Romanticising the Caliphate.

July 29, 2015

Let us be clear; a Caliphate is a totalitarian state.
There is no room for nuance there. It is a state run by religious supremacists, privileging one religious sect and its irrational base of law, with the rights of the rest of us decided upon by self appointed ‘scholars‘ of that particular religious sect. From birth, a human being’s liberty is chained completely to the religious belief of others. It is a cage. Those who fight for that state, should not be appeased, or ‘brought to the negotiating table‘, or compared to Mandela (as, bizarrely, Corbyn’s fans are doing with Hamas across social media) by anyone proud to call themselves a liberal. From here on, I will use the term ‘totalitarian state‘ rather than ‘Caliphate‘, because it is right to call it out for what it is.

There appears to me to be a gap in the explanation of what it is driving young people toward Islamism. There are simplistic critics determined to reduce the entire issue down to “Blair did it“. Equally, there are those convinced that all Muslims are violent Jihadists in the making. Both reduce the problem to a narrative that fits their prejudices. Lingering somewhere in between, and not often spoken of, is the romanticising of a totalitarian Islamist state.

CAGE is one of those organisations that promotes itself as a human rights organisation, whilst simultaneously promoting the concept of imposing law derived from a religion. Thus, it becomes spectacularly easy to pick apart CAGE’s self-proclaimed defender of human rights label. This is because Human rights, and a totalitarian state that privileges one sect of one religion, that places religious dogma above reason if reason & science contradict the religion, are of course incompatible. We see across history and across the World today, where religion has a protected and privileged place in law, victims of that religion are abundant. From Christian Uganda, to Islamic Saudi Arabia. So Whether CAGE is treating Emwazi as a victim whilst perpetuating his ideal of a totalitarian state, or if CAGE is unable to answer the very simple – and Theocratic – question of whether stoning adulterers is wrong, CAGE has a consistency problem. Their opposition to the Prime Minister’s speech on extremism shows this inconsistency in quite a spectacular light. In the article, Asim Qureshi writes:

“For David Cameron, the starting point of the War on Terror was 9/11, as if there was a complete vacuum when it came to the West’s relationship with the Muslim world before then.”

– And here is the consistency problem. Whilst Qureshi accuses the Prime Minister of believing history to begin in 2002, Qureshi himself then goes on to say:

“The emergence of groups such as the Islamic State, condemned by Muslim scholars across the globe, are a phenomenon borne of decisions made by governments in 2002, not from ideology.”

– The problem CAGE has, is that it doesn’t consider long held Islamist views to be particularly extreme, or worthy of an effort to eradicate. And not too many ‘Scholars’ that I know of, completely discredit the concept of a totalitarian state. Indeed, Qureshi himself has spoken at events organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir; a vicious Islamist group, who have this little gem of freedom in their draft constitution:

“Those who are guilty of apostasy from Islam are to be executed.”

– CAGE seems to consider challenges to those views – the oppression of the LGBT community, the idea that adulterers should be violently harmed, the state run by Muslim men only, apostates abused – to be, as they claim with Cameron’s speech, “malicious“. A term, by the way, they don’t use at all to describe Mohammed Emwazi, whom they open their victimhood article with:

“Mohammed Emwazi is a British citizen who was subjected to security agency harassment for at least four years.”

– An interesting choice of words, and slightly – only slightly – glossing over the fact that Emwazi was a man responsible for beheading aid workers in Syria. Instead, it’s the Prime Minister who is malicious, for highlighting the poisonous narrative that Emwazi subscribed to.

Contrary to CAGE’s revisionist history that places Islamist groups as the victims, resulting from government policy only, Islamist groups did not suddenly begin life in 2002. They didn’t suddenly decide a totalitarian state was desirable after 2002. Islamism emerged through a complex web of geopolitics, but also dogma. This indeed includes foreign policy, but it also includes lack of openness in conservative Muslim households, it includes restrictions on expression & inquiry in countries that enshrine Islam (too often supported and perpetuated by Western governments), it includes a response to liberal, secular, democracy, and a social framework that grants equality over religious privilege, and empowers people that Islamists would otherwise like to harm. Islamism is the desperate clenching to values that liberal, secular, democracy resists. But it isn’t new. For a quick review:

Taqiuddin al-nabhani founded Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1953 (a group that The Guardian recently gave a sympathetic platform to). He spent his early years studying Sharia, became a Sharia jurist, and went on to envisage a World in which Islam is not simply an inner system of reflection and self improvement, but encompasses the economic and political sphere (in other words, controls other people). The viciously oppressive nature of this romanticised state is reflected in al-Nabhani’s draft constitution:

“Every sane Muslim of legal age, male or female, has the right to elect the Khalifah and to give him the Ba’yah. Non Muslims have no right in this issue.”

“Furthermore, the Khalifah must not appoint any female or non-Muslim governor”

– A state, based on one interpretation of one religion, in which male members of that religion are given state privileges, special rights, and control over the lives of everyone else. al-Nabhani was an Islamist, whose group is an Islamist group, emerging long before 2002.

Ayman al-Zawahiri is currently heading up al-Qaeda. But back in 1994, he was the last emir of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, busy planning to blow up the Khan el-Khalili marketplace in Cairo & the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan on the same day. The plan was later changed, and resulted in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan alone, killing 20 people and injuring many more. This was an Islamist group, using terror to further their ends. Egyptian Islamic Jihad emerged from a group set up by al-Zawahiri as a teenager, dedicated to:

“…overthrowing the government and establishing an Islamist state.”

– They were more than prepared to use terror to help progress this ideal, long before 2002. My complaint is the same then, as it is now. If you are convinced the current regime is oppressing you, the proper reaction is to promote anti-oppressive ideals; free expression, the right to equal participation in society through free and fair elections, freedom of conscience, free inquiry, the right to your own liberty to pursue your own happiness restricted only when you seek to restrict that same liberty for others. Seeking to overthrow one illiberal regime to replace it with your own, is not freedom fighting.

The intellectual powerhouse that informed al-Zawahiri’s ideal of an Islamist state, was Sayyid Qutb. Qutb was good friends with al-Zawahiri’s uncle Mafouz Azzam. al-Zawahiri was a keen student of Qutb. Qutb penned many works that inspired generations of Islamists, including “Signposts in the Road” and “Milestones”, the latter includes the paragraph:

“This need demands that the law which governs the social affairs of human beings should be in accordance with the general law of the universe; it demands that man submit to God alone, with the rest of the universe, and that no man should claim lordship over others.”

– The irony in this, is of course the idea that whilst ‘no man should claim lordship over others‘ follows a sentence in which Qutb envisages Muslims claiming lordship over every other human being. It is a self deluded claim of superiority of privilege for one faith.

Al-Zawahiri, Sayyid Qutb, al-Nabhani, along with Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Israr Ahmed,Siraj ul Haq, and a plethora of other names give an abundance of philosophical justifications for a Islamic totalitarian state. Even today, the idea of a totalitarian is romanticised, with some believers not understanding why advocating such a state, might be considered a bit extreme. On the BBC Website, Joy Ahmed from South London says:

“Now they’re telling me about how Sharia law is barbaric. It’s like everyone became professors in Sharia all of a sudden.”
“As Muslims we are under the microscope. Day by day there’s been an alienation of Muslims in the UK over issues like the hijab, halal meat, Muslim men being made out to be radicalised.
“If there was a fully established caliphate it would provide somewhere for Muslims to call their own,”

– How could anyone possibly believe that law derived not from reason, but from the anchoring of morality to 7th Century Arabia to be ‘barbaric‘? Surely not? Sharing this concern, Siema Iqbal writing for The Guardian asks:

“Why anyone would join Isis is beyond my comprehension, so having the ability as a parent to stop my child ever coming to harm would be welcome. But just out of curiosity, if my child’s passport is confiscated, would they then be labelled a “non-violent extremist”…”

– Yes. They absolutely would be considered an extremist. Much like white supremacists seeking to resurrect the Confederacy might be considered extremist. That’s because your child in your scenario is preparing to run to a totalitarian state that throws gay people from buildings and beheads aid workers. Iqbal then says:

“Like others before you, including Tony Blair, you say your objection isn’t to Muslims and Islam but towards violent jihadism. It’s difficult for me to believe in your sincerity though, when you’ve created a society where just talking about certain aspects of Islam is now considered extremist.”

– Created a society that opposes illiberal ideas? And that’s a bad thing is it? We secularists believe you have a right to believe whatever bigoted nonsense you so wish, according to your conscience, but you don’t get the privilege of perpetuating bigotry without challenge. Complaining that oppressive religious values are demonised as ‘extreme‘, is simply recognising that society has progressed & you haven’t.

The final sentence of Iqbal’s piece links to an article by Owen Jones in which he references homophobia, so I’m going to assume by “certain aspects of Islam” she means homophobia. And so do I consider the perpetuation of homophobia, the fear it instills into children born gay, the bullying it entails, and the oppression across the World by religious supremacists that it informs to be extreme? Absolutely I do. Bigotry doesn’t get a free pass just because it is coated in a Qur’an.

Yasmin Khatun also from London, says:

“When you look at what’s happening in Syria and Gaza, there’s just this feeling that they will not protect Muslim civilians and, as a result, you have some Muslims who feel a caliphate would better protect and represent them.”

– We agree that in Syria and Gaza, citizens aren’t protected. That includes all citizens. That includes Muslims, but also non-Muslims. In Gaza, Hamas protect no-one, especially those who don’t fit their Islamist narrative & desire for a totalitarian state. The answer to both, should be the enshrining of equal protections for the civil – not religious based – rights for all citizens, recognised by the international community, regardless of gender, belief, sexuality, or ethnicity. By contrast, an Islamic totalitarian state may indeed protect Muslims… by privileging that one specific religion, whilst absolutely not offering any sort of right to representation – or life itself – to those that the religion deems to be sinful. Again, white supremacists would feel much better protected and represented in a white supremacist state. This is in no way a good argument for a racial totalitarian state.

When two brothers ran to join IS from Oadby in Leicestershire, the Mosque insisted the boys had not been radicalised at the Mosque. And yet, whilst the Mosque in Oadby has taken a much welcomed proactive approach to community outreach, it also romanticises a religious totalitarian state:

“Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems are also part of the teachings of Islam.”

– Whilst it is right to include foreign policy in a discussion on radicalisation, let’s not discount the possibility that centuries of advocating a state that punishes blasphemy, harms the LGBT community, decides that Muslims have a superior role to play over state affairs, and doesn’t particularly deal too well with apostates, isn’t a problem. I have no idea why we pretend that it’s an unimportant aspect of the relationship between Islam and modern secular, liberal, democratic frameworks.

It isn’t that Islamism – a desire to marry mosque and state and impose one interpretation upon society – is a new development born out of the Iraq War, but more that Islamism is incompatible with a World moving toward liberalism, and so Islamism’s nasty illiberalism is amplified and then cries for our respect. Any analysis of the rise of groups like IS would be wholly incomplete without a discussion on foreign policy – specifically the West’s failure to act over Syria, and the West’s continued inexcusable support for regimes like that in Saudi Arabia – but equally it is wholly incomplete to discuss the rise of groups like IS, without acknowledging the history of Islamist thought, the totalitarian state it, and its continued romanticism within the Muslim community.

Islam is entering a phase of its existence in which reflection is more important than ever. Whether it emerges as a religion dedicated to enriching the soul of the individual, giving hope and guidance to the believer, or whether it emerges as a religion that inherently requires state power and authority over the lives of other human beings (whilst grotesquely requiring the rest of us respect that notion), is perhaps one of the most important inner battles that it will ever face.


Take a Left to Corbyn’s Hamas.

July 14, 2015

There is increasingly a bizarre section of the Left that often fights so hard in Western countries for equal rights and for the fall of oppressive power structures, but that completely abandon those principles if the abusers of those principles happen to dislike Israel or the US. Indeed in this case, the hatred for Israel is so penetrating that liberal values are shelved in order to join hands with those with an equal hatred for Israel regardless of motives or aims. The values of the enemy of the enemy are either pushed aside entirely, or excuses are made for them, highlighting wonderfully that which Bertrand Russell referred to as the fallacy of the superior virtue of the oppressed. Jeremy Corbyn did this in 2009 shown in the video above, in which he – now famously – refers to Hamas as his friends.

Corbyn was scrutinised on these hideous comments last night by Krisnan Guru-Murphy, whereby he deflected blame onto the media outlet for doing their job by scrutinising him – a man standing for leader of a Party, and hoping to be Prime Minister – rather than Israel. He goes on to insist that he only meant that Hamas should be brought to the table for discussions on peace. Which is of course contradicted, given that in the same video from 2009 a few moment later, Corbyn goes further and comments on their principles by insisting that Hamas are – and yes, he seriously says this – dedicated to “social justice” and “peace“. On Channel 4, Corbyn when questioned says:

“The wider question is Hamas and Hezbollah are part of a wider peace process. Even the former head of Mossad says that there has to be talks involving Hamas.”

– A wonderfully creative deflection; simply tell the interviewer what he should be saying in order to take attention away from yourself. I’m sure when you’re scrutinised for claiming an organisation dedicated to re-establishing a Theocracy over the entire region, is rabidly homophobic, and teaches kids to hate Jews.. is actually “dedicated to social justice“…. the ‘wider discussion’ becomes one in which attention is deflected from you.

One wonders which of his friends in Hamas are committed to “social justice” and “peace“. Perhaps it was Hamas’ former Minister for Culture Atallah Abu Al-Subh, who gave a sermon in which he states:

“The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth, because they have displayed hostility to Allah.”

– Or perhaps he’s close friends with those beacons of social justice over at Hamas’ Ministry of Refugee affairs, when asked to comment on the UN’s plan to include teaching the horror of the holocaust to Palestinian refugee children:

“We cannot agree to a programme that is intended to poison the minds of our children…Holocaust studies in refugee camps is a contemptible plot and serves the Zionist entity with a goal of creating a reality and telling stories in order to justify acts of slaughter against the Palestinian people.”

– Or perhaps he enjoys a friendly chit-chat with Hamas MP Ahmad Bahr, who – dedicated to “peace” as he most definitely is – said:

“If the enemy sets foot on a single square inch of Islamic land, Jihad becomes an individual duty, incumbent upon every Muslim, male or female. A woman may set out (on Jihad) without her husband’s permission, and a servant without his master’s permission. Why? In order to annihilate those Jews. Oh, Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters.”

– Everyone knows we liberals should support anyone who believes land is to be owned and controlled by one single religion, that women require permission to go out the house, that servants and master’s is an acceptable social hierarchy, and the death of anyone who doesn’t fit its narrative. It’s “social justice” after all. Or perhaps Corbyn is really close friends with Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar, a man who in 2005 described his theocratic dream:

“We are part of Allah’s promise that Islam will enter Palestine and every home in the world, with a revelation of the power of Allah the Omnipotent, and a revelation of the inferiority of the infidels. Hamas is leading this plan in Gaza, the West Bank, and the 1948 territories, and the Muslim Brotherhood is leading it everywhere else. This is part of Allah’s predestination.”

– This, by the way, is the same Mahmoud Zahar whose idea of “liberation” doesn’t extend beyond his own sexuality, referring to the LGBT community as:

“…a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.”

– The LGBT community of Palestine – completely abandoned by people like Corbyn – who are just as Palestinian, as anyone else there, just as entitled to civil protections and human rights, are obviously not to be considered in this “liberation” movement for Palestinians, given that in April 2011, Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV presented Syrian Writer Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi, who grotesquely said:

“Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

– Back to Mahmoud Zahar. Zahar who spoke at the funeral of suicide bomber responsible for the murder of four people Reem Riyashi (an attack that attracted widespread criticism in Palestine, including by her own brother-in-law) to say:

“She [first Hamas woman suicide bomber] is not going to be the last because the march of resistance will continue until the Islamic flag is raised, not only over the minarets of Jerusalem, but over the whole universe.”

– This, by the way, is the same Mahmoud Zahar – co-founder of Hamas – who explained what it is he doesn’t like about Israel, and reflected the words of Hamas’ Charter:

“We don’t recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims.”

– If Jeremy Corbyn was any sort of liberal, democratic, secularist, he would denounce Hamas as a theocratic organisation using terror as a means to an end. That end being the submission of the entire region for the privilege of one sect of one religion. A homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic death cult that cannot and will not rest until the land and everyone in it is wholly owned by a religious sect of thugs. To call them his “friends” is one thing, but to misrepresent them as dedicated to “social justice” and “peace” is a betrayal of both liberal principles, and the human beings who would – and do – ultimately suffer at the supremacist hands of terrorist groups like Hamas.


‘Small government’ advocates seek to ban the right to strike.

July 9, 2015

A great test of consistency for those of us who believe in the fundamental right to express offensive ideas was presented this week, when a man wandered Parliament Square in the centre of London wrapped in an Islamic State flag. Liberals became conflicted; should he be arrested for that or not? It isn’t just Islam that is in the midst of soul searching due to the rise of Islamism, liberals across the World are struggling with what it is they stand for also. A further test of that is happening today;

As with rights that cause inner conflict when applied to those we disagree with, today social media has been full of the irony of ‘small government’ advocates demanding the curbing of the right to strike, following the strike by London Tube workers. In essence, utilising ‘small government’ to ban human beings at the worker level from organising for grievances. State restriction for free expression highlights the insecure nature of the ideology that is protected from criticism and inquiry – it cannot stand on its own merits – similarly state restriction for free association suggests that those with economic power are vastly insecure with the system that enables that power, and resort to using the law to prevent dissent. To give a wonderful example of this; when the government pledged to legislate on restricting unions by introducing a 40% threshold for strike action, they also coincidentally happened to cut pay for NHS staff that very same day. Twitter today is full of those intensely illiberal men in suits (unsurprisingly), hell bent on further utilising the ‘small government’ they advocate, to restrict rights, highlighting that whilst the narrative of capitalism is freedom, dig a little deeper and you find oppression is its key. Take this guy, for example:

guy1
– Contrary to the language on his profile, this represents a call for a massive government. Striking has lead to huge developments both socially and economically over the past two centuries, for which this guy benefits every day. He now seeks to ban any more, ever, through the power of government. His playing field is to be tipped entirely in the favour of those with power; Empower bosses, whilst institutionally coercing workers. And he’s not the only one:

striking

If anything highlights the vital importance of the right to association, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike, it is the outburst by those with power and wealth who would seek to restrict that right. You are perfectly entitled to disagree with the reasons behind the strike, but to call for the rescinding of basic democratic rights in an economic system that in which the balance is so wildly tipped in favour of capital over labour anyway, is to protect that imbalance by force. It is to further empower the powerful. It is the opposite of advocating “small government”. It is vastly illiberal.


The Mosque in Oadby’s worrying narrative.

July 1, 2015

The area that I grew up in is relatively quiet and peaceful. The smell of the countryside lets you know that spring has arrived every year. There isn’t too much in the way of problems. It is a wonderfully mixed community of people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles. Two churches dominate the skyline, and a Mosque sits not too far from the town’s supermarkets. The faith communities have long enjoyed good relations and interfaith dialogue, and so it was surprising news to hear this morning that two students from the area have reportedly fled to join the Islamic State.

The BBC & Leicester Mercury reported this morning that two brothers; Ibrahim and Mohamed Ageed had fled from their studies in Northern Africa, to join IS militants in Iraq & Syria. The Mosque in Oadby told Radio Leicester that the brothers had absolutely not been radicalised at the Mosque, and must have been targeted for radicalisation whilst studying in Africa. Whilst I’m sure this is the case, given the interfaith dialogue promoted by the Oadby Mosque in recent times, I’m a little bit concerned about the language used on the Oadby Mosque website and what it is they’re actually promoting and romanticising.

Firstly, it’s important to note the direction of the narrative. On its ‘history’ page, the Mosque states:

“Despite tabloid press reports, Islam is a peaceful and harmonious religion. It strives for community cohesion, and peaceful coexistence.”

– As with everything in life, we must not take the assertion at face value, and we must seek to understand the specific interpretation of Islam perpetuated by this particular Mosque before we can either agree or disagree that their interpretation of their religion is indeed ‘harmonious‘ and ‘peaceful‘.

Whenever the media is entirely blamed for presenting a negative view of a belief – be it political or religious – it almost always becomes apparent that defensiveness over illiberal views are at the heart of the complaint. In this case, the Mosque’s website has a section entitled Learning About Islam. They have specifically chosen an introduction by Ahmad H. Sakr PhD to explain the fundamentals of Islam. There are several sections to this that worry me somewhat. For example:

“Allah is the name of the One and Only God. Allah has ninety-nine beautiful names, such as: The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last, and others.

He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the atheists, and others. Muslims worship God whose name is Allah. They put their trust in Him and they seek His help and His guidance.”

– If we note that beyond the impersonal deist conception of a God, the theist conception of a God is simply the name we give to a group of – often obscure – ideas and laws derived from the moral context of the time period in which it was conceived, we imply by this that all of those listed in the above paragraph – including atheists – are to be considered subject to those ideas and laws, without actually checking with us first. They’ve already presumed a right to chain me to their beliefs, from birth. Liberty is thus extinguished before it has even begun. The idea of the God of one religion, being the God of all of us – including me, as an atheist – necessarily leads to the idea that justice is for me to be subjected to the rules of that religion. The Mosque in Oadby believe that Islam is to be considered inherently, and unquestioningly privileged. They do not first prove to those of us they wish to see subjected to those rules, that their God exists, they simply take it as a given. It is the building block of religious supremacism and oppression. And on that note, they continue:

“Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems are also part of the teachings of Islam.”

– The first two sentences of this paragraph are perfectly compatible with a modern, secular, liberal, democratic framework under the rule of law. The right to believe according to one’s conscience, is a fundamental right. But the next sentences build horribly on the previous paragraph that set up the idea that we are all to be considered the creation of the God of Islam. I certainly wont be told that it is the media presenting the faith in a negative light, at the same time as reading that Islam is not to be separated from the state. And so let us be clear; when put together, the two paragraphs are vastly anti-secular, and driven entirely by religious supremacy. For the state to be ‘under the obedience of Allah‘ implies that all who live in the state – whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, apostates, atheist, heterosexual, homosexual, male, female – must be subject to the rules of one religious belief rather than secular, democratic law under which we are all to be treated as equal citizens.

The Mosque in Oadby is actively promoting religious supremacism. They do not consider Islam to be a personal system of religious belief and spirituality alone, but a political ideology in which we are all encompassed within its jurisdiction, whether we believe or not. Far from discouraging the idea of a Caliphate – by definition, illiberal, and anti-secular – they do not distinguish between Islam as a faith, and Islam as a political system of control, they actively promote the latter. They could have focused entirely on the spiritual, individual element, the right to free interpretation and inner peace and mindfulness, instead they romanticise and promote the joining of religion to every institution of state, and presume ownership of the lives of the rest of us.

Community outreach is a great achievement by the Oadby Mosque. They are not withdrawing into a segregated community, as Mosques elsewhere have done previously. They should be praised and respected for that. They are active in Diwali and Christmas celebrations, they promote community cohesion, they became a polling station in 2014, and they have regular community days. But their outward display of community, is contradicted by their promotion of a religious-supremacist state.

The pro-Caliphate narrative – neither ‘peaceful‘ nor ‘harmonious‘ – must be challenged (note; this does not mean banned). Not just by we secular liberals who must point out its inherent oppressive character at every opportunity, but also by leading institutions of Islamic learning if Islam is to come out of this soul-searching period as compatible with the forward march of liberty across the World. It is not simply negative press reports that give Islam a negative connotation, but also the promotion of a romanticised Caliphate. This is the basis of the extreme narrative clung to by Islamists like Ibrahim and Mohamed Ageed. Illiberal ideas are illiberal ideas whether cloaked in a Qur’an, a Confederate flag, an EDL chant, or any other form. For leading institutions to be promoting the idea of a religious-supremacist state that controls the lives of everyone, by the dictates of their single faith, is a very dangerous premise upon which to base a religious place of learning in the 21st Century, and should not go unchallenged or unquestioningly respected, especially as they reach out to children.

It should be no shock that if you perpetuate the myth of the heavenly Caliphate, some impressionable minds seek it out.


A word on Charleston.

June 19, 2015

confederacy

Back in April, South Carolina’s Governor defended the fact that South Carolina’s State Capitol flies the Confederate flag. Think about that for a second. A State Capitol, whose representatives are there to represent all citizens regardless of ethnicity, flies a flag that specifically represented the right of rich white men to own, to sell, to trade, to beat, to split families, of African Americans. A system of segregation that persisted for a century after the end of slavery, in which white supremacists flew that same flag in support of a system of racial segregation and supremacy that included hanging kids from trees because of the colour of their skin.

You might drive past that State Capitol that flies that hideous flag, as you make your way into Charleston, where a monument dedicated to the “Confederate defenders of South Carolina” (you know, those who fought to uphold a system of slavery) stands proudly in a park, which happens to be just a little further down the road from the AME Church which stands on a road in which a white supremacist is celebrated. Not the terrorist who shot dead 9 people because he dreams of a return to the Confederate days, no, the church sits on Calhoun Street, dedicated to John C. Calhoun who, in the 1850s, argued strongly in favour of the Fugitive Slave Act, requiring free states to capture runaway slaves and return them to their owners. On slavery itself, Calhoun said:

“Many in the South once believed that it was a moral and political evil; that folly and delusion are gone; we see it now in its true light, and regard it as the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world.”

– Calhoun was sure; For the basis of ‘free institutions’, African Americans must be enslaved. And South Carolina, in 2015 has just witnessed a mass shooting by a white supremacist in a church on a street named in Calhourn’s honour, whilst its State Capitol flies a Confederate flag. How is that not the biggest wake up call that America has to its quite obvious race problem.

How was it glossed over so effortlessly, that Rep. Steve Stockman (R) proudly invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union a couple of years back, despite Nugent saying:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

How was it glossed over so easily, when certain media outlets tried to justify the shooting to death of an unarmed Trayvon Martin, because of how he was dressed.

How did it take a Federal lawsuit in Georgia in 2012 – not 1865 – requiring Georgia strike down its ‘Stand your Ground’ law, because it didn’t specify what circumstances justified ‘standing your ground’. According to the lawsuit, courts in Georgia had:

“…accepted the race of a victim as evidence to establish the reasonableness of an individual’s fear in cases of justifiable homicide.”

– What this essentially means is, “I shot him, because I was scared, because he was black“. How, in a developed country that has one of the biggest economies on the planet, that enshrined Enlightenment values, are the Federal courts having to tell ex-Confederate States that it shooting someone because they’re not white, is not a ‘justifiable homicide‘?

How was it so under-reported, when On January 22nd 2013, whilst Sen. Henry Marsh (D) – a veteran of the Civil Rights era – was attending President Obama’s inauguration, Senate Republicans in the 20-20 split Virginia Senate sneaked through a redistricting bill essentially ensuring a Republican Senate in 2015. Republicans in the Senate went even further that day. Not only did they manipulate the absence of a civil rights veteran to ensure a majority in 2015… they called a halt to the day’s proceedings with the following announcement in the minutes of the day:

“On motion of Senator Stosch, the Senate adjourned in memory or [sic] General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson at 4:10 p.m. to convene Tuesday, January 22, 2013″

– They called a halt to proceedings not because the President had just been re-inaugurated a day before, but instead to honour a Confederate general. Furthermore, Senator Henry Marsh was a lawyer during the Civil Rights days. His law practice focused on civil rights cases. At the same time, Virginia’s Republican Senators were organising resistance to desegregation. That was the 1960s. In 2013, the children of those Republicans use his absence to advance their cause, and pay their respects to a Confederate general.

It is simply unfathomable to me that the media response has been so desensitised to the romanticising of the Confederacy in 2015, that instead we focus on whether or not to label it ‘terrorism'; instead Fox spends an extraordinary amount of time attempting to imply an attack ‘Christianity; instead conservative commentators spend their time on social media more concerned that access to guns might be restricted given that it was so damn easy for a 21 year old white supremacist, wishing to start a race war to get his hands on one and commit a terrorist attack, than they do that nostalgia for the Confederacy that inspires such vicious racial hatred, is everywhere you turn your head.

The unimaginable horror that those people in that Church must have felt, the loss that the families have suffered and will now have to deal with through no fault of their own, did not come from nowhere, it isn’t just the mind of one angry kid who got hold of a gun, his motives were clear and they reflect the not-so-subtle romanticising of the Confederacy, its leaders, and its legacy. If racism in the United States is going to be taken seriously and addressed now that nine people were massacred, it is perhaps best not to continue flying the flag of the slave States above government buildings. As of today, the flag of the Confederacy still, despite the terrorist attack, flies at the South Carolina State Capitol.


Nathan Lean, the New Illiberals, & the desperate protection of a failed narrative.

June 16, 2015

There’s an oddly consistent pattern emerging from those so vehemently opposed to all things Sam Harris recently – let’s call them the “New Illiberals” – and who have a particular narrative that they simply cannot admit is wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I commented on how CJ Werleman’s endless obsession with Harris, has blinded him to the creeping racial bigotry in his own rhetoric. Werleman’s narrative relies on “new atheism” and Western countries being exclusively white skinned categories, thus dismissing all those atheists who are not white, and all those who have shaped the framework of Western countries, who happen to have a darker shade of skin. It’s primary objective is to demonise “New Atheists”, but its more insidious product is bigotry in itself. Last night, Aslan Media’s Nathan Lean – author of ‘The Islamophobia Industry‘ – commented on the release of a book by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris:

lean
– There is so much wrong with this, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Perhaps a good place to begin, is the hypocrisy in a white man who writes on Islam, angry that a white man wrote on Islam. Or that Lean sees no hypocrisy in the fact that he is not Middle Eastern, and yet writes on the Middle East, whilst complaining that non-Muslims are writing about Islam. Or perhaps the grotesque idea that speaking on political or religious structures and dogma, is not to be measured on the strength of the argument, rather the ethnicity of the speaker. Which – in the interests of consistency – of course further implies, that white Muslims are not to be considered ‘real‘ Muslims. Or the bizarre inclusion of Sam Harris’ profession. But most tellingly, is how Lean consciously ignored Maajid Nawaz’ contribution to the book. I suspect the deliberate omission is down to the fact that Maajid simply doesn’t fit Lean’s nice little boxed-in narrative, that permits only white folk the ability to argue that Islamism is not entirely the direct result of Western imperialism, & that maybe there’s a dogma issue too. Thus, it is simply easier to ignore (or just dismiss) the contributions and debate points of non-white critics, or non-Western critics, rather than acknowledge that criticism of ideas – religious or political – and interpretations is universal, transcending ethnic, cultural, national, and gender boundaries, and that the narrative of white supremacy, is simply wrong.

Reading Irshad Manji’s book ‘Allah, Liberty, & Love‘, we are introduced to Muslims across the World who do not fit into groupthink conservative category that both conservative Muslims and their western apologists wish they did. They have their own minds, they are open to debate and criticism, but they are far too often silenced by fear of upsetting the prevailing conservative & tribal ideas within the religion. These people must be supported and defended by anyone worthy of title ‘liberal’. By boxing people in, and taking away their agency as Lean does, he simply gives support to power structures that rely on controlling the thoughts and words, instead of giving support to those who challenge orthodoxy.

When Lean was questioned on his comments, he dug himself an even deeper racist-sized hole:

lean2
– Whilst the rest of us see a collaboration between Nawaz and Harris as two people having a conversation and sharing thoughts, Lean sees the book as a white supremacist, and his non-white ‘validator‘. Note the set-up is that the white man, is the one leading, thus denying the brown-skinned Muslim man an independent thought. Why not argue that Sam Harris is the ‘validator‘ to Maajid Nawaz? This is the racism inherent to trying to silence criticism of one idea, by falsely linking criticism to ethnicity, and then desperately clinging to it when it’s quite clearly false. You end up boxing thoughts and ideas into very specific groups by skin tone, and then you have to try to justify it when it’s clear that it isn’t true. Which of course, makes your case even worse.

For example, here Lean was forced into a decision; either accept the narrative is wrong, or try to save-face by working around it. He chose the latter option, and dismissed Nawaz as simply a pawn, a victim, that the white guy used to ‘facilitate‘ his agenda, thus protecting the failed narrative. The implication is that non-White Muslims just aren’t capable of thinking or speaking outside of a framework set by people like Lean. It isn’t even subtle in its racist overtones, it is blatant racism. The implication is that Nawaz couldn’t possibly think outside of the neat little box that Lean assumes all Muslims must fit into; all angry victims of Western aggression, and in need of Western apologists to defend their honour. This way of dismissing non-white critics of Islamism, was a tool similarly utilised a few weeks back by CJ Werleman, when he dismissed Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

“Case in point: Somali-born, anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is feted by the New Atheist movement. Her most staunch supporters include celebrity New Atheists Harris, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins.”

– Ayaan Hirsi Ali isn’t considered part of the “New Atheist movement“, she’s simply “feted” by them. Werleman refers to “New Atheists” as “anti-Theist“, and by that standard, Ali – alongwith plenty of other atheists Worldwide – fit into his “New Atheist” standard. The only way they don’t, is the colour of their skin. Werleman has put a “white’s only” sign above the “New Atheist” door, and then accused those same “New Atheists” of being white supremacists. It’s a nasty little hypocritical game of bigotry in an attempt to silence, that Lean followed to the letter, in a desperate attempt to uphold their failed narrative, and that will always backfire.

Lean began by simply not acknowledging that Maajid Nawaz was a joint part of the book with Sam Harris. When faced with questioning, Lean then dismissed Nawaz as someone unable to think for himself given that he doesn’t fit Lean’s narrative, and is simply an unsuspecting conduit for the white guy’s neo-con agenda. The wrong type of Muslim. Contrary to this failed narrative; those who seek to explain and defeat Islamism using a wider context than simply presenting it as a response to Western aggression, are not just white, they are not just Western, they are not just male, nor are they just blue eyed, or just tall, or any other neat little box that the ‘New Illiberals‘ try to box us all into. We are all people with our own thoughts, and for all illiberals, that very fundamentally recognised and promoted liberty is dangerous.


Michigan’s Gov. Snyder signs anti-gay adoption law, after threats from Christian groups.

June 12, 2015

Gov. Rick Snyder's inauguration, Michigan Capitol, Lansing, 2011.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s inauguration, Michigan Capitol, Lansing, 2011.

It’s impossible to travel through Michigan without the constant reminder of how beautiful the landscape is. The wineries and hills roll into the sand dunes, that in turn roll into the lakes. There is a peacefulness to the lakes that remind you that regardless of how fast paced and stressful humanity can be, nature goes on regardless. It is a shame that the political landscape of Michigan does not reflect the unmatched beauty of its natural landscape.

Yesterday Gov. Rick Snyder quickly signed laws that allow religious adoption agencies – that receive public funds – to discriminate against same-sex couples, when looking for suitable parents. Snyder signed it after both the Michigan Senate and House passed the Bill, with all Republicans – with the exception of Sen.Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights – voting for it, whilst all Democrats voted against. Amendments that required faith-based agencies to comply with civil rights laws were voted down by Republicans. The wording of the law – carefully crafted to appear to be based on concepts of liberty, rather than the opposite – is here:

bill
– This seems to have come after threats from Christian groups, like Michigan’s Catholic Conference, who wrote to the Governor with:

“If House bills 4188-4190 are not signed into law, and if statewide policy changes in a way that would force Catholic agencies to choose between violating strongly held religious beliefs or ceasing cooperation with the state, the agencies will cease to cooperate.”
– Paul Long, President of the Michigan Catholic Conference

– Let’s be clear on how serious this threat is from the adoption agencies and the Michigan Catholic Conference. According to the state Department of Human Services, around $10mn in state and federal funding went to faith-based adoption agencies in Michigan. Further, around 40-45% of adoption services in the state are performed by faith-based agencies. So here we see the significance of the threat; Christian groups with power over the lives of children, using that power to threaten the welfare of those children, if they’re not exempt from essentially, the US Constitution. The threat is clear; either you provide us with institutional privileges, or we put children at risk. Hideous, and abusive.

Paul Long of the Michigan Catholic Conference is fully aware that children in Michigan rely heavily on faith-based agencies to protect and help them, and he’s happy to use that power to demand the imposition of religious privileges, and institutional recognition of religious bigotry. To Paul Long, the welfare of those children, is to be intrinsically linked to maintaining & perpetuating the religious prejudices of those who run adoption services. Contrary to his tantrum, no one is asking Paul Long to ‘violate‘ his strongly held beliefs. He’s entitled to believe same-sex couples should have rights restricted, and that heterosexual couples should be granted institutional privileges. He’s perfectly entitled to ‘strongly hold‘ that belief. He isn’t entitled to use vulnerable children to perpetuate that belief, nor restrict the rights of others based on his belief. His right to believe, is not his right to impose.

The Michigan Catholic Conference websites implies that the threat to cease operations, is as an outside threat rather than their own, by suggesting that by passing the Bill, Snyder has heroically saved the adoption agencies:

“Michigan Catholic Conference applauds Governor Snyder and the Legislature for their support of these bills, which will maintain the State’s long-standing partnership with faith-based child placement agencies that has been successful in serving Michigan’s vulnerable children.”

– Deeply disingenuous language given that no one is actually threatening to shut down those agencies, other than the agencies themselves. It will only “maintain” the partnership, because the agencies themselves threaten – as Paul Long points out – to cease cooperation, if they’re not exempt from the very basic principle of church and state separation, continuing to pocket millions in tax payer dollars (including those contributed by the LGBT community) to uphold their bigotry.

We know from countless studies – including this study by the ‘British Association for Adoption and Fostering‘ – that adoption by same-sex couples is absolutely not harmful to the child’s development, that children thrive in a loving environment. And it’s not surprising that this is the case, given that personal prejudices based on outdated religious morality is not a reliable indicator of social cohesion. For example, a report coauthored by Benjamin Siegel for the ‘American Academy of Pediatrics‘ notes:

“Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”

– Thousands of children waiting for a loving family, can join a loving same-sex couple family to no one’s detriment, and to both the benefit of the child and the parents. To restrict that by ignoring the evidence in favour of religious prejudices, is to impose and enshrine those religious prejudices onto those children who are given no choice, whilst also restricting the right of those couples to adopt – a right that heterosexual couples enjoy without question. Therefore, we must conclude that Gov. Synder based his decision to sign the law not on evidence based reasoning or what is best for children (a stable loving family), but instead caved into pressure from – among others – adoption agencies’ threats based solely on bigotry – to abuse their position as the state’s key provider of adoption services for the most vulnerable people in the country, if they’re not allowed to impose their own unsubstantiated prejudices onto those children.

We must further conclude that for The Michigan Catholic Conference and the religious adoption agencies it worked to protect, child welfare is of secondary importance to the ‘freedom‘ to treat children as conduits for religious supremacy & privilege. That unless the state agrees to restrict rights for the LGBT community based solely on the religious beliefs of someone else, those agencies will refuse to help the children they’re supposed to be protecting. There are few less appropriate people that I would trust with the welfare of children, than people who are willing to use those children to advance a religious dream of state power and coercion.

Same-sex adoption is not harmful to children. Refusing those children the right to a loving family, based on the religious beliefs of those who are supposed to protect them, is what is harmful to children. If adoption agencies aren’t willing to serve same-sex couples, they should not be trusted with the welfare of children.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,807 other followers