Month: April 2013

Islamophobic Boobs

The Arab Spring of 2010 seemed a major blow to Islamic fundamentalism to many of us who lacked an understanding of the nature of the dictatorships under which they lived.  Unable to install our own puppet governments in those countries, the U.S. was disheartened to see Islamists take over in countries like Tunisia and Egypt; both of which lived under more or less secular dictatorships.  While it would have been tremendously unwise to identify as an atheist or Jew in those countries, Christians were welcome(though marginalized) and women had a voice.  Women have become increasingly silenced since the new democratically elected governments have taken over.  The real democratic nature of said takeover isn’t really clear at this time.

Flying in the face of the new Islamist regime, Amina Tyler posted pictures of herself topless on Facebook with slogans like, “Fuck your morals,” and, “My body belongs to me and is not the source of anyone’s honor,” down her bare chest.  A clear statement to be sure.  After the Tunisian government called for her to be stoned to death and rumors of her being committed to a mental institution, the radical feminist group FEMEN famous for staging topless demonstrations to attack any hint of oppression against women –  showed their support for Amina by running topless through the streets of several European countries with such slogans as “Fuck Islamism” and “Free Amina” painted across their breasts.  It achieved worldwide attention and succeeded at least in annoying Muslim women.  A possible misfire and according to the coverage of counter-protests by Muslim women, completely misunderstood.

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Jezebel, one of my favorite websites (really), had an article speaking not so much of the bravery of these women facing arrest (or worse) to support one of their own, but of the solipsistic Muslimah Pride counter-protest that was conducted online.  There was a running theme among Muslimah Pride movement online of attacking FEMEN for telling Muslim women what to do.  None came out in support of women anywhere speaking their minds beyond that of pride in their hijab.  There was not one sign, tweet, or Facebook post decrying the barbaric suggestion of stoning a woman for writing a slogan on her tits.  No, the real oppressors, according to them, are the women who launched a demonstration against the appalling treatment of women in Islamic countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  Jezebel, jumping on the multiculturalism bandwagon, decided to ultimately side with Muslimah Pride; and while they did mention the need to support Amina Tyler, almost completely glossed over the horrid oppression of Islamist governments.

The Jezebel piece accused FEMEN of using an Islamophobic approach, employing racial stereotypes against Muslims in order to make their point, as evidenced by one protester wearing a fake beard and turban.  That beards are required of Muslim men in the strictest practice of Islam isn’t mentioned.  Muslimah Pride, and the Jezebel piece, were focused on how wrong it was for FEMEN to speak for Muslim women.  In reality, the only woman they were speaking for was Amina Tyler.  Those who are fine with having no choices in life are perfectly welcome to live as they wish (it needs to be noted that the women posting Muslimah Pride pictures don’t live in Islamist regimes).  They will be ideological enemies to those of us who speak out for the women who want a life beyond the demands of fathers and husbands.  When young women take to the streets to decry the dreadful silencing of another woman under Islamic law, they aren’t concerned with the feelings of Muslim women living in free countries who make the free choice to wear headgear.  If you wish to use nonsense terms like, “Islamophobia” to describe us, so be it.

Islamophobia has been increasingly used recently in a backlash against Richard Dawkin’s, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.  These three “New Atheists” and their disciples are the targets of heavy criticism for allegedly promoting bigotry against Muslims.  And most of this criticism comes from liberals who might support them if they just stuck to attacking the Christian majority.  But Islam is a minority faith in the West and we must protect minorities no matter what.  Even if their ideas are silly.  And let us not discuss what happens if any religion is allowed political power.  This is why Islamophobia is a bullshit term.  It’s all too often used to claim racism against Muslims when that racism is merely criticism or ridicule of a poisonous ideology   One merely needs to understand that the suffix, “phobia” means fear or aversion.  If used correctly, one could claim that I am Islamophobic, in that I don’t care for Islam; or for any religion in fact.

While I can’t speak much to Harris’ writings, I can say I’ve read some really bad ideas from him and a few good.  His article in defense of profiling at the airport, for instance, is almost as ridiculous as Dawkins’ idea of getting atheists to call themselves Brights.  Ultimately while his language often leaves something to be desired, I’m okay with being lumped in with those like him.  That is to say, people who value the passionate discussion of ideas, who feel that no ideas are sacred and certainly none are worth killing over.

I have no reason to believe that an angel spoke to Mohammed in the desert.  I don’t think it ever happened.  To my mind, it is ludicrous to follow the word of a man making such claims.  Islam is an idea that is no more or less valid than Christianity, Hinduism, or Scientology.  Longevity speaks nothing to validity.  And while faith can be good for an individual using it to live a better life, any ideology that calls for the death of those who reject it is an ideology that is unworthy of respect.  The same is true for a religion that demands death for apostates.

These concepts were not pulled out of thin air but from extensive polling done throughout the world.  In Britain, nearly a third of young male Muslims want to live under Sharia law and believe that apostates should be put to death.  Oddly, those numbers are drastically lower for Muslims over 55 years of age.  Kids these days.  Meanwhile, whenever a story breaks of cartoons depicting Mohammed, or some other heinous offense, tens of thousands of Muslims take to the streets to demand that the offending party be beheaded.  That’s all apart from Islam’s atrocious treatment of women.  There are many Muslim women who are happy in their religion and enjoy wearing the hijab.  We’ll accept that as soon as women are no longer threatened or assaulted for trying to go a different way.  Islam as currently practiced by far too many Muslims throughout the world is incompatible with civilization.  To be perfectly clear, this does not mean that Muslims are evil, nor does it excuse the appalling treatment of some Muslims in this country.  Muslims that we are likely to encounter throughout the day are just average folk who work hard and often appreciate the advantages of living in this country far more than you do.  It is important to make that distinction.  Far too many Americans see all Muslims as a threat.

Many Evangelicals in this nation would call for the wholesale killing of Muslims – and atheists for that matter – if they had the political power and majority.  One need only consider the death threats to children who reject Christian teachings in school.  The only thing that makes Christianity easier to deal with in the western world is that we have figured out that it’s a better life to not be executed for skipping church.  But thinking that Christian fundamentalists don’t practice the same kind of barbarism shows a tremendous ignorance of world events.  Many Christians think there’s a religious conflict between themselves and Muslims over whose God is better.  To an atheist, it’s like watching a couple of headless men argue over who’s taller.

-Scott

We’re All Christians: A study on misleading titles(and subtitles)

During a recent and very short debate with my uncle, he asserted that a Christian that does evil in the name of Christ is not a true Christian.  I said that it’s a cop out, that a Christian is one who believes in Christ for better of worse and that we non-believers don’t have the luxury.  Atheists can’t say that a murderer isn’t a real atheist since all that is required for atheist is a lack of belief in a god.  According to my uncle, however, a Christian is one who follows in the teachings of Christ, and attempts to be as Christlike as humanly possible.  I let it go from there because we could have gone on forever over different interpretations and if Old Testament rules still apply as so many others seem to believe.  But it did get me thinking.

Richard Dawkins is fond of saying, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in.  Some of us just go one god further.”  I would like to make the claim that according to my uncle’s idea of Christianity we are all Christians, but some of us just choose a different Christ.  We all strive towards a goal of human perfection that is beyond our own capability, and we all fail miserably at it because we are imperfect beings.  Now, the Christian idea is that since we are imperfect, we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven when we die.  Jesus comes along and gives us the chance for perfection, but although working towards His level of goodness in life is the point, we still won’t get there until we go tits up.  It’s a cute idea, but one that I’m not likely to embrace anytime soon.  Rather than admit to being a sinner and undeserving and all that, I would rather ask what’s so special about God that I would want His grace in the first place.  But this of course assumes that there is a God and then I suddenly have to wonder if digressions mid-paragraph are considered a sin and I just don’t want to worry about that.  But that doesn’t change the fact that aspiring to be like Christ(i.e. tolerant, golden rule, etc) isn’t such a bad idea after all.  

Human beings are often prone to hero worship.  We see good qualities in others that we would like to emulate, and if that person doesn’t live of to those qualities themselves, we tend to overlook it.  We talk of great men and women in history like Mahatma Gandhi,  Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr..  While I would go so far as to state that the latter of the three is the only one who is more saint than shithead, even he cheated on his wife.  However, we do create this perfect version of those people and others in our heads and then do what we can to emulate that perfection, even if it’s entirely imagined.  So maybe for Christians to have an idea of a perfect human to strive towards – even if that person never existed, or did exist but without super powers – might not be such a bad thing after all.  Of course, the big part of Christianity is that Jesus was not just a man, but the son of God.  C.S. Lewis says that for him to make this claim would mean he would have to be telling the truth, toys in the attic, or a complete asshole(not his exact words).  As I’ve said before, someone can be bat-shit crazy and a good person.  

Many of us who fly the atheist banner tend to be rather harsh towards Christianity and often, Christians themselves.  While ideally we should focus on the former, the latter can be really annoying, and in some cases, downright evil.  There is the claim that atheists are just as annoying as Christians in all their zeal, but I would tell people to hold off on that claim until they’re woken up by non-believers trying to dissuade them from your religion at 9:00 AM on a Saturday morning.  The occasional troll in your web forums doesn’t sound so bad now, does it.  But the comments made by many atheists under the protection of internet anonymity, can be downright shitty.  And even within their communities, challenges to the status quo are often met with extreme hostility, despite how often the concept of reason and respectful discourse is thrown around.  Even I have been rather harsh in some of my writings.  Also some of my millions of readers might note that I have been guilty of slight exaggerations.  The point is that I’m not perfect.  Anyway, I do tend to look at good qualities in others and try to adopt those qualities.  I would love to write with the skill of Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, or Douglas Adams.  I strive to emulate Penn Jillette’s loving humanism.  And I will always fall short, at least in my own eyes, just like the followers of Jesus.  

The difference between myself and Christians is that I set my own standards.  I may not ever live up to them, but I don’t fear damnation because of it.  If I were to take all the men I mentioned above and throw in a few more personalities here and there(bit of Teddy Roosevelt, dash of Emma Goldman), combine all those qualities into one imaginary being that I called Boner McFierce, and took a few moments each day to contemplate ways that I could make myself more like Boner McFierce in all His glory, I could save myself some time.  Then again, I could just think of Jesus and project my own ideas of perfection onto him.  Jesus isn’t as cool a name as Boner McFierce, but at least  I could finally justify saying to people…

I sometimes wish I was a black woman.

-Scott