On what principles can we oppose the Islamic Center at Ground Zero?

August 25, 2010

Perhaps readers of the CFI Free Thinking Blog can help me out. At the time of the South Park Affair, and even earlier going right back to The Rushdie Affair, I was a staunch supporter of Salman Rushdie and the cartoonists and their First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, and scoffed at the tender sensibilities of the Muslims. Now, with Imam Rauf's intention to build an Islamic Center just 600 feet from Ground Zero in Manhattan, I began by arguing that the feelings of the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001 should be respected, and that the Islamic Center should be opposed, and then I realised that perhaps I was being inconsistent. Are the two cases similar? Am I being inconsistent? I have, since that realisation, concentrated on gathering material against Imam Rauf, and have enough evidence- I had to wade through two of his books, one with 210 pages and the other with 314 page to gather it- to show that he is not a moderate at all. And still, moderate or not, Imam Rauf has the right to build his Islamic Center. For me far from being a symbol of tolerance, the Islamic center is a symbol of Islamic triumphalism. If Rauf truly wanted to build bridges, as he claimed, then he has failed in a spectacular way. If the Center is ever built, then I do not ever want to hear anyone talking about the hurt sensibilities of Muslims again.

Comments:

#1 Bob R (Guest) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 7:35am

Yes, it is inconsistent to oppose Islam’s attempts to silence critics on grounds that they offend Islamic sensibilities, then to turn around and oppose the building of a mosque on the same grounds.  Just as it is inconsistent to oppose Islam—radical, moderate, or otherwise—while failing to simultaneously oppose Christianity and Judaism.  Islam is no more and no less barbaric and violent than Christianity or Judaism, though, by my unofficial estimation, Christians and Jews will probably kill or torture more people today than Muslims will.  The difference is that Christians and Jews do it “over there”—in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, etc.—while Muslims are trying to bring the Crusade “over here”.  This, of course, is natural.  If the any country had been beseiged by foreign, Imperial rule and exploited for generations, it would only be a matter of time before its people began to search for ways to attack not only the Imperial forces in their own country, but to go abroad and attack them on their own soil.  I believe that this is akin to some of the statements that Imam Rauf has made, which get him labeled as an extremist.  I don’t care what he is, if he cites a fact, and it is a fact that “Osama Bin Lade was made in America” or whatever the statement was, the fact should stand on its own merits, regardless of who uttered it.  If we fail to recognize that, we give further support to the far-Right, neoconservative myth that America is in a holy war with “terror”, and that we must remain in perpetual fear and thus perpetual war, and of course only the far-Right is qualified to rule over us in these perilous times.  Then, no sooner will they finish with the Muslims than they will turn and take aim at their other enemies, which incidentally, ranks “atheists” and “secular humanists” just after Muslims and just above homosexuals. 

If someone wants to make a case that no religious edifices should be built anywhere ever, then that might be a case with some merit.  But, to try to make a case that Islam is somehow especially barbaric and especially dangerous is to ignore the thousands of people who will die at the hands of Christians and Jews this week, and the millions who’ve been slaughtered this century, and so on.  It’s also to ignore the fact that in order for anyone to be free, everyone must be free, so you can’t pick and choose which ideologies are allowed to prosper.  If you don’t want them coming to burn down your local CFI office tomorrow, you’d better not encourage them to stand in the way of this mosque today.  Maybe 300 years from now, we’ll live in a secular utopia, but until then, the freedom of any group is tied up with the freedom of every group. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

#2 L.Long (Guest) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 9:18am

Yes there is a way.
Get the city council to hold a zoning law change debate and vote.
Declare NO RELIGIOUS Buildings with in a ???mi area.
(I don’t know their city limits).
Then no mosque can be built.  Of course all the churches will have to be converted to restaurants too, but why would that be a bad thing???

#3 Chris P. (Guest) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 9:43am

I don’t know that there are any principles by which anyone can oppose the Islamic Center near (not “at”) Ground Zero.  Why be involved in that issue at all?

“I began by arguing that the feelings of the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001 should be respected.”

Except they don’t all feel the same way, making that argument both transparently false and worthless.

“the Islamic center is a symbol of Islamic triumphalism”

I doubt it.  I’d like to hear more about why you believe this to be the case, though.

#4 Robert Geddis (Guest) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 9:45am

Ibn Warraq says that Iman Rauf “is not a moderate at all,” based on the Iman’s two books. What are the titles to these books and exactly what does the Iman say? I don’t recall anything in the media about this important question.

#5 R S (Guest) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 10:42am

No, it is not at all inconsistent to oppose a mosque next to the 9-11 site and also oppose the violence to which some critics of Islam have been treated.

Nowhere in this article is there a call for anyone’s blood.  Nowhere is there a call for the curtailment of anyone’s rights.  This article is about the hypocrisy of demanding the blood of a cartoonist and then building a symbol of a certain religion just a block away from the place where many people died at the hands of that religion’s representatives.

I still respect the rights of Islam, but no longer the sensitivities.

#6 Daniel Schealler on Wednesday August 25, 2010 at 5:43pm

Depends what you mean by ‘oppose’.

We can’t make it illegal on freedom of religion grounds. So we can’t prevent it from happening by force.

But we can still talk our guts out about it, and criticize Islam severely at every opportunity. The right to free expression cuts both ways.

So we’ve established that we can oppose Islam in the context of freedom of expression. But that seems trivial, and ignores the core question underlying the post. Just because we can oppose Islam (and the Islamic Center near ground zero), should we excercise this ability?

Yes. Yes we should. At every opportunity.

Islam is an ideology bent on theocratic totalitarianism on a global scale. (Note: Individual Muslims may not share this goal - but I’m not critiquing individuals (Muslims), I’m critiquing an ideology (Islam).

Islam contradicts the core values of freedom and equality that underscore moder institutions of great worth, such as the universal declaration of human rights.

This alone is foundation enough to oppose the ideology at every opportunity. The ‘Ground Zero’ Islamic center is just such an opportunity.

We can’t stop it - and even if we could, we shouldn’t do so on the simple grounds that it goes against our core values of freedom and equality.

But we can - and should - be bitching about it at the top of our lungs.

#7 L.Long (Guest) on Thursday August 26, 2010 at 9:01am

although I do agree with Daniel Schealler he is using the wrong word it is not just IsLame it is also Xtians or any other fundie group.  So everywhere he has ‘Islam’ it should be ‘religion’.  I know the xtians will say we don’t go killing people. Well BS!!  You have and you would if allowed…just look at Africa witch-kids. or ask the AmerIndians, or the Hawiians Or the dark ages WHEN the xtians DID HAVE POWER!!!

....support of institutions of great worth, such as the universal declaration of human rights.
Hope you don’t think the fundie xtians, or fundie jews support that??? Cuz if any one thinks so then go ask a gay or atheist or women, how things are going with those groups.
Yes IsLame really sucks-just like the others do.  Hence zoning it so NO religious buildings are there.  Otherwise speak as you wish but who cares the law is the law.  Don’t like it move to Iran.

#8 Daniel Schealler on Thursday August 26, 2010 at 4:17pm

@LLong

I was using Islam because that’s the term under discussion. I’m on opposition to all religion on similar grounds;

However

It is worth pointing out that, at the current point in history, Islam is different to other faiths. I’m opposed to them all in a general kind of way. But Islam in its current form is special in ways that other religions aren’t.

Example: We don’t get international riots of Christians whenever an image of Jesus is shown in a less-than-flattering light.

To hammer (ha) the case home, when PZ Myers did some mean things to a communion waver and published it online, there was indeed a vocal response. But that’s fine - vocal responses are all good, that’s what free speech is for.

Noticeable by its absence was the lack of multinational rioting by Christians in response to PZ’s actions.

If an Islamic symbol were to be ‘desecrated’ in such a public way, I think there’s little doubt what the international response from the Islamic community would be like: A very significant number of wackaloons rioting, kidnapping, murders, and blowing up of buildings and people. Meanwhile, the ‘moderate’ Muslims would twiddle their thumbs and offer nothing to decry the actions of the rioters or speak out for freedom of speech and expression.

If there were no threat of large scale violence from Islam, my opinion would be different.

Additionally, there is an alleged ‘moderate’ Muslim majority that I keep hearing about, but never hear from. If this majority did more to decry the threat of violence done under Islam and stood up for freedom of speech and expression, I would happily adjust my opinions of their ideology to reflect this.

However, that is not the world we are currently living in. The moderate majority are silent, and the threat of violence hangs over the heads of anyone who would dare to criticize, satirize, or ridicule Islam or its symbols.

The situation is very different regarding contemporary Christianity. When Matt Stone and Trey Parker attempted to air an episode showing Maddonna Mary in some unseemly context (I can’t even remember what it was anymore) the worst that Christian groups did was write nasty letters and petitioned to get the show taken off the air. The commitment to freedom of expression may have been less than sterling, but there was no question in anyone’s mind that Matt or Trey or their producers ran the risk of being killed over the episode.

Then look at the reaction when Matt and Trey tried to air an episode that included Mohammed in a bear suit. Islam is a very, very different kettle of fish.

So it seems that we can make at least one legitimate case for how Islam is different at this point in history. We could make others - but I think the point is secure for now.

So you’re right in that other religious ideologies share many of the same pathologies as Islam. Despite this, Islam stands apart. So it’s is fully justified to give Islam special attention, discussion, and focused criticism.

#9 hardindr on Friday August 27, 2010 at 11:04am

I have, since that realisation, concentrated on gathering material against Imam Rauf, and have enough evidence- I had to wade through two of his books, one with 210 pages and the other with 314 page to gather it- to show that he is not a moderate at all.

It will be interesting to see what you have uncovered, given what other people have found about Rauf., or what you consider “immoderate.”

If Rauf truly wanted to build bridges, as he claimed, then he has failed in a spectacular way.

With this, I agree.  I don’t think Rauf had (or has) the foresight or savvy to make his proposal work.  He didn’t do enough work with the surrounding community to blunt opposition, and seemed unprepared for the onslaught of opposition from Fox News/conservative talk radio.  At this point, it is probably better for him to move the center somewhere else in Manhattan.

#10 kitz (Guest) on Friday August 27, 2010 at 10:29pm

So, in a way, the terrorists are winning.  Because this isn’t about Islam.  It’s about the Constitution.  And how we can’t pick and choose what we like and don’t like about it.  It’s about the freedoms we all share, like free speech…which means sometimes people say stuff we don’t like at all.  It’s not about Islam, it’s not about a mosque.  It’s about our Constitution being chipped away out of fear and anger and intolerance. 

Singling out a group like this, is a very scarey road.  One not reflecting critical thinking. Is not building this mosque worth the precedent set by ignoring our Constitution, the ultimate law of the land and the safe guard for all of us? 

Choose your battles wisely.  For there are no easy victories and there are always victims in any battle.  Are the casualties worth what will be gained?  In this case the casualty is the Constitution and we just hand the extremists their best present ever.

#11 kitz (Guest) on Friday August 27, 2010 at 10:36pm

Also, anyone else a little nervous about how much this sounds like Hitler talking about Jews?  I mean, what next…ship all the Islamics back to where ever?  The hatred dripping from every line is shocking.  So now we go to bed with the tea party and call for no “terrorist babies” and some sort of purity check… it’s like “religion is bad, but those Islamics.. it’s BEYOND BAD to the point where they need to be singled out for special treatment.”  First we have to establish that they are “bad” no make that “really bad, worse than everyone else!”.  Once that is established, it’s easy to move on to the next step.  Tea Party talk if I’ve ever heard it.

#12 Daniel Schealler on Friday August 27, 2010 at 10:57pm

@kitz

Thanks kitz.

It’s very easy for the rest of us to get side-tracked in the discussion of Islam, and to only mention the legality of the proposed center and our commitment to free speech in an off-handed kind of prefix or suffix to our central criticism.

We should all be doing more to bang the drum of freedom of speech and action even as we voice our concerns over the proposed center.

The proposed center is legal. If they have the money to buy the land, and their proposed meets existing structural and business codes, then they shouldn’t be singled out and excluded on religious or ideological grounds. End of story.

My concerns still stand. I don’t like like what they’re saying, building and representing - but I stand firm in my defense of their right to say, build and represent according to the freedom of their own thought and conscience.

Again - thanks for banging the drum.

#13 Ophelia Benson on Saturday August 28, 2010 at 12:07pm

How much what sounds like Hitler talking about Jews? The post, or (some of) the comments, or both? At any rate the analogy isn’t great, because Islam is not identical with Muslims; being critical of Islam is really not like Hitler talking about Jews. Islam is a system of ideas, not a group of people.

#14 kitz (Guest) on Saturday August 28, 2010 at 5:04pm

#15 Max (Guest) on Saturday August 28, 2010 at 10:57pm

The problem with Muslim sensitivity to cartoons and to Salman Rushdie is that they rioted and issued death fatwas!

The First Amendment didn’t stop the New York city council from unanimously passing an unenforced ban of the N word.

Here’s the dirt on Imam Rauf.
discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=2462

For example, he endorsed the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
huffingtonpost.com/imam-feisal-abdul-rauf/what-president-obama-shou_b_218249.html

In his book, he said the rise of religious fundamentalism is a backlash to growing secularism.

Here are the sponsors of his American Society of Muslim Advancement (ASMA). If you oppose Imam Rauf’s mosque or message, you may not want to donate to them.
discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7540

And here’s the dirt on Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, another Muslim “moderate”, who founded the American Muslim Council (AMC), served as an Islamic adviser to President Clinton, and also raised money on behalf of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison for, get this, his role in a Libyan conspiracy to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah!
discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1311

Let’s make sure Imam Rauf isn’t another al-Amoudi, ‘k?

#16 Max (Guest) on Saturday August 28, 2010 at 11:07pm

I heard that Imam Rauf must be moderate because he’s a Sufi, but then I read that “In fact, the Islamic brotherhood in Egypt, and Al Qaeda, are both Sufi based movements.”
globalsecurity.org/military/intro/islam-sufi.htm

#17 hardindr on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 8:31am

Max:

The problem with Muslim sensitivity to cartoons and to Salman Rushdie is that they rioted and issued death fatwas!

Did Muslims in America riot over either?  How many Muslims (out of the total population) rioted?  Can the actions of the few be counted against the many?

Here’s the dirt on Imam Rauf.
discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=2462

I read this article from David Horowitz’s rag.  I didn’t find anything there that was objectionable.  What do you object to?

For example, he endorsed the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
huffingtonpost.com/imam-feisal-abdul-rauf/what-president-obama-shou_b_218249.html

If you were alive in 1979, would you have supported the Shah?  How many in Iran at the time supported the Shah?

Furthermore, what does Rauf have to do with Al-Amoudi?  What does Rauf have to do with Al-Qaeda or The Islamic Brotherhood?  What is the connection?

#18 Max (Guest) on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 12:33pm

hardindr,

I don’t know of riots in America over the Danish cartoons, but there were attacks on US consulates and the US airbase at Bagram. Last year, Yale removed the cartoons from a book about the cartoons, and admitted that this was done out of fear, not out of respect. And of course, recently South Park was censored after receiving a thinly-veiled death threat.

The real problem with the Muslim furor over cartoons of Mohammed is not that Muslims are too sensitive, it’s that they want to impose Islam on non-Muslims. They’re also offended by piggy banks, women’s hair, and atheists.

You didn’t find anything objectionable in Imam Rauf’s profile? What about in Al-Amoudi’s profile? See any red flags? I bring up Al-Amoudi to show how people can mistake an extremist Muslim leader for a moderate despite a number of red flags.

Imam Rauf endorsed the 1979 Iranian Revolution in a Huffington Post piece last year, not in 1979.
“[President Obama] should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.”

The mere fact that Imam Rauf is a Sufi does not rule out connections with the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to start Islamic Revolutions everywhere.

#19 hardindr on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 1:06pm

Okay,

I don’t know of riots in America over the Danish cartoons, but there were attacks on US consulates and the US airbase at Bagram. Last year, Yale removed the cartoons from a book about the cartoons, and admitted that this was done out of fear, not out of respect. And of course, recently South Park was censored after receiving a thinly-veiled death threat.

Muslims attacking the U.S. airbase in Bagram sounds like standard faire for the war-zone that is Afghanistan.  Wikipedia lists only an attempted attack on the US consulate in Indonesia as a result of the Mo cartoons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy .  I think Yale Press hyperventilated about the Mo toons, they could have published their book without much uproar.  Same thing for South Park.

The real problem with the Muslim furor over cartoons of Mohammed is not that Muslims are too sensitive, it’s that they want to impose Islam on non-Muslims. They’re also offended by piggy banks, women’s hair, and atheists.

This comment is in conspiracy theory/bigotry land.  Muslims (unqualified) want impose Islam on non-Muslims?  Not “some Muslims,” or “a few Muslims,” or “these specific Muslims,” just “muslims.”  Is there a conspiracy amongst all Muslims to impose Islam on non-Muslims?  This is ridiculous.

Muslims, I’m sure, are offended by all sorts of things, just like everybody else.  The question is, how many of them resort to violence as a consequence of being offended?

I read Al-Moudi’s profile.  He doesn’t seem like a nice guy.  What this has to do with Rauf, I don’t know.

Imam Rauf endorsed the 1979 Iranian Revolution in a Huffington Post piece last year, not in 1979.
“[President Obama] should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution—to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.”

I don’t see anything objectionable here.  I think the removal of the Shah from political power in Iran was a good thing, particularly after events like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(1978) .  What happened after Khomeini consolidate power was pretty awful, though.

Again, what is Rauf’s connection to the Muslim Brotherhood?

#20 Ophelia Benson on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 4:01pm

hardindr

Look up Vilayet-i-faqih, and you might change your mind about that part.

#21 hardindr on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 4:13pm

Hey, OB!  Hadn’t looked at B&W for a while, cool redesign.  Jeremy did a nice job…

As to what “Vilayet-i-faqih” is, the wikipedia articles says that it can have multiple meanings/Islamic scholars do not agree http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardianship_of_the_Islamic_Jurists , kind of like Sharia.  Given Rauf’s books and other statements, I doubt it means he is some type of Islamic supremacist.

#22 Daniel Schealler on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 4:47pm

@hardindr

This comment is in conspiracy theory/bigotry land.  Muslims (unqualified) want impose Islam on non-Muslims?  Not “some Muslims,” or “a few Muslims,” or “these specific Muslims,” just “muslims.”  Is there a conspiracy amongst all Muslims to impose Islam on non-Muslims?  This is ridiculous.

I’m quick to agree that any attempt to brush any group of humans with a membership as large as Islam’s with the same brush is misguided. Any large enough statistical sampling will show significant - even dramatic - diversity of opinion.

That said: There is something in the sentiment.

It remains true that when an Islamic symbol is satirized, ridiculed, or criticized, there is inevitably going to be a strong response from self-declared ‘representatives of the Muslim community’ that will probably also call themselves mullahs*. If that response does not include an outright threat of violence, there will still be a veiled threat lurking behind the words.

If there is a significant counteracting, moderate voice in the public sphere that is decrying the nutjobs - I haven’t heard it yet. The silence from this community of moderate Muslims is deafening.

The general attitude I have received from individual Muslims I’ve spoken to about this issue is one of “Yeah, they’re nuts. We know they’re nuts. You know they’re nuts. But you were the one that was nuts enough to stick your neck out in the first place - what did you expect?”

Now, these individuals I’ve met are obviously a very small sampling and not representative. Thing is - the only denunciation of the nutjobs and the disinterest, apathy and toleration of the nutjobs seems to have come from the former Muslim community, rather than the Muslim community itself.

Again: Note my comment above on statistical sampling. I’m sure there are some moderate Muslims that are as openly upset and angry about the nutjobs as I am. I’m not claiming that such Muslims don’t exist. I’m claiming that even if they do exist, their numbers are so small or their voices are so soft that they make no dent whatsoever in the combined armor of the craziness of the wackos and the indifferent tolerance towards said wackos of the rest.

I’d prefer for Muslims to cast of the yoke of faith altogether so that Islam would go away entirely, but I’m resigned to the fact that this will probably never happen - or if it will, it won’t be any time soon. In the absence of this, I’m keen for Islam to reform from within - to grow up, mature, and secularize itself away from the reins of governmental power.

The claim I’m making is that there is no significant Muslim voice that is attempting to make this maturation happen; and what voices I do hear in the public sphere seem to insist on retarding this domestication of Islam, rather than assisting it.

1) Would you agree that this is a fair depiction of reality?

2) If this was a fair depiction of reality, would you agree that this is (or would be) a legitimate problem in need of a solution?

I’m genuinely interested in your answer to the two questions above, btw. I’m all worked up and spending a certain amount of time and heartache fretting at the subject. So if I’m wrong about this and laboring in vain, I really want to know.

* I understand that there’s no formal credential system for determining who does or does not qualify as a mullah. Is this true? Can anyone who has read the Qu’ran and the hadith a few dozen times thereby call themselves a mullah?

#23 hardindr on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 5:39pm

It remains true that when an Islamic symbol is satirized, ridiculed, or criticized, there is inevitably going to be a strong response from self-declared ‘representatives of the Muslim community’ that will probably also call themselves mullahs*. If that response does not include an outright threat of violence, there will still be a veiled threat lurking behind the words.

Is it weird that the putative heads of a community would express offense at things they find offensive?  Can you speak in less general terms about people making veiled threats?  Can you name Islamic religious leaders in the US who make veiled threats?

Answer to question #1:

While not specific to what you are speaking about, many Islamic leaders have condemned terrorism and/or 9/11.  Some examples: http://www.unc.edu/~kurzman/terror.htm http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslim_voices_against_extremism_and_terrorism_2 http://www.islamfortoday.com/terrorism.htm http://www.religioustolerance.org/islfatwa.htm  You might feel that such condemnations are insincere, yet there they are.

In response to your question, I don’t think so.  Most Muslims, here and around the world, are probably just living their lives and don’t give much thought to what is going on around them, just like most other people.  If someone came up to me and said, “Will you condemn this stupid thing some atheist somewhere said/did?”  I would probably say, “Why should I?  Why should I condemn the actions of people that have no connection to me, other than their religious views?  What does it have to do with me?”  Why should it be different for Muslims?  How can they be held responsible for what other Muslims do or say?  In the end, that might not be smart from a PR point of view, since it might give the misimpression that they think what others are doing is okay, but it’s not an unusual response.

John Esposito has done work (not without criticism, of course) on what Muslims from around the world think about their religion http://www.amazon.com/Who-Speaks-Islam-Billion-Muslims/dp/1595620176 .  Maybe that would be a good place for you to start, if you have a real desire to understand what Muslims think about religion, politics, etc.

As an aside, I hear a lot of talk about “moderating Islam,” or “moderate Islam.”  What is this supposed to mean exactly? Why are Muslims who condemn religious violence in Islam tagged as “moderates?”  What are they “moderate” about?  Are they only half the Muslim that jihadist who endorse violence are, even if these “moderates” practice Islam as fervently as their violent fellow-religionists?

#24 Daniel Schealler on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 7:05pm

There’s a lot more in your last post that I need to reflect on a bit before I respond fully. You’ve given me some food for thought, and I need time to chew it over. So if there’s specific questions you’ve asked or points I’ve not addressed, it’s because I’m still mulling them over.

That said, I can reply to two things off-the-bat.

In response to your question, I don’t think so.  Most Muslims, here and around the world, are probably just living their lives and don’t give much thought to what is going on around them, just like most other people.  If someone came up to me and said, “Will you condemn this stupid thing some atheist somewhere said/did?”  I would probably say, “Why should I?  Why should I condemn the actions of people that have no connection to me, other than their religious views?  What does it have to do with me?”  Why should it be different for Muslims?  How can they be held responsible for what other Muslims do or say?  In the end, that might not be smart from a PR point of view, since it might give the misimpression that they think what others are doing is okay, but it’s not an unusual response.

Alright. Two objections.

As a human being, when we see an human rights violation on the international stage, we should all get angry and do something about it. Even if it’s an ultimately futile gesture, we should do it anyway. The apathy you’re communicating is chilling in its off-handed casualness.

When the Taliban throws acid in the faces of young girls for the crime of learning to read we should all be quick to denounce those actions, regardless of our personal allegiance or opposition to any given ideological group. This kind of barbarity is everyone problem. No free passes.

So that’s the first objection.

Secondly, if the wackaloons use the aura of religious authority as the foundation of their power. When ageing white middle-class men such as myself stir up a stink about these kinds of human rights violations, we are branded as imperial colonialists, racist bigots, with no understanding of contextual values that can sit within a culture. It makes me want to vomit. We can call out the Taliban for transparent barbarity and on the behalf of tortured and disfigured victims with no voice of their own, and yet we can get branded the bad guys. Yes, UK/American/European history and the Enlightenment values it descended from have gotten tangled up in a lot of seriously nasty crimes, particularly during the recent era of colonial expansion. As another example, historically some humanists got caught up into eugenics for humanist-sounding reasons. There are skeletons in the closet of my cultural heritage that I’m not proud of. So let us do something to make amends already! Sheesh.

(The rant in the previous paragraph not directed at you personally, hardindr - it just always gets me going whenever I get onto that subject… Moving on, now.)

So the ability of middle-class-white-men such as myself to enact change on the world stage is drastically reduced. Any time we try to level criticism at the Taliban or their ilk, they turn around and invoke Western Cultural Imperialism and the Evil Decadence of America™. It’s happening right now in Iran over the whole Skineh Ashtiani being sentenced to death-by-stoning thing.

The international Muslim community? Now that’s different.

The international Muslim community has a special responsibility here to enact change to the extremist end of the Islamic bell-curve, because they are the ones in the best position to enact that change. Shame, ridicule, satire, critics, condemnation - whatever it takes. If the international Muslim community came down on these barbaric fucks like a ton of bricks, it would be very hard for them to maintain their political power-base. Something would have to change, albeit slowly.

Instead, the Muslim community seems to meet the depths of depravity carried out by their extremist sub-set with a chilling apathy… Which you’ve embodied in the quote above too perfectly. I would have hesitated to attribute your words to a hypothetical Muslim for fear of being accused of creating a straw-man caricature. It’s a stunning example of Poe’s Law striking in the most unexpected of circumstances. You’ve clearly got a keen intellect, so I never would have expected you to offer something so condemning as if it was a defense.

As an aside, I hear a lot of talk about “moderating Islam,” or “moderate Islam.”  What is this supposed to mean exactly? Why are Muslims who condemn religious violence in Islam tagged as “moderates?”  What are they “moderate” about?  Are they only half the Muslim that jihadist who endorse violence are, even if these “moderates” practice Islam as fervently as their violent fellow-religionists?

It may not be clear from my writing above, but I’m using the term ‘moderate’ in an ironic sort of way. I hear much babbling from the PC-multicultural crowd that ‘moderate’ Muslims shouldn’t be lumped in with the nutjobs. In effect, the term is used to mean ‘Muslim-that-is-not-a-terrorist-not-all-Muslims-are-terrorist-why-would-anyone-ever-think-that-anyone-who-does-is-a-bigot-we’re-not-a-racist-news-organization-Islamaphobia-is-a-real-thing-and-we’re-not-doing-it-go-us-please-don’t-bomb-our-network’.

So I find the term a specious - and misleading - statement of the obvious. Even if an individual Muslim is not a terrorist, this tells us nothing about his or her actual beliefs, morals, ideology… anything, really.

I can think up a few examples of what I consider to be anachronistic elements within Islam. The reversal or removal of these elements would qualify as the domestication or modernization of Islam as I understand the terms. Remember: I am very much in favor of the domestication of Islam as the ‘better’ option to be achieved in the absence of the ‘best’ outcome of spontaneous communal apostasy.

Here’s a couple of examples that (I hope) are non-controversial.

Consider Malaysia.

Malaysia’s government makes clucking noises about secularism. However, the rule of law in Malaysia is excessively religious - downright theocratic at times. This doesn’t stop people from holding up Malaysia as if it was some kind of bastion of modern tolerance and moderation. It isn’t. The best we can say is that it isn’t as bad as Saudi or Afghanistan.

First Example: All Malays are defined as Muslim. If a Malay wants to formally convert out of the faith, they must forgo their citizenship rights.

Second Example: Under Malaysian sharia^ law, a Mulsim man may marry a non-Muslim woman. However, a Mulsim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man. The reasons given for this inequality are explicitly religious. The reasoning† goes something like this:

Women are considered too frail, dainty, weak, and generally precious to be held accountable to Allah for their own actions. So instead, any sin they perform becomes a stain on their father’s immortal record, as he is considered fully responsible for the women in his household. This continues until the daughter marries - at which point responsibility for the daughter’s sins passes onto her husband.

Also, if a Muslim daughter marries a non-Muslim man, then the marriage is not considered legitimate in the eyes of Allah. So not only is the daughter is living in sin, but the the father is copping the divine rap for her freely chosen lifestyle.

So we have a specifically religious justification* for enforcing the inequality between the sexes regarding marriage. Equality in marriage falls under Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Note that I’m a critic of article 16 as I believe that the first clause should be amended to (at least) the following: Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality, sexual orientation or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. But I suppose that’s just me being a decadent Western imperialist, because sticking up for the victims of religious persecution is equivalent to the worst crimes of colonialism. >.< (Again: Not you personally, my pet gripe topic, moving on…)

As a result of all this, it is nigh impossible to find a Muslim cleric that will knowingly perform a marriage ceremony between a Muslim girl and a non-Muslim man, even in a secular country like New Zealand (where I’m from). I’m working on the supposition that the situation is very similar in America, the UK, and Europe on the grounds that New Zealand is usually the sane about religious stuff, on balance (Brian-Tamaki-is-a-douche-so-is-Ray-Comfrot-shutup-shutup-shutup-beside-the-point).

In contrast to this, it is possible - even easy - for Christians and Hindus (for example) to get married and have two full and official ceremonies for either side of the family. There are clerics in either faith that are happy to flex that far - bums on seats, after all. These faiths have grown up a bit. They’re more tolerant, freer, more open to appeals to reason and common decency. I still have a lot of problems with these faiths on metaphysical and ideological grounds (clearly), but I can still give credit where credit is due.

This is just one very trivial example of the differences between Islam - as I understand it - to be different from other religions. And it’s one of the ways in which Islam needs to change.

So, one sign of what I’m calling the domestication/modernization of Islam would be if it became trivially easy to arrange for a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man to have a full and official Islamic marriage ceremony, and not have to worry about being stabbed to death by some wildcard lunatic.

Again: This is a very trivial example. Barbaric nonsense like Sakineh Ashtiani being sentenced to death by stoning (yes, again, it’s important) hammer the point home in a much more visceral way, but I’m going for something less likely to put you on the defensive.

——

Footnotes:

^ Granted, Malaysia has a ‘secular’ legal system as well. However, if either the man or a woman in a potential marriage is Muslim, any matters relating to that marriage will be submitted to the sharia courts regardless of what the non-Muslims spouse has to say about the matter. Marriage is defined as an area of religious concern, so judging it is deferred to the religious courts. So in effect, the Malaysian ‘secular’ legal system will frequently be made subservient to the sharia courts in any situation where they could possibly disagree, thus rendering the secular courts impotent to achieve secular ends whenever Islam makes noise for itself. Orwell strikes again, with dreary predictability.

† Again: I don’t consider that you personally or that all Muslims accept this line of reasoning. I’m only asserting that it is the common line of reasoning presented as justification in this specific situation.

* Note that this line of reasoning is also used to justify ‘honor killings’ - a stomach-churning Orwellian misnomer if ever there was one. The idea here is that by murdering (or arranging the murder of) the daughter, the father is wiping her sin from his soul.

#25 hardindr on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 8:06pm

As a human being, when we see an human rights violation on the international stage, we should all get angry and do something about it. Even if it’s an ultimately futile gesture, we should do it anyway. The apathy you’re communicating is chilling in its off-handed casualness.

You call this apathy, I call it reality.  It’s just the way people are, Muslim or not.  For better or for worse, most people just mind their own business in life.  It’s the way of the world.

As for the Taliban, I don’t know what Muslims outside of Afghanistan can realistically do to stop them.  Muslim girls outside of Afghanistan can go to school (like in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, etc) and get an education.  Presumably, eminent Islamic scholars in those countries by and large have no problem with it.  If the Taliban isn’t willing to listen to them, I don’t know why they would listen non-Muslims, like us, or other ordinary Muslims.

The international Muslim community has a special responsibility here to enact change to the extremist end of the Islamic bell-curve, because they are the ones in the best position to enact that change. Shame, ridicule, satire, critics, condemnation - whatever it takes. If the international Muslim community came down on these barbaric fucks like a ton of bricks, it would be very hard for them to maintain their political power-base. Something would have to change, albeit slowly.

I think this is a lot of wishful thinking.  Support for the Taliban, I think, will only end when the war ends, and NATO and the US leaves.  Until then, the Taliban will be viewed by a lot of Muslims (rightly or wrongly, wrongly in my view) as the legitimate resistance to foreign occupation.  Only when the war ends, can Afghanis even start to address the gender inequalities that plague their society, or even start listening to those who might critique those arrangements.

I think this in general holds for engagement with other Muslim countries as well.  Until tensions can be reduced between Western countries and predominantly Muslim ones, little exchange or dialogue can happen that might change things.  Reducing tensions may even mean talking to people that have fairly abhorrent views, but it is probably the only way forward.  See this recent op-ed http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/opinion/30atran.html .

Regarding Malaysia, what you describe is pretty bad.  Don’t know what to do about it.

To further explain my problem with the term “moderate.”  What annoys me greatly about discussion of religion among skeptics, and also in the mainstream media, is this idea that different kinds of religion, like Islam or Christianity, all have a central core of beliefs that are inviolable for all time, ie,“All Christians believe x, all Muslims believe y, etc.”  So people who are not fundamentalists in either Christianity or Islam, get termed moderates.  In reality, religions are based a lot on what people who practice them say or do, not just on perceived historical faith statements, some of which might not be all that historical (say like, fundamentalist Christianity or Islam, which are creations dating back to only the late 19th century).  Why should Christians or Muslims who practice their religion faithfully, and have legitimate claims and arguments that they are doing so faithfully, be regarded as having less faith than fundamentalists?

#26 Daniel Schealler on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 8:35pm

What annoys me greatly about discussion of religion among skeptics, and also in the mainstream media, is this idea that different kinds of religion, like Islam or Christianity, all have a central core of beliefs that are inviolable for all time, ie,“All Christians believe x, all Muslims believe y, etc.”  So people who are not fundamentalists in either Christianity or Islam, get termed moderates.

Here I can sympathize with you. It’s the problem of self-identification.

One could argue that at minimum, a Christian must believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died that our sins may be forgiven.

One could argue that at minimum, a Muslim must believe that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet.

However, the tricky bit is that each religion comes with a whole lot of cultural baggage. And it’s possible that someone may identify with the religion culturally without accepting the metaphysics, and still legitimately self-identify as Christian (or Muslim).

It’s a bugger. ‘Christianity’ and ‘Islam’ are terms like ‘Sport’. Sport can mean Thai Kick-boxing, where people are killed. It can also mean lawn-bowls. What these activities have in common is a stretch of the imagination - yet they are both ‘Sport’. We should expect to find similar differences within the domain of individual religions, as well as religion as a whole. Which makes it really, really difficult to nail down an ideology so it can be studied, because it keeps shifting like quicksand underfoot.

We get a similar argy-bargy over definitions within the skeptic movement between what qualifies as an atheist or an agnostics. Greta Christina said it best when she pointed out that we have to let people identify with whatever label they like. The person who’s definition really matters is the one doing the self-identifying.

That aside though, I’ve found that the use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ is usually entirely disconnected from what the word is supposed to mean. For example, there’s the bizarre phenomenon that crops up all the freaking time. Outspoken atheists like Richard Dawkins are frequently labelled as fundamentalists, despite the fact that the absence of a sacred text is practically a defining feature of confrontational atheism.

So the word used doesn’t line up to the standard meaning. They become hollow labels that retain their negative connotations. Which is useful for off-handedly dismissing someone from the discussion without having to engage with their ideas. “Oh, don’t listen to Mr. Dawkins - he’s just another fundamentalist atheist!”

I’m starting to notice that this phenomenon where words are disjointed from their actual meanings takes place within and between religious communities a lot. Like - all the time. I once thought people went to church to sit, listen to the sermon, and learn something about their faith. I’ve recently (~6 months) come to realize that this isn’t it at all. People go along to have comfortable and familiar sounding gibberish wash over them for an hour while they compare clothing and eye up members of the opposite sex out of the corners of their eye. It seriously freaks me out that people let that stuff wash over them without actually thinking about it. I can’t put my finger on why this disconnect between mind and content disturbs me so much, but it really, really does.

It was described by someone with a better turn of phrase than me:

The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house

#27 Daniel Schealler on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 9:05pm

Oh, and an afterthought:

You call this apathy, I call it reality.  It’s just the way people are, Muslim or not.  For better or for worse, most people just mind their own business in life.  It’s the way of the world.

As for the Taliban, I don’t know what Muslims outside of Afghanistan can realistically do to stop them.

I don’t know for sure that international criticism and pressure would work. Perhaps it wouldn’t. Perhaps it probably wouldn’t.

But I know that won’t do anything to help victims of religious persecution: Twiddling our thumbs and not doing anything. Inaction will do precisely nothing. Action - even limited action - stands a better chance of reform than no action at all.

Additionally: Abuse should be resisted. Always. Even if resistance is futile, abuse should be resisted anyway. Futile-yet-determined resistance is orders of magnitude better than no resistance at all.

#28 Daniel Schealler on Sunday August 29, 2010 at 10:46pm

Related topic: Sam Harris, Silence is not moderation.

#29 tudza (Guest) on Monday August 30, 2010 at 12:02am

Gee, a bunch of long answers to a simple question.  You say the person responsible for wanting this mosque built has written many things that make you believe his motives are not what he claims them to be.  Seems a reasonable basis for opposition. 

Now, that can’t keep the man from doing something he is lawfully allowed to do, but everyone should know he’s not just playing nice, in your opinion backed by easily obtained documentation.

#30 Max (Guest) on Monday August 30, 2010 at 2:54pm

Here’s what Imam Rauf said in Arabic:
pajamasmedia.com/blog/ground-zero-imam-i-dont-believe-in-religious-dialogue/

“Throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians, it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Sharia that are required to govern. It is known that there are sets of standards that are accepted by [Muslim] scholars to organize the relationships between government and the governed.
Current governments are unjust and do not follow Islamic laws. New laws were permitted after the death of Muhammad, so long of course that these laws do not contradict the Quran or the Deeds of Muhammad … so they create institutions that assure no conflicts with Sharia.”

Compare with Abdulrahman Al-Amoudi:
“I think our attitude toward America should change. We have a chance, in America, to be the moral leadership of America. The problem is when? It will happen, it will happen Allah willing, I have no doubt in my mind, Muslims sooner or later will be the moral leadership of America. It depends on me and you, either we do it now or we do it after a hundred years, but this country will become a Muslim country. And I (think) if we are outside this country we can say ‘oh, Allah destroy America’, but once we are here, our mission in this country is to change it.”

Compare with CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad:
“Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”

Any mosque becomes a Waqf, an inalienable religious endowment, and extends the Ummah, the Muslim world. For example, Israel left the Islamic Waqf in control of its holiest site, the Temple Mount. Any attempt by non-Muslims to close a mosque, the way Germany closed the 9/11 Hamburg mosque, is liable to become an international incident.

P.S. I love how ignoramuses minimize the significance of the Cordoba House by saying it’s not a mosque. Imagine how insulting that is to Muslims who do consider it a mosque.

#31 hardindr on Friday September 03, 2010 at 5:41pm

Max:

Pajamas Media is a joke.  In both of the two top quotations, it is impossible to know without context what the authors are talking about.  What does Rauf mean by Sharia, Islamic laws or Islamic State in his quote?  The PJ article has a dead link to what Rauf allegedly said in Arabic.  Also, can the people at PJ.com accurately translate Arabic?  It is the same for the Al-Amoudi quote.  I know that Omar Ahmad has stated that he never said what you attribute to him. http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=39229

#32 Max (Guest) on Monday September 06, 2010 at 12:53am

hardindr,

The translation is by Walid Shoebat. You can watch an interview with him about it here
pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpid=111&load=3660
There’s an active link to Rauf’s article where the quote came from, and you can use Google’s translator to see that the article was about the separation of Church and State.

Al-Amoudi’s audio recording is here in English
investigativeproject.org/261/alamoudi-you-can-be-violent-anywhere-else

I don’t believe Omar Ahmad’s denial. He and Al-Amoudi were among the unindicted co-conspirators named in the Holy Land Foundation trial. There are more quotes from CAIR:
CAIR co-founder Ibrahim Hooper told a reporter in 1993: “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” In 2003 Hooper stated that if Muslims ever become a majority in the United States, they will likely seek to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, which they deem superior to man-made law. In the late 1980s, Ihsan Bagby, who would later become a CAIR Board member, stated that Muslims “can never be full citizens of [the United States] because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”

#33 Max (Guest) on Monday September 06, 2010 at 12:21pm

Sorry, the above link to the interview with Walid Shoebat needs the www in front in order to work.

#34 hardindr on Monday September 06, 2010 at 12:25pm

Max:

I have one word to say about Walid Shoebat: Nuts!  Here is a good cross section of information regarding his integrity, and even sanity.

http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/shoebat-and-islam-in-the-bible/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/walid-shoebat-vs-sean-osborne/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/walid-shoebat-denounced-by-former-co-author/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/shoebat-obama-pro-abortion-as-part-of-islamic-plot/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/shoebats-horses-of-the-apocalypse/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2008/06/30/cufi-speaker-666-is-in-the-name-of-allah-2/
http://barthsnotes.wordpress.com/2008/04/22/the-jihad-seller/

The Al-Amoud’s quote you give still lacks context.  What does Al-Amoud say after he says you can be violent outside of America?

I don’t know if Omar said what the newspaper claimed.  I have no way of knowing who is telling the truth without an audio recording.  I think the Holy Land Foundation was a joke, and the term un-indicted co-conspirator”  is a smear.

#35 hardindr on Monday September 06, 2010 at 12:26pm

Correction for above:

“Holy Land Foundation” should read “Holy Land Foundation trial”

#36 Daniel Schealler on Monday September 06, 2010 at 6:58pm

@hardindr

Full disclosure: I want to find a reason to find Rauf questionable. I’m open to correction, however - I’m watching the exchange between you and Max with interest.

Quick question for both of you:

If Rauf was forced to take a side in a conflict between human rights and Islam, what do you feel his response would be? Why?

Nuance is of course important - but it must be one side or the other, all the same.

#37 hardindr on Monday September 06, 2010 at 8:51pm

@Daniel

If Rauf was forced to take a side in a conflict between human rights and Islam, what do you feel his response would be? Why?

I have no idea what this question means.  Can you elaborate?

#38 hardindr on Monday September 06, 2010 at 8:52pm

@Daniel

I want to find a reason to find Rauf questionable.

Why?

#39 Daniel Schealler on Monday September 06, 2010 at 10:23pm

@hardindr

Elaboration

Let’s take something fairly non-controversial.

Consider Article 16 of the Declaration of Human Rights

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Many Islamic scholars concur on an interpretation of the Qu’ran regarding marriage. Muslim men are permitted to marry outside the faith. Muslim women aren’t. These scholars prescribe gender-based inequality regarding marriage rights. This is in direct contradiction with Article 16, clause (1).

So here’s an example where we are forced to choose. Do we violate the interpretation of a significant number of Islamic scholars and permit Muslim women to marry outside the faith? Or do we violate Article 16 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights and deny Muslim women the right to marry outside the faith?

I know this might seem a mild case. I could have gone for something more high-profile - such as invoking Sakineh Mohammadi - but I want to avoid all the no-true-scotsman nonsense that goes on when emotionally hard-hitting examples are deployed. So I’ve gone for something that (hopefully) won’t inflame anyone’s passions.

At your own gut feel - which do you think Rauf would reccomend?

As for why I want to find Rauf questionable - wants don’t work that way. It’s not a want that’s a slave to reason. That said, I’d explain it by the fact that at a very deep level I consider Islam to be the enemy of basic freedoms and rights. If Rauf appears to be ‘on our side’ then there’s a part of me that interprets him as a kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing. I want to unclothe him.

It’s a problem of emotional bias, and I’m happy to admit that it’s a problem. That’s chiefly why I stated it so baldly in the first place. The first step to overcoming a bias of this form is to state it outright.

That said - I also think that Islam does give some sound reasons to be suspicious of its intentions towards the hard-won freedoms and rights that I’ve been fortunate enough to take for granted for most of my life. But then again - I would, wouldn’t I?

It’s a bugger. For now, I’m coming down on the side that my suspicion is fully justified, and so long as I keep an eye on the prejudices this criticism seeds within me I should be alright.

Justification to me takes many forms. I’ve been reading the Qu’ran in drips and drabs (its very hard going), and there’s plenty there to curdle the blood.  There is a significant movement within the Muslim community to impose Sharia Law on all the world, and their justification and motivation for doing so are almost entirely scriptural and theological in nature. Also, consider the recent attempts of Muslim-led countries at the UN to make ‘blasphemy and defamation of religion’ a human-rights issue - a transparent bid of dictators and tyrants to suppressing criticism for any practice with the label ‘religion’ attached to it, such as suppression of free speech from citizens that criticize their nominally religious governments.

A prominent Muslim voice that truly speaks out for human rights and freedoms would be very, very welcome. It is the absence of such a voice from the allegedly moderate Muslim majority that has me so concerned in the first place. Without some force within Islam to counterbalance the drive within it that seeks to overthrow human rights and freedoms in the name of Allah, we’re left with those within Islam that make themselves an enemy of freedom, and the rest that are apathetic or silent on the issue. I find it hard to see Islam as anything but a threat to my core values.

So I want a prominent Muslim voice that truly speaks out for human rights. I want it very much. But a the same time, I’m all-to-aware of the weaselly methods used by theologians and clergy - particularly Muslim theologians and clergy. For example: At the UN a proposal was put forward in Arabic to include defamation of religion as a human rights issue. The ‘translation’ that was presented to the UN in English had significantly milder overtones and implications than the original and official version in Arabic.

Rauf may be just the Muslim voice I’m looking for.

Again - he may be another wolf in sheep’s clothing.

So for me, a simple litmus test: If Islam and human rights conflict in such a way that one or the other must be violated - which do you think Rauf would do?

#40 hardindr on Tuesday September 07, 2010 at 10:26am

@Daniel:

I don’t need to think with my “gut.”  Rauf has condemned stoning as barbaric, see the NY Times article below.  I would suppose that Rauf would say that Islam and human rights are compatible, and that his version of human rights would be the same as the West’s (ideal) version of human rights.  Do you really think Rauf is some kind of stealth Islamist, when he makes statements like this http://www.bj.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/daniel_pearl_memorial.pdf ?

Other statements by Rauf:

http://mediamatters.org/research/201008260002
http://mediamatters.org/research/201008240027
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/nyregion/22imamfacts.html

#41 Daniel Schealler on Tuesday September 07, 2010 at 2:26pm

@hardindr

Again, I want to highlight the weaselly nature of theologians and their advocates. You did not answer the question. I asked the same question in two forms - hypothetical and specific. One you ignored, and the other you dodged.

If there was a straight and clear answer to give, I suppose you would have given it. Instead, you avoided answering simply and clearly. Can you sympathize with my position? This comes over as a suspicious evasion.

The hypothetical form (you dodged): If Islam and human rights did contradict one another, which side do you think Rauf would come down on? “They don’t contradict,” isn’t answering the question. It’s dodging the question. Even if that was true, we can still pose the hypothetical question on how Rauf would react if they did.

The specific form (you ignored): There is mainstream interpretation within Islam that concludes that Muslim men may marry outside the faith but Muslim women may not. This gender-based inequality of rights is in direct contradiction of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What do you feel Rauf would have to say about this mainstream interpretation of Islam? “There is no contradiction,” is not an answer. I’ve demonstrated a contradiction between a specific human rights issue and a specific mainstream belief within Islam. Don’t equivocate. It’s annoying.

If someone were to convince Rauf that this mainstream interpretation of Islam is correct - via detailed scritural argument, perhaps - would Rauf defy the instruction and permit women to marry outside of the faith? Or would he prefer to ignore Article 16?

If he would discard an instruction in the Qu’ran because he thinks (or can justify why) it is not the ‘correct’ interpretation, then I’m not particularly inspired by his talk of human rights. It doesn’t ring true.

On the other hand: If he would discard an instruction in the Qu’ran despite thinking it is the ‘correct’ interpretation on grounds of human rights alone - then I can start to trust that his commitment to human rights and freedoms is more than just lip-service spent in service to the greater cause of Islam.

But when you equivocate, dodge, and avoid giving a simple and direct answer, it suggests to me that you cannot give the answer I’m looking for. Which is itself all the answer I need to decide the matter for myself, for now. A non-answer is in fact an answer.

Having explained myself at length, twice, and having given you two versions of the same specific question, and having flat out told you the answer I am looking for and why: Can you actually answer the question?

#42 Max (Guest) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 at 7:31pm

Here’s audio from 2005 of Imam Rauf pushing a one-state solution for Israel, undermining the position of the U.S. State Department, which funded his recent Middle East tour.

#43 Max (Guest) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 at 7:35pm

Here’s audio from 2005 of Imam Rauf pushing a one-state solution for Israel, undermining the position of the U.S. State Department, which funded his Middle East tour.

wnd.com/?pageId=195205

In 1977, Rauf wrote, “In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”

Add to that his reluctance to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, his support of the Iranian Revolution, and his support of Sharia, and it gives the impression that he wants Islamic revolutions to topple Western-backed governments.

#44 Daniel Schealler on Wednesday September 08, 2010 at 4:04am

This is really bizzare.

I’ve been paying attention to both of your links (harindr and Max), yet I’m coming to an entirely different view of Rauf than either of you are advocating.

It seems to me that Rauf’s first commitment is Islam - but that he has decided that the best method to convert the ‘West’ to Islam is through the use of a honeyed tongue rather than open advocacy of the sword. If that was his goal (despite my current opinion, I remain open to persuasion) then this would be a sensible choice of strategy - the U.S. military is still unassailable in the global arena, so the sword is pretty much out of the question. Far easier to undermine ‘Western’ values with sophistry. Probably more effective too.

#45 Max (Guest) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 at 5:54am

Daniel,

We’re pretty much in agreement. I think the Islamic “moderates” and extremists play good cop/bad cop. Did you listen to Al-Amoudi’s speech?
investigativeproject.org/261/alamoudi-you-can-be-violent-anywhere-else

Al-Amoudi said that he expects America to become a Muslim country sooner or later, and that violence is the wrong means to this end.
However, he supported Islamic terrorist groups, and was involved in a Libyan conspiracy to destabilize the Western-backed Saudi regime.

True Muslim moderates and reformers are seen as traitors by extremists, yet the Ground Zero mosque was endorsed by Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar. I want to hear Imam Rauf preach that the 19 hijackers and Hamas suicide bombers are burning in Jahannam.

We have a Catch-22. We want moderates to help reform Islam, yet the true moderates are dismissed as collaborators with the West, while the false moderates collaborate with extremists to push their agenda.

#46 hardindr on Sunday September 12, 2010 at 10:28am

It’s been a while, but I’m back.  This will probably be my last comment on this thread.

@Daniel:

The hypothetical form (you dodged): If Islam and human rights did contradict one another, which side do you think Rauf would come down on? “They don’t contradict,” isn’t answering the question. It’s dodging the question. Even if that was true, we can still pose the hypothetical question on how Rauf would react if they did.

I’ll answer this again.  Rauf has said that his version of Islam does not contradict Western notions of civil rights, i.e. freedom of speech, consciousness/religion, etc.  If you have any evidence that what he has repeatedly said and written is insincere, I would like to read/hear it.

The specific form (you ignored): There is mainstream interpretation within Islam that concludes that Muslim men may marry outside the faith but Muslim women may not. This gender-based inequality of rights is in direct contradiction of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What do you feel Rauf would have to say about this mainstream interpretation of Islam? “There is no contradiction,” is not an answer. I’ve demonstrated a contradiction between a specific human rights issue and a specific mainstream belief within Islam. Don’t equivocate. It’s annoying.

I don’t know what Rauf thinks about the fact that many Muslims believe that men can marry outside of their faith, but women can not.  I don’t know if he has ever been asked this.  Even if Rauf agreed with the idea, it might not matter.  For example, and I have no idea if Rauf agrees with this or not, Rauf might hold the position that it would be wrong for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim in a mosque, but that the Muslim woman can marry a non-Muslim man in a civil ceremony and get a marriage license that way.  This is how things work in the state I live in http://www.health.state.ny.us/vital_records/married.htm , and with some variation is how it works in the US.  As long as long as Rauf maintained a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage, I don’t think there would be a human rights issue.  Again, this is all speculation and I have no idea what Rauf’s opinion is on the matter.

If someone were to convince Rauf that this mainstream interpretation of Islam is correct - via detailed scritural argument, perhaps - would Rauf defy the instruction and permit women to marry outside of the faith? Or would he prefer to ignore Article 16?

If he would discard an instruction in the Qu’ran because he thinks (or can justify why) it is not the ‘correct’ interpretation, then I’m not particularly inspired by his talk of human rights. It doesn’t ring true.

On the other hand: If he would discard an instruction in the Qu’ran despite thinking it is the ‘correct’ interpretation on grounds of human rights alone - then I can start to trust that his commitment to human rights and freedoms is more than just lip-service spent in service to the greater cause of Islam.

This is just weird.  Rauf is a Muslim.  Presumably, what the Koran “says” about lots of things are important to him, just as the Christian Bible is important to Christians in such matters, and as the Torah is important to Jews.  If Rauf reads the Koran and believes that it allows for gender equality in marriage, why would that be bad?  Why would his commitment to gender equality in marriage not “ring true?”  This is how things work for most religious believers.

It seems to me that Rauf’s first commitment is Islam - but that he has decided that the best method to convert the ‘West’ to Islam is through the use of a honeyed tongue rather than open advocacy of the sword. If that was his goal (despite my current opinion, I remain open to persuasion) then this would be a sensible choice of strategy - the U.S. military is still unassailable in the global arena, so the sword is pretty much out of the question. Far easier to undermine ‘Western’ values with sophistry. Probably more effective too.

Religious believers often want to convert those outside their religion to their beliefs, though I don’t know if Rauf is a particularly “evangelical” Muslim.  In a free society, religious believers have the right to try to peacefully convert others, so I don’t get your point, unless you think there is something necessarily sinister about converting to Islam.  You seem to imply with this statement that Rauf wants the US to be officially “Islamic” like Iran or Pakistan.  What is your evidence for Rauf holding this belief?

@Max:

Rauf’s belief in a one state solution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict isn’t mainstream, but it isn’t offensive.  I support a single state solution, as do some Jews http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2003/oct/23/israel-the-alternative/ .

Add to that his reluctance to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization, his support of the Iranian Revolution, and his support of Sharia, and it gives the impression that he wants Islamic revolutions to topple Western-backed governments.

Your arguments about Rauf would be right at home on Glenn Beck’s chalkboard.  This is sheet lunacy.

#47 hardindr on Monday September 13, 2010 at 10:17am

An interesting discussion about the Park51/Cordoba House amongst Muslims:

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/13/tariq_ramadan_debates_moustafa_bayoumi_on

#48 Daniel Schealler on Wednesday September 15, 2010 at 10:02am

@harindr

It’s disappointing that you’re using your last post to disengage. I’d hoped to (eventually) pin you down to an actual answer.

Rauf has said that his version of Islam does not contradict Western notions of civil rights, i.e. freedom of speech, consciousness/religion, etc.  If you have any evidence that what he has repeatedly said and written is insincere, I would like to read/hear it.

...

Can you really not see the problem? Or do you simply choose not to see it?

I keep on asking you: If there was a contradiction, what would come first.

You keep on saying: There isn’t one!

I keep on saying: Yes, but what if there was?

This response is a cop-out, plain and simple.

Yes, it very well may be true that Rauf’s interpretation of Islam is in line with human rights.

Fine.

But what does the wagging? Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?

In other words, does Rauf support Human Rights only and solely because he can find some interpretation of Islam which turns out to be supportive of them?

Or does Rauf support his interpretation of Islam because he managed to bring it into line with Human Rights?

If Rauf had been unable to bring his interpretation of Islam in line with Human Rights, which would he have discarded first?

This is the answer that you refuse to give, time and time again. I can only conclude that you cannot give the answer that I clearly want - that Rauf would discard Islam if he found it to be unjust, unreasonable, or contrary to human rights and flourishing.

Your inability to give this answer clearly and without equivocation is all the response I truly need. I must side with Max in this discussion. My assessment of Rauf, based almost entirely on your reports on him, Max’s comments, and the brief mention in Ibn’s post above, is that he is first and foremost a disciple of Islam. Any agreement between Islam and Human Rights that Rauf espouses will be incidental at best and contrived rhetoric at worst.

Until someone - Rauf included - can give me the answer I want (and back it up), I am forced to conclude that Rauf is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If Rauf reads the Koran and believes that it allows for gender equality in marriage, why would that be bad?

If you go back and read again, you’ll notice that this is not actually what I have said.

If I was forced to choose between someone coming to the wrong answer (contrary to human rights) for the wrong reason, or coming to the right answer (in agreement with human rights) for the wrong reason - I would certainly prefer they at least come to the right answer, even if their reasoning is flawed.

However, it would be better yet if Rauf could come to the right answer for the right reason.

My problem with Rauf, Islam, and religion in general isn’t nearly so complicated as you’re pretending it is. My problem is very, very simple.

Are human rights the servant of religion? Or is religion the slave of human rights?

If God (by any name) came down to Rauf (or yourself) today, and told you to commit some atrocity against human rights - and it was actually God, and you actually and sincerely believed it to be God - would you obey or rebel?

The only answer I can respect is that of rebellion - without reserve, hedging or equivocation. Anything else and you are my enemy.

Note that there are many degrees of enmity. I do distinguish between the man who wants to murder me, the man who wants to murder my values and way of life, and the man who would attempt to murder my values and way of life on a moments cause if he felt he was called to do so.

In the absence of a clear answer from you, I must place Rauf in the third category. There are surely more potent enemies that I should spend my time and effort worrying about - but there is a large difference between Rauf being a negligible enemy and his friendship - even neutrality.

Until an individual Muslim is prepared to tell God to piss off if He should cross the moral line, I will never trust that Muslim. Same goes for Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, Mormons - and yes, even Humanists and atheists.

If a Humanist or an atheist will respect any authority before that of human rights and freedoms, then I cannot trust that person as a true friend and ally regardless of any labels we may share in common.

#49 hardindr on Wednesday September 15, 2010 at 2:46pm

I keep on asking you: If there was a contradiction, what would come first.

Rauf has said there is not contradiction.  Why do you fine this hard to accept?  I don’t know if Rauf is right or wrong, but that is his belief.

In other words, does Rauf support Human Rights only and solely because he can find some interpretation of Islam which turns out to be supportive of them?

As a Muslim, Rauf might, but I don’t know.  Even if it were true that Rauf accepted the Western interpretation of human rights based on his interpretation of the Koran and other Islamic religious texts, why would it bother you?  Why does it matter?  Religious believers largely base their views on human rights, morality, etc on their interpretations of their religious texts and traditions.  That’s part of what makes them religious believers.

If you expect Rauf or other religious believers to accept a Western version of human rights because of things outside of their religious beliefs, you are hoping in vain.  Religious believers have religious beliefs that form (or at lest, inform) their views of the world.  That’s the way it is.

Until an individual Muslim is prepared to tell God to piss off if He should cross the moral line, I will never trust that Muslim.

This is really bizarre.  If I were a Muslim, or other religious believer, and you asked me this question, I would look at you like you were from the moon.

If a Humanist or an atheist will respect any authority before that of human rights and freedoms, then I cannot trust that person as a true friend and ally regardless of any labels we may share in common.

You must not have a lot of friends then.

#50 Daniel Schealler on Friday September 17, 2010 at 9:53pm

This is really bizarre.  If I were a Muslim, or other religious believer, and you asked me this question, I would look at you like you were from the moon.

I agree with you - that this would be the typical response from a religious person. Not necessarily just a Muslim, but other religions too.

Therein lies my problem with religion in general and Islam in particular.

The classic example is Abraham and Issac. Religious people tell this story as if it is a good thing that Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son to God. I don’t - it’s a vile story. The only correct response is: “No, I will not murder my child! Not on the call of twenty Gods and a message in the sky! Not at gunpoint or on pain of eternal damnation! I will not murder my child!”

Anyway, you’ve already given me a clear answer (finally). As far as you’re concerned, any follower of Islam would put Allah before human rights. I don’t think so poorly of Muslims to suppose that this is true for all of them. There has to be some moral line beyond which most Muslims would not tread even if their God commanded them to do so. So I doubt your assessment.

But if that is your assessment, and that is your opinion of Rauf’s response - then that’s the answer I’ve been looking for. Thankyou. Was that so hard?

You must not have a lot of friends then.

Maybe not as many as some - but then again, what friends I do have are worth having. They wouldn’t roast me on a spit to their deity of choice, even if that was what said deity directly asked of them.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.