How dare you not defend Alex!


In a letter to the editor in the latest edition of the National Secular Society’s very excellent Newsline, Raymond Carlise writes:

I have considered Edward Conduit’s appeal to sign the petition in defence of the Indonesian atheist who has been jailed for saying there is no God, but have concluded that I cannot sign [the] Avaaz petition for Alex.
There may well be no God for Alex, as for you or for me. With the Indonesians however it’s evidently a different matter. The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.

Really?

Hmm. But isn’t Alex also an Indonesian? What about his culture and opinion? Or does that not count?

This is the same racist cultural relativism that sees the ‘other’ as one and the same with the state and established religious institutions that oppresses them and ignores and justifies violations of rights and freedoms at the expense of countless dissenters such as Alex.

Raymond would never hold such appallingly low standards for himself – after all, the Church of England is the established church and the queen, its head. There are bishops in the House of Lords and prayers in parliament, councils and schools. The UK is not a secular society by any means so whilst Raymond may be a secularist or atheist – if I may paraphrase his words – ‘with the British however it’s evidently a different matter’…

How dare he not defend Alex and worse still justify this lack of empathy and basic human solidarity by hiding behind a racist notion that ‘Indonesians’ are different and deserve less.

If the world was filled with people who thought this way, we’d still have slavery, racial apartheid and women without the right to vote.

Thankfully that is not the case.

Alex, a young civil servant, has been sentenced to two and a half years merely for saying there is no god on facebook. The case is being appealed by Islamists who think the sentence is too short!

Secularists everywhere must be at the forefront of defending him. If you haven’t done so already, do it now.

Sign Ed Conduit’s petition and one that was initiated earlier on Alex’s behalf.

Write to the Indonesian authorities here and demand his release.

We must not and cannot leave Alex alone.

I just won’t allow it.

Comments

    • Jamie says

      Maryam, the Communits murdered friends of mine.

      No one who is an active communist has any credibilty as a “free”thinker.

      Your postion is anti Freethought.

      • says

        Communism is not a monolithic entity. Holding Maryam responsible for all murders committed by Communists is like holding all Muslims responsible for the terrorist acts of Al-Qaeda.

      • says

        Having looked in the back-end, I see that Umberto, Goldstein’s Pal, Skeptical Skeptic, and Jamie are all the same person so I am banning him as of now. I don’t mind people saying whatever nonsense they want and I haven’t banned anyone yet. I am even willing to moderate the comments of trolls by posting only one a day so that they get their say as a policy but am not going to allow someone using different emails and names to dupe people into thinking they are different people. It’s dishonest. If you want to debate on issues raised on my blog, feel free to do so. However, the least that should be expected is that you are honest in your opinions however disgusting or wonderful they may be.

  1. One Thousand Needles says

    The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.

    I bet he would never use this excuse for UFO believers or Bigfoot hunters.

  2. Albert Yome says

    This showcases, im microcosm why the Western Left / Liberal mindset, as well as many feminists, maintains double standards. They demand the highest rights for themselves and anyone else who is white enough and / or lives in Europe or North America.

    However if you’re a Sudanese slave, an Afghan schoolgirl, or in this case an Indonesian atheist, then they’re considered the property of the nearest warlord, mullah or politician and “it’s OK, that’s what we expect of them”.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali exposed this hypocrisy during her recent appearance with Dennett, Dawkins and Harris, where Dawkins had asked her about FGM in Britain and how the police would turn a blind eye for fear of being accused of racism or ‘islamophobia’ – for protecting little girls from mutilation. She asked the audience to consider, what would happen fi the victims were white?

    • says

      It’s not such a black and white issue. The extreme cultural relativism of many on the left today is a reaction to the paternalism and cultural imperialism of the West in decades past, which imposed Western culture on other societies against their will, causing more harm than good in most cases. It may be that the pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction, so that we are reluctant to condemn any non-Western practice even when it infringes human rights.

      • Rebekah says

        It’s not such a black and white issue. The extreme cultural relativism of many on the left today is a reaction to the paternalism and cultural imperialism of the West in decades past, which imposed Western culture on other societies against their will, causing more harm than good in most cases.

        Sigh. Of course you find the ‘courage’ to ultimately lay the blame at the feet of the West.

        Your premise alone is absurd. If Western norms had actually been “imposed” to any degree then many of these crimes would not be happening. Western imperialism has been about money and power, with only a tiny elite in many nations actually altering their values. The major exception is the spread of Christianity in central and southern Africa, but the Islamic belt and South Asia is where most of this religious insanity is at work.

        Ironically you speak of “paternalism” but seem to treat the “other societies” like infants who can only “react” to things that the West does. You remind me of people who still blamed the British for sodomy laws in India (or really any extant law in any former European colony), as if sixty years of independence were not enough for Indians to make up their own mind about the subject and take action.

        “It may be that the pendulum has now swung too far…”

        “It may be…”

        Such bold pronouncements. Once again, your ‘courage’ is a model for us all.

        • says

          I’m disappointed. No assessment of the underlying psychological mechanisms propelling me to my opinion? I thought you were done talking to me. I get more than my share of batshit insane babble from other places.

          Your premise alone is absurd. If Western norms had actually been “imposed” to any degree then many of these crimes would not be happening.

          You’re an idiot. Britain invaded India in 1858. The last man in England imprisoned for blasphemy was convicted in 1921. So much for your ignorant theory that “many of these crimes wouldn’t be happening” if the West had succeeded imposed its values on other societies.

          Few Indian kingdoms even had blasphemy laws prior to British rule. Buddhists, Jains and other sramana sects routinely denied the existence of Hindu gods, but outside of Islamic areas they were permitted to build temples and even received sponsorship from Hindu kings.

          Ironically you speak of “paternalism” but seem to treat the “other societies” like infants who can only “react” to things that the West does.

          In the same way that you are ironically sexist, because you oppose women wearing the veil, thereby treating them like tiny infants who can only “react” to things that men do, rather than making active choices for themselves.

          Such bold pronouncements. Once again, your ‘courage’ is a model for us all.

          It’s called moderation in speech. It’s wasted on some people, for example ignorant arseholes like you.

          Go fuck yourself, you tired piece of shit. Was that bold enough?

          • Rebekah says

            You’re an idiot. Britain invaded India in 1858.

            Calling me names will not change the fact Britain effectively “invaded” India in the 1700’s when government-sanctioned East India Company began to not merely seek trade agreements, but actively use its military. The rebellion merely marks the de jure shift from company to crown rule.

            The last man in England imprisoned for blasphemy was convicted in 1921. So much for your ignorant theory that “many of these crimes wouldn’t be happening” if the West had succeeded imposed its values on other societies.

            Not at all. The reason the last imprisonment was 1921 and not 1952 to 1987 or yesterday is precisely because Western values shifted so dramatically on free expression after the First World War. Those value shifts have not occurred in former colonies for the most part. I wish they had.

            Few Indian kingdoms even had blasphemy laws prior to British rule.

            Maybe few kingdoms under native Indian religions had such laws, but I am calling you a deliberate liar to pretend that areas under Muslim rule had no such laws, since they are a fundamental part of sharia.

            In the same way that you are ironically sexist, because you oppose women wearing the veil, thereby treating them like tiny infants who can only “react” to things that men do, rather than making active choices for themselves.

            The veil must be opposed because compulsion up to and including violence is a as real a problem. Britain certainly put no pressure on India to maintain its sodomy laws. If you have any proof to that effect then state it, otherwise you are just a foul-mouthed little clown grasping for a response.

  3. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Once again we see that there is nothing more conservative, or even downright reactionary, than radical cultural relativism. The whole philosophy is ultimately based on the premise that whatever your ancestors happened to believe or practice is somehow “right” for you, and nobody outside the West could possibly want to live differently than their ancestors unless they have been taught to internalize western bigotry against their “own” culture (as defined by others before long they were born).

    It never seems to occur to cultural relativists that non-white women, homosexuals, infidels and heretics etc. might want the same kind of changes we have made (imperfectly, but still…) in the West for the same kinds of reasons. There is nothing “white” or “western” about not wanting to be oppressed, and anyone who claims the opposite is a far worse racist than those who still haven’t learned to flinch at the word “negro”.

    All inn all radical cultural relativism seems to be another harmful by-product of the disastrous doctrine of the Blank Slate. I have actually argued with people who seemed to think that disliking pain (or even feeling it in the first place) is just an aribtrary cultural convention that simply doesn’t apply to anyone outside “western” culture.

    • Rebekah says

      “I have actually argued with people who seemed to think that disliking pain (or even feeling it in the first place) is just an aribtrary cultural convention that simply doesn’t apply to anyone outside “western” culture.”

      Not surprised at all.

      If you ever read the book “Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?” one of the participants, an arch cultural relativist, argues that pleasure too is a cultural construct. Thus he, and it was a a male academic, could not condemn female genital mutilation.

      Cultural relativism is not just conservatism, but borders on a sociopathic worldview.

  4. Ian Braidwood says

    Thank you Maryam, for the kick in the right place.

    I’ve added you RSS feed to my reader, so I can help you more often.

  5. Heintje says

    What a bloody moron, even if there is a god for indonesians, it is still not right to jail Alex.

  6. Rafiq Mahmood says

    I am astonished that that is all there is of the letter. I really don’t know what to make of it. Is he saying that Indonesians are somehow different, a sort of sub-species who are so primitive that they need religion to arrange their affairs? He doesn’t really spell it out so I am only guessing.

    I can tell you this, that the sheer love of humanity that is contained in Alexander Aan puts most of us to shame. The simplicity and directness of his words may indeed mean that he is more “primitive” than many of us – that only by uniting in empathy for the whole of humanity – can our problems be solved, regardless of our differences of colour, culture or location. But he has also discovered that religion is not simple. Its complexities and division have not solved anything but created more problems and more hatred. He is a campaigner for love and he has been incarcerated for a purported crime of hatred.

    I was extremely privileged to meet Alex and I hope to do so again in a few days. I will certainly try to convey to him the huge flood of worldwide support that he has. The weird and incoherent attitude of Mr Carlise is not typical by any means of what I have been hearing from the many dear friends of Alexander and of the supporters of unqualified human freedom of thought.

    It is with deep sadness that I learn of one more case in Indonesia. A Shia leader is facing prosecution in Indonesia for allegedly asserting that the text of the Quran we have today just might not be that which was “revealed” to Muhammad.

    Freedom of belief is becoming like the colour choice for the Model T Ford: you can believe and say whatever you like as long as it is the same as the Wahabi version of Islam. I wonder if Mr Carlise realises just how close we are to the gas chambers. Public book burnings, murders with impunity, arson of religious buildings and people’s homes, attacks with impunity and police protection on meetings are already well under way – and this in a “moderate” “democratic” “model” Muslim majority state.

    What will it take for the world to wake up? Does Saudi Arabia have to invade Poland?

  7. Albert Bakker says

    There could be limits of subjectivity and objectivity in such a way that it would undermine the legitimacy of stern condemnation when a local lesser engages in acts of non-conformity with local customs, habits and values. On the other hand there could also be limits to the legitimacy of claims to sanity by superior persons who refuse to do so regardless.

    Maybe the recognize-a-wrong module integrated into the moral subroutines of a consequent relativist brain kicks in only at a particularly darkershade of grey ,but it would still lack that objective standard by which to know for certain whether people burning alive is really objectively wrong in all cases and worthy of condemnation. It could after all be the moral thing to do for those Pakistani’s, just as much as it is for Indonesians to jail people for the crime to give voice to their conscience on a personal facebook account or for Indian Catholics to once again become the Interpol equivalence of the Inquisition in pursuit of an evil blasphemer who turned holy water from Jesus’ sweaty feet into sewage from a nearby drainage of a washing room, thereby throwing a big wrench into a possibly lucrative miracle.

    This most recent Punjab case might seem excessive when seen in comparison to the other cases, but then who are we to objectively judge relatively speaking.

  8. says

    This is ridiculous. Democracy is a means to giving people freedom, not an end in itself. This idea that it’s cool to ignore human rights if enough people agree is on shaky philosophical ground to begin with. When you start arguing that we shouldn’t try to change anyone’s mind if they live in other countries, it starts to look pretty racist.

  9. says

    I’m not sure what ideology Mr Carlisle subscribes to. Most of us who read this blog are secularists, but we all have different philosophies and approaches to the role of religion in society. As a secular humanist I’m concerned about human rights, including the right to freedom and pursuit of happiness.

    There may well be no God for Alex, as for you or for me. With the Indonesians however it’s evidently a different matter. The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.

    Who are “the Indonesians” in this case? The government? The majority of citizens? Certainly not Alex Aan. There are a diversity of religious views within Indonesia, including atheism. The question (morally, not legally) is whether it should be a crime for a person to express their opinion that God does not exist. For me, that answer is a clear “no.” That’s why I signed the petition. I can understand why Mr Carlisle might be reluctant to support what he perceives as meddling in another country’s jurisdiction, though.

    Indonesia has a blasphemy law, but it is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as… religion, political or other opinion…

    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Looks like the right of the religious to not be offended trumps Alex Aan’s basic human rights.

  10. Jeffrey Eide says

    Thank you Maryam…

    I have just finished living in Indonesia. After making a public debacle out of things, in the media and socially, I know it is time to leave. After creating Free Thinker gatherings around the globe, Indonesia, still being the most passive group of people, remains the most challenging yet. I have debated in Saudi, and am still alive with confidence; have created humanist groups in China and Myanmar, and this has only given me confidence.

    Alexander was a hero for us before he became ‘infamous’ internationally, and I promised the nationals if he were convinced, I would leave. Thousands spurred in to action, however it was too little, too late. The laws reflect that which were appropriated to fight against the communist forces until the 1970’s. Outdated, the religious communities manage to retain the power.

    The Indonesian people, however, are still missing awareness, I can suppose what Kierkegaard called existential anxiety. In absence of secular education, the society will always stick with traditions and religion, to keep it simple.

    dissent is growing however with western media and the internet, and heavy censorship is necessary. Without a doubt the conservative forces are overwhelmed, but change happens at a sedentary pace.

    Some days I need motivation, to keep going. I would like to hear from others. Also, I should consider to blog my efforts to the world, perhaps to increase the international efforts.

  11. Roger says

    ‘The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.’

    … but not- it seems- the limits of stupidity.

  12. A Hermit says

    Carlisle’s letter represents an abandonment of reason, humanity and compassion.

    No one anywhere should be locked up simply because of their beliefs about God. Would Carlisle defend the imprisoning of Christians in a predominantly Mulsim country? Does he defend persecution of Muslims in America? I would hope not. But he thinks non-believers are fair game?

    This is sickening.

  13. chrisdevries says

    This is the same sort of argument that kept Western intervention out of Taliban Afghanistan until actual aggression against the West. It’s their culture, and their right to practice it. Never mind that people (women especially) in that culture weren’t given a true choice in the first place; it’s obey or die, basically.

    Cultural relativism, and its first cousin, moral relativism, are a double-headed plague infecting even bright progressive minds. But I have held, since I was sixteen and could think critically enough, that no culture trumps the value of a human life; nothing is more sacred (if you’ll forgive the religious language) than life.

    The infinitesimally small chance that life began on Earth in the first place, combined with the billions of years it has taken to produce consciousness and intelligence, not to mention the trillions of potential human beings that are never born, eggs and sperm whose potential has been lost, makes the cultural epiphenomena over which we agonize an interesting but ultimately trivial endeavor. The fact that we all share the same heritage regardless of the place we were born, or the dominant cultural influences and prophets of importance to the local belief system(s), will always mean we have more in common with each other than that which divides us.

    Raymond Carlise needs to update his thought process, because he’s currently living in the past, in an era of tribalism, with its parochial notion of “purity” of thought and genes. Where culture is a thing to be “preserved” and not “improved”. Fortunately, the world is opening up, and even backwards, ridiculous Indonesia will ride the progressive wave that originated with the Enlightenment in post Napoleonic Europe (or even the Renaissance, although the progressives really were a fringe movement then). An individual’s identity now is becoming less and less tied to and shaped by his/her geographical area of birth and/or the ideologies of his/her parents. All of the religions of the world are hard at work trying to hold back the change, whilst they simultaneously (and usually, very badly) attempt to evolve to meet the needs of modern generations. But with progressive thought comes development, and with development comes stability. Political stability, economic stability, social stability. When people are safe, happy, and well-fed, religions tend to die out.

    We’re on the right side of this. Cultural relativism is the closest thing to an evil idea that I can name amongst all of the ideas and characteristics of liberal secularists. It encourages us to lazy thinking, to inaction even; why fight to change something that someone else sees as a necessary cultural tradition, even when that tradition harms those who never had a choice in the matter (or whose “choice” was guaranteed based on their upbringing). Call me an imperialist if you will, but there are Western countries that are now emerging from the darkness of our past with freedom, equality, and the primacy of human dignity intact. Denmark; Iceland; Sweden; The Netherlands; Australia; New Zealand; Canada. Sure, none of these countries is perfect, but note the millions of refugees that now call these places home, and the millions more who would trade everything they have for a fresh start in Canada, say, or Norway. These people have been thrust into a cultural system in which they have no choice but to follow or be cast out and possibly killed. That doesn’t mean that they value the culture over their life; they want what we have and petty little men in funny clothes (propped up by exploitative business arrangements with amoral Western or Chinese politicians and plutocrats) are all that stands in their way.

    There is absolutely no excuse to not, at the very least, sign the petition. We should also, if possible, donate money to secular organizations that help build infrastructure and improve things we take for granted, like schools and hospitals. But change ultimately comes from individuals under oppression speaking out, finding each other, and spreading their message within their community. Alex deserves our support not just because he’s being oppressed by a corrupt and religiously-tainted justice system, but because he had the courage to speak out and try to change his community.

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