Archive for the “Islam” Category

Muslims and their religion

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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In a courtroom sketch, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who tried blowing up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009 is sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmonds in federal court in Detroit, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerry Lemenu)This is a story which, no doubt, has lifted the hearts of America’s Neocrusaders, and which will — as they see it — confirm that Islam needs to be banished from the US. As CBS News reports, the infamous “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was sentenced for his attempt to bomb a plane as it approached Detroit in December 2009 (WebCite cached article):

After a short prayer, [Abdulmutallab] said sheik Osama Bin Laden and sheik Awlaki “are alive” and the “mujahedeen are proud to kill for Allah” and that it was “exactly what we were told to do in the Quran”.

I expect violently hyperreligious nutjobs like Abdulmutallab to spew crap like this. The Qur’an is large enough for them to sift through and extract any number of passages that they view as mandating their campaign of terror and death. I’m sure that Abdulmutallab and his murderous cohorts are certain that 72 houris await them in Paradise after their deaths (his, of course, will likely occur in prison decades from now).

While Neocrusaders will view Abdulmutallab and his claim as proof that Islam must be eradicated, they will also miss the real point here, which is that any religion based solely on faith, which presumes to press itself on reality, and which considers itself mandatory for all of humanity, is going to generate murderous followers like Abdulmutallab. There are, for example, Christian groups that advocate killing, such as the Army of God. There have been bombings and killings by Christians who believe their religion orders them to be violent.

In short, this problem is not solely limited to Islam, as the Neocrusaders would have us believe. Any sufficiently religionist system can conceivably lead to terror and murder in the name of metaphysics. Yes, even within Christianity. The sooner we all understand this, the better off we’ll all be.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jerry Lemenu, via CBS News.

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Graffiti was spray-painted on the front door and two back doors of the mosque. (CBC)I’ve blogged about attacks on mosques around the US (including churches mistaken for moques!), and about a mosque in New York City that was Molotoved recently (although likely not for religious reasons). But this Neocrusading activity is not limited solely to the US. A mosque in Canada has been a repeated target of vandalism recently, as the CBC reports (WebCite cached article):

A mosque in Gatineau, Que., that has been a target of vandalism was spray-painted with graffiti overnight Thursday, prompting a condemnation from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Workers at the Outaouais Islamic Centre awoke Thursday to discover swear words and derogatory references to Arabs and Allah spray-painted in white. …

The mosque had earlier been vandalized Monday morning when someone smashed the windows of two cars and attempted to set fire to them in the parking lot. …

Police said it was the fourth incident in the last six months.

Muslim and Jewish groups alike are condemning this vandalism … the latter possibly because stars of David were among some of the graffiti. At any rate, the lesson here is that Neocrusading is not a phenomenon unique to the US. It’s yet another American export that the rest of the world definitely does not need.

Photo credit: CBC.

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Police are investigating a firebomb attack against the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation building and three other sites in Queens, New York. (CBS 2)Note: See the update below for an important update to this blog post!

I’ve blogged a number of times about a movement I call “the Neocrusade” — a modern effort by “Christian nationers” to eliminate Islam within the U.S. It’s mostly found in the same parts of the country as Religious Rightism, i.e. in the Bobble Bayelt (er, Bible Belt), but it can be found elsewhere too, including the New York City metropolis. As CBS News reports, there’s a chance that Neocrusading vigilantes might once again be active in the Big Apple (WebCite cached article):

Authorities are investigating four fire attacks in New York City, including one at an Islamic center and one at a house used for Hindu worship.

Police say three attacks Sunday night involved molotov cocktails. There were no injuries. Police are investigating the attacks as bias crimes.

The fact that non-Islam-related targets were hit, certainly suggests these attacks weren’t Neocrusade-motivated. But then again, Neocrusaders have been known to lash out at the wrong targets, so it can’t be ruled out quite yet.

If this is, in fact, the work of militant Christian Neocrusaders, the irony of Christianists resorting to terror and violence in their campaign against a religion they consider violent and terror-promoting, is precious.

Update: It turns out this may have not been Neocrusaders’ work, after all. The New York Times reports a suspect has been arrested, police say the fires he set all resulted from specific, personal grudges, not out of religious fervor (cached).

Photo credit: WCBS via CBS News.

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Young Saudi Arabian woman in Abha, by Walter CallensIt seems I leaped to conclusions about Saudi Arabia entering the 21st century. That country remains mired in medieval thinking, as exemplified in this ABC News report about a Saudi woman who was beheaded for having engaged in “witchcraft” and “sorcery” (WebCite cached article):

A Saudi woman was beheaded after being convicted of practicing “witchcraft and sorcery,” according to the Saudi Interior Ministry, at least the second such execution for sorcery this year.

The woman, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was executed in the northern Saudi province of al-Jawf on Monday.

The “evidence” against her?

A source close to the Saudi religious police told Arab newspaper al Hayat that authorities who searched Nassar’s home found a book about witchcraft, 35 veils and glass bottles full of “an unknown liquid used for sorcery” among her possessions. According to reports, authorities said Nassar claimed to be a healer and would sell a veil and three bottles for 1500 riyals, or about $400.

This execution received a stamp of approval from the entire Saudi court system:

According to the ministry, Nassar’s death sentence was upheld by an appeals court and the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council.

Are we quite clear, now, on how barbaric it is to kill people over mere metaphysics?

Note: Any Christians out there who are thinking how superior their religion is to Islam, in this regard, had best be careful: I’ve already blogged about Christians in Africa who’ve gone after supposed “witches.” Christians would do well to keep in mind how much harm their own religion has inflicted on people in the name of eliminating witchcraft. Christianity certainly does not have clean hands in this matter — even now.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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US-FBI-ShadedSealI’ve complained before about pseudohistory in many venues. Most of the time it’s merely annoying, and rarely does it have any serious, direct consequences. But recently, Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog revealed that there’s more than a little pseudohistory lurking deep in the heart of the FBI’s counter-terrorism training program: (WebCite cached article):

The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”

Note that all three of these notions are typical “talking points” which comprise part of the continuous mantra of the Religious Right’s Neocrusade against Islam. More specifically, though:

At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more “devout” a Muslim, the more likely he is to be “violent.” Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: “Any war against non-believers is justified” under Muslim law; a “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.”

These are, of course, completely unlike all those fundamentalist Christians here in the US who claim their Bible is the “unalterable word” of their own Christian God. Got it. Personally I don’t see any real difference between the two, but there must be one, because the FBI’s counter-terrorism trainer, William Gawthrop, says it, so it simply must be the case! Somehow. Some way.

Wired snagged a printed copy of some Powerpoint slides that purport to show that, from their birth to the present, both Christianity and Judaism have become steadily more peaceful and less militant, while Islam has never been peaceful and remains nearly as militant as it was in its first decades (cached). The whole thing contains a number of historical lies, nearly all of which are evident in this one slide:

Printed copy of slide 10 from Powerpoint presentation 'Militancy Considerations' / FBI training materials via Wired

Printed copy of slide 10 from Powerpoint presentation 'Militancy Considerations' / FBI training materials via Wired

Here are a few of the historical untruths contained in this slide:
  1. The Torah was not written in 1,400 BCE. Its sources were written during the period of the two kingdoms, and it was compiled into something near its present form, sometime around the middle of the last millennium BCE.
  2. The Christian Bible was not written in 3 BCE. Its Old Testament already existed, to be sure, but the earliest New Testament books — the 7 “genuine” Pauline epistles — weren’t written until the middle of the first century CE. The rest of the NT books weren’t written until decades later, starting with Mark in the early 70s CE.
  3. Neither Judaism nor Christianity began in states of “maximum militancy & violence.” In particular, the very first Christians were decidedly non-violent; violence didn’t really creep into that faith — as far as we know — until Christological conflicts arose in the late 2nd century.
  4. Neither Judaism nor Christianity went steadily from maximum militancy to non-militancy. Their levels of violence and extremism rose and fell along with their environments and as they progressed.
  5. The Christian graph line should instead look like a very large wave, with a long plateau at maximum violence, stretching from the late 11th century through the 16th.
  6. The Islam graph line should also be different; Islam did experience some periods of lower violence; it has not remained steadily violent as this graph suggests.

Lastly, I’ll point out something I’ve said before. Within all religious traditions — Judaism and Christianity included! — it is always the case that the militant extremists at the fringes of a faith are accommodated, to one degree or another, by more “mainstream” and less violent adherents. Militant adherents generally find it easy to intimidate and bully their co-believers. The reasons for this are myriad. Sometimes it’s because the militants will go after anyone who opposes them and “mainstreamers” are, basically, afraid of them. Other times it’s because the “mainstream” adherents have some sympathy for the extremists. Still other times it’s because even the “mainstreamers” would secretly like to see the extremists succeed. To assume this is only true of Islam and not of Judaism or Christianity, is foolish in the extreme. The political successes of the Christian Right in the US and ultraconservative Orthodox Jews in Israel, clearly demonstrate this is so.

At any rate, there are a number of demonstrable factual errors in this Powerpoint presentation, and there’s no reason the FBI should be relying on it. Yet apparently — to the country’s detriment — they are.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem PostAt a time when the Religious Right in the US has decided to go to war against women, the misogynist kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken an opposite tack. Reuters reports that Saudi King Abdullah will grant women in his realm the right to vote and to stand for election (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia will allow women to stand for election and vote, the king announced on Sunday, in a significant policy shift in the conservative Islamic kingdowm.

In a five-minute speech, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud said women will also take part in the next session of the unelected, advisory Shura Council, which vets legislation but has no binding powers. …

“Women will be able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a right to vote.”

To be sure, Saudi women are still severely restricted, even with this concession, as the Reuters article explains:

The king did not address the issue of women being allowed to drive. Although there is no written law against women driving, they are not issued licences, effectively banning the practice.

Women in Saudi Arabia must also have written approval from a male guardian — a father, husband, brother or son — to leave the country, work or even undergo certain medical operations.

Despite this, women’s suffrage in Saudi Arabia is unprecedented, and is a large step forward. There are lots of misogynist Christofascists here in the US who could learn a thing or two from this.

Photo credit: Jerusalem Post / Ruth Eglash.

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