Category Archives: Islam

Regarding women as animals

Credit: http://www.elle.fr/

This little shocker comes from the French magazine Elle   – Arabie Saoudite : les femmes pistées lorsqu’elles quittent le pays. Yes, the original is in French but here’s some extracts from the article translated by Google.

Saudi women are denied even a bit more freedom last week as the “Europe 1″ radio reported that the Saudi authorities have implemented an electronic system that can alert families when these women leave the kingdom. Their “guardian” – in most cases their father, brother or uncle – are now notified by SMS when they go abroad.

This initiative reduces women to the status of slave was criticized on Twitter by Manal al-Sharif, an activist who fights for his country women can drive, they do not currently have the ability do. She was informed by a couple who went on a journey. The husband, who was with his wife received a text message from the immigration informing him that his wife was about to leave the international airport of Riyadh (capital of Saudi Arabia). ” backwardness “” Authorities use the technology to monitor women “, denounced the AFP novelist and columnist Badriya al-Bishr. He added: “This is the technology for a mentality backward. They want to keep prisoners. Government had better take care of those subject to domestic violence,” she concluded.

How does this system work? Are all women implanted with an electronic chip? Or does their passport information automatically initiate the warning?

Whatever the system it just shows how religious extremism (and often the not so extreme) ends up treating women like non-human animals.

This has to stop

I am currently reading Salman Rushdie’s new book – Joseph Anton: A Memoir
It describes Rushdie’s life since the fatwa against him was declared on February 14 1989 – Valentines Day. This was the day he was “sentenced to death” by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini for his novel The Satanic Verses. This fatwa is still in place – Rushdie says he still receives a “sort of Valentine’s card” from Iran each year on 14 February letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to kill him. He said, “It’s reached the point where it’s a piece of rhetoric rather than a real threat.” Still, a semi-official religious foundation in Iran recently increased the reward it had offered for the killing of Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million dollars.

One might have thought after 24 years this would be old news, the book should more a contribution to the historical record and not a best seller. Sadly, this is not so. Other authors have received similar fatwas or had been assassinated -  such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tahar_Djaout, Farag FoudaAziz Nesin, Ugur Mumcu and Taslima Nasreen. Religious violence erupted again recently over a silly US video about Islam. A 14 year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai’, was recently shot for he public stand against extremist Taliban militants who used fear and intimidation to prevent girls attending schools. People are still dying. The issue hasn’t gone away.

It’s worth reading this week’s NZ Listener. It has an interesting interview with Rushdie and its front cover declares:

“Religious fanaticism has to stop.”

I think that is an important message and more and more people are coming to that conclusions.

Irony and gossip

Joseph Anton may be Rushdie’s best book. Mind you it probably depends on genre preferences. But it’s certainly about a very important issue and an important time in history. Rushdie also brings to the book his skill with colourful language obvious in his novels. But he also writes humorously and with much irony. There was certainly a lot to be ironic about. Prince Charles was one of his critics – complaining about the cost to the nation of Rushdie’s security. The author Ian McEwan told Spanish journalists: “Prince Charles costs much more to protect than Rushdie and has never written anything of interest.”

Of course his narrative is “one side” of the story, and this may be relevant when he writes about personal disputes and conflicts, but that is what we must expect of a memoir.

At over 600 pages some readers may hesitate but the important story, the lively writing, the personal and political conflicts, and, above all, the psychological stress the author undergoes makes the length irrelevant. Readers will probably wish it was longer.

So where does the name Joseph Anton come from? Early on Rushdie’s security team asked for a new name. One they could use continually for him and thus prevent mistaken reference to him in public. He chose the first names of the writers Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. And in keeping with the change of name he writes the book in the third person. A device which, he claims, helped his writing, but which occasionally makes the reader stop and think when they encounter pronouns in situations involving several people.

I highly recommend the book. It’s surprisingly relevant to today’s situation (unfortunately) and will even satisfy those who love to gossip.

See also:
Salman Rushdie’s new book, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s reaction
Rushdie Relives Difficult Years Spent in Hiding
Life During Fatwa: Hiding in a World Newly Broken
Muslim Rage & The Last Gasp of Islamic Hate

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People saying stupid things on the Internet

I saw this young Muslim women on the TV news last night. She was demonstrating against the US over that silly video. The interview asked her _”but don’t you believe in freedom of expression.

Her answer – “Yes, but not when it comes to religion!”

My response – grow up!

That’s why I like this little skit on the current situation (thanks to YouTube video mocking Atheism greeted with global disinterest by Atheists).-  I think there are some lessons in it:


A YouTube video mocking followers of science and those who discount the probability of omnipotent deity, has resulted in complete indifference throughout the Atheist community.

Theist comments on the video claim that the video will see “atheists burning down churches the world over!” have been met with blank stares by people who consider themselves ‘atheist’.

Non-believer Simon Williams told us, “I’m not sure what reaction they were expecting, but I’m afraid people saying stupid things on the Internet doesn’t really bother me.”

“What with me being a grown adult and everything. Tantrums haven’t really been my thing since puberty.”

“Do I want to kill the people behind it? No, of course not.”

“Though I would like to give them a few science lessons that didn’t end with the conclusion ‘God must have done it’.”

“But I’m not hopeful.”

Youtube video protests

The maker of the video has gone into hiding claiming that Atheist disinterest in his film has infringed his religious freedoms.

The unnamed producer explained, “It says quite clearly in a passage of one of my holy books – a passage that is definitely open to interpretation in the way that I want – that I must take the fight to non-believers – and yet here you all are refusing to fight.”

“You are oppressing my religious freedom to claim religious oppression.”

“What will it take?! Why can’t you at least throw a rock at me or something?”

“It’s almost like you’re suppressing the evil inside each of you in order not to look like dicks.”

“I’m guessing you get the strength from the Devil himself.”

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Privileged whinging?

I am preparing a talk on “Accepting pluralism in a secular society’ for presentation at this weekend’s Interfaith Forum. Hence my current interest in these issues.

Carrying on from my last post, Defeat for imposed prayer, this video shows a discussion on UK TV about the judgement on the Christian prayers in the Bideford Town Council official meetings.

Is Christianity Being Marginalised?

Thanks to Dr Evan Harris (@DrEvanHarris) – who I think is the guy in the jacket who spoke a lot and made the most sense.

It just demonstrates the difficulty of arguing these issues across the theological divide. Obviously they can be dealt with more efficiently in court.

“Fighting for faith”

Now Baroness Warsi,  the UK’s first Muslim cabinet Minister who is also chairman of the Conservative Party Tory Party, has chipped in. Attacking “militant secularism”  which she describes as”deeply intolerant” and “denying people the right to a religious identity”.

She is off to the Vatican for talks with Pope Benny and has declared We stand side by side with the Pope in fighting for faith.

Somehow conservative religionists in the UK have misread the Bideford Town Council legal discussion. it did not rule Christian prayer illegal, just that it should not be part of an official council meeting. Those so inclined could pray as much as they wanted before the meeting opened.

But this has stopped such people claiming martyrdom. Yes, that and words like marginilisation are being bandied around. But in reality what is upsetting these people is not marginilsation – just that they iare in danger of losing some of their priveliges. Andrew Copson from the British humanist Associal=tion respond to Warsi’s article with a series of twitter comments:

Signs Britain being taken over by militant secularisation

  • No 1: there’re more state-funded religious schools than ever before
  • No 2: more public services contracted 2 relig groups than ever before
  • No 3: we remain the only western state with clerics in the legislature
  • No 4: first PM in recent history to publicly call UK Christian country
  • No 5: 1st Muslim woman in govt at Vatican at public expense 2 see Pope

‘Census Christians’ don’t support their militant leaders

Mind you – these militant whinging religious leaders are very vocal – but how much support do they have.? Survey results released today suggest not as much as you would think. The Ipsos MORI research, commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK (RDFRS UK), shows (among other things):

  • 73% of ‘census Christians’ strongly agree or tend to agree that religion should not have a special influence on public policy
  • 92% of ‘census Christians’ support the statement that the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of religion
  • 78% of ‘census Christians’ say Christianity would have no, or not very much, influence on how they vote in General Elections
  • 61% of ‘census Christians’ agree that gay people should have the same legal rights in all aspects of their lives as heterosexual people
  • 62% of ‘census Christians’ support the right of a woman to abortion within the legal time limit
  • Only 23% of ‘census Christians’ believe that sex is only acceptable within marriage.

As Andrew Copson, commented:

‘There is clearly a vast gulf between the views of what we might call “census Christians” and the politicians, politicised Bishops and Christian lobby groups that claim to speak on their behalf.”

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Approaching a Middle East peace

Came across this song of Tim Minchen’s Peace Anthem For Palestine.

Actually think he might be on to something

Atheists aren’t shrill – just disgusting?

Perhaps the common hostile reaction to the so-called “new atheists” (or gnus) is more a matter of the disgust in the eye or brain of the beholder than any “stridency” or “shrillness” on the part of the atheist. Well, that’s what the recently published work of Ritter and Preston suggests (see  Gross gods and icky atheism: Disgust responses to rejected religious beliefs).

They used groups of Christians as subjects in two experiments to test the effect of reading material from their own group (bible) and outgroup (Muslim and atheist) sources on feelings of disgust. This was evaluated by rating  responses to  a drink before and after copying a passage from these sources.

From the paper’s abstract:

“In Experiment 1, Christian participants showed increased disgust after writing a passage from the Qur’an or Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, but not a control text. Experiment 2 replicated this effect, and also showed that contact with an ingroup religious belief (Christians copying from the Bible) did not elicit disgust. Moreover, Experiment 2 showed that disgust to rejected beliefs was eliminated when participants were allowed to wash their hands after copying the passage, symbolically restoring spiritual cleanliness. Together, these results provide evidence that contact with rejected religious beliefs elicits disgust by symbolically violating spiritual purity.”

I guess this explains this strange knee-jerk effect I have observed among Christian apologists. Just the mention of the word “Dawkins” in any discussion sends them off at a tangent. The reactions are clearly emotional, and not rational. So it does seem logical that these emotional responses utilise common intuitions or feelings – and disgust is the obvious one.

Now, I don’t suggest this phenomenon is restricted to only Christians, or even just the religious. (Although i suspect religious believers may be more prone to emotions related to purity and disgust).  I think we are all prone to react emotionally rather than logically when encountering anything conflicting with our beliefs. So I think the authors are right to conclude that disgust plays a role in the protection of beliefs, especially beliefs which hold moral value.

This paper is discussed in more detail by  Tom Rees at Epiphenom (see Is The God Delusion more disgusting than the Koran?). His discussion includes figures from the paper.

Perhaps next time I find a Christian apologists getting distracted by Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion during a discussion I should recognise they are suffering from disgust, rather than producing any logical argument. Maybe I should then suggest they go away and wash their hands before continuing our discussion.

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Evolution and education – advice for teachers

Creationists have far less influence in New Zealand than they do in the US. Still, quite a large proportion of Christians here do not accept evolutionary science. So, I imagine, their wish to undermine the teaching of evolutionary science sometimes becomes an issue, for some teachers.

Here’s a couple of videos prepared by the US National Center for Science Education (NCSE) which does a great job in the US. They are of a talk given by NCSE programs and policy director Steve Newton to an audience of high school teachers from across the US.

Steve covers questions like:

  • What challenges do biology teachers face from creationists?
  • How do you respond to students asking the “10 questions”?
  • What are the different flavors of creationist belief?
  • And other issues.

Teaching evolution in a climate of science denial, Part 1.

Part 2: Teaching evolution in a climate of science denial, Part 2.

See also: NCSE YouTube Channel

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Breivik’s terrorism and science

People gather around a makeshift memorial outside the Domkirken church in Oslo on July 25, 2011 where a minute of silence was observed. Photographer: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

OK, the connection between the Norwegian terrorism and science may not be immediately obvious. And I don’t refer here to the chemistry of his bomb manufacture (which he relates at length in his compendium).

No, I refer to his attitude towards science as demonstrated by the little tirade in the compendium about climate change (see Chapter 2.72: Green is the new red – Stop Enviro-communism.)

Here he presents climate science as having an agenda “to contribute to create as world government lead by the UN or in other ways increase the transfer of resources (redistribute resources) from the developed Western world to the third world.” He calls it the “Anthropogenic Global Warming scam.” He recommends a video starring our old friend Christopher Monckton. And presents the classical denier rave about “climategate.”

It’s all stuff we had heard before – and actually local climate change denier Ian Wishart presents this very same conspiracy in his book Air Con (which I reviewed in Alarmist con).

And that is the thing about his compendium. it mostly reads like a cut-and-paste from conservative websites, blogs and forums. Sure, he may have added a little in terms of a programme to assassinate many people throughout Europe, listing organisations and political parties he targets. And the explicit threat or programme of violence is not usually articulated in those conservative sources. But his whole justification is based on that conservatism and the conservative issues like anti-communism, climate change denial, promotion of patriarchy and theocracy and opposition to liberalism and feminism. These conservative issues have fed his hatred, advocacy of violence and assassination programme.

I am actually intrigued that almost all the local blogs who have in the past promoted the ideas covered by this compendium have been strangely silent on the terror in Norway. There hasn’t (so far) been a squeak of condemnation or comment from the usual list of climate change denier and conservative Christian blogs. It must be embarrassing for them to see such an inhuman terrorist advocating for the same issues they have in the past.

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American Imams supporting evolutionary science

London Imam Usama Hasan

New Scientist has reported a campaign for Islamic teachers, or Imams, to sign an open letter declaring that there is no clash between their religious faith and evolution (see American Muslim clerics sign up for evolution).

The text of the letter is:

Literalists of various religious traditions who perceive the science of evolution to be in conflict with their personal religious beliefs are seeking to influence public school boards to authorize the teaching of creationism. We, the Imams of the mosques, see this as a breach in the separation of church and state. Those who believe in a literal interpretation of scriptural account of creation are free to teach their perspective in their homes, religious institutions and parochial schools. To teach it in the public schools would be indoctrinating a particular religious point of view in an environment that is supposed to be free of such indoctrination.

We, the undersigned Imams of the mosques, assert that the Qur’an is the primary source of spiritual inspiration and of values for us, though not for everyone, in our country. We believe that the timeless truths of the Qur’an may comfortably coexist with the discoveries of modern science. As Imams we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

Sign Up Now!

If you are an imam and would like to sign The Clergy Letter Project’s Imam Letter, please fill out the form by clicking here.

The Imam Letter, follows on from the similar Christian  Clergy Letter which was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures. Three years ago the Jewish Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures, was launched.

This letter is topical and I hope it is successful. Back in March a London Imam, Dr Usama Hasan, who is also a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was threatened after presenting a lecture on “Islam and the theory of evolution” at his East London mosque, Masjid al-Tawhid. (see Acceptance of science – dangerous for some and Imam fears ‘nutters’ could kill him for preaching evolution).

 

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Acceptance of science – dangerous for some

In the UK The Independent is reporting that a Muslim scientist is being threatened for his acceptance of evolutionary science (see Scientist Imam threatened over Darwinist views). The scientist is Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His “crime” – he delivered a a lecture on “Islam and the theory of evolution” at his East London mosque, Masjid al-Tawhid.

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer, has received death threats from extremists - Credit The Independent

His lecture was disrupted by fanatics who distributed leaflets claiming that “Darwin is blasphemy”. Dr Hasan told The Independent: “One man came up to me during the lecture and said ‘You are an apostate and should be killed’” .

Hasan has now been forced to retract his claim that evolutionary science is compatible with Islam. His father has also issued a statement to the mosque saying: “”I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused.” And his family has urged him not to return to the mosque, where he is a prominent imam, because of their concern for his safety.

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