Showing posts from May, 2012

"To Profile or Not to Profile"? Sam Harris and Bruce Schneier debate

Sam Harris: I share your concern about not alienating the Muslim community. But we desperately need moderate Muslims to stop pretending that Islam is just like every other religion at this moment in history. As bad as Christianity and Judaism have been in the past (and may yet be again), only Muslims reliably work themselves into a killing rage over the mistreatment of a book; only Muslims murder their critics and apostates; only Muslims can be counted upon to riot by the tens of thousands over cartoons; and only Islam, with its doctrines of jihad and martyrdom, is perfectly suited to spawn a global death cult of suicidal terrorists.
We need moderate Muslims to admit that some of their coreligionists currently pose a danger to civil society unlike any other on the religious landscape. One would think this might be easy, as the effects of Muslim barbarism have so far been visited mostly on Muslims themselves. In fact, we need more people like Asra Nomani, whom you singled out for critic…

Indonesia: "No Model for Muslim Democracy"

This is from the New York Times.  But yet again, the mainstream media is behind the game, for the trampling of minority religions by this, the largest Muslim majority nation in the world, has been regularly reported in blogs for years now.  Still, it's good to see some straight reporting from "the newspaper of record"...

While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. Read on here.
Related: "Indonesia's Rising Religious Intolerance"

Revisiting Sebastian Faulks, Karen Armstrong and Sam Harris

An occasional reader emails:
Hey! I've only just read this!!! Very interesting. When i first read your take on it all, I agreed with you, but when i read his apology i didn't find it grovelling or anything like that. I didn't mind his use of the word 'humility' at the end.
I agree absolutely that 'we' -- ie us westerners -- or anyone else for that matter -- should be able to talk openly and/or criticise islam, just as we should be able to with any other religion, without fear of being killed or anything! But i didn't find his apology offensive. I was a touch surprised that the reader's referring to a post nearly two years old, and had to go back to it for review.
The kerfuffle was all about Sebastian Faulks, author of A Week in December, a book I'd just read and rather enjoyed.  In an interview in the The Telegraph, Faulks made some tart comments about the Koran and Muhammad.  This caused the expected upset amongst Muslims, which led to (i) The T…

"Science or Starvation"

At the end of the month, a group of shrieking protestors are planning to descend upon a field in Hertfordshire and, in their words, ‘decontaminate’ (i.e. destroy) a field of genetically modified wheat. The activists, from an organisation called Take the Flour Back, claim to be saving Britain from a deadly environmental menace. But in reality, these self-appointed guardians of Gaia are threatening not only to undo hundreds of man-years of publicly-funded research but also helping to destroy one of the best hopes we have of avoiding catastrophic famines in the poorest parts of the world in future decades. It is eco-snobbery on a global scale. Read on here.

Women in Islam

Wandering the Intertubes, came across this article, by an English convert to Islam, an apologia for Islam's treatment of women.
To anyone who follows this issue, her article is full of errors of commission and omission.
Just a few:
There is no right for a woman to be a head of state or a judge (Ai-Attal herself points this out!...). She fails to note that while men can easily divorce a woman ("I divorce thee" said three times), the same is not true for women. That the inheritance of a woman is half that of a male.  That a husband may, according to Koranic teaching, beat his wife if she is disobedient.  That the testimony of a woman in court is worth only a quarter that of a man (four "witnesses" needed to prove rape, for example). That the Umdat al-Salik, the classic manual of Islamic jurisprudence recommends female cliterdectomy (aka FGM).  That her own "choice" to veil herself is either a reflection of her own piety or of male suzerainty over her a…

Cognitive Dissonance in Egypt: they want the Saudi model, but "freedom" too...

From Pew Research "One Year Later, Egyptians Embrace Democracy, Islam in Political Life", there's this:
By a margin of 61% to 17%, Egyptians say Saudi Arabia is a better model than Turkey for the role of religion in government. 
But then there's also this:
However, most also endorse specific democratic rights and institutions that do not exist in Saudi Arabia, such as free speech, a free press, and equal rights for women.

What are these people thinking?  It just doesn't add up.  Saudi doesn't have any free speech, any freedom of the press or equal rights for women.
So what's left of the Saudi "model"?

The promotion of hate ideology in western mosques, as the Saudis do?
The funding of radical Madrassas, as the Saudi's do?
The killing of homosexuals, as the Saudi's do?
The prohibition of any other religion than Sunni Islam, as the Saudis do?
The killing of apostates, as the Saudis do?

Which part of the Saudi model do these 61% of repre…

On Pakistani men "grooming" young British girls for sex

To BBC "World Have Your Say":

The BBC World Service interview with a Muhammad and a young woman, managed to discuss all the issues other than religion.  Until the very end, when the interviewer touched on Islam very tentatively.
Of course interviewee Muhammad said Islam had nothing to do with preying on underage girls. As did the young woman.
But consider that Muhammad (the prophet) married Aisha at her age of 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9, that Muhammad is normative for Muslims (the “perfect man”) and that as a result underage marriage is permitted in many Muslim countries, from Indonesia to Iran.
Recent figures on child brides show that there’s a 70% correlation between the percentage of the population in a country which hews to Islam and the percentage of underage marriage.
The interviewees, like so many, call on us to have a “real conversation” about the issues.  Well, yes, let's.  And that would involve having a “real conversation” about the responsi…

Corruption in China: "No roads are straight here"

Murong Xuecun's article is interesting and spot on: corruption is endemic at all levels in China.  Well, we all knew that, didn't we?  The interesting aspect of "No roads are straight here" is that (1) Xuecun lives in China and wrote the article in Chinese and (2) the snippets of personal experience that bring the essay alive.
China needs what Hong Kong instituted in the 70s: a truly independent ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption).  A few years back I was with my brother-in-law in Wuhan, China.  We were having dinner and he pointed out another table having a jolly old time and he said "that's our ICAC.  China now has an ICAC, just like Hong Kong".  The main guy the table was being royally toasted, much wine, food and laughter.  This was most certainly not like the ICAC in Hong Kong. Here, an ICAC official being wined and dined like that would be sacked.
Xuecun looks a little like my brother-in-law, as it happens: that's Xuecun above.  …

Moderate Muslims.... Moderate "Islamism"?

Barry Rubin writes, sometimes at length, always cogently, about issues in Islam.
There is no doubt that “moderate Islam,” in the sense of a coherent body of alternative views that are liberal, is very weak, in many places virtually non-existent, and politically of no importance in the Middle East. That’s the reality and it will be so for many decades.

Ref [h/t BCF]

This is "Islamophobia"?? (aka "Bob Pitt is clueless")

Once again, this dope over at, the "revert" Bob Pitt, shoots himself in the foot.
It's a report of some people who displayed "caricatures" of Muhammad, and Muslims admitted to be Salafists (ie extremist Muslims) riot and are violent in reaction.
But the response to the violence is not to sheet home responsibility on those perpetrating the violence, the Salafists, those whose delicate sensitivities are so wounded by a caricature that they attack others... no, the ones attacked are those showing the cartoon. It is they who have "provoked" the violence.  Or so we are invited to conclude.
Not me, Bob.
What you claim is crazy. It's even crazier given that the caricatures are, as the report itself says, of "a man said to be the prophet", in which case -- if it's not certain who is being caricatured -- the violence is even more irrational.
Go home, Bob.

Sam Harris on profiling and the ethics of torture...

Sent via his site...
Dear Sam (if I may be so bold...),
I have read and enjoyed both your recent posts on profiling and the link back to your arguments on torture.
I agree with you on ALL points!
On the torture issue:
Could I direct you to a post I did myself back on 14 May 2011, in which I say that "I used to be full-square against torture.  It’s wrong, no ifs no buts.  But there are “buts” and there are “ifs”. " and conclude: "In short, I think the absolute prohibition of torture, with no ifs, no buts, is a position one can only hold if that proposition remains unexamined."
I find on re-reading my own post that I make some of the same points you have -- albeit in a much less felicitous way than yourself!
You may also find the little story of my father interesting: in the Second World War, he was a Captain in the Australian Army Intelligence, an interrogator of Japanese prisoners of war in Papua New Guinea.... (he was one of the very few members of the Australian…

The Fastest Growing Religion in America is Islam

I came across this article which quotes a new exhaustive study of religions in America, by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious bodies.
By 2010 the number of Muslims in the US was 2.6 million.  Note: this figure is much lower than the figure of 6-7 million that is regularly quoted by the Council of American Islamic Relations (eg, here, "... 2% of the [US] population..."). The figures of the US census are even lower 1.4 million in '08, which I extrapolate to 1.6 million now).
There's something wrong with the figures quoted by Snyder.
He says:
"From the year 2000 to 2012 the  census found that the number of Muslims living in the United States increased from 1 million to 2.6 million - a stunning increase of 66.7%". [*]
But clearly that's an increase of 160%.  On an annual basis it's an increase of 10% compound annual growth rate. (trust me: I have the cagr calculator)
And I think he's comparing two sets of figures that may not be…

Why aren't there more liberal (leftist) counter-Jihad blogs?

Well, I know the answer to that question on one level: there are books about it (Glazov, Horowitz, et al).  There's reflexive anti-Americanism, identification with the perceived "underdog" (woops, sorry for the canine reference...); with the "victims" of colonialism/imperialism; with post-modern moral relativism (all religions are the same, all equally good, or evil); with the belief that Jihadis have reasonable grievances at US policies in the middle east, or "occupation" of Muslim countries; and so on.
Many on the right think that there's something congenital about it, and call them all "leftards"...
But still, but still...
There's so much in Islam that's abhorrent to mainstream liberal beliefs and there's such a belief amongst liberals themselves that they have "evidence-based" outlooks, that one wonders still: why aren't there more free thinking liberal-leftists that take to task the clearly egregious aspec…

No dating, no dancing, sexual segregation: this is "victorious diversity" according to the NY Times!

Letter to the New York Times/International Herald Tribune, today. Regarding "This Prom Has Everything, Except for Boys", by Patricia Leigh Brown.
Old geezers like me will remember when they first heard of "women's liberation" and perhaps thought, as I did, "good heavens, what next!"
But gradually most of us realized the force of the argument to do away with gender discrimination in law and in society.

How sad, then, to see Patricia Leigh Brown celebrate "diversity" in the shape of an all-female prom night without even a backward glance at the battles won by her sisterhood, but now threatened by these new gender discrimination trends.
How much more laudable if these young women had defied their parents -- as have teenagers through the ages -- and stood up against a strict and misogynist belief system that would make them second-class citizens: Islamic Sharia, to be precise. It is this that forbids these young women to date, to dance with boys, to…