Category Archives: Islam

The insult of low expectations

Th above Today’s Jesus and Mo strip underlines a problem we have the “politically correct” charges of “Islamophobia.” it’s just a way to prevent rational discussion and it is insulting to Muslims because it demands lower expectations than for the rest of the community. Shouldn’t we be labeling those demanding lower expectations prejudiced or racist?

Ali A. Rizvi describes the problem well in the above video. Here is some of what he says:

“As a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name, I can get away with a lot more than you’d think. I can publicly parade my wife or daughters around in head-to-toe burqas and be excused out of “respect” for my culture and/or religion, thanks to the racism of lowered expectations. I can re-define “racism” as something non-whites can never harbor against whites, and cite colonialism and imperialism as justification for my prejudice.

And in an increasingly effective move that’s fast become something of an epidemic, I can shame you into silence for criticizing my ideas simply by calling you bigoted or Islamophobic.

For decades, Muslims around the world have rightly complained about the Israeli government labeling even legitimate criticism of its policies “anti-Semitic,” effectively shielding itself from accountability. Today, Muslim organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) have borrowed a page from their playbook with the “Islamophobia” label — and taken it even further.

In addition to calling out prejudice against Muslims (a people), the term “Islamophobia” seeks to shield Islam itself (an ideology) from criticism. It’s as if every time you said smoking was a filthy habit, you were perceived to be calling all smokers filthy people. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. But when did we start extending those rights to ideas, books, and beliefs? You’d think the difference would be clear, but it isn’t. The ploy has worked over and over again, and now everyone seems petrified of being tagged with this label.

The phobia of being called “Islamophobic” is on the rise — and it’s becoming much more rampant, powerful, and dangerous than Islamophobia itself.”

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Why don’t feminists fight for Muslim women?

I will probably get some negative feedback for posting this video (as I did with Richard Dawkins and the Skeptics Conference controversy). But Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes some important points worth a proper discussion.

I think she is too simplistic about some things. Such as attributing modern values to our Judeo-Christian heritage – if that was the over-riding factor our values system would be far more backwards.

But often groups fighting for improvements in the values systems of our society can be hypocritical in their attitudes towards the problems in other societies. This appears to be the case with at least some feminist groups – but is also true of some other groups which consider themselves “progressive.”


Thanks to Why Evolution is True: Ayaan Hirsi Ali on the failure of feminists to fight for Muslim women.

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Permission to have that conversation

In May, Maajid Nawaz presented this important talk at the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum. It’s important because he attacks the concept that religion, and especially Islam, should be protected from criticism. And especially he attacks the concept that we should not talk about the problem of Jihadism, or Islamic terrorism. We should not avoid calling a spade a spade.

Maajid says the West, and particularly the USA, has it all wrong. The policies of intervention, imposing “democracy” and the killing of terrorist leaders and civilians via bombing and drones, will never solve the basic problem – that extremist jihadism appeals to many Muslims, even western born Muslims.

He is advancing the need to counter jihadist ideologies with alternative moderate policies – but points out this is hardly happening. And how can it happen if people are too “politically correct” to discuss and condemn actions like the stoning of women, female genital mutilation, imposed marriages, etc.

Maajid has the right credentials to back up his message. He is a former member of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and used to advocate jihadism.  He was imprisoned in Egypt from 2001 and 2006. His experience led him to change his thinking and he left Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounced his Islamist past and called for a “Secular Islam“.

Now he is a co-founder and chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamist extremists.

Maajid wrote about his experiences and changes of thinking in his book Radical: My Journey Out Of Islamist Extremism.

More recently he discussed these problems with the atheist Sam Harris. Their discussion is published in the book Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue.

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Nadine gives a necessary message to her fellow Muslims

TV host Nadine Al-Budair made this statement on the Saudi Rotana Khalijiyah TV on April 3. I hope she survives to say more.

We need more, much more, voices like this among Muslims.

Here are some extracts from a recent article of hers.

“Imagine a Western youth coming here and carrying out a suicide mission in one of our public squares in the name of the Cross. Imagine that two skyscrapers had collapsed in some Arab capital, and that an extremist Christian group, donning millennium-old garb, had emerged to take responsibility for the event, while stressing its determination to revive Christian teachings or some Christian rulings, according to its understanding, to live like in the time [of Jesus] and his disciples, and to implement certain edicts of Christian scholars…

“Imagine hearing the voices of monks and priests from churches and prayer houses in and out of the Arab world, screaming on loudspeakers and levelling accusations against Muslims, calling them infidels, and chanting: ‘God, eliminate the Muslims and defeat them all.’

“Imagine that we had provided an endless number of foreign groups with visas, ID cards, citizenships, proper jobs, free education, free modern healthcare, social security, and so on, and later a member of one of these groups came out, consumed by hatred and bloodlust, and killed our sons on our streets, in our buildings, in our newspaper [offices], in our mosques and in our schools.

“Imagine a Frenchmen or a German in Paris or Berlin leading his Muslim neighbor [somewhere] in order to slaughter him and then freeze his head in an ice box, in a cold and calculating manner… as one terrorist did with the head of an American in Riyadh years ago.

“Imagine that we visited their country as tourists and they shot at us, blew up car bombs near us, and announced their opposition to our presence [there] by chanting: ‘Remove the Muslims from the land of culture.’

“These images are far from the mind of the Arab or Muslim terrorist because he is certain, or used to be certain, that the West is humanitarian and that the Western citizen would refuse to respond [in this manner] to the barbaric crimes [of the Muslim terrorists]. Despite the terrorist acts of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, we [Muslims] have been on [Western] soil for years without any fear or worry. Millions of Muslim tourists, immigrants, students, and job seekers [travel to the West] with the doors open [to them], and the streets safe [for them].”

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The “interfaith” trap – particularly for atheists

The video above shows some of the hassling of Maryam Namazie by members of the Goldsmiths Islamic Society when she gave a talk to the London’s Goldsmiths College on the topic “Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS.” The talk was sponsored by the Goldsmiths Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society but was opposed by the Goldsmiths Islamic Society and the Goldsmiths Feminist Society who attempted to get her invitation withdrawn. Warwick University Students Union and Trinity College Dublin had also originally withdrawn invitations to Maryam Namazie, citing fears of incitement to hatred of Muslims.

The video is long and the sound quality is not good. However I persisted and found interesting the fact that female Muslims in the audience were not able to ask their questions until  near the end – after the male disruptors had left!

Now University of Sheffield

The other day I saw a similar example of this attempted censorship at the University of Sheffield. But this time, the Sheffield Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (SASH) itself was the censor – they “turned down a suggestion by a student to invite Maryam Namazie to speak at the university. The reason? Her ‘hard anti-Islamist approach’ is not ‘conducive’ to the direction that the society wishes to go in” (see Atheist students are losing their faith in free speech).

So this is yet another example of the way group thinking and irrational arguments are being used to prevent open discussion of important issues like human and women’s right? (I discussed this in my articles Richard Dawkins and the Skeptics Conference controversy and Misrepresentation, misogyny and misandry – these should concern sceptics). But it is also an example of how “interfaith” activity, and indeed finding common cause with groups holding different beliefs, can result in the suppression of such vital discussion.

The author of the article is Hallam Roffey who is a writer and a student at the University of Sheffield. He writes:

“This isn’t a wind-up. Not only is the suggestion that you can be ‘too hard’ on Islamism baffling, but the fact that this statement came from an atheist, secularist and humanist society is almost beyond parody. To clarify, this is a society which aims to defend human rights and promote secularism declining to invite a renowned and influential ex-Muslim, secularist and human-rights campaigner. (Namazie has done extensive work supporting refugees, and has tackled both religious fundamentalism and far-right bigotry.)

“In its response to the inquiring student, SASH said that it would like to concentrate on ‘interfaith’ activities instead, stating that ‘interfaith between faith societies is vital’. Apparently, inviting Namazie, which may not be welcomed by some members of Sheffield’s Islamic Society (ISoc), would be antithetical to their objectives.”

So, in effect, this student society has thrown away some of its basic aims simply to further its “interfaith” activities.


Photo credit: AP/Valentina Petrova

I find that incredible. While I accept that cooperation between groups of different beliefs is important and laudable what is this worth if it involves giving up such important principles. Would the Christian societies at Sheffield give up their bible studies and prayer meetings in order to further “interfaith ” cooperation with the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society? Would the Islamic Society give up their involvement in Ramadan activities for such vague “interfaith” reasons?

I think not.

I think that this example shows how the involvement of atheists and humanists or “interfaith” organisational activities can be a trap. After all, many of these sorts of activities already assume ideas and customs which exclude atheists (eg religious observations and collective ‘interfaith” prayers). Atheists should limit cooperation to issues where there is common ground – and they should not limit their own activity on issues like human rights because one or other of the theist groups do not support them.

Or is this just   a fashionable “political correctness?”

Mind you, I wonder if this “interfaith” issue is just a handy excuse for those who rejected the request that Maryam speak. I wonder if the bogeys of “anti-feminism” and Islamophobia” are not the real reasons, at least for some, in the way these arguments have been used in attempts to suppress the voices of others – like Richard Dawkins.

Hallam Roffey says:

“SASH was particularly concerned that there would be a repeat of ‘what happened at Goldsmiths’, when Islamist students disrupted a talk being given by Namazie. But this only projects a pretty dim view of Sheffield ISoc. As a Sheffield student myself, I’d like to think that ISoc members would be up for the debate, and would not act at all like those thugs at Goldsmiths. Not all Muslims resent apostates.

“What’s more, the subtext here is that Namazie was in some way to blame for the Goldsmiths incident. Though SASH insists it does not condone Goldsmiths ISoc’s actions, it is nevertheless siding with Islamists at Namazie’s expense. This is cowardly and pathetic.”

I agree – this sort of suppression of discussion on topic human rights issues is cowardly and pathetic.

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Regarding women as animals


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