Swiss Minaret Ban: A Large Pill to Swallow

article-1219048-06C00F9A000005DC-817_468x631

We have all heard the news by now.  The swiss voted and passed legislation that would ban the construction of minarets on Mosques.  Some are calling this decision racist, some are calling it a violation of human rights, some are calling it another sign that Islamophobia is spreading throughout Europe, and I’m calling it a wake up call to Muslims as we need to accept reality, wake up, and smell the coffee.

It’s time to deal with the reality that 57% of Swiss citizens have demonstrated with their vote that which we all know, that Muslims are not welcome in Europe.  Why are we acting surprised and outraged when we already know this?  It’s like being surprised when the Shaitan leads you astray, he already revealed his nature, why act shocked when he acts in accordance with his nature?

Why call for dialog and understanding, when there is no need for either.  Interfaith gatherings, speeches, and UN condemnations will not change the realities on the ground.  Europeans and the West in general have had enough.  What the Muslim world needs right now is a big can of wake the hell up and accept our role in shaping the opinions of the West.  As a group we appear more and more hypocritical with our demands for tolerance when we rarely show any in return.

This is not a popular position to express and I’m certain my Muslim brethren are going to be upset with me because of my views, but we have to stop being hypocrites expecting universal tolerance of our beliefs, cultures, etc. yet show little to none when the roles are reversed.

In many Muslim majority countries tolerance is a joke.  Muslim and non-Muslim minorities that face death, isolation, and bans daily.  It is almost comical to express outrage for the lack of tolerance the West or in this particular case the Swiss have for Muslim minorities when in some Muslim countries you can’t even build a Church, Synagogue, or Temple.  Yet, we are upset about minarets?  Come on brothers and sisters, let’s just be honest for a moment, tolerance goes both ways.

Europe has had a large influx of Muslim immigrants and for the most part they are able to build Mosques, proselytize, and practice their religion freely.  Thousands of Mosques dot the landscape across the Western world in majority Christian lands some so great in size that they rival those in Muslim countries.  Can the same be said of Muslim countries?  What Muslim country has displayed this level of tolerance toward a non-Muslim religious community?  Where do similar freedoms exist?

Justified or not, Europeans feel that their entire continent is under siege.  This is a common perception when you have immigration of this size.  Of course it is not right when immigrants are marginalized, criticized, or even attacked in some cases due to their ethnicity, religion, or culture.  But we can not pretend these emotions do not exist.  We have arrived at yet another point in history where immigration has caused waves of backlash.  However, our focus should not be limited to criticizing this backlash but working toward shaping, crafting, and executing solutions that prevent these reactions.  Many groups have had these challenges and faced mounting opposition to their arrival in a particular host country.  What can we learn from these groups?  This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Immigrants have been welcomed in the West for centuries.  In our young country, we found ourselves dealing with large immigration from Europe in the 20th century.  Many of these groups were met with similar hostilities as Muslim communities are today.  Yet, these groups persevered and became an integral part of American society and culture.  But these groups did that which many Muslim communities are unwilling to do:  Assimilate

Yes, I used the big, bad, evil word.  No one wants to seriously take up the discussion of assimilation, what it implies, and what it means for immigrant communities.  If we continue to ignore this discussion we condemn ourselves to a continued and increasingly terrifying reality where a Swiss minaret ban will be considered small compared to what is to come.  Whereas immigrant communities of yesteryear felt the need to assimilate to their new country, Muslim immigrants tend to reject the notion that this need exists.  Assimilation does not mean abandoning ones individuality or religious and cultural norms.  What assimilation implies is the need to work within those unique attributes, ideas, customs, and values finding common ground within the existing customs in ones host country in order to produce an environment that is mutually beneficial to both parties.  There is very little evidence to suggest that Muslim minorities accept assimilation as a necessity which is often one of the causes of frustration between the parties.  It is unthinkable to suggest that one should expect to be able to immigrate to another country and not have to accept that country’s customs and societal norms being able to benefit from all that country has to offer without giving up anything in return.  Yet, this is the attitude of many Muslim communities.  We are our own worse enemy in this regard.

To add insult to injury, while many Muslim communities believe that the status quo is perfectly acceptable and that the West should accommodate our wishes while we largely ignore theirs, we would never accept this if the roles were reversed.  This is where I believe most of the frustration on the ground lies and where I believe most of the support for legislation such as the minaret ban stems from.  It’s really difficult to wrap ones mind around the concept that it’s completely fair to be 100% accommodating to Muslims while Muslims don’t have to reciprocate at all in their countries.  This unbalanced ethos fuels and fans the flames of hate and discrimination toward Muslims and these facts are largely ignored in the media.  When a religious minority such as ours feels that it’s perfectly OK to come to a majority Christian country and demand prayer spaces, public foot baths, the adhan to be called from loud speakers, and other accommodations too numerous to name, yet won’t even attempt at similar accommodations toward religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, is it really that difficult to understand the frustration?

What makes the Swiss minaret ban a tragedy is not that it was done per se, but that it was uncharacteristic of the Swiss people to behave in this way.  This legislation and vote was outside the norm they have established for themselves and those of Europeans in general where tolerance, equity, and justice toward all citizens is a goal routinely sought after.  The question we as Muslims should ask is what are the norms we have set for ourselves in our countries and if the shoe was on the other foot, how would we legislate, vote, and act?  Better yet, how do we deal with similar situations today in Muslim countries?

Our continued protests, declarations expressing outrage, and calls of injustice when incidents like this one occur actually adds to the appearance and suggestions that we are are thin-skinned at best, or secretly carrying out an agenda at worst.  In many ways, our reactions to these injustices against us and our collective silence toward injustices against others especially by Muslim hands, help fuel the paranoia that can result in unfavorable legislation.

People in our host countries wonder both in private and in the open when are the Muslims going to be just as equitable to others as they are asking for themselves?  They wonder when are the Muslims going to be just as vocal about injustices in their own countries as they are about cartoons they react to in outrage.  They mock our complaints as half hearted attempts to divert attention from our own inequities.

How often is the Muslim world in an uproar about Muslim women being raped and maimed throughout the Muslim world while doing simple things from going to get water in Darfur, to trying to get an education in Afghanistan?  How often is the Muslim world outraged and condemn rulings that will stone a female adulterer but let the male get away with a fine or rulings were 75 year old women can get lashed for not having a male escort?  How often does the Muslim world call for dialog, tolerance, and peace when Muslim and non-Muslim minorities are murdered, banned, and attacked?

These questions are routinely asked and levied against us as charges of hypocrisy.  As we are openly challenged about our silence and reactions to these issues.   It is stated that we only able to find our collective “voices” when cartoons are drawn, a Pope gives a ridiculous speech, or minarets are banned at which point we react swift condemnations.

For these reasons and many more, we have to understand that this ban is only the tip of the iceberg and we have to steer away from this path.  We are demanding respect from others when we don’t even respect ourselves or them in return.  We come to their countries and ask them to change and adapt to our views and not the other way around.  We ask of these Western governments that which we are not willing to do ourselves.  To them, we have a lot of nerve.

Can you really blame the Swiss?

The tragedy is not what the Swiss and others are doing, but what we as Muslims are NOT doing.  What this ban and many others in the works do is expose the fractured and disunited quagmire that is the worldwide Muslim community.  We are billion weak and selfish individuals who have forgotten the principles of our religion and opted in their place, isolated agendas that seek to strengthen a particular sect, culture, leader, or ideology.   We have neglected the universal principles, methods, and duties demanded in Islam toward all Muslims and all of humanity.  As a result of neglect, Muslim countries are some of the worst places to live where freedom in any form is a joke, tolerance is non-existent, and corruption is the order of the day.  This is why Muslims are fleeing Muslim countries in droves and going to non-Muslim countries in the first place.  We seek better lives and opportunities elsewhere because of our failure to provide them for ourselves.

This is why it is ironic when Muslims complain about the intolerance, lack of freedoms, or “Kufr” nature of the West.  If it were not for the West, we could barely practice our religion, let alone get educations, and have “simple things” like the freedom to speak one’s mind.

Is this a case of misplaced zeal on the part of Muslims?  In many ways, I believe so.  While it’s perfectly rational and just to question and speak out against bans such as the Swiss minaret ban, it is also perfectly rational to ask where is the zeal the Muslims have when wanting to improve the West, located when it comes time to criticize to the East?  Why aren’t the Muslim organizations, scholars, Imams, and other leaders routinely blasting Muslim governments for their disregard toward minorities and dare I say Human Rights?

If we focused most of our collective energy internally instead of externally even a quarter of the time, we would probably have a leg to stand on.  Right now, we look like hypocrites, and as this ban’s outrage intensifies we will just look like loud hypocrites.  Muslims, we to do better.  Call me crazy, but I just couldn’t see 1 million Swiss immigrating to Saudi Arabia, Egypt,  etc. and building Churches and demanding acceptance and tolerance.  We demand of others that which we wouldn’t even do ourselves.

This is a large pill but it’s time we swallow it and move on.  Either we can exist as hypocrites screaming injustice when we are offended in our host countries,  yet turning a blind eye to injustices in our countries, or we can work toward improving conditions in both the East and the West.  Have we become so cowardly that it’s easier to point the finger at others and never at ourselves?  There’s a lot of blame being hefted around and rarely are Muslims ever willing to accept any of it.  We have to first be willing to change ourselves before we could ever expect any aid from God or any change from others.

I know it’s radical for me to suggest that Muslims should do for self first by cleaning up our communities and lands prior to expecting others to change.  This may sound like a novel lofty concept or dream.  The problem is that change does in fact, involve work.  One has to wonder if we as Muslims actually have the will, courage, and dare I say faith to do what is truly needed to produce the type of change that is mutually beneficial to all parties.  Will we accept this challenge that will deal the death blow to the intolerance produced as a result of the failure to accept the views of both sides or will we reject it and condemn ourselves to more of the same.  The truth is that the choice is and forever will be ours.  In the end, we will be judged according to our actions not those of others.  What will those actions be?

Advertisements

45 Comments

  1. Wow, I have to admit that I admire the courage it took for you to write this statement.  For Muslims & Non-Muslims alike there is much we need to learn from each other.  Tolerance in the West is called for; yet, tolerance in the Muslim world is as essential to earn respect.

    Reply

  2. […] Robert Salaam on the Swiss reality Posted on December 3, 2009 by Organic Soul We have all heard the news by now.  The swiss voted and passed legislation that would ban the construction of minarets on Mosques.  Some are calling this decision racist, some are calling it a violation of human rights, some are calling it another sign that Islamophobia is spreading throughout Europe, and I’m calling it a wake up call to Muslims as we need to accept reality, wake up, and smell the coffee. Read more… […]

    Reply

  3. I think you may be working on some false assumptions.
    There are churches, synagogues, temples and other buildings of worship in Muslim countries. If you are taking Saudi Arabia as an example (It also has Churches) and comparing it to Switzerland—you are comparing apples and oranges because Swizterland is a Secular Democracy (Saudi is neither secular nor a democracy) and by its own mandate—it is REQUIRED to be non-discriminatory towards ALL  its citizens. Many Islamophobes make the same mistake of comparing secular democratic systems/customs with a non-secular, non-democratic system/customs  and then saying it is Islam that is not compatible!!! In a secular Swiss democracy—one Swiss citizen has as much right as another—and when the Swiss themselves forget their own democratic principles—and destroy their democracy through fear, and hate—they should not blame Islam or Muslims for it.
    Corrupt, Undemocratic Regimes–such as the House of Saud, or the Karzai Government are propped up by the U.S.—The Muslims in Egypt have been trying to throw off their corrupt government—but guess who is standing in their way?
    Assimilation–is a 2 way street—and Europeans will not allow assimilation through active discrimination(both public and private)–then they complain that Muslims do not assimilate!!!!
    Americans tend to see the world only through their perspective—the rest of the world is different  and one cannot always  judge it with “American” standards.
    Get to know the real problems Muslims are facing in Europe. —ofcourse there is room for improvement—but that will come only when Muslims are able to live and practice in peace without constantly having to defend themselves against the ignorance and hate of others.
    “turning a blind eye to injustices in our own countries”—did not expect bigotry from you—are you saying that once an immigrant—always an immigrant?—what does a Swiss Muslim have to do with any dicriminatory practices in Saudi????!!!! Do they somehow  have more control on the House of Saud than the citizens of Saudi Arabia??? —and that line about the Swiss moving to Egypt and demanding tolerance—have you any idea of the effects of European colonization and the mess that created?—Many of the “young” democracies in Asia are not only dealing with the growing pains that come with democracy and modernization—but also (still) cleaning up the mess left by the Europeans. There is much that we Muslims can and should do—but working on false assumptions won’t get us anywhere—we must articulate the real, factual problem before we can find a solution.
    My apologies for the rant—but again—see things from a global perspective rather than an “American” one—after all—others do.
    And now—I’ll take my own advice and get out of this discussion for a while.

    Reply

  4. Thank you, thank you Kat for pointing out the flaws in Mr. Salaam’s article.
    You shouldn’t get upset when people start labeling you as a Progressive Muslim when you make such ridiculous and blanket statements about the Muslim world.
    Reading your article, I almost want to say: “Who’s payroll are you on, and are they hiring?”
    Muslims throughout the West have assimilated to a great deal. A little too much if you ask me. Rarely will you see the third, or even the second, generation of Muslim immigrants dressing, talking, behaving, and acting like their grandparents from the motherland.
    For you to make such slanderous statements about immigrant Muslims shows your own arrogance and self-importance.
    And what about those of us who are not from other countries? What about American, Swiss, British, Canadian Muslims whose ancestors are from those same countries?
    Are we supposed to accept discrimination because some of our Muslim brothers/sisters happen to come from countries where some Muslims may have discriminated against religious minorities at some point in history?
    I hate to get into this again with you, Mr. Salaam, but the stuff you say is, as we used to say in Brooklyn, WHACKED!
    Expect a pingback, post, and blast concerning this crazy article in the very near future.

    Reply

    1. ASA,

      Now I know some of you don’t like my presentation, style, or form of critique, but I encourage you to read the entire posting before rushing to judgement. I am not anti-immigrant, anti-foreign born Muslim, or anything ridiculous like that. If you noticed, I used the words “we”, “our”, and “us” the majority of the time when referring to Muslims. This means to me, that I’m just as part of the situation as any other Muslim, and would never exclude myself from the conditions facing the Ummah. I noted several times that I thought this minaret ban was unjust and discriminatory against Muslims, however what I wanted to point out is that our lack of unity as Muslims and our lack of will to collectively deal with the issues facing the Muslim world help produce an environment in which these injustices against us can exist. Instead of producing yet another blog post among the many that exist on this issue blasting the Swiss or the West in general I decided to focus on what we as Muslims are collectively doing or not doing for ourselves.

      Call me whack, a sell-out, or on “someones payroll” until your blue in the face, but I will always look at what we can do first before I look to others. I truly believe and I guess some of you think I’m wrong for it, that if WE Muslims collectively worked toward goals that would benefit our communities in our lands first, we would have no need of the West regardless if we were born there or not. This is not an “American Muslim” belief, but one I believe we should all strive for. There should be no reason whatsoever that Muslims would prefer to live their lives in the West over the 60 plus Muslim countries. We should be flocking to lands where the majority are Muslim. That’s my overall point. Let’s stop complaining about someone else’s house, let’s fix ours, then we can all live there in peace and in Islam, regardless of the land of our birth.

      Like I said, I guess it’s controversial position to some of you that I prefer all Muslims live in lands where remembrance of Allah (swt) is the norm.

      Reply

  5. My apologies if I misunderstood you.

    There is another perspective…..
    Here is a quote to keep in mind—-
    “First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
    Martin Niemoeller
    Here is another by Benjamin Franklin—“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Hate, rascism, bigotry are problems for all of Mankind—but in particular, to  those who have the freedom to choose—for in their case, they have the responsibilty for their choices.
    Europe does not like Muslims—Yes that is a fact—one that was made very clear during the war in the Balkans (look up Srebrenica massacre/genocide—that inept DUTCH peacekeepers allowed to happen)–there may be a deep seated hate in Europe—and Islamophobia may be one manifestation. (Many of the Swiss Muslims are refugees from the Balkans—escaping persecution and hoping for freedom)
    However…….
    Look at American history. Did not fear, hate, rascism and bigotry exist against the black people?—what would have happened if in American history–black people had decided—hey, we are hated here—lets go back to Africa where we can be “Black with dignity”.  Instead—The Civil War happened and was framed in terms of equality and freedom, then great leaders like Malcom X and Martin L King brought the message of empowerment and rights. –America  would not be the great nation it is today without the “Black experience” that reinforced and reminded people of the values it stood for. What the Black experience was for Ameria, Islam can be for Europe—if it allows it—it can enrich Europe and make it a better place than it was before.

    Just as Blacks are part of the fabric of America, The European Muslims are part of the fabric of Europe—and just as the American  people (Both Black and White) “fixed their house”—So must Europeans—both Muslim and Non-Muslim “fix their house”—especially since they have the freedom to do so.

    Reply

    1. No problem kat,

      And I wholeheartedly agree. When it comes to the black experience in America it should also be noted that there were a myriad of views concerning our role here. There was a strong back to Africa movement ala Marcus Garvey, there was the creation of Liberia in Africa, then of course there was the Fredrick Douglas argument that pretty much stated that since we built it, it (America) is ours too. And many other views in between. My point was not to endorse one view or another, but to focus on what we as Muslims can do to shape our destinies internally versus relying on others to change their views. Both can happen at the same time, just as the black experience taught in America, you had those advocating integration, assimilation, etc. at the same time as those advocating cultural identity, universal struggle and acknowledgment (like pan-Africanism), and on almost every level regardless of clique, various strains of self-reliance and black Nationalism are/were prevalent.

      When it comes to advocating self-reliance that does not mean that one should be blind or not care about what others do to you as well, to me it means creating and establishing the ability to have more options. Right now, Muslims in many cases only have one option and that is to deal with those who are diametrically opposed to their presence. Obviously we have to confront that and deal with that in a way that is equitable and just to all parties, but this should not be our only option. So given the black experience, that was the middle position, that for those who wanted to stay they should be able to stay in a just and equitable way, but for those that wanted to leave, they should also have somewhere to go where just and equitable conditions exist as well. As Muslims, we don’t have that ability at all, and what makes us different than blacks generally in this regard is we have no excuse as we already have 60 plus Muslim countries and have Islam as our deen.

      So I’m speaking out not on the obvious per se, which is the obvious injustice of this ban and ridiculousness of the rise in islamophobia in Europe, but the fact that while we are facing this, we are universally ignoring the conditions in the lands we do have, where we shouldn’t have in many cases more problems there than we do in the West.

      I hope I’m making some sense.

      Reply

  6. Thankyou for the information regarding American history–I appreciate it.
    You are right that there is much that we Muslims can learn from the stuggles and hardships of Native American and Black experience in America as well as the European Jewish experience in Europe. It far outweighs Islamophobia of today.  You are also correct that we Muslims have the Guidance/solution in the Quran/Islam. It may be possible that if we frame the situation in terms of ethical/moral values that can be applied universally, we may be able to find ways to resolve problems of hate and intolerance in Muslim as well as Non-Muslim countries.  Therefore, rather than Islamophobia or democracy, the problem should be articulated in terms of  intolerance—one group of people rejecting another group of people because they are the “other”.—this is “unIslamic”—it is against Tawheed.  God is One, he is the God of all mankind, regardless of ones label as Jew, Muslim or Atheist.  We are all equal, brothers and sisters of each other (and science agrees—apparently there is less genetic diversity in human beings than in other species). Thus if God is One, and we all worship the same God —it should not matter if the house of God is a Temple, a Church, a Synagogue, or a park.—for to say that they are not one and the same God is to break Tawheed.  Since we are all equal, all brothers and sisters of the other, we all have the same right to equality and  justice and the responsibilty to balance this with compassion and mercy.
    Surah 5, verse 8
    O you who believe! stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be Just:  that is next to piety: and have awe of God for God is well aquainted with all you do.
    So how does  it apply to our situation today?—for those in Muslim countries, they should go back to the principles of Tawheed and instead of “fear of  others” should trust in God and apply justice and equality in their societies ….and for those of non-Muslim countries, they must go back to their own principles of equality and justice and instead of “fear of others” should trust in  the foundation of freedom on which they built their societies.
    Either solution uses Tawheed—the Quranic principle that promotes  harmony and balance…….

    Ofcourse, intolerance is not the only problem in Muslim countries—But I feel that if the universal principles of Islam are fostered, it can help find solutions to the problems of humanity—both Muslim and Non-Muslim.
     
    If we as the Ummah are able to articulate these Universal Principles and encourage their application through reason and persuasion, maybe we will have helped to change the world for the better?

    Reply

  7. This is a great thread, My hat is off to you Robert!
    This is also a great opportunity for me to ask you a question I have been mulling over for some time.  It seems to me that if you just look at the 5 pillars of Islam, they are rules for community.  That is “we all believe in Allah, we all pray 5x/day, we all give to those less fortunate (a real community builder), we all fast during Ramadan, and we all do the Hajj.”
     
    The thing that strikes me about this is that this is very much a conformist sort of religion isn’t it?  I don’t mean that as a slight, it’s more of an anthropological observation.  It seems to me that ANY community that is primarily Muslim is going to HAVE to focus its business practices and its social networking practices around these rituals.  This is not unlike the blue laws here in the USA that say that in some states I (as an atheist) can’t buy liquor or gamble on Sunday.  One of the cultural functions of these rituals is that they define in-group and out group members, and they dictate behavior for in-group members by means of the rituals.
     
    So for example, the need for Jews to be Kosher is a way of saying “my sister isn’t allowed to eat over at her gentile boyfriends house because they eat pork.”  This is a cultural boundary, that keeps people selecting mates inside their in-group.  Because food, business etc etc are such social activities, these religious practices automatically impose behavioral restrictions OUTSIDE the cultural in-group as well.  For example, if anyone wants to do business with a Muslim, they MUST wait for prayer time to be over, whether they believe or not.  The same goes with drinking on Sunday for Christians and for Kosher foods for Jews.
     
    So here is my question:  What effect do the conformist Islamic edicts of your religion have on your social life, and how do you see them effecting European culture as a possible source of conflict?
     

    Reply

  8. Kat, I want to object to your use of the word ” Islamophobe.”  Islam is a religion and an ideology.  It’s not “an irrational fear” to have distain for an ideology.

    It’s not prejudice to say that I think your religion is wrong.  I do.  Your religion is wrong and Muhammad was just a guy with a strong oppinion and a good sales pitch (and a pre-pubescent wife – but that’s the subject of another thread).

    I have distain for nazis.  Does that make me a Naziphobe?

    I have distain for people who hate gays.  Does that make me a homophobe-ophobe?

    It is PERFECTLY LEGITEMATE to believe that your belief is wrong.  I am working to understand Islam, even though I think it’s a batshit crazy belief system.

    That doesn’t make me an “Islamophobe,” it just makes me an atheist.

    Reply

  9. Terms/labels/definitions can sometimes mean different things to different people.  So, What do I mean/understand by the term “Islamophobe”?—Mostly, I use it as a general label for people who are deliberately ignorant of Islam and foster an agenda of hate based on irrational/non-factual “fears” and assumptions. (Karen Armstrong points out that when examined, these “fears” are often projections of the groups own religious/cultural “guilt”.–for example, Europe has the narrative that Islam is “going to take over”–and impose “sharia”—something the European colonists did—they took over other countries, demolished the existing laws and implemented their own—often discriminatory laws)

    Sometimes, people who have a bad experience with one religion will say they dislike  all religion—that is fine. They don’t have to like religion.  Some people may dislike Islam because they don’t know anything about it or because they have heard bad things—and never bothered to check out facts—simply because they were not interested. It is inevitable that people will have likes and dislikes. However, when those dislikes cause harm to someone else—IT IS WRONG. When fact-based dislike is translated into constructive criticism that can improve the community or nation—IT IS GOOD.
     
    When people make up  myths and assumptions that are not fact-based–and use it to defame Islam simply out of an “irrational fear” and promote and spread hate—they are Islamophobes—and those Muslims who have an “irrational fear” of the West are also Phobics. (Just don’t know what kind)

    “I am working to understand Islam”—Thankyou for your effort. I appreciate your willingness  to search for knowledge and truth.  —it begins with asking questions.
    Could I also ask you—why do you want to understand islam?—what is your purpose?

    Some ways that Islamophobia harms—
    It promotes a “narrative” of Islam that is actually “unIslamic” in its values/ethics and ideas.
    It promotes hate and fear among non-Muslims that translates into behaviour that is harmful (Racist, bigoted, Dicriminatory, Prejudiced……etc)
    It confuses Muslim youth searching for identity—when they hear a hateful “narrative” from Islamophobes that project a particular “clash of civilization” view which is echoed by those Muslims who have the same political agenda—they may assume that is the “real Islam” when in FACT it is not.  (partly resulting in the  “home-grown Jihadist” phenomenon)
    When a minority group of people feel they do not belong and the majority group of people actively encourages this feeling of alienation—it creates social tension, disharmony, and eventually voilence in society.
    ….need I go on…..?
    ….I did not even mention the results of a study of Islamophobia(?) and its effects on school age children……

    Reply

  10. This comment was not addresssed to me so I apologise for intruding but….
    “…the need for Jews to be Kosher is a way of saying “my sister isn’t allowed to eat over at her gentile boyfriends house because they eat pork.”  This is a cultural boundary….” would be an incorrect assumption.

    According to how it was explained to me by a Jewish person….The religious “rituals” in Judaism are for the purposes of Rememberance. It is an important part of their history and identity as a people.  These rituals not only foster a shared history, but also promote discipline which is an important aspect of ones spiritual journey. 

    Reply

  11.  
     

    “I am working to understand Islam”—Thank you for your effort. I appreciate your willingness  to search for knowledge and truth.  —it begins with asking questions.
    Could I also ask you—why do you want to understand Islam?—what is your purpose?

     
    Well that is a question with a complicated answer.  I am a student of human behavior.  I find that I tend to approach complicated subjects with multiple agendas: 
    First off, I tend to agree with the “religion is bad” crowd.  I think that it is extremely dangerous to live in a world where belief in the supernatural can go hand-in-hand with WMD’s.  That said, I don’t think we will ever get rid of belief in the supernatural.  I think that human beings make mistakes in their reasoning in very consistent and specific ways, and that these are always going to be exploited as ways of organizing human society and/or as a way of duping people into giving up their power.  So from that perspective, I want to understand Islam, because it is a form of social control, and I can do a better job assessing it’s threat potential and addressing it as a threat if I understand it.
    Secondly, I have some ideas about how human beings process moral reasoning.  I think that human beings operate out of a set of moral intuitions and that these moral intuitions get filtered through cultural training and beliefs to manifest themselves as moral emotions.  In so far as I understand Islam, I think that it is a very powerful tool for shaping the moral intuitions of believers, and I find that to be interesting in and of itself from a professional point of view.
    The third reason, is because of my own moral beliefs.  I believe that it a moral mistake to judge people as a group.  That’s prejudice.  That said, I know I do it all the time – it’s a common human error.  I don’t beat myself up about this, but I do feel that I have a responsibility to be especially vigilant of my own biases, when dealing with any group of people who I have strong feelings about.  I’m as capable of self-delusion as anyone, after all, and for me, morality doesn’t come from Allah.  It comes from understanding the truth and using my sense of justice to apply my moral reasoning as best as I can.  So I have a moral imperative for that reason as well.
     
    This comment was not addresssed to me so I apologise for intruding but….
    “…the need for Jews to be Kosher is a way of saying “my sister isn’t allowed to eat over at her gentile boyfriends house because they eat pork.”  This is a cultural boundary….” would be an incorrect assumption.

    According to how it was explained to me by a Jewish person….The religious “rituals” in Judaism are for the purposes of Rememberance. It is an important part of their history and identity as a people.  These rituals not only foster a shared history, but also promote discipline which is an important aspect of ones spiritual journey. 
     
    It is very common for people “inside” a society to offer very clear and socially accepted explanations for behaviors, without necessarily having any insight about the social function of behaviors in the way their cultural group effects others.  There is even a name for it.  It’s called “in-group privilege.” So from his/her point of view, all of that can be true and it can ALSO be true that these behaviors are a tool of the culture to define in-group members and exclude members of an out-group.
     
    Think of the military – basic training is explicitly a tool for training cadets to fight and survive in the battlefield.  But it is also IMPLICITLY a tool for socializing soldiers to obey authority, attach loyalty to their fellows, and to almost exclusively use the social structure of the military as THE place where they get their survival needs, their social and emotional needs met.  This socialization is important, because it forms the unit into a team, but it ALSO excluded people.  As civilian, if I went up to a group of marines and said, “hey guys want to go get a few beers?”   I would probably not be taken seriously.  I’m not “in the shit” and I’m not one of their “band of brothers.”
     
    All cultures do this, and religions are the vehicle of culture.   It is a psychological feature of our evolution as a tribal species.  My tribe is good, your tribe is bad.   
     
    Take for example the idea of hell – this is basically where non-believers go right?  Well, this is just your religion’s way of saying “WE are good and THEY are bad.”  So bad in fact that the creator of the universe is willing to burn me for all eternity because I don’t have the right beliefs to be one of “us”  I’m one of “them.”
     
    Get it?  It’s socialization, but it’s also social control, because it means that anyone who stops believing in Islam is “THEM” and they are bad.  In fact your religion is rather extreme in this social control- after all- people who stop believing are supposed to be killed.  If that’s not social control I don’t know what is.
     
     

     

    Reply

    1. As a fellow student of human behavior (Anthropology Major), may I recommend that you learn the difference between “World View” and ethnocentrism?  Once you learn the difference, perhaps you could apply the former and abandon the latter?
      Oh, and Mohammed wasn’t a pedophile.  That type of behavior was perfectly normal in his culture and time period.  It was also normal in medieval Europe.  8-13 year old girls were married all the time, with an old maid being about 16.  Aisha started her menses at 9 and therefore, according to her culture, she was eligible for marriage.

      Reply

  12. Get it?—I’m afraid I don’t get “it” at all—I suppose in your worldview,  Zen Buddhists who sit for hours staring at a rock garden are engaging in anti-social behaviour?
    —-should we now go around being fearful of these anti-social Buddhists….!!!???—-after all, wasn’t that guy who shot up some students at a University, anti-social?!!!????—-is that how your logic works?

    Reply

  13. “I am a student of human behavior.  I find that I tend to approach complicated subjects with multiple agendas: “—–perhaps, by approaching the subject of  analysing human behaviour “with multiple agendas”—you tend to “miss the point”? …..and maybe end up convoluting the whole analysis?
    —after all, could it not be possible, that if we were to ask that Zen Buddhist what he is doing—and if he were to reply that he is meditating—that it really is simply meditating—nothing more and nothing less.
    —thus, once we understand the correct interpretation of a particular behaviour—we would be able to avoid misunderstanding that behaviour as some sort of anti-social manifestation.

    If a Jewish person says that his behaviour is a ” religious function” then are you not missing the point if you insist that it is a “social function” ?

    And how about this scenario—you want to invite this Jewish person to your home for dinner, but his dietary habits are “alien” to you and off-putting.  So you go over to him to discuss his dietary habits—he explains their religious function and importance to him—this helps you understand and accept him and you extend the invitation to dinner. —happy ending.  Had you gone over to him to discuss his dietary habits and, after hearing his explanation, insisted that he abandon his dietary habit because they are “exclusive” and are “social control mechanism” and in-group whatever….you would likely have had dinner alone.

    “assessing threat potential” is extremely subjective—and if you have already made up your mind something/someone is a “threat” , won’t all of your analysing will only lead to that conclusion?
     

    By the way–I found your statement amusing—“I think that it is extremely dangerous to live in a world where belief in the supernatural can go hand-in-hand with WMD’s. ” —-is that so?—I would have thought it might be dangerous to live in a world where a certain “superpower”  has thrown bombs on two cities whose inhabitants suffered for generations after–and was nevertheless able to justify it—was able to wage a war where napalm and agent orange or such  chemical weapons were used but was able to justify it, — to wage “pre-emptive”war on a country with no WMD or other threat and justified it, —is at present using drones to kill thousands of women and children in Pakistan and Afganistan and justifies it!!!!!! ……….Would you say this “superpower” believes in the supernatural—–or was it secular democracy?………..maybe you want to anlayse this one? assess its threat potential?

    Reply

  14. Get it?—I’m afraid I don’t get “it” at all—I suppose in your worldview,  Zen Buddhists who sit for hours staring at a rock garden are engaging in anti-social behaviour?
    —-should we now go around being fearful of these anti-social Buddhists….!!!???—-after all, wasn’t that guy who shot up some students at a University, anti-social?!!!????—-is that how your logic works?

    Well, to begin with you are conflating two issues: behavior and character.  The monk is engaging in a behavior that is certainly not social.  Whether or not it’s “antisocial” depends on how you define the term.  On the other hand, in most Buddhist disciplines I know of, meditation is a technique used to engage in introspection so that one can work to end suffering in oneself and in the world.  Hardly an antisocial motivation.
     
    The crazed gunman may or may not be antisocial.  If he believes that his shootout is going to get his family a fat paycheck from an oil sheik, and that it will land him into heaven and get him 72 virgins, then I’d say that this is highly socially motivated behavior, possibly even from the highest of motives.  Deranged beliefs, deranged social motivations, but pro-social motives none-the-less.  If he is doing it because he’s socially isolated, hate-filled and confused, thinking that he is getting revenge for real or imagined injustices, well, then yeah, that would be antisocial in my book.
     
     “I am a student of human behavior.  I find that I tend to approach complicated subjects with multiple agendas: ”—–perhaps, by approaching the subject of  analysing human behaviour “with multiple agendas”—you tend to “miss the point”? …..and maybe end up convoluting the whole analysis?
     
    Very possible, if I understood the complicated nuances of your religion, I probably would be uninterested in this blog – I mean, it’s not likely that I’m going to start believing in Muhammad or anything.  The only thing that is keeping me here is curiosity (well that and the fact that I enjoy debate).

    —after all, could it not be possible, that if we were to ask that Zen Buddhist what he is doing—and if he were to reply that he is meditating—that it really is simply meditating—nothing more and nothing less.
    There is NO human behavior that is only one thing.  The monk would probably understand this.  In order to meditate, he has to have free time, which means that he is not working to get his basic needs met, which means that he has used a social network to get his needs met, or he would starve to death.  Even if he is working for a living, and only meditates in his spare time, he is doing so in a social context.  Humans NEVER do only one thing at a time.  We are the most complicated things in the known universe.
     
    —thus, once we understand the correct interpretation of a particular behaviour—we would be able to avoid misunderstanding that behaviour as some sort of anti-social manifestation.
     
    Again you are throwing around terms without defining them, but I think I understand your meaning.  The thing is, all behaviors can be interpreted multiple different ways, and multiple interpretations can be equally “correct.” 
    If a Jewish person says that his behaviour is a ” religious function” then are you not missing the point if you insist that it is a “social function” ?
    It is a mistake to insist that the behavior only serves one function.
    And how about this scenario…
    You make a very good point, and I agree whole-heartedly.  But I think that the point you are making is exactly MY point.  Religious beliefs are arbitrary and not evidence-based precisely because they are evolved over time to serve social functions that do not have any meaningful reference in “objective” reality.  Take the restriction on eating pork.  This was probably a limitation laid down in the bible as a social protection against disease and practices, but it has stuck around to modern times because it serves the social function of dividing human in-groups around eating behavior (a social event).  There are hundreds of biblical restrictions (and probably Quran-based restrictions too) that are ignored, while others are strongly emphasized.  This is not random, it has to do with how the religion adapts to the culture it finds itself in, and how strongly the believers need to identify their in-group boundaries against the culture as a whole. 
    More often than not, economics are the main driving factor in what rules get followed and which one’s don’t.  For example, how much do you want to bet that if a plague wiped out all the cattle back in the days of the old testament, the Jews would have been fine with eating pork. 
    “assessing threat potential” is extremely subjective—and if you have already made up your mind something/someone is a “threat” , won’t all of your analyzing will only lead to that conclusion?
     
    You know, I’m perfectly willing to change my conclusion if new data comes along to persuade me.  Still, I don’t see many secular humanists tying bombs to themselves.

     
    By the way–I found your statement amusing—”I think that it is extremely dangerous to live in a world where belief in the supernatural can go hand-in-hand with WMD’s. ” —-is that so?—I would have thought it might be dangerous to live in a world where a certain “superpower”  has thrown bombs on two cities whose inhabitants suffered for generations after–and was nevertheless able to justify it—was able to wage a war where napalm and agent orange or such  chemical weapons were used but was able to justify it, — to wage “pre-emptive”war on a country with no WMD or other threat and justified it, —is at present using drones to kill thousands of women and children in Pakistan and Afganistan and justifies it!!!!!! ……….Would you say this “superpower” believes in the supernatural—–or was it secular democracy?………..maybe you want to anlayse this one? assess its threat potential?
     
    Oh, definitely, the threat potential of human greed is huge.  I mean, let’s face it, the USA is an imperial power.  A corporatocracy to be exact.  It might well be said that Robert serves Exxon as much as the USA.  And while I revile these behaviors as much as you, it’s a JOKE to think that iron-age mythology is going to have any power to change these behaviors, or that it will offer a better form of government than we have now.   Show us how your religion makes a utopian society, and I’ll sign up today!  So far, all your religion has done on a global stage is destabilize 3rd world nations and oppress women.  Oh yeah, and cry about how you are being discriminated against by the Islamophobes.
     
    Or are we just not following the holy law right?  I mean, obviously the rules Muhammad laid down are SO AWESOME that any reasonable person would follow them and just naturally create a wonderful society.
     
    Please.  You sound like a Christian.
     
    There have been MANY advances in philosophy and social science that have been proven to create better social systems than anything that Islam has done.  These are not perfect, but they do have the virtue of being HUMAN endeavors, which means that they are not the flawed word of an all-mighty deity, which means that when we make mistakes we can work to change them.
     
    What has Islam got going for it other than absolute certainty that ridiculous nonsense is true?
     

    Reply

  15. Thankyou for your explanations.
    I agree that we are having some problems with definitions in our dialogue.

    It is also possible that the way our minds see, understand, and grapple with issues is very different creating a—-what is that fancy term—“cognitive dissonance” ? or some such.  I am having this feeling that we are not going to have an easy time understanding one another…and I have a flaw in my “character”—I lack patience.
    (But I do appreciate your patience in sticking with the conversation (about Islam) so far)

    By the way, how would you define “Character” and “Behavior”?
    Could you eleborate on the connection between “highly motivated social behavior” and virgins in heaven?

    debate—In order to have an intelligent debate, it is helpful if both sides come to the table with knowledge of the subject–for example, I know nothing about anthropology or human behaviour science—so our conversation is more a “question /answer” session rather than debate.

    Human behavior is not one thing—-interesting—the way I see it, —if one observes a person sitting down to dinner—and if asked the person confirms their intention is to sit down for dinner—then that behavior is about sitting down for dinner—there may be  many other behaviors and intentions that led to this particular behavior  no doubt—I agree that a particular behavior does not happen in a vacuum—but are we analysing a particular behavior or a chain of behaviors?if we are analysing a chain of behaviors–how do we determine where a “chain” starts and ends?—at birth? and ends at death?
    “meaningful reference in objective reality”—-that is rather subjective isn’t it.—who decides?—you the observer or the person engaging in a particular behavior?
    Is not your explanation about the restriction on pork  a non-evidence based , arbitrary belief also?—and incorrect as well if it contradicts the experience of the group actually engaged in that particular behaviour?

    “behavior can be interpreted in multiple ways”—I can agree with that somewhat—I would add observable behavior can be interpreted in multiple ways—but if we have verbal confirmation of the “correct” interpretation–according to the human engaged in  that particular behavior—do we still need “multiple interpretations”?

    Define “Secular humanist”

    “Iron-age mythology”—if you cannot see the good in “Iron age mythology”—you have a long way to go as an anthropologist—but then maybe you aren’t one.?……

    Cry about discrimination—Yes—I am proud that we have the intelligence to precieve wrong and the courage to promote change. —-it is ofcourse easier in a free society than an oppressive one.

    Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)—is, most certainly,  awesome….so is the Quran.  I believe we human beings have the intelligence and the potential to create a wonderful society—IF we so choose. We can do it by trial and error—if we persevere, we will succeed—or we can follow the Guidance of the Quran—either way, the end result will be the same—-one choice will simply get us there faster than the other—but both will take a lot of effort.

    Philosophy, Social Sciences—-knowledge is built on the efforts of many people throughout the ages—including Muslims.

    What has Islam going for it?—that’s easy—The Quran.
    ………and one does not have to be a Muslim to see the “immense potential for social reform in the Quran”—the quote is from two expat Europeans who were discussing the Quran on a blog.

    We seem to be going around in circles on some issues….maybe time to move on……

    Reply

  16. By the way, how would you define “Character” and “Behavior”?
    I would define character in terms of more-or-less consistent personality traits that can be changed only with difficulty.  So for example intelligence would be a character trait.  So would family loyalty, introversion/extroversion, being highly motivated by feelings, having poor impulse control etc.  Some character traits are sort of hard to call, because people change their behavior depending on the situation – a soldier might be very loyal to his unit, but have no particular loyalty to his family (for example).  “Antisocial” is a technical term that is used to define what the American Psychiatric Association defines as a “character disorder.”  A person with “antisocial personality disorder” is characterized by a disregard for how his or her actions affect other people, an unwillingness to take personal responsibility for his or her actions, a tendency to view him/herself as a victim, a history of violent behaviors and a few other things (you can look up the definition on line if you like).
     
    Behavior is what we do – pretty simple right?  But wait a minute – we are “doing” all kinds of things all the time – breathing, digesting our last meal, fighting off minor infections, unconsciously scratching your nose etc. etc.
    So then you get into “volitional behavior” which is stuff we DECIDE to do.  That’s usually what we mean when we use the term “behavior” in day to day language.
     
    Does that help?
     

    Could you eleborate on the connection between “highly motivated social behavior” and virgins in heaven?
    Good question – a person who believes that he is going to get lots of hot sexy babes after he blows himself up with a suicide bomb is basically engaging in pro-social behavior.  “Pro-social” means behavior that is motivated by a desire to engage with others in a positive an meaningful way.  By and large sex is a pro-social behavior.  So is self-sacrifice for a greater good.  So is laying down your life so that other members of your community can prosper.
    I haven’t studied the psychology of suicide bombers, but it’s probably pretty safe to assume that these are not people who are too selfish and self centered to care about anyone else.  That is to say, they are probably NOT “antisocial personalities.”  Note however that the Mullahs and terrorist leaders who PROMOTE this behavior probably ARE antisocial personalities.  An antisocial personality  has no qualms about sacrificing someone else in order to get more money, prestige, and/or sex.
    Your religion is a veritable dream come true for these kinds of sick-o’s precisely because you have:
    A)      An all-knowing, all-powerful, all- loving deity to worship – Allah is the IDEAL sock-puppet for giving orders to the troops – “I’m not saying you should kill yourself – Allah is!”
    B)    Very week social vetting processes for determining WHO gets to be a Mullah
    C)    A dogmatic belief system that promotes the idea that men should have lost of wives – this last one is a biggie – Antisocial personalities tend to be hypersexual, and they also tend to want to control women as  a breeding resource rather than to cooperate with them as a social equal.
    Yep If I were an antisocial personality, I’d go Islam all the way.  Mormonism is almost as good, but it has that pesky centralized authority structure.  No.  Islam is a pretty good racket in anybodies book.
               
    …so our conversation is more a “question /answer” session rather than debate.
     
    You know, I’m less interested in debate than I am with education (both giving and receiving) so that’s fine by me.
     
    Human behavior is not one thing …
    EXACTLY my point.  There are actually a lot of different schools of thought on how to understand and analyze human behavior for exactly this reason.  Many of them take formal training.  Psychology, anthropology, sociology and economics are examples of broad approaches to understanding human behavior.  Inside each of these approaches are several sub-disciplines which use different points of reference (called paradigms) as approaches to understanding.  Most of these paradigms are not mutually exclusive of each other, and how you apply them depends on your research questions.
    It’s all very complicated, but that’s the social sciences for you.
    That is rather subjective isn’t it.—who decides?—you the observer or the person engaging in a particular behavior?
    I think that everybody decides, but we all decide different things.  It’s like the parable of the 5 blind men and the elephant.  We each only get to perceive a part of the “truth” at any given time.  Not only that but what we are looking at is always changing, so yeah, it’s not an exact science.
     
    Is not your explanation about the restriction on pork  a non-evidence based , arbitrary belief also?—and incorrect as well if it contradicts the experience of the group actually engaged in that particular behaviour?
     
    Well, no, it IS evidence based.  “Evidence-based” doesn’t mean “certain” or even “scientific,” it just means that by looking at the evidence, I have drawn reasonable conclusions.  This is provisional – in other words, I have to accept the fact that I might be wrong, but it’s still evidence-based.  Some such conclusions are little more than hunches, but , some conclusions are quite reliable.  For example, I can reliably say that ALMOST EVERYONE who prays to Mecca 5 times a day experiences the flow of time differently than the people who don’t.  You probably feel a sense of community in this practice as well – a solidarity with all the other Muslims who are doing the same thing at the same time, even if you can’t see them. 
     
    I’m right aren’t I? 
     
    Now how did I know that?  No Muslim has ever described the subjective experience of the practice to me.  But I understand how rituals work and how we (as a tribal species) take comfort and solidarity from the experience behaving like our in-group.
    After all, what’s the point of having knowledge if you have to prove every idea you have is true all the time?  You would face every situation like a newborn if you did that.
     
     
    “behavior can be interpreted in multiple ways”—I can agree with that somewhat—I would add observable behavior can be interpreted in multiple ways—but if we have verbal confirmation of the “correct” interpretation–according to the human engaged in  that particular behavior—do we still need “multiple interpretations”?
    Yes we do need multiple interpretations because:
    1)      Sometimes we are not really aware why we do what we do
    2)      Sometimes we tell ourselves false stories about our own behavior
    3)      Sometimes we only see a part of the picture – Religion often takes only part of the picture in as it’s “story.”  This is what mythology is for – it takes complicated situations and boils them down into simple stories.  Example: where did the earth come from?  “Allah made it”  Sounds good, but it doesn’t really tell you anything does it?
    4)      Sometimes our own perceptions are confused and distorted (especially about social behaviors)
    In fact there are whole professions designed to give people information about their own behavior from an outsider’s perspective.  Clergy/Imams do this, so do psychotherapists, so do economists etc. etc.  Many of these people earn big bucks doing this kind of thing.
     
    Define “Secular humanist”
    Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects the supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making. Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead good, happy and functional lives. –Wikipedia
     
    “Iron-age mythology”—if you cannot see the good in “Iron age mythology”—you have a long way to go as an anthropologist—but then maybe you aren’t one.?……
     
    Actually, I see a lot of good in iron age mythology.  The thing is we have learned a lot since then, and the idea that an illiterate iron-age merchant/child molester had the one true answer that all of mankind was looking for is an idea that I find more than a little hard to swallow.
     
    What fascinates and horrifies me is that YOU DON’T find this idea hard to swallow.  That freaks me out, frankly.
     
     
    Cry about discrimination—Yes—I am proud that we have the intelligence to precieve wrong and the courage to promote change. —-it is ofcourse easier in a free society than an oppressive one.
     
    Well, yeah, but you are missing my point – the philosophical foundations of the enlightenment are what MAKE  a free society.  ALL societies based on religion are oppressive societies.  Your religion is more repressive than most, IMO.
     
    Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)—is, most certainly,  awesome….so is the Quran.  I believe we human beings have the intelligence and the potential to create a wonderful society—IF we so choose. We can do it by trial and error—if we persevere, we will succeed—or we can follow the Guidance of the Quran—either way, the end result will be the same—-one choice will simply get us there faster than the other—but both will take a lot of effort.
    Philosophy, Social Sciences—-knowledge is built on the efforts of many people throughout the ages—including Muslims.
     
    Oh sure, Muslims have made lots of contributions to human knowledge.  But in the history books I studied, when the Persian empire “got religion” it was on its way out of power, not in.  Same thing with Europe.   Religion has always been a force for ignorance at least as much as knowledge.  That’s why in Europe it was called the “dark ages” when the church ran society.
     
    What has Islam going for it?—that’s easy—The Quran.
    ………and one does not have to be a Muslim to see the “immense potential for social reform in the Quran”—the quote is from two expat Europeans who were discussing the Quran on a blog.

     
    Well, I’m sure the Quran has some very nice parts to it.  I’m sure it has some real wisdom.  1 billion people wouldn’t take it seriously if it didn’t.  What is wrong with the Quran though is that it is a “holy book.”  This means that most of you Muslims turn a blind eye to the fact that it not only contains great wisdom, it also has some completely evil and dangerous nonsense in it as well.
     
    Let me ask you a question Kat (and anyone else who cares to answer):  How old were you when you decided that Muhammed is a prophet?  How old were you when you decided that the Quran is the word of Allah?  How old were you when you decided that there IS an “Allah?”
     
    If you were to know, was it before, during or after your birth?
     
    And if it was after, how long after?  Were you grown up enough to make that decision?  Or was it just what you were taught by the grown-ups in your life?
     
    If you were like most believers, you were born into the “one true religion”
     
    Are you sure that you aren’t just brain washed from birth?
     
    Because I think you are.
     
    (btw – this is the social function of the whole “peace be upon him” crap – it teaches you to have so much reverence for this iron age pedophile that you dare not question his “divine authority”
     
    Yeah,  I think I know mind control when I see it.
     

    Reply

  17. Jocelyn—thanks–I’ll look up “ethnocentrism”—and use it. Thankyou for clearing up about Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) peadophile charge.

    Susac—It is always a pleasure to learn—I like your definition of “behavior”. In the Quran, both one’s actions and intentions are important—so I can relate to your explanation about “behavior”.
    Islam—Since you are attempting to understand Islam—I would reccommend that you start from scratch as you have absolutely NO idea at all about it.  What you do know is FALSE. I can correct some of your assumptions–but it might help if you also did some supplementary research—-I tend to be short on patience.
    Iron age—Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) was a 7th century man. Prophet Abraham(pbuh) is considered likely to have lived during the “Iron Age”.(not from Islam)

    About Islam—I will try to correct  assumptions after I fortify myself with patience………
    Secular Humanism—if reason, science, justice tempered with compassion and mercy, equality of men and women…etc are values of humanism, then Islam is Theistic humanism.

    Reply

  18. Secular Humanism—if reason, science, justice tempered with compassion and mercy, equality of men and women…etc are values of humanism, then Islam is Theistic humanism

    Well, that doesn’t surprise me.  All religions espouse some humanistic values – if the religion doesn’t help people in some way, no one will believ in it, and the religion will go extinct (as most religions have btw.)

    As I said, I’m sure there are lots of good things that Islam has to offer.  The problem is that there are bad parts too, and the whole idea of “faith” is that you “believe uncritically,” which means that one accept the whole story without quesiton.  This leads to all kinds of crazy thoughts and behavior.

    Faith is a word with many meanings:

    Community – “I’m a member of the Muslim faith

    Trust – “I have faith in your abilities”

    A feeling of Awe and wonder – “My heart is filled with the power of faith

    Obedience – “I do as my faith demands.”

    Belief without evidence – “I know that science says that we evloved, but my faith tells me that Allah created the world in 6 days.”

    These meanings get all jumbled up in people’s heads, and this is one of the way religion controlls minds.  For example “You must not lose your fiath” might roughly translate into:

    “if you don’t believe the right magical beliefs, you are no longer a member of our community and we will cast you out”

    Depending on the context of course.  This is basically what apostacy is, isn’t it?  And we know what the penalty is for that, don’t we?

    Reply

  19. Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was a 7th century man. Prophet Abraham(pbuh) is considered likely to have lived during the “Iron Age”.(not from Islam)

    My bad.  I was getting my AD’s and my BC’s mixed up.

    So what would the 7th century be then?  The dark ages?
     
    I suppose that only applies to Europe, so what else was going on in the world back then?  Hm…Wikipedia here I come.
     
    My understanding is that it is a matter of historical record that Muhammad married a girl at age 6 and slept with her at age 9.  I actually know a woman who wrote a novel from that girl’s perspective – got it published, and then pulled off the shelves because it offended Islam – Just mentioning this kid is all it takes to get violence on the streets of London apparently.
     
    Anyway, sounds like a pedophile in my book.
     
    BTW, any culture that allows men to decide unilaterally who the women get to breed with is a barbaric culture in my book.  The measure of a culture is in how well it treats its women.  Cultures who give women equal status as men, equal access to education, equal rights under the law etc, will ALLWAYS have lower infant mortality rates, better standards of living, better health care and generally do better on all cultural measures than ones’ that oppress women.

    This is not a coincidence.  I know that Islam is not the same thing as “Arabic culture” and that most of what I am talking about is “Arabic culture,” but if Islam doesn’t lift Arabic culture out of barbarism, then what use is it?  And let’s face it – Islam is the #1 reason that Muslims give for oppressing their women. 
     

    Reply

    1. Wow.  Men in Islam don’t get to decide unilaterally with whom a woman breeds.

      Khansa Bint Khidam said “My father married me to his nephew, and I did not like this match, so I complained to the Messenger of Allah (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). He said to me “accept what your father has arranged.” I said “I do not wish to accept what my father has arranged.”
      He said “then this marriage is invalid, go and marry whomever you wish.” I said “I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters (i.e. they have no right to force a marriage on them). (Fathul Bari Sharah Al Bukhari 9/194, Ibn Majah Kitabun Nikah 1/602)

      Reply

  20. Susac, I have been following the discussion and it’s been a great one btw, however, I could not sit idly by and not challenge your illogical conclusions about Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Aisha (ra).  First and Foremost, theories as to her age when espoused to Muhammad (saw) range from 9-18.  With the most uniform interpretation being that she was either 6 or 9 when “married” but the “marriage” not consummated until 3 years later after she began her menses.
    That said, what makes your “pedophile” conclusion illogical is that your trying to impose a modern cultural definition of morality on a historical cultural norm as was pointed out.  If you could find something in the Qur’an that specifically states that Muslims are to marry that young then you would be on to something, however what you will find is that the Muslims today marry according to their cultural traditions, this is common sense, but apparently you refuse to accept that.  The key point that is being ignored in this discussion is that the marriage wasn’t consummated until after menses, which points out that their had to be a cultural practice in place that dictated that menses, denoted maturity and or adulthood.  If this were not the case and it was just a mere case of pedophilia as you happen to be obsessed with calling it in the face of logic, then it wouldn’t have mattered one way or the other right?  Mary (ra) the mother of Jesus (as) is believed to have been 12 when espoused to the much older Joseph (ra), yet I never hear the charge of pedophilia leveraged against Joseph.
    Which brings me to a crucial point.  While others such as Kat, are willing to go back and forth with you, seeking out some common ground, I’m not buying it.  I believe you are like many critics of Muslims/Islam in that you have preconceived text book talking points that mindlessly repeat at every opportunity, never even questioning the logic of what you promote, and no matter what Muslims state  on the ideas that are promoted about us, it will forever be claimed that somehow we know less about our beliefs than those of you making the allegations.
    The entire marriage to Aisha (ra) talking point is a classic example of these tactics.  No matter how many times it’s pointed out that marriage at the age of 9+ was cultural normal even into the modern age, it will be denied and used as a slur against the Prophet of Islam (saw) no matter what, and conveniently only used against him as contemporaries of the time period are universally ignored.  The day entire communities and cultures are considered pedophiles for their ancient, past, and in some cases present practices concerning the marriage of young girls, will be the day, I remotely consider such charges against Islam as anything other than just another anti-Muslim talking point meant to cause a reaction and not a positive one.

    Reply

  21.  
    Well, Joycelyn I assume that you are using some Quranic passage to make your point here, and I can see that (for its time) the Quran was probably a very politically progressive book.
     
    If you want to base your argument on a passage from the Holy book, you have me at a slight disadvantage, since I can’t spout counter-passages to you, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that there ARE counter passages.
     
    Aren’t there?  Isn’t it true that there are PLENTY of other passages that men can use to justify oppressing their women? 
     
    Come to think of it, you guys believe in the Garden of Eden don’t you?  So original sin is a justification for misogyny.  After all, Eve at the apple.
     
    This is the trouble with taking your morality from holy books:  You can use them to justify just about anything.
     
    So let’s just take a second look at your passage there.  What is going on?  A young woman has had her groom chosen for her by her father.  The marriage is complete, and presumably consummated.  Muhammad (I assume that’s the “Messenger of Allah”) declares the marriage void, and grants her permission to marry whomever she wishes.  She then says “I have accepted what my father has arranged, but I wanted women to know that fathers have no right in their daughter’s matters.”
     
    So what is happening here is that a man chooses a woman’s husband, and a different man voids the marriage, and the woman states that she only wanted this ruling to give power to other women to marry as they choose.
     
    But the whole assumption of this passage is that THE POWER LIES WITH THE MEN.  The very fact that the woman is going to Muhammad to get validation for her power says that HE is the source of authority about what she can and can’t do, and SHE is not.
     
    The basic assumption of liberal democracy is that responsibility and authority are embodied in each individual, and if Jesus, Muhammad and Adam came to America today, they would still live under the rule “one person one vote.”  And a woman’s vote would count as much as theirs did.
     
    Joycelyn, your passage is a good example of religious patriarchy in action.  It is a patriarchy that’s making the concession of offering a scrap of power to women, but it is only a scrap.  She is not the equal of Muhammad and she is not the equal of her father.  You have only proved my point.  The fact that you can’t see this is an indication of how well your beliefs have blinded your reason.    
     
    Susac, I have been following the discussion and it’s been a great one btw, however, I could not sit idly by and not challenge your illogical conclusions about Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Aisha (ra).  First and Foremost, theories as to her age when espoused to Muhammad (saw) range from 9-18.  With the most uniform interpretation being that she was either 6 or 9 when “married” but the “marriage” not consummated until 3 years later after she began her menses.
     
    Well, here is the problem with this position Robert, I have read a couple of Muslim sources that have made my point and I have read a couple who have made your point.  I noticed that the ones on my side of the argument were annotated and referenced, but the ones on yours were not.  This is hardly definitive, since I haven’t really researched this much, but just so you understand why I’m choosing the story that I am choosing – it’s not a desire to persecute Muslims, it’s an appreciation that some sources are better researched than others.
    But the thing is, even if you DO come up with some definitive scholarly tome, there is no END to this argument, and here is why:
    Whenever a historical figure takes on the mantle of divine authority, scholarship is undermined by that very fact.  Let’s take Caligula.  He was a guy who is well known to be a total pervert.  He did horrible things both violent and sexual in nature.  There is no question that he existed, and the documentation of his depravity is quite credible.  In short he is a scholarly gold mine of historical reference.
    Now let’s look at Jesus.  There is very little evidence that he existed at all.  Virtually all references of him are second, third and fourth hand.  The gospels that Christians are so proud of are most likely written 30-60 years after his death, if he existed at all, and it’s unlikely that they were written by anyone who actually witnessed his ministry or his crucifixion. 
     
    But here is the thing.  The Christian community has systematically manufactured all kinds of “scholarship” that support not only the existence of Jesus, but also his miracles etc. etc.  Heck, starting in the middle ages and right up until modern times, people have been forging documents and artifacts that were part of his story – a document , a cup, a splinter of wood, a nail.  There “holy relics” are spread all over Europe to this day, and many of them have been proven as forgeries and cynical attempts to turn a buck.
     
    Sorting out the good scholarship from the bad is literally a full time profession.  And there really are historians who do this full time.  When they get published, the scholarly community accepts their findings, (more or less), but do you know what?  The public doesn’t.  To the public (and to some of the clergy as well), these “spiritual killjoys” are reviled and “true believers” manufacture fake scholarship all the harder. 
     
    As a result, we will probably never know if there was a historical Jesus or what he was like.  Faith is the polluter of knowledge.
     
    Now back to Muhammad.  Here we have a story with lots of history and LOTS of emotional juice.  The last prophet of God was a pedophile!  OH MERCY MERCY ME!  So answer me one question Robert – how much manufactured “scholarship” has there been made over this story?  How many NON-MUSLIM professional scholars have looked into it?  How has their analysis of the data been accepted by the Muslim community?  What are the odds that two lay people such as ourselves will reach agreement?  At the end of the day, I trust my sources, you trust yours.  But the fact still remains – my friend’s book got pulled because the British publisher was afraid of Muslim reprisals.  Faith once again is the polluter of knowledge.
     
     
    That said, what makes your “pedophile” conclusion illogical is that your trying to impose a modern cultural definition of morality on a historical cultural norm as was pointed out.  If you could find something in the Qur’an that specifically states that Muslims are to marry that young then you would be on to something, however what you will find is that the Muslims today marry according to their cultural traditions, this is common sense, but apparently you refuse to accept that.
     
    This is just bullshit.  The fact that it is culturally normal to treat women like chattel is no moral defense against oppression.  150 years ago slavery was culturally normal in this country.  Did that make it ok?  The fact remains that this little girl was given to a man as if she were breeding stock.  Waiting until her first period was very chivalrous of him I’m sure.  I’ll bet a lot of Sothern slave women really appreciated having their masters wait until they started menstruating too.
     
    If Islam is so damn moral, why didn’t Muhammad end these oppressive practices?  Maybe because like Joseph smith, Reverend Sun Yung Moon and every other charismatic “prophet” before or since, he found that getting people to believe you talk to god is a good way of getting power wealth and sex without having to work for it.
     
    Sounds to me like it worked pretty well for him.
     
    What you are losing sight of here is a simple historical fact:  Things are getting better over time.
    250-400 years ago human philosophers (Lock, Hume, Hobbs etc.) invented representative democracy.  These philosophical innovations lead human politicians (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, etc.) to implement these ideas.
    About 400 years ago, Galileo decided to use observation instead of divine authority to decide what is true.  As a result, the scientific method was born.
    Those two innovations alone have done more to spread peace, prosperity, health and long life than your beliefs ever have OR COULD.
     
    So let me ask you this Robert – just what is Islam good for anyway?  I mean, I get that it makes lots and lots of people feel good about themselves, build communities and establish rules of conduct, but so what?  The world is chock full of confident religions.  What can you point at that your beliefs can do that mine cannot?  I assure you, I have all the spiritual experiences at my disposal that I could want.
     
    What is the innovation, the social change, the positive cultural outcomes that Islam creates that I can’t get anywhere else.
     
    And don’t give me that “one true religion” line – EVERY person of faith gives me that noise.
     
    Mary (ra) the mother of Jesus (as) is believed to have been 12 when espoused to the much older Joseph (ra), yet I never hear the charge of pedophilia leveraged against Joseph.
    Well, Joseph was a divine cuckold.  No one cares about Joseph – he was just a place holder in history.
     
    I believe you are like many critics of Muslims/Islam in that you have preconceived text book talking points that mindlessly repeat at every opportunity, never even questioning the logic of what you promote, and no matter what Muslims state on the ideas that are promoted about us, it will forever be claimed that somehow we know less about our beliefs than those of you making the allegations.
    See, now I don’t think this is a fair charge – I’ll gladly admit that I don’t know a lot about your beliefs.  I do try to stick to the beliefs that I do know about, and sure, it’s easy to criticize one little part of a belief system.  But the part of your belief that I have problems with are not the “nice” parts.  The parts I have problems with are not even the “nasty” parts.  No the part that I have problems with is the FOUNDATION of your belief.  I have a problem with the following beliefs:
    1)     The idea that the creator of the universe wrote or inspired a book that has the magical property of being a correct moral authority.
    2)    The idea that some guy, living or dead, has some special insight into the mind/will of the creator of the universe, and that this awareness was given through the divine magic of the creator.
    3)    The idea that any one book can act as a moral authority.  Human morality is not simple enough to be contained in a book.
    4)    The idea that divine revelation is a valid form of knowledge.
    5)    The idea that faith (that is – belief without evidence) is good.
    6)    The idea that following a good leader makes you a good person.
    I don’t need to know a whole lot more than this to reject your belief system.  I trust that if any non-Muslim came to you and started insisting these ideas were true about HIS religion, you would scoff at him, just as I scoff at you.  Yet these are EXATLY the ideas promoted by:
    Islam
    Judaism
    Christianity
    Mormonism
    Etc. Etc.
    If your belief system does NOT contain any or all of these ideas, please set me straight
    – is that open minded enough for you?
     
    There are religious traditions that don’t practice these assumptions (well, not as core beliefs any way),  These include:
    Buddhism
    Taoism
    Confucianism
    These beliefs do indulge in superstition, but not as the foundation of their “faith.”
     
     The day entire communities and cultures are considered pedophiles for their ancient, past, and in some cases present practices concerning the marriage of young girls, will be the day, I remotely consider such charges against Islam as anything other than just another anti-Muslim talking point meant to cause a reaction and not a positive one.
    But don’t you get it?  Women’s rights are a form of cultural progress – the higher the rights of the woman, the better off that society is – I know of no exception to this rule.  Cultures that practice equal rights for woman are not only better off, but they are better off to the degree that women are equal to men.
    Islam didn’t come up with this progress.  Christianity didn’t, Judaism didn’t.  No, it took secular democracy to create this change.  If Islam can’t change the society it belongs to by making it better off, then what the heck is Islam good for?
    One last point – Don’t get too hung up on women’s rights.  Social progress comes in many forms.  Here is a partial list of human progress that Islam did not accomplish, although it may have contributed to indirectly:
    Hobbs’ Leviathan
    The separation of powers in government
    Trial by Jury
    An evidence-based system of justice
    The medical model
    Germ theory
    Atomic theory
    The scientific method
    Replaceable parts.
     
    I can go on all day.  If “Allah” had inspired ONE of these innovations, then I would give credit for inspiration (probably not divine inspiration, but inspiration none-the less).  But as far as I can tell (and again, set me straight here), all Islam has done is create stable society, communalism and ritualized behaviors that build solidarity.  These are very nice things, but hey, lots of societies can boast these things.   And look at the price you pay:  The silencing of dissent, death to apostates, the oppression of women, genital mutilation, suicide bombs etc. etc.  These outcomes are not inevitable consequences of Islamic beliefs, but there definitely is a logical pathway from Islamic belief to these behaviors.
     

    Reply

    1. 1)  I am not a Muslim.  Just FYI.  I’d hate you to think you were debating a Muslim when, in reality, you are not.  Shocked?  You shouldn’t be.  One can study a religion objectively and openly without converting.  I’m still trying to figure out why you haven’t stopped arguing from your cultural biases against Islam and started studying the religion so you can argue these issues objectively.
      2)  It’s not from the Qur’an, it’s a Hadith.
      3)  Most of the misogyny in various Muslim cultures come from the cultures themselves, and not from the Qur’an or the Ahadith (that’s plural for Hadith).  A good example of this is the stigma attached to divorced women in Pakistan.  This is a cultural practice leftover from Hinduism, and is opposite of what Muhammad said.  Another example is the law passed in Afghanistan that allows a man to starve his wife if she refuses to have sex with him.  This is 100% against the Qur’an.  If a Muslim’s wife refuses to have sex with him, the only recourse he has is to divorce her and pay the agreed upon alimony.  Spousal rape and neglect of the wife are both prohibited by the Qur’an.
      4)  Prior to Islam, the father had 100% rights to choose who married his daughter.  Mohammed stated in this Hadith that, while the daughter should try to abide by her father’s wishes (honor thy father), if she ultimately did not want to marry then she should not be forced.  But this isn’t that far removed from American culture.  My Aunt was married in 1991, and her fiance came and asked her father for permission to marry her.  Her father also walked my Aunt down the aisle.  Does this mean my Aunt is my grandfather’s property, and he could choose to marry her to whomever he wants?  No, absolutely not.   But his opinion did matter a lot to my Aunt and Uncle, despite the fact that his daughter was 28 years old, had her bachelor’s degree, and was living by herself for over 5 years.
      5)  I don’t understand why you think modern standards of human rights should apply to the past.  Look, the average lifespan was 35 years — and that’s for both men and women.  Female life span is often a lot shorter than male life span, at least before proper birthing techniques and infection control were discovered.  If you made all the women in 7th century Saudi Arabia wait until they were 18 years old to get married and start having babies, you’d experience a sharp decline in population, so much that the entire cultural group would be at risk of disappearing.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Now the worldwide average lifespan is over 60 years, so if a woman (such as myself) is 31 and has no children it’s not a big deal.  I still have at least 4 more years of good, fertile years in front of me, and another 5 years that are reasonably acceptable.  But if I were 31 years old with no children in Muhammad’s time, I’d be an old maid.
      Also, Mohammed had 9 wives.  Only one of these wives would be considered a child by today’s standards.  Mohammed married divorced women, widows, and I think a Christian and a Jew as well.  He has given the example to the men in Islam that young virgins are not the only women who make good wives.  Prior to his time, divorced women and widows were very unlikely to become remarried and often were forced into prostitution.
      6)  Islam did not create Feminism and Women’s rights.  However, Mohammed’s teachings gave women more rights than they had before him.  That is called “progression”.  It doesn’t happen over night.  It doesn’t matter if a lot of the things that happened during and after his time were not at the modern standards of Human Rights.  It was a series of steps in the right direction towards viewing women as people instead of as property.  Jesus also did this during his time on this planet.  These statements hold true whether you believe Jesus and Mohammed to be mere men or religious figures.

      Reply

    2. One more thing.  Muslims do not believe in original sin.  This goes against their entire set of beliefs.  Muslims believe that Allah made man and woman from the same soul (notice woman is not made from man in their beliefs) and that Satan is to blame for the sin, not Adam or Eve.
      You can’t look at Islam correctly if you are ascribing misogynistic teachings from Judaism/Christianity to Islam.

      Reply

  22. Just some general info——
    The sceince of historical-critical method of anaylzing and classifying history and historical documents was invented by Muslims—-(a necessity because Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) was the most documented Prophet and Muslims needed to sort through this mass of Data and anaylyze its accuracy)
    The Modern Scientific Method–that is—to have a hypothesis, and test it using observation and experimentation, and collect data was invented by Ibn Haytham 965 CE—he also invented the (modern)”Laboratory” where such experiments took place.
    Many of the tools and equipment used in todays labs were invented by Abu Jeber(Latin name Geber–721-815 —Chemistry) and Ibn Sina(Latin name Avicena–medicine among other fields)
    Al-Kwarizmi–father of the scientific method in obervable astronomy
    Al-Tusi–(1201–1274) wrote about planetary motion and invented the Tusi-couple later used by Copernicus. 
    Al-Shatir-(1304-1375)-developed the heliocentric model–which was proposed by Abu Mashar Al Balki(Latin name Albumaser–9th Century)
    Al-Biruni—discovered planetary gravity.
    Many of the “enlightenment” thinkers such a Lock and others were influenced by the writings of Muslim philosophers such as Averroes, Avicenna and Al-Gazzali. The concepts of governance developed in France and U.S. owe a lot to Muslims.
    There is so much MORE about Muslim contributions, inventions and advances………..do your research

    The collossal ignorance of some, while amusing for a while, can get extremely tedious.

    Gotta run….
    ……….might answer susac some other time……..

    Reply

  23. Joycelyn,

    Good info.  thanks for setting me straight.

    Islam did not create Feminism and Women’s rights.  However, Mohammed’s teachings gave women more rights than they had before him.  That is called “progression”.  It doesn’t happen over night.  It doesn’t matter if a lot of the things that happened during and after his time were not at the modern standards of Human Rights.  It was a series of steps in the right direction towards viewing women as people instead of as property.  Jesus also did this during his time on this planet.  These statements hold true whether you believe Jesus and Mohammed to be mere men or religious figures.

    See, now I would strongly agree with this statement.  Incremental progress is the norm when it comes to social change.  The point where I part company with Muslims is that calling a form of progress “divinely inspired” only undermines it’s validity in my opinion.

    If you have to point to invisible supernatural beings in order to get validity for your moral arguements, they are weak arguements IMO.

    My main point is not “Islam is all bad.”  My main point is that if the Quran really is the divine word of the creator of the universe, why aren’t we all in agreement that this is true, and why aren’t we all living in a deity-inspired paradise?

    The REALITY of the situation is EXACTLY what you would expect if the Quran is just another book, and if Islam is just another religion – Cultures that practice Islam are not markedly better off than one’s that don’t, social progress from Islam is NOT sweeping the planet.

    Instead we see a 7th century man offering very ordinary 7th century social progress by claiming divinity for his ideas.

    This is no more than Aristotle accomplished, and his ideas lasted because of the value of the ideas, not because of their claim to divinity.

    If Muhammad flew out of the clouds on his winged horse and started telling me the sky is orange with purple polka-dots, his access to the divine authority of allah would not make the sky ornage with purple polka dot’s.  The truth is the truth, whether it is spoken by a prophet or a pedophile.

    The reaction you get by calling Muhammad a pedophile just shows how much Muslims care about the authority of the speaker and not the truth of his words.

    Joycelyn,

    Good info.  thanks for setting me straight.

    Islam did not create Feminism and Women’s rights.  However, Mohammed’s teachings gave women more rights than they had before him.  That is called “progression”.  It doesn’t happen over night.  It doesn’t matter if a lot of the things that happened during and after his time were not at the modern standards of Human Rights.  It was a series of steps in the right direction towards viewing women as people instead of as property.  Jesus also did this during his time on this planet.  These statements hold true whether you believe Jesus and Mohammed to be mere men or religious figures.

    See, now I would strongly agree with this statement.  Incremental progress is the norm when it comes to social change.  One of the points where I part company with Muslims is that calling a form of progress “divinely inspired” only undermines its validity in my opinion.

    If you have to point to invisible supernatural beings in order to get validity for your arguments, they are weak arguments IMO.

    My main point is not “Islam is all bad.”  My main point is that if the Quran really is the divine word of the creator of the universe, why aren’t we all in agreement that this is true, and why aren’t we all living in a deity-inspired paradise?  You would think the creator of the universe could communicate better than that.

    On the other hand, the REALITY of the situation is EXACTLY what you would expect if the Quran is just another book, and if Islam is just another religion – Cultures that practice Islam are not markedly better off than one’s that don’t, social progress from Islam is NOT sweeping the planet.

    Instead we see a 7th century man offering very ordinary 7th century social progress by claiming divinity for his ideas.  This is no more than Aristotle accomplished, and Aristotle’s ideas lasted because of the value of the ideas, not because of their claim to divinity.

    If Muhammad flew out of the clouds on his winged horse today and started telling me the sky is orange with purple polka-dots, his access to the divine authority of Allah would not make the sky orange with purple polka dots.  The truth is the truth, whether it is spoken by a prophet or a pedophile.

    The reaction you get by calling Muhammad a pedophile just shows how much Muslims care about the authority of the speaker and not the truth of his words. 
     
     
    Kat.  Again, thanks for setting me straight.  I certainly don’t claim to know everything.  But that said, Muhammad didn’t invent science did he?  Ibn Haytham’s contribution is impressive, but so was Newton’s.  No one says that Christ developed the theory of Gravity though.

    Change of subject, kat, but you seem like you know your history so I’ll ask you this:

    I understand that Muslim culture once had a wonderful intellectual flowering.

    What do you think happened to the Arabic world?  Why didn’t they take it further?

    It seems to me that at some point the Persian (?) empire was just kicking the butt’s of us white folks in the science and engineering department, and they dropped the ball.  Why?  Was it conquest?  Did religion play a role in the decline?

    I have heard that argument – that where religion goes ignorance follows, but I don’t totally buy that – it’s too simple.

    So what do you think – why did Europeans get the upper hand in the long run?  Why did we have Newton and you guys didn’t?

     
     

    Reply

    1. Actually, Newton was a devout Christian and he was trying to understand God better through his mathematical and scientific studies.
      “Newton also wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, whose decipherment was essential, he thought, to the understanding of God. . . . He possessed a deep religious sense, venerated the Bible and accepted its account of creation. In late editions of his scientific works he expressed a strong sense of God’s providential role in nature.  http://www.newton.ac.uk/newtlife.html
      What I fail to understand is this:  Why does it matter to you if someone believes the Qur’an is the most perfect words of Allah, the only omniscient being responsible for this world?  It doesn’t matter to me if you are an atheist and believe we are here merely by chance.  It doesn’t matter to me if you are a Christian and you believe Jesus is the Son of God.  I still believe you are wrong in either situation, but this is your life and you have the right to believe what you want.  So why come here and start debates with people over Islam?  You’re not going to change their minds.  Is there any possibility we can change yours?  No.  Only you can change your own mind.

      Reply

  24. Yes, Muslims did have an “intellectual flowering”—their achievements were built on work of previous scholars of China, India, Greece and Egypt—also, In what is referred to as the “Golden Age”, (Early)Eastern Christians and Jewish Scholars also played a part. (btw, Neither Judaism, nor Early Eastern Christianity has/had the concept of “Original Sin”—it is a Roman/Western Christian understanding.)
    So what does this “human endeavor” have to do with Islam? The Quran says that ALL knowledge is from God, not just religious knowledge. That Wisdom and Guidance has been sent to all Human beings (not just the Arabs) and that we have been created with (God-given) intelligence so that we can use it to reason and understand. Thus, we will be able to use our (God-given)free-will to have good intentions that create good actions for the benefit of all of God’s creations. The message of the Quran is one of empowerment—it gives us hope that if we make an effort, we can create a world of peace and harmony, one based on the values of Equality, Justice and Brotherhood/Sisterhood. One where freedoms are balanced with responsibilities.

    Much of the bloodshed in the “modern era” has been caused by “democracies”. Both Muslims and Non-Muslims have a long way to go to create a better world. –But we can get there, either by trial and error, or by following the Guidance and Wisdom given to all of us.
    During the Golden Age, People took the advice of the Quran and of the Prophet(pbuh) to pursue knowledge wherever it be found.  They took this knowledge and advanced it. –So if religion propelled this intellectual thirst—what happened?  Ego. —the egoic concept—that knowledge is only for the “elite”. —control of “knowledge” gave power to those who had knowledge over those who did not.

    The Iraq war is a good example of EGO, how democratic governments control information in the name of “security” so that they can manufacture false information that can play on peoples emotions in order to control them.—As Tony Blair said—if not the WMD, he would have come up with something else to invade Iraq.

    So what are the principles in the Quran that would help with this problem of Governance ? and Ego?
    —I am going to simplify it–for those interested, they can study it in-depth themselves—Everyone (men and women) are created equal, and they have free-will which comes with responsibilty. A chosen leader is responsible for the welfare and safety of the people he/she  governs. When people chose to follow a leader, they are responsible for what the leader does in their name. Both parties the governer and the governed, must actively participate in their societies to create this balance. They are both responsible for upholding the agreed upon values (ethics /morals). (—the pursuit of knowledge can help with this responsibility)
    Ego—the weakness of human nature—How do we learn to manage it? In Islam, the 5 pillars guide us in a wholistic way to learn how to manage ego. From charity, we learn and practice compassion and sympathy. By acknowleding the needs of others we learn humanity. Fasting makes us aware of our own egoic desires (hunger, thirst, anger, intimacy….etc) . With a clearer awareness of ego, we can learn to manage it. It opens our hearts to empathy for others and can help diminish attachment to self/ego.  Hajj—takes everything a step further–it puts all the things together so that we are aware of ourselves as part of one humanity, that we are brothers and sisters of one another. The values of respect, justice, compassion and mercy help us create a balanced interaction with the each other. All of this is based on the foundation of Tawheed—The Unity of God–from which all other principles form. When our intentions and actions are “God-centered”–we move away from the “self”/ego—we are not “self-centered”.  5 prayers help to create this God-centeredness/God-awareness (Taqwa) in our daily lives.
    It is not religion that holds us back, we ourselves fail us. —-Communism is proof—even without God, we did a lousy job.
    Yet, we have it in us to accomplish the extraordinary, if we so choose. The Prophet(pbuh) is a shining example of how an ordinary human being can accomplish the extraordinary with God’s help.  He brought peace, unity and justice to a bloody, divided and warring landscape.

    The Quran—is not the “sayings/teachings” of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh). It is a GUIDE to all human beings. We are all free to follow in its guidance or not (free-will). The Quran has value because its principles/wisdom are universal and timeless. The Quran shows us “the way”—the way to fully achieve the noble purpose for which we were created—which is, —to have good intentions that create good actions for the benefit of all of God’s creation. 

    Lao tzu (Taoism) says–
    In the Beginning was the Tao, All things issue from it, All things return to it.
    Confucious shows us “they way” through his Golden rule—What one does not wish for oneself, one aught not to do to anyone else, what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one aught to be willing to grant to others.
    Buddha shows us the way through his philosophy of the “middle way” —of creating harmony through balance.
    The Vedas(Ancient Indian texts) say–“the truth is one, the wise call it by many names”
    ….So why follow the Quran?—because the Quran completes them all.  Don’t take my word for it—go study them all yourself.

    Reply

  25. Actually, Newton was a devout Christian and he was trying to understand God better through his mathematical and scientific studies.
    “Newton also wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, whose decipherment was essential, he thought, to the understanding of God. . . . He possessed a deep religious sense, venerated the Bible and accepted its account of creation. In late editions of his scientific works he expressed a strong sense of God’s providential role in nature.  http://www.newton.ac.uk/newtlife.html

     
    All true, but the part of Newton’s work that actually mattered was his physics, his calculus and his optics.  The fact that Newton also embraced alchemy, Christianity and other magical and religious ideas is not the part of his work that history finds impressive.  What’s more, his Christian ideology might have motivated him, but he had to leave it at the door when it actually came to figuring out the truth of how things worked.  He didn’t read the truth from the bible, he deciphered it from the evidence.  True knowledge doesn’t require faith.
     

    What I fail to understand is this:  Why does it matter to you if someone believes the Qur’an is the most perfect words of Allah, the only omniscient being responsible for this world?
    Because Science will fly you to the moon, and religion will fly you into a skyscraper. 
    Because 99% of the books burned over the centuries were burned for religious reasons.
    Because belief in magic is the endorsement of ignorance.
    Because faith has caused so very much suffering in the world and it continues to do so today.
     
    In short, I care because I love my fellow humans, and I fear that your beliefs will condemn us to darkness and ignorance.
     
     
    Let me give you some examples:
    In Nigeria, RIGHT NOW, Pentecostal ministers are labeling children as witches and their parents are beating them, killing them, abandoning them, dousing them with acid and lighting them on fire.  Their PARENTS are doing this.  Why?  Because of faith.  People who believe in magic and religion can be made to do almost anything by evil men.  For this reason, I have decided to speak out against magical thinking.
     
    Of course there is my friend who can’t get her book published because Muslims in London might burn the publishing house for speaking bad about the prophet.   And of course there is Salomon Rushdie, and Ayan Hershi Ali who both fear for their lives every day for their apostasy.  And there are the uncounted books that have been burned throughout the ages because they spoke of heretical ideas.
     
    Belief in Allah has VERY REAL political consequences in the world.  I live in the world.  As an atheist, it’s the only world I’ve got.  I hold myself personally responsible for taking care of it.  My fellow humans are my tribe.  I love my tribe.  I want to protect my tribe.  The trouble is, it’s hard to protect my people from those amongst us who feel that their personal right to ignorance and superstition trumps the welfare of all other human beings.
     
    But THAT”S what faith does to people, it makes you ignorant and tells you that belief without evidence is a good thing.
     
    I also care because I have an enormous respect for the power of the theory of evolution, and I believe that understanding the truth of who we are is our best chance at survival.  The theory of evolution proves that Genesis is a myth.  Humans are NOT born in original sin.  Our “evil” behavior is with us because we are a species of ape who has evolved moral intuitions to help us cooperate in addition to our capacity for predator/prey relationships.
     
    Your false ideology competes in the marketplace of ideas with this great truth.  I care because evidence-based reasoning is knowledge and divine revelation is ignorance.
     
    The message of the Quran is one of empowerment—it gives us hope that if we make an effort, we can create a world of peace and harmony, one based on the values of Equality, Justice and Brotherhood/Sisterhood. One where freedoms are balanced with responsibilities.
    That sounds nice, but the fact remains that the human beings can’t even make sense of the Quran in such a way that they can agree to stop killing each other.  If it’s message is such a powerful tool for goodness, why are the most frequent targets of Muslim oppression other Muslims?  Wait, wait don’t’ tell me – it’s because human beings are flawed right?  See now that’s a BS answer – the IDEOLOGY of Islam is flawed.  I know this because if it really was the word of Allah, it would do a better job of taking the reality of human nature into account.
     
    I have a holiday door decoration at work that reads:
    “It is only by accepting the truth of who we are that we can create peace on earth and good will toward all human kind”
     
    I believe that the greatest project of man is the study of man.  I believe this because I believe that by understanding the TRUTH of human nature we can do a better job of designing a society that “gives us hope that if we make an effort, we can create a world of peace and harmony, one based on the values of Equality, Justice and Brotherhood/Sisterhood. One where freedoms are balanced with responsibilities.”
    You can’t get there by believing in supernatural agents.  Why?  Because belief in supernatural agents REQUIRES you to LIE to yourself.
     
    You believe that the Quran is the word of Allah and that Muhammad was his last prophet, right?
     
    But this is not knowledge.  This is not truth.
     
    The truth is that you believe these things because someone told you them and you decided to believe them.  No one gave you a logical poof of these ideas.  It is a lie to say that they did.
    The following statements are true:
    Where did the universe come from – I don’t know, and neither do you.
    Why are we conscious?  – I don’t know, and neither do you,  but we can say that consciousness has a lot to do with our bodies, because as our bodies change so does our consciousness.
    What happens when you die – I don’t know, and neither do you.
     
    The existential truth of these statements is absolute.  You can only lie to yourself and pretend to know stuff that you don’t.  The LIE of islam is that you know there is a God, that you know there is a hell that you know there is a heaven.
     
    Then you go and base your morality on  this lie.  You build a whole mythology around the lie.  You work like hell to cover up the lie and you get political power out of the lie and use it to protect the lie.  And then you called it “religious knowledge.”
     
    During the Golden Age, People took the advice of the Quran and of the Prophet(pbuh) to pursue knowledge wherever it be found.  They took this knowledge and advanced it. –So if religion propelled this intellectual thirst—what happened?  Ego. —the egoic concept—that knowledge is only for the “elite”. —control of “knowledge” gave power to those who had knowledge over those who did not.
     
    You know, I get that.  Letting go of Ego is a wonderful thing.  It’s also hard to do.  I REALLY don’t think you get there by faith though.  I don’t think that belief in an authority leads to the relinquishment of ego.  In fact, all it does is concentrate political power into the hands (ego?) of the authority.  See what it did for those kids in Nigeria for example.
     
    I think that this story of the “Golden Age” is an Islamocentric view.  I’ll bet that religious ignorance, book burning and the destruction of graven images had a lot to do with the decline of Arabic civilization.  Look at the Taliban and their destruction of the Buddhas in Afganistan.  If this is not religiously motivated barbarism, what would you call it?
     
    Much of the bloodshed in the “modern era” has been caused by “democracies”. Both Muslims and Non-Muslims have a long way to go to create a better world. –But we can get there, either by trial and error, or by following the Guidance and Wisdom given to all of us.
    I’ll take trial and error thank you very much.  I don’t see the “Guidance and Wisdom” of Allah doing much to make the world a better place, quite the contrary.  You know, people like to trash-talk the secular regimes of the 20th century, and with good reason.  But there is one thing you can say for them – they were mistakes.  They were not divinely inspired dogmas.  They were the mistakes of ordinary human beings and as such we can learn from them and do better.  I think that we ARE doing better.  We have learned to stop trying to build utopias. 
     
    But religion is not like that is it?  You have the word of Allah, and no one can convince you that any part of it is a mistake.
    Take this video by Dr. Zakir Naik: 


    It basically explains that all non-Muslim faiths are wrong, and should get second-class status.  Sounds like Ego to me.
     
     In Islam, the 5 pillars guide us in a wholistic way to learn how to manage ego.
    See, now to me, it seems like a way of losing oneself in conformity rather than a way of “relinquishing ego.”  But honestly, I’m sure I can’t say, since I’m an outsider.  The 5 pillars don’t bother me.  It’s really only pillar #1 that I have an issue with. 
     
    The Quran—is not the “sayings/teachings” of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). It is a GUIDE to all human beings. We are all free to follow in its guidance or not (free-will).
    Yes, but those who don’t get to burn in hell for all eternity, so really, how free is that?
     
    Lao tzu (Taoism) says…So why follow the Quran?—because the Quran completes them all.  Don’t take my word for it—go study them all yourself.
    Are you kidding me?  EACH of these philosophical and religious traditions is a whole ideology unto itself.  The Quran doesn’t “complete” anything other than itself.  You have simply been brain-washed into thinking that your magical book is superior to all the other magical books written throughout history.
    This statement actually goes to another issue that is simply HORRIBLE about Islam – because Muhammad is the “Last Prophet of Allah” that means that there will always be batshit crazy Muslim extremists who think that all other knowledge is heresy and that there is no other progress to be made in religious, spiritual or psychological areas of study.  THIS IS WHY people burn books BTW.
    I’m not saying that you guys on this blog are like this, but you KNOW that there are lunatic fringe groups out there who are JUST ACHING to set the local library on fire because of this stupid idea.  It’s bad enough that Muhammad used God as his sock puppet, what makes it worse is that he had to lock in his power base by asserting that all other future knowledge is by definition false knowledge.
    How freaking horrible!
     
     

    Reply

    1. But you also are someone hanging on to faith.  You are using science to justify your religious beliefs.  You believe in no God.  Science can never answer whether or not there is a god, because science doesn’t ask those kind of questions.  From an Anthropological perspective, you have justified your “faith” in no god by use of science, which makes science your religious belief.  I’m not saying this is wrong — these are your beliefs and you are allowed to have them and believe in whatever you want — but this is not the intention of science.
      So I guess my point is that you suffer from the same affliction as those you despise — faith.

      Reply

  26. Not so.  A lack of belief is not a belief in a lack.

    Faith is belief without evidence. 
    You don’t know if there is a God or not and neither do I. 

    The difference is that I use my uncertainty as a foundation for knowledge.  I know that I am uncertain.

    Faith denies uncertainty and pretends to know things that no one can know.  Faith offers false certainty.

    Then it kills people in the name of that certainty.

    Reply

  27. People of faith are always claiming that atheism is another form of faith.  This displays a lack of imagination, IMO.

    Atheism is not based on belief.  It’s based on a radical epistemology.  I say “radical” because it is not popular, but really once you understand that the learning can only begin when you get honest about what you do and don’t know, Atheism really becomes a moral imperative.

    I hold myself personally responsible for embracing the truth, whether or not I like it.  And the truth is that I don’t’ know if there is a God but I see no reason to believe that there is. 

    And since I don’t know, I can see no reason to believe that you, or Muhammad, or Jesus, or Abraham knew anything I don’t.  What I do know is that NONE of you can clearly communicate your “knowledge” of God unless I FIRST ASSUME THAT GOD EXISTS.  If I do not make that assumption, your entire worldview becomes a bunch of fairy tales.

    And so it is.

    It’s just a bunch of fairy tales. 

    Human beings make up stories to explain the unknown.  It’s kind of endearing, really.

    But don’t’ let those stories get in the way of knowledge.  When the evidence shows that the story is wrong, get rid of the story.

    When the evidence shows that there is no reason to believe the story, admit that and call it a fairy tale.

    By the definitions that I have just suggested, the story that Muhammad was a Prophet of Allah is a fairy tale – there is no evidence to support it.

    That’s the truth.

    Reply

  28. Words may have different meanings for different people, I think this one fits Islam—“Faith, without the light of reason and science, degenerates into mere superstition”.

    You can say all you want that the Quran is not Guidance from God–You have a right to your opinion—as I have to mine.  The Quran uses logical and reasonable arguments to make its points. Therefore, I believe that there is One God. Your arguments otherwise are not convincing.

    What condemns people to darkness and ignorance is fear of knowledge.  All knowledge is from God, it is neither good nor bad—just is—How we use it makes it good or bad. It is our responsibilty to use it for the benefit of all of God’s creation. We have  free-will and the intelligence to use it—if we decide to use it for harm, we will be held accountable for our decision.

    If you choose to be ignorant about spirituality–that’s fine by me—just don’t try to drag me down to your level of ignorance—I’m happy where I”m at and intend to improve.

    mistakes—Ofcourse human beings make mistakes—that is why God, who is Compassionate and Merciful, has given us guidance. We can choose to be guided by Wisdom or refuse it.———and I have chosen my way.
     
    This is wisdom from Lao Tzu—
    Knowing others is intelligence;
    Knowing self is enlightenment.
    Conquring others is power;
    Conquring self is strength.

    Reply

  29. “And since I don’t know, I can see no reason to believe that you, or Muhammad, or Jesus, or Abraham knew anything I don’t.  What I do know is that NONE of you can clearly communicate your “knowledge” of God unless I FIRST ASSUME THAT GOD EXISTS.  ”
    —Finally!!!!, you say something that is intelligent! and that is what everyone has been trying to explain.(Prophet Moses (pbuh), Jesus Christ(pbuh)… and others) —–GOD cannot be confined/communicated with words/language. Spirituality is to be experienced. How? Lao tzu explains—
    Since before time and space were,
     Tao is,
    It is beyond “is” and “is not”.
    How do I know this is true?
    I look inside myself and see.

    …and “looking inside oneself”—is what religion/Wisdom is about.  In the end, connecting with the Divine is a deeply personal experience.

    Spirituality is embedded in our nature. Connection with the Divine has been an age-old quest of human beings. Lao tzu says “Love of the Tao is in the very nature of things”—all creation is of this “nature”.

    Al-Gazzali divides our “knowing”(intellect) into 2 catagories. One way to “know” is through the use of intelligence and reason. We observe and experiment and collect, analyse and process data. But there is also another way we understand our human experience—through instinct/intuition.  Data can only take you so far—-it needs to be interpreted. To understand, make sense, and inform our human experience—we use both these intellectual faculties.

    —you may want to try it sometime. 

    Just becuase you don’t know something, does not mean others don’t know. —-it just means you have a lot to learn.

    To connect with the Divine, one has to know “self”, to know “self” is to understand human nature, understanding human nature promotes compassion and justice, promoting compassion and justice creates balance and harmony. All nature is created in balance and harmony, when we align with “nature” we find peace—when we find peace, we connect with the Divine.

    —Spirituality simplified.

    Reply

  30. OK, Kat, this is good, I feel like we are working toward a meeting of minds here.
     
    As usual I have several responses to your last post.  First off, nice quote from Lao tzu. 
    …and “looking inside oneself”—is what religion/Wisdom is about.  In the end, connecting with the Divine is a deeply personal experience.
     
    See, now I have total respect for this idea.  Religion is not useless to me.  My observation is that human experience is highly malleable.  That is to say,  I can use lots and lots of techniques to alter my experience.  Not only that, but I can use lots and lots of techniques to gain insight ABOUT my experiences.  One of the most powerful, and most tried-and-true techniques is religion; or more precisely, mysticism – the personal exploration of one’s relationship with the divine.
     
    The problem is most religious people, and especially most people who follow the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not willing to stop with personal relationship.  They tend to feel compelled to convert the world.  One of the main reasons for this is because the mythology of their religion has such a grip on their psychology that they are unable to tell whether or not they are using their imaginations in deciding what is true.  As a result they try to impose the will of Allah on the world through coercion, political influence etc.
     
    The thing is, science is getting better and better at explaining both human nature and the nature of consciousness, and it is even getting better at understanding the nature of intuition.
     
    These areas of knowledge have long been the realm of religion and mysticism, but these scientific insights about human nature are encroaching into the realm of religion.
     
    For example, one theory that psychology has developed is the computational theory of the mind.  According to this theory, human intuition is at least partly composed of a complex series of associative connections that are hard wired into the human brain through the application of experience.  In addition, your experience of the world is NOT the world.  ALL experience is a product of brain activity.  Because of this it is ONLY brain activity that EVER gives rise to experience.
     
    Consider the implications of this for religion – religion is a social practice that is specifically designed to evoke certain experiences for the practitioner.  Religious practitioners use several tools in shaping their experience.  These include mythology, prayer, hypnosis, meditation, group conformity, & rituals to name a few.  These practices have been designed through trial and error to elicit specific states of mind in the practitioners.  The fact that these practices are labeled “divinely inspired” probably adds to their effectiveness – faith is a hypnotic induction that is literally improving the effectiveness of these behaviors in evoking the desired experiences.
     
    Frankly I find this very cool and fascinating, but I do have some problems with it, the main one being that in order for these hypnotic inductions to work you have to take your mythology seriously, and in point of fact MANY of the mythologies of the religions are wrong.  In polite company in the west, it has become fashionable to say “you have your reality and I have mine,” but this is a cop-out.  The world is not flat (as the bible implies), the story of Genesis never happened – Allah did not make us – evolution did, and if Allah used evolution to make us, he’s a real Jerk, because evolution is a nasty, bloody process.
     
    These findings of science have always been opposed by people of faith, precisely because they interfere with the social/cultural/moral identity of the practitioners of the religion.  In other words, because the truth hurts.  Once again, I have to ask – if your religion doesn’t help you deal with the truth, what good is it?
     
    The second big issue I have with religion is the issue of morality.  All religions offer moral teachings, and frankly I think this is great.  The problem is, that the nature of faith is such that there is always at least a sub-culture that says “we have the one true morality and all must bow to our will.”  This is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that causes airplanes to crash into skyscrapers.  The 9/11 hijackers were not immoral men, quite the opposite.  They were acting out of the highest moral principals available to them.  It is only the distorted reasoning of faith that can make people this crazy.  As the saying goes:
     
    Good people will do good things with or without religion
    Evil people will do evil things with or without religion
    But to get good people to do evil things, for that you NEED religion!
     
    Human morality is psychological process that we evolved as a tool for behaving as a social species.  This evolutionary view is well supported by the evidence, and it explains why a wide range of cultures can all operate on different moral systems, with different mythological systems and still function as societies.  In other words, it explains why even people who have never HEARD of Muhammad do perfectly well in creating a happy, healthy and prosperous society, thank you very much.
    To connect with the Divine, one has to know “self”, to know “self” is to understand human nature, understanding human nature promotes compassion and justice, promoting compassion and justice creates balance and harmony. All nature is created in balance and harmony, when we align with “nature” we find peace—when we find peace, we connect with the Divine.
    —Spirituality simplified.
     
    Well that’s a great sentiment, but the truth is that the “self” is a species of ape and that as a species of ape I also have motivation toward violence and aggression, lust, cheating, addiction, self-indulgence etc. etc.  These things are part of me because they helped my ancestors survive to pass on their genes.  They are NOT “bad” parts of me – but they are parts of me that I have to be careful of, because they can destroy my relationship with my fellow human beings, and I have ALSO inherited the capacity to love, form community and engage in moral reasoning because of my evolutionary heritage.  So this is the “self” that I am working on knowing.  And frankly, I think it’s fantastic.
     
    But note that there is no magical invisible man in this statement.
     
    Just becuase you don’t know something, does not mean others don’t know. —-it just means you have a lot to learn.
     
    Yes, that is true, but as applied here, you are missing my point.  It’s not that Muhammad could not have known things that I don’t (I’m sure he did – that’s really no accomplishment).  It’s that he laid claims to knowledge that he had no way of knowing.  Because human experience is a product of the brain, there is NO WAY to differentiate between the “word of Allah” and a hallucination.  I am a licensed mental health counselor.  I have spent the last 20 years talking to people who speak to god and god talks back.  It’s called schizophrenia.
    Now I’m not suggesting that Muhammad was a schizophrenic, person, but I want to offer three other hypotheses:
    1)       He was a liar
    2)      He was so hypnotized by his religious devotion that he managed to generate experience that he honestly believed was an angel talking to him.
    3)      He was having a right temporal lobe seizure – this is a medical condition that is known to cause intense religious experiences.
    All of these experiences are well documented in medical and legal journals, and given that we have a natural explanation for these events, why do we need to accept a supernatural one?
     
    This sort of empirical, materialistic approach to religious experience is perfectly capable of explaining the existence of Islam (and all religions) and it completely destroys any need for supernatural agency in the process.
     
    And you know, I really think that this is a good thing.  The wisdom of Islam (and all other religions) is NOT in its supernaturalism.  It’s in its devotion to a systematic approach to morality, compassion and reason.  It is also in its approach to using ritual and community to create experiences that build character.  I would like to see a future in which the whole human race accepts those good parts and throws out the BS.  I really would.  The problem is that people of faith get so damned attached to their mythologies.  The idea that Allah inspired the Quran is so freaking important to Muslims that they are willing to die and kill over that idea.  It’s a stupid idea.  As I said before – the truth is the truth no matter who speaks it.  If the truth is strong, it doesn’t need the authority of Allah to back it up.
     
    “It is only by accepting the truth of who we are that we will be able to create peace on earth and good will toward all human kind.”   – I wrote this and I mean it.
     
    The mythology of Islam is in the way of this goal.  The wisdom of Islam is not.
     

    Reply

  31. “Religious people want to convert the world”—-and how are your sentiments any different?—-you wrote—“In short, I care because I love my fellow humans, and I fear that your beliefs will condemn us to darkness and ignorance.” 
    —and just to let you know—I’m a religious person who is not interested in converting anyone—-I am willing to share knowledge—but your spiritual journey is your own.—and that isn’t a cop-out—its a fact.

    Impose the will of Allah(swt)—Spirituality cannot be forced—Which is why the Quran tells Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) that he is only to remind people of the Message/Guidance. That is why the “state of Islam”(submission) must be entered into voluntarily—a person decides of his own free-will to align himself with God’s will (or as we Easterners say—become one with nature). One can only force the rituals of a religion onto someone—not the spirituality.—-that is why, every born Muslim child—must at some point voluntarily choose Islam(submission)—their parents can only take them so far—the journey is always an individual one.

    Therefore—wanting to convert someone is a human desire—and as we have already established—even Athiests have the desire to convert others.

    Ego–is not bad—Let us say, some ego is neccessary—if we did not have the desire to eat, for example, our bodies would starve and we would die—That is why in Islam we “manage” the ego—not annihilate it.

    “Good people will do good things with or without religion
    Evil people will do evil things with or without religion
    But to get good people to do evil things, for that you NEED religion!”
    —-
    Not how I see it—Human beings are not divided into good and bad people—We all have the potential for good and bad—the descision is ours, whatever justification we use for it.—It is not religion(or God) that fails us, we fail ourselves and not taking responsibilty for our choices is the real “cop-out”.

    “there is no magical invisible man“—-Nobody is claiming a magical invisible man—where did that come from?

    Prophet Muhammed(pbuh)—God exists—for me, this is a logical conclusion. As to Prophet Muhammed’s(pbuh) state of mind—your theories are nothing new—they came up when the Prophet(pbuh) was alive and they have come up since. —if you studied the Quran (and non-Muslim scholars have)–they reject this theory on the basis of evidence (Quran) itself.  (Its subject matter, style, composition…and other factors)
    There are other more interesting theories (from a Non-Muslim perspective) That maybe the Prophet had a Rabbi as a religious teacher..etc  (Again, these theories have been thoroughly explored and not found satisfactory—-Non-Muslim scholars are waiting for other bright ideas.)

    Religions should throw out the “BS”—-As a Muslim—I can agree to that—though I would use a more polite word—“mistakes/misunderstanding”—-certainly these should be corrected. (One has to figure out what is “correct” (criteria) in order to make a correction—not a problem for Muslims)—-I would also go so far as to say–“corrections”—should be based on logic and reason rather than be arbitrary.

    “subculture”—-has nothing to do with religion—there always will be a “subculture”—but we have the intelligence (and the laws) to deal with it.

    Islam does not have a problem with Science, logic, or reason.
    —But it seems to me, Darwin may have?—I am not a scientist–and my understanding may be flawed but….. While there is nothing much wrong with his theory of evolution in its generality—I wonder— does it fit the facts as it concerns evolution of man? Genetically there are some obstacles, for example, Homo Neanderthalis is said to be different from Homo Sapeins Sapeins.(not to mention, the overlapping time spans for both) —-however, even if we ignore this and assume that they are the same line, that the ancestor of Apes and Man(Homo) was one—there is still a puzzle to solve—Darwin posits the idea of “survival of the fittest”—reason points out the possibility we are the “fittest” therefore,  Apes should not have survived, yet they have, on the other hand if we are not the “fittest”—we should not exist—However, we do, and we have built, invented, and generally changed our environment—Why havn’t the Apes?–(Both Man and Apes are the “fittest”–both having survived) —We are of the same (genetic) stock/same ancestor —-therefore, if our genetic makeup has mutated over time to create “us”—and the Apes who are also of the same stock and have had the same amount of time—are still in the jungle eating fruit.—-it seems to me, the reasonable conclusion is that there is something incorrect with the theory.  One possible explanation for this difference is ofcourse that the genetic stock/ancestor is not the same, resulting in differences we see in the evolution of Apes and Man.
    At any rate Athiest or Theist–it would be better to keep our minds open to all possibilites—-after all, science “evolves”.

    “Meeting of minds”—between a Thiest and an Athiest?—Actually, I have had the opportunity to engage with some Athiests who were reading the Quran. (They were respectful but asked tough questions) and it was a good learning experience. I came away from this experience with the understanding that though Athiests may reject a particular concept of God, they can nevertheless still be Spiritual-seekers.

    Reply

  32. Religious people want to convert the world”—-and how are your sentiments any different?
    What is different is that I am not devoted to a conclusion about what is true, I am devoted to a process of finding out what is true.  This is the difference between being dogmatic and open minded.  You have already decided there is a God, and that Muhammad is his prophet.  This is a belief, it is not knowledge.
     
    and just to let you know—I’m a religious person who is not interested in converting anyone—-I am willing to share knowledge—but your spiritual journey is your own.—and that isn’t a cop-out—its a fact.
    That’s all well and good.  In fact, this probably has a lot to do with why I am enjoying talking with you.  Not all people of faith are so reasonable. 
    So now we are getting into the philosophy of epistemology   I mean there are lots of ways of working through your self-development.  The cop-out of which I speak is that people hold ideas to be true that are not true, and then hide behind their “spiritual journey.”  Take for instance the idea that the Quran is the revealed word of Allah.  I don’t know if you believe this, but lets say that you do for the sake of argument.
    It would be a true statement to say “I believe that the Quran is the revealed word of Allah.”
    It would be a false statement to say “I know the Quran is the revealed word of Allah.”
    I consider this distinction VERY important, because I am devoted to a process of finding out what is true.  You can believe anything you like.  Personally I like to believe that there is a diamond the size of a refrigerator buried somewhere in my backyard.  I find that this belief gives me comfort.  However, I don’t KNOW that there is a diamond the size of a refrigerator buried somewhere in my backyard, and I would be lying to say that I did.  The difference between belief and knowledge is that belief is a decision that you hold to be true, and knowledge is a provisional assumption about the nature of reality.  In other words, I know that the earth revolves around the sun, but that’s only a provisional assumption.  Some other data might come along and prove that assumption to be wrong.
    It is a cop out to say “we all get to decide our own reality.”  The evidence is that this is only true to a limited degree.  If you want to believe that the world is flat, you are free to do so, but you can’t call that knowledge.
     
    Impose the will of Allah (swt)—Spirituality cannot be forced—Which is why the Quran tells Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) that he is only to remind people of the Message/Guidance. That is why the “state of Islam”(submission) must be entered into voluntarily.
    Again, I couldn’t agree more.  Would you like to see my collection of Swedish cartoons of Muhammad?  I appreciate your respect for my rights, but I also observe that many of your fellow Muslims don’t’ share that respect.  I believe that this is a function of faith.
     Nobody is claiming a magical invisible man—where did that come from?
    It came from the assumption that your concept of Allah is one that includes:
    Agency – in other words that Allah has a will and an intention.
    Personhood – in other words one can have a personal relationship with Allah.
    Gender – Allah is male.
    Most Christians believe in a personal deity who is the all knowing, all powerful, all loving creator of the universe, and that this deity has a purpose and an intention in their lives.   I see no point in pointing out the logical contradiction of this belief.  I am working on the assumption that you believe something similar to the Christians that I know.  If you don’t, please set me straight.  I am always fascinated by ideas of God.
     “subculture”—-has nothing to do with religion—there always will be a “subculture”—but we have the intelligence (and the laws) to deal with it.
    Yeah well, recently one of these subcultures managed to prop up a tyrant as the president of my country, so I’m still kind of getting over the PTSD of that experience.
    Islam does not have a problem with Science, logic, or reason.
    You know I get that actually.  I’ve been studying Islamic history a little bit, and I’m beginning to see the contribution to science and philosophy.  Very cool.
    As for Darwin, the paragraph that you offered shows that you don’t understand evolution.  I’m not trying to give you a hard time, I’m just saying.
    You appear to be thinking of evolution as a ladder.  In other words, apes evolved into man, and man is above apes, so why are there still apes?
    This assumes a progression like steps on a ladder and we are at the top of the ladder.  It also assumes that we are the “goal” of evolution.  This is not how it works.
    A better metaphor is that evolution is like a tree, but not just a tree – think of a tree where all the leaves are on the OUTSIDE of the tree (like a maple).  ALL the species alive on earth have been evolving for the same 4 billion years.  Some have changed a lot (like us) some have changed a little (like cockroaches) but all are equally “modern” because all have evolved to fill modern niches.  So if evolution is like a tree, each species is like a leaf on the tree.  Human beings are ONE of the leaves on the tree.  Chimps are a leaf next to us on the tree and we share the same branch.  Chimps are closer to us than they are to orangutans – the NEXT closes leaf.  The point where our “twig” and the chimp “twig” join together is a point 4 million years ago when we both diverged out of the same chimp-like ancestor.
    Think of dogs and wolves.  Once upon a time there were no dogs, only wolves.   Some wolves started working with humans to survive, and we began breading them.  Some dogs can breed with wolves some cannot because of size and shape.  The same thing happened with us humans and chips, but instead of a person doing the breeding, NATURE did the breeding, so that as the environment changed (and the environment is always changing), we went one way, and chips went another.  The environment that the ancestors of chimps found them-selves in hasn’t changed much, so they haven’t changed as much as we have over those 4 million years.
    Does that make sense?
    Something like 99.99% of all species that have existed are now extinct.  There is NO REASON AT ALL to believe that we will not also go extinct if we don’t get our act together.  What’s more, it is a common misconception to think that we are no longer evolving.  In fact studies have shown that as human beings have become more civilized, we have put survival pressures on EACH OTHER that have, if anything sped up the biological evolution of man.  In short, we are changing more quickly than ever.
     

    Reply

  33. Why do we continue to augue over the theories of Dawin, which  are theories and not facts?  Dawins approach took place after the world was full of evidence that minorities, which he claimed to be inferior had shown excellent skills in  science as well as technology.  His total approach was to prove that one race was superior than all others, when in fact they were behind.  His belief was that some humans were not complete in the chain of evolution. He was a racist and his theories were established upon his racist mind. Hitler was a creation of that kind of  thinking.  Racist slavaery was given an excuse for their inhuman conduct. The race that is loosing ground i.e. becoming a minority is the one he thought would survive all others. The concept of race and color differences was created by idiots like him( the real coloured people).  There has never been a proof that one species crossed over into another. Allah tells us that he taught man the ability to think as wells as indowed humans with speech. When apes begin to talk then we can look at the theories of this amature biologist Darwin differently, but this will never happen. We are living in a time when humans are trying to perserve the existance of apes. Maybe if apes would have crawled on their knees instead of walking on their feet from birth they could have learned to reason(smile). Humans move on six from birth and apes move on four before walking, how did Darwinism explain that. Research in its attempt to prove Darwin are constantly finding proofs of older forms but can not explain if the species were using their intelligence or not. Early ignorant thinkers thought the sun was rotating around the earth, this is called apparent knowledge. Darwinism is also apparent knowledge and the conclusion is made by  imposing concepts on the idea to make  the picture fit with their G’d giving ability to rationalize. They are wasting time and money looking to prove that G’d doesn’t exist. It is like searching for the shroud of Jesus or going out in space trying to find another civilization. A waste of money and time.
      The Darwinist is amazed and even to a point of gealousy when they find a creation with such order coming out of the accident which they claim broght life into existence.  They steal from the light of scripture as well as the creation of G’d to try and prove their apparent theories. It is written in the scripture that a type of mind would refuse to believe no matter what signs are brought to their mind. They are in truth liers ‘Allah says’, that doesn’t want to accept the reality of the proofs of his existence that are brought to them. This mind wants us to bring G’d to them so they can put him under a microscope. This type of mind has no sense of the spritual realm in this world because apparent knowledge doesn’t go their. As it is written in the scripture ‘ leave them to wonder to and fro like blind ones in and out of the darkness’ while they move in  small steps from the light (guidance)that they steal from G’d.

    Reply

  34. Oh gosh!
    This was SUCH an eye opener. Im just a high schooler, and when i heard this, i thought “Wow, what’s new?”
    After reading your blog, I felt like it was true. Muslims do not extend the same courtesy as they demand. Personally I hate racism. If a family member even says “Hey look at that Black kid!” i would completely bite their head off ‘cuz i dont want people to racially profile me, my family certainally doesnt, so why the heck do they do it, ya know?
    This has given me a lot to think about, and i am linking your blog to everyone I know as we speak:)

    Thanks for being so involved!

    Reply

  35. Very well written article. Excellent insight on taking stock of ourselves as Muslims. What relief to hear that when on earth are we going to take accountability of ourselves.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s