The Island of Secular, Liberal, Democracy.

July 15, 2014

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800

Involving myself in several debates this week with members of Hizb and their supporters threw up one consistent theme; secular liberal democracy oppresses Muslims, and so by advocating a return of Khilafah, they are in fact fighting oppression (nothing says ‘fighting oppression’ quite like ISIS beheading ordinary people). The obvious question then becomes; how does a system that advocates – according to Hizb’s constitution as drafted by al-Nabhani – the execution of the ex-Muslims (essentially, genocide), and the oppression of the LGBT community, whilst forcing non-Muslims to pay to uphold it and disallowing women from holding high office, get to be considered anything but oppressive?

The response was predictably deflective, the points raised were not addressed (save for the ill-informed “being gay is unnatural” argument often used to defend the hideous oppression of the gay community by religious supremacists), instead opting on far more occasions than I ever considered possible, to just keep insisting that secular, liberal, democracy is in fact an oppressive religion itself. Whilst I’ve argued the case for secular, liberal democracy on several occasions pertaining to the specifics – the veil, or sexuality, free expression, or the building of mosques – I thought I’d use this article to explain my fundamental reasoning behind why I believe secular, liberal, democracy is the opposite of oppression.

Let us imagine there are ten of us on a desert island. We propose to come up with a governing system. Two of the new inhabitants are Muslim. Two Atheist. Two Christian. Two Hindu. Two FutileReligion (my new faith for the purpose of this article). The ten on the island consists heterosexual people, homosexual people, bisexual people, men and women, lighter toned skin and darker toned skin, red haired, blonde haired, blue eyed, green eyed people.

When coming up with our system, we all agree that the green eyed people – on account of having green eyes – have no inherent right to state privilege, nor the blue eye’d people, nor the blonde haired people, nor those with light toned skin. If we were to suggest that green eyed people are entitled the distinct privilege of law making, we imply that no one else is capable. We imply the superiority of one eye colour, to the inferiority of all others. We do so, without any reasonable justification. We therefore not only chain the rights of others whilst privileging green eyed people, we also chain green eyed people who could have their lives improved by the ideas in the minds of the non-green eyed people for improving island living. It is an absurdity. We acknowledge the equality of all when it comes to eye colour. And so we must then ask; if we accept that one particular eye colour isn’t naturally privileged, nor do we accept that the island is naturally a white supremacist island, why would we presume one particular faith must be granted state privilege and supremacy? And if we do believe one particular faith should be permitted an inherent right to state privilege, whose religion shall it be?

Well, the FutileBelievers believe the state should be theirs, and so all Christians and Muslims should be executed immediately for their sinful religion, because FutileGod insists that they are in fact unnatural. We presume that if we call it “God’s law“, it somehow permits it a privileged position to control and punish according to its rules, even those who don’t consider it to be “God’s law“. According to the two Muslims, the state should be Islamic with everyone else paying jizya to uphold the system and that the three gay people on the island should be immediately executed, and the four women disqualified from high office. The four women and the three gay people aren’t given a say in this, because the Muslims automatically presume a right to control those lives, simply on the basis of their personal religious belief. Again, an absurdity. The Christians believe the system should be completely controlled by Christians, with no Muslim being allowed high office, they also seek to burn any condoms they find and your private sex life will essentially be handed over to the two Christians. Muslims don’t get a say over whether they are allowed power in this Christian state, they simply have to deal with being institutionally inferior to their Christian rulers, who have taken it upon themselves to declare supremacy. So, who in this scenario gets to enshrine their particular religion into the framework of state?

Contrary to Hizb and other religious supremacists bizarre notions of oppression, you may note that secular, liberal, democracy enshrines the right to believe whatever it is you choose to believe. It protects that right fully for the individual. No single sect can take that away from you, in a secular, liberal, democracy. It is not anti-religious, it is anti-religious supremacy and privilege. To achieve a state that enshrines religious privilege, and supremacy, requires force and it requires the institutional subduing of others. It is the definition of oppression.

Let us be clear; by privilege I mean the institutionalising of one belief – and so, the power of state handed to two people on the island at all times – into the framework of state; perhaps insisting that gender and sexuality of all inhabitants must be subject to the rules of one faith. I do not mean banning those people from invoking their beliefs when it comes to island debate. Simply, the institutionalising of one belief; The perpetual chaining of everyone to the dictates of the faith of those two. Who gets to make that decision? How might we expect the other 8 react, if the two FutileBelievers were to say “… right, we’re in charge, we now run this place. First thing’s first, all Qur’ans and Bibles are to be burnt“. I imagine they’d react in the same way Catholics reacted when Protestants permitted themselves state privilege and oppression ensued. Or how Shia react when Sunni permit themselves state privilege and oppression ensues. It is a recipe for perpetual oppression and inevitable conflict, because it relies on the oppressed staying quiet and resigning themselves to an inferior status, and history teaches us that if you chain people to the privileged few, those in chains will fight to break them.

We have a situation in which ten people are currently free and equal. Eye colour does not get to control other eye colours, hair colour does not affect our right to participate in society and to an individual life. We extend that principle to belief. The freedoms are equal to all. There are no barriers erected to our liberty. None of those people were born attached to the religious beliefs of any of the others. Therefore, the burden is on those seeking to chain others to their religious beliefs, to convince others to hand over their liberty to that particular belief. As of yet – not just on our island, but on the entire planet – no one has succeeded in convincing others to become subservient to the beliefs of one individual, through anything other than threat and force.

So, how do we develop this impasse into a framework of state? Well, we could all insist that our particular religion is deserving of institutionalised state privilege, that others must be chained to our supernatural beliefs, thus putting us in constant conflict with everyone else on the island who similarly believe themselves privileged, and everyone else subordinate. This is unlikely to end in anything other than violence, when those threatened with the rules of the faith of the other start to break the chains. Or, we could enshrine into the framework, our acceptance that we should all be free to practice our own religion where it does not encroach on the same freedom for others, and where our freedom on the island is not chained to the beliefs of anyone else. We devise a system that is constituted firstly to protect each other, from each other. That is the primary basis of a free and equal society. The freedom of Person A – regardless of sexuality, or gender, ethnicity, or faith – does not end where the religion of Person B begins.

Once individual liberty, to pursue our own goals, is protected through a constitutional framework, we can then all jointly involve ourselves in the political process. The structure of the democratic institutions – be them Parliamentary, or Presidential, direct or representative, comes next. We compromise on decisions that effect us all, we split power, we get it wrong at times, but we learn and we move forward, and our participation in the political process is in no way dependent on our belief, gender, sexuality, hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity, if we’re missing a toe on one foot, or any other biological trait. All of those are irrelevant to our ideas and our participation within society, and so the initial protection of us all is the only possible way to allow everyone our full potential without fear of repression. The burden is on those who seek to remove our liberties, to explain why we should be forced to give them up.

The 10 person society is run on the basis of compromise and free and open debate and discussion. We can inquire, scrutinise, and progress without our ideas and creativity and contribution withheld simply because we have a particular eye colour, gender, or sexuality. If you disagree with a policy, you are free to protest, to run for office on your platform, to scrutinise, to mock, to critique. This is as true for you, as it is for me. This is secular, liberal democracy. It isn’t a religion, and it privileges no single individual or belief above any other. It is the neutral protection of all, from all, and the freedom for all to participate in the process of state. The governing of state in no way inflicts restrictions upon your right to live according to your religion, where your religion does not damage the liberty of anyone else.

To believe secular, liberal democracy is oppressing you, is simply another way to say you believe your faith should be granted state privilege to harm the liberty of others. This isn’t oppressing you, this is denying your determination to oppress others. And on that charge, I absolutely agree, and that is exactly why liberal, secular democratic institutions are the only way to guarantee civil protections for all.


A reply to Norzila Baharin, of ISMA.

May 5, 2014

493px-James_Madison

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.

– Christopher Hitchens.

About a week ago I wrote an article addressed to Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, the leader of Malaysian Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) on the concept of human liberty, and his clear desire to reshape the concept of liberty, to mean those of his faith get the distinct privilege of controlling the rest of us.

Since then, my article was published on Malaysian news site “The Malaysian Insider” and has garnered a response from Norzila Baharin, an angry – and appalled! – critic and herself a member of ISMA, further seeking to redefine liberty to mean, having her belief forced upon everyone else. I thought it only right that I address a few of the bizarre points she raised. I will focus on her misunderstanding of the word ‘ideology’, her lack of ability to distinguish between ‘truth’ and what she’d like to be true, and her scientific illiteracy when it comes to nature masked as religious truth.

The title of the article is an indication of the direction the article itself takes:

“Islam liberates from man-made liberty.”

– I’m not entirely sure what is meant by “man-made” liberty, but I’ll presume it means my right to be free from the chains of someone else’s personal belief. It is important to note that your faith, having freely came to it, may indeed liberate you, according to your conscience. And that’s great. But it applies to you alone, and must not be granted the privilege of controlling my liberty, where my liberty conflicts with your belief. As we shall see, Baharin has real trouble distinguishing between her personal belief, and those of others.

Far from disproving the point of my original article, Norzila Baharin goes to great lengths to explain her individual belief, but doesn’t explain why that belief entitles her to place we non-believers, along with gay people, and apostates, at the mercy of that particular individual religious belief. She goes to those great lengths to explain her beliefs, by quoting scripture with absolutely no supporting evidence outside of the confines of her belief. This is entirely where her article collapses, insomuch as it is absolutely confined by belief. For example, about a quarter of the way through the article, Baharin says:

“Going back to Futile Democracy, firstly, I think he is confused between Islam and ideology.
“It is He who has sent his Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth in order that He shows its superiority over all other religions even if the idolators detest it.” (Quran 9:33)
Islam is Allah’s final message to humanity, revealed through the Prophet Muhammad through revelations more than 1400 years ago.

“This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.” (Quran 5:3)
So, as you can see here, Islam is a religion from Allah, and not a man-made ideology like other ideologies nowadays.”

– Telling me that Islam is Allah’s final message is irrelevant. I don’t believe Allah exists, so this is a pointless addition to the argument. Secondly, the last line, does not follow from the rest of the argument. It’s not “As you can see here”, more than it is “As I believe…”. Indeed, sending me quotes from your Holy Book to prove the validity of your Holy Book is the very essence of circular reasoning, and so is not to be considered reason at all to control my entire existence, by your faith. So this paragraph can be dismissed.

Quoting her faith, to prove the truth of her faith continues throughout the article. For example:

“The laws or Shariah, which the prophets were sent with, are guiding lights to the essential faith in Allah which is created in every human being. Furthermore, since this faith comes from Allah, it naturally follows that only laws capable of guiding man back to it must also come from Allah, hence Islam is also called din al-fitrah, the religion of human nature.”

– The conclusion again does not “naturally follow” from the premise, without establishing the truth of the premise in the first place. “The laws or Shariah, which the Prophets were sent with” presupposes the existence of a God, and then defers to tradition – weak tradition at that – and belief. Again, this isn’t a justifiable reason to control the lives of others. “Since this comes from Allah” is the point that she hasn’t proven yet. Nor has she proven that Allah even exists. Nor has she proven that a creator exists. Nor has she proven that it’s possible for something to exist outside of the confines of time and space. So this paragraph can also be dismissed.

If I invent a new God right now, and claim we all have a “natural disposition” to believe in Her (as we shall see, Baharin does) – obviously I provide no evolutionary evidence, neurological evidence, biological evidence, or in fact, any evidence whatsoever to credit this extraordinary assertion – and claim that therefore it “follows” that all laws come from Her for the benefit of glorifying Her, and that one of those laws was the punishment – perhaps execution – of Muslims, for being Muslims, thus assuming control over the lives of all Muslims, I’d expect to be asked to produce more evidence for my new found desire to own the lives of others, for calling for my belief to be granted state privilege, than simply believing it is true. Until I do that, the dogma based on my belief in my new one true God, is for me only. The moment I frame that dogma for political and economic power; an ideology is born. Suddenly, Baharin’s life becomes an object, owned and controlled by me, when before she was free from my desire to control. I’m almost certain she might object to that, for the very same reasons the rest of us object to being controlled by her faith. Indeed, if she is to deny me my freedom from her religion, then I have no freedom at all.

My original article posited that ISMA clearly don’t understand what an ideology is. Well, now we can expand on that. Not only are they completely unaware of what an ideology is (Islam is an ideology the moment it dismisses my equal right to personal belief, imposes her personal belief and thus seeks to infringe upon my liberty, unless I become Muslim), they’re also confused between “truth” and “what we’d quite like to be true”. The whole of Baharin’s article, is what a few religious fanatics would quite like to be true.

Shrouding an ideology in ‘God’ doesn’t make it any less of an ideology, nor any more ‘true’, especially if you haven’t even begun to prove the existence of that particular God. For those of us who don’t believe in a God, Islam is absolutely another man-made ideology, anchored to the moral landscape of 7th Century Arabia, and will remain so until ISMA, or others like them, convince us all – every human being on Earth – of its claim to perfect truth, with complete, irrefutable proof. Until then, it is just another ideology that seeks to restrict the liberty of those who don’t wish to be caged by its dictates.

Later in the article, Baharin says:

“Islam is a comprehensive system dealing with all spheres of life. It is a state and a religion or a government and a nation, a morality and power or mercy and justice, a culture and law or knowledge and jurisprudence, it is material and wealth or gain and prosperity, it is jihad and a call or army and a cause, and finally it is true belief and worship.”

– What a wonderful description of an oppressive ideology based on a man made belief that an individual might believe in, whilst others don’t. Fascism and Communism (short of claiming divinity) are much the same. The claim of divinity doesn’t add to its ‘truth’, it is simply another assumption. And for the individual believer, this is fine. Enjoy it. Live by it. You are entitled to frame your life according to your beliefs. But you still haven’t explained how this gives you an inherent right to interfere with the liberty of all those who don’t subscribe to your beliefs, or why other religious beliefs with adherents who claim truth also, don’t have a similar right to objectify and control your life. A faith may absolutely be a liberating guide for the one who believes only, but I do not permit my liberty to be placed under the control of a believer in one particular ideology that I don’t find liberating. And so, this paragraph can also be dismissed as irrelevant.

Let me be clear; if my right to be free from the cage of your religious beliefs is violated, I am – by definition – not free.

Whilst not understanding an ideology – twice now – and failing miserably to understand the difference between truth, and what they’d like to be truth, it seems ISMA also doesn’t understand sexuality:

“Islam has since the beginning of time prohibited not only illicit sexual relations and all that leads to them, but also sexual deviations known as LGBT. These perverted acts are a reversal of the natural order and a corruption of men’s and women’s sexuality and a crime against the rights of men and women.

The spread of these depraved acts in a society disrupts its natural life pattern and makes those who practise it slaves of their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals and decent manner of living.”

– It is getting somewhat tedious to keep having to point this out, but her claims on “decent morals” or “decent taste” or “decent manner of living” are also completely based on what she believes, ideologically crafted, and not at all reflected in reality, nor does she offer a reason why she believes her conception of “decent morals” and “decent taste” must be forced upon those whose tastes and moral compass does not align with hers. It is as if she believes herself to be some sort of God on Earth. There is a certain narcissism to religious demands for state power.

She firstly assumes a privileged position for the “values” of Islam (7th Century Arabian ‘values’ to the rest of us), in which we must concede that only Muslims – of one sect – get a distinct right to define “decent morals”, according to their faith alone, even if it conflicts entirely with reality. For example, Canada legalised same-sex marriage in 2005, and Canada seems to be doing just fine. Allah hasn’t burnt down Montreal. There is no social collapse. Children in happy, loving families are doing just great. It would seem that breaking down oppressive barriers, and freeing people rather than caging them, works. It is also the only justifiable position, because no one has yet been able to justify why we must cage anyone, according to that one person’s belief. Explaining the belief, or repeating the belief – as Baharin does countless times – isn’t justification. It’s just telling me what you believe, for which I don’t particularly care.

We know also from studies into same-sex parents adopting children, that the standard of living for the child is just as good, and in some cases better, than in heterosexual families. The religious argument predicated on heterosexual privilege and supremacy based solely on ancient myths, does not stand up to the most basic scrutiny. It is failing because it begins and ends at oppressive dogmatism unable to break free from ancient myths, rather than pragmatic, secular inquiry and an accumulation of knowledge. It is true that once we accept that we as humans are under no obligation to abide by the religious dictates of anybody else, nor are we to be punished if we do not fit the very narrow spectrum of what Baharin’s faith permits, we liberate inquiry, expression, we extend love and the freedom to be ourselves, we are given the full opportunity to be human without fear. If Baharin wishes to refer to this beautiful liberation as “slaves of our lusts”, I’m happy to embrace that label, because the opposite appears to be the horror of religious oppression.

The bizarre case she sets out for granting herself permission to harm the liberty of the LGBT community based on what she believes to be true – drowning in a sea of fallacies – is also not based on reality. As previously mentioned, it assumes a privileged position for heterosexuality, by curiously describing a particular sexuality as “normal” or “right”, whilst framing any sexuality that deviates from that absolute position as “preverted”. The religious are obsessed with the sex lives and love lives of others. Completely obsessed. Their hideous personalities are revealed when we see them use grotesque religiously inspired language that works to dehumanise a group of people, creates an environment of bigotry, in order to attempt to justify – in their minds at least – their own oppressive behavior.

The reason her position on sexuality is an ideological narrative framed by religious supremacists, is because it is entirely with odds with what we know about the nature of sexuality. Referring to a comment supposedly by the Prophet Muhammad (again, as if that matters) Baharin says:

“Fitrah here is defined as an inborn, natural predisposition which cannot change, which exists at birth in all human beings. It is not only a natural predisposition, but is also one which is inclined towards right action and submission to Allah, the one God.”

– Yet again, is just one person’s belief. It has no basis in the reality of evolutionary biology, or neurology, nor in any neonatal study. It is a claim that is assumed true, because the one making the claim says it’s true, because she believes it to be true, because an old book said so. It’d be nice to get through one paragraph of Baharin’s without being smothered by her attempts to frame flimsy and entirely wrong beliefs, as unquestionable fact.

So, with no single ideology present as a natural trait at birth (I know of no evolutionary biologists who have argued otherwise), it is enough to say that at birth, we are equal and we are at liberty. We have the liberty to think for ourselves, to believe whatever choose. We have to liberty to criticise without fear. No life inherently privileged above any other. No life inherently endowed with the right to impose its later learned religious beliefs upon any other life. Our liberty to pursue our own goals and our own happiness according to our own beliefs, to free inquiry and expression, to love according to our individual nature, to seek public office, to choose our leaders, without others interfering with that liberty, is a principle of freedom that must be upheld, protected by civil and secular rights, and must be the basis of any humane state. It is a principle completely alien to those who seek to make themselves Gods over humanity, whilst claiming a divine right from an unseen and unproven God as justification for taking yours and my liberty hostage.

Incidentally, whilst claiming we are “predisposed” to an ideology at birth is an absurdity created by the ideology itself and backed up by no science whatsoever, the spectrum of sexuality actually is determined at birth. Dr. Jerome Goldstein, Director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Center, says:

“Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, it is primarily neurobiological at birth.”

– Goldstein continues:

“Using volumetric studies, there have been findings of significant cerebral amygdala size differences between homosexual and heterosexual subjects. Sex dimorphic connections were found among homosexual participants in these studies.”

– Further, a wonderful in-depth study by Binbin Wang et al, found that allele types differed greatly between homosexual men and heterosexual men. A further study by Sven Bocklandt et al, found that mothers of gay sons, have higher rates of extreme skewing of X-Chromosome inactivation, than those without gay sons.

Another study – and more recently – showed that a section of the X Chromosome called Xq28 influenced sexuality. The same is true of an area of chromosome 8. The theory being that genes in the region of Xq28 – passed from mother to son, and linked to sexual orientation – make women who carry them far more fertile, hence surviving the harsh realities of natural selection. A further study links genetic material passed down on the X Chromosome, to both homosexuality, and the fertility of the female. Far from being “a reversal of the natural order” as Norzila Baharin so hideously puts it, the opposite is true; to oppress sexuality – as would be the case if she was arguing for the oppression of people with a certain hair colour – is the definition of an attempt to reverse nature, for the sake of appeasing the poison of a very oppressive religious ideology.

In fact, there is not one reputable scientific source that will in any way suggest that sexuality is merely a ‘behaviour’. Not one that will None. In fact, The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists released a statement to:

“…clarify that homsexuality is not a psychiatric disorder. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

– Further, Alfred Kinsey, the great biologist noted:

“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories… The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.”

– This fundamental fact of nature is only ever opposed by those who seek to harm others, by establishing privilege for their own faith. You will perhaps note that no extensive study on sexuality references the Qur’an, nor gives credit to the claim that we’re all born Muslim, and that we must apply oppressive ideologies to one sexuality, whilst granting privilege to another. For that hopeless distortion of nature, and reality, we require religion.

On a side note; whilst sexuality is a natural spectrum, what isn’t natural is claiming jurisdiction over the lives of others, because your tradition holds than a man heard an angel in a cave. It is always amusing to be lectured on ‘nature’ by those with the most unnatural beliefs.

She goes on to try to defend the National Fatwa Council – a group of massively uneducated homophobic fantasists and supremacists, who once announced that if women dress like men, they might turn gay. Seriously. Her defence of this moronic sort of statement, does not require a rebuttal. It is self evidently wrong.

“Such worship or submission does not entail loss of freedom, for freedom is to act as one’s true nature demands, that is, as one’s fitrah demands.”

– Not applicable to gay people, ex-muslims, and non-believers. Instead, they’ll just be referred to as unnatural. It’s a rather effective way for oppressive ideologies to dismiss those who do not fit its manifestly absurd dictates, rather than accept that their ideology might be a little flawed. If again, we go back to my new found God. Had I said:

“Such worship or submission [of my God – the one who believes all Muslims should be oppressed] does not entail loss of freedom, for freedom is to act as one’s true nature demands, that is, as one’s mustatatatata [my new meaningless word, similar to ‘fitrah’] demands.”

– I would expect Muslims to tell me that it is not in their nature to worship or submit to my God, and so I have no basis by which to oppress them. I would expect rationalists to explain that it is no one’s “nature” to submit to any unproven divine dictator, and that to suggest so is simply a means by which to assert ideological authority over the lives of others, indeed to claim ownership for my faith, the lives of the entire planet. They would be correct.

“Man is distinguished from the rest of the creation because he has been endowed with intellect and free will. This intellect enables him to discern right from wrong. He can use these faculties to complement his fitrah and please Allah or to be untrue to it and displease Allah. The choice is his.”

– Another one of those moment’s in which Norzila Baharin misunderstands nature. Whilst “pleasing Allah” may be “true” to her moral compass, it is the exact opposite to mine. Secondly, humanity was not ‘endowed’ or ‘distinguished’ from the rest of nature, in much the same way that birds cannot be said to be ‘endowed’ or ‘distinguished’ from the rest of nature due to their flight capability. We – like birds – are simply evolved as much as we need to be for the survival of the gene pool, in the environment that we exist. If ISMA wishes to contest this, they are welcome to submit a thesis for peer review. I absolutely welcome that.

It is also probable that morality has an evolutionary basis. We know that very basic moral traits can be viewed in our primate cousins; empathy, cooperation, conflict resolution are all traits evolved for the sake of species survival, essential for group species. Claiming that morality only came directly from your particular God (rather than mine, or from any other of the thousands of Gods whose rules have been adhered to), and that we must therefore anchor ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to what a tribe in the desert in 7th Century Arabia believed, despite all its obvious dangers, is going to take some rather groundbreaking evidence. I look forward to Norzila Baharin’s thesis on this.

She then discredits her own point with:

“Ibn Khaldun summed up the interplay of freedom and morality when he said, “Those, who of their own free will and without any compulsion, act according to the Quran and Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet), they are the ones wearing the turban of freedom.”

– This is yet another case of the premise being false. Ibn Khaldun isn’t summing up the interplay of freedom and morality, but is instead summing up the morality of freedom. It is true, that if someone of their own free will comes to a faith, and acts according to the dictates of that faith through their own choice, whilst not injuring the same freedom of choice for others, they themselves are free. The fact that there is no compulsion, is exactly the point. This has nothing to do with the dictates of the faith itself, it is the freedom to believe and worship without punishment, or “compulsion” that is highlighted. This is the exact opposite of what Norzila Baharin is proposing, when she insists that the freedom of others, should be constrained by the beliefs of her sect of her faith.

“So, lets be honest, you know it and I know it. Islam is the only religion of Allah, the only faith suitable for man because it is the religion of the fitrah or human predisposition. Its laws or Shariah are there to guide you and only laws which come from Allah are capable of guiding man towards righteousness and the divine path.”

– The first line, is one to instantly dismiss, on account of how tedious it’s becoming to explain the difference between individual belief, and truth. For me, there is no Allah. And so there is no “natural predisposition” to submit to Islamic laws. Further, Islam’s man-made laws have no jurisdiction over my life, no right to punish me for not following it, no right to interfere in my love life, or my sex life, no right to demand punishment if I adopt Islam and then leave Islam, no right to state control, no right to enact laws according to its dictates, and no right to silence criticism or satire of its ideology. I am permitted control of my life only.

It is perhaps worth paraphrasing Christopher Hitches; your religion is your toy only. You are entitled to play with your toy. You’re entitled to invite others to your house to play with your toy. You’re entitled to argue that your toy is the best toy of all the children’s toys! But don’t make me play with your toy, your toy is not something I wish anywhere near me, do not force children to play with your toy, and do not use your toy to hurt or injure those who don’t want to play with your toy. This was the point of my original article. A point that I repeatedly made. A point that seemingly danced in front of Norzila Baharin, wore a sign saying “I’m the point! Look at me!” and she still managed to completely miss it, as she spent an entire reply, arguing the case for why she should be allowed to harm others, for not playing with her toy.


The Markets of Islam.

March 12, 2014

Source:  Wikimedia Commons. Author: Adam Jones, Ph.D.  [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Adam Jones, Ph.D. [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

It would be fair to say that Islam benefits from incorporating earlier traditions and concepts from the cultures that surrounded the early Muslim community, at its conception. Indeed, the Qur’an includes several stories borrowed from earlier gnostic Christian texts, whilst certain practices and rituals borrowed from the Pagan culture from which Islam sprang. The general explanation is that the Muhammad of Islamic tradition was influenced by a mix of cultures and sects during his years as a trader. Islam most certainly benefited from incorporating surrounding traditions into its framework.

So with that being said, one must also ask, if Islam benefited from trade links with different cultures during its early years, what ideological benefits did those cultures obtain from Islam? I would argue that the development of capitalism owes much to Arab culture at the dawn of Islam.

According to Islamic tradition, from his early 20s to his death, Muhammad was a man of commerce and trade. This wasn’t unique to Muhammad. Mecca under the Quraysh thrived on markets – the spice trade of the 6th century helped hugely, as did the accumulation of interest later outlawed by Islam – mainly unregulated and often chaotic due to lack of strong political or judicial protections. Nonetheless, the location of Mecca and the importance of the Ka’bah for pilgrims, rendered it a great environment for trade. Especially true, because inter-tribal fighting was prohibited in this commercial centre, making it a safe place to do business, whilst worshipping. Mecca’s mix of both faith with the Ka’bah, and commerce with the market, is a mixture that Islam would appropriate and make its own.

Indeed, Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad himself married Khadija; an incredibly successful merchant famed for investing in trade delegations, including one in which Muhammad brought back twice the return she had expected on her investment. Muhammad understood how to make money, how to get along in business, and he understood investment opportunities when he saw them. By the time of his death, he was incredibly wealthy.

His business character aside, Muhammad’s economic pronouncements during his time in Medina provided a framework conducive for business and incentivising further trade in the region, whilst Europe languished in a hopeless feudal dark age. Hadith supposedly collected by Abu Dawud in book 013, Hadith Number 3067, gives us an example of early property rights:

“Narated By Sa’id ibn Zayd : The Prophet (pbuh) said: If anyone brings barren land into cultivation, it belongs to him, and the unjust vein has no right.”

– The trustworthiness of this hadith attributed to Muhammad is irrelevant. What is relevant, is that this Hadith was collected in the 9th century, and so it is clear that the concept of property rights over laboured land existed at that period of time in the Middle East. Property rights would be a concept progressed beautifully by the Leveller movement during the English civil war centuries later. It would also become a concept that Locke elaborated upon, and would later define the nature of capitalism and its criticisms.

As well as property rights, one particular Hadith also collected by Abu Dawud gives us a taste of Adam Smith’s later ‘invisible hand’ metaphor:

“one person came to the Prophet and requested him to fix prices in the market but he refused. Another man came and made the same request; the Prophet said it is Allah who pushes prices up or down, I do not want to face Him with a burden of injustice”

– Here, it is quite obvious that debate around interfering with market forces was being had, in the 9th century. For 9th Century Muslim Arabs, price rises and falls were a natural process, and that human interference was a ‘burden of injustice’. It isn’t a relatively new discussion. Later, in the 13th Century, the Hanbali scholar and author, Imam Shamsuddeen Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi wrote:

“Two facts can be derived from the hadith. First, the Prophet did not control prices despite people’s pressure on him which should suggest that it is disallowed. If it were lawful the Prophet would have yielded to their demand. The second point is that the Prophet equated price control with injustice (zulm) and injustice is forbidden. The goods whose price was sought to be controlled were property of a man (trader). And that man cannot be prevented from selling his goods at an agreed upon price by the two parties, i.e. the buyer and the seller”

“In a way the control of price may give rise to price rise. The traders from outside will not bring their goods in a place where they would be forced to sell them at a price against their wish. The local traders would hide the goods instead of selling. People would get less than their need, so they would offer a higher price to obtain the goods.
Both parties (sellers and buyers) would lose; the sellers because they were prevented from selling their goods, and the buyers because they were prevented from fulfilling their needs. So this act will be termed as forbidden”

– By the 13th century, Islamic scholars were debating the economic problems associated with price fixing, rather than just in relation to faith and Godly demands. For this, they were relying on hadith as their base. Again, whether Muhammad actually said what is claimed in hadith is irrelevant. What is relevant is that economic theory was being debated – in relation to faith, and justice – by at least the 13th century, with its origin in at least 9th century Arabia.

Relating to market pricing, and also in the 13th century, the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:

“If desire for goods increases while its availability decreases, its price rises. On the other hand, if availability of the good increases and the desire for it decreases, the price comes down.”

– We begin to see that concepts inherent to capitalism were being debated and practiced centuries prior to early capitalist structures on the Mediterranean coast in Europe.

Alongside the concept of property rights, and the nature of prices, we are also presented with the rules Muhammad supposedly laid down for the creation of the market in Medina. Al-Samhùdfs ‘History of Medina’, gives us a glimpse of that market:

‘Umar b. Shabba transmitted on the authority of ‘Atâ’ b. Yasár: When the Messenger of God wanted to establish for Medina a market, he came to the market of the Qaynuqa’, then he went to the market of Medina, stamped on it with his foot and declared: “This is your market, let its space not be diminished and let no tax be taken in it.”

– Long before the advent of Capitalism in Europe, the middle east – whether from Muhammad’s mouth or not – had a concept of individual property rights, free market prices, and incentives for business growth with the story of the tax-less market in Medinah. These were all concepts being discussed and tested in early Islamic Arabia. It is no surprise that Europe’s early capitalist centres – Venice especially – had strong trade links with the middle east, and were thus exposed to the Protestant work ethic and growing sense of individual freedom largely based in northern Protestant Europe, but also the frameworks developed for trade in Islamic societies centuries earlier.

Further, Abd al-Malik’s reign as Caliph – an indescribably important Caliph, responsible for much of what we know of Islam today, I wrote on here – saw the establishment of the dinar in previously independent currency areas, and thus began an era of monetary policy. Later came deficit financing, and early forms of savings and checking accounts. Modern principles of market economies, were developed within the markets of Islam.

This naturally leads to the question; how is it that the Middle East is now struggling economically, if the religion that it is based on seems just as suited, if not more so to capitalism than its Christian counterpart? Economic historian Angus Maddison points out that in 1000AD the Middle East’s global share of GDP was 10% to Europe’s 9%. But by 1800AD the Middle East’s share of GDP fell to 2%, with Europe’s rising to 22%. Life expectancy in the middle east is 8.5 years shorter than Europe, North America and East Asia. Indeed, in the 19th century global trade increased 64 fold, compared to the Ottomans, for whom it increased just 10 to 16 fold. What happened?

It is true that western economic development relied heavily on slavery at its foundation. But, so did the Ottoman Empire, and most Arab societies. At Istanbul in the early 1600s, one fifth of the population were slaves. According to Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, around 1.25 million Europeans were captured and enslaved as a result of the Barbary raids by largely Arab and Berber peoples. According to Britannica.com:

“Slaves were owned in all Islamic societies, both sedentary and nomadic, ranging from Arabia in the centre to North Africa in the west and to what is now Pakistan and Indonesia in the east. Some Islamic states, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, and the Sokoto caliphate, must be termed slave societies because slaves there were very important numerically as well as a focus of the polities’ energies.”

“Approximately 18 million Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905.”

– Muslims were imperialist too. Arab towns and ports involved in the slave trade included Zabīd in Yemen, Muscat in Oman, and Aden in Yemen. Indeed, as late as 1963 the population of Saudi Arabia included around 300,000 slaves. Slavery also helped to build the power of the Chinese economy. Korea enslaved people. Slaves existed in India. And so, we must look to other sources for information why the Arab world started to decline economically.

Several theories persist – western imperialism being the most often suggested – though I am inclined to accept Timur Kuran’s argument in his wonderful book: “The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East“. In it, Kuran argues that whilst this early form of Islamic proto-capitalism benefited early Muslims immensely for centuries following Muhammad’s death – the system was far more advanced than at the same point in time in Europe – it later became anchored to very dogmatic faith-based restrictions from Islamic jurisprudence of the middle ages that simply went unchallenged. And so as gradual liberation and evolution of market forces from state power in Europe – ironically, utilising methods cultivated by Arabs – gave the west a steady advantage, Islamic societies in the middle east – despite having clear advantages through past innovations – began to stagnate and fall behind due to a failure to modernise and utilise productive resources.

Kuran points to Islamic law governing business partnerships and inheritance for two examples of the more dogmatic ideological approach Islamic societies enforced through institutions. Kuran does not suggest that Islam itself is incompatible with modern liberal economies, simply that institutions developed – some much later – that severely restricted growth, and that those structures remained unchallenged. Whilst those laws and institutions had their benefits originally – they were particularly egalitarian whilst at the same time promoting innovative commerce and sophisticated partnerships for the time – they later began to hold back innovation with their failure to modernise, whilst Europe was experimenting with far more complex business frameworks.

Kuran notes that during the middle ages, Islamic jurisprudence decreed that business partnerships automatically disbanded the moment a partner died, regardless of how well that venture was doing. Kuran says:

“Active partners carried full liability. Also, an Islamic partnership lacked entity shielding: any partner could force its dissolution unilaterally, and its assets were exposed to demands from third parties. The death of a partner terminated the partnership automatically, giving heirs an immediate claim on a share of the assets; all surviving members incurred costs in the process of settlements. Moreover, the number of heirs could be large, because Islam’s inheritance law assigns mandatory shares to designated relatives of the decedent.”

– This meant that partnerships lasted very little time, were painfully insufficient and institutionally restricted from long term growth. There was just no framework for the development of modern, long lasting businesses and corporations that emerged in the west. This structure in the Middle East remained largely untouched right up until the 19th Century.

It must be said that this is a very quick summary of Kuran’s book. He elaborates and articulates the point far better than I ever could. I would strongly recommend getting a copy for a deeper explanation of the connection between Islamic jurisprudence in the middle ages, and the economic structures built around it.

The west’s enlightenment era philosophers on both social and economic theory – like Locke and Smith – seemingly took ideas already long in circulation – like property rights – developed them further, and structured a wonderful concept of individual civil and economic rights from that base. It took two revolutions in France and the US to begin that huge social and economic transformation. This was the key to the explosion of economic growth in Europe and the west. The separation of church and state, liberation of market forces, secular democratic protections, gender, race, and sexuality equality, and the limited power of the state over the rights and freedoms of the individual combined to give western economies far more room to innovate and grow. Secular democratic institutions have the remarkable quality of constantly reviewing social issues and updating accordingly; a quality lacking when a state and economy are under the control of one prevailing ideology.

As some largely Islamic countries now begin to embrace those modern concepts, invest in infrastructure, and liberalise socially and economically – Tunisia is a good example – I have no doubt that it will unleash innovation and creativity on a grand scale again, benefiting the entire planet.

It is easy in the west for us to overlook the contribution of Arab Muslim theorists throughout the ages on the development of structures we now take for granted. Many Arab economic theorists were centuries ahead of their European counterparts. Equally, it seems just as easy for Arab Muslims – particularly Islamists – to dismiss the developments – both socially and economically – since the days of the Caliphates, as a product of the big evil imperial west existing only to conquer ‘Muslim lands’. I would argue that there needs to be a systematic change to the prevailing narrative in so much as it currently seems to place notions of equal rights, secularism, and market liberalisation as ‘western values’ rather than universal. This naturally then leads to both Muslims and non-Muslims extolling the equally as misguided presumption that Islam itself is incapable of modernising and liberalising. It is a defensive reaction from both sides. This needs to be addressed, because it seems to me that equal protections and individual liberties manifested as free expression, the right to worship according to one’s own personal conscience, to associate, to trade, to love, and to pursue happiness regardless of gender, race, belief, or sexuality without oppression from any exclusive ideological principles, are universal principles that benefit all.


Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013

THISLAND JOHN BIRCH

The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

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– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

TreasonFlyer.jpg.CROP.original-original
– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.


The Liberty of Balochistan.

October 13, 2013

In his infamous reply to Edmund Burke’s essay on the how he believed the English had no right to overthrow a Monarchy – based on Parliament passing an Act in 1688 that insisted the English submit themselves to the Monarch ‘forever’ – Thomas Paine argued that no one generation has the right to tie any other generation to its laws and declarations, and that:

“Every age and every generation must be free to act for itself in all cases, as the ages and generations that preceded it.”

– It is important when considering the dream of freedom of a community in south west Pakistan, who never wished and never submitted to Pakistan rule, nor to a religious order that wishes to control it, to remember the words of Thomas Paine.

On August 14th Pakistan comes alive with celebrations of their national Independence Day. Parties are held, streets are filled with revellers, pride in the National flag and the struggle for independence is something to behold and echoes in Pakistani communities across the World. But on the same day, on August 14th every year, the Baloch people of south western Pakistan mourn “Black Day”; a day they consider the be the moment their region was occupied by an unwelcome colonial Pakistan.

On August 4th, 1947, ten days before the creation of Pakistan, an agreement was signed between Britain, Balochistan leaders, and Pakistan, that declared Balochistan a sovereign state. On the 12th, Balochistan was declared independent, two days before Pakistan. It was recognised that its people were culturally very different from their Pakistani neighbours to the east and Iranian neighbours to the west, and so a natural right to independence and self determination was carved out

After the creation of Pakistan on August 14th, 1947, the independent Baloch people – who speak their own language, have their own customs, are incredibly pluralist and secular, and are the oldest settlers in that particular region – were suddenly given a choice progressed by Lord Mountbatten and influenced by Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India; either join Pakistan, or India. No independence. This, despite the fact that the Parliament of Balochistan of the time voted against a merger and for their own declaration of independence. That vote was disregarded, and Balochistan soon – on the insistence of the Khan – became a province of Pakistan. And just like that, every future Baloch generation had their right to independence and self determination signed away to a colonial Pakistan. Predictably, the region has been unstable ever since, and recently has become the centre of a violent Pakistan backlash against independence movements, and Islamists seeking to gain an advantage.

In 2006, The New York Times noted:

“One visit makes it clear that, despite official denials, the government is waging a full-scale military campaign here.”

– And they’re not wrong. Independence movements have been violently crushed by Pakistan over the decades following the occupation. In 1973, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan ordered the dismissal of the entire provincial governments of Balochistan and soon after, martial law was imposed. What followed was a Baloch uprising against the Pakistani regime resulting in the deaths 5000 Baloch fighters and countless civilians. Very little has changed since the 1970s. But the rise of Islamist groups in the area makes the situation more dangerous than ever.

But it is the Pakistan security forces that are the most violent in the region. The Daily Tawar – a newspaper in Balochistan – has reported receiving threats from the security forces for the paper’s pro-independence stance, and several of its reporters have been murdered.

Haji Mohammad Anwar Baloch, a senior member of the Baloch Republican Party, fled Pakistan for Switzerland after his office was raided, and his son – who worked as a volunteer teacher – kidnapped by security forces. His son’s body was later found in Karachi, having shown wounds consistent with being tortured with an electric drill. Countless bodies with similar wounds, have been discovered at the same location in Karachi.

In the last decade, anyone suspected of being a part of Baloch independence movements have been rounded up, thrown into white vans, only to be discovered viciously tortured, murdered, and dumped by the side of roads. Pakistani security forces are relentless and often conduct raids out in the open; they kidnap students, lawyers, doctors, or anyone suspected of ties to Baloch Nationalist movements, and those people seldom turn up alive. One 22 year old student told the Guardian:

“We provide moral and political support to the fighters. We are making people aware. When they are aware, they act.”

– Students make up about one-third of all kidnap, torture, murder, dump victims of the Pakistani armed forces. The unbearable torture is designed to break any resistance to Pakistan’s control over the region. In the past ten years, thousands have disappeared this way.

Similarly, rebel groups are accused of campaigns of murder, with civilian settlers from Punjab murdered in an attempt to deter them from settling in the region. In 2011, the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (one of whom’s main leader is an ethnic Balochi named Dawood Badini – the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad) claimed responsibility for the Mastung bus shooting in which 26 innocent people were gunned down. Their desire is a 7th Century-style Caliphate enforced on a secular, and pluralist people. This is imperialism, and cannot be described as anything else.

Balochistan is an economic and strategic goldmine for Pakistan. And so freedom for Balochistan isn’t likely to come about without active resistance to the regime in Pakistan. The people matter little. The copper, oil and natural gas is their main concern, this is evident because despite the region being rich in natural resources, it remains deep in poverty. In 2005, a report into areas of Pakistan with populations living in a high degree of deprivation shows Punjab region 28% living in a high degree of deprivation, Sindh on 35% and Balochistan on 91%. It is held in poverty whilst its natural wealth is exploited, and its people lacking basic welfare, as well as basic rights. The Pakistan security forces do this, whilst – according to the London School of Economics among others – providing funds and training to a Balochistan-based military group; Quetta Shura… the Taliban.

Amidst the chaotic nature of the conflict, is an independence movement that desires not only independence for Balochistan, but secular, democratic citizenship rights for all who live there. It is a beacon of hope in a region torn apart by dreams of violent imperialism. It is a movement engaged in conflict not just against the Pakistani government, but against a rising violent Islamist movement within the region. The Baloch people are not religious conservatives by nature, and have long been secular and very pluralistic in their cultural structure. It is a distinctive culture – though split into many tribes – that has survived for centuries, with even the dress sense traced back hundreds of years. The fight for independence and the preserving of their ancient cultural heritage and way of life is fought by both Baloch men and women. The Pakistan Development Fund interviewed the ‘Women of Balochistan’ group fighting for their independence. The group said:

“Women are part of Baloch society, so their demands are no different than demands of the rest of the Baloch people. Baloch women in the past have also taken part in the liberation struggle in one way or other. This time as the struggle is more organised and expanded in all four corners of Balochistan…the involvement of women is also more obvious. Baloch women demands have always been education for women, equal rights and status in society.”

“Baloch are quite tolerant and secular. We believe that religion should be separated and kept personal. It should not be mixed with politics.”

– A feminist movement, dedicated to secularism, and equal rights, is a movement that should have the full support of nations across the World that enjoy similar protections and standards. Especially given that women in Balochistan are increasingly falling victim to acid attacks by Islamic extremists who seek to impose a tough Theocratic, Patriarchal system upon the female population they consider to be inferior. At the moment it seems the plight of those pursuing liberty in Balochistan goes largely unnoticed throughout the rest of the World.

The Chief Minister of Balochistan, Abdul Malik Baloch – of the National Party – is spearheading the fight for a secular, democrat, liberal Balochistan. He echoes the thoughts and sentiments of the majority of Baloch people whose wish is for a secular Balochistan, and who fear the rise of Islamism in the region, as much as they disapprove of Pakistan. Christian Congress leader in Pakistan, Dr. Nazir Bhatti said of the radical Islamist group:

“Baloch political giants like the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the late Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, through their secular politics had kept the religious extremists out of the Baloch political landscape. The Jama’at-ud-Da’wah will destroy the politics and history of Balochistan.”

– There is a real fear that Islamism could pose the biggest threat to the Baloch way of life and culture that has endured happily for centuries.

The promise – and the fundamental issue – is that of a historically secular and democratic population that has managed to remain so, despite attempts by Pakistan to destroy their heritage and all resistance, and attacks by Islamists to impose a radical religious agenda. For a secular democratic state to ever emerge as an independent Balochistan, would of course prove to be a counter in a region that is increasingly, and dangerously Theocratic & oppressive. There is no justifiable reason for Balochistan to be any part of a Pakistan that the people do not feel their culture and heritage belong to, nor overpowered and subdued by an Islamist onslaught that bears little resemblance to the lives of the Baloch people.

Liberty for Balochistan can only be secured by insisting upon a secular, and democratic framework. The ethnically Baloch people are not the only people in Balochistan, and those from other ethnic groups should be afforded equal political and social rights under the law. Liberty for Balochistan also requires control of its own resources. And so to my mind, I see no reason why the Baloch people in 2013 are under any obligation to respect the annexation of their homes 65 years ago to a state power that none of them wanted to submit to. The Baloch people have a far stronger claim to the right of independence, self determination and fundamental political and social rights than Pakistan has to controlling the region for itself.

On the 4th July 2006, a blogger for freedom in Balochistan wrote:

When Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death”, he wanted independence and liberty of a country that did not yet exist. Your Founding Fathers tried to do something that no colonial people had ever achieved before – to break away from the mother country and create their own country. They were willing to risk everything to achieve it. They were not concerned with what was going to happen in the long haul.

But, in our case, Balochistan was a sovereign country until Iran and Pakistan took away our freedom. Through brute force, the Iranian and Pakistani governments suppressed the aspirations of the Baloch people to liberate Balochistan. Our sense of nationhood was systematically crushed. But, the seed of freedom remained in our hearts. Today, that seed has sprouted and we have risen again to challenge the occupation of Balochistan by Iran and Pakistan. We want liberty or give us death, and we are willing to risk everything to achieve the independence of Balochistan.

– I find it increasingly difficult to argue with his point. We in the UK, Europe, and the US enjoy the protections of laws and constitutional frameworks that our ancestors fought centuries ago for the same liberty and rights that the people of Balochistan now wish for themselves. Principle, and consistency dictate that they must have our support in that fight for the victory and implementation of shared values and goals that we know to be the height of human brilliance.


The Throne of King Cantor: How House Republicans changed the rules.

October 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mjw23.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mjw23.

It seems democracy isn’t an obstacle, the Constitution isn’t an obstacle, the judiciary isn’t an obstacle, and now House rules aren’t an obstacle to the Tea Party juggernaut steaming its way across the American political landscape, flattening everything its path.

As we’re all aware, the Bill for a Continuing Resolution complete with defunding Obamacare attached to it passed the House, and was subsequently rejected by the Senate, thus ending up back at the House on the evening of September 30th. At this point, under House procedures, any member of the House can bring forward a vote on the Senate’s amended Bill in order to end the impasse:

“When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.”

– This exists to prevent the minority extorting the majority with threat of shutdown, for policy they weren’t able to achieve through regular democratic process.

But that rule was soon to change. Late on September 30th – with only two hours remaining until the government shut down began – an Amendment was quickly passed – H.J. Res. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution – by House Republicans, to the procedural rules of the House. The Amendment ensures:

“Section 2 of the rule provides that any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to H.J. Res. 59 may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

– Meaning that the only person who can now bring a vote to the House floor on a clean resolution during an impasse in Congress, is Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor has assumed powers traditionally assigned to all members of the House. They have all lost a right that has guaranteed to them, and transferred to the Republican Minority Leader. This not only disenfranchises House Democrats, it does so for moderate House Republicans too. It is as if Tea Party House Republicans have voted to bestow ’emergency’ powers on the Majority leader, to ensure continued shutdown.

When pressed on this in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8th District), the Speaker pro tempore didn’t seem to want to answer:

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, under the regular order of the House, would any Member of the House, including myself, be able to call up a motion to immediately send the CR to fund the government to the President of the United States, to immediately call up and have a vote on that?”
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a hypothetical.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, the rule that has now been placed over the House in substitute for the standing rules of the House gives only the majority leader or his designee the ability to move up and ask for a vote on the clean Senate bill that would go to the White House; is that correct?
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a political characterization and will state again: Under section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, it seems pretty clear that we have taken the normal rules of the House, Mr. Speaker, and substitute in its place a provision that says, ‘only the Republican leader can make a decision’…”
Speaker: “The gentleman has not stated a proper parliamentary inquiry.”

– Van Hollen is quite right, House Republicans have wilfully rigged House rules to prevent anyone from opening the government, other than the Majority Leader. House Republicans have vested more power over the running of the US Government in Eric Cantor, than the President, the public, the entire legislature, and the judiciary.

So, since 2010 Republicans have been beating the drum of shutdown to win major policy concessions that they were not able to win electorally. Since early 2013 at the very least, a memo circulates from Freedom Works, signed by major Tea Party donors that reads:

“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– And when that plot was doomed to fail due to the lack of moderate Republican support in the House for such a dangerous tactic, the extreme wing of the Republican Party resorted to changing the rules of the democracy that they live, in order to force a shutdown that would have been prevented under regular House rules.

It is quite horrifying the lengths the far right of the Republican Party are willing to go to circumvent the democratic process when it provides results that they don’t like. For Republicans, the American people, the ballot box, and the law of the land, are simply obstacles that the Elephant has every right to trample.


It used to be Patriotism, but now “It’s just my opinion” is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

October 8, 2011

Debate is perhaps the most intrinsically key ingredient of social progression that humanity is blessed with. Rationality is a tool that we have evolved beyond that of any other creature on the planet. We should use it wisely and we should be well informed before we jump to conclusions, especially if we have influence upon others.

I am increasingly finding myself developing opinions that put me at odds with a lot of people. On the Iraq war, I followed the Tariq Ali/Noam Chomsky anti-American stance to every murky corner that it lurked. Vast oil conspiracies, dealings with the Bin Laden family, America as an imperial aggressor against opponents that are just pawns. I still hold many of those views, but they become entwined the more complex certain situations seem to become the more scholars and writers you digest. With Iraq, I soon became very pro-war. I am still pro-war. I am certain that had we listened to the hysterical anti-war left for the past fifty years, the World would not be in a better place. Milosovich would have ethnically cleansed Bosnia, Saddam would be torturing and killing his way across the marshlands of southern Iraq whilst the Kurds similarly are systematically abused. The depth of public opinion seems to be focused more on what is popular to believe, than what is actually going on. It is popular to believe that Bush invaded Iraq for oil. It is popular to believe that immigration is an intense problem that destroys livelihoods of “natives”. It is popular to believe we must deal with the Nation’s debt immediately and that the Welfare State is a great evil. The truth is irrelevant to people who hold and perpetuate these opinions.

Sky News, one of the two key news channels, instead of engaging in thoughtful debate and new and provocative ideas, instead chooses to spend its time focusing a camera on Michael Jackson’s doctor. How uneasy this makes me feel. It’s not a fucking reality TV show. The sensationalism of the opening titles; “THE JACKSON TRIAL! ONLY ON SKY NEWS” as if it’s a movie. What a horrible development.

The weak level of debate, and the social cynicism that accompanies it, inevitably seeps into the political sphere and the democratic process, with debate at its core, becomes a sad reflection of the level of debate that can only be described as manically ill-informed populism. This weak, Labour went on the offensive, attacking the Tories because of who the Defence Secretary is friends with. That is essentially the story. It is a scandal that might last a week, if we’re lucky. It is essentially meaningless. It takes the heat off the fact that the official opposition; Labour, has offered no opposition to the dangerous moves the Coalition government has taken over the past 18 months. As the Governor of the Bank of England said last week, this could be the biggest economic crises Britain has ever faced. Our growth projection has been cut again, output has fallen again, unemployment is rising still, and Neoliberalism has hit such a crises that even the middle classes – whom the political class has attempted to win over for the past thirty years – cannot afford to pay their electricity bills any more. Why aren’t Labour fighting this? why are they focusing on why the Defence Secretary hangs around with? The dying level of debate in this country, and across the World, will only get deeper and more depressing, if the House of Lords is democratised. We should have a chamber of experts, to debate the issues between the most qualified and most informed. This serves two purposes; one.. it is quite obvious that humanity, on an individual level, cannot possibly know everything. This goes for politicians. It is counterproductive for progressivism for an MP like Blunkett to have been at the Home Office, Work and Pensions, and Education. Three different specialties cannot be perfected by one career politician. We need experts. Two… the point of this blog; the raising of the level of debate. Democracy is great, if you have all the information. Quite clearly, we don’t. A debate in the Commons on stem cell research is useless, if there are no experts to provide the information we all need. If we are to democratise the House of Lords, then we must still maintain a level of expertise in our political sphere. A Chamber of experts is my proposition.

I’m pretty sure we can’t rely on Labour to run a successful opposition campaign. They have become too suited, and too “centrist” (another word for ‘right winged’).
Where is the fight against referring to anyone with a supreme amount of money as “job creators”? – If anything we’ve learned that demand creates jobs, not the super rich.
Where is the passion in fighting NHS reform? I hear from doctors and the BMA and others in the profession all the time; yet nothing from the official opposition.
Where is the promise to really hit the banks?
I am bored of politicians treading a careful centre ground. It failed. Whilst the Country burns, Labour just like to say “Bad Tories”. Well, it isn’t good enough. The real opposition comes from the masses, who have had to listen and endure politicians across the spectrum, tell us that we must protect the “job creators”, that the “tough decisions needing to be taken” are the ones that affect those without great wealth only.
It is too much.
All they are doing, is applying a very weakly tied bandage to a system that didn’t work in the first place.
And they all do it, because they’re all funded by the very people they are all now protecting.
And then, they all have the fucking nerve to think that we should accept reform of Parliament, be proposed and implemented…. by Parliament.
We shouldn’t trust politicians, or the very wealthy, with a pair of scissors, let alone the entire World.

Don’t vote. It is the best way to cast a vote.

One of my favourite topics to debate is religion and its power over mankind. As you are all aware, I despise organised religion. Now, this doesn’t mean I despise religious individuals. I genuinely do not care what you believe, or where you choose to believe it. I do not submit to the view that England is a Christian nation. Move to England, believe what you like. I simply despise the concept of religion and the hold it has had over humanity for far too long.

Today, a Facebook friend of mine wrote on her wall, that Richard Dawkins is a Fascist and a Cunt. She is a psuedo-intellectual, who absolutely hates being brought up on anything she says. She expects any sort of provocative statement to be overlooked, and if you dare question her about the ill-informed, manically provocative statement, she’ll take a very passive aggressive stance and try to paint you as a bully, for questioning her. These people are everywhere. They are the Fox News brigade. They exist on the Right and the Left. The EDL is very similar. They make very provocative statements, find themselves unable to back it up because, frankly, their statements are usually ill-informed and dangerous, and then just blame the media for picking on them. They perpetuate a declining level of debate. Today, I questioned why Dawkins is a fascist? I asked if she’d read The Selfish Gene, and then read Fascist literature and to point out where the similarities lie. I pointed out that the true fascists belong almost entirely to those claiming to be fighting a religious cause. That the Abrahamic traditions themselves, are based entirely on Fascists principles. To illustrate this point, I will refer, for lack of a better source, to wikipedia entry on Fascism:

Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood.[3] To achieve this, fascists purge forces, ideas, people, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration.

– You could replace the word “fascists” in that description, with “Islamic/Christian/Jewish fundamentalists” and replace “nation” with “religion”, and it’d make the same point, and be absolutely accurate in doing so. The very basis of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, is exclusive, and around 2000 years ‘purging’ any contrary ideas, people, and systems that it simply didn’t like. Now, it is losing the power that it once had, but not for use of trying. My point had at least an attempt at rational thought, lodged firmly into it.
She said I was being a bully and aggressive and refused to actually discuss the point I made. I then pointed out that she’d still not answered my original point, to which she’d said “It’s just my opinion!”.

It used to be Patriotism, but now I’d say “It’s just my opinion” is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Now, it might just be me. Perhaps i’m the awful one who just doesn’t get it. But I am CERTAIN this is passive aggressive behaviour at its very worst. Putrid and vicious on the surface, but just a way to worm her way out of actually answering my original point. Here is the conversation, after the original argument:
Her:

One of my friends has just unfriended me based on what he read on that thread. So thank you for that. If this is not indicative of how damaging your unprovoked attacks can be I don’t know what is. I now have a tearful man on the phone saying he can’t bear to me on my list because of the unprovoked abuse it puts in his newsfeed and I don’t have sensible answer for him.

I’m really, really disappointed in you. Not just in the way you launched into me, but in the way you are now trying to accuse me of all sorts of things when all I did was express a view. You have me so wrong I don’t even know where to start. You’re way too suspicious. I’m not as complicated as you seem to think. Maybe you have been surrounded by headworkers, and that’s what has given you such a low opinion of people, but I’m not one of them. I speak, then I move on. Nothing more sinister than that. All I have done is be honest about how I feel.

I am baffled as to why you see such nefariousness in my comments. I’m not trying to occupy moral high grounds or anything else, I’m just speaking from the heart as I always do.

I’m not going to lie, I was just letting this all go over my head until Alan got upset. Now I’m going to make my excuses and head off out to cry to myself. I can’t believe your attack has cost ME a fiend. I’m devastated. I think a lot of Alan.

Please just show some respect? Whether you agree or not, whether you think people are idiots or not, it isn’t your place to tell people how to think or to make sarcastic, bombastic remarks to them for not sharing a view you hold.

I have never and will never be personally offensive to you for not agreeing with me. That doesn’t mean my passion is less ardent than yours, it just means I have been surrounded by aggressive, dogmatic people all my life and now most of them are dead I am enjoying the most peaceful existence I never dared ream about. I’m not going to be drawn in to petty rows online, because trust me, nothing you or anyone else here could say could ever come close to making me feel the way people in my ‘previous; life have.

I don’t know what your motivation is for the aggression and personal remarks – and you may say it isn’t intentional, but clearly it is coming across that way to have cost me a dear friend – but please be assured, if the intention is to pull me into a row I don’t want to have, you will never win. I don’t do bad feeling anymore. I’ve had too much of it than I know what to do with. I refuse to fight with people needlessly.

That’s it. That’s my last word. If you wish to believe your own words and think me some kind of warped moral crusader, then so be it. I can’t and won’t tell people how to think. But I’m certainly not going to fall out with anyone on account of a difference of opinion, and I am certainly not going to use my intellect as a weapon the way you have because that is ugly, unnecessary and not part of my arsenal.

This is not the life I live anymore and that extends as far as not allowing myself to have petty ego wars online.

I’m just sad that this has made me lose a certain respect I had for you.

Enjoy your weekend
D

– Now, to me, this starts first with a very passive aggressive paragraph about how I am responsible for the loss of a friend. The guy she refers to, I have never spoken to, I have never seen, I have never encountered in any way. To project this on to me, for simply trying to debate (honestly, I know when I’m being a bit aggressive in the way I argue, and for me, this was very very mild, to the point of me being actually quite half arsed in what I was saying. There was nothing vicious… though obviously, you only have my word on this), is ludicrous. To then tell me she’s “very very disappointed”, as if i’m a 15 year old being spoken to by my mother, is not just passive aggressive, it is condescending and patronising. She then plays the victim card brilliantly. Notice though, still not addressing my original point.

My response:

” If this is not indicative of how damaging your unprovoked attacks can be I don’t know what is. I now have a tearful man on the phone saying he can’t bear to me on my list because of the unprovoked abuse it puts in his newsfeed and I don’t have sensible answer for him.”
– I’m sorry but that is beyond pathetic. You are again taking a very passive aggressive stance.
You cannot sit and claim to be attacked with no provocation, when your initial statement was one of abuse. I simply asked you to quantify your reasoning. Which, you still haven’t done.

I am absolutely sick to death of very very passive aggressive people who publish controversial statements, and then backtrack and refuse to answer for them. The ones who can’t back it up. It is damaging to debate. It is weak minded and it is what leads to dangerous ideas; the idiots who think Bush is responsible for 9/11, the idiots who think Blair should be tried for war crimes, who then get challenged on their bullshit and hide behind “omg, you’re bullying me, it’s just my opinion”. Well it’s too much now. It has to stop because it is pseudo-intellectual bullshit that perpetuates false perceptions.
I genuinely do not care what your opinion of someone like Dawkins is. But if you honestly think you’ve taken a moral high ground, by referring to someone as a cunt and a fascist, and then just blatantly ignoring all arguments to the contrary, AND THEN subtly claiming my points were very EDL like. How is that not an attack on me? I think nationalism is just vicious and vile and insulting as a concept created by humanity, as religion. The people who use EDL tactics are the ones who make outrageous and abusive initial claims, and then refuse to back them up, mainly because they can’t.
This is not what I did. What I did initially was ask you why Dawkins is a Fascist. I asked you to provide me with evidence, to maybe read the Selfish Gene and then read Fascist literature and tell me where the similarities lie. A perfectly reasonable expectation, given the level of abuse and the vicious nature of your original statement. You cannot say irrational and vicious things, and just expect everyone to click “like”.
I refuse to be attacked, with the usual line of attack, which you’ve used, which is simply “I’m so disappointed in you, I thought you were intelligent blah blah …. why aren’t you as great as me?” It is patronising and it is condescending. I will ALWAYS challenge opinions I find to be shockingly irrational, if those opinions are vicious in nature, be it religious, nationalist or any other. There are certainly times I find Dawkins to be overly provocative. But he in no way deserves the title “Fascist”. But if you can substantiate why he’s a Fascist that would be great. I am STILL waiting for your logic.

“I don’t know what your motivation is for the aggression and personal remarks – and you may say it isn’t intentional, but clearly it is coming across that way to have cost me a dear friend – but please be assured, if the intention is to pull me into a row I don’t want to have, you will never win.”
– I am not going to let you blame me for you losing a friend. I actually resent that accusation, and if I were you, I’d tell him to man up, he doesn’t know me, he has never spoken to me, and if he is offended by a debate that absolutely doesn’t involve him, he needs a serious chat with himself. I wont take responsibility, nor apologise for that. And the fact that you’ve tried to pin that on me, is actually an utter disgrace.
It is not aggression. You’re the one who started the entire thing by referring to a man as a cunt and a Fascist. Where I come from, that’s a pretty aggressive line to take. My line is simply; I cannot tolerate stupidity, and I cannot tolerate those who try to worm their way out of a debate (which I started, without being aggressive, I merely asked for your logic) by either trying to paint the other person, as passively aggressive as possible, as some sort of nut job (the anti-war left are great at this tactic, as are the Tories), and then refuse to answer all questions that may compromise their dogmatic bullshit, with “omg it’s just my opinion”. The conversation we had, was basically:
“This man is a fascist and a cunt”
“Explain what you mean….”
“OMG YOU’RE A BULLY, IT’S JUST MY OPINION. YOU’RE LIKE THE EDL.”
What you did, constantly, was say just how much you hate aggression, and then continue to be as passive aggressive as possible. I asked my girlfriend to make sure it wasn’t just me, and she’s in agreement with me. Though she did note that I can come across as a bit intimidating during debates (a flaw I accept – though I still try to present a reasoned argument). My only expectation, is if someone makes a controversial and provocative claim, they should be able to logically back it up, if they can’t, they are simply perpetuating weak minded, useless debate, and that is wrong.

Whether you admit it or not, and whether you want to project a certain image from your past onto me or not, you started this with an aggressive and provocative statement. To claim you hate aggression and provocation is unbelievably hypocritical. My main problem, is the level of debate. The Country seems to be talking about some bloke the Defence Secretary walked through the Defence Department once. And i’m sat here thinking, who gives a fuck? Why is that even important? Why aren’t we all fighting against the destruction of the health service? Likewise, with the anti-atheist thing, what I meant by that is, you did what a lot of liberals do, and I’m starting to despise. They attack people like Dawkins or Hitchens as fascists or dogmatic blah blah, but they absolutely never have a bad word to say about organised religion. As I said in my first post on your page, Dawkins has never written a book that calls for the torture, rape and murder of non-believers. To say Dawkins is inherently fascist, but to ignore the basis of most organised religions; fear and death, is a horribly simplistic liberal technique that is beyond abhorrent. I do not feel me taking this stance is EDL-like. I am an Atheist, an out-spoken Atheist, it is a subject I take great interest in, I studied Theology, I have read the Koran on numerous occassions, I have read the Bible, I have studied Philosophy from Socrates to Sartre. And so I resent being compared to a bunch of racists who just don’t like Islam because people with slightly darker skin are its main followers. If you subtly suggesting I am using EDL tactics, isn’t passive aggressive, I don’t know what is.

“I’m just sad that this has made me lose a certain respect I had for you.”
– Ditto. Especially for accusing me of making you lose a friend. Again, disgusting.

– I don’t think I was overly aggressive or abusive, or intolerant in anything I just said. And so it goes…
Her:

Turn it in, Jamie – you’re just another sad, intolerant militant and everyone that witnessed the way you spoke to me today saw it.

The friend and I have talked it out and we’re fine, stronger than ever thanks to your wild and paranoid accusations, so despite your best efforts you have failed to make a dent in my day.

Go and wiled your quasi-intellect like a weapon over someone who can’t see through your barely concealed hate.

I’m actually laughing now reading your desperate attempts to make me appear to be someone I am clearly not. All you did was exhaust every bit of boring rhetoric in your arsenal. You’re far too arrogant to see your mistakes, because you have genuinely convinced yourself that I’m being ‘passive-aggressive’, which I find hilarious – anyone that knows anything at all about me and the way I operate knows that I have never and will never be that person; if I have a point to make, and I’m not getting through, I’m AGGRESSIVE aggressive.

Of course, you will write this off as whichever adjective you haven’t already overused today but I couldn’t care less. I pity you; you’re the worst kind of extremist. Dishonest, pompous and self-important. You will gradually alienate every person in your life until you are left with a handful of fellow dogmatics and the few of you will spend the rest of your days blowing smoke up each other’s arses. I can’t think of anything sadder. In the meantime, I shall be embracing the people in my life in spite of our differences, and will have a richer, happier life experience as a result.

I only hope that poor girl of yours realises just what a hypocrite you are before she leaves her life behind for you.

Enjoy thinking up warped reasons I have blocked you. I know that you know as well as I do that I simply can’t be bothered to entertain toxic people.

– My personal favourites:
“I have never and will never be personally offensive to you for not agreeing with me. ”

Five minutes later:
” you’re just another sad, intolerant militant”
” I pity you; you’re the worst kind of extremist.”
“I only hope that poor girl of yours realises just what a hypocrite you are before she leaves her life behind for you.”

Brilliant.
The joyful irony of calling me aggressive, and then insisting my girlfriend is making a mistake, and that i’m an intolerant militant and the worst kind of extremist (the WORST kind…. worse than those who fly planes into buildings. I am, according to her, worse than Mohammad Atta. Amazing).

The flaws in her position are vast. She doesn’t elaborate on how i’m being ‘dishonest’ or what it is about me that is ‘extremist’ or why I might be a hypocrite. They are just empty abusive phrases designed for attack. The very thing she is trying to argue against. From her original position that Richard Dawkins is a Fascist cunt, to her ending that I am a militant aggressive extremist dishonest hypocrite, she offers nothing of substance. She is one big logical failure.

But this illustrates my original point. My last message to her, still wanting some form of debate. I still clinged onto the hope that she might present a logical argument. Instead, she chose to get very personal. This is what people tend to do, when they are losing. The EDL do it all the time. Religious nutjobs do it all the time. They get personal or aggressive. They absolutely worm their way around the actual subject of debate and just try to paint you as posing the debate in the ‘wrong’ tone. It is pathetic.

The level of debate in the Country and the World, at the most accessible and popular levels, is weak at best, and viciously ill-informed and dangerous at worst. For the most part, people form opinions through what they see in the most easily accessible parts of the media sphere. If the media support Iraq, the people support Iraq. If the media suggest Blair is a liar, the people believe it must be true. Opinions don’t tend to run too deep, unless you’re aiming at an intellectual level that expands beyond that of the mass media. For example, at the highest levels of debate, we have some great names. Tariq Ali, Christopher Hitchens, Tahereh Saffarzadeh, Chomsky, Krugman among others, are the leaders of the intellectual movement to advance debate and offer unique and exciting ideas. They challenge key perceptions. They always question. They never let a bad argument rest until it is totally destroyed. These are the people the World needs. These are the people we should be learning critical techniques from in order to advance the level of debate to a position that is currently alien to us.

A mad overly liberal calling anyone who disagrees with her a fascist militant dangerous extremist cunt, whilst insisting she’s not aggressive, is absolutely counter productive and should be fought at every opportunity.