The Sad Inevitability of Discussion on Belgium

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If sensible people don’t have a sensible discussion, stupid people will have a stupid one.

The conversations and stories after these all-too-common terrorism attacks are also all too common. They’re chillingly similar to the conversations that follow school shootings in America. On the one hand you have people so deep in denial they could be extras in The Mummy. On the other you have people simplistically blaming.

When it comes to the problem of Islamic terrorism, what follows these events is just as tiresomely predictable. On the one hand you have people deep in denial that Islam is part of the problem, who will not even countenance that the ideology entangled with Islam be part of the discussion and who blame everything on the west in an orgy of self-flagellation. On the other you often do have the kind of paranoid ‘white supremacy’ lunatics and racists who latch on to what isn’t a race issue (Islam being a religion and ideology adhered to by many races).

The Regressive Left will not allow a remotely nuanced or wholly inclusive discussion of the problem, because the problem includes Islam and like their opposite numbers on the far right they mysteriously see that as a racial issue, when it’s an ideological and religious one.

Unfortunately, the chilling effect of the spurious accusations of racism etc means that sensible, intelligent, nuanced people are rendered virtually unable to discuss the issue. Either because they daren’t – having seen what happens to others who do – or because they become so entangled in defending their reputation against people who will not listen, that they can’t progress the conversation.

Even calm, collected and ruthlessly rational people like Sam Harris get ‘greenwalded’ to death. Even former Islamists like Majid Nawaz get the most racist insults (porch monkey) for making more measured and complete arguments for Islamic reform and addressing the fact that the religious ideology is part of the issue.

Because the left is rendered incapable of having this discussion, that means the discussion happens on the right instead. Most especially within those circles on the far right where accusations of racism – spurious or accurate – have no meaningful impact and can’t or won’t silence people.

By not having the difficult, realistic, complete discussions we are ceding the discussion, and power, and popularity, to the right. Much of it to the far right. To the kind of paranoid lunatics who espouse ‘white genocide’ and similar conspiracy nonsense. The ones who are made credible when governments apply pressure to censor Facebook, when the police daren’t arrest rape gangs out of fear of accusations, when the news media isn’t replicating what people are reporting on the ground, then we’ve lost the argument and we lose people to the worst and most extreme elements – and we lose more and more of them.

To fixate on Islam and exclude the other factors is incomplete, but this is true the other way around as well. It has to be acknowledged that Islam is an unreformed religion with a tendency to be interpreted in absolutist and uncompromising terms. It needs a reformation, but that needs to come from within, via people like Nawaz and via more liberal interpretations of Islam as found in the smaller sects and culturally amongst people like the Kurds. The Kurds, rather than the house of Saud, is who should get Western support – they and people like them have a, frankly, more civilised interpretation of Islam that could be the vital seed for a greater reformation.

War will not solve this problem, nor will paranoiac security concerns, but in the short term these may be needed things – applied properly without overreach (which is not an easy thing to do). We won’t solve the problem by ignoring the issues people have around immigration, or treating them as stupid. We won’t solve the problem by conflating economic migrants and refugees, we’ll just help continue to demonise the second. We won’t solve the problem by failing to encourage integration, by creating (or allowing) ghettos or not encouraging or expecting people to integrate and adapt to the values of their new home.

The left, my left, seems unable to cope with Islam. Here is a religious ideology that massively and overwhelmingly counter to everything the liberal left supposedly stands for. It is elitist, repressive, genuinely patriarchal and misogynistic, violently homophobic. Everything we are supposed to be against, yet – apparently – because it’s a religious minority (in the west), largely followed by people who happen to have brown skins it is somehow beyond reproach.

People of any colour are capable of hideous deeds. Ideologies and religions frequently encourage or excuse the worst depths of poor human behaviour. We do not see the same reticence to criticise or attack other bigoted ideologies such as (genuine) neo-Nazism and the double standard on this issue is blatant.

We simply cannot afford to have these conversations only happening on the right and the far right. It’s alienating people. It’s undermining the left. It’s making us look like hypocrites.

The hard conversations need to be had.

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Regressive Left: Laurie Penny on Cologne

Laurie Penny wrote an article in the New Statesman which exemplifies many of the stark issues with the Regressive Left, particularly with regard to Cologne and the broader rape crisis across many European countries, made worse by what appear to be deliberate, politically motivated cover-ups and fear of PC backlash for investigating and prosecuting racial minorities.

I am absolutely bloody furious about the cover-ups, the moral and ethical cowardice of our nations in relation to these issues, and the fact that the febrile atmosphere the SJW cult has created has made it so hard to go after criminals in ‘protected’ groups. That probably comes across in this article.

Her article, titled “After Cologne, we Can’t let the Bigots Steal Feminism” is not only years too late to prevent that happening – the worst bigots I’ve ever encountered have been feminists and SJWs – but is precisely the kind of thing that is feeding the problems behind responses to Cologne (and other less famous incidents) and Rotherham, as well as demonstrating horrific levels of hypocrisy. It’s telling that even relatively ‘moderate’ (or at least less boat-rocking inclined) outlets like the Rubin Report and The David Packman Show have picked up on Penny’s comments – amongst others – and not just easily dismissed right wing or ‘manosphere’ sources.

Why can’t we always take sexual assault as seriously as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators?

This seems a peculiar question to ask, but you have to put it in context. Over the last few years there have been many flimsy accusations, several high profile false accusations and numerous dubious, or at least questionable, changes to various university policies and legal standards. With concepts like ‘stare rape’ being seriously bandied about and ‘manspreading’ being seriously warned against the situation iss the inverse, but no less laughable, than the Republican ‘real rape’ nonsense of a few years ago – indeed almost making that seem like a legitimate question.

In comparison to all that, the attacks in Cologne are what appears to have been a coordinated set of attacks on hundreds of women, not only sexual assault and rape, but theft and good old regular violence as well. Furthermore similar attacks seem to have been reported across Germany and other countries and similar stories of cover-ups – for fear of fuelling racism and right wing parties – have come out.

So why is this taken seriously? Because it’s actually serious and because it is so serious and undeniable it has brought up a lot of problems and revealed issues around the fears of racism accusations or feeding the right wing, which overrode the duty of care governments and police have to the people. There’s even reports of victims not wanting to come forward or report attacks because they were similarly afraid or didn’t want to feed the narrative.

The end result? The stories broke anyway and the far right has made far more hay of it than the otherwise might have because of the cover ups and because in many cases they’re still the ones admitting there is a problem and offering (bad) solutions

In a perverse sort of way, it’s progress. After months of dog-whistle xenophobia, European authorities have finally started to treat migrants as they would treat any other citizen. They have achieved this by choosing not to make a fuss when migrants are accused of raping and assaulting women.

Well, no. That’s not progress. Rather than being treated like anyone else these presumed migrants, immigrants and refugees – sharing a cultural attitude and religion but not necessarily much else – have been extended the benefits of gunshy legal authorities, cover-ups and protections – even media reticence – that stand in stark contrast to, for example, the overzealous willingness to accept and go after those implicated in the Rolling Stone/UVA scandal or the attacks on unconvicted, alleged offender James Deen. With reports and prosecutions up and sex offences down, along with the public pillorying of anyone even accused of rape it’s very hard to characterise Western societies as ‘rape cultures’, especially in contrast to the cultures implicated in these events.

The police and the press were initially slow to react, and the Mayor of Cologne reacted to eventual protests by suggesting that women should adopt a code of conduct in public and keep an ‘arm’s length’ distance between themselves and strange men. 

It should be noted that this was the progressive mayor of Cologne, the one stabbed for being so welcoming to refugees prior. It should also be noted that this kind of hypocritical apologism is not limited to them. Numerous supposedly progressive newspaper and magazines have engaged in similar behaviour, excusing the behaviour of the attackers. It seems ‘cultural differences’ is the acceptable version of ‘she was wearing a short skirt’.

It is the first time in recent history that the right-wing press has not joined in the condemnation of these wanton strumpets who dare to think they might be able to have a good time without worrying what ‘invitation’ they’re sending to men. Instead, the right wing blames… liberals. Who apparently caused all this by daring to suggest that refugees should be able to come to Europe in safety. 

It’s not just the right wing raising concerns. The liberal left, the genuine liberal left, has been raising concerns about these issues as well for just as long – if not longer – than the right has. Anyone genuinely progressive voice that has spoken up with concerns over cultural clashes, Islamic beliefs and their consequences, has been shouted down as, ridiculously, an ‘Islamophobe’ or even more ridiculously as ‘racist’.

The right wing is, to an extent, correct to blame the Regressive Left (or however you want to term them) as they have made reasonable, measured discussion on these topics impossible. One need only review the encounter between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show to see this in action. Calm, measured, evidenced, rational discussion met with wild and spurious accusations that subvert and prevent a decent debate being had.

It isn’t that what caused this was suggesting that refugees should be able to come to Europe, it’s that this febrile and ‘J’accuse!’ way of going about the debate has led to fear and unease, even bringing up reasonable concerns and issues is to invite reputational damage and ‘greenwalding’ that can be impossible to put to rest.

It’d be great if we could take rape, sexual assault and structural misogyny as seriously every day as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators.The attacks in Cologne were horrific. The responses – both by officials and by the armies of Islamophobes and xenophobes who have jumped at the chance to condemn Muslim and migrant men as savages – have also been horrific. Cologne has already seen violent protests by the far-right anti-migrant organisation Pegida, a group not previously noted for its dedication to progressive feminism.

It’s absurd to pretend our societies in the West don’t don’t these seriously. Indeed the contrast in feminist reactions to these attacks and their day-to-day screeds and sermons couldn’t be more stark. Faced with a genuine case of an actual patriarchy and rape culture, an actual case of a culture with structural misogyny – that actually exists – the cowardice of the previously strident feminist lobby has been breathtaking.

What word would you use other than ‘savage’ to describe what has occurred and why are there not slutwalks, op-eds decrying the attacks, redoubled efforts to bring feminism to Islamic cultures (where it’s actually needed) and so on? Why instead are we seeing these screeds trying to shout down the people and groups – not all far right by any means – who are condemning what happened and are demanding solutions are simply being decried, wholesale as racist.

The far right is cleaning up, because they’re listening and offering those (terrible and broadbrush) solutions, while the Regressive Left, such as Ms Penny, seem far more concerned with making excuses and refusing to offer solutions or to wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the attacks.

This is what worries me. Because we cannot have this conversation and because elements of the Regressive Left are more fixated on preserving their narrative and ‘being right’ than admitting reality or doing what is right, the right wing are then free to dominate the discussion and to pass off their conspiracy theories and racist nonsense as truth, relatively unchallenged because other sources have lost trust.

It’s a miracle! Finally, the right wing cares about rape culture! Finally, all over the world, from Fox News to 4chan, a great conversion has taken place and men who previously spent their time shaming, stalking and harassing women are suddenly concerned about our rights! And all it took was a good excuse to bash migrants and Muslims and tell feminists they don’t know what’s good for them. 

This is a classic misdiagnosis. People have always been concerned by rape culture, where it actually exists, not where it does not. The accusation has not been taken seriously as it applies to Western culture because it’s patently ridiculous. Accusations of stalking, harassment etc have been gendered when they’re not, and have been wildly overblown. That’s the objection, not that these things aren’t bad – the outrage at Cologne etc is real – but that these issues are being trivialised and conflated with ‘trivial bullshit’ and hyperbole.

Personally, I just love it when random men on the internet tell me what my feminism should like, because gosh, you know, this whole resisting oppression thing is really hard sometimes and it’s great to have people who know what they’re talking about take over for me so I can get on with the ironing. These people have repeatedly demanded that I ‘condemn’ the attacks in Cologne, which is a lazy way of implying that somebody doesn’t really care about an issue.

And this article is a strenuous way of demonstrating you care less about this issue than a few mean words over Twitter that can’t possibly hurt you, but which somehow demand meetings at the UN while Saudi Arabia gets to sit on the Human Rights Council. You can’t simultaneously try to claim Feminism is Egalitarianism, and that it’s good for men too, while denying men the right to speak and argue. Anyone can read a definition, observe actions and notice a disparity between the two. Criticism is how ideas are tested and hardened.

So let me be clear: sexual violence is never, ever acceptable. Not for cultural reasons. Not for religious reasons. Not because the perpetrators are really angry and disenfranchised. There can be no quarter for systemic misogyny. And if we’re serious about that, there’s not a country or culture on earth that won’t have to take a long, hard look at itself.

Which sounds great, until the last sentence. If you want to try and remotely equate genuine patriarchal and abusive structures in the Middle East with possibly having less seat room or blocking a troll, then you’re out of your mind. Also while you might – finally – have come around to saying that, others in the Guardian, Independent and elsewhere have made myriad excuses and your first instinct was to condemn anyone who was concerned or who pointed – rightly – to cultural issues as a racist. That has to change and trying to water down what happened with disingenuous comparisons won’t get you off the hook.

The sensible thing to do in response to the Cologne attacks would be to call, as many German feminists are doing, for a far more rigorous attitude to rape and sexual assault across Europe. Instead, the solution on the table seems to be to clamp down on migration.

We already have rape laws and a rigorous attitude towards it. In social terms possibly too rigorous since a mere accusation means ruination, a fact which should perhaps lead us to consider anonymity for the accused in such cases. What would be sensible would be to simply hold these groups to the same standard, rather than granting them special status – perhaps with deportation and barring from entry as an additional threat to motivate them.

If there ever was a case where ‘Teach men not to rape’ wasn’t a purely insulting load of old nonsense, it might be in the case of immigration from Middle Eastern and North African cultures coming to much more permissive European and Nordic/Scandinavian cultures. Indeed these are already happening in Norway.

Instead of dealing with the actual problem, people like Ms Penny seem to react to perfectly valid concerns about immigration from particular cultures by bemoaning it as racism, only to turn around and blame all men, nearly 50% of the global population, as being the problem. If bemoaning a particular culture is bigotry, then how much worse is bigotry on an even broader basis?

I actually can’t believe I’m having to explain this right now. I thought we covered this in kindergarten. Those of us who have moved beyond that level can, if we really try hard, understand that it’s not either ‘sexism is exclusively practised by Muslim men’ and ‘sexism is exactly the same everywhere.’ This is what we call a ‘false dichotomy’ when we get to big-kid school. 

Here’s the actual difference.

Our nations in the west are liberal democracies in which egalitarian law and permissive social attitudes have been in place for over half a century. Our genuine sexists are limited in scope and power, despite being imagined to be everywhere. We have full legal equality of the sexes – indeed a cogent argument can be made to say the pendulum has swung the other way in the battle of the sexes. On race too, we have full legal equality though issues of class/wealth often get dressed up as racial issues. When it comes to LGBT issues we still have a ways to go, but the fact that we are not stoning homosexuals to death or hurling them off buildings speaks volumes to our progress and relative pursuit of human happiness. We have broken the back of religious influence on most of our nations (a handful excepted) and we are now secular, be it explicitly or implicitly so. Despite protestations to the contrary, we are not systematically sexist, racist and homophobic as a culture.

The same cannot, broadly, be said of the cultures from which these people are arriving. They are still mired in prejudices we haven’t had at such a vicious level since before germs were discovered. Homosexuals are regularly killed across these cultures or forced to undergo gender reassignment surgery – at best. Women are not only constricted by ‘voluntary’ obedience to religious mores, but their inferiority is codified into law, implicitly or explicitly influenced by the Koran and enforced by vigilantes, the populace, religious police and/or the regular police. These are places where a girl of fourteen can be whipped to death for the crime of being raped.

There is no comparison to be made. These are genuinely male-oriented, patriarchal, theologically dominated, sexist rape cultures. Everything that Feminism claims to be against and projects onto our – not just relatively – but genuinely benign culture.

Yet there’s this paralysis in addressing it, examining it or dealing with it. We must – somehow – be as bad, culpable, we must find excuses for them it seems. It’s good that Ms Penny finally came out against it and decried the excuse-making of her fellow Regressive Left members, but these false equivalences and demands that our culture be considered just as bad will not wash.

It’s not a matter of our sexism ‘being different’, it’s like comparing morphine with homoeopathy.

The oppression of women is a global phenomenon because patriarchy is a global phenomenon. It’s embedded in the economic and social structures of almost every nation and community on earth. Sexism and misogyny, however, look different across boundaries of culture and religion, as well as across divides of race and class and between generations.

Bullshit conspiracy theory, false equivalence and delusion.

The UK, for example, enacted this.

In Saudi Arabia on the other hand (and note how government is involved in these) the situation is this.

For all that these people claim to hate ‘Islamic’ sexual violence, it seems to fascinate them. In the past three years, I’ve lost count of the white men – and it is almost always white men- who have emailed, tweeted and sent me doctored pictures sharing their graphic fantasies in which feminist harpies like me are stoned to death, fucked to death, genitally mutilated, whipped, burned and gang-raped – not by them of course. By those awful Muslims.

I condemn it, but I think I know why. They’re trying to get you to acknowledge and see what actual rape culture looks like. What an actual patriarchy looks like. That our culture is not even slightly, remotely, one scintilla as bad and that the groups you’ve been excusing and defending are everything you claim to be against, while concentrating your ire on art, commentary and mean tweets. It’s a crude, horrible way of saying “Maybe you should give a shit about this?” as well as the death of patience for being treated as though they were acting like these people.

I’ll be blunt. I think some people out there are very excited by their conception of ‘Islamic’ violence against women. It allows them to enjoy the spectacle of women being brutalised and savaged whilst convincing themselves that it’s only foreign, savage men who do these things.

If I’ve learned something valuable over the last two years it’s to try not to project my own biases and interpretations on what people are telling me from my political opposition. Most of the time they’re sincere, they just have a different ‘read’ or set of ideas about the nature of what is going on.

I put it to you that people are not excited by Islamic violence against women simply because it is brutal and horrifying and goes against our culture of equality, liberation and tolerance. They hate it when women are genuinely abused and harmed and this might also be why they treat ‘trivial bullshit’ with contempt as it devalues and undermines genuinely horrific events.

The point is that misogyny knows no colour or creed, and perhaps it’s time we did something about that. We’re used to a society where a basic level of everyday sexism, sexual violence and assault is accepted. So if you’re saying this act of violence isn’t entirely different from all of those, and if you’re saying that refugees should be treated the same as European citizens, you must be saying that everyone should get a free pass to treat women like walking meatbags, right?

Genuine, actual misogyny might not – but it is a term that has been worn gossamer thing by inappropriate overuse. However it’s certainly more common amongst particular creeds, embedded within them and that needs to be addressed. We’re not used to a society with a basic level of everyday sexism and that’s why we’re outraged by this. What people are saying is that this is not acceptable and that yes, they should be treated like European citizens, like everyone else, held accountable for their actions, prosecuted and punished. Not let off or covered for because they happen to pray to Mecca or be browner than the average Swede.

Men and boys of every faith and none must learn that they are neither entitled to women’s bodies nor owed to our energy and attention, that it is not okay, ever, to rape, to assault, to abuse and attack women, not even if your ideology says it’s okay. That goes for the men’s rights activists, the anti-feminists and fanatical right-wingers much as it does for religious bigots. 

Here’s the thing. They already know. It has taken cultural indoctrination for men to think otherwise and outside those cultures this is not a remotely widespread attitude. No MHRA I have ever met is pro-rape, no anti-feminist I have ever met is pro-rape. Not even the most fanatical right-wingers I’ve ever met – and I consider rhetorically beating up ‘white genocide’ nuts a hobby, has ever expressed any pro-rape views. This passage says much more about you Ms Penny, than anyone else.

If we want to hold up Europe as a beacon of women’s rights, that’s fantastic. Let’s make it happen.

It already is. You can’t legislate mind control or censor people’s opinions and a minority of people with the ‘wrong’ opinions, powerless and marginalised are all that’s left. So much so that more and more reasonable and moderate ideas are being attacked and nonsensical things are being rebranded as misogyny and sexism from sexy computer games to sitting with your legs apart. You’re living on another planet if you can’t acknowledge the gulf of difference at work here, but you can never seem to celebrate what we have and what we’ve achieved, only spread these masochistic fantasies to try and make us seem as bad as the worst the world has to offer. It won’t wash and you’ll only alienate people with this unreasonable outlook and outrageous demands for authoritarian control.

It’s easier to pin misogyny on cultural outsiders than it is to accept that men everywhere must do better – but any other attitude is rank hypocrisy.

It’s easier to point to actual, genuine misogyny and rape culture where it actually exists, than to manufacture it where it doesn’t.

It’s also, apparently, easier to hurl spurious accusations of racism and to avoid the real issues, than to discuss them. That’s where the far right will step in, bolstered by conspiracy theories about media censorship, and where they’ll gain purchase.

That too, will be your fault.

There is an appalling moral and ethical failing on the Regressive Left to tackle this issue and it may well be too late to be able to offer a more balanced approach, or even one brave enough to admit that a society and culture that condemns and punishes rape and sexual violence is objectively a better society and culture than one which explicitly permits and even demands it.

Instead, even trying to field this will result in accusations and distractions.

What can we do? Better screenings. Cultural education. Deportation of criminals. No more cover-ups. Open discussion and debate on the problem interpretations and effects of Islam.

Cologne, Lunatic Fringes & The Discussions Not Had

I’m not going to talk so much about Cologne itself or the implications, there’s plenty of discussion about that already going on and I can’t contribute a huge amount to that (Refugees, immigrants and migrants aren’t the same thing. Even a thousand young men behaving abominably doesn’t mean everyone’s a problem. This is a bad combination of deprivation, culture clash, grievance, opportunism, religion and ideology. In short, it’s complicated).

What I do feel I can contribute to and bring up is the surrounding problem of discussion and some of the opportunism and hypocrisy we’ve seen around this. I also want to point out that this problem is not confined to Cologne but has been reported in other cities, Germany has a long-standing problem with Islamic-culture immigration especially in the relatively impoverished former East Germany, and that similar attacks and issues have become shockingly common across Northern Europe.

This situation is now a conversation we are forced to have, because up until now we have not been able to have it. The taboos around racism and islamophobia have meant that some hideous wrongs have occurred that could have been prevented. The biggest and worst of these examples is, of course, Rotherham but it’s far from the only one. There’s some evidence and suggestion that assaults and rapes in Germany and elsewhere have been kept hush-hush (I wouldn’t go as far as to say covered up, yet) in order to avoid feeding into a climate of fear, racism and islamophobia.

The problem is that this has happened anyway, and by keeping the Overton Window so small, the entire conversation on the problems of large numbers of dispossessed people from a different culture, antithetical in many ways to western liberal values, has been entirely ceded to far right racists, the ‘white genocide’ lunatic fringe. Most dangerous of all, it almost makes their pathetic ideas seem credible if things are being ‘kept quiet’.

If reasonable, rational people can’t have conversations about race, immigration, culture and other issues, then the lunatics will and when people’s experiences on the ground aren’t listened to, or see them condemned as racists and islamophobes, then they’ll turn to the people who will listen to them.

It has also been absolutely breathtaking to see the… well, hypocrisy doesn’t even seem to be the right word here, it’s not strong enough. The… squirming discomfort, doublethink and apologetics about all this coming from the regressive left. Especially media feminism. When the air conditioning is too cold or some poor schlub makes himself comfortable by sitting with his knees apart there’s hell to pay, but when hundreds of women are molested and raped… then there seems to be relative silence.

Over the past couple of days a few things have emerged, but it has largely been this apologia I describe. Attempts to broaden the blame to men, as a gender as opposed to men of a particular culture, religion or ethnicity (this strikes me as being even more bigoted as it’s broadbrushing 50% of the population), attempts to shame people from talking about it via accusations of racism or islamophobia and worse. It seems that when it comes to feminism at least, patriarchal oppression is fine provided you have brown skin and originate from an impoverished or war torn country.

No.

We need to have conversations about these issues and the rational left, the compassionate and measured voices need to be a part of that debate. Not cowering in fear of being branded with a scarlet letter from their insane, radical fringes. The same goes for the right, who need to be able to enter the conversation on a level-headed basis without being branded by their insane, racist fringes and the ‘white genocide’ conspiracy loons.

Be brave, have the conversation, give the lunatics on both sides the finger and let’s work towards a calm, compassionate, rational solution.

 

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Apologia from The Guardian

#Atheism – Chapel Hill

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Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

We don’t know that much about thee Chapel Hill shootings yet, partly because there seems to be little interest in the mainstream media in talking about the story at this point. What appears to have happened is that a man has shot three young Muslims dead in America. We don’t know his motivations etc yet, but he appears to have been an atheist and anti-theist and the speculation is that these are the reasons for the attacks.

As a member of the atheist community I apologise for this person, this killer and will be more vigilant in keeping watch on other members of the community latching onto atheism as a cover for racial or other hatreds.

That said, I think it’s important to draw a line between atheism and religion as motivation for doing bad things. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god. That is simply all it is. It has no dogma, no book, no set of commands to kill the believers. It is not a religion, it has no canon. Basically there’s nothing in atheism to excuse or promote death or dehumanisation as there is in, say, the Bible or the Koran.

‘You’re as bad as us’ isn’t an argument that makes you look very good and honestly we’d have a lot of catching up to do, to be as bad as religions on the death stakes. We’ll see what happens as the story unfolds. That he attacked Muslims in a country replete with Christians may suggest that his attacks were’t anti-religious per-se, but that he had some problem with these three people in particular.

Religion is still a blight on the human race, but we win with logic, reason and evidence and in the field of ideas. Not with violence.

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
― Steven Weinberg

#Atheism – Why I Loathe Islam

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
– Inigo Montoya

Time was, I would have told you that while Islam was a horrible, nasty, squalid little religion it wasn’t really that much of a threat to modern Enlightenment values or the west, but that Christianity was. In the triage of religions we needed to marginalise it seemed to me that Christianity had far more sway over public life than Islam did, what with Church schools, Creationist nonsense, evangelical scam artists and so on.

I’m not as sure as I once was.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks I posted a bunch of the cartoons that were made in response with the tagline ‘Fuck Islam’. Impolitic, perhaps, but truthful.

The resistance to that simple, pained and understandable statement was incredible and not from the kinds of people you might expect to be against murderous religious nutcases enforcing censorship from the barrel of a gun, but from my fellow left-liberal types. All manner of apologia for the actions of the terrorists and ways to excuse Islam from the equation were presented, even a great deal of victim blaming as we’ve also seen in the mainstream media. The idea that somehow this reaction should be expected and normalised because they were being provocative.

Disgusting.

There’s a kind of paralysis that falls over my fellow lefties when you can be accused of a thought crime. Whether it’s ‘islamophobia’ (which is a dog whistle for ‘racist’) or accusations of ‘misogyny’ when you’re fighting against censorship and for ethical journalism in games media. There mere accusation is enough to taint any further discussion and it doesn’t seem to matter how wrong or ridiculous the accusation is, it has power.

Let’s get a couple of things out the way first:

  1. Islam is not a race. There are Muslims of pretty much any race you care to mention. This should be obvious enough that it doesn’t constantly need restating, yet here we are.
  2. Phobia’s are irrational. Islamophobia would be an irrational fear of Islam. Given the context of Shariah law, the links with terrorism and other barbarisms it could be argued that ‘phobia’ is an inappropriate suffix. Fear of Islam, given the content of the Koran and the state of Islamic nations would appear to be a perfectly rational response. Islamomisia, irrational hatred of Islam, would seem to be equally inapplicable in most circumstances. It’s going to be impossible to avoid Godwinning in this article, so let’s get it out of the way. You wouldn’t accuse a Jew in 1940s Poland of being ‘Naziphobic’, because their fear and hatred would be entirely justified because of the beliefs and actions of Nazis. So it goes.
  3. Islam isn’t like other religions. While there are commonalities, mostly between the Abrahamic faiths, Islam isn’t a personal religion that confines itself to faith, belief and personal conduct. It is a complete system for theocratic autocracy with a great deal to say about personal, professional, governmental and judicial conduct. It is as much, then, a political ideology as a faith and one that draws its authority from ‘god’. The ultimate autocratic dictatorship. It’s not some wishy-washy, half-hearted spirituality like the Church of England, it has very defined and delineated ideas – many of which are anti-human.
  4. Islam ≠ Muslim. There are many lovely Muslims but the fact of the matter is that you can only be a lovely person by being a bad Muslim. If you’re OK with people making fun of your prophet and your god you’re a god, chilled, laid back person, but you’re a bad Muslim because the Koran and Hadith and the example of Muhammed himself (Al-Nadr bin al-Harith, Uqba bin Abu Muayt, Asma bint Marwan to name but three)  tell you that you should kill people who do that. There are many great people who are Muslims, but they are great by virtue of being bad Muslims.
  5. Hating with Good Reason is not Bigotry. Merriam-Webster defines a bigot as ‘a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.’ The key here is ‘unfairly’, which shifts the question to asking whether it is fair to hate Islam or not. I would argue that it is.

I have read the Koran and many of the Hadith (all of the Sahih). I have engaged in very long arguments with Muslim apologists and creationists and have even had brushes with Islamic spokespeople like Anjem Choudary and Mo Ansar. I have devoted considerable time to trying to understand the faith and its adherents and have come to the inescapable conclusion that it is a primitive, violent and dangerous faith with no good prospects for reform.

But why?

  1. Extremism is Mainstream. When you say ‘religious extremism’ you might be thinking of something like the Westboro Baptist church. A couple of dozen loony-tunes existing at some far-flung edge of the religious spectrum. While Islam has those too, even mainstream, ‘moderate’ Islam is pretty damn extreme. Wanting to live according the Shariah, a set of hideously barbaric rules come up with in the 7th century here, today, in the modern era is mainstream for Muslims, but extreme to everyone else. 20-40% of UK Muslims polled want Sharia law brought in, and that poll is from 7 years ago, according to most analysts things have gotten worse. Another poll showed unanimous loathing for homosexuality amongst British Muslims, with a margin of error of 4%.
  2. The Koran is Unquestioned. A huge part of the problem we face with any religion that is based on a supposedly divinely inspired book is that it is simultaneously the ‘perfect word of god to be followed to the letter’ and riddled with contradictions and vague statements that can be interpreted as one sees fit. The Koran is no different on this score but, unlike Christianity, does not have a kinder/gentler second book that justifies ignoring most of the first for its followers.  When the book outright advocates death, torture, mutilation, wife-beating and all the other horrors we’re now all to familiar with its hard for anyone claiming the title Muslim to speak against it – or they’re an apostate and subject to imprisonment, shunning and/or death. This is only made worse by the Hadith which, generally speaking, prioritise and give license to the more violent and horrible passages.
  3. Muslims Weasel. Getting a straightforward condemnation of the actions of ‘extremists’ is very hard, excepting some of the more politically minded or already outcast Muslims (such as the Muslim Council of Britain or Majeed Nawaz). Why? Because the ‘extremists’ are drawing from the holy Koran, which is the infallible word of god, so to condemn or question the ‘extremists’ is to question god or the prophet. Things which aren’t allowed. It’s like getting blood from a stone to get a clean, clear, outright condemnation of terrorism, violence, intimidation, poor treatment of women or even, most telling of all, child rape. Why the last? Because of Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha. Admitting that it’s wrong to have sex with children would be condemning the prophet, so you can’t do it.
  4. Islam Appears to be Unique. Islam’s ability to create suicide bombers, to excuse and encourage the worst aspects of human behaviour wherever it is followed, to unleash real horrors upon innocent civilians and the militarise believers appears to be unique in its scope. Terrorists exist across all ideologies and faiths – yes, even Buddhism – but Islam is the grand-daddy of them all possibly because of the cult-like nature of it, its internal enforcement and the lack of access to alternative points of view in Islamic communities. Yes, the actions of The West and Economics play a role, but to ignore the role of religion is ignorant.
  5. Islam Makes People Stupid. Not the Muslims, but my fellow lefties. Islam terrifies many of them in its implications, but so does the idea of being ‘racist’, of not being completely accepting and open to other points of view – even if those points of view are wrong, stupid, violent and dangerous. Never mind that you would not the same reaction when criticising any other ideology. If one were to say one hated Stalinism, for example, because of its cult of personality, the gulags, the purges of the intellectuals, its insane ideas about agricultural policy and the genocide of the kulaks, you would not be accused of being racist and your points would be taken seriously. Say something similar about Islam however and people will lose their minds.
  6. Islam is Hugely Arrogant. According to Islam we’re all born Muslims. This is why they use the term ‘revert’ for converts to Islam, instead of converts. This would just be annoying were it not for the fact that apostates (those who leave the religion) are subject to death under the Koran. Handy, but hardly fair or respectful.
  7. It’s Just Horrible. Sexist, racism, advocating for slavery, rape and murder, mutilation and so many other horrors. Its beliefs helped end the Islamic Golden Age as they became more rigorously enforced, it’s viciously anti-semitic, anti-scientific, dogmatic, autocratic and domineering. It has no true ‘moderate’ centre as we would understand it. I don’t see how any moral being can excuse it.

Nothing is simple, there’s always other factors, but so long as we keep ignoring Islam’s dogma, hate fuelled passages and its affect on the world we’re not going to be able to find or work towards solutions that might help. Ideally the human species needs to divest itself of religion (and faith) altogether, but that’s an unrealistic goal. Islam, at the very least, needs a reformation or a new sect. One that is explicitly peaceful and distances itself from its own violent past, one where membership is not automatic and enforced under pain of death.

Charlie Hebdo’s approach, that so offended Muslims, was to treat Islam the same way it treated every other religion. With scorn and childish schoolboy insult. ‘You’re not special’ was the message and it’s one that needs to be seen more. Instead, increasingly, we get cowardice in the face of Islamist threats and news organisations bowing to their demands, even while those who share their professions lay dead in morgues for standing up for universal principles that make life better for everyone.

I don’t hate Islam through ignorance, racism, bigotry or prejudice. I hate Islam having studied it, having seen what it does and what it believes and having seen how its unreasonable threats and terrorist actions make coward and hypocrites of those who should be standing against it.

And now I’m going to try ignoring it, like Gamergate, because people can’t stop and think whether I have a point long enough to overcome their panic.

2015 can’t get any worse at least, right?

#JeSuisCharlie Ceci N’est pas un Bomb

charlie-hebdo

A paedophile, a murderer, an epileptic madman and the prophet of a major religion walk into a bar.

“Morning Mohammed,” says the barkeep.

Did you laugh, did you even smile? Then you’re marked for death, as I am for writing it, as anyone could be for drawing a stick figure and writing Mohammed beside it.

Cartoonists have been gunned down for standing up against the increasing censorship in our society. This makes me feel terrible and pathetic because I recently backed out of one the other important fights about free expression that are going on simply because I was told to by my friends. While others are standing up and being shot, taking on Islam’s hatred and arrogance, I am sitting down and stepping back from fighting the far less violent forces of ‘social justice’.

In the face of what we’re seeing now, that seems like it was a mistake, however good the reasons for doing so.

Still, it’s clear that even in the face of an atrocity like this, people are still unwilling to admit there are problems. Problems with censorship, problems with religion, problems with Islam in particular.

Here is an unreformed, barbaric religion whose followers, globally, support – in the majority – stonings, Sharia Law, the death penalty for ‘disrespecting the prophet’. Even in the UK alone, with its relatively progressive Muslim population, 40% are in favour of imposing Sharia Law, 20% had sympathy with the 7/7 bombers and some 78% thought mocking the prophet deserved prison with 12% agreeing that it should be punished with the death penalty.

Even today it is virtually impossible to get even moderate Muslims to condemn the killings. They simply, at best, stay silent.

Islamic sensitivity is far from our only issue though and perhaps those incapable of or unwilling to examine their own censorious issues and hypersensitivity are excusing Islam for more personal reasons. We’re not so immune to this creeping madness. One need only look to the Twitter Joke Trial, the recent arrest of the gentleman who made an off-colour joke about the Glasgow Truck Accident or Criado-Perez’ prosecution of her (predictably pathetic) trolls for ‘threats’ that were obviously spurious. One could also look to Gamergate and gasp at the sheer hypocrisy of those who ARE standing up for free expression against gun-toting Islamists but who didn’t dare to raise a peep against other – less violent – forms of censorship.

While they may not be shooting anyone, yet, is there really any difference between the claims that insult amounts to ‘real harm’ from the religious:

Because it is, and I pick my words carefully here Mr Choudary, ‘fucking insane’. You’ll note, also, how he uses the ways in which we have already chipped away at the edifice of free expression in his arguments:  

The answer is not to ban or prohibit Islam, or indeed any other form of expression, no matter who thinks it is hateful or dangerous (unless it can be show that it actually is). The answer is virtually always ‘more speech’.

  • Holocaust denier? Hit them with stats and mock them.
  • Anti-immigration racist? Show them the economic data, and mock them.
  • Climate change denier? Show them the data, then mock them mercilessly.

Anything and everything must be open to mockery and it is these same, vital, Enlightenment principles of free expression, satire and free society that also make us free to protest and expose the actions of our governments, which are sometimes blamed as being the ‘true reason’ behind these barbaric attacks upon artists, writers, comedians, film-makers and others.

Beheading for Dummies

sharia_dummies1So, apparently it’s news and/or surprising to people that British jihadists heading to Syria and elsewhere are buying Islam for Dummies and Koran for Dummies.

Personally I don’t find this remotely surprising, but unlike many others I’m not using it to leap to the defence of Islam by assuming this is some hardcore proof that these monstrous individuals are somehow not representative of Islam. Yes, a lot of people are ignorant of the particular details of their religions and don’t know the finer points of ‘scholarship’ associated with them but then, they don’t really need to. They’re fed these toxic memes by those who supposedly know better.

And it’s not as if a deeper, more academic and scholastic study of religion makes its proponents any less disgusting in any case.

Exhibit ‘A’.

Perhaps more relevant to recent revelations regarding Rotherham, but the point stands.

Worse, people’s fear of being seen as ‘racist’ helped these perpetrators get away with what they were doing than longer than they should have been able to. That’s an important lesson.