Tim Wise: Misrepresenting Hamas.

April 27, 2015

There is a tendency – since passions are high in the debate – for the partisans on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict to creep into the realms of bigotry to make their case. With anti-Semitism on the rise across the World, it is sad to see those who ordinarily stand against bigotry and privilege, crossing the line into a subtle anti-Semitism in order to strengthen their position. To highlight this, I had noticed that Tim Wise – the usually excellent anti-racial privilege writer – had attempted to completely rewrite the goals of Hamas, downplaying their bigoted & supremacist intentions and history, in order to strengthen his own position:

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– Here, Tim Wise has compared the goals of Hamas to the goals of Einstein and secularists. He stops at that. Hamas want an end to a Jewish state. This is a wildly simplistic and manipulative re-imagining of what it is Hamas actually wants; the basis of which is articulated – contrary to any secular thought processes – in Article 14 of Hamas’ Charter declares:

“For Palestine is an Islamic land…”

– A reader with a basic grasp of 20th Century European & Middle Eastern History will understand that far from having anything in common with secularism – or Einstein, who supported a bi-national state that favoured no single group or religion above any other – Hamas and their ideological struggle – as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – are the product of 1930s/40s Western Fascism infused with a delusional sense of religious ownership of land.

Far from the implication that Hamas share common goals with secularists, in reality, Hamas are an extension of the political far-right, fused with religious dogma; an obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy, that has its birth in Medieval Christendom, perpetuated hideously by the Catholic Church – especially in Germany – only to be exported by the Nazis, and Haj Muhammad Amin el-Husseini – Grand Mufti – to the Muslim World in the 20th Century, and appropriated by the Brotherhood. For the Mufti, anti-Semitism was a religious duty. For the Fascists, it was a socially racist necessity. The mixing of the two gives us Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas epitomises that link perfectly. As well as insisting that religious persecution of Jews throughout history, is there own fault (a victim-blaming narrative entirely), al-Zahar had this genocidal warning for the future:

“…there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.”

– The desire to eradicate Jewish people has been the thread (and often successful – as with the massacres in Baghdad, of Jews in 1941) that has held Brotherhood offshoots – like Hamas – to the Mufti’s ideals and the Brotherhood since its early days. Indeed, in the 1920s, the Grand Mufti – prior to his support for the holocaust – disseminated literature that included the phrase:

“O Arabs, do not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.”

– Further, as the Nazi’s were making their way through Egypt in the mid-1940s, the Mufti was given free reign to air radio broadcasts direct from Berlin. In one example, he stated:

“kill Jews wherever you find them for the love of God, history and religion.”

– Alongside the Mufti, the Muslim Brotherhood were instrumental in translating both the anti-Semitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and ‘Mein Kampf‘ into Arabic, and continue to spread both. Hamas references the Protocols in its Charter here:

“Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”

– The Brotherhood obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy is reflected not just with Hamas, but also in Egypt – the birthplace of Islamism (not Saudi, as many believe) – after the fall of Morsi and his Brotherhood supporters. Both sides of the fight for power have accused the other of being ‘Jewish’ and attempting to implement the Protocols. Hamas continues to do the same.

Contrary to Wise’s misrepresentation, Hamas’ Charter doesn’t simply call for the end to a “uniquely Jewish State“. Allow me to highlight exactly what Hamas’ Charter states:

“As to the objectives: discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert [to their owners], calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution of the Muslim state. Thus, people and things will revert to their true place.”

– It continues:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.”

– Waqf, in this context, means owned by that single religion. Hamas’ opposes a Jewish state, because it believes the entire region must be subjected to the rules and regulations of their one sect of their one faith. They are religious supremacists. This is reflected in how they police areas in which Hamas has control. For example, Shaul Ganon, of Agudah, a gay rights group in the region, said:

“I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals,they were both beheaded.”

– But what about any peace initiative? Any at all:

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion.”

– Unless a peace initiative is designed to completely eradicate Israel, with power in the hands of one religion, and its believers, Hamas are not going to support a peace settlement.

“Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”

– Here, the reason given for opposing a secular and inclusive structure to a Palestinian settlement, is the Jews, and Christians. It is backed by a victim narrative. The Charter isn’t finished with simply declaring the entire region Islamic – and all who live in it, which never ends well for the LGBT community or apostates forced to live under such brutal Theocracies – it then explains who its enemies are. You’ll perhaps note that it has very little to do with an Israeli occupation, and far more to do with the ethnicity of the people, as is consistent with a Brotherhood/Nazi obsession with eradicating Jews:

“Within the circle of the conflict with world Zionism, the Hamas regards itself the spearhead and the avant-garde. It joins its efforts to all those who are active on the Palestinian scene, but more steps need to be taken by the Arab and Islamic peoples and Islamic associations throughout the Arab and Islamic world in order to make possible the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war. “We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loves not corrupters.” Sura V (Al-Ma’idah—the Table spread), verse 64.”

– Hamas’ issue with Israel is not simply with perceived oppression in the territories, but with Jews in general. Hamas, in Article 32 of their Charter, calls upon Muslims across the World to oppose the Jewish population, as a precursor to a religiously-ordained ‘next round’ with the ‘merchants of war’.

Article 7 of Hamas Charter quotes Bukhari:

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”

– Two key themes run through Hamas’ Charter, as ran through the Muslim Brotherhood’s purpose. Firstly, the entire region must be brought under the control of one religion. A Theocracy. Secondly, supported by their own interpretation of religious dogma, and mixed with 20th Century fascism; Jews are the enemy. Not Israel. Jews. To both ends, Hamas uses the same anti-Semitic propaganda, the same victim of Jewish aggression narrative, the same Jewish global conspiracy narrative, and a call to fight Jews, to further its end-goal of the region entirely engulfed by their particular brand of religious supremacy. Hamas inherited and furthered the 20th Century Islamist & Nazi narrative. They have nothing in common with secularists. For Tim Wise to downplay the role of religious supremacy and its Fascist origins in Hamas’ Charter – and thus, downplay almost a century of genocidal Brotherhood intentions that inform Hamas – is so vastly dishonest, offensive to the principles of secular liberty, and quite clearly crosses the line into anti-Semitism.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali & the illiberal ‘liberals’.

March 30, 2015

In the past few months a string of new books ‘explaining’ the rise of ISIS have appeared on the shelves of the big book stores across the country. One of which is ‘ISIS: The State of Terror‘ by The excellent Jessica Stern & JM Berger. I wondered if perhaps this book – given that the authors are highly credited – would acknowledge at all the underlying problem of religious dogma (that is, the anchoring of morality to a single time & place, and belief in the universal viability of that), or if it begins from the premise that Islamic extremism is at its core geopolitical in nature, with religion as a sort of side note. My curiosity was answered on the first page, when we’re presented with a timeline, that begins “March 20th 2003 – President George W Bush announces the start of war against Iraq“.  Whilst it may go on to discuss Al Zarqawi’s beginnings and rise, the premise seems to be that we can blame everything & everyone else for the conditions in which Islamism flourishes, rather than the supremacist dogma itself. For those seeking to minimise the problem of religious dogma when accounting for conflict in the Middle East, there are two lines of attack. Firstly, claim the rise of groups like ISIS can be entirely divorced from religious dogma, and can instead be attached to geopolitics only (this feeds the larger Chomsky-esque narrative, that the US is the problem). Secondly, demonise any detractors who do focus on the problem of religious dogma. The latter – a tactic not used to quell criticism of any other concept on the planet – was surprisingly given credit this week, by anti-racism and anti-privilege writer and public speaker Tim Wise, when he posted a link to Max Blumenthal’s latest manipulation:

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Ironic, given that the man who wrote the article has several of his own less than true ideas exposed by historian and journalist Eric Alterman in a beautifully concise manner. Nevertheless, It is a matter of consistency for me, that systems of oppression & supremacy – whether they’re based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or religion – must be resisted and dogma that informs those systems, discredited and opposed by anyone considering themselves liberal, and secular. This doesn’t seem to be the case with some ‘liberals’ who rightfully fight racial supremacy, yet find it difficult to retain consistency when it comes to illiberal dogma found in a certain religion. The product of which, is a curious holding of hands between those ‘liberals’, and the systems of oppression they should otherwise be opposing.

In his latest piece – Exposing Anti-Islam Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Latest Deception Max Blumenthal goes all out to attack Ayaan Hirsi Ali in what I can only describe as reworded Wikipedia article on Hirsi Ali, and a few extra manipulative additions to aid his overall premise (with the added joy of “Neocon!” yelled at anyone who calls him out on his manipulations). Take for example this paragraph:

“In Heretic, a polemic recycling many of her past arguments against Islam, she calls for the emergence of a Muslim Martin Luther — the authoritarian 16th-century zealot who called for burning down the synagogues of Jews, whom he compared to a gangrenous disease.”

– We might here be tempted to play the illiberal ‘liberal’ game, and refer to Blumenthal as Lutheranophobic for his critique of Martin Luther. But putting aside the silly tactics that those seeking to silence critique of Islam play, you’ll perhaps note here the big manipulation in the paragraph. Hirsi Ali is not at all suggesting that Islam needs a Medieval authoritarian willing to burn down Jewish temples. Hamas already exists. Blumenthal purposely recast the point to focus on Luther’s character, when in fact, Hirsi Ali is actually suggesting that Islam needs a reformation, that opens it up far more to individual critique, that it is too dogmatic as it is, too unable to progress with the rest of the World. A critique that is either disliked, discouraged, or punished in much of the Islamic World, and dismissed as ‘Islamophobia’ in the Western World. The character of Martin Luther is irrelevant to that discussion. But if there is to be a focus on the character of historical revolutionaries, I’m more than happy to start with religious Prophets.

Blumenthal then accuses Hirsi Ali of defending Anders Breivik. This too is a crude manipulation. He says:

“Junketed to Berlin in 2012 to receive the Axel Springer Honorary Award from the right-wing German publisher, Hirsi Ali appeared to blame liberal defenders of multiculturalism for the killing spree committed by the Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, claiming they left Breivik with “no other choice but to use violence. (Breivik cited Hirsi Ali’s work in his 1,500 page manifesto explaining his plans to commit a series of terrorist attacks across Norway.)”

– It’d be just terrible to get praise from a right winger….. Like Max Blumenthal did, when the website of white supremacist David Duke praised Blumenthal’s book. Or when – as Hirsi Ali later pointed out in a conversation with Sam Harris – Bin Laden cited Noam Chomsky in a recording obtained by Al Jazeera back in 2010. We can all play the “you’re supported by extremists!” game.

Onto Blumenthal’s main manipulation in that particular paragraph. Hirsi Ali was not blaming liberals, because actual liberals are fine with, and promote the notion that all ideas – religious included – should be open up to criticism, satire, and inquiry, and that no idea – religious included – should be shielded. Especially ideas that create barriers to the secular liberty of others. Her criticism is of those vastly illiberal ‘liberals’ who work to prevent criticism of one single idea – by, among other forms, silencing ex-Muslims with manipulative articles – that create an atmosphere in which one idea is considered taboo, and that is deeply unhealthy for any liberal, secular, democracy. In other words; to push discussion, criticism, satire, ridicule of an authoritarian idea – be it religious or political, thus confirming the zealots insistence that ‘blasphemy’ is a terrible crime of expression – out of the public sphere of acceptability, has consequences. It creates a taboo around that one idea, and it is latched onto by dangerous fanatics like Breivik, who undoubtedly do mix their dislike for a faith, with racism, Nationalism, and their grotesque delusions of power. As she rightly says:

“In the long run, you get more jihadist ghettoes and intolerant right-wing enclaves. ”

– I’m fine with illiberal ‘liberals’ disagreeing with this contention, but rather than debate the point, Blumenthal has decided to claim this is “defending Breivik” – when it quite clearly isn’t. This is not an acceptable, nor respectable form of challenging an idea. It is a silencing technique, and it works only to create the conditions that Hirsi Ali speaks of.

Later, Blumenthal recounts the tale that Hirsi Ali had told the Netherlands authorities when applying for asylum, and giving a modified version of her name, and age:

” “Yeah, I made up the whole thing,” Hirsi Ali admitted on camera to a Zembla reporter who confronted her with her lies. “I said my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali instead of Ayaan Hirsi Magan. I also said I was born in 1967 while I was actually born in 1969.”

– Now let’s look at the actual story behind the quote, rather than the simplified line Blumenthal has used. In an interview with Sam Harris, Hirsi Ali is quite clear on why she felt she had to hide her identity:

“When I arrived in the Netherlands, in 1992, I misrepresented the year of my birth at my intake interview. I said I was born in 1967, but I was born in 1969. I also changed my grandfather’s name. In many tribal societies, instead of a surname you have a string of names—I am Ayaan; my father is Hirsi; and my father’s father, when he was born, was named Ali. But later on, when he grew up and became a warrior, he was called Magan (Somali for “protection” or “refuge”), because he protected some of the peoples whom he conquered. Magan is, basically, a nickname that he acquired later in life. Technically, I did not lie about Ali, because that was also his name. I used it deliberately, because I figured that if I could get this intake interview, then my father or the man he married me off to could come and say that they were looking for Ayaan Hirsi Magan, born November 13, 1969, and they would find me very easily. I wanted to prevent that, so I called myself Ayaan Hirsi Ali and changed my birth year to 1967. I was trying to cover my trail just enough that I wouldn’t have the fear of being immediately found. I had never before lived in a system where there were any protections put in place for me.”

– Blumenthal wasn’t done with simply misrepresenting that part of the story either. He goes on:

“Hirsi Ali’s claim of honor killing threats also appears to be empty; she remained in touch with her father and aunt after she left her husband. In fact, her husband even came to visit her in the Dutch refugee center where she lived after leaving him. Even though he had paid her way to Europe on the grounds that she would join him in Canada, Hirsi Ali’s husband consented to the divorce she sought.”

– None of this is new information. Only the hideous way Blumenthal frames it, is different. Hirsi Ali herself has already spoken on her visit from her husband, in the same interview with Harris:

“I was terrified that either my father or some of our clansmen—or the man whom I had been married off to—would come looking for me and find me. And they did come! My ex-husband was accompanied by three other men when he showed up at the asylum center where I was. But by then I had been in the country for something like four to six months, and even in that very, very short period, I came to understand that I had rights.

On the day that they showed up, I went to the reception center and confessed everything to one of the people working there. Her name was Sylvia, and she said, “You don’t have to go with him if you don’t want to. You’re over the age of 18. In fact, here in the Netherlands, your marriage isn’t even recognized, because he is Canadian and the marriage took place somewhere else. So we will just protect you. I’ll simply call the police.” It was in this period that I found my independence. I had been able to live on my own for months, so I thought I could live on my own for longer.”

– The shameful manipulative nonsense of Blumenthal’s piece aside, I find there’s a bigger, and far more fundamental issue. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, A woman from an African country that consistently scores the very lowest score possible for political freedoms, and civil liberties, is abused by a very patriarchal system underpinned by religious supremacy, is mutilated as a child by a system underpinned by religious supremacy, watches as her female family members are not allowed to leave an airport without being accompanied by a man, is forced into a marriage by a system underpinned by religious supremacy, then – someone who has more right than any to call out the oppressive elements of a religious system of power – blames religious dogma for much of the trauma she and others face on a daily basis, and dedicates herself to fighting for the rights of victims of illiberal religious dogma across the World. She does this, whilst threatened with death notes pinned to the murdered body of a filmmaker she collaborated with because someone somewhere is “offended” by the content of the film. The implication is that she should just shut up about her experiences. Then come the white, upper middle class American men, not focusing at all on the supremacist dogma that informs the horrific abuse she’s suffered, or the violence she faces for speaking out, but instead they choose to focus on their own methods of silencing her with manipulations and misdirection, thus protecting the very oppressive ideas she’s fighting.

The privilege it takes for those who have never lived through her experiences, to dismiss her rather than challenge her ideas with debate, and to manipulate her calls for a reformation within the faith, in order to protect one specific religion, represents a massive confused betrayal of liberal principles, but one that we are all becoming very familiar with when illiberal ‘liberals’ put pen to paper.


The National Secular Society & Reverend Whittaker’s Apocalypse.

March 26, 2015

It’s funny how people interpret things in different ways. Especially when it involves religion, and even more so when it comes to the challenging of religious privileges. A quick trip over to the National Secular Society’s website, presents us with this line:

“The National Secular Society works towards a society in which all citizens, regardless of religious belief, or lack of religious belief, can live together fairly and cohesively. We campaign for a secular democracy with a separation of religion and state, where everyone’s Human Rights are respected equally.”

– Now – as a secular humanist – I interpret the above as a declaration of the principle that all are to be considered equal, regardless of belief. A post-Enlightenment World has no fairer way to organise a system, than one that privileges none, and protects all equally. Thomas Jefferson once noted that the our civil rights & civil society have no more dependence on our religious beliefs, as our opinions in geometry. The NSS reaffirms that understanding. But that’s not how Reverend John Whittaker interprets the work of the NSS. Reverend Whittaker – having a tantrum writing for The Hinckley Times – is convinced that a state that offers no special privileges to his particular religion, and does not allow religion to creep back into the institutions of state, can only be imagined as a terrible apocalyptic state in which no one gives to charity, and the sex trafficking industry is left unopposed. It’s an odd link to make, but let’s humour him. In response to the National Secular Society’s campaign to prevent council meetings opening with prayers – because council meetings aren’t churches – Whittaker said:

“And just in case anyone wants to make a point that religion has no place in public life, lets recall some of the facts of how faith interacts with and contributes to the common good in this country.”

– Are you ready for the “facts of how faith interacts….“. Facts, according to Whittaker:

“If religion were to hide in a corner as per the secularist’s fantasy world, 1.4 million Christian volunteers would drop out of community based work (that’s over and above the work to support the life of church communities and look after the largest number of listed buildings in the country). Foodbanks would cease, Street Pastors, with their sober, caring presence in so many of our city and town centres late at night would evaporate away. Mums and toddlers groups, homeless projects, work with ex-offenders, women in the sex industry, asylum seekers, vulnerable children, addicts and those who self-harm would all see a dropping away of sustained, tangible support. Air brush Christianity out of public engagement and around 114 million volunteer hours would need to be found to maintain the community work done by churches worth about £2.4 billion a year in addition to the use of buildings and direct financial contributions.”

– That’s right! If the state does not grant special privileges to Whittaker’s religion in turning secular council meetings into a Church service, charities will collapse, foodbanks will collapse, people would starve, work with vulnerable children and addicts would cease to exist, the homeless would be left to starve in the street, and the country would lose billions of pounds. It’s an odd charge, because those same council meetings also do not begin with Islamic prayers, or Hindu prayers, or any other prayers or dedications to a particular God, and yet, believers in those faiths still manage to give to charity and help the most vulnerable. Council meetings work fine without prayers from every other faith, it is simply bizarre to expect the World to stop turning if Christians are brought down to the same level as the rest of us in state affairs.

Secondly, it is probably worth noting that secularists do not want “religion to hide in the corner“, in the same way that we don’t wish liberalism, or communism, or capitalism, or conservatism, to hide in a corner. All ideas are to be treated equally, with no constitutional state recognition of any single one above any others. This implies that no single idea, is to be hidden away in a corner. To do so, would of course be oppressive. The operation of state is to be open to all, on an equal level. Leveling the playing field, and privileging no religion is not the same as oppressing those who believe.

Thirdly, as far as I’m aware, the National Secular Society is not attempting to prevent Christians undertaking charity work in any way. The suggestion that opposing state privileges for religion, as being synonymous with preventing charitable work, is a massively false, fear-based, and manipulative strategy on the part of the Reverend. A council meeting is the representative discussion of work required within the community. That’s a community that represents all who live in it, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, or belief. We do not offer special privileges to a single ethnicity, nor should we offer special privileges to a single religious belief.

And finally, the title of Whittaker’s piece – like the rest of it – is horribly misleading: “Not The Final Word: To pray or not to pray?” It’s like claiming oppression because a library wont allow you to play the drums. The right to pray and to believe according to one’s own conscience is not under threat by ensuring that a council meeting is not religious in nature. If Councillors wish to pray, they have every right to go to Church prior to a council meeting, and pray. They can pray until they can’t physically pray any more. They can join hands and pray together. There is no “to pray or not to pray” dichotomy here. They have every right to pray. They do not have a right to enshrine their particular brand of God, into the institution of state. A council meeting itself is an institution of state, not an institution of religion.

It becomes clear that when religions lose their traditional privileges and power over the lives of others, they tend to lash out in the most absurd ways. Reverend Whittaker has done just that with his bizarre apocalyptic portrait of a secular state he just doesn’t understand.


The Theocrats crying discrimination.

March 12, 2015

As someone who writes, and occasionally speaks on religion and its unearned privileges, I’m more than aware that often claims of oppression from the religious, tend to be just a backlash against a society having progressed far beyond the barbarism of the more conservative religious sects and what they advocate, and so inevitably tantrums erupt. Christians unhappy that they can’t stop a gay couple from expressing their commitment through marriage insist they are oppressed, or Jehovah’s Witnesses unhappy that the concept of disfellowshipping is particularly frowned up. There is something about religion, that demands privileges.

Yesterday, the Guardian published a statement signed by – among others – several conservative Muslims in Britain, having what appears to be a collective tantrum over the fact that their fringe views, are not unquestioningly respected:

“This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.

– The statement goes on to firstly present a false dichotomy between a state that can only possibly focus on either Islamist extremism, or the NHS and economy, and then proceeds to list a variety of grievances, including two particular connecting points that I wanted to pick up on here, especially with regards to the people who actually signed the statement:

“5) Similarly, it is unacceptable to label as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on a variety of issues, founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), implying there is a link between them and violence, using such labels as an excuse to silence speakers.

7) We affirm our concern about peace and security for all. We, however, refuse to be lectured on peace-building and harmony by a government that plays divisive politics and uses fear to elicit uncertainty in the general public, whilst maintaining support for dictators across the Muslim world, who continue to brutalise and legitimate political opposition to their tyranny.”

– The implication of point five is that oppressive views are not to be labelled as such, simply because they are “normative Islamic opinions“. As if where they come from, is at all important. It is a desired privilege. Contrary to the aggressive tone of point 5, we are all within our rights – especially in a secular, liberal country – to label any ideological view point – regardless of what it is based upon – as extreme, if it includes the control & oppression of other people. The right to an opinion is to be protected, but the opinion itself is absolutely open to all forms of criticism, and mockery, especially If those views include the lives of anyone else, chained to the religious rules of another. It does not matter if it is “based on the Qur’an and Sunnah“. It does not matter if an opinion is a “normative Islamic opinion”. Neither of those reasons, makes the opinion any less extreme. To highlight this point, it is prudent to consider two signatures on the list; that of Reza Pankhurst & Dr Abdul Wahid, of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Note that in point seven, the focus is on “concern about peace & security for all”. Consider that claim, when analysing Article 7C of Hizb’s own draft constitution:

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

– I guess “peace and security” is far more likely if you just execute anyone who leaves the religion. Here they are, reaffirming that same belief. It isn’t just apostates exempt from Hizb’s “concern for peace & security“, Hizb’s African sect wrote:

“Homosexuality is an Evil that Destroys Societies!”

– Obviously here they offer no actual evidence for such a petty and vicious claim (that undoubtedly they teach to younger, impressionable minds, further perpetuating homophobia). They’re not finished with apostates and gays either. Hizb in Bangladesh wrote:

“The Muslims joining the demonstration called upon the Muslim armies to march forth to fight the Jews, eradicate Israel and purify the earth of Jewish filth.”

– And so it appears that demanding the murder of apostates, whilst dehumanising homosexuality, and calling for the ‘eradication of the Jewish filth” is – according to Hizb – absolutely fine. But referring to those hideous ideas as ‘extreme’ is completely unacceptable.

Dr Pankhurst has a bit of a history of having a tantrum at the way Hizb are treated. When The Times published an article linking him to Hizb, he responded:

“Rather, this is a wider debate in which there seems to be an attempt to demonise anyone holding ideological opinions the British government doesn’t like, in a manner that the dictatorial “hereditary democracy” that is Egypt would be proud – hounding them into either remaining silent or else face being forced out of their profession.

– Still, I suppose “demonising” oppressive theocratic beliefs is a little more civilised than executing anyone who changes religion. Pankhurst goes on to make the most amusing statement I think I’ve ever heard from a member of a group who believe in disenfranchising non-Muslims, limiting ultimate power to male Muslims only, punishing homosexuality, and killing apostates:

“I would like to point out that no other religious or political grouping is treated in such a manner, whereby because someone is a Muslim who believes in Islamic values and the revival of an Islamic State in Muslim countries means that their professionalism is automatically questioned. This is actually a form of discrimination.”

– That’s right! It’s a form of discrimination to demonise the idea that apostates should be executed and homosexuality oppressed. It’s like the KKK claiming discrimination on account of the fact that their particular brand of supremacy is demonised. In the light of Pankhurst’s tantrum about discrimination, it is worth noting that Article 112 of Hizb’s draft constitution enshrines constitutional discrimination based on gender:

“It is not permitted for a woman to assume responsibility for government”

– It seems to be more the case that grown ups with such ingrained and bigoted supremacist views, views that dehumanise and disenfranchise millions whilst elevating one group of people to power and perpetual terror over everyone else based on nothing more than their belief in one particular god, play the cowardly victim the moment those views are under examination.

The LGBT community are targeted by another signature on the statement. Abdurraheem Green of iERA once wrote on his blog:

“The “harm” of the punishment for adultery is offset by the need of the “benefit” and protects the wider society. All of this also goes some way to help understand way acts of homosexuality are simlarily treated so harshly.”

– What “Green” means by “wider society” is actually the opposite; a very patriarchal, heterosexual dominated society. It is true that breaking irrational and oppressive barriers to liberty, erected originally by people like Green, for the benefit of people like Green, is a threat to people like Green. I am absolutely fine with that.

Another signature is that of Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq of the Muslim Action Forum. Ishaq arranged a protest in London in February over depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in cartoon form, as offensive to Muslims. I am yet to see Ishaq arrange protests for those of us who aren’t too keen on hearing that non-believers are likely to burn in hell. Indeed, Ishaq’s freedom to believe that non-believers are destined for an eternity of violent torture in the pits of hell, is my freedom to openly mock that ridiculous (and frankly, offensive) belief and any man (considered a Prophet or not) that may have uttered the words. But this isn’t what Ishaq is having a tantrum about. He wishes the right for religious folk to believe, and perpetuate out-dated, bigoted & offensive ideas, whilst protecting the religion itself from criticism and satire. As mentioned at the beginning, this is a case of the religious struggling to deal with not being afforded special privileges.

Mohammed Hamid was convicted and jailed for training terrorists for a failed attempt at a second attack in London in 2005. In court, the jury heard recordings of Hamid speaking on those murdered during 7/7 London attacks, in which he said:

“Fifty-two? That’s not even a breakfast for me.”

– It may amaze you, but such a grotesque human being with so little sense of human decency has at least one supporter. That supporter is Uthman Lateef. Lateef signed the “concerned about peace & security” statement shown in The Guardian yesterday. Here is Lateef on his Facebook profile:

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– So to neatly summarise yesterday’s tantrum, several of those signatures are from an illiberal group whose constitution and the author of that constitution calls for death to apostates, oppression for women, dehumanising non-believers (a joyful existence we’re expected to pay for), controlling the minds of our children for the sake of the perpetuation of the faith, the suppression of free expression, oppressing homosexuality, anti-Semitism, and all out war on Israel, followed by another signature from a man who offers his support to a hideous convict unhappy that not enough people had been brutally murdered in the July 7th attacks. The irony of the entire statement is that several of those accusing the government of “crude and divisive” tactics, themselves are some of the most crude and divisive, illiberal, and anti-secular people in the country. They just want us to be a little bit nicer to them.

For another excellent response to yesterday’s joint statement, see Homo Economicus Blog.


ISIS and the theology of end-times.

March 10, 2015

“The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq”
– Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Less than 3000 people live in the small Syrian town of Dabiq. It sits right in the north of the country in A’zaz district. It is an unassuming town that would command little attention, if it wasn’t for the fact that ISIS has carried out brutal beheadings, and even named its magazine ‘Dabiq’ in its honour.

When discussing the motivations for ISIS’s brutal regime, we find Western commentators quick to deflect from religious dogma, by narrowing the context to the Iraq war, or Blair, or Bush, or more recently… MI5. They insist that not all religious folk are out beheading aid workers, and so religious dogma can be dismissed, failing to apply the same logic that not all those opposed to the Iraq war are out beheading aid workers either. The importance of the geo-political context must be taken into consideration, but not at the complete dismissal of Islamic dogma. Dabiq is central to that dogma.

ISIS chose Dabiq for one very specific reason; a Sahih-Muslim Hadith states:

“The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them)”

– Dabiq is centre stage for the coming apocalypse to take place between Muslims, and Christians. A battle between Romans (whom no longer exist, and so Islamists – rather than accept that their Prophet might have been wrong, have decided “Romans” is code for “Christians”) and a resurrected Caliphate (as well as the conquest of Istanbul) is necessary to usher in the end of days. ISIS, is an end-times cult.

End times (eschatology) is central to all of the Abrahamic traditions (including offshoots – like Heaven’s Gate). The concept of the final confrontation between the chosen few, and the enemy, cannot be divorced from the religions that spawn them. They tend to see certain World events – natural and man-made – as evidence that the end is on its way. Indeed, the earliest traditions of Jesus in the Bible have him as what appears to be a man convinced that the end of time will occur within the lifetime of his followers. To this day, Christians in the US predict the World is about to end at least once a year. By the time the Biblical Jesus’ companions had died, Christians began becoming suspicious that end-times may not be on the way. Contradictory writings attributed to Paul in the Bible try to deal with that, but simply work to confuse the matter more; 2 Thessalonians sets out conditions required before the day of judgement occurs, directly contradicting 1 Thessalonians that insists that Jesus’s return would be sudden and that the Thessalonians should be prepared. By the time Islam comes along, the writers of the Qur’an make sure not to make the same mistake, and to be as teasing and ambiguous as possible:

“Lo! the Hour is surely coming. But I will to keep it hidden, that every soul may be rewarded for that which it striveth (to achieve)
Surah 20:15”

– It’s far easier if a Holy Book has God teasing – like a child – His creation. Though this is also problematic, because a truly all-knowing God would be able to look down the line and see the violent mess that His little tease had inspired, and perhaps be a little more cautious. But that’s a digression.

The arguments from all major religions for end-times – and the expectations placed on believers by their God – tend to be Theologically wide. They are divisive by their very nature. They provide – by the judgement of a divine overlord as of yet unproven to exist – a dichotomy between the morally good, waiting to be saved, and the evil non-believers deserving of the torture that awaits them. The dogma creates the extremist atmosphere, independent of the geopolitical context.

The reason ISIS chooses to murder innocent people in Dabiq, and to make sure we all know it is Dabiq, is in order to fulfill a religious prophecy of provoking the ‘Romans’ to confront the Islamic State there, bringing on the conditions for the return of Jesus, the Mahdi, and the end of times in which they will be saved. Several ISIS propaganda videos are filmed in and around the town of Dabiq for the same purpose; to fulfill a theological prophecy, providing legitimacy to their incredibly flawed cause.

This was perhaps most notable when ISIS horrifically murdered Abdul-Rahman Kassig. After the murder, the ISIS killer said:

“Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”

– Suddenly, ‘Romans’ actually means ‘Americans’ (not at all what Muhammad supposedly said, requiring a great deal of creative rewriting of his words to justify). But it goes back further than 2014. Before his death in 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq – had already alluded to the importance that Dabiq would play in the following years. In 2004 al-Zarqawi said:

“The spark has been ignited in Iraq, and its flames will grow until they burn the Crusader armies in Dabiq.”

– Iraq may have been the spark, but the fuel itself was the religious dogma that inspires such an irrational and violent desire to watch the World burn. The beheading of Western aid workers, is not in response to the Iraq war, or even the civil war in Syria, instead it is an attempt to provoke a fictional battle – rooted entirely to the context of the time period that Sahih-Muslim was put together – in order to fulfill a religious prophecy. Religion is at the very core of the hideous acts of violence that have taken place – and publicised across the World – in and around Dabiq.

In the fourth edition of the magazine ‘Dabiq’, ISIS produced an article entitled:

“The revival (of) slavery before the Hour”

– The article calls for the re-establishing of slave holding, and the kidnapping of women, before the final judgement. The implication is that out-dated religious rules must be re-established prior to the anticipated apocalypse. The consequence has been the capturing and sexual abuse of Yazidi women and girls.

It is worth noting that provoking the conditions necessary to fulfill the prophecy is not the only reason for ISIS to use Dabiq in its media propaganda, it also works as a recruiting technique. The constant reference and use of Dabiq emphasises the distinctly Islamic nature of the cause (with Hadith to back it up), by linking back to the purported words of the Prophet and highlighting the idea that the final battle is on the horizon, in the hope of enticing young, disaffected kids seeking a purpose with a divinely promised victory.

The fact that a state based almost solely on what is deemed to be the necessary rape, torture and murder bestowed upon innocent people required to bring about the end of the World, is being left to flourish in an already volatile region, is hugely unnerving. Those who adhere to the end-times theological narrative cannot be defeated simply by dismissing them as “not real Muslims” (the far-right – in bizarre agreement with Islamists – also dismiss liberal, progressive Muslims as “not real Muslims”, leaving a completely undefined religion). Nor is it acceptable to dismiss the clear religious dogma that ISIS are based upon, in order to progress a very anti-Western narrative, as many on the Western ‘liberal’ left insist upon progressing far too often. Islam as a set of ideas, words, and deeds, rooted to the time in which it sprang, must be scrutinised, its most out-dated elements detoxified, and the extremes made as undesirable as Soviet Communism is to the modern left, if groups like ISIS are to be defeated. The religious element must not be dismissed.


King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Mourning a monster.

January 26, 2015

King_Abdullah_bin_Abdul_al-Saud_January_2007

The planes carrying World leaders home from the unity march in Paris in support of free expression last week, barely had the chance to touch the tarmac before those same World leaders began queuing to offer their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to a man who ruled a country in which criticism of the King is illegal, and who spent his final days overseeing the hideous flogging of Raif Badawi for exercising his right to free expression.

On the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, The British Prime Minister, David Cameron (so overcome with grief was he, that he flew especially to Saudi Arabia), said:

“He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”

– Smilarly, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised Abdullah for his commitment to interfaith relations. This same – laughable, if it wasn’t so horribly tarred with the blood of many innocent people – sentiment was also echoed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said:

“I am very sad indeed to hear of the passing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
I am very sad indeed to hear of the passing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.“I knew him well and admired him greatly. Despite the turmoil of events in the region around him, he remained a stable and sound ally, was a patient and skilful moderniser of his country leading it step by step into the future. He was a staunch advocate of inter faith relations.”

– President Obama added to this feeling of great anguish and woe, insisting that he:

“….valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.”

At first I thought I was reading condolences for someone else, perhaps someone with a record of human rights victories championing the plight of the most oppressed in society, but no, it is definitely King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia they are talking about. A man they are convinced was a wonderful ‘moderniser’ for intervening in one or two court cases that would otherwise have highlighted his regime as one of the most brutal in history (call it a PR stunt, given that he’s never indicated a preference for human rights instead of religious supremacy). Indeed, Saudi Arabia is a country that scored the lowest marks from Freedom House rankings in 2014 of civil freedoms. A country that, despite the Prime Minister’s comment that the dead King will long be remembered for his ‘commitment to peace‘ is about to continue its flogging of blogger Raif Badawi for blasphemy (having an opinion that differed from the ruling elite in Saudi), and on average beheads around 80 people a year.

It is simply madness that any human being should lose their life, due to the religious beliefs of someone else. Talking to BBC News back in 2003, Muhammad Saad al-Beshi – a Saudi executioner – worryingly said:

“It doesn’t matter to me: two, four, 10 – as long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute”.

– The power structure of Saudi Arabia & those it privileges relies heavily on convincing otherwise decent human beings, that brutally murdering other human beings, is part of a plan designed by an invisible being. It is simply a horror story. We as humans are permitted such a brief time on this Earth as it is, it is so sad that others believe they have the express right to decide whether we live or die, according to religious beliefs. It seems to me that if you are going to claim ownership over the life of someone else, you must first offer irrefutable proof for the existence of your God, and then the rest of us must freely accept that we are to be ruled according to His principles. Otherwise, you are simply a murderer.

The Prime Minister’s insistence that King Abdullah would be remembered for ‘strengthening understanding between faiths‘ and Blair’s insistence that Abdullah was ‘a staunch advocate of inter faith relations‘, along with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s defense of the flags lowering to half mast, is entirely negated by the fact that Abdullah’s Theocratic Monarchy expressively forbade public practice of any religion but Islam, insists that children born to Muslim parents must be considered Muslim themselves, and has a legal system – for non-Muslims as well as Muslims – based entirely on Islam. From the moment you are born, until the moment you die in Saudi Arabia, you are a possession of the religion of state. You have no liberty. You are owned by one royal family, and their religious beliefs. You must not utter words they disapprove of, nor live according to your own beliefs. You are chained. If you happen to be gay, female, or you simply don’t believe in the faith that the state insists that you must, your life is not yours, your beliefs are not yours, and you are banned from falling in love with someone that the religion of someone else disapproves of. If you attempt to break free from such a hideously oppressive cage, you are likely to be flogged or beheaded. This was a system upheld and perpetuated by King Abdullah. Indeed, here are a few more examples of the innocent victims of the idea that human rights and civil liberty matters little, when it clashes with preserving religious privilege and supremacy.

Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was beheaded by the Saudi state in 2011 for:

“…the practice of witchcraft and sorcery.”

– In the 21st century, a life, filled with memories, loves, passions, childhood friends, family…. so violently cut short for the ridiculous offence of ‘sorcery‘. There was no outpouring of grief from massively disingenuous political elite of Western nations, for her.

Also in 2011, 45 year old Mansor Almaribe – an Australian man with back problems – was sentenced to 500 lashes on the back, for blasphemy. His crime? Praying with fellow Shi’ites in a country run by Sunni extremists. After intervention from the Australian government, the great Saudi ‘reformer’ managed to get the sentence down from 500 lashes, to 75 lashes and a year in jail.

In 2005, Muhammad Al-Harbi was sentenced to 750 lashes for teaching children about other religions. For daring to teach children to think for themselves, that they are entitled to believe something other than what the state demands, the state violently tortured Al-Harbi and threw him in prison.

In 2014, Loujain al-Hathloul, and Maysa al-Amoudi were leading a campaign to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia when authorities arrested them on ‘terror’ charges. In fact, terror charges are a new weapon of the religious supremacists in Saudi Arabia. So dedicated to ‘progress’ was the late Royal thug, that in 2014 a royal decree includes violent punishment for:

“… calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based”

– Atheism is now classed as terrorism in Saudi Arabia. The leader of the family that believes it has the inherent right to chain every last citizen – and their short lives, with much promise and hope – to their sociopathic dictates based solely on their personal religious beliefs, is the same leader that both Blair & Welby insist did so much for inter-faith relations. Further reducing the comments of Western leaders to at best an insincere round of grovelling, is the knowledge that whilst they insist Abdullah did much for inter-faith relations, in Saudi Arabia all faiths other than the one he personally believed in are largely prohibited, and questioning the fundamentals of – a very insecure – faith, apparently gives the King the right to violently harm other human beings. Saudi Arabia’s Monarchy is not content with owning your sex life, you love life, your words, it also requires you submit your own mind to their religious cage.

In 2007, the General Court of Qatif sentenced a woman to 90 lashes, for “illegal mingling” with a man who – with his friends – then raped her. She had the courage to speak out about the attack, and so the court more than doubled her sentence to 200 lashes, for, and I quote:

“….her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”

Similarly, In 2009, a 23 year old Saudi woman was hideously raped by a gang of rapists. She was then arrested and sentenced – yes, she was sentenced – to a year in prison and 100 lashes by more men, more abusers, for ‘committing adultery‘ and seeking an abortion. The White House issued no statement over this, instead, they sent their condolences upon the death of the King of a land that seeks to further harm victims of rape. The perpetuation of a religious settlement that is misogynistic by its very nature, requires the complete oppression of women for its survival.

As with misogyny, homophobia is never too far behind when it comes to religious power structures. The ironically named ‘Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice‘ sentenced a man to 450 lashes for Tweeting in the hope of meeting other gay men a couple of years ago. He was also sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2007, two men were sentenced to 7000 lashes each, for being homosexual. We cannot imagine the fear that gay men and women must face every day in Saudi Arabia. Sexuality discrimination in Saudi Arabia is not surprising, given the utterly repulsive nature of just what Saudi Arabia teaches children about sexuality. One simple paragraph from the Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks for Islamic Studies: 2007-2008 offers a prime example of just why politically religious folk should never be allowed power over the apparatus of a State, nor over the lives of its inhabitants especially its children, in an enlightened World. The barbaric nature of their law:

“Homosexuality is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes…. It is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins…. The punishment for homosexuality is death. Both the active and passive participants are to be killed whether or not they have previously had sexual intercourse in the context of a legal marriage…. Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that [the perpetrator] is to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place.”

– Last week, Downing Street, The White House, and other World leaders abandoned the lives of so many who have suffered, continue to suffer as you read this, and will suffer at the hands of religious thugs in Saudi Arabia in the future, and instead those leaders chose to send heartfelt condolences upon the death of the victims’ chief abuser; a misogynistic, homophobic, violent, abusive, religious supremacist who terrorised so many, and who worked hard to ensure civil liberties and human rights never got a foot in the door of Saudi Arabia. His reign should be viewed as a warning of the kind of hideous human rights abuses – that begin with the psychological abuse of children via religious indoctrination – that inevitably occurs when the religious are permitted power. The World should not mourn the death of such a monster.


France’s March for Unity: A who’s who of global oppression.

January 12, 2015

jesuischarlie, world leaders at french unity rally

It has always bewildered me the level of hypocrisy necessary to demand curbs on expression deemed ‘offensive’ to an Islamist ideological World-view that itself daily offends apostates, non-believers, women, Muslims that aren’t considered Muslim enough, and the entire LGBT community. Nevertheless, Paris was at the centre of the World last week when three gunman brutally murdered 17 human beings for publishing cartoons. France – including all sections of society – reacted in a show of unity, strength and respect for the fundamental right to free expression. But among the marchers were those who seem so entirely out of place. Indeed, Islamists were not the only ones to display hypocrisy this week in France.

The unity march – including 1.4 million people – through the streets of Paris included over 40 World leaders, some of whom, are not too keen on the fundamental human right to free expression:

Queen Rania of Jordan.
Linking arms with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Queen of Jordan presides over a country that is far from an advocate of free expression. In Jordan, if you happen to dislike the King, and you express that particular dislike, you can face up to three years in prison. Similarly, if you ‘insult’ Islam, you may face up to three years in prison (predictably, you may use the Qur’an to insult non-believers with threats of eternal torture). In 2006, two Jordanian journalists were imprisoned and fined for reprinting the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. In 2003, the newspaper Al Hilal was closed for two months and three of its journalists arrested for publishing an article discussing Muhammad’s sex life. In February 2009, student Imad al-Ash was arrested for sharing “controversial religious opinions” online, and sentenced to two years in prison.

Prime Minister Davutoglu of Turkey.
Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code makes it an offence to insult ‘Turkishness’. In 2008, this was changed from “Turkishness” to “The Turkish Nation”. It brings with it a two year jail sentence. Internet regulation from 2014 allows the Telecommunication and Transmission Authority to ban websites it deems inappropriate. This includes websites that ‘insult’ the state. In 2007, Turkey banned YouTube, for a video that insulted Ataturk. They demanded YouTube remove the video. Rightfully, YouTube refused. In 2008, richarddawkins.net was blocked in Turkey. In 2014 Tayyip Erdogan insisted he’d “wipe out Twitter”, and subsequently, Twitter was blocked.

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban.
In 2013, the Hungarian Parliament passed a Bill that includes three years in prison for ‘harming another person’s dignity‘ in a video or voice recording. This includes political satire. The law further makes it an offence to harm “the dignity of the Hungarian nation or of any national, ethnic, racial or religious community.

Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra.
Algeria – that enshrines Islam as its state religion, and bans anyone from spreading any other religious idea, punishable with three years in prison – is run by its longest serving President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Under his rule, the newspaper ‘Le Matin’ was censored and closed down, and its journalist imprisoned for exposing corruption. Journalists can be fined for insulting foreign diplomats or politicians, under reforms the media law of 2012.
Article 144 ratified June, 2001:

“It is punishable by imprisonment from 3 to 5 years, and by a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 Algerian Dinars — or, one of these two punishments only — whoever insults the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), any of the other Prophets, or denigrates the practices or rituals of Islam, regardless of whether it is through writing, drawing, declaration, or any other means.”

In 2006, 26-year-old Samia Smets was arrested and imprisoned (later overturned) for blasphemy for accidentally dropping a Qur’an into some water. At the 2008 Algiers Book Fair, the Ministry of Religious Affairs banned over 1000 books that they deemed to contain blasphemy. Al Jazeera was banned in 2004. Web services providers can be fined for granting access to sites that are “incompatible with morality or public opinion.” It is bizarre to me that the Algerian government believes it has a monopoly on morality, and that ‘public opinion’ is a static concept free from challenge.

UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In 2008 three Filipino workers were imprisoned for ripping out a page of the Qur’an. Their right to work in UAE was revoked. Further, The Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information and Culture bans any books, leaflets, or in fact, any form of written literature, if it is deemed offensive to Islam. Access to websites supportive of democracy & secularism is prohibited.
Article 312:

“Shall be punishable by confinement and by fine or by one of these two penalties any individual who commitsany of the following offences:
1. Offence against any of the Islamic sacred things or rites.
2. To insult and revile any of the recognized divine religions.
3. To portray disobedience in a positive light, to incite thereto, to promote it or to procure any meanssusceptible of tempting people to disobey.
4. To knowingly eat porkmeat while being a Muslim.
Where any of the above offences is committed in public, the punishment shall be either confinement for aminimum period of one year or a fine.”

– Whilst UAE’s foreign minister marched in unity in France this weekend, back home it is illegal to dare to speak your mind, if your mind does not conform to the religious dogma of those who have taken it upon themselves to declare their beliefs supreme.

Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia.
The interim Prime Minister joined the march, and also signed the book of condolence at the French embassy in Tunisia on Saturday. This, despite the fact that Tunisian blogger Yassine Ayari was tried for insulting state officials and sentenced to three years by the military, for criticising the military on Facebook. Article 91 of the Code of Military Justice makes it an offence to criticise the “dignity, reputation and morale” of the army. In 2012 Jabeur Mejri was jailed for posting ‘insulting’ pictures of Muhammad on Facebook… or, as the the courts in Tunisia call it; “transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order“. He was released in 2014 after two years in prison.

Whilst it was pleasing to see so many people stand together in defence of free expression during the Paris march for unity, it is equally worrying that so many World leaders linking arms that day operate incredibly oppressive restrictions including violence for criticism they can’t handle, perpetuating the notion that ‘blasphemy’ should be restricted & punishable, enshrining one religion into the framework of state, whilst so shamefully out in a show of unity for that same free expression they can’t themselves handle.


‘Islam without extremes’ – by Mustafa Akyol. A Critique.

October 12, 2014

islamwithoutextremes

Perhaps you may think it an exaggeration, but I am quite convinced that the World will be shaped over the next several decades predominantly by how it responds to the threat from Islamist extremists. More than simply a war between those groups like Hizb or ISIS and the rest of the World, more than a war for the freedom of human beings from the oppressive structures imposed by supremacists, this is a civil war within Islam for its future. Whether Islam comes out of that war as a religion for the individual; an inner, spiritual system of guidance, or whether it is to be defined as a political structure that extends beyond the individual and chains others to dictates, can only be decided by Muslims. Attempts within the Islamic community to provide counter-narratives to extreme illiberal Islamist dogmas are vital. We do see this through the important work of think tanks like ‘Quilliam‘, or groups like ‘British Muslims for Secular Democracy‘. Writers can also have a lasting affect on how the war for Islam is shaped. I recently finished reading ‘Islam without extremes’ by Mustafa Akyol. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the book here.

I have several criticisms and I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. It is worth noting from the beginning that ‘Islam without extremes: A Muslim case for liberty‘ is an excellent attempt to dispel the myth that prevails in both Islamist quarters, and the Western far right, that groups like Hizb are in fact synonymous with Islam. They are not. Islam is a wide spectrum of belief that encompasses violent extremism, and secular liberalism. Akyol’s book presents a far more liberal, and secular strand of Islamic history that tends to get drowned out by Wahhabi interpretations in recent years. The book’s discussion of the back and forth fight for Islam over the centuries between traditionists and rationalists is compelling and fascinating reading. That being said, the book seems to present Islam less as a faith that promotes liberty, and more as a faith that is illiberal, and anti-secular, but a little bit less so than extremists suggest. And so as a ‘case for liberty’, it isn’t successful, and I’ll to give my reasons for that conclusion:

For example, after a brief discussion of pre-Islamic Arab society, in which women were not permitted the right to own property nor inheritance, Akyol says:

“… the Qur’an also decreed that females should receive a share of inheritance. It was only half of what their male siblings would get, but in a society in which men were considered to be responsible for the care of the whole household, this was a generous amount.”

– This seems to me to be a way to have it both ways. The very basis of Islamic belief, is that the Qur’an is the final message from God. It is the book of rules for all time. There will be no other message. It comes from a being that transcends time. He is able to give a new message, in more enlightened times if he wished, that ensures equal inheritance regardless of gender. But that isn’t the fundamental idea of Islam; that the Qur’an is the final message. ‘Rights’ are defined for eternity. And yet, more often than not, Muslims invoke the ‘context of the time’ excuse for illiberal Quranic rules. Akyol does that here. Whether the share of inheritance is nothing, or whether it is half that which men are to gain, it is illiberal. An improvement is irrelevant if it is to end at that improvement, and not be permitted further improvement toward equal treatment. In this case, the Quranic rule on inheritance is an institutional patriarchal structure, and worse than that, it is to be instituted for all time. Any further improvement would be an admission that the Islamic God was constrained by the time period, or that He was simply wrong. The ‘context’ excuse seems to me to be an attempt to placate in the mind of the believer, the suspicion that the Qur’an may not be all that liberal after all. A recognition that the individual believer has morally outgrown his/her God.

On page 67, Akyol says:

“The dhimma system was just one of the many implications of a basic idea that the Qur’an introduced: Humans have rights ordained by God, and no other human can violate those rights. This idea would allow Muslims to create a civilisation based on the rule of law”.

– I find these sentences to be self defeating. My rights have already been violated by other human beings, the moment those human beings decide for themselves that my life is to be chained to their faith and that the ‘rule of law’ is to be based on that one faith. Law is subsequently based less on evidence, if it contradicts the dogmatic beliefs of the privileged religion (more often than not, the privileged religion tends to be very patriarchal and very heterosexual, and so – surprisingly – heterosexual men seem to benefit the most from upholding that system). Institutional privilege for one faith is not a good example of the ‘case for liberty’. Quite the opposite. It insists that anchoring moral standards to one place and one time, is an excellent base for law, and that all must abide by it, whether Muslim or not, whilst those who aren’t Muslim must pay a tax to uphold this system.

In an attempt to promote Muhammad as a friend of Jews and Christians, Akyol tells us – on page 60-61 – that the Prophet spared the frescoes of Jesus and Mary when he stormed the Ka’ba, and that the Qur’an granted the right of Christians and Jews to live and practice their faith… under the rule of Islam. You will perhaps note several problems with trying to argue the case for liberty within a faith whose leader destroys the Gods of other faiths, saving only those that are depicted in the Qur’an, and then has the nerve to “grant the right” for others to live according to their own conscience… under the rule of Islam. This is not liberty. A man fighting for any concept of liberty would not have destroyed the Gods of others, nor have believed himself divinely ordained to decide upon the rights and the lives of others. I may dislike the Christian & Islamic God, I don’t then destroy Churches and Mosques. We rightly prosecute those who do.

Muhammad – by Akyol’s own admission – has now destroyed the Gods of other Pagan systems of belief. If I were to claim to have received a revelation from God, and proceeded to destroy shrines to other faiths proclaiming “truth has come! Falsehood has vanished!” – which, along with many other Quranic verses and traditions of the Prophet significantly negates the ‘no compulsion’ line – whilst telling Muslims that my new God has granted them certain rights, I would expect to be told that I do not get the privilege of handing out rights according to my own personal beliefs alone whilst destroying the right of others to believe according to their own conscience. The lives of others, are not mine to control or define. The same is true here. Muhammad was not promoting liberal values, he was assuming for himself a significant position of privilege to control the lives of others. Akyol then seems to accept that Muhammad instituted a sort of semi-theocracy with new liberties thrown in. He quotes Karen Armstrong who said:

“Muhammad could not produce a full-blown individualism to satisfy our present Western liberal ideas, but he had made a start.”

– The word ‘start’ should be replaced with the word ‘end’, because again, the Qur’an is the final message. She is right that Muhammad could not produce a full blown liberal, secular, democratic society protecting the civil liberties of all, at that moment and place in time. We as atheists must accept that he was just a man – impressive at times, flawed and disastrous at others – but believers who attempt to promote Islam as a faith that enshrines liberty – as Akyol attempted to do – have the uneasy burden of accepting that their God transcends time, and so the rules He sets out, and the man whom he chooses to empower with that message, must be the perfect form of liberty, and must not be rules that others over the centuries will try to mimic, causing misery across the globe. This is the problem of foresight – a subject I wrote on here – shared by the God of all the Abrahamic traditions. Indeed, those rules – if they are to extend beyond the individual in any way – must protect and empower men and women, muslims and atheists, homosexuals and heterosexuals, of all ethnicities, without prominence or privilege to any sect of any faith, otherwise it is simply a book of oppression and no amount of redefinition can fix that. And whilst Mustafa Akyol’s book certainly provides a narrative that takes the more extreme elements of recent years away from the faith, it fails to produce a narrative that its title – ‘A Muslim case for liberty‘ – suggests, and fails to tear Islam away from political ideology by entertaining the notion that it is perfectly reasonable for Muslims to define the rights of non-Muslims.

The conclusion I came to after reading Akyol’s book – and getting past the predictable religious tendency to blame everyone else except religious dogma for its deficiencies – was that Islam is by its nature illiberal, it is just a little less illiberal than the extremists believe, and was a little more liberating than previous Theocracies centuries ago. A leap forward once upon a time perhaps, but thoroughly archaic today.


Defining Islamism.

August 31, 2014

There has been a curious holding of hands in recent years between the Western political far right and those of the Islamist persuasion, both insisting that any individual interpretation of Islam and the definition of Islamism are in fact one in the same. The rhetoric from both is eerily similar in many instances. They both do not care too much for equal secular and liberal protections, and seek to restrict liberty for those they don’t particularly like – this is clear from the Bendigo Mosque case, and the anti-secular opposition to it – and they both insist that a state controlled by the dictates of one faith, is a duty for every Muslim to work to fulfill; a narrative used to justify oppression from both sides of that aisle. The implication is that anyone identifying as a Muslim, but not subscribing to a World domination interpretation of their faith, is not a ‘real‘ Muslim. When it comes to conflating personal faith, with political ideology, both the Western far right and Islamists agree.

The implication that any Muslim not actively pursuing a Caliphate is not a ‘real Muslim’ is a weak one of course, because no single Muslim has the privilege of speaking for the entire faith, nor carrying the definitive interpretation of the faith. Belief is dependent on a variety of concepts, not least personal life experience, socio-economic status, all working in unison to produce an individual interpretation. Islam; the Qur’an and Hadith are so vast in content, anchored to a time and place we know so little about, with a long history of contradiction that no one in the 21st Century can claim a definitive interpretation. Indeed, whilst we see Islamists insisting that homosexual people must be oppressed in the most abhorrent ways, we also see a Swedish Imam blessing a Muslim same-sex marriage last week, and wonderful Islamic gay rights groups like the Al-Fatiha Foundation working to protect and advance the rights of the Muslim LGBT community. Whilst we see ISIS beheading its way across the Middle East, justifying its hideous actions with Quranic passages, we see Imam’s like Dr Usama Hasan issue religious edicts condemning the group, using Quranic passages also. The scope for interpretation is so vast, that for anyone to claim to be speaking for the entire faith, speaks only to their own deluded sense of superiority.

So what do we mean by Islamism? Some claim it is a term that is so diluted, it is indefinable. I disagree. I think it has a clear definition. I’ve had this debate on social media over the past few days, and I’m yet to come across a notable objection to the term, that offers any reason to think the term itself is indefinable.

How I define & use the term Islamism:
A desire to enshrine Islam into the mechanisms of state, with law and rights based on the Shariah. The desire to elevate Islam to state privilege and power.
You may reasonably be described as Islamist, if you believe that I should be free, until my freedom contradicts the Shariah.

Indeed, the Sudanese Islamist leader Hasan al-Turabi uses the term ‘Islamism’ as I use it, in his book ‘Islam and Government‘. Al-Turabi notes that Islamists are:

“Political Muslims for whom Islam is the solution, Islam is religion and government, Islam is the constitution and law.”

– That’s it. It’s that simple. If an individual believes my liberty should be dependent entirely on the dictates of Islam – believing Islam having any inherent jurisdiction over my life whatsoever – this is Islamism. this is Islamism. Erecting institutional barriers to freedom according to the principles of Islam (however you interpret the principles), is Islamism. If an individual believes Islam must be granted state privilege of any variety, this is Islamism. If an individual believes my right to pursue my own goals ends where the religion of Islam begins, this is Islamism. The means of achieving that end may vary between democratically elected heads of state like Erdoğan slowly de-secularising a country and privileging one faith, or violent extremists willing to go the extra mile and wipe out all opposition (note; that is not to say that all violent extremists are Islamists). Indeed, the two may vehemently disagree with each other on progressing the end goal, or may differ theologically (some may argue that apostates deserve execution, others may not; the fact that both believe they have a right to decide whether an apostate lives or dies, rather than neither a believer nor an apostate having any right to decide who lives or dies, is the point), but the end goal remains the same. Whether you parade the streets of London with a sign reading ‘Freedom go to hell!’, or you wear a suit, attend a nation’s Parliament and seek to impose Islam by restricting equal civil liberty via an outwardly respectable legislative process; the end goal is the same.

When I peer out of my window, I see two trees, both of different appearance and levels of imposition. There’s a big tree with red leaves that blocks direct sun light from entering my window after a certain time. There’s a tiny tree with green leaves that balances precariously during windy nights. The two are very similar yet contain nuances that suggest differences; we still call both a tree, because the nuances do not negate the roots. It is fair to say that all ‘isms’, though rooted to the same principles, contain degrees of nuance to the point where one may refer to another as ‘not a real…[insert ism as applicable]’. An ‘ism’ is an umbrella term for a set of ideas. Socialism has a wildly varying degree of proponents from the peaceful to the violent, all seeking a similar goal. With Islamism, the nuances – the means of achieving control of the apparatus of state for Islam; thus the lives of others – may differ, but the principle itself remains the same. If you believe the liberty of others should be chained to the religious dictates of the faith of Islam – however you see that goal achieved – this is Islamism. I am yet to understand why this is a controversial definition, though I suspect it is less controversial, and more uncomfortable for some who fall under this definition.

One objection appears to be that we do not share similar terms with those of others faiths working toward the same end. I agree with this objection to a point, though fail to see how it negates the solid definition of the term ‘Islamism’. It simply – and rightly – suggests inconsistent use elsewhere. In the past, we have used ‘Clerical fascism’ – a well defined term focused on Christianity. In the 21st Century, we tend to refer – perhaps sloppily – to those we should refer to as Christianists as the Christian-right. We don’t refer to Islamists as the Muslim-right. This isn’t a distinction without meaning. We do this largely because by the 1950s, what we should call Christianism started to become aligned to the mainstream political right wing, especially in the US, and had several successes, not least ‘In God We Trust’ placed everywhere, slowly chipping away at the principle of church/state separation. The Christian-right are to this day aligned to the Republican Party, continuing its fight to enshrine Christian privilege into the mechanism of state (particularly Oklahoma). It is a similar tale in the UK. It was unsurprising that the voices of dissent over the UK’s same-sex marriage bill, were almost all conservatives (Tory and UKIP), using a Christian narrative in order to withhold equal rights for others. Tony Abbott’s right winged Liberal Party in Australia, appears to favour Christian dogma, over secular liberalism. That relationship between Islamists and mainstream politics isn’t as clear as it has been for their Christianist counterparts and so the term ‘Muslim-right’ would be wholly inadequate. So we use ‘Islamism’ – a term that seems to have gained its rebirth as an new concept in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution through to 9/11 and beyond; and so both ‘Christian-right’ and ‘Islamism’ are founded upon a social, historical context, both with a very clear foundation in the desire to impose the faith of one, over the lives of others through the functions of state.

Perhaps our familiarity with the term ‘Christian-right’ is a reason we do not change it to ‘Christianism’, we already have an established term. Indeed, whilst the term ‘Christianism’ and ‘Christianists’ is at times used – A Time article and Guardian article use it – I would argue that it isn’t used enough (on this blogging platform ‘Islamist’ is recognised as a real word, whilst ‘Christianist’ is underlined to suggest a spelling error) and that it is an objection Muslims are right to raise, though not in the context of negating or diluting the clear definition of ‘Islamism’ (as the Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin implied here, whilst bizarrely questioning why the media doesn’t offer a positive image of Islamism from time to time).

As noted at the beginning of the previous paragraph, the lack of a similar word (not a lack of any word, because we absolutely do use other terms to describe them that mean the same thing) for those of other faiths progressing the same desire, does not negate the definition of Islamism as an ideological narrative that seeks to control the lives of others, according to the dictates of Islam. This is a political narrative, and regardless of what both Islamists and the Western far-right insist, is not a term to be used interchangeably with Islam. And so as far as I can tell, the definition of Islamism may be uncomfortable for some, but stands as a perfectly adequate definition.


Serving God and Money: Hobby Lobby prove Jesus wrong.

July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby, Ohio. Author: DangApricot Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hobby Lobby, Ohio.
Picture credit: DangApricot
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to allow ‘closely held’ companies the right to opt out of secular law, to interfere with the private health decisions of female employees, based on extremely faulty premises and still receive tax benefits, shines a light on Hobby Lobby and their business dealings that might surprise many. Molly Redden at Mother Jones brilliantly reported back in April, that Hobby Lobby has been investing in the very companies that manufacture the pills they have a ‘moral’ objection with providing to their employees.

Hobby Lobby’s employee 401(k) plan held around $73,000,000 in mutual funds for investments in companies that include Pfizer, who make pills that induce abortions, TEVA who make IUDs and Humana; a health insurance company that offer surgical abortions and emergency contraceptives on their plans. Most notably, Hobby Lobby specifically mentioned IUDs, and Plan B as violating their religious principles. They submitted this objection, whilst investing in TEVA and Actevis; two companies that produce Plan B (which simply prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg – Hobby Lobby believe this amounts to murdering a baby) and IUDs.

In short, whilst Hobby Lobby have been seeking to chain women’s health and reproductive rights to the beliefs of the CEO, the company has been profiting from the very drugs they have a ‘moral’ objection to. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Hobby Lobby still covers Viagra for men. Whilst female employees will no longer be able to request morning after pills (manufactured by companies Hobby Lobby invest in, and perfectly acceptable to Hobby Lobby prior to the ACA) on their health plan, men will still be able to request help for erectile problems. The argument seems to be that Viagra aids procreation whilst Plan B and IUDs prevent it. One wonders then how they defend the fact that Hobby Lobby still covers vasectomies for men.

The Hobby Lobby management have appointed themselves the decisions makers for the health and wellbeing of female employees by mandating the boss’s religious views upon employees, whilst simultaneously violating their own apparent ‘moral’ standard when profiting is involved. Hobby Lobby is an extension of the Christian-Right’s war on women, masked as ‘religious freedom’, and completely irrelevant when there’s an opportunity to make more money. I guess the Jesus was wrong, when he said:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
– Matthew 6:24

– Naturally, the Republican Party appear to fully endorse the Supreme Court decision. The Speaker took to his Twitter account to announce that the 5-4 court decision (the five being all men, the four being all women plus one man) was a victory for religious freedom. This shouldn’t surprise anyone given the party’s ceaseless attacks on women’s health and rights over the past few years. From Mitt’s “binders full of women” to Akin’s “legitimate rape” to Chambliss almost whimsically shaking off the seriousness of sexual assault in the military by claiming it’s simply down to young men’s “hormone level created by nature“, to refusals to renew the Violence Against Women Act, to under funding important health services and attempts to completely gut Title X of all funding; the GOP has been the political mouthpiece for obscene gender inequality for the past several years.

It seems apparent to me that if you wish for a healthcare system that ensures employees are dependent on the coverage provided by the company – that they work and contribute to the success of – for basic health and wellbeing, those employees should not be chained to the boss’s fondness for 1st century tribal Palestinian stories. The boss’s religious beliefs have absolutely no connection to the health and wellbeing and individual choices of employees. The sex lives of female employees have nothing to do with the boss of the company. There should be a set standard across the board, secular in nature. The company has no religious beliefs. It is not a person. Indeed, the Founder’s were not fond of corporate entities, believing them to be in need of careful regulation and certainly not to be treated as individual human beings. The boss’s religious beliefs should not be granted an opt out of secular law, nor should a boss be permitted the right to force thousands of employees to abide by his personal religious beliefs, where their choices do not affect his life in any way. A Jehovah’s Witness has no more right to deny an employee access to a blood transfusion, than a Christian has a right to prevent a woman making her own choices on her own sexual health. Health is vital. A company providing access to birth control does nothing to violate the religious freedom of the individual boss, but restricting access to birth control absolutely violates the right of the employee to personal choice and freedom. The CEO is not the company. The CEO is not paying for the health and wellbeing of anyone else, the employees are working for that coverage. They pay for it. The company is everyone who works for it, including the women that Hobby Lobby’s boss David Green doesn’t particularly care about, as he profits from the drugs he seeks to restrict access to, whilst ensuring men can still get it up.


Keep ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ out of schools.

June 20, 2014

“I pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again as king with life and liberty for all who believe.
I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I will hide it in my heart, that I might not sin against God.”

– The pledge, spoken at Accelerated Christian Education schools.

It seemed to be a good week for secularism in the UK this week. On June 17th, Ofsted withdraw support for gender segregation in schools, and a day later the government banned free schools from promoting Creationism as science. All seemed to be progressing. That is until a private Christian school in Manchester had been found to be using textbooks by Tennessee based Creationist group, ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ in its curriculum. Alarmingly, the British Humanist Association found that nine nurseries were using ‘ACE’ curriculum. Leaving aside a general discussion on the place of ‘faith’ in private schools, I wondered just who ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ are, and why they are permitted any involvement in the education of impressionable minds. It turns out, they’re about as fundamentalist as Christians manage to get, and incredibly damaging.

Dr Donald Howard founded ‘ACE’ in 1970, for the express purpose of disseminating a literalist interpretation of the Bible, through what Howard termed “educational missions”. The usual suspects are to be found throughout their literature; homophobia, right winged political ideals, creationism, anti-evolution with a little racism thrown in. The children that come out of ACE schools grow up to tell similar stories of how Dr Howard’s “educational missions” horrendously stunted their education and growth, presented them with a false perception of reality far removed from the rest of society, and failed enormously to prepare them for life.

Over at a favourite blog of mine ‘Leaving Fundamentalism’, several ex-students explain their experience of an ‘ACE’ education:

“I found that ACE helped me with test taking, memorization, answering to please the grader, and sitting silently for 7 hours straight. It hindered me by not teaching me long-term retention, critical thinking, literary/historical/contextual analysis, participation in discussions, essay composition, and unbiased presentation.”

“I was going through some old ACE books in order to get my transcripts for my first year of highschool in order and noticed all of the places that I had highlighted wrong information or just blatant lies. It was atrocious! Most of them were in history because that happened to be my favorite subject but Science was chock full of lies as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Christian. But ACE played no part in my conversion. In fact, it put a bitter taste in my mouth towards any fundamentalist or organized religion. The fact that all of the work is reading comprehension and pretty much no creative writing sickens me. In the few years that I studied ACE I was in no way encouraged to voice my own opinion or do any kind of secular research to find things out for myself. I remember at one point, a “creative writing” project was to write a letter to my governor… My problem here? I was instructed to “thank him and show your appreciation for his policies and achievement”… Which I completely disagreed with.”

– The experiences all seem to echo each other. Whether a public school, or a private school, the damage is the same. The indoctrinating through proselytising – abandoning critical thought processes for a bubble of faith – to young minds, harms the development of the student, and leaves them completely unprepared for the next stages of life. ‘ACE’ is a very cult-like group seeking to self perpetuate, by pulling children away from the rest of society, with Christian literalist manipulations, to create a little conclave of Christian fundamentalists. It is to the credit of past students, that many figured out what was going on, and now speak out.

It was only in 2013, that ‘ACE’ in Europe removed from its biology textbook – a book that should be teaching children the basics of biology, including genetics, evolution, medicine – the idea that the Loch Ness Monster is real, and proof that evolution is a terrible lie. The book – Biology 1099 – stated:

“Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

– They continue:

“Biblical and scientific evidence seems to indicate that men and dinosaurs lived at the same time”

– Whilst this is all clearly wrong, and works only to distort reality for vulnerable minds, ACE take it one step further by moralising – in a way that suggests ultimate truth – to perpetuate an atmosphere of homophobia, with completely misleading and false ‘science’. In ‘Science 1107’ they state:

“Some people mistakenly believe that an individual is born a homosexual and his attraction to those of the same sex is normal. Because extensive tests have shown that there is no biological difference between homosexuals and others, these tests seem to prove that homosexuality is a learned behaviour. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin. In Old Testament times, God commanded that homosexuals be put to death. Since God never commanded death for normal or acceptable actions, it is as unreasonable to say that homosexuality is normal as it is to say that murder or stealing is normal.”

– The problems with this passage are so vast, that one blog post is not enough to cover it all. Needless to say, everything we actually know about the science of sexuality discredits everything this passage offers. Plenty of children in ‘ACE’ schools will be gay. Here, they are told they are not normal, must be discriminated against, and that God – taught as fact – wishes them dead. The science, the studies, the biological nature of sexuality are dismissed, for Leviticus. As well as homophobia, ‘ACE’ taught – in ‘Social Studies 1086’ – that Apartheid in South Africa and institutional racism is acceptable, if it is perceived to be economically valuable:

“The government must be responsible to the taxpayers who provide the money that the government spends. Since that is true only taxpayers should be given the privilege of voting…

The apartheid policy of South Africa is a modern example of this principle. Under the apartheid system, the population of five million Whites controls most of the nation’s wealth. If apartheid were done away with, the twenty million Blacks, who are not taxpayers, would be given the privilege of voting. Within a short period of time they would control the government and the means of taxation. ‘The power to tax is the power to destroy.’ Heavy taxation could become a burden to the property owners who actually finance the government and provide jobs. Economics is the major reason that apartheid exists. Some people want to abolish apartheid immediately. That action would certainly alter the situation in South Africa, but would not improve it.”

– The racism continues, with a complete manipulation of history, for the benefit of Christian supremacy:

“It’s interesting that in the African primitive languages there is no word for wisdom. We in the West find that surprising, but you see, the idea of wisdom came through the Biblical channels of the Judaeo-Christian religion and filtered into all of western culture and society.”

So, that’s the benefits of homophobia and racism – and so, the supremacy of white, heterosexual, Christians – taught to children. Studies on Maths, Science, and English, are treated no less hideously, with all intrinsically linked to the Bible and politically right-leaning ideas. For example, ‘ACE’ offers the following in an English test:

(29) Responsible citizens will vote for political candidates who
a. promise to provide good paying jobs for all those who are out of work
b. promise to cut back on both government services and spending and cut taxes
c. promise to raise taxes on “big business” and use the money to help the poor
d. promise to provide child-care services for all mothers who need to work

(The “correct” answer is b.)

– For science on evolutionary biology – the very basis of all modern genetics, biology, zoology, and medicine – ‘ACE’ offers no evidence-based studies to back up their claim that:

“… no transitional fossils have been or will ever be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals.

– For physics, ‘ACE’ again offers no scientific studies into their claim on nuclear fusion in ‘Science 1096’ that:

“The nuclear fusion theory of how the sun emits heat and light is an invention of evolution scientists… All other theories require the sun to use up all its energy sooner than the evolutionists’ invented timetable would allow.”

Worryingly, despite the massive distortions of science and reality, despite the political narrative ‘ACE’ is trying to instill into the minds of children, its deep rooted homophobia, and its clear use of schools to proselytise, the National Recognition Information Centre – which offers validation for certain qualifications – deemed International Certificate of Christian Education gained through ‘ACE’ programmes, to be equivalent of A-Levels.

Whilst this week proved to be a positive step in reducing – albeit, slightly – the wholly negative influence of faith-as-fact in schools, it is worrying that schools in the UK in the 21st century – private or public – are willing to present a dangerous and fundamentalist narrative, devoid of all reality in favour of bronze aged myths, with undertones of discrimination thrown in, to the nation’s young. Grotesquely anti-secular groups like Accelerated Christian Education must not be allowed to play any part in the education of children.


“What makes stoning objectively wrong?”

June 5, 2014

I recently had a discussion with a Muslim guy at a Daw’ah table in the city centre, who held some incredibly extreme views and refused to accept contradictory thought. Afterwards, a friend of mine who considers himself a liberal Muslim, advocates free expression, LGBT rights, and considers the Shari’ah to be a system between him and his God only, told me – quite emotionally – that he does not recognise the Islam that the man at the Daw’ah table was espousing. I was reminded of this fundamental – and growing – split in Muslim thinking during a Newsnight debate between Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam and headteacher Ibrahim Hewitt of Interpal on the subject of extremism in schools. Nawaz asked Hewitt if he would condemn the practice of stoning, homophobia, or amputation of limbs for theft. After deflecting the question, Hewitt said it was a “complex issue”. I took exception to this, finding it particularly unnerving that a headteacher would not openly condemn executing people by throwing rocks at them, chopping off limbs, and dehumanising the LGBT community. After taking issue, I was asked on Twitter:

“But what makes stoning objectively wrong?”

– This curious – and rather grotesque – question echoes a lot of conservative religious apologists when seeking to defend abhorrent and archaic practices, by philosophising on objectivity in the hope of giving themselves a base by which they can legitimise the oppression of others. I find the framing of the question to be aimed in the wrong direction, and based on an incredibly faulty premise. The question presumes that the burden is on those of us who do not wish to be controlled by a single faith, to provide an explanation as to why our life is ours, and not owned by their religion.

The framing of the question – by presuming the burden is on us – implies a self evident privileged position for those that claim stoning is ‘objectively right‘, and that it is up to the rest of us to argue that it is in fact, wrong. The premise of the question itself is not proven first, and so the actual question has no reasonable basis. The premise is one in which I am wholly owned and subject to that particular faith, without offering proof as to why that should be true, whether I like it or not. It further implies that if I wish to free myself from the faith of those claiming ownership of my life, I must argue why their self-proclaimed right to subject me to religious punishment, is “objectively wrong“. This is an untenable position to start at, because at its core it permits religious folk the right to control me according to their faith, me the right to control their life if I simply say “My God says it’s objectively right“, it permits my neighbour the same right, and her neighbour the same right, and we end up in a situation in which all of us believe we have some sort of divine right to force others to abide by our personal religious beliefs. It is one big hellish Hobbesian condition of war. It offers no reasonable position as to why I shouldn’t be allowed to viciously oppress Muslims, if I simply add the phrase “… because God said so” at the end of an oppressive judgement, without first proving the validity of my premise; or indeed, the existence of my God. On the contrary, it appears to permit that state of all out God-wars. Each of us would thus begin from the position that our belief is true and must be inflicted upon others (whose beliefs must be presumed “objectively” false), without having to first offer conclusive proof. This seems entirely self defeating and based solely on who can subdue the other the quickest.

It seems to me that the only basis for a progressive and civilised society, is one that permits each the freedom to believe and to worship according to one’s conscience, but restricts that freedom at the point in which it inflicts upon the freedoms of others. So the case must be made that it isn’t my burden to explain why it is “objectively wrong” to punish me – with stoning or any other form of punishment – according to your faith. I begin life completely free from ideological dogma and chains. If you seek to erect barriers to my freedom, according to what your faith demands of you, you’re going to have to convince me to go along with it, otherwise it is simply oppression. Your faith does not own me at birth. If you believe it does, conclusively prove it, convince me. If you fail to do so, you have absolutely no authority by which to subject me to the punishments of your religious beliefs. Whether I live or die, must not be decided upon by the religious beliefs of anyone else. Therefore, the burden is yours to explain why it is “objectively right” that I be ideologically chained to your faith in the first place, before I am at all required to offer a rebuttal. It is not up to me to prove that I shouldn’t be subject to your religious beliefs, it is up to you to prove that I should. Good luck with that.


Secularism and the face veil.

May 28, 2014

640px-Jean-Jacques_Rousseau_(painted_portrait)

In my many debates with the Islamic community on how secularism benefits the religious, a repeatedly made assertion is that secularism in fact oppresses Muslims. To highlight this, they point to the ban on face-covering in France. Often two things happen if I attempt to provide a secular perspective after this issue is raised; firstly I’m told that I don’t understand Islam, and secondly I’m told that I’m a white male and so bizarrely this precludes me from arguing back, despite the fact that they raised the issue with me in the first place. As it stands, I am secularist, and all of my arguments on politics and religion stem from that premise. And so when it comes to secularism and the face veil, I thought I’d address the line of argument from Muslims that secularism oppresses Muslims here.

I should start by pointing out my prejudices. I dislike the full face veil. I’m not a fan of anyone telling others what is to be considered “dignified” or “modest” according to their religious beliefs. I’m also not a fan of the subtle hint that it is a woman’s duty to ensure a man doesn’t sexually assault her, by covering up. I’m also not a fan of the apartheid history that the face-covering veil has, and continues to perpetuate in authoritarian and patriarchal households and states. But here’s the thing; it absolutely doesn’t matter what I think of any item of clothing that someone else freely chooses to wear. It it not my place to tell someone else that they are oppressed, if they are freely choosing to wear something. It is not my place to tell them that they are not freely choosing to wear something on the basis that I find their religion itself to be oppressive. Secularism ensures freedom of religion for you, as much as it ensures freedom from religion for me. It ensures you are free to wear what you wish, and I am free to criticise all articles of faith (including what it is I believe the veil stands for). All must be free to wear whatever they wish, without someone else restricting them according to personal beliefs.

The enforcing of the wearing of the face veil, is a different matter entirely, and the one’s doing the enforcing – thus controlling the lives of others – should absolutely be subject to state punishment for what is essentially the hijacking of someone else’s life. It is true that this is a massive problem in nations in which Islam is enshrined into the framework of state, but also in the homes of Muslims in Western countries, and it is a very difficult situation to address. It is however entirely self defeating to seek to free people, by oppressing them. The perpetrator of the coercion is the one violating the liberty of the individual. The coercion is the problem. The belief that coercion is acceptable, is the problem. Restricting individual choice is not a solution. Indeed, seeking to restrict the choice of all women, because some men are viciously abusive, is the essence of victim-blaming, counter-productive, and vastly anti-secular.

(Note; In a place – such as a trial or an airport security check or children in a school – where facial recognition is essential; the rule of law and security must not be sacrificed for religious belief, the face veil should be removed).

The fight to free human beings from those enforcing the wearing of the face veil, is one in which the conclusion must not be caging people by enforcing the non-wearing of the face veil. The conclusion must be freedom of choice for the individual. That is the goal of secularism as I know it. Challenging the narrative of divisive, oppressive structures and instead offering individual freedom – including choice – is the basis of a secular society. Any deviation, is the opposite of secular. My right to wear something that a religious citizen may find ‘immodest’ or ‘offensive’ does not permit that religious person the right to prevent me from wearing it, and so the same right must be extended to all.

I differ somewhat from Anne Marie Waters from the ‘One Law for All’ campaign, where she stated:

“But I have a question — even if it is a choice, so what? I choose to round up every niqab and burka on the planet and bury them in the deepest pit under the deepest ocean in the world — will this choice be honoured? Of course not, so what makes these women’s choices so much more important than mine?”

– She seems to be suggesting that ‘individual choice where it doesn’t interfere with the liberty of others‘ and ‘interfering with the liberty of others by theft, and restricting personal choice of all others in adherence to my beliefs‘ are two concepts that should be regarded equally. To round up and bury every niqab on the planet, requires stealing, and then telling others you’re doing it for their own good according to your own beliefs. This can in no way be twisted to represent secularism. Much the opposite.

I also think Maryam Namazie makes a similar mistake when she compares the face veil, to female genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation relies on the clear violation of the individual’s right to her own body. If someone wishes the right to mutilate another human being, then they must also accept the right for others to mutilate their body, whenever those others see fit. The person being viciously mutilated has exercised no choice, and has had their most sacred liberty molested. Similarly, if the face veil is forced upon another human being against their will, this clearly violates their right to personal liberty, and lacks all choice. In both cases, the punishment should be on those who commit the offence against the other person’s liberty. Force is the problem. Not choice. Seeking to prevent force, by preventing choice by force, is absurd. Force is not to be conflated with someone freely choosing to wear a face veil. State punishment for all Muslim women, because some men force other Muslim women to wear clothing against their will, is a deeply oppressive measure. It is the punishing of someone for freely wearing the face veil, that is in the same camp as violating all other individual liberties.

When we on the secular left often point to conservatives (especially in the US) wishing to withhold the right for women to be free to control their own reproductive system, without interference from the state, it seems hugely hypocritical to then wish to withhold the right for women to be free to choose what to wear without the interference of the state. You do not fight oppression, with oppression.

It has been four years since the French introduced the ban to the country. Since then, Hind Ahmas and Najate Nait Ali have both been fined for wearing the face veil, others who freely choose to wear the face veil are scared to leave their house through fear of punishment or threat. It is particularly difficult to consider the fining of someone and fear of punishment for freely choosing to wear an item of clothing, as “freedom”. It seems the opposite to me. It seems that innocent people are forced to endure unnecessary abuse, because others don’t like the veil. Ahmas said:

“My quality of life has seriously deteriorated since the ban. In my head, I have to prepare for war every time I step outside, prepare to come up against people who want to put a bullet in my head. The politicians claimed they were liberating us; what they’ve done is to exclude us from the social sphere. Before this law, I never asked myself whether I’d be able to make it to a cafe or collect documents from a town hall. One politician in favour of the ban said niqabs were ‘walking prisons’. Well, that’s exactly where we’ve been stuck by this law.”

– Further, a report by “Open Society” contains quotes from Muslim women – who freely choose to wear the veil – who have faced increased persecution in France since the ban. Karima from Marseilles said:

“I particularly miss going out. Now you have to think twice before going out and I’ve really withdrawn into myself a lot because when you go out people are really very, very nasty. Before, it was kind of OK. You had some stares, sometimes people took liberties and said certain things, but not as much as nowadays, especially since it’s been covered so much in the media.”

— The point is clear. State punishment for freely choosing to wear an item of clothing, creates criminals out of peaceful people who have harmed nobody, is just as oppressive, and leads to persecution and a feeling of being dehumanised in the exact same way that state punishment for freely choosing not to wear an item of clothing does so too. Muslim women in France freely wearing the veil, are being blamed and having basic rights restricted, for the patriarchal abuse of women forced to wear the veil elsewhere.

William Langley, completely ignoring the people victimised by the law, at The Telegraph said:

“…the public overwhelmingly sees the ban as right for France, beneficial to its Muslim communities and justified.”

– This is irrelevant. Secular civil liberties are the starting point that mustn’t be breached, including the freedom to express oneself according one’s own conscience where it doesn’t interfere with the same liberty for others. The ‘community’ does not get to tell individuals what it is that is ‘beneficial’ to their personal life. If every French citizen minus one wished to ban the item of clothing that the one individual freely wishes to wear without harming the same liberty for anyone else, the majority are no more justified in punishing that person than the individual is justified in forcing the majority to wear that same item of clothing. Indeed, if 99% are forced to wear an item of clothing, and 1% choose to wear it, that 1% should not be punished. The people enforcing it upon the 99% should be punished. In this case, it is those coercing that are in the wrong, not the 1% freely exercising their liberty.

Langley goes on:

“This, as Mme Amara painstakingly tries to explain, is the problem with all those charming liberal pieties about allowing women to choose how they wish to dress. Large numbers of the women who wear the burka – whether in France, Britain or anywhere else – don’t have a choice.”

– The implication is that we wont deal with those doing the forcing directly. We’ll instead punish those who choose freely to wear the face veil. I think he summarises his entire article, when he refers to the liberty for all to choose – regardless of gender – what it is they feel comfortable wearing, and to express their beliefs in their own way as “…allowing women to choose“. As if women should thank right winged men for “allowing” them certain liberties. At the heart of it, it is a very patriarchal, and ironically, very Islamist line of argument.

France is not secular. Neither are those who seek to ban choice. The state intrudes upon the personal freedom of the choice of the religious, where that personal freedom does not interfere with the liberty of others, and so it is by definition anti-secular. It is the state – through enforcing restrictions of wearing the veil – imitating the role of those who force the wearing of the face veil through threat, blaming the one’s they seek to oppress in the process, whilst claiming they do it for their freedom. It is the state controlling the private choices of the individual, and so it is a different side of the same coin that demands punishment for those who do not wear the face veil. The state should be enhancing a framework to help those forced to wear the face veil by abusive family members or partners, and focusing on educating children and adults away from perpetuating oppressive structures, whilst advocating secular democratic civil liberties for all across the World. The state should not on punishing those who freely choose to wear an item of clothing. They are not at fault in any way. Punishing the innocent, for the crimes of the abusive, is not a secular principle. It is also therefore vastly disingenuous for Muslims to conflate secularism, with oppression of Muslims.


The right to blaspheme.

May 20, 2014

benjamin_franklin

I’m deeply suspicious of those who believe their God expects them to do His dirty work in punishing blasphemy, without their God first offering conclusive proof that He exists. His followers seem to be affording themselves a privileged position – a position in which they free themselves to oppress – based on nothing more than how much they believe in their particular God, and how much the rest of us don’t. Indeed, for those of us who aren’t religious, we see no reason why you shouldn’t be free to believe in faiths that offend our every principle, at the same time as we’re free to ridicule that offensive faith. Neither you, nor I get to privilege ourselves by defining what is and isn’t to be considered universally ‘offensive’ when it comes to beliefs.

Today is international draw Muhammad day. Whilst argument persists about the nature – is it ‘Islamophobic’? Isn’t it? Who cares? – of the idea of ‘draw Muhammad day’, I’m left wondering why no one is concerned about the atmosphere that leads to this sort of a protest in the first place. It is the 21st century, and billions across the World continue to be denied the fundamental human right to express their view, if it happens to contradict the often far more vicious views of those who believe themselves inherently privileged on account of their religion. An atmosphere that appears to afford a bizarre “right” to not be offended – even among Western ‘liberals’ who clearly feel uneasy at offending religious concepts or arguing the superiority of liberal, secular values – a position of higher dignity than the right to self expression.

It is bizarre, because when it comes to individual liberty, only one of those previously mentioned presumed ‘rights’ is by its nature oppressive. When we express, we do not rescind the civil liberty of anyone else, and nor should anyone else – whether in the majority or not – rescind your civil liberty, for expressing contrary opinions. Our civil rights are equal, we are protected, I am simply expressing an opinion that is contrary to yours. I choose the way that I express that opinion, but I have no right to injure your liberty in the process. You might be offended by my expression, and that’s fine. Nothing happens. That’s it. You’re offended, and you move on with your life. Your liberty is protected, as much as mine is. The same is not true, of the presumed “right” to not be offended. This obnoxious presumption can only manifest itself in the removal of civil liberties – through blasphemy laws – of others, and so the privileging of your view above all others. Why – for example – should you have a right to believe in a faith that offends me, yet I shouldn’t have a right to offend that faith? This is you privileging your faith, or faiths in general, claiming ownership over my voice, this is supremacy, and it is by its nature, oppression. It is the claiming of ownership not only of the voices of others, but of skepticism in general. The very fact that you may seek to privilege your specific belief, protecting it from forms of criticism arising from skeptical inquiry on account of how deeply you believe it to be true, is the exact reason it must be open to criticism; to deflate its authoritarian desire to control my freedom to express.

For example, the anti-secular group ‘Christian Voice’ freely expressed their displeasure at homosexuality this week, when they grotesquely stated:

“The Eurovision Song Contest sank to a new low on Saturday night as a bearded homosexual drag artist swept to an overwhelming win.”

– So, given that ‘Christian Voice’ utilises the freedom to express and perpetuate their beliefs without reproach, one has to wonder why they refuse to support that same freedom for others. In 2005 ‘Christian Voice’ threatened to picket outside of the cancer support centre ‘Maggie’s Centres’ if the centre took a £3000 donation from ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’, because it was full of “filth and blasphemy”. The donation would have been used to provide a better standard of palliative cancer care for sufferers and their families. ‘Christian Voice’, not content with dehumanising the LGBT community, also took £3000 away from vital cancer research. This is what happens when the religious claim ‘offence’. Not only do they seek to restrict the liberty of others to express opinions contrary to their own, they’re willing to put lives at risk for that privilege.

Similarly, Rashid Rehman – a lawyer in Pakistan representing a Professor accused of blasphemy – was shot and killed by armed men posing as clients, for defending blasphemy. In Pakistan, for even defending the right to a fair trial for someone accused of simply expressing their opinion, will get you killed. These people appear to be under the curious impression that harming another human being for words, is acceptable. The implication is that Islam must be considered privileged and protected, simply because believers in Islam say so, and you will die if you openly express disagreement. The irony is that one must be severely insecure in one’s beliefs – almost blasphemously so – if seeking to completely eradicate criticism of the faith, and only permitting a single narrative.

Those who seek to punish those deemed to be ‘offending’ faith, tend to be the most offensive people on the planet, themselves. You will find that most religious sects that position themselves as a political entity, seek to restrict criticism of their faith to some degree, whilst freely and happily expressing their own offensive views in public. Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Uthman Badar argued that Prophets and religions should be protected from insult. The same Hizb ut-Tahrir that called for the eradication of Jews, and followed on by insisting that homosexuality is an evil that destroys societies. Such is the nature of the child-like followers of organised religion; the hypocrisy, and self indulgent tantrum is breathtaking.

It is worth noting again, that you should be free to believe whatever it is you choose to believe, according to your own conscience, where that belief doesn’t manifest in shackling others to your belief. The state has no inherent right to restrict your personal belief, where it pertains to your life only. But the freedom to express, is as true for me as it is for you. And so if you choose to believe in a faith that seeks to, or has a long history of, condemning all those who don’t quite fit its narrow spectrum for salvation, then you must expect dissent. You must expect criticism and you must expect to have your beliefs offended. You must expect the life and words of your role model and the person you seek to emulate – be it Moses, Abraham, Jesus or Muhammad – critically examined. You must expect to accept that defending the dignity of your God, is irrelevant to those of us who don’t believe, and we won’t be told what we’re entitled to say about your God, by you, especially if the rules laid out by that God offend our principles. You must expect those who abandon a belief in your God, to speak out on their experiences free from harm. You must expect those who have been shackled by your beliefs, to fight to break free from those shackles. You must expect those who find your religion to be morally corrosive, to express exactly why they came to that conclusion, in their own way, and in a way that does nothing to harm your liberty. If your religion is strong, it will combat the falsity of the contrary opinion through reason, rather than force. That is the nature of the basic human right to inquire, to believe, and to express without fear. It comes hand in hand with your right to believe and to express that belief.

Blasphemy laws are an archaic expression of religious supremacy, an irrelevant, and irrational power structure that cannot deal with challenges to its authority in the modern World. We know better now. And so if you are more offended by blasphemy, than you are by the violent removal of the basic human right to expression, your principles desperately require redress.


Creationists: Give equal airtime to P’an Ku.

May 15, 2014

P'an Ku - Creator of the universe, according to ancient Chinese mythology.

P’an Ku – Creator of the universe, according to ancient Chinese mythology.


Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ has been given a wonderful new life with Neil deGrasse Tyson resurrecting the popular series this year. But not everyone agrees. As we’re all aware by now, creationists across the US are incensed that ‘Cosmos’ only relies on an abundance of scientific data, rather than Bronze aged myths.

Whilst the complaint appears to be that ‘Cosmos’ doesn’t allow for the possibility of ‘creation science’, they specifically seem to mean Christian notions of young earth creation. As if scientific data, and the Book of Genesis, offer equally as viable explanations. But it seems to me that Christian creationists are guilty of the same charge they throw at ‘Cosmos’. Creationists should also be asking: Why aren’t Christian creationists willing to offer equal air time, and a place on the school science curriculum for the ancient Chinese creator of everything; P’an Ku.

China is rich with beautifully crafted mythology, framing the cultural heritage of one of the oldest civilisations on the planet. In the third century, the Chinese author Xú Zhěng wrote of the creation of the heavens, the earth, and everything on it from a Taoist perspective (A Buddhist perspective of the myth differs slightly). The creator is P’an Ku. As with most creation myths, a great void preceded P’an Ku, until the chaos of that void pulled together to form an egg. The egg lasted for 18,000 years. Inside the egg existed the elements of the universe, working to balance the concepts of Yin and Yang, until they perfectly aligned. Once aligned, the egg began to open and P’an Ku emerged. P’an Ku worked tirelessly with the perfect principles of Yin and Yang to create opposites; wet and dry, day and night, male and female.

The top part of the shell that cracked open as P’an Ku escaped, became the sky. The bottom part of the shell became the earth. Another 18,000 years passed as P’an Ku pushed up the sky, and pushed down the earth, as they grew larger and larger each day. Each day, P’an Ku grew six feet taller than the day before. P’an Ku parted the heavens and the earth (a claim that Muslims – like Zakir Naik – like to believe comes directly from the Qur’an and is evidence of their holy book mentioning the big bang; in reality, it’s a concept that preceded the Qur’an, existing in a plethora of creation myths).

Once the sky and the earth had been created, P’an Ku died. His body fell apart, and collapsed down to the earth. His final breaths became the wind that would forever circle the planet. His roaring voice became thunder. His teeth and bone marrow became metals. His blood became the waters in the rivers; the rivers controlled the earth before humanity. One of his eyes became the sun, and the other the moon. His head became the mountains. This idea of the dead body of the creator becoming a part of his creation, is reflected in the Norse creation myth of Ymir, whose flesh becomes the earth, and his blood becomes the rivers and seas. One must also note the similarity with the body of Jesus becoming the bread, and his blood becoming the wine served at the Eucharist. Unlike the God of Christianity, P’an Ku didn’t create humans, that was left to the Goddess Nüwa; the creator of humanity.

Nüwa was lonely on the earth by herself, so she started to create sheep, and horses among other creatures, to keep her company. After a while, she hand crafted humans out of clay. This process became tiresome, and so Nüwa dunked a vine in clay, and swung it around, with each droplet becoming a human. At times, she continued to hand craft humans out of clay, and those chosen few became the nobility.

And that is story of P’an Ku, and the creation of everything.

Humanity is a wonderfully creative and curious species. The Chinese merged those two together, to form the story of P’an Ku. Creation myths are beautifully creative, and expertly crafted works of art. They exist as an example of humanity’s ceaseless quest for understanding and explanation, in the primitive age of our species. But they are not testable explanations or predictions that can be applied reliably, and so they are not science. This is as true for the myth of P’an Ku as it is for the Biblical creation myth. If creationists wish to see equal airtime given to Christian creation myths as to science, or to be taught as science in schools, there is no reason the curriculum – or ‘Cosmos’ – shouldn’t also include every other possible creation myth – including P’an Ku – throughout history. All the more so, in a secular country.