Posts Tagged “muslim”

Construction at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Tennessee in July, 2012 (Stephen Lance Dennee/Associated Press, via the New York Times)The Great Neocrusade pulled out all the stops in its effort to prevent a mosque from opening up in Murfreesboro, TN. I’ve blogged about the measures taken against it — both legal and illegal — by militant, furious Neocrusaders. But all of it was for naught. As the New York Times Lede blog reports, the mosque opened this weekend (locally-cached article):

After years of attacks, threats and court action, an Islamic center in Tennessee cleared one last hurdle that allowed it to open its doors on Friday to worshipers, allowing them to honor the occasion with prayers on what is Islam’s main congregational day of the week. But the opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was overshadowed by concerns after the shooting of worshipers at a Sikh temple on Sunday in Wisconsin and an arson attack on a mosque in Missouri this week. …

The mosque faced arson, vandalism and a court battle before it cleared [cached] a final step when it passed inspection this week and was given a temporary certificate of occupancy for 30 days.

Even in spite of their having ultimately lost this battle, some Neocrusaders still chose to be on hand to whine about the mosque’s opening:

Standing in the parking lot, Dan J. Qualls, 50, a former car plant worker, said he came to the center to protest. Mr. Qualls, wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat, said he understood that the First Amendment protects the right to worship freely but said he believed Islam represented violence.

To be clear, Mr Qualls and the rest of you Christofascist Neocrusaders … your own religion is violent, too. Moreover, you know it, even if you’d prefer not to have to admit it. Complaining about Islam being violent (and yes, it can be!) does not grant you the right to act as though your own religion is non-violent. It most certainly is not.

I suggest that Neocrusaders crack open their Bibles for once and actually read the reported teachings of Jesus Christ himself, the founder of their own religion:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mt 7:3-5)

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Lk 6:41-42)

Before you militant Christians can presume the right to critique other peoples’ religions, you should begin following your own. Please start doing so.

Photo credit: Stephen Lance Dennee/AP, via the New York Times.

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Michelangelo's "God", from "the Creation of Adam"Every time some hideous catastrophe takes place in the occidental world, inevitably, people start musing about “where God was” while it was going on. I’ve noticed this has been particularly common in regard to the Aurora massacre that happened just over a week ago. CNN’s Belief blog alone has hosted multiple postings which ask this one question … but that’s hardly the only place. The media and the blogosphere are literally choked with people asking that question. Last Sunday, preachers and pastors around the country were (trying to) answer it for their flocks during their sermons, and I assume are still trying to do so.

I tangentially mentioned that particular question myself, just a few days ago — so I have to confess, even I have stumbled into it. Given how frequently this question has come up, I’ve decided I must address it a little more directly.

The question, “Where God was during the Aurora massacre?” is a direct consequence of “the problem of evil” which lies at the philosophical heart of the Abrahamic faiths.

Elsewhere I’ve devoted an entire Web page to this particular dilemma. To keep it brief, the problem lies in the fact that the Abrahamic faiths believe in a creator deity which is simultaneously omnipotent (i.e. having the power to do anything s/he/it wants), omniscient (i.e. knowing everything that can be known: past, present, and future alike), and benevolent (i.e. wanting there to be no suffering on the part of anyone). In spite of this supposed combination of traits, though, we know that this deity’s creation contains suffering … a lot of it. Over the centuries many theodicies have been proposed to explain how this presumed creator deity can have all three of these traits yet still there is a lot of suffering. All of those theodicies, however, fail the test of logic, because they all fail to take into account the absolute nature of the three traits the Abrahamic deity is assumed to possess, as well as his role as the creator of the universe.

The one most apologists use is the “free will” theodicy, or the claim that the creator has given humanity “free will,” so that each of us can do whatevever s/he wishes at any time, and said deity refuses to do anything about it … hence there is suffering in the world that God cannot prevent. Unfortunately this fails for three reasons: First, not all suffering is even of human origin, so that someone’s presumed “free will” played no role in it and cannot have caused it. Second, that creator deity is believed to have intervened in human affairs many times in history and has gone so far as to order people around; clearly he is not some kind of remote spectator-being who’s philosophically opposed to getting involved in people’s decisions and unwilling to get in their way. Third, as the creator, he must have known how his creation would turn out; he must have known in advance what everyone would do; he must have known there would be widespread suffering for uncountable billions of people over many generations; yet — despite knowing all of this prior to the moment of creation — he created the universe anyway.

Ultimately, a truly omnipotent and omniscient being can never be absolved of any responsibility for what he creates; if he exists, and if he created this universe, he and he alone is responsible for everything that ever happens in it. Those who are part of that creation can, at best, only be secondary agents — since he created them as they are, and they did not create themselves. In the end, simply put, it is logically impossible for the creator of the universe we live in — which has suffering in it — to simultaneously be omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. It just doesn’t work.

The curious thing about the problem of evil is, as soon as you take the Abrahamic deity’s presumed benevolence out of the equation, the rest of it actually becomes logically tenable. Removing his omnipotence or omniscience tends not to work so well: If you assume the creator was less-than-omnipotent, you’re still left with a creator who made a universe he knew would get out of his control and have suffering in it that he couldn’t do anything about; and even if the deity was less-than-omniscient, he still must have had some idea that he was risking creating a universe that might have suffering in it. So even taking either or both of those out, you’re still left with a creator-being who must have behaved in a less-than-totally-benevolent manner.

While this is coolly logical, it unfortunately does not fit with prevailing notions about the Abrahamic faiths. Most Jews, Christians and Muslims are unnerved even to consider that the deity they worship might be something other than benevolent. Some are willing to dispense with his omnipotence or omniscience (e.g. Harold Kushner, author of the best-selling When Bad Things Happen to Good People), but for the most part they simply refuse even to entertain the idea that their creator deity could be anything less than loving and compassionate.

Thus, as far as I’m concerned, for followers of the Abrahamic faiths to have to ask themselves, “Where was God during the Aurora massacre?” just provides more evidence of the inherent, undeniable absurdity of their beliefs. They shouldn’t even be asking it! What they should be asking — instead — is, “Why do I believe in a creator-deity to whom tradition assigns a combination of traits that logic tells me he can’t possibly have?”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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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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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New Yorker cartoon cover w/ObamasHere’s yet another news item of the “water is wet” variety. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Republicans in the deep south remain convinced President Barack Obama is a Muslim (WebCite cached article):

fter years of battling false claims and viral emails alleging that he is a Muslim, President Obama hasn’t gotten far among Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi – about half still believe he is Muslim and about 1 in 4 believes his parents’ interracial marriage should have been illegal, a new poll shows. …

The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believed Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believed he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian.

Recalling his childhood, Obama has said his family did not go to church every week, but said his faith grew as he got older and that his Christian beliefs have guided his career in public service.

People retain this irrational belief — in spite of the fact that both Obama himself, and politicians of both parties, have all said that he’s a Christian — because of something known as the “backfire effect.” This is a psychological phenomenon in which people retain untrue notions despite having their falsehood demonstrated, and in fact, they become even more intractably attached to the incorrect belief. I’ve blogged on this effect before. None of the researchers who’ve noted this phenomenon have offered any explanation for how it happens. My guess is, it results from the emotional attachment people have to their irrational beliefs; when faced with compelling evidence they’re false, they simply retrench and continue to tell themselves it’s true, because they can’t handle the emotional pain that would follow from letting go of the (false) belief. They really and truly prefer to lie to themselves, and others, rather than just admit they were wrong.

It’s like when a child plugs his ears, clamps his or her eyes shut, and yammers, so that s/he doesn’t have to hear something s/he’d rather not have to hear. In other words … it’s childish. Yes, folks, this means the Republican party in the deep south is populated mainly by little children who need to fucking grow the hell up for once and get over it already.

As for the legality of interracial marriage, that was established decades ago, by the US Supreme Court, in its decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967). I suppose people can believe anything they want to about it, including that it should be illegal, but it is legal nevertheless and it will remain legal indefinitely, in spite of their belief. Mature adults would just accept that fact and move on with their lives … but the GOP in the deep south is far too juvenile to do that, apparently.

Hat tip: Lordrag at Pulling to the Left on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: New Yorker cover courtesy of scriptingnews, via Flickr.

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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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