Monday, 10 April 2017

Hussein the taxi man

Coming in from Auckland to Sydney airport, thence to Bondi beach the other day my cabbie was Hussein. Very well, from his name I know his faith. But I don't say nothin'.

Instead, we chat and I ask after his family. He has a wife. No kids. What does his wife do, I ask. She's a housewife, he says. So what does she do all day? I ask. I do nothing all day and I'm often bored. How about a young woman?

Well, says Hussein, she's still in Pakistan. So, I ask, is this an arranged marriage? Yes he says.

Well, you know, I say, feeling like I shouldn't, like I should leave it, but cheeky all the same: you know we used to do arranged marriages in the west until maybe a hundred years ago. Bit we decided it was better to let marriage happen through love.

Yes, said Hussein, I know. No argument there or upset from him. Impressive.

We talk about this -- the issue of arranged marriages -- for a bit then he informs me that his wife is his first cousin. Well, I say, first cousin marriage has higher incidence of birth defects than non-relation births.

Yes, I know, he says. To my incredulity. But, he claims that he's heard the problem is less with first cousins than with second or third.

I'm not sure about that, I say.

Well, it will all be ok, Hussein says, Insh'Allah.

That does it for me. This whole insh'Allah thing really creeps me out. Nearly as much as the howl of Allahu Akhbar! before the next mass murder of infidels.

So I say: it's not insh'Allah, it's not the will of god. It's down to whether you the science. Whether you decide to go ahead to have children. Whether when you do have them, the lottery of genetics favours you or not. And if it doesn't favour you -- and you believe in your god -- what does that say about his feelings towards you? What have you done to make him harm you? No, Hussein, it's not insh'Allah.

We then cover, in no particular order:

What's good about Islam. Or not.

I say I'm an atheist. Have been since nine. So I don't believe, or really like any religion at all. But they're not all the same. And Islam's clearly the worst (IMHO).

No, says Hussein, it's the best because it's the latest and everything has been corrected.

But, I say, the Koran has been put together by stealing and mish-mashing bits of the Bible and bits of the. Bible. That's clear.

Hussein reckons that Islam is the best religion towards all other religions.

How can that be, I say, when the prayer said five times a day, by pious Muslims, the equivalent to Christianity's Lords Prayer, is the first Surat of the Koran which asks to be "rightly guided" unlike those who have "gone wrong", which refers to the Jews, and unlike the "hypocrites", which refers to the Christians. How can Islam be so caring about other religions when they spend five prayers a day cursing them?

You've misunderstood it, says Hussein. Thus bringing Into play for, the first time, that classic of apologia: the "misunderstanders", of which I'm now allegedly one.

So far so much verbal tennis. Both of us bashing from the baseline. Keeping our cool though.

The place of women in Islam

Hussein reckons women are treated better by Islam, than other religions.

You mean like not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia? Like the Koran permiTting husbands to beat them? Like only getting half the inheritance of men?


Death for gays in Islam.
I drop a soft ball just over the net. Hussein doesn't quite get to it.

Islamic law says gays must be killed, I say. It's in the Hadith of Bukhara and in the Umdat al-Salik, the standard manual of Islamic jurisprudence.

That shouldn't be, says Hussein.

Death for apostates in Islam

A carbon copy shot as for gays and again Hussain says it shouldn't be.

But it is, even here in Australia, I say. Having just posted about it, I can quote the imam's name Hatham Badar. He said death to apostates is clear in Islamic doctrine (which it is). Hussain says this fellow can't be a proper Muslim. Or he is "misunderstanding". Another one of those.

Saudi Arabia and Iran: who are Muslims and who not?

So what about other places then? Are they Islamic, I ask Hussein. No, and no, he says of those two. And adds, of curse, ISIS. They have "perverted Islam", he says, but we don't have time to get in why. I just get in a quick shot about Graeme Woods piece in The Atlantic, which shows conclusively just how Islamic they are, it that just fizzes by to the keeper, if I may mix the metaphors and change horses mid stream.
I ask if he knows what is the Constitution of Saudi Arabia. He does not, so I inform him that it's the Koran. In its entirety. In which case, says Hussein, they must be misinterpreting the Koran. I say that a Saudi princess was beheaded a some years back because she had committed adultry, and her punishment was in accordance with the Koran. They've misread it, he repeats.

So then I ask him about others: according to Hussein, Saudi Arabia is not Muslim, neither is Iran or Iraq. And of course ISIS is not Mulim. I ask him why does he get to say who's Muslim, when they themselves say they are. No real answer to that, except along the lines of the "not true Scotsman" fallacy. 

Hussein adds Al-Qaeda to the list of those that aren't Muslim. Do you know, he asks me, that Hillary Clinton "admitted" America had funded Al-Qaeda? Well, yes, I did know that. It was no secret that during the Cold War the US funded and armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, to fight the Soviets. Osama bin Ladin was there and happily shared in the funds. That doesn't make them less Muslim. Just as the Chinese communists were no less communist for having taken money from French intellectuals.

Islam's view of non-Muslims: Hussein says that Islam is the most tolerant and peaceful religion that cares for all people. I say that the Koran says: be nice and kind to Muslims. It doesn't mention non-Muslims, except to curse them and to say "to you your religion, to me, mine", and worse: "between us there shall be hatred and enmity for all time". No discernable answer from Hussein.

Charity in Islam: we go onto this somehow, and I say that charity in Islam, the zakat, is mandated for Muslims at a rate of 12.5% of their income. But it had to go to Islamic causes, and could not be given to we infidels. Hussein says that he gives money for charity for all sorts of people, not just Muslims. I say, good on you. But it's not Islamic. Still, good on you.

Al Q'aeda are not Muslims, says Hussein.... He quotes Hillary Clinton, saying that they'd paid for arms for Osama bin Laden and the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan. I say that's well known, and in retrospect a strategic error -- done because we were in a cold war with the Soviet Union -- but didn't mean that OBL and the Mujis were not Muslims, fighting then and now a holy war. For they were and are.

Reading the Koran in translation: Hussein tries for a little bit the line that if you don't read the Koran in Arabic, then you don't know it property. But I cut him off on that: what about him, a Pakistani, has he read it in Arabic? (no). What about Indonesians, Malaysians? Indeed the majority of Muslims who don't speak Arabic. I also say I speak and read Chinese, a more complex language (I reckon) than Arabic to translate, especially its classic versions, yet there are plenty of fine and understandable translations. So that's a furphy. He didn't pursue this, recognising it as a loser. (it's often run by other apologists, however, and I haven't seen anyone to whom it's aimed, come back with a decent answer, even though there are good comebacks, and it's a nonsense).

Moral equivalence between Christians and Muslims

Is Hussein a good Muslim or a bad Muslim? Given all he's said, I say congratulations, Hussein, you're not really a Muslim. You're actually a "good Muslim" according to we non-Muslims, for you don't want to force your religion on the rest of us, you give charity to non-Muslims, you're very tolerant of gays, women, etc. But you're a "bad Muslim" according to pious Muslims. He doesn't much like this thought, but seems to accept it...

Why are you a Muslim, Hussein? He says he's a Muslim because it's the latest revelation and therefore the perfection of all the previous monotheistic ones, Judaism and Christianity. I say: no you're not a Muslim because of that; you're a Muslim because your parent told you you were. Just as you believed them, as a baby and young boy, when they told you fire burnt, so you believed them when they told you the only true religion was Islam and Muhammad his prophet.

The treaty of Hudaybya. Battle of Badr. He reckoned Islam had no problem with Jews. Because he did not have a problem with Jews, so he told me. I said that Islam hated Jews and that it went right back to early battles against them, by Muhammad, who personally beheaded hundreds of them in the Battle of Badr. Hussein said: right and why did Muhammad fight them? Well, cause I know this, because Muhammad thought they'd abrogated the Treaty of Hudabya. But history shows that he was after any pretext. What he hated about the Jews was they didn't accept his prophethood and laughed at him -- they're still doing that, says I -- the best stand-up comedians in the world! I said that Christopher Hitchens had noted Muhammad's rage at the Jews laughing at him and that this was the main reason he fought them and reviled them.

This was a torrid discussion. But it was in good humour and at the end he helped me out with my bags and gave me a warm handshake. If all Muslims were as open to discussion, yet as moderate and tolerant as Hussein, we'd have no objections to Muslim immigration.
Sadly, he's one in a dozen, or one in a hundred. There are many more along the lines of the convert in the CNN video, Behind the Mask, in the immediately preceding post.