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  • By Jeffrey Tayler

    Whatever you do, decent progressive people, when terrorism comes up, don’t be “Islamophobic” and mention Islam! If Islam comes up anyway, do draw false equivalencies and hobble yours […]

    • Unlike other world religions, Islam claims that each word recorded in the Quran was dictated to Mohamed in Arabic by Allah, the only true and supreme God. Once revealed and written down in the seventh century, the Quaran became the absolute immutable source of authority for absolute submission/obedience for all time. Christians, even sects who perversely qualify their piety as fundamentalist, cannot comprehend the radical fundamentalism of Islam. The conundrum derives from the principle that the Quran cannot be interpreted, modified or translated. The bizarre tradition, still practiced in Islamic countries, of memorizing the entire Quran in Arabic word for word far transcends the Christian or Jewish ambition to merely cite “chapter and verse” for pedagogical reasons. Pious Muslims submitting to this exercise are literally trying to empty their minds of human thought and through spiritual -we would say neurological discipline trying to displace intellectual “white noise” with the Exclusive Word of God.

      In practice, the diversity of Muslim sects and lifestyles interacting with other cultures; the diversity of ordinary Muslims living more or less decent lives; the complex march of historical events impacting Islamic regions culminating today in the great civil wars between Sunni and Shia in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan might seem to disqualify the harsh reductionism apparently expressed above.

      The misinterpretation conflates individuals comprising the vast majority of Muslims with Islamism, the fundamental belief system. The predominate inputs that shaped Islamic expansionism in the 7th century were totalitarianism -absolute obedience to religious-state authority in all aspects of behavior; oppression -patriarchal power enforced with harsh punishment for deviance; and militarism – universal conscription as a jihadist to expand the empire of faith by armed force. In hindsight we can see that these principles, reflecting the primitive mindset and practices of the early middle ages, became baked into a retrogressive way of life whose Divine Authority prohibited any criticism or deviation of purpose from the original word, while extinguishing freedom of conscience.

      Islam interpreted loosely as another religion – praying, chanting, striving for ethical self-improvement and altruism may be viewed as harmless; Islam interpreted as commitment to core pious belief is what the 20th century came to know as fascism -tyranny, oppression, and mass murder- in the geopolitical arena. Therein lies the paradox to be explored.

    • Olgun, Is the U.S. of A the sole author of all Global ills? Or are people just deciding that “Capitalism” is surely the “root” of all global problems and that Capitalism = USA in the very simplified equation of west-hating?
      All seems very complicated and chaotic to be able blame one super-power over all the other global influences that are presently making such a mess of global politics. I think that Islam v Capitalism will probably bring about the final third world war and possibly the extinction of the human-race. Won’t be a big surprise given the innate stupidity of the third chimpanzee.

    • Olgun #2

      Islam (the book) = harmless.

      Islam (by the book) = oppression

      Very true. I said the same thing – although I expressed it differently – on the last thread about “Islamophobia”. Important point. Seems like a basic point, obvious; but it has eluded many.

    • Thank goodness for you, Olgun.

      Of course we must be able to openly criticise those things that deserve to be criticised; but it would be nice if we could do so with both honesty and nuance. And as you have pointed out, a sense of perspective doesn’t go amiss either.

      A close adherence to the tenets of fundamentalist Islam is absolutely one of the dangers facing the world. But it is not the only one. And – for those of us in the West, in terms of actual numbers of victims – not even the greatest one.

      And anyone who assumes that Islam in all its forms, or that every single Muslim, must automatically also be one of the dangers facing the world is voicing a pretty fundamentalist view of their own.

      I have frequently observed a tendency among some people here to assume that every single religious person either does or should interpret their “holy” texts literally. I suspect that the people who think this have never personally been religious. Because – whatever the theory, and whatever the religious fundamentalists may claim – in reality, religion has as much to do with culture and family, and a sense of belonging and of emotional and psychological security as it has to do with specific texts. And although it may not be either logical or rational, the reality is that, IN PRACTICE, most religious people – whether Muslim or Christian or whatever – don’t actually take the texts literally and do perform all sorts of mental contortions to convince themselves that they are not required to.

      And a bloody good thing too. We’re not going to get rid of religion, so the best we can hope for is that more and more religious followers understand that they don’t need to take the most bloodcurdling calls to violence and destruction literally. Why anyone here should wish to tell them that, actually, they do, is absolutely beyond me.

    • I think that Islam v Capitalism will probably bring about the final third world war and possibly the extinction of the human-race. M27Holts #4 Jan 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

      These entities are neither in contradistinction to one another. nor are they military powers. Military powers, due to their possession of nuclear weapons and their belligerence, which are leading candidates to be involved in a war, of the scope and intensity to be called a ‘world war’, are the United States, Russia and China. The election of an unstable individual as American president increases the possibility of a nuclear exchange.

      The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by which these three powers, and most others, have committed themselves to disarmament, shows no signs of leading to that end. Looking at it optimistically, after, you might say, a hundred million dead, the belligerents might each declare victory and begin peace negotiations. The optimistic part is that the Second World War led to the founding of the United Nations and that another episode of death and destruction on that scale would make world peace a more attractive option than it is at present.

    • @ Marco #9
      “…IN PRACTICE, most religious people – whether Muslim or Christian or whatever – don’t actually take the texts literally and do perform all sorts of mental contortions to convince themselves that they are not required to….”

      True to an extent, but this is emphatically NOT the case with Islam’s Salafists. They represent maybe 10% of the muslim population, they have the vast support of Saudi/Qatari money and clerical influence, and from their ranks come the fanatic militant jihadists with whom the world has unfortunately become only too familiar.

    • Rogeroney #12

      Indeed. So that’s where our criticisms and all our efforts to oppose should be directed. Do whatever we can to prevent those people from growing in either number or effectiveness – that’s fine by me. Even better, support voices within the Muslim world who are also doing their utmost to oppose them and prevent more people being sucked into their power.

      But there is no point whatsoever in hostility directed at everyone who self-identifies as Muslim. No point tarring all Muslims with the Salafist brush. And certainly no point in trying to make out that only those who support the jihadists can be “real Muslims”.

      That can only be counterproductive, dangerous and – just as importantly – unjust.

    • Marco #13
      Jan 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Indeed. So that’s where our criticisms and all our efforts to oppose should be directed. Do whatever we can to prevent those people from growing in either number or effectiveness – that’s fine by me. Even better, support voices within the Muslim world who are also doing their utmost to oppose them and prevent more people being sucked into their power.

      Cutting off money, trade and arms sales, to Saudi Arabia and other aggressive funders of crusading terrorists spreading the aggressive forms of Sunni Islam, would be a step in the right direction.

      Jumping up and down shouting “Fight the war on terror”, while pouring money into the hands of those funding rebels attacking more moderate regimes, is stupidity: – as is playing silly military “regime-change” games, which start civil wars and generate refugee crises!

    • Alan4discussion #14

      You’re right that it makes no sense to complain about Saudi Arabia’s growing military strength without pointing out that the United States and the UK are the main suppliers of weapons to the country. Americans and Brits who are opposed to Saudi foreign policy should begin by demanding that their governments end their lucrative arms trade with them. The price for that would be a loss of jobs and a hit to exports, as well as leaving the way open for other arms exporters, like Russia and France, to step in and fill the gap.

    • This article from The Guardian (below) does not necessarily express all of my views, but I agree with a good a part of it. No mention of the terrible, big bad “regressive left” here. The so-called regressive leftists are not helping much; but they are not, in my view, the ones chiefly responsible for the rise of Trump, or for abetting radicalization and thwarting counter-extremism (“Islamism”).

      Trump will now be president. Thanks a lot, regressive leftists. —Quillette article (above)

      It’s our neo-conservative foreign policy – not to mention our support of Israel – that has fueled extremism among Muslims (or among some people that call themselves Muslims). That is what has contributed to the rise of an authoritarian autocrat (Trump) – along with wealth and income inequality, and a host of other factors!

      Yes, terrorists are to be held responsible for engaging in evil; but the US (the Bush administration, in particular) has had a significant role to play in the rise of radicalism within the Muslim populations.

      ….That doesn’t mean the US created Isis, of course, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year. But there was no al-Qaida in Iraq until the US and Britain invaded. And the US has certainly exploited the existence of Isis against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control….

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq

    • Marco (#13) some very good points, especially about trying to help moderate Muslims or apostates. I get annoyed when I keep hearing cries of “You do not hear many moderates condemning . . . .” Many people do not realise how hard it is to speak out, especially for those living in theocracies.

      My contribution is minimal but I hope it has helped a little, i know others who do similar things. Among my various jobs I used to be TEFL teacher and the language school I worked for in the UK ran business English courses, anything from a week to three months long. We had quite a lot of students from Islamic nations and I was pleasantly surprised at the number that, if not atheist, certainly questioned their religion. I never hid my atheism so it was not unusual for the subject to come up in private conversations.

      A very common worry was the danger faced back home and how difficult it was to communicate with like minded people safely. I am a Linux user and with some students did a bit of extra.curricular teaching, showing them how to use the TAILS Operating System and the TOR browser. I have certainly not started a revolution but at least have helped make it a bit safer for dissenting voices to stay in contact with each other. If we can empower enough people to talk and plan safely perhaps those small numbers will grow enough to make their voice a strong one that can be used openly. I know it is a long long way off but doing something, however small, is better than doing nothing.

    • You describe your contribution as minimal, Stephen (#18), but it sounds extremely constructive to me.

      It’s amazing how the barriers can fall away when we just make a little bit of effort to communicate constructively with the people we think of as being on the other side of them.

      No one is under any obligation to conform to our stereotypes about them. As atheists – and therefore all too often judged by an equally unfair stereotype – we should know that better than anyone.