2013-04-10

Jerry Coyne’s reply, Bangladeshi Muslim Demonstrators, and Atheist Bloggers

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by Neil Godfrey

I was disappointed, and for some reason even a little surprised, to read Jerry Coyne’s response, Islamophobia again, to my recent post and see that he chose not to deal with the key points I raised. In fact, he merely repeated his own arguments as if my own rebuttal of them was nowhere on record. What was most disappointing was his upfront declaration that he had no interest in engaging with contrary views, even referring readers to a Christopher Hitchens quotation expressing a disdain for any opinions but his own and inviting anyone who wishes to challenge those opinions to kiss his arse.

So there is clearly no interest on Jerry’s side to seriously debate the issue. His mind is made up and has no room for anything new when it comes to the question of Islam.

Much of his post is elaborating on the recent events in Bangladesh. At least a hundred thousand demonstrators (estimates vary between 100,000 and 500,000 in the news sources) have come out into the streets calling for the deaths of atheist bloggers. That is how the news has been filtered into the Western media and that’s all there is to the story as far as Jerry and others are concerned. Presumably anyone who has any further information that might change that view of theirs will be invited to kiss Jerry’s arse.

This blog is all about sharing information and inviting readers to look deeper behind what is most commonly presented to the public. Concerning what is going on in Bangladesh, I really did expect intelligent and thoughtful sceptics to be a little more astute and diligent with checking sources before swallowing what they see on mainstream TV news.

So at the end of this post I will present a few facts — facts easily obtainable by anyone with unfettered access to the internet — that Jerry and others presumably do not think are relevant.

Jerry writes:

Can you imagine Catholics, for example, rallying by the hundreds of thousands to call for the death of anti-Catholic bloggers? Or murdering them?

Not in this day and age, no. But I do know of some ugly moments in history . . . And that’s Jerry’s problem here. He has assumed a situation in Bangladesh needs absolutely no reference to history there, or to the different religious groups and political roles they have played in recent decades and months, is validly comparable to a Catholic area in the United States. This is the danger of people not knowing or understanding, or not even being interested in understanding, another people on their own terms. Now Jerry has quickly added that what is happening in Bangladesh has nothing to do with colonialism or politics because the demonstrators are clearly saying “Death to the atheist bloggers” in the name of Islam.

That’s it. End of story. Kiss his arse if you want to actually understand some context and background to what has brought those demonstrators out to the streets with those cries, or suggest that this is worth a serious comparison with how Catholics in twenty-first century America behave.

Jerry completely avoids my argument when he repeats this nonsense:

I still can’t quite understand why it’s sort of okay for atheists to level strong criticisms at other religions (Sam, after all, wrote Letter to a Christian Nation, and I spent an entire week on this site documenting the immorality of the Catholic Church [e.g., here and here]), so long as that religion is not Islam. We’re not accused of Catholicphobia or Baptistphobia, but only Islamophobia. I think this reflects a double standard, for such accusations hold Muslims to lower standards

Rubbish. I have criticized Islam. (Not often, I admit, because my experience is mostly with Christianity.) I have no problems with anyone, not even Muslims, criticizing Islam. There is a lot to criticize, especially given that they have not had the history of Reformations (plural) and Enlightenment challenges that Christianity has experienced. They have a lot of catching up to do.

From time to time since starting this blog I have had a few Muslims (not all!) take great offence at some of my comments or posts. Jerry did not notice or understand my explicit comparison of the sorts of criticisms that are leveled against other religions and those that are lately leveled against Muslims by our leading lights of new Atheism.

He then reprises the accusations he says he regularly hears against new Atheism and its association with Islamophobia. I don’t know if he really hears all of these arguments, because his first point, “it’s racism”, fails to grasp what is actually being said about Islamophobia. Islamophobia is not racism in the normal sense of the word, but it does take negative racist stereotypes and imputes them into a whole religion, and inevitably that implies all adherents of that religion. That’s a neat way of enabling one to claim the odd Muslim (or Jew or black man) that one knows really is a nice person without detracting from the general collective demonization or dehumanization.

Is this dehumanization?

When anyone imputes to other groups the potential to act in a way that is not normally ‘human’ — e.g. on the mere say-so of an authority, and for no other reason or unusual conditioning, go out and kill others; or believe that parents en masse threatened to kill their children in order to gain entrance into a first world country (we once had a Prime Minister here who had much/most of the nation believing just this about some Muslim refugees!) — then one is dehumanizing them.

Jerry also says his critics argue that Islam is no worse than any other religion. I don’t know what others say, but there is no doubt Islam has some major problems that are not faced by Christianity today, and that has to do with history as mentioned above. But let’s stop using abstractions for people. Let’s talk about adherents of religions. That’s where the conflict and any future solution lies. It’s the adherents who define the religion in real terms. And critics of Islam need to know a lot more about Islamic populations than they glean from mainstream media soundbytes.

And Jerry misses the point completely about the question of “not all Muslims being violent”. Jerry is not listening — he tells people to take a ticket and go and . . . . — so he keeps repeating the same old the same old the same old. I don’t know how I could have made the point any clearer in my previous post but (or therefore?) he ignores the real argument completely.

POWER_OF_LIGHT
2013 Shahbag protesters opposing Jamaat-e-Islami — Wikipedia photo

Bangladeshi Demonstrators Calling for the Deaths of Atheist Bloggers

No doubt anyone with his or her mind made up will only find in what follows validation for their Islamophobia. But for others . . . .

An Agence France Presse release:

There has been vociferous debate between staunch atheists and fundamentalists in Bangladesh’s social media for years, but it took a deadly turn in February when an anti-Islam blogger was murdered.

Interesting. So it appears that Muslims had been fiercely debating with atheists “for years” without calling for their deaths. Why wait so long if they are motivated only by a desire to carry out the commands of their faith and kill atheist critics?

Then there’s this curious line at the end of the article:

Two Jamaat leaders have already been convicted by the tribunal, which critics accuse of fabricating charges as part of a government bid to settle political scores, rather than to deliver justice.

What’s going on there? Is religion the whole story after all as Jerry and others suggest? Political scores to be settled?

Then we have an Indian news release, PTI:

The Islamists, under the banner of newly emerged ‘Hafazat-e-Islam’, also called for a nationwide general strike on April 8 and issued a one month deadline for the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government for accepting their 13-point demand. They threatened that if the demands are not met, they would lay a siege to capital on May 5. The demands included enactment of an anti-blasphemy law and arrest of five prominent people they called “atheist” . . . .

Woah, here, so there is a bit more to the demonstrations than a single demand for executing atheist bloggers. How many in the West are aware of this? But what’s this Hafazat-e-Islam?

A Bangladeshi news correspondent wrote the following:

Hafazat-e-Islam . . . demanded punishment of some bloggers tied to the movement in Shabagh, branding them ‘atheists’. The bloggers have denied the allegation and said their protest in Shahbgah is to demand executions for war crimes and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami for its role in 1971 against creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation.

The radical platform it claimed as non-political also proposes ground breaking changes to the country’s constitution by adding some provisions that could distort the largely secular highest law of the land. But many think the group is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami.

Now it’s getting more complex still. The bloggers deny what the demonstrators are accusing them of? They believe the real reason for the demonstrations has something to do with trials over war crimes dating back to Bangladesh’s war for independence? (I once saw something about some horrific crimes back then — I could not stomach to review them now.) The demonstrators want more broad political changes but “many think the group is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami? Who or what are they?

Jamaat-e-Islami are NOT your ordinary everyday Muslims. They are a political party that is campaigning for an establishment of Sharia law. Jamaat-e-Islami fought against their fellow Bangladeshis in that nation’s war for independence from Pakistan.

The same news story continues:

The Hefazat-e-Islam was floated two months ago in Chittagong to protest alleged defamation of Islam by bloggers as they were waging a campaign for toughest punishment for the 1971 war crimes accused, mostly belonging to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami which was opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.

So the bloggers were not simply (allegedly) defaming Islam; they were “waging a campaign for toughest punishment for the 1971 war crimes accused”?

And the Jamaat-e-Islami were opposed to Bangladesh’s bloody struggle for independence from Pakistan. Now there are war crimes trials against Jamaat-e-Islami leaders — against those considered traitors to Bangladesh. That’s what the atheist bloggers were mixed up with?

The story is no longer sounding so simple, is it?

I imagine anyone tilting an eyebrow the wrong way at a Jamaat-e-Islami teaching would be accused of defaming Islam — JI is not, as I said, your everyday Muslim. Their history is tied up with war crimes and siding with the enemy in Bangladesh’s war for independence.

Can we start to put two and two together now?

Remember above that things took a turn for the worse in February this year with the murder of an atheist blogger. Who was he? What was that all about? Why had it all been merely verbal jousting for years until then?

Here’s a report from D. L. Chandler:

Since February, 70 persons have been killed after a prominent Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (also known as Jamaat) leader was sentenced to death. Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was reportedly killed by Jamaat group members and supporters for protesting the Islamic group.

So! A prominent Jamaat-e-Islami leader was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes? All had been quiet (well, nothing but arguing) until then. Many — including the “atheist bloggers” — considered the sentence to be too lenient given the atrocities committed and demanded execution. Only after then do the masses of Jamaat-e-Islami supporters come out to demand death for atheist bloggers who, it appears, were arguing for tougher penalties for Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals. They seem to have had some success one one was sentenced to death. That provoked a Jamaat-e-Islami reaction. A Jamaat-e-Islami mob then murdered one of those atheist bloggers.

The article linked in the above paragraph further explains that police brutality has been exacerbating the violent mood of the crowd. Things are a mess there.

It is surely clear the issue of atheism is an excuse, a cover. The real issue here is a political struggle between anti-Jamaat-e-Islami forces and Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals.

Chandler continues:

Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are under trial for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 independence battle. Bloggers, who have long said they are not atheists, have demanded capital punishment for any members found guilty of the committing crimes during the war which claimed over three million lives.

Are they atheists or not? If not, why are they supposedly accused of being atheists?

DW.DE sums it all up, it seems:

War crimes trials fuel tensions

Tensions have soared between Islamist and secular groups in Bangladesh, since the government put leading members of the country’s main Islamist party – Jamaat-e-Islami – on trial for war crimes. The party opposed Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, which took some 3 million lives.

Last February, thousands rallied in the capital, demanding the death penalty for the suspected war criminals. Jamaat-e-Islami vice president Delawar Hossai Sayedee was sentenced to death on February 28 for murder, rape, looting and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam during the independence war. At least 95 people were killed in unrest following Sayedee’s conviction and sentencing.

No, I cannot imagine thousands of Roman Catholics in the United States doing what extremist Jamaat-e-Islami supporters, in the wake of a war that still holds bitter memories and ruined lives, in one of the poorest countries on earth, are doing.

The news reports one uncovers from a web search make it clear that:

  • Jamaat-e-Islami supporters (NOT your average Muslims!) were arguing with atheist bloggers for years without violence. And the arguments appear to have been about something much more than atheism — quite likely they had nothing to do with atheism or attacks on Islam per se. Attacks on the extremism of Jamaat-e-Islami and memories of war crimes, now that’s another possibility that’s also apparently quite likely.
  • Violence against the bloggers only erupted after a leading Jamaat-e-Islami war criminal was sentenced to death. That speaks volumes about the real reasons. And then the same old script with which we are all only too familiar kicks in: religious motivation kicks in as the cover for the real motive which is revenge, or payback for the death sentence pronounced on the Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

There is more detail on Al Jazeera (the bloggers apparently even deny they are atheists, and if so, we can see once again the unreality, the smokescreen, that the righteous cries for Jamaat-e-Islami’s political-religious movement really are):

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/04/20134661058364976.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/02/20132186185999565.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/02/20132191312685574.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2013/02/2013217141328466612.html

But to western news media and some of their audience, all Muslims look alike. Media would have done their audiences a better service had they described the demonstrators as Jamaat-e-Islami rather than generic Muslims, but that’s how the world seems to work, unfortunately.

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103 Comments

  • 2013-04-10 23:25:39 UTC - 23:25 | Permalink

    Now Jerry has quickly added that what is happening in Bangladesh has nothing to do with colonialism or politics because the demonstrators are clearly saying “Death to the atheist bloggers” in the name of Islam.

    Has Jerry said that is was *nothing* to do with politics, or has he merely said that it does have something to do with religion? The problem with discussions such as these is that they often rebut strawman positions: “It is *everything* to do with religion and *nothing* to do with politics”, or “it is *everything* to do with politics and *nothing* to do with religion”.

    • 2013-04-11 04:50:58 UTC - 04:50 | Permalink

      This is what Jerry “Kiss My Arse” Coyne wrote:

      I’ll reprise the accusations against New Atheism associated with “Islamophobia”:

      . . . .

      2. Islamic violence is motivated not by religion but by politics . . . . I don’t know how people can level such a criticism. Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations, but read Lawrence Wright’s Looming Tower to see how large a role the desire to impose Muslim values on others played in the rise of Islamic extremism. And really, look around you. Are those rioters in Bangladesh, who would willingly kill atheist bloggers, motivated by the political oppression they get from those bloggers? Read what they wrote about the bloggers insulting Mohamed and Islam. Are the extremists lying?

      When you scratch the surface you find that, contrary to Jerry Coyne’s thoughtless, knee-jerk claim, that yes, those he calls “rioters” (the ones the media actually calls demonstrators) were indeed motivated by what they saw as political oppression of their movement!

      They were arguing with the bloggers for years before there was any violence. And the violence was in direct response to calls for one of their leaders, who had just been handed a life-sentence, to be executed for war crimes.

      Actually I see I failed to take notice in my original post that Jerry calls them rioters. One of the news articles I gathered reported one Bangladeshi political leader thanking the demonstrators for not rioting! Another Freudian slip of Jerry Coyne’s pen that reveals his visceral level of “understanding” about the situation.

    • 2013-04-11 04:56:03 UTC - 04:56 | Permalink

      “Has Jerry said that is was *nothing* to do with politics, or has he merely said that it does have something to do with religion?”

      Strictly speaking, he did not say it had *nothing* to do with politics. But, he clearly intended to imply that any political motivations there might have been behind the incidents were practically irrelevant.

      • 2013-04-11 05:03:59 UTC - 05:03 | Permalink

        But, [Coyne] clearly intended to imply that any political motivations there might have been behind the incidents were practically irrelevant.

        Did he? Or was he merely trying to say that religious motivations are a major part of it? These things don’t have to be 100:0 or 0:100. (My reply to Neil’s reply appears to have gone in the wrong place, oops.)

        • 2013-04-11 05:18:42 UTC - 05:18 | Permalink

          This is an important point. Once we understand the mix of politics in the equation then we open up the possibility that we are not dealing with a religion or followers of the Muslim religion per se, but with contingent situations and experiences of different peoples.

          • 2013-04-11 05:51:35 UTC - 05:51 | Permalink

            All real-world issues like this are complex with multiple causative factors. However, that doesn’t prevent us discussing whether one of the factors (say, a particular religion) has a beneficial or a malign influence on that mix.

            • Harun
              2013-04-11 07:41:03 UTC - 07:41 | Permalink

              True, but as far I can tell, Coyne, Harris, and the others are not merely suggesting that religion is a malignant factor in the mix, or even just a “major part of it.” They are claiming, quite forcefully, that religion is the *primary* causative factor, to the point that socio-political factors are indeed, as Doug said above, practically irrelevant.

              • muuh-gnu
                2013-04-11 15:28:58 UTC - 15:28 | Permalink

                That depends on how you define “religion”. Religion _is_ just another socio-political factor, the only difference to a completely secular socio-political factor is that religion claims authorisation from a heavenly tsar, while the seculars claim earthly authorities. And thats the whole difference. Religion is not a separate entity, it is as socio-political as it gets. The whole point of having a religion in the first place is socio-political.

                So you have several socio-political memes competing, and religion is just one of them, just one of many political parties. And while it is impossible to say in advance which party will win over an area in advance, it can be determined which one has already won over an area an has the last word on policy.

                Claiming that Islam does not have dozens of countries in its grip _today_ is like claiming that the Catholic church had nobody in its grip 1000 years ago and that all the inquisition, heresy, witch hunt and crusade lunacy were purely secular endeavours. No, they were not. Religion was the *primary* causative factor, and all the others were irrelevant. No red-haired woman would have been burned without the superstitious(=religious) belief that witches existed.

              • muuh-gnu
                2013-04-11 16:05:14 UTC - 16:05 | Permalink

                Sorry, what I completely missed your point. You are somehow claiming that it is unlikely that out of many factors, only one factor is winning and taking over total control over all the others. I do not consider this impossible at all, Nazi Germany being the prime example. Race ideology and race concerns won over basically everything else. It is absolutely not impossible that the religious component wins by a landslide and everything else pales in comparison, especially for the people invested in the religious organisation.

              • 2013-04-11 18:01:06 UTC - 18:01 | Permalink

                They are claiming, quite forcefully, that religion is the *primary* causative factor, to the point that socio-political factors are indeed, as Doug said above, practically irrelevant.

                Can you point explicitly to the bit where Coyne says that “socio-political factors are … practically irrelevant”?

    • 2013-04-11 06:08:06 UTC - 06:08 | Permalink

      I think Jerry is overlooking that 100,000 Bangladeshi Muslims want some Bangladeshi atheists to be killed because of American foreign policy.

      • 2013-04-11 06:46:04 UTC - 06:46 | Permalink

        Steven, that’s the worst straw man I’ve ever seen from just about anyone. I can only assume you never read a word of my post and don’t care what I say if it contradicts your own mainstream media perceptions of the world.

  • Jer
    2013-04-11 02:03:50 UTC - 02:03 | Permalink

    Coyne’s blinders against Islam are very, very thick and very, very ugly. It’s one of his worst character traits and I find that if he’s posting anything about Islam or Muslims, it’s pretty much safe to ignore it because if you’re lucky it’s merely misguided and if you’re unlucky it’s just plain flat out wrong.

    In this he’s much like Christopher Hitchens, actually, who was also unreadable about anything related to Islam or the Middle East.

    • 2013-04-11 04:34:25 UTC - 04:34 | Permalink

      Chris Hitchens, sadly, completely “lost it” after 9/11. It’s worth remembering the outpouring of shock and sympathy that the world felt for America on 9/11, but how “Christian”(?) extremists in power lost all that support overnight when they reacted as they did and shed far more innocent blood in retaliation than had been lost in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

      • Mark Erickson
        2013-04-11 14:35:55 UTC - 14:35 | Permalink

        Since Hitch was waving the bloody flag soon after 9/11, he never really had it. I’ll go find a great link on this point and be back.

      • Mark Erickson
        2013-04-11 15:00:32 UTC - 15:00 | Permalink

        First, the link is not about Hitchens himself, but about conservatives, and many liberals, who rejoiced at being thrust into a civilizational war from the vapid consumerism of the 1990’s. http://bostonreview.net/BR29.1/robin.html Corey Robin is a fine writer, check out his blog and books. I found the Hitchens quote on his blog. From http://www.thenation.com/article/images-rearview-mirror not all the extremist reactions were from Christians.

        “I should perhaps confess that on September 11 last, once I had experienced all the usual mammalian gamut of emotions, from rage to nausea, I also discovered that another sensation was contending for mastery. On examination, and to my own surprise and pleasure, it turned out be exhilaration. Here was the most frightful enemy–theocratic barbarism–in plain view. All my other foes, from the Christian Coalition to the Milosevic Left, were busy getting it wrong or giving it cover. Other and better people were gloomy at the prospect of confrontation. But I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

    • someguy
      2013-04-12 21:51:44 UTC - 21:51 | Permalink

      “In this he’s much like Christopher Hitchens, actually, who was also unreadable about anything related to Islam or the Middle East.”

      I’m not sure what “unreadable” means exactly here (wrong on basic facts? biased? both or more?) but Hitchens certainly had bright moments like his support for the Palestinians and Cypriots.

  • muuh-gnu
    2013-04-11 04:47:43 UTC - 04:47 | Permalink

    Hallo Neil,

    with all due respect, I think that your constant dealing with this so called “Islamophobia” detracts from the primary topic and greatly decreases the values of your blog. Without going into deatils (Jerry and Sam did basically said (but more eloquently) all I would also say) you are completely and utterly wrong.

    As somebody who loves Vridar, I am rather shocked by all the logical fallacies you are commiting here. You remind me of the shock I had when Bart Ehrman came out with DJE?. Bart is protecting his his employment, which is fair enough, but what kind of personal connection do you have with Islam that is muddying your analytical waters?

    I dont know what I can say or do to make you stop jumping the shark, but please stop.

    • 2013-04-11 04:55:46 UTC - 04:55 | Permalink

      You are more than welcome to demonstrate (not merely assert) my logical fallacies and where I am “completely and utterly wrong”. I know I am not immune from fallacies and mistakes. But I will not tell you to kiss my arse if you can constructively engage with my arguments and reasoning.

      You can read the primary purpose of the blog in the banners or links. These sorts of posts were originally a part of the blog and have been long overdue.

      I am always incensed by public intellectuals who use their status to promote fear, ignorance and intolerance in the wider community. Theologians are not the only guilty ones.

  • 2013-04-11 04:58:53 UTC - 04:58 | Permalink

    You quote Jerry Coyne saying: “Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations”, I don’t think anyone would assert that such motivations would ever be 100% religious and 0% everything else.

    [those demonstrators] were indeed motivated by what they saw as political oppression of their movement!

    Here are the 13 demands of the demonstrators, as reported by Al Jazeera. I find it hard to interpret this list as having no religious motivation whatsoever (though, yes, politics will be part of it, point 13 is indeed about the charges brought against some of them).

    “The 13-point agenda demanded by Hefazat, as reported by local media outlets, is below:

    1. Restore the phrase “Complete faith and trust in the Almighty Allah” in the constitution and repeal all the laws contrary to the holy Quran and Sunnah.

    2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the maximum punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Allah, Prophet Muhammad and Islam and smear campaigns against Muslims.

    3. Take measures for stringent punishment against self-declared atheists and bloggers, led by the so-called Shahbagh movement, and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against the Prophet.

    4. Stop infiltration of all alien cultures, including shamelessness in the name of individual’s freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of male and female and candle lighting.

    5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels cancelling the anti-Islamic women policy and anti-religion education policy.

    6. Officially declare Qadianis (Ahmadiyyas) as non-Muslim and stop their propaganda and all conspiratorial ill-moves.

    7. Stop setting up sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country.

    8. Lift restrictions on saying prayers in all mosques across the country, including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, without any hassle and remove obstacles to carrying out religious activities.

    9. Stop evil efforts to spread hatred in the mind of the young generation regarding Islam through the misrepresentation of religious dresses and cultures in the media.

    10. Stop anti-Islam activities by NGOs across the country, including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and evil attempts of Christian missionaries for conversion.

    11. Stop attacks, mass killing, oppression and indiscriminate shooting on Alem-Ulama, devout followers of the Prophet and towhidi janata (revolutionary people).

    12. Stop threatening teachers and students of Qawmi madrasas, Islamic scholars, imams and khatibs and conspiracies against them.

    13. Free immediately all the arrested Islamic scholars, madrasa students and towhidi janata and withdraw all false cases filed against them, compensate the victims and bring the assailants to justice.”

    http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/asia/bangladeshi-clerics-fight-atheist-bloggers

    • 2013-04-11 05:11:02 UTC - 05:11 | Permalink

      I made it very clear that the political party (the Bangladeshi Supreme(?) Court ruled it was a political party a few years ago) runs on the platform of wanting to make Sharia Law the foundation of the state. I also pointed out that they had been engaged in heated debate with their so-called “atheist” opponents for some years before violence and calls for death broke out, and that those calls were the direct result of disagreement over the sentence imposed on war criminals. What Jerry Coyne said was that sometimes politics is mixed into the motivations but that the motivations are primarily, to the point of being virtually totally — “Are the extremists lying?” — responsible. He said he cannot understand how anyone could say otherwise. He tells them to just kiss his arse if they disagree with him.

      I think some commenters here are just as serious about wanting to engage in genuine debate on this question.

      • 2013-04-11 05:28:48 UTC - 05:28 | Permalink

        Jerry Coyne said … that the motivations are primarily, to the point of being virtually totally …

        At no point does he say “to the point of being virtually totally” or similar. One can read Jerry’s paragraph as arguing against the claim that they are *not* motivated by religion” (i.e. that religion plays *zero* motivational role), and that he is instead asserting that religion does play a major role (not that it is the only factor).

        As an aid to discussion, let’s consider the assertion “the motivation for the demonstrations was 50% religious and 50% political”. How far from agreement with that would both you and Jerry be? (Or take 70:30 or 30:70 or something as a discussion point if you prefer.)

        • 2013-04-11 05:53:27 UTC - 05:53 | Permalink

          If political factors are a fundamental factor in what is happening in Bangladesh then it becomes problematic to say that what is happening in Bangladesh is universally characteristic of adherents of the Muslim religion. The demonstrators (not “rioters” as Jerry Coyne calls them) are backing a political party that has a religious platform. It is as much a political as it is a religious movement. It also has deep roots in contingent historical conditions in Bangladesh. The events of a war 40 years ago still divide that society.

          I suppose a comparable situation would be a Catholic or Protestant based political party in Northern Ireland a few years ago. Would it be fair to say that such a movement was a sure barometer of what Christianity was like and that we in other countries like America or Bangladesh should stir up fear and hatred of Christians for believing in such a horrible religion that preaches hate and appears to support terrorism and murders? No analogy is perfect and that one is certainly not, but I am trying to make at least one valid point with it.

          • 2013-04-11 06:07:30 UTC - 06:07 | Permalink

            “Universally characteristic of adherents of the Muslim religion” is not something that Jerry has actually said. What he seems to be asking is: does throwing Islam into the mix improve things or make them worse? Jerry would assert that, much of the time, it makes things worse.

            In your Northern Ireland example, no, it would not be fair to regard those “troubles” as “a sure barometer of what Christianity was like”, but one could legitimately ask whether the Protestant v Catholic divide made things worse or better. I’d argue that religion in NI was/is a significant factor in making things worse, because the difference in religion tends to accentuate and perpetuate the divisions between the two communities.

            … stir up fear and hatred of Christians for …

            I’d suggest that Jerry seems himself as opposing Islam, not Muslims. He is at pains to point out that those who suffer most from the defects of Islam are Muslims (specially but not only female ones). In the same way, the people who suffered most from communism were citizens of communist countries.

  • 2013-04-11 05:25:01 UTC - 05:25 | Permalink

    One problem underlying this is the right to appeal to the public—aka free speech. Christianity in the form of Evangelicalism is allowed all day to proselyte as its MO to spread itself to new customers. Catholicism, in a much more totalitarian religious time, used forced conversions and Inquisitions to impose itself and spread its influence across the world. And now atheists want to spread what we know about religions and win more people, too. That’s really what’s at the bottom of this no matter how many demonstrated recently in Bangladesh, whether as few as 100,000 or as many as 500,000. The idea behind that demonstration is one that all religions now share (except Islam allows its followers to, by far, be the most aggressive when expressing that): There leaders do not want any competitors to their religion’s ability to in most cases run roughshod over the public, even as they right now see one another—i.e., one religion to another religion—as less of a threat than atheism since atheism is beginning to look, more and more, like most plausible next medium for interpreting what truly exists in the universe as well as what’s happeneing on Planet Earth… all while spoiled rotten religions still think they have the right to do whatever they wish with people and eliminate any competitors, in order to keep picking up more and more converts, maintain what they have, and generally keep spreading their influence unchallenged.

    Some Islamic leaders right now apparently don’t know how to cope with the threat of atheism taking away perhaps half or even far more of their people eventually, which that leadership sees as an unacceptable possibility and wish to stop that trend in any way they can before it gets too much momentum… even as those who organized that demonstration in Bangladesh, that was their way to push pack against the threat of atheism to their influence and power… while THREATENING DEATH to competitors who are trying to win the minds of the public with great concepts worth having and sharing should never be given any credence or tolerated. They MAY (very doubtful however) have the freedom to say “death to atheists bloggers” perhaps, since there were so many of them, but that’s certainly debatable since saying death to any group borders on hate speech and nothing more—especially when saying death to any competitor in the marketplace of free ideas—even as that should be condemned as hate speech instead of letting any Islamists turn atheist against atheist as how their strategy is right now trying to infiltrate us and hoping to accomplish, which is apparently their approach and strategy right now.

    Darius, who commented in the last Vridar post on this topic, grew up under Islam and in his comments told us that radical Islam uses moderate Muslims as cover for the agendas of [as if the religion is actually peaceful at its roots]—a PR ploy—some of its more radical leaders promotion of their and the Qur’an’s actual political agenda (which sort of power its leaders would like whether or not the religion is true (even as its radical type leaders don’t give a damn whether it’s true or not), even as Islam is more than anything—surprise, surprise—a political agenda.

    While I think it is important that the leaders of today’s atheism do what is needed to stay above the criticism that Harris accidentally fell into, I think you are now being played by the strategy of Islamists, Neil. Liberalism has dropped the ball horribly when it comes to the political agenda of Islam and its world/political ambition. Like I wrote earlier in the comments under the other post: Moderate Christians have no clue, nor do moderate Muslims, about the true dynamics of their respective religions, even though they can get along nicely with their neighbors (as you have pointed out). Getting along with one’s neighbors, however, isn’t enough when it comes to the freedom to express one’s views in the marketplace of ideas. Some athests have been taking a more aggressive approach and some of us who temper what we say a little more. Perhaps more atheists will temper what they say a bit more now, after this, which is the only good outcome I can see from these last two Vridar posts, and one that I do accept. But Hussain, in my opinion, clearly wants to disrupt atheism from coalescing as how that has recently been happening more and more. And by the way, anything can be a movement (meaning atheism, too), which I think you got wrong.

  • 2013-04-11 11:19:43 UTC - 11:19 | Permalink

    I have enjoyed this blog immensely, so I was terribly disappointed to read the “Islamophobia” post recently and now this one. A phobia is an irrational fear, there is nothing irrational about fearing a belief system that would have me shrouded in metres of fabric were I to step outside my house, and which treats women as barely human, especially when its stated goal is world domination. Maybe you have a reasonable disagreement with Jerry (whose website is also one of my favourites) on the subject of Islam, though I find it hard to see what it actually is, but using the word “Islamophobia” immediately makes you look naive, and mired in western post-colonial angst. You seem to be agreed that Islam is one of the most dangerous belief systems on Earth, and Christianity’s bloody past doesn’t change the situation we face with Islam. Islam’s past is nothing to boast about either, come to think of it. Religion is the main source of division on our planet and clearly a hazard to our future existence and well-being, it is used by men (and occasionally women) to oppress others, and rouse them to destruction, it is a bad thing and Islam is one of the worst. It is possible to engage with a belief system without hating all those who follow it. Communism is a case in point, in both cases those who suffer most from these misguided beliefs are those who follow them. There is no-one with whom I agree 100%, but we need to focus on the main goal, which is to make reason and science our foundation for action, not revelations from gods and ancient texts written by who knows who.

    • muuh-gnu
      2013-04-11 15:40:23 UTC - 15:40 | Permalink

      > It is possible to engage with a belief system without hating all those who follow it.

      Well, you surely can not hate anyone who is trapped into it by pure chance, but you surely can hate those who intentionally and aggressively push it. You can not blame (or hate) every single German for the rise of the Third Reich, but you surely can blame (or hate) the Nazis who pushed it on them. Similarly, you can not hate every Muslim just for the fact that he has been born a Muslim, but you _can_ hate the extremists pushing everybody else in thewrong direction. And of course, completely unrelated to the actual people, you can hate the underlying abstract ideology. It is absolutely ok to hate Mein Kampf, it absolutely ok to hate Leviticus, it is absolutely ok to hate Maleus Maleficarum and it is absolutely ok to hate the Quran.

    • 2013-04-12 07:29:21 UTC - 07:29 | Permalink

      I know we believe our fears are rational. The question is whether they are well informed. Many people before March 2003 feared Iraq was stockpiling WMDs. The fear was rational but ill-informed. What are the sources of our information?

      I fully agree with you when you say our main goal should be to make reason and science the foundation for action. (It is unfortunate that scientists like Coyne and Dawkins toss out science when it comes to their pronouncements about the followers of Islam, yet still believe their fears are rationally grounded in solid, scientific evidence. When reason and science — data — is presented to expose their fears as baseless Jerry is not interested in discussion. He just says “Kiss my arse”. Not a scientific or rational response.

      Jerry is speaking very rationally within the parameters of his own belief system. His fears are very rational — given his understanding of the world.

      • 2013-04-12 18:04:53 UTC - 18:04 | Permalink

        It is unfortunate that scientists like Coyne and Dawkins toss out science when it comes to their pronouncements about the followers of Islam, yet still believe their fears are rationally grounded in solid, scientific evidence.

        You have a fine track record of carefully argued posts about Biblical studies, So how about you produce some posts where you quote what Coyne or Dawkins actually say, and then, not going beyond what they have explicitly said, show that they are wrong or that their fears are ungrounded.

        Your previous post didn’t do that since at no point did it quote Coyne or Dawkins and at no point did it address things they’d actually said (as oppose to straw-man paraphrases).

        • 2013-04-12 18:25:02 UTC - 18:25 | Permalink

          I quoted Jerry here. He says “kiss my arse” if you disagree with his views about Islam. What have I misrepresented in this post or the previous one? You complained I did not use his exact words or paraphrased his ideas but I don’t believe I misrepresented him. He replied to my post and did not point out any misrepresentation. He simply avoided my own arguments altogether — told me to kiss his arse instead. He takes off his intellectual hat when he talks about Islam. You disagree?

          • 2013-04-12 20:22:38 UTC - 20:22 | Permalink

            Your misrepresentation is that you attribute to Coyne the strawman “Islamic/religious motivations are 100% responsible and all other social and political factors are entirely irrelevant”. You then write a post pointing to important social and political factors, and thus declare Coyne to be wrong.

            But Coyne has never said anything resembling “all other social and political factors are entirely irrelevant”. If you dispute that please quote him. What Coyne is trying to say (it seems to me) is that Islamic/religious motivations are important factors. Nothing in your posts refutes that position.

            Every human society is complex with multiple motivations, but that doesn’t alter the fact that ideologies (communism, capitalism, Islamism, fascism, etc) can be very influential. And thus it is entirely legitimate to critique those ideologies, and it is not a refutation to any such critique to point out that other factors are also relevant.

            • 2013-04-12 23:35:30 UTC - 23:35 | Permalink

              You call on me to quote Coyne because you say I am misrepresenting him with my paraphrases. But I do quote Coyne to support what I have written in my very first response to your accusation in your #1 comment above. Now you are still accusing me of misrepresenting Coyne and you fabricate a false quotation and attribute it to me. I did not say what you quote. Indeed you have even misquoted the person you really have taken your quote from: that person did not say “entirely irrelevant” but rather, “practically irrelevant”.

              I suggest if you want to make a credible accusation then you yourself quote what Coyne did say and then quote my own words that supposedly misrepresent him.

              If you read my post with any care you would see exactly what I mean by Islamophobia and what it is in Coyne’s argument that I am addressing. You have misread me. If you disagree then quote my words beside Coyne’s words.

              I have already quoted Coyne to justify my own comments. You have concocted a quotation that you have attributed to me.

              • 2013-04-13 00:42:40 UTC - 00:42 | Permalink

                Can we return to my above question? What do you think the mix of motivations is in the Bangladesh demonstrations? Would it be 50:50 religious v social/political? Or 70:30 or 30:70? Obviously such numbers are problematic since there is no clear divide between the two, but they at least indicate viewpoints.

                What do you, Neil, think the ratio is? Are you arguing for 100 percent political and 0 percent religious? If not, what rough indicative number might you go for?

                Secondly, what ratio do you think that Coyne is arguing for? Do you interpret his writings as arguing for 0 percent political and 100 percent religious? If not what ratio do you consider that Coyne would put on it?

              • 2013-04-13 00:57:11 UTC - 00:57 | Permalink

                Your question is sidestepping what Coyne himself wrote. I quoted Coyne and addressed his point. Coyne is not addressing percentages. You are trying to recast Coyne’s words and argument into something he did not address in order to fault mine. Coyne spoke of a mixture of motives and then made it clear what role Islam had in that mix.

                You cannot quote anything of mine that misrepresents Coyne and you cannot quote anything of Coyne that I have misrepresented. My initial response directly addressed Coyne’s and my words. You are avoiding both Coyne’s and my words.

                If I have misrepresented Coyne I ask you to quote my words misrepresenting him. Ask Jerry himself what I have misrepresented.

              • 2013-04-13 01:25:32 UTC - 01:25 | Permalink

                Your question is sidestepping what Coyne himself wrote.

                Even if it is, please could you answer it? As a way of advancing the discussion and trying to see what the real disagreement is? It would be interesting if both you and Coyne answered those questions about (1) how each of you sees the percentages, and (2) how each of you sees the other as seeing the percentages.

                Coyne is not addressing percentages.

                Coyne seems to me to be arguing that the percentage for “religious motivation” is not zero and is not too low to be significant. I’ve read both your original post on this and this one, and I don’t see anything that you have written about the Bangladesh demonstrations that refutes that position.

                It also seems to me that you are criticising Coyne because you see him as arguing that the ratio is 0:100 political:religious, and Coyne is criticising you because he sees you as arguing that the ratio is 100:0 political:religious. That’s why answering the above question might be helpful.

              • 2013-04-13 06:38:48 UTC - 06:38 | Permalink

                No, because your question is meaningless to me and irrelevant to Coyne’s words that I have chosen to address. I responded from the first to your question by pointing to what Coyne exactly said and meant. My criticism with Jerry Coyne is over what I think deservedly can be described as “Islamophobia”. That is what this discussion is about. Attitudes and beliefs being promoted about Muslims under the guise that the criticism is merely about “ideas”. If you have a problem with any of my words or believe they have misrepresented any of Jerry’s words then quote mine and Jerry’s and we will have something to discuss.

              • 2013-04-14 17:52:16 UTC - 17:52 | Permalink

                Answering questions is a normal part of reasonable discussion of a topic. If you’re not interested in reasonable discussion then, fine, I won’t pursue it.

              • 2013-04-14 20:25:24 UTC - 20:25 | Permalink

                Coel, your questions do not relate to anything addressed by Jerry Coyne and are irrelevant to my discussion of Coyne’s claims. Even so, I answered your question the first time it was asked by reminding you of the very point I was making and that your questions were failing to address.

                It is a normal part of reasonable exchange that one demonstrates the relevance of one’s contribution to the topic being discussed. I have asked you repeatedly to quote the words of Coyne that I have misrepresented and to quote my words misrepresenting him. The closest you ever came was fabricating a quotation I never made. That is not a reasonable contribution.

                Again, you are another who has no interest in addressing the arguments that are being made. Your only interest is ostensibly to change the discussion into quite another one that completely bypasses both Coyne’s words and mine.

              • 2013-04-14 21:19:56 UTC - 21:19 | Permalink

                (Oops, previous comment went in slightly the wrong place.) But I should have added, that “quote” of mine was not putting words in your mouth, it was if anything putting words into Coyne’s mouth, though in context it’s obvious that it wasn’t given as an actual quote, since it is preceded with “strawman” and “hasn’t said”.

              • 2013-04-14 21:06:37 UTC - 21:06 | Permalink

                My questions are simply asking for clarification about what this dispute is about. Coyne is pointing out that religious factors are important in (for example) the Bangladeshi demonstrations. You are pointing out that political factors are important in those demonstrations. It seems to me that both of you are right. So whence the disagreement?

                As for the arguments you made, and the background to the Bangladeshi demonstrations in your post above, yes, you seem to right on everything you said about it (as far as I can tell). Now, in what way does that rebut or refute anything Jerry Coyne has said? You’ve pointed to the political aspects, he’s pointed to the religious aspects.

                Other than the yelling at each other (which is way too prevalent on atheist blogs at the moment), what actual difference of substance is there between you? Are you, perhaps, arguing that religion is entirely irrelevant to the Bangladeshi situation? Again, I’m only asking because I’m trying to clarify the issues (which is the very essence of being interested in getting at the truth of it).

              • 2013-04-14 22:40:23 UTC - 22:40 | Permalink

                I quoted the words of Jerry Coyne that I was addressing in this post when I first replied.

                I’ll reprise the accusations against New Atheism associated with “Islamophobia”:

                . . . .

                2. Islamic violence is motivated not by religion but by politics . . . . I don’t know how people can level such a criticism. Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations, but read Lawrence Wright’s Looming Tower to see how large a role the desire to impose Muslim values on others played in the rise of Islamic extremism. And really, look around you. Are those rioters in Bangladesh, who would willingly kill atheist bloggers, motivated by the political oppression they get from those bloggers? Read what they wrote about the bloggers insulting Mohamed and Islam. Are the extremists lying?

                Jerry’s bias is clear from the start. He refers to demonstrators (whom a government leader praised for being peaceful) as “rioters”. Apparently he assumes Muslims would be rioting, incapable of conducting a predominantly peaceful demonstration. (Yes, there has been some violence, but fortunately it has for most part been contained.)

                Jerry chose not to address my own arguments in my original post. He effectively told me to kiss his arse. Very intellectual. He then proceeded to repeat what he thinks his critics are saying about his views. It’s much easier to set up your own straw man and address something you find easy like that than actually address anything I really did say.

                Jerry set up a false-dilemma scenario — implying critics are saying that politics are the motivator of Islamic violence and religion is not. He assumes his critics are arguing a black and white, either-or scenario.

                He says he acknowledges that politics is “sometimes” (only “sometimes”) in the mix of motivations but that all one has to do is “look around you” — presumably he means to look at the opening seconds or lead paragraphs of Fox News, CNN, New York Times reports — and you will see, he infers, that there is no political motivator in the case of the Bangladeshi “rioters”.

                How does he know?

                He says that if we listen to the demands of the “rioters” that we have to assume they are not lying and that they want nothing more than the death of atheist bloggers for insulting Islam. The bloggers were not politically oppressing the “rioters” so the implication is that there was no political motivation. Full stop. That’s it. So although he concedes politics is “sometimes” in a mix of motivations he completely discounts it in the case of the Bangladeshi demonstrators.

                My point is that his level of understanding is very shallow. He has relied entirely upon superficial impressions from mainstream media and not thought to check the facts behind those reports.

                My point is that if he was not predisposed to interpret what he hears in mainstream news reports through his biases (demonstrators become rioters; the issue is another example of what Muslims typically do — demand to kill atheist blasphemers) but listened to those reports with a critical ear, he could quickly have learned that what is happening in Bangladesh is indeed very political. Just as war and persecutions that in hindsight we can see had clear political motivations were at the time disguised by the participants of the day under high-sounding religious motives, so we can see that here demonstrators and their leaders are disguising a clear political interest with talk of defending the faith.

                The proof of this is that those who are now demonstrating, some of them, were engaging in dialogue with the bloggers for some years without any violence. It is as plain as the nose on your face that the violence has only been instigated when the bloggers demanded the death penalty instead of a life term in jail for Jamaat-e-Islami leaders. Add to this event the tortured history of the earlier war that is still dividing that country and it is very clear what has prompted the murders and demonstrations since.

                It is very clear to anyone who takes the time to understand what is happening that the demonstrators are outraged that one of their political leaders has been sentenced to life in jail and are grossly offended that those on the side they opposed in the war should be calling for their execution. But it doesn’t feel right to demonstrate over the appropriate penalty for your leader who is known to have committed unspeakable crimes but you can cover a multitude of sins if you turn the cause into one in service of your God. That tactic is as old as religion itself, I would think.

                They never showed any interest in seeking death to the bloggers until those political/judicial events turned against their political party and leaders.

                And on top of all this we hear protestations by the bloggers themselves that they are not even atheists. So what is going on here? Does Jerry know? Does he care? Or does he just say to the facts that they can kiss his arse. He has written a damn good post attacking Islam and using those Islamic rioters in Bangladesh who have no other desire than to kill some blasphemers to make his point, and he will not enter into any discussion with anyone who is going to spoil his kicking the whole of the Islamic religion, and by extension, denigrate everyone who adheres to it.

                He has chosen to embrace the definition of Islam as it is interpreted by “rioters” and imputed that definition into all adherents of that religion. That is, especially given Jerry’s own level of intelligence and education, a culpable abuse of his status as a public intellectual in that he is fanning ignorance, fear and bigotry towards an entire group of people.

    • 2013-04-13 08:51:12 UTC - 08:51 | Permalink

      Are you saying that you believe Muslims are consciously working to achieve world domination? If so, do you mean this in the same sense that Christians are working for world domination through their missionary and evangelizing programs and attempts to influence politics?

      I fear you have misunderstood me when you write: “You seem to be agreed that Islam is one of the most dangerous belief systems on Earth . . . .

      I presume by “dangerous” in this sentence you primarily mean “violent”. Overwhelming majorities of Muslims (according to polls) do not hold dangerous beliefs — beliefs that they should be violent. (I recently posted on one of these polls and hope to post a more detailed one soon.) Those Muslims who do hold dangerous beliefs hold different beliefs from the majority of Muslims. In fact, we regularly read statements by representatives of the majority of Muslims that those Muslims who hold dangerous beliefs are, in effect, either not true Muslims or are betraying the faith. Examples at http://groups.colgate.edu/aarislam/response.htm and http://kurzman.unc.edu/islamic-statements-against-terrorism/

      I also must disagree with your view that “religion is the main source of division on our planet and clearly a hazard to our future existence and well-being”.

      The main sources of violence in the world among nations and within nations are attempts by the powerful to preserve or increase their power by keeping the powerless powerless. Shias and Sunnis in Iraq used to freely mix and intermarry. Their religion did not change after 2003. Something else changed that led to the violence between them. That’s just one of many case-studies I could offer to support my view.

      Belief systems that I believe are the most dangerous on earth, that threaten our survival as a species:

      1. That global warming is a hoax and that we should continue to do stuff that only exacerbates the problem.

      2. That “we” must enhance our nuclear weapons and other WMD capabilities to ensure peace and safety.

      3. That “we” have a right to the oil under the sands of the Middle East and central Asia.

      4. That an emerging China must be contained by military means (a la the old pre-WW1 days of trying to contain a rising Germany)

  • Mark Erickson
    2013-04-11 15:11:12 UTC - 15:11 | Permalink

    Another great thought I’ve stolen, this time from Chris Hedges, is the root of the issue. For Harris, Coyne, et al. it is about projecting evil onto someone else – the other. Once they’ve done that, you can forget about a rational, well-reasoned argument. They are evil; we are good. End of story, regardless of what the dividing line is.

    Evil resides in every person, it is a part of our human nature. Again, I’ll have to go hunting for the link, perhaps it was in PZ’s post.

    • Mark Erickson
      2013-04-11 15:34:58 UTC - 15:34 | Permalink
    • muuh-gnu
      2013-04-11 15:49:42 UTC - 15:49 | Permalink

      Everything you said also applies to criticism of Nazism.

      > “it is about projecting evil onto someone else – the other. Once they’ve done that, you can forget about a rational, well-reasoned argument. They are evil; we are good. End of story, regardless of what the dividing line is. ”

      Or about communism. Or capitalism. Or apartheid. Or Catholicism. Or Scientology. The criticism is not focuse on the people. It is focused on the abstract ideology. We have to be able to freely criticize an abstract ideology itself, without talking about people at all.

      > Evil resides in every person, it is a part of our human nature.

      Depending on the ideology du jour, people can release their inner evilness more or less. Ideologies are strong enablers, which is why we have to be able to openly criticize them.

    • 2013-04-11 18:07:08 UTC - 18:07 | Permalink

      For Harris, Coyne, et al. it is about projecting evil onto someone else … They are evil; we are good.

      Coyne (an American) spends more time on his blog pointing out America’s flaws than those of any other nation. He also (as a Jew) regularly criticises Jewish theology.

      • 2013-04-11 21:12:25 UTC - 21:12 | Permalink

        You misunderstand the nature of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism does not eschew self-criticism. In fact it prides itself in it. The essence of fundamentalism is that “we” are fundamentally good — we have our faults but they are mostly unintentional or well-meaning or redeemable — while “they” are fundamentally bad — their faults are of a different order.

  • anon
    2013-04-11 16:25:07 UTC - 16:25 | Permalink

    I believe that constructive criticism of a religion/ideology is essential in order for it to remain dynamic and vibrant. However, sometimes it is difficult to see flaws from within—that is why criticism from those outside of that religion/ideology can be beneficial.

    However, criticism based on incorrect presumptions do not create benefit—and are actually useless. Yet, these same ignorant criticisms–which would have been merely useless—can turn harmful in a hostile environment. Because of the war propaganda the West has engaged in—Islam/Muslims are in a hostile environment.

    Another phenomenon compounds the problem—that of “identity-crises” created by globalization/internet. Human beings sometimes answer the question “who are we” by contrasting it with “who we are not”. Rising intolerance in both the East and the West (in all religions/ideologies) often has to do with this phenomenon. In the West, Muslims have been caught in the line of fire from both these places—(that of war propaganda and the identity-crises).

    It has not helped that the energy resources that the West needs to keep its economic engine going happens to be under the feet of Muslims. But the tide is very slowly turning—here in the East–the energy resources in this region are no longer just under the feet of Muslims—they are also in the territorial claims of China…..and as the West begins to compete with China—a “new enemy” will emerge—though the rhetoric of “they (Chinese) are not like us (West)” will remain much the same. For a new Paradigm to emerge, the old one has to go—In order to engage with the new enemy, the West will have to disengage with the old one………..

    But this is not the only way to think. Human beings do not need to have the “other” in order to validate their beliefs or identity. We can identify as family members of one humanity. Human beings do not need to fight over resources—we can also amicably share. This idea that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity (Children of Adam) and the earths resources are for the benefit of all (of God’s creations) are ideas that the Quran promotes. That is why for Muslims—Islam brought the “enlightenment values” in the 7th century. Western history may have moved from the “dark ages” to enlightenment—but for Muslims we feel we have gone from “enlightenment” to the dark ages. That is why the rhetoric of “bringing Islam back” holds appeal to many Muslims….because in our minds the Quran promotes Equality, Liberty, Justice, and the brotherhood of humanity (Yes–this desire is abused by muslim politicians).

    Today Islam needs to be revitalized and re-engaged. However concepts such as “reform”/”reformation” must be used with care. Western religious history and Islamic religious history are different and how these concepts are understood will be different…….

  • John Cabal
    2013-04-11 17:25:17 UTC - 17:25 | Permalink

    Mr. Godfrey, I just wanted to thank you for this post, and indeed, for this blog as a whole. Your work is extraordinarily thoughtful and illuminating. As for the circus that has (of course) erupted as soon as the subject touched upon Islam, I think you have dealt with it well. At any rate, the information you have relayed about the incident mentioned in this post has been enlightening. Thanks again for your efforts.

    • 2013-04-11 17:46:57 UTC - 17:46 | Permalink

      I appreciate Neil very much, too, John Cabal. But to call the comments that you disagree with here a “circus” is slightly arrogant on your part, I think. You probably need to read a few more of the comments here, subject yourself to a few more.

      It’s awfully nice, on your part I think, to offer something about as long as the Testimonium Flavianum, perhaps 100 words or so, and then expect that to cover everything in behalf of the recent staus quo of the liberal policy on this for the past decade or two, because of its tenet that we all must accept “diversity” (which is good and fine to esteem diversity as very important if you don’t take that to an illogical extreme, which is what liberalism has recently done) while the very existence of liberals are threatened by certain malicious ideologies that should be condemned instead of coddled. I didn’t mean to sound like Rush Limbaugh there since I don’t approve of him.

      • John Cabal
        2013-04-12 15:51:24 UTC - 15:51 | Permalink

        > You probably need to read a few more of the comments here, subject yourself to a few more.

        I will surely consider your opinions on my opinions with all the regard they merit.

        Truly, it is amazing that you have divined all sorts of conclusions regarding “diversity” that I am supposed to hold, without my having addressed the subject at all. Such powers of speculation can only fill one with astonishment.

        > I didn’t mean to sound like Rush Limbaugh

        There is absolutely no need for such modesty. For you do, you really do.

        • 2013-04-12 17:08:41 UTC - 17:08 | Permalink

          Thanks for the reply, John. I simply wanted to complain about your comment in behalf of all of those comments which differed from yours that I liked here quite a bit, hoping that those wouldn’t somehow be snuffed away into not counting by what might have been one arrogant overly liberal person’s self-righteous comment, which I might have been wrong about but that’s what I felt was the right thing to do at the time and still don’t regret it, as that was just a feeling, perception, or opinion of mine regarding this post and your comment. I try not to become too irascible; that’s about as bad as I usually get these days when I’m truly bothered by something.

  • Lowen Gartner
    2013-04-12 04:48:41 UTC - 04:48 | Permalink

    Religion – specifically the memes of the Abrahamic religions – are not the cause of this behavior. The cause is human nature, an artifact of how we evolved, and specifically the desire for power coupled with the opportunity provided by ignorance and poverty. However, the memes of the Abrahamic religions are primary enablers of this behavior, allowing those seeking power to manipulate the poor and ignorant into doing evil things that their better nature would otherwise not let them do. We have 3000 years of history to demonstrate this and it happens today,to varying degrees, in countries dominated by each of the major flavors of Abrahamism.. In countries without strong secular governments, where there is near anarchy or theocracy, it seems worse right now, but part of that seeming is only perception as much of what happens seems more justified, in, say, Israel. Yes, all situations are complicated, multi-faceted and systemic. But lets not use that as blinders to excuse or diminish what is a big part of the problem–the memes that are the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths.

    Ironically for me, the three blogs I read most “religiously” are Vridar, WEIT and Greenwald. Each of them has made my life much fuller. Thank you.

  • Al
    2013-04-12 19:28:10 UTC - 19:28 | Permalink

    I can’t believe that you are suggesting that Jerry Coyne is an ignoramus when it comes to politics. Have you not read his cutting edge analysis of North Korea?

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/whats-up-with-north-korea/

    Apparently, after this piece was published, Obama called Coyne to say ‘Jerry, you’ve done it again. Thanks for putting my mind at rest’.

  • 2013-04-13 00:11:19 UTC - 00:11 | Permalink

    The most odd thing about all this is that Jerry Coyne is well aware of the correlation between religiosity and economic inequality/societal dysfunction. I bet if the Muslim world were as affluent as Western Europe, we would not be having this conversation about how uniquely barbaric Islam is. Furthermore, you can bet that if these poor, impoverished countries that are majority Islamic were instead overwhelmingly Christian, we would have similar instances of barbaric behavior except coming from Christians.

    • 2013-04-13 02:26:54 UTC - 02:26 | Permalink

      Way off. Christianity today is no longer what Christianity used to be in many respects, J. Quinton, which is why Catholics and Evangelicals have united in recent times around issues like abortion. Christianity today doesn’t give a darn about their own divisions as much as it used to, and only sees rising secularism as the major threat to their leaders’ standings in their communities and revenue sources. They are now about maintaining what they have, their standings in their communities and keeping their revenue flow in place and would advocate for nonviolence while being content with maintaining what they have, even if Christendom (which includes Catholicism) somehow did manage to spread as you describe, do so just to tell all of us secularists, “I told you so.” The threat of secularism has united them in many ways and they are about survival and their religion’s popularity more than anything else, even as that translates into the revenue and prestige they so crave.. all while communicating to everyone how humble they are and how much they are on the side of righteousness which comes from their god. Perhaps it takes someone who has been a theist to see that.

      • 2013-04-13 05:03:38 UTC - 05:03 | Permalink

        gee Doug, why don’t you say what’s really on your mind. I’d love to see you on O’Reilly’s show!

        • 2013-04-13 12:51:45 UTC - 12:51 | Permalink

          Hello Bunto. I have only been officially an atheist for going on eight years, even as I formerly tried to be a fully committed Christian so was pretty conservative politically; yet politics aren’t all that important to someone who thinks the Earth is cursed and needing to end so that God’s plan can fully emerge. I consider myself a moderate politically now while I have a decent number of liberal atheist friends on facebook with whom I now agree on many of the things they say but not all.

          Deconverting from Christianity is a process and doesn’t happen in a snap. I don’t accept anything typically considered liberal now unless I can agree with the reasoning behind it; yet, once again, I do agree with several concepts that are typically considered liberal now. Meanwhile, I do think that all religions are ultimately bad for us, however disagree with a certain number when I think that Islam is worse than Christianity, and do not consider Catholicism to not be a good representation of what first century Christianity was initially trying to launch either… which position Bill O’Reilly, since he is so stubbornly Catholic, wouldn’t savor all that much.

          I consider myself to be a truth seeker as well as a recovering evangelical and really nothing more, yet have noticed that some who comment here seem similar to me by holding some similar views in certain respects, which I like. Neil, of course, gets some special rights in all of this since not only is this his blog but he helps most of us in several ways, which includes people who are more liberal in their thinking or more moderate.

      • 2013-04-15 23:47:29 UTC - 23:47 | Permalink

        Did you even read what I wrote? This response is a complete non-sequitur.

        • 2013-04-16 01:39:06 UTC - 01:39 | Permalink

          J. Quinton, my response was to your last sentence: “Furthermore, you can bet that if these poor, impoverished countries that are majority Islamic were instead overwhelmingly Christian, we would have similar instances of barbaric behavior except coming from Christians.” I was trying to explain how I would envision “impoverished countries that are majority Islamic,” if those “were instead overwhelmingly Christian.”

          Some “Christians” do apparently believe in resorting to violence in certain cases, yet those people probably wouldn’t make the cut as a real Christian in the end if that theological system actually explained the reality of our existence (which is doesn’t, which is something extremely hard for many to learn—as it was for me—and finally come to terms with). My perspective on this comes after having followed what the New Testament presents/enjoins as necessary on the topic of nonviolence—following Jesus’ nonviolent example during our lifetimes on Earth and leaving reprisals in behalf of that theological system’s view of perfect justice to God’s later/final judgment. Therefore, I don’t see expressions of Christian violence, like those recently in Uganda, or those by the Catholic Church for century after century, as representative of what the New Testament teaches.

          Meanwhile, I know that theological system obviously breaks down (cannot actually hold water), which it should break down since it’s built upon a concept like a demon/Satan-possessed talking snake in the Garden of Eden. But regarding that, once the system gets people past that talking snake part, to then think “Well I’ve never seen anything like a talking snake before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible therefore didn’t happen” … then as such people read on—which it is obvious that many do read on as if the book could somehow be factual, including me (the sucker I used to be in that respect)—such people will eventually be exposed to all sorts of prophecies, most of them written after the fact and then offered as if having been miracles of foretelling the future which demonstrate the Hebrew God’s divinity and supreme authority; therefore those people will dump the talking snake problem while becoming more susceptible to believing that additional miraculous items items (that people should know better than to believe) can somehow be true history. (I write about these things constantly these days: So this explanation, and others like it, often come in the flow of everything else I have been working on recently regarding this difficult subject matter. I guess I expect others to naturally follow along with my train of thought, even when they approach things differently.)

    • 2013-04-13 06:51:54 UTC - 06:51 | Permalink

      On the other side of the coin, I’m not the only traveler who has been struck by the apparent relationship between the “gentleness” or “friendliness and apparent happiness” of some peoples who live in some of the poorest countries and in the poorest of conditions. (No, I am not suggesting that poverty is good.) It’s a complex question. Each country deserves its own particular study.

      • Mark Erickson
        2013-04-15 12:55:27 UTC - 12:55 | Permalink

        I used to work at a check-cashing store. Some of the nicest customers I’ve ever come across.

      • 2013-04-15 23:58:06 UTC - 23:58 | Permalink

        The link between income inequality and religiosity has actually been studied a lot. See here, here, and here. Note that income inequality isn’t the same as poverty; the poorest people in the USA are still some of the richest people on the planet.

        • 2013-04-16 07:09:30 UTC - 07:09 | Permalink

          Yes, as you say, income inequality is not the same as absolute poverty. The difference is the issue or sense of injustice. On the other hand, when it comes to religiosity, I expect we would also find significant the amount of resources that are given to improving education, and infrastructures that enable a variety of points of social meeting places (not only churches or mosques).

  • 2013-04-15 02:44:31 UTC - 02:44 | Permalink

    I’m replying to Neil’s long reply to me here:

    Jerry’s bias is clear from the start. He refers to demonstrators (whom a government leader praised for being peaceful) as “rioters”.

    And he does so after quoting the the Saudi Arabian Arabnews.com as saying: ” two activists of the ruling secular Awami League had died in the last 24 hours in clashes with Jamaat-e-Islami demonstrators, bringing to 96 the number killed in violence linked to the war crimes trials.” That does sound all that peaceful and gives some justification to the word “riot”.

    Earlier demonstrations had been riots (e.g. “Bangladesh police fired live rounds on Friday in fierce clashes with Islamists demanding the execution of bloggers they accuse of blasphemy, killing at least four people and injuring about 200. … At Palashbari at least 4,000 Islamists attacked police with home-made bombs and sticks, prompting officers to respond with live fire, district police chief Nahidul Islam told AFP.” Bangkok Post 22nd Feb).

    Apparently he assumes Muslims would be rioting, incapable of conducting a predominantly peaceful demonstration.

    You are being unfair and have no basis for asserting that Coyne “assumes Muslims would be … incapable of conducting a predominantly peaceful demonstration”.

    Jerry set up a false-dilemma scenario — implying critics are saying that politics are the motivator of Islamic violence and religion is not. He assumes his critics are arguing a black and white, either-or scenario.

    It seems to me that the critics are the ones far more guilty of setting up that false dichotomy!

    He says … that all one has to do is “look around you” — presumably he means to look at the opening seconds or lead paragraphs of Fox News, CNN, New York Times reports …

    You are being unfair, considering that he actually quoted a Saudi Arabian news source.

    and you will see, he infers, that there is no political motivator in the case of the Bangladeshi “rioters”.

    No, he doesn’t say or infer that there is *no* political motivator in this case. What he says is that religion is clearly a major factor.

    He says that if we listen to the demands of the “rioters” that we have to assume they are not lying and that they want nothing more than the death of atheist bloggers for insulting Islam.

    No, at no point does he say they want “nothing more” than that one aim. You are being unfair.

    The bloggers were not politically oppressing the “rioters” so the implication is that there was no political motivation. Full stop.

    At no point does he say there was “no political motivation”, what he is saying is that religious motivation is clearly a major part of it. Again, you are being unfair.

    My point is that his level of understanding is very shallow. He has relied entirely upon superficial impressions from mainstream media and not thought to check the facts behind those reports.

    That’s your opinion.

    My point is that if he was not predisposed to interpret what …

    Here you speculate based on your opinion.

    … he could quickly have learned that what is happening in Bangladesh is indeed very political.

    And in his piece he quoted Arabnews saying: “It was the latest protest to rack Bangladesh, deepening tensions between secularists and the largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are under trial for crimes committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence.” Maybe he is aware of the context that you point to?

    … we can see that here demonstrators and their leaders are disguising a clear political interest with talk of defending the faith.

    On what basis are you asserting that the religious motive is only a “disguise”? Why can’t it be both, political AND religious? Afterall, the underlying tension is between those wanting a secular Bangladesh and an Islamist party who want it to be an Islamic state. Thus the **political** tension has an underlying religious element. Read the Islamists’ 13 demands that I quote above. I’m baffled that anyone could read that and claim that religious motivations are either absent or merely a “disguise”.

    It is as plain as the nose on your face that the violence has only been instigated when the bloggers demanded the death penalty instead of a life term in jail for Jamaat-e-Islami leaders.

    Yes, that — or rather the fact that a government tribunal has sentenced two to death and one to life imprisonment — is a large part of it.

    Add to this event the tortured history of the earlier war that is still dividing that country and it is very clear what has prompted the murders and demonstrations since.

    Yep, a power struggle between Islamists and secularists for which religious motivations are a very large underpinning.

    It is very clear to anyone who takes the time to understand what is happening that the demonstrators are outraged that one of their political leaders has been sentenced to life in jail …

    And two to death, indeed.

    They never showed any interest in seeking death to the bloggers until those political/judicial events turned against their political party and leaders.

    First, are you sure of that? Are you sure that none of them expressed any wish for death penalties for blasphemy and apostasy in the years preceding the 2013 tribunal verdicts? Second, even granting it is true, it still doesn’t alter the fact that religion and religious motives play a major role in the whole thing.

    And on top of all this we hear protestations by the bloggers themselves that they are not even atheists. So what is going on here? Does Jerry know? Does he care?

    Does it matter? They are secularists opposed to the type of Islamic state that the Islamists want. They publicly criticise the version of Islam that the Islamists espouse. The religious-based motivation is still there. Or are you suggesting that there is no religious motivation in wanting an Islamist state instead of a secular one?

    He has written a damn good post attacking Islam and using those Islamic rioters in Bangladesh who have no other desire than to kill some blasphemers …

    Nowhere does he say or imply “no other” desire.

    his kicking the whole of the Islamic religion, and by extension, denigrate everyone who adheres to it.

    He does indeed kick the whole Islamic religion (he also kicks Christianity and other religions quite a lot on his blog). But the “denigrate everyone who adheres to it” is *your* extension, your reading into it, not his.

    He has chosen to embrace the definition of Islam as it is interpreted by “rioters” and imputed that definition into all adherents of that religion.

    You haven’t justified either of those claims.

    … he is fanning ignorance, fear and bigotry towards an entire group of people.

    I think you’re being unfair. He seems to me to be attacking Islam, the ideology, not people. Plenty of people who would, for example, criticise communism in the USSR or China have nothing against the people living in those regimes.

    • 2013-04-15 08:52:42 UTC - 08:52 | Permalink

      If you wish to argue that I was wrong for saying that the Bangladeshi demonstrations were predominantly peaceful then you need to analyse the whole picture and address my own claims as well as making counter claims.

      Your reference to the events of 22 February is misplaced. That was quite a separate event from the current demonstrations that were called for April 8th and that were the ones Jerry was supposedly referring to.

      In my original post I referred to sources that regretted that earlier there had been police provocation and noted that political and religious leaders had praised the protesters for staging peaceful demonstrations. Signalling out the earlier events of 22 Feb does not undermine my point that I also made that the violence that had occurred had been contained. Jerry Coyne’s post was written long after 22 Feb and in the context of new demonstrations that were called for this month.

      As for the Saudi News Source citing the murders that had been committed since the sentencing of the war criminal, I myself quoted news sources that pointed out the string of murders that have happened since the sentencing of the prominent Jamaat leader. The first of these murders was in a dark street away from crowds and before there were any demonstrations.

      It is this sort of one-sidedness of fact selection, and even failure to take note of or comprehend my own words and argument, that demonstrates an anti-Islamic bias in my opinion. Violence is good for television so of course it is going to feature prominently in TV news. That’s why it’s important to make an effort to examine the facts that you won’t find in those same news bytes.

      You write,

      “It seems to me that the critics are the ones far more guilty of setting up that false dichotomy!”

      If I am guilty of misrepresenting Jerry then quote me.

      You write,

      “No, he doesn’t say or infer that there is *no* political motivator in this case. What he says is that religion is clearly a major factor.”

      I ask you to quote him. I based my post on the quoted words of Jerry. You are simply saying he meant something other than what I quoted.

      You write, “No, at no point does he say they want “nothing more” than that one aim. You are being unfair.”

      I ask you to quote Jerry Coyne.

      You write,

      “At no point does he say there was “no political motivation”, what he is saying is that religious motivation is clearly a major part of it. Again, you are being unfair.”

      Again I ask you to quote both what I said and what Jerry said.

      You write,

      “On what basis are you asserting that the religious motive is only a “disguise”? Why can’t it be both, political AND religious?”

      Again, do quote me. I never said they were “only” a disguise or that they did not exist at all. You are reading your own biased view of what I think into my words.

      You write,

      “First, are you sure of that? Are you sure that none of them expressed any wish for death penalties for blasphemy and apostasy in the years preceding the 2013 tribunal verdicts? Second, even granting it is true, it still doesn’t alter the fact that religion and religious motives play a major role in the whole thing.”

      I quoted the news sources and commentaries that made this point. If you have evidence to the contrary then cite it. I never denied religious factors play a part. You are misreading my argument.

      You write,

      “They publicly criticise the version of Islam that the Islamists espouse.”

      Good, that’s a start. Exactly. The bloggers appear to have been criticizing a certain version of Islam. Keep that in mind.

      That’s exactly at the heart of my point. You then go on to say that he is not attacking the people, only the ideology, and compare this with attacking communism and not the ordinary people living in the USSR.That analogy falls down. The ordinary people were under communist rule and were not for most part “communists” in the sense of being committed to/member of the party itself. With religion we are talking about those who are committed members. What Jerry has done is to recognize that what is at issue in the Bangladeshi case is a “version of Islam”, one held by certain extremists, yet at the same time blasted the entire religion as if that version can be equated with the entire religion itself. And we are talking religion here — you cannot separate the beliefs from the believers. Beliefs don’t exist without believers. Jerry is implying that all Muslims are to be feared because their religion is on show in, for example, the actions of extremists in Bangladesh. Yet I have posted the researched facts that clearly demonstrate that this is false. Most Muslims, by far the majority, reject the version of Islam that is on show among the demonstrators in Dakha.

      • 2013-04-15 09:39:40 UTC - 09:39 | Permalink

        Let me add a significant point of misunderstanding:

        You write

        “It seems to me that the critics are the ones far more guilty of setting up that false dichotomy!”

        And I replied,

        “If I am guilty of misrepresenting Jerry then quote me.”

        Later you are criticizing my remarks for apparently failing to see the religious factors involved in the motivations. You have misread my post and assumed that I do not believe there are a mixture of motivations. But I am not addressing the question of mixed motivations so I don’t spell that out. If you took my criticism of Coyne’s straw man at face value you would see that I am implying that critics of Coyne — at least this one — do NOT believe in simplistic black and white, either-or scenarios. I am saying Jerry is setting up a straw man when he imputes this simplistic thinking to his critics. I also pointed out that in this discussion Jerry is not addressing anything I myself argued.

        I also demonstrate from Jerry’s own words that he dismisses the political motivator in this instance.

        And even if Jerry were to write another post in which he acknowledges complex motivations, he would still be irresponsible if he continued to conclude that one version of Islam should be assumed typical of the whole of Islam and potentially characteristic of all Muslims.

        • 2013-04-15 17:54:19 UTC - 17:54 | Permalink

          You have misread my post and assumed that I do not believe there are a mixture of motivations.

          And you have misread Jerry’s post and assumed that he does not believe there are a mixture of motivations.

          But I am not addressing the question of mixed motivations so I don’t spell that out.

          But Jerry was not addressing the question of mixed motivations so didn’t spell that out.

          I am saying Jerry is setting up a straw man when he imputes this simplistic thinking to his critics.

          And I’m saying you are setting up a straw man when you impute this simplistic thinking to him.

          • 2013-04-16 06:57:16 UTC - 06:57 | Permalink

            As Greg says, your objection to my post is that I responded to Jerry Coyne’s argument, point by point, instead of remaining silent on the assumption that Coyne really didn’t mean what he actually wrote.

    • Greg
      2013-04-15 10:08:53 UTC - 10:08 | Permalink

      “At no point does he say there was “no political motivation”, what he is saying is that religious motivation is clearly a major part of it. Again, you are being unfair.”

      I think that you’re the one being unfair by suggesting that in the absence of a direct statement we should ignore the obvious implications. So what room does he leave for politics here? Indeed, a very clear reading of his rhetorical question…

      “Are those rioters in Bangladesh, who would willingly kill atheist bloggers, motivated by the political oppression they get from those bloggers? Read what they wrote about the bloggers insulting Mohamed and Islam. Are the extremists lying?”

      …strongly suggests that in order for politics to be any kind of a factor in this particular case the bloggers need to be political oppressors. So how is this consistent with the narrative you come away with?

      Tell me something, Coel – do you actually have any clear explicit statements from Jerry Coyne himself to support your interpretation, or are you content to rest your argument entirely upon what he doesn’t say?

      • 2013-04-15 17:58:32 UTC - 17:58 | Permalink

        I think that you’re the one being unfair by suggesting that in the absence of a direct statement we should ignore the obvious implications.

        I don’t accept that the “implications” that you draw are “obvious” or entailed.

        … strongly suggests that in order for politics to be any kind of a factor in this particular case the bloggers need to be political oppressors.

        No it doesn’t! The reference to “political oppressors” is because that paragraph is addressing the claim that Islamists are motivated primarily by political oppression. Nowhere does he say that one can only have political motivations if one is being oppressed! It would be helpful if you stuck to what he actually says and not read into it more than is there.

        • Greg
          2013-04-16 04:48:41 UTC - 04:48 | Permalink

          I’m afraid that you’re the one reading into it. His point corresponds to politics in general, with oppression being a subset (“particularly hatred of Western oppression”), and he uses this particular situation as a specific example of a case where “politics” is NOT mixed into the motivations (“Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations, BUT…”). His response doesn’t make the distinction between politics and oppression that you insist.

          Again, what room does he leave for any political factors in the case of the Bangladeshi Muslim demonstrators? What does he accept as valid or even possible? Nowhere in the case of the Bangladeshi demonstrators does he quantify or portion possible factors or even make the distinction between these “mixed motivations” as you’ve suggested. In fact, he outright disputes the notion of “mixed motivations” in this case (again, “Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations, BUT…”). The closest he comes to even acknowledging politics as a reasonable factor in any case is when he says that it is “sometimes mixed into motivations” in general, although what cases he’s willing to accept as such and by what criteria is a mystery.

          And this is why you don’t have a leg to stand on in your charge of misrepresentation against Neil. At best you have the argument that Jerry Coyne poorly communicated his position. If he was truly making the argument you say he should’ve taken the pains to elaborate on this core detail and taken care to avoid framing it as an either-or proposition.

          • 2013-04-16 05:15:32 UTC - 05:15 | Permalink

            … he uses this particular situation as a specific example of a case where “politics” is NOT mixed into the motivations (“Yes, politics is sometimes mixed into the motivations, BUT…”).

            You are asserting that that “But” amounts to “but not in this case”. His actual words are “but … see how large a role the desire to impose Muslim values on others played in the rise of Islamic extremism.” That seems to me to be saying that even if politics is part of the mix it is still obvious that religion is a major factor.

            Again, what room does he leave for any political factors in the case of the Bangladeshi Muslim demonstrators?

            Lots!

            Nowhere in the case of the Bangladeshi demonstrators does he quantify or portion possible factors …

            Because that is not what his post is about! His post is simply and straightforwardly asserting that religion is a large part of it! (And can you really read the 13-point manifesto posted up-thread and deny that?) Nowhere does he say that politics is a zero part of it. Why doesn’t he spell that out? Quite likely because it’s not occurred to him that he needs to! It likely never occurred to him that critics would interpret him as saying that all other factors were irrelevant.

            And maybe he didn’t phrase it as carefully as he might have, because that mis-interpretation hadn’t occurred to him. If I asserted that smoking causes cancer it wouldn’t occur to me that a critic would denounce me as wrong just because I hadn’t pointed out that other factors (genes, diet, environment etc) are also relevant factors.

            It is you critics who are constructing these ridiculous straw-man positions of 100:0 or 0:100 allocations of motivations and then trying to pin them on people you label “Islamophobes”. OF COURSE both politics AND religion are major parts of these things! Especially when it’s long power struggle between islamists and secularists.

            • Greg
              2013-04-16 08:22:49 UTC - 08:22 | Permalink

              “You are asserting that that “But” amounts to “but not in this case”. His actual words are “but … see how large a role the desire to impose Muslim values on others played in the rise of Islamic extremism.” That seems to me to be saying that even if politics is part of the mix it is still obvious that religion is a major factor. ”

              How does the rest of his sentence change the meaning of the “but”? The use of the word in this fashion is in expressing a sentiment contrary to the one being posed which is the very notion of mixed factors as a common case. It’s only “sometimes” that this is the case, meaning that the rest of the times they fall entirely under one category or the other. And the example used serves to drive this point home as such an open-and-shut case.

              “Lots!”

              I hope that you don’t mind if I don’t hold my breath waiting for the textual support for this claim. Seriously, do you have anything more substantive to offer here than a litany of “Nuh-uh!”s?

              “His post is simply and straightforwardly asserting that religion is a large part of it!”

              An understatement if there ever was one. He poses subscription to any possibility of any level of politics in these scenarios as akin to having your head in the sand with his caricatures. It is raised to the equivalent of victim blaming. The only screen time the political piece enjoys in his post is as something to be mocked incessantly as a desperate excuse so you’ll have to excuse us if we take that to be his exact position especially when, in every one of his examples, political motivation and religious motivation are set up as diametrically opposing factors rather than interacting with some degree of complexity involved. There’s nothing to verify that he even acknowledges any complexity here and evidence against it with his indirect invitation to kiss his arse.and such facetious, dismissive remarks as this: “And then there’s all the religiously-based violence against Muslim women, motivated, of course, by those oppressive women!”

              “And maybe he didn’t phrase it as carefully as he might have, because that mis-interpretation hadn’t occurred to him”

              The problem is worse than that – he didn’t phrase it at all as you describe! You aren’t even able to cite anything in support of such an interpretation thus you’re reduced to lawyering with “well, he didn’t explicitly state that…”. He’s welcome to clarify his position, but thus far you haven’t been able to demonstrate that he was misrepresented because there is not a jot of text to support what you’re reading into it.

              “It is you critics who are constructing these ridiculous straw-man positions of 100:0 or 0:100 allocations of motivations and then trying to pin them on people you label “Islamophobes”.”

              I like how this complaint about straw manning immediately follows a straw man.

              “OF COURSE both politics AND religion are major parts of these things! Especially when it’s long power struggle between islamists and secularists.”

              But only “sometimes”.

              • 2013-04-16 19:30:43 UTC - 19:30 | Permalink

                How does the rest of his sentence change the meaning of the “but”? The use of the word in this fashion is in expressing a sentiment contrary to the one being posed which is the very notion of mixed factors as a common case. It’s only “sometimes” that this is the case, meaning that the rest of the times they fall entirely under one category or the other. And the example used serves to drive this point home as such an open-and-shut case.

                It is entirely normal to use “but” in the sense of: “politics is sometimes mixed in, but even if it is the presence of religious motivation is still clear”. Your reading is simply perverse.

                in every one of his examples, political motivation and religious motivation are set up as diametrically opposing factors rather than interacting with some degree of complexity involved.

                Are you actually reading what he writes, or just inventing things?

              • Greg
                2013-04-17 09:21:48 UTC - 09:21 | Permalink

                Apparently you’ve lost sight of the issue. We’re not talking about one sentence in isolation; we’re talking about one sentence in context of his entire argument. This is the point to which he was responding:

                “Islamic violence is motivated NOT BY RELIGION but BY POLITICS, particularly hatred of Western oppression.”

                Your interpretation rests on the assumption that he’s emphasizing mixed motivations throughout, The problem is this only comes up once in his entire post, and that is to mention that it “sometimes” blends together not because he’s acknowledging a degree of politics involved in every instance as you wish to assert, but because he’s conceding that, sure, there are undoubtedly occasional outlier cases for which it would be hasty to consider them entirely religious. That is what he means by “sometimes” – that there are, in fact, plenty of black-and-white 100:0 cases to which he offers support through his examples. This stands in stark contrast with your assertion that he’s tacitly conceding a mix of motivations in all of these scenarios. Your problem isn’t with Neil or I, it’s with the plain text. He’s addressing politics and religion in terms of extremes which is why he’s framed these examples so that political factors and religious motivation would be mutually exclusive. For example, his insistence that you either accept what the Muslim extremists say as true (religious extreme, eliminates politics) or you think that they are all lying (political extreme, eliminates religion). The only possible way it could be read your way is if we entirely ignored the context of his argument in order to cling to seven words for dear life.

              • 2013-04-17 17:47:26 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink

                Your interpretation rests on the assumption that he’s emphasizing mixed motivations throughout

                No, he is obviously NOT emphasizing mixed motivations! He is obviously emphasizing religious motivations! He is arguing against the suggestion that it is impermissible to attack religion over this because there are no religious motivations. As you quote and highlight, he is arguing against the claim “Islamic violence is motivated NOT BY RELIGION …”. But none of that is saying that the political element is irrelevant or absent.

                his insistence that you either accept what the Muslim extremists say as true (religious extreme, eliminates politics) or you think that they are all lying (political extreme, eliminates religion).

                Sheesh, neither of those would “eliminate politics” or “eliminate religion”. The ONLY person who is making these suggestions of 100:0 or 0:100 attributions is YOU!

              • Greg
                2013-04-18 04:53:21 UTC - 04:53 | Permalink

                To clarify, by “emphasizing mixed motivations” I meant, as you maintain, that he wasn’t excluding the political element. Indeed, he’s emphasizing religious motives, but through direct contrast with the political. It may be the case that he didn’t mean to do this although this is in no way evident in his text.

                If these aren’t 100:0 cases he’s posing then why is it so difficult to get specifics from you in regards to the possibilities he leaves open? Why is the most substantive answer I can get on this “Lots!”? If I am misrepresenting him as blatantly and egregiously as you insist it should be trivial to demonstrate using his own words. Instead you build your case upon what isn’t in the text to argue that your reading is “compatible” with it and thus should be read that way. Neil and I can only go off of what’s there.

              • 2013-04-18 06:24:35 UTC - 06:24 | Permalink

                He did not talk about the political aspects of the motivations for the simple reason that that was not what his posts were about, they were about the religious aspects of the motivations. None of that implies that there were no political aspects.

  • 2013-04-15 10:22:45 UTC - 10:22 | Permalink

    Okay, so there are mixed motives involved. So what are we supposed to do about a story like this? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2304322/Gul-Meena-struck-15-times-axe-BROTHER-honour-killing-attempt-wishes-died-day.html#ixzz2QMJRuM67 …just say that most Muslims don’t approve of violence or honor killings, therefore we should all just ignore things like this because we don’t want to offend all of those moderate Muslims?

    • 2013-04-16 06:48:12 UTC - 06:48 | Permalink

      Your implication is that calls like mine for understanding the realities are somehow a cover for excusing or overlooking crime. That is an outrageous and offensive insinuation. I have already made it clear that there are certain humanistic values that should always trump certain cultural customs, so how can you even think to suggest my argument is an excuse to accept the crimes you point to here. Similar customs — murders of women for something very comparable to “honour killings” are also known in other non-Muslim communities, including some indigenous peoples in Australia. Yet I have never heard of anyone suggesting that advancing the cause of indigenous rights and opportunities should be compromised by such crimes. Of course such criminal acts should be dealt with quickly and decisively.

      • 2013-04-16 10:04:36 UTC - 10:04 | Permalink

        My question wasn’t about criminal acts like this being dealt with. It was more about my wondering out loud, that since honor killings are derived from the Qur’an, in how many countries honor killings are accepted or possibly even legal is some indirect way. My question, Neil, wasn’t to dinegrate your position, but I was wondering how people who write most everyday about religious topics in relation to atheism (which there are many now), should speak or write about the notion of honor killings coming from the same book that moderate Muslims hold as their supreme source for instruction. Perhaps someone will explore how different Muslim countries treat honor killings, while some Muslim theocracies might be prone to accept that as needed in certain instances, perhaps. I don’t think anyone has explored that as of yet. It’s the kind of question that would probably come up within the minds of most atheists, I think. And right now I’m not familiar with many atheists, if any at all, who see Islam as innocuous. I’m trying to move in the direction you are suggesting we need to on this, Neil; and think I have a little, but still lots of questions like think come to mind.

        • 2013-04-16 10:44:02 UTC - 10:44 | Permalink

          Regarding honor killings, what I have found so far is that there is no official endorsement of that practice by any official Muslim spokespersons. However, here is what Qur’an 18:66-81 says, or at least suras 80-81 on that: “And as for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should involve them in wrongdoing and disbelief [the person speaking had killed the boy]. So we intended that their Lord might give them in his place one better in purity and nearer to mercy”… and here is a video that attempts to offer an explanation about this: http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AgWOzXDlINSoSCwhw5lcJb.bvZx4?p=honor+killings+in+the+Qur%27an&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fr=yfp-t-900-1

          • 2013-04-16 16:26:57 UTC - 16:26 | Permalink

            The Bible says Moses killed an Egyptian; Abraham intended and commenced to sacrifice his son; Joshua committed genocide in obedience to God, Elijah slaughtered four hundred unarmed men because they worshiped the wrong god; Elisha rightly called upon God to have bears maul forty-two children to death for making fun of a bald-headed man, and so on and so on.

            There are some Jews today, numbering in their thousands, who are calling for the same fate to be dealt to the Palestinians in obedience to such godly precedents.

            Baruch Goldstein set the example and committed mass murder claiming justification on the basis of such holy precedents. Many West Bank Settlers (settlers who have chosen to live contrary to international law in lands seized in the 1967 war and from which original inhabitants have been driven out) who have been interviewed have expressed the same justification they read about in the deeds of Moses and Joshua.

            No-one in the West that I know of blames Judaism for the crimes of Baruch Goldstein or of the illegal West Bank settlements. But I do know many Middle Eastern peoples blame “the Jews” for these crimes. When we in the West hear/read about their anti-semitism we are rightly horrified. (For some reason we very rarely hear on Western news media the equivalent anti-semitism of the Israelis — those calling the Arabs cockroaches and vermin etc etc etc)

            Yet when we lay the finger of blame on Muslims, or Islam, for the crimes committed in their name, we are reacting no differently from those who blame “Jews” for the crimes committed by Jews in the name of Judaism. When commenters write in to say Islam is shit and so am I, I don’t believe for a minute that they are making a finessed distinction between the “ideas” of Islam and the people who claim to be Muslims.

            • 2013-04-16 18:21:06 UTC - 18:21 | Permalink

              Good response, Neil. But the New Testament doesn’t allow any of that. So comparing the Old Testament with Islam is like apples to apples, but the New Testament would be an orange, is one thing I have been trying to say.

              • 2013-04-16 18:39:31 UTC - 18:39 | Permalink

                You keep missing my point. We cannot define a religion by how we read its sacred texts. In various religions there are many sub-religions, if you will, as diverse as Mormons and Catholics, who all claim to adhere to the same scriptures. We need to examine the expressed beliefs of the practitioners of the religion.

                I did not only refer to Christians. I made a special point of also referring to Jews. You missed that entirely. Do you blame Judaism or the Jews for the crimes committed by Jews in the name of Judaism? Maybe some do (hopefully not you) but there is room in the world for every shade of opinion. Leaders of society do not blame Judaism as they do blame the Muslim religion for the crimes of a few who claim to be killing in the name of their religion.

                Christians DO embrace the Old Testament within their Bible. And many DO interpret the New Testament to allow for violence and many do appeal to the OT for certain guidelines, too! (I know you think they are misinterpreting the NT; but again this misses the point. We need to listen to what the practioners of a faith say they believe and not stand as an independent judge to decree that they have the “right” or “wrong” interpretations of their holy books.)

                PS. — Do not overlook that probably the majority of conservative or fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. openly support, in the name of the Old Testament, Israeli defiance of United Nations resolutions and international law.

              • 2013-04-17 03:19:41 UTC - 03:19 | Permalink

                I see an evolution in this going on, which included the neutering of the totalitarian form of the Roman Catholic Church by the advent and continuance of Protestantism, which in that progression should naturally lead to many more adopting atheism eventually (or at least secularism), which I wrote about this morning and just posted on my facebook pages at: https://www.facebook.com/AtheistsWhoLove?ref=hl#!/AtheistsWhoLove/posts/445164705561095 I still believe in lots of tolerance as you suggest the need for that, Neil; but many atheists today want to combat the worst in religion and so do I.

              • 2013-04-17 05:52:38 UTC - 05:52 | Permalink

                I concur with your intention to combat the worst in religion. I just wish that the criticisms of Islam were of the same type as I read of criticisms of Christianity. The latter somehow seem to manage it (for most part) without arousing ignorant fear and bigotry towards all Christian believers themselves. The former all too often are not attacking the religion itself but are conflating bad practices with the practitioners as a whole.

                In “Churches That Abuse” we find it is very easy to attack specific practices of certain groups of Christian leaders and explain why they have fallen into this sort of evil behaviour, and we do this without in any way casting aspersions on all Christians. Our attacks on Muslims are by comparison all too often nothing short of ignorant and serve only to fan public bigotry.

        • 2013-04-16 11:51:45 UTC - 11:51 | Permalink

          Thanks, Doug. However, why do you say that honour killings derive from the Quran? I am not a defender of holy books at the best of times, but we need to be careful of our facts. And even if there is something in the Quran that decrees, say, a hundred lashes for adultery, why assume that therefore all Muslims believe in administering 100 lashes to adulterers. The Christian and Jewish Bible says adulterers must be stoned. Do we assume that all Christians and Jews believe in stoning adulterers?

          In fact the Quran does decree a hundred lashes for adultery while various hadiths have borrowed from the Old Testament and, contrary to the Quran, ordered the death penalty.

          But if we want to understand a people’s religion we first need to get to know the believers and focus on what they themselves say and write. If I read the Bible to try to understand the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons or Catholics or Presbyterians I would never get very far.

  • Antisocialist
    2013-04-15 11:12:53 UTC - 11:12 | Permalink

    Islam is shit and so are you Neil.

  • 2013-04-15 18:40:17 UTC - 18:40 | Permalink

    I thought I’d point out three hallmarks of Islamophobia-phobia, the idea that criticism of Islam should be disallowed, all on show above.

    (1) Try to minimise religious motivations. Sam Harris has pointed this out. whenever an IPP (Islamophobia-phobe) sees prima facie evidence of religious motivation, they try to see if it can be interpreted as having some other motivation (possibly political) behind it. However, when they see prima facie evidence of political motivation, they don’t ask whether that has religious motives behind it. By that methodological bias they minimise religious motivations. A good example is Neil’s comment:

    Just as war and persecutions that in hindsight we can see had clear political motivations were at the time disguised by the participants of the day under high-sounding religious motives, so we can see that here demonstrators and their leaders are disguising a clear political interest with talk of defending the faith.

    In contrast, Neil has not said that the *political* motives of an Islamist party in wanting to impose an Islamist state might have some religious aspect to them.

    (2) Try to disallow any criticism of the extremes as unfair. In most other contexts it is considered valid to criticise the extremes that an ideology can lead to, even though many manifestations of the ideology are more benign. Thus when criticising capitalism or communism or Catholicism or whatever it is valid to point out the extreme end of the problems that these can lead to. Thus, for example, it is fair to criticise free-market capitalism by pointing at Enron and banking crashes and such like. Capitalism needs to self-police itself to prevent such problems, and if it doesn’t then it can be justly criticised. (Which is not the same as saying that capitalism is irredeemably flawed owing to such extremes, it could just mean that it needs better self-policing.)

    In the same way, yes there is much moderate Islam across the world, and Islamic nations are not all extreme Islamist. But it is fair to ask how good a job the moderates do of self-policing to prevent the extremes, and to criticise them overall if they don’t do a good job.

    The IPPs don’t accept this, and think that any criticism of extreme Islam is ipso facto saying that all Islam is extreme. For example Neil says:

    What Jerry has done is to recognize that what is at issue in the Bangladeshi case is a “version of Islam”, one held by certain extremists, yet at the same time blasted the entire religion as if that version can be equated with the entire religion itself.

    (3) Try to interpret any criticism of Islam’s ideology as criticism of people. In other contexts this is not done. One could, for example, lay into and savage the Catholic teaching on sexuality (no birth control, prohibitions on homosexuality, no women priests, etc) without being taken as laying into all Catholics. Indeed the polls say that vast swathes of the Catholic rank and file don’t agree with much of the Church’s teaching on this. Yet no-one would disallow criticism of Catholic teaching and ideology just because many Catholics don’t hold to it.

    But, any criticism of Islamic ideology gets translated into attacks on people, and therefore disallowed as heinous. For example Neil says:

    Jerry is implying that all Muslims are to be feared because their religion is on show in, for example, the actions of extremists in Bangladesh.

    Why are the IPPs so reluctant to allow that Islam is a powerful ideology, and that all its characteristics, extremes and all, should be fair game for criticism, just as every other powerful ideology gets criticised?

    • 2013-04-16 07:04:38 UTC - 07:04 | Permalink

      Coel, you seem to be incapable of grasping the simple point I am trying to make.

      The objective facts demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject the beliefs and actions (the version of Islam) expounded by the extremists. So it is fanning public ignorance and bigotry to suggest otherwise — as Coyne, Harris and others do. It is as simple as that.

      You are contorting your mind to produce the nonsense you write here about what you think I am arguing, just as surely as you contort Jerry’s posts to make them mean or imply something he never said.

      • 2013-04-16 19:42:16 UTC - 19:42 | Permalink

        The objective facts demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject the beliefs and actions (the version of Islam) expounded by the extremists.

        And it also an objective fact that vast swathes of Catholics disagree with Catholic teaching on birth control, and ignore it in their personal life. But, even so, it is still legitimate to criticise Catholic teaching on birth control and to point out the harm it does (e.g. w.r.t. fighting HIV). The extremist version of Islam exists, it is influential, it causes harm. Why is it impermissible to criticise it?

        By the way, is it indeed the case that the “overwhelming majority” of Muslims worldwide reject the idea that apostasy and blasphemy should be criminal acts? There are plenty of predominantly Islamic countries where apostasy and blasphemy are against the law. Rejection of that, tolerating apostasy and blasphemy, would seem a good litmus test of whether a Muslim is a “moderate”.

        • 2013-04-16 20:03:13 UTC - 20:03 | Permalink

          Oh my goodness Coel! How can I get through to you the simplest point? How, after all I have written and argued in posts and comments can you possibly still, after all this, come up with implying that I am saying we should not criticize the extremist version of Islam?

          Let me try one more time: the Extremist version of Islam is Bad. It is Evil. It should be condemned.

          But it is also Bad and Evil to imply that all Muslims — and the entire religion of Islam — should be judged by the extremists. That is nothing but ignorant, blind prejudice.

          In your last paragraph you are cleverly changing the terms of the debate. We were talking about lynching atheist bloggers. Now you are referring to states that have laws against blasphemy. (Australian states also had laws against blasphemy until a few decades ago. I would not be surprised if some American ones still do.)

          But please try to grasp this: the research findings of the respected polls I have cited are facts. Facts. You may not like the Fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims have no time for the extremist version of Islam, but that is a FACT. That it is so hard to grasp that this is a fact is due partly because of the ignorant bigotry being publicly fanned by the likes of Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris.

          • 2013-04-16 20:53:09 UTC - 20:53 | Permalink

            Let me try one more time: the Extremist version of Islam is Bad. It is Evil. It should be condemned.

            Oooh, Neil, by saying that you are kicking the whole of the Islamic religion, and by extension, denigrating everyone who adheres to it. You are implying that all Muslims are to be feared because their religion is on show in, for example, the actions of extremists.

            Sorry, just turning your own rhetoric back at you. Of course you’re not saying either of those things, and neither is Jerry.

            But it is also Bad and Evil to imply that all Muslims — and the entire religion of Islam — should be judged by the extremists.

            And we can argue about whether Jerry has indeed “implied” that.

            We were talking about lynching atheist bloggers. Now you are referring to states that have laws against blasphemy.

            They are related issues, both deriving from Islamic attitudes towards apostasy and blasphemy. If you look at the 13-point manifesto of the demonstrators, criminalisation of blasphemy is very much a part of their Islamist demands.

            As I said, this issue is a good litmus test for whether someone is a moderate. Certainly, no Christian in any Western nation would be regarded as a “moderate” if they demanded jail sentences and/or death for apostasy or blasphemy. (Indeed, any Christian advocating the criminalisation of apostasy would be regarded as a loony way-out wacko.)

            You may not like the Fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims have no time for the extremist version of Islam, but that is a FACT.

            So just what fraction of Muslims world-wide are of the opinion that apostasy and blasphemy should be acceptable and non-criminal? Genuine question by the way.

            • 2013-04-17 02:05:28 UTC - 02:05 | Permalink

              I’ll ignore the puerile and apparently deliberately deaf and uncomprehending part of your response and focus on your last paragraph.

              I have just selected the facts of Muslim attitudes towards those they regard as traitors to Islam (I use that word because it appeared among leading Islamic voices denouncing criminal extremists among the Muslimes in an earlier post or comment of mine) and that was the issue I was addressing from the start.

              You are now bringing up another question — never let it be said you will not find some way to throw mud at Muslims — and are necessarily careful about your wording. I don’t believe many Christians or Jews would believe that blasphemy should be “acceptable”. But you add “criminal”. I don’t know. I will leave it to you to research the facts. But whatever the figure, one thing is a clear fact: Most Muslims do not believe in lynching or summarily executing blasphemers.

              But I will also encourage you to seek out Muslims in your community and try to establish a rapport with them and engage them personally with these questions. Ask them what, exactly, is their attitude towards these issues and what they see as the implications of their beliefs. Begin by raising one or two questions you have seen in the polls and if you are satisfied they appear to belong to the 90% or more who deplore terrorism then see what else they think. They won’t bite. You will probably find them very willing to talk with you of their beliefs.

              • 2013-04-17 03:01:12 UTC - 03:01 | Permalink

                But whatever the figure, one thing is a clear fact: Most Muslims do not believe in lynching or summarily executing blasphemers.

                You’re right, they probably don’t. Muslims tend to be quite insistent on properly constituted legal authorities deciding on punishments.

                So, the more relevant question is what fraction of Muslims believe in judicial execution (supervised by legitimate Islamic authorities) for apostasy and blasphemy?

                The Pew organisation has asked this question of Muslims in the following countries, and the result for those favouring the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion is:

                Jordan: 86%, Egypt: 84%, Pakistan: 76%, Nigeria: 51%, Indonesia: 30%, Lebanon: 6%, Turkey: 5%.

                http://www.pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/

                One striking thing is the huge spread there (and I’m guessing that political factors explain much of that). Of the very low values, Lebanon has a long history of being 50:50 Muslim, Christian (so does Nigeria in the middle). Turkey has quite a history as a secular state thanks to Ataturk’s deliberate secularisation. However, whichever way you add things up, you arrive at a large number of Muslims who favour the death penalty for apostasy.

                I’m betting that if you asked the question of Christians or Jews or Buddhists you’d get a vastly smaller number.

              • 2013-04-17 05:43:25 UTC - 05:43 | Permalink

                Well there you go. Aren’t you glad you aren’t a Muslim in Pakistan or Jordan or Egypt who is contemplating conversion to Christianity or becoming an outspoken atheist. I hope you (I presume you are an American) have been one of those adding their voices of strong protest to your government’s backing of the Egyptian military and it’s pulling the strings to ensure that the protestors demanding a secular democracy for Egypt do not win. If I visited Saudi Arabia I’d be very careful not to steal my neighbour’s sheep or commit adultery, too. And when I go to Bali and am asked by offended locals not to stand in the precinct of a old stone idol in order to take a photograph I respectfully comply and apologize. And when I visit Thailand I do not publicly express my dismay at the signs of devotion to the royal family. To do so would land me in a Thai jail.

                There’s a lot wrong with the world. Including the Muslim religion. And as you point out, some countries have their own traditions and cultures that exacerbate some of these wrongs. Honour killings is another one, as Doug pointed out recently. Some Australian aboriginal nations also practice honour killing. That doesn’t mean advocates of indigenous rights approve of those.

                I hope you will be on the lookout for those Muslim leaders in your country who are very concerned about the many problems faced by their religion and give them your support. Now that you have seen the facts in that Pew poll that they do abhor suicide bombing and mostly want democracy you should feel some encouragement that not all is dark from that quarter after all.

                Personally, being an atheist who has left religion behind, I have a special respect for Muslims who have done the same, and am glad that they have not lived in Egypt where they otherwise would have had to keep their atheism secret. Though if they live in the U.S. they still might be advised to keep their atheism secret in many sectors.

              • 2013-04-17 06:30:20 UTC - 06:30 | Permalink

                Aren’t you glad you aren’t a Muslim in Pakistan or Jordan or Egypt who is contemplating conversion to Christianity or becoming an outspoken atheist.

                I certainly am!

                I hope you (I presume you are an American) …

                Sorry, I’m a Pom.

                Now that you have seen the facts in that Pew poll that they do abhor suicide bombing and mostly want democracy you should feel some encouragement that not all is dark from that quarter after all.

                I never thought that all is dark from that quarter (as with Jerry Coyne, you read into me things I don’t actually say), certainly not from Muslim people (as oppose to Islamic ideology). Of the younger generation of British-born Muslims the majority seem to become a lot more secular than their parents (which is good), though a minority turn to an extreme form of their religion (not so good).

                Our government is doing utterly idiotic things that encourage the latter, such as segregating state schools by religion, and handing over tax-payer funding to Islamic organisations to run the schools. This is because our government is still in the mindset that religion is automatically a good thing. IMO the emphasis should be on integrated and secular schools to integrate and secularise the younger generation. Thankfully our government seems to have stopped actually funding Islamist organisations (yes, really, they did, as a way of “building bridges” with them).

  • Al
    2014-07-04 11:03:38 UTC - 11:03 | Permalink

    I thought I would come back to this because Jerry Coyne’s recent writing on the recent murder of Israeli teenagers has been predictibly biased and dishonest.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/hamas-kidnaps-and-kills-three-israeli-teenagers-palestine-fires-rockets-at-civilians/

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/more-on-the-kidnapping-and-murder-of-israeli-teenagers-and-now-a-palestinian-one/

    Coyne has admitted that he has not only censored a number of posts critical of his analysis, but aslso that he has banned the people whose posts he censored. What an utter coward.

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