Archive for the ‘Religion of Peace’ Category

The Yazidis

August 9, 2014

The Yazidis of Iraq have been much in the news lately and not in a good way. The Islamic terrorists who have been gaining power in Iraq in the wake of the US withdrawal have taken to murdering and oppressing every non Muslim in the territories they control, but they seem to have a particular hatred for the Yazidis. Currently, some 40,000 of these people are trapped on a mountain without food or water with the choice of dying for their faith or converting to Islam. Who are the Yazidis and why do the Islamic fanatics hate them?

The Yazidis are a people that live in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and Syria as well as Armenia and Georgia. There is also a small population of Yazidis in Europe who have fled the persecution in their native lands.  They speak Kurdish as their native language and many speak Arabic, but they are neither Arabs or Kurds. While their culture is very similar to Kurdish culture they have a distinctive religion of their own. The precise population of the Yazidis is not know but it is estimated that there are around 700,000 of them. Their numbers are declining due to persecution.

Yazidi men in Mardin, late 19th century

Yazidi men in Mardin, late 19th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Yazidis are distinguished most by their ancient religion. They are quite secretive about their beliefs and little is known. Their religion seems to be something of an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, but there are many other influences including the religions of ancient Mesopotamia, Mithraism, and some mystic elements of Christianity and Islam. The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in one God who created the universe. After the creation, God entrusted the rule of the universe to seven angels who were His emanations. The chief of these angels is named Malik Taus or the Peacock Angel. Malek Taus was either cast out of Heaven or left voluntarily in a manner strikingly similar to legends of the fall of Lucifer, especially as found in the Koran. Like Satan or Iblis, refused to bow to Adam. While Allah in the Koran expelled Iblis from Heaven for his pride and he became Satan, the Yazidi account has the Creator praising Malik Taus for his steadfast refusal to worship anyone besides God and places him in charge of the Universe.  Malik Taus extinguished the fires with his tears and was reconciled with God.

English: Malak Taus ქართული: მალაკ ტავუსი Kurd...

English: Malak Taus  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These beliefs along with an alternate name for Malik Taus, Shaytan, have led many believers of the other monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to suspect that the Yazidsis are devil worshipers. This the Yazidis steadfastly deny. They do not believe that Malik Taus is an evil being. Indeed, they do not believe in a devil at all, holding that evil comes from human actions. Nevertheless, the coming of the religion of peace and tolerance to Mesopotamia in the seventh century has resulted in centuries of often savage persecution.

In practice, the Yazidi religion is much concerned with ritual purity, much like Zoroastrianism. They do not like to mix the elements; earth, air, fire, and water and have a complicated system of taboos. They believe that they are a people apart, descended not from Adam and Eve like the rest of the human race, but they are descended from Adam alone. They do not marry outside their community and they do not accept converts. In addition, they believe that too much contact with outsiders is polluting and limit such contacts. This, doubtless, does not endear them to their neighbors.

The Yazidi pray five times a day, facing the sun and make pilgrimages to the  tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a Sufi mystic whom they believe to be an avatar of Malik Taus. This tomb is in the city of Lalish, Iraq, where there are many Yazidi shrines. They are supposed to have two holy books, the Kitêba Cilwe or Book of Revelations and the Mishefa Reş or the Black Book. These books seem to be forgeries, however, written by Westerners around 1912 to take advantage of travellers’ interest in the Yazidis. The material in the books seems to incorporate the actual oral traditions of the Yazidis and may be accurate accounts of their beliefs. Westerners have been fascinated by the Yazidis’ obscure and secretive religion and they have often been depicted as on order of devil worshipers by writers such as H. P Lovecraft.

Now there is a distinct possibility that this ancient community will be exterminated. It seems to me that the real devil worshipers in Iraq, and elsewhere, are the ones whose god commands them:

And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

and:

Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

But perhaps the ISIS simply doesn’t understand their own religion.

 

 

A Bug or a Feature?

May 24, 2014

Some recent events in Africa, the death sentence for a young woman from Sudan for being a Christian, and Boko Haram‘s kidnapping of more than two hundred schoolgirls has elicited condemnations from people around the world, including some in the West who believe that any criticism of Islam counts as islamophobia. I suppose that would be too much to hope that these people will finally make the connection and realize that we, the civilized world, really do have a problem with Islam. No doubt they will mouth the usual platitudes about Islam being a religion of peace and explain that these detestable deeds are the actions of ‘extremists’ such that are found in any religion. Well, people of virtually every religion have committed atrocious deed in the name of their gods, yet somehow these days, this seems to happen far more often among the practitioners of one particular religion, Islam. The question that needs to be answered is whether violence , terrorism and intolerance are bugs, problems with misunderstanding the teachings of religion, or features, understanding the teachings of the religion all too well.

Before going any further, I would like to deal with a particular idea that I have seen in various places, the idea that Islam is where Christianity was several centuries ago. This notion has more to do with vague ideas about moral progress than with any serious study of the comparative histories of the two faiths. The idea seems to be that there is a definite direction to history in continuing moral improvement. This seems true enough. We no longer have slavery or burn witches. Still, I am not convinced that there has been any real change in human nature. We do not have slaves because we have machines. If our machines were to fail us, slavery, or some form of unfree labor would make a swift comeback. The history of the doctrines of every religions alternate between periods of comparative laxity and rigor. The more rigorous periods do not necessarily coincide with violence and intolerance. It is difficult to imagine a religious revival among the Jains or the Quakers producing suicide bombers. The idea that Islam is somehow behind Christianity and less morally developed is condescending and doesn’t really explain why Islamic rigor is more associated with violence than Buddhist or Christian rigor.

This idea also ignores the very real differences in the teachings of the two faiths. Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Mohammed agreed and added that dying by the sword in the cause of Allah was the greatest fate any man could hope for. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. Mohammed was a political and military leader as well as a prophet. A Christian who commits an act of terror is acting against the teachings of his Savior. A Muslim who commits an act of terrorism is following the instructions of his prophet.

I don’t recommend that you take my word for this. Consider that Sudanese woman. She has been sentenced to death for apostasy, leaving Islam. Almost everyone in the West finds any punishment at all for apostasy to be an infringement of religious liberty. In the Middle East, the death penalty for apostasy enjoys wide support.  Here is a defense of the death penalty for apostasy from what seems to be a fairly reasonably religious authority. Read the Koran. It is full of incitements to violence, especially Sura 9.

Consider these stories about Mohammed and his companions.

The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.”  Thereupon Muhayyisa leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.  Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time, though he was the elder brother.  When Muhayyisa killed [the Jew] Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, “You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?”  Muhayyisa answered, “Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.”  This was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam… [Huwayyisa] replied exclaimed, “By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!” and he became a Muslim. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 554)

When he asked who I was I told him that I was one of the [Muslims].  Then he laid down beside me and lifting up his voice began to sing: “I won’t be a Muslim as long as I live, nor heed to their religion give.”

I said (to myself) ‘you will soon know’ and as soon as the badu was asleep and snoring I got up and killed him in a more horrible way than any man has been killed.  I put the end of my bow in his sound eye, then I bore down on it until I it out at the back of his neck. (al-Tabari 1440)

When he [Muhammad] asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, “Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad bin Maslama and he struck off his head.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764)

Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka’b). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” (Bukhari 59:369)

There are man, many more. These stories are from the hadiths, anecdotes about Mohammed’s sayings and deeds. These stories were transmitted orally for over a hundred years before Muslim scholars began to write them down. There is no way to know if any one of these anecdotes is a true account, if the story has become corrupt after numerous retellings, or if it has simply been fabricated. The scholars who collected these hadiths were aware of this problem and rejected many that they believed to be spurious. Even the ones that they collected were felt to have varying degrees of reliability. It doesn’t matter, though. The important point here is that these were actions that the first generations of Muslims believed to be worthy of approval and imitation. Violence in the name of Islam was something approved of and even part of the attraction of the faith. Read that first story again. Huwayyisa was so impressed by the willingness of his brother to kill a family friend that he immediately converted. (Either that or he was afraid his brother would kill him if he didn’t convert.) To the early Muslims, fighting was a way to get plunder in this life and paradise in the hereafter. Mohammed approved of violence and since he is considered to be the ideal for every Muslim to emulate, his followers ought also to approve of violence.

To answer the question then, violence and intolerance are features of Islam, not bugs.

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The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled

March 28, 2014

After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, many of our political leaders took pains to assure us that Islam is a religion of peace. The nineteen men who committed the atrocities on that date were said to have followed an extreme version of Islam, a version not shared by the vast majority of peace loving Muslims. Many people, however, cannot help but wonder whether a religion whose adherents are responsible for most of the terrorism in the world today might not promote violence in its teachings. Being a religion with more than one and a half billion followers, contemporary Islam is of course very diverse. There are many, many Muslims who are indeed peaceful, and many who are not. How, then, can we determine whether the doctrines of Islam promote peace or violence?

One way, might be to go back and look at the founder of the religion. After all, a tree is known by its fruits. The Prophet Mohammed in Arabia founded Islam more than fourteen centuries ago. To this day, Muslims look upon him as a perfect man to be emulated. Stories of his sayings and deeds, known as the Hadiths, are second only to the Koran as a guide to Muslim behavior. So then, learning whether Mohammed was a man of peace or of war should go a long way in determining whether Islam is a religion of peace or of war.

That is just what Harry Richardson has done with his book The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled. Mr. Richardson tells the story of the life of Mohammed using Islamic sources including the Koran. Along the way, he shows how Mohammed’s example is used by terrorists to justify their actions. For, Mohammed was not a man of peace. He and his religion were peaceful enough when they were a small sect in Mecca. After the move to Medina, where Mohammed took power, the new religion quickly became very violent and intolerant. Under Mohammed’s rule, any atrocity or betrayal was justified if it furthered the cause of Islam. As Mr. Richardson shows, this same ends justify the means mentality is still used by all too many people in the Islamic world.

islam

Harry Richardson covers most of the same ground as Robert Spencer does in his books about Islam. I think though, that Richardson’s approach is more accessible than Spencer’s. He begins with the assumption that the reader knows little or nothing about Islam and explains the results of his own research referring to his sources. Although Mr. Richard may have begun his studies knowing little about Islam, he was clearly spent a lot of time and effort educating himself. He is also less confrontational than Robert Spencer often has been.

I can strongly recommend that anyone interested in what is going on in the world of Islam read this book and then go on to read the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. If we are to prevent more attacks, we need accurate information about those who regard us as the enemies of Allah. Our leaders are not interested in telling us the truth about Islam, so we must educate ourselves. Harry Richardson’s book is a good place to begin.

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No Muslims on Mars

February 20, 2014
Marvin the Martian

Probably not a Muslim

 

 

As humanity spreads out into space and begins to colonize other planets, it is possible that Muslims will not be among the first wave of space explorers, at least not if they obey a fatwa reportedly issued recently. I read the story in the Telegraph.

 

Muslims have been warned in a Fatwa not to go and live on Mars because it would pose “a real risk to life”, according to a Dubai news organisation.

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the United Arab Emirates said that anyone making such a “hazardous trip” is likely to die for “no righteous reason”.

They would therefore be liable to a “punishment similar to that of suicide in the Hereafter”, the Khaleej Times reported.

The Fatwa was apparently issued in response to the proposal from the Dutch company Mars One last year to send four people on a one-way journey to the red planet in 2022.

“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the committee said. “There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”

“Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Koran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful,” the committee, chaired by Professor Dr Farooq Hamada, said.

Over 200,000 people have applied to be civilian-astronauts on the Mars One mission. Experts have questioned both the financial and practical viability of the mission.

The Mars One website states: “It is Mars One’s goal to establish a human settlement on Mars. Human settlement of Mars is the next giant leap for humankind.

“Exploring the solar system as a united humanity will bring us all closer together. Mars is the stepping stone of the human race on its voyage into the universe.”

 

I wonder what Dr. Farooq Hamada thinks about suicide bombers. I don’t think that risking death to explore space is the same thing as suicide. Space is a dangerous place, but we all have to die sometime and I don’t think I would mind dying while exploring strange new worlds, not that I would ever have that opportunity. I am not sure I would want to live on Mars as part of a four person colony, especially if there were no possibility of returning to Earth. When Mars One first announced their proposal to settle Mars, I thought the first colony would involve hundreds, or at least tens of colonists. I think having just three other people on a whole planet might get old after a time.

It occurs to me that Muslims might have another problem with living on another planet, besides the risk traveling there. Muslims are required to pray five times a day while facing toward the holy city of Mecca. Islamic religious authorities have already determined that a Muslim in orbit should pray facing the Earth, but what direction should a Muslim on Mars face? Perhaps they could face the Earth, but what if the Earth is on the other side of the Sun? I suppose they will work out some solution eventually, or just stay behind on Earth.

Whatever happens, I will be looking forward to seeing the colonization of Mars. It is too bad that I am not going to live long enough to see the development of terraforming techniques to make Mars and Venus livable.

 

 

 

 

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Polio’s Comeback

December 2, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago that the disease poliomyelitis, or polio, was feared all over the world, even in the most advanced countries. Polio is a contagious disease caused by the polio virus. While most people who are exposed to the virus do not show any symptoms, if the virus gets into the bloodstream or into the central nervous system, the results can be dire. In the worst cases, the virus may cause permanent paralysis. Polio became epidemic in the twentieth century and the worst outbreak in the United States was during the 1950’s. Every year, people dreaded the summer and the polio outbreak that would come. It must have seemed a near miracle when Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine and ended the threat of polio. Polio rapidly became unknown in the West and it seemed that the disease would soon be eradicated worldwide.

Polio is making a comeback in the developing world, however. Is this because the vaccine has become ineffective? Have international health agencies lost interest in distributing the vaccine? No. What has happened is that Muslim authorities in several countries have become convinced that polio vaccination is a conspiracy against the Islamic world and have declared jihad against it. Here is the story in USAToday, which I found through Jihad Watch.

Once close to eradication worldwide, the dreaded disease polio is resurfacing in Muslim-majority countries where vaccinations are hard to come by due to war, religious edicts and ignorance, experts say.

The latest example comes this week in Syria, where a strain of polio originating in Pakistan has crippled more than a dozen children, according to doctors for the Kurdish Red Crescent. Cases have also been showing up in Somalia, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The problem is prompting some polio-free countries to demand that visitors from high-risk countries take oral vaccines at the airport upon arrival if they cannot prove they’ve gotten the vaccine.

“The Saudi government has introduced restrictions for all those traveling to the Holy Land from polio-affected countries,” said Mazhar Nisar of Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Regulations and Services.

“Every pilgrim is to take polio vaccine before traveling to Saudi Arabia and also upon arrival at any of the international airports in the Kingdom,” Nisar said.

It says something when the Saudi government, where they still execute people for witchcraft, is the voice of reason. Other people are far less sane about this matter.

In Pakistan’s Northwest territories, where Taliban clerics have significant influence, polio vaccination teams are maligned as un-Islamic or Western purveyors of poison meant to sterilize Muslim women.

A cleric in Pakistan’s Punjab province warned that a jihad would be launched against polio vaccination teams, whose mission he labeled a Western conspiracy, frightening away a team that arrived in Muzaffargarh, according to The Express Tribune.

This week, militants in northwestern Pakistan kidnapped 11 teachers involved in a polio vaccination campaign. Local official Khyali Gul said the teachers were taken from a school in the Bara area, close to Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan.

The United Nations in Pakistan pulled its staff involved in immunization from Pakistan after three eradication workers were shot in Peshawar and two of them were killed, in 2012. Since then, more vaccine teams have been targeted.

Without vaccination, the cases of polio are rising in Pakistan, as is the appearance of the Pakistani strain of polio in other countries where infected Pakistanis travel.

The Pakistani polio virus was found in sewage samples in Israel in June this year (the virus can be found in fecal matter of an infected person) and in Cairo in January.

It would be bad enough if the effects of this sort of idiocy were simply the spread of polio in places like Pakistan. In this age of rapid and easy travel, no disease can be stopped by national borders for very long. Despite any precautions by other countries, polio is likely to spread among the unvaccinated, even in Europe and America.

The World Health Organization says the once-rare disease could be resurrected and has declared a polio emergency across the Middle East. Allias Durray, a doctor who is the chief of polio eradication for Pakistan, warned that Europe may be next.

“After the Syrian polio outbreak and the flight of refugees in proximity to Turkey and European Union, it is evident that the polio virus is at the doorstep of Europe,” he said.

Not all countries check for polio vaccinations among foreign visitors from countries where polio is considered endemic. The United States requires immigrants be vaccinated, but not visitors.

“We collaborate closely with international organizations and other countries to make sure that international and U.S. guidance on vaccination for immigrants is implemented, said Donda Hansen, media spokesperson for the Center for Global Health at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

“The U.S. maintains ‘elimination status’ in the U.S. by aggressively investigating every suspected case to determine whether an importation has occurred, taking steps to prevent transmission, and safeguarding Americans,” Hansen said.

It’s too bad a general quarantine cannot be imposed against the parts of the world controlled by these fanatics until they see reason.

It is not clear why Islamic authorities would oppose vaccination. Inoculation or vaccination seems to have been invented in either China or India. It was widely practiced against smallpox  in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and European travelers from that country brought the knowledge of the procedure to Europe and America. There is no prohibition of the practice in any Islamic scripture or law that I know of. Medical products made from unclean animals like pigs have been ruled acceptable for use by both Jewish and Islamic authorities. It seems clear that saving lives is of greater importance than dietary purity. Perhaps the concern is not really religious at all, but stems from a general paranoia and hatred of the West. Whatever the cause, the fools making the fatwas will not be hurt as much as the innocents who will have their lives blighted by their ignorance.

Jihad Against the Ahmadis

September 17, 2013

Some news of the Religion of Peace and Tolerance courtesy of Jihad Watch. A conference held in Lahore, Pakistan called for a boycott against the Ahmadi population of the city with the goal of ridding the city of such contemptible infidels. Here is the story in the International Herald Tribune.

LAHORE: Speakers at an anti-Ahmadi conference on Saturday vowed to expel all members of the Ahmadi community from the city.

The Radd-i-Qadianiyat Conference was held at Jamia Naeemia. The participants were told they had a duty to wage a holy war against Ahmadis. The audience which included a large number of students of the Jamia, vowed to wage ‘jihad’ against Ahmadis through their writings, speech, charity funds and corporal strength.

Maulana Ghulam Hussain Kiani, one of the speakers, said they would force Ahmadis to leave the city. “Their presence has polluted the city… their so-called places of worship are in fact centres of conspiracies against Muslims,” he said.

Kiani said that he had the ‘honour’ of ensuring the removal of Kalma Tayyeba from Darul Zikr, an Ahmadi worship place, at Garhi Shahu.

Advocate Badiuz Zaman, another speaker, told the participants not to befriend any Ahmadis. “Sharing utensils with Ahmadis is sinful,” he said, “Being friends with them is worse… the Holy Prophet (pbuh) disapproved of that.”

Zaman asked the participants to promise that they would do everything in their power to oppose Ahmadis in every way.

Stage Secretary Maulvi Muhammad Asghar urged the participants to take practical measures against the ‘blasphemers’. “How can you eat your meals in peace while there are Ahmadis living peacefully in your city?” he said. Asghar accused former Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jehangir of committing blasphemy, “That must be stopped at all cost,” he said.

Asghar also told the participants to stop consuming foods and beverages produced by Shezan. “They are made by Ahmadis. Buying these helps their movement against Muslims,” he said.

“There are 1,200 Ahmadis currently fighting for the Israel Defence Forces,” Asghar said, “They torture innocent Muslim Palestinians… Muslims shouldn’t even shake hands with Ahmadis.”

Sahibzada Syed Ibrarul Hasan Shah was also critical of the Ahle Hadith.

He said, “I don’t know why they think they are the ‘thekedars’ (guardians) of Khatam-i-Nabuwat … they don’t even have the proper respect for the Holy Prophet (pbuh).”

The head of Jamia Naeemia said that according to the law, Ahmadis could not call themselves Muslims or preach their faith. They could also not call their places of worship mosques, but did.

The state should take action against them for violating the law, he said. “All schools of Islamic thought agree that Ahmadis are not Muslims,” he said.

Several people recited poems insulting Ahmadis and their religious leaders.

Mufti Haseeb Qadri, another speaker, regretted the language and criticised the conference organisers. “There should be some difference between the language used in the streets and a conference in a religious seminary,” he said, “The speakers should not have used indecent language. They should have focused on the subject.”

Munawar Ali Shahid, a member of the Ahmadiya community told The Express Tribune that the Anti-Ahmadi campaign was making their lives difficult.

He said the community in Lahore feared for their lives. “Many Ahmadi businessmen have left the city… instead of curbing such hateful speech the government provides these people security,” Shahid said.

How terrible that some people are allowed to live in peace. They should be driven out, along with the Jews, Christians and other infidels.  Then, everyone will know that Islam stands for the peaceful coexistence of diverse groups and anyone who says otherwise is an intolerant islamophobe.

The Ahmadis, in case you were curious, are a reformist sect of Islam that was founded in British India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad towards the end of the nineteenth century. The Ahmadis share most of the beliefs of orthodox Sunni Islam. They agree that Mohammed was the final prophet and accept the authority of the Koran and Hadiths. There are some differences, however, and these differences have resulted in savage persecution by more mainstream Muslims. While the Ahmadis do not believe that Ahmad was a prophet, they do consider him to be the Messiah. Unlike orthodox Muslims who believe that Allah took Jesus to Heaven and substituted another person in the crucifixion, the Ahmadis believe that Jesus died a natural death in the Kashmir and that Ahmad fulfills the prophecies that Christians attribute to the Second Coming. They tend to reject jihad and emphasize the peaceful spread of Islam and look forward to the day when all humankind is united in peace under the banner of Islam. They also reject the doctrine of abrogation, in which conflicting verses of the Koran indicate that Allah has abrogated the earlier verse in favor of a new revelation. Ahmadis hold that all the verses of the Koran are equally valid and that any contradiction must be resolved according to the appropriate circumstances.

These differences appear minor to the outsider, but somehow it is the minor heresies that inspire the most hatred. The more orthodox Muslims of India and Pakistan view the Ahmadis as heretics and apostates and assign the same status to them as kafir or infidels. As the article above shows, they are definitely not considered to be Muslims. Their insistence that they are indeed Muslims, and closer to the primitive doctrine than mainstream Islam only makes the prejudice of the Muslims against them even worse than any bigotry against Christians or Jews. This hatred is so great that the only Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize, Abdus Salam, was largely ignored by the Pakistani government because he was of that sect. The description “Muslim” was ordered to be erased from his tombstone by the courts.

I guess as long as these people are planning jihad against such despicable infidel and heretics, they don’t have to worry about Pakistan’s real problems, such as a collapsing economy or a corrupt government.

 

Going to War in Syria

August 27, 2013

It would seem that we are preparing military strikes against the Assad regime in Syria. I can’t even begin to say what an incredibly stupid idea this is. Yes, it is deplorable that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the rebels. Yes, the current government of Syria is a vicious tyranny that has violated the human rights of the people of Syria and it deserves to be overthrown. The problem is that the rebels are Islamist fanatics that want to impose Sharia law on Syria, that are allied with al-Qaida, that they have been massacring Syria’s Christians, and that they will very likely to be as tyrannical and vicious as the Assad regime.

There are no good guys in this conflict. Both sides hate us. Both sides have links to terrorists. The last thing the Middle East needs is another Islamic state, yet that seems to be just what Obama is trying to achieve. We need to just stay out of this.

Richard Dawkins is Right

August 15, 2013
English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture base...

Right for once (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never thought I would write that sentence. Well, I imagine that he is right about many things in his field of expertise, evolutionary biology. It is when he abandons his field to become a spokesman for atheism that I think he is often very wrong. Still, I have to give him credit for courage for his infamous tweet about Muslim scientific accomplishments, and of course, I think he is right. It is easy enough to bash Christians. Bashing Muslims could get you killed. Here is the story as told by the Guardian.

The outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins was involved in an online Twitter row on Thursday after tweeting: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

As users piled in to criticise him, the scientist continued: “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”

His other posts included: “You can attack someone for his opinion. But for simply stating an intriguing fact? Who would guess that a single Cambridge College” and “Muslims aren’t a race. What they have in common is a religion. Rather than Trinity, would you prefer the comparison with Jews? Google it.”

With the debate escalating, Dawkins, who has more than 777,000 followers, said: “Many are asking how many Nobels have been won by atheists. Needs research. I’d love to know. I suspect the proportion is v high, and growing.”

Owen Jones, the left-leaning commentator and author of Chavs, told Dawkins: “How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.” Legal blogger Jack of Kent added: “Following @RichardDawkins tweet, Trinity Cambridge has presumably also produced more Soviet-supporting traitors to the UK than Islam.”

The row also drew in historian Tom Holland and Channel 4’s economics editor Faisal Islam who commented: “I thought scientists were meant to upbraid journalists for use of spurious data points to ‘prove’ existing prejudgements”.

@jptoc chipped in: “A similar (and infuriating for Dawkins) ‘fact’ is that Islam has more recipients of Nobel Prizes than Dawkins. It’s bad scientific method.”

But some users appeared more forgiving. @Chriss_m, said: “Dawkins spent the best part of 10 years attacking Christianity and not raising an eyebrow. He now turns that same eye on Islam and uproar.”

Trinity College, Cambridge, has 32 Nobel laureates, as against 10 Muslims listed in Wikipedia. When the Guardian contacted Dawkins by email to ask whether he was surprised by the uproar, he replied: “Prompted by exasperation at hearing boasts of (a) how numerous Muslims are in the world and (b) how great is their science.

“This prompted the thought that if they are all THAT numerous, shouldn’t they have more to show for it in terms of achievement? The comparison with Trinity Cambridge I judged less offensive to Muslims than the even more dramatic comparison with Jews (who have garnered an ASTOUNDINGLY large number of Nobel Prizes).”

He continued: “Am I surprised? Only at the number of people who seem to think Islam is a race, rather than a religion. I regard that view as racist. Anything you can convert to, or convert from, is NOT a race.

Dawkins has previously been involved in acrimonious Twitter exchanges over Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, prompting Owen Jones to comment “If atheism means being bigoted about Muslims or wanting to drive people of faith from public life, then I am not an atheist.”

Dawkins is obviously thinking more clearly than his detractors. Of course Muslims do not constitute a race. These people are panicking and throwing whatever they can at Dawkins and hoping it sticks.

Actually, I am not sure whether I would give the Muslims, as such, much credit for any scientific accomplishments during the middle ages. When the armies of Islam burst forth from the Arabian peninsula, their first waves of conquest included most of what we now call the Middle East. This region includes Egypt and Mesopotamia, the sites of two of the oldest civilizations in the world and both prosperous and advanced regions. It should be no surprise that the momentum continued for several centuries. Also, many of the scholars and scientists of the Arab Empire were Christians, Jews, or heterodox Muslims, including the sect of the Mutazilites. As the people ruled by the Arabs converted more and more to Islam and the societies became more Islamized, scientific progress slowed and then stopped. These days, the Middle East is one of the poorest and most backward regions in the world. This is a testimony of the influence of 1300 years of Islamic rule.

The thing that bothers me about people like Dawkins, though, is that they are determined to erase the influence of Christianity in the West. You can’t fight something with nothing and thoroughly secularized societies, like Western Europe seem to be increasingly unable to defend themselves against their enemies. They don’t even seem to want to reproduce. If Dawkins is concerned about the growing influence of Islam in Britain and the West, perhaps he ought to encourage belief in Christianity, or something. As it is, I fear he is unwittingly helping the enemies of civilization.

 

Rand Paul and Egypt

July 8, 2013

Senator Rand Paul sent two tweets attacking “neocons” for supporting for military coup in Egypt and urging that foreign aid be cut off.

  1. In Egypt, democratic authoritarianism is replaced with military junta. American neocons say send them more of your money.

  2. In Egypt, governments come and go. The only thing certain is that American taxpayers will continue to be stuck with the $1.5 billion bill.

Personally, I would prefer that the military rule over Egypt rather than the Muslim Brotherhood. The military is less likely to start a war with Israel or massacre the Copts. Ideally, of course, would be democracy, but there is more to democracy than just regular elections. If there is no respect for the rights and property of the minority, or if the majority is perfectly happy voting themselves into slavery, than democracy doesn’t work all that well.
What seems to be forgotten by neocons and others is that democracy is not the ultimate end of government. The whole reason to have government is the protect the rights and liberties of the people ruled. A democratic government that is responsive to public opinion is more likely to protect people’s rights, but even a democratic government can be tyrannical towards the minority. We don’t just want democracy in places like Egypt. We want a government that will not oppress any of the people.
Getting back to Egypt, I think our best policy would be not to interfere in their politics. Just as in Syria, there are no clear good guys, and certainly no Washingtons or Jeffersons. It would probably also be a good idea to reduce the aid we give them, and cut out any military aid completely. There is no point in arming a potential adversary.

 

Empire of Fear

June 21, 2013

Robert Spencer has some interesting things to say about the Muslim family at Jihad Watch and PJMedia.

Earlier this month, Islamic member nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council rejected as un-Islamic a resolution condemning violence against women. The Kuwait News Agency reported that “the rejections include the paragraph, which gives women ‘the right to control matters concerning their sexual lives as well as their reproductive health without coercion, discrimination or violence.’”

It is likely that this rejection had as much or more to do with the idea that women should be protected from coercion and violence as it may have had to do with any pro-life concerns. After all, the Qur’an directs men to beat disobedient women (4:34), while Islamic law allows for abortion at least early in the pregnancy. The Muslim scholar Sayyid Sabiq explains that,

abortion is not allowed after four months have passed since conception because at that time it is akin to taking a life, an act that entails penalty in this world and in the Hereafter. As regards the matter of abortion before this period elapses, it is considered allowed if necessary.

The idea that it is un-Islamic for women to have the right to be free from coercion and violence is revealing of the mindset underlying the entire Islamic understanding of morality. Muslims and non-Muslims often tell us that Muslims hate the West for its decadence, its immorality, its lasciviousness, which they contrast unfavorably with the supposed morality and uprightness of the Islamic world. Often this boils down to a Muslim critique of Western “freedom,” especially as Bush and Obama pursued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ostensibly to bring Western-style freedom to those countries.

In line with that, the mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, once complained that “Australian law guarantees freedoms up to a crazy level.” Yet genuine freedom is an indispensable prerequisite for any cultivation of real virtue.

Even the post-Christian West makes it more possible to be virtuous than the apparently much more straitlaced Islamic world. With its stonings, amputations, and death penalties for an array of offenses including apostasy, Islam has created – even in the family itself — not a framework in which people can become genuinely good, but an empire of fear. People don’t dare step out of line, not out of an authentic understanding that the path of moral and ethical uprightness is preferable to the alternative, much less out of love for God or a real desire to please him, but because they are afraid of what would happen to them if they did depart from Islam’s vision of morality.

He has more to say. With all that in mind, I think it might be interesting to consider how the subtle differences between the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic view of God ties into the question of freedom and virtue.

In Christian and Jewish theology, God is considered to be not only omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful), but also omni-benevolent (entirely good). As God is wholly good and has no evil in Him, God cannot commit an evil act. To do so would be contrary to His nature. An Islamic theologian cannot say that. It is not that Muslims believe that God is evil or indifferent. Islam is, as C. S. Lewis said of Christianity, a fighting religion with a God who takes sides. The problem that Muslims have with saying that God cannot commit an evil act lies in their conception of God as all-powerful.

All three Abrahamic religions believe God to be omnipotent. Islam, however, emphasizes divine omnipotence quite a lot more than the other two religions. Muslims, therefore, are uncomfortable with any concept that seems to put a limit on God’s absolute sovereignty and divine freedom. Saying that God cannot do a thing or has any limits seems to be blasphemy. God cannot be constrained in any way or by any thing, not even by natural laws or logic. God may be good but there is no reason why He could not command something evil, arbitrary, or even irrational. Islam also teaches the unknowability of God by mere humans. No human being can know anything about God or His nature. This means that such statements as the apostle John is fond of using such as God is love or God is Light, or identifying God with the Logos or Reason are meaningless to the Muslim and, again, may even be blasphemous. We cannot know God. We can only know His will for us. Islamic theologians have not spent much time debating the nature of God, as Christians have with their disputes over the trinity and how Jesus can be both God and man. Islamic theology is more focused on legal matters and regulations for the believer.

These concepts might be the reason that Islamic political history is largely a history of despotism. If God is absolute with no constraints on His authority, then it stands to reason that rulers, God’s representatives, should also have absolute authority. There is, as far as I know, no Magna Carta in Islam, and certainly no Declaration of Independence with its inalienable rights. Muslims believe that humans are the slaves of God, while Christians believe that we are His Sons. Sons have rights. Slaves do not.

This also puts an interesting twist on the Euthyphro dilemma. Euthypho is a character in Plato’s dialog of that name. Socrates and Euthypho meet each other at a law court while they each are waiting for the court to hear their cases, in Socrates’s case the trial that would cost him his life. Since Euthypho is presented as an expert theologian who knows all about the gods, Socrates asks to define piety or holiness and the two begin the dialog. During the discussion Socrates asks whether the gods love pious acts because they are pious or are things pious because the gods love them. In other words, and moving to monotheism, does God command us to do good things because they are good, or are good actions good because God commands them. For instance, one of the ten commandments that God gave to Moses was, “Thou shalt not kill”. Did God forbid killing because killing is inherently evil, or is killing evil because God forbade it.

You may see the dilemma here. If the things that God wishes us to do are good in themselves, then does that not imply that there is some source of morality higher than God? On the other hand if good actions are good simply because those are the actions God happens to approve of, then the ideas of good and evil become arbitrary. God could just as easily told Moses, “Thou shalt kill”.

There have been a number of ways that both Christians and Jews have attempted to resolve this dilemma. I think that, in general, Christians and Jews tend to favor the first answer, that God’s commands are good in themselves and that for God to command or commit an evil act would be contrary to His nature. God can no more do evil than a triangle could have four sides. Islamic theology compels a Muslim to favor the second answer. Thus, there is a tendency to believe that God’s commands are somewhat arbitrary and subject to change. Indeed in the Koran, later commands replace or abrogate earlier commands.

I gone somewhat far afield, so perhaps I should try to tie in what I have written with Robert Spencer’s argument. If you consider the ultimate source of morality is not some abstract concept of justice but the somewhat arbitrary commands of the supreme deity then wouldn’t it stand to reason that you might adopt a sort of  “might makes right” and “ends justify the means” sort of moral code? And, wouldn’t you come to believe that virtue is something that must be imposed from outside, rather than something that each person must develop from within? That is something to consider.


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