Religion

Neener, neener….

Sometimes you just have to stick your tongue out at a bully (and hope you can run faster than he can). In that vein, here’s a quick post for the day:

Mohammed Sucks

The Danish cartoonists who drew this little picture have, once again, received death threats from Muslims who believe that it should be a capital crime to make fun of a guy who’s been dead for hundreds of years.

This is the very reason that Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of our reading selection Infidel, requires constant protection. After co-producing the short film, Submission, with Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh, Ali was given 24/7 protection by the Dutch government, where she was a member of parliament. Today she is living and working in the US, and she has to pay for her own bodyguards.

Why would someone need bodyguards because of a film? Here’s a brief description of Submission from a BBC story:

Submission told the story of a Muslim woman forced into an arranged marriage who is abused by her husband and raped by her uncle. It triggered an outcry from Dutch Muslims.

In one scene the film showed an actress in see-through garments with Koranic script written on her body, which also bore whip marks.

Van Gogh was stabbed several times, and a note stuck to his chest with a knife threatened that Ali would be next. God forbids, apparently, that Muslim women complain about being treated like property. Ali is not the type of woman to allow herself to be bullied. Her first encounter with Western culture came through reading romance novels when she was a girl; later when she traveled in Europe, she was shocked to find that when women roam the streets with their arms and legs bare, society does not devolve into a rape frenzy, as she’d been taught in her Islamic education. Her exposure to freedom gave her the courage to run away in the middle of a trip to join her cousin-husband, chosen for her by her father in an arranged marriage, and she fled to The Netherlands where she claimed asylum.

I don’t know about you, but this all just makes me want to spit on a picture of Mohammed, not give respect to the religion he founded. Just wait until you see the blasphemous knitting project I’ve got in the works!

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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40 Comments

  1. The best thing we can do is post this thing as far and as wide as we can. We can never let this rest. Freedom can never rest. Praise to you writerdd, for using your soapbox as a force for good.

  2. Barely civilized, superstitious, hateful, paranoid, misogynistic tribal barbarism always sucks. Thanks for speaking truth and “bearing witness” to those who fight for rational and free thoughts and actions.

  3. We don't blame cutlery manufacturers each time a person is stabbed or injured. Nor do we boycott the use of a helpful tool gone terribly wrong.

    There are those that would say that because some few skeptics are horrible people that skepticism is a doctrine of hate, barbarism, or immorality.

    A person is uncivilized, barbaric, superstitious, paranoid, misogynistic independent of any and all faith. To connect the two even tenuously would be to condone the stipulation that atheists are godless heathens incapable of love or wonder.

    Can we afford to condemn with the wide brush that all too often is turned upon ourselves?

  4. seanhogge: I'm unclear on quite how, by suggesting a connection between barbarism, and faith in a doctrine which demands barbaric acts of its followers, anyone is demonstrating that atheists are incapable of love.

    Even taking into account the positive aspects of some religions and the good things they've achieved (and yes, I absolutely admit they exist), fundamentalist Islam is not just a "helpful tool gone terribly wrong". These people committing these atrocities – misogynistic, uncivilised, barbaric, and many more unflattering adjectives – are doing what they believe is required of them, according to the dogma in which they have faith.

    We're not just cherry-picking some negative examples and drawing overly broad conclusions about a whole demographic here. Unquestioning adherence to certain ideas *does* tend to lead to inhumanity.

  5. seanhogge: "We don’t blame cutlery manufacturers each time a person is stabbed or injured. Nor do we boycott the use of a helpful tool gone terribly wrong."

    This is the difference between a Toyota Corolla and an assault rifle. Which has killed more people? the Corolla, and by not a small margin. But the assault rifle was made with a very specific purpose in mind, and it wasn't to get you to the grocery store.

    So male atheists sometimes treat their wive's badly. A christian male reads this:

    "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

    Matthew 5:31-32.

    I submit that it's in the Christian Male's Owner's Manual that his wife is not his equal. The atheist is not burdened by this same doctrine.

    This is partly why, in a the thread of a different post, one can not credibly argue that Christianity produces marriages as abusive as Islam. Degree matters in how people are treated. The Koran is much, much more stark and brutal toward women than the Christian bible is. I'll cite some examples should people care for them.

  6. To your first point, I didn't mean to directly connect the two. Only show that similar arguments are made from the other side that seem equally unfounded.

    The problem here seems to be that that fundamentalist Islam isn't a religion. Islam is a religion, and fundamentalists use the same texts and teachings as the rational beings who refuse to distort those texts and teachings.

    More importantly, this is a removing blame from the cause. It is not because Mohammed spoke that these pernicious acts are performed. Can we label Jesus a social terrorist in the light of Westboro and the like?

  7. “fundamentalist Islam isn’t a religion. Islam is a religion, and fundamentalists use the same texts”

    Fair enough, I concede the point.

    This is what I was eventually trying to get at in my comments on the "Lies" thread. Thanks for getting to it in a much less roundabout way.

    Christians bomb abortion doctors. It's due to the fundamentalism, and what the fundamentalists read into the Bible, and not necessarily Christianity itself. So maybe it's a chicken-or-the-egg question. Are religious doctrines going to inevitably lend themselves to this type of interpretation, or is it the case that unbalanced people use these things to their advantage.

    I'm sure this won't be controversial ;) … but, when I was in college, I was very anti-Greek organization/fraternity. Part of the reason was that campus feminist groups had an ongoing antagonism because of several high-profile gang rapes that occured at frat parties. So the question becomes, is the dynamic of a fraternity itself to blame, or is it individuals who would find a way to do horrible things anyway. And then, if the fraternities are out collecting money for lung cancer on the weekend, does the good they do justify their existence in the face of the real harm that they do (I'd argue that the groupthink and hazing and all those sorts of things do harm to the individuals involved, not just the victims of members' crimes)? So I tend to see religion, in general, in a similar light in this type of discussion.

  8. According to Ayann Hirsi Ali, fundamentalism is not a fringe element of Islam, moderates are the fringe. Fundamentalism is the core of Islam, and it is spreading into the moderate fringes. So it appears to be the opposite of what has been happening in Christianity over the years.

    (I'm using fundamentalist as a syonym for extremists here, not in the original sense of a specific Christian doctrine following the "five fundamentals," or even in the slighly newer sense of anyone interpreting a holy book literally.)

  9. flygrrl: Turnabout seems to be fair play, as the chicken/egg scenario you described was certainly a milestone in my projected discussion.

    To explore this, we should also note that human goodness is not limited to or predicated upon the acceptance or existence of religion. How then can human evilry (no, not a word) be the same?

    It does not seem surprising that with the removal of two millenia, we humans have a tendency to distort such things. We can barely interpret our a Constitution with a removal of one tenth the duration. So religion, like college fraternities is merely a road as open to highwaymen as virtuous travelers.

    writerdd: Majority does not lend itself to superiority or veracity. Nor can a religion be defined by its constituency. Its constituency is defined by its adherence (or lack thereof) to the teachings. Like a harmful mutation, extremism (which I have been using synonymously with fundamentalism) is some bad and often inevitable DNA that doesn't make an entire species any less worthwhile.

  10. And to follow up on both seanhogge and writerdd's comments, if the "fundamentalist" (as defined by writerdd) element of Islam is growing, how much of its growth is explained by the general instability of the part of the world it is most widespread in; the poverty, violence, and political unrest. Perhaps it's yet another chicken-and-egg question.

  11. Sorry, seanhogge, I disagree completely. If most Muslims are violent because they are following their holy book that tells them to be violent, then we can certainly blame the religion for that.

    And you are saying that only the nice version of religion is the true version, which has no more validity than saying only fundamentalism is the true version.

    What's with all this protection of religionists all of a sudden, anyway?

  12. seanhogge: "Shouldn’t we toss in some old testament goodies to be fair?"

    Yes, sure. But my offer to quote the Koran is sincere. If you read it and the Old Testament, you find quickly that there isn't much comparison — the Koran is simply *much* worse. And although I conceded partially on the interpretation point, I will point out that the fundamentals of the doctrine matter. The Koran informs certain actions that the Old Testament does not. You can moderate those when you choose to modernize yourself, but the foundations underlying the central organizing philosophy of your life matters.

    flygrrl: "Are religious doctrines going to inevitably lend themselves to this type of interpretation, or is it the case that unbalanced people use these things to their advantage."

    This may seem a stretch, but it's related. I think religious doctrines absolutely lend themselves to fundamentalism. You are, after all, making claims of value about the ultimate truth of the universe. As Tom Harris points out, when your neighbor goes fundamentalist on you, it's better that he uses Jainism's foundational teachings than the Abrahamic faiths foundational teachings. Hence my argument that degree matters.

    writerdd: "Fundamentalism is the core of Islam, and it is spreading into the moderate fringes. So it appears to be the opposite of what has been happening in Christianity over the years."

    This is demonstrably true. "Why?" is the interesting question. I don't have the answer of course, but I've done some research into the origins of Republics,

    Rule of Law, and secular influence of Western culture and government. If you can find a detailed history of the Magna Carta,

    I think that's the best starting point I found. The Mediterranean Republics really were the first large-scale body politic to experiment with the ideas of citizenship conveying some idea of broad equality, but without learning Greek and Aramaic, I found the precursor documents to the Magna Carta enormously fascinating.

    I'm starting to think of 10th century England as the true inflection point. Common Law is an amazing concept, without precedent that I can find, and it's so novel for its time.

    That's probably more than belonged in this, but I find it a fascinating topic.

  13. The chicken and egg question is an interesting one. Ali brings it up in Infidel. In fact one thing that ultimately led her to abandon Islam (I hope this is not a big spoiler) was her observation that secularlism seems to lead to more stable and profitable societies. She seems to feel that it is Islam that has made the societies in the countries where she grew up backwards.

    I really have no opinion on such matters, because I don't know enough about the religion or the cultures in question. (Well, I always have opinions, but I'm willing to admit that I don't really have any answers to these questions and my opinions are flexibile based on what I may learn in the future.)

    At first glance, I have no reason to doubt Ali's conclusions, since she is speaking from first-hand experience. I would be interested in reading opposing viewpoints from other secular individuals who came from similar backgrounds.

    The rest of us are really just speaking from hearsay, and as much as we enjoy arguing about this stuff, our opinions (including my own) are basically garbage.

  14. writerdd: But the Qur'an doesn't tell anyone to be violent. It can be interpreted so, just like Darwin's "racial bigotry."

    I don't claim that any religion is nice. So I'm not sure how to address that point.

    The protection should (I hope) stem from the fact that we should not blindly accept an entire group or system as having a bad rep unilaterally. Can we, as humanists, defend ourselves from our opposed without also defending our opposed from ourselves?

    msd: Since we're speaking in terms of literal interpretation, it would seem, how can one accurately claim that the evil of the old testament is somehow more tolerable (if still abhorrent to a degree)? Murder of children, rape, and the like all exist in the old testament in some form. I'm not as familiar with the Qur'an, but I don't recall anything much worse within. Unless you're speaking of frequency? How can owning one slave be less wrong than owning two?

  15. seanhogge: "Nor can a religion be defined by its constituency."

    I would argue that a religion *is* its constituency. Perhaps the Bible can't be defined by Catholicism's constituency.

    And perhaps "evilry" wasn't a word this morning, but it's going to be one soon if I have anything to say about it.

  16. writerdd: I do not speak from hearsay. If I do, then I either rescind it, ignore it, or flag it. I assume the rest here do the same.

    If you remove the ground for productive discussion by calling all opinions garbage, what hope?

    msd: If I have anything to say about it, it'll be pronounced with a short "e," stress on the first syllable. Sounds British, refined, and kickassitous.

  17. Almost everything I've ever read about evangelical and fundamentalist Christians written by someone who has never been one is wrong. So I assume that pretty much everything said about fundamentalist Muslims by someone who has never been one is probably also largely wrong, including a fair bit of what I say myself.

    The discussions are interesting, but since I don't think anyone here has any personal experience living in a fundamentalist Muslim country, or even being a moderate Muslim, our opinions are are of limited value in making any valid judgments about the situation.

    That doesn't mean we can't discuss it, but it does limit the degree of real understanding we have. There are some things you just can't understand without living it. I can't fully understand what it is like to be a parent, for example.

    Is that better?

  18. seanhogge: "But the Qur’an doesn’t tell anyone to be violent. It can be interpreted so, just like Darwin’s “racial bigotry.”"

    Really, you need to read it. Pretty much now. This took me about 10 minutes starting with google and "quran online search" as my search terms. The following are quotes, cut&pasted directly.

    The Women

    [4.89] They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

    [4.90] Except those who reach a people between whom and you there is an alliance, or who come to you, their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people; and if Allah had pleased, He would have given them power over you, so that they should have certainly fought you; therefore if they withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you a way against them.

    [4.91] You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given.you a clear authority.

  19. Not really.

    I (and I hope "we" is also applicable) do not discuss with any authority anything that requires such experience. As a specific example: I do not need to be a fundamentalist Muslim to indicate that an interpretation of their scripture forbids killing. I do not need to be a fundamentalist Muslim to say that their religious views are an aberration according to their own texts.

    This is the same reason we can sentence criminals, impeach Presidents, and rehabilitate the mentally unstable without ever having been a criminal, a President, or committed.

  20. I have read the Qur'an, though my copy came from the hands of a Lebanese Muslim, not a Google search. I will attempt to locate it, since my memory on the passages is poor thanks to a temporal displacement of several years.

    Though my dispute of your sense of the Qur'an ir more conjecture at this point, I maintain it, if loosely!

  21. When I said, “Barely civilized, superstitious, hateful, paranoid, misogynistic tribal barbarism always sucks.” I was speaking to the thoughts and actions of a clearly identified group of folk who’s thoughts and actions result in the intimidation, threatening, harm and deaths of those they disagree with. My comment was not specifically intended to denigrate the Islamic religion as opposed to the nasty types who wear that mantle when they kill and maim. Th en again most Muslims, if polled, would likely advocate or support the type of violence that resulted in the death of Van Gogh in the Netherlands in the same way there were spontanious celebrations on the streets in Muslim countries on 9-11.

    Our author mentioned Ayann Hirsi Ali’s notion that secular societies are more stable and profitable. This would seem true when there is an associated notion of necessary freedoms and liberties. The USSR and communist China were and are horrifying examples of secular societies. And while there is and may have been stability, and currently profitability in China, it is not achieved at a worthwhile cost when considering the many millions who have been killed and imprisoned to achieve a proletarian utopia.

  22. James: Point. I do see that I associated your comments with a general sense instead of their intended meaning. I type corrected.

    Also, msd: the passages you posted say to me: If a group of people persecutes you, fight 'em. If they withdraw, then Allah has not given you a way against them. This means leave 'em alone.

  23. Well, I don't even agree with myself that we can't have any opinions about anything which we have not personally experienced, but I do know that outsiders to religions don't usually understand what is really going on as comprehended by the insiders. So I trust Ali's explanations about what is going on within Islam and what Islam is about, much more than my own ideas in such a case.

  24. Here's an interesting article on a related topic:

    My Saudi Valentine

    By RAJAA ALSANEA

    Where I come from, dating in the Western sense is not acceptable, either socially or religiously. Though most Saudis sympathized with “the Qatif girl” — a young woman who was gang-raped while in a car with a male friend, then sentenced to 200 lashes for “mingling” — and relieved when King Abdullah pardoned her last year, that does not mean that sitting with a strange guy in his car is considered appropriate.

    The rest is here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/opinion/13alsan

  25. I doubt you could equate "secular society" with communist china and the USSR.

    Most western societies are secular, the USSR and China were "communist" societies. Communism added a number of restrictions that don't apply to democratic societies (like outlawing religion altogether). In a similar way, "theocratic" societies have a number of restrictions in place that don't apply to secular societies.

    As such, it would seem that stability correlates with freedom, not merely with secularity.

  26. For stability, I'm not certain that's correct. If we look at Roman society, it had incredible stability. The empire stood for more than a thousand years. Yet, people had nowhere near the freedom that we enjoy.

    Women were under the authority of the pater familias their entire lives, whether this person be their father or husband. The pater potestas granted him the authority to even kill her under certain circumstances. This authority extended to all his children, and as I recall even to his slaves.

  27. Well, Islamic nations are extremely stable too. Anybody who causes waves is dealt with instantly and harshly.

    It's those pesky heretics outside their borders that are causing all the instability.

    In that sense, the Roman Empire was only stable because it was large enough to be able to afford the occasional loss of territory to the barbarians. Conquest kept things quiet internally, and nowadays, that's frowned upon (remeber Gulf War I?)

  28. Except that the Roman "stability" never lasted a thousand years. About half that. The Empire only rose around the start of the common era, as the Republic fell.

    Is stability defined as mere existence? There are Islamic nations that I would admit have existed for a long while, but would hardly call stable. Perhaps Rome was only stable during Pax Romana, a time in which its citizens lived relatively undisturbed.

  29. PZ has a post up today called "It's not just the Muslims" where he talks about a Kansas school basketball team that won't let women referre because "a woman shall not have authority over a man" (even if that man is a 7 year old boy, apparently)…

    The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.

    The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

    Um, have they ever heard of MOTHERS? But you know, this sounds like Ayaan Hirsi Ali's description of how her brother was not required to obey her mother because males, y'know, are just better. It's a penis thing.

    I'm really sick of all these stories of people wanting to break the law and using religion as an excuse. Barf.

  30. Well, I was paraphrasing Ali and I'm not going to look up what she said to quote it right now, but basically she was saying "Hey, Europe is a great place to live and there's no one shoving religous rules down your throat. Where I grew up, there were wars and famine and wife beatings and…. and I wonder why Islam, if it's so great, can't create a nice beautiful society like I'm seeing in Europe."

  31. I’m really beginning to think there’s just something in the water in Kansas. Every time I hear something outrageous these days, it’s usually preceded by “The Kansas [insert organization or governmental body here]”

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