Sunday, June 28, 2015

What You Don't Need to Know About Islam

I know I keep saying this but I am almost finished with my paper dealing with the debate surrounding Islam and Islamic extremism. I am almost done. I swear! I am just waiting on two books from the library to double check a few things and then I will be done. Nearly all of my research and writing is done. I just need to fine tune it a bit before publishing. I just realized that it's been nearly six months I've been working on this project. The time has gone by so fast! I've read dozens of books, academic papers, searching on the internet for a search result that doesn't point to some anti-Muslim rant or other biased commentary, mining data from polling companies, looking up a multitude of studies, and even watching documentaries about Islam. One of the documentaries I watched is called Islam: What the West Needs to Know. Prior to finding out I can watch it on YouTube for free I rented it for $3 dollars. How I wish I could get that three bucks back!

The other documentary I watched was an excellent look at the Qur'an, Muslims, and Islam. It is magnitudes more objective (and entertaining) than Islam: What the West Needs to Know. This one is called Inside the Koran: A Journey into the Heart of Islam. Unlike What the West Needs to Know, Inside the Koran depicts moderate, extremist, and all other points of view, and shows the viewer how the majority of Muslims view the Qur'an. Quite frankly, most Muslims view the Qur'an much like Christians view the Bible: as one of the most beautiful books ever written, full of wisdom, compassion and love. Many don't even seem to be aware that it demeans women or endorses violence. Something that was extremely troubling for me, however, was the filming of a girl being held down and being subject to genital mutilation. It was so sickening and sad to watch, hearing the girl crying and her mother telling her that this is normal and that it won't hurt. The documentary went on to get opinions of different Muslims about how they believe or do not believe the Qur'an sanctions such practices. I do not recall reading anything in the Qur'an about that at all. From what I have read it has more to do with Middle Eastern culture than the religion of Islam.

Islam: What the West Needs to Know featured a few of the most well-known anti-Muslim Christian and Jewish bigots: Robert Spencer, Serge Trifkovic, Bat Ye'or, Abdullah Al-Araby, and Walid Shoebat (interesting thing about Shoebat, this fraud has been exposed a long time ago). During the reading I did one of the books was The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, by Nathan Lean. In it he provides some interesting background about Spencer who he says has only a “master's degree in religion,” and has no “formal training” on the subject of Islam, and yet he and his supporters call him a “leading scholar.” But something that I found fascinating about the “Islamophobia industry” is how it is backed by right-wing, pro-Israel supporters. According to Lean, part of the reason for all of this anti-Muslim propaganda is to incite hatred towards Muslims, thus allowing Israel's policies of mass murder and further theft of land to take place with as little protest as possible. If everyone hates Muslims, who cares what happens to the Palestinians? is the idea. I'm not sure if that is true or not, but the logic fits.

In the book Lean cites a 2003 interview of Spencer's with the Zenit Daily Dispatch wherein he discusses his book Inside Islam. While on his website he claims that he has “no religious agenda” this interview proves otherwise. In the 2003 interview Spencer says in response to two questions,

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

Spencer: Daniel and I wrote this book in order to help Catholics become informed about Islam — to clear away common misunderstandings and distortions and to give Catholics an accurate and complete introduction to the Islamic faith and the challenges it poses to Christians.

Q: Why is it important for Catholics to understand Islam?

Spencer: Islam increasingly poses a challenge to the Church and every Christian. By most accounts, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Even if he or she never meets a Muslim, much less proclaims the Gospel to one, it is every Christian's duty to become informed about Islam since that faith is the Church's chief and most energetic present-day rival for souls. (emphasis mine in bold and italics)

I found this revelation fascinating. It provides an answer to the question of why FOX News and all of these right-wingers bash Muslims and the religion of Islam every chance they get. Prior to reading this book I thought it just had everything to do with pure bigotry and racism. Who knew there was actually an internal logic to all of this? But this makes me wonder even more what drives atheists and other so-called “liberals” to spout the same hate-filled bigotry and misinformation as Spencer and his cronies? It certainly doesn't have anything to do with saving souls. Is Sam Harris and some other “liberal” anti-Muslims Jewish by heritage? Maybe they feel some kind of connection with the state of Israel? Or perhaps they just have a hatred of Muslims because they know someone who is threatened by Islamic fanatics and because of this reasonable anger they project that anger at innocent Muslims, even if 99% of all Muslims have never even harmed, much less threatened their loved ones? If so, the reason for their own hatred would be pure bigotry. It is perfectly reasonable and justifiable to hate someone who is threatening loved ones, but to expand your hatred to everyone who make up the same minority group is simply bigotry.

Wow. It appears I've gone off on a bit of a tangent. About that documentary....

I did not cite the documentary directly in my paper, but I do cover most of the same ground as the film, exposing a lot of the propaganda used by both the right and the left about Muslims and Islam. One thing I found egregious, though I did not address it in the paper, is the claim that the Qur'an commands Muslims to lie and deceive others. Robert Spencer says (at approx. 1:01:38), “When one is under pressure, one may lie in order to protect the religion. This is taught in the Qur'an Chapter 3 verse 28, Chapter 16, verse 106.” Let's look up these verses, shall we?

3:28: “Let not the Believers take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than Believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that you may guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (to remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.”

This verse says not a thing about lying. It is referring to being cautious around non-believers, and befriending only other Muslims.

16:106: “Anyone who, after accepting Faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, - except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, - on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.”

This verse is actually about lying, but for what purpose? Only in cases where one is threatened with death or violence to denounce their religion. The Qur'an tells Muslims they can lie to protect their lives from threats of violence. That is an enormous distortion of the text. Makes you wonder... if Spencer were the expert he says he is don't you think he'd be more knowledgeable about the Qur'an?

Other than numerous inaccuracies, this documentary was so poorly produced and so incredibly boring....I considered committing Seppuku. Seriously, though, it was mind-numbingly boring, and that wasn't just my take on it. Just read the snippets from some of the reviews in the Wikipedia article.

I hope everyone had a nice weekend. I was reading and writing all weekend but soon I shall be free!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Jon Stewart on Islamophobia

Related to a recent post about a Muslim woman on a United Airline flight who was denied an unopened can of soda, here is The Daily Show's Jon Stewart's take on the issue.

And speaking of Islamophobia I just had to share this other video I found. It's hilarious. [I have linked to copy of the video. The previous link is now inactive.]

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why Does the Media Often Portray People of Color as “Terrorists,” and White Shooters Called “Mentally Ill?”

Anthea Butler, Juan Cole and Glenn Greenwald have written some very good pieces about the same topic. Why is it that most crimes reported in the media by people of color are called terrorists, while those who commit similar crimes and are white are called mentally unstable? (FYI: Doing a search I found some websites pointing to evidence that Dylann Roof, the murderer - the terrorist - who killed nine African Americans in South Carolina, was influenced by the "European Islamophobic Networks." He also reportedly shouted (repeating an identical rallying cry for Islamophobes) at his victims, "you rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.")

I also wholeheartedly agree with Cole's number 5 difference between white and other terrorists: “White terrorists are part of a 'fringe.' Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.” If we followed the Islamophobes' logic all white men should now be stripped of all rights, profiled, surveilled, and bombed. You know, just in case, because we all know those evil white men are always plotting something evil.

If you need to contact me, I'll be reporting into the local police station because I want to make sure I'm under armed guard in case my white co-conspirators and I can't control ourselves and decide to go on a rampage. (And for the FBI, CIA, NSA, and local PD... I'm being sarcastic!!!! I'm not actually plotting anything! You idiots! Are you unable to discern social commentary from violent and sociopathic behavior?! Apparently not.)

Monday, June 1, 2015

And They Say There is No Islamophobia...

The Intercept has reported on a very unfortunate story about a Muslim peace activist named Tahera Ahmad who has been continually harassed, abused and profiled for no reason.

“Since 9/11, I’ve experienced discrimination many times,” Ahmad said in an interview. “I’ve been spat on, had my hijab pulled off, been detained for hours by the TSA and missed speaking engagements in front of hundreds of people. … This is not about a can of soda, it’s about an environment which is encouraging people to be demeaning, bigoted and hurtful.” […]

Nearly a decade and a half after 9/11, documented hate crimes targeting Muslims in America are five times higher than they were in the year 2000. In recent months, there have been high-profile incidents of mosque burnings, assaults and a murder, which many believed to have been motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Last week, anti-Muslim activists, many of them brandishing assault rifles, staged a demonstration outside a Phoenix, Arizona mosque during Friday services.

Here is a screenshot of Tahera Ahmad's comments on Facebook about the incident that was shared by a Twitter user:

My heart goes out to Tahera Ahmad and all other victims of discrimination.

For for information about Islamophobia I recommend these two resources:

Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, by Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir, Center for American Progress, August 26, 2011

Fear, Inc. 2.0 The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America, by Matthew Duss, Yasmine Taeb, Ken Gude, and Ken Sofer, Center for American Progress, February 11, 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Please Consider Donating to Help Get the Book Christian Mythology for Kids Published!

I hope you will please consider donating to Chrystine Trooien's Kickstarter fund for her new book for children called Christian Mythology for Kids: A Secular Family's Guide to Modern Christianity. From the Kickstarter website:

Inform Your Children Before Someone Else Does.

Today, more than ever before, parents are raising their children free from religion. We have very few secular tools to teach our children about the Christian religions that still surrounds us. Secular children encounter bible stories from their peers, through pop culture, and from well intentioned relatives. Oftentimes the message that is delivered along with these stories is one of fear, promises or simply trying to convince young minds that these stories are somehow historical.

We wanted to introduce our children to christianity in a way that doesn't threaten them or coax them into thinking these stories are real. Children's books about Greek and Roman Mythology are wonderful, exciting stories that inform and entertain. Christian Mythology for Kids follows this format, but with a religion that some people still view as true.

Exploring and discussing common Christian myths in a safe environment gives children an unbiased understanding before they encounter it in their daily lives. Christian Mythology for Kids also answers questions that children may have after hearing what their friends or relatives have to say. This book tells the story of each myth, followed by a brief logical or scientific explanation as to why it is mythology.

We can also learn from some of these stories that have an Aesop’s fables quality, like David and Goliath. We can take the lesson and leave the religion behind. Other stories included in this book are Noah's Ark, Angels and Demons, Moses and the Burning Bush, Joseph's Coat, Jesus' Birth, Jesus' Miracles, and so much more (24 stories in all).

This looks like a very cool resource. I hope it can get published since I know of few books for children that look at religion through a secular lens.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Fear-Mongering by the US Government. It's Appalling!

Glenn Greenwald has written about the expiration of the 2001 Patriot Act and quotes a number of White House officials and others who are using their all too familiar Bush-era scare tactics in their attempts to persuade the people to allow them free reign over your personal information!

Several of the most extremist provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act are going to expire on June 1 unless Congress reauthorizes them in some form. Obama officials such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and new Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been engaged in rank fear-mongering to coerce renewal, warning that we’ll all be “less safe” if these provisions are allowed to “sunset” as originally intended, while invoking classic Cheneyite rhetoric by saying Patriot Act opponents will bear the blame for the next attack. […]

[Greenwald quotes the NYT:]

“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. “We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.” [emphasis in original]

Do not allow these fear-mongers make you think twice about allowing these Orwellian provisions to expire. Just remember this study as reported by security expert Bruce Schneier:

[Quoting the The Telegraph] According to the index, which ranks world cities by the likelihood of a terror attack based on historic trends, 64 cities around the world are at "extreme risk" of a terror attack.

Of these, the majority are in the Middle East (27) or Asia (19).

Some 14 are in Africa, where the rise of Boko Haram and al-Shabaab as well as political instability have increased risk.

Three are in Europe -- Luhansk (46) and Donetsk (56) in Ukraine, and Grozy (54) in Russia -- while Colombia's Cali (59) is the only South American city on the list.

Schneider comments that “No US city makes the list.” [emphasis mine]

Do not allow the government's primary means of control - propaganda - to convince you otherwise. Stand against the Patriot Act. (And rather than “anticommunism” being the “control mechanism” it is by far and away the idea of “terrorism.,” specifically, “Muslim terrorism.” The similarities are striking.)