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Tom Holland is censored

Channel 4 in the UK made a program called “Islam: The Untold Story”, and got so many complaints and threats that they have cancelled the screening of the show. This is a disgrace: the program is a serious, historical look at Islam, and the protesters are complaining because it takes an objective look at the evidence. We must be able to scrutinize Islam. If they’re going to hide their origins in obscurity, lies, and threats, then their beliefs should be dismissed.

I haven’t seen the program (and at this rate, I never will!), but I can make an informed guess at the content. It’s presented by Tom Holland, author of In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire, an excellent and entirely sympathetic review of the history of Islam. He discusses the deep roots of Islam, formed in a culture that was shaped by its proximity to the frontier between the two great empires of the ancient world, Rome and Persia. He traces the origins of the Islamic holy book, and discovers that no, it didn’t simply appear in 7th century Arabia (although he does think there was a singular original text), but that Islamic thought coalesced long after the time of Mohammed…and he points out that there is no contemporary evidence at all of this person Mohammed — which sounds awfully familiar to those of us who are more exposed to the Jesus myth — and that there is a long history of self-deluding Islamic ‘scholarship’ that has a lot of similarity to the self-serving confabulations of Christians.

It doesn’t make negative judgments about Islam at all, unless, of course, you find reality offensive. I thought it was an excellent book to explain the complexities of Islamic history, and it made Islam more human and more interesting. It’s well worth reading.

It would also be worth watching, if Channel 4 would grow a spine. And if Channel 4 can’t manage it, I don’t know how we can ever hope to see it in the US.


Those of you living in the UK can watch it here. They block us Americans, I’m afraid.

Comments

  1. AndrewD says

    PZ, If no one else has corrected you yet, it was Channel 4 which made this program not the BBC. These are different organisations.

  2. says

    PZ, I’ve seen the first part of this series and thought it was excellent! It’s well made and has loads of interesting facts about Islam I never knew about, I totally recommend it. I believe it’s on Channel4’s website, absolutely one to watch.

  3. anotherbayesian says

    Another correction PZ. They have cancelled the second screening. It has already screened and can be viewed online via the link on Maryam’s blog

  4. Bernard Bumner says

    Channel4 did broadcast the programme, and it remains available on 4oD (their online outlet).

    This was a screening at their HQ, and was cancelled due to security concerns, which is an unfortunately legitimate reason to cancel. It is appalling that such concerns are required, but that is also making the news .

    There has been a minor storm around the programme, mainly due to rather wonky critiques by Muslim organisations.

    Channel4 is part-funded by the licence fee, even though it receives revenue form paid advertising (which the BBC does not). Part of the remit of the channel is to produce challenging programming. It is a strange beast, in that it broadcasts good quality news and political and education programming alongside a very dumbed-down commercial fare (the UK Big Brother had its origin there).

    It has a public service duty as part of its remit:

    (a) demonstrates innovation, experiment and creativity in the form and content of programmes;
    (b) appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society;
    (c) makes a significant contribution to meeting the need for the licensed public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature and other programmes of educative value; and
    (d) exhibits a distinctive character.

    Promote measures intended to secure that people are well informed and motivated to participate in society in a variety of ways;

    support the development of people with creative talent, in particular people involved in the film industry and at the start of their careers;

    support and stimulate well-informed debate on a wide range of issues, including by providing access to information and views from around the world and by challenging established views;

    promote alternative views and new perspectives, and provide access to material that is intended to inspire people to make changes in their lives.

  5. says

    PZ:

    unless, of course, you find reality offensive.

    I find reality offensive. How dare reality tell me I can’t fly when I want to. Or that money can’t grow on trees!

    Reality is just rude.

  6. says

    unless, of course, you find reality offensive

    I often find reality extremely offensive, who do I ask to get it censored? I’m thinking something like the black-bar generator for the blernsball locker room in Futurama…

    Of course until that is invented I could imagine I have a direct line to an infinitely powerful being that co-incidentally shares my dislikes of certain aspects of reality. People would have to listen to me then!

  7. Olav says

    PZ:

    Those of you living in the UK can watch it here. They block us Americans, I’m afraid.

    They are blocking all non-UK viewers, not just Americans. But I have already found the video on The Pirate Bay and in alt.binaries.documentaries (on old-fashioned Usenet).

  8. Sastra says

    When its apologists bring up all the wonderful, valuable things faith gives to individuals and the world, they often wax on ecstatically about how good faith is at forming communities — bringing people together under a common ethos, identity, and commitment. They forget that this is not necessarily a good thing. It’s not good when it does this by dividing human beings according to some unique, undemonstrable, faith-based “worldview.”

    Yes they are offended by reality. Reality is the common background which knits ALL people together into a single group, treating all equally. The faithful instead want special groups brought together by the special way they understand a reality which parcels itself out to special people in different ways according to their specialness.

    Calling this specialness “humility” fools nobody but themselves. Nor are they going to get away with acting as ifg their beliefs are some sort of cultural identity, so that criticizing it is like criticizing subjective tastes. Screw Islam. It’s not only false; it’s pernicious. It has all the bad characteristics of religion in general amplified and promoted.

  9. blf says

    Reality. I thought it was liberal-leaning. That doesn’t exclude it being as mean as, as, well, a very mean thing (MRAs, perhaps — nah, not that mean, albeit reality can be just as oblivious).

     ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━ Now the unfunny bit…

    Unrelated albeit in some sense similar, apparently the USA embassies in both Libya and Egypt have been attacked by nutters protesting some previously-obscure film supposedly about the same faerie-bothering as the C4 documentary. The Ambassor to Libya has been killed.

    Supposedly the film being protested, unlike the C4 documentary, is not professional and perhaps intends to be inflammatory:

    [Director] Bacile, a California property developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believed the movie would help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.

    “Islam is a cancer, period,” he said repeatedly.

    The two-hour movie, Innocence of Muslims, cost $5m (£3.1m) to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it.

    The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.

    Just to be clear: The above film, Innocence of Muslims, is NOT the C4 documentary!

  10. says

    Hopefully the Holland documentary doesn’t get picked up by one of the US religious channels, who will no doubt replace the original narration with something with an American presenter, and deliberately inflammatory.

  11. The Apostate says

    You can always use TunnelBear, an application which allows you to access the internet as if you are in the UK, to see this. You only get 500MB free a month, but that should be more than enough to watch this.

  12. says

    they often wax on ecstatically about how good faith is at forming communities — bringing people together under a common ethos, identity, and commitment

    Inevitably: “We, god’s chosen.”
    Humble, humble, harmless religion.

  13. yoav says

    @blf #12
    They were discussing the story on Morning Joe on MSNBC around 6am this morning and the thing they were taking out of it is that the internet is dangerous since now any moron can make a movie and cause a riot, not a word about how religion is dangerous since it can cause people to go and murder random strangers because someone else posted a movie they didn’t like on fucking youtube.

  14. says

    blf wrote:

    Unrelated albeit in some sense similar, apparently the USA embassies in both Libya and Egypt have been attacked by nutters protesting some previously-obscure film supposedly about the same faerie-bothering as the C4 documentary. The Ambassor to Libya has been killed.

    No, it’s not unrelated. No matter how different the films, if I were in charge of airing this film the events triggered would spook me. I can see how the reaction to one film could easily prompt the decision not to air the other.

    An embassy in Egypt was also attacked but there were no casualties as it had apparently been evacuated ahead of time.

  15. says

    yoav wrote:

    @blf #12
    They were discussing the story on Morning Joe on MSNBC around 6am this morning and the thing they were taking out of it is that the internet is dangerous since now any moron can make a movie and cause a riot, not a word about how religion is dangerous since it can cause people to go and murder random strangers because someone else posted a movie they didn’t like on fucking youtube.

    Murderous rioters are but hapless victims of the filmmaker, amirite?

  16. says

    Not to derail, but this just in, the Romney clan accusing Obama of “symphathizing with the enemy” after the death of the US ambassador to Libya:

    “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” the candidate said.

    Oh, and of course, there’s Palin:

    “Apparently President Obama can’t see Egypt and Libya from his house,” former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook. “It’s about time our president stood up for America and condemned these Islamic extremists. … We already know that President Obama likes to ‘speak softly’ to our enemies. If he doesn’t have a ‘big stick’ to carry, maybe it’s time for him to grow one.”

    *headdesk*

    The problem with scrutiny of Islam is the racist and xenophobic dimwits particularly in Europe who give a cheap excuse to those aiming to defend these archaic practices from the people who try to scrutinize Islam and its practitioners with regards to values and ethics commonly agreed to by a majority of people who have been privy to the enlightenment, like equal rights/pay/entitlements for women or equal standing in court when it comes to for example matters of marital disputes.

    *can of worms*

    And yes, Channel 4 should not have bowed to the pressure. I haven’t seen the thing, but surely it must be possible to screen a docu like this in a democracy. It’s like when you cite any of the inhuman and barbaric verses from Deuteronomy, and Christians hasten to tell us that they’re not really meant like that, historical context, New Testament is the one we should look at, blablabla. It’s revealing how upset believers get when you merely present the facts of their religion and its texts. And there’s always someone from the political correct brigade to yell “racist” at those who do.

  17. barrypearson says

    The program as originally broadcast was thoughtful and careful. (Also, too long – it could have been reduced to about 1 hour by removing some of the parts where he was being silently thoughtful!)

    He was careful to separate “origins of Islam” from “how Islam is today”, and largely avoided the latter. He certainly didn’t in any way criticize “how Islam is today”. (We can argue that he should have, but it wasn’t what the program was about).

    In other words, it would only offend people who don’t want their claims about the origins scrutinized in some sort of rigorous way. The contrast between the Islamic “oral tradition” approach and the modern academic scrutiny of primary sources was very obvious. I think the people who would be most upset by this are those who fear the modern approach! After all, he wasn’t attacking Muslims.

    Muslims who really believe the traditional story of the origins of Islam need to get out more. The Qur’an has contradictions and parts that defy analysis. The Haddith, considered by most Muslims to be nearly as important as the Qur’an, were only written down centuries later. So it is unremarkable that during the decades after Muhammad’s death Islam hadn’t settled into its later form. (And of course there are still disagreements about Muhammad’s legacy even among Muslims).

  18. yoav says

    @rorschach
    The Mittens statement is even worse then it appears on the surface, apparently the Obama statement they criticize (an inane thing about how we should show respect to religious feelings, which, for the record, I don’t agree with) came before the violence started and defiantly before there were casualties and while they sent the press release around 10pm last night they had it embargoed until 12:01am so they can claim they weren’t playing political games on 9/11.

  19. says

    After watching the doc, I thought it was quite tame. I could see Muslims being upset over bringing doubt over the origins of Islam, but I find that Tom Holland went out of his way to point out that a) he’s not Muslim and he doing this as an outsider, and b) that he’s not trying to tell Muslims what or how to believe.

    That fact channel 4 decided to cop out on this shows how cowardly western society has become.

  20. says

    Well, I found his book through the mention just now, here, anyway. And from what I see already, it looks reasonably promising. And as it really is a bit of a pain finding interesting and thorough stuff in that area, given the polarization around the subject, that’s not for nothing. You want naive polemics and hagiographies from true believers of various stripes overtly for and agin’ the religion itself, these are a dime a dozen, natch.

    So thanks, angry, angry people, I guess. You were kinda helpful, in this odd little way, here, anyway.

  21. stops says

    For those still interested and not willing to go the “torrent way”, I have put a sample of the video here:
    Islam: The Untold Story

    To give an example of the bigoted and primitive complaints, this is my refutation of the press release refutation made by iERA (Hamza Tzortzis). My refutation was endorsed by Tom Holland, so it’s not just empty BS, but sheer joy and arrogance.

  22. Bernard Bumner says

    That fact channel 4 decided to cop out on this shows how cowardly western society has become.

    It isn’t obvious that there is a cop out, because we don’t actually know what security concerns C4 were responding to.

    I reserve my ire for those making threats, not those reacting to them.

  23. says

    To give an example of the bigoted and primitive complaints, this is my refutation of the press release refutation made by iERA (Hamza Tzortzis)

    You don’t say! Hamza our old pal! When Hamza tries to refute stuff, you can pretty much deduce that it must be true. We love our mate Hamza, he of the embryology gish gallop. PZ, me, and Dawkins are on YT with the guy. Always good for a laugh. That guy has serious funding backing him and his organisation, by the way.

  24. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    The problem with scrutiny of Islam is the racist and xenophobic dimwits particularly in Europe who give a cheap excuse to those aiming to defend these archaic practices from the people who try to scrutinize Islam

    No, the problem with scrutiny of Islam is that it invariably leads to whiny Muslims whining about the inviolability of their whiny, entitled, hydrocarbon-rich cult. If that’s not bad enough, you’ll also draw a charge from the Complacency Cavalry, who will charge unbidden into the argument on their little sanctimony ponies and explain that actually, most Muslims just want to be left alone and only stage protests because they don’t like to be criticised, so stop scrutinising Islam or we’ll call you a nationalist and everyone will hate you.

    Allowing racists, xenophobes and bigots to hijack important topics is a serious concern, because it usually ends very badly for whichever group(s) the morons have chosen as their Other. So is allowing naive sycophants to silence legitimate criticism of religion and religious faith; especially in Europe, where the fascist right wing is an exceptionally dangerous undercurrent, and thus allowing them to become the loudest voice in any argument is a very bad idea indeed. Particularly when that argument concerns a contentious issue that could potentially be used as a stick with which to beat various immigrant communities.

  25. says

    No, the problem with scrutiny of Islam is that it invariably leads to whiny Muslims whining about the inviolability of their whiny, entitled, hydrocarbon-rich cult.

    That’s not a problem, that’s the intended result of any poking of religious people, no? Make the religious look ridiculous for their defense, right? It’s not a special muslim thing for that to happen, at any rate. In fact, everything you listed as a problem is entirely normal for both white-coded and non-white-coded religions.

    So yeah, actually, the problem is the racism that comes along with most criticism of Islam. Most is not all, and yes, there are legitimate criticisms to make, I completely agree with you. I just… really feel the need to emphasize caution when it’s so common to fall into racist narratives and othering.

  26. robro says

    It must be a miracle! I stumbled onto Holland’s book in a Jesus & Mo comic the other night…Mo is reading it in one panel. I’ve been digging around for scholarly, non-believer histories of Islam for awhile, so I was interested.

    I found a review of the book in the Guardian here by the American historican Glen Bowersock. I’m not qualified to judge his review but it is critical of Holland’s scholarship, basically saying that he’s sloppy.

    That said, I plan to read Holland’s book, and the review pointed out some other scholarly works on Islam that are interesting.

    As for offending Muslim sensitivity, folks who worry about such BS need to get over it. Everything is open to investigation.

  27. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    That’s not a problem, that’s the intended result of any poking of religious people, no? Make the religious look ridiculous for their defense, right?

    Depends what motivates you. If you want people to engage in introspection regarding their denial of scientific fact and ignorance of reality, then the intended result of scrutinising religion is to… well, provoke a little reflection. The sad fact is that a lot of religious people tend to get defensive and whiny, thereby making themselves look ridiculous whilst scrambling to defend their bullshite.

    Which might be your intent if your criticism of religion is simply a cynical ploy to make people look bad and feel worse. Mine isn’t.

    It’s not a special muslim thing for that to happen, at any rate. In fact, everything you listed as a problem is entirely normal for both white-coded and non-white-coded religions.

    Muslims aren’t the only ones who whine when their religion is criticised, that’s absolutely true – thing is, the whiny loquacity with which Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists, and various other religious believers meet challenges to their chosen dogma is irrelevent to the fact that Muslims whine when Islam is criticised.

    Christians do it too. So do Muslims; and it’s Muslims we’re talking about, so what Christians do is irrelevant.

    So yeah, actually, the problem is the racism that comes along with most criticism of Islam. Most is not all, and yes, there are legitimate criticisms to make, I completely agree with you. I just… really feel the need to emphasize caution when it’s so common to fall into racist narratives and othering.

    I understand this sentiment completely, and I do fully accept that in places like Europe, or Russia, or the US, where Islamophobia is often used as a convenient stick with which to beat immigrants whose origins lie in Islamic nations, some sensitivity is required; however where some people feel that sensitivity is best practised by being mealy-mouthed and non-specific when criticisng Islam whilst being ruthlessly specific when criticising Christianity, I’d rather not have to deal with the doublethink required and would instead prefer to level criticism equally at any denomination which deserves it whilst taking great care to shit on the racist, xenophobic nonsense that tries to ride my coat-tails.

  28. says

    @Anyone who is more familiar with Holland’s work:

    Is he suggesting that there was no historical Muhammad? Wikipedia informs me that there are non-Muslim sources attesting to the man’s existence as early as 636 CE; although they paint a very different picture than Muslim tradition would insist upon.

    Or is he suggesting that, like the historical Jesus, the historical Muhammad was simply a man who became the focus of a bunch of folk-hero legends that had mutated very far away from whatever he actually did by the time they were codified? The last makes a lot of sense, since we can see it happening with contemporary figures all the time.

  29. says

    Which might be your intent if your criticism of religion is simply a cynical ploy to make people look bad and feel worse. Mine isn’t.

    I don’t really care how the ridiculous person feels. They’re not the target audience!

    Christians do it too. So do Muslims; and it’s Muslims we’re talking about, so what Christians do is irrelevant.

    THat should be true, but in practice, I greatly mistrust the actual effect of singling them out, even when they’re the topic of discussion. We’re already in a racist culture, and not reinforcing that narrative requires us to actively fight it. I also don’t think it weakens the criticism at all to point out that the problems present in Islam generally aren’t unique to Islam (Or judaism, hinduism…)

    It doesn’t necessarily weaken criticisms of Christianity either, but it’s not really necessary in the case of a white-coded religion practiced by the majority in any case.

    I’d rather not have to deal with the doublethink required and would instead prefer to level criticism equally at any denomination which deserves it whilst taking great care to shit on the racist, xenophobic nonsense that tries to ride my coat-tails.

    Yeah, I figured it was mostly that, which is why I was a lot more measured in my tone than normal. It’s pretty plain we only disagree on one point.

  30. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    THat should be true, but in practice, I greatly mistrust the actual effect of singling them out, even when they’re the topic of discussion. We’re already in a racist culture, and not reinforcing that narrative requires us to actively fight it.

    … which we can do whilst simultaneously singling out Islam and Muslims for criticism in cases where Islam and Muslims deserve to be criticised.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. You can make sweeping criticisms of Muslim conduct and Islamic dogma whilst simultaneously pissing on the appropriative bigots who would take what you’re saying and apply it wholesale to entire ethnic groups. It is difficult and draining, because it requires tackling two sets of equally-intransigent morons at once (three if you count the uncritical leftists who will invariably tilt at your windmill), but it can be done.

    With a growing army of enabler-slobs whose default setting is “ZOMGRACISM!!”, I think it’s becoming more important for people – especially influential people, whose opinions might actually influence said slobs to rethink their puerile knee-jerk approach to discussion – to start really engaging with Islam as Islam, rather than as some part of a nebulous whole.

    I also don’t think it weakens the criticism at all to point out that the problems present in Islam generally aren’t unique to Islam (Or judaism, hinduism…)

    It doesn’t; what it does do is make you look weak if you’re ready and willing to fight the scourge of Christianity with both feet, yet feel compelled to water down your criticism of Islam with equivalencies.

    It’s also an “in” for Christian whiners. You know, those obnoxious little fart-bags who just love to point out how eager everyone is to criticise Christianity, but how we all clam up and start equivocating when it comes to criticism of Islam? I hate those whiny, privileged, victim-complex fuckers. Best not to give them any ammunition. Criticise everyone equally, and bigots most vociferously of all.

  31. says

    With a growing army of enabler-slobs whose default setting is “ZOMGRACISM!!”

    I seriously doubt this is anything but your own invention. I would dearly like for racism to be taken seriously in our society, but it isn’t generally the case.

    That’s not to say I haven’t seen those charges of racism abused, mind you. But in my experience, it looks more like disproportionate application of this.

    It doesn’t; what it does do is make you look weak if you’re ready and willing to fight the scourge of Christianity with both feet, yet feel compelled to water down your criticism of Islam with equivalencies

    I can see how others may confuse acknowledging real problems with weakness. Similarly, I have seen how acknowledging reality is seen as ‘flip flopping’ (anti-intellectuals talking about the bible’s lack of change as a positive spring to mind).

    It’s also an “in” for Christian whiners. You know, those obnoxious little fart-bags who just love to point out how eager everyone is to criticise Christianity, but how we all clam up and start equivocating when it comes to criticism of Islam?

    Yeah, and they also complain that we’re not treating Christianity as equally important to scientific reality. Last I checked, that wasn’t informing our actions. Their criticism is only legitimate if we pretend racism doesn’t exist.

  32. says

    @ Fred:

    No, the problem with scrutiny of Islam is that it invariably leads to whiny Muslims whining about the inviolability of their whiny, entitled, hydrocarbon-rich cult.

    Just to be clear: the religious/political leaders of said cult are “carbon-rich,” and not the vast, vast majority of Muslims in those countries.

    Which might be your intent if your criticism of religion is simply a cynical ploy to make people look bad and feel worse. Mine isn’t.

    That’s nice. Mine is.

    I hate those whiny, privileged, victim-complex fuckers. Best not to give them any ammunition. Criticise everyone equally, and bigots most vociferously of all.

    Amen, brother.

    I find your ideas interesting and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    PZ: hidemyass.com is your friend.

  33. robro says

    michaelbusch

    Is he suggesting that there was no historical Muhammad?

    I gather Holland is describing such possibilities.

    Based on my admittedly cursory read, there are questions about the historical Muhammad. Some scholars have suggested that the myth is derived from Syriac Christian sources which were widespread in the region, i.e. Muhammad was a just a rehash of stories about Jesus or other early Christian figures. Apparently there are textual elements in the Quran that suggest such an origin and the Quranic inscription on the Dome of the Rock, one of the oldest, apparently can be associated with NT or other Biblical material, and even includes crosses.

    Such questions shouldn’t be too surprising. As with Jesus, we should be skeptical of the historical accuracy of any account of even important figures that far back.

  34. says

    @robro:

    It seems quite a stretch to suggest that there was _no_ historical Muhammad, if the sources used by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Muhammad) are correct to date the oldest non-Muslim references to him are from 636 CE. The stories told about him of course are very far removed from whatever he actually said and did.

    And the Qur’an certainly is a composite of material from various sources, and the oldest versions (the Sana’a manuscript?) available apparently date from the late 7th or early 8th centuries, several decades to a century after Muhammad was around.

  35. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The program as originally broadcast was thoughtful and careful. (Also, too long – it could have been reduced to about 1 hour by removing some of the parts where he was being silently thoughtful!)

    I’d have said about it could have been reduced to about 15 minutes, if he really had no more substantive content than appeared in the programme. His strongest point was the absence of Muhammed’s name from coins until the 680s, but he suggested no coherent explanation for how a non-Muslim Arab army could have had the success it did (the Arabs had never previously been anything like united, which certainly suggests some new sociocultural unifying factor, although it’s certainly true that “barbarian” neighbours of organized states tend to coalesce into larger political units), nor why Islam (rather than, say, some variant of Christianity) would have been developed and adopted subsequently. I don’t know if anyone here’s read the corresponding book – I’ve read one of his, Persian Fire, which was good.

  36. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    It seems quite a stretch to suggest that there was _no_ historical Muhammad – michaelbusch

    Holland didn’t suggest that, although he did suggest that Muhammad came from Syria rather than the Arabian peninsula, where there wasn’t much trade (Muhammad being identified as a merchant in Islamic tradition). But I’m not sure that’s right: Yemen was a very important source of “spices” (the word has a much wider connotation than it does in modern English) long before Muhammad’s supposed lifetime.

  37. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    I seriously doubt this is anything but your own invention. I would dearly like for racism to be taken seriously in our society, but it isn’t generally the case.

    The charge of abusing the charge of racism is frequently abused by people who want to use criticism of Islam as a means to express racist and/ or xenophobic sentiments in public – I am, therefore, not totally unsympathetic to your cynicism.

    I would however charge you to try this out for yourself. Crticise the Buddhist persecution of Muslims in Burma without reference to the wider “scourge of religion, humans are barbaric” problem. Nobody will give a shit, no matter how long you persist in pointing out that while the problem may be religion, these mobs are motivated to commit horrific acts of savagery by their shared adherence to Buddhism (a religion that provides no incitement to violence whatsoever, as far as I’m aware) and the tendentious interpretations of Buddhism being fed to them by the elders. It is, therefore, in this specific instance, a problem with Buddhism being used as a gang bandana by people intent on oppressing other people for the crime of being Other. Getting rid of religion would help, but if you want to solve the problem in Burma, you need to address Buddhism.

    Now make exactly the same argument against sharia courts which operate in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area with the full sanction of Pakistan’s central government – an issue to which this argument more readily applies, considering sharia law is derived wholly from “scholarly” (*snicker*) interpretations of the Islamic holy text, meaning the connection between the religion in question and the oppression it abets is pretty much covalent; Islam demands obedience and empowers sharia to enforce it. Try to persist after folk start accusing you of missing the bigger picture and eventually the accusations of bigotry will come. You can now enjoy the stupid in first person. Be warned, you may need a shower afterwards, and you will lose respect for a lot of people.

    I can see how others may confuse acknowledging real problems with weakness.

    Whereas I can see how someone might come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to criticise a religion which happens to be a minority in your parish but which wields considerable power across the rest of the world, without also repudiating the racists and bigots in your parish who have appropriated criticism of that self-same religion for their own ends. It’s difficult and delicate, but once you step out of the parochial and start looking at religions in the wider context of human society, as opposed to the miniscule part of it you yourself occupy, it becomes far easier. It also becomes far easier to justify doing so when you consider the suffering religions are able to inflict on a global scale.

    Christianity, for example. That fucking Pope of theirs and his declaration that contraception is against divine canon. How many AIDS infections is that pig responsible for? How many unwanted pregnancies? How many ruined lives? Science makes human life easier and Christianity decides it doesn’t like the sound of it, so tens of millions of people get to suffer so one man can feel he’s enforcing God’s will. Then again it’s not just the Pope who hates contraception; a lot of Islamic scholars are against it too.

    Just to be clear: the religious/political leaders of said cult are “carbon-rich,” and not the vast, vast majority of Muslims in those countries.

    Actually, most of the Gulf states’ citizens receive a share in their nation’s oil wealth, which many of them use to buy sports cars and motorbikes – have a look on Youtube, you’ll find tons of videos of Saudis in European and American sports cars performing drifts on public roads in cities like Jeddah. Some of the women use the shares their husbands give them to buy webcams, which they use to broadcast videos of themselves dancing and doing stripteases and stuff. Some of the husbands use their wealth to finance Islamist militias in more impoverished parts of the world.

    So, yeah. In the heartland of Islam there aren’t too many poverty-stricken basket cases, but in the outer orbitals – places like Central Asia, East and Central Africa, the Maghreb, the Levant, and the various Pacific island states (one of which is Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation by population) there’s a great deal of poverty. Because they don’t have any oil, and if they do, they don’t have enough to make the profits worth sharing. Which means your point is valid, kinda.

  38. robro says

    @michaelbusch

    Well, stretch as it may be that’s what some scholars are saying. I’m looking forward to reading more details about the claims. The Quran hardly refers to the prophet at all (4 times and those are oblique) and there are no biographies of Muhammad until the 8th/9th centuries.

    I also read that Wikipedia article and what it says is that “sources” date to 636CE (4 years after his death), but “many of the interesting ones date to within some decades later.” I’m not clear what that means, but it sounds a lot like the 30 year gap in the Christian story between the death of Jesus and the first written accounts of his life. Even a few years, much less decades, could spawn a lot of mythologizing, conflation of stories of real and not real people, etc.

    What I gather the scholars are saying is that there is a good deal of post hoc rationalization of sources to be about Muhammad, a lot of it possibly invented as propaganda for the Arab conquest spreading across Syria in the late 7th century, filling the void as the Persian and Byzantine empires declined.

    What I recently learned is that the name “Muhammad” is actually a title meaning “Praiseworthy,” so perhaps not the name of a specific individual. I’m not even clear what his birth name supposedly was, although I assume he was not born with the title. According to the stories, his father died before his birth, his mother a few years later, and so he was raised as a marginal figure in the clan. As I’m sure you know, mysterious origins is one indicator of myth a la Jesus, King Arthur, etc.

    The honorific “Praiseworthy” could have been applied to any number of individuals, of course, and then conflated into a single person. If the Muhammad story is believed at all, he had a string of ancestors who were local chieftains taking care of and defending the Kaaba, all of whom were praiseworthy per their story.

    In one story, they fought an Ethiopian Christian army from Yemen, led by a King Abraha, who came to destroy the Kaaba. This is called the Year of the Elephant because the Ethiopians used elephants, and this is purported to be the birth year of Muhammad, though scholars now think this event occurred a decade before his birth.

    Interestingly, according to one of the prophetic biographies there were Arabs with Abraha, one of whom was named “Muhammad ibn Khuza`i ibn Khuzaba al-Dhakwani.”

    The elephant story is intriguing because of what it might say about myth building. As I understand it, sub-Saharan elephants are not tamable. Hannibal used North African elephants, extinct in Roman times I believe. South Asian elephants are smaller and tamable but difficult to imagine them getting to Yemen. You have to wonder then what sort of “elephants” King Abraha had with him. One of them, named Mahmud, was a white elephant…oh dear. According to the legend, the elephants refused to enter the boundary of the Kaaba and this was the only thing that saved it, the Arab defenders having been driven off.

    As you can see, it’s likely to be myths and folk tales all the way down.

  39. clastum3 says

    I hate those whiny, privileged, victim-complex fuckers. Best not to give them any ammunition. Criticise everyone equally, and bigots most vociferously of all.

    Yes, that’s right go for the bigots (those meeting your definition), and not those who murder, or poison or throw acid at schoolgirls – they’re just an inconvenience requiring you to do a little weaseling to justify your posturings.

    Is there a muslim-majority country where the exercise of basic human rights by non-muslims is not likely to provoke immediate physical persecution? Are these persecutions not orders-of-magnitude larger than anything similar which could be cited in the western world?

    I’m against the bigotted western enablers of these ghastly crimes, but as despicable as you are, I hate those who physically perpetrate the deeds more.

  40. CJO says

    It seems quite a stretch to suggest that there was _no_ historical Muhammad, if the sources used by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Muhammad) are correct to date the oldest non-Muslim references to him are from 636 CE.

    That entry is strangely reticent about naming this earliest of sources from 636. It’s now called Fragment on the Arab Conquests, full translated text here. It was written on the flyleaf of a Syriac New Testament, and is as you might expect highly fragmentary. It refers to Muhammed, but as part of the phrase “the Arabs of Muhammed”. If there are legitimate reasons to doubt the historical existence of the figure, and I’m not well-informed enough on the subject to say if there are, hen it’s question-begging to take these mentions as evidence for his existence. The most we can say based on the Fragment is that the name had some significance (it means “praised” (and the same root lies behind the names Mahmud and Ahmed also), and was used as an identifier for (and by?) some groups of Arabs during the conquest.

  41. says

    @robro @46:

    >>As you can see, it’s likely to be myths and folk tales all the way down.<<

    It seems more plausible to me that there was initially some historical figure that then became the focus of myths and folk tales. That happens all the time, even now – The Prince Philip Movement, some of the Mormon folklore surrounding Joseph Smith, the cults of personality associated with the North Korean leadership.

  42. says

    @CJO:

    Thanks for digging up the citation! I don’t know enough of the relevant history either to say if asserting that there was no historical Muhammad is at all plausible. It just seems a bit extreme as compared to “there was some historical person who has accreted so much mythology that we can say nothing beyond that they probably existed”.

  43. lamanga says

    I didn’t realise this had happened re: the C4 documentary.

    I also only just got the news about this other shit film that has caused deaths by outraged men lacking an education (the fact that they are not educated is not their fault, I hasten to add, and is surely reason enough to mandate a worldwide vaccination program against imbecility).

    Which leads me back to the question I often ponder…

    Why do I fucking hate religion and all it stands for?

  44. says

    Is there a muslim-majority country where the exercise of basic human rights by non-muslims is not likely to provoke immediate physical persecution? Are these persecutions not orders-of-magnitude larger than anything similar which could be cited in the western world?

    Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia immediately spring to mind.

    The charge of abusing the charge of racism is frequently abused by people who want to use criticism of Islam as a means to express racist and/ or xenophobic sentiments in public – I am, therefore, not totally unsympathetic to your cynicism.

    I didn’t know what else to call it when atheists have (accurate) charges of racism hurled at them by theists; Said theists then turn around and ignore any possibility of racism in their own ranks.

    Oh right, appropriation.

    I would however charge you to try this out for yourself. Crticise the Buddhist persecution of Muslims in Burma without reference to the wider “scourge of religion, humans are barbaric” problem. Nobody will give a shit, no matter how long you persist in pointing out that while the problem may be religion, these mobs are motivated to commit horrific acts of savagery by their shared adherence to Buddhism (a religion that provides no incitement to violence whatsoever, as far as I’m aware) and the tendentious

    How would you prove anything with a religion that is the target of less racism?

    Whereas I can see how someone might come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to criticise a religion which happens to be a minority in your parish but which wields considerable power across the rest of the world,

    Wrong-headed asshattery does not inform our reactions to creationism. Why does it here?

    It’s difficult and delicate, but once you step out of the parochial and start looking at religions in the wider context of human society, as opposed to the miniscule part of it you yourself occupy, it becomes far easier.

    The part I occupy? Is 4 continents of discrimination somehow ‘parochial’?

  45. Ichthyic says

    I’ve now watched this documentary.

    this is, AFAICT, the summary:

    1. There is no evidence, not even using the Quran itself, that Mohammed was from, or was anywhere near, Mecca. Rather, it seems he was likely born and lived much further north where there was plentiful agriculture (this from mentions of olive trees, and the city of Soddam)

    2. There is no evidence that the arab takeover of Jerusalem and the middle east in the first half of the 7th century was because of Islam. In fact, there was no mention of Mohammed in any documents or coinage until 50 years later, and THAT only after a civil war got the winner to realize that he needed religion to stoke his claim to control. So, Islam did not birth the rise of the Arabs, but Arabs DID birth Islam in order to help maintain control, just like Constantine used Christianity within the Roman Empire.

    he makes a convincing case of this, I think.

  46. Amphiox says

    Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia immediately spring to mind.

    Indonesia and Malaysia being, in fact, among the largest and most populous of all the Islam-majority states in the world.

  47. Ichthyic says

    but Indonesia as a place where violence against non muslims is rare?

    recent news stories coming from there over the last 20 years suggests that Indonesia is perhaps not a good example of “a muslim-majority country where the exercise of basic human rights by non-muslims is not likely to provoke immediate physical persecution”

  48. says

    ruteekatreya wrote:

    Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia immediately spring to mind.

    You really think a documentary such as this one could be shown in Indonesia without riots breaking out? I have my doubts. I’m not even that sure you could do this in Malaysia (in fact, rioting might actively be encouraged there –particularly with an election potentially relatively soon).

  49. Amphiox says

    Well, up here in good old enlightened Canada, all it took to incite a riot was a lost hockey game.

    But you know, a lot of times these sorts of large scale violent demonstrations aren’t actually as spontaneous as they might appear on the surface.

    There are often players inciting things (and organizing things) behind the scenes.

  50. randay says

    I have heard that Muslims are not as stupid as they sound. So far I have seen no evidence of that.

    You can also read the late Christopher Hitchens’ book, GOD IS NOT GREAT. There is also a short clip of Hitchens on YT explaining the essentials. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5R_-0UO4fs&feature=related

    “The Origins of the Koran and Islam”

    “Islamophobia” is a dishonest word that was invented so Muslims could have something else to be offended about. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims are always looking for something to be offended about: the war on Christmas, antisemitism, islamophobia. They are all just code words for: don’t touch my superstition.

    In France and Germany, the channel ARTE is similar to Channel 4. I hope they pick it up. They have already done a several hour documentary on the history of Christianity–Apocalypse–and another one about Judaism–The Bible Unearthed(on Youtube). I don’t know if they are on Internet, but you can get the DVD’s.

  51. Ichthyic says

    Well, up here in good old enlightened Canada, all it took to incite a riot was a lost hockey game.

    I remember in Chicago when the Bulls won their second championship with Jordan… and rioters trashed downtown.

    evidently, it takes very little excuse for those predisposed to rioting to, well, riot.

  52. says

    I have heard that Muslims are not as stupid as they sound. So far I have seen no evidence of that.

    “Islamophobia” is a dishonest word that was invented so Muslims could have something else to be offended about.

    let’s try a game.

    I have heard that Jews are not as stupid as they sound. So far I have seen no evidence of that.

    “Antisemitism” is a dishonest word that was invented so Jews could have something else to be offended about.

    I hate you fuckers

  53. Ichthyic says

    Anymore got more insight into that?

    Does Holland actually investigate the existence of Mohammed in the book?

    because that’s not what he did in this TV series.

    what I saw was Holland critiquing claims that Mohammed came from, spent time in, or had anything to do with Mecca. Even the Koran suggests he lived far north where there were olive groves.

    I saw nothing addressing the issue of existence itself.

    not saying he doesn’t address that elsewhere, but I didn’t see it here in this series.

  54. Ichthyic says

    let’s try a game.

    actually, I think he did try that. He does seem all inclusive of islam, xians and jews in his missive:

    Like Christians and Jews, Muslims are always looking for something to be offended about: the war on Christmas, antisemitism, islamophobia. They are all just code words for: don’t touch my superstition.

  55. Ichthyic says

    That sound you heard over your head was the point.

    uh, my point was that he had already MADE YOUR POINT FOR YOU.

  56. clastum3 says

    # 53 ruteekatreya

    Those countries were at the top of my mind as being probably the least bad of the muslim states. But check wikipedia-religious-freedom for those states. For Malaysia, we had the “teapot lady” mentioned in pharyngula a while ago, and quite recently in regard to Indonesia there was a whole thread devoted to Alexander Aan, imprisoned atheist.

    For me then, the point still stands: even in the “best” muslim states there are abuses for which it is difficult to find a parallel in any western christian majority state.

    A quick check shows widespread persecution and whole communities of non-muslims being slowly (or quickly) ground out of existence in muslim states. The German magazine “Focus” has an article this week detailing persecutions of christians in muslim countries.

    There’s an unwritten pact of silence on the left in regard to these events, and when confronted with the facts the reactions range from indifference to passive acquiescence.

  57. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    I didn’t know what else to call it when atheists have (accurate) charges of racism hurled at them by theists; Said theists then turn around and ignore any possibility of racism in their own ranks.

    Oh right, appropriation.

    You’re talking about the tu quoque approach that some theists adopt, with varying degrees of eloquence, to shout down atheists. That’s just plain old hypocrisy and sanctimony, not appropriation.

    I’m talking about baseless attempts by oleaginous apologists to equate any criticism of Islam with a criticism of whichever ethnic group happens to practise Islam in the locality; here in the UK criticising Islam is, in the minds of intellectually stunted observers, tantamount to racism against Pakistanis, simply because they happen to be the largest Muslim community in the UK. That, in my mind, is wrong and needs to stop.

    How would you prove anything with a religion that is the target of less racism?

    It’s a foil. Why allow one religion to escape the vigorous scrutiny we are willing to subject “benign” religions to, simply because bigots have hijacked it’s criticism as a means with which to spout bigotry in public? Surely the best response, the one which brings most good to the largest number of people, is to take back the issue of scrutiny of Islam from the tendentious hate mob, rather than allowing them to become the loudest voice in the argument thereby hijacking our own chances of winning it?

    Wrong-headed asshattery does not inform our reactions to creationism. Why does it here?

    How is it wrong-headed? Who wins by allowing the conflation of two seperate issues to continue as though it were warranted? The bigots and nationalists in non-Islamic countries, sure; perceiving the criticism of Islam as tantamount to Islamophobia allows them to claim points every time anyone speaks out about the wrong-doings of morons motivated by Islam.

    You know who also wins? People who have a vested interest in silencing the criticism of Islam; everyone from the tribal elders in Pakistan’s FATA who derive their power from the perception of Islam as sacrosanct and perfect, to the OIC oil barons whom conspiracy theorists accuse of trying to Islamise the world but who are in fact simply trying to prevent people raising ideas that challenge their ludicrous claim to divinely ordained rulership, to morons in Turkey who want to drag the largely secular democracy back from the brink of modernisation and plunge it into the Ottoman period once more, to the leaders of Indonesian Islamist militant groups (of which there are a great many, most of them active) who use Islam as both a recruiting hook and an excuse to commit kidnapping and murder against non-Muslims.

    The part I occupy? Is 4 continents of discrimination somehow ‘parochial’?

    Depends on your approach. If you’re being all Western-centric and refusing to call bullshit on issues that are obviously directly related to Islam – or Buddhism (Assam, Burma), or Sikhism (Khalistan), or Hinduism (Saffron terror), or Orthodox Christianity (Balkans War, Kosovo conflict), or Judaism (the Haredim in Israel), or Christianity (AIDS epedemic, the LRA, Ulster), or whatever – elsewhere in the world simply because white nationalism causes great pain and misery to non-white people (and in some cases white people who happen to be foreign; ask the Poles and Hungarians in the UK about that) in countries with a white majority, then yeah, it is very parochial indeed.

  58. says

    clastum3 wrote:

    For me then, the point still stands: even in the “best” muslim states there are abuses for which it is difficult to find a parallel in any western christian majority state.

    As an aside, if I remember correctly, some of the worst religiously motivated persecution in Indonesia is of Muslims who are not the right kind of Muslim.

  59. says

    For me then, the point still stands: even in the “best” muslim states there are abuses for which it is difficult to find a parallel in any western christian majority state.

    Really? I’m pretty sure I can compare the Armenian genocide to the genocide of Native Americans, again off the top of my head. Don’t we still have that dude in solitary who released documents to wikileaks? And last I checked, we treated Christian prisoners much better than non-Christian ones (Look up what got Huckebean to release the dude who went on a rampage.)

    And I’m not even leaving the USA for this, there are plenty of other christian majority countries in the West.

    For that matter, there’s non-WEstern Christian Majority states. Shall we compare Indonesia to the DNC?

    I’m talking about baseless attempts by oleaginous apologists to equate any criticism of Islam with a criticism of whichever ethnic group happens to practise Islam in the locality; here in the UK criticising Islam is, in the minds of intellectually stunted observers, tantamount to racism against Pakistanis,

    In the UK, it usually is racism against pakistanis and other immigrant groups. And again, if you refuse to acknowledge that racism when you criticize them, you are actually supporting that racist structure, which is a racist act.

    It’s a foil. Why allow one religion to escape the vigorous scrutiny we are willing to subject “benign” religions to, simply because bigots have hijacked it’s criticism as a means with which to spout bigotry in public?

    You’re not letting them escape vigorous scrutiny by pointing out that the pre-eminent white-coded religion does it as well, except that people are forced to stop treating Islam as an alien Other. That shouldn’t be scrutiny you want them under.

    How is it wrong-headed? Who wins by allowing the conflation of two seperate issues to continue as though it were warranted?

    Unless you aren’t in a country that exhibits constant racism towards primarily arabic immigrants, it isn’t conflation of two separate issues; they are intricately linked. You can not exist separately from the culture you’re in. As to who wins, it’d mostly be ‘normal people trying to live their lives without dealing with racist bullshit.’

    You know who also wins? People who have a vested interest in silencing the criticism of Islam;

    Yes, ending racism also helps terrible people who belong to the categories that are discriminated against. That doesn’t mean it’s not to be done.

    Depends on your approach.

    Then no, as I expected. Incidentally, one of those continents is generally not considered ‘western’. Not that South America isn’t included when it’s convenient, but it’s usually not convenient.

  60. says

    recent news stories coming from there over the last 20 years suggests that Indonesia is perhaps not a good example of “a muslim-majority country where the exercise of basic human rights by non-muslims is not likely to provoke immediate physical persecution”

    I’m an atheist gay woman, my girlfriend is an atheist trans lesbian. How many human rights do you think we can exercise in the USA without provoking immediate physical persecution?

    If you want perfect, you’re not going to find it. “Not really worse than the West” is all I was looking for, and it is hard to top aggressive colonizer nations.

  61. brucegorton says

    For me then, the point still stands: even in the “best” muslim states there are abuses for which it is difficult to find a parallel in any western christian majority state.

    Then your comparison isn’t very useful. The Western Christian Majority states are, after all, developed world economies that achieved a lot of that status by raiding the resources of the third world.

    If you are going to compare you need to do it between countries at similar points in their economic development, otherwise there is just too much noise from other factors.

  62. says

    Also, @Fred Salvador, I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but what the hell:
    IT’s really clear to me you are generally on the ball regarding racism. I don’t think you’re some puppy kicker, I think on one specific point, you are supporting racism. It’s not novel for generally on the ball people to fuck up on specific points, and relative to the possibilities, this is pretty small, so I don’t really have any ill will towards you.

    Also, my problem w/huckebean releasing the christian who went on the rampage is only that it was done because he was a Christian, while plenty of others who aren’t remain in prisons that were under his administration. I’d really rather governor’s make occasional mistakes and issue pardons than for them to have every mistake thrown back. My complaint is only the religious bias.

  63. brucegorton says

    Why allow one religion to escape the vigorous scrutiny we are willing to subject “benign” religions to, simply because bigots have hijacked it’s criticism as a means with which to spout bigotry in public?

    Is it really escaping that scrutiny though? I mean I must admit I am posting from South Africa. What I see is a myth perpetuated that Islam is particularly bad and Christianity is somehow milder.

    I look to the North I see Robert Mugabe, a very devout Catholic, and he doesn’t look all that much milder to me. The very devoutly Christian government of Uganda? Doesn’t seem all that mild.

    Even the US operated what seems to amoount to an indefinite detention camp for people whose names they don’t like (AKA: Gitmo), with the perverse reasoning of “Well, if they weren’t terrorists before we black bagged and tortured them…

    And in South Africa, I look around and I see Christian churches selling prayer as an AIDS cure, I see priests who engage in literal witch hunts, I see campaigns of abuse directed at those who would stop stocking Christian magazine because those magazines don’t sell, I read quotes from people who commit “corrective rape” where they say that homosexuality is forbidden by God.

    Sure, every now and then our local Islamic communities seem to get a bee in their underwear about something or other, but for the most part when I see bad religious things happening here, it isn’t from Islamic quarters.

    I read a lot of news because my job involves reading a lot of news, and what I find this who “don’t criticise Islam” thing isn’t really as prevelant as it is billed as. I hear about people being unwilling to criticise Islam, but then I search their archives and often find they have done.

    In other words, I don’t really think it is escaping scrutiny, or at least it isn’t escaping the sort of shallow low grade scrutiny religion seems to get in general.

  64. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There’s an unwritten pact of silence on the left in regard to these events, and when confronted with the facts the reactions range from indifference to passive acquiescence. – clastum3

    Well when you lie about people, as you do here once again, they do tend to resent it. Live with it, shitbag.

  65. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    white nationalism causes great pain and misery to non-white people (and in some cases white people who happen to be foreign; ask the Poles and Hungarians in the UK about that – Fred Salvador

    Can you give me a citation on that? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but it doesn’t fit with what I’ve heard anecdotally about the experience of people from Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic or Slovakia here (unless they are Roma, which very few from Poland are).

  66. says

    Just in case nobody’s pointed this out already…
    What was scuppered was a private screening, for persons mostly unknown. That was indeed due to death threats to Tom Holland – no need, of course, for them to be credible. Anti aircraft missiles only needed to protect hordes of sportsmen and their followers who might be a target, a few folk needing a couple of bobbies to repel real threats can go jump. For Holland himself, of course, the threat will continue regardless.
    Anyway, the repeat, on the television, is scheduled for the crack of dawn tomorrow – 1:05am BST Friday on C4, an hour later on C4+1.
    Should be available on the web for a further week.

  67. clastum3 says

    #76 : KG or Nick Gotts, but ever a potty-mouth :

    Even with my rudimentary internet skills, it only took a minute to find a couple of impeccably left-wing sources for my contention:

    http://www.petertatchell.net/multiculturalism/democratiya8.htm
    “Paralysed by the fear of being branded racist, imperialist or Islamophobic, large sections of liberal and left opinion have, in effect, gone soft on their commitment to universal human rights.”

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/left-cannot-remain-silent-over-honour-killings

  68. Ichthyic says

    two things about this latest discussion:

    one, the comparison really should not be between “christian” and “muslim” states, but rather more, or less, SECULAR states.

    the more secular a state’s government is, the less rights abuses we typically see.

    two, my comment here:

    recent news stories coming from there over the last 20 years suggests that Indonesia is perhaps not a good example of “a muslim-majority country where the exercise of basic human rights by non-muslims is not likely to provoke immediate physical persecution”

    has fuckall to do with what is happening anywhere else. it is NOT a comparison, but an analysis of the example put forward by someone else of a state where there is not physical persecution of non-muslims.

    that is all.

  69. petrander says

    Does Holland actually investigate the existence of Mohammed in the book?

    According to PZ:

    …and he points out that there is no contemporary evidence at all of this person Mohammed…

    But there is contemporary evidence from this Sebeo dude. What gives?

  70. Ichthyic says

    According to PZ:

    …and he points out that there is no contemporary evidence at all of this person Mohammed…

    then I’ll have to disagree with PZ.

    Holland doesn’t address the evidence of existence in the documentary at all really.

    he specifically uses the Koran itself as evidence that Mohammed wasn’t from, or every anywhere near, Mecca.

    *shrug*

  71. Fred Salvador - The Public Sucks; Fuck Hope says

    For me then, the point still stands: even in the “best” muslim states there are abuses for which it is difficult to find a parallel in any western christian majority state.

    The Troubles. ‘Nuff said.

    In the UK, it usually is racism against pakistanis and other immigrant groups. And again, if you refuse to acknowledge that racism when you criticize them, you are actually supporting that racist structure, which is a racist act.

    Agree wholeheartedly, but my approach would be to scrape off the mould rather than simply abandon the loaf. The issue can be rescued from the far right’s clutches and it can be broached in a way that doesn’t increase the net level of Islamophobia and racism in the minds of average slobs.

    What it can’t do is DECREASE the net level of Islamophobia and racism in the mind of the average slob – especially not if you use a line like “whining Muslims”, like I did earlier, which was an appallingly idiotic move on my part and serves only to harm my point.

    But I digress. Criticising Islam can’t decrease the net level of Islamophobia and racism in society – and that’s true no matter how you choose to approach the criticism, wether you single out Islam or make a point of not doing so. The only way to achieve a reduction in the ignorance that leads to racism is to tackle that ignorance head on, as a seperate issue, and resolve never to allow the issues to become conflated. Doing so only makes it harder to speak out against issues that harm normal people who want to go about their lives without having to worry about religious bullshit.

    Can you give me a citation on that? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but it doesn’t fit with what I’ve heard anecdotally about the experience of people from Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic or Slovakia here (unless they are Roma, which very few from Poland are).

    Can’t really “cite” anything, although there was an article in The Guardian a while back concerning a Mancunian landlord and his two Polish tenants who were accosted by local scumbags for a number of months, before someone finally summoned up enough contempt for human life to pour lighter fluid through the letterbox and set the house on fire – an unremarkable incident in Manchester perhaps, but it was quite clear that the only reason these people were being attacked was because of the tenants’ nationality. Beyond that all my evidence is anecdotal too, all concerning incidents the police would describe as “low-level” incidents, like physical assault and verbal harrasment, and of course the ever-present simpletons who believe that an influx of people willing to do jobs British people hate and pay taxes on the peanuts they receive in return is somehow detremental to our economy.

    And in South Africa, I look around and I see Christian churches selling prayer as an AIDS cure, I see priests who engage in literal witch hunts, I see campaigns of abuse directed at those who would stop stocking Christian magazine because those magazines don’t sell, I read quotes from people who commit “corrective rape” where they say that homosexuality is forbidden by God.

    All Christian issues.

    No doubt you’ll go to India and find hard-line Hindus who hold similarly horrific views, but in these specific cases, the problem is Christianity.

    If we can recognise that Christian dogma causes specific problems in specific places without getting defensive, why can we not seem to do the same thing for Islam?

    Robert Mugabe’s devotion to Catholicism is further evidence that he is a batshit insane criminal crackpot whose continued existence as a head of state is an insult to common decency. The extent to which his faith is involved in his villainy is negligible, as far as I’m aware; although I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that his being a Catholic plays some role in the sheer contempt for human beings he displays with his every action, since contempt for human beings is a central tenet of Catholicism. YOU don’t matter; Christianity is

  72. says

    But I digress. Criticising Islam can’t decrease the net level of Islamophobia and racism in society – and that’s true no matter how you choose to approach the criticism, wether you single out Islam or make a point of not doing so.

    You can minimize the increases. You *should* minimize the increases, if they’re inevitable, which I don’t entirely think they are.

    If we can recognise that Christian dogma causes specific problems in specific places without getting defensive, why can we not seem to do the same thing for Islam?

    Because Christianity is white coded and isn’t generally used to browbeat immigrant populations with their subhumanity. They’re not in the same social position. You know this, and have made that knowledge clear. Why do you insist on behaving as if they are, on this point?

  73. randay says

    Ichthyic, thank you for pointing out how Ing: took my words out of context. Ing:’s reply was worthy of Fox News. In fact, if he had looked at my links, he would have seen that I was more critical of Xianity on the whole.
    _____

    Ing:, if I play your word game: I would hardly say that Jews are stupid. I have evidence to the contrary.

    Antisemitism did exist in the past, but now it is a dishonest word that Jews use to stop any discussion about, much less criticism of, Israel or their religion.

    Look at the recent case in Germany. A German court ruled that circumcision is child abuse, which it obviously is. But Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious leaders have banded together to pressure the German government to keep it legal. Even though Christians, Catholic or Protestant, don’t believe in it and don’t make it a rule. That was the one good thing that St. Paul was responsible for.

    Once one superstition is under attack however, they all unify, even for particular things they don’t believe in.

  74. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Antisemitism did exist in the past, but now it is a dishonest word that Jews use to stop any discussion about, much less criticism of, Israel or their religion. – randay

    You’re either an antisemitic liar, or an idiot – probably both. Yes, false accusations of antisemitism are made to deflect criticism of Israel or Judaism. No, that does not mean it no longer exists, shithead. Take a look at Stormfront, read an antifascist publication such as Searchlight, look at the Sturmer-like caricatures and holocaust denial that appear in much of the Arab and Iranian press.

  75. gravityisjustatheory says

    I watched the program when it was originally aired.

    One of his themes was that the conquering Arab armies claimed to be believers, but didn’t state what they believed; that no-one claimed to be following a new religion; that no-one claimed to be following “Islam”; and (I think – this may be from another source) that there may well have been a lot of Christians and Jews among the Arab armies/Muhammad’s followers.

    The implication being that Islam hadn’t yet become the Arab’s religion.

    However, this seems to misunderstand what Islam actually teaches about Muhammad and the origin of Islam (and the development of new religions in general).

    The orthodox Muslim view is that Islam (which just means “Submission to God”) dates back to Abraham (or maybe even Adam). Muhammad was just the last in a long line of prophets (which, incidently, includes Jesus) who were sent to put people back on the true religious path after they had gone astray.

    Which to me sounds entierly plausible (or rather, it is entierly plausible that Muhammed and co believed that).

    After all, the same sort of thing seems to happen with other religions and religious schisms.

    Martin Luther didn’t set out to found a new religion called “Protestantism” – he set out to correct what he saw as flaws and abuses in contemporary Roman Catholic doctrineand practices. “Protestantism” developed gradually as the RCC heirarchy refused to accept Luther’s criticisms, while more and more others sided with him.

    Likewise, noone set out to found “Roman Catholicism” and “Orthodox Christianity” – they just gradually drifted apart as the result of doctrinal differences and political squabbling, all the while insisting they were the Real True Christians.

    Ditto for most of the other Christian denominations (Puritans, Fundamentalists, etc).

    Jesus (if he existed) would almost certainly have been a Jew trying to reform Judaism, and certainly not found a new religion called “Christianity”. “Christianity” as a movement would have crystalized later, when its dogma failed to catch on with the rest of Judaism, but became popular among the Romans.

    It seems to me that only the wackiest of cults (e.g. Scientology) that set out to create an entier new religion with no connexion to existing ones.

    As such, it seems completely unremarkable that the Muhammad and the Arabs were not running around shouting “Hey, we’ve got a cool new religion!”, and that a distinct Muslim dogma only emerged (or at least got recorded) some time later.