Tagislam

Mutation Vectors: Dead Moral Issues Edition

Cartoon of a Muslim cleric and an earth both pointing at a Muslim man. The cleric says "you're with the infidels!" and the earth says "you're with the terrorists." The man says "I'm just a Muslim"

Islamic terrorism hurts Muslims too, by Khalid Albaih.

Status Update

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall on Voltaire.

It took me a bit to put my finger on what really bothered me about the response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings this week, but I think this is it:

I feel like we’re all being called to defend what Charlie Hebdo said rather than just their right to say it. All the tribute cartoons, the debate over whether to reprint the paper’s cartoons, the people changing their social media profile pics to cartoons from the paper, and of course, the slogan “je suis charlie” itself, are a reflection of this.

As Fredrik deBoer points out, the idea that no one should be killed over cartooning is pretty uncontroversial. There is no danger of France or the U.S. passing a law forbidding criticism of Islam. The public, in general, are not likely to become less critical of Islam as a result of this attack. Hell, not even a Muslim police officer literally defended the paper to the death. So why the pressure to for everyone to carry the Charlie banner?

I mean, I don’t think Robert Faurisson should go to prison or be killed, but you’re not going to find me on the street corner handing out Holocaust denial literature. Yet there’s this weird sentiment that if you’re not spreading these ridiculous cartoons far and wide, you’re somehow against free speech. I could understand wanting to preserve this stuff for posterity sake if it were in danger of actually disappearing. It’s hard to debate the merits of something you can’t see. But these cartoons are still just a click away. Reproducing them at this point is just posturing. Which is fine, I guess. But free speech works both ways. You have the right to say what you want, and I have the right not to say things I don’t want to say.

Browsing

As to what I might find bothersome about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Arthur Chu has a good column on the topic, where he also digs up a particularly repugnant cover caricaturing Boko Haram’s kidnapping victims. Chu:

Yes, I know that the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo identify as left-libertarian atheists, and that they’re “equal-opportunity offenders” —the exact same background and mindset as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as Seth MacFarlane, as your typical 4chan troll. I know that, ironically, the last issue printed before the shooting was mocking a self-serious right-wing racist doomsday prophet and his fear of a Muslim takeover, that they’ve mocked Socialist President Francois Hollande and National Front leader Marine La Pen and everyone in between.

So what? There’s no particular merit to being an “equal-opportunity offender”—indeed, it’s lazy and cheap, a way to avoid being held accountable for anything you say because none of it is part of a moral worldview or to be taken seriously.

Also, the paper’s racial caricatures of Jews seems particularly distasteful given the current climate of anti-Semitism in France.

Speaking of Boko Haram, the group allegedly killed as many 2,000 people this week in Nigeria. Meanwhile, I didn’t see a lot of people tweeting “We Are the NAACP” this week.

Elsewhere, Trevor Timm asks: The Charlie Hebdo attack was a strike against free speech. So why is the response more surveillance?.

In an actually-funny use of free speech this week, the Maryland paper Frederick News-Post published a hilarious response to local councilman Kirby Delauter’s threat to sue one of its reporters for using his name in a story without permission. It certainly brightened an otherwise dismal week.

Watching

we_are_the_best_06

Yes/no movie reviews:

Blue Ruin: Yes

Blitz: No

The Conversation: Yes

Only God Forgives: No

We Are the Best!: Hell yes!

Yazidi Brace for 74th Attempted Genocide in Iraq

Vox reports:

The last night Salam Sheikh could sleep was Sunday. That was before Islamic State fighters marched into his home city of Sinjar, in northern Iraq, defeated 5,000 Kurdish fighters within an hour, and made Cheikh’s family prisoners in their own home.

Now when the 28-year-old calls his three sisters and his disabled mother, more than 6,400 miles away in Iraq, they speak only in whispers. Speak any louder, they fear, and ISIS fighters might overhear and realize they are still in the city.

Sheikh and his family are Yazidi, part of an ancient religion with about 600,000 adherents around the world, mostly in Iraq. About 200 Yazidi families live in the United States, half of them here in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they began settling after the first Gulf War.

[…]

The Yazidi, who have been persecuted for centuries, say their cultural memory includes 73 attempted genocides. The Nebraska-based Yazidi fear they are watching the 74th from thousands of miles away.

“It’s worse than the war,” Sheikh says.

Full Story: Vox: The genocide 6,000 miles away: America’s Yazidis watch and wait, fearing the worst

See also: Wikipedia entry on the Yazidi

Muslim Punks vs. Sharia Law in Indonesia

Short Vice documentary about the actively suppressed Muslim punk scene in Indonesia’s only Sharia province:

Update: I hadn’t noticed before, but the damned embed auto-plays the video. If you want to watch the video visit the site.

This isn’t ‘feminism’. It’s Islamophobia

Laurie Penny writes:

I am not writing here on behalf of Muslim women, who can and do speak for themselves, and not all in one voice. I am writing this as a white feminist infuriated by white men using dog-whistle Islamophobia to derail any discussion of structural sexism; as someone who has heard too many reactionaries tell me to shut up about rape culture and the pay gap and just be grateful I’m not in Saudi Arabia; as someone angered that so many Muslim feminists fighting for gender justice are forced to watch their truth, to paraphrase that fusty old racist Rudyard Kipling, “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”.

We are the fools, if we believe that accepting aggressive distinctions between nice, safe western sexism and scary, heathen Muslim sexism is going to serve the interests of women. The people making these arguments don’t care about women. They care about stoking controversy, attacking Muslims and shouting down feminists of all stripes.

For decades, western men have hijacked the language of women’s liberation to justify their Islamophobia. If we care about the future of feminism, we cannot let them set the agenda.

Full Story: The Guardian: This isn’t ‘feminism’. It’s Islamophobia

I dislike the term “Islamophobia,” but lacking a better term, I can’t help but agree — even though of I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

This form of hijacking is especially common in the atheist community, with the likes of Richard Dawkins and Pat Condell using it to dodge criticism of the community’s own treatment of women.

See also: American Muslims Have Mainstream Values and Honor killings and “crimes of passion”.

Did the FBI Thwart Its Own Plot in Oregon?

I was out of state when this happened, otherwise I probably would have covered this sooner. As usual, Glenn Greenwald delivers the goods:

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction. Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary. […]

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Salon: The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the FBI agent’s recording gear malfunctioned or that someone made an honest mistake in configuring the equipment, as anyone who has worked with recording gear can tell you. But from a strictly legal standpoint, it seems like that should be a big strike against the FBI. Unlike Greenwald, I’m not a lawyer, though, so I don’t know.

From what little I know about the case, it does seem that Mohamud was motivated to commit violence. But the specific plot and access to weapons was furnished by the FBI. Even taking the FBI at its word, its difficult to see Mohamud as a great threat on his own. Still, it’s clear that there are some angry people in this country willing to do violence to our citizens, and as Greenwald points out, there’s relatively little discussion as to why. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no friend to Islam, but it’s clearer every day that US foreign policy is a bigger driver for terrorism than religion.

Update: My friend Johnny Brainwash has taken a look at the affidavit and has a post on it:

The specific notion of a car bomb was Mohamud’s, but he had no clue how to go about it. Not a single operational detail would have happened without the FBI. He did buy some of the bomb components, sure, but with money and a shopping list provided by the feds. He also provided some Google Maps images and a disguise, both also at the request of undercover agents. Beyond that, he couldn’t even get to Portland if the FBI didn’t give him a ride.
This alleged plot, like nearly every alleged jihadi plot in the US, amounts to nearly nothing. Not that the kid is blameless or should get off scot-free, but he wasn’t much of a threat. Not compared to people who have committed genuine terrorist acts on American soil in the last couple of years, and certainly not enough to justify the feramongering that has gotten an added boost out of this. The story isn’t “OMG America under attack!!1!” It’s more like “look, another dumbass with fantasies of jihad- at least this one didn’t set his nuts on fire.”

He adds in the comments:

I don’t necessarily ascribe such specific intent to individual FBI’ers, or to the agency as a whole. It’s their job to catch criminals, and their budgets and prestige depend on it, so they’re going to catch them even if it takes some wishful thinking to create them. I think lots of law enforcement types, like lots of other folks, buy into the narrative of terrorists lurking under every bed, and so they don’t always realize when they’re going overboard.

I think others of them probably do realize, though.

I’m sort of leery of ascribing intent these days, preferring to describe observed behavior. Remarkable how it untangles things sometimes.

See also Mr. Brainwash on who is and isn’t a terrorist.

United Nations No Longer Condemns the Execution of Homosexuals

The General Assembly passes a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and other killings every two years. The 2008 declaration included an explicit reference to killings committed because of the victims’ sexual preferences.

But this year, Morocco and Mali introduced an amendment on behalf of African and Islamic nations that called for deleting the words “sexual orientation” and replacing them with “discriminatory reasons on any basis.” […]

The resolution, which is expected to be formally adopted by the General Assembly in December, specifies many other types of violence, including killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons and killings of refugees, indigenous people and other groups.

Reuters: U.N. panel cuts gay reference from violence measure

Mosque Notes

freedom of religion

I’m not familiar with Leon Wieseltier (whom Alex Pang says he usually dislikes), but I agree with portion of this essay on the mosque that isn’t behind The New Republic’s paywall:

Collective responsibility. One of the most accomplished Jewish terrorists of our time, Baruch Goldstein, came from the Jewish universe in which I was raised. When he committed his crime, there were a few former and present citizens of that universe, a revered rabbi of mine among them, who demanded a stringent communal introspection; but the critics were denounced as slanderers who tarred all of religious Zionism, or all of “Modern Orthodox” Judaism, or all of Judaism, with the same treasonous brush. The killer, we were angrily instructed, was an aberration, and any generalization from his action was an unwarranted imputation of collective responsibility. I disagreed. Baruch Goldstein murdered in the name of Judaism, with an interpretation of Judaism, from a social and intellectual position within Judaism. The same was later true of Yigal Amir. They did not represent the entirety of Judaism, or of the Jewish institutions that formed them—but the massacre in Hebron and the assassination in Tel Aviv were among their effects. If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own. I am reminded of those complications when I hear that Islam is a religion of peace. I have no quarrel with the construction of Cordoba House, but not because Islam is a religion of peace. It is not. Like Christianity and like Judaism, Islam is a religion of peace and a religion of war. All the religions have all the tendencies within them, and in varying historical circumstances varying beliefs and practices have come to the fore. It is absurd to describe the perpetrators of September 11 as “murderers calling themselves Muslims,” as Karen Hughes recently did. They did not call themselves Muslims. They were Muslims. America was not attacked by Islam, but it was also not attacked by Jainism. Mohammed Atta and his band (as well as the growing number of “homegrown” Islamist killers and plotters) represent a real and burgeoning development within Islam, an actualization of one of Islam’s possibilities, an indigenous transnational movement of apocalyptic violence that has brought misery to Muslim societies, and to us. It is not Islamophobic to say so. Quite the contrary: it is to side with Muslims who are struggling against the same poison as we are. Apologetic definitions of Islam will not avail anybody in this struggle.

The New Republic: Mosque Notes

(via Alex Pang)

I haven’t said much publicly about Park 51 thus far because I’ve been having trouble expressing myself eloquently enough. But I think Wieseltier pretty much nails it.

On a related note, I found Pat Condell’s recent remarks about the project disturbing.

People keep framing this as a religious freedom issue. But there’s a difference between practicing your religion, which everyone has a right to do, and rubbing your religion in people’s faces as a triumphalist political statement, which is what’s happening here. I’d be interested to know just how bad an insult has to be before it’s no longer protected by the First Amendment. After all, the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms. But in practice you need a permit to walk around packing hardware, and not everyone can get one despite the Second Amendment.

It is indeed an issue of freedom of religion – and it’s also a freedom of assembly, a freedom of speech, and a property rights question.

Anyway, the intent of Park51 should be applauded because it sets out to do what we, in a civil society, should do when we disagree: have open and peaceful discussions about the issues. Not blowing people up or sending police to buildings and telling the owners what religion they can practice on the premises.

I’m not really interested in splitting hairs of whether Park51 will be a mosque or not, or how close it is to Ground Zero (for the record, it’s really really close to Ground Zero, but I have a hard time calling it a mosque – but I don’t think it’s important). But this essay makes one other important point:

There’s one more catch for the opponents of the so-called Ground Zero mosque: by the same logical leap you can call the Cordoba Center a “mosque,” you can also call Ground Zero as it already exists a giant, open-air mosque. Muslim prayers are already taking place right on the edge of the construction site, and not for world domination. Families are going there to pray — for the souls of the dozens of innocent Muslim victims who died on September 11.

American Muslims Have Mainstream Values

Islam

About 9 in 10 American Muslims support progressive policy positions on health care, school funding, the environment, foreign aid and guns. However, smaller majorities take positions on other issues that are very much in line with those of conservatives and religious people. They favor school vouchers (66%), government funding for religious social service groups (70%), making abortion more difficult to obtain (55%), the death penalty (61%), income tax cuts (65%), forcing U.S. citizens to speak English (52%) and even stronger laws to fight terrorism (69%).

So American Muslims tend to be conservative on social and religious issues and liberal on economic and human rights issues, making their attitudes more similar to those of Catholics than to those of conservative Protestants.

Forbes: American Muslims Have Mainstream Values

See also: Will Europe Be Islamafied in 40 Years?

Will Europe be Islamafied in 40 Years?

Islam

Spoiler: Probably not.

I’ve seen the video in question. This article is a year old, but I hadn’t seen it before. Worth bookmarking if you tend to get a lot of forwards on the subject.

This seven-and-a-half minute video “Muslim Demographics” uses slick graphics, punctuated with dramatic music, to make some surprising claims, asserting that much of Europe will be majority Muslim in just a few decades. It says that in the past two decades, 90% of all population growth in Europe has been Muslim immigration. […]

But are any of the video’s statistics true?

Spoiler: Some, but the video is wildly misleading and contains many errors.

Population projection is an inexact science. No-one knows how many Muslims will be living in Europe or anywhere else by 2050. The current trends suggest that by 2050 Europe will have a bigger proportion of Muslims, although nothing like the level suggested in the video.
But the big assumption here is current trends. Levels of immigration and fertility change over time.
It is certainly true that immigrant communities often have higher fertility rates but over time these usually fall into line with the indigenous population. This might not happen with Muslim immigrants. But nobody can know and that’s why, according to Dr Hinde, it is so hard to guess the future.

BBC: Debunking a YouTube hit

Something this debunking doesn’t address: Islam is a religion, not an ethnicity. The number of individuals of middle eastern descent doesn’t equal the number of Muslims in a country.

Online Muslim sex shop opens in the Netherlands

El Asiramain

It’s not quite the Kama Sutra or The Joy of Sex but it does offer a similar kind of assistance: the first online sex shop for the Islamic world has opened in the Netherlands.

But there is nothing sleazy about “El Asira” — “Society” in Arabic. Indeed, the website looks positively demure. The home page depicts a street divided by a line; women customers click on the left of the line, men on the right. Inside the shop — navigable in Arabic, English and Dutch — customers can shop for massage oils, cocoa butter lubricants and aphrodisiacs such as Pure Power, a capsule that claims to “heighten male performance, desire and pleasure”. […]

“The image of women in the kitchen, submissive, dressed in a burka isn’t true,” he told the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad. “There is a lot of love. Islam has a lot of respect for women. Our shop puts the woman at the centre of things.”

To be on the safe side, Mr Aouragh consulted Boularia Houari, who preaches in various Dutch mosques and gives lessons in the Koran. The imam told him: “It’s important in Islam that both men and women reach orgasm. If a woman is not satisfied, she will use impure methods such as masturbation or vibrators.”

Times: Online Muslim sex shop in the Netherlands is all halal

(Thanks Paul)

See also:

Fast Company’s interview with the founder

El Asira itself – though the site looks like it’s down again.

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