The Guardian touts the Qu’ran as a guide to life, and a way for Americans to understand why Palestinians are resilient

November 21, 2023 • 2:18 pm

If you’ve read the Qur’an, as I have, you’ll realize that it is hardly the book to absorb if you want a peaceful and loving way of life.  The verses written later, in particular, are bloodthirsty, oppressive, and misogynist, and those parts, as all Muslims know, take moral precedence over the nicer and earlier parts.

There used to be a fully annotated “Skeptic’s Annotated Qur’an” on the Internet, which singles out Qur’anic verses (using symbols like skulls or question marks) as being violent or promulgating injustice, cruelty, misogyny, intolerance (especially to those who don’t believe in Islam), and so on. I finally found that annotated version, and you can read it here. There’s also an annotated Bible, Book of Mormon, and even a Bhagavad Gita. The point of all this annotation was to show that the “good books” aren’t so good at all. Sure, you can cherry pick them to find stuff like “thou shalt not kill”, but by and large these book are divisive and, above all, promote both superstition and a suggestion that you lead your life according to dictates of a fictional god. And among these four (I’ve read all of them), I found the Qur’an is the most divisive, full of hatred, oppression, threats of hellfire, and words from god to kill nonbelievers and apostates.

The bad stuff in the Qur’an, mainly the surahs (chapters) written later, which are the ones pious Muslims take most seriously, has of course brought about a lot of death, hatred, and oppression. It is in the name of the Qur’an, as the word of God, that the butchery of October 7 took place.  Now Islam didn’t become toxic until the Qur’an began being read literally; before that one might have seen Christianity as the most toxic religion. But I think most people would agree with Hitchens’s point that, at this present moment, Islam is the most pernicious of all religions. In one of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books, Heretic, she argues that Islam can only be made moderate if people stop taking the Qur’an literally.

Not, though, according to the Guardian, which has published an article so unbelievably misguided that it makes that paper, the worst of all MSM when it comes to Islam, look even worse than it has in the last few years, and that’s saying a lot.. For this article tells about (and apparently appproves of) young Americans reading the Qur’an and finding in it solace and peace. It also, so the piece goes, helps them understand how Palestinians can be so resilient (apparently in this war).

Click to read, and have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol handy

Here are some bits from the article:

After 9/11, the Qur’an became an instant bestseller, though at the time many Americans purchased it to confirm biases they held about Islam being an inherently violent religion. “The difference is that in this moment, people are not turning to the Qur’an to understand the October 7 attack by Hamas,” [Zareena] Grewal said. “They are turning to the Qur’an to understand the incredible resilience, faith, moral strength and character they see in Muslim Palestinians.”

That’s what made Nefertari Moonn, a 35-year-old from Tampa, Florida, pick up her husband’s Qur’an. Moonn considered herself spiritual, not religious, and described her husband as a non-practicing Muslim. “I wanted to see what it was that made people call out to Allah when they stared death in the face,” she said. “Seeing passage after passage resonated with me. I began to have such an emotional attachment to it.”

Because of this, Moonn also decided to take the shahada, becoming a Muslim revert (a term some Muslims prefer for joining the religion).

“I can’t explain it, but there’s a peace that comes with reading the Qur’an,” she said. “I feel light, like I came back to something that was always there and waiting for me to return.”

Misha Euceph, a Pakistani American writer and podcast host who studies progressive interpretations of the Qur’an, has held her own Qur’an Book Club Instagram series since 2020. She says certain themes in the text align with the values of young, left-leaning Americans.

Well, I feel sorry for young, left-leaning Americans. Could it be that because they’re more sympathetic with Hamas than are older Americans, they find what they want to find in the Qur’an, and ignore the bad stuff?  Not only that, but they apparently read modern values into the Qur’an (see below). It’s environmentalist! It’s feminist! It’s scientific!   Here’s how the young Americans read it:

“The Qur’an is full of nature metaphors and encourages you to be an environmentalist,” Euceph said. “The Qur’an also has this anti-consumerist attitude, the sense that we’re all stewards of the earth who shouldn’t establish an exploitative relationship with the world or fellow human beings.”

Unless, of course, those relationships involve slavery, which the Qur’an condones (though criticizes), nonbelievers (who must be killed), and especially women, who are explicitly given far fewer rights than are men. Here’s more approbation by Ms. Euceph:

In the Qur’an, men and women are equals in the eyes of God, and Rice and other TikTok converts say their interpretations of the text back up their feminist principles. It also engages with scientific explanations for creation, with verses in the Qur’an covering the big bang and other theories.

“Usually, we’re so used to the religious community combating science,” Rice said. “Now I’m seeing a religion embrace science and use its holy texts to back it up.”

As for how the Qur’an urges Islam to treat women, have a look at this page of “the top ten rules in the Qur’an that oppress women“.  Or these questions:

Have these women read and understood such passages of the Qur’an as 2:282 (devaluing women’s testimony), 4:11 (devaluing women’s inheritance rights), 4:24 (allowing for polygamy and sex slavery), 4:34 (allowing for the beating of disobedient women), and 65:4 (allowing for the marriage and divorce of prepubescent girls)? Almost certainly not.

Most Muslim societies do indeed oppress women, treating them poorly or denying them opportunity, and much of this is based on the Qur’an or the hadith, the reported sayings of Muhammad handed down for centuries. The hadith, for example, have also been used to justify female genital mutilation (FGM), which is largely (but not exclusively) confined to Muslim societies, and is given a religious justification by clerics. (I must add that some Muslim clerics explicitly decry FGM.)  If you want to get your moral compass from Islam, you must of course be familiar with the hadith and the Qur’an, because both are god-inspired words of Muhammad.

Oh yes, and the Qur’an promotes science! See the statements above about how the Qu’ran backs up the Big Bang and other theories. That’s hogwash, of course. The Big Bang is no more backed up by the Qur’an than it is by the Bible: it posits a creation event by Allah.  Likewise the Qur’an, like the Bible, is unscientific in that it posits an instantaneous creation of flora and fauna, including humans. If you want to see the ridiculous lengths that Muslims go to when trying to comport their science and their faith, read the pages on Islam in my book Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible.  (Just check the index under “Islam”). (Of course literalist Christians face the same problem, and have done similar contortions to reconcile Christianity and evolution.)

All this cherry-picking could be avoided, of course, if people turned to secular humanism instead of religion to either confect a morality or to examine the beliefs they already have. What is going on with young people and the Qur’an appear to be this: “progressive” young people are sympathetic to the Muslims of Palestine, perhaps because they’re underdogs and figure that their “resilence” must be due to their faith, which of course comes directly from the Qur’an. So they read it, ignore the horrible bits, and find solace in the good bits. Grewal explicitly notes this:

Grewal, the Yale professor, believes that people often begin reading texts hoping to back up the worldview they already have. “Just as racist people are looking for verses to confirm their racial biases, people on the left are looking to this book to confirm progressive messages,” she said. “Every scripture is complex and invites multiple readings,” and TikTokers “are coming to the text looking for what they hope to find”.

This is pure confirmation bias, and is no way to lead an examined life.  And I’m not sure what multiple reading you can find for stuff like a woman’s testimony being worth only half of a man’s:

Sura 2:282 says: “And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her.”

There are a lot more places where you’d be hard pressed to read something bad as  actually being good, but I’ll just urge you to look into the Qur’an itself.  By making the Qur’an seem like a very good guide to life, the Guardian is fomenting division, hatred, superstition, and misogyny.  It would be hard to find an article as misguided as this one.


Sam Harris on the war, jihadism, and morality

November 14, 2023 • 9:30 am

I’m on my way back to Chicago, and I strongly recommend that if you have an hour to spare, you can’t do better than spend it listening to Sam Harris’s excellent podcast on the war. In an earlier post I linked to the written transcript, but the audio version is below. I have to admit that this is one podcast I listened to as well as read for two reasons: Sam’s measured eloquence and especially the thoughtfulness and rationality of his message.

Sam discusses the war at length, but his real concern is the philosophy of jihad as embodied in Islamism and how it plays out in violent conflict. His thesis, which isn’t new but which he expounds at length, is that the members of Hamas really believe in the Islamic doctrine of this life being of little consequence compared to the life to come.  And if you die doing jihad (construed as a “holy war”, not as a simple striving to better oneself), you are rewarded with Paradise (replete with either raisins or virgins).

Sam says you can’t understand the concepts of suicide bombing, martyrdom, or the brutality of the October 7 butchery (complete with gleeful cries of “Allahu akbar” by the butchers) without realizing that they’re motivated by taking religious doctrine literally. This leads to his conclusion that religion in general is harmful, but that Islam is, at present, the most dangerous of faiths.  In fact, he sees it as posing an existential thread not just to Israel, but to the whole world.


Below is the audio from the phone call same Sam quotes in his piece. It’s from an elated Hamas terrorist who’s just killed ten Jews, who brags about it to his family while talking on the cellphone of one of the Jews he killed. This is the elation of jihadism achieving its aims, and although I’ve listened to it many times, the horror it inspires grows each time. Can this be a human being? Even the Nazis didn’t get such joy from their mass murders of Jews.

I’ll give a few quotes from Sam’s podcast, though I think I’ve posted others before.

Now, there are many things to be said in criticism of Israel, in particular its expansion of settlements on contested land. But Israel’s behavior is not what explains the suicidal and genocidal inclinations of a group like Hamas. The Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad do.

These are religious beliefs, sincerely held. They are beliefs about the moral structure of the universe. And they explain how normal people—even good ones—can commit horrific acts of violence against innocent civilians—on purpose, not as collateral damage—and still consider themselves good. When you believe that life in this world has no value, apart from deciding who goes to hell and who goes to Paradise, it becomes possible to feel perfectly at ease killing noncombatants, or even using your own women and children as human shields, because you know that any Muslims who get killed will go to Paradise for eternity.

If you don’t understand that jihadists sincerely believe these things, you don’t understand the problem Israel faces. The problem isn’t merely Palestinian nationalism, or resource competition, or any other normal terrestrial grievance. In fact, the problem isn’t even hatred, though there is enough of that to go around. The problem is religious certainty.

. . .Look at these protests we’re seeing all over the world, which began before Israel had dropped a single bomb. Now that there have been several thousand Palestinian casualties, cities across the globe are seething with rage. But Assad has killed hundreds of thousands of his fellow Muslims in Syria. The Saudis have killed well over a [sic] one hundred thousand Muslims in Yemen. Where are the protests? No one cares, least of all Muslims. They only care when non-Muslims produce these casualties—and they especially care when Jews do it. Israel is routinely condemned by the United Nations, and the U.N. could not pass a condemnation of Hamas for the atrocities it committed on October 7th.

As I said, I don’t know whether a ground invasion is the right approach. But there is no question that Israel had to act; they have to destroy Hamas; and, whatever they do, noncombatants will get killed in the process. Again, this is Hamas’ fault.

He enumerates several instances of jihadist killing that don’t involve Israeli “colonization,” including the horrors of 9/11. The events of October 7 lie among thousands of others that can’t be pinned on Israel, or even on Jews, but on a religious fanaticism devoted to worldwide domination.

There may be two sides to the past, but there really aren’t two sides to the present. There are two sides to the story of how the Palestinians and Jews came to fight over land in the Middle East. Understanding all of that is important—and I think it is important to understand the cynical game that the Arab world has played with the plight of the Palestinians for the last 50 years. If there is a stable political settlement to ever be reached between Israel and the Palestinians, it will entail a full untangling of the facts from all the propaganda that obscures them, while keeping the problem of jihadism in view. It will also entail that the religious lunatics on the Jewish side get sidelined. As I said, the building of settlements has been a continuous provocation. But even on the point of religious fanaticism, there really aren’t two sides worth talking about now. Whatever terrible things Israeli settlers occasionally do—and these are crimes for which they should be prosecuted—generally speaking, the world does not have a problem with Jewish religious fanatics targeting Muslims in their mosques and schools. You literally can’t open a Jewish school in Paris because no one will insure it. Yes, there are lunatics on both sides, but the consequences of their lunacy are not equivalent—not even remotely equivalent. We haven’t spent the last 20 years taking our shoes off at the airport because there are so many fanatical Jews eager to blow themselves up on airplanes.

That last sentence is typical of Sam’s eloquence, and of course it’s true. Who are the haters? Who are those eager to kill civilians?

He highly recommends watching the movie below, about an incident of Islamist terrorism in India, and of course I will:

Again, watch “Hotel Mumbai” or read a book about the Islamic State so that you can see jihadism in another context—where literally not one of the variables that people imagine to be important here [in the current conflict] is present. There are no settlers, or blockades, or daily humiliations at check points, or differing interpretations of history—and yet we have same grotesque distortion of the spiritual impulse, the same otherworldliness framed by murder, the same absolute evil that doesn’t require the presence of evil people, just confused ones—just true believers.

. . . and, as usual, he helps us calibrate our moral compasses, which, for many —especially entitled college students—seem to be drawn to the wrong magnet. The bit below may be the most trenchant part of the podcast:

Of course, the boundary between Anti-Semitism and generic moral stupidity is a little hard to discern—and I’m not sure that it is always important to find it. I’m not sure it matters why a person can’t distinguish between collateral damage in a necessary war and conscious acts of genocidal sadism that are celebrated as a religious sacrament by a death cult. Our streets have been filled with people, literally tripping over themselves in their eagerness to demonstrate that they cannot distinguish between those who intentionally kill babies, and those who inadvertently kill them, having taken great pains to avoid killing them, while defending themselves against the very people who have just intentionally tortured and killed innocent men, women, and yes… babies. And who are committed to doing this again at any opportunity, and who are using their own innocent noncombatants as human shields. If you’re both sides-ing this situation—or worse, if you are supporting the wrong side: if you are waving the flag of people who murder noncombatants intentionally, killing parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents, burning people alive at a music festival devoted to “peace”, and decapitating others, and dragging their dismembered bodies through the streets, all to shouts of “God is Great.” If you are recognizing the humanity of actual barbarians, while demonizing the people who actually worry about war crimes and who drop leaflets and call cell phones for days, in an effort to get noncombatants to leave specific buildings before they are bombed, because those buildings sit on top of tunnels filled with genocidal lunatics—who again, have just sedulously tortured and murdered families as though it were a religious sacrament, because for them it is a religious sacrament. If you have landed, proudly and sanctimoniously, on the wrong side of this asymmetry—this vast gulf between savagery and civilization—while marching through the quad of an Ivy League institution wearing yoga pants, I’m not sure it matters that your moral confusion is due to the fact that you just happen to hate Jews. Whether you’re an anti-Semite or just an apologist for atrocity is probably immaterial. The crucial point is that you are dangerously confused about the moral norms and political sympathies that make life in this world worth living.

Just a couple more; there are many nuggets of wisdom in the podcast, which is one of Sam’s best, and you shouldn’t even be reading these extracts if you can listen to the whole podcast. I found—and perhaps this is just me—that I can’t get much out of Sam’s words unless I devote my whole attention to the audio.

About that phone call above, Sam discusses the taboo that many are thinking about but nobody will utter: How many Palestinians support what Hamas did, even if they didn’t kill Jews with their own hands? Surely there are many, and that means that Israel (and by proxy, we) are at war not just with Hamas, but with Palestine. Sam:

Of course, we can do our best to turn the temperature down now. And we can trust that the news cycle will get captured by another story. We can direct our attention again to Russia, or China, or climate change, or AI alignment, and I will do that on this podcast, but the problem of jihadism and the much wider problem of sympathy for it isn’t going away. And civilized people—non-Muslim and Muslim alike—have to deal with it. As I said in a previous podcast on this topic: We all live in Israel now. It’s just that most of us haven’t realized it yet. at war not just with Hamas, but with a lot of “ordinary Gazans” who don’t belong to terrorist organizations but approve of their aims.

If you listen to the discourse about the war, you might think that there are two distinct classes of Gazans: the terrorists who kill and the rest—peaceful people who don’t wish for the extermination of Israel and will support a two-state solution that leaves Israel as a state. Yes, there are peaceful ones, but neither Sam nor I think this dichotomy is accurate:

As I told Graeme [Wood], this is not the type of call that would have been placed from Vietnam, by an American who just participated in the My Lai Massacre. Nor is it the parental reaction one would expect from an American family, had their beloved son just called them from a killing field. I mean, as terrible as Vietnam was, can you imagine a call back to Nebraska, “Mom, I killed ten with my own hands! I killed a woman and her husband, and I’m calling from the dead woman’s phone. Mom, your son is a hero!” Do you see what a total aberration that would have been, even in extremis?

This call wasn’t a total aberration. This wasn’t Ted Bundy calling his mom. This was an ordinary member of Hamas, a group that might still win an election today, especially in the West Bank, calling an ordinary Palestinian family, and the mere existence of that call, to say nothing of its contents, reveals something about the wider culture among the Palestinians.

It’s important to point out that not only members of Hamas, but ordinary Gazans appear to have taken part in the torture and murder of innocent Israelis and the taking of hostages. How many did this? And how many ordinary Gazan’s [sic] were dancing in the streets and spitting on the captured women and girls who were paraded before them after having been raped and tortured? What percentage of Palestinians in Gaza, or the West Bank, many of whom are said to hate Hamas for their corruption and incompetence and brutality, nevertheless support what they did on October 7th with a clear conscience, based on what they believe about Jews and the ethics of jihad? I don’t know, but I’m sure that the answers to these questions would be quite alarming. We’re talking about a culture that teaches Jew hatred and the love of martyrdom in its elementary schools, many of which are funded by the UN.

This leads Jews like me, who are purely secular, feeling a bit nervous: a feeling I’ve never had for more than an hour in my whole life (that was when I got beat up by a pack of Jew-hating students in junior high). The anger you see in the eyes and hear in the words of college pro-Palestinian protestors must reflect in part an antisemitism that was underground but is now surfacing. Its ubiquity is scary.

Surely some of the students who chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” know what it really means, and it’s not, as Rashida Tlaib claims (knowing she’s lying) an “aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence”:

In truth it’s a call for the extermination of Israel, and for many by violent means. It is a call for the end of the only democracy in the Middle East, simply because it’s largely Jewish. The students who chant this, even at my school, make me nervous, but they don’t make me frightened. Some are filled with hate, others ignorant, but all need their moral compasses recalibrated. That, it seems to me, is nearly impossible.

h/t: David, Rosemary

Hamline University refuses to admit that they screwed up by firing an instructor who showed a picture of Muhammad’s face

September 26, 2023 • 9:45 am

I wrote ten posts on the 2022 “Muhammadgate” controversy at Hamline University, a small liberal arts school in St. Paul, Minnesota.  There’s now a new development, and it doesn’t look good for the administration of Hamline (see screenshot below).  Let me refresh you briefly on what happened.

1.) An instructor, since identified as Erika López Prater, was giving her class a unit on Islamic art as part of a “global history of art” semester.

2.) As part of the syllabus, she showed two photos of paintings depicting the Prophet Muhammad, one of which depicted his face. In some, but not all, sects of Islam, that’s considered a form of blasphemy.  In others it’s fine. Historically, however, it wasn’t.  The two paintings, which I’m going to put below, were shown because they are historically important, considered important part of the canon of Islamic art.

In this picture, from Wikipedia Commons (and here), Muhammad is receiving his first revelation (which became the Qur’an) from the angel Gabriel:

In this painring the face of Muhammad is obscured, in line with the tradition of other Muslim sects:

3.) On the syllabus she gave the students at the beginning of her class, López Prater issued a “trigger warning” about when the Muhammad paintings would be shown to students. She also gave that same warning on the day they were shown, so that students didn’t have to look at them if they thought they’d be upsetting. (Whether the face of Muhammad in an ancient artwork should be upsetting is dubious; I think what we have here is manufactured outrage.)

4.) The two trigger warnings didn’t matter. Aram Wedatalla (a Black Muslim who was President of the Muslim Students Association) complained to the administration, and, as I wrote at the time, “After that, the university’s associate vice president of inclusive excellence (AVPIE) declared the classroom exercise ‘undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic’.”

5.) López Prater apologized directly to the student, saying “I would like to apologize that the image I showed in class on [Oct. 6] made you uncomfortable and caused you emotional agitation. It is never my intention to upset or disrespect students in my classroom,” the professor wrote in the email to Wedatalla, who shared it with the Oracle [the student newspaper.]

6.) Nevertheless, despite the two trigger warnings and her apology, López Prater was fired, facing campuswide accusations of racism and Islamophobia from the students and administration.

7.) Many people rose to López Prater’s defense, including the art-history faculty, a Muslim organization, Kenan Malik, and scholars from other institutions. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) condemned Hamline for violating the instructor’s academic freedom. The NYT had a big article on the controversy that generally took the instructor’s side, quoting Muslim art scholars who said the paintings at issue were masterpieces.

8.) In a stinging blow, 86% of Hamiline’s full-time faculty (71/83) voted to ask President Fayneese S. Miller, an African-American, to resign, and López Prater, who I believe has other job offers, sued the school.

9.) President Miller, who was instrumental in López Prater’s dismissal, said that she, Miller would retire. She apparently hasn’t, as you see below.

10.) In a further black mark on the school, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found that Hamline University had arrantly violated López Prater’s academic freedom.

11.) As of this writing, López Prater’s suit against Hamline for religious discrimination, defamation, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violations of Minnesota’s whistleblower law, and breach of contract is in federal court, A judge recently threw out four of the five claims (defamation, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act), but allowed the religious discrimination claim to go forward. López Prater claims that she was discriminated against not only because she is not Muslim, but that she was fired because she didn’t conform to Muslim belief.  It’s hard for me to understand how the judge could toss the defamation, retaliation, and emotional distress claims, but I hope López Prater wins on the other claims.

In the meantime, other scholars weighed in supporting López Prater’s showing of the paintings and decrying her abysmal treatment by Hamline University.

In light of this, you’d think that Hamline would try to repair its damaged reputation. The article below shows that that isn’t the case. Hamline just held a seminar on the whole sordid affair, and it turned out to be the administration’s put-up job on academic freedom, a show designed to conclude that López Prater’s own academic freedom was superseded by the “harm” she inflicted on the students. (Don’t forget the two trigger warnings!).

Click below read about the seminar in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fayneese Miller didn’t only not retire, but she’s adamantly defending what Hamline did, and the faculty apparently had no say in who was invited to speak during the seminar.  The school is simply refusing to admit that it did anything wrong, and is buying into the woke trope that academic freedom and freedom of speech has be be carefully balanced against the kind of confected emotional “harm” produced when a trigger-warned Muslim sees the visage of Muhammad:

You can read the piece for yourself; I’ll give just a summary of the proceedings. When the mild-mannered Chronicle is this critical of a school’s behavior, you know the school deserves it.

It has been almost one year since the classroom incident, and despite the damage to the university’s image, there has been no internal inquiry. Not a single administrator has issued an apology or taken responsibility. Instead, Hamline’s administration — after having had a long period to reflect on the media response, the AAUP report, and the statements of outraged faculty — organized “Academic Freedom and Cultural Perspectives: Challenges for Higher Ed Today and Tomorrow.” Despite its promising title, the event — which included introductions from David Everett, Hamline’s chief diversity officer, and Fayneese S. Miller, Hamline’s president; and a keynote address by Michael Eric Dyson — was essentially a full-throated defense of the administration’s actions against López Prater. Of the four panelists who convened after the keynote, only one, David Schultz, was drawn from the Hamline faculty. (Unsurprisingly, he alone seemed to evince any skepticism about the administration’s actions, albeit in a rather indirect way.) The others — Stacy Hawkins, of Rutgers Law School, and the antiracist activists Tim Wise and Robin DiAngelo — did not discuss the controversy in any substantive way.

Robin DiAngelo, for crying out loud!  Why were these outsiders brought in? Clearly to cast the whole incident as an example of racism, which of course it wasn’t.  Here’s President Miller justifying abrogation of academic freedom:

Next up was President Miller, who was eager to note that she did not see this event as a defensive move, “but rather an offensive” one (with the stress on the first syllable). Miller’s insistence that “this is not defensive” foreshadowed an event that was, in many ways, highly defensive.

Miller’s comments at the event were clearly directed at the faculty, who, she said, “continue to teach in ways that are more likely to mirror the educational experience that we endured.” When we exercise academic freedom, she said, we must “still see who is in our classrooms.” And she advised us that faculty must “not treat [students] as cattle to be prodded and moved in the direction we want.” The real threat to academic freedom, she concluded, occurs in places like Florida and Texas. “It is not being threatened that way in Minnesota. It is not being threatened that way at Hamline University.” Miller fails to see that there are many ways that academic freedom can be threatened. Despite the important differences, there is a key similarity between much of what is happening in places like Florida and Texas and what happened at Hamline last year. In both instances, a particular religious or ideological viewpoint is being used in an attempt to deny everyone in the community the opportunity to see certain material.

Indeed! Finally, the speakers not only set unconscionable limits to academic freedom, but also repeatedly conflated academic freedom with freedom of speech (what was violated was López Prater’s academic freedom to teach relevant material, not her freedom of speech), and then emphasized that both should be restricted when there’s the possibility of emotional “harm”.

 It is clear that López Prater had no intent to upset anyone. She was teaching an important work of Islamic art, which is part of her job. She showed concern for her Muslim students by giving them multiple warnings, in writing and orally, to avert their eyes when she showed the image if they so wanted. This is nothing like the examples — some given more than once by many speakers at the event — of Holocaust denial, flat earth theory, fomenting an insurrection, and using the N-word in the classroom. None of these absurdly inappropriate disanalogies are remotely similar to the challenge that arose in López Prater’s art history class and that many of us regularly face — responsibly teaching relevant and suitable academic content that might be disturbing to some students.

. . . What happened to López Prater, whose academic freedom was clearly denied, was outrageous and unfair. It also serves as a chilling cautionary tale to all of us, especially those of us who teach controversial subjects. An administration that issues statements professing their commitment to academic freedom, as Hamline’s did in the wake of the avalanche of criticism, must be willing to support faculty in such situations — including adjunct faculty — or the statements mean nothing. Nothing said at “Academic Freedom and Cultural Perspectives: Challenges for Higher Ed Today and Tomorrow” gave me confidence that our administration understands this.

That last paragraph is the important one.  Hamline University pays only lip service to academic freedom, for their decision to strongly defend what they did to López Prater is reprehensible.  The Hamline faculty, but not the administration, does understand academic freedom, but the administration apparently runs the show. (López Prater would never have been fired at The University of Chicago.)

The obvious conclusions are that if parents want their kids to have a real education—one in which controversial matters can be openly discussed—they shouldn’t send their kids to Hamline University. Further, it’s time for President Miller to go, as she said she would. She kept the faculty out of this seminar, for she knew, given their vote, that they don’t share her misguided ideas about “harm”.

Richard Dawkins explains why he’s not Islamophobic

August 10, 2023 • 12:15 pm

We’ve had some discussion about words like “transphobia” and about what they mean. To gender activists, that word may mean anybody who doesn’t want natal men competing as transwomen in athletics, even though those holding that opinion have nothing against transgender people and would defend their civil liberties ardently.  That’s why I’ve been called “transphobic.”

Others, like me (and Richard Dawkins below) think that “phobia” means an “irrational fear”, and so a “transphobic” is someone with an irrational fear of trans people. Thus, while I adhere to natal sex separation in sport, I reject the label “transphobic.”

In the article below on his Substack site, Richard Dawkins also rejects the label “Islamophic,” which has been copiously applied to him. Yes he still sees Islam as the world’s most harmful religion, and deems some people like Salman Rushdie as being justifiably Islamophobic.

Click to read. This site is an infinitely better way for Richard to express his views than through truncated and often misunderstood tweets that cause huge Dawkins pile-one:

Some excerpts:

If your belief is indefensible, your ignominious last resort is to accuse your critics of “-phobia”. I have long criticised all religions as irrational, and faiths as dangerous. Most of my attacks have been against Christianity, because I know it best. In spite of this I have never been accused of Christophobia. But I am regularly berated for Islamophobia, and I even had a radio broadcast in California (about a totally unrelated subject) cancelled because of my reputation for “Islamophobia”. Cancelled, mark you, not by Muslims but by American so-called “liberals”.

Phobia is defined as irrational fear, as in arachnophobia, agoraphobia etc. If Salman Rushdie fears Islam, it would not be an irrational fear, it would be eminently rational. At the whim of a nasty, bigoted old man in Iran (in character strongly resembling the Abrahamic God), Rushdie has lived much of his life with a massive bounty on his head. He has recently suffered a religiously motivated stabbing, which has left him blind in one eye. Rational fear is not phobia.

I’m wondering, though, given the characteristics of much of Islam that Richard decries below, if all the separate phobias he lists (I give only a partial list) doesn’t add up to “Islamophobia”.  Remember, that’s a fear of a religious ideology, not a fear of Muslims themselves.

I am not Islamophobic. I am certainly not Muslimophobic. Indeed I regard Muslims as Islam’s main victims, badly in need of defence against their own religion. If we temporarily redefine “phobic” not as irrational fear but as rational detestation, then I am phobic about the following:

Throwing gay people off tall buildings or crushing them under a collapsed wall. (CNNDailymailHindustan Times)

Or publicly caning them (note the laughing glee of the audience, including children (VICE News)

Whipping women for the crime of being raped, or the crime of being seen in public with a man to whom they are not married. (The GuardianTORONTO STAR)

Stoning women accused of adultery to death. (THE WEEK)

Female genital mutilation. (Nursery World)

Compelling women to cover their hair and faces, leaving only a slit for the eyes.

Compelling girls to stay indoors, while boys roam free. . .

This list goes on further, and Richard concludes:

If all, or even any, of that list could be laid at the door of any religion, then a profound dislike of that religion could be defended. It certainly is not the case that most individual Muslims would endorse the list – although it has to be admitted that more than a quarter of British Muslims (Harris poll 1989) wanted Salman Rushdie to be killed, and nearly two thirds thought The Satanic Verses should be burned.

It is often pointed out that Christianity used to be just as bad, and it still is just as irrational. But the worst excesses of Christianity now thankfully lie in the past. If only the same could be said of Islam. What is especially galling is those Western “liberals” who think Islam is a race, and are so terrified of being thought racist that they refrain from criticising the above horrors, even those perpetrated against women and gays.

Hitchens often pointed out the past excesses of Christianity when addressing Islam’s present perfidies, and pointed out, like Richard, that only one religion now supports all the oppressive acts listed above. And, in fact, Dawkins ends by quoting Hitchens:

“Islamophobia” is a deeply silly and pernicious abuse of language. And it’s not the only fashionable word ending in “-phobia” that condemns itself as a last-resort substitute for rational discussion.  In all such cases, I recommend the Hitchens Riposte: “I’m still waiting to hear your argument.”

I would add that the kowtowing towards the excesses of Islam by many Westerners is craven, patronizing, and evinces “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” How dare Westerners excuse or ignore the behavior of countries that execute gays, atheists, and apostates, oppress women and deny them education, and force women to wear coverings so as not to excite the presumably uncontrollable lust of men, while at the same time demonizing Israel, which does none of these things.  It’s because Arabs, even if genetically similar to Israelis, are seen as “people of color”, while Israelis are seen as “white adjacent.” It’s as if implied pigmentation conferred virtue! These differential views of Arab versus Jewish states constitute one of the most pernicious aspects of Authoritarian Leftism and Wokeism.

UN Human Rights Council votes to ban Qur’an burning

July 14, 2023 • 11:15 am

I’ve added a new category label just for this post: “UN acting badly”. That’s because they act badly very often, especially in their constant funding of Palestine and its terrorists (via UNRWA) and repeated resolutions damning Israel (which also hearten Palestinian terrorists).

From we have a new report that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) voted to ban Qur’an burnings, which of course is considered free speech in the U.S.  They also, to give the impression of fairness, banned burning of other religious books. As for secular books like On Liberty: crickets from the UN.

An excerpt:

The National Secular Society has warned a United Nations resolution to ban the burning of religious texts could be detrimental to human rights.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) today voted in favour of a resolution for the “deliberately and publicly” burning of the Quran or “any other holy book” to be prohibited by law.

The UK voted against the resolution. In a statement yesterday, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “we do not accept that, by definition, attacks on religion, including on religious texts or symbols, constitute advocacy for hatred”.

Other states opposed to the motion included France, Germany and the USA, but they were outvoted 28 to 12. [7 countries abstained]

The resolution follows a high profile incident in Sweden last month, when Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm. Momika is an atheist formerly from Iraq’s persecuted minority Christian community.

The resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has long supported efforts to curtail ‘blasphemous’ speech.

The OIC is an intergovernmental organisation of 57 states and claims to be the “collective voice of the Muslim world”. Although it stopped explicitly campaigning for a global blasphemy law in 2011, it has repeatedly spearheaded attempts to install “backdoor” blasphemy laws. The NSS warned the UN of the OIC’s attempts to use ‘hate speech’ laws to restrict free expression last year.

The resolution passed was amended to include the explicit provision that burning the Quran and other holy books should be banned. The original resolution did not include this statement.

This was a deeply divided vote, with most Western countries voting against the resolution and Muslim countries (and other nations like Cuba and UKRAINE) favoring the ban. Here’s how the vote went down:

More background from the Guardian:

Last month, an Iraqi-born protester caused outrage across the Muslim world after tearing pages from the Qur’an, wiping his shoes with some of them and burning others outside a mosque in Stockholm during the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The Swedish embassy in Baghdad was briefly stormed, Iran held off from sending a new ambassador to Stockholm and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned Sweden’s authorities and asked the Geneva-based UN human rights council to debate the issue.

Turkey also expressed its anger, citing “vile protests against the holy book” in Sweden as one of its reasons for withholding approval of the Scandinavian country’s application to join Nato. On Monday, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had agreed to set aside his veto and support the application.

Several similar protests had previously taken place in Stockholm and Malmö. Swedish police have received applications for more, from individuals wanting to burn religious texts including the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah.

This of course is an abrogation of free speech (the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that burning the Constitution, U.S. flag, and other such documents is speech protected by the First Amendment). It’s also a form of “blasphemy law”, though I don’t think the UN has any power to enforce it. Still, it shows you how many countries, including UKRAINE, limit freedom of speech when that speech involves criticizing religious delusion.  You can burn The God Delusion or God is Not Great, of course, as the UN doesn’t care about that. But keep your matches away from religious scripture!

This is embarrassing in a world becoming increasingly secular.  Here’s some pushback from Britain’s National Secular Society:

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “Equating the desecration of religious books and symbols with incitement to violence is a pernicious attempt to impose blasphemy laws by stealth. The Islamic nations behind this resolution have long been more interested in protecting religion than protecting individuals.

“Speech and expression must be viewed in context. Crude attempts to impose blanket prohibitions clearly risk capturing and silencing legitimate expression and dissent.

“Democratic societies must find ways to combat intolerance and hatred without further restricting freedom of expression to meet increasing sensitivities of certain religious groups.”

Amen, brothers and sisters!

h/t: Dave

Newly elected majority-Muslim city council in Michigan bans Pride flags

June 19, 2023 • 9:30 am

I’d normally call this “you get what you vote for,” but not all Muslims are as authoritarian and Puritanical as those on the city council of Hamtramck, Michigan. Actually, the Guardian story, while displaying the homophobia of a group of Muslim-Americans, also has me a bit conflicted, for the law they passed does impose a general ideological neutrality on the city, and I can’t say I disagree with that. Click to read:

Here are the facts:

In 2015, many liberal residents in Hamtramck, Michigan, celebrated as their city attracted international attention for becoming the first in the United States to elect a Muslim-majority city council.

They viewed the power shift and diversity as a symbolic but meaningful rebuke of the Islamophobic rhetoric that was a central theme of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.

This week many of those same residents watched in dismay as a now fully Muslim and socially conservative city council passed legislation banning Pride flags from being flown on city property that had – like many others being flown around the country – been intended to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

Muslim residents packing city hall erupted in cheers after the council’s unanimous vote, and on Hamtramck’s social media pages, the taunting has been relentless: “Fagless City”, read one post, emphasized with emojis of a bicep flexing.

In a tense monologue before the vote, Councilmember Mohammed Hassan shouted his justification at LGBTQ+ supporters: “I’m working for the people, what the majority of the people like.”


CNN says this about the resolution:

Hamtramck’s city council members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the controversial resolution, which restricts the city from flying any “religious, ethnic, racial, political, or sexual orientation group flags” on public grounds, according to meeting minutes.

The resolution stipulates that along with the American flag, the city also flies flags “that represent the international character” of the area. It says that “each religious, ethnic, racial, political, or sexually oriented group is already represented by the country it belongs to.”

Thus national flags are permitted to be flown, along with the city flag (if there is one).

Now shouting “Fagless City” is clearly homophobia, and is reprehensible. And its source is clearly religion: the council appears to consist entirely of Muslim males, and the vote was unanimous.  Liberals felt betrayed, as they were proud of having elected a city council made up of people of color, who then turned on them and dumped on gay people.

Back to the Guardian:

“There’s a sense of betrayal,” said the former Hamtramck mayor Karen Majewski, who is Polish American. “We supported you when you were threatened, and now our rights are threatened, and you’re the one doing the threatening.”

She’s referring to this:

But Majewski said the majority is now disrespecting the minority. She noted that a white, Christian-majority city council in 2005 created an ordinance to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast from the city’s mosques five times daily. It did so over objections of white city residents, and Majewski said she didn’t see the same reciprocity with roles reversed.

Well, the council hasn’t done anything to threaten gay rights yet (the absence of a flag is not a threat), but the Council blamed gays for this law!

Their talking points mirror those made elsewhere: some Hamtramck Muslims say they simply want to protect children, and gay people should “keep it in their home”.

But that sentiment is “an erasure of the queer community and an attempt to shove queer people back in the closet”, said Gracie Cadieux, a queer Hamtramck resident who is part of the Anti-Transphobic Action group.

Mayor Amer Ghalib, 43, who was elected in 2021 with 67% of the vote to become the nation’s first Yemeni American mayor, told the Guardian on Thursday he tries to govern fairly for everyone, but said LGBTQ+ supporters had stoked tension by “forcing their agendas on others”.

“There is an overreaction to the situation, and some people are not willing to accept the fact that they lost,” he said, referring to Majewski and recent elections that resulted in full control of the council by Muslim politicians.

I’m not sure what “agenda” was being forced on the council save civil rights that gays already enjoy. No other “agenda” is mentioned.   But there’s is a backstory of divisiveness here.

On one level, the discord that has flared between Muslim and non-Muslim populations in recent years has its root in a culture clash that is unique to a partly liberal small US city now under conservative Muslim leadership, residents say. Last year, the council approved an ordinance allowing backyard animal sacrifices, shocking some non-Muslim residents even though animal sacrifice is protected under the first amendment in the US as a form of religious expression.

I’m a hard-line First Amendment person, but I don’t think that killing sentient mammals to propitiate one’s god is a valid form of religious expression.  Do the goats get a choice? It’s okay, I think, to take peyote if that’s part of your religion, and has been for a while; and that’s what the courts have ruled. But my approbation stops at killing animals who don’t have a say in the process, and I don’t care if animal sacrifice is part of religious rites in some Muslim cultures.

Speaking of legalized substances, Hamtramck tried to ban marijuana use, too, but legalized weed had already passed as a state law, and so Hamtramck was too late:

When Michigan legalized marijuana, it gave municipalities a late 2020 deadline to enact a prohibition of dispensaries. Hamtramck council missed the deadline and a dispensary opened, drawing outrage from conservative Muslims who demanded city leadership shut it down. That ignited counterprotests from many liberal residents, and the council only relented when it became clear it had no legal recourse.

But here’s where my opinion about the homophobia evinced by the Muslim council gets a bit confused (my bolding):

The resolution, which also prohibits the display of flags with ethnic, racist and political views, comes at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under assault worldwide. . . .

First, the ban is only for flags on city property, which constitute an official government statement.  I am of course for total gay rights identical to normal civil rights,  but putting pro-gay flags on city property is a political statement, much as you may disagree. If you allow that, then you allow all kinds of displays on city property that people might disagree with. What about putting up flags of Christian organizations, or the Confederate flag, or a display of the Ten Commandments? Surely you’d object to those, but free speech demands that if you allow one expression of political sentiments on city property, you must allow them all. (Yes, I know that some U.S. courts have allowed privately-funded displays of Ten Commandments on public property, often on grounds that it’s a “historical and not a religious” statement, but I think they’re dead wrong. Just read the Bible!)

And in fact the resolution could be interpreted, whatever its motivations, as mandating viewpoint neutrality. Again:

The resolution, which also prohibits the display of flags with ethnic, racist and political views, comes at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under assault worldwide,

So, much as we may deplore the homophobia instantiated by this vote, the ban was extended to all flags expressing political and ideological views. It’s really no different from the institutional neutrality of the University of Chicago. It’s one thing to have a statement in the law or in University rules saying the organization doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, which is a good thing to declare, but another thing entirely to publicly celebrate gay rights with flags.

If you allow such celebrations, that you must allow celebrations of all sentiments, and, depending who’s in charge of flags, you might not like some of the stuff being celebrated.  Remember that the Confederate flag used to fly over the dome of the Capitol Building of South Carolina, until governor Nikki Haley declared in 2015 that it should be removed, and signed a bill to that effect. It was, of course, celebrating segregation. There are still bad feelings about the flag’s removal, of course.

A Hamtramck councilman expressed this sentiment, though he may well be dissimulating:

The resolution, brought by city council member Mohammed Hassan, says that the city will not provide special treatment to any group of people. City council members shared that flying a Pride flag could potentially lead to other “radical or racist groups” asking for their flags to be flown.

So while I do approve of a resolution that limits flags conveying political or ideological sentiments, I also disapprove of the timing of this resolution, which was clearly meant to convey a homophobic message during Pride Month.  And it’s clear that this resolution was at bottom motivated by religious beliefs. But in the end, state governments, like universities, should show political, ideological, and moral neutrality in their public displays. An American and a state or city flag is sufficient.

However, a resolution that demonizes gays, damns Gay Pride Month, or tries to curb LGBTQ+ rights, well, that’s another thing, for that is discrimination.

Feel free to agree or disagree below.



Déjà Vu: S.F. State University investigates professor for showing Muhammad picture in class

April 7, 2023 • 12:30 pm

Both FIRE and The Chronicle of Higher Education report that, mirabile dictu, yet another professor is in trouble for showing a picture of Muhammad—this time at San Francisco State University (SFSU).  He hasn’t been fired, but he’s under investigation.  FIRE is of course campaigning to nip this in the bud, and so they have both a blog post about it as well as a four-page letter they sebnt to SFSU letting them know that they’re violating the professor’s academic freedom and that even investigating him is chilling speech and violates the First Amendment (SFSU is a public school).

Here’s the backstory from the Chronicle (the “Muhammadgate” incident is at the very end, part of a longer article about academic freedom).

Maziar Behrooz, an associate professor of history at San Francisco State University, does not yet know what a teaching decision he made might cost him.

In the fall of 2022, Behrooz was teaching the history of the Islamic world between 500 and 1700 and showed a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad. He’s taught the course, and the image, for years. One student, a devout Muslim, strongly objected, outside of class. His main point, Behrooz told The Chronicle, was that it’s not permissible for an image of the Prophet Muhammad to be shown in any shape or form.

“This is the first time that this has happened,” Behrooz said. “I was not prepared for somebody to be offended, in a secular university, talking about history rather than religion.”

Behrooz said he told the student that, as the professor, he is the one who decides what’s shown in class. The student then complained to Behrooz’s department chair, who broached the issue with the professor, according to Behrooz. He said he explained to his chair that the student’s view is not uniform among all Muslims. The type of drawing he shows in class can be bought at markets in Tehran near holy shrines. Many Shiite Muslims have such drawings on walls in their homes, said Behrooz, who was born in Tehran and has written books on Iran’s political history.

The student also apparently complained to “authorities higher up” at the university, according to Behrooz. The professor said the institution’s office of Equity Programs & Compliance informed him in March that it would investigate the incident and asked him to attend a Zoom meeting.

A staff member in the vice president’s office at San Francisco State told The Chronicle in an email that she could not comment on specific reports or investigations. She instead described the process for assessing reports of potential misconduct. An investigator meets with the complainant to gather information and discuss options, she said. If it’s decided the conduct could violate the California State University nondiscrimination policy, an investigation begins, and both parties are notified.

The Zoom meeting is slated for early April. Behrooz said he’s not overly worried, though he thinks an investigation by this office — which fields reports of harassment and discrimination — is unnecessary. He’s not sure what the inquiry portends. “How it goes from here is anybody’s guess,” he said.

FIRE’s letter is very good, with all the legal citations and bells and whistles, implying that the investigation should end tout suite and requesting that SFSU should respond by April 13.  I sense a lawsuit in the offing, and if SFSU doesn’t stop this investigation, they’ll be in a Hamline-University-like situation where they’ll get negative national publicity and a fat lawsuit filed against them by Dr. Behrooz.  Remember, even an investigation for charges that don’t carry weight, as these don’t, serves to chill speech and is a form of punishment.

It looks like Behrooz is going to at least accede to giving trigger warnings, but he doesn’t seem sufficiently angry! From the Chronicle:

In the meantime, Behrooz is thinking through what, if anything, he should change about his teaching. As a principle, he said he doesn’t think religious groups, or students, should decide how an instructor teaches a course at a secular institution. “But one has to also take into consideration, I think, the sensitivities of some religious people, be it Muslim or otherwise.”

Should he talk about the drawing without showing it? Should he still show it, as he’s done for years? Or, should he offer a compromise — warn students that the image is offensive to some and perhaps allow them to leave the class and come back?

He hasn’t decided, but he’s considering the compromise.

Finally, if you want to send either a boilerplate message to SFSU objecting to this stuff, or confect your own letter (I did the latter), just go to this site (bottom of page) and fill in the form. I wrote my own short letter, which follows. Feel free to appropriate from it if you wish.

Subject: End Investigation into History Professor ImmediatelyDear President Lynn Mahoney (show details) 

I understand that your university is investigating Professor Maziar Behrooz for showing a picture of Muhammad in a class about Muslim history. One student objected because some sects of Muslims consider this forbidden, and now SF State is investigating Behrooz.

I taught on the faculty of the University of Chicago for 36 years, and, unlike you, this university understands the meaning of the First Amendment and of academic freedom. Even investigating this didactic and proper use of the picture is itself a violation of the First Amendment, for it acts to chill speech.
I urge you to not go the way of Hamline University and try to punish this professor, for you will end up like they did: a national laughingstock and an academic embarrassment. Please stop this baseless investigation now.
Jerry Coyne

De facto blasphemy laws in Great Britain

February 27, 2023 • 9:15 am

According to Wikipedia, at least, blasphemy laws were enforced at a very low level in the UK until they were recently repealed in England, Wales, and Scotland—though they remain in force in Northern Ireland. I’ve left the links in the excerpt below in case readers want to check.

England and Wales abolished their blasphemy law in 2008. On 24 April 2020, the Scottish Government published a new bill that sought to reform hate crime legislation to provide better protection against race, sex, age and religious discrimination, and also decriminalised blasphemy. This bill was approved by Holyrood on 11 March 2021 and the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021[149] received royal assent on 23 April 2021.[150] The abolition of the common law of blasphemy will take effect when section 16 of the Act is brought into force by commencement order[151] Humanists UK, that had been campaigning for repealing Scotland’s blasphemy law since 2015, welcomed the bill.[152]

Yet prohibitions against blasphemy are apparently still being enforced in England—but only in defense of a single religion, and in schools, not the courts (though the coppers get involved). Guess which religion?

Yes, you’re right. Here’s a BBC article about it, sent in by a British reader. Click to read:

An excerpt:

Four pupils have been suspended from a West Yorkshire secondary school after a copy of the Quran was damaged by students.

Wednesday’s incident at Wakefield’s Kettlethorpe High School happened when a copy of the Islamic text was brought in by a Year 10 pupil.

Head teacher Tudor Griffiths said the book remained intact and there was “no malicious intent” from those involved.

He held a meeting with concerned community leaders on Friday.

He said reports the Quran had been burnt or destroyed were untrue, and he had inspected the book himself during the meeting.

Independent councillor for Wakefield East, Akef Akbar, called the meeting after being contacted by people calling for more information.

Mr Akbar said he had been told the book had been taken to school as a dare by a pupil who lost while playing a Call of Duty videogame with other students.

While at the school it sustained a slight tear to the cover and smears of dirt on some of the pages.

Mr Akbar said he understood it had been kicked around on the school premises – a claim denied by the school.

Head teacher Mr Griffiths said in a statement: “We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial enquiries indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved.

According to The Critic piece by Ben Sixsmith, here’s how the damage to the Qur’an occurred:

Apparently, one of the pupils [JAC: later described as “highly autistic”] brought the Quran into school after losing a bet. (This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but kids make odd decisions.) According to the school’s investigation, it appears that one of the students dropped the book after being collided with. It also picked up a smudge of dirt — which will surprise no one who is familiar with the hygiene of teenage boys.

Somehow, rumours spread. Activists came to believe that the Quran had been kicked or spat on, which inflamed a “huge uproar” in the Muslim community. Some even suggested that the Quran had been torn up in front of Muslim students.

Had that taken place it would have been deplorable. (Just as if a Bible had been torn up in front of Christian students, or a Torah in front of Jewish students.) As far as I can tell, though, there is no evidence that it did.

But activists were unsatisfied — elected officials among them. Usman Ali, for example, a local Labour councillor, announced that the Quran had been “desecrated” and that the school, the police and local authorities should be taking “swift and appropriate action to deal with this grave situation”. “We all need to work together to make sure that this terrible provocation does not set back community relations,” Ali wrote — blissfully unaware that the people endangering community relations were those, like him, who were treating an incident of teenage rambunctiousness like a school shooting.

Here’s the damage that the kerfuffle caused: a slight smudge (from the BBC article):

More from The Critic (yes, they editorialize), which adds two more things. First, the police were involved—twice (in bold below).  Second, the autistic boy has received death threats.

The school, after liaising with the police — because of course the police have nothing better to do than investigating slight cosmetic damage to a book — and “community leaders” — whoever the hell they are — suspended the boys.

Independent councillor Akef Akbar is playing the peacemaker in this situation. He has emphasised that “absolutely nobody should engage in any violence”, and that the kids who have been suspended should be “protected and safeguarded”. Well, that’s good.

But while I think Mr Akbar is sincere in his desire to stabilise community relations, the premises he works from need interrogating. He is asking local Muslims to be magnanimous enough to tolerate an outrageous provocation — when in reality it was a non-event that should not have caused a scandal to begin with.

In one video released on his Facebook page [see below], he addresses Wakefield residents alongside a woman who he introduces as the mother of the boy who brought the Quran into school. The boy, it turns out, was “highly autistic” — yet more reason to sympathise with him! But while Akbar is preaching peace — certainly better than the alternative — he is still behaving as if the boy committed some sort of monstrous crime. He was “rightfully expelled”, he says. His mother has “of course shown her remorse”. “Of course”! What do you mean “of course”!? Why should she feel remorse because her son brought a book into school?

Akbar tells us that the autistic boy has been receiving death threats and threats to beat him up. You might think this would be cause for fierce condemnation. “Passions do flare,” says Akbar, “And sometimes we let them out in the wrong manner.” Passions do flare? We’re talking about death threats — not someone using the f-word. Imagine the uproar if a Muslim child received death threats and a white politician shrugged “passions do flare”.

The mother has had to inform the police,” Akbar says, but “to her credit” she doesn’t want the children to be prosecuted. Why shouldn’t she?

The video with the lucubrations of councillor Akbar is embedded in one of the tweets below. As the British reader noted:

 There was a farcical “hearing” at a local mosque about it that tried hard to make itself look like a court, even though it’s no such thing and has no formal power [JAC: the FB page, which has sound, is here and in the tweet below.]
Notice that the mother of the autistic student has donned a hijab for the mock hearing!

I’m told that the mainstream British media haven’t covered this much, apart from The Critic and The Spectator, both of which, I’m told again, “lean to the political right”. That, of course, would probably be considered “centrist” in the U.S., but I am not a regular reader. I think they’re more like Quillette than The Daily Wire.
It’s ridiculous that the students were suspended, it’s ridiculous, given the circumstances, that the Muslim community is incensed (many of them are the Professionally Offended), it’s ridiculous that the “mock court” was convened, and it’s ridiculous that the police were involved. What’s most ridiculous—but there’s nothing to be done about it—is the reverence conferred on a bundle of paper containing fictitious words.  I think Britain would be better off if it adopted America’s construal of the First Amendment, for the ludicrous way they treat these “hate crimes” wouldn’t occur. The kids may have been warned by the school not to cause a commotion, but they certainly would not have been suspended; and if they had been, there would have been a First-Amendment lawsuit. The British police have better things to do than soothe the feelings of the offended or threaten people by interviewing them after “hate speech” reports.
The reader rendered his/her own opinion, which I quote with permission:
Personally I think this is crazy – my country doesn’t have blasphemy laws, I’m glad it doesn’t have them, I don’t want them introduced by the back door, and I’m amazed at how quiescent politicians are on this sort of thing. It’s cowardly, and the four kids clearly don’t deserve any kind of punishment at all. And of course some of the people who ARE willing to talk about the story are the skinhead brigade. Vacating the field like this seems both morally wrong and highly irresponsible.