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

The Undauntable Fatima!

The Political Integrity of One Secular MNA Contrasts with the Venality of Her Colleagues

2017-02-21

This blog tells the story of former MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin and how she recently exposed the venality of a certain dubious philosopher.

Sommaire en français Ce blogue raconte l’histoire de l’ex-députée Fatima Houda-Pepin et comment elle a récemment dévoilé la prévarication d’un certain philosophe douteux.

The story of Mme Fatima Houda-Pepin, a secular Muslim, is probably not well-known outside Quebec. It deserves to be.

Madame Fatima Houda-Pepin was a Member of National Assembly (MNA) for the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), first elected in 1994. When in 2013 the Parti Québécois government proposed its Charter of Secularism (the oft-used name “Charter of Values” is a misnomer, being only the preliminary name before the draft bill was published), Mme Houda-Pepin, like her party, opposed it. However, that is not the end of our story. It is only the beginning. Because Mme Houda-Pepin’s position on the subject of secularism was nevertheless very different from that of her party.

Unlike so many Charter opponents who rejected the Charter of Secularism by mindless reflex, declaring that the proposed legislation was a response to a non-existent need, Mme Houda-Pepin recognized that, on the contrary, a major societal issue required legislative action. As an alternative to the PQ’s Charter, she proposed her own law, Draft Bill 491, “An Act respecting the religious neutrality of the State and the fight against religious fundamentalism…”, which, among other things, stipulated the following:

  • “All State personnel are imposed a duty of religious neutrality in the exercise of their functions. Persons in authority with the power to coerce, such as judges, prosecutors, police officers and correctional officers, are prohibited from wearing conspicuous religious symbols in the exercise of their functions.”
  • “State personnel are prohibited from wearing a chador, a niqab or a burka.”
  • “The bill requires that State services be provided and received with an uncovered face, except in cases of occupational necessity or for health or safety reasons.”
  • “the Premier is also required to create, by legislative or regulatory means, a centre dedicated to action research on religious fundamentalism and its impact on democracy, human rights and youth rights.”

The full text of Draft Bill 491 is available. It is not very long.

… if Couillard really cared about the issue of religious accommodation, … he would have made overtures to the Parti Québécois to negotiate some kind of compromise between the PQ’s Charter and Houda-Pepin’s proposed bill.

If the leadership of the QLP had had some modicum of political integrity, if its leader Philippe Couillard really cared about the issue of so-called “reasonable accommodation”–i.e. religious accommodation–which was causing such upheaval in Quebec, he would have welcomed Draft Bill 491 and, furthermore, would have made overtures to the Parti Québécois to negotiate some kind of compromise between the PQ’s Charter and Houda-Pepin’s proposed bill. But Couillard and the QLP did no such thing. Instead they rejected her bill and expelled her from the caucus. Mme Houda-Pepin henceforth sat as an independent in the National Assembly.

In the Quebec election of April 2014, the Parti Québécois abstained from running a candidate in the riding La Pinière, instead directing its supporters to vote for Houda-Pepin. The Liberal Party parachuted a high-profile candidate Gaétan Barrette into the riding. He defeated Houda-Pepin, was named Minister of Health in the newly elected Liberal government and has since been playing havoc with Quebec’s health-care system with widespread austerity measures.

Now fast forward to January of 2017. A horrific mass murder occurs in a Quebec City mosque. The perpetrator is a non-Muslim. There is widespread condemnation of this terrible act, including of course from those who support secularism and who criticize religion regularly (such as myself) because, for one thing, such gratuitous, murderous violence can never be justified, and, furthermore, it will only play into the hands of Islamist fundamentalists by giving them a pretext to further their program, especially since one of their favourite strategies is playing the victim. Nothing good can come of such horror.

And that is indeed what happened. Almost immediately, unscrupulous politicians and others started slandering secularists by claiming that their support for the PQ’s Charter of Secularism somehow helped cause the Quebec City shooting. This chorus of voices was joined by a certain Charles Taylor who had been co-chair of the famous Bouchard-Taylor Commission which, a decade ago, was mandated to study the controversial issue of religious accommodation. One of the principal recommendations of that Commission was very similar to one of the main provisions of Houda-Pepin’s proposed Bill 491: a ban on religious symbols for public servants in positions of coercive authority. Taylor now repudiates that recommendation, saying that no such ban should be implemented, and he claims that the Quebec City mosque shooting led him to that change of heart.

But Taylor is being less than truthful, and it is Fatima Houda-Pepin who set the record straight for us. She revealed that Taylor had discreetly repudiated the recommendation years ago, at around the time she presented her Draft Bill 491. Indeed, shortly before Houda-Pepin was expelled from the Liberal caucus, Premier Couillard forbade her from discussing her proposed legislation with the caucus. To underline his rejection of any ban on religious symbols, Couillard revealed that Taylor as well was ready to reject such a ban.

Taylor … did not have a change of heart because of the mosque shooting. On the contrary, he cynically exploited that tragic event as an excuse to rationalize a decision he had made years before.

Thus, thanks to Fatima Houda-Pepin, we now know that Taylor’s recent behaviour was at best disingenuous, and arguably dishonest. He did not have a change of heart because of the mosque shooting. On the contrary, he cynically exploited that tragic event as an excuse to rationalize a decision he had made years before.

Taylor has thus thoroughly undermined the recommendations of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, although the other co-president of the Commission, Gerald Bouchard, has not changed his position. Subsequently, Couillard has opportunistically used Taylor’s about-face to justify an intransigent attitude towards any consideration of a ban on religious symbols worn by public servants, even by those with coercive authority. The premier has rejected any possibility of compromise with the two opposition parties on that issue.


Next blog: Rules for a Discussion about Religion

Islam and Islamism

2017-02-18

How are Islam and Islamism related. Here is my take on this very important question.

Sommaire en français Quelle est le rapport entre islam et islamism. Je donne ici mon point de vue sur cette importante question.

Islam, like most religions, comes in many forms, may variants, many sects. There are Sunnis and Shiites; there are Sufis and Ahmadis; there are various denominations and tendencies. There are pious, observant Muslims and non-practising Muslims. There are modern secular Muslims. There are ex-Muslim atheists. There are those from a Muslim background for whom Islam is only a cultural heritage or a childhood memory.

Islamism is a political ideology based on Islam, a program which is often violent and revolutionary, generally promoting full implementation of sharia law. It may also be called political Islam, Islamic extremism, Islamic fundamentalism, Muslim fundamentalism, radical Islam, Islamofascism, Islamist fanaticism, etc. The choice of the best label remains open for discussion. For example, fundamentalism need not be violent. On the other hand, the term Islamofascism may be considered too mild, since fascism, strictly speaking, is a modern XXth-century phenomenon while Islamism is based on early-medieval totalitarian theocracy and is far to the right of even the most extreme right-wing fascism. Regardless of the expression one chooses, this phenomenon is currently on the offensive and its effects are devastating, both materially and ideologically.

Political Islam is neither a distortion of Islam nor an outrageous extrapolation of it. On the contrary, it is simply an eminently plausible interpretation of the Muslim religion.

There are those who say that Islam and Islamism are basically the same thing, that there is no essential difference between them. I respectfully disagree. In my opinion Islamism is a subset of Islam, a variant of it, one of several interpretations of Islam. The radical political ideology of Islamism is not synonymous with Islam, but it is part of it and compatible with it. Political Islam is neither a distortion of Islam nor an outrageous extrapolation of it. On the contrary, it is simply an eminently plausible interpretation of the Muslim religion.

There are those who say that Islam and Islamism are completely distinct. I disagree. But I do not do so respectfully. I have no respect for an opinion which is so obviously false—dangerously false—and has the effect of exonerating Islam from any responsibility for the extremists who base their ideology on the “sacred” writings of that religion. To say that Islamism has nothing to do with Islam is like saying that the Crusades had nothing to do with Christianity, or that Mike Pence’s extreme homophobia has nothing to do with the homophobia of all three Abrahamic religions.

What About the Believers?

Thus Islam contains Islamism. The religion Islam, by way of its various “sacred” writings—the quran, hadiths, etc.—provides the theoretical underpinnings of the extremely virulent, proselytizing and totalitarian ideology of Islamism. But what about the people; what about Muslims? Does the fact that these two systems of ideas are so closely related imply that all Muslims are either Islamists or near-Islamists? The short answer, of course, is no.

I always stress the importance of distinguishing beliefs from believers, ideologies from people. Muslims, like Christians, Jews or other religious believers are all over the map, from fundamentalist to secular. It can be argued that there is no such thing as modern, secular Islam, that that religion is essentially obscurantist and retrograde. Christianity too is essentially obscurantist and retrograde, and yet Islam is arguably even worse, because the virulence of Christianity has at least has been somewhat attenuated after 2000 years of history, while Islam has never gone through a process similar to what the Enlightenment did to tame (partially at least) both Christianity and Judaism. However, the absence of a secularized Islam does not imply that there are no secular Muslims.

Secular Muslims—i.e. those who have moved away from strict observance, who have distanced themselves from the worst aspects of Islam, who may indeed be closet atheists—do indeed exist. And they are in a very difficult situation, a situation which makes them less visible. There are probably far more of them than is apparent.

When Trudeau visits a mosque and communes openly with imams, when non-Muslim women wear hijabs in a ridiculous show of false “solidarity”, when our politicians undermine human rights by allowing face-coverings everywhere, these actions validate and empower more fundamentalist Muslims.

One of the worst aspects of Islam is the taboo against apostasy, i.e. against leaving Islam. In fact, it is more than a taboo: it is the law in many Muslim-majority countries. Apostasy is often a crime with severe penalties, even the death penalty. This is the absolute negation of freedom of conscience. See my previous blog Apostasy is a Human Right. So in addition to all the disapproval and the threat of ostracism from family and community which make life difficult for any Muslim who may be questioning their religion a little, there is, in countries which have such laws, the very real, objective threat of criminal charges and severe punishments.

Even in countries such as Canada where apostasy is not criminalized, where we enjoy some degree of freedom of conscience, family members and the Muslim community may still exert strong pressure on the individual. Islamist individuals in that community may have a great deal of threatening influence even if they may be few in number. A member of the community who may be considering abandoning the faith, or who merely wishes to speak out about problems caused by excessively strict observance of Islamic dogmas, such as dubious treatment of women or of children, may be subject to intimidation.

Well-meaning but foolish proponents of communitarianism (i.e. multiculturalism) make matters worse by treating Muslims like a monolithic community, thus empowering the more fundamentalist and Islamist among them. When Justin Trudeau visits a mosque as prime minister and communes openly with imams, when non-Muslim women wear hijabs in a ridiculous show of false “solidarity” with Muslim women (many of whom do not wear any veil), when our politicians undermine human rights by allowing face-coverings everywhere, these actions validate and empower more fundamentalist Muslims. They make it even more difficult for modern, secular-leaning Muslims to assert their own freedoms in opposition to fundamentalists.

The New Blasphemy

We must stop the recriminalization of blasphemy under its new name “Islamophobia!”

Currently, Islamists are on an aggressive international campaign of promotion of their totalitarian version of Islam. Islamists are very vocal and noisy, making them appear more numerous than they really are. Their goal is to speak for all Muslims, to silence more moderate voices or at least to shout louder than them. Their goal is to become the only voice of Muslims. They are having some success. The proportion of Muslim women wearing some kind of veil is increasing in Canada. Multiculturalists such as Trudeau and his ilk play directly into the hands of proselytizing Islamists.

Islamists have various weapons which they use in their campaign to dominate. Terrorism is only the most extreme weapon. There are also much simpler, non-violent weapons which are very effective, weapons of propaganda, especially useful in countries where Muslims are a small minority. Promotion of the veil is one weapon: imposing it anywhere and everywhere, making its presence appear normal and banal, conquering public space little by little. The case of legal jihadist Zunera Ishaq is a notable example of this strategy. Another weapon of choice for Islamists is promotion of the term “Islamophobia” which stigmatizes criticism of Islam and Islamism. In Canada today, this particular propaganda weapon has a very high profile. Free speech is under attack and the situation is very serious. Islamists and their multiculturalist dupes are exploiting the recent killings at a Quebec City mosque in order to get the federal parliament to pass motion M-103 which would condemn so-called Islamophobia.

Secular Muslims get it from both sides. They deserve all the support we can give them. We must oppose the retrograde measures which Islamists and fundamentalists are pushing, such as promoting the veil and stigmatising criticism of their religion. The current priority is that motion M-103 must be defeated.

We must stop the recriminalization of blasphemy under its new name “Islamophobia!”


Next blog: The Undauntable Fatima!

The Quebec City Attack: Some Context

2017-02-05, last modified 2017-02-06

Some context and background about the attack on a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday, January 29th 2017.

Sommaire en français Quelques informations pertinentes pour contextualiser l’attentat contre une mosquée de la ville de Québec, le dimanche 29 janvier 2017.

As you know, on January 29th 2017, a gunman went on a rampage in a Quebec City mosque, killing six and wounding several others. Here are a few details about this horrific attack and events before and after, gleaned from a variety of sources, details which may have gotten lost in the current highly charged political atmosphere.

  • The police initially reported that there were two shooters, one North-African, the other a Caucasian with an obvious Québécois accent. They then determined that the former was a witness who was fleeing for his life — in fact he was cleaning snow from the mosque steps when the shootings began. The police publicly corrected their error the day after the shootings, but apparently some media, particularly in the US, took their time. During the short period of confusion, before the correction was announced, some speculated about a conflict between rival Muslim sects, but I found that scenario to be implausible. In Iraq or Egypt, maybe, but not in Quebec City.
  • The perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was apparently not a Quebec nationalist. According to blogger André Gagnon, his Facebook presence (no longer available) was almost entirely in English, whereas Quebec City is almost entirely French-speaking. His political profile is closer to the extreme-right wing of the Canadian Conservative Party (the party of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper), the party of WASP racism and Orangism. (Although the Conservative Party is rather weak in the province of Quebec in general, it paradoxically has stronger support in the Quebec City region.)
  • According to police, their interrogation of Bissonette showed he was influenced, at least to some degree, by the anti-Muslim climate which currently reigns in the USA.
  • Police will probably not recommend terrorism charges, as such charges are more difficult to prove in court, while the perpetrator is already facing 6 counts of premeditated murder and 5 counts of attempted murder, enough to put him away for 25 years with no possibility of parole. But I would call it terrorism.
  • In June of 2016, the severed head of a pig was left on the doorstep of the Quebec City mosque. I wrote about it in a previous blog, Of Pigs and Prayer.
  • The perpretrator gave himself up to police willingly. This is atypical of such attacks.
  • All those killed in the attack were male. This is the result of gender segregation in the mosque. Only men are allowed in the main area of the mosque on the ground floor. Women and children are relegated to other levels.
  • A funeral for three of the dead was held on February 2nd in a major venue, the Maurice-Richard Arena, in Montreal:
    • The funeral was attended by dignitaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and the mayors of both Montreal and Quebec City. It was practically a state occasion, broadcast on television.
    • The main level, where the caskets were located, was reserved for men, except for female dignitaries and wives of dignitaries. Other women were excluded from the main level because of gender segregration.
    • During his speech, Premier Couillard repeated the words “Allahou Akbar,” claiming that they are incorrectly associated with violence.
    • Although two of the three deceased are from the Kabyle people of Algeria, their relatives were offended that Arabic and not the Kabyle language was used in the ceremony.
  • Other recent attacks involving Québécois:
    • On January 15th 2016, six Québécois were killed, along with 24 other persons, in an Islamist terror attack on a hotel and restaurant in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Four of the six were from the Quebec City area. Prime Minister Trudeau made a declaration condemning the attack, but took no other action. Two days later he visited an Ontario mosque which had been vandalized after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 2015-11-13.
    • The most recent terrorist attack in Quebec was in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20th 2014, by an Islamist radical, causing two deaths: a soldier and the perpetrator.
    • The preceding was an attack by Richard Bain on an event in Montreal, celebrating the victory of the Parti Québécois on the evening of the September 4th 2012 provincial election. Bain’s apparent goal was to assassinate as many separatists as possible, especially party leader and newly elected premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois. He failed, but unfortunately one person, a stage technician, was killed. Bain made anti-French comments during the attack. I would call this incident Anglo terrorism. Hatred directed against French-speaking Québécois and especially against independantists is a major problem in Canada but rarely reaches such extremes.

The Future Looks Very Bleak

The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

There is an old proverb which states that to understand is to forgive. This may apply to minor faults, but it certainly does not apply here. We may try to understand the motives of the killer, to explain his behaviour; however, no explanation, no motivation, whether political or other, can possibly justify or excuse this horrific act of mass murder. If Bissonnette thought that he was scoring a victory against Islamism, then in addition to being a contemptible mass-murderer he is also extremely stupid, because, by gunning down innocent Muslims, he has given Islamists a major propaganda victory, something they can exploit for their own ends, just as Donald Trump’s draconian U.S. travel ban on Muslims from some countries also played into the Islamists’ hands.

The lone perpetrator is to blame for this massacre; he alone has blood on his hands. However, there are others to whom lesser blame must be assigned, others who are responsible for creating an atmosphere which made such an attack more likely to occur, which facilitated such an atrocity. And there are others who are completely innocent but have been unfairly targeted.

It took a very short time for the unscrupulous to begin exploiting this tragedy for political ends. Slanderous and hateful comments have been made, condemning secularists and the Québécois in general. The antisecular regressive left (i.e. false left) and cultural relativists were already overbearingly arrogant; this tragedy has only emboldened them, making matters even worse. The underlying problem is the confusion between an ideology, Islamism (a subset of Islam), and human beings of Muslim culture. Those who refuse to allow full criticism of the former by claiming that it offends the latter are contributing to the very confusion which they claim to oppose.

By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

Now, more than ever, rigorous criticism of religion, including Islam, is crucial. By failing to take aim at the tremendous harm which religions cause, the fake left betrays human rights and drives more and more people towards the far right of the political spectrum where such criticism is contaminated with bigotry and anything but rigorous.

It does not take telepathic powers to recognize that this massacre was a form of revenge for Islamist terrorist events. By falsely blaming Québécois in general and by remaining complacent with respect to Islamism, our incompetent political leaders have virtually guaranteed that the cycle will continue unbroken. Islamists are now emboldened and will seek revenge, then another anti-Muslim fanatic will seek revenge for that, and so on, and so on. The future looks very bleak indeed.

I will be exploring some of these issues in future blogs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of material at hand.

Links


Next blog: Charles Taylor est-il compromis avec le Prix Templeton ?

Anti-Muslim Incidents in the USA

Are “hate” crimes against Muslims a serious problem in the USA?

2016-12-01

Recent reports of an increase in anti-Muslim “hate”[1] crimes in the USA are exaggerated. Blacks, gays and Jews remain much more frequent targets of such crimes than Muslims. Furthermore, any reporting which does not distinguish Islamists from more modern Muslims is flawed. Harassment of women who wear the Islamist veil is of course unacceptable. But accusations of “Islamophobia” are similarly unacceptable. Denial of service to fully-veiled individuals (covering the face) is often justified.

Sommaire en français Des rapports récents faisant état d’une augmentation du nombre de crimes « haineux » contre les musulmans aux États-Unis sont exagérés. Au fait, les noirs, les gais et les juifs demeurent des cibles de tels crimes beaucoup plus fréquemment que les musulmans. En outre, les rapports qui ne tiennent pas compte de la distinction entre islamistes et musulmans modernes sont contestables. Le harcèlement des femmes portant le voile islamiste est évidemment inacceptable. Mais les accusations d’« islamophobie » le sont autant. Le déni de service à des personnes portant le voile intégral (qui couvre le visage) est souvent justifié.

Recent news reports from the USA have suggested that so-called “hate” crimes against Muslims have become a serious problem in that country, especially since the election campaign of Donald Trump for the presidency. For example, using FBI Hate Crime Statistics for 2015, the Pew Research Center concludes that Anti-Muslim assaults reach 9/11-era levels, FBI data show, stating that:

There were 91 reported aggravated or simple assaults motivated by anti-Muslim bias in 2015, just two shy of the 93 reported in 2001. Separately, the number of anti-Muslim intimidation crimes – defined as threatening bodily harm — also rose in 2015, with 120 reported to the FBI. Again, this was the most anti-Muslim intimidation crimes reported in any year since 2001, when there were 296. Overall, the FBI reported 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015, a 67% increase from the previous year. […]

Reporting on the FBI data, the New York Times declared recently (2016-11-14) that U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims.

However, a closer look at the FBI data for 2015 reveals that offenses motivated by anti-Black bias (2125), anti-Jewish bias (695) and anti-Gay bias (758) continue to outnumber greatly the number of offenses motivated by anti-Muslim bias (301).

Similarly, an International Business Times article about such crimes in NYC in 2016 reports Hate Crime Rising In New York: NYC Muslims And Jews Targeted As Election Violence Spreads Across The Nation, implying that the election campaign is responsible for the increase.

“As of Nov. 13, 2016 there have been 328 hate crimes year-to-date compared to 250 during the same time period in 2015,” an NYPD spokesperson told International Business Times. Muslims were targeted over 100 percent more compared with the previous year, from 12 incidents in 2015 to 25 so far this year. Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose slightly from 102 to 111. New York City is home to somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million Muslims and over 1 million Jews.

But once again, we note that Muslims are still targeted much less often than Jews.

Certainly the election campaign generated a great deal of emotivity as Trump proposed various ridiculous measures. His proposal for a total ban on Muslims entering the country, in addition to being a human rights disaster and unfairly lumping all Muslims together, would be totally unworkable. What criteria could be used to identify Muslims objectively? In particular, given that apostasy (i.e. leaving Islam) is utterly taboo according to a strict interpretation of Islam—indeed apostasy is criminal offense, sometimes even punishable by death, in many Muslim-majority countries—there are undoubtedly large numbers of non-believers raised as Muslims who continue to self-identify falsely as Muslims mainly out of fear of ostracism or violent retaliation by their co-religionists.

[…] two groups which continue to be targeted more than Muslims—gays and Jews—are themselves condemned by those who adhere strictly to Islamic doctrine.

Regardless of Trump’s bigotry, the numbers show that anti-Muslim behaviour is being exaggerated by media reports. We should also keep in mind that two groups which continue to be targeted more than Muslims—gays and Jews—are themselves condemned by those who adhere strictly to Islamic doctrine. In countries where Islam itself is as dominant as Christianity is in the USA, prejudices against gays and Jews are far worse than in the USA. In other words, Islam is itself a prime generator of hatred and bigotry.

By touting statistics which lump all Muslims together, the media are committing the same error as Trump and his supporters whom they so roundly denounce. Furthermore, using such crimes statistics to generate sympathy for Muslims considered as a monolithic block is worse than unfair; in fact it is reprehensible when Islamists are included in that block. Indeed, it is the Islamist fanatics who benefit the most, because they are, by choice, the most visible. A secular Muslim who has adapted to modern values does not wear her/his religion on her/his sleeve—or head. Referring to the hijab as “Muslim” clothing is grossly misleading as a modern Muslim woman would not wear such an antiquated, misogynist costume. Furthermore, it is an insult to the many women who in Muslim countries have fought so hard, risking their freedom and sometimes their lives, for the right to move about, outside the home, without hiding under a tent.

Harassment of Women Wearing an Islamist Veil

This raises the question of what attitude to adopt towards women who wear the Islamist veil in one of its several variants—hijab, tchador, niqab, burqa, burkini, etc. (I am not referring here to non-Islamist veils such as that worn by, say, Christian nuns or head-coverings worn for purely functional reasons. Islamist veils are easily recognized. There is rarely, if ever, any ambiguity.) In Muslim-majority countries, women are generally forced to wear this type of clothing; they rarely do so by choice.

Any woman who willingly wears an Islamist veil is a religious fanatic; if she wears the full veil, such as a niqab, then she is an extreme religious fanatic […]

First of all, it must be kept in mind that political Islam is current waging a campaign to impose its symbols, clothing standards and values wherever it can find a opening to do so. The promotion of the various forms of the Islamist veil is part of this Islamization campaign. Any woman who willingly wears an article of clothing of this type participates in some small way in this campaign of provocation and identity exhibitionism and thus associates herself with the most backward, fanatical and politicized currents of Islamism. Thus, a certain antipathy towards veiled women is completely legitimate. Any woman who willingly wears an Islamist veil is a religious fanatic; if she wears the full veil, such as a niqab, then she is an extreme religious fanatic (such as Zunera Ishaq, infamous for winning the “right” to wear her niqab during her Canadian citizenship ceremony).

Furthermore, given that many political leaders utterly fail to confront this major threat appropriately and reasonably—J. Trudeau and T. Mulcair in Canada and B. Obama and H. Clinton in the USA all respond with total complacency, whereas American President-elect Trump fails to distinguish Islamists and foolishly stigmatizes all Muslims—this can only make the citizenzy even more anxious, thus increasing hostility.

However, this of course does not in any way justify harassing or haranguing an individual woman wearing an Islamist veil going about her business as a private person in a public place. I am considering here the specific case of a veil which is clearly Islamist, or at least is perceived as such by the harassing person, and where that veil is clearly the motive for the harassment.

Such harassing behaviour is clearly unacceptable, and for at least three reasons:

  1. The veiled woman has ever right to go about her business like anyone else, without being pestered by some obnoxious stranger. Whatever the politics of the situation might be, the woman is a private individual going about her personal affairs. The harasser’s utterances are unwelcome. If she has not clearly indicated a willingness to debate, that she must be left alone. Our quarrel is with the Islamist movement, not anonymous individuals!
  2. Unless endowed with telepathic powers, the harasser cannot know the woman’s motivation. Disapproval of the Islamist veil is completely legitimate. However, she may be forced to wear the veil by members of her family or community, in which case she is a victim of the very ideology the harasser is criticizing and should not be the target of that criticism, even though her costume makes her objectively a standard-bearer of that ideology. This may be the case even in non-Muslim countries such as the USA and Canada where women have greater freedom of choice.
  3. The motives of the harassing person are questionable, because such incidents are often the result of religious bigotry from adherents of competing religions. For example, the harasser may simply be a Christian bigot, hostile towards Islam, who fails to see that Christianity, when given unbridled license, can be just as dangerous. Such individuals may be just as fanatical as the veiled women they are haranguing. If so, their behaviour is pure hypocrisy.

Having said that, some provisos must be added:

  • If the woman is wearing a full veil such as a niqab, then it is only reasonable that some services may be denied to her, especially those where identification, communication and security issues are involved. However denied services need not be limited to such situations. The full veil is a sort of ambulatory isolation chamber by which the person cuts herself off from all others; it is only normal for others to avoid interaction with her. This is especially true if the person refused service becomes hostile or threatens legal action: we must support those who fight back against what must be called “legal jihad,” i.e. the use and abuse of legal procedures to advance the cause of Islamofascism.
  • Any accusations of so-called “Islamophobia” should be met with determined resistance as use of this term is a strategy used by Islamist fanatics and their dupes to silence legitimate criticism of their ideology. There is nothing irrational about fearing or opposing a religion. If the situation is one of harassment, then the harasser is guilty of anti-Muslim bigotry, not Islamophobia; the distinction is crucial. However, if we are dealing with denial of service to a person wearing a full veil, then the action may not be anti-Muslim; the person refusing service may be guilty of nothing.
  • Referring to the veiled woman as “Muslim” is problematic because such attire is NOT representative of Muslim women in general. Indeed, Muslim women generally dress like most other women and are not obviously distinguishable from them. Rather, the Islamist veil, in all its variants, is an accoutrement adopted by a certain fringe, one might say a lunatic fringe, not the mainstream (although Islamists do indeed have as their ultimate goal that the veil should become the norm among Muslim women).

To summarize:

  • Harassment of an individual, veiled or not, is unacceptable.
  • Accusations of “Islamophobia” are always unacceptable.
  • The denial of service to a person wearing a full veil is often legitimate and is not, in general, an act of religious discrimination.

Finally, non-Muslim women who foolishly adopt the Islamist veil temporarily as an act of “solidarity” are behaving irresponsibly. Such gestures are inexcusable as they simply facilitate the advancement of political Islam.


Notes

  1. Why do I put the word “hate” in quotation marks when speaking of so-called “hate” crimes? Because the word “hate” identifies an emotion and is therefore highly subjective. It should be replaced by something more objective, such as violence or calls for violence against the targeted group. See my previous blog Dubious Words.

Next blog: Carl Sagan’s Achilles’ Heel

False Memes from the Burkini Wars

2016-10-10

The controversy which raged in the summer of 2016 over the issue of the burkini on public beaches in France led to the publication in blogs, social media, etc., of many false memes—in other words, a lot of nonsense. Here I debunk some of them.

Sommaire en français La controverse autour du burkini sur les plages publiques de France, qui faisait rage en été 2016, a déclenché des flots de sophismes et de faussetés sur les médias sociaux et dans plusieurs blogues. Dans ce texte je démens plusieurs des ces faussetés :

  • Que le burkini n’est qu’un bout de tissu, un vêtement comme les autres.
  • Que les opposants du burkini veulent tous l’interdire partout.
  • Qu’il ne faut jamais dire à quiconque quoi porter ou ne pas porter.
  • Que les règles vestimentaires religieuses et laïques sont pareilles.
  • Que le burkini n’est pas plus grave qu’un habit de nonne.
  • Que le burkini n’est pas plus sexiste que le bikini ou autre tenue sexy.
  • Que l’opposition au burkini n’est qu’une réaction de l’extrême droite catho et une façon de gagner des votes.
  • Que les Musulmans en France actuellement, c’est comme les Juifs en Allemagne nazie.
  • Que les opposants du burkini instrumentalisent la laïcité pour faire la chasse aux musulmans.
False Meme #1:
It’s just a piece of cloth.

The burkini is just a piece of cloth? Just a mundane article of clothing? Bullshit. All versions of the Islamist veil, including the burkini, hijab, tchador, niqab, burka, etc., are part of a campaign by Islamist fundamentalists and Islamofascists to normalize special articles of clothing which are banners to promote their politico-religious agenda.

A Nazi Flag: It’s just a piece of cloth.

That campaign is in turn part of the Islamists programme to oppose, by legal means or otherwise, secularism wherever it exists or where there are plans to implement it. French secularism or laïcité is a major target because it is the avant-garde of secularism.

False Meme #2:
Those who oppose the burkini want to ban it everywhere!

All those who criticize the burkini and other versions of the veil want to ban them everywhere? No, no & no. Many people oppose Christianity, but few would support banning it everywhere! Whether there should or should not be a ban, or rather bans, depends very much on the type of veil, the place, the circumstance, the context. I personally happen to think that it was a mistake when the mayors of several French seaside towns tried to ban the burkini on their local beaches—and for at least three reasons:

  1. The burkini does not obscure the face, so like the hijab (and unlike the niqab) it is not an obvious security issue.
  2. It was clear that such municipal regulations would be declared illegal, and that is indeed what happened.
  3. As could have been predicted, the controversy degenerated into a propaganda victory for Islamists, who take every opportunity to play victim.

I would however support banning the burkini at sporting events and public swimming pools. At any rate, allowing the burkini on public beaches must not blind us to the nature of the Islamists’ programme. They will continue to make every attempt to score points in their fight against secularism. That is simply one more reason why secular measures must be applied with rigorous respect for the rule of law.

On the other hand, there are some who would ban the burkini even on public beaches. I respectfully disagree, but I give them full credit for recognizing the danger which the burkini, as an Islamist veil, represents. (However those who oppose any ban anywhere and consider that the burkini is just another clothing choice are intellectual slobs in my opinion.)

In light of the recent terrorist attack on Nice, the act of wearing a burkini on a beach in that region was a contemptible act of provocation. We may choose not to criminalize it, but we must condemn it. If, as I have suggested, it was a trap, then the guilty party is composed of those who set the trap. Those duped by the trap include not just the mayors who adopted anti-burkini measures, but even more so the fools who demonized those mayors for their action.

False Meme #3:
You must never tell anyone what to wear.

You must never tell anyone what to wear or what not to wear? Really? The fact is that various dress codes of various types are ubiquitous in society. Some restrictions on dress are codified in law, but many are not written down and some are not even verbalized explicitly. Sometimes dress codes are simply understood implicitly, constantly renegotiated verbally or non-verbally as people test a code’s limits by violating it in small ways while respecting it in large measure. Here are a few examples:

  • workplace dress requirements
  • uniforms for special professions (police, judges, nurses, etc.)
  • laws against nudity (even in one’s own home if visible from the exterior)
  • formal occasions
  • military uniforms
  • ceremonies, official or otherwise
  • sporting events, official or otherwise, international or not, uniforms for athletes, for referees, guidelines for officials
  • school uniforms

Some of these dress codes we could probably do without. Is it really necessary to outlaw nudity everywhere in public or where visible by the public? We can debate that. Are school uniforms really a good thing? Maybe, maybe not. Many, indeed most dress codes can be questioned. But to state baldly that ALL dress codes can be dispensed with is irrationnal. Thus, to a question such as, “Should the clothing XYZ be banned?” the only appropriate answer is another question, or rather series of questions such as: Where? When? In what context? When worn by whom while they perform what duties? Without some context for the original question, it probably cannot be answered adequately.

Furthermore, it must be recognized that personal freedoms cannot be absolute. One individual’s personal freedom is limited by, among other things, other peoples’ freedom.

False Meme #4:
Religious dress code, secular dress code, same thing.

Religious constraints such as the Islamist veil are no worse than secular dress codes? So when Islamists insist that any woman who does not wear the veil is impure and deserves to be treated with contempt or even raped (or have acid thrown in her face), that is the same as a secular dress code which would ban the veil for, say, public servants while on duty? What false symmetry! What specious nonsense! The first rule is a blatant attack on women’s freedom, gender equality and human dignity. The second rule is a small restriction which limits the scope of that attack. The first rule undermines freedom, the second mitigates the damage done by the first.

False Meme #5:
Nuns on a beach, Burkinis on a beach, same difference.

The reason for the nun’s habit is to slut-shame women who do not wear one. Oh wait, no, that’s the reason Muslim women are forced to wear the Islamist veil, to slut-shame those who don’t.

The burkini is comparable to the habit worn by Christian nuns? Really? How deplorable that it should even be necessary to debunk this stupid comparison. The habit is worn only by a tiny elite minority of Catholic women, those who have gone through a rigorous screening process. The Islamist programme is that the veil should be worn by ALL “good” Muslim women and that any woman who does not wear one is a slut just asking to be abused. The analogy is grossly misleading.

False Meme #6:
Islamist veil, boob job, g-string, etc., same subjugation to macho norms.

You say that the burkini is no more sexist than g-strings, high-heel shoes, bikinis, miniskirts, etc.? Horsefeathers. The veil, including the burkini, is a flag of an extremely dangerous politico-religious movement. See the discussions above.

False Meme #7:
Banning the burkini is nothing other than a right-wing Catholic reaction and a ploy to gain votes.

This meme at least has the merit of having some degree of plausibility. There are some right-wing groups who make a pretence of supporting secularism, or at least some version of secularism, whereas their real agenda is to exploit fears of immigration. In France, the Front National (FN) is the most obvious example. However, this reason taken alone is an extreme oversimplification. For one thing, if among immigrants we may find a significant number of fundamentalists or even extremists—and that is certainly the case for Muslim immigration—then such fears are not unjustified. More importantly, we must recognize that groups such as the FN, even if we consider them to be extreme right-wing, are far less extreme than Islamofascism. Political Islam is undoubtedly the greatest threat to secularism in France and is far to the political right of the FN.

False Meme #8:
The situation of Muslims in France today is similar to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.

This outrageous analogy is completely over the top. It is an odious insult to both Jews and the French. In reality, there is a certain proportion (and they are not a tiny minority) of Muslims in France who are Islamists or sympathetic to political Islam; they have much more in common with Nazis than they do with Jews.

False Meme #9:
Opponents of the burkini are misusing secularism as a tool to persecute Muslims.

This is perhaps the most damaging of all these false memes because it is potentially the most effective at neutralizing opposition to political Islam. First of all, the target of any hostility is political Islam, not all Muslims. Secondly, the idea that secular principles must be applied exclusively to state institutions is simplistic. The fact that secularism is first and foremost a program of governance, to be applied to public institutions, does not imply that secular principles cannot be applied elsewhere as well. Given the danger which political Islam represents (and the veil is one of its major tools), if secularism can mitigate that danger then so much the better. That is not a misuse of secularism, rather it is what secularism is for: preventing religions from imposing themselves on the public, so as to protect freedom of conscience.


Next blog: Multiculturalism, Orientalism and Exoticism

Of Pigs and Prayer

The Selective Outrage of Islamophiliacs

2016-06-23

The seriousness of the recent pig’s head incident in Quebec City has been greatly exaggerated by some. What is just as serious, indeed more so, is the contempt shown by most of our politicians for citizens who are legitimately concerned about radical Islam, thus increasing the likelihood of such mean-spirited, threatening gestures.

Sommaire en français Plusieurs média ont grandement exagéré la gravité d’un événement récent, lorsqu’une tête de porc a été laissée à la porte d’une mosquée de la ville de Québec. Ce qui est aussi grave, encore pire au fait, est l’attitude de mépris affichée par la plupart de nos politiciens à l’égard des citoyens qui se préoccupent raisonnablement de l’Islam radical. Cette attitude augmente la probabilité de tels gestes mesquins et menaçants.

Recently many media have been in a tizzy, doing their best to manufacture excessive outrage over an instance of anti-Muslim mischief. A pig’s head was left on the doorstep of a Quebec City mosque recently. The pig’s head was gift-wrapped and accompanied by a greeting card inscribed with the erroneously spelt (but phonetically correct) words “Bonne appétit.” This was an act of provocation in very poor taste, but no more alarming than a small number of cases of minor vandalism reported over the past few months in various locations across Canada, unacceptable of course, but hardly surprising considering the current political climate.

Indeed this incident was much less serious than other acts of provocation perpetrated by persons who, while claiming to be friends of Muslims in general, are in reality objective allies of extremists (and in fact responsible for the current political climate), acts which were far more “hateful” than the pig’s head incident.

The most disturbing aspect of the severed pig’s head incident is the possibility of violence, unspoken but implied: given such a bloody mess, are other acts of bloody violence thus intended? On the other hand, animal heads are inevitable by-products of food provisionning in our society, so perhaps no violence is implied.

As for the choice of a pig, as opposed to any other animal, this aspect is evidently a dig at Muslim dietary practices which, like most religious practices, are irrational, arbitrary and baseless. So this aspect is hardly disturbing—on the contrary. Furthermore, the fact that this occurred during the “holy” month of Ramadan is also significant, given that the fasting imposed during Ramadan is a major threat to the health and welfare of Muslims and is often used as a way to threaten and intimidate individuals who exercise their freedom by choosing not to fast. Maryam Namazie (see links below) calls it the “heinous, dark month of Ramadan.”

A more subtle aspect of this case is disturbing in a completely different way: I think we can assume that it was an expression of fear—fear of Islam? or fear of Muslims?—and that this fear is partly legitimate. I must stress this point: fear of Islam is not unjustified. That fear has been allowed to fester by the inaction of political leaders, such as Premier Philippe Couillard and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who have taken a complacent approach to radical Islam. Even worse, such leaders have been complicit with fundamentalist Muslims, using the latter as clients to support their political goals, and have unscrupulously accused the fearful of various “sins” such as xenophobia and intolerance.

Finally, this event raises the all-important issue of distingishing radical or extremist Muslims from others. By adopting a very Islamophile attitude, mainstream politicians cultivate a climate of censorship of criticism of any form of Islam, thus stifling necessary debate which would help the public to be better informed and to take a more nuanced attitude. The perpetrator(s) of this incident, for example, were they targeting all Muslims, or only those they perceived as radical? What about the Quebec City mosque where they pig’s head was left: do radical Muslims have significant influence there, or do they not? How can we find out, if politicians tell us that we must simply shut up and say nothing against Islam?


Are you, dear reader, outraged by the pig’s head incident? Perhaps your outrage is rather selective. I have a few questions for you:

Were you outraged when … the Moderator of the United Church of Canada … stupidly accused supporters of a niqab ban of “Islamophobia” … ?

  • Were you outraged when the United Church of Canada recently held a public-prayer event in collaboration with the Muslim Association of Canada? This was an act of provocation more serious than the pig’s head. It involved moderate Christians helping fundamentalist Muslims to invade public space with their religious rituals—rituals which should occur only in places of worship. Worse, the media reported this event in a totally non-critical, indeed approving manner! (You are invited to sign the petition calling on the mayor of Montreal to prevent such events.)
  • Were you outraged when, in December 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement defaming the supporters of Quebec’s Charter of Secularism?
  • Were you outraged when, during the federal election campaign of October 2015, Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and many others slandered all those who supported a ban on the niqab during citizenship ceremonies?
  • Were you outraged when, during that same campaign, the Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Jordan Cantwell, stupidly accused supporters of a niqab ban of “Islamophobia”, thus spreading the idea that opposing fundamentalism is immoral?
  • Were you outraged during the 2013-2014 debate over the Quebec Charter of Secularism when supporters of secularism where denigrated and slandered as “intolerant,” “xenophobic,” “racist,” or worse by opponents of the Charter who included an unholy alliance between the Liberal Party of Quebec and fundamentalist Muslims?

Running through the above examples is a common thread of opposition to secularism, a white-washing of fundamentalist Islam and a failure to distinguish between fundamentalist and secular Muslims. By secular Muslims I mean those who welcome modernity and secularism and accept to practice their religion—if they practice it at all—in private, so as not to impose it on others. (I prefer not to use the term “moderate” because so-called moderate believers, while personally rejecting the most retrograde aspects of their religion, fail to denounce those aspects definitively, this enabling fundamentalists who continue to practice them and demand privileges based on them.)

For example, granting Zunera Ishaq the privilege of wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as if the niqab were representative of Muslim women’s dress serves to assimilate all Muslims to radical, fundamentalist Muslims, because only the latter promote the wearing of such oppressive clothing. Claiming that allowing the niqab is a “victory” for Muslim women grossly misrepresents who Muslim women are, and is an insult to the many women who have courageously resisted the imposition of the veil in Muslim-majority countries, often at great personal risk.

mainstream politicians, by failing to take clear action against Islamist radicalism … and worse, by showing utter contempt for critics of Islam, fail to reassure a concerned public and instead contribute to the climate of fear …

Most important of all, mainstream politicians, by failing to take clear action against Islamist radicalism—for example, by banning the niqab in official ceremonies, by banning foreign financial support to religious institutions in Canada, by investigating more thoroughly what sorts of discourse are commonplace in Canadian mosques—and worse, by showing utter contempt for critics of Islam, fail to reassure a concerned public and instead contribute to the climate of fear, thus increasing the probability of mean-spirited actions such as the pig’s head incident. Ordinary citizens concerned about religious radicalism have not only been abandoned by our country’s leaders, they have been treated with outright disdain, and this is especially true in Quebec where support for secularism is strongest.

Yes, whoever delivered the pig’s head to that mosque in Quebec City acted very stupidly—but no more stupidly than Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair, Jordan Cantwell and many others. If the pig’s head gifters had instead behaved intelligently, they would have sought co-operation with ex-Muslims and secular Muslims who do not practice Ramadan, together they would have organized a public event involving a feast during daytime in Ramadan, and instead of leaving a pig’s head they would have left a kind invitation to all Muslims, and everyone else, to join in the festivities and partake of the feast in defiance of Ramadan. And on the menu, I would suggest a variety of dishes to please a variety of palates, including, among other meats, a few pork dishes and maybe even some head cheese.


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Apostasy is a Human Right

The criminalization of apostasy is the religious equivalent of rape.

2016-04-07

The right to leave a religion, i.e. apostasy, is a necessary aspect of freedom of conscience. To deny a person that right, i.e. to force them to accept a system of beliefs and practises against their will, is analogous to forcing them to submit to sexual acts against their will. Furthermore, the denial of the right to apostasy is closely related to the essentialism underlying multiculturalism and the myth of religious obligations.

Sommaire en français Le droit de quitter une religion, c’est-à-dire d’apostasier, est un aspect incontournable de la liberté de conscience. Refuser ce droit en forçant un individu à accepter un système de croyances et de pratiques, contre la volonté de cet individu, est analogue à une obligation de se soumettre involontairement à des actes sexuels. De plus, la dénégation du droit d’apostasier est étroitement liée à la mentalité essentialiste qui soutient le multiculturalisme et le mythe de l’obligation religieuse.

Imagine that someone makes you a proposition. But, you are told, the only acceptable response you may give is “Yes.” You may be allowed your choice of several ways of saying “Yes,” but you must pick one of them because a response of “No” is simply unacceptable. Or, in a slight variant of this game, you have apparently said “Yes” at some time in the past — perhaps recently, but maybe in the distant past, perhaps even when you were a child too young to understand the proposition to which you were responding. In any case, you no longer have any choice, you may not say “No.”

I am sure that you would be upset, probably extremely upset, at being put in such a predicament, especially if the proposition were an unpleasant one.

If the proposition in question were of a sexual nature, this is called rape. You would be the target of a sexual proposition to which you would be forced to submit.

Now consider this: although there are varying opinions on the matter, according to Islamic doctrine, apostasy, i.e. the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim, is a sin, in general a crime, and often a capital crime. In fact, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, millions of Muslims are of the opinion that apostasy should be punishable by death. This means that if a Muslim person—either one born into that religion or who converted to it—should begin to question his or her faith, i.e. if they find themselves faced with the proposition “Do you wish to remain a Muslim?” then only an affirmative answer can save them from being considered at least a sinner and probably a criminal, and quite possibly a criminal deserving of death. A response of “No” is not an option.

So again, if the proposition is sexual, it is called rape. But if the proposition is religious, and if that religion is Islam, then we normally have a complete and absolute denial of freedom of conscience. There are of course secular Muslims who take a more flexible approach, but they are not in the mainstream of Islamic doctrine and theology. Furthermore, there may exist other religions which have such severe and draconian rules about apostasy, but I am unaware of them. If such religions exist, they must be far less important demographically than Islam.

[…] if a Muslim cleric or spokesperson asserts freedom of religion but fails to repudiate the Islamic condemnation of apostasy, then they are hypocritical; the so-called “freedom of religion” which they claim for Muslims is completely vacuous and worthless.

We thus see that mainstream Islam is utterly incompatible with freedom of conscience, which includes both freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion, and the latter implies the freedom to apostatize if one so chooses. Therefore, if a Muslim cleric or spokesperson asserts freedom of religion but fails to repudiate the Islamic condemnation of apostasy, then they are hypocritical; the so-called “freedom of religion” which they claim for Muslims is completely vacuous and worthless.

In both sexual and religious contexts, if one is not allowed to say “No” then any response of “Yes” becomes meaningless.

The Islamic condemnation of apostasy has implications for religion in general. Indeed it influences attitudes—even attitudes held by non-believers—towards religious affiliation. The reprobation of apostasy is complementary to the idea that religious belief and religious affiliation are in some way essential to the identity of the individual believer, as if that affiliation were immutable. This essentialist point of view is of course completely false: there is nothing innate or immutable about religion. The religion to which one belongs, if any, is in general completely determined by the milieu in which one is raised as a child; i.e. it is the result of the indoctrination of children, except for those few who convert as adults. (Here I am excluding forced conversions which are commonplace during the expansion of a religion by wars of conquest.) Religious affiliation has nothing to do with genetics or race. Even sexual orientation, which is subject to some flexibility and fluidity, is far more innate than religion.

Those Muslims who oppose apostasy so vehemently also exaggerate the importance of religious affiliation to the identity of the individual, and this strategy is self-serving: i.e. they seek to minimize deconversions among Muslims in order to avoid loss of numbers and loss of influence.

Furthermore, the myth of religious obligations—the notion that an individual participates in certain religious practices or wears certain clothing because he or she is obligated to do so—serves a similar purpose: it exaggerates the importance of religion to personal identity in order to freeze Muslims into their affiliation and prevent them from fully exercising their freedom of conscience, because if they did so, many would inevitably leave Islam and many of those would become atheists. In reality there is no such thing as a religious obligation to which individuals autonomously submit; on the contrary, either individuals choose their religious practises, or they are being coerced by others, in which case they are victims of abuse and need help to regain their freedom. The myth of religious obligations is a tool to deny freedom and, ultimately, to promote atheophobia.

To make matters worse, many non-believers, even some atheists, fall into the trap of accepting the essentialism which underlies the condemnation of apostasy. They implicitly accept the misconception that religious practises and clothing are somehow obligatory and unquestionable—and therefore must be accommodated. We thus have the pathetic spectacle of people who claim to be secularists opposing secularism in practise and promoting multiculturalism, an essentialist ideology which attaches greater importance to the ethno-religious affiliation of the individual than it does to his or her freedom of conscience. The ethno-religious determinism facilitated by multiculturalism is the ultra-light version of the denial of apostasy. Both weaken or threaten freedom of conscience.


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