Archive | April, 2009

Where are the moderate Muslims?

26 Apr

Where are the moderate Muslims? By “moderate” I mean the Muslims who don’t wish to live under barbaric Sharia (Islamic) law,  the Muslims who don’t believe in the subjugation and dehumanization of women, the Muslims who might disagree with someone who criticizes their religion, but none the less respects that person’s right to do so without fear of reprisal.

Pretty much all the news we hear about Muslims these days deal with human rights atrocities, be it another suicide bombing in a crowded cafe, the execution of a young couple seeking to elope, the whipping of a 74 year old woman for having bread delivered by an unrelated male, the refusal of a divorce for an 8 year old girl from her 47 year old husband, or another stoning, just to name a few things that have actually happened within the past few weeks.

When I bring up these stories, people often tell me “Oh, relax, those are just the extremists, Islam is a religion of peace and love!” Really? I can’t tell you how fuming angry I get when I hear this. If those are just the “extremists”, the “radical minority” then where the hell are the moderates decrying them!?!?!?!?!?!

No, I strongly disagree. I feel as if those extremists are the majority. It sure as hell seems like it. The moderate Muslims we actually hear from are so few in number it is ridiculous. Have you ever heard of the theory of Tacit Consent? For example, if you are a slave, and you do not attempt to gain your freedom by whatever means possible, you are tacitly consenting to being a slave. Unless you make your disagreement to something know, you tacitly consent to it. This is what the moderate majority of Muslims are doing. By not being vocal in their disdain for what the extremists are doing in the name of their religion, they are tacitly consenting to those extremists.

In that case it doesn’t really matter what the moderates say Islam is. They have effectively lost control over their own religion. A religion’s tenants are defined by the beliefs of the majority of observers. If that majority is silent to the corruption of those tenants by a fundamentalist minority, that minority effectively has control over the religion. Of course the moderates will say “Well no true Muslim believes X” but by this point they have become a small and irrelevant sect.

What also drives me up the wall is how willfully blind people are to the threat these extremists pose to our freedoms in the West. Now I’m expecting that some readers will sigh and roll their eyes at this point, and pass me off as some crazy neo-con racist or Islamaphobe, but hear me out. First off, race has nothing to do with it. “Racist” and “Islamaphobe” are just buzz words that people use to shut down and dismiss an argument without actually addressing it.

Also, I’m not against multiculturalism, which is another buzz word usually thrown at me in an effort to dismiss me. No, multiculturalism is wonderful in the broader understandings and experiences it offers people, but what’s going on with radical Islam is not multiculturalism, it’s cultural rape. One medieval and barbaric “culture” is moving into European democracies and demanding that those cultures submit. (Islam literally translates into submission) If those cultures do not submit to Islam, the fundamentalists will use violence, or the threat of it, to force their submission.

The Danish cartoon controversy is a perfect example. The cartoonists published cartoons, for which they have an inalienable human right to do, in their own country, (which is indisputable whether you feel they should have published or not) and it pushed the fundamentalists to riot. Thousands of these “minority” [sarcasm] fundamentalists rioted all over the world. In the end over 130+ people were killed because this extremist culture could not tolerate the core Western value of Freedom of Speech.

A major problem for those who say that radical Islam is only a minority is that that “minority” controls the governments of a large block of countries. Most notably the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC. (For the full list of the 57 member states of the OIC, and their abysmal Human Development Index rankings see my other blog post on it) The OIC recently is attempting to push a binding “anti-blasphemy” [read as "anti-criticizing Islam"] measure through the United Nations. (I have another blog post on this and how the passing of the non-binding version is a human rights disaster)

These fundamentalists are making real world gains people! Get you heads out of the sand! Just look around you and see where draconian Sharia law is spreading! It has gained a foothold in the U.K., and the fundamentalists are fighting hard to implement it in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Canada of all places! Even if they haven’t yet succeeded in fully establishing Sharia in Europe (and trust me, they’re trying their damnedest), they have succeeded in making criticizing Islam very dangerous.

Just as recently as April 25th,  in Finland of all places,  Jussi Halla-aho was charged with blapshemy against Islam! Also! In Germany, in 2006  Manfred van H. (name not published) was sentenced to 1 year in prison, 5 years probation, and 300 community service hours for insulting the Koran. Other people around Europe are getting into legal trouble for criticism of Islam. The danger is not just legal, it’s mortal. It’s no secret that there is an army of fanatics ready to kill anyone who insults them at the drop of a hat. Again, the Danish cartoons are a perfect example. So is the murder of Theo van Gogh, and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The ironic thing is, in reacting violently the extremists vindicated and justified the vary cartoons they were rioting over.

Another thing to watch out for. Pakistan. This country is a tinderbox.  I should mention that this country also holds that the only punishment for blasphemy is death, as stated in Sharia law. Just this week, the Taliban invaded that country and captured a city with a million residents, only 70 miles from the capital. In invading they stated that democracy was “un-Islamic”. They have since retreated after signing a deal with Pakistan to let them control the Swat valley and implement harsh Sharia law. This is a country with nuclear missiles on the verge of collapse. If the government does go under (which is a very real possibility) then we will have an Islamic extremist state with nuclear weapons.

So where are the moderate Muslims? They exist, but are being extremely quiet. That’s unfortunate given the state of the world, but you can easily see why they are afraid to speak out. The ones who do are courageous, people like Azar Nafisi (Johns Hopkins), Ahmed al-Rahim (formerly of Harvard), Kemal Silay (Indiana), and Bassam Tibi (Göttingen), Ahmed Subhy Mansour and Muhammad Hisham Kabbani. There are also some organizations like the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism, and Muslims Against Sharia.

These few groups need to raise hell. They need to make more noise than the extremists who are hijacking their religion. If they don’t then they will forever lose any chance of taking back their faith from the barbarians. They need to encourage other Muslims to speak out as well, to break their tacit consent. This is a large task, and an even larger problem that many people strangely seem ignorant of. Because of this, the moderates need all the help they can get in spreading the word. This is not something we can afford to fail at. The stakes are just too great.

The OIC

22 Apr

Hey everybody, sorry I’ve been gone for so long. It’s the end of the semester and I’ve been extremely busy. I just thought I’d share a little work I’ve been doing. I had to give a presentation today in my comparative religions class on freedom of speech vs religion. As some of you might know, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is pushing an anti-blasphemy measure through the UN, trying to make it binding. The OIC is made up of 56 member countries. To get an idea of the type of people who are pushing this, I looked up every single country on the Human Development Index. The HDI ranks countries by life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita. Basically, the closer to #1 you are, the better life is in your country. Here is the list of all the members of the OIC and where they stand on the ranking:

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HDI out of 179

1st Quarter

27 Brunei 0.919

29 Kuwait 0.912

31 United Arab Emirates 0.903

32 Bahrain 0.902

34 Qatar 0.899

2nd Quarter

52 Libya 0.840

53 Oman 0.839

55 Saudi Arabia 0.835

63 Malaysia 0.823

69 Albania 0.807

71 Kazakhstan 0.807

76 Turkey 0.798

78 Lebanon 0.796

85 Iran 0.777

90 Suriname 0.770

3rd Quarter

91 Jordan 0.769

95 Tunisia 0.762

97 Azerbaijan 0.758

99 Maldives 0.749

100 Algeria 0.748

105 Syria 0.736

106 Palestine 0.731

107 Gabon 0.729

108 Turkmenistan 0.728

109 Indonesia 0.726

110 Guyana 0.725

116 Egypt 0.716

119 Uzbekistan 0.701

122 Kyrgyzstan 0.694

124 Tajikistan 0.684

126 Iraq 0.583

127 Morocco 0.646

4th Quarter

137 Comoros 0.572

138 Yemen 0.567

139 Pakistan 0.562

140 Mauritania 0.557

146 Sudan 0.526

147 Bangladesh 0.524

150 Cameroon 0.514

151 Djibouti 0.513

153 Senegal 0.502

154 Nigeria 0.499

156 Uganda 0.493

159 Togo 0.479

160 Gambia 0.471

161 Benin 0.459

166 Côte d’Ivoire 0.431

167 Guinea 0.423

168 Mali 0.391

170 Chad 0.389

171 Guinea-Bissau 0.383

173 Burkina Faso 0.372

174 Niger 0.370

175 Mozambique 0.366

179 Afghanistan 0.345

179Sierra Leone 0.329

Somalia 0.284

So, as you can see, the lion share of the countries pushing this are hell holes, a lot of them with human rights violations…..

My #1 reason for rejecting faith

9 Apr

If I had to give one reason for why I disagree with religion and its view of reality, it would this:

It is true that I make some assumptions. I assume that I exist. (I think therefore I am) I also assume that the universe exists based on my observations. It is true that my observations could be wrong, and that we are all just brains in a jar, or in the matrix. It is true that since I don’t know the future I can’t be absolutely 100% positive a ball will fall when I drop it. These are the shortcomings of observation.

Yet even with these shortcomings, religion and observation’s views about reality are not equal. Simple stated, observation produces practical benefits that religious belief does not. A thousand years ago the majority of human population was busy trying to produce enough food to keep from starving, and they often did. Nowadays, through the application of observation, 2% of a first world country can supply enough food to feed the other 98% of the population. A thousand years ago we didn’t know why the moon moved in the sky. Now we know, and not only that, we’ve traveled there and returned home safely. Two hundred years ago we didn’t understand what caused infections and disease, now we have anti-biotics and modern medicine that save thousands of lives daily. All of these advancements were the products of applied observation, science. Unless you live in a cave (which you don’t since you’re on a computer reading this) you use the benefits of science everyday.

The history of the relationship between science and religion is a history of religion making claims, only for science to come along and disprove them. This is simply because religion was originally invented to explain the then unexplainable. Why does it rain? The gods make it rain. Why does the sun move across the sky? Ra in his sunboat moves it. Why are there seasons? Because Persephone ate from the fruit of the underworld. How did life arrive on the planet? God made it. Why are there so many languages? The tower of Babel. These are just a few basic examples but the list goes on and on. The religious understanding of how reality operates is skewed in many areas, from medicine, to anatomy, to astronomy, to physics, to biology, and chemistry.

Yet religion can hardly be blamed for this. The sacred texts of the world’s major religions were written centuries before the advent of the scientific method. They did the best with what tools were available. So given this pattern in the history of science and religion’s relationship, I feel it is reasonable to assume the pattern will continue; much the same way that based off of previous observations I can predict that a ball will fall when dropped. This is related to the idea of the “god of the gaps”. The idea behind “god of the gaps” is that god resides in science’s gaps in knowledge. Even Newton reached a point where he couldn’t go any further and declared “god did it”. Yet since the advent of science these gaps have been slowly filled. Everyday the gaps that god can live in get smaller and smaller. There is nothing to suggest that the trend will not continue.

<Edit> Afterthought: I forgot to mention the complete lack of evidence for the existence of any supernatural beings. There is just as much evidence for the existence of Ra as there is for Yahweh, zero. Now I’m not saying they can’t exist. If I did I would be making a positive assertion which would shift the burden of proof to me. (Despite the fact that it is impossible to prove a negative) Yet as long as people claim that being X exists, they have the burden of proof. The bigger the claim, the bigger the amount of proof required. Claiming that there is an all powerful, all knowing, invisible being(s) in the sky is a huge claim. You use this same logic everyday. If someone said they had a diamond the size of a car in their backyard, you’d want to see it. Our legal system works off of this same concept. Innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution makes the positive assertion that the defendant is guilty. It is up to the prosecution to provide enough evidence to prove their claim. Until guilt is proved, the court operates under the assumption of innocence. Religion is no exception.

To tie it back to the original post, people often try to claim natural things in the world as evidence for their god. Even if it was evidence for the existence of a higher power, there is no reason to then attribute that higher power with all the attributes the religious do, i.e. all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, intervening in human affairs, etc. The funny thing is that the things the religious have claimed in the past have slowly been explained by science.

Occam’s razor states that when presented with two competing explanations, the one containing the fewest superfluous entities is to be preferred. The naturalist explanation always has the fewest superfluous entities, and better yet is demonstrate-able. From these observations we can learn about how the universe we live in actually works, and then take that knowledge and apply it to better the human condition.

science-vs-religion1

Atheists are still searching…

7 Apr

Last year I was talking to a black friend of mine about racism and being a minority. He was a little drunk and came out to me about being gay. I made some comment about how I didn’t have it easy either, and told him about how I was an Atheist, and how they are the least trusted, most hated group in the world. He replied with “That just means you’re still searching.” I didn’t know what to say, and I only realized later just how offensive what he said was.

He basically was saying “What you believe right now is wrong, but it’s ok because you’re still looking.” He was very religious, and the son of a preacher. I wonder what his reaction would have been if I had told him “It’s ok, you’re still searching, one day you’ll learn that what you believe is all wrong and that god doesn’t exist.”

Short Answers

7 Apr

I feel people tend to prefer short answers to long ones. The thing is, the answers to many questions, especially complex ones, usually are not short answers. It really comes down to patience, and desire for the truth. A lot of people seem to have very little patience and would rather go with a short, comfortable answer that might not necessarily be true, as apposed to trying to understand a tedious complex answer, despite the fact that it is more truthful.

The people who prefer the short convenient answers deserve whatever horrible thing happens to them.

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