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Posts Tagged ‘islamism’

The Heresiarch is characteristically spot-on in his take on the matter of the recently firebombed French magazine that had dared to publish blasphemous cartoon images of the prophet Mohammed. In particular, he’s taking on the idea that an organisation that goes out of its way to deliberately cause offense to millions of peace-loving Muslims deserves no sympathy when a small violent faction is driven to bloody vengeance.

I think when I do this it’s called a pull-quote:

The irony is that this kind of argument is a form of Islamophobia itself, both because it demonstrates actual fear of Muslims (they might bomb us) and because it caricatures them as all the same, all equally thin-skinned and all interested in nothing beyond upholding the dignity of their holy prophet. But in fact Muslims (whether they know it or not; many do) have much more than other people to gain from a lifting of the taboo on criticising any aspect of their religion, whether Sharia law, the Koran or the personality of Mohammed.

This is exactly right. If the over-sensitive cultural taboo wasn’t so keenly and aggressively in place, then cartoonists and satirists wouldn’t find it nearly such a rich vein of subject matter. Magazines wouldn’t bother putting the images in question on their covers, because there’d be no worthwhile point to be made by doing so; and so the extremists subgroups wouldn’t keep firebombing people and reinforcing the public image of Muslims as violent reactionaries who the rest of us ought to fear. Surely that unfortunately widespread perception is more damaging and hurtful to the majority of Muslims than the occasional drawing of their prophet.

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- Maryam Namazie gave a much-lauded talk at the recent World Atheist Conference in Dublin, about the rise of extremist Islam. The full text on her blog is worth a read.

- I’ve had quite enough of a headache as it is lately without trying to get my head around the Bailey Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood. This big supposedly important government report was released a couple of days ago. Among the best discussions I’ve seen on what the report is, what it says, and what’s wrong with it, come from Dr Petra and Nelson Jones.

- Oh, Sarah Palin. The war on reality continues.

- Have you ever organised or attended an event where, on average, the guest speakers had more penises than you might expect? Wait, I don’t mean they each had more penises than expected, I mean… If you compared the number of penises to the number of people, would the ratio be… Okay, never mind. If you’ve had trouble finding female speakers for stuff, they’re making it very easy for you now.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is pretty awesome.

I read her memoir Infidel last year, inspired by the discussion about it on Skepchick, and their summaries of the book here and here. It’s a pretty amazing story, about her upbringing in Somalia and other parts of Africa, deeply entrenched in fundamentalist religion, and how she broke away from it as a young woman and became a philosophical and humanist spokesperson of some significance.

I made a note to myself a few weeks ago that I should comment on this article she wrote, and only just remembered about it. It’s about the recent constitutional ban on minarets – those pointy onion-shaped towers you sometimes get at the top of Islamic mosques – that was voted for in Switzerland, a country currently possessing a total of four such minarets. Like most people seemed to, I decided this was probably a pretty ridiculous over-reaction, but didn’t think a great deal more about it.

I didn’t expect there’d be a significant number of voices in support of the ban that didn’t come from the (probably Christian) conservative right. So Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s article, with the headline “Swiss ban on minarets was a vote for tolerance and inclusion”, kinda caught my eye.

Now, I’m very unsure of my footing here. I know that certain recent events have highlighted some of the dangers inherent in offering an opposing view in response to the position argued by people who are better informed and better qualified than you in every important regard. And yet, here I am, saying that I’ve given it more than a cursory mental glance now, and I’m still not convinced by Ali’s argument.

Part of her point seems to be that the Islam represented by the minarets is a political movement, not simply a personal religious faith, and that this political movement is oppressive and dangerous. She’s written before, and well, on the dangers of accommodating and pandering to religious extremists out of fear of alienating the more moderate majority. In Infidel, she described the tendency of many European politicians to make excuses for Islamic extremists and terrorists, to go out of their way to find ways to blame the West for these acts of terror, and to refuse to condemn any form of any religion, even when taken to such barbaric and deplorable ends, out of some misguided notions of “respect” and “tolerance”. I’m entirely with her on all this, and Islam should absolutely be open to criticism as a political movement.

But she also seems to be saying that allowing the minarets to stand and continue to be built would be an implicit endorsement of Islamic politics, and an assertion that any extremist or supremacist views associated with the minarets deserve equal respect in all public conversation. And I’m just not sure it would. I don’t see how restricting people’s rights to build their buildings, in which they like to air their views, however repugnant those views might be, is a tolerant or liberal act. Am I just being a wacky libertarian here?

She suggests we imagine a similar ban on “the building of an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles as a symbol of the belief of a small minority”. If my spatial awareness isn’t failing me, she’s talking about swastikas. But if someone wants to build a building on their own land, with their own resources, in the shape of a swastika, I don’t know how I can condone forcibly preventing them from doing so. It seems like that would necessarily make me a complete hypocrite with regard to every other time I’ve supported free speech when somebody’s complained about being offended.

I hope that a country like Switzerland would “reject the ideas and practices of political Islam”. But I’m not convinced that people have a right to extend their expression of that rejection, to the point where they’re telling other people what they can and can’t do with their own money, or build on their own land. I don’t need to be reminded how horrifyingly oppressive, misogynist, dictatorial, militaristic, and authoritarian some Islamist teachings are. But surely that’s not a good enough reason for us to start being oppressive and dictatorial ourselves. Find another way to reject their philosophy. One that promotes your own, and explains why it’s better, perhaps.

What are the odds I’m greatly over-simplifying things and missing the bit where all this has already been rebutted? I’m guessing pretty high.

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