Readings for today: speaking the unspeakable

February 15, 2021 • 12:00 pm

I’m seriously sleep deprived and am finding it hard to even type.  Like many people, or so I hear, sleeping has become more erratic and disturbed during the pandemic. I’m lucky if I get 5½ hours a night, and I tend to wake up at ungodly early hours. I was going to write posts on the two articles below, but don’t have the ability to think so well today, so I’ll merely call them to your attention, make a few remarks, and pass on. Click on screenshots to access all articles. These two are “contrarian” in that they go against prevailing Woke opinion in dealing with subjects so taboo that one shouldn’t even bring them up.

The first piece, by Douglas Murray at the Spectator, deals with how reviewers—particularly the New York Times—have dealt with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new (and fourth) book, shown below (click to go to Amazon site). It came out just last week.

I haven’t read it yet, but will, just as I’ve read all her books. But as Hirsi Ali has been moved to the “alt-right” because of perception that she’s an “Islamophobe”, the reviewers have not been kind. And it’s going to get worse for her after this book, for it tackles the issue of immigration, and what Hirsi Ali sees as the bad consequences of allowing immigration of fundamentalist Muslims to the West. These bad consequences include Britain’s infamous “grooming gangs.” As we know, the liberal British press, and the government, does a lot to hide the fact that these gangs exist, for that admission is seen as Islamophobic.

I don’t know how we should restructure the immigration system to minimize the detrimental effects on a liberal and democratic society of admitting those with cultural norms inimical to its values, but Hirsi Ali apparently has some solutions. I’ll withhold judgement until I read her book.

What Murray does is analyze a New York Times review of Hirsi Ali’s book (click on screenshot below), and make the case that the reviewer, Jill Filipovic, disses the book unfairly, criticizing Hirsi Ali for things she didn’t say, and doing that because Hirsi Ali’s message is not consonant with the NYT’s biases.


Just two quotes:

As soon as [Hirsi Ali’s] book came out, The New York Times published a characteristically inaccurate hit-piece to try to kill it at birth. Speaking engagements – even virtual ones – involving Hirsi Ali came under sustained pressure to cancel. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups started to campaign against the book. And figures like an obscure communist activist called Maryam Namazie, who claims to campaign against Islamism, found common cause with the Islamists in trying to take-out Hirsi Ali. In the latter case, Hirsi Ali was berated for having views that are ‘regressive’, as though one must have ‘progressive’ communist views or have no views at all.

But in the scheme of things, it is the New York Times whose campaign against the book will register with the most. And so it is worth showing just how false and agenda-laden that piece – written by one Jill Filipovic – actually is.

Throughout her review, Filipovic seems intent on using Hirsi Ali’s personal story against her. . .

Murray then goes through a number of Filipovic’s criticisms and argues that they completely misrepresent what Hirsi Ali says. Certainly the excerpts seem to show that when put next to some of Hirsi Ali’s statements, but one needs to read her book to get the full context.

At the end, Murray hypothesizes why the NYT is so hard (and so misguided) on Ayaan’s book, and, knowing the paper, there’s at least a bit of truth in this:

In recent times, the NYT has had a terrible problem – more so than any other mainstream publication – of racism among its staff. The publication has hired writers who make overtly racist comments (Sarah Jeong) and fired other people for allegedly using racist terminology.

I don’t know why the NYT can’t get through a month without an internal racism scandal, but I begin to desire to take it by its own lights and simply accept that the paper in question has a racism problem. And I suppose that a piece like Filipovic’s must be read in this light.

Filipovic seems to think that because Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a black immigrant of Muslim origin she must say only one set of things. When she says a different set of things she must have words put in her mouth by America’s former paper of record. That paper must then muffle the woman’s opinions, defame her and otherwise unvoice her. These have all been tropes in the history of racism. And I suppose that the history of racism is alive, well and continuing at the New York Times. Under the guise of ‘anti-racism’, obviously.

It’s true that Hirsi Ali doesn’t say the kind of stuff that the NYT finds congenial. Indeed, if anyone qualifies as expressing “Islamophobia”, it is her, for she is indeed afraid—not of Islam itself, but of the tenets of Islam that are pernicious and dangerous to men and especially women. Seen in that light, “Islamophobia” isn’t always invidious, but the term is used to slander those who criticize anything about Islam. And the misogynistic, homophobic, and oppressive tenets of Islam are indeed dangerous when transplanted into liberal Western cultures. But we are not allowed to speak of such things, for this subject is taboo.

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On February 8, Glenn Loury (most of you know of him; he’s a black economist at Brown) delivered a lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder; it was part of the Benson Center Lecture Series.  He’s now published the text of the lecture at Quillette (click on screenshot):

Loury’s “unspeakable truths” involve placing some of the blame for black inequality on the black community itself. While the aspects of “black culture” that he sees as inimical, like single-mother families, may ultimately rest on racism, the family issue has worsened substantially since the 1950’s, and it’s hard to see that as a result of either historical racism or present-day “systemic” racism—which surely has not gotten worse since the 1950s. At any rate, I’ll list Loury’s unspeakable truths and recommend that you read his piece. Here his words are indented:

The first unspeakable truth: Downplaying behavioral disparities by race is actually a “bluff”. Socially mediated behavioral issues lie at the root of today’s racial inequality problem. They are real and must be faced squarely if we are to grasp why racial disparities persist. This is a painful necessity.

A second unspeakable truth: “Structural racism” isn’t an explanation, it’s an empty category. The invocation of “structural racism” in political argument is both a bluff and a bludgeon. It is a bluff in the sense that it offers an “explanation” that is not an explanation at all and, in effect, dares the listener to come back.

Another unspeakable truth: We must put the police killings of black Americans into perspective. . . For every black killed by the police, more than 25 other black people meet their end because of homicides committed by other blacks. This is not to ignore the significance of holding police accountable for how they exercise their power vis-à-vis citizens. It is merely to notice how very easy it is to overstate the significance and the extent of this phenomenon, precisely as the Black Lives Matter activists have done.

Thus, the narrative that something called “white supremacy” and “systemic racism” have put a metaphorical “knee on the neck” of black America is simply false. The idea that as a black person I dare not step from my door for fear that the police would round me up or gun me down or bludgeon me to death because of my race is simply ridiculous.

Yet another unspeakable truth: There is a dark side to the “white fragility” blame game. Likewise, I suspect that what we are hearing from the progressives in the academy and the media is but one side of the “whiteness” card. That is, I wonder if the “white-guilt” and “white-apologia” and “white-privilege” view of the world cannot exist except also to give birth to a “white-pride” backlash, even if the latter is seldom expressed overtly—it being politically incorrect to do so.

The above is the least credible of Loury’s worries, I think, but may contain some truth. I have no idea if the application of Critical Race Theory, for example, has turned some whites into white supremacists.

On the unspeakable infantilization of “black fragility”I would add that there is an assumption of “black fragility,” or at least of black lack of resilience lurking behind these anti-racism arguments. Blacks are being treated like infants whom one dares not to touch. One dares not say the wrong word in front of us; to ask any question that might offend us; to demand anything from us, for fear that we will be so adversely impacted by that. The presumption is that black people cannot be disagreed with, criticized, called to account, or asked for anything.

On achieving “true equality” for black Americans. . . Here, then, is my final unspeakable truth, which I utter now in defiance of “cancel culture”: If we blacks want to walk with dignity—if we want to be truly equal—then we must realize that white people cannot give us equality. We actually have to actually earn equal status. Please don’t cancel me just yet, because I am on the side of black people here. But I feel obliged to report that equality of dignity, equality of standing, equality of honor, of security in one’s position in society, equality of being able to command the respect of others—this is not something that can be simply handed over. Rather, it is something that one has to wrest from a cruel and indifferent world with hard work, with our bare hands, inspired by the example of our enslaved and newly freed ancestors. We have to make ourselves equal. No one can do it for us.

The other day, a black reader made a comment to the effect that I like John McWhorter’s views (which are very similar to Loury’s) because “they let white people off the hook.” That is, by blaming black inequality and “inequity” on the black community itself, those views free whites from guilt, the need for “reparations”, and, I guess, from the need to do anything about such inequalities. I disagree on two counts. FIrst of all, as Americans we are obliged to lend a hand to those less fortunate than we. And that includes the poor and some minorities (groups like Indians, East Asian immigrants, and Nigerians are not disadvantaged). To me this doesn’t mean policing ourselves for language, scrutinizing our souls for implicit bias, or firing people who use the n-word didactically. It means a much larger and harder task, one that both Loury and McWhorter agree with: ensuring that every American has equal opportunities from the very first moment they draw breath. That will take a huge investment and reallotment of money, and I, for one, am willing to take a financial hit for this end.

Second, you can’t blame all those inequities on the perfidies of white people who, mired in their unconscious racism, promulgate “structural racism” everywhere. Things like black-on-black crime, so prevalent in my city, must be tackled by the black community as well: in fact, tackled in the main by the black community. When the commenter I just mentioned told me I was too inclined to let white people off the hook, I couldn’t resist replying that he, too, might consider that he was too inclined to let black people off the hook.

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Lagniappe: Bari Weiss has a new piece on her Substack site, “Giano Carano and crowd-sourced McCarthyism“. I haven’t yet read it, but it’s free (consider subscribing, though). It’s about the actress who was fired from a television series for comparing the persecution of American conservatives to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis—a comparison that Weiss admits was stupid and ridiculous.

Cancel culture alive and well

February 11, 2021 • 2:15 pm

If you laugh at the idea of a cancel culture, well, here’s a good example. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which I consider an Islamist organization, is trying to cancel tonight’s discussion with Bari Weiss and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, scheduled for the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

CAIR has a petition page where you can sign on to the cancellation (click on screenshot):

The grounds? Hate speech, which apparently doesn’t deserve airing:

CAIR-SFBA, American Muslims, and our allies across the San Francisco Bay Area are calling on the Commonwealth Club to cancel their planned February 11 event featuring anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian speakers Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Bari Weiss.

These fringe speakers are contrary to the Club’s mission to seek truth and insight about the issues we face as a society. Both speakers have a shameful track record of propagating Islamophobia, which exacerbates ongoing intolerance and hate towards Muslims, immigrants, and others.

Well, CAIR, Students for Justice in Palestine, and similar organizations, are, in my view, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, and themselves “exacerbate intolerance”, but I wouldn’t for a moment try to stop them from holding events. I’m not sure what “truth” is being effaced by the two speakers, but part of it is probably the religiously-based defensiveness of organizations like CAIR.

Apparently the Commonwealth Club, which seems to be a public-affairs group with a wide range of speakers, agrees with me, for at the bottom of the petition you can read this:

CAIR of course has a right to object to the speakers, and to petition the club to cancel them, but it would have better “optics” if they didn’t try to stifle the voices of everyone they think is “Islamophobic.” I guess Hirsi Ali better bring her bodyguards tonight. . .

h/t: Luana

An exchange about Wokeism featuring Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

September 29, 2020 • 9:15 am

Well, there’s only one letter in the “exchange” so far: from Sarah Haider (co-founder and development director of Ex-Muslims of North America) to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The exchange will appear bit by bit at the Letter site (click on screenshot below, and you may want to subscribe):

 

The exchange will not be about Islam, as you might expect (both Haider and Hirsi Ali are vocal ex-Muslims, critical of the faith), but about “wokeism”, which intersected—pardon the word—with Haider’s criticisms of Islam to inspire the coming dialogue.  We all know that although Islam is, in general, an oppressive religion, seeing gays as immoral and women as inferior (this of course is not true of all Muslims), it is still defended by the Woke, who regard criticism of the faith’s tenets as “Islamophobia”. The Left’s defense of Islam is based on one reason only: Muslims are seen as “people of color”, and so their oppressive practices become immune from censure. That immunity does not extend to faiths like Catholicism or Protestantism, which are seen as “white” faiths. This is also one of the reasons why the Woke blast Israel at the expense of the much more oppressive Palestinian Territories, for Palestinians are also seen as people of color, although Palestine is really the “apartheid state” that Israel is said to be.

But I digress. Haider’s eyes opened to Wokeism when she couldn’t find people who would join her in criticizing Islam. Excerpts from Haider’s letter:

In fact, it was my activism with religion that first drove me to investigate this issue many years ago. When I first began speaking publicly about Islam, I quickly found (as did you), that those whom I anticipated would be on our side viewed me with suspicion. My criticisms of Islam were based on the very principles that those liberals claimed to champion, and yet I was swiftly rejected by them. This behavior left me stunned and confused, so I set out to understand it.

Very quickly, it became evident that the hesitancy to critique Islam actually had nothing to do with Islam. Educating my fellow liberals would not be enough—as ignorance was not the root of the problem.

Over the previous few decades, a new ideology had taken hold throughout liberal and progressive circles: writer and cultural critic Wesley Yang called it “the successor ideology,” but now it’s more usually called wokeism. At its core, this ideology is a delegitimization project—and it targets the very foundations of humanist, Enlightenment values. Wokeism is not the only movement to exploit the same programming that makes us vulnerable to religion. But it has achieved astounding success because it has also managed to neutralize liberals, who might otherwise stand against religious impulses, by hijacking our caring instinct, and by ruthlessly exploiting social dynamics to crush dissent.

It’s curious that the aspect of Wokeism that leads to the hesitancy to criticize Islam—the movement’s embrace of Critical Race Theory, so that Muslims are seen as oppressed people of color—isn’t mentioned by Haider, and I’m not sure why.  That is in fact the dominant impetus of Wokeism, and can’t be neglected. Yes, Wokeism denigrates some Enlightenment values, like freedom of speech, but it also embraces (to an extreme and unwarranted extent) an Enlightenment value: concern for the underdog. It’s not a battle against all Enlightenment values, but a dog’s breakfast of extreme Enlightenment values (the holiness of the oppressed) and anti-Enlightenment values.

At any rate, Haider thinks the Woke have won—for the time being. She’s right, for they’ve hijacked the universities and the media, as well as other organizations, including scientific societies. They’ve won because nobody wants to be seen as a racist, and so people have, as John McWhorter said, gone along to get along.

Haider:

I believe that what we are witnessing is not the dawn of open war, but its conclusion. The woke have won, and decisively. But all is never truly lost, and this is not a prelude to submission. My approach is one of pragmatic optimism: In order to fight this—and we must fight it—we need to understand what lies ahead of us.

. . .Wokeism has won because it has captured our cultural and sense-making institutions.

Nearly all our educational, media, and non-profit institutions (including major grant-making organizations) are advancing in one direction. Meanwhile, the hearts and minds of the global elite are almost uniformly supportive of this new secular faith.

. . .it is no anomaly that the New York Times can hire and stand by an employee who speaks of white people as “dogs pissing on fire hydrants,” but cannot publish an op-ed by a sitting US congressman without a major staff insurrection. The conditions required for the extremists to thrive already exist. The door is open; they only need to walk through.

One may object, however, and point out that the majority of Americans are not woke. I believe that this is true. I also believe that it doesn’t matter. When so many of our fundamental institutions are in cult-like consensus, when the richest and most powerful among us routinely display public allegiance to one faith [Haider mentions that Jeff Bezos has pledged nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars to “social justice causes”], the preferences of the average American are largely irrelevant.

We must adjust our approach accordingly. To put it rather dramatically: we are not meeting the barbarians at the gate; we are rebelling against the empire.

So what does Haider think we must do? Well, she argues that to fight Wokeism we must first understand it, and you can do that by reading Pluckrose and Linday’s book, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody.  They provide a scholarly but lucid account of the roots of Wokeism.  Yet once you see Wokeism as a religion—the topic of McWhorter’s next book—you might agree with him that “battling it out” directly isn’t the way to fight. That’s no more efficacious than trying to engage the faithful to make them give up their religion. As with “militant” atheism, I’m with McWhorter in thinking that no, we shouldn’t engage the Woke directly. They will not be moved, and will simply call you names and try to ruin your life.  The way to fight them is the way atheists have been successful in eroding religion: mocking your opponents, refusing to buy what they’re selling, and writing books taking Wokeism apart.

I am not buying the stuff any more, and will mock it despite the possibility of being called a racist. And so should we all, for we need, as did atheists, to appeal to those on the fence—the uncommitted and open-minded. As for writing those books, well, Pluckrose and Lindsay have a good one, and McWhorter’s will, I suspect, be a powerful salvo against Wokeism.

In the meantime, keep your eye on the Haider/Hirsi Ali exchange.

 

h/t: Luana

A new book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on sexual violence in Europe

April 4, 2020 • 10:30 am

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has a new book, her fifth, and the fourth to have a one-word title (the others are The Caged Virgin, Nomad, Infidel, and Heretic, and I’ve read all but the first). The last one, Heretic, was subtitled Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, and was her manifesto not to destroy Islam (which many think is her agenda), but to reform it from within. I wrote about it previously, and thought that while the motivation was good, Muslims would never accept Hirsi Ali’s five suggestions for reforming the faith (example: “Muslims must not take the Qur’an literally”).

If Islam is to be defanged, making the extremist and violence-prone segments go away, it not only has to be from within, but there’s no good program for doing it—even from Hirsi Ali, who spent much of her life as an ardent believer.

And if the last book diminished Hirsi Ali’s reputation as an “Islamophobic” (it didn’t—the SPLC pronounced her, along with Maajid Nawaz, “an anti-Muslim activist” and then withdrew that characterization when sued by Nawaz), this book will restore it. For it’s about those immigrants—many of them Muslim—who commit sexual violence on and harassment of women in Europe. Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon site, or see the HarperCollins publisher’s description here.

The sexual violence committed by immigrants to Europe, and its higher frequency among male Muslim immigrants, is an issue that, it seems, most European countries would rather keep under wraps, because it looks “Islamophobic” to both highlight it and, especially, to connect it with the misogyny endemic in much of Islam.  “Grooming gangs” of young Muslims are reported on in the British press, but the ethnic/religious connection has stalled both investigations of the crimes as well as their highlighting by journalists. Of course there are many rapists and harassers who aren’t Muslims, or are non-Muslims from East Asia, but it’s ridiculous to avoid discussing how religion (which is largely equivalent to “culture” for many Muslims) might feed into sexual violence. How can you deal with such crimes without understanding their source? But then, of course, there’s the hard problem of “what do we do with this understanding?”  That’s above my pay grade.

These are the issues that Hirsi Ali apparently deals with in Prey. Here’s HarperCollins‘s summary of the book, which I’ve excerpted (their emphasis):

Why are so few people talking about the eruption of sexual violence and harassment in Europe’s cities? Because almost no one in a position of power wants to admit that the problem is linked to the arrival of several million migrants—most of them young men—from Muslim-majority countries.

In Prey, the best-selling author of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, presents startling statistics, criminal cases and personal testimony. She shows that, after a period when sexual violence in western Europe barely increased, after 2014 it surged. In Germany “offences against sexual self-determination” in 2018 were 36% above their 2014 level. Nearly two-fifths of the suspects were non-German. Asylum seekers were suspects in 11% of all reported rapes and sexual harassment cases in Austria in 2017, despite making up less than 1% of the total population.

This violence isn’t a figment of alt-right propaganda, Hirsi Ali insists, even if neo-Nazis exaggerate it. It’s a real problem that Europe—and the world—cannot continue to ignore.

Hirsi Ali explains why so many young Muslim men who arrive in Europe engage in sexual harassment and violence. She traces the roots of sexual violence in the Muslim world, from institutionalized polygamy to the lack of legal and religious protections for women.

A refugee herself, Hirsi Ali is not against immigration. . . Deeply researched and featuring fresh and often shocking revelations, Prey uncovers a sexual assault and harassment crisis in Europe which is turning the clock on women’s rights much further back than #MeToo has advanced it.

I’ll read it, as I’ve read most of her books, but be aware that this book is going to be excoriated for simply highlighting the problem, which everyone recognizes is a problem.  It’s ironic that the publisher mentions #MeToo here, for that underscores the double standards of liberal societies when dealing with feminism and Islam. Islamic doctrine is explicitly anti-feminist, and, in the thesis of this book, has devalued women to the extent that it leads to both sexual harassment and rape, just as it leads to the oppression of women in most Muslim counties. So we have a clash of underdogs—underdogs whose defense is a classic virtue of liberalism. In this case it’s Islam versus feminism. In America, the UK, and the rest of Europe, the Left seems to have decided that, as “people of color”, Muslims are more oppressed than women, and so, as Hirsi Ali insists, this has exacerbated the oppression of women in the West.

I’ll report on the book after I’ve read it.

h/t Enrico

Ex-Muslims of North America mounts a “Awesome without Allah” campaign, but aren’t allowed to put those words on billboards

September 9, 2019 • 9:00 am

Here’s the announcement I found on Twitter:

The Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) just put up billboards in three cities—Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston—basically stating that a substantial proportion of Muslims raised in the U.S. have become apostates, and implicitly affirming that that’s okay (of course, to many Muslims apostasy is a capital crime). According to the EXMNA announcement, they had some trouble doing this:

After several rounds of rejections, changes, and even one contract termination from companies afraid of offending religious sensibilities, the billboards are scheduled to be placed on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 3rd and 4th, 2019.

“In a dozen Muslim-majority countries, ex-Muslims are condemned to the death penalty”, said Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America. “In the West, our existence is not a crime, but we still face isolation, threats, and abuse by our own families and former faith community. Unsurprisingly, many former Muslims choose to hide their lack of belief. But the first step to gain acceptance is coming out openly, without shame or fear.”

“We want closeted ex-Muslims to know they are not alone”, said Sarah Haider, Executive Director of Ex-Muslims of North America. “We also want them to know that while the prospect of coming out as nonreligious is frightening, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it to the other side, you can rebuild your life and find joy in the freedom from religion.”

Syed, Haider, and their colleagues are doing useful and courageous work. Putting up a billboard that, say, noted that a high proportion of Christians had become “nones” would be unlikely to be rejected in this way. As we all know, it’s a lot more dangerous to offend Muslims than Christians.

This page gives more details about the difficulty of getting the billboards displayed:

The billboards took months of planning and countless rounds of rejections from companies who were concerned about offending religious sensibilities. Unfortunately, the process diluted our message quite substantially. Our billboards went from challenging religious claims head-on to a simple declarative sentence about our existence. Many of our first versions were rejected. Even the proposed hashtags were rejected, and fearing a longer delay in publishing, we decided to remove the “Awesome Without Allah” hashtag entirely from the billboards.

The most controversial of the billboards we drafted and proposed featured a drawing of the Islamic mythological figure called the “buraq”. This figure sports the face of a woman, the body of a donkey, wings and a peacock tail. The idea was to provoke critical thinking by pointing out the absurdity of religious myths. However, all companies we worked with rejected this concept. It appeared that the most distressing aspect was the cartoon itself. Of course, the fear is not surprising. There is a record of extremist Muslims answering a drawing with violence, such as the murders of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and attacks on Danish cartoonists.

However, even after choosing a message as mild as possible, one of the contracts was cancelled. The company had not realized how near our billboard was to a mosque, and when they realized, they told us they could not honor the agreement.

The site has a number of short videos (“mini-documentaries”) of ex-Muslims explaining their departure from the faith. Here’s one of many, with the caption “A Canadian woman who converted to Islam in her late-teens, Stephanie married a Libyan Muslim man, and gave birth to two daughters.”

This is heartbreaking, for you see the mother’s anguish well up as she describes how her husband tricked her into going back to Libya and then basically kidnapped their daughters, whom she hasn’t seen in five years. I defy you to watch the whole thing without tearing up.

 

Join me in donating to EXMNA, which you can do by going here.  They are way short of their $25,000 campaign goal, and that’s not a large amount. If every reader gave just a dollar, that would more than double the amount targeted. How about a buck or five?

Maajid Nawaz sees a change in world leaders’ tweets about the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terrorist attacks

April 22, 2019 • 11:00 am

Maajid Nawaz put up a short clip from his radio show about the reactions of three world leaders—Theresa May, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton—to the two terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand (against Muslims in mosques) and the bombings in Sri Lanka (against Christians in churches). He quotes tweets from these three leaders and shows a disparity between their reactions to the attacks—a disparity that, I think, really does say something about political attitudes. Click on the screenshot below to hear Maajid (a Muslim).

Here are May’s tweets.

Nawaz finds a difference in May’s reaction to the latest attack, in which she doesn’t mention terrorism but does note “acts of violence”. (It’s now clear that it was a terrorist attack, as the explosions were caused by suicide bombers.)

Things get more disparate when we get to the Americans. Do you notice a difference between the first and second tweets of Obama, and a similar disparity between the first and second tweets of Hillary Clinton?

Here’s a similar pair from Hillary Clinton:

Maajid says this:

“I’ve just named three global leaders from a Liberal and a Conservative perspective after two respective terrorist attacks.

“One in New Zealand against my fellow Muslims and one in Sri Lanka against Christians who are at worship.

“As you can see from the tone, when it came to the New Zealand one, almost all of them mention that it was an attack against the Muslim community and it was a terrorist attack.

“Yet when it came to Sri Lanka, why say Easter worshipers?

“Why not come out straight away and say this is an attack against Christians?” [JAC: Note that Clinton and Obama also use “terrorists” to refer to the New Zealand attacks but not to the Sri Lanka attacks.

I’m not trying to be a “terrorist truther” here, but I think Maajid has a point, and he’s not the first one to notice it. Why call Muslims “Muslims” but Christians “Easter worshippers”? This is not a coincidence between Clinton and Obama; it’s a deliberate decision not to say “Christian”, for that would imply that the terrorists were Muslims, which they almost certainly were. As Foreign Policy noted, “Sri Lanka’s government says the attacks were carried out by National Thowheeth Jamaath, a little-known radical Islamist group.”

What we see here, in Nawaz’s view, and mine, is an attempt to avoid blaming Islamic terrorists for the crimes. I’m not quite sure why they transmute “Christians” into “Easter Worshipers”, but it may be to downplay the animus of Muslims against Christians.(Why say “Muslim” but not “Christian”?)

I’m nearly certain, though, that this is a careful use of language to cater to Muslims, and bespeaks of how the Islamic community, through threats and claims of offense, have managed to sanitize our discourse. Nawaz doesn’t say this, but of course it’s what he means.

But you be the judge.

Oh, and I just noticed that HuffPost just pulled the same dodge. Their headlines (both for the same piece). Only the article identifies the organization as one containing Islamist militants:

Such circumlocution! HuffPo won’t mention in the headline that the “international network” is one of radical Muslims.

A Qatari sociologist gives Islamic instructions (and a demonstration) on how to beat your wife

April 9, 2019 • 10:00 am

To all those who seem to think that being Muslim is in itself a badge of honor, to those who ignore the misogyny inherent in the religion and its dictates, to those feminists who turn a blind eye to the oppression of women in the Middle East, calling Israel an apartheid state but ignoring the “apartheid” against women in Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—to all these people, have a look at this video from Qatar, featuring a sociologist demonstrating the Islamically permissible way to beat your wife.

MEMRI describes a new video featuring Qatari sociologist Abd Al-Aziz Al-Khazraj Al-Ansari, who uploaded his “demonstration” on the Al-Mojtama YouTube channel. The video is below, and I’ve put some screenshots below it, which I posted before I found the subtitled video on YouTube (MEMRI doesn’t often put its videos there).

Remember that Qatar is considered one of the more liberal Islamic countries, though it’s actually quite despotic in its employment of sharia law, its use of corporal punishment, its deeming of homosexual acts as capital crimes, and its abysmal treatment of guest workers.

I suppose it’s a mercy that Al-Ansari (demonstrating on a boy) shows that Islam mandates just a mild slapping around of the disobedient wife rather than full-on beating and punching, but saying that it’s okay to lay hands on a wife, and even arguing that the women want that because they love domineering men, is flat-out misogynistic. And, of course, there’s the unquestioned assumption that the man is the boss and the woman must do his bidding (see data below). Apartheid, indeed!

Some screenshots:

From the 2013 Pew Survey of the World’s Muslims, a survey taken in many (but not all) Muslim-majority countries. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Yemen, for instance, are not represented:

Had enough? At least have a listen to this short video of the enlightened sociologist discussing International Women’s Day. As the YouTube notes say,

On March 8, 2019, Qatari sociologist Abd Al-Aziz Al-Khazraj Al-Ansari uploaded a video to the Al-Mojtama YouTube channel, which he runs, in which he mocked International Women’s Day for being a celebration of women’s freedom to “act like whores, to play around… and to do whatever they want.” He mocked Western criticism of the hijab and of the Muslim male chaperone system, alleging that the West tells women to act like sluts instead. He also mocked the West for turning women into “cheap merchandise” and encouraging them to dance, use Snapchat, work as TV hosts and actresses, and attend co-ed universities, where male students fondle them behind the professors’ backs during class. He mockingly said: “Bear him a bastard child!… Yes, freedom!” He also said that the West allows women to serve in the military and police in order to “provide comfort” to male service members, and added that dogs are more honorable than the “filthy” secular people who fool women into driving cars, working as electricians, completing their education, and turning into prostitutes like in Europe, where he claimed 90 percent of children are bastards. Al-Ansari’s Facebook page says that he is the manager of the Center for the Organization of Marriage Projects. The Al-Mojtama YouTube channel’s “About” section says that the channel calls for a return to the instructions of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad.

I doubt there are many women who, thinking from behind John Rawls’s “position of ignorance”, would be happier if they were born in Qatar than in almost any Western country.

 

 

Brunei to become barbaric on April 3, allowing stoning to death for adultery and homosexual acts

March 28, 2019 • 11:20 am

Only one religion on Earth—and I’ll give you this paragraph to guess—would, in this day and age, suddenly sanction stoning to death for “crimes” like homosexual behavior and adultery. The punishment statue starts on April 3 in Brunei and is described in several places, including the New York Times (click on screenshot below).

Six years ago Brunei announced that it was going to impose a harsh form of sharia law, for the country’s official religion is Sunni Islam. In the past few years it banned alcohol and celebrations of Christmas (even by non-Muslims). Now the vise is being squeezed even harder. As the NYT reports:

Brunei has had the death penalty on the books since it was a British protectorate, but in practice executions are not typically carried out.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei, with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison, but the new laws allow for penalties including whipping and stoning. The new laws also introduce amputation of hands or feet as a punishment for robbery.

. . . Under the laws about to come into effect, a person can be convicted of adultery or having gay sex only if there are multiple Muslim witnesses. The law will apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, although some offenses, such as apostasy, apply specifically to Muslims, who make up about two-thirds of Brunei’s population.

The “multiple Muslim witnesses” mitigates the punishment a bit, but not much. Stoning and amputation are signs of barbarism, and should not be on the books anywhere.

Although not mentioned in the Qur’an, stoning is repeatedly mentioned in the hadith and has been adopted as punishment by several branches of Islam, though this is a first for Muslim countries in Southeast Asia. And the requisites for stoning, according to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, are that the stones used in the punishment should be about hand-size, so as not to cause death too quickly but big enough to do cumulative fatal damage.

Stoning is a horrible punishment which often takes a long time to cause death. The preliminaries—wrapping the victim in cloth and buying him/her up to their chest in the ground—are cruel and terror-inducing. No civilized people could mandate or participate in such a crime. If the U.S. had any guts, we’d break off relations with oil-rich Brunei immediately.

Jeff Tayler reviews a new documentary on Islam

March 27, 2019 • 9:15 am

JAC note: You’ll remember the writer and author Jeff Tayler, a contributing editor at The Atlantic whose atheist-oriented pieces used to grace the pages of Salon before they decided that atheism wasn’t woke. Jeff has also written many books, and I’m reading a brand new one cowritten with Nina Khrushcheva (Nikita’s great grand-daughter): In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones. I quite like it; it’s a great travelogue and a portrait of a people and their politics.

Jeff sent me a contribution in which he reviews a new documentary about Islam (released December of last year), featuring commentary by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, whose dialogue in a book gave rise to this eponymous movie. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray appear as well, and I’ll leave it to Jeff to say the rest below.

I’ve put a trailer for the movie at the bottom.

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Islam and the Future of Tolerance

An Honest, Brave Film that Should Have Been Made Years Ago

 By Jeffrey Tayler

In the modern-day West, no issue generates obfuscation, doublespeak, and rank intellectual cowardice the way Islam does. No other religion spurs supposed progressives to beclown themselves by indulging in fits of specious apologetics in defense of misogynistic customs. And no other faith evokes such trepidation—fear, even—among those who dare speak honestly about some of its more troubling doctrines. With good reason, of course, as apostates from the faith (and even some Muslim reformers) know all too well, whether they dwell in Muslim-majority countries or in the United States.

Yet a paradox reigns: the number of Americans who affiliate with no religion whatsoever is rising rapidly and much of Europe is essentially nonbelieving, but Islam has become a topic of urgency on both continents. Muslim immigration—decades old in France, say, but more recent elsewhere—and the recurrent phenomenon of Islamist terrorism are responsible. Just before I wrote these words, in fact, a jihadist attacked a Christmas market in Strasbourg. Violence of this sort serves to underscore the point: now more than ever, the need for truth-telling and unhindered dialogue about Islam presses upon us.

Arising to meet that need is Islam and the Future of Tolerance, a full-length documentary that takes its name from a 2015 book by the neuroscientist New Atheist Sam Harris, and Maajid Nawaz, a British Muslim who has trod the path from Islamism to a moderate version of the faith and who founded Quilliam, a London-based organization the business of which is countering Islamist extremism. Both Harris and Nawaz feature prominently in the film and their analysis and personal stories make up much of it. For those who believe Islam is not a topic that interests them, the Iraqi-born secularist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (the founder of Ideas Beyond Borders, which, in the U.S., aims to “prevent extremism before it takes root”) offers, toward the movie’s end, a sobering admonition: “If you’re not interested in the Middle East, the Middle East is interested in you. If you’re not interested in Islamists, the Islamist is interested in you.” Make no mistake about it: he is talking about Islamists in the West. The film opens and closes in the West, with scant footage from the Middle East.

Islam remains a potentially deadly issue, as a clip shown early on from a debate about whether it is a “religion of peace” makes clear. Nawaz (still defending Islam unreservedly at the time) argues that it is, whereas the famed ex-Muslim public intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the British author Douglas Murray present the opposing case. It quickly emerges that both Nawaz and Hirsi Ali are facing death threats from Islamists. Murray, in an interview shot later for the film, sums up the absurdity of the debate’s proposition: “How come if this side of the debate’s got death threats hanging over them, and [the other] side has death threats hanging over [it], why are we even discussing whether this is a religion of peace or not?” Audience polls conducted before and after the event demonstrated a resounding shift of opinion in favor of reality, with Hirsi Ali and Murray winning a crushing victory over Nawaz and his colleague.

Yet by no means does Islam and the Future of Tolerance lead its viewers to one-dimensional views of the issue; nor does it preach to the converted. Using graphics showing circles of gradually increasing sizes, Harris points out the proportional differences between the (relatively few) extremists (say, those of ISIS and Al Shabaab), devout Muslims who reject the use of violence, and Muslims who are only nominally, or culturally, Muslim. Of greatest concern, of course, are Islamists committed to establishing an Islamic society and jihadists willing to kill to bring it about. What counts, we understand, is that all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, respect the pluralistic values that undergird a civil society. Whence the title of both the book and the movie.

Nevertheless, the problem, as Harris points out, is that the ISIS version of Islam is all too plausible, if you just read the Quran and the Hadith and take them at face value. Words, after all, are supposed to correspond to the realities they signify. Harris posits how unacceptable the inverse would be in other areas of life, asking us to imagine ordering lobster from a restaurant menu, yet being brought everything from poultry to a lobster-shaped chocolate desert instead. What Harris calls a “heroic task of bowdlerization” is necessary to prove that Islam is a “religion of peace,” whereas such is certainly not the case with, say, Jainism. The filmmakers also interview the Canadian oncologic pathologist Ali A. Rizvi, the Pakistan-born author of The Atheist Muslim. Rizvi asks whether “extremists are corrupting Islam” or “moderates are sanitizing it.” The answer is obvious to those who engage in an honest reading of the texts and confront their calls to jihad and martyrdom in its cause.

The issues Islam and the Future of Tolerance deals with bear on us all. The remedy surely lies not in vilifying Muslims as people or in labeling those who voice legitimate concerns about Islam “Islamophobes,” but in fact-based free speech about the faith so that we can better confront the problems Islam poses for the modern world, and, most vitally, support those working to reform the faith in the interests of nonviolence.

The film succeeds in rescuing forthright discussion of Islam from the clutches of the right and placing it in progressive hands. Progressives should not shy away from the topic.

Had we taken it up earlier, Christmas shoppers in Europe might have been spared yet another tragedy.

Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyTayler1.

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JAC: Jeff wrote this shortly after the Strasbourg Christmas Market attack on December 11, 2018, when an Islamist terrorist killed five people and wounded 18. He (the terrorist, not Jeff!) was later hunted down and killed in a shootout with police.

The trailer is below . You can download the movie from iTunes for $5 here.  There are only four critics’ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes but all are positive.

Hijabs and religious head coverings okay in Congress, secular hats not? Religion once again gets a pass

November 23, 2018 • 9:15 am

As you’ve surely heard, Ilhan Omar was elected to the House of Representatives this year. She’ll be representing a district in Minnesota, and is one of the first two Muslim-American women to be elected to Congress. She’s also the first hijabi elected to Congress (the other woman, Rashida Tlaib, isn’t a hijabi). Omar always wears a fancy, high-rise hijab:

And she’s vowed that she won’t take it off, even though there’s been a ban on head coverings in the House since 1837. Here’s a recent tweet from her:

Note that she invokes the First Amendment—presumably freedom of religion—to justify wearing her hijab.  And now, according to NBC News and many other sources, House Democrats are proposing a rule change that will allow headscarves and other forms of religious headgear in Congress, a rule specifically designed for Omar but that will also allow yarmulkes and other forms of religious head covering. Likely future Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also on board with it:

Democrats say they will add an exemption for religious headwear under their new package of rules changes for the next Congress, which begins in January, so that the protection of religious expression is explicit. The language will also cover someone wearing a head covering due to illness and loss of hair.

“Democrats know that our strength lies in our diversity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement to NBC News. “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

“This change will finally codify that no restriction may be placed on a member’s ability to do the job they were elected to do simply because of their faith,” said incoming House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who is working on the amendment with Omar and Pelosi. “The American people just elected the most diverse Congress in history and our rules should embody that.”

When I first heard about this, I wasn’t disturbed, as I thought they were simply deep-sixing a general rule against head coverings. While some members of Congress have been religious (Senator Joe Lieberman, an observant Jew, often wore a yarmulke outside Congress but not in the chambers), nobody has ever sought an exemption.  But that’s not the way it is: the kinds of head coverings that are allowed are specifically religious ones (as well as head coverings for head injuries or other medical issues—presumably bandages or wigs for those who have lost their hair via chemotherapy).

As I said, this doesn’t seem to be a hill one wants to die on, but not everybody feels that way. As a friend of mine wrote me:

I find that Congress would change the rules (or that Democrats are proposing such a thing) outrageous and dangerous.  More special rights for Muslims, of course….

Well, everybody gets Omar’s rights for religious headgear, so yarmulkes are okay too. One could argue, though, that Muslims feel especially entitled compared to other religionists, and will simply refuse to shed their religious practices when they conflict with secular custom—or rules in this place.

What made me rethink my indifference was this report, which notes:

The head-covering rule has vexed some lawmakers, notably Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who is known for her colorful hats and has pushed to get the ban lifted.

Under the proposed changes, Wilson would still be barred from wearing hats on the House floor.

And that means that this rule is for specifically religious garb, not any other form of head covering (I wonder if a colander would qualify, since it’s headgear of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Hats were worn in Congress before the rule was enacted, and I can see that some people, like Wilson, would want to wear them for decorative or non-religious reasons.

It’s clear, then, that this rule privileges those who wear religious headcoverings (or medically-mandated ones) and not secular headcoverings. And that seems a violation of the First Amendment—something that shouldn’t be happening in our nation’s legislative bodies.

Now the rule change is almost certainly a fait accompli, for Congress wouldn’t want to look Islamophobic, hijabs are now the equivalent of haloes for the Authoritarian Left, denoting some kind of admirable victimhood, and there is already a religious invocation that opens each session of Congress (Dan Barker and the Freedom from Religion Foundation are fighting it). And it worries me that Omar is threatening, in her tweet above, to fight for lifting other bans, which seems to me to invoke more privileging of religion—in her case Islam—over secular values. I add in passing that Omar has changed her position on BDS, now supporting it after her election (she wasn’t in favor of it before she was elected), and has emitted some pretty nasty tweets against Israel (see here), as well as calling it “an apartheid regime.” (Tlaib also supports BDS).

But never mind the Israel-hating. This new rule is part of religion’s general tendency to try to override secular laws in favor of religious laws or customs. Islam is only the most visible of these attempts, but we know how Christians are also asking for exemptions. I’m now on the fence against this new regulation, and so am taking a poll and soliciting readers’ views in the comments below. Please vote:

 

h/t: cesar