Safe countries for women

Political asylum is, quite rightly, a big deal involving international law. The mere mention of the term gets people’s serious attention. We recognise the threat to life and limb for those facing political persecution. Even if systems for providing safety to the politically persecuted are often circumvented, ignored or tardily and imperfectly implemented, those systems exist and are recognised to exist. The political asylum seeker has a claim on our humanity and on our ethics.

It’s a different matter with social asylum. Social asylum doesn’t command quite the same respect, regard, awe or clout. That’s the category covering women who will die from social persecution unless they can get to a safe country. The daily threat to life and limb faced by women living under Shari’a (plus a few other social systems besides) make them no less imperilled than those facing political persecution. Yet women in Kabul or Riyadh or Tehran or so many other capitals cannot walk into a safe country’s embassy or consulate to seek asylum from social persecution. Why is that? I am entirely with Ghada Jamshir (video) in wanting this glaring injustice addressed. Safe countries for women should be an integral part of the UN aspirations, and safe passage for women out of Shari’a jurisdictions an integral part of the Geneva Conventions. If a country or region is unsafe for women, such as all countries practising Shari’a (plus a few more besides), then women and girls from such countries should be presumed welcome in countries where they’ll be safe. If there is systematic war on women or systematic rape of women or systematic enslavement of women or systematic oppression of women, in other words, where their lives and persons are in daily peril, then anything from assisted passage to airlifting should be undertaken for any woman or girl who wants to leave.

Yes, I’m calling for something idealistic to be done on a global scale. But that doesn’t mean we cannot already channel support to the struggling grassroots infrastructure of safe-houses that, with their pathetic resources, are doing all they can to provide whatever relief they can, often ending with the victims forced to return to life-threatening households by the sheer dearth of options.

When will we recognise that we’re talking about more than half the populations of such countries here?  This will save lives, and it might just start making the Shari’a no longer seem like quite such a great idea.

Lest I be accused of picking on Muslims

I’m preparing to write about that thing they call ‘Islamophobia’, but before I do that, I want to put this out there. It is a Christian report (Christian cyberspace seems to be getting off on this) celebrating the cancellation of simultaneous installations of life-size replicas of the Arch of the Temple of Baal in New York and London. The opening line of the report reads:

The Temple of Baal is not coming to Times Square in New York City next month. This is great news, and it represents an incredible victory for Christians in the United States.

Let’s leave aside that the Temple of Baal was never coming to New York; only the arch was (we know what happens to facts when they pass through a religious mind). Later in the article, it does narrow it down to the actual arch. The article ends by attributing this “victory” to “the power of prayer,” but the whole piece is so amateurish as to be laughable. They should’ve consulted that master of religious propaganda, Prof. Tariq Ramadan, who could’ve made the whole thing look almost forensic.

The author, Michael Snyder, is not entirely ham-fisted, though. Still apparently labouring under the misapprehension that the original arch has been destroyed (the UN later showed that it had survived), Snyder has enough savvy to not actually celebrate ISIS’s destruction of our cultural heritage. Instead, the article says nothing about that at all. It is obvious, though, that they wouldn’t be overly inconvenienced if the entire Temple of Baal complex were reduced to rubble: “let us celebrate this victory over the Temple of Baal.”

Worship of Baal has long passed, but not to these Christians, who see it’s manifestations in abortion, pornography and God knows what else. So yes, worship of Baal, and therefore Baal himself, are very much alive today and any edifice to his glory is best, …well, …not replicated. This is something for which not only ISIS, but also the Taliban, can serve as sources of comfort. After the latter had destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, mullah Muhammad Omar declared, “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them.” Don’t worry mullah, your Christian brother is on the same page:

let us not underestimate the prayers of God’s people. Once this story went viral, Christians all over America started praying against this arch. From personal experience, I know that the prayers of righteous men and women are extremely powerful, and we may never know how much of an impact they had on this situation.

They are, after all, People of the Book.

Joining the dots…

What I especially appreciate about the Charlie Hebdo editorial How did we end up here? (of which more here — thanks, Arun) is how it draws attention to the many and mounting little changes and oddities that lie just on the borderline between sinister and innocuous, and how these amount to the equivalent of a bomb smuggled through airport security innocent bit by innocent bit to be assembled later. It moves me to share something that’s been bugging me for some time now.

I’ve been trying to make sense of Nawaz’s “counter-extremism” foundations Quilliam in the UK and Khudi in Pakistan (the latter of which he has since resigned from), until it occurred to me that the “extremism” that these foundations oppose is not the violent Islam we all suppose, but atheism. Their purpose is to deflect questioning away from Islam and the Qur’an thereby better to insulate these, and to channel such questioning/anger/disillusionment into secular, democratic values (who can argue with that?) so that atheism, the real threat to Islam, is kept beyond arm’s reach. While Quilliam ostensibly criticises ISIS and jihadism, it strikes me as effectively a railway switch designed to shunt dissatisfaction with Islam down a harmless (for Islam) track. Similarly, I find it hard to believe that Khudi, an organisation of wealthy Pakistanis, mostly recent graduates from Western universities, can have any impact at all on the brutal, state-supported Pakistani Taliban and its illiterate, tribal constituency. I suspect that the setting up of Khudi might have more to do with the growing atheist bloggers amongst the urban youth in that country (for example, kkshahid), especially as Nawaz is so keen to portray people in the Muslim world as not ready for atheism.

Then I listen to Tariq Ramadan respond to a challenge to his refusal to condemn the Shari’a practise of stoning women to death. In answer to Christiane Amanpour’s clear, direct question, “Should you not condemn out of hand stoning of women for whatever reason?” it takes this Muslim Brotherhood slime bag exactly one minute to neuter condemning the stoning of women into disagreeing with the implementability of capital punishment. He goes from “stoning” (no mention of women) to “penal code” (abstracting) to “death penalty and corporal punishment” (out goes stoning) to “these are not implementable” (and already we are down to the practicality of implementation, rather than the ethics of the act) to “to condemn (while) sitting in Paris is not going to change anything” (claiming pragmatism and superiority) to “while France or the United States of America are dealing with these petro-monarchies and …governments implementing them” (playing the imperialist card) to “I’m against implementing them” (claiming progressive credentials) to “asking the scholars” (deferring) to “what do the texts say? what are the conditions? And in which context?” (it isn’t clear why an Oxford professor cannot read the texts for himself, but instead has to consult the so-called “scholars” — actually, he knows all the answers already) to “in the name of Islam” (pious invocation) to “we have to stop” (action man) to “come to a moratorium on this” (feigning revulsion) to “have a discussion” (claiming reasonableness — even Nicolas Sarkozy was appalled!) to “exactly like Amnesty International” (invoking impeccable authority) to “when it comes to death penalty, it (AI) is saying, ‘let us first go for a moratorium'” to “stop it right now” to “have a discussion.” Now what reasonable person could possibly oppose anyone who says exactly what Amnesty International says? I’d bet you never realised that Amnesty International supports stoning women to death. Thankfully, this extremely dangerous man is fooling fewer and fewer people, but his operation is as focussed on deflecting criticism from Islam as is that of Nawaz.

Anjem Choudary is a vile British ISIS preacher who thrives on spouting Shari’a. In this BBC interview he faces off with Maajid Nawaz. Am I the only one who finds this slanging match less than convincing? For me it raised a whole raft of questions about Ramadan, Nawaz and Choudary. Has anyone else been thinking along these lines?

Muslims worship Muhammad

Yes. They. Do.

Fifty years ago you could still find Muslims referred to in the West as Muhammadans, a term eventually rejected as doubly offensive because it implies that Muslims worship the prophet Muhammad, which would, firstly, be a violation of the shahadah, “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his messenger,” (the first of the five pillars of Islam) and secondly, make Muslims the same as Christians (a vomit-inducing notion).

Muslims claim they love Muhammad more than they love their own flesh and blood. The great tragedy is that this claim is true. Even a hypothetical speculation about the vaguest hint of a possible suggestion of the slightest slur causes deep anguish and pain, of which this is a good example (thanks Allan), but murdering your own daughter? No problem. Beheading your own wife? A relief. Do they love their daughters? Do they love their wives? Of course they do.

Yes, Muslims say they love Muhammad. They love Muhammad so much they cannot utter his name without immediately wishing peace upon him. I’ll repeat that: they cannot utter his name without immediately wishing peace upon him. By that I do not mean may not, as in not allowed to, but cannot bring themselves to. Not that they’d ever want to. This isn’t something they struggle with or find a cumbersome drag on the flow of speech (some, like Nakir Zaik, say it so fast that they hardly break cadence). No, it is an expression of a love so deep (-ly ingrained) that the body physically cannot name their prophet, without appending “peace be upon him.” Of course this is also an expression of respect, with equivalences for other prophets, like Jesus, and other revered persons, like Mary. But in these cases, these suffixes (and prefixes) of respect tend to be uttered only by the particularly pious. However, right from their very earliest days, Muslims never hear Muhammad’s name spoken without that suffix. Think of the baby zebra that, for the first few days of its life, must see only its mother’s stripes so they are firmly burnt into its brain — a kind of madrassa of the savannah.

This is much more than just love. Muslims will tell you that Allah is perfect and that Muhammad was the most perfect human being, the next most perfect thing to Allah. Muslims don’t say that they love Allah, though (except if they’re Irshad Manji), for Allah demands no love; he demands obedience. To love God is to imply reciprocity, which comes perilously close to implying equality (Irshad may wish to reconsider the wording of that declaration). Muslims who obey Allah go forth and slay his enemies not out of love, but in obedience to his commands. God is routinely insulted all over the world, but when was the last time a Muslim gang turned up armed with AK-47s to massacre the entire editorial staff of a magazine for insulting God?

No, sir. Muslims. Worship. Muhammad.


This post started out as a piece juxtaposing two YouTube videos that were published last month within a week of each other:

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz interviewed on Australian television

and Mimi Geerges interviewing Wafa Sultan on radio.

I wanted to show how the slickness of Nawaz and the naïveté of Harris are key obstacles in the way of our developing a realistic perspective on and appropriate response to Islam, while we are sleepwalking into a nightmare. I could not have expressed my frustration better than Wafa Sultan has. In the end, I decided not to write the post, or at least, not yet. Instead, I’ll just leave you with the videos and join in the discussion as it unfolds.

Racism from blacks

The clothing company GAP is in the middle of a controversy over its latest advertisement:

Gap advert

In what pathetic, screwed-up mind does this image register as racist? In a mind like this one:

Anti-GAP tweets

When blacks cannot view the world except through racist lenses, then they are still not healed from racism, much as they might like to think otherwise. Do taller kids not lean on shorter kids? When kids lean on each other in this way, do they think they’re racist? These black parents who haven’t yet freed their own minds from racism cannot but racialise everything that involves black people and white people. If they board a bus and find all the white passengers towards the front and all the black passengers towards the back, do they demand that the bus company rearrange the passengers?

It could’ve been a tall boy leaning on a short girl. What then? Misogyny? A short Muslim chi—no, let’s not go there. I lose all patience when an inferiority complex masquerades as a virtue. Let’s take a closer look at that tweet: “nightshade”, “veganwhileblack” (what?!), “for Black girls” (capital b), but GAP is “Gap”. A shrink would have a field day with this.

The only disappointing aspect of this kind of milked victimhood is that it is so easily given in too. GAP, you have a great ad here and you know it. Where is your backbone?

But as we’re on the subject of black racism, let me vent a bit. I don’t run into much racism from whites these days, whether overt or subtle. But from blacks I get as much as I always did. When it does happen, it’s usually from service workers of one kind or another: hairdressers, technicians, wait staff, etc. I’m not accorded the same level of service or standards of professionalism as accorded white people. This seems to take one of two forms: they either take an attitude of semi-aggressive stand-off in which everything about their demeanour says, “Who do you think you are? You’re black just like me and no way am I standing on ceremony for you!” or they simply take it for granted that they can give me slap-dash service, like turning up three-and-a-half hours late for an appointment, and I’d be just fine with that, presumably because we’re both black and we support each other. It’s white people who complain about that sort of thing; not a black brother or sister.

I pointed out to a black hairdresser in San Francisco that I’m anxious about the thinning hair on the top of my head and asked her to take extra care with it. That I did this politely apparently didn’t make up for the fact that I’m black. She stormed off and handed me over to someone else, after telling my how long she’d been a hairdresser. Had I been white, that would not have happened. Had she been white, that would not have happened.

In London I called a technician to fix my washing machine. On the phone, everything was fine. As soon as he set eyes on me at my front door, everything changed. I dare say there was a fair bit of sexism mixed-in there, too. My educated diction couldn’t have helped. His rudeness was spectacular. It was as if he was insisting on some kind of entitlement over me. Had I been white, he would’ve behaved professionally.

This is the kind of thing that black ideologues, apologists for black sub-standard behaviour, and many on the diversity and equality gravy train just won’t deal with — for fear of… what? Are they afraid of condemnation and ostracisation from people who’ve woven bad behaviour and racism into their identities? Do they fear ridicule from black people who demand respect from whites at the same time as they deny respect to blacks? Do they fear that if they criticise blacks, they will lose the moral high ground in the face of their whites allies? After all, there’s still so much guilt to tap here, so blacks couldn’t possibly be racist. I’ll have no truck with this crap. Racism is racism is racism. Let me not be accused of racism in my dealing with racists, whatever their colour.

Chris Rock, you rock! Why aren’t there more of you?

Lest we lose perspective

It’s easy in this world of people getting beheaded, stoned to death or enslaved to shift our threshold of sensitivity. The shocking news of a newly-married couple where one died on honeymoon and the surviving spouse could not get a truthful death certificate from the Australian authorities who did not recognise their marriage, has been compounded by his treatment at the hands of Hong Kong airport officials. Of course, it’s the case of British couple Marco and David Bulmer-Rizzi who had their honeymoon in Australia. The HK airport security officials only let Marco continue carrying his husband’s ashes on him after a lengthy, distressing and thoroughly inhuman confrontation. Read it for yourself here.

How horrible, how utterly horrible. Yes, airport security people should know the contents of every container taken onto a plane. But that was not the issue here. I’d bet that had this been a heterosexual couple, proof of their marital status would not have been demanded out of respect for the survivor’s grief, or, if such proof were necessary, then it would have been asked for in a manner that acknowledges the survivor’s grief. But these officials couldn’t even manage that. Yet, I must not lose perspective. I remind myself of the Kim Davises of this world, who consciously make it their business to be as callous and inhuman towards gay people as they possibly can.

It should not be necessary for my wife and I to carry our Marriage Certificate (one copy on each of our persons) whenever we travel. But it’d be foolhardy to pretend that the world is not what it is. Yet we must not lose perspective. There are places were both of us could easily find ourselves the victims of “corrective rape,” or where Marco and Dave would’ve been thrown off a roof.

Yes, this is really about Islam: a response to Salman Rushdie

This morning I reread an important opinion piece by Salman Rushdie, Yes, this is about Islam, that appeared in the New York Times on 2 November 2001. I wondered about how Rushdie might update the piece today in light of the intervening fifteen years. It is noteworthy that, within two months of 9/11, this early victim of Islam was able to be clear about the self-conscious nature of the terrorism that such Muslims have unleashed upon the world:

Highly motivated organizations of Muslim men …have been engaged over the last 30 years or so in growing radical political movements… These Islamists — we must get used to this word, “Islamists,” meaning those who are engaged upon such political projects, and learn to distinguish it from the more general and politically neutral “Muslim” — include the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the blood-soaked combatants of the Islamic Salvation Front and Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, the Shiite revolutionaries of Iran, and the Taliban.

Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS were then but tinglings in some far-sighted “Islamist” loins. I highlight this particular passage because, while Rushdie titles his piece Yes, this is about Islam, the piece never actually talks about Islam. It talks only about Muslims and the way they practise Islam. By failing to show how “this is about Islam” and instead introducing the word “Islamist,” Rushdie derails his own project. His piece is structured around a distinction between how two different kinds of Muslim practise Islam: consistent with modernity or inconsistent with it. Rushdie is, in fact, saying Yes, this is about Muslims.

Rushdie was motivated to write the piece in response to world leaders’ repetition of the refrain, “This isn’t about Islam.” According to Rushdie, this is “partly in the virtuous hope of deterring reprisal attacks on innocent Muslims living in the West, partly because if the United States is to maintain its coalition against terror it can’t afford to suggest that Islam and terrorism are in any way related.” Denying the truth of this, he then sets out to show how Islam and terrorism are very much linked, except that he doesn’t. He shows only that Muslims and terrorism are linked, thereby undermining his own concern to distinguish between, “those who are engaged upon such political projects [terrorism], …the more general and politically neutral ‘Muslim’.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others do a much better job of drawing out the connection between Islam and terrorism, and, indeed, also do a better job of distinguishing between Muslims who perpetrate or are sympathetic towards terrorism and Muslims who just want to quietly get on with their lives (Sam Harris, by the way, ultimately falls into the same trap as Rushdie, but that’s for another post). Let’s use Ayaan as representative (although I do have some serious misgivings about her position). In her book Heretic, Ayaan lays out her “Five Theses” in direct reference to Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, and indeed does show that this is about Islam. She does this by uncovering what makes Islam Islam, and zeroes in directly on the Qur’an—something that Rushdie fails to do. This failure on Rushdie’s part surprises me, given The Satanic Verses.

Like Rushdie, Ayaan recognises that Islamic practise is richly spiced with, in Rushdie’s words,

a cluster of customs, opinions and prejudices that include their dietary practices; the sequestration or near-sequestration of “their” women; the sermons delivered by their mullahs of choice; a loathing of modern society in general, riddled as it is with music, godlessness and sex; and a more particularized loathing (and fear) of the prospect that their own immediate surroundings could be taken over — “Westoxicated” — by the liberal Western-style way of life.

But unlike Rushdie, this doesn’t deflect her from the root cause of it all: the Qur’an’s numerous commandments that Muslims wage war against infidels, slay them, sell their women and children into slavery or, if they qualify, subject them to Muslim overlordship. What Ayaan is clear about, and what Rushdie neglects, is that, “the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the blood-soaked combatants of the Islamic Salvation Front and Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, the Shiite revolutionaries of Iran, and the Taliban, [etc.,]” are merely doing exactly as the Qur’an requires of them. Who is to say that a Muslim is not supposed to do this, especially if that Muslim has grown up under pre-modern social conditions and fears being “‘Westoxicated’ by the liberal Western-style way of life.”

To refer to Muslim terrorists and their sympathisers as “Islamists,” is to say nothing more than that such Muslims behave badly, in contradistinction to nice Muslims. This helps neither to safeguard the world against terrorism, nor shield peaceful Muslims from prejudice and attack for the crimes of Muslim terrorists.

No-one can choose their parents, or, for that matter, their parents’ religion. No-one can stop their parents from bringing them up ‘in the proper way.’ In short, no-one is responsible for being brought up a Muslim. And yes, if you subscribe to the precept of individual autonomy — as is central to modernity — then you would have to accept that anyone is free to practise any religion any way they want. But to suggest that the buck stops with the Muslim who engages in terrorism is to shield from scrutiny the religion that motivates him in the first place and will continue to motivate countless others. The Muslim Brotherhood or ISIS is not “a modern phenomenon” as so many contend. The Ottoman navy engaged in slave raids for exactly the same reason that Muslim terrorists engage in terrorism, or a Muslim who set up a TV station specifically to combat stereotypes of Muslims as “extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,” beheads his wife, walks into a police station to report her dead and then feels “an incredible amount of relief” about doing so, or a simple taxi driver commits a brutal murder: the Qur’an commands that they do so. And unless dealt with, it will motivate again and again and again. It is highly misleading to describe a Muslim who merely obeys his holy book as ‘radicalised’.

Islam is much more than “just an idea,” as Maryam Namazie, another proponent of the notion of ‘Islamism,’ will have us believe. Islam is the way you’re hard-wired from birth. Your reactions to events by-pass the brain and register directly in the gut. It takes a strong personality to break this. “Islamist” is, in fact, an unwitting red herring that deflects us from bearing down on the root cause of Islamic terrorism, the Qur’an, and of finding ways of strengthening those who wish to escape the stranglehold their religion has over them. Rushdie’s innocent and politically-neutral Muslims, or moderate Muslims who struggle to reconcile the inhumanity of their holy book with their own humanity and ethics, are not abandoned by our putting the Qur’an in the dock.

Rushdie concludes, “If terrorism is to be defeated, the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based, and without which Muslim countries’ freedom will remain a distant dream.” This is the same ahistorical voluntarism as that of Namazie. The Qur’an, the ruling elites in the Muslim world, and the particular social structure of that world form a tightly-woven and long-entrenched system that isn’t undone by a simplistic adoption of an idea. It is true that secular-humanist principles have been finding a strong foothold amongst the urban youth of that world. This is not because they are being persuaded in a battle of ideas, but because the power relations between the elites and the oppressed in the Muslim world is unravelling. Due to “Westoxication,” that urban youth is changing from underlings in relations of personal dependence to autonomous individuals challenging those personal relations. And it is as autonomous individuals that they are training their sights on the Qur’an, not only as the root cause of Islamic terrorism, but also of the ossification of their societies. They want exactly what Rushdie wants; only they are prepared to really go for it.

Ironically, Western moderate Muslims, who have the legally-protected right to do so, find it almost impossible to be honest about their religion, while the urban youth in Muslim countries every day risk life and limb for openly abandoning it in their thousands, recognising that yes, this is indeed about Islam.

Regular Muslim who loves Muhammad and Jesus murders fellow Muslim

Tanveer Ahmed, 32, a Glasgow taxi driver accused of murdering the shopkeeper Asad Shah, 40, admitted he killed Shah. The victim was stabbed up to 30 times with a kitchen knife and his head was stamped on in the brutal attack on 24 March, the day before Good Friday. He was found with serious injuries outside his shop and was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Ahmed issued this statement:

This all happened for one reason and no other issues and no other intentions. Asad Shah disrespected the messenger of Islam the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Mr Shah claimed to be a prophet. When 1400 years ago the Prophet of Islam Muhammad peace be upon him has clearly said that, “I am the final messenger of Allah there is no more prophets or messengers from God Allah after me. I am leaving you the final Quran. There is no changes. It is the final book of Allah and this is the final completion of Islam.” There is no more changes to it and no one has the right to claim to be a prophet or to change the Quran or change Islam. It is mentioned in the Quran that there is no doubt in this book no one has the right to disrespect the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and no one has the right to disrespect the Prophet of Islam Muhammad Peace be upon him. If I had not done this others would and there would have been more killing and violence in the world. I wish to make it clear that the incident was nothing at all to do with Christianity or any other religious beliefs even although I am a follower of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him I also love and respect Jesus Christ.


Muslim apologists, please answer this one simple question: Tanveer Ahmed is:

  1. an extremist
  2. a radical Islamist
  3. a jihadi
  4. none of the above