Tag Archives: religion of peace

2014 – Another Year In Denial

ISIS

So it’s been another big year for religion.  As such, it’s almost impossible to list all of its ‘achievements’ but below are some ‘highlights’:

In terms of wars, we’ve seen the growth of ISIS as they conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq, murdering, enslaving and raping tens of thousands of people in the process, and beheading four western journalists and an aid worker. We’ve witnessed yet another outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, resulting in the deaths of approximately 2,200 people, many of whom were innocent non-combatants. There has been a continuation of the bloodletting in the Central African Republic between Christians and Muslims, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties – but 5,000 is considered a very conservative estimate. Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamic group, have moved on from hit and run attacks to holding territory in the North East of the country, displacing over half a million people while doing so, and murdering at least 2,000 just between January and June of this year (a total number for the whole year is unknown), to say nothing of their habit of kidnapping and raping pre-pubescent girls by the truckload. Finally, the fight against the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan continues to rage, with atrocities a regular occurrence, the worst of which we learned about only 2 weeks ago when 132 school children were shot and killed with automatic weapons at a school in Peshawar (9 teachers were also killed). Of course, though I will not make the case here, one could also argue that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is in part religiously motivated. Certainly much of Putin’s disdain for the West is linked to our increasingly secular, humanist and moral outlook that flies in the face of his professed and apparently sincere Orthodoxy.

With regards to religiously inspired terrorist attacks on Western soil, in the last few weeks alone there have been deadly strikes in Ottawa, Canada, in Nantes, France and in Sydney, Australia.

One thing that should instantly leap out at you from the above information is that this is truly a global struggle, with every continent regularly falling victim to attacks by individuals or armies high on religion. Last year of course, we had to endure the assault on the oilfield in In Amenas, Algeria, the Boston Marathon bombing in the US and the vicious murder of Lee Rigby on the streets of London, England, to name but three corners of the globe forced to mourn the loss of innocents.

In a sane universe, something like the following would make sense:

In response to the threat of religiously motivated violence, the world’s 2 billion atheists, along with the moderate faithful and the many leaders across the West in particular, are decrying these outrages against humanity in no uncertain terms. They are highlighting the obvious link between some religious texts and the actions of certain groups and individuals and demanding that these scriptural passages are universally rejected as simply wrong and pronounced as incompatible with a desire for a peaceful, moral and tolerant world. They are not only insisting that all religious leaders drive through reform from within their communities but furthermore are doing all that they can to intercept the passing on of terrible ideas to the next generation by attempting to ensure that every child receives a modern, secular education, free from religious dogma. Finally and more generally, the separation of church and state is being steadfastly defended and reinforced.

Unfortunately however, we appear not to live in this sane universe, but one parallel to it, where truth and logic are strangers. Here is David Cameron’s response to the massacre of 132 children in Peshawar:

“There is not a belief system in the world that can justify this sort of appalling act. I think what this shows is the worldwide threat that is posed by this poisonous ideology of extremist Islamist terrorism. It is nothing to do with one of the world’s great religions – Islam, which is a religion of peace.”

Here is US president, Barack Obama, on ISIS:

“ISIS is not Islamic because Islam is a religion of peace.”

After the self-appointed Iranian Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis, a man previously known for his habit of writing crude letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, walked into the Lindt Café in Sydney (incidentally, an establishment I have visited myself) with a shotgun and a black flag with the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith) written on it, and murdered two innocent people and shot a policeman in the face, Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, spoke these words:

“(Man Haron Monis) is a deeply unstable person with a long history of violence and mental illness… I guess one of the encouraging things is there are less and less of people trying to explain and justify terrorism in the name of religion.”

This mindless currying of favour with the public, rather than making nuanced arguments, is not only popular with politicians; some celebrities are also big fans, as was demonstrated recently by ‘Affleck-gate’. In the video below, mediocre American actor Ben Affleck loses both his marbles and his manners when he calls comedian Bill Maher, and author and neuroscientist Sam Harris “gross” and “racist” merely for articulating some of the undeniable intolerance and inequality that exists in parts of the Muslim world toward women, free-thinkers and homosexuals:

Video Link

At this moment in time, there appears to be no discernible plan at all by Western politicians to find a way out of the circle of violence.  I’m sorry to have to sign off the year on such a low.

 

“Islamophobia; a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”

– Someone on Twitter


How We Should Not Respond To The Woolwich Terrorist Attack

It seems today that two Muslims have beheaded, or at least attempted to behead, a British soldier in broad daylight on a busy south London road, only a few yards from his army barracks.  As the perpetrators clearly wanted to die as part of their awful act, an effective security response is difficult to imagine – perhaps scrutiny of their digital life will unveil some worthwhile follow ups.  For now, I’m a little more concerned with what we shouldn’t do.

Firstly, condemning all Muslims is phenomenally misguided.  There are quite clearly many good Muslims who feel unable to escape the faith because of family pressures (I know some people who fall into this category), or who are simply unable to face the world without the structure a religious life provides – but who genuinely and wholeheartedly condemn this attack and are kind people in every aspect of their life.  Doubtless there are even some Muslims who may appear devout but actually this only relates to the spiritual element of Islam.  One of the biggest problems security experts face around the world is trying to spot the suicide attacker against this backdrop.  Whilst this observation does provide the foundation for an argument against the harmlessness of moderate religion, what it certainly doesn’t do is provide reasons to express hatred of all 1.6 billion Muslims in the world or to go out onto the streets and begin randomly attacking mosques (as appears to already be happening around the country).

Secondly, we mustn’t allow the enthusiasm of Muslim spokesmen, and misguided liberals, to hijack these events.  Let’s be clear; this attack was inspired by religious hatred and it can be justified by Islamic doctrine.  Here are a few verses from the Quran to get us started:

(2:190-93) Slay them wherever you find them…idolatry is worse than carnage….fight against them until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme.

(3:156) If you die in the cause of God, his mercy would surely be greater than all the riches they (the infidel) amass

(3:195-96) Those who suffered for My sake and were slain – I shall admit them to gardens watered by running streams as reward

All the while that Muslim spokesmen and theologians fail to acknowledge the awful moral messages (to say nothing of the terrible science) contained within the Quran and the Hadiths, and so fail to implore Muslims to read the Quran critically as a book that may contain errors, then they are neglecting their responsibilities and they are letting down this and the next generation of Muslims.  Sitting in front of a camera and saying that this type of incident does not represent Islam and that Islam is a religion of peace is nowhere near enough – in fact, as it fails to address the main issues, it doesn’t even count as a start.

On a related point, it is not true to say that the problem is with only a tiny minority – unless you think that a problem only exists at the moment a successful attack takes place.  Study after study shows that almost every Muslim believes that a woman must obey her husband at all times and that homosexual behaviour is immoral.  Meanwhile, well over 100 million globally appear to support suicide bombing, as was most recently reported by Pew and highlighted in another recent post of my own.  These attitudes are well below the curve with regards to what is morally acceptable in the developed world in the 21st century.  And they are at the heart of this conflict.  Muslim spokesmen must start telling the truth about this.  They must say that Islamic teachings have been wrong on these issues.  Only then will we begin to see progress.  Continuing to deny any connection between terrorist attacks and Islamic doctrine and failing to acknowledge that the Quran is not the unalterable word of Allah, will have the same effect it has always had over the past 1400 years.  No effect whatsoever.

Finally we must not allow this event to weaken our resolve.  It is not a further reason to get out of Afghanistan, Iraq and so on.  It is another reason to stay.  Whatever your views on, say drone strikes for example, we should be very clear about the intentions of these compared to what happened today or recently in Boston, USA, when considering the relative moral implications.  A perfect drone strike takes out a military target and kills no one.  A perfect suicide attack intentionally kills innocent non-combatants, often in large numbers and usually including women and children.  Intentions matter.  Western liberals should be confident enough to believe our way of life is not just different, but better.  We should care enough to want to actively encourage it elsewhere.  And we should be ambitious enough to believe we can.


Pew Study: The World’s Muslims – Religion, Politics & Society

Pew have just released (April, 2013) the results of a study conducted over four years (2008 – 2012), aimed at detailing the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims across the globe.  It is a thought provoking read – the full report is available here:

http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society.aspx

Pew are a global leader in research.  Their mission statement reads:

“Pew is a global research organisation, operated as an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organisation dedicated to serving the public.  Pew applies a rigorous analytical approach to inform the public.”

With respect to this research, here are the top line details:

The study included a sample size of 50,000 people, spread across 39 countries.  The interviews were conducted in the participants’ homes.

This is Pew’s description of the methods they used to ensure random samples:

“Interview teams were assigned to designated random routes at the block or street level and followed predetermined skip patterns when contacting households. Within households, adult respondents were randomly selected by enumerating all adults in the household using a Kish grid or selecting the adult with the most recent birthday.”

Before I get to some of the points I wish to highlight, it should be noted that the figures below represent the percentage of Muslims in any given country, not the percentage of the total populations, although of course in many countries in this study, this is tantamount to the same thing.  It is worth keeping in mind that the combined populations of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia alone equal 700 million people, with approximately 95% in total identifying themselves as Muslims.

To begin what I’m afraid is a most depressing tale, I will include Pew’s own explanation as to why not all results are available for every country:

“In some countries, pre-test results indicated the need to suppress certain questions to avoid offending respondents and/or risking the security of the interviewers. In other countries, interviewers considered some questions too sensitive to pre-test. Thus, not all questions were asked in all countries.

For example, interviewers in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Morocco indicated that certain questions about sexual preference and sexual behaviour were too sensitive to be asked. Questions on these topics were either eliminated or modified in these countries.”

Finding out that your interviewers lives may be at risk simply for asking questions must have been an ominous beginning.

The research dealt with attitudes towards issues including suicide bombing, Shari’a, honour killings, wearing of the veil, sexuality, sexual equality, abortion, western culture and many more.  Below I’m only highlighting four charts, but I would implore you all to view the entire study.

 

For this first chart, the results represent the ‘no’ responses.  So 70% of Muslims in Afghanistan believe men should decide what women wear.  I’ve chosen to include only those countries who came in at under 50% in relation to the question.

 

In this second chart, the results represent the ‘yes’ answers.  I have included only those over 50%.

No selection was necessary to highlight the problem for this third set of results

 

All available responses are also included for my fourth example – the results represent those who answered ‘yes’ or ‘often justified’

 

It’s impossible to exaggerate the alarm bells these results should set off in our minds.  With regards to the question on suicide bombing, the answers for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt alone represent 100 million people.  It also seems fair to conclude that over a billion Muslims think that homosexuality is immoral.  To say that at least 80% of Muslims believe a wife must always obey her husband, appears on this evidence to be a generous, conservative estimate.

As a snapshot of the levels of tolerance and commitment to sexual equality in Muslim majority communities, this study deals a tragically disheartening blow.  The response from liberal Muslims and non-Muslims alike must be an urgent call for reform.  This can only be initiated by a commitment to honest conversation and a preparedness to critique Islamic doctrine (ideas, not people).  An over willingness to obfuscate the truth or cry ‘Islamophobia’ (a disingenuous term that conflates the criticism of a book with racism ) can only hope to hinder progress.

None of this is a denial of the existence of anti-Muslim bigotry, which is abhorrent, unjustified and must be resisted with every sinew.

Finally, please remember that those who suffer most at the hands of religious fascists are Muslims themselves, especially Muslim women, homosexuals and free thinkers.  I choose to stand with them.  Please join me.