Muslim women defend Muslim women’s oppression (yet again)

With a recently-launched petition, a group of Australian Muslim women are setting out to block Ayaan Hirsi Ali from speaking in that country. I shan’t bore you with the justifications.

Scroll to the bottom of the petition and take a look at what the petitioners do for a living. They seem not yet to have grasped that the (un-Islamic) freedom Australia gives them to pursue their careers is the same (un-Islamic) freedom that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to speak. Nevertheless, let us not be churlish here. They are not living in an Islamic society and are able to organise petitions. It is a progress of a sort, even if they don’t get it.

It’s also an interesting phenomenon of Western Muslim women ascribing their freedoms to Islam, rather than the free environments in which they find themselves. Why do they find it necessary to defend Islam, even to make fools of themselves doing so? To me, this again points to that weird identity: Muslim.

Faith is all it takes

My inbox is often a commentary in its own right. From this morning’s rich pickings, I pass on:

Islamists kill ex Muslim in Southern India, a piece by the good doctor, Arun, at Freethought Blogs:

Farooq was an Iron scrap dealer living in the South Indian city of Coimbatore. He was an outspoken ex Muslim atheist who regularly used to criticise all religions including Islam on Facebook and Whatsapp. He was an active member of an outfit called Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhakam, a break away group of Dravidar Kazhakam.

Not able to answer his criticisms, Islamists decided to punish him as per their holy book.

“Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,”                     Quran 5 : 33

[more here…]

 

And the very next item in my inbox today…

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 10.27.54

This is a newsletter entitled Faith and Skepticism, comprising a selection of material from the New Yorker archives:

A 1955 piece on the Dead Sea Scrolls that mentions someone named Muhammad (!)

A 1981 piece on End-of-Days ambassador Jerry Falwell.

A 1995 piece on the commonly-fathered bastard child of all Abrahamic faiths.

Then we leap across the back of an elephant to:

A 2007 piece on God’s own Rottweiler yapping at an even meaner, fiercer dog.

A rather good 2016 piece on Kemalism, modestly covered.

Then we time-travel back to:

A 1968 (and none of that) piece on Pope Paul, the one the Rottweiler venerated (same kennel, different dog).

A 1999 piece entitled The Future of Faith: Confessions of a churchgoer, not to be confused with the more gung-ho The End of Faith: Confessions of an atheist.

A 2000 piece on that most millennial of existential crises.

And, finally, a quick shimmy under the belly of the beast to:

A January 2002 piece on the religion that was on everyone’s mind at the time.

Yes, every media outlet knows exactly what an elephant looks like, but I suppose when it’s in the room, you’d best stick to describing the tip of its tail, and a bit of its left earlobe, maybe.

Al-Azhar Sheikh, “Islam is guilty of religious violence and terrorism”

In a spectacular act of self-beheading, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, imam of the highly-regarded and authoritative Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, in an attempt to prove Western double standards when it comes to the treatment of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, complained that “all [Islam, Christianity and Judaism] are guilty of …religious violence and terrorism.” This is cataclysmic. No doubt there will be howls of “Islamophobia!” from Islamic apologists of all stripes as they clamour to inform the Sheikh that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. The poor ignorant man has no idea what’s coming his way.

As for the terrorism of Christianity and Judaism, sorry. Our priority must be the sheikh’s scandalous claim that Islam is guilty of terrorism. A Zionist agent, no doubt.

[Sorry, I can’t get the link to work, but it’s on the website http://www.youm7.com/]

Political correctness is the new opium of the people

Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. …Religion is …the fantastic realisation of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

These are the words of Karl Marx, written between December 1843 and January 1844, and published in February 1844. They are often quoted out of context and often misunderstood, as indeed, is the fate of their author. How poignant these words have once again become. The fight against religion is just beginning in one part of the world, when it has to be taken up all over again in another. It seems there is no better time than the present to rescue this profound insight from its vulgar sound bite, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

In my view, the most important line of this quotation is not the last one, but the first, for it contains all that follows: “Religion is …the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again, [my emph.].” How prescient that final clause, for we find ourselves in a world of free people who dare not be free, of unchained people who fight their way back into chains, of people who vocally silence themselves, and of people who say unto God, “Rest, oh Lord, for we are the oppressed creatures who oppress ourselves; we, the heartless, are the heart of the world; and we, the soulless, will shepherd the souls. Our ways are the opium of the people.” I cannot shake from my mind this haunting image:

Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

It stands as a testament to how oppressed, how heartless and how soulless free people have again become. I shudder at recollecting a rabid sexist leading a women’s march. We live in a time when racist black youths can attack an old white man (an old white man who was single-handedly calling out an entire population for their complacency in the face of the steady erosion of their freedom), those youths then claiming the moral high ground for their conduct and getting it. When racism is hailed as a virtue, when a movement terrorising the world is embraced as peaceful, then the “inverted world” that Marx talks about is back. It is an inverted world in which God, the ideal human, is captured in a racially-composed photograph (right down to a religion masquerading as a race), and in which its context — oppressed, heartless, soulless reality — is purveyed as “intersectionality”. How bankrupt we have become.

When the free have abandoned freedom and taken on the role of God in oppressing themselves, in silencing themselves and in imposing conformity upon themselves, it falls to those still enslaved under God to free not only themselves from God, but also the free from themselves. The new religion of the free, multiculturalism, with its dogma of political correctness, finds its place very easily in the great fake war with the alt-right. Meanwhile, in the real world, the nightmare continues.

There is nothing “Eurocentric” about the Enlightenment, and it is only Western to the extent that it first occurred in that particular locality. It is also not a product of “our Judaeo-Christian heritage,” as is sometimes claimed. The Enlightenment, both in its conception and in its actions, espoused that ideal human that religion outsources to a supernatural being. Not only did it posit the ideal human, free of want, free of fear and in pursuit of happiness, it posited the ideal human in terms that transcended all difference, without sublating difference.

The formulation, “All men are equal,” (in the archaic wording then current), recognises that we are all human, above whatever else we may be, and presumes itself applicable to us all. Recognition of equality at any level below that of human must necessarily entail the erosion of equality. As soon as we confine ourselves to the equality of races, the equality of sexes, the equality of cultures, etc., as opposed to the equality of all human beings as human beings, we are on a slippery slope that leads inexorably to the philosophy of despair that is identity politics, political correctness, interfaith dialogue, diversity training, intersectionality, and all the other icons of the perplexed. It is a recipe for infinite fracturing as all must continually differentiate themselves from all in a struggle for resources that becomes increasingly attainable only through sectional identity and the greater claim on pathos. In this inverted world, the preservation of racism becomes more important to black people than even to white racists. The preservation of sexism becomes more important to women than to misogynists. When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair. When feminists dare not raise as much as a peep against the horror that is the lives of women under Islam, then we are in the pit of despair.

The Enlightenment recognised that the formulation “All men are equal” was also a battle cry. It expressed an ideal that has to be fought for. Indeed, it arose out of the eighteen million lives lost in the 125 years of war to the subjugate Christianity to humanity. Like all wars, it is one with many setbacks, many retreats and many regroupings. And now, beset as it is by a fifth column of free people bent on destroying their own freedom, humanity arrives at the gates of Mecca. It does so, however, from within, struggling to break out. It is to be hoped that it succeeds in time to save the free people from themselves.

My take on Trump (something I really didn’t want to write)

The most powerful democracy in the world, in every imaginable sense, has recently had a presidential election. It is a democracy often praised for its robustness, not least by those living under it and benefitting directly from it. Key amongst its lauded strengths is the system of checks and balances that comes from three independent arms of government and resulting in a self-correcting system. It is a system that isn’t perfect, some would say far from perfect, what with the corroding influence of money, the dumbing influence of the media and the trivialising influence of celebrity culture. Another of its key strengths is the rule of law. Elections are held every four years without fail and no President serves more than two terms (I believe there has been one in extremis exception).

I was stunned, not by Donald Trump’s victory at the polls, but by the meltdown that hit liberal America in its wake. Sure, this man is a gross specimen of all there is to be embarrassed about in the human character, but didn’t he just get elected fair and square by one-person-one-vote secret ballot? Isn’t he as much proof of the robustness of American democracy as the election of Barack Hussein Obama before him? Indeed, witnessing the apoplexy besetting America’s liberal intelligentsia, I couldn’t help recalling the anguished sound and inarticulate fury of the barely-literate right in the wake of a black man’s moving into the White House on 20 January 2009. Liberal America seems to have forgotten that.

They seem also to have forgotten that Donald John Trump did not elect himself to power. Distasteful and dangerous as many of his views might be, those are the views of enough Americans for the robust democratic system to have cleared him for Presidential office. There was no mistake here, not even a hanging chad. American democracy is intact and working exactly as it should. So far, Donald Trump is no threat to it. Should he get out of hand, well, there are those checks and balances we’ve all heard about. Let’s see whether it’s really the guarantee that it’s made out to be. If he manages to avoid impeachment to make it to the four-year mark, he’s going to have to face another election. That’s what the law says.

So I was more than a little alarmed to read Rosa Brooks’ 3 Ways to Get Rid of President Trump Before 2020 in the 30 January 2017 issue of Foreign Policy magazine, in which she calls for the ousting of the US President by military coup. Ever since the frenzy to seek out and murder Salman Rushdie, I have been implacable opposed to the notion “responsible free speech,” which has only been reinforced by the slaughter of the staff at Charlie Hebdo. Rosa Brooks’ piece is a clear case of irresponsible free speech, one that gave me much pause for thought. Ms Brooks’ irresponsible exercise of free speech does not prompt me to call for responsible free speech, but I have a few things to say about it.

Brooks seems unaware of what fire she is playing with. Equally unaware she seems, of the very a large population in the world, and many generations of them, who are all too familiar with military coups d’états, the people who seize power through them, and the near-impossibility of getting rid of them afterwards, not to mention the ‘clean-up’ they feel obliged to carry out while they hold power. One can only hope that Brooks doesn’t live within earshot of a stadium, for her children’s sakes, if not for hers. The bizarreness of her proposition deepens when one keeps in mind that she proposes a coup because she finds the US democratic system’s checks and balances wanting. She explores each of the three checks-and-balances provisions of the democratic system: the next Presidential election; impeachment; and the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. These will not do, she finds. Call in the generals!

Donald Trump may well turn out to be the catastrophe he threatens to be. But let’s just take a look at this. The first point, and one that Brooks might do well to take note of, is that Donald Trump did not seize power in a military coup. This alone shows him to have more respect for democracy than she has. The judicial arm of government (remember those checks and balances?) has already stepped in to block one of his Executive Orders, and although he is considering further legal action, the point is that it is legal action. At this moment, democracy is safer in his hands than it would be in Brooks’.

The judges who blocked the Executive Order banning travel from a number of Muslim countries didn’t do so because Trump is the crazy maniac of many a commentator, but because his Order did not comply with the rules of American democracy. It is worth remembering that to another section of the electorate, Barack Obama had been a crazy maniac, but he, too, complied with the rules of democracy. Many of those voters wanted extra-judicial action against Obama and his family. But then they are right wing, many of them barely literate; that’s what they do; it’s their dinner-table talk.

Of course Trump’s bigotry against Muslims, against anyone, needs to be opposed. But I know Islam, I know its dangerous agenda and I know how its fifth column operates. I am very familiar with the Muslim track record of turning very unpleasant indeed, once they reach a certain proportion of the population they joined. The Muslim Brotherhood is the organisation through which this infiltration takes place. The task of moving against the Muslim Brotherhood does not go away, just because Trump is a bigot against Muslims. Put differently, Trump’s coming to power does not abrogate the Qur’an. It is still there in every Muslim heart, as ISIS so tauntingly boasts. Trump’s bigotry against Muslims risks all critique and exposure of Islam and action against the Muslim Brotherhood being associated with his bigotry. It tends to silence critique of Islam for fear of association with Trump. How long will it be before the increasingly hapless regressive left accuses ex-Muslims, the ultimate critics of Islam, of complicity in anti-Muslim pogroms? Another side effect is to bog down critics of Islam in endless disclaimers of not being against Muslims (this is, in fact, a double problem because Muslims do need to be criticised, as I do in some of my earlier posts).

Donald Trump has taken Office and placed others of similar outlook into all the key positions of power, another complaint of the liberal intelligentsia. But that’s what all presidents do. Note that none of those he put in power are his children or his brothers-in-law. In most of the world, for example, in the Muslim world or where coups are perennial, that standard remains a fantasy. He has moved against people he perceives to pose a threat to the security of the United States. That is part of the job of the President. Arguably, his main appeal to the electorate lay in his contention that his predecessor had been negligent in this aspect of his duties.

But here’s the rub. When considering impeachment against the President, Brooks enthuses, “the good news is that Congress doesn’t need evidence of actual treason or murder to move forward with an impeachment,” exactly what Trump maintains when he moves against all Muslims. I would grant that Ms Brooks is “not actually insane,” despite her sharing this excitement for extra-evidential coercion with Mr Trump.

Of course Americans are right to protest what they perceive as the excesses of their government, whether holding placards or writing articles in magazines. It is something the intelligentsia have both the skills and the time for. One wonders what scenes will have unfolded on the streets and in the airports of America, had those who were distressed by the previous elected President’s policies and actions had the skills and the time to vent their spleens likewise. We’ll, they have neither the skills nor the time, and what we saw was white rage, the only avenue open to the inarticulate poor. Until Bernie Sanders came along, that is.

The Bernie Sanders campaign reminded us that the working class is not inherently socially backward, and also that they’d been abandoned. The way I see it is, firstly, why would the party of finance capital want to open that particular can of worms? Secondly, why would the liberal intelligentsia, especially its regressive and more vociferous elements, want to rock their very comfortable multiculturalism and diversity boat? The key lesson that I take from the Sanders campaign is that the answer lies not in taking over the Democratic Party, as some propose, but in rendering it irrelevant. That came very close to actually happening, until the diversity button got pressed and all energy had to be diverted to putting a woman in power, even if she was the crooked mouthpiece of finance capital.

And now that same identity politics with its multicultural mind-set, having indirectly put Trump in power, instead of taking a good hard look at itself, doubles down to entrench multiculturalism still further. It is the whine of the regressive liberal, all sound and fury, signifying petulance.

Where I turn to

I’ve been a bit quiet over the last two months. This is partly because I’m devoting more time to developing my writing (fiction), and partly because there’s been quite a lot to think about lately.

What I’d like to share at this point is where I turn to when I’m struggling to figure things out. Honesty, humanity and steadfastness are what attracts me to those I turn to for clarity. The two people who, more than any other, provided that clarity over the last few years have been Maryam Namazie and Yifat Susskind. This does not mean that they are my prophetesses or that I hang onto every word they say or praise everything they do. I am still me, not them. But what wonderful mentors! If you’re not familiar with them, let me share a piece by Maryam that is particularly poignant at present: a debate she’d recently had with Sam Harris. Yifat’s organisation MADRE shows that no darkness is too dark for light to penetrate. For me, their significance lies not only in their boundless energy and unflinching commitment, but that they are, first and foremost and above all else, human. Regardless of the particular theatre or issue or beneficiaries of their efforts, those efforts serve the preservation of humanity in the face of the curse of “us versus them” and the prevailing orthodoxy of infinite social fracturing that ultimately pits all against all. I help them both in whatever modest ways I can. Perhaps you’ll see why, and perhaps you’ll do the same.

I’ll be posting a little less frequently for the time being, but please stay connected.

Taxicab talk: The world has changed

How are you today?

I’m good, ma’am. Where you heading?

Fortieth, Fifth. How are you today?

I’m good. New York Public Library?

Yes. I’m depressed. You must be depressed.

Sorry, can you say that again?

I’m so depressed. Aren’t you depressed?

No, I’m not depressed, ma’am. You are my passenger and I get to take you where you wanna go. Why are you depressed on such a beautiful day — if it’s OK to ask?

You don’t know? Aren’t you depressed? Oh, I’m so depressed.

I’m sorry to hear that.

I don’t know. This is so bad. It changes everything.

Er, I’m sorry. What changes everything?

The election. ­­—Oh, I get it. You only just arrived. Where are you from?

Originally? I’m from Kinshasa. The Congo.

The Congo? Is that in—?

Africa.

I thought so.

So when did you come to the US?

I came to America in 1997. It will be twenty years ago in June.

Your English is very good.

Thank you, ma’am.

You must be really worried since the election.

I can’t say that I am, ma’am.

Aren’t you worried how bad things can get for immigrants.

You mean about Trump?

Yes! He said some really bad things. He’s going to do some really bad things.

I’ve heard some things here and there, ma’am. But from what I know of America, they have elections every four years, guaranteed, no matter what.

But have you considered how much damage he can do before then?

How much damage he can do?

Yes. Affordable Healthcare, marriage equality, abortion, immigration, and all the good things Obama has done. It’s never been so bad. The world has changed.

The world?

Yes, the world.

Then what happens after four years?

Then we have all this damage. You’ve been here twenty years. You must know that.

Maybe I’m still learning, ma’am. But in three years and ten months’ time you can change it all back. No hard feelings. That’s what I like about America.

You like four years of Trump?

I don’t know. I drive my cab, take people where they want to go. They pay me. I feed my children. I’m happy. I don’t vote, but I understand more people are happy with trump than people who are unhappy with Trump. They gave him their votes. Secret votes. Free votes. You can vote for anybody you like. Even a black man can be the President of United States. When Obama became the President, everybody said it proved how great America is: anybody can be President, if he can get enough votes. So I see the same thing again. A man gets enough votes and he becomes President. America is still great. I’m safe.

But Trump? Donald Trump?

I don’t understand, but if I can ask, did Trump take the country by force with his own army?

That’s impossible. There are no private militias in our country. We have the ballot. One person one vote.

Will Trump suspend the Constitution?

That’s impossible. The Supreme Court will not allow it.

Will Trump arrest all the judges and close down the Supreme Court?

That’s impossible. We have the Rule of Law.

Will Trump ban all political parties and keep only his own?

That’s impossible. We have a democratic system.

Will his birthday become a national holiday for seven days?

What?

Will he rename Washington D.C. after himself?

What?

Will everybody who is not his family lose their job in the government?

That’s insane!

My children can still go to school, even if I do not vote for trump?

Where are all these questions coming from?

Will he arrest anybody who insults him?

We have the First Amendment. Why are you asking all these crazy questions?

Will he move all the money out of the Federal Reserve Bank into his own Swiss Bank account?

Of course not. He’d be impeached!

Will Trump declare himself Life-President?

That’s impossible. A President can only serve for two terms.

And for the second time he must again be elected like before.

Exactly.

So he can be elected for a second time after he did all his bad things the first time — no firing squad even?

Yes—I mean, no! I mean it would be really, really bad if he got re-elected.

So even after all that, there is still another election and the one with the most votes still becomes the President.

Yes, but…

Haish! If Congo was like America, I would not be driving cabs in New York.

At least you’ve got an exotic escape. I’m happy for you.

Here we are, ma’am: New York Public Library. That’ll be seven dollars and forty cents.

Keep the change. I’m so depressed. You take care of yourself. Really. I mean it.

Islamic apologetics stands firm in the face of Muslim terrorist car rammings and knife attacks

The Star Tribune is not my go-to paper for social critique, and I was not surprised to read a particularly puerile piece of apologia, History abounds with contributions of Islam to civilization, by the “writer and social activist” Omar Alansari-Kreger on its website today. The piece has all the signs of having been thrown together in haste, and I wonder whether the recent spate of terrorist car rammings and knife attacks perpetrated by Somali youths, of whom Minneapolis, the Star Tribune’s base, has a significant number, was the impetus. This is how Alansari-Kreger sets things up.

Islam has been portrayed as something reprehensible. …There exists an impression that Muslims are inherently oppressed by virtue of their faith, portrayed as a religion with little tolerance for dissent, and quick to liquidate detractors. …Certainly, extremists [read: critics of Islam] …help preserve the slanted narrative that drives the modern-day perception of Islam.

He then juxtaposes this with:

Yet, how many outsiders ask the simple questions: What is Islam? What are the beliefs of Muslims? And what are Islam’s core contributions to the world?

Does he then proceed to answer these “simple questions” that many outsiders are supposedly so loathe to ask? No. Instead, he takes his readers back more than a thousand years to what he perceives as safe territory, Islam’s Golden Age, and a safe aspect of the then culture, scientific discoveries and technical inventions. “Contrary to conventional belief,” says Alansari-Kreger, “the Islamic civilization of centuries past was the world’s premier intellectual superpower.”

Not only are Muslim scientists’ and engineers’ contributions to the world not in dispute, the irrelevance of this red herring couldn’t be clearer than from Alansari-Kreger’s own words: “modern-day perception of Islam,” to which he offers, “Islamic civilization of centuries past.” This is how Alansari-Kreger hopes to salvage the damned reputation of his religion (and it might work; if his readers are as willing to be manipulated as he assumes them to be).

Let’s just briefly look at what he does have to say about the world’s premier intellectual superpower of centuries past. He mentions the contributions of three individuals, Hasan ibn al-Haytham, Abbas ibn Firnas and Fatima al-Fihri, by no means amongst either the most important or the most prominent. Nevertheless, almost all of the examples can just as easily serve to answer the begged question that Alansari-Kreger does not ask, “What went wrong?” If Islam was the world’s premier intellectual superpower centuries past, why is it no longer? The answer might lie in the lives of these accomplished individuals themselves.

Hasan ibn al-Haytham was unquestionably a brilliant man. He had the perfectly sensible idea of damming the Nile at what is today Aswan. But his site analysis revealed such a project to be beyond the superpower’s technical abilities at the time. Rather than revealing this truth to the caliph and risking a beheading, he had to pretend to have gone mad and thereby managed to save himself, an effective self-beheading, one might say.

The only reason Fatima al-Fihri had set up her University of Quaraouiyine in Fez is because her family had to flee the bloody persecutions of the Aghlabid Emir in Qayrawan, capital of the then Emirate of Ifriqiya (present-day Tunisia), vassal of the Abbasid Caliphate. So large was the influx of refugees from Qayrawan into Fez, that that part of the city now bears the name Karaouiyne, as does the neighbouring Andalous from the influx refugees from one of the other jewels in the crown of the Islamic superpower, al-Andalus.

One such Andalusian refugee who spent his final years in Fez was none other than the great philosopher and jurist Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd (who died in Marrakech in 1198). He fell foul of the caliph after having spent years trying to reconcile the Qur’an with reason, and coming out on the side of reason. Alansari-Kreger’s “premier intellectual superpower” of centuries past was destroyed by Islam itself, exactly as it is trying to destroy today’s the premier intellectual superpower. Islam’s Somali foot soldiers are ramming cars into students on university campuses and then knifing them to maximise the killing.

…all of which makes me wonder what Alansari-Kreger is really up to.