2015-11-15

Debating Islam, Islamism and Human Rights

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by Neil Godfrey

It seems that I for a while I have been sheltered from some of the debates over Islam, Islamism and Islamophobia as they have taken shape in Great Britain in particular. I’m trying to catch up now.

In particular I have not up till now really understood why those on “the Left” have been accused of supporting terrorists or others who would deny human rights to Muslims.

I think it’s becoming clearer to me now. Here’s how I understand what’s what — and if you think I still haven’t got it right then feel free to help out.

Islam This is the term we use for the religion of Muslims. All Muslims of all sects. It’s a religion. That’s all. There’s no one “true” set of beliefs and practices for Islam anymore than we have the same for Christianity. I’m an atheist but I’m not an “anti-theist”. I don’t see anything inherently wrong or bad in any religion in the abstract. I don’t like religion personally, but then again I don’t like mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, sandflies either. That doesn’t mean I sign up to join a program to exterminate all mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, sandflies from the planet — the consequences would be unpredictable.

Islamic This is the adjectival form of Islam, as Christian is to Christianity.

Islamism This refers to the ideology or political goal that a society should be subject to Islamic laws. It’s counterpart in Christianity would be political movements attempting to ban things that are deemed immoral by the Church. Many Islamists seek to achieve Islamic rule through democratic means, or if not outright rule, at least a place in government from where they can influence legislation. Other Islamists believe in violent means. These are the jihadi extremists.

Islamophobia This generally refers to any blanket hostility towards all Muslims (Islam). Islamophobes find all visible Islamic symbols and practices offensive in a Western society and associate all Muslims in some way with the criminal acts of violent Islamist extremists. Islamophobes consider the religion of Islam itself as an evil or antisocial presence. Islamophobia is the conflation of Islam, Islamism and Islamic practices and Islamist violence as an evil or hostile force.

The Debate Some of us have stressed most the need for stamping out intolerance and protecting religious freedoms. This is a good thing.

I used to be involved in arranging public meetings where Islamic leaders could explain their religion and way of life to us Western innocents. I considered this a healthy community activity because at the time many Muslims were very concerned to demonstrate that they deplored Islamist violence. The meetings were an attempt to defuse incipient Islamophobia.

Many have leapt to the same defence of Muslims. Some of us have at time even gone so far as to say that Islam itself has nothing to do with Islamist violence. This claim is taken from Muslims themselves who want to dissociate their religion from terrorism. It’s like a Christian saying of an abortion doctor-killer that the murderer has nothing to do with Christianity. The murderer sees things differently but must of us would side with the mainstream Christian.

So with the best intentions many of us have repeated the chorus: Islam is a religion of peace; terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.

Except that, of course, the extremist sees things differently. He argues that his violence is the only true form of Islam.

There are two levels of meaning here.

First, we can speak “spiritually” and mean to say that the true spirit of our religion (the one we, the majority, follow) is non-violent

Second, we can speak as an outsider and say No, both of you are Muslims. You just happen to have a different idea of what Islam means.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another confusion in the debate arises when an ex-Muslim attacks the religion of Islam itself as oppressive and violent. Is Ayaan Hirsi Ali a case study here? The difficulty I have with this view is that it does not find uniform acceptance among all Muslims. There really does seem to be a wide diversity of Islamic practices and customs.

Further, a major confusion in the debate appears to have arisen over the place of Islamists who profess non-violence. Islamism is the political ideology that seeks for the application of Muslim laws on society or a section of society.

If it seeks its agenda through democratic means then who can argue with that?

Maryam Namazie

Maryam Namazie

Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz were both once leaders in an ostensibly non-violent Islamist group but they argue with that

That is, it is not okay to allow a minority community practice its own laws within a larger society. We don’t allow other cultural minorities to do that if those laws conflict with basic human rights. An Australian Aboriginal man is not free to murder is wife for any reason and it does not make any difference if his act of murder accords with customary law.

We cannot allow any religious minority to treat women, children, others according to religious laws if those laws and their outcomes violate basic human rights and the laws of the larger society in which they live.

Islamism is a new form of political fascism. Idealistic, many followers obviously well intentioned and many no doubt would not think themselves capable of violence, but many others also prepared to act more “effectively”. And its laws, many of them, do not belong in the modern age any more than biblical ones do.

I am opposed to the conflation of Islam and Islamism. Muslims I can respect and defend. Islamism, no, I don’t think there’s a place for Islamism in the world today. (We ought to be doing much more to pressure our leaders to end support for Islamist nations like Saudi Arabia.)

I’m still new to this topic, however. Still learning. I don’t expect to find pure angels on one side. But if I am missing anything I would love to learn that sooner rather than later.

121 Comments

  • Anne
    2015-11-15 13:38:45 UTC - 13:38 | Permalink

    I can agree with most of your post . . . even as a Christian. LOL I don’t hate Muslims . . . I hate their actions, just as I don’t hate Christians who use God’s Word to kill an abortion doctor. Yes, in any religion, extremists can go waaaaaaaay too far. But with the exception of Christianity being used in the Salem witch trials, a handful of abortion doctors murdered, the KKK (which has no business affiliating themselves with Christianity, except for the Christians who had no affiliation with the KKK and kept silent), and the like . . . I have yet to see any non believer or someone who believes differently, being beheaded. America and Americans, for the most part, are civilized (with the occasional nut job).

    My problem with Islam (even peaceful Muslims) is this: if they follow Sharia Law, then their first obligation is to Allah – not the US Constitution. There is scripture in the NT that states “One cannot follow two master” . . . this is an accurate example of Islam. While I believe the scripture is telling me that what God tells me comes before my Constitution, I promise I will follow my conscience and follow God . . . but I won’t shove my faith down someone else’s throat. Regardless, if a Muslim is a true Muslim, following the Islamic teachings, they MUST adhere to Sharia law . . . and that opens up a whole nother can of worms.

    The truly scary part is, Dearborn MI a couple of years ago voted for Sharia Law (with 98,000 Muslims in said city). I’m sure you’ve read up on it, but here’s the link for what Sharia Law entails, including, but not limited to, no to LGBT, YOU will worship Allah, you will pray 5 times a day to Allah, you will attend mosque daily, you will not abort a child, etc. All the laws that have been fought over for “x” number of years, will be wiped out. Sharia Law and the US Constitution do not go hand in hand.

    https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia_law

    • AU
      2015-11-15 15:28:09 UTC - 15:28 | Permalink

      I hate their actions, just as I don’t hate Christians who use God’s Word to kill an abortion doctor. Yes, in any religion, extremists can go waaaaaaaay too far. But with the exception of Christianity being used in the Salem witch trials, a handful of abortion doctors murdered, the KKK (which has no business affiliating themselves with Christianity, except for the Christians who had no affiliation with the KKK and kept silent), and the like . . . I have yet to see any non believer or someone who believes differently, being beheaded.

      How about the thousands upon thousands of Native Indians and Africans who were treated like subhuman and killed simply because they did not believe in Christ?

      • Anne
        2015-11-15 19:26:23 UTC - 19:26 | Permalink

        That was only part . . . the main reason was the Indians were a threat, perceived or real.

        • AU
          2015-11-15 19:49:29 UTC - 19:49 | Permalink

          You are talking complete nonsense, I don’t even know why I am bothering replying to you, but, anyway, here goes:

          1) Dearborn did not vote for Shariah Law. There was a satirical article, but that is all it was, satire, however, Christian nutjobs like you go around saying Dearborn voted for Shariah Law.

          http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/sharia.asp

          2) Oh, so you have a different standard when it comes to Muslims and Christians. First of all, if Muslims behead people who believe differently to them, why are there Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia and even Saudi Arabia who haven’t been beheaded? Now, of course, you are correct, Muslims have beheaded and killed people because they did not share the same belief, but this was usually because of socio-political reasons, including threats (perceived or real) and not because their religion told them to. This is just like the Christians who unleashed an orgy of violence on Indians and Africans, however, when it comes to Christians you want us to consider nuances, but when it comes to Muslims, you want to ignore the nuances and blame it on their religion. In other words, you’re a bigot.

          • AU
            2015-11-15 19:52:42 UTC - 19:52 | Permalink

            How about the thousands upon thousands of Native Indians and Africans who were treated like subhuman and killed simply because they did not believe in Christ?

            And, yes, you’re right, it was only part, I was simply applying the same standard you use for crimes committed by Muslims to crimes committed by Christians.

          • Anne
            2015-11-15 19:56:25 UTC - 19:56 | Permalink

            WOW . . . aren’t you just a ray of sunshine. I thought this was a political board, exchanging ideas, etc. I didn’t realize it was a “put down” board.

            • AU
              2015-11-15 20:33:08 UTC - 20:33 | Permalink

              Sorry for sounding rude. But my point stands – you’re a bigot (because you have a different standard by which you judge your side to another), and you seem to have spent too much time around right-wing Evangelical nutjobs that you acually believed they have Shariah in Dearborn.

          • 2015-11-16 04:02:13 UTC - 04:02 | Permalink

            Yeah; Dearborn couldn’t possibly be under “Sharia law”, or I would have heard about it. I visit it regularly. It’s an interesting place, with lots of Arabs and other non-European Whites. And how could the multitude of confessions that exist in Dearborn ever decide to implement any one version of Sharia? That sounds ridiculous on the face of it, and will surely never happen. I’d say calling Anne’s statement “bigoted” is therefore justified.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-15 20:30:19 UTC - 20:30 | Permalink

      Anne, in my post I say I am opposed to any group wanting to impose Sharia law over any group in society where that law conflicts with fundamental human rights (as understood and adopted by the world community and found expressed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights). You seem to believe that a Muslim by definition is opposed to living in a society based on human rights.

      However, it appears your understanding of what a Muslim “must believe” to be a “true Muslim” has been derived from ignorant people and not from Muslims themselves. Your informants probably quoted the Koran to you — the way someone else might have quoted a Bible and said, See, true Christians will kill witches or they are not true Christians. You will protest that that’s not how Christians interpret the Bible and you would be right. I suggest you talk to Muslims and ask how they interpret the Koran and if they believe they can live in a secular democracy.

      Many can. Why not read the first chapter of The Islamist by Ed Husain and see what Muslims have to say about this.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2015-11-16 14:46:14 UTC - 14:46 | Permalink

      Anne, about Dearborn and the vote for Sharia Law. That was a hoax.

      http://www.snopes.com/politics/satire/sharia.asp

      No “yeah-buts” — It is a false statement.

  • 2015-11-15 15:04:44 UTC - 15:04 | Permalink

    “While I believe the scripture is telling me that what God tells me comes before my Constitution, I promise I will follow my conscience and follow God . . . but I won’t shove my faith down someone else’s throat.” Then, if you come to believe that God is telling you to shove your faith down someone else’s throat, you’re going to have a real problem, aren’t you?

    • Anne
      2015-11-16 12:37:10 UTC - 12:37 | Permalink

      Nope . . . because His Word doesn’t change. Man’s interpretation may . . . but He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

      • David Ashton
        2015-11-17 00:25:30 UTC - 00:25 | Permalink

        What constitutes “God’s Word”? How was it acquired? How do you know that your interpretation is correct? How do you know, for example, that “God” was the same before his “Son” ascended to his right hand as he was afterwards?

        Why isn’t the Qur’an “God’s Word”? Why is its divine authorship less credible than the “Bible”?

        • Anne
          2015-11-17 01:19:41 UTC - 01:19 | Permalink

          Lets build on the presumption we agree that there is a God. Then lets also presume we agree this God, being universal, would reveal Himself in a universal way (ie. a way that He would be understood through all cultures, times, etc). Then the question begins a review of the different revelations of God and their universal and timeless application
          >>>>
          Of the existing revelations of deity today, the Bible states that it is a once for all revelation (Jude 3, II Tim 3:16, etc). We need to understand that to conclude that it states it is not a concurrent or parallel revelation. This means, if someone says God revealed their book and the Bible, the logical answer is their book is wrong, or their book and the Bible is wrong, since the Bible made itself clear it is a stand alone revelation. This is necessary to understand, since it means any additional revelations that claim the Bible is factual are in fact false.

          With this determination made, we can see that there are only trully a handful of revelations from any God or gods that still exist (remember, we presume any God or gods is eternal, so would his will be; if his revelation is not eternal, we could not know him or her). These are:
          Bible
          Torah (seperate from the Bible)
          Koran
          Upinanishads/Vedas

          Other writings (such as Buddist writings, etc) either do not pass the test of claiming to be divine in origin, or no longer exist (such as the writings of the Zoraster religion, etc)

          One can relatively easily look at these writings and remove the Upanishads from debate, as they lack a cultural universal appeal (they appeal almost exclusively to a regional group); this is why hinduism and its related religion Buddism are . primarily a South-Asian religion. Also, they do not necessarily claim that they are inspired

          This leaves the last three potential revelations from a God, and ironically all three claim to be a revelation from the same God, the God of Abraham.

          The Torah makes multiple statements of an inpending future revelation; Jeremiah 31:31 is one of many such statements. This allows one to conclude that the Bible (the Torah/Old Testament and New Testament) is in fact in agreement with the Bible. The New Testament fo the BIble also makes references to the Old Testaments validity for its time (Romans 15:4).

          Thus the final debate is between Koran and Bible. I think that a reasonable study for the two finds:

          The Bible is more historically accurate that the Koran
          The Bible is more prophetically correct than the Koran

          • Neil Godfrey
            2015-11-17 01:34:59 UTC - 01:34 | Permalink

            There is no god. Belief in god and gods and spirits is well explained by science. The Bible is a collection of myths and its history is as mythical as the tales of King Arthur and the myth of Atlantis.

            • Anne
              2015-11-17 01:39:29 UTC - 01:39 | Permalink

              If you really wanted to know, you could find out yourself. That is what God expects of those who want to follow him. If you do not care to find out, then you really don’t care about him. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Most people do not have a fear of God. You can’t set back and expect others to do the work for you. That is what separates God’s people from the rest of the world. They care enough to find out. You could read the Bible and then research if the things that the Bible says happened, really did happen. Such as the fall of Babylon. The customs of the people who lived during the Bible times. You can see that the ones who wrote books in the Bible were very familiar with the customs of that time. Modern age people have just found out some of the customs of the area that were not know before except in the Bible. The same is true of certain events. When Babylon was captured by the Persians, modern historians thought that Nabonidus was the king. The Bible said it was Belshazzar. The modern historians claimed the Bible was wrong. A few years ago, an account of the seige of Babylon was found in ancient ruins that confirmed that Belshazzar was indeed ruling at the time Babylon fell. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus and was left in charge of Babylon while his father was away. Belshazzar was co-ruler with his father, Nabonidus. This is only one account of many where the Bible was proved to be correct and modern man wrong.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-17 01:45:00 UTC - 01:45 | Permalink

                You are being very impolite. Common courtesy should lead you to first learn a little about the room you have entered and the persons you will meet here before you start your soapbox preaching. http://vridar.org/about/

                I trust you will modify your talk or find your own way out.

              • Lowen Gartner
                2015-11-17 01:51:58 UTC - 01:51 | Permalink

                The best advice ever given to believers is in 1 Cor 13:11. If one is willing to put behind the magical thinking ways of a child there is no better place to learn to think and reason like an adult than this blog.

              • Anne
                2015-11-17 02:07:35 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

                The best advice ever given to believers is in 1 Cor 13:11. If one is willing to put behind the magical thinking ways of a child there is no better place to learn to think and reason like an adult than this blog. <<<<Lowen

                The best advice given to skeptics is Luk 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

                Because believers believe "as children" . . . they are not skeptical of what they are told or taught . . . they have an innocence. It isn't until much later they realize that their faith can not solely depend on what they're told or taught . . . but on their own research.

          • Greg
            2015-11-17 02:57:20 UTC - 02:57 | Permalink

            This is basically “let’s assume that the god of my religion exists. Now do you see that I’m right?”

            Gods that “still exist”? Are gods like genies tied to their magical lamps or just boogeymen that fade out of existence when the children stop believing in them?

            “Cultural universal appeal”? Why would their existence be contingent upon their communication with humans? Why would they hold themselves to human standards and conform their truths and demands to our cultural sensibilities? What makes us so inherently important to them that they need to win our favor?

            I certainly don’t agree that any god would inherently be eternal. Why would anyone assume that?

            “Pass the test?” Was there a James Randi challenge back in ancient times or are you simply talking about popularity, one of the most unreliable ways of determining truth?

            Why do texts need to specifically claim to be inspired in order to “count”? Why would the people of regional groups with religions that only appeal to their narrow cultures need to tell themselves that what they wrote is true?

            I realize that I’m only further contributing to a derail here as well as inviting you to break the rules further, but damn. I would feel sorry for the person who begins with the assumption that their conclusion is correct, interprets reality in light of their conclusion being correct, and then somehow fails to complete the circle.

            • GS Neil
              2015-11-19 03:37:08 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

              Right, Greg. What s/he has done is the logical fallacy known as “begging the question.” And you could say the circle does get completed, and so stays a loop of circular reasoning, which is the only way a person can believe in the Bible as so-called ‘truth.’ They believe it because it says so. But why does what it says hold authority? Because it says so.

          • David Ashton
            2015-11-20 01:49:04 UTC - 01:49 | Permalink

            The “Bible” is not a single book. It is a number of books selected after disputes and eventually authorized by church authorities long after the last book was written. Therefore the two NT quotations cited cannot and do not refer to the Bible itself. In fact, nowhere does “the Bible” refer to itself.

            Neil Godfrey may overstate the case in saying that all the history in this collection is mythical, but clearly much of it can be shown to be incredible. To take one example, the universal deluge of Noah.

            It is also possible to list clear contradictions within the collection.

            Even the ablest defenders of the literal truth of all the NT documents, such as Craig Blomberg, do not achieve their goal successfully, even for those who keep open the possibility that God exists and could have revealed himself in the manner, time-scale and geographical window that you propose.

  • AU
    2015-11-15 15:49:02 UTC - 15:49 | Permalink

    They all argue that Islamism itself, even in its so-called peaceful face, is oppressive and has no place in a secular democratic society.

    But what if the majority of Muslims want to live under an Islamist country? I mean, sure, there will be some minorities who will not be afforded the rights that we have in a secular democracy, but what right do we have to support a dictator who overthrows such a government, as happened in Egypt.

    After all, our secular democracies have problems – we have foreign policies that are often based on economic interests and not morality, and so we end up supporting despotic, oppressive regimes.

    So, basically, if Islamism would mean oppression for some, then it must never be tolerated, but if secular democracies end up with policies that oppress others in other countries, that’s ok. I find this hypocrisy abhorrent. I would much rather we engaged with Islamists, because Islamism is based on Islam, and Islam can have many interpretations, and so instead of going down the route of opportunists like Nawaaz who want to ride on popularism and say Islamism is evil, I would much rather we engaged with Islamists because engagement can often lead to people having more tolerant and liberal views.

    • Anne
      2015-11-15 19:29:02 UTC - 19:29 | Permalink

      Then they can LIVE in an Islamic country . . . but don’t come to a country that is founded on democracy and try to change it.

      • AU
        2015-11-15 19:56:47 UTC - 19:56 | Permalink

        I think you will find that Algeria and Egypt are, er … Muslim countries. That still didn’t stop us from supporting the opposition that tried to overthrow these democratically elected Islamist governments.

  • DoublePlus
    2015-11-15 18:14:14 UTC - 18:14 | Permalink

    You might need to flesh out islamophobia a bit. In practice it rarely gets applied with any nuance, any non-positive attitude towards islam is enough to get branded islamophobe, quickly followed with accusations of xenofobia and racism if you don’t disengage.

    It’s just a debate tactic to obscure and detract in my experience. Like talking to a staunch catholic about universal human rights, and then getting reduced by that person to a “vehement anti-catholic”, passing by any actual arguments that were made, straight on to whines about tone, respect, civilized discourse etc. etc.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-15 22:33:04 UTC - 22:33 | Permalink

      Originally the term means an irrational and ignorant fear of anyone associated with Islam and anything Islamic.

      Since 9/11 in particular many people have conflated the political ideology of Islamism, radicalized jihadis and all Muslims into one conceptual bracket and blamed Islam for terrorism. Like Anne here, they think any Muslim who denies they support terrorism is a lying hypocrite.

      That’s Islamophobia and a real problem, in my estimation.

      But in their efforts to defend innocent Muslims some groups have conflated any and all criticism of Islam and Islamism as an attack on Muslims, as another form of associating innocent Muslims with support for terrorism.

      It’s a confusing landscape — especially given that Muslims themselves come from such diverse backgrounds with very diverse experiences of what Islam means to them.

      Islam as a religion does have a lot of “issues” that need to be addressed in a world aspiring to live according to universal human rights. Christianity has had these issues, too, of course, and there are still small and large pockets of them among many fundamentalists etc. Judaism does, too. Some Muslims have resolved these issues but there is still a long way to go for many more.

      It is not Islamophobic to enter into the debate and critique of Islam that it needs. But it is Islamophobic to blame and accuse and stereotype. And that’s probably why I’m taking David Ashton’s advice and trying to be sparing in future about using the term Islamophobia anyway — that, too, means different things to different people.

      • David Ashton
        2015-11-15 22:59:17 UTC - 22:59 | Permalink

        Thank you. All of us, myself included, must keep trying to stick closely to precision in facts and logical argument, although generalizations are sometimes inescapable, if not lazily tempting. It is the irrational hatred that must be avoided, whether there are fair criticisms, or not, to be made of specific activities by self-defined Muslims, Jews, Christians or any other group. For example, the BBC has now been accused of “institutional antisemitism” because of the proportion of its news-coverage devoted to Israelis and Palestinians!

      • Anne
        2015-11-15 23:38:06 UTC - 23:38 | Permalink

        Like Anne here, they think any Muslim who denies they support terrorism is a lying hypocrite. <<

        I don't know where you got that impression, or others got the impression that I excused Christians who murdered, etc. If I gave that impression, I apologize as that is not how I believe.

        Regardless . . . have a nice evening

      • DoublePlus
        2015-11-15 23:44:38 UTC - 23:44 | Permalink

        Personally i find the ‘not all muslims’ line wearing pretty thin… sometimes it’s needed, but most of the time, it’s more like “yes, we know not all muslims do/think x, obviously we want to talk about the ones that do, can we get back on topic”.

        It feels like excessive pedantry, why do we have to cater discussions so as not to confuse the <10% true xenofobes.

        In any case, thanks for your interest and review of this topic so far, it's nice to hear fresh perspectives.

      • Anne
        2015-11-16 12:46:11 UTC - 12:46 | Permalink

        Actually my fear of trusting any Muslim comes a brief news story from CNN where the Muslim student body at a college was demanding “something”. To me, that wasn’t the important part of the story. At the meeting (which CNN showed a clip), a non-Muslim asked the Muslim student “Will you denounce Sharia Law?”, and instead of answering, she shut up. Asked again, she walked out. When other Muslim students with her were asked the same question, most walked out.

        Now maybe they walked out because they thought it was a stupid question . . . but if we, as in mankind, are going to get past our fear of Islam, Christianity, et al . . . it would seem to me, especially with the cameras rolling, that this would have been an excellent opportunity to clear up any misconceptions of Islam. If you were to ask me (which is a joke, I know) a question about the Bible, then if I can’t answer it . . . I will get the answer. But I won’t walk out.

        • DoublePlus
          2015-11-16 19:27:35 UTC - 19:27 | Permalink

          They prefer to think sharia is not necessarily bad, and that american perception of it is biased. If they say yes, they think they’ll be targeted unfairly by security services and face persecution.

          I’m not sure how walking away helps them, if they actually care, then, in the eyes of security services, that counts as a yes.

          In case you are interested, you can trigger this behaviour as well if you ask certain people about any questionable organization in the middle east like hamas. It works the same way.

      • Lowen Gartner
        2015-11-17 02:13:32 UTC - 02:13 | Permalink

        “I’m taking David Ashton’s advice and trying to be sparing in future about using the term Islamophobia anyway — that, too, means different things to different people.”

        I am with you on this 100%. Better to criticize the specific language and behavior that one finds problematic than employ an overly-broad term that is now mostly associated with shutting down discussion of important points.

  • Lowen Gartner
    2015-11-15 18:40:11 UTC - 18:40 | Permalink

    Dominion theology is an extreme form of Christianity similar to some forms of Islamism. Maybe we should call it “Christianism”. Just because it is extreme doesn’t mean it is not popular. It is the goal of significant portions of the population of a number of red states. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_Theology

    Do I want religions wiped off the face of the earth – not per se — just wiped out from public policy and human rights discussions. Religious social circles are controlling by nature, diminishing the agency of those involved through choice or as collateral damage (yes, the children too).

    • 2015-11-16 05:04:42 UTC - 05:04 | Permalink

      Lowen, I can decisively say Dominion theology is not popular, and you implying it is shows your ignorance of it. Rapture theology is dozens of times more popular. Dominion theology focuses on the very distant future; rapture theology on the present and short-term.

      BTW, I’m solidly anti-theist.

  • 2015-11-15 19:51:25 UTC - 19:51 | Permalink

    I recommend reading ‘Misquoting Muhammad. It makes clear that Islam is full of contested interpretations. Some key issues have totally flipped over the centuries. As Nawaz says, Islam is what Muslims make it. Their sources are so rich and diverse that you can interpret your way to whatever answer you like, be it belligerent or pacific. Link to my book review is in my username there.

    • 2015-11-16 03:52:34 UTC - 03:52 | Permalink

      Daniel Pipes makes the analogy that reading Islam through only the Quran is like reading U.S. legal doctrine only through the U.S. Constitution. I think that’s a fair and legitimate analogy.

      • David Ashton
        2015-11-16 12:03:36 UTC - 12:03 | Permalink

        The US Constitution has its Supreme Court, judges, lawyers and police. The (Roman) Catholic Church has its Pope, bishops and priests who may or may not successfully teach and enforce the so-called “magisterium” on the laity. The Qur’an and Hadith have their clerical schools, mullahs and so forth, who are influential regarding their interpretation(s) within the Ummah.

        The USA still has the death penalty; the Church still has excommunication; “Islam” still has a death sentence for apostasy.

        Daniel Pipes has some sensible and not so sensible things to say about Muslims; and must be read in conjunction with other commentators, a list from my own bulging shelves to follow in due course.

  • flumoxed
    2015-11-15 22:32:45 UTC - 22:32 | Permalink

    “I don’t see anything inherently wrong or bad in any religion in the abstract. I don’t like religion personally, but then again I don’t like mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, sandflies either. That doesn’t mean I sign up to join a program to exterminate all mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, sandflies from the planet — the consequences would be unpredictable”

    I’d sign up to an extermination squad to annihilate midges. I don’t care if they sustain a rare breed of bats. Bugger them and twice over!

    • 2015-11-16 03:54:26 UTC - 03:54 | Permalink

      I’d sign up to an extermination squad to annihilate silverfish, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and probably centipedes. Spiders are fine. I don’t know what a sandfly is.

  • 2015-11-16 03:51:06 UTC - 03:51 | Permalink

    “Islamism, no, I don’t think there’s a place for Islamism in the world today.”

    -Wow; I’m impressed. That’s the most clear statement you’ve made on Islamism all year.

  • AU
    2015-11-17 17:38:31 UTC - 17:38 | Permalink

    My latest response to Jerry Coyne – not that he will allow it, but anyway …

    Atran continues to imply that religion plays no role in Islamist terrorism, although his words sometimes appear to contradict that.

    I find this article quite absurd – there is no contradiction in what Scott Atran says. He doesn’t imply religion plays no part in terrorism (he just gives it a lot less weighting than you do, but that doesn’t imply it cannot play a part), you incorrectly come to that conclusion, and then use the part where Scott Atran says religion can play a part in religion to say that is a contradiction.

    That’s a bit like someone saying “Jerry Coyne continues to imply religion is the sole cause of Islamist terrorism, although his words sometimes appear to contradict that”.

    Yes, of course other factors are involved, but take religion out of the multifactorial mix—rerun Middle Eastern history when there is no religion and no Allah—and I seriously doubt this would be happening. There is no way that Atran can demonstrate otherwise.

    This is even more absurd. You have absolutely no idea of knowing whether, if there had been no religion in the Middle East, that region would be more peaceful or not. Absolutely none. For all we know, it could have been much worse.
    Imagine German history had been different, the Church had maintained power, and Europe was still involved in religious wars in 1945. Now if someone said “take religion out of the multifactorial mix—rerun European history when there is no religion and no Christ—and I seriously doubt this would be happening”, they would have been right, it wouldn’t have been happening – but something much, much worse would have been happening, as we saw with the Nazis. Similarly, if there was no religion and Allah in Middle Eastern history, there isn’t anything to suggest that region would have been more peaceful now, and there is no way that you can demonstrate otherwise.

    When I read Atran’s brand of Islamic apologetics, and when I think of the terrorists’ cries of “Allahu Akbar” that accompanied their Kalashnikov fire, and when I ponder why young men out for just “a good time, a cause, and brotherhood” would do these deeds knowing they were surely going to die …

    But they also shouted “this is for Syria” – but you choose to ignore that. Why? If they are shouting both Allah-u-Akbar and “this is for Syria” then it might be that their primary motive is anger and not religion, or, it could be that their primary motive is religion. Or an equal mixture of both. The bottom line is, you don’t know anymore does Scott Atran does or I do.

    Regarding Wood’s article on ISIS, considering that both you and I know that the quality of an article isn’t judged by the number of comments, you might want to allow your readers to read a response to that article by Bernard Haykel, who Wood quotes repeatedly.

    http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/02/20/3625446/atlantic-left-isis-conversation-bernard-haykel/

    Thanks.

    • Greg
      2015-11-18 00:57:58 UTC - 00:57 | Permalink

      Coyne desperately needs to familiarize himself with ultimate attribution error. Power dynamics, outside intervention, exposure to constant warfare and marginalization, and a precarious existence all conveniently end up on the peripheral in these discussions of radicalization. Easier to attribute most everything to group deficiency when it’s not your own group.

      “All we can do is infer motivations from what terrorists say and how they behave”? No, Coyne – that’s all you want done. That’s the only form of investigation your motivated reasoning permits, and anyone who goes farther than this is to be dismissed as naive, self-loathing, and/or serving religion because their conclusions often won’t fit your agenda.

      It’s strange though that all this inherent nastiness of Islam should only manifest so recently. Perhaps we should explore the history of Wahhabism for a better perspective on radicalization? Nah, Coyne has already decided that sound clips of terrorists filtered through the media is all we need to declare the case closed; introducing history or facts would just be denying reality.

      Meanwhile, the Republicans thump their chests over how little they’ll tolerate the fleeing victims of ISIS in our country, but Islamophobia was only coined to shut down discussion, not accurately describe behavior. After all, we’d be exempting a particular religion from criticism if we didn’t suspect every 5-year-old orphan coming from Syria of being a sleeper agent for Allah.

      • 2015-11-18 04:51:03 UTC - 04:51 | Permalink

        “Meanwhile, the Republicans thump their chests over how little they’ll tolerate the fleeing victims of ISIS in our country,”

        -Far more have been displaced by Assad’s bombs, rockets, and mortars. These are blunt weapons; they damage the residences of Jihadists and Christians alike.

        “It’s strange though that all this inherent nastiness of Islam should only manifest so recently”

        -It didn’t.

        “introducing history or facts would just be denying reality.”

        -Come on; he referenced “The Looming Tower”, didn’t he?

        “After all, we’d be exempting a particular religion from criticism if we didn’t suspect every 5-year-old orphan coming from Syria of being a sleeper agent for Allah.”

        -Didn’t Coyne’s blog have a post by a co-author arguing against that line of thinking? You’re making up straw men.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-11-18 04:53:58 UTC - 04:53 | Permalink

          “It’s strange though that all this inherent nastiness of Islam should only manifest so recently”

          -It didn’t.

          Ah yes! The Barbary Pirates!

          Capture-of-Blackbeard

          • Al
            2015-11-18 11:07:10 UTC - 11:07 | Permalink

            Well, according to Sam Harris the War on Terror could arguably have started with the Barbary Wars. He’s a great historian don’t you know. 😉

        • Greg
          2015-11-18 07:19:05 UTC - 07:19 | Permalink

          Far more have been displaced by Assad’s bombs, rockets, and mortars. These are blunt weapons; they damage the residences of Jihadists and Christians alike.

          Well, I guess that would make our stereotyping all Muslims as terrorists perfectly rational and OK then. We demonstrate that we’re about as tolerant of the existence of the ordinary Muslim as ISIS is, but thank God we still hold the moral high ground.

          Didn’t Coyne’s blog have a post by a co-author arguing against that line of thinking? You’re making up straw men.

          I’m talking about Coyne who asserts that Islamophobia can’t involve racism or bigotry in any way, shape, or form as it is “at bottom, only ‘criticism of the tenets of Islam'”. I don’t care what his co-authors, his grandma, or his neighbor’s dog post on his blog.

      • Anne
        2015-11-18 18:10:24 UTC - 18:10 | Permalink

        Meanwhile, the Republicans thump their chests over how little they’ll tolerate the fleeing victims of ISIS in our country, but Islamophobia was only coined to shut down discussion, not accurately describe behavior. After all, we’d be exempting a particular religion from criticism if we didn’t suspect every 5-year-old orphan coming from Syria of being a sleeper agent for Allah.<<<<Greg

        Why is the discussion turning into a Repub vs Dem mindset? Are you saying it is Islamophobic to be concerned about admitting the refugees into America? I'm not understanding how any discussion of admitting the refugees went from concern about ISIS coming in with the refugees to suspecting every 5 yr. old as a sleeper. Seriously??? That isn't even an issue. The issue is our vetting process – or lack thereof . . . . not "sleeper" cells. And after what happened in Paris, and one of the suspects in that tragedy "slipping through the cracks" WITH the refugees, I would think we all would be concerned.

        But I do have a problem with admitting "x" number of refugees FROM ANY COUNTRY and assisting them with money we don't have . . . while the men and women who served our country, are homeless and are still waiting for their VA benefits.

        • Greg
          2015-11-18 23:58:56 UTC - 23:58 | Permalink

          I’m saying it is Islamophobic to be so concerned about a single terrorist slipping through the cracks in Europe that we’re prepared to leave every one of the millions of fleeing Syrians to be murdered.

          I’m saying it is Islamophobic to be so concerned that even young orphans should be considered national security risks. If you aren’t aware, this is in reference to Chris Christie’s stance: “Not even 5-year-old orphans.”

          “The fact is that we need for appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point. They have no family here, how are we going to care for these folks? The fact is, you can come up with a number of different scenarios, Hugh, but in the end I don’t trust this administration to effectively vet the people that they’re asking us to take in. We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.”

          Rep vs Dem was certainly not my intent. It just so happens it’s the Republicans who are being the loudest and delivering the more egregious statements on the matter such as Mike Huckabee’s excuse that we shouldn’t admit refugees because the desert-dwellers probably won’t take well to the Minnesotan cold; they’re probably better adapted to bombs being dropped on them.

          Let’s face it, when even an orphan not yet old enough to attend school elicits terrorism fears, you’ve gone way past concerned.

          • Lowen Gartner
            2015-11-19 00:16:24 UTC - 00:16 | Permalink

            I agree that the American response (I am American) to the refugees has been reprehensible. And that the current clamoring to cut off immigration countries where ISIS operates even more so. This seems to me to be “terroristphobic” not “Islamaphobic”. I don’t think the concern is 5 year-olds praying toward Mecca (though I am sure that many in the red states would find that distasteful too). I don’t know if you saw the Governor of Washington’s comments, but he equates the current reaction to what Americans (we) did to the Japanese in WWII. The common theme is fear for safety, phobia against a religion or race. To me, it’s the typical conservative overreaction to fear: assert my in-group vs the out-group, arm the in-group and terrorize/ostracize the out-group.

            • Anne
              2015-11-19 00:36:57 UTC - 00:36 | Permalink

              LOL I’ll never understand how liberals can call the right intolerant, while they themselves, are as intolerant. The hypocrisy overwhelms me.

              Regardless, as an independent (but I do lean strongly to conservatism – yes, I know . . . a very dirty word) . . . I have no fear of a 5 year old; I have no fear of women and children; my fears are our vetting process which, according to the FBI, is not good because, unlike most other countries, we don’t have a lot of intel from Syria. Therefore, we don’t know who is or isn’t coming in. We don’t know who is good or bad. Probably 99% of them are good . . . so 99% of 10,000 will be good, law abiding refugees. That leaves 100 not law abiding and possibly terrorists. And it only took 9 on 9/11 and it only took a handful in Paris, etc. The FBI had also stated the vetting process will take 1-2 years. I’d like to know where these 10,000 people will be housed? And no, I don’t think we’re acting like chicken little screaming “The sky is falling, the sky is falling” . . . I think our concern is fairly appropriate, given the world we live in now.

              • Scot Griffin
                2015-11-19 06:58:02 UTC - 06:58 | Permalink

                Liberal v. Conservative is a false dichotomy, and “independent” and “libertarian” are just labels for those who buy into that dichotomy, who are conservative, and who don’t want to think of themselves that way. You really aren’t fooling anybody but yourself, Anne.

                All I know is that America has become the home of the craven and the cowardly. A bunch of crybabies who would rather give up the freedoms they claim Islam hates us for in the hopes of preventing “100 not law abiding and possibly terrorists” from coming into the country. Wow. 100 criminals with some terrorists mixed in are the same existential threat that the Soviet Union was. Right.

                Chicken Little had more guts.

                One question: do you live in a flyover state? You do realize that terrorists really don’t care about flyover states, right? And yet flyover states quake in their boots and “ban” refugees from the Middle East. Weak. No moral fortitude whatsoever.

              • Lowen Gartner
                2015-11-19 21:32:53 UTC - 21:32 | Permalink

                I would think that Christians would not only welcome, but encourage non-believers to come into their backyards. Saves on the cost of sending missionaries.

              • Anne
                2015-11-19 22:19:39 UTC - 22:19 | Permalink

                My argument about them coming is NOT because they aren’t Christian. My argument has been and will be my concern for the vetting process.

            • David Ashton
              2015-11-19 01:03:46 UTC - 01:03 | Permalink

              Is there no psychological connection between the fear of an armed invasion and occupation by different people of a territorial homeland and the fear of an unarmed invasion and occupation of a territorial homeland by different people? E.g. Palestine?

              The arguments for mass one-way immigration of different peoples from outside into western democracies are (1) “we” need them (labor) and/or (2) they need “us” (asylum). Are there any numerical or other limits to such a one-way movement, given the population projections, civil conflicts, human wrongs and climate-driven poverty, particularly in Africa and large areas of southern and western Asia? What if “we” then become “them”?

              I trust these questions are not “racist trolling”.

            • Lowen Gartner
              2015-11-19 15:45:41 UTC - 15:45 | Permalink

              Rather than using the word conservative I should have used the word reactionary — meaning those who would attempt to conserve the pet parts of their in-group’s status quo by over-reacting to changes from outside their own cozy space rather than integrating changes through adopting a more compassionate perspective, expanding their perspective of who is their brother.

              • Lowen Gartner
                2015-11-19 15:51:06 UTC - 15:51 | Permalink
              • David Ashton
                2015-11-19 21:52:38 UTC - 21:52 | Permalink

                All human beings surely have the right to conserve favorite features of their “in-group” so long as these do not oppress other “in-groups”; if this is too vague an abstract principle, then so is yours. People are also entitled to welcome new ideas and people to add to their own in-group, if they genuinely consider them an improvement, an essential asset or an interesting change.

                To use a simple analogy: I have the right to take in a guest, or a lodger, into my own home. I do not have the right to enter the home of another person as a uninvited and unwelcome squatter.

                During the last war one evening a man in distress knocked on our door and said that he had absconded from the army because his wife was having a difficult pregnancy and he had been refused compassionate leave. My parents could have notified the authorities, but instead got him a bath and a meal, and some financial assistance to see him on his way. He and his family later became good friends. Now I don’t think they could have taken in a large group of “real” deserters or German paratroops, or even given permanent accommodation to fellow-citizens who had been bombed out, like one of my uncles and his family. In fact, my father, although then an ARP warden and a naval volunteer in WW1, was at particular risk because he had publicly opposed another war with Germany, until it was actually engaged.

                Sometimes even “compassion” has its practical limits, from manning the lifeboats to emergency triage in overworked hospitals.

  • AU
    2015-11-18 13:58:42 UTC - 13:58 | Permalink

    Gosh Neil, I am having so much fun with your friend Coel at Heather’s place who still keeps insisting you thought terrorism can only have a single cause …

    http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-6975
    http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-6985
    http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-7001
    http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-7006

    I know I should stop wasting time, but I think I just find it hard to stop when I find someone showing such dishonesty and just feel obliged to keep exposing it.

    I actually think your friend would be a perfect example for anyone studying whether New Atheism can be “cult-ish” …

    • AU
      2015-11-18 22:16:45 UTC - 22:16 | Permalink

      I think I want to settle this once and for all tonight:

      http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-7032

      I know the difference between the two. I am simply applying your own standard: I never said you said that you think Coyne cannot be unfairly censoring people. Yet you keep asking me to show you a quote of something you said when I didn’t even claim you said that – see the difference?

      I said:

      Your starting point that he is a good guy and therefore cannot be unfairly censoring people, instead of trying to establish the facts first, show that you are not intellectually honest, that you are biased, and therefore, you cannot be taken seriously when it comes to debating the works of Coyne.

      And this is based on evidence. The evidence is, if someone makes a claim against someone, you do not immediately start making excuses fot that person. You first investigate the claim. If I am a police officer, and someone says Alan kicked him, I will not immediately start giving possible excuses as to why Alan might have kicked him, I will immediately ask for more information.
      If someone comes to me and says Glenn Greenwald is censoring their comments, I will not immediately giving possible excuses as to why Glenn Greenwald is censoring comments – I will ask them for more information.

      You immediately started making excuses for Coyne without asking for any information. This is strong evidence, much stronger than your “Ayaan was being inflammatory as a wake up call” nonsense, that you either think Coyne could not have been unfairly censoring comments (and therefore you did not want to ask for further information as your conclusion was already formed), or either that you do know that Coyne could be unfairly censoring comments, but you cannot come to admit it because of your tribalism, and so you must make excuses. Either way, it shows that you cannot be taken seriously when debating the works of Coyne.

      http://www.heatherhastie.com/why-would-daesh-attack-paris/#comment-7034

      I know your discussion with Neil wasn’t on this. So why do I bring it up?

      First of all, at least we have now gone past your “show me a QUOTE where I said that”, and accusing me all sorts of things. Either you had difficulty reading what I wrote, or you were trying to deliberately obfuscate – that isn’t relevant, what is relevant is that I did not attribute something to you by claiming you said that, I attributed it to you based on evidence – much stronger evidence than the evidence you use to further your points.

      Secondly, it is VERY relevant. The evidence from this incidence
      strongly suggests you formed your conclusion which tried to put Coyne in a good light and tried to fit “evidence” around it. This is unscientific, the normal process is you look at the evidence and then form a conclusion.
      Therefore, there is strong evidence suggesting that you are more interested in defending Coyne than coming to the table with an open mind – this sort of tribalism is rampant in New Atheism.

      I did not follow the whole debate Neil had, but from everything I have seen, Neil hasn’t said that religion cannot play a part. You are just extremely intellectually dishonest, and you cherry-pick something someone has written in haste where they haven’t expressed themselves exactly as they want to and attack that.

      As an example, I first wrote that you were defending Coyne because you did not think he unfairly censors comments.
      I then wrote later that you were defending Coyne because you did not think he censors comments.
      Now considering you and I debated before on Coyne’s censorship, and considering you had made justifications on why Coyne censors comments, it is obvious to that I do not think that you think Coyne censors comments. It is obvious I know you know Coyne censors comments.
      However, you chose that second statement of mine and attacked it. This is intellectual dishonesty. You knew that I know that you know that Coyne censors comments, we had debated that at length, yet you deliberately chose the comment where I was typing in haste and wrote something wrong that contradiced what I had said earlier, and attacked that.

      And you do the exact same to Neil. Yes, there have been a couple of things Neil has said that haven’t been worded rightly, but these are in contradiction with other things he has said. You however choose to cherry-pick these misworded comments and then pretend that that is Neil’s position, even though those comments contradict other things Neil says. This is intellectual dishonesty.

      Whether Coyne censors comments (he does) and whether that is fair or unfair (really, it’s his blog, it’s up to him) is entirely beside the point!

      If Coyne is unfairly censoring comments, then that is a HUGE problem, because then the evidence suggests he is afraid of his audience hearing alternative viewpoints. In other words, he is interested in creating an echo-chamber, much like Stormfront do, where they have a comments section for opposing views but then start to censor comments and ban you once you start exposing them.

      We all here know that censoring comments unfairly is a HUGE issue, some of us just don’t want to address the possibility that Coyne might be unfairly censoring comments because then that shatters the myth that New Atheists have been brainwashed with that New Atheism is all about debating openly and rationally.

  • Al
    2015-11-18 15:31:46 UTC - 15:31 | Permalink
  • anon
    2015-11-19 09:43:50 UTC - 09:43 | Permalink

    I agree that we really need definitions—particularly about how to define “Islamism”—-but, IMO, if the definition is that an Islamist is someone who wants Sharia—that is too vague…If “Islamist” is equated with fascism—then it is an interesting definition but fascism itself is a somewhat loose term—“Fascism /ˈfæʃɪzəm/ is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Influenced by national syndicalism, fascism originated in Italy during World War I, in opposition to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism.”—from Wikipedia…..

    Islam/Sharia/Islamist—freedom from oppression is an Islamic value—some anti-colonial movements expressed themselves in “Islamic” language—but essentially were struggling for freedom. Other Muslim movements also expressed themselves in Nationalism and such non-Islamic language but the struggle was still for freedom…..(the right of a group of people for self-determination) Is it not hypocritical to label one set of expression as wrong and one right simply because one set of expression uses “Islamic” language/terms and the other uses Western ones? Is the French revolution (morally) right but the Arab spring (morally) wrong?

    Should we not look deeper? We might first want to figure out exactly what it is we are condemning before we go about condemning it?

    I like what Neil said here—“I am opposed to any group wanting to impose Sharia law over any group in society where that law conflicts with fundamental human rights (as understood and adopted by the world community and found expressed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights).”—defining “Islamist” in terms of the specific values it claims to represent may be a way of making it more concrete?…..rather than simply equating Sharia with inequality…..but if one is going to be so specific—why use a general term—simply use the name of the group that is advocating for such a value—such as the one mentioned by Majid—Hizb ut Tahrir?

    But there are other definitions—https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamism

    Another questionable term is Jihad/Jihadi—These days the net uses the term “social justice warriors” for those “westerners” who are advocating/striving for justice and equality in our societies—this is what Jihad means to Muslims. It is an honorable term—and applying it to the likes of extremists and terrorists such as ISIS is ironic…and surreal…

    There is also the disturbing fact of the spread of Wahabism—an exclusive puritanical doctrine—(that I personally find unappealing). The ideas/ideology of Wahabism can only be properly countered using Islamic terms/concepts/philosophies—for those Muslims who find Wahabism unappealing but do not want to abandon Islam. IMO, secularization does not effectively counter-attack toxic ideologies—it just tells people—keep your toxic beliefs private. Maybe today—that is no longer good enough?

    Religion—what this means to some is that one gives assent to a set of credos and that is it. But for many “religions” that is not “it” —for example, Judaism, Hinduism (and offshoots) and Islam have dietary laws—this means that everytime one eats—one is following the “religion”—it is inescapably a way of life…..even shopping for food is a religious exercise—Hindus look for the vegetarian mark, Jews look for the kosher mark and Muslims for the Halal mark!!
    So—under such circumstances—if a Muslim, Jew, Hindu were to talk to someone of the same faith/philosophy using the common terminology they were familiar with—are they political xyz? should their views be censored or banned?

    In the case of the aboriginal man in the above post—He murders his wife—goes to jail—hopefully this will convince him his actions were wrong—or he may think he was forced into jail because someone imposed their moral standards onto him and he had no choice–in any case—would it not be better for the long term if such toxic ideas were out in the open–were discussed/debated by other aboriginal members and the community came to a consensus that murder was bad…..then that community “owns” the values and will willingly protect those values from those who would abuse or break them…..This is what leads to moral progress….a moral progress not imposed by someone else—but voluntarily accepted….that would be freedom?….

    Secularism may have been one way to deal with the toxic ideas of Christianity—and maybe it worked for the West—(though I personally think that not confronting toxic ideas and instead sweeping them under the rug was not wise)….but for my Muslim community—I would like for them to actively struggle against bad/toxic ideas by advocating for good/beneficial alternatives in language that the global Muslim community can identify with and feel comfortable in…..I also feel that there should not be just one right way—While the ethcio-moral principles of humanity are universal—their expression and implementation can be varied….

    • David Ashton
      2015-11-19 11:47:15 UTC - 11:47 | Permalink

      Vague labels are indeed a problem and not a solution. Mr Griffin (above) is correct, for example, about some of them, but sweeping in some of his own generalizations. I am no innocent myself in this respect, though I would distinguish between different groups, who nevertheless all define themselves as Muslims who at least value the Qur’an and maybe practice mosque attendance and such “pillars” such as daily prayer or even pilgrimage.

      The crucial difference between modern Christians in general and modern Muslims in general, however, is that there is a sharp difference in tone, content and acceptance of their chief scriptures, i.e. minimally the New Testament and the Qur’an. The former is notably quite pacific in its apparent recommendations for social behavior, perhaps even to a fault in its unworldly self-denial. The latter is notably militant, especially in suras that have not been abrogated, and the reach of its content, however disputed by competitive sectarians, in political terms is great in most Arab states and in Iran.

      To defend the freedoms – and also the rest of the cultural heritage – of non-Islamic countries from the intrusive impacts of mass colonization of Muslim communities with added foreign languages and customs, whether da’wah by many and militant (lesser) jihad by a few, is no easy task, but it should not be abandoned in an self-deceptive orgy either of blind animosity or of suicidal guilt.

      • Scot Griffin
        2015-11-20 03:44:40 UTC - 03:44 | Permalink

        David,

        I did not take issue with “vague labels” but with false dichotomies, and I did not undermine my position by introducing my own false dichotomy. Rather, I offered my opinion that America has become a country of cowards. The map at this link provides some empirical evidence in support of that conclusion: http://www.vox.com/2015/11/16/9746456/map-syrian-refugees-governors

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-19 22:33:41 UTC - 22:33 | Permalink

      anon, you quote me approvingly but I oppose your Islamist ideology.

      Secular democracy guarantees freedoms and then faces serious challenges when the freedoms exercised bring blowback. That is the challenge for secular democracy — how to fight for its survival against the threats against it and to find ways to end the wrongs that are threatening it from within. Some of us are actively fighting against neoliberalism. Attacking secular democracy with another political-religious system is only threatening to take us back to the dark ages all the more surely.

      Islamism is not freedom except in your fanciful imagination — the same way Christians preach their truth will set them free, the same way fascists and communists once taught that their way was the way of true freedom and releasing the human potential. Your recent comments have only demonstrated that you are the one who does not know or understand what you are opposing. You confuse capitalism and democracy, and even Islam with freedom.

      You disingenuously posted links recently to suggest that gays, for example, would be accepted in a Sharia legal system. But of course we know that the laws in Muslim countries that do not criminalize homosexuality are the very laws that Islamists oppose as symptoms of corrupt Muslim regimes.

      • AU
        2015-11-19 23:07:20 UTC - 23:07 | Permalink

        I am a bit confused by your post, Neil – actually, very confused.

        You have argued that there is no universal Islam – that people interpret it differently.

        If there is no universal Islam, then there cannot be a universal Islamism – Islamism is wanting to be ruled by Islamic doctrine. For example, some Muslims interpret that homosexuality is ok – you even have gay Muslim groups. What if they wanted to live by Shariah i.e. they were Islamists. Their Shariah would not punish homosexuality, and therefore, their Islamism would accept gays.

        I cannot see how you can hold the views that Islam can be interpreted in many different ways, yet paint all Shariah and Islamism as one – these views are contradictory.
        Either you believe that Islam cannot be interpreted in many different ways, in which case you believe there is only one Islam and one Shariah and one Islamism, or, you believe, Islam can be interpreted in many different ways, in which case you believe there can be many different Shariahs and Islamism.

        Also, your statement that secular democracy guarantees freedom isn’t actually true. Now of course secular democracy guarantees more freedoms than any Islamist state is probably ever likely to, but it still doesn’t mean it guarantees freedom. If I want to marry, say two women, here in the UK, I cannot. I don’t have the freedom to do this, even though there isn’t anything wrong with it. (I don’t want to marry two women, I am just saying). If I want to walk naked down the street, I cannot – even though there isn’t anything wrong with it. In fact, the “naked rambler” in the UK has spent much of the last decade in prison here in the UK. I am sure he will not agree with you that secular democracy guarantees freedom.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-11-19 23:25:00 UTC - 23:25 | Permalink

          Islamism is about control, laws for society. As such it is opposed to secular democracy. The people make the laws, not the imams. Islamism is a political ideology.

          I don’t mean to suggest that secular democracy guarantees absolute freedoms. Freedoms are always constrained to avoid denying other people their rights. There’s probably no perfect secular democracy, but some good progress has been made.

          • AU
            2015-11-19 23:53:03 UTC - 23:53 | Permalink

            Secular democractic law is also about control and laws for society. So a law gets created that you cannot marry two people, and so I am controlled by that law.

            Also, the people do not make laws in a secular democracy, the politicians make the laws. The people vote for the politicians, but they don’t get to vote on each law that is passed – there is no referendum for each law.

            You could have an Islamism where different Islamists set out what their interpretation of the Shariah is, and then people vote for which Shariah they want. This wouldn’t be very different from our countries where people vote for whose policies they agree with. So you could have a sort of hybrid Islamism-democracy.

            In fact, this is what was happening in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood, before they were overthrown. As someone who has been anti-war all my life, I was horrified at the way in which over 600 demonstrators were killed in a massacre which HRW described as being on the scale of Tiananmen Square, but what horrified me even more was how so many of me fellow liberals who go around professing to care about human rights were totally indifferent to this, and said that it is bad but we are better of without an Islamist government. They actually justified it.
            And the reason these people were acting like this was because they were thinking just like you – treating Islamism as something which cannot have varying levels of tolerance. This is very very dangerous ground indeed – if you start treaing Islamism as some unmitigated evil like fascism, you are laying the seeds for us to be militarily at war with Muslims who are not interested in violence but believe in Islamism for many, many years to come.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-11-20 00:47:17 UTC - 00:47 | Permalink

              The principle underlying secular democratic societies is that religion needs to be kept out of politics. That is the only way to guarantee their universal right to practice their religion. (I have previously addressed religious practices that deny human rights. If you don’t like the marriage laws then in a secular democracy you are free to campaign to have them changed and we have seen how they can be changed with social activism very recently with respect to gay marriage.)

              To guarantee that right then secular democracies need laws and enforcement. Law are made by politicians but in a democratic state those politicians are answerable to the people. (I know the problems we are facing with the great divide between rich and poor but that is a challenge that must be faced and tackled to preserve/restore democracy.)

              If the majority of the people vote for Sharia law than that’s a tragedy for democracy. Secular democracy needs education, public awareness and commitment to survive.

              Most Egyptians did not vote for the Islamic Brotherhood but the system allowed that party to win. There were two ways to respond to that victory: further democratic activism and propaganda (in the positive sense) and popular pressure to maintain the secular basis for laws or a restoration of the Mubarak tyranny.

              Tunisia’s Ennahda movement has upheld the secular basis of government to the relief of many.

              In 1951 Australians voted against a government proposal to ban the Communist Party of Australia even though it was dedicated to overthrowing our system of democracy. One reason the CPA never gained a strong following in Australia is probably the result of massive propaganda campaigns against Communism. There have been certain Christian parties who have sought political power — both Catholics and Fundamentalists. I consider the Islamists as much a threat to secular democracy and the survival of the values of human rights as any other religious party, but worse, because . . . .

              Islamists like “anon” who sometimes comments here reject democracy, not to speak of secular democracy. They equate it with all the ills of neoliberalism. They want to get rid of secular democracy. Islamists reject secular democratic values — though they may be willing to work tactically within such a system as a means to a longer-term end.

              If an Islamic party has part of its platform to maintain a secular basis for its legislation then I don’t equate them with an “Islamist” group.

              • anon
                2015-11-20 03:09:00 UTC - 03:09 | Permalink

                I do not reject democracy—No Muslim should since the Prophet and first the 4 “rightfully guided” Caliphs were “elected”/chosen by the majority. I am only pointing out that Modern democracy has problems…..

                If you listen to the likes of Namazie and Hirsi Ali—it is little wonder that you think “Sharia” is a mortal threat to all that is good, Western, and “Secular”. That is why they have no credibility with Muslims. They have an unsophisticated, biased perspective about Islam and Sharia. Their audience are Westerners who want to feel good about themselves. —it is Us vs Them—I am certain you would have eventually recognized this on your own—-you have commented on this simplistic binary thinking many times here.

                Have you considered—- people who want Sharia are Muslim “Feminists”? Are they “Islamists”? Many Muslim majority countries have a hybrid system of law—Sharia is used for personal law such as marriage, divorce etc….If there is injustice or inequality—Muslims have to work to reform these laws and Muslim feminists are using the ethico-moral principles of their faith to gain gender justice. They are arguing legal points with the legal methodology established for Law (just as Western Law has a set of methodology to arrive at laws such as Precedents, Constitution, Principles/codes….etc) so does Sharia.
                People (Muslims) such as Aziza Al Hibri and Amina Wadudd have done much because they speak to Muslim concerns using language, terms, concepts that Muslims understand and are familiar with to bring about beneficial change. If you dismiss them and their work you are doing an injustice. Particularly if you dismiss their perspectives for the feel-good narratives that the likes of Hirsi Ali and others are peddling.

                So…what objection do these women have with Western feminism that they want to work with Sharia? According to them—they want to be Muslims. Western feminists want discourse that does not include “religion” or religious terminology and concepts or philosophies. But Western terminology does not resonate with the average Muslim women or with the Jurists who make a countries laws. For Muslim advocates of equality—they have to work within the community they are addressing in order to communicate effectively and persuade for change. With 1400 years of Legal precedent and discourse to rely upon—Muslim feminists have an advantage over their Western counterparts. While Western laws were generally misogynistic in the past—Sharia was not.

                http://karamah.org/resources/articles
                (Muslim women laywers for human rights)

                Neil said—“The principle underlying secular democratic societies is that religion needs to be kept out of politics. That is the only way to guarantee their universal right to practice their religion. “—-But what do you do when Law is religion? Judaism, Islam, Buddhism/Hinduism all understand religions as “Law”—Dharma, Halaka, Sharia. Therefore—one might argue that when you separate religion—you have to separate law from politics/government if the practice of religion entails the practice of law…that would be full “Secularism”.—but Western secularism is based on a Christian-centric definition of “religion”.

                Hirsi Ali, Namazie, and also Islamophobes bring up matters that should not be dismissed simply because the language they use is biased or prejudicial. But neither should these pov be taken without scrutiny.

                How to intelligently criticize “Islam” or Islamism” or “Sharia” —do not generalize.
                If one has problems because Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive—then criticize Saudi Arabia within the context of its laws, traditions, interpretations etc. Do not say—because Saudi does xyz—Sharia, Islam,Islamism is bad and should be eradicated. Turn the tables to see—apparently Texas has the death penalty—should we say that because of that all secular laws–even those in Britain and Australia should be abolished because they are a threat to human rights? Anybody who takes such a stand will have no credibility….because everyone is aware that simply because Texas practices a particular brand of secular law—-not every secular country or territory follows……..”secularism” and secular laws are not just one monolith—there are many varieties.

                “Islamism is not freedom except in your fanciful imagination”—yes—depending on your definition of Islamism you are right. …..But…..Freedom/Rights are an important component of Sharia. In Maqasid al Sharia (the philosophical discourse on the purpose of Law) 6 general areas of protection of rights are identified as the purpose of “Law”.
                a) Religion/conscience (deen) b) Life (nafs) c) Lineage/progeny (nasl) d) Intellect (aql) e) Property/wealth (mal).

                If we are defining “Islamism” as Fascism (a Modern movement) then “law” is probably not an important component in that definition of Islamism……
                http://mondoweiss.net/2015/11/isis-fascist-movement

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-20 03:37:55 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

                But you do reject secular democracy. Democracy is fine for you if it results in an Islamic state.

                Secularism is the way to guarantee all religions their rights. That is what you seem to fail to understand. That is the point I am making: separation of church and state. Or mosque/synagogue and state.

                I have not read Hirsi Ali or Namazie and have criticized what I have heard of Hirsi Ali‘s views. If you call me an Islamophobe ….. seriously? I think that’s the equivalent of Zionists calling me an anti-semite because I criticize Israel.

                Let the reforms of Islam be debated and carried out but keep religion out of politics. If Muslim women would be as free as any others then why bother to try to get political power at all? The Churches have done very well with their own reforms without having to seek political power.

                If you have so much freedom under Sharia then that’s great! Fantastic. But why make the effort to give that same freedom to those who don’t want it? Why seek to impose your freedoms on others?

                The point of secularism is to have a neutral hand that allows you your freedoms under Sharia and the Christians’ freedoms and their laws — all side by side. Without one group having to pay a tax to the other for the privilege.

                Do you somehow think that secularists somehow hate religion and are conspiring to destroy it? We understand and respect the religions and freedoms from religion for all. You can’t understand that?

              • George Hall
                2015-11-20 04:36:12 UTC - 04:36 | Permalink

                I remember that an Iranian minister was pointing out that in the Middle East, they don’t do separation of “church” and state.

                That’s something we in the West don’t get.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-20 04:59:12 UTC - 04:59 | Permalink

                There’s nothing about the Middle East character or people that makes them different in their desires for freedom and democracy from us. You are expressing the pure Orientalism (a form of racist prejudice), George. Refugees are, after all, fleeing to the West, not to Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

              • AU
                2015-11-20 09:03:07 UTC - 09:03 | Permalink

                Refugees are, after all, fleeing to the West, not to Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

                Actually, the vast majority are fleeing to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and not the West. The people who often go around saying “refugees all want to come to the West” are the far-right nationals who want to say that the West is much better than the backwards Middle East and they all want to come to the West.

                Furthermore, it’s easier for them to reach “the West”, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar won’t let them in, otherwise I am sure many would have gone to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-20 09:15:06 UTC - 09:15 | Permalink

                Of course. You are right. Though I don’t know how many would have chosen to go to Saudi Arabia. It’s far from their “religious kin” that George was saying — directly opposed, actually.

              • AU
                2015-11-20 09:30:18 UTC - 09:30 | Permalink

                The fact is, you do not need the popular vote to come into power in a democracy – in countries where there isn’t a two-party State, like the UK, often the party that comes in didn’t win the most votes. Take the Tories as an example, they had 37% of the vote, and now rule the country with a majority of MPs.

                The fact also is that Morsi went to the elections five times, and he won each time. Yes, he didn’t have the popular vote, but it is hypocritical to suggest that Morsi not having the popular vote somehow justifies him being overthrown (not saying you necessarily justify it, but I know others who have said this), unless you also believe the same can happen in a secular democracy where we allow the military to come in, overthrow someone who was democraticallty elected, albeit with a minority vote, ban the party, kill more than 500 of their demonstrators, and jail 1000s of their party members.

                And another fact is – the Muslim Brotherhood were MOCKED by groups like Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The taunts were “so you believed in the Western way of democracy, and now look at you, you were democratically elected, yet you were still overthrown and your members killed and jailed and people in the West are justifying it”. And they were right – we are hypocrites, when our democratic system denies people human rights we say “yeah, it sucks, but we can change it in the future”, but when someone else’s system denies them human rights, we don’t say “yeah, it sucks, but let’s try and work with them and maybe they can change it in the future”*, instead, we justify violence against them.

                * You’re going to say “but Islamism can never grant people human rights”. But that simply isn’y true, and it can easily be proved.
                Islamism = being ruled by Islamic Law.
                Islamic Law = based on interpretation of Islam
                Interpretation of Islam = varies widely, from throwing gays off the top of buildings to allowing gays to marry

                Therefore, if the interpretation of Islam varies widely, then it is possible to have an Islamist government that is very tolerant and respects human rights. After all, organisations like CAIR, which believe in Islam, do not advocate killing gays or killing apostates, yet they are following Islam. If they wanted to be ruled by Islam, then their Shariah and Islamism would not kill gays or apostates.

                Now I would not want a country today to follow Islamism, because I believe that the majority of Islamist movements will deny a huge number of people fundamental human rights.

                However, that doesn’t mean to say I will say Islamism is really bad – because Islamism can vary greatly, and whilst the majority of groups who want Islamism today and not very tolerant, it doesn’t mean none in the future can be.
                It’s a bit like someone in 1900 saying secular democracy is really bad and we should not have secular democracy, because all the secular democracies at that time denied a huge number of people basic human rights that we take for granted now.

                No, societies evolve over time, and change their views. It took our secular democracy centuries to reach the point they have today. If you had a democratically elected Caliph, then I am sure over time, people would vote for a Caliph that is more tolerant and gives more and more rights to minorities. Therefore, the argument that Islamism can never grant people human rights and secular democracies can is false – and dangerous, because it presents us as being the custodians of human rights and them over there as people who can never give others human rights. It’s a very over-simlified narrative that only fuels the us versus mentality, and gives legitimacy to be at war with them – that Islamists must be “defeated”.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-20 10:10:36 UTC - 10:10 | Permalink

                The fact is, you do not need the popular vote to come into power in a democracy – in countries where there isn’t a two-party State, like the UK, often the party that comes in didn’t win the most votes. Take the Tories as an example, they had 37% of the vote, and now rule the country with a majority of MPs.

                I am well aware of this quirk. Such a set up is not a rule for democracies, however, but how different jurisdictions set up their various electorates. The same sometimes happens in Australia where a party can win despite not getting the same number of votes as the loser. But we accept that as the system and to the extent that we perceive inequalities we have systems to attempt address these.

                The fact also is that Morsi went to the elections five times, and he won each time. Yes, he didn’t have the popular vote, but it is hypocritical to suggest that Morsi not having the popular vote somehow justifies him being overthrown (not saying you necessarily justify it, but I know others who have said this), unless you also believe the same can happen in a secular democracy where we allow the military to come in, overthrow someone who was democraticallty elected, albeit with a minority vote, ban the party, kill more than 500 of their demonstrators, and jail 1000s of their party members.

                And another fact is – the Muslim Brotherhood were MOCKED by groups like Al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The taunts were “so you believed in the Western way of democracy, and now look at you, you were democratically elected, yet you were still overthrown and your members killed and jailed and people in the West are justifying it”. And they were right – we are hypocrites, when our democratic system denies people human rights we say “yeah, it sucks, but we can change it in the future”, but when someone else’s system denies them human rights, we don’t say “yeah, it sucks, but let’s try and work with them and maybe they can change it in the future”*, instead, we justify violence against them.

                I have no problem siding with you on the Morsi case. His overthrow was criminal, barbaric. I entirely agree. I deplored the coup. I had hoped for great things for Egypt till Sisi acted. I certainly don’t justify the violence against Morsi.

                * You’re going to say “but Islamism can never grant people human rights”. But that simply isn’y true, and it can easily be proved.
                Islamism = being ruled by Islamic Law.
                Islamic Law = based on interpretation of Islam
                Interpretation of Islam = varies widely, from throwing gays off the top of buildings to allowing gays to marry

                I don’t know if you are really directing this at me personally. I don’t say “Islamism can never grant people human rights” — that’s an overstatement I don’t think I have ever made.

                The way I use Islamism is not the same as you do. To me it is the ideology that believes that Islamic law or Sharia of some interpretation should rule a society or group within society. I don’t follow what you are trying to say in the other =’s.

                But one thing is missing in your equation I think. Islamism does not believe in secular democracy. It only “believes” in it to the extent that it can be a tactical tool to be used to work towards another system.

                Therefore, if the interpretation of Islam varies widely, then it is possible to have an Islamist government that is very tolerant and respects human rights. After all, organisations like CAIR, which believe in Islam, do not advocate killing gays or killing apostates, yet they are following Islam. If they wanted to be ruled by Islam, then their Shariah and Islamism would not kill gays or apostates.

                Of course it is possible. If all religious lawmakers fully agreed to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their first obligation in any law making then that’s fine — no problem.

                But I think we need to be clear about the distinction between Islamic governments and Islamist parties.

                Now I would not want a country today to follow Islamism, because I believe that the majority of Islamist movements will deny a huge number of people fundamental human rights.
                However, that doesn’t mean to say I will say Islamism is really bad – because Islamism can vary greatly, and whilst the majority of groups who want Islamism today and not very tolerant, it doesn’t mean none in the future can be.

                When Islamist groups declare that the Declaration of Human Rights trump any Sharia law than we have no problem. But Islamism does not believe in secular democracy except as a stepping stone to something else.

                It’s a bit like someone in 1900 saying secular democracy is really bad and we should not have secular democracy, because all the secular democracies at that time denied a huge number of people basic human rights that we take for granted now.

                We have to work with the world as it is, don’t we? We can’t think, Well, these are bad people now but give them power and in time they’ll become good.

                We compare options available to us at the time. If the alternatives to secular democracy were worse in 1900, if democracy was the worst form of government except for all the rest…..

                No, societies evolve over time, and change their views. It took our secular democracy centuries to reach the point they have today.

                What has changed has been our values and I suspect it’s the rise of secularism and a democratic environment that has facilitated this progress.

                If you had a democratically elected Caliph, then I am sure over time, people would vote for a Caliph that is more tolerant and gives more and more rights to minorities.

                But why gamble? What’s the alternative that you’re rejecting? Why have a Caliph at all if we believe in a secular democracy?

                Therefore, the argument that Islamism can never grant people human rights and secular democracies can is false – and dangerous, because it presents us as being the custodians of human rights and them over there as people who can never give others human rights. It’s a very over-simlified narrative that only fuels the us versus mentality, and gives legitimacy to be at war with them – that Islamists must be “defeated”.

                I don’t say Islamism can never grant people human rights but what Islamist movement is there now who would enact laws fully compatible with the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The us versus them dichotomy is wrong if it is Muslims versus us. That’s wrong. But Islamism is not a religion as I understand it. It is a political ideology.

                The human rights that I am speaking of are in the custody of the united nations — that’s not “us” being the custodians of those rights. Isn’t Saudi Arabia been elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission! (I know, satire dies.)

  • anon
    2015-11-20 04:33:51 UTC - 04:33 | Permalink

    I do not think you are an Islamophobe—if I thought so, I would not be here, nor would I attempt any discussion with you—I lack the patience to do so…it is my character flaw….

    (also—I like the perspectives of You, Tim, and some of the commentators here….and that is my right….)

    My purpose in discussing these matters is simply to urge you and others here to have the patience to dig deeper. Also, by commenting, I am myself reflecting, learning and forming opinions that will be subject to change….

    Why seek to impose your freedoms on others?—Exactly my point all along—Secularism—a Western construct does exactly that!!. That does not mean I dismiss secularism—it is a good concept and has benefits—but if a Muslim/Jew/Buddhist wants to keep the Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist identity in public—not hide it in private—what do you do? Western secularism says you cannot bring religious values into the public sphere—it must be private…..so how can we find a solution to such social tensions that are Just, respect the dignity of all, and protect freedoms?

    you say—“The point of secularism is to have a neutral hand that allows you your freedoms under Sharia and the Christians’ freedoms and their laws — all side by side. Without one group having to pay a tax to the other for the privilege.” —This is what I want as well—but is Secularism “neutral”? Can it be? It demands that public discourse NOT bring particular value terminology—thereby suppressing the identity-constructs of many groups of people…?….
    Consider—when there is only one law for all—it erases the particularities. In large secular territories such as the U.S. and Australia—this aspect is recognized so that federal law and state law are allowed to have differences. Therefore—it may be obvious that a concept of one neutral law for all was never a pragmatic concept…?….

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-20 05:37:55 UTC - 05:37 | Permalink

      The principle of a secular democracy is often said to have grown out of the religious conflicts of Europe of yesteryear. It is not about imposing secular values on people but about having a secular umpire (a non-religious umpire) making freedom available to all religions, not only those of the majority faith but for all the minorities, too.

      No-one is being compelled to be secularist in their personal or cultural philosophy. They are asked to accept the secular arbiter that allows them all to live side by side.

      Australia is said to be one of the more successful multitcultural secular democracies. (We are not a 100% pure “secular democracy” since we still have religious trappings — e.g. our head of state, the Queen of England, is also the head of the Anglican Church; we still have prayers at the opening of Parliament as far as I am aware — but most of these are now empty cultural relics and there are constant efforts to remove even these toothless trappings.) My point, though, is that I think the majority of Australians take pride in the many displays of cultural diversity here. In Darwin where I live at the moment we have parades and festivals throughout the year for a host of ethnic groups (and a gay festival too), we have a mosque, buddhist temple, catholic church, — and visit the supermarket any time and you can recognize people by their cultural and religious association because of the way they dress in public.

      That’s not telling people they cannot express their religion publicly. And the parties that are the strongest in defending the rights of religious groups to express themselves publicly are the most hard-core secularists (e.g. the Greens Party).

      I understand France does it differently in some respects and I also understand that that’s how they’ve attempted to deal with an apparently less successful effort at assimilation. If so, I would expect Muslims there to respect their right to ban public religious displays because of what I understand is a more tense and potentially explosive situation. As they say, if you don’t like living here you are welcome to move to where you feel more comfortable. Certainly in Australia there is no such ban on the hijab and community groups (non-Muslims, secularists in the Greens Party, for example) strongly defend the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab in public against those minorities who want it banned.

      Can securalism be neutral? It is the closest answer anyone can get to neutrality. If people want to protest and try to overthrow secularism with religious political parties or demand displays that are provocative or proselytizing then that’s a danger. All freedoms are guaranteed only to the extent that they do not infringe the right of others.

      • AU
        2015-11-20 09:53:23 UTC - 09:53 | Permalink

        If so, I would expect Muslims there to respect their right to ban public religious displays because of what I understand is a more tense and potentially explosive situation. As they say, if you don’t like living here you are welcome to move to where you feel more comfortable.

        I am a bit shocked at reading that to be honest. You, a good person, who believes in human rights, are defending the indefensible.

        The banning of the niqab in public is against the human rights of those women. There are no two ways about it. Human Rights Watch has argued that this ban breaches the human rights of those women, and they are right.

        https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/03/france-face-veil-ruling-undermines-rights

        You argument that if those women do not like it they can move elsewhere is quite shocking. Would you feel the same way if an Islamist government said “all women must wear the burkha, and if they don’t like it, they can move elsewhere”?

        I don’t know about Australia, but in Europe, the EU Human Rights Act states that every individual has the right to a family life. Now please tell me, why should a woman, who has been born in France, lives in France, has her parents in France, has her husband in France, has kids in France that go to school there, has her friends in France, who wants to wear the niqab, have to go and live in an other country and be denied her right to family life?

        Of course, no one is saying a woman has the right to wear the niqab in every place. Take a shop assistant for example – people might not feel comfortable buying something from someone where they cannot see the face. Therefore, the shop has the right to say that they will not employ someone whose face isn’t vidisble. However, in public, a woman has every right to wear a veil – her wearing the veil isn’t affecting anyone. If it makes people feel uncomfortable, tough. Would you say two gay men should not be allowed to walk holding hands in Texas because it might make people feel uncomfortable? Of course you wouldn’t. So why should a woman who wants to wear a veil not be able to just because others might feel uncomfortable.

        The whole banning of religious symbols at work is silly – a woman was fired for wearing a cross. I think that is against her human rights – I am a libertarian, and whilst I appreciate institutions can have uniform policies, to ban someone for wearing something that doesn’t go against the uniform policy but because it is a religious symbol – well, I don’t want to live in such a society, no one has the right to impose control over others at such a level.

        You have been writing a series on what causes terrorism – one of the things that attracts Muslims to violence is that they see us as being hypocrites, and their religion is full of criticism of hypocrites, and so they really start to hate us. They see instances where we deny fundamental human rights to Muslim women, where we support coups against democratically elected Islamist governments, where we support dictators who torture, and they say “look at these hypocrites, they talk about democracy and human rights, but look at what they really do”.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-11-20 10:15:19 UTC - 10:15 | Permalink

          Of course I disagree with the ruling personally but I understand France is not setting the Muslims apart but is requiring them to abide by the same law that applies to Catholics and Jews. If it applies to all then it is not a case of discrimination against one religion. It is something else. Or do I not have the facts right here? Do you know the reasons for these laws in France, the background that led to them?

          Different countries have different histories and situations that do require different laws. In Australia, for example, it seems we need more strict laws regarding the hours and spaces we can purchase and drink alcohol in public than we find in other more civilized nations. And Aboriginal communities have even more stringent laws regarding this right. Different histories, cultures, situations do give rise to different laws — what’s not a problem in one place may have a different set up somewhere else.

          In Eastern Europe it is okay for ethnic soccer clubs to display their ethnic flags; but in Australia that right was banned as part of a campaign to tackle ugly ethnic violence that was part of the sport and to drag it out of tribalism and into the mainstream national culture.

          Sometimes certain rights are denied for the greater good — for the greater happiness and well-being of the majority and for the maximum ability of most to enjoy their human rights.

          And clothing is a strong symbol that can stir ethnic and religious hostilities in some cultures. The first woman to wear a hajib in the Turkish parliament caused a scandalous uproar — and understandably. The question was not her human right (she could wear the hajib anywhere else she wished) but it did open up tensions that threatened to open up religious hostility towards the secular law-making body.

          History and local conditions are important– not to repress and deny human rights, but to protect the human rights and well being of the general community given their particular situation.

          • AU
            2015-11-20 11:30:18 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

            Erm, you were victim blaming. Maybe you didn’t mean to, but that’s what you wrote was – not condemning the French and asking the Muslims to accomodate to bigotry.

            You were saying what you would expect Muslims to do regading the ban, such as go and live in another country, when you should have been saying you expect Muslims to continue demanding their right to wear the veil in public and not have to move to another country to exercise their human rights, and you expect the French people who are offended by it to grow up and start acting like adults and not get upset over how someone else is dressed.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-11-20 11:47:06 UTC - 11:47 | Permalink

              No. Unless you say that France makes all religions a “victim”. Victim of what exactly? Not being allowed to parade their respective religions in public schools?

              My point is that as I understand the situation in France it is NOT bigotry or prejudice bans the hajib but a common law that applies to all religions and displays of religiosity in public with respect to clothing or body advertising. If my understanding is correct there is no singling out of Muslims and no anti-Islamic bigotry involved at all in the ruling. It is not about victims — it applies to all religions as I understand it. It is a rule for religious public behaviour in that country. The same applies to anyone who does not like the laws of France — and on the understanding that they have arisen as a result of their particular situations — then yes, I would respect those laws if they are generally approved by the public or if I preferred to live in another culture with different laws then I would expect to wish I could move there or move there.

              As I understand the situation in France, if the rights of religions are denied then the Muslims would surely combine with Jews and others to demand their collective rights. But if there is no bigotry involved but if the laws are an attempt to limit religious conflict then I think we have a serious discussion on our hands and cannot just knee-jerk with a libertarian response.

              Anyway, I don’t know enough about the details of France to have an opinion about what they should do with respect to their laws — I understand Sikh turbans are also banned, Jewish Stars of David, Christian crucifixes…. if they have a very strict policy on public spaces being religion free then it’s for them to work out what works for them. I know in Australia and other countries we have much more liberties with respect to public expressions of religiosity.

              I do know France has deep problems, like other European countries, with assimilation of migrants. I don’t know why we should ignore their special circumstances yet accept the special circumstances to justify curtailment of certain liberties in Australia.

              It’s all about utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number. Sometimes that means each situation requires different decisions.

              • AU
                2015-11-20 12:27:03 UTC - 12:27 | Permalink

                It’s all about utilitarianism. The greatest good for the greatest number. Sometimes that means each situation requires different decisions.

                The rest of your post is answered below.

                I am confused by this statement. How can banning the niqab be for the greater good for everyone?

                Ok, so imagine there is a country in which the people believe that gay relationships break down the structure of the family. This is their belief. According to you, them denying gays the right to be married isn’t immoral, because this is what they believe. In fact, according to what you have said, they SHOULD ban gay relationships – sure, it denies some people the human right to choose what kind of relationship they have, but, it is the greatest good for the greatest number.

                I of course would disagree with this. I do not believe in the greatest good for the greatest number. I believe in human rights. If human rights are being violated, I don’t give a sh*t if it offends the greatest number, they can go screw themselves.

                So I would condemn the banning of gays from having relationships because it violates their human rights, even though the majority of the people in that country might feel comfortable with the ban.
                So I would condemn the banning of women from wearing the veil in public because it violates their human rights, even though the majority of the people in that country might feel comfortable with the ban.

                Human rights should be human rights, it should never be “well, we should have human rights, but if it offends the majority then we should deny the minority their human rights”.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-22 08:35:10 UTC - 08:35 | Permalink

                Utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number, is not about feelings of disapproval but real “good” or “wellbeing”. There is no conflict in reality between human rights and utilitarianism.

                Utilitarianism does not endorse pampering to ignorance and bigotry.

              • AU
                2015-11-22 14:09:49 UTC - 14:09 | Permalink

                But who gets to define good? That’s what you keep overlooking. “Good” and “Evil” are subjective terms.

                For example, it is good to allow people to wear what they want.
                Therefore, it is good to allow a girl to wear the hijab to school if she wants to.
                However, the French ban this – they say it is for the greater good. But the idea that banning a girl from wearing the hijab to school, or a Sikh from wearing a turban, is, to many … pampering ignorance and bigotry.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-22 23:40:23 UTC - 23:40 | Permalink

                Who gets to “define good”? We all do. That’s what democracy and education are all about.

                If the French decide to change their laws then well and good for them.

                I think we need to understand the background to anyone’s laws before we start telling them what they should and shouldn’t do.

              • AU
                2015-11-23 00:45:20 UTC - 00:45 | Permalink

                You are losing me:

                Utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest number, is not about feelings of disapproval but real “good” or “wellbeing”. There is no conflict in reality between human rights and utilitarianism.

                And then:

                Who gets to “define good”? We all do. That’s what democracy and education are all about.

                First you talk about some real good, then I ask you how do we define this real good, and you say we all define it. But this real good you talk about that we define – well, history has shown many instances where a society judged something to be real good, but later on society judged it to be real bad.
                In 1920 if you asked whether we should have gay marriage, utilitarianism would have said no – democracy in action. But this would be a conflict between utilitarianism and human rights – so how can you say there is no conflict in reality between utilitarianism and human rights?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-23 01:23:29 UTC - 01:23 | Permalink

                Any decision to ban gay marriage is not a utilitarian one. It is about what are considered sacred values, perhaps, but not the “good” of the greatest number.

                I fail to see any conflict between any of the rights set out in the UDHR and utilitarian principles.

                I’m not saying majorities always get things right. Obviously there has been progress and it is ongoing, hopefully. Many factors are behind that, especially education. It’s what freedom is about — the freedom to promote ideas and hopefully have the majority better informed all the time.

              • AU
                2015-11-23 01:41:57 UTC - 01:41 | Permalink

                Any decision to ban gay marriage is not a utilitarian one. It is about what are considered sacred values, perhaps, but not the “good” of the greatest number.

                But what we consider good for the greatest number is often linked to what we consider sacred. The majority of people weren’t opposed to gay marriage because of some Biblical account, instead, they seemed more afraid of how the traditional family might break down. They considered banning gay marriage for the good of the greatest number – yes, some people will be denied rights, but at least the idea of a family will not break down – good for the greatest number.

                So, yes, people in a democracy can make decisions, believing they are utilitarian, when in fact they are not.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-23 03:35:22 UTC - 03:35 | Permalink

                Hopefully with more education (formal and informal) we will continue to move out of the justifying our broader ethics by the bible’s edicts. That’s the value of a state-wide secular education system.

          • George Hall
            2015-11-20 12:02:28 UTC - 12:02 | Permalink

            I have no problem with hijabs.

            The hijab itself is fair enough. No problems as long as it’s never forced on non-Muslims.

            • AU
              2015-11-20 12:18:18 UTC - 12:18 | Permalink

              I have no problem with anything. Why would I care what someone wore? I couldn’t care less if people walked around with traffic cones on their head.

          • AU
            2015-11-20 12:15:55 UTC - 12:15 | Permalink

            Furthermore, in addition to the message above:

            Of course I disagree with the ruling personally but I understand France is not setting the Muslims apart but is requiring them to abide by the same law that applies to Catholics and Jews. If it applies to all then it is not a case of discrimination against one religion. It is something else. Or do I not have the facts right here? Do you know the reasons for these laws in France, the background that led to them?

            The veil isn’t banned for religious reasons – or at least that’s the official line. People are allowed to dress religiously in public. It is banned because it is allegedly a threat to security.

            Now everyone knows that is just an excuse – even Israel doesn’t ban the veil on threats of security.

            The reason the veil is banned is because of bigotry – large sections of the French population have bigotry towards religion and religious people, and so they couldn’t care less if the human rights of Muslim women who want to wear the veil was abused.

            And therein lies one of the problems of democracy of any kind, the laws are not based on human rights, they are based on a mixture of what the politicians and public want.

            If the politicians and public want to discriminate against gays, then gays will be discriminated against. In fact, the only reason gay marriage in the West has beeen legalised is because the public opinion has moved towards accepting gays. Had the public opinion not shifted, the ban would have remained.

            So much for secular democracies respecting human rights, eh?

            Sometimes certain rights are denied for the greater good — for the greater happiness and well-being of the majority and for the maximum ability of most to enjoy their human rights.

            So banning women from wearing the veil in public is a human right? I am confused.

            And clothing is a strong symbol that can stir ethnic and religious hostilities in some cultures. The first woman to wear a hajib in the Turkish parliament caused a scandalous uproar — and understandably. The question was not her human right (she could wear the hajib anywhere else she wished) but it did open up tensions that threatened to open up religious hostility towards the secular law-making body.

            I am not sure what you are trying to get at here. If in our culture all sorts of ethnic and religious hostilities get stirred when a woman wears a veil in public, then there is a SERIOUS problem with our culture that we need to address.
            If there is a danger that a woman wearing the veil might get attacked, then we should make it clear that this will not be tolerated, and anyone who does this will be dealt with in the strictest terms bu the law.

            Let’s be clear – the problem is with US, and not with the woman wearing the veil. We are being hypocrites, and denying her her human rights, and instead of trying to give explanations why we might be doing this, we should condemn it in the strongest possible terms and make it clear that no woman should have to go and live in another country just because we are not yet mature and adult enough to not get offended by the clothing someone else wears.

            History and local conditions are important– not to repress and deny human rights, but to protect the human rights and well being of the general community given their particular situation.

            OK, so you agree that no system, even secular democracy, can guarantee human rights for everyone, and we have to pick and choose. I think Islamists say the exact same thing.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-11-22 08:58:30 UTC - 08:58 | Permalink

              AU:The veil isn’t banned for religious reasons – or at least that’s the official line. People are allowed to dress religiously in public. It is banned because it is allegedly a threat to security.

              I did not say it was banned “for religious reasons”.

              I did not know the official line was that it was banned because it was a threat to security. What is your source?

              AU:Now everyone knows that is just an excuse – even Israel doesn’t ban the veil on threats of security.

              The reason the veil is banned is because of bigotry – large sections of the French population have bigotry towards religion and religious people, and so they couldn’t care less if the human rights of Muslim women who want to wear the veil was abused.

              What of crucifixes and turbans and stars of david? You don’t see something else behind these rulings?

              AU:And therein lies one of the problems of democracy of any kind, the laws are not based on human rights, they are based on a mixture of what the politicians and public want.

              If the politicians and public want to discriminate against gays, then gays will be discriminated against. In fact, the only reason gay marriage in the West has beeen legalised is because the public opinion has moved towards accepting gays. Had the public opinion not shifted, the ban would have remained.

              So much for secular democracies respecting human rights, eh?

              What are you saying? That you oppose democracy because it takes too long to change public opinion? Or that secular democracy is no more of a gaurantee of human rights than an Islamist government would be?

              Neil: Sometimes certain rights are denied for the greater good — for the greater happiness and well-being of the majority and for the maximum ability of most to enjoy their human rights.

              AU:So banning women from wearing the veil in public is a human right? I am confused.

              Now I’m confused. You don’t appear to be addressing my argument.

              Neil:
              And clothing is a strong symbol that can stir ethnic and religious hostilities in some cultures. The first woman to wear a hajib in the Turkish parliament caused a scandalous uproar — and understandably. The question was not her human right (she could wear the hajib anywhere else she wished) but it did open up tensions that threatened to open up religious hostility towards the secular law-making body.

              AU:I am not sure what you are trying to get at here. If in our culture all sorts of ethnic and religious hostilities get stirred when a woman wears a veil in public, then there is a SERIOUS problem with our culture that we need to address.

              That’s right. It is a very serious problem. Civil conflict, hate crimes, — very serious. Needs urgent addressing. That’s my point.

              AU:If there is a danger that a woman wearing the veil might get attacked, then we should make it clear that this will not be tolerated, and anyone who does this will be dealt with in the strictest terms bu the law.

              This is true in most democracies or under most types of governments, I’m sure.

              AU:Let’s be clear – the problem is with US, and not with the woman wearing the veil. We are being hypocrites, and denying her her human rights, and instead of trying to give explanations why we might be doing this, we should condemn it in the strongest possible terms and make it clear that no woman should have to go and live in another country just because we are not yet mature and adult enough to not get offended by the clothing someone else wears.

              Yes, agreed. Certainly the problem is with “us” and “not with the woman wearing the veil”. That’s a given. Different countries handle this differently. I am not French and do not know what it is like to live in France but from what I hear I understand that problems of assimilation are greater in France than in Australia. I am not saying I agree with or oppose the French laws but I think I can understand them — and my understanding is that the banning of turbans, crucifixes, stars of David and hajibs are their way of attempting to reduce social tensions.

              Neil: History and local conditions are important– not to repress and deny human rights, but to protect the human rights and well being of the general community given their particular situation.

              AU:OK, so you agree that no system, even secular democracy, can guarantee human rights for everyone, and we have to pick and choose. I think Islamists say the exact same thing.

              Obviously no system is perfect or can offer ironclad guarantees. But secular democracy has a much better chance than a system ruled by the laws of a religious clique — I assumed everyone would agree with that. But I probably don’t know many “libertarians”.

              • AU
                2015-11-22 13:59:31 UTC - 13:59 | Permalink

                What of crucifixes and turbans and stars of david? You don’t see something else behind these rulings?

                I am not saying the French are bigoted towards Islam in particular. I have never said that at all. I am saying they are bigoted towards religion.

                Being able to practise your religion is a human right. If for a Sikh wearing a turban, or for a Muslim, wearing a hijab, is part of their religion, then they have a right to wear it.

                Now of course, there are other things to take into consideration. It can indeed be a problem for a girl to wear a niqab in school – children respond a lot to facial expressions, and if a child cannot see the facial expression of another child, it can cause problems. So, yes, of course there are times that we have to do a trade-off.
                However, wearing the turban or hijab do not have such problems. If they cause polarisation, then the problem is with us, and not with them. We have no right to deny them their human right just because we think it affects assimilation. Instead, we should be educating ourselves that people have different beliefs, that it is the human right of someone to wear a turban and a hijab, and if they wear one in school, and we feel offended, the problem is with US, and not with them.

                Obviously no system is perfect or can offer ironclad guarantees. But secular democracy has a much better chance than a system ruled by the laws of a religious clique — I assumed everyone would agree with that. But I probably don’t know many “libertarians”.

                One of the books I recommened here a month or so ago, The Myth of Religious Violence, actually talks about the actual meaning of religion, and how there is no defined term, and how religion isn’t transhistorical. It really was an interesting read, and dispelled all sorts of myths that were created, especially during “Enlightenment”.
                If you were to argue with me that secular democracy has a much better chance than a system ruled by the laws of a religious clique in the world right now, I would absolutely agree. However, every single implementation of secular democracy has always put the economic prosperity of the nation first and foremost, and one has to ask serious questions about whether we can ever have a secular democracy where people are willing to give up siginificant amounts of monetary wealth for the greater benefit of others.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-22 23:36:20 UTC - 23:36 | Permalink

                I am not saying the French are bigoted towards Islam in particular. I have never said that at all. I am saying they are bigoted towards religion.

                What is your evidence that their laws are the result of the bigotry of the lawmakers? I think you are just assuming because I have asked this before and you have given me no evidence to change my understanding of the reasons for the laws.

                Being able to practise your religion is a human right. If for a Sikh wearing a turban, or for a Muslim, wearing a hijab, is part of their religion, then they have a right to wear it.

                Of course. We agree. But you are going beyond that, it seems, when you start talking about rights to not be offended by seeing other people practice their rights.

                Now of course, there are other things to take into consideration. It can indeed be a problem for a girl to wear a niqab in school – children respond a lot to facial expressions, and if a child cannot see the facial expression of another child, it can cause problems. So, yes, of course there are times that we have to do a trade-off.

                The hijab is for the modesty of a sexually mature woman. When little girls wear it it is something else — a cultural marker. There is no religious rationale for a young girl to wear it as far as I am aware.

                However, wearing the turban or hijab do not have such problems. If they cause polarisation, then the problem is with us, and not with them. We have no right to deny them their human right just because we think it affects assimilation. Instead, we should be educating ourselves that people have different beliefs, that it is the human right of someone to wear a turban and a hijab, and if they wear one in school, and we feel offended, the problem is with US, and not .with them.

                No-one is arguing (except you) that “we” “deny them their human right just because we think it affects assimilation”. That’s an oversimplification of the reason for the laws as far as I understand them and you have not given me any reason to think otherwise. I’m not saying I agree with the French laws, by the way, but I cannot say they should get rid of them either because I do not know enough about their situation. I am saying I can understand why different countries do have different regulations. If Muslims did not have the freedom to practice their religion in France it is very strange that so many of them seem to have chosen to live there.

                You mention Cavanaugh’s Myth of Religious Violence. I’m interested in following up the off-hand remark by Scott Atran, “I have discussed the matter at length in the historical record (about 7 percent of recorded wars since the punic wars have been explicitly religious wars, and when non-religious conflicts take on a religious cast they also tend to endure and resist exit strategies).”. Hector Avalos, as you know, has also written on religious violence. I have not read Cavanaugh’s book, but it would be interesting to compare.

              • AU
                2015-11-23 00:23:22 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

                What is your evidence that their laws are the result of the bigotry of the lawmakers?

                Maybe if you ever get the time to read Cavanaugh’s book (I appreciate you read a lot) , or books which show that the nation-state is actually like a religion, it might be more appropriate to debate this, as I unfortunately do not have the time to summarise all that material.

                when you start talking about rights to not be offended by seeing other people practice their rights.

                But I am NOT saying that. I am saying the exact opposite – that people have no right to be offended by seeing other people practice their rights. Therefore, people have no right to be offended in seeing a woman wear a niqab, or a Sikh wearing a turban in school.
                If people start having this right to be offended, then other groups can have the right to be offended too – like Indians and right to not see anyone eat meat.

                The hijab is for the modesty of a sexually mature woman. When little girls wear it it is something else — a cultural marker. There is no religious rationale for a young girl to wear it as far as I am aware.

                15 year old girls are sexually mature – so are 21 year olds in university.

                If Muslims did not have the freedom to practice their religion in France it is very strange that so many of them seem to have chosen to live there.

                I have never argued Muslims do not have the freedom to practice their religion in France – show me one place where I said that? I didn’t. I am simply focusing on this flagrant human rights abuse of banning the veil in public and banning religious clothing in school.
                BTW, a lot of Muslims haven’t chosen to live in France – they were born there.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-23 01:32:22 UTC - 01:32 | Permalink

                I am saying that the fact that Muslims do choose to live in France (I know many were born there) indicates to me that they don’t feel they are denied the right to practice their religion there.

                Yes we should all be tolerant, etc, but different societies with their own histories and cultures have different provisions to minimize the risk of bigotry flaring up (recall the Australian rule on banning ethnic flags at soccer games). Yes people should have a right to carry their ethnic flag, but given the ugly scenes that were breaking out at the time, the rule was enforced as part of a longer term campaign to break down the ethnic tensions. Yes, the people should not have been bigoted and should have had respect for others, but the reality is that they were not going to stop acting violently without some sort of outside action — and what were symbols of pride to some were red flags to others. Everyone could have their flags anywhere else — but not at the football games and club houses.

                You may consider that a denial of their human rights. Maybe so, but we will have to differ on the rightness or wrongness of it.

                Cavanaugh is of course a devout believer so I could understand him arguing religion has no causative role in wars, — if that’s what he argues — and while I do agree it is not nearly as often a cause as is sometimes said, especially by New Atheists, I suspect it would be hard to argue it is never a cause.

              • AU
                2015-11-26 14:29:00 UTC - 14:29 | Permalink

                Your argument is fallacious because you are comparing apples with oranges.

                If people were attacking religious people in France for wearing religious clothing into school, then, sure, your argument would make sense. One could argue that for the time being we need to temporarily ban religious clothing from school, until our enforcement agencies are able to provide a safe environment. However, people are NOT being attacked in France for wearing religious clothing into school. Furthermore, France is a stable State which should be able to provide security for minorities. Therefore, to suggest that there is a good reason to ban 16 year old girls from wearing the hijab to school or Sikhs from wearing the turban doesn’t hold.

                You have proivided (at least how I interpret it) the following arguments to justify France banning religious clothing in school:
                1) It causes assimilation issues – [Me: well, if it does, then there is something seriously wrong with French society, and we should ask French people to grow up and not act so childish]
                2) We have to sometimes ban things for security – [Me: but there is no security issue here]
                3) Hijab is a cultural marker and young girls shouldn’t need to wear it – [Me: which is fair enough, but France doesn’t just ban young girls, it bans all WOMEN]
                4) French Muslims must feel they are free to practise their religion because they do not leave – [Me: That’s a bit like saying to someone whose whole family live in Iran but who isn’t able to speak out against the Iranian government that the person must feel they have freedom of speech because they don’t leave. I mean, no one is saying that French Muslims are not allowed to practise their religion, I don’t know why you keep saying that. The issue here is that they, and Sikhs, and Jews, are denied a fundamental part of their religion in educational places where there is no justifiable reason to do so.]

                So, yes, none of your points stand up tp scrutiny. In fact, most human right advocates are openly critical of this policy – because it can stop children from relgious backgrounds from getting the same opportunities as secular children.
                Therefore, I find it quite amazing that someone like you who champions human rights is unable to say this is a flagrant abuse of human rights, and that the French are wrong, instead of trying to come up with all sorts of inappropriate reasons like flags or cultural history to aplogise for this abuse of human rights.

                I also find your comment on Cavanaugh quite astounding – you’re acting as if someone is religious, they are likely to have a bias. This is a bigoted comment. It’s like Christians saying “Neil is an atheist, his work cannot be trusted”.
                I never dismiss someone’s arguments depending on what they believe in, instead, I form my opinion on their work based on the arguments they make.

                The reason I brought up Cavanaugh’s work here was because his views on religion and violence are exactly the same as yours – he doesn’t say people cannot do violence because of religion, in fact, he says they often do.
                However, he shows that people can do violence in the name of “secularism” too. And he takes apart the myth of Enlightenment – the myth that says that there were all these religious wars, and then some really moral people came along and they decided that the State and Church needs to separate to bring about peace, and after they did this, religious wars stopped and Europe generally became more peaceful – he completely destroys this myth, using HISTORY, and as you say you are someone who likes reading history to counter myths, I thought you might find his work interesting.

  • David Ashton
    2015-11-20 18:41:19 UTC - 18:41 | Permalink

    Is a government never entitled to enforce a dress code in public areas?

    Covering the face with balaclavas in banks or at demos? Young ladies walking around with nothing on but make-up and high-heels? Marchers wearing Nazi uniforms or KKK hoods in Jewish or Black residential neighborhoods?

    The chadri may be worn voluntarily by some females, but it may also be seen as symbolic not of the protection of women from lustful gaze but their subordination to male control. I have seen women wearing it hide behind pillars when westerners pass by and walk at several paces behind their husbands. It may seem vibrantly diverse in western democracies but is scarcely compatible with modern views of female rights and status.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-20 21:12:52 UTC - 21:12 | Permalink

      My understanding is that clothing conveys different messages, that it can be used as a communication of ideas and as a cultural marker. It would follow then that making a law about hiding ones face with a balaclava on entering a bank is not the same as making a law about wearing a niqab more generally. Community rationales and expectations are different in each of those two cases.

      I have not been discussing the niqab in any of my comments (not that I recall) but the hajib.

      I think most of us would agree and support those Muslims who are calling for the need for a debate on Islamic teachings and practices today. Some of their customs are rooted in ancient cultures and have no place in the modern world. But some of these debates are very much for the Islamic community to resolve and those Muslims undertaking this debate would appreciate our support, I think.

      By the way, as for hiding behind pillars etc, one does not know the particular persons in any one case, of course, but I do understand that in Saudi Arabia, where the niqab is required in public, women are sexually harassed by (understandably) frustrated men just on the basis of the exposure of their eyes! I get the impression that in Saudi Arabia women are more at risk of overt public sexual harassment than they are in the West. Does anyone know if that is an unwarranted conclusion?

      If that is the case, If a woman from a country like Saudi Arabia is new to a Western country, I can well imagine the woman’s fear of passing men in public and/or the husband’s desire to protect her from harassment — it will take a little getting used to, for some, to accept that it is safe to show ones face. I only mention this as another factor to consider. I am not saying it is “the truth” for all but only trying to consider a range of factors. Of course Islam needs internal debates about their public practices where those practices are inherited from ancient cultures and are no longer applicable in a modern society.

      • David Ashton
        2015-11-20 23:20:15 UTC - 23:20 | Permalink

        In Britain there have been requests that women show their facial expressions in social situations such as doctors’ surgeries, parents’ meetings, &c. It might be considered impolite not to do so – a bit like a man taking his hat off in an Orthodox synagogue or keeping outdoor shoes on in a mosque – and surely unhelpful. Muslim girls in their late teens or early twenties in England often get round the letter of their “law” by wearing colorful scarves, heavy eye and lip cosmetics, very tight trousers and high-heeled sandals; and I must confess they have sometimes provoked infidel thoughts in my mind.

        A cartoon some time ago depicted three women in an airport lounge in the so-called “black binbag” outfits with one saying: “Does my bomb look big in this?” Like many jokes it was “offensive”, but so far the cartoonist has escaped assassination, to my knowledge.

      • AU
        2015-11-26 14:53:54 UTC - 14:53 | Permalink

        By the way, as for hiding behind pillars etc, one does not know the particular persons in any one case, of course, but I do understand that in Saudi Arabia, where the niqab is required in public, women are sexually harassed by (understandably) frustrated men just on the basis of the exposure of their eyes! I get the impression that in Saudi Arabia women are more at risk of overt public sexual harassment than they are in the West. Does anyone know if that is an unwarranted conclusion?

        I am absolutely astounded by this comment – this would be something I would expect from a right-winger, or from an Oreintalist 100 years ago where Africans and Arabs were presented as these hyper-sexual human beings unlike the Westerners who knew how to control their sexual desires.

        First of all, where is the proof that women are getting sexually harassed because of their eyes because the men are sexually frustrated? Men harass women all over the world, most women here in the UK say they have been inappropriately touched by men on public transport, and only today I was reading about a group of women who have formed a group speaking out against women being groped by men at music concerts. Are you going to say the men in the West are doing this beause they are sexually frustrated?

        Then there was the video of the provocatively dressed woman walking in the US as part of a social experiment, and hundreds of men making sexual remarks about her. Were they all sexually frustrated men too?

        Why is it that when the men in the West commit sexual harassment, we blame the individuals, and not the culture, but if in Saudi Arabia the men do it, we do not blame the men but their culture? I mean, sure, the law is ridiculous, but that’s another matter.

        • David Ashton
          2015-11-26 17:19:57 UTC - 17:19 | Permalink

          Calling a comment “right wing” or “Orientalist” is neither a refutation nor an endorsement. Speaking generally there have been and still are cultural differences between different societies over the treatment of women. One may support, deplore or ignore them, but facts remain facts whatever.

          • AU
            2015-11-26 22:29:35 UTC - 22:29 | Permalink

            No one has denied that there are differences in the way women are treated.

            I am simply saying there is no evidence that men in Saudi Arabia are more sexually frustrated than men in the West.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2015-11-26 17:36:04 UTC - 17:36 | Permalink

          AU, it is the personal observation — the direct experience/observation — of the Muslims Ed Husain and his wife when living for a time in Saudi Arabia. See his biography, The Islamist.

          It is a condemnation on the Wahhabist laws and discriminations enforced in Saudi Arabia. It is a condemnation of their hyper puritanism.

          The burka is meant to safeguard men from temptation but in practice as applied in Saudi Arabia it appears to have had the reverse effect and many young and single men demonstrate signs of frustration to an abnormal extent when compared with their counterparts in the West — such as the incident I described and others that are also mentioned by Ed Husain.

          Surely it is obvious that a society that denies men and women healthy associations — even to the point of being unable to even see a woman except in contraband porn — is going to have a deleterious effect sexually.

          It has nothing to do with Orientalist assumptions. Read The Islamist. I think you can find a free copy at bookzz.

          • AU
            2015-11-26 19:19:59 UTC - 19:19 | Permalink

            I’m sorry Neil, I come from a scientific background, and I am used to applying the scientific riguor to form conclusions, and not form conclusions of some blokes personal experiences, because personal experiences can be heavily influenced by things like confirmation bias.

            Unless Ed Husain has published some study that supports his view, why should we take the personal experience of him or his wife seriously? What if some bloke and his wife thought Africans are savages based on their experiences – should we all start saying Africans are savages because this bloke wrote it in his book?

            Surely it is obvious that a society that denies men and women healthy associations — even to the point of being unable to even see a woman except in contraband porn — is going to have a deleterious effect sexually.

            That is about as unscientific as one can get.

            One could argue Surely it is obvious that a society where men are constantly bombarded with naked women and pornography is going to have a deleterious effect sexually … and many young and single men demonstrate signs of frustration to an abnormal extent as apparent by the high number of women in the West complaining of being sexually harassed and touched inappropriately on public transport.

            See, anyone can play that game, in fact, this is exactly what bigots do – they form their conclusion first, and then try and fit “facts” around it.

            Therefore, I stand by my claim – there is absolutely nothing to suggest that Saudi men suffer from some abnormal sexual frustration compared to us in the West. Absolutely none whatsoever.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2015-11-26 20:58:09 UTC - 20:58 | Permalink

              No-one is arguing that Arabs are more libidinous than Europeans.

              Of course personal observations and experiences on our travels are informative. Here is the section from Ed Husain (an Indian by ethnicity, and Muslim), pp. 242-247:

              Working for the British Council in Saudi Arabia was a radically different experience from my time in Syria. Students in Syria were intellectually engaged with current affairs and progress in science and technology, brought up subjects for discussion in class, and enjoyed comparing Western culture with Arab traditions. Moreover, British Council managers in Syria fully understood and helped realize the raison d’etre of the Council: to promote modern Britain in all its diversity. Thus gay and Asian teachers, for example, were welcomed and supported. In Saudi Arabia I felt as though I were working for a Saudi organization, not a British one. Nepotism, corruption, sexism, and racism were tolerated because we could not be seen to offend ‘local culture’. Why is the British Council in Syria more boisterous than its counterpart in Saudi, when we consider Syria to be part of the ‘axis of evil’, and Saudi Arabia an ‘ally’ in the fight against terrorism?

              Despite fitting in perfectly, on the outside at least, and living . in a country that had segregated every public institution and banned women from driving on the grounds that it would give rise to licentiousness, I was repeatedly astounded at the stares Faye got from Saudi men and I from Saudi women.

              Faye was not immodest in her dress. Out of respect for local custom, she wore the long black abaya and covered her hair in a black scarf. In all the years I had known my wife, never had I seen her appear so dull. Yet on two occasions she was accosted by passing Saudi youths from their cars. On another occasion a man pulled up beside our car and offered her his phone number. In supermarkets I only had to be away from Faye for five minutes and Saudi men would hiss or whisper obscenities as they walked past. When Faye discussed her experiences with local women at the British Council they said, ‘Welcome to Saudi Arabia.’

              After a month in Jeddah, I was becoming seriously worried for Faye’s well-being. I heard from an Asian taxi driver about a Filipino worker who had brought his new bride to live with him in Jeddah. After visiting the prominent Balad shopping district, the couple caught a taxi home. Some way through their journey, the Saudi driver complained that the car was not working properly and perhaps the man could help push it. The passenger obliged. Within seconds the Saudi driver had sped off with the man’s wife in his car and, months later, there was still no clue as to her whereabouts.

              We had heard stories of the abduction of women from taxis by sex-deprived Saudi youths. At a Saudi friend’s wedding at a luxurious hotel in Jeddah, women dared not step out of their hotel rooms and walk to the banqueting hall for fear of abduction by the bodyguards of a Saudi prince who also happened to be staying there.

              Why had the veil and segregation not prevented such behaviour? My Saudi acquaintances, many of them university graduates, argued strongly that, on the contrary, it was the veil and other social norms that were responsible for such widespread sexual frustration among Saudi youth.

              At work, the British Council introduced free internet access for educational purposes. Within days the students had down-loaded the most obscene pornography from sites banned in Saudi Arabia, but easily accessed via the British Council’s satellite connection. Of course we appealed to the students not to abuse the facilities, but to no avail. In Syria, where unrestricted internet access was also available, not once did I encounter such difficulties.

              Segregation of the sexes, made worse by the veil, had spawned a culture of pent-up sexual frustration which expressed itself in the unhealthiest ways. Millions of young Saudis were not allowed to let their sexuality blossom naturally and, as a result, they could see the opposite gender only as sex objects.

              Using Bluetooth technology on mobile phones, sent pornographic clips to one another. Many of the clips were recordings of homosexual acts between Saudis, and many featured young Saudis in orgies in Lebanon and Egypt. The obsession with sex in Saudi Arabia had reached worrying levels: rape and abuse of both sexes occurred frequently, some cases even reaching the usually censored national press.

              Saudi newspapers editorialized about these worrying trends, though with reference to Saudi women’s invention of temporary marriage contracts known as misyef — ‘a summer marriage’. These allowed women to escape Saudi Arabia with a male partner, usually to a European capital. After the ‘summer’, the marriage was annulled. Such arrangements were traditionally the preserve of wealthy Saudi men, but now women were finding ways of overcoming the tyranny o f the monstrous mutawwa’een.

              My students told me about the day in March 2002 when the Mutawwa’een had forbidden fire fighters in Mecca from entering a blazing school building because the girls inside were not wearing Consequently, fifteen young women burned to death, but Wahhabism held its head high, claiming that God’s law had been maintained by segregating the sexes. What sort of God was this?

              As a young Islamist I organized events at college and in the local community that were strictly segregated. and I believed in it. Living in Saudi Arabia, I could see the logical outcome of such segregation. In Syria, and in Asian families in Britain, families were relaxed about the free mixing o f the sexes. As an Islamist I had been harsh, demanding segregation at social events. Syria had opened n1y eyes. Our sexuality is a gift from God and we must let people make open choices, not impose an unnatural, hypocritical separation.

              Still, I struggled to understand why, among some early Muslim communities, the veil was an accepted code of dress. The Prophet Mohammed had honoured women by banning female infanticide, an ancient Spartan practice adopted by pre-Islamic Arabs. He also gave women inheritance rights, and elevated their status to equal men’s. No longer could a man bequeath to his son a herd of horses, a flock of camels, and a harem full of women. The pagans of Mecca complained that before long the Prophet would say that horses were human too, and had rights. Such was their incomprehension of the Prophet’s emancipation of women.

              Islamist Muslims are not, ofcourse, the world’s only misogynists. It is, it seems, a universal male trait, with few exceptions in tribal African communities, where the reverse is true. If Arab men expressed attitudes in the medieval period, they were hardly alone. Even in more recent times Nietzsche lampooned women as cats, birds, and at best cows. He advised that we should think .of women as property. In stark contrast, the Prophet Mohammed was a founding father of female emancipation.

              Countless generations of Muslim men have failed to grasp the Prophet’s spirit of progress, social change, and respect for humanity. Rather than continue in the vein, and award women more rights, many Muslims stopped where the Prophet stopped in his seventh-century context. This ossification of the past continues to haunt Muslim women around the globe. And Saudi Arabia is a prime example.

              In a world in which women were spoils of war, passed on from father to son as objects of pleasure, their containment in the private realm was perhaps understandable. A beautiful face could indeed launch a thousand ships. Covering it with a veil was a sensible precaution. However, in today’s world, where is the need for such ancient customs?

              It is interesting to note that the earliest congregational prayers for Muslims were not segregated. Even today, in the annual Haj, men and women are not segregated and it remains forbidden by Islamic law for women to wear the veil. Are there lessons here for modem Muslim scholars?

              Our experiences in Saudi Arabia scotched the myth, widely held among Muslims, that Muslim countries are somehow morally superior to the decadent West. After hearing personal stories from my students about incidents of paedophilia, rape, and abuse in their families I was convinced that the West is no more decadent than the East. The difference is that in the West we are open about these issues and try to handle them as and when they arise. In comparison, in the Muslim world, such matters are swept under the carpet in an attempt to pretend that all is well.

              In my Islamist days we relished stating that AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases were the result of the moral degeneracy of the West. And I recalled large numbers of Islamists in Britain who hounded prostitutes in Brick Lane and flippantly quoted divorce and abortion rates in Britain. The implication was that Muslim morality was superior. Now, more than ever, I was convinced that that too was Islamist propaganda, designed to undermine the West and inject false confidence in Muslim minds.

              At one point during my stay in Saudi Arabia I seriously worried whether my observations were idiosyncratic, the musings of a wandering mind. I needed to discuss my troubles with other British Muslims. There were several working at the British Council and I spoke with them all. Jamal, who was of a Wahhabi bent, fully agreed with what I observed and went further. ‘Ed, my wife.wore the veil back home in Britain and even there she did not get as many stares as she gets when we go out here. The Saudis can tell the beauty of a woman by her eyes!’ When little else was visible, I suppose they had to make do. Another British Muslim had gone as far as tinting his car windows black in order to prevent young Saudis gaping at his wife.

              • AU
                2015-11-26 22:27:42 UTC - 22:27 | Permalink

                Oh, come on Neil, do you really expect me to read that tripe and think that we can gain anything meaningful from it?

                So … women were staring at Ed Husain?! Have you seen Ed’s picture? Do you think women were staring at him because they were sexually frustrated and were lusting over him? I doubt it – I doubt anyone was staring at him.

                Does Ed provide any references to the things he claims in his book, like 15 women died because the firefighters refused to rescue them, or that sex-staved Saudi youths were abducting women?

                Basically, you’re putting a HUGE amount of trust on the authencity of the account of life in Saudi Arabia on someone who dislikes Wahabism. Which is strange, considering you were wary about Cavanaugh’s book because he is a “devout” Catholic.
                Would you put trust in the account of an Islamist about life in a secular democracy? Or would you rather form opinions on facts?

                So, yes, my original point stands – there is no shred of evidence suggesting that Saudi men are more sexually frustrated than men in the West. None. Zero. Nada.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-27 01:49:57 UTC - 01:49 | Permalink

                Your original point is an utterly absurd straw man. No one has ever suggested “Saudi men are more sexually frustrated than men in the West” in anything coming close to the Orientalist innuendo you are talking about. YOU come on and be reasonable here: what does any person expect if young men are not even allowed to see a real woman but only see bags walking around hiding them? My god, get real!

                The tripe you don’t want to read is actually trying to make it as clear as possible to you that we are not talking about Orientalism or anything particularly libidinous about Arabs vis a vis white races!

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-11-27 02:07:24 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

                Ed merely cited tripe that students told him (and he told us his source and its nonsense hearsay status). Journalists merely reported vacuous rumour that a witness at the time supposedly claimed. No controlled study. Mere anecdotal reporting. Tripe. Maybe at most one died as a result of the actions of the school police, but maybe none died as a consequence. We have no reason to believe any of the reports that school police prevented any men from entering to help put out the fire because it was a girls’ school — sheer tripe, fabrications of journalists just trying to sell papers and give Wahhabists a bad name.

                http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1874471.stm

                https://www.hrw.org/news/2002/03/14/saudi-arabia-religious-police-role-school-fire-criticized

                http://www.arabnews.com/node/219111

                A Saudi government enquiry into the disaster failed to substantiate that anyone died as a result of that action by the school police so what is the big deal about their actions anyway?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Mecca_girls%27_school_fire

                I hope you don’t read any autobiographies or ever take the slightest notice of anyone’s account of their experiences. They’re all tripe!

              • AU
                2015-11-27 13:15:30 UTC - 13:15 | Permalink

                Hi Neil,

                1) I don’t think my argument is a strawman, but I am happy to stand corrected.

                Your original post said “women are sexually harassed by (understandably) frustrated men”. However, what proof do you have that they are being harassed because the men are sexually frustrated? As I wrote to you in the past few messages, women in the West say they have been harassed. Do you think the women in the West are getting harassed because the men are sexually frustrated, or do you think it is because a lot of people just like to harass others?
                The point is, sexual harassment is endemic in every country. The fact you chose to paint the Saudi men’s harassment because of them being sexually frustrated suggests to me that you believe the men in Saudi Arabia are more sexually frustrated than the men in the West because of the culture they live in. This is very much a similar view to Orientalists, where the Arabs were not blah blah blah because of some inherent reason, they were that way because of their culture.

                You then also say “what does any person expect if young men are not even allowed to see a real woman but only see bags walking around hiding them?” – so to me this suggests that you do think Saudi men are more sexually frustrated because of the culture they live in.

                2) Fortunately in science you do not form a hypothesis, shout “get real!”, and then everyone starts believing you.

                So let’s look at your argument – first of all, your theory that there is a correlation between the way women are dressed in public and the sexual frustration of men is simply unfounded. The correlation instead between how often the men are able to have sex – if a man in Saudi Arabia is having sex daily, and a man in the UK is single and can’t find a girlfriend and isn’t having sex, then the man in the UK is statistically much more likely to be sexually frustrated than the man in Saudi Arabia even though the women in Saudi Arabia are covered and the women in the UK are not. This is a fact. So your whole reasoning is wrong.

                Furthermore, let me relate to you my experience – when I was a student at university, I was single. During May/June when I would be going to university to prepare for my exams, I would be travelling on the train with some very scantily clad women. I used to get EXTREMELY sexually frustrated when I would see the scantily clad women, I would not get sexually frustrated by looking at the women with a lot of clothes on.
                I would then sit and think about these scantily clad women all day – I would be sitting in the library revising for my exams, and my mind would still be thinking about that girl in the very short skirt who was sitting opposite me. So, one could argue that the less clothes a woman wears, the more sexually frustrated a man can become.

                I however woiuldn’t argue that. I would argue that sexual frustration for men isn’t determined by how the women are dressed, it is determined by whether the men are able to have sex. So what you say is “get real” is actually very unreal, and there is absolutely no evidence to support your claim apart from your own personal opinion.

                Now if you were to argue that men in Saudi Arabia are more sexually frustrated than the men in the West because they are not able to have sex as freely as the men here are, well, now we would be talking. Now there would actually be some “real” logic behind your claim, something that psychologists would agree with. Even then, we will have to exercise caution – because people who do know Saudi Arabia well know that there is a lot that goes on that is “hidden away” from the public eye. That is why expats talk about having sex with Saudi women, that is why Saudi men go in their droves to Bahrain on the weekends where they can go to nightclubs, I would highly doubt that most men in Saudi Arabia are virgins before they get married. However, I would agree that men in Saudi Arabia might be suffering from higher levels of sexual frustration than men in the UK, but not because the women are wearing niqabs and burkhas, but because the men are (probably) not able to have sex as freely as we can.

                3) I am not sure why you are referring to the niqab as a bag – this is the kind of language I have only ever heard being used by right-wingers and New Atheists, and as you are neither, I am a bit surprised by your language.
                Have you ever met a woman who wears the niqab? I have – when I was a student and living at home, there was a young Somali woman my mum knew who used to wear the niqab. She lived alone, she had no family here, my mum said the woman said she likes to wear it – no one was forcing her. My dad used to moan that why is she wearing that here in the UK, and my mum’s response used to be “who cares, it’s her life”, and I agreed with my mum.
                I would see her on the bus, and we would chat – she was a very nice and polite person, always friendly, always with a smile on her face – yes, you can tell when a woman wearing a niqab smiles, who could have guessed that?

                Yes, we should all speak out against women being forced to wear the niqab, but we should also respect the women who choose to wear it, and realise that it is a lot more than a “bag”, and that niqabs have different styles abd different patterns of embroidery and have you what.

                4) Thanks for providing the link to the fire incident – Ed should have provided a reference to it in his book. Yes, it seems plausible that the religious police might have caused deaths, of course there could be some other explanation but as Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow independent investigations, we will probably not find out, there does however seem evidence that these deaths were a result of the religious police, and that is outrageous.
                That doesn’t of course mean that everything else Ed says is true – just because a book has facts in it, it doesn’t mean everything in it is a fact, and so anything that Ed says without providing any verifiable evidence has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

                5) The normal procedure is that someone gives an account of their experiences, and then we research into the matter before forming opinions. We do not simply form our opinion based on the accounts of people because people are biased and cannot be trusted.
                I am sure there are many “Neo-Nazis” who have accounts of black people, but I am sure you would not take them as fact.

                Consider the following cases:
                1) A Christian writes a book giving accounts of what he saw wrong in secular Sweden.
                2) An Islamist writes a book giving accounts of what he saw wrong in secular Australia.
                3) An anti-Islamist writes a book giving accounts of what he saw wrong in Saudi Arabia.

                Now I am sure you would not read the accounts of the Christian and Islamist and just believe them – I am sure you would think that they could be biased, either unintentionally, or deliberately. So why on earth would you just believe everything the anti-Islamist writes? Why would you not think that an anti-Islamist writing a book for a Western audience that is anti-Islamist might be … biased? That he might be stretching the truth? etc etc.

                You see, I would treat all three using the same criteria – the criteria that I won’t give much weight to their personal experiences because of the bias that could be evident, and instead, I would judge their work on verifiable facts.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2015-12-02 20:37:25 UTC - 20:37 | Permalink

                I have nothing more to add. I agree with some of your points but do not see contradictions with my own views. My perception is that your objections to my words and meanings are unfounded and rely upon idiosyncratic and ideological interpretations of my words, some of which I have repeatedly attempted to correct. Attempts to underscore your point by personal anecdotes actually contradict your message about such unscientific claims but do, in my reading, support an ideological perspective.

  • AU
    2015-11-20 19:27:37 UTC - 19:27 | Permalink

    I am well aware of this quirk. Such a set up is not a rule for democracies, however, but how different jurisdictions set up their various electorates.

    Sure – so you agree secular democracies can be implemented in many ways, and in some of the ways that they are implemented, they are not very “democratic”. Furthermore, you agree that in secular democracies, you will have to deny some people some human rights based on keeping the majority happy. In other words, in secular democracies, some minorities will have to give up some of their human rights.

    Therefore, there is no universal “thing” such as secular democracy – it is just a framework. How the framework is implemented depends on things like the public, politicians, media – the culture of that society. You can have implementations that have little regard for human rights of minorities, and you can have implementations where human rights are quite important. However, it all depends on the implementation.
    You also agree that there is no universal “thing” such as Islamism – therefore, it is again, a framework. How the framework is implemented depends on how the clerics interpret the Islamic texts. You can have implementations which are pretty barbaric, and you can have implementations where human rights could be quite important. If Islamism was to be implemented today, it would probably infringe quite a lot of human rights. If someone from an organisation like CAIR, for example, was given the chance to implement it in some Muslim country, it would probably give a lot more rights, though still not as much as what we currently have in the West.

    Therefore, as secular democracies and Islamism are both frameworks, and not a set of laws, some of your statements are incorrect.

    For example, you say:

    And its [Islamism] laws, many of them, do not belong in the modern age any more than biblical ones do.

    But Islamism doesn’t have any “laws”. It is a framework, not a set of laws. It is the implementation that defines the laws, and the implementations can vary greatly. Now if you say that the implementations suggested by many Islamists do not belong in any age, then fine. I have no problem with that. But you can’t conflate Islamism with an implementation. That’s a bit like someone choosing a secular democracy where a lot of human right laws are not respected (like USA in 1900), and saying the laws of secular democracy do not belong in the modern age. See how it makes no sense. So again:
    Secular Democracy: A framework where the laws must be decided in a democractic manner and where religion plays no part in deciding these laws.
    Islamism: A framework where the laws must be decided according to Islam.

    They are frameworks, and not a set of laws.

    Now you can make an argument that secular democracy is a better framework than Islamism because secular democracy is likely to have implementations that respect more human rights than Islamism. Fine! I don’t think many people would disagree with you. However, you haven’t been saying this. You have been going around giving secular democracy more credit than it deserves and giving Islamism a harder time than it deserves.
    You started off saying secular democracy guarantees human rights – now you have clarified your position, and said that you agree that it will not guarantee all human rights to everyone.
    You started off saying that Islamism is like fascism, and has no place in society at all. You now seem to accept that Islamism can provide implementations which are a lot more tolerant towards human rights (thought still not tolerant enough) than what the current Islamist groups can provide.

    So why does any of this matter if secular democracy is still a better framework than Islamism? It matters greatly. If you go around painting secular democracy as being better than it is, and if you go around painting Islamism as some unmitigated evil, than people will think that Islamists will always follow unmitigated evil, and so people start justifying things like the Rabaa massacre. I personally know some people who would be horrified by such a massacre, but they just shrugged their shoulders and tried to justify how it was necessary to get rid of Islamists.
    This is exactly how Communists were massacred by military dictatorships, and so many people in the West were oblivious to it – it’s because Communism was painted as an unmitigated evil.

    If all religious lawmakers fully agreed to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their first obligation in any law making then that’s fine — no problem.

    But they’re not “universal”, are they? They are very Western-centric. They were written by us, and then rubber-stamped by “world” leaders, a lot of whom were not even democratically elected and representative of their people.

    Furthermore, I am unsure why everyone must uphold what the UDHR states – what if they have some human rights that are not in the UDHR, would you fail to support a secular democracy that did not protect those rights?

    For example, for many Indians who do not eat meat, not having to see people eating meat is probably something they would have included if they wrote the UDHR. What if Indians tomorrow start saying that it is against the human rights of a human being having to see someone eating meat. Should we be forced to implement this in our democracies?

    What about usury? If the Muslims had written the UDHR, they would have said that no human being should have to pay usury. Historically, usury has been considered a great evil by many religions and cultures because of the great harm and inequality it can create. So should we have to respect this human right and be forced to implement this in our democracies?

    What about equal health care? If the poor people had written the UDHR, they would probably have said every human being has the right to the same medical care regardless of money. I mean, this is a very reasonable human right, yes? We shouldn’t have a system where some people can get pay to get better treatment.

    So if a secular democracy doesn’t outlaw eating meat in front of others, if it allows the usary system that causes countless misery to others, and if it doesn’t provide free medical care for everyone, will you say that this democracy is incompatible with human rights and we shouldn’t have it?

    My point is, what gives you the right to decide which human rights there should be, and which ones we should implement? The UDHR was written over 50 years ago, do you not think we should create another one that incorporates human rights others consider important that we do not?

    What has changed has been our values and I suspect it’s the rise of secularism and a democratic environment that has facilitated this progress.

    I beg to differ. I would say it is globalisation, freedom of expression (which can exist in frameworks outside of democracy), and communication that has changed our values.

    Once we start to meet people from other cultures, we realise they’re similar to us, and lots of prejudices go. Furthermore, the generation that grow up with people from other cultures will tend not to be discriminatory towards them.
    Then there is the freedom of expression – once we are able to express ourselves freely, we can speak out against all forms of wrong that we see.
    And then there is mass communication – we are now able to express our ideas widely, and mobilise movements.

    When Islamist groups declare that the Declaration of Human Rights trump any Sharia law than we have no problem.

    Why the UDHR again? And should other people reject secular democracy until it guarantees the human rights important to them?

    But why gamble? What’s the alternative that you’re rejecting? Why have a Caliph at all if we believe in a secular democracy?

    Er, because, just because you or I might believe in something, we have no right in trying to enforce it onto others. If they believe in Islamism and want a Caliph, are you going to say to them they cannot have one?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-22 10:00:26 UTC - 10:00 | Permalink

      N: I am well aware of this quirk. Such a set up is not a rule for democracies, however, but how different jurisdictions set up their various electorates.

      AU: Sure – so you agree secular democracies can be implemented in many ways, and in some of the ways that they are implemented, they are not very “democratic”. Furthermore, you agree that in secular democracies, you will have to deny some people some human rights based on keeping the majority happy. In other words, in secular democracies, some minorities will have to give up some of their human rights.

      No I don’t agree with that. As far as I am aware no one is compelled to give up their religion to live in any of the countries we have been talking about. People have the right to practice their religion but in certain circumstances there can be limitations on where they practice that religion. People are allowed to have sex but it is not a violation of their human rights — or maybe you think it is — for them to have sex in a public space.

      AU:Therefore, there is no universal “thing” such as secular democracy – it is just a framework. How the framework is implemented depends on things like the public, politicians, media – the culture of that society. You can have implementations that have little regard for human rights of minorities, and you can have implementations where human rights are quite important. However, it all depends on the implementation.

      Secular democracy is an idea for a political system. That’s all. It’s an idea many of us like to see put into practice, even with varying degrees of success.

      AU:You also agree that there is no universal “thing” such as Islamism – therefore, it is again, a framework. How the framework is implemented depends on how the clerics interpret the Islamic texts. You can have implementations which are pretty barbaric, and you can have implementations where human rights could be quite important. If Islamism was to be implemented today, it would probably infringe quite a lot of human rights. If someone from an organisation like CAIR, for example, was given the chance to implement it in some Muslim country, it would probably give a lot more rights, though still not as much as what we currently have in the West.

      Therefore, as secular democracies and Islamism are both frameworks, and not a set of laws, some of your statements are incorrect.

      Islamism, as I’ve said, is a political ideology. It is a belief in enforcing Islamic rules (however interpreted) over a society.

      Secular democracy is not a political ideology. It is an idea that among other things aspires to allow freedoms for all religions. To achieve this it is necessary that it remain secular — that is, no religion is to have the right to enforce its unique laws on society.

      AU: For example, you say:

      And its [Islamism] laws, many of them, do not belong in the modern age any more than biblical ones do.

      But Islamism doesn’t have any “laws”. It is a framework, not a set of laws. It is the implementation that defines the laws, and the implementations can vary greatly. Now if you say that the implementations suggested by many Islamists do not belong in any age, then fine. I have no problem with that. But you can’t conflate Islamism with an implementation. That’s a bit like someone choosing a secular democracy where a lot of human right laws are not respected (like USA in 1900), and saying the laws of secular democracy do not belong in the modern age. See how it makes no sense. So again:
      Secular Democracy: A framework where the laws must be decided in a democractic manner and where religion plays no part in deciding these laws.
      Islamism: A framework where the laws must be decided according to Islam.

      They are frameworks, and not a set of laws.

      I have explained above, I hope, why I disagree with your understanding that I somehow equate secular democracy and Islamism conceptually.

      AU: Now you can make an argument that secular democracy is a better framework than Islamism because secular democracy is likely to have implementations that respect more human rights than Islamism. Fine! I don’t think many people would disagree with you. However, you haven’t been saying this. You have been going around giving secular democracy more credit than it deserves and giving Islamism a harder time than it deserves.
      You started off saying secular democracy guarantees human rights – now you have clarified your position, and said that you agree that it will not guarantee all human rights to everyone.

      If I have said secular democracy guarantees anything I meant it in a relative sense. Obviously there are no ironclad guarantees in life. But certainly secular democracies have a higher likelihood of guaranteeing human rights because (or insofar as) most people do tend to believe in human rights.

      AU: You started off saying that Islamism is like fascism, and has no place in society at all. You now seem to accept that Islamism can provide implementations which are a lot more tolerant towards human rights (thought still not tolerant enough) than what the current Islamist groups can provide.

      Yes, I don’t agree that anyone should be allowed to actively work to undermine a secular democratic system. That goes for Catholics and Fundamentalists as much as Muslims — and Fascists and Communists. I have no problem with the existence of any of these groups but I do oppose programs (usually covert but also overt) to institute a government that will no longer be held accountable to all people regardless of religious or political affiliation.

      AU: So why does any of this matter if secular democracy is still a better framework than Islamism? It matters greatly. If you go around painting secular democracy as being better than it is, and if you go around painting Islamism as some unmitigated evil, than people will think that Islamists will always follow unmitigated evil, and so people start justifying things like the Rabaa massacre. I personally know some people who would be horrified by such a massacre, but they just shrugged their shoulders and tried to justify how it was necessary to get rid of Islamists.
      This is exactly how Communists were massacred by military dictatorships, and so many people in the West were oblivious to it – it’s because Communism was painted as an unmitigated evil.

      There is a difference between secular democracy as an idea and the wrongs that exist in any society. Capitalism, neoliberalism, vast inequalities, and much else, are not limited to secular democracies.

      N: If all religious lawmakers fully agreed to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as their first obligation in any law making then that’s fine — no problem.

      AU: But they’re not “universal”, are they? They are very Western-centric. They were written by us, and then rubber-stamped by “world” leaders, a lot of whom were not even democratically elected and representative of their people.

      Which ones are “Western-centric” exactly?

      AU: Furthermore, I am unsure why everyone must uphold what the UDHR states – what if they have some human rights that are not in the UDHR, would you fail to support a secular democracy that did not protect those rights?

      For example, for many Indians who do not eat meat, not having to see people eating meat is probably something they would have included if they wrote the UDHR. What if Indians tomorrow start saying that it is against the human rights of a human being having to see someone eating meat. Should we be forced to implement this in our democracies?

      That’s where the limitations on space come in. Rights are rights to the extent they don’t infringe on other people’s rights. Those who want rights that deny other people their rights are, perhaps we might say, fascists.

      If the Indians who demand a right that denies other people their rights then we have an education and wider social problem. That’s what we face today — e.g. Islamism.

      AU: What about usury? If the Muslims had written the UDHR, they would have said that no human being should have to pay usury. Historically, usury has been considered a great evil by many religions and cultures because of the great harm and inequality it can create. So should we have to respect this human right and be forced to implement this in our democracies?

      If those particular Muslims wrote up the UDHR it would not have become the UDHR. It would have been a set of sharia laws instead. It would have been modified so that all nations could agree on the bottom line.

      AU: What about equal health care? If the poor people had written the UDHR, they would probably have said every human being has the right to the same medical care regardless of money. I mean, this is a very reasonable human right, yes? We shouldn’t have a system where some people can get pay to get better treatment.

      You’ve lost me on this one. Those who pay more usually do so to get a more comfortable room, privacy, more perks, less waiting time. All have the same qualitative health care. Maybe the super rich can afford the most prestigious famous surgeon in the world but she’s going to be unable to treat everyone anyway. Maybe her patients could be chosen by lot instead?

      AU: So if a secular democracy doesn’t outlaw eating meat in front of others, if it allows the usary system that causes countless misery to others, and if it doesn’t provide free medical care for everyone, will you say that this democracy is incompatible with human rights and we shouldn’t have it?

      My point is, what gives you the right to decide which human rights there should be, and which ones we should implement? The UDHR was written over 50 years ago, do you not think we should create another one that incorporates human rights others consider important that we do not?

      What’s wrong with the UDHR? What in it is outdated?

      N: What has changed has been our values and I suspect it’s the rise of secularism and a democratic environment that has facilitated this progress.

      AU: I beg to differ. I would say it is globalisation, freedom of expression (which can exist in frameworks outside of democracy), and communication that has changed our values.

      Once we start to meet people from other cultures, we realise they’re similar to us, and lots of prejudices go. Furthermore, the generation that grow up with people from other cultures will tend not to be discriminatory towards them.

      Then there is the freedom of expression – once we are able to express ourselves freely, we can speak out against all forms of wrong that we see.

      And then there is mass communication – we are now able to express our ideas widely, and mobilise movements.

      I don’t think any of these reasons conflict with the reasons I have given. Pinker has quite a few more ideas in Better Angels, too.

      N: When Islamist groups declare that the Declaration of Human Rights trump any Sharia law than we have no problem.

      AU: Why the UDHR again? And should other people reject secular democracy until it guarantees the human rights important to them?

      What other people do is up to them. What “other people” are you thinking of here?

      N: But why gamble? What’s the alternative that you’re rejecting? Why have a Caliph at all if we believe in a secular democracy?

      Er, because, just because you or I might believe in something, we have no right in trying to enforce it onto others. If they believe in Islamism and want a Caliph, are you going to say to them they cannot have one?

      Depends. If they are in Australia and say they want a caliph to rule Australia then yes, I’m going to say I don’t want that.

      (I use the UDHR as the standard for the same reason Hector Avalos does in Bad Jesus . . . because it “has an arguable position as the consensus of most nations today. . . . Since the UDHR has been formally adopted by so many nations, it is best to view it as the most accepted expression of global ethics.” pp. 9-10)

      • AU
        2015-11-22 13:40:28 UTC - 13:40 | Permalink

        People are allowed to have sex but it is not a violation of their human rights — or maybe you think it is — for them to have sex in a public space.

        It is a violation – being able to have sex whenever you want is a human right. Now of course, not being forced to see something you don’t want to is also a human right – so if I am in a plane, and I want to have sex with the woman next to me, then I shouldn’t be allowed to, because the other people in the plane might not want to see me doing this, but they have no choice, we have all been forced into this confined space.
        However, if I am walking in a park, and I go near the centre of the park where there is no one around 20 metres of me, and have sex, then there isn’t anything wrong with that, it is my human right. If someone does see me, they can look away or not come near me – so their human right isn’t violated either.

        So a law that states that you cannot have sex in a public space is a violation of human rights.

        Islamism, as I’ve said, is a political ideology. It is a belief in enforcing Islamic rules (however interpreted) over a society.

        Secular democracy is not a political ideology. It is an idea that among other things aspires to allow freedoms for all religions. To achieve this it is necessary that it remain secular — that is, no religion is to have the right to enforce its unique laws on society.

        The term political iudeology is as meaningless as “terrorism” (the latter is what Glenn Greenwald and many say).

        This from Wikipedia:Political ideology is a term fraught with problems, having been called “the most elusive concept in the whole of social science”

        So I can’t really debate that because I don’t know what definiton you are using.

        However, I have provided the logic of why Islamism and Secular Semocracy are both frameworks – neither dictates what the implememtaion of the laws must be. You can have an Islamist government which is capitalist, and you can have an Islamist government which is staunchly anti-Capitalist. To suggest that both an Islamist Capitalist government and an Islamist Socialist government are the same political ideologies is incorrect, I mean, you wouldn’t say that a democratic Capitalist government is the same ideology as a democractic anti-Capitalist gvernment, will you? Of course you wouldn’t.

        So, yes – they are both frameworks. An ideology depends on the interpretation – if something is interpreted in two opposite extremes, you cannot say they are both the same ideology, and we know that people can come to very different interpretations using Islam. Therefore, it is the interpretations which are the ideologies, and not Islamism itself.

        Which ones are “Western-centric” exactly?

        How about, “any human being is allowd to marry as many partners as he or she likes”?

        Also, as I meantioned about usury – usury has devastating effects on people, and most people will agree that it is immoral. However, we did not defend people against usury in UDHR because our whole Western economic system is built on usury.

        If the Indians who demand a right that denies other people their rights then we have an education and wider social problem. That’s what we face today — e.g. Islamism.

        There is no human right that you should be able to eat meat in any place you like. So if a lot of Indians, who feel really offended by people eating meat, say people eating meat in public really bothers them, and therefore, they have a human right not to see anyone eating meat, should we ban the eating of meat in our countries in public? After all, this is a human right – it is a human right we might not deem important, but it is a human right to them.

        So what I am saying is, what gives you the right to decide some human rights are more important than other human rights?

        You’ve lost me on this one. Those who pay more usually do so to get a more comfortable room, privacy, more perks, less waiting time. All have the same qualitative health care. Maybe the super rich can afford the most prestigious famous surgeon in the world but she’s going to be unable to treat everyone anyway. Maybe her patients could be chosen by lot instead?

        Not super rich – even middle class families can afford medical health checkups every year. The poorer people cannot afford this. There is a direct relationship between wealth and health in every single Western secular democracy. This is wrong. Every human being should have the same right to healthcare – this should be a human right. Therefore, by allowing doctors to operate privately, we are denying some people the human right they should have.

        Depends. If they are in Australia and say they want a caliph to rule Australia then yes, I’m going to say I don’t want that.

        Sure. But saying you don’t want them is one thing, saying we should never tolerate people who want one and defeat them by whatever means possible, is another.

  • anon
    2015-11-22 08:51:50 UTC - 08:51 | Permalink

    Wow! —very interesting conversation going on here!

    France/Hijab—there are many different perspectives in France concerning what Hijab symbolizes—to some it is a rebellion against “French secular values” (whatever that might mean), to others it is a symbol of oppression (against feminism) to still others it is a human rights issue, ….a security issue,….and there may have been a few others to whom it may have been a religious freedom issue…here is one amusing debate on the issue—-

    One set of contentions is interesting—that of the question of freedom.
    Personally—ever since the cartoon controversy and the consequent debates on “freedom” of speech—I have wondered about this word/term…
    The desire for Freedom is universal—but what is it? how is it articulated, perceived, implemented? what cultural biases underlie its assumptions?
    I am still reflecting on this issue—but the lack of “freedom”(dignity) for women is an accusation that is thrown at the “other” whoever that “other” might be…here is one perspective—


    ….another related question about “freedom” and its fusion with privilege, is, who has the freedom to live and who does not—the French do, the Syrians do not…..It is “terrorism” when ISIS attacks the French civilians—but it is heroism when the French attack Syrian civilians….

    It is no use defending labels. Whatever the particular “ism” might be….it is necessary that we figure out principles. In a globalized world of the future—how can we build societies that promote a vision of equal value of all humanity and the right of dignity for all? Secularism—a philosophy based on the “nation-state”— is essentially inadequate in an age where the “nation-state” is no longer a primary identity construct…or even a beneficial one…in fact, (according to some) the insistence on “neutrality” in the public space may even be a factor in the rise of extreme exclusive identity constructs that are sometimes violent….
    To have purpose and meaning is a universal human desire, it can be toxic or it can be beneficial—if it is toxic, we will destroy ourselves, if it is beneficial we will prosper……

    Here is a Jewish perspective….http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2015/05/14/ethnic-solidarity-without-militarized-nationalism-insights-from-jewish-eastern-europe/
    the question asked is:—
    In the context of modern, secular nation-states in which citizenship is based on human equality and individual rights, what happens to collective cultural, religious, and ethnic history and identity?

    Contemporary global “answers” to this question are far from satisfying. They include global capitalism (in which consumer identity replaces ethnic identity); militarized state nationalism (in which citizenship is synonymous with association with a certain army; national identity (which theoretically trumps or replaces ethnic identity); and global white supremacy (the development and dominance of a valorized white “ethnic” identity that is ahistorical and defined primarily in terms of control of global power and resources).

    These “answers” rest uneasily on the underground rumblings of the very same question: in a world in which privilege, opportunity, and resources are accorded to the few who are able to escape labels of “otherness” (racial, ethnic, gendered, sexual, ability, age, class) to become the “universal human being who is deserving of rights” (as that is defined in terms of Western white supremacy) what, indeed, happens to communal ethnic, religious, and cultural history and identity?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-11-22 11:30:00 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

      The desire for Freedom is universal—but what is it? how is it articulated, perceived, implemented? what cultural biases underlie its assumptions?

      How about starting here? http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/ What “cultural biases underlie these assumptions” that you think might be limiting on freedoms?

      I am still reflecting on this issue—but the lack of “freedom”(dignity) for women is an accusation that is thrown at the “other” whoever that “other” might be…here is one perspective . . .
      ….another related question about “freedom” and its fusion with privilege, is, who has the freedom to live and who does not—the French do, the Syrians do not…..It is “terrorism” when ISIS attacks the French civilians—but it is heroism when the French attack Syrian civilians….

      These are all important issues that are discussed and addressed by many. I think secular democracies allow more freedoms to discuss and debate and work for change on these issues than many other types of societies.

      It is no use defending labels. Whatever the particular “ism” might be….it is necessary that we figure out principles. In a globalized world of the future—how can we build societies that promote a vision of equal value of all humanity and the right of dignity for all? Secularism—a philosophy based on the “nation-state”— is essentially inadequate in an age where the “nation-state” is no longer a primary identity construct…or even a beneficial one…in fact, (according to some) the insistence on “neutrality” in the public space may even be a factor in the rise of extreme exclusive identity constructs that are sometimes violent….

      Securalism is in no way “based on” “the nation state”. That makes no sense. Of course we can have secularism in any level of community organization.

      Of course it’s worth defending secularism — for reasons I’ve already stated. It’s the most effective answer to allowing freedoms of all religions. It does not deny religion. It means public discourse is kept free of religious contentions and fights.

      To have purpose and meaning is a universal human desire, it can be toxic or it can be beneficial—if it is toxic, we will destroy ourselves, if it is beneficial we will prosper……
      Here is a Jewish perspective… . . .
      the question asked is:—
      In the context of modern, secular nation-states in which citizenship is based on human equality and individual rights, what happens to collective cultural, religious, and ethnic history and identity?

      We don’t need nation states to have human equality and human rights. We have collective cultural, religious and ethnic equality and rights in several major societies today. And I told you of Australia’s experience in another recent comment. These things are under threat from several quarters today — so we need constant vigilance to preserve them.

      Contemporary global “answers” to this question are far from satisfying. They include global capitalism (in which consumer identity replaces ethnic identity); militarized state nationalism (in which citizenship is synonymous with association with a certain army; national identity (which theoretically trumps or replaces ethnic identity); and global white supremacy (the development and dominance of a valorized white “ethnic” identity that is ahistorical and defined primarily in terms of control of global power and resources).

      This sounds like a gross simplification coming from an Islamist manual. Global capitalism is not the same as secular democracy and does not need secular democracy to operate. National identity does not in practice trump or replace ethnic identity. Look at Australia. We have a national multicultural television channel that is constantly sending out the message that we are all different as well as well as all the same.

      These “answers” rest uneasily on the underground rumblings of the very same question: in a world in which privilege, opportunity, and resources are accorded to the few who are able to escape labels of “otherness” (racial, ethnic, gendered, sexual, ability, age, class) to become the “universal human being who is deserving of rights” (as that is defined in terms of Western white supremacy) what, indeed, happens to communal ethnic, religious, and cultural history and identity?

      Global capitalism threatens more than just secular democratic systems. By all means fight global capitalism. Many of us in secular democracies are already doing that. You see more popular direct action against global capitalism in secular democracies than you will in other places.

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