TAG | Islam
The Bill Maher clip has to be watched to be believed. Not the guest’s attempt to obfuscate.
The fundamental issue is simple: most non-Muslims don’t care about Islam or Muslims so long as Islam and Muslims don’t impinge upon their lives. We don’t care about the heterogeneity of Islam or history when faced to real and present fear about the violence currently associated with the religion. By analogy, non-Buddhists who live in Sri Lanka or Myanmar could care less that Buddhism is really fundamentally a religion of peace. To non-believers the ideals of a religion don’t matter, the realized actions of the religionists do.
The Daily Caller reports:
On HBO’s “Real Time” on Friday night, host Bill Maher entertained CSU-San Bernardino professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism, who maintained that despite the events in recent days, religious extremism isn’t only a product of Islam.
Hmmm, true enough in one sense, but that’s not what Levin really meant. And to his credit, Maher called the professor out:
But Maher took issue with that claim, calling it “liberal bullshit” and said there was no comparison.
“You know what, yeah, yeah,” Maher said. “You know what — that’s liberal bullshit right there … they’re not as dangerous. I mean there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So you know, I’m just saying let’s keep it real.”
Levin referenced outspoken Islam critic Pamela Geller as an example to refute Maher’s claim. But, Maher argued there was no comparison and denied he was Islamophobic.
“I am not an Islamophobe,” Maher replied. “I am a truth lover. All religious are not alike. As many people have pointed out — ‘The Book of Mormon,’ did you see the show? … OK, can you imagine if they did ‘The Book of Islam?’ Could they do that? There’s only one religion that threatens violence and carries it out for things like that. Could they do “The Book of Islam” on Broadway?”
Levin said “possibly so,” to which Maher seem dismiss his entire argument going forward.
“You’re wrong about that and you’re wrong about your facts,” Maher said. “Now, obviously, most Muslim people are not terrorists. But ask most Muslim people in the world, if you insult the prophet, do you have what’s coming to you? It’s more than just a fringe element.”
Via The Daily Star (Lebanon):
CAIRO: Egyptian police fired tear gas outside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral on Sunday after clashes following funeral prayers for four Christians killed in sectarian clashes.
Black-clad riot police pointed at the main gate of the cathedral and fired the tear gas, television footage showed, as Coptic worshippers sought refuge inside the building. Witnesses said the mourners who were chanting against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood were pelted with stones as they came out of the cathedral.
In a statement, the interior ministry said “a number of mourners began to damage cars in the area which led to confrontations with residents of the area.”
Television footage showed scenes of chaos outside the cathedral in the central Cairo neighbourhood of Abbassiya where Coptic bishops had been calling for peace and calm after the killing of the Christians on Friday. Loud bangs could be heard, as clouds of smoke rose up into the sky and people ran in several directions.
At the service, the congregation chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood of President Mohamed Morsi.
“Leave!” they told Morsi as they held up wooden crosses, television footage showed.
One Muslim was also killed in the clashes which flared on Friday night in Al-Khusus, a poor area in Qalyubia governorate, after a Muslim in his 50s objected to children drawing a swastika on a religious institute.
The man insulted Christians and the cross, and an argument broke out with a young Christian man who was passing by, escalating into a gunbattle between Muslims and Christians in which assault rifles were used. A priest in Al-Khusus, Suryal Yunan, said attackers torched “parts” of an Anglican church.Muslims also set a Christian home ablaze and ransacked a pharmacy owned by a Copt, a police official said. A number of angry Muslim residents tried to surround the town’s Mar Girgis church, but the security presence in the area prevented them from doing so…
For some wider context, the recent article by Robin Harris in Standpoint to which John O’Sullivan referred to here is very well worth reading. It discusses the plight of Christians in the Middle East. This extract seems horribly relevant today:
Half the Middle East’s Christians live in Egypt, where the Copts are some 10 per cent of the population. But that is changing too. There is a massive outflow, mainly to the United States. From the time of Sadat and then increasingly under Mubarak the Copts were under threat. The threat was localised, from vengeful and envious preachers and mobs, but government, in covert relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to protect. Since the Egyptian Revolution the threat is no longer localised. It is felt throughout Egypt; and it also comes from the top. It underpins the state in the new Sharia-based constitution, which President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, in a deal with their Salafist rivals, steamrollered through. The new constitution undermines the political rights of Christians; it threatens Church funds; and it legitimises the brutal campaign waged against those that Islam regards as “converts”. Recently, a Coptic woman, Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian but married a Muslim, sought on her husband’s death to return to her faith and have her and her children’s identification papers changed. In January this year, a court sentenced her to 15 years in prison.
Somehow I think that it will not be too long before there is another exodus from Egypt.
“But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia — that spirit of tolerance that is written into your constitution, symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other; that spirit that is embodied in your people — that still lives on…”
A mob attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”. His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished.
And note that the language of PC/neo-blasphemy legislation (“inciting religious hatred”) is what is used to condemn him.
The Economist continues:
In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count.
What was it that Obama was saying about “the spirit of tolerance” written into the Indonesian constitution?
But at least that’s better than what Egypt is contemplating:
Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences.
The Economist goes on to note that “such penalties are rarely carried out”. Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for “inciting hatred”.
There we go again.
The Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson reports:
…The long-cherished ambition of Saudi Arabia’s ruling Wahhabi sect to smash up the ancient buildings of Mecca and Medina is nearing fruition.
In Mecca, the house of one of Mohammed’s wives has been demolished to make space for public lavatories. His birthplace may disappear, too, as part of King Abdullah’s scheme to complement the skyscrapers and shopping malls with a Grand Mosque fashioned from the same materials as a multi-storey car park in Wolverhampton.
As for Islam’s second holiest place, the city of Medina, a recent article by Jerome Taylor in the Independent revealed a megalomaniac plan to pull down three 7th-century mosques. Taylor added: “Ten years ago, a mosque which belonged to the Prophet’s grandson was dynamited. Pictures of the demolition that were secretly taken and smuggled out of the kingdom showed the religious police celebrating.”
Only a small minority of the world’s billion Muslims are Wahhabis, despite the tens of billions of petrodollars spent by the Saudis propagating their creed. (Bosnia, for example, is now littered with Saudi-style mosques, replacing the graceful Ottoman architecture that Wahhabis detest.) Many pilgrims to Mecca are revolted by the marriage of Puritanism and greed they find there. Yet protests are scattered and muted. Why?
One answer is that the House of Saud, though widely hated, is also feared: its wealth and terrorist connections make it unlikely that, say, a Pakistani politician would speak openly about the desecration of the Hajj.
The West can hardly complain about such gutlessness: this year’s Hajj exhibition at the British Museum was creepily sanitised – no mention of bulldozers or the 2,000ft clock tower built right next to the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped building that is the centrepiece of Islamic devotions.
But what sticks in the craw is the hypocrisy of Muslims who throw a fit if Israeli archaeologists carry out non-intrusive work underneath the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, “Islam’s third holiest place”, as we’re constantly reminded. Such anger would be more convincing if the first and second holy sites weren’t being ploughed up by a police state. Likewise, are cartoons of Mohammed really more offensive than reducing the remains of his life to rubble?
As one Middle East expert put it to me: “Jews disturbing the Dome of the Rock fits into an anti-Western narrative, so Muslims can cope with that. The Saudi destruction of Mecca doesn’t fit into that narrative, and so there’s virtual silence.” Something worth bearing in mind, perhaps, when you wonder why the murder of Muslims by Muslims in Darfur or Syria provokes only limited outrage in the Islamic world….
Cross-posted on the Corner:
The Daily Telegraph reports:
A key proposal by Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party to outlaw blasphemy in the new constitution, stoking fears of creeping Islamisation, is to be dropped from the final text. The agreement to drop the clause follows negotiations between the three parties in the ruling coalition and must still be approved by the committees drafting the constitution, due to be debated by parliament next month.
It comes after President Moncef Marzouki warned that radical Islamist militants pose a “great danger” to the Maghreb region, and following a wave of violent attacks – blamed on Salafists – on targets ranging from works of art to the US embassy.
“There will certainly be no criminalisation,” said speaker Mustapha Ben Jafaar, the 72-year-old speaker of the National Constituent Assembly, said to AFP.
“That is not because we have agreed to (allow) attacks on the sacred, but because the sacred is something very, very difficult to define. Its boundaries are blurred and one could interpret it in one way or another, in an exaggerated way,” he added.
The plan to criminalise attacks on religious values sparked an outcry when it was first announced by the Islamists in July, with the media and civil society groups warning that it would result in new restrictions on freedom of expression.
Cross-posted on the Corner
Andrew McCarthy has a piece on possible Turkish membership of the EU up on the home page, very well worth reading in many respects, but not least for this observation:
In Turkey, the administrators of the Kemalist governmental model — comprising Muslims who understood Islam intimately — suppressed Islam not to deny freedom of conscience but to enable it. They were trying to forge exactly the sort of secular civil society Europeans revere. They knew it could not coexist with sharia. Thus, the government assumed supervision of the country’s 80,000 mosques, vetted the imams, controlled the content of sermons and literature, and aggressively monitored the Islamic charities. The Muslims running the state realized that Islam would inevitably work against secular civil society if left to its own devices.
If you want to understand why Mubarak’s approach in Egypt (political repression combined with the cession of large amounts of religio-social space to the imams) was, in the end, doomed to failure, that’s not a bad place to start.
Andy explains how the incentive of eventual EU membership (forever being proffered, just out of reach, to the Turks) is being used to take distort the (admittedly very far from perfect) Kemalist model in ways that could have very dangerous consequences.
But at least we can for be sure (at least for now) that the French and German political elites are enough in tune with their electorates (for now) to stop—as they should— Turkish accession.
With others the case is not so clear.
Here’s what Britain’s David Cameron had to say two years ago:
ANKARA – Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday he was angered by the slow pace of Turkey’s European Union accession talks and warned against shutting Ankara out because of anti-Muslim prejudice.
Cameron’s strong support for Turkey’s limping EU bid puts him in stark contrast to fellow EU heavyweights France and Germany who argue against letting the mainly-Muslim country of over 70 million people to become a full member.
Here’s part of what I wrote back at the time:
That Cameron blames the Franco-German stance on “anti-Muslim prejudice” is an argument of the intellectually desperate. Then again, what else does Cameron have? As so often, he has failed to grasp just how deep the EU’s federalizing project has already gone. Even if we ignore the phenomenal cost (of which cash-strapped British taxpayers would pay a disproportionate share) of such a scheme, admitting Turkey to the EU would give a country now led by genuinely popular Islamist thug a real say in the everyday lives of the British people. And then there are all those other things that would go with Turkish membership in the EU, such as, oh, the ability of a Turkish court to order the arrest and extradition of a British citizen from the UK to a Turkish jail with little or no judicial review. So much for Cameron, protector of civil liberties.
Oh, there’s also this (reported by the BBC in 2009):
Mr Obama also said Washington supported Turkey’s efforts to join the EU.
Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago law school frets in Slate:
The universal response in the United States to the uproar over the anti-Muslim video is that the Muslim world will just have to get used to freedom of expression. President Obama said so himself in a speech at the United Nations today, which included both a strong defense of the First Amendment and (“in the alternative,” as lawyers say) and a plea that the United States is helpless anyway when it comes to controlling information. In a world linked by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, countless videos attacking people’s religions, produced by provocateurs, rabble-rousers, and lunatics, will spread to every corner of the world, as fast as the Internet can blast them, and beyond the power of governments to stop them. Muslims need to grow a thick skin, the thinking goes, as believers in the West have done over the centuries. Perhaps they will even learn what it means to live in a free society, and adopt something like the First Amendment in their own countries.
But there is another possible response. This is that Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.
Where to start?
Well, the piece is worth reading as an interesting justification for a more, uh, flexible approach to free speech. It’s not the first, and it will not be the last.
But it misses a key point: the best (perhaps the only) way that two starkly opposed belief systems can coexist (more or less) peacefully is by mutual acceptance of the fact that neither is likely to be susceptible to change. Recognize that, and, however unwillingly, live and let live has a chance.
In the meantime, Professor Posner should understand that any concessions by the US over free speech will just feed the Islamists’ demand for more (check out how those “circumspect” Europeans have fared). There is no middle ground. And there can be none.
Turkey’s thuggish (“mildly Islamist”, if you are The Economist) prime minister Erdogan is doing his bit to restrict free speech. The Seattle Times reports:
Prompted by the anti-Muslim video produced in California that has stirred deadly riots around the world, delegations from major Muslim nations have arrived at the United Nations prepared to demand international curbs on speech or media that they believe defame their religion or the Prophet Muhammad…. The demand for limits on anti-Islamic expression is coming from leading Islamic groups such as the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and leaders as diverse as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Erdogan, who Obama views as a key ally, has declared that all 57 Islamic nations “should speak forcefully with one voice,” and has called for “international legal regulations against attacks on what people deem sacred.”
These leaders consider anti-Islamic material a kind of “hate speech” that should be banned around the world. They are expected to demand those regulations when debate begins Tuesday in the General Assembly.
“This has exposed a huge fault line in political philosophies,” said Stewart Patrick, of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. “It may be irreconcilable.”
May be irreconcilable. Good grief. Suggesting that it is not — maybe with some “dialog” here, or a bit of “inter-faith” there — will only encourage those who believe that there does indeed exist some middle ground where debate can be politely and oh so sensitively stifled. Just look at the U.K. if you want to see how that works.
To quote yet again what was written in Jyllands-Posten at the time of the Mohammed cartoons:
“Ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed. Der er intet men.” The translation? “Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.”
A quick footnote to Matt’s excellent post about the Cairo embassy’s comments on “religious incitement”: In addition to being wrongheaded, these little announcements are self-defeating. When you issue such statements, you encourage the view that the government is somehow responsible for the speech you’re condemning. Even if you succeed in calming the crowds — and to judge from what happened yesterday, you shouldn’t expect to achieve even that much — any fringe film that you haven’t anathematized can become the next cause célèbre. And if you think you can keep pumping out statements attacking every one of them, ponder what will happen if a mob decides to riot over the comments of a congressman, or someone else that a diplomat wouldn’t want to officially denounce. Better to embrace free speech from the beginning than to lend support to the idea that your job requires you to sort acceptable expression from bad.
As Mark notes:
The mob of “Islamic rage boys” gets mad about all kinds of stuff — cartoons, dogs, teddy bears. You can never make a long enough list to satisfy them. So you might as well tell them you’re not going to start.
On the other hand, here’s Karzai:
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday condemned an American-made film that mocks Islam, galvanizing fears among Westerners that the Afghan leader’s denunciation could be read as a go-ahead to stage violent protests. The presidential palace said in a statement that Karzai “strongly and resolutely denounces this desecrating act” and expressed “abhorrence in the face of such an insult.”
… A condemnation from Karzai was thought to have inflamed passions in the spring of 2010, after Jones and his followers staged a Koran-burning. Nearly two weeks elapsed without any reaction in Afghanistan, until Karzai issued a call for Jones’ arrest and prosecution. The next day, April 1, a furious mob descended on the U.N. mission in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing seven foreign U.N. workers.
Karzai’s public stance toward the NATO force and his U.S. patrons has been somewhat hostile of late. He issued a strident statement accusing the United States of disregarding Afghan sovereignty after American authorities retained some Taliban and other insurgent suspects when handing the country’s main military detention facility over to Afghan control. And the Afghan leader commemorated Tuesday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by criticizing the West’s conduct of the war in Afghanistan.
And in so doing Karzai insults those who serve and have served in (and, in no small way, for) his country, and desecrates the memory of those who have been killed while doing so.