A Free Speech Outrage

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician, an elected member of that country’s Parliament, infamous for his right-wing views on immigration and social policy. In 2008, he released a short film, Fitna, which criticizes Islamic radicalism by interspersing video footage of terrorist attacks with quotes from the Quran and from prominent Islamic religious authorities praising the use of violence. The film can be viewed here – caution, contains some graphic images.

Now there’s some news that’s incredible in its audacity: a prosecutor in the kingdom of Jordan has charged Wilders with blasphemy and demanded that he be extradited to Jordan to stand trial.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Geert Wilders is a citizen of the Netherlands. He is not a citizen of Jordan; as far as I know, he has never set foot in Jordan. Everything he has said was spoken in the Netherlands, where the right of free speech is recognized and protected. Yet because his speech was heard in Islamic nations, and because it offended them, those nations demanded that he be extradited from his home country and sent to one of their countries, to stand trial under their primitive and repressive laws.

Whatever you may think of Wilders’ personal or political views, this development ought to lay to rest any remaining doubts regarding the goals of those groups he has criticized. By far the majority of states where Islam has become dominant have become theocracies, and like all theocracies through history, they do not want intellectual diversity, freedom of thought, or open debate on a level playing field. They want enforced silence and obedience, and they do not want to meet their critics on the battlefield of ideas, but to harm and punish them regardless of the merit of their arguments.

Of course, Wilders is in little danger from this ridiculous demand. Dutch prosecutors declined to charge him with anything, understandably so as he had broken no laws. But the 56-member-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference strongly condemned that decision and said it was “deeply annoyed” by it. (The next time someone says that Islam is for the most part a moderate and peaceful religion, ask them if they can produce quotes from a 56-nation Islamic conference defending the right of free speech.)

This affair is, however, an excellent illustration of the chilling danger posed by laws which seek to ban “hate speech”. Even if passed with the best intentions in the world, they are swiftly made use of by tyrants and theocrats who recognize quite well that any means of persuading the state to censor ideas can easily be used against their critics. Make no mistake – if Wilders was extradited and imprisoned, he would not be the last. Swiftly on the heels of that demand would come the next one, and the next, each one arrogantly presuming the right to punish anyone anywhere who says anything uncomplimentary about Islam. The OIC, in fact, referred to the “thin line” separating freedom of speech from what they want to be illegal. In other words, they’re saying it’s very easy to cross the line between what they view as permissible and impermissible criticism, which means the zone of permissible criticism must be a very small one indeed.

The OIC also says that Fitna “instigates feelings of hatred, animosity and antipathy towards Muslims”. And that may well be true. But the film, from what I’ve seen of it, does not invent imaginary crimes or fictitious outrages to attribute to Muslims. (This in contrast to Muslim theocracies which still teach the “blood libel” idea to their children.) To the contrary, Wilders’ film replays and exposes things which Muslims have actually done and actually said. If Muslim leaders feel that they’re shown in a bad light by these things, then they should go after the Muslims who’ve advocated or committed acts of appalling bloodshed in the name of that religion. Those should be the people they seek to extradite and bring to trial. To instead attack people who point out these evils gives the impression that they do not care about the savagery and brutality committed in the name of Islam, but rather, that they want to silence the people who bring it to public attention.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jennifer A. Burdoo

    You make a clear, concise, and cogent argument. I like it. Now if I can only remember to borrow it the next time I’m discussing this sort of thing…

  • Brad Swift

    I love this blog, I’m glad you posted this.. i watched the movie. definitely opened my eyes to how radical Islam is in the ME. Its hard to understand all the awesome Muslim people i know being associated with these wack jobs, but they are.

    and Jennifer, its a lot easier to take your time and write something then to discuss it in person, at least to be this clear and concise about it.

  • Christopher

    Now you know why I distrust governments as a whole: you never know what special interest groups (in this case the Islamic voting block) they are trying to appease or who they are willing to sacrifice to ensure that their goals are met. Thus the reason I love our 2nd. Amendment so much – if the “thought police” ever comes to my door to arrest me for “thought crime” (a.k.a. “hate crime”) they will leave in a plastic bag…

  • Samuel Skinner

    Reminds me of the cliche “freedom isn’t free”. It is nice to see Europe show some backbone- I can only wait to see what the future holds.

  • Christopher

    It appears as though these Islamic theocrats are even easier to offen than producing a movie critical of thier faith – now they’re outraged over a puppy!

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,374564,00.html#

    I just bust out laughing after reading this story.

  • Juan Felipe

    Excelent post, as usual.

    And this kind of unfortunate events should remind us about the threath to free speech that organized religion represents. If this happens with a film that points out the violence of radical muslims, do you imagine what would happen to someone who critizied islam on more serius issues? Just think what would happen if someone pointed out the errors in the Quran or stated the Muhammad is a false prophet.

  • bitbutter

    The next time someone says that Islam is for the most part a moderate and peaceful religion, ask them if they can produce quotes from a 56-nation Islamic conference defending the right of free speech.

    Zing! [sound of arrow hitting bullseye].

    Excellent article, very clear.

  • mikespeir

    And Jordan is supposed to be among the more moderate, West-leaning of the Islamic states.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommy

    The OIC also says that Fitna “instigates feelings of hatred, animosity and antipathy towards Muslims”.

    I imagine plenty of people have feelings of antipathy towards Muslims that have nothing to do with Fitna.

  • http://superhappyjen.blogspot.com superhappyjen

    I can live with a few “deeply annoyed” Islamic groups if it means we get freedom of speech.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/metalchris Chris

    In the 5th paragraph you say, “Of course, Wilders is in little danger from this ridiculous demand.” This instantly made me think of Theo Van Gogh who was also Dutch and he was murdered in the streets of his country for his film speaking against Islam. Speaking against Islam in public is like standing up to the mob, you better watch your back.

    Also of note, I think it’s rather apparent that these Islamic governments “…do not care about the savagery and brutality committed in the name of Islam…” as you said, but they aren’t trying to silence those who bring it to public attention, they want to silence those who say this is a bad thing.

  • He Who Invents Himself

    Straight from the OIC Observatory on Islamophobia:

    “The act of the Dutch Public Prosecutor to drop the charges against the producer of the film “Fitna” is tantamount to encouraging irresponsible media persecution, and nursing grudge against Muslims”

    Allowing free speech is now “tantamount to encouraging” what they consider “irresponsible persecution.” The problem: Islamophobia or Persecution Complex?

    On a related note, here’s their 1st OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia

  • He Who Invents Himself

    Er, it worked in the comment preview. Whatever:

    Title Quote: “The act of the Dutch Public Prosecutor to drop the charges against the producer of the film “Fitna” is tantamount to encouraging irresponsible media persecution, and nursing grudge against Muslims”

    Source: http://www.oic-oci.org/oicnew/topic_detail.asp?t_id=1187

    Document: 1st OIC Observatory on Islamophobia

    Source: http://www.idsb.org/en/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=41&Itemid=14

  • prase

    If the hate-speech laws were consistently applied, Islam would be banned first. The main problem of these laws is, I think, that since it’s impossible to define the crime of “hate speech” by any objective criteria, they are applied in favour of those who are crying loudest about being offended. Needless to say, these people are almost always hypocrites using completely different standards when judging themselves. Laws so prone to bias have to be avoided in a civilised society because their existence is a denial of justice – however many nations apparently haven’t discovered this yet.

  • Eric

    To hell with Muslims. They rape 8-13 yo boys with their circumcision rituals. At least Jews have the sense to rape week old babies when the infant can be seen as a subhuman, but Jews are rapists still. American Christian doctors step it up a notch and rape babies less than a week old.

    Being born male is not a crisis which merits consideration of surgical intervention. Countless millions are born male and the prospect of surgical intervention never comes up. We are born whole and complete. We have no abnormalities, we have no disease, we have not experienced any injury. Why is being born male seen as so extraordinary that it requires surgical intervention?

    Mslims rape. Jews rape. American Christian doctors rape. They deserve the ultimate humiliation, the complete obliteration of their identities by stomping on their faces.

    This is enough reason to wish the end of the middle Eastern monotheistic religions. They rape! They must perish!

  • He Who Invents Himself

    Eric, I’m not sure what to make of your comment. “They must perish!” seems a little odd to say. And circumcision would be better called “mutilation,” not rape, just so we’re straight here.

    The theocratic system is the problem that must perish, not the Muslims. Yes, the Muslims that commit crimes deserve punishment, but we can’t make sweeping generalizations about all Muslims. There are in fact Muslims who are (at least relatively) progressive that are fighting the system. Remember, even terrorists and other deluded perpetrators in these Islamic societies are victims of the system.

    Under the system, many of these people believe that submission is a virtue, that women need to be “humble” (meaning degraded and covered up), that men can therefore decide things for all women (like marriage and sex), that those who are not Muslims deserve scorn and retribution by Allah’s decree, and that Muslims used to rule the world and are fighting to do so again, and so on. The word “Islam,” in fact, literally translates to “submission.” (Although this translation will be flowered up elsewhere, as in “losing one’s self for the sake of God.”) Another major problem is the concept of honor. By mere allegation or suspicion that a woman has done something wrong, the “honor” of the male relatives must be upheld by killing her. (On average, more than 3 women are killed this way per day in Pakistan.) This primitive act isn’t just prosperous in the tribal regions though, as its ingrained in the public’s mindsets in many cases.

    I wonder how we are to reverse the barbarism that is present over there. Surely the battlefield of ideas can’t win a victory; dogma is too powerful under the system. Now, the battle over free speech might get the Muslim world to reflect on its actions and spark the tiniest bit of open-mindedness, but I doubt it’s enough for anything meaningful to come about. For something to happen to the system, there will have to be more heat and escalation or there needs to be some kind of strategy to open their minds. Any thoughts?

    “A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” ~~ Robert Frost

  • konrad_arflane

    This isn’t even an isolated incident. There’s also a case ongoing (brought by an organization by the name of The Prophet Unites Us) to charge several Danish newspaper editors who printed (or reprinted) the Mohammad cartoons, along with at least one of the cartoonists. I don’t know that I can muster any great outrage at it though. In a way, it’s kind of cute to see them try these hopeless maneuvers to get *someone* to pay, without regard for the obvious facts (nevermind that the “crimes” are not crimes in the Netherlands or Denmark, Jordan obviously doesn’t have anything resembling jurisdiction).

    However:

    By far the majority of states where Islam has become dominant have become theocracies

    This is a line of argument I’m see a lot both from internet atheists (or others criticizing Islam) and from various politicians of the “close the borders NOW” variety. I don’t find it terribly persuasive. A lot of countries with predomininantly Muslim populations are quite secularly governed. Egypt, for example, is a secular dictatorship waging a continuous battle against grassroots Islamic movements. Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a secular dictatorship. Turkey is a (fiercely) secular democracy. Algeria went through a protracted civil war between Islamic militants and a secularist military (which the military arguable started by canceling an election that the Islamists looked to win), ending in a victory for the secularists.

    There are, of course, obvious counter-examples – Iran, Afghanistan, Libya – but they don’t by any stretch of the imagination constitute “by far the majority”. Reality, as usual, is complex and doesn’t lend itself to easy generalizations.

    This is not to say that theocratic islamists are not a problem in the world today. They just haven’t had quite the success that it is rhetorically convenient to ascribe to them.

  • Smurfy

    You Americans (I assume most of you) simply don’t know how bad it is in europe already. Due to totally ignorant left-wing immigration politics half of the Muslim World is swarming in our countries, living on welfare, procreate en masse, commit crimes and breeding terrorism.
    The only way for Muslims and Non-Muslims to get along is separation.
    When the Muslum Population reaches a critical Mass (and this will be the case in 1 or 2 decades in Europe), Shariah Law or Civil War will be the only choice.
    Maybe you better watch out this won’t happen in your country too, so Non-Muslim Europeans have a place to go.

  • Polly

    It’s arrogant to the point of ridiculous for a prosecutor in one country to try to attempt extradition for a so-called “crime” that was committed in another country. Had Geert made, or distributed, his film IN JORDAN, they would have the right to try him by their laws. Although, it goes without saying that human rights trump the arbitrary laws of any state.
    I’m against all laws that try to limit free speech including those that try to define and eradicate “hate speech.” But most countries, including the US, are not free-speech absolutists. I think the US comes closer by far in terms of law.

    …Netherlands, where the right of free speech is recognized and protected.

    It’s a sliding scale in Europe.

    A few years ago a man was convicted in the Netherlands for a rather innocuous insult against the queen; he called her a “whore.” In fact they have laws against insulting royalty (a copmletely outdated and outmoded concept,IMO). The offender spent a little time in jail (days not years) and paid a fine.
    It’s not without precedent in the Netherlands as there are laws on the books against “blasphemy” in recent history. Though, I believe they are no longer enforced.

    And if you think Europe is a paragon of freedom unlike “primitive and repressive” Jordan, ask David Irving, holocaust denier, how he enjoyed the freedom of speech in Austria. I vehemently oppose his delusional historical revisionism, but he has every right to believe it and talk about it. He could have easily received a similar 3 year sentence in many other countries including Germany.

    In France, they wanted to make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. (and thus, exclude Turkey from the EU)

  • An Indonesian Atheist

    Konrad, I’d like to add my country to your list of “secularly governed countries where Muslims is the majority”.

    More than 80% of Indonesian citizens are Muslims, ranging in theology from the sufistic or liberal to taliban types. Yet, the government has been staunchly secular and radical Islamists have been mostly rejected by Indonesians.

  • konrad_arflane

    Smurfy: You’re exaggerating. Grossly. And worse, your attitude is not helping – among other things, it sustains the racism that is a significant contributing factor to the disproportionate number of immigrants on welfare.

    The only way for Muslims and Non-Muslims to get along is separation.

    Or as it is also known, segregation. Or apartheid. Yeah, that’s always worked real well.

    When the Muslum Population reaches a critical Mass (and this will be the case in 1 or 2 decades in Europe), Shariah Law or Civil War will be the only choice.

    I sincerely doubt it. For one thing, the “critical mass” would have to be sufficient for Muslims to achieve a parliamentary majority, unless you suspect them of planning a coup (well, a number of them, seeing as there are quite many countries in Europe) – in which case, see below. And the idea that they are “out-breeding us” doesn’t fly: for that stratagem to work, they would have to ensure that their children and grandchildren remain unpolluted by secular and democratic ideas, which is next to impossible to do consistently. To me, the fear that we will be overrun by second, third and fourth generation immigrants determined to institute Shariah law is a sign of a severe lack of trust in the persuasiveness, and indeed in the basic value, of a secular democratic system of government.

    To sum up: I believe you are totally, completely wrong in your assessment of the situation. But let’s meet up here at Daylight Atheism in 20 years and see who was right. ;-)

  • Polly

    When the Muslum Population reaches a critical Mass (and this will be the case in 1 or 2 decades in Europe), Shariah Law or Civil War will be the only choice.

    Yeah, we should probably round them all up and “relocate” them via cattlecars. First we’ll have to identify them. Maybe a little gold crescent worn on the outside of their clothing.

    Maybe you better watch out this won’t happen in your country too, so Non-Muslim Europeans have a place to go.

    Well, Smurfy, you may be happy to hear that according to Zogby, 37% of Muslims in the US have reported experiences of racial discrimination since 9/11. Meanwhile, our presidential candidates are bending over backward to show what good xians they are.

    I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish between racism and the verbiage used against Muslims – “backward”, “primitive”, apprantly Iran is in the “stone age” according to Jay Leno. These are the same types of things said about Native Americans that allowed the good xians to slaughter them in order to “civilize” them.

    Is it just me?

    Meanwhile, the American populace remains complacent about the murder/displacement of millions of Hadjis (like our meathead soldier-thugs say) in Iraq and thousands in Afghanistan all in the name of defending us from the dangerous threat posed by Islamofaschism. Looks like those labels are working.

    Is it just me?

    Say what you want, but consider who your steretypes serve.

  • Smurfy

    Thanks for your comments.
    But they are the same as from the left-wingers here reluctant to take responsibility for the immigration mess and try to downplay the whole problem and accuse the ones who point their fingers in the wound of ‘racism’ or ‘islamophobia’.
    I think everyone who is interested in free speech and free thinking, in science and a general advancement of the human race is wise to be ‘islamophpobic’, because islam represents the excact opposite of these.

    Well, Polly, if you are a woman, you should be glad you are not linving in iran (or any islamic country where women have about the same status as pets or worse.)

    The problem with Muslim immigrants is, they are unwilling (or unable?) to educate themselves and read anything than the Quran ( a book that musn’t be questioned). And these are not stereotypes, these are sad facts.

  • He Who Invents Himself

    You’re right, Smurfy, I don’t really know how bad it is in Europe. But like konrad_arflane said, segregation (“separation”) will not solve a damn thing and is opposed to all of our ideas of freedom. And in fact, there are Muslims willing to educate themselves beyond the Quron. That’s why a very small trickle are coming out. (Ayaan hirsi ali is a prominent example, and she has been blogged about here.)

    On the flipside, Polly, I think the charges of racism or Islamophobia are actually unfair. Like Smurfy referenced, if you were a woman in Iran, you’d likely be treated well below how you should be. Sure, technologically this theocratic system (Sharia law, honor killing, etc.) is not in the Stone Age. They have some science, history etc. (Let’s not mention the anti-evolutionism and holocaust denialism…) But there is also a perverted amount of religious distortion of all academic subjects, and the widespread culture that Islam has instilled is appalling. We are talking about fundamental human rights, freedom and democracy, we are not simply talking about their lifestyle. If you want to evade the charge of Islamophobia against Muslims, you merely need to reference “radical Muslims,” whatever proportion of the Muslim world that might include.

  • Polly

    Just calling it “left-wing” (which is really ironic) doesn’t change the fact that you’ve left the question open-ended. What exactly are you proposing to do? Entire nations have, at different points in history, decided on a most unsavory answer.

    But, what kind of system is it that sets out to limit the freedoms of one group of people because of their ethnicity/religion? Is that a democracy? Isn’t the battle (figurative) already lost once you dismantle freedom?

    The same charges you make about crime, breeding, etc. have been leveled at the Irish, the Italians, the Mexicans, the Poles, the Jews, the Catholics and just about every other wave of immigrants into the USA. (I realize you’re not from the USA) Why should we believe that Muslim immigrants represent the end of western civilization as we know it?

    Well, Polly, if you are a woman, you should be glad you are not linving in iran (or any islamic country where women have about the same status as pets or worse.)

    I’m not a woman and you are grossly exaggerating in the case of Iran and many other Muslim nations. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that Iranian women would rather solve their own problems (and are doing so) than have a “liberator” come to their rescue. Women’s movements exist all over the ME, too. Often it was the toppling of more progressive regimes (by or with US support) that pushed women backward. Women are certainly less free in Iraq now than under Sadaam. And you can thank the US-backed Shah of Iran for paving the way for an Islamic revolution. The people of Iran would have accepted anyone over the repressive US-stooge.

    And what of women in Europe not too long ago, from a historic perspective? They were chattle, no better than livestock. Why are Xian Europeans not “unable to educate themselves” but Muslim Arabs, Iranians, Turks or Indoenesians are considered incorrigible?

  • Smurfy

    Look at history. Everwhere where islam became dominant, the rest of culture and politics had to succumb.
    There is no separation between state and religion in islam.
    The non-muslims were lucky when they were not slaughtered but allowed to live as ‘dhimmis’, a-half-citizen-state, for a fee, of course.
    I am always hearing that : it’s only a few extremists, the majority of muslims are peaceful.
    But both draw their water from the same source : Islam.
    Religion is in many ways like opium or alcohol : a little now and then is ok, but too much is dangerous to your mental and physial health ?
    I don’t buy it. And the muslims don’t, either. Either you are a muslim or you are an infidel. There is no ‘in-between’.
    Polly (sorry for assuming you are woman ;=) )you ask what i propose to do ?
    First, i am not in a position to do anything, except voting, which doesn’t change much.Sureley i am not advocating imperialism against islamic countries, if they want to live like they do, it’s their choice. The problem are the muslims in europe and other non-islamic countries.It could be as simple as that : we withdraw our soldiers from their countries, they withraw their people from ours. No war, no blood.

  • konrad_arflane

    Look at history. Everwhere where islam became dominant, the rest of culture and politics had to succumb.
    There is no separation between state and religion in islam.

    I can think of rather few religions that explicitly mandate separation of church and state (the concept does exist in Christianity, but it’s far from universally applied). Meanwhile, separation of church and state does exist in several muslim countries, as I might have mentioned. In fact, I can think of few democracies that even come close to the level of separation present in Turkey (though France comes to mind).

    The non-muslims were lucky when they were not slaughtered but allowed to live as ‘dhimmis’, a-half-citizen-state, for a fee, of course.

    If we’re looking at history, I don’t think Islam has a particularly worse record than most other major religions. Of course, it’s not better either, so it’s still pretty bad.

    I am always hearing that : it’s only a few extremists, the majority of muslims are peaceful.
    But both draw their water from the same source : Islam.
    Religion is in many ways like opium or alcohol : a little now and then is ok, but too much is dangerous to your mental and physial health ?
    I don’t buy it. And the muslims don’t, either. Either you are a muslim or you are an infidel. There is no ‘in-between’.

    That would be the extremists’ position, I take it. Have you *asked* a moderate muslim what he thinks of the matter?

    Polly (sorry for assuming you are woman ;=) )you ask what i propose to do ?
    First, i am not in a position to do anything, except voting, which doesn’t change much.Sureley i am not advocating imperialism against islamic countries, if they want to live like they do, it’s their choice. The problem are the muslims in europe and other non-islamic countries.It could be as simple as that : we withdraw our soldiers from their countries, they withraw their people from ours. No war, no blood.

    Except ‘they’ can’t do that. We can withdraw our troops, because they’re troops and follow orders. Muslim immigrants, even if they’re still citizens of their countries of origin, are not subject to those countries’ decisions, except insofar as they go back and visit. So unless they all go back if we ask really, really nicely, we’re still left with Polly’s question: what do we do with our immigrants? If, as you say, “The only way for Muslims and Non-Muslims to get along is separation”, that leaves us with a very limited set of options, none of which are palatable in a free society. Consequently, I for one see it as better to assume that this is not the case, and work from there. And given that your other statement,

    The problem with Muslim immigrants is, they are unwilling (or unable?) to educate themselves and read anything than the Quran ( a book that musn’t be questioned). And these are not stereotypes, these are sad facts.

    is demonstrably false – Ayaan Hirsi Ali has already been mentioned, and any number of less prominent examples exist – you’ll forgive me if I don’t give a lot of weight to your opinion on what is and isn’t possible with regard to Muslims.

  • Smurfy

    konrad_arflane , presenting Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a progressive muslim is about as intelligent as to present Salman Rushdie as a reformer of the Quran.
    Both are under constant death threats from Muslims who would do everything to achieve their death.
    I am afraid you have to find other Crown witnesses for the alleged ability of islam to reform itselft. These both are proof it is totally unable to accept opinions contrary to it’s dogma.

  • Jim Baerg

    Smurfy:

    I think separating Muslims from the rest of the population is exactly the wrong thing to do. That will just perpetuate Muslims staying in their own repressive religion.

    What should be done is to insist on all children being educated in secular schools & preferably have religious education that exposes everyone to the beliefs of a wide variety of religions (& a non-religion or two). If that doesn’t assimilate the immigrants in a generation or two, nothing will.

  • Polly

    On the flipside, Polly, I think the charges of racism or Islamophobia are actually unfair.

    I never said “Islamophobia.” I said the US is warring against the red herring of “Islamofascism.”
    As for racism, I’m ambivalent. If someone makes such sweeping generalizations and assumptions about what the descendents of Muslims will do 1 or 2 generations later, then I have to wonder if they don’t subscribe to some kind of genetic-determinsm. My suspicion grows when I see that the same standards are not applied to Europeans in spite of the same kind of war-mongering and religious intolerance of the past.

    The non-muslims were lucky when they were not slaughtered but allowed to live as ‘dhimmis’, a-half-citizen-state, for a fee, of course.

    Have you considered the long history of anti-semitism in Europe up to and including the 20th century? Isn’t THAT religious intolerance? It was to the Muslim Ottoman Empire that Jews fled when Europeans persecuted them during the inquisition. Name me a European country that didn’t persecute religious minorities, even xian against xian. Even the American colonies (pre-constitution) ran mini-theocratic states and would persecute and confiscate the property of minority xian sects.

    Most atheists have read the Bible, so there’s no need to remind everyone about the atrocities god commanded his Chosen People to commit against infidels.

    So, what makes Islam WORSE than Christianity?

  • konrad_arflane

    konrad_arflane , presenting Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a progressive muslim is about as intelligent as to present Salman Rushdie as a reformer of the Quran.
    Both are under constant death threats from Muslims who would do everything to achieve their death.
    I am afraid you have to find other Crown witnesses for the alleged ability of islam to reform itselft. These both are proof it is totally unable to accept opinions contrary to it’s dogma.

    A) The historical existence of the Counter-Reformation does not mean the Reformation never happened.

    B) and more importantly, I did not hold up Hirsi Ali as an example of a progressive Muslim. I (and others) held her up as disproof of the claim that “The problem with Muslim immigrants is, they are unwilling (or unable?) to educate themselves and read anything than the Quran ( a book that musn’t be questioned).” It is really very simple. Your claim, being general, is disproven by the existence of even a single muslim immigrant who has educated him- or herself and/or read a book other than the Quran, or questioned the Quran. These people exist. The fact that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not a muslim any longer has no bearing on the fact that she once was, and that she took her first steps towards non-belief while still considering herself a Muslim, and being considered a Muslim by all who knew her. Salman Rushdie, now that you mention him, was raised a Muslim, but certainly didn’t stay that way.

    You’re making the very common mistake (so common that you’ve already seen the rebuttals many times, it seems) of insisting that the most extreme interpretation of Islam is also the only correct one. It is a mistake that puts you in the company of some really unsavoury characters – the Ayatollahs of Iran, for example. It remains a mistake, however, and you’re compounding it by making it “from the outside”, and thus discouraging the people you should be helping – those Muslims who are looking for a more relaxed and tolerant version of their faith, or maybe even taking the first steps on the road away from it entirely.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    This is a line of argument I’m see a lot both from internet atheists (or others criticizing Islam) and from various politicians of the “close the borders NOW” variety. I don’t find it terribly persuasive. A lot of countries with predomininantly Muslim populations are quite secularly governed.

    Konrad, I think your examples prove my point, rather than yours. You list Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq, post-colonialism Algeria, and Turkey. But these countries are not peaceful, secular nations where Muslims support separation of church and state. Rather, these countries are all oligarchies where a small, unelected group of rulers exercises all the power and continually thwarts the will of a predominantly Muslim population wishing to impose theocratic law. (Turkey is a democracy, but even so, its military has repeatedly thrown out governments that weren’t sufficiently secular. All the rest of the nations you list are out-and-out dictatorships.)

  • konrad_arflane

    You’re welcome to your opinion, of course. I just don’t think it’s necessary to exaggerate how successful the theocrats have been at seizing power, like I said (yes, they’re out-and-out dictatorships, but they’re secular dictatorships). It is also doubtful whether these countries are dictatorships because of the presence of Islam or for other historical reasons (much like the many dictatorships in the non-Muslim parts of the post-colonial world). It seems to me that any dictator worth his salt will either ally himself with whatever religion is most common in his country (to improve the perceived legitimacy of his rule), like Gaddafi or Franco, or suppress religion ruthlessly, as the communists did. In other words, either religion is part of a dictator’s power base, or it’s a direct competitor to it. In the latter case, it is at least arguable that the presence of a dictatorship will tend make the local religion more extremist that it would otherwise have been. The history of Iran appear to be an object lesson in this.

    As for Turkey, it is true that the military has intervened frequently to impose secularism against the will of the population. However, the Turkish version of secularism is so extreme that even I can’t quite identify with it. It is not unreasonable, I think, to suggest that the Turkish military could have been somewhat less zealous without putting the country at risk of backsliding to a theocracy.

  • Smurfy

    It really eludes me how people who can be so fierce on christianity can at the same time be so apologetic about islam, by far the worst, most rigid and back-minded of the three abrahamic religions.
    See, i’d be only too glad if i am wrong about europe’s future. Other than muslims, i am not a dogmatic.
    But as things are and what makes Islam worse than xianity, is the fact that Islam is still the Monolith it has been for centuries, opposed to xianity which had an enlightenment (at least in the old world, not so much in the US) , i am afraid i am right.

  • konrad_arflane

    Smurfy, my problem with your posts is that you consistentely fail to distinguish between Islam and individual Muslims. Islam may include any number of unsavoury commandments, and some, or even many, Muslims may follow them. Indeed, some Muslims may do their religion one better and commit atrocities not sanctioned by their religion. But it doesn’t follow from this that ALL Muslims behave like that, or that they’re just biding their time until the demographic balance shifts enough that they can without fear of reprisal. It certainly doesn’t follow that their descendants will, even if they don’t renounce their parents’ religion entirely. (And IMHO, the way to avoid the outcome you fear is precisely the opposite of the way you’re taking.)

    But as things are and what makes Islam worse than xianity, is the fact that Islam is still the Monolith it has been for centuries, opposed to xianity which had an enlightenment (at least in the old world, not so much in the US) , i am afraid i am right.

    I’m sorry, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to maintain proper netiquette with you. Have you perhaps heard of the *ahem* “sectarian violence” in Iraq? Is that your idea of a “monolithic” religion? Not to mention the fact that the organization of Islam compares best to the most loosely organized Christian denominations, such as American evangelicals. Islam doesn’t have a Pope, it doesn’t have cardinals or archbishops. I’m not even sure it has bishops. Now it’s possible that this state of affairs is a contributing factor to the extremism we’re witnesses to in the Islamic world right now – when there is no formal structure, the most shrill voices tend to attract the most attention (and possibly the most followers), much like American evangelicism, in fact. But be that as it may, if we’re to actually *do* anything about the situation, we need to understand what is actually going on, and not rely on the scare-mongering distortions peddled by the worst of our politicians.

    Also, please read Ebon’s post above this one, “A Riotous Diversity”, and tell me why the situation he describes shouldn’t also apply to Muslims.

  • Smurfy

    konrad_arflane, first, there is no reason to loose patience or drop netiquette just because someone doesn’t conform to your views or ideology.
    Second, you make impossible demands like looking at indivduals when critizizing an ideology or religion. That way, you could never critize any political or religious movement without looking at each member individually which is practically impossible.
    Third, events like this only confirm my view on the islamic danger in Europe
    Sharia law in UK is ‘unavoidable’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7232661.stm
    I guess we could go on forever, ironically much like believers and non-believers though i suppose we both belong to the latter category.

  • prase

    About distinguishing Islam from individual muslims: From the nonbeliever’s perspective, it’s not wise to define the religion by its holy book or some canonical standard, instead it makes much more sense to define each particular religion with beliefs and practices of its adherents. At least we can such spare ourselves from never ending debates about what is the “true” form of Islam, Xianity or whatever. From this point of view, distinguishing Islam from Muslims seems to me a bit arbitrary. However we must fairly consider behaviour of all Muslims, not only the most visible (read extremist) part.

    Second, concerning Europe’s future, as an European I do not feel overly optimistic, but still see Smurfy’s viewpoint as utterly absurd. Fear apparently doesn’t help anybody to think clearly. Can you really think about Islamic theocracy in Europe in 20 years? I agree that the attitude of western-European governments to Islam should change, but this will inevitably follow if the Muslim atrocities graduate. I don’t underestimate democracy’s ability to solve problems. Does anybody think segregation of any form is a realistic option (also in the sense you can democratically agree on such solution)? If not, we should insist on secular laws, maintain a reasonable level of universal secular education and wait until muslim communities diminish, assimilate or become moderate. I still think that today’s revival of political Islam is only a short-term phenomenon and we will be solving completely different problems in 2050.

  • konrad_arflane

    konrad_arflane, first, there is no reason to loose patience or drop netiquette just because someone doesn’t conform to your views or ideology.

    Well, I don’t think I actually did drop netiquette. At least not in what I ended up posting ;-)

    But really, when you make statements like the one about Islam being monolithic, it goes beyond not conforming to my views, and into the realm of conflicting with reality. That sort of thing is terribly difficult to argue with, especially if you’re trying to keep a cool head at the same time. I honestly don’t mind if you think Islam is awful, as long as you’ll acknowledge that it’s not a single kind of awful.

    Second, you make impossible demands like looking at indivduals when critizizing an ideology or religion. That way, you could never critize any political or religious movement without looking at each member individually which is practically impossible.

    I wouldn’t ask you to to look at all Muslims individually. I would ask you to refrain from looking at the worst percent of them and assuming they’re representative of the rest.

    And you’ll forgive me if I don’t consider the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on how best to accommodate Muslim immigrants authoritative (though I agree that it’s troubling that such an influential (well, in Britain anyway) figure feels that way). I agree with prase that the way to go is insisting on secular laws and secular basic education. Several European countries, my own included, still need to get last remnants of Christianity out of those areas before we can reasonably expect Muslims to take us seriously when we preach secularism to them. If and when we get that sorted out, I’m confident that we’ll see our immigrant communities come round to our point of view in a generation or two.

  • Eric

    The reason I describe circumcision as rape rather than mutilation is that the purpose is to establish sexual dominance. Circumcision makes us their bitches. The mean to say that we can’t fuck with what we have. but only with they gave us. Episotimy is usualy rape Episiotomy is more painful than a first degree tear, and increases the chance of more severe tears. It’s a lose-lose operation, but they still do it because doctors have to make women their bitches.

    This whole shit about doctors making us their bitches leaked in from the Middle-eastern monotheistic faiths, and so those faiths must perish as the degenerate rape-fostering piles of filth they are. If I had the Gyges’ Ring that would allow me to eliminate these religions, I would use it without hesitation.

    The poit of the Gyges’ Ring story is that we all praise justice and the values of our community out of weakness, and that if any of us were to gain some outstanding power over others such that we could act accordong to our wills with impunity, we would use it to reshape the world according to our ends. The Gyges of legend seduced the queen, usurped the throne, and conqured Lydia’s enemies. Gyges had an empire, but thought small

    What woud you do if you were Superman?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk
    This is a line of argument I’m see a lot both from internet atheists (or others criticizing Islam) and from various politicians of the “close the borders NOW” variety. I don’t find it terribly persuasive. A lot of countries with predomininantly Muslim populations are quite secularly governed.

    Konrad, I think your examples prove my point, rather than yours. You list Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq, post-colonialism Algeria, and Turkey. But these countries are not peaceful, secular nations where Muslims support separation of church and state. Rather, these countries are all oligarchies where a small, unelected group of rulers exercises all the power and continually thwarts the will of a predominantly Muslim population wishing to impose theocratic law. (Turkey is a democracy, but even so, its military has repeatedly thrown out governments that weren’t sufficiently secular. All the rest of the nations you list are out-and-out dictatorships.)

    This is exactly what I had been thinking. I’ve spent over a year in Iraq and watched the downward spiral take place as parents were forced to pull their daughters out of school for fear of religious reprisals, how bookstores and liquor stores were bombed by religious fanatics. Not all of the violence in that country is directed against American forces. It’s ironic how bookstores that survived years of Saddam’s brutal regime and struggled to bring about free speech and news to the Iraqi people lasted but just a matter of months after the Muslim nutcases were let loose. Regular Iraqi people live in a very real and present danger from religious fanatics. They’re not just a few bad apples, they are an utter nightmare.

    There are certainly moderate Muslims. They love to read, drink alcohol, watch pornos (believe it or not, just check out what they play on Arab satelite TV networks), go to school, and vote in democratic elections. The problem is, with all of the ones I’ve ever met, none of them are particularly religious. They’re a lot like the salad bar Christians and other non-practicing types. They don’t bow down towards Mecca 5 times a day and they get pissed off when their neighbors pressure them not to let their wives walk outside without a burka. Inside their homes, their wives walk around in daisy dukes whatever the hell they feel like wearing. It’s just that when these moderate Muslims walk outside into public, if they so much as show an ounce of secularism, they’re liable to get killed by their religious neighbors.

    This whole idea of apologizing for Muslims is like apologizing for American Christians by pointing out that there are atheists in America, too. Sorry, but religious Muslims just don’t deserve to get the credit for the moderate nature of their own neighbors who they oppress.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    Excellent post. Even though most religious practitioners don’t condone the behavior of their extremist compatriots, they tend to keep their disagreements to themselves rather than criticize “their own.” Religious solidarity is often considered more important than speaking up for what’s right. If moderate and liberal believers want non-believers to support their freedom to believe and worship as they wish, then they need to break free of the “us vs. them” mentality that permeates and perpetuates religious faith and makes extremism dangerous for all of us. They need to recognize that extremism is as big a threat to them as it is to non-believers.

  • Polly

    Rather, these countries are all oligarchies where a small, unelected group of rulers exercises all the power and continually thwarts the will of a predominantly Muslim population wishing to impose theocratic law.

    In the case of Turkey I’d be interested in what evidence you have that the populace wants to impose theocratic law as opposed to simply being dissatisfied with a government that is not just secular but anti-religious.

    From Time Magazine May 2007
    Despite secularists’ warnings, a poll conducted last year by a leading Istanbul think tank found that only 8.9% of the population would like to see Turkey’s legal system based on Shari’a law, down from 21% in 1999. But many chafe at restrictions imposed on conservative Muslims by the secular state: according to the same poll, only 14% of those surveyed believed that Turks were able to practice Islam freely, down from 31% in 1999.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    Part of the problem in Western Europe is that it is easier for Muslim immigrants to get welfare than it is to get a job, whereas in the United States Muslim immigrants assimilate better because they can easily enter the labor force, whereas it is much more difficult to go on welfare.