Update on UN Appointee Controversy

If you remember, I already covered the controversy over Iran’s envoy to the UN. The controversy is that Aboutalebi was allegedly among the students who raided the US embassy in Iran in 1979, taking hostages for 444 days, which caused the two countries to have their relationships sour which has caused most of the problems Iranians face until today. Aboutalebi has denied having a role in the hostage taking and he says he was merely an interpreter. Now, the story has considerably developed. Aboutalebi has been formally named the Iran’s envoy to the UN, Congress has overwhelmingly joined the Senate and the bill to deny him the US visa has passed, and the White House has announced that the US will not grant him a visa. Iran has formally complained to the UN saying that withholding visa is against the international laws.

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An Open Letter To James Croft About How to Criticize Islam

James Croft has written this article, called “Responsible Religious Criticism: Part One – Questions of Power” back in May 2013, but he has reposted it on his Facebook wall because of the recent controversy over Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I give my own reply to it here. I’m personally a huge fan of James Croft, I love his work. In this post I disagree with what he says, and I’m going to address him – it feels more comfortable. I’m not going to quote him here, I’ll write with a supposition that you have already read his piece.

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A Thought Experiment

I have a thought experiment! Take a look at these sentences.

A: “I’m a libertarian. I believe in free market. I think free market only happens when everybody is taxed at least 90%, and the government owns everything and there is no private sector. That’s what Ayn Rand really meant.”

B: “I’m a Marxist. I believe that the correct interpretation of Socialism is to make sure workers have no right and that profit is more important. Like what happens in China. That’s what Karl Marx really meant.”

C: “I’m a feminist, but I believe work place equality is wrong and women should remain at home and only raise children. That’s what Mary Wollstonecraft really meant.”

D: “I’m a Muslim. I think Islam is a religion of peace and jihad is actually peaceful struggle, and that men and women are equal in the Quran. That’s what the Prophet Mohammad really meant.”

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Brandeis Snubs Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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This is simply outrageous. Via The Times of Israel (thanks to Colnago80 for sharing the link):

After taking heat from some of its own over a decision to grant an honorary degree to an advocate for Muslim women who has made comments critical of Islam, Brandeis University withdrew the planned honor Tuesday night.

The university said in a statement that Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the honor at the May 18 commencement.

Ali, a member of the Dutch Parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion, “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

Brandeis, outside Boston in Waltham, Mass., said it was not aware of Ali’s statements earlier.

This is only another sign of how tough it is for ex-Muslims – I can’t believe anyone would have cared if an ex-Christian or an ex-Jew had said these about those religions. She is a brave and outspoken defender of women’s rights – but I guess fighting FGMs is less important than making sure that the tender hearts of Muslims is not hurt by criticism. Brandeis University is cowardly, lying, (how the hell could they not know Ali was critical of Islam?), and pathetic.

You know what, Brandeis? Your loss. She would give more credit to your lousy doctorate than you would give her.

I’m angry.

Ex-Muslim Iranian Interview #1: Shayan

This weblog is some kind of megaphone for me, a single Iranian ex-Muslim atheist. I thought I could use it to tell the story and amplify the voice of other Iranian ex-Muslims, so from now on I’m going to interview some Iranian atheists anonymously and ask them to tell their story. This is the first one, Shayan, a friend of mine. I have asked the questions and he has answered them.

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Controversy over Iran’s Possible Appointee to the UN

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Via Washington Post:

A measure that would ban Iran’s recently appointed ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate Monday evening, a legislative victory for its lead sponsor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Several aides confirm that Cruz talked over the weekend with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, who also has been pushing aggressively for sanctions against Iran and for the Obama administration to block granting a visa to the new envoy.

The measure would bar Iran’s newly tapped U.N. ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, from entering the country. Aboutalebi participated in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. He was appointed earlier this year to the post by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The pick has been criticized by Obama administration officials, who have called his nomination “extremely troubling.”

In recent months, Aboutalebi’s visa to enter the U.S. as a diplomat has been stalled, with growing questions about his role in the taking of American hostages for 444 days. Aboutabeli has said publicly that he worked with the Muslim student group that took over the embassy, but has played down his role.

As host nation of the United Nations headquarters, the United States generally admits the chosen representatives of U.N. members, with limited exceptions.

“We’re taking a close look at the case now, and we’ve raised our serious concerns about this possible nomination with the government of Iran. I’m not going to get into specifically how we’ve done that, but we have done that,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a press briefing last week.

It should also be noted that Aboutalebi says he had no role in hostage taking more than a translator.

To offer my own two cents in the debate:

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Iran Is Changing Some of Its Policies for the Worse

Not all the policies of the Islamic Republic are bad. Sadly, it seems that the Islamic Republic is intent of changing course and adapting stupid policies.

Firstly, Iran had a very adequate family planning policy. Birth control was available, cheap, and encouraged. The abortion, while still illegal in most cases, was available for an Islamic country. The education of women was encouraged and made easy. All of this led to sharp decrease in over-population, and although Iran is still suffering from overpopulation at least it isn’t at the crisis level that many thought it would be – and other things like poverty, malnutrition, and pollution are. It was one of the few successful and rational policies of the regime.

Last year, the regime officially changed course. The Supreme Leader apologized for the family planning program and said that he was wrong. This is a man who has sanctioned torture and murder and rape and has staunchly defended a dangerous man like Ahmadinejad who almost destroyed the country and the danger of destruction still looms above us and started that asinine nuclear program that almost got us into war, and from all of these he chooses to apologize for family planning.

The regime also shifted policy on women’t education under Ahmadinejad, putting an arbitrary limit to the number of women who can be admitted to the university in certain majors, and they also made work place regulations tougher for women, and there’s no doubt that these policies are geared to make sure women stay at home and raise children. Rouhani promised to reverse these policies, but some majors, like medicine, were reported to still have a gender criterion, which shows that the decision goes to the Supreme Leader, and therefore not likely to change at all.

Now, today, I read in BBC Persian that the Supreme Leader has issued a ruling about medicine and its education, and has “ordered” everyone to pay “special attention” to “Islamic traditional medicine”, AKA pseudoscience. Again, before now, the regime had done an adequate job of not letting pseudoscience and medicine mangle. It seems that the regime is changing course on this too.

This is what happens when you let a mediocre cleric poke his nose into matters beyond his understanding.

A Rebuttal to Chris Stedman’s “What’s the biggest misconception about atheists?”

If I were to imitate Ed Brayton and come up with a list of “Things that Atheists shouldn’t say”, I would look for material in many articles and lists and speeches that tend to clear up misunderstandings about atheism. Usually I feel on the side of the misconceived atheist, and it seems that I do fit the bill when it comes to how some religious people imagine atheists pretty neatly. I do hate god, although I don’t believe in him, because he’s repulsive, I do want to destroy religion, (I can’t, but want and can are completely different things), and many more. But there is one point that really grinds my gears and it’s when people say “we’re really not that different!” to the theists. I’m referring to an article that Ophelia Benson has already covered, and I have commented on her blogpost, but I couldn’t let it go.

The article I’m referring to is by Chris Stedman, called “What’s the biggest misconception about atheists?” Chris Stedman asks this questions from a series of atheist “representatives” (I presume they are elected in a global atheist convention that I missed), and they provide their answers. And I find myself excluded. Now, I don’t expect these people to include me, or people like me, in their own agenda which is valid and respectable, but I can (and will) point out that this is not true about me, that I’m not such a nice atheist as you are.

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