Infidel753 on The Middle East and American narcissism

Usually this has to go on link round ups, but I find this blogpost so important that I can’t help sharing it as an independent blogpost. Infidel753, one of the best people commenting here frequently, has a pretty awesome blog and this is a very important topic and something I’ve been trying to say all the time.

Infidel753 argues that American media and commentators think every topic is about them, and analyze every event as if it has happened because of an American policy. This is something that is true about both sides; both liberals and conservatives are guilty of this. In the current crisis in Iraq, the liberals say “This happened because we invaded Iraq”, and conservatives say “This happened because we pulled out of Iraq”, and while certainly American policy plays a major role and affects us deeply it’s infuriating to see Americans and the rest of westerners constantly trying to reduce our situation into talking points about their own domestic policies.

Infidel753 writes:

It’s a mind-set I encounter again and again.  If anything happens in the Middle East, especially if it affects us, it must somehow be caused by something the West did.  Jihadism is a reaction to colonialism or the existence of Israel (you’d think the intense jihadist targeting of places like Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Thailand, etc. would tip people off that there are other factors at work).  The Arab Spring is to be credited to an American administration wiser than the last, as if hundreds of thousands of people who braved the guns of the dictators took their inspiration from Washington.  The breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with Iran is similarly credited to nuances of American policy, not to a new and courageously reformist Iranian President or the gargantuan mass street protests of 2009 which intimidated the ayatollahs enough to make his election possible.  Middle Eastern people are, apparently, passive and inert and never take initiatives; they only react to things that Westerners do.

I blame this mind-set partly on the fact that most Americans, including liberals, know very little about the internal social and political dynamics of Middle Eastern societies — so when they need an explanation for something, they retreat to the familiar, especially if they can turn it into an opportunity to praise or condemn the policies of some American politician whom they wished to praise or condemn anyway.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. You can read the rest of the article here.

This is something I’ve touched upon myself, in the article I wrote for Dan Fincke titles 7 Ways Westerners Can Help Ex-Muslims. Here is what I had to say:

3) Don’t make EVERYTHING about the west and your own country.

I think people who do this are usually well meaning, but I’m not sure if they aren’t a bit selfish. And both liberals and conservatives are guilty of it. Whenever there’s some news on HuffingtonPost or another liberal outlet about widespread election fraud or corruption or torture or execution, there are some people who comment “Oh maybe we should stop talking about other countries because we also have Bush and voter register laws and Wall Street or Guantanamo”. Or maybe you shouldn’t, because those people in those other countries are also human beings, and their suffering matters a bit too. Don’t be that person, please.

Also, don’t attribute everything that happens in our countries only to colonialism and western imperialism. Many factors were involved. Imperialism was one of them. But not everything is about imperialism. We have agency of our own. We are more responsible for our situation than you.

Care for Muslims and ex-Muslims in the Islamic world because they are human beings. Don’t discard our agency and don’t turn us into a pawn in your own political agenda – whether liberal or conservative. Thank you very much.

Bill Maher Is Wrong about Ayatollah Sistani

Since this ISIS debacle happened, Ayatollah Sistani’s name has been heard again in the international news. On last Friday and the Friday before that, Bill Maher mentioned him and ridiculed him, as if he’s a sectarian Shiite fundamentalist. But that is not true, in the extremely fucked up atmosphere of Iraq, Sistani has been a very positive influence and not a negative one.

In the first week Maher mocks Sistani’s call for jihad against ISIS, saying that his declaration is a sign that Shiites are fighting the sectarian war (they are, but not because of that), and that he’s the crazy Ayatollah behind these tensions, and last Friday he mocked Sistani’s call for unity government, picturing it as if it was a surprise and most probably hypocritical.

I write to make sure my western readers have a correct view of this cleric’s role in Iraq.

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In Iran, Forms of Birth Control Might Get You 2 or 5 Years in Prison

As I have said before, one of the very few successful programs of the Islamic Regime was its birth control policy, but last year for some unfathomable reason, they completely changed course. The Supreme Leader actually apologized that there was a family planning program and said we need a country of at least 150,000,000 people. We already have an unemployment crisis, and a water crisis, and this all seems disastrous. Now something funny has happened in Iran’s parliament yesterday which takes this new policy into a ridiculously absurd extreme.

A bill outlawing multiple forms of birth control such has passed a first reading in Iran’s parliament, which means it’s only two steps away from becoming a law. The bill bans sterilization, vasectomies, tubal ligation, and abortion, unless they are authorized (there’s already a law for abortion, but they’re passing the same law again, and they passed a law about alcohol trafficking that was there already again, so it seems this folly has becoming a trend). People can be punished two to five years in prison for non-authorized operations.

The law doesn’t specify who gets punished though. The doctor? The patient? Both? Utterly vague.

Before that they had decided to give money to parents for each birth.

I don’t fathom the reason for this. They say they are afraid of aging population, but as I’ve said, we can’t accommodate this population already. Plus, people can’t afford babies. All people my age still live with their parents, schooling and other expenses are now borderline impossible. Plus Tehran already houses much more people than its real capacity. There’s no way this is economically feasible. I’ve never seen pundits and economists agree with such a consensus on any issue. So don’t make the mistake of thinking Iran is in some Japan situation. We’re in a massive overpopulation crisis already.

I have a theory though. Maybe they know that middle-class, educated people are reformist minded and impossible to heed by such laws, and that poor people cannot simply afford more children, so the only people who will abide by this new policy are regime supporters, so maybe they will give birth to people loyal to the regime?

Are they seriously trying to out-fuck us into minority? Hopefully my conjecture is wrong.

I Will Miss the Honor of Being on the Same Network as Kate Donovan

Kate Donovan is leaving FTB to host her own weblog. Via her goodbye post:

Hello, wonderful commenters, readers, and other-people-peering-at-this.

I’m writing with bittersweet news: G&H is moving, this time to a standalone location. I have adored being here. I have gotten to write next to some of my favorite people in the world, and it has been and important and warm and loving community. There aren’t grand reasons I’m moving–it’s just that as time has passed, I’ve been writing to an increasingly different audience, and having my own space seems an inevitable, but sad part of that.

So. With that, I’ll see you over here.

So make sure to set your bookmarks and to change your bookmarks and RSS subscription. Shouldn’t miss her blog posts! She already has uploaded a new article too.

I completely understand her reasons for moving and fully support them, of course, but the truth is that FTB will become less rich by losing such a voice as hers, and I will certainly miss and regret the fact that I can’t claim that I’m on the same network.

Since I became familiar with atheist blogsphere through Facebook and Twitter and later joined FTB, catching up on all the things I had missed, I have been involved with many bloggers, and many of them have greatly influenced the way I look at the world. I’m sure you can see by my posts that Dan Fincke and Miri Mogilevsky are among them. One of the chief influences of mine has been Kate. I couldn’t even write responses to her or to acknowledge where exactly her writing shaped my thought, because the learning has been completely one way: I have learned and she has taught. And I have learned much from her.

Kate is compassionate, rational, a great writer, and a great teacher. I will make sure to continue to learn from her.

Also this is a video I found very useful and taught me a lot. Make sure to watch it.

Libertarian Is Not an Insult Part 2

I posted something yesterday about some progressives using dehumanizing language about libertarians, and sadly the comments appearing at the bottom provided tangible examples of what I was talking about in vague terms. Just as I’m sure such comments have not changed the mind of any libertarian, they have not changed my mind either, but quite the opposite.

I want to take my opportunity to explain my own position better.

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“Libertarian” Is Not an Insult

This was originally a facebook status.

I wish my progressive friends stopped using “libertarian” as an insult. I also wish they avoided insulting generalizations, like associating libertarians with the worst people who have that ideology. Libertarianism is a political ideology. It has many values in common with progressive thought – especially social values. I many ways libertarians have supported and done great things.

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Religion Is Not the Source of All Evil, But Its Evil Is Exclusive

Of course it’s wrong to say that religion is the source of all evil – that excludes nationalism. OK, I’m kidding, the causes of evil are endless and no single two or three or hundred things can be attributed to it.

But having said that, I think the relationship of religion and evil is not simply a matter of “Yes, religion is one of the factors causing evil”, I think while religion causes some evil, its evil is exclusive to it. I think we can safely argue that if it were not for religion, a great portion of that evil would not exist. This might remind you of this Steven Weinberg quote (via Goodreads):

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

This is a quote that my friend Dan Fincke found objectionable, as he expressed this objection in a recent interview he gave, but he had also had written an article earlier tackling the same subject, called Oh You Can Get Good People To Do Bad Things Without Religion Alright.

The point he makes is reasonable. Of course, I do think he is being a bit uncharitable on Weinberg, as I’m sure Weinberg would agree with the nuances he introduces to the discussion, and that statement was made in an oral interview (I’ve watched it), and therefore Weinberg didn’t really have the time to polish and add all the nuances. However, since my main problem with religion, the very reason I’m opposed to religion, is embodied in this quote, but with added nuance, I’ll tackle this article point by point, trying to make my case clear.

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5 Articles that Changed My Mind Recently

I wanted to post about how Heina Dadabhoy taught me about prison and showed me something I reflexively repeated was wrong, but then I decided I would gather all the recent examples. Here are five articles I’ve read recently, that have changed my mind on something. This is an appreciation post, an acknowledgment of those I have learned from. These are in no particular order.

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Victory: #TwitterTheocracy Is No More

Via British Humanist Association:

Twitter has unblocked a number of tweets and users of its service, which it had blocked on May 18 following requests from Pakistan, following last week’s successful campaign, led by a number of humanist and non-religious organisations. The British Humanist Association (BHA) was a signatory to a letter addressed to the UN Ambassador for Pakistan calling for Pakistan to honour its commitments to freedom of expression under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was also a key promoter of the #TwitterTheocracy hashtagand of the Ex-Muslims of North America’s petition to Twitter.

Twitter had been complying with requests from Pakistan which blocked tweets deemed by its local authorities to denigrate Islam, or which were otherwise ‘blasphemous’ or ‘unethical’.

In a statement made yesterday, Twitter said:

‘We always strive to make the best, most informed decisions we can when we’re compelled to reactively withhold identified content in specific jurisdictions around the world. On May 18, 2014, we made an initial decision to withhold content in Pakistan based on information provided to us by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Consistent with our longstanding policies we provided notice to all of the affected account holders and published the actioned takedown requests on Chilling Effects to maximize transparency regarding our decision. We have re-examined the requests and, in the absence of additional clarifying information from Pakistani authorities, have determined that restoration of the previously withheld content is warranted. The content is now available again in Pakistan.’

This shows that we can achieve great things using hashtags, so hashtag activism shouldn’t really be a pejorative statement anymore. I was inspired to see the whole atheist movement behind this – we united for our common values.

Thanks to Ex-Muslims of North America for incubating this worthy campaign.

And congratulations to you all.

FTBCon 3 Is Coming

Via Miri’s Brute Reason:


FtBCon 3 is fast approaching: August 22-24, 2014. As always, we’re going to have a full weekend of panels, talks, and Cards Against Humanity. This time, we’re going to be more organized about how we plan the sessions, so we’re giving you until July 22 to submit a proposal for a panel or talk.

For more info go here.