via CBS News.

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Afghan protesters in front of Bagram Air Base during an anti-U.S. demonstration, Feb. 21, 2012. (AP)The Afghan people managed to display their hyperreligious childishness once again, and as before, this was over some burned Qur’ans. As CBS News reports, this time the Qur’an burning was unintentional, but that clearly doesn’t matter to these sanctimoniously-enraged overgrown children (WebCite cached article):

More than 2,000 angry Afghans protested outside an American air base on Tuesday after they learned that copies of the Quran (Koran), the Muslim holy book, were burned in a pile of garbage at a sprawling U.S. military base north of Kabul.

“Die, die, foreigners!” the demonstrators shouted. Some fired rifles into the air. Others threw rocks at the gate of the base.

The Qur’ans were burned amongst a pile of other garbage that Bagram staff had thrown out:

[Provincial chief Ahmad Zaki] Zahed said five Afghans working at the pit told him that the religious books were in the garbage that two soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition transported to the pit in a truck late Monday night.

I’ll give these third-world primitives a little bit of credit: At least they’re protesting Qur’ans that actually had been set ablaze; in the past they raged, rioted and looted over a Qur’an that had not actually been burned yet. So I’ll take this as an improvement. A microscopic one to be sure, but an improvement nonetheless.

As I was typing this post, I noticed another story on this matter, from the AP, which suggests the Qur’ans had been burned intentionally (cached):

A military official with knowledge of the incident told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it appeared the Qurans and other Islamic readings were being used to fuel extremism, and that detainees apparently were leaving notes for one another inside them.

If this is true, I can’t say I blame the military for burning them. They can’t have prisoners passing messages to one another — even if they’re on the pages of Qur’ans. I also have to wonder if these Afghan prisoners hadn’t themselves already desecrated these Qur’ans by having written notes to each other inside of them? If so, maybe Afghans should be blaming each other for this blasphemy, not the US or NATO.

In any case, I suggest it’s high time for people to stop using religion as an excuse to bluster, fume, rage, riot and pillage like spoiled brats throwing a temper-tantrum. It’s time for humanity — even humanity that dwells in third-world hovels — to fucking grow the hell up for once. No one is harmed by a burned Qur’an, or Bible, or any other sacred texts. Sacred texts — and really, any text at all — cannot be harmed by burning copies of them. The content and ideas they contain exist independently of any given copy of it, and they remain, forever and always. This is obvious, and it’s not rocket-science, so even Afghans should be able to comprehend it.

Photo credit: AP photo, via CBS News.

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