Three Examples of Cultural (Mis)Appropriation

Christianity, Islam and Canada

2019-12-03

In this blog I present three instances when a idea or a set of concepts was appropriated from an existing culture by a newly forming religious or political entity. Should we call it cultural appropriation, or cultural misappropriation?

Sommaire en français Je présente dans ce billet de blogue trois exemples d’une idée ou d’un ensemble de concepts qu’une nouvelle entité religieuse ou politique s’est approprié à partir d’une culture existante. S’agit-il d’appropriation culturelle ou de « mésappropriation » culturelle.

In a previous blog, I argued that the taboo against so-called “cultural appropriation” is irrational and harmful, because intercultural borrowing is not only very widespread—being practically the norm rather than the exception— and furthermore because it enriches human cultures and improves the general quality of life. I also suggested, in those rarer cases when such borrowing is harmful in some way to the orginating group and may thus be reasonably considered a sort of plagiarism or even theft, that the term “cultural misappropriation” be used instead. Of course, determining the category into which a particular case should be classified often leaves plenty of room for debate.

In this blog, I give three examples of borrowing where the resulting concept is so well known, so commonplace, that most people are probably unaware, or have forgotten, that any borrowing had occurred.

Christianity

It is well-known that Christianity is basically a rip-off of Judaism. I call it Judaism for ancient Greeks. The religion of the Hebrews, Judaism, was just another of countless tribal religions among various peoples of antiquity in and around the Roman Empire. It was not even a monotheism until rather late in its history, starting first as a polytheism, then evolving into a monolatry (worship of one god while recognizing the existence of many others) and finally emerging as a monotheism, where all gods were subsumed under their one god Jehovah. (This last step was a rationalization used by the defeated Hebrews to explain how the god of a rival tribe could defeat theirs—at least that is the explanation put forward by author Jean Soler to explain the origins of monotheism.)

Then along came Paul of Tarsus, a rather dysfunctional individual, especially his views on sexuality, whom Christians venerate as “Saint Paul.” Paul took an obscure Jewish reform movement and turned it into a new religion Christianity, and the rest is history. Paul was the founder of Christianity, not Jesus, because the existence of Jesus is uncertain, and even if he did exist, we know almost nothing about him. Christianity borrowed heavily from both Judaism (a large chunk of the Christian bible is lifted directly from the Hebrews) and from the religion of the ancient Greeks (for example, the concept of hell is an extension of Hades, but much worse). Of course Christianity also borrowed from Egyptian and other religions, in particular the concepts of virgin birth and the son of god.

Christians were persecuted for centuries by the Roman authorities, because their dogmatic monotheism was so intolerant that they refused to recognize the gods and authority of Rome. Constantine put an end to that persecution in the early IVth century C.E. and later that century the spectacularly intolerant Theodosius Ist made Nicene Christianity the empire’s state religion, while banning all other religions including the traditional cults of the Roman and Greek gods.

Thus, in creating the new religion of Christianity, a tribal religion was transformed into one with universalist pretentions and which persecuted anyone, regardless of ethnicity, who refused to adopt it. In particular, Jews who refused to convert to the new fashionable religion were particularly reviled, and the crucifixion story, an essential part of Christian mythology, was used as a convenient excuse for that persecution on the pretext that it was Jews who had murdered Jesus Christ. It is amusing to note that the word “pagan” is derived from the Latin “pāgānus” meaning “rural” or “rustic” (and related to “peasant”), as non-Christians were apparently considered country bumpkins not yet hip to the cool new religion of Christianity which was all the rage in urban centres of the empire.

Islam

Several centuries after the Christians plagiarized Judaism, along came Muhammad, calling himself a prophet of the one true god—indeed claiming to be the last prophet of god for all eternity! He borrowed heavily from Judaism and Christianity, the so-called religions of the Book, which he apparently envied for their scriptures which gave them an aura of wisdom and sagacity. His new religion Islam is sometimes considered to be a derivative of Arian Christianity. Arianism was a non-Nicene variant of Christianity (i.e. no trinity) which was rejected as heresy by the First Council of Nicaea, convoked by Constantine in 325.

I call Islam Judaism for Arabs. Muhammad initially attempted to convert some Jewish tribes, living in the Arabian peninsula, to his new religion, but when they refused, he had them massacred. Basically, Muhammad took two bad ideas, Judaism and Christianity, combined them and put himself at the centre of the result, which became arguably even more intolerant than the two already very intolerant source religions. The quran contains many expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment, as well as lots of misogyny and violent hostility towards unbelievers and polytheists.

Canada

According to the Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism by James Stuart Olson, “The name Canada probably is derived from the Huron-Iroquois kanata, meaning a village or a community.” So we can consider the use of the word Canada by Europeans to be a form of cultural appropriation, although a rather trivial one, as many languages borrow heavily from others. However, a far more significant form of cultural (mis)appropriation occurred centuries after Europeans overran the Americas.

Until the British conquest of New France in the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), Canada was basically just another name for New France. This territory was divided by the British into Upper and Lower Canada (« les deux Canadas ») and its inhabitants, « les Canadiens » or « Canayens », were of course mainly French-speaking and descended from settlers from France with some intermarriage with native peoples. The two Canadas were re-united by the Act of Union of 1840-1841 into a single colony known as « Canada-Uni » or the “Province of Canada” in an attempt by the British to assimilate francophones into the anglophone majority.

Then in 1867, year of Confederation, the two then became distinct provinces, Ontario and Québec, in the newly founded nation which we call Canada. By that time, only Quebec was majority French-speaking, because immigration into Upper Canada, a.k.a. Ontario, had made it mainly English-speaking. At Confederation, Canada was composed of four provinces (with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), and since then six more have been added to make ten today.

The point of this brief historical review is to explain that the name “Canada” and the adjective “Canadian” refer primarily to New France and its inhabitants, but those terms have been appropriated by the country Canada founded in 1867 in which English was and remains the dominant language. That dominance increases with each passing decade, for a variety of reasons. Thus, the word “Canadian” should properly refer to the Québécois who are the descendants of the inhabitants of New France.

Of course, that is not how things have worked out. The name “Canada” now refers to a country which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and from the Arctic islands in the north to the U.S. border in the south. Those who once referred to themselves as « Canayens » now prefer, or at least have become habituated to, the term « Québécois » and have abandoned the now quaint-sounding « Canadiens français ». However, even after all these years, the two language groups in this enlarged Canada, English and French, are still divided by some major differences in culture and values.

So, the next time you hear some Canadian ideologue complain about how Quebecers are so stubborn and backward (or worse) and fail to worship fashionable Canadian ideals such as so-called “multiculturalism” (i.e. communitarianism) or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, just remember that Canadians appropriated the term “Canada” and now, using that plagiarized name, wish to impose forcefully on Quebecers values they do not agree with. It must not be forgotten that the Charter is part of the 1982 Constitution which has never been approved by Quebec and was indeed foisted upon it against its will. If anyone gloats about the fact that Quebec is legally required to obey the Charter, what they are basically saying is that “Might Makes Right”—ethics and democracy be damned. This whole scenario reminds me of how Christians plagiarized Jews and polytheists, then vilified the former as Christ-killers and denigrated the latter as pagans.

Appropriation or Misappropriation?

Should the three cases explained above be considered appropriation or misappropriation? I think it is clear that the borrowing in each case ended up being rather harmful to those who were plagiarized. This is especially the case with Christianity and Islam, both of which have been, and often continue to be, very anti-Jewish. The final example, that of Canada, is much less extreme, but nevertheless harmful to the plagiarized Québécois. I consider all three examples to be cases of misappropriation. However, I do not think that any kind of corrective re-appropriation, for lack of a better expression, is in order. That would be akin to rewriting history. It would absurd to ban the use of the Pentateuch by Christians because they copied it from the Hebrews. It would be equally absurd to require that Muslims stop referring to Abraham and Jesus as (lesser) prophets of Islam. And it would be ridiculous to insist that the country we now know as Canada change its name.

Rewriting history, in the sense of erasing parts of it, is for fools and demagogues. What we do need to do is to remember history, to preserve it, to enrich our knowledge of it, to learn from it and to use it as one resource among many as we face the future. We can learn two lessons from the above historical considerations: (1) neither Christianity nor Islam had anything particularly original to offer; and (2) Canadians have no right to feel self-righteous and superior to the Québécois.


Next blog: Décision de la Cour d’appel du Québec, 2019-12-12

This Does NOT Promote Child Health

2019-08-16

In this blog I criticize the decision of the editors of a paediatrics journal to use a photo of a veiled girl on the journal’s cover.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je critique la décision prise par la rédaction d’une revue de pédiatrie de se servir de la photo d’une fillette voilée pour faire la couverture de cette revue.

It has come to my attention (via a tweet from Ensaf Haidar) that a recent issue (July 2019) of the academic journal Paediatrics & Child Health, Journal of the Canadian Paediatric Society, published by the Oxford University Press, featured a photograph of a young girl wearing an Islamist veil as shown in the accompanying image. (Here I use the word “Islamist” instead of “Islamic” for reasons explained in my previous blog.)

Paediatrics & Child Health, Vol. 24, #4, July 2019
Click to enlarge
Paediatrics & Child Health
Vol. 24, #4

Why would the editors of a paediatrics journal choose a photo of a veiled girl, given that the veil is a flag of an international far-right political movement? The kindest thing that can be said about this choice of cover photo is that it is airheaded fashionable nonsense. The editors have obviously fallen under the influence of the identitarian, islamophilic “left” and their centrist emulators, who are obsessed with religious minorities, especially Muslims, and therefore act as if Muslims can do no wrong, even when it is a radical fringe of fanatic Islamists who are setting the agenda, pretending (falsely) to speak for all Muslims.

Using a cover photo of veiled female of any age, as if such a phenomenon were perfectly banal and ordinary, is bad enough. After all, the Islamist agenda is to promote the veiling of females anywhere and everywhere, regardless of circumstances, with the goal of rendering the veil just that: banal and ordinary, that is to say, to normalize it, to make us forget just what a disgusting icon of women’s subjugation it is. But to use a photo of a minor, especially for a journal devoted to children’s health of all things, is inexcusable!

In my writings I have already pointed out several times that imposing the Islamist veil on a child for any extended period of time (weeks, months, years) is a form of child abuse and should be illegal. Even if the child wears the veil of her own volition, that does not change the situation: after all, we do not allow children to make their own decisions about many things, and I would suggest that wearing such a retrogressive symbol should be one of those things.

As I wrote in a previous blog discussing a similarly unacceptable photo used by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, “The consequences of wearing the veil are very serious for a young girl. There may be negative physical effects (such as Vitamin D deficiency or an impediment to the child’s normal physical activity), but the most grievous consequences are psychological and social. When the person wearing the veil is a child, the social segregation is much more serious, depriving the young girl of a normal childhood and erecting a barrier between her and other children.”

Of course I do not know the context in which the cover photo was taken. Perhaps the girl wore the veil only for the duration of a photo shoot, in which case no harm has been done to her personally. Nevertheless, the use of such a photo for a paediatrics journal remains dubious at best and arguably harmful. Indeed, it is literally unhealthy. It is an affront to children’s physical and mental health, especially the latter.

In fact, I would say that any paediatrician who accepts the long-term veiling of young girls lacks the ability to deal competently with the psychosocial development of children.


Next blog: Another Notch Lower for Canada

Summary: The Islamist Veil

2019-08-12

A summary of my analysis of the implications of the Islamist veil.

Sommaire en français Un résumé de mon analyse des implications du voile islamiste.

For future reference, I have decided to summarize here an analysis of the Islamist veil and its implications. I could call it the “Islamic veil” instead, but the word “Islamic” applies to Islam in general. However the veil is much more closely associated with the fundamentalist and radical variant of Islam known as Islamism or political Islam, and it is for that reason that I refer to it as “Islamist.” That veil is, after all, a political symbol even more than a religious one. It comes in several versions of course: hijab, chador, burkini, niqab, burqa, etc. This blog summarizes and builds on my previous blog Notes on the Islamist Veil.

Some essential points:

  • The Islamist veil, in all its forms, is an advertisement for political Islam, regardless of the mentality of the woman wearing it.
  • The Islamist veil is imposed by fanatics. It is not an article of clothing for Muslim women in general—but Islamists would like us to think that it is!
  • Most women who wear the Islamist veil, especially in Muslim-majority countries, do so because they are in some sense forced to do so, as they are under severe pressure from family, community, fundamentalists and sometimes the law. The consequences of not wearing it can be life-threatening.
  • Those women who decide to wear the Islamist veil willingly, mainly in non-Muslim countries, are implicitly expressing solidarity with political Islam, whether or not they are conscious of the implications of their decision. Such women are objectively allied with religious fanaticism.
  • The Islamist veil is a marker of segregration, keeping Muslims separate from other “inferior” people. It also sends the message that religious affiliation (for Muslims) is more important than other attributes.
  • The Islamist veil is a purity symbol, a form of slut-shaming. Wearing it means that other women who do not wear it, especially Muslim women who do not wear it, are impure, i.e. “easy.”
  • The Islamist veil is an expression of rape culture. It implies that women are responsible for the sexual excesses of heterosexual men.
  • The Islamist veil is not just an article of clothing. To treat is as such is to empower the religious fanatics who use it for proselytism and propaganda.
  • The Islamist veil is a tool to control women’s bodies.
  • Proponents of political Islam use veiled women in the same way that dogs use their urine: to mark their territory.

In summary, Islamists treat women in general with contempt and they use veiled women in particular as tools for their political purposes. Recall that Islam is arguably the most misogynistic of all major religions, and that political Islam is a fundamentalist variant which takes that misogyny to an extreme.

Finally, it must be emphasized that all of the above observations about the Islamist veil apply regardless of the mentality of the woman flaunting it. The objective meaning of the veil does not depend on the thoughts of the bearer. She may be naïve, she may be totally unaware of the implications of the accoutrement she has “chosen” to display or been forced to display or, on the other hand, she may be fully cognizant that she is effectively supporting political Islam. In all cases, she is just one more veiled woman, one more walking advertisement for one of the most dangerous extreme right-wing movements on our planet.

Thus, the wearing of the Islamist veil should be discouraged and it should be banned where appropriate to do so. There are three main contexts (this list may not be exhaustive) where banning is appropriate:

  1. Wearing religious symbols—including all versions of the Islamist veil—by public servants, i.e. State employees, while on the job, should be banned.
  2. Imposing any Islamist veil on a child for any extended period of time (weeks, months, years) is a form of child abuse and should be illegal.
  3. Versions of the veil which obscure the face, i.e. the niqab and burqa, should, like all face-coverings, be banned in any situation where covering the face compromises security, identification or communication. This includes at least situations where security checks are performed, such as in airports or at entrances to some public buildings. However, there are further reasons why the niqab and burqa should be resisted, as these veils represent a violation of human dignity and women’s rights. Extending the ban to everywhere in public is an option to be considered.

In other situations, the wearing of the Islamist veil should be tolerated for reasons of personal freedom, but it should be neither endorsed nor encouraged—and certainly not celebrated as some governments (such as Canada) foolishly do.


Next blog: This Does NOT Promote Child Health

Six Pseudo-Arguments of Antisecularists

2019-05-20

In this blog I summarize six fallacies used by antisecularists as “arguments” against Quebec’s Draft Bill 21.

Sommaire en français Dans le présent blogue je résume six sophismes qu’utilisent les anti-laïques comme « arguments » contre le projet de loi 21 au Québec.

Antisecularists who oppose Quebec’s Draft Bill 21 have no valid arguments to make, or at least none that I have ever heard. Their attacks on the proposed legislation can basically be summarized in the following six pseudo-arguments:

  1. Absolute Rights: By considering the rights of public servants and teachers to be absolute, while simultaneously ignoring completely the freedom of conscience of users of public services and students of public schools, i.e. their right to a environment free of partisan religious advertising, opponents of Bill 21 claim to be defending freedom but instead threaten it by granting a huge religious privilege to wearers of symbols.
  2. Absolute Libertarianism: “Don’t tell women (or people) what to wear (or what not to wear)” is a common mantra of antisecularists. This fallacy is an expression of right-wing libertarianism on steroids and is reminiscent of the mentality of opponents of gun control. Firstly, Bill 21 bans only religious symbols (and not even for all State employees) and does so for excellent reasons, i.e. religious neutrality and to protect users and students. Secondly, to reject any and all bans would mean the end of uniforms and would imply chaos even among non-uniformed employees. What would you think if your child’s teacher began showing up for work every day wearing a bikini, or a hazmat suit, or clothing covered with ads for fast food restaurants? And thirdly, dress codes—sometimes written, sometimes unwritten—are commonplace in society, even ubiquitous, and some restrictions, such as bans on political or religious symbols in certain contexts, are eminently reasonable.
  3. The opponents of the Bill never hold religious believers responsible for their own practices and beliefs; instead, antisecularists hold the State responsible for accommodating those practices and beliefs. This is obviously backwards.

  4. Deresponsibilizing Believers: The opponents of the Bill never hold religious believers responsible for their own practices and beliefs; instead, antisecularists hold the State responsible for accommodating those practices and beliefs. This is obviously backwards. The believers are the ones who make such choices and are therefore responsible for any consequences. If a person chooses to wear an ostentatious religious (or political) symbol at all times and refuses to remove it even while on the job in the public service, then it is that person who excludes himself or herself from that job. The State excludes no-one; rather, it only excludes partisan displays.
  5. Accusations of Discrimination: Opponents allege that the Bill discriminates against religious believers (especially minorities) and threatens religious freedom. This is false. The Bill does not target any group of persons; rather, it restricts certain behaviour, i.e. religious advertising by public servants. This is a small and reasonable restriction on freedom of expression, such as the restriction which already exists banning partisan political symbols worn by public servants (articles 10 and 11 of the Public Service Act), in order to protect the rights of users and students. A corollary of this pseudo-argument is the claim by some that there will be a massive exodus of people, especially religious minorities, from Quebec. This is a form of blackmail, as well as being alarmist nonsense. Many members of religious minorities, including Muslims, moved to Quebec because of its penchant for secularism and they support Bill 21. The vast majority of people concerned will undoubtedly comply with the law, regardless of their views. There may very well be a tiny number of religious fanatics who leave the province (probably very noisily, for maximum effect) and to them I say, Good Riddance.
  6. Accusations of Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Given that proponents of political Islam (with help from their sadly numerous dupes) are particularly aggressive in promoting wearing of the Islamic veil anywhere and everywhere in order to advertise their brand, radical Muslims, by their own actions, are a centre of attention in this debate. Opponents of Bill 21 thus claim “discrimination” against Muslims in particular when the reality is a campaign of religious exhibitionism by an extremely vocal subgroup of Muslims. Bill 21 does not discriminate against any particular religion; it applies to all.
  7. Defamation: When all else fails (as it inevitably does), opponents of Bill 21 fall back on slander, defaming supporters of the Bill with gratuitous accusation of “xenophobia” or “racism” or other, even worse sins.

[…] a law dealing with State secularism, a law which, all thing considered, is very moderate.

Given their lack of any plausible line of reasoning, antisecularists, in their vituperations, have a strong tendency towards dishonesty, irresponsible speculation and sometimes complete nonsense. Their behaviour is increasingly toxic. And on that disturbing note, I would like to conclude by quoting Pierre Allard, award-winning career journalist:

The debate about secularism has taken an unhealthy turn these days. […] black clouds are piling up on Quebec’s democratic horizon. I did not vote for the CAQ and undoubtedly never will, but the Legault government was elected. It has proposed a law dealing with State secularism, a law which, all thing considered, is very moderate. That government is confronted by a barrage of (minority) opponents who use extremist rhetoric and who, for no valid reason, question the legitimacy of a majority which governs without excess. This should worry us.


Next blog: Quebec Bill 21 Causes Earthquakes, Anal Warts and the Collapse of Civilisation

Three Strategies of Islamists

…and their dupes and allies in non-Muslim countries

2019-02-08 Epilogue added 2019-02-08 @ 21:00

This blog summarizes three major strategies employed by Islamists and their objective allies: (1) accusations of “Islamophobia”; (2) conflation of race and religion; and (3) defamation by association with the far-right.

Sommaire en français Dans ce blogue je résume trois stratégies majeures utilisées par les islamistes et leurs alliés objectifs : (1) les accusations d’« islamophobie »; (2) confondre race et religion; et (3) diffamation par association avec l’extrême-droite.

In non-Muslim countries, Islamists, i.e. promoters of political Islam—a variant of Islam with serious political ambitions—have several key strategies. Here are three important ones:

  1. Accusations of “Islamophobia”: This strategy needs little explanation. The dishonest and incoherent nature of the term “Islamophobia” is well known and well documented. The main purpose of such accusations is to stifle, i.e. censor, legitimate criticism of Islam and Islamism.
    • The suffix “-phobia” implies an irrational fear, whereas to fear a religion, especially a dangerous monotheism like Islam or Christianity, is eminently rational, especially if that religion has political ambitions.
    • Furthermore, the term is often used incorrectly to mean a prejudice against Muslims, i.e. a group of persons, whereas Islam is not a group of persons but rather a religious ideology.
  2. Conflation of Race and Religion: Again, this strategy is well known. And again, the main purpose is to stifle criticism of Islam or Islamism by labelling the adherents of those ideologies as belonging to a “race” (which is of course nonsense) so that accusations of “racism” may be used against critics.
    • The dishonesty of this strategy is obvious: whether or not one considers race to be a fictional or a real phenomenon, it must necessarily be based on innate, immutable attributes of the individual (such as genetic inheritance, skin colour or some other physical characteristic). But religion, on the other hand, is an idea or an ideology which one can (or at least should be allowed to) change at will. When an individual adopts a new religion, or abandons their former religion, they do not thus belong to a new race, obviously. Furthermore, the conflation of race and religion amounts to a denial of freedom of conscience for religious believers.
    • If an individual has the misfortune of being born and raised in religion X, then identifying that person with religion X amounts to a denial of his/her right to think for himself or herself. In fact, identifying a child with the religion of his or her parents is already a violation of that child’s freedom of conscience. Religion should be a matter for adults only, like marriage or alcohol. Until an individual reaches adulthood and attains the maturity necessary for informed decisions on such matters, he or she should not be identified with any religion.
  3. Accusations of Far-Right Political Affinity: This strategy is very often used by the identitarian left (or more accurately, pseudo-left) to slander anyone who disagrees with it—often using or misusing the vague expression “alt-right”—and it has been gleefully borrowed by Islamists to their great advantage. This slur is based on an extremely loose definition of “far-right” or, even better, no explicit definition at all, thus allowing the label to be stuck on any person or thing one dislikes.
    • This strategy works very well for Islamists as it converges greatly with the two strategies described above, especially the second.
    • This strategy is particularly ironic and hypocritical as Islamism is itself an extreme far-right ideology, far worse than even the classic fascism of Mussolini.
    • One major example: the denigration of the Quebec government of the party CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) elected to power on October 1st 2018. The CAQ is a centre-right party which places it close to the defeated QLP (Quebec Liberal Party) on the left-right political spectrum in terms of economic policy. Yet the English-language media in Canada, which were very sympathetic to the PLQ, do not hesitate to associate CAQ with far-right groups. Why? Because the CAQ has committed itself to implementing several very good secular measures in Quebec (which, by the way, places it far to the left of any other government, provincial or federal, in Canada on that issue). Secularism is of course an anathema for Islamists; thus, the CAQ has already been the target of a tsunami of negative propaganda from Islamist ideologues and their dupes—just as the Parti Québécois (PQ) was several years ago and for similar reasons—and we can expect it to continue for some time.

All three of these strategies are variants of the same theme: slander, in varying degrees of intensity. Furthermore, all three are blithely deployed in the service of Islamism by non-Muslims who are duped by that ideology into becoming its unwitting allies.

Anyone who employs all three of the above strategies is an objective ally of political Islam. By “objective ally” I mean that, regardless of the person’s intentions (which are often difficult or impossible to judge), their words and/or actions objectively benefit the spread of Islamist ideology whether intentionally or not, whether they realize it or not.


Epilogue

Aislin cartoon
Click to enlarge
Source: Facebook page of cartoonist Aislin

Only hours after putting the above blog on line, I received some news that illustrates all too graphically my point, in item 3 above, about slandering the CAQ by falsing associating it with the far-right. The cartoonist of the Montreal Gazette produced the caricature on the left. It is available on-line, on the cartoonist’s Facebook page. This image does not merely transmit a message which defames the CAQ. It is a major slur directed at all those who support the CAQ’s secularism measures, including the majority of Québécois. Although the Gazette decided not to run it—a wise decision, I think—I am publishing it here because it needs to be seen in order to expose the profound and virulent hatred for Québécois which underlies opposition to the CAQ’s very reasonable and laudable plans. This is the face of anti-Québécois racism, so prevalent in English-speaking Canada.


Next blog: An Open Letter to the Council of Canadians

Support #NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijab

Support #NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijab! 1st February 2019 Solidarity with Iranian and Saudi Women.

Post a photo of yourself, on social media, with a headscarf hanging from a stick.

Appuyons #NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijab ! 1er février 2019 Solidarité avec les Iraniennes et Saoudiennes.

Poster une photo de vous, sur les réseaux sociaux, avec un foulard suspendu à un bâton.

#NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijabClick to enlarge

#NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijabClick to enlarge


“World Hijab Day” is soft-core propaganda for Islamism. Do not be duped. The hijab is an ambulatory prison for women.

La « Journée du hidjab », c’est la version légère de la propagande islamiste. Ne soyons pas dupes. Le hijab est une prison ambulatoire pour la femme.


Next blog: Three Strategies of Islamists

Sinéad O’Connor: A Metaphor for the Degeneration of the Left

From courage to capitulation.

2019-01-30

There is a strong parallel between the evolution of Sinéad O’Connor’s religious views and the degeneration of the modern political left in its attitude towards religion.

Sommaire en français Il existe un fort parallèle entre l’évolution des opinions religieuses de Sinéad O’Connor et la dégénérescence de la gauche politique moderne quant à son attitude à l’égard de la religion.

On the 3rd of October 1992, Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live and, at the end of her performance, scandalized both the show’s producers and its studio audience by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest child abuse in the Catholic Church. O’Connor was vilified by many, but her gesture proved to be completely justified by what we now know about sex abuse perpetrated by so many Catholic priests. Her protest was also an act of enormous courage. A quarter-century later, in September of 2018, journalist Niall O’Dowd asked Do we owe Sinéad O’Connor an apology for speaking the truth about church child abuse? and journalist Kerry O’Shea reported that Atheists think Sinead O’Connor is owed an apology, and then some.

Seven years after the SNL incident, O’Connor was ordained a priest in a Church in Lourdes, France, which had defected from the Catholic Church (which of course did not recognize the ordination). Then, in September of 2018, she announced her conversion to Islam, stating that it was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey.” She subsequently announced that she won’t associate with white people, whom she apparently finds “disgusting.” Referring to non-Muslims as “white” is bizarre, and the intensity of her hostility was enough to attract criticism from some fellow Muslims, to their credit.

O’Connor ripping a picture of the Pope
Click to enlarge
O’Connor ripping a picture of the Pope
Source: Wikipedia

I consider these two events in O’Connor’s life to be a fitting metaphor for the degeneration of what is left of the political left. A critical approach to religion is a major and standard aspect of left-wing politics, inspired by Enlightenment principles. Karl Marx is probably the most famous name associated with left-wing criticism of religion, but he was certainly not alone in observing that belief in a fictional sky-cop and an afterlife—where rewards and punishments will be meted out—is one of the most effective scams used by the dominant classes to convince the poor and the persecuted to accept their lot. It should also not be forgotten that Marx, even as he denounced the “opiate of the masses” in that famous quote from the introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, also showed a great deal of compassion for the plight of the victims of this scam.

And yet, in the XXIst century, much of the political left, if it can still be called “left,” has abandoned that approach and has even embraced religion, or at least some religions, especially one in particular (guess which one!). The reasons for this are complex, and I have discussed them in previous blogs such as The Identitarian Left. Suffice it to say that, in the name of minority rights, the current left, or at least part of it, shows a total lack of discernment by classifying very different minorities as worthy of defense (while being selective about which minorities make the cut).

Thus, we have the ridiculous spectacle of so-called progressives (who in reality are reactionary and regressive) supporting the “right” of fundamentalist Muslim women to wear the hijab or even the niqab (which covers the entire face except for a narrow slit for the eyes) anywhere and everywhere, even during a formal citizenship ceremony! We see a campaign, held annually on February 1st, to promote the hijab, as if it were a symbol of freedom, when in reality it is a flag of political Islam and a symbol of the enslavement of women. As Djemila Benhabib observes, “Pro-hijab activists […] try to convince us that the hijab is just so TOTALLY cool! What courage does it take to wear a hijab under the protective dome of Western democracies[…]? The truth is, pro-hijab activists risk nothing. They are protected by laws from which they benefit greatly, but without ever contributing to their advancement.” Thus the need for the #NoHijabDay, #FreeFromHijab campaign to counter this pro-hijab folly.

We see a similar degeneration in the behaviour of Sinéad O’Connor. From being a courageous critic of religious obscurantism and misogyny (in the form of Catholic sexual abuse of children and women) by the Roman Catholic Church, O’Connor has become an apologist for the most misogynistic major religion on earth.

But arguably the worst aspect of O’Connor’s descent into obscurantism, besides her denigration of non-Muslims, is her reference to them as being “white.” The racialization of religious affiliation, which many on the so-called left also do regularly, is completely unacceptable. Race involves innate and immutable attributes of the individual, whereas a religion is an ideology and a belief system which the individual can adopt or reject at will. O’Connor’s conversion to Islam does not make her any less white, obviously! To conflate race and religion is to essentialize religious affiliation and rob believers—especially children born into a religion through no choice of their own—of their freedom of conscience. This ploy is especially harmful in the case of Islam because of that religion’s taboo on apostasy.

Two dirty tricks which are favourite strategies of Islamists and their de facto allies are:

  1. specious accusations of being right-wing or bigoted; and
  2. obfuscation, by conflating race and religion.

The first strategy is particularly ironic and hypocritical, given that political Islam is itself an extreme right-wing ideology. We have a duty to criticize it assiduously and with determination. The purpose of this trick is censorship: whenever anyone dares to criticize Islam or Islamism on social media for example, someone spews venom in an attempt to bully them into silence. In the long term this will not work, but in the short term it succeeds in poisoning the necessary debate about Islam.

The second dirty trick is even worse, because it essentializes religious belief as if it were immutable. “Once a Muslim, always a Muslim” could be the slogan of this strategy. Given the Islamic condemnation of apostasy—punishable by prison or even death in several countries—such conflation is a betrayal of those unfortunate enough to be born into that religion, a denial of their freedom of conscience. Anyone who confuses race with religion lacks the competence to discuss either.

Sinéad O’Connor is a tragic figure. Her comment about non-Muslim’s as “white” is an endorsement of Islamists’ dishonest strategy of racializing religion. But let us not forget her courageous denunciation of Pope John-Paul II back in the early 1990’s.


Next blog: Support #NoHijabDay #FreeFromHijab

David Silverman’s Firebrand Atheism

We Need It Now More Than Ever

2018-04-23, minor changes 2018-04-24

A consideration of three major issues raised by David Silverman: the utter baselessness of god-belief, the importance of calling oneself an “atheist” and Silverman’s rejection of Jewish identity.

Sommaire en français Je considère trois questions importantes soulevées par David Silverman : l’absence totale de fondement pour la croyance en dieu(x), l’importance de se dire ouvertement athée et son rejet de l’identité juive.

I first envisaged writing this blog several weeks ago, before I heard about David Silverman being temporarily suspended and then definitively terminated from his position as president of American Atheists. I see no reason not to go ahead and write it, but I feel compelled at least to mention those somber recent developments. David claims to be innocent and, frankly, I see no reason to doubt him. In addition to the well established principle of assuming innocence until proven guilty, I have at least two reasons: (1) the vagueness of the charges I have heard so far; and (2) the fact that the current socio-political context is replete with examples of false or exaggerated accusations of various kinds.

Of course some accusations are true, but which ones? In some cases (such as Wienstein or Cosby), evidence is overwhelming and undeniable, but that is often not so. Indeed, it is because of all the dubious accusations poisoning current political discourse that it has become more difficult to distinguish reality from fanatically invented fiction. It has become commonplace for accusers to throw all nuance out the window, so that criticism becomes demonization and the work of the accused person is anathematized. I reject such puritanical excesses.

Until I see some solid evidence, I will withhold my judgement. Now to the topic at hand.


Recently I had the pleasure of hearing David Silverman deliver a powerful speech on the subject of his trademark “firebrand atheism.” It was in Warsaw, in a small theatre-like hall in the Polish Academy of Sciences, during a session, entitled “We, The Atheists,” of the Days of Atheism 2018. David’s delivery was forceful, even charismatic, and his subject perfectly appropriate to the occasion. As I wrote in a recent AFT blog about Days of Atheism 2018:

… the highlight of this series of talks was the rousing speech by David Silverman whose “firebrand atheism” is resolute and determined. He criticized and mocked the idea that there is any doubt whatsoever about the complete falsehood of god-belief. Furthermore, he emphasized the critical importance of identifying oneself by the term “atheist” rather than other wishy-washy and/or poorly understood epithets such as “humanist” or “freethinker.” Paraphrasing his message: “Because I am a true humanist, I call myself an atheist, not a humanist.” David’s highly effective and dynamic delivery and his unapologetic approach to atheism reminded us why he is Atheist of the Year 2018!

Later, in conversations over dinner during the convention banquet, we briefly discussed David’s attitude towards Judaism and his opinion that there is no such thing as a Jewish Atheist.

These three issues raised by David Silverman: the certainty of atheism, the importance of the “atheist” label and the futility of ethnicities such as “Jewish” all resonated with me strongly because they reflect ideas I have thought and written about myself. David’s perspective throws new light on these issues, while confirming and adding nuance to the conclusions I had already reached.

The Certainty of Atheism

First of all, we are not talking about absolute certainty, of the sort which exists only in abstract pure logic, or in the pretentions of religious dogma. I am talking about scientific certainty, or certainty beyond a reasonable doubt, where the probability of truth is extremely close to one. In the case of theistic religion, we should look at it from the opposite direction: what is the probability of the existence of any given god? Given that evidence is completely lacking, that probability is at most a number infinitesimally close to zero. Then, when we take account of the contradictions within each theism and the between competing theisms, that probability is reduced to zero. As David Silverman makes it clear in his talk, there is no room for doubt: “God” does not exist. In no other field, other than religion, would anyone even consider such a baseless hypothesis. It is time that we started applying to religion the same rigorous analysis which is normally applied in all other fields.

I have made this point in several writings in the past. For example, in Why We Are Not Agnostics, I criticize agnosticism because of its inherent a priori assumption of some non-negligeable probability of the existence of god(s). This error is especially serious in the case of what I call symmetric agnosticism which is based on the fallacy of the mean, assuming a probability of 50% from the get-go, without justification, something which even honest theologians would not dare to do. The doubt which is the basis of agnosticism is a method, not a final position. When that method of doubt is applied to any god-belief, the unavoidable conclusion is that belief is utterly baseless. Atheism is therefore a certainty until such time as theists come up with something to support their outrageous assertions.

The Importance of Calling Oneself “Atheist”

The very strong, very old and very well established prejudice against atheists, i.e. atheophobia, is an extreme form of religious bigotry. It is an essential aspect of theistic dogma, as each theism claims a monopoly on morals. Some atheists have concluded from this that we should avoid calling ourselves atheists publically. This is exactly the wrong approach; it is a recipe for hypocrisy and stagnation. We must boldy assert our atheism in order to oppose and weaken atheophobia. I have made this point in several writings, in particular in Atheophobia, An Ancient Prejudice, and Yet So Prevalent Today, where I define the term in some detail, and in Secular Atheophobia, where I discuss the problem of atheophobic attitudes even among the non-religious.

In his Warsaw talk in March 2018, David Silverman expressed it something like this: Being a true humanist, he calls himself an atheist rather than a humanist, because it is use of the label “atheist” which best challenges religous bigotry. Furthermore, says David, emphemisms such as “humanist,” and “freethinker,” etc. are poorly understood, or completely misunderstood, by the public, but everyone knows what an atheist is! I would express it thus: A humanist is just an closeted atheist, too cowardly to come out. The word “agnostic” is even worse, because it gives theism credit which it does not deserve. See the previous section of this blog!

Rejecting Jewishness

In an article in the online Tablet Magazine, Can You Be an Atheist and a Jew at the Same Time? David Silverman Says No., David Silverman’s views on Jewish identity are explained. He argues that Jewishness is ultimately a religion, only a religion, not a race or ethnic group. Once a person rejects the religion of Judaism, Silverman argues, that person is no longer a Jew. He asserts, “I am not a Jew. I am a child of Jews.” If one does not practice the religion Judaism, then one should abandon the Jewish identity.

I have expressed similar ideas, but from a different perspective. I would argue that if one continues to consider Jews as a so-called “race” or ethnic group, then it is important to distinguish that identity from the religion of Judaism. If that clear distinction is not made, if “race” and religion are conflated, then criticizing the religion becomes confused with antisemitic racism. Indeed, the importance of this distinction is a major problem with using the term “Islamophobia” as if it were a form of racism.

Indeed, this is precisely why Islamist ideologues promote the word “Islamophobia”: to conflate race and religion is exactly their goal, so that criticism of Islam can be dismissed as “racist.” Islamists want to create the same confusion between “Islam” and “Muslim” as already exists between “Judaism” and “Jewish”. What is needed, on the contrary, is to make the distinction clear. Jewish or Muslim identities have nothing to do with race because they are not immutable. A person’s religion is a choice, or at least should be. That is why the right to apostasy (to change one’s religion) is so important, and why the criminalization of apostasy in many Muslim-majority countries (punishable sometimes by death!) is such an egregious and dangerous violation of freedom of conscience.

Furthermore, David Silverman’s observation that a child of Jews is not necessarily a Jew is extremely important for the freedom of conscience of that child. Religion is not an inherited characteristic, it is a learned one. It is by a process of indoctrination that children end up in the same religion as their parents. This cycle must be broken by protecting children from such indoctrination. That is indeed is one of the purposes of universal public education. We must avoid such tendentious expressions as “Jewish child” or “Christian child” or “Muslim child” or even “atheist child.” Children must not be labelled by the choices of their parents. It is only when they reach maturity that they can make informed choices for themselves.

Rejecting Communitarianism

One final observation: the label “atheist” must not be allowed to degenerate into an identitarian label as if it were a religious affiliation. The purpose of calling oneself an atheist is to challenge and erode atheophobic attitudes promoted by various religions. It is not an expression of affiliation with a particular community. Atheism is not another religion competing with Christianity, Islam, etc. Rather, it is a rejection of unsubstantiated and dangerous supernatural beliefs, in particular god-beliefs. If one day in the future all theisms have disappeared, then atheism will no longer be necessary.


Next blog: Fairweather Secularists

Status of Women Canada Endorses Political Islam

2018-04-15

I report how Status of Women Canada promotes the Islamist hijab as if it were an expression of freedom! Waleed Al-Husseini is infuriated by such fashionable nonsense, and I agree with him completely.

Sommaire en français Je constate que Condition féminine Canada fait la promotion du hidjab islamiste comme si ce dernier était un signe de libération ! Waleed Al-Husseini s’insurge contre cette sottise, et moi, je suis tout à fait d’accord avec lui.

IWD (March 8th) was over a month ago, so I am late with this topic. Better late than never.

For International Women’s Day (IWD), Status of Women Canada, a federal government organization whose mandate is to promote “equality for women and their full participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada,” issued a series of five infographics.

Status of Women infographic no. 2
Click to enlarge
Status of Women infographic no. 2

The second of the five infographics can seen on the left. It shows a woman wearing an Islamic veil with the text, “#MyFeminism is about equality for everyone.”

Shortly after the Status of Women published this material, Waleed Al-Husseini published, via Facebook, his own, angry reaction. Waleed Al-Husseini is an atheist blogger and writer who was emprisoned in his native Palestine on charges of blasphemy against Islam and eventually took refuge in France. His books Blasphémateur ! Les prisons d’allah (Blasphemer! The Prisons of Allah) and Une trahison française — Les collaborationnistes de l’islam radical dévoilés (A French Betrayal—The Collaborators of Radical Islam Unveiled) are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how Islam its political variant threaten freedom and human rights in any country where they succeed in getting a foothold, in particular France.

Waleed Al-Husseini used the French version of infographic no. 2, adding his comment, “A feminism which submits to religious patriarchy when it is Islamic, but fights against it when it is Christian. Sounds more like a bad joke than an ideology.” I have reproduced Waleed’s posting below.

A feminism which submits to Islamic patriarchy
Click to enlarge

“A feminism which submits to religious patriarchy when it is Islamic, but fights against it when it is Christian. Sounds more like a bad joke than an ideology.”

I agree completely with Waleed’s denunciation of the Status of Women infographic. By presenting a veiled woman as if she were a feminist, by normalizing and legitimizing the hijab, the Status of Women betrays all women, and in particular Muslim women who are under extreme pressure to wear the veil in many countries. The Status of Women chose an odious misogynistic symbol of the world’s most misogynistic major religion. The hijab is a flag of an extreme right-wing political movement and should certainly not be celebrated.

The organization cannot pretend to favour “full participation” for Muslim women when it actively promotes the wearing of an accoutrement which sets them apart, different from other citizens, branded as possessions of male relatives and of the religious group in which they had the bad luck to be born. If the Status of Women is too blind or too foolish to understand the real nature of the Islamist veil, then they are incompetent as feminists.

More recently, Waleed has expressed his disapproval of the idea that police officers in Montreal be allowed to wear religious symbols. In a Facebook post he writes that religious radicalism has become unbearable and adds, “A policewoman wearing the Islamic veil! We must fight back! These medieval symbols are not welcome. I hope that France will be strong enough not to accept such follies.”


Next blog: David Silverman’s Firebrand Atheism, We Need It Now More Than Ever

“Islamophobia”: a weapon against reforming Islam

2017-04-20

This blog consists of quotes from Hassan Jamali, as published in the book L’ISLAMOPHOBIE

Sommaire en français Ce blogue se compose de citations de Hassan Jamali tirées de l’ouvrage collectif L’ISLAMOPHOBIE.

This blog is dedicated entirely to quotes from Hassan Jamali, co-author of the recent book L’ISLAMOPHOBIE published by Éditions Dialogue Nord-Sud. This is a collective work, authored by Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, Éric Debroise, Caroline Fourest, Hassan Jamali, Isabelle Kersimon, Renard Léveillé, Fiametta Venner, Claude Simard, Annie-Ève Collin and Alban Ketelbuters, with a preface by Waleed Al-husseini.

Book L'ISLAMOPHOBIE
Book L’ISLAMOPHOBIE

This little book is an essential reference, required reading in order to understand the concept—or rather the scam—of so-called “Islamophobia” which is a major propaganda weapon used to promote Islamofascism and to bully those who oppose it.

Hassan Jamali teaches at a Montreal CÉGEP and is author of the book Coran et déviation politique. L’art de détourner une religion. (The Koran and Political Distortion. How to Hijack a Religion., Éditas 2011).

In the collective work L’ISLAMOPHOBIE, Hassan Jamali is author of the chapter entitled “Islamophobie: une arme pour contrer toute réforme de l’islam” or “Islamophobia: a weapon against reforming Islam.” Below I have translated some important excerpts from that chapter.


We consider that reforming Islam is a major issue, both for a billion Muslims and for the Western world. Islamism, as a fascistic political ideology, threatens the foundations of democratic systems, just as did all the totalitarian ideologies which the West experienced during the twentieth century. And the fact that that ideology is inspired by a great religious tradition does not make it any more tolerable.

[…]

The only purpose of the concept of Islamophobia is to restrict freedom of expression and to frighten those who defend secularism and who dare to take a position against religious accommodations. Proponents of victimization based on Islamophobia have increased their activities in the West (including Quebec) and even within the United Nations, with the goal of gaining approval for laws and resolutions which would ban blasphemy and anti-religious hate speech.

Public institutions in Quebec have fallen into this trap. Islamophobia is used in official documents published by the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion in order to explain the elevated unemployment rate among those of North-African origin. The City of Montreal uses it as well. The Bouchard-Taylor Commission, in its report, also refers to Islamophobia, while nevertheless failing to mention it in its glossary.

[…]

How Should We Respond to Blackmail by Islamophobia?

We have observed that no substantial reform of Islam is possible in Muslim countries because of the stranglehold which the religious have on political power. The real battle is therefore to be fought in the West. Two sides are battling it out: in the Sunni camp, the Islamists are supported and financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while, in the Shiite camp, they are backed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The goal of the Islamists is to isolate Muslims, to prevent then from adopting democratic and secular values and to use them against any criticism of Islam. Islamophobia is the slogan par excellence, which they use to bully all those who would criticize Islamic dogma, thus ghettoizing Muslims—and in particular Muslim women, on whom is imposed the task of signaling the presence of Islam in public space—all in a spirit of communitarianism which alienates the host society.

How to respond to this state of affairs is not a simple question, especially with political correctness and religious accommodation being so widespread. But by refusing to endorse the notion of Islamophobia and by insisting on freedom of expression as well as state secularism, we can affirm our rejection of all intimidation and continue to fight against the rebirth of fascism in the form of Islamism.

Next blog: Notes on the Islamist Veil