Failed Comfort

German philosopher Jurgen Habermas wrote a paper titled An Awareness of What is Missing. At the start, he describes a friend’s funeral. His friend had been an atheist, and the funeral was non-religious. He goes on to say that the Amen was missing. In my experience, Muslim funerals feel the same way to me. The lack of profundity seems as if the Amen is missing. In all my dealings with Islam and death, I find that it treats what should be the most solemn ceremony and converts it into a rote ritual without any care for the memory of the deceased or any comfort for the bereaved. Instead, it offers 7th Century rules designed to disenfranchise women, glorify proselytising and conversions as functions that are appropriate and desirable, and an unhealthy urgency to bury the body that overrides any and all concerns. Consolation, when faced with death, is one of the main functions of religion, and the ceremony that is supposed to be a soul’s conduit to the afterlife should be treated with some measure of respect and profundity; in this Islam fails its followers.

One of the reasons that people give for following a religion is that it provides comfort during the death of a loved one. In my experience, Islam fails completely in that respect. I have experienced this comfort four times personally. Twice at funerals of immediate family and twice after deaths in my extended family.

At their root, all religions are basically about death and what happens after it. All the rules and restrictions placed upon the pious are designed to direct them toward the correct afterlife. Islam, in my view, fails at this most basic responsibility common to all religions, by completely disregarding the significance of mourning rituals. It instead seeks to glorify the hereafter, Allah’s will and a fatalistic attitude towards life.

I have been to funerals held in the Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Hindu, and Jewish traditions and can compare them to my experiences in mosques. To my surprise, I found there to be a marked difference between the solemnity and profundity of the non-Muslim ceremonies when compared to the Muslim ones.

At funerals held in churches, mandirs, and synagogues there was a respect shown to the dead and the grieving that I would not see in the mosques. In the non-Muslim ceremonies, there was a celebration of the life of the departed and the appropriate emotional consolation to those left behind. I became aware that the Islamic ceremonies I was attending seemed to be missing this essential piece.

I was working in Bosnia when my father died. I had spoken to both my parents, just before going on leave, and they had told me that my father was going to the hospital for pneumonia. I offered to change my leave and come home, but my father insisted that all was well and that I would see them the following March when I was scheduled to come home for a visit. My father was admitted to the hospital a second time on November 30th, and again I said I would come home, but they insisted everything was fine. In the early morning of December 9th, his 64th birthday, my father died due to late-stage lung cancer. I flew home right away, and the funeral took place the day after I arrived. It was at this funeral that I stopped referring to myself as a non-practising Muslim or cultural Muslim and started using the label of atheist to describe myself because I no longer wanted to be associated with a faith that treats one its most important rites so disrespectfully. At the time of my father’s death, I had been a nonbeliever for 18 years.

My father had always been a pluralistic person. Growing up in India he had friends from all faiths and treated people with respect based on who they were and not on what religion they were. After my family had moved to Canada, he continued to be the same way. Therefore at his funeral, about half the people in attendance were non-Muslim and came to pay their respects to my family. After the prayers, the Imam gave a political sermon about how Islam was spreading in Quebec and then he proceeded to proselytise to the non-Muslims at the funeral. I was disgusted to see this, and at that moment I decided I would no longer refer to myself as belonging, even culturally, to a faith that treats death with such little respect.

After the service and the shameful actions of the Imam, it was time to take my father’s body to the cemetery. I was walking to where my father was lying in his coffin, to be a pallbearer, and suddenly I noticed a crowd, running towards the coffin, pushing each other out of the way, fighting to lift the coffin as if this honour was a prize to be won.  People pushed me out of the way, and at one point the coffin was almost dropped. I was told that this is because everyone wants to touch the coffin but no other reason was offered as to why. The stampede towards the coffin was emblematic of the chaos and meaninglessness of the Islamic rituals that fail to honour the memory of the dead and fail to offer comfort to the survivors.

My brother died in November 2015. He lived in India but was in Mexico for work. His employer contacted me early the following morning, and I made arrangements to fly to Montreal to be with my mother. Other members of the family, including my sister, were also traveling to Montreal. I had spoken to my sister-in-law and mother, and they requested the body be repatriated to India. I passed this information along to his employer since they were making the arrangements. When I arrived in Montreal that evening, I found out that it would take 6 to 8 weeks to have the body sent to India and one week to bring it to Canada. I told my sister-in-law, and she said that she would rather have the body returned to Canada as she did not want to wait six weeks.

After getting home and talking with my mother, there was a phone call from my Aunt in India. She asked what had happened and I proceeded to tell her. When she learned that we were waiting a week for the body to be returned, she went off on a tirade on how we were bad people and that in Islam the burial has to be done right away and that I should fly to Mexico and bury him there. This was one of the many things that outraged me about how Islam deals with death.

Since we had a week to do some planning I wanted to ensure the chaos that had happened at my father’s funeral would not repeat itself here. I brought this up with my uncles who were helping me organise the burial with the mosque. When I mentioned that I did not want the Imam to make a statement similar to what had been said at my father’s funeral they were shocked. In their opinion, converting people to Islam during a funeral was an auspicious occurrence. I also made plans to have designated pallbearers to avoid the mad dash that had happened at my father’s funeral. Every single one of these requests was a battle, and the main obstacles were largely either due to custom or religion.

At my father’s funeral, the women were not allowed to go to the cemetery. This segregation is a common practice based on the ridiculous belief that women are impure and will profane the ceremony. As a result, my mother was forbidden from attending her husband’s burial. At my brother’s funeral they allowed women to attend but only up to the gates, and they could not approach the grave. And so wife, mother sister, and female friends and family were not allowed to attend the burial, in Canada in 2015, due to arcane beliefs that neither provided them with comfort or solace.

In 2002, my sister-in-law had given birth to a son. My nephew died less than 24 hours after birth due to a heart defect. My brother had buried his son the next morning while my sister-in-law was still in the hospital. Had she been well enough to attend, she would not have been allowed to go to her own son’s funeral. Again this is such a common practice that it is followed without question in most Muslim communities.

My maternal uncle died earlier this year. He and my mother were very close, talking daily and so when he died, she needed a space to mourn, to remember him and attend his funeral. Since my uncle was in California, she could not attend as they decided to hold the funeral that same day. In Islam, the funeral has to happen as soon as possible after the death and never past three days. His son, my cousin, was in Europe and so his father was buried before they had a chance to inform him. I am not asking for weeks of waiting but a short time to get things organised and allow family and friends to come and pay their respects is the appropriate practice. The tradition of swift burials may have been appropriate in a nomadic culture with no means of preserving the body, but in the modern era, it serves only to cause more pain and suffering to those mourning their loved ones.

During the week I was waiting for my brother’s body to be repatriated, I was able to experience the kind of condolences that were given. It was mostly about how this was Allah’s will and nothing about how he was in a better place (even though I don’t believe in an afterlife) that might provide some measure of solace to a grieving mother. At my father’s funeral, one of my uncles admonished my mother and sister for crying, and he did this because of a hadith, Sahih Bukhari 375, that says that you shouldn’t wail at a funeral. He chose to prioritise edicts of the Hadith over the grief felt by his wife and sister-in-law.

In 2015 Farkhunda Malikzada was torn to pieces by a mob in Kabul because she had been accused of burning a Quran. The next day her female friends took her body to the cemetery and buried her themselves while protected by young men who encircled the girls to ensure no one would harm them while they laid their friend to rest. These women were trying to provide Farkhunda with some measure respect in her death that she most certainly wasn’t given in her last moments and probably not in her whole life. If the Mullahs and the mosques treated death with the same respect, these young women and men did then I would say that Islam at least does provide some succour to the living after a tragedy like the death of a loved one. Until Islam changes the way it treats death and the ceremony that is meant to transition you to the afterlife I will find it wanting at providing comfort, and the Amen will be missing.

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Dogmatically Dangerous

In light of what happened in Charlottesville VA this past weekend, I felt I needed to write this. I would just like to make a couple of things clear at the outset, I am not making equivalencies nor am I defending any actions taken over this past weekend. I am writing this as a warning of the dangers of dogmatic thinking. Any dogma can and usually is pushed to the extreme and cause misery for those who oppose it. A dogma is just a set of ideas that an authority insists is true without question, for example, the Catholic Church adhering to the resurrection of Jesus. Also opposing one kind of dogma with another is not in the service of free and open societies.

I am going to focus on, in my opinion, the three worst types of dogma, fascism, communism, and religion. Fascism represented by the Alt-Right, KKK, White Supremacists, and Neo-Nazis. Communism represented by groups like Antifa and The Black Bloc. I can list global groups that I think fit into these categories but then this would just be a list of groups I thought were either fascist or communist with no other reasoning given. I will, however, mention groups around the globe when needed. I don’t think there is a need to point out groups when it comes to religion as I find religion by definition to be dogmatic but I will also point out certain groups later on when discussing individual cases. All three of these ideologies have some overlap that I will explore later, but I will focus more on what fascism and communism share even though these ideologies have been at odds with each other repeatedly.

Fascism saw its rise in Europe in the early part of the 20th century. For expediency, I am linking to a Wikipedia article and as all of their articles, it gives you links. Nazism rose to power in 1933, before it rose to power there were clashes in Weimar Germany between communists and Nazis. I hope I don’t need to go too far into the litany of the horrors that Nazism inflicted upon the Europe and the World. The Alt-Right (for ease I will include all white supremacists group as Alt-Right) are using fascistic tactics to promote White identity politics as explained by Jared Taylor, a leader in the Alt-Right. Briefly, fascism is an authoritarian system that is run by a dictator with state controlled industry and suppression of opposition. This is not much different from communism with the exception that fascism does not talk about the reallocation of wealth and there is a clear hierarchy. To all this Nazism added an element of race other fascist regimes did so as well but the Nazis took this to its ultimate end.

I am not discussing the specific rise of the KKK as this is easily found. In brief, the KK was started after the civil war by people who were against the abolition of slavery and at its peak had about 4 million members in the US. White supremacy is self-explanatory.

The Alt-Right has identified itself with Nazism and has espoused the egregious ideology that it represents. They are spouting the same thoughts and speaking points of Nazis and is not something that should be defended. These people represent some of the worst things done by humanity. I have worked in war zones and I have seen some of the misery we can afflict on one another but a system like Nazism makes what I witnessed look like a minor inconvenience. The dogma that the Alt-Right hold to is simple they believe that White people are pure and better than anyone else and that the lesser races have no place in the world or, as some of the less strident ones will say, no place in whatever country they happen to live in.

This kind of identity politics, as with others, can only lead to one thing and that is the final solution put forth by the Third Reich that led to the deaths of 12 million people including 6 million Jews. The Alt-Right does not do much to differentiate itself from Nazism, they call for racial purity, and they use slogans such as “Blood and soil” and “Hail victory” which is just the English translation of the German Sieg heil. The Alt-Right is not as large as they would like you to believe but like most fanatical movements they are loud and get a lot of press. I am not saying that should be ignored and not opposed but you do not have to do it violently. Anyone even people with ideas as disgusting as they have is and should be allowed to hold rallies and protests as long as they are peaceful. The ACLU did just that in Skokie when they defended the right of the Neo-Nazis to hold a march. The best way to fight these ideas is with better ideas and to let those who espouse them to speak and indict themselves with their own words. I am not saying that in the face of violence you should not defend yourselves but do not provoke or attack. To quote Phillip Gourevitch “You do not fight brown shirts with brown shirt tactics.”

Antifa is a movement that started in Germany in the late 80s in response to a rise of Neo-Nazis there. To fight fascism is a laudable cause but Antifa is not laudable. Antifa uses fascistic tactics and they are anarcho-communists which are why at a lot of Antifa marches and protests you will see anarchist flags. This again is not a new idea, Russia before the Bolshevik revolution had an anarchist movement as well but that was defeated and then the communist Bolsheviks and Mensheviks fought and the Bolsheviks won. This movement is not something to be praised, they wish to bring back a system that has immiserated every single society that has espoused it and also led to more deaths of its own citizens due to purges and famine due to poor policies than any other in the 20th century. In this video, Douglas Murray talks about the hypocrisy of the Left at the 8:57 mark he talks about how communists were not held to account for the slaughter they caused.

Antifa in the US has been and will continue to be violent they are not some peaceful movement that wants to oppose fascism they want to bring about a movement that is just as violent and oppressive. There were the riots in Berkley when Milo Yiannopoulos was going to speak, I think that Yiannopoulos is a useless person and don’t think he has anything of value to say but he has the right to speak. In those riots a movement that says it is about the working class attacked set fire to shops and cafes; just how they were helping the working class is lost on me. Antifa was also violent in Sacramento at a Neo-Nazi rally and they stated that violence because they wished to break up a protest that they did not agree with.

The worst of the violence from Antifa was demonstrated at the G8 Summit in Hamburg earlier this year. Again they burned down small shops, family owned businesses, cars and cause general devastation to the city. They are not the friends of the working class but speak of themselves as such and say they are protecting us from fascism but I don’t see this as protection we need.

This past weekend in Charlottesville and in other cities, where they held protests in support of those who opposed the Alt-Right in Charlottesville, they were violent. The Alt-Right racists caused much of the violence including what had happened at Emancipation Park on Friday night and culminating horrifically with the death of a Heather Heyer by James Alex Ray Jr. who drove his car into a crowd of people who for the most part were white and their only crime was that of thought crime, they did not think like this deranged murderous loser. In Charlottesville, I believe that Antifa were not the instigators for the most of it but there were a couple of points in Charlottesville where they were the aggressors. At one point when the scum that is the Alt-Right were marching Antifa charged the march and when the organiser of the Unite the Right rally was giving a talk they chased him and then punched him. This is a video that Ben Shapiro did about Charlottesville. I am not in agreement with the majority of Shapiro’s political opinions but I find him to be honest and principled and worthy of respect. Antifa protesters in Seatle attacked journalists who were doing nothing but their job by filming the protest, why protest if you do not wish it to be publicised. As well in Charlottesville, a journalist who was filming was attacked by Antifa.

Both the Alt-Right and Antifa are horrible groups and should not be given any credence. They have more in common than not. You can say that the Alt-Right are racists and I won’t dispute that, I cannot say enough how disgusting I find them but do not think Antifa are not racist. Communism does have a racist side to it. movement and Stalin was anti-Semitic. Both communism and fascism have state controlled industry and both are totalitarian systems that curtail all civil liberties. Where communism and fascism differ is that the ultimate goal is to have a state with no leadership. Antifa being anracho-communists want to start from the dissolution of the state. Marx always had talked of a vanguard that would lead the people to a glorious workers paradise where you will no longer need this vanguard.

Both of these movements use dogmatic thought that you cannot deviate from and you are told what to say and what to think. Do not let them divide you and take to one extreme or the other. If you are opposed to the giant Cheeto that is the president of the US right now do not think that the answer is to move further to the opposite side. To fight the Alt-Right, Antifa and Trump what needs to happen is that centre Left and centre Right along with the Centre need to come together. These two ideologies are not rational and reasonable to fight them one you cannot go to the opposite unreasonable side. If you want to truly unite with others do not look at supporters from opposing political views as enemies. Most people want mainly the same thing they only differ on the way to achieve them, but Antifa and the Alt-Right are enemies and they wish you to see the opposing side as such don’t give into either.

The last dogma I want to discuss is religion. I don’t really have to go into too much here as religion is inherently dogmatic. At this moment the one religion that poses the most danger through its dogma is Islam.  We have to be able to speak out against the tenets of Islam that are pernicious and dangerous. This is another video of Douglas Murray it was a speech he gave in 2006 I find it, uncharacteristically, alarmist but he mentions at the 9:00 mark a disgusting display by the AEL that if it had been done by the Alt-Right in Charlottesville you would be rightfully appalled and outraged so do not give Islam a pass on this. Then there is this lovely prayer at a mosque in Toronto, and a mosque in Montreal preaching the same kind of hatred. If you are going to call out dogma do not let this slide.

I can spend days of writing about the dogma of religion and what it’s consequences are. Here are just a few examples: The Spanish Inquisition, Apartheid in South Africa, The Catholic Church waiting until the 1960s to absolve Jewish people of the “sin” of deicide. The slaughter of the Muthazalites by the Muslim Caliphate for daring to think that that the Quran is not divinely created but only divinely inspired. Sunni Shia sectarian violence both sides attack Ahmadi Muslims. The subjugation of women in Islam specifically today but in all faiths historically.

This is not to say that other faiths don’t have ideas like this. There is the Hinduvata movement in India which lately has been killing people accused of eating beef, and is a Hindu nationalistic movement. In the US you have the Dominion Christians who want to see the laws of the 10 commandments be the law of the land not to mention the Evangelists and people like Ken Ham who built the Noah’s Ark theme park. In Israel, you have factions who discuss whether the Palestinians should be considered as Amalekites and killed according to the commands of God.

Dogma is not your friend. Don’t listen to people who wish to push their ideals down your throat. All movements that use their own dogma will lead to violence and will cause nothing but misery. The best way to live as free people is to follow the values established during the enlightenment, that is not to say that they were invented during the enlightenment but that they were codified and setup as a way for all peoples of the world to live freely. Any system that wants to give rights to groups over individuals will lead to division. If you give the rights to the individual and make it so that their rights cannot be taken away no matter what group they belong to be it religiously, nationally, sex, sexual orientation, or race those rights cannot be taken away society as whole will be freer. Giving specific rights to one group will eventually take away rights from another group. Do not fall for dogma because that will always create an other for you to hate and fight.

A Not So Great Faith

After a terrorist attack perpetrated by an Islamic extremist, we get the normal litany of apologia from our leaders and the media. One thing we also hear is that Islam is one of the great faiths. What is exactly meant by this? Is Islam a great faith due to the number of its adherents? If so would that not mean that Christianity is the greatest faith and Judaism is one of the least great? I do not consider Isalm great, nor, do I consider any faith great.

Islam in its scripture and the beliefs and actions of its practitioners shows how it is not great. Islam does not allow dissent or questioning. Why if it is so great does Allah command death to those who question it and why did Muhammad so unforgivingly attack any and all who dared to speak out against Islam. Saudi Arabia has made being an atheist a terrorist crime. Pakistan is now applying its blasphemy laws to those who post on social media. If you believe in your religion why would people speaking out aginst it or saying it is not true have to be killed? A great faith should be able to withstand doubt and overcome those who question it by its inherent greatness.

Why are there apostasy laws in Islam? Why must Islam and Muslims call for the deaths of and take the lives of those who leave? Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the Union of Muslim Scholars had, said: “If They [Muslims] Had Gotten Rid of the Punishment for Apostasy, Islam Would Not Exist Today.” A great faith should not have to threaten to kill you to get you to stay.
Quran 4:88-89 “Then what is the matter with you that you are divided into two parties about the hypocrites? Allah has cast them back (to disbelief) because of what they have earned. Do you want to guide him whom Allah has made go astray? And he whom Allah has made to go astray, you will never find for him any way (of guidance) 89 They wish that you reject (Faith), and thus that you all become equal (like one another). So, take not Auliya (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the way of Allah (to Muhammad). But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold of) them and kill [q-t-l] them wherever you find them”

The fear of women that Islam displays are another demonstration of how weak Islam is. Women are treated as property and not given any agency over themselves. The concept of guardianship treats women as helpless and hapless. Women in some Muslim majority countries cannot leave their homes without a male family member leading them. Even when they do find someone who will escort them in public, they must cover their hair or, depending on the country, dress head to toe in a sack and have their faces covered. Women are supposed to do this to protect men from the lust they will instil in men. This is a vile concept. If the devout men are so devout why would a woman walking about uncovered cause them to forget the admonishments against extra-marital sex that are in Islam? Are the beliefs of the faithful so weak that they cannot contain their baser urges just because they see some hair or flesh? How does this show the greatness of Islam, in my eyes it shows how weak it is.

On February 14th, 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued his now infamous fatwa on Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. Rushdie wrote of the verses that were supposedly dictated to Muhammad by Satan and for daring to do so he still to this day lives under a death sentence. This surely cannot be a sign of greatness. Or in 2005 when Jyllands Potsdam published cartoons of the prophet there was an outcry across the Muslim world. The protests were spurred on by self-proclaimed religious leaders who had to add a few cartoons of their own, far worse than what the publication had printed, to get Muslims riled up to violently demonstrate outside of and lay siege to Danish embassies around the globe. In 2011 Charlie Hebdo was firebombed and in 2015 15 member’s of their staff were slaughtered and the killers were shouting that they were avenging their prophet. None of these things shows any greatness.

The fear of ancient rocks is another way that Islam purports to be great. In Afghanistan Al Qaeda and the Taliban destroyed the statues of the Bamyan Buddhas and artefacts in museums because they were un-Islamic. ISIS has done the same in museums in Iraq and the ruins of Palmyra. The artefacts that ISIS did not destroy it sold to fund itself. All of this was done because these remnants of civilisation long dead were an affront to Islam. A great faith would not be concerned that ancient statues and ruins would lead its believers astray.

None of what I have mentioned demonstrate the greatness of Islam. All of these actions show how weak and small Islam is. A great faith should be able to withstand criticism, and allow its followers to see the remains of long dead civilisations. Islam can never call itself great if it keeps insisting that the mere sight of a woman not covered head to toe in a sack will cause Muslim men to forget all about their faith and ravish them. If Muslims can be made to leave their religion just because they are given an argument against it, then it has no reason to be followed.

If Muslims wish to show how great Islam is let them allow dissent, apostasy, liberated women and history. If it can allow all this and still keep its followers due to just the arguments of its apologists and religious leaders then it may have a right to the claim it is great but until that point, it is of no worth, and that is being shouted most loudly by Muslims.

Burkini Fiasco

The ban on the burkini in France is a disgrace and a slap in the face of religious freedom. I do not agree with women wearing the burka or the hijab if they are forced to do so, but I certainly do not agree with banning them either. In both cases, the women are being forced to wear or not wear a piece of clothing.

There are questions in France of why isn’t their better integration of immigrants with Muslim backgrounds. This move to ban the burkini will not help with integration. I believe that integration into society is mainly the responsibility of the new immigrant, but this must be backed up by the state offering immigrants the opportunity to do so. This ban will make integration harder. The women who want to go to enjoy the beaches and swimming pools in France are not fundamentalists but are seeking a way to follow their interpretation of the faith while fitting into their new country.

If this type of thing continues, the French government will not help themselves at all. This law will further the divide between Muslim citizens and residents of France and the rest of the population. If France actually wants to help create an atmosphere where its citizens live together harmoniously, they should encourage the burkini. If they allow Muslim women who wish to wear it to do so these women will go out to enjoy the resorts of France and maybe fit in better.

In a truly liberal society, all its citizens should be allowed to practice their religions freely as long as they do not force their religion on other members of that society or on their communities of those societies.

If France wishes to stop women from wearing the burkini then instead of banning it, they should start an education campaign to show Muslim women that their worth has nothing to do with a piece of clothing.

The French government is doing a huge disservice to the Muslim women in France by doing this. It is saying to them that they do not have rights equal to all other women in the country. The women who are wearing the burkini to the beach are at least open enough to go to a beach and enjoy themselves. If they are not allowed to wear it and enjoy themselves they will be forced to stay at home when their friends go to the beach. They will feel further isolation from the rest of their fellow citizens. This ban hurst no one but Muslim women and families who are a little bit more open and wish to join in on all the diversions that are available to the rest of society.

Many say that they were never forced to wear it, but I wonder how free they were in making that choice. If a girl is taught from an early age that if she does not wear a hijab or burka she has no worth and that her body is something to be ashamed of.

For many women in liberal countries yes they do have a choice but how much of choice do they have if they have been indoctrinated from a young age. If you look at what the Quran says about being modest, you will see that a woman brought up in a conservative Muslim household to think that she is making this choice of her freewill instead of seeing that she has been taught that this is her only option and to do otherwise is against her faith.

Even in liberal countries, there are closed groups of Muslims who live in ghettos where they interact with, mainly, only Muslims. In these closed societies girls and women might not actually have a choice. Women and girls are told by their families that they are not good if they don’t wear the hijab.

With all this being said I will state again that banning the burkini on beaches or the hijab will do nothing to stop the idea that a woman’s worth is only due to a piece of cloth. The idea that a young girl or a woman holds the honour of a family in a scarf is ludicrous, but it is a reality for a lot of women. The problem of honour is a big issue within Muslim families both in Muslim communities in Western Democracies and in Muslim countries.

If France and other European countries do want better integrated Muslim immigrants, they should make sure to practice the values that they purport to uphold and should allow members of that community to act according to their faith as long as those actions do not infringe on the rights of the rest of the population in those countries.

A Message for CJ Werleman

This following post is satire as I would never in good conscience suggest that someone not express their opinion.

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I would like to respond to this tweet by Mr Werleman. Just to be clear this will have nothing to do with whether this attack had anything to do with Islam or the motives of the attacker. This response is more about some trends I see going on, that to me are very triggering.

I have been told that I should not criticise the hijab because I am not a Muslim woman and therefore have no frame of reference.

I have been told not to criticise BLM because I am not black.

I have been told that an as ex-Muslim I do not have the right to criticise Islam because I left that faith.

I have been told not to appropriate any other culture as it demeans and marginalises their struggle.

I will grant you all of these things. If I am not allowed to criticise all of these things because I am not in that particular group, then I think you should stop appropriating the victimhood of Muslims. You are not Muslim and have no right to speak on these matters. By your logic, you are demeaning the struggles that Muslims face by co-opting their struggle.

So Mr Werleman kindly stop triggering me and making me feel unsafe by appropriating someone else’s victimhood and showing your White privilege by doing so. You are sending me into a shame spiral, and I will need to curl up into the fetal position and think of unicorns, rainbows and puppies for the next week just to get over the harm you caused my mental state.

 

Acceptance Not Apologetics

The following is not the type of topic I want for my blog, but I feel that I have no option but to write this.
I would like to address this message to those that are offering apologist responses to the horrific attack in Orlando.
I am sickened to the core by this attack, but more so I am sickened by the indirect support that has been doled out by Muslim apologists after the mass shooting. Following a limited show of sympathy or solidarity the discussion then changed to how this was not about Islam, fear of backlash against Muslims, the reason for the attack, or any of the many topics to take the attention away from the fact that 49 people were killed and 53 injured.
While it is laudable that you express your sympathies to the families of the victims, you must be honest to them, yourselves and the population in general. The narrative that Islam is a loving, merciful peaceful religion and nothing else has to stop. Just saying that any interpretation of Islam that contradicts yours is not truly Islam is a lie. ISIS, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh just to name a few, have interpretations that, while they do not fit yours, are valid.
Worrying about future victims before the current ones are mourned is the epitome of callousness. It is unconscionable of you to worry about reprisals on Muslims when 49 families have lost loved ones. Now is not the time to think about how this will affect you.
If you do fear reprisals on Muslims or acts of bigotry and racism, realise that you are just as culpable of this as is the shooter in this attack or any perpetrator in any act of terrorism committed by a Muslim extremist. Those of us who are having a conversation about the bad ideas in Islam that have contributed to this attack are not stirring up hate.
You are one of the main reasons for the distrust of Muslims. For so long now you have been painting this rose coloured picture of Islam, that has also been taken up by our politicians and media, that the general population is not buying it anymore. By continually calling  bigot or Islamophobe anyone who questions verses in the Quran or any of the hadith that prescribe death as a penalty for homosexuality in this instance or any number of other disgraceful acts in other cases you are just shutting down any chance of a conversation. If you want the population to trust and accept Muslims, then start by being honest about Islam and not just bring out this same old trope.
By shutting down discourse or any criticism of Islam you are empowering fascists both in Western democracies and in Muslim-majority countries. While you have not yet started calling for the incarceration, torture or death of any who dare to question; you silence them just as is done by the theocratic regimes of Muslim-majority countries. Why is it that you do not want to have a discussion about your faith? Are you so insecure in your beliefs that you cannot allow yourself to hear an opposing view? Is your religion so weak that it cannot bear the brunt of an open and honest conversation about its tenets? The next time you wish to stop this conversation and take a long look at yourself and ask why you are doing it.
You need to have a discussion about how Islam is interpreted in Mosques, that you know to be more fundamental, so that it can take place where it is sorely needed rather than to tilt at the windmills of Islamophobia. If you belong to a Mosque that is inclusive and accepts all you need not convince these people they are of the same mind as you. Your message does not need to be disseminated to the population in general either, it needs to be voiced in places where more literal and rigid interpretation are held sacrosanct. Why does your resolve stop at these doorsteps?
Your muddying of the waters has implications far beyond just your neighbourhoods; it is being heard by those in Muslim-majority countries who are speaking out about the deficiencies in Islam. You are spitting on the graves of, for example, the bloggers in Bangladesh who were killed for daring to question Islam. You are telling any dissenter that they need not bother because their governments will silence them in their homelands and that you will offer them no support in supposed free nations.
When you turn this conversation to making equivalencies in how Christianity or Judaism regards homosexuality you have lost the fight. If you believe that Islam is Allah’s last revelation and is perfection in every way, then it needs to better than any other that has come before it. So it is up to you to show that Islam is better and demonstrate it by denouncing the sections of the scripture that demonise, in this case, homosexuality. If your faith is universal, do not give the excuse that others do it so it is not wrong when it is done in the name of or due to Islam. Spend your time spreading that message rather than make apologies and excuses for people who asked for none of you.
The acceptance I am asking for is not only for anyone considered the other by Islam but for your acceptance of the fact that Islam is broken and is in sore need of fixing. Until you are willing to talk honestly you should not try and stop any and all who wish to; we will be in this exact place the next time an act of terror is carried out because someone believed too much.

 

 

The PCRA

From the end of the 1980s up until 2013 the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) was operating in Northern Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were an extremely vicious group who were terrorizing and killing people in the region. One of the things the LRA would do was to mutilate and then padlock shut the lips of people who spoke out against them, or they would just kill them. They had officially sanctioned speech and enforced it in the most horrific manner.

The present PC culture that is prevalent in the West is trying to create a society that has officially sanctioned speech and to silence those who wish to speak out against it; they use censure and censorship. While the PC police or PCRA might not kill people or torture them as the had LRA done but they try to ruin the lives of people who speak out against the sanctioned speech or hold opinions that are in contradiction to their worldview. They try and silence anyone who wishes to offer a differing point of view.

There is no place in the PC culture for any diversity of thought. You must think as they do talk as they do or you will be stigmatized. The PCRA will not tolerate any independent thinking. They are creating a divisive society in the name of inclusiveness. Their idea of inclusiveness is to label everyone and place them in a matrix of marginalization. They believe in separating one group from another for example Black Lives Matter calling for segregation.

What are they so afraid of why will they not listen to anything from someone who wants to challenge them? Are they so insecure in their facts and arguments that they cannot allow dissent? Are they so weak and fragile that upon hearing a differing opinion they will have a breakdown?

One of the preferred tactics of the PCRA is to shut down a speaker by labeling them racist, sexist, misogynistic, or some flavor of phobic. They do not want a conversation unless it is a validation of their ideas. I am beginning to wonder if it is too late for them. Have they been in this echo chamber so long hearing differing versions of the same thought for so long that they are incapable of defending against an opposing argument so they must just stop it and not have to defend against it?

I did not want to use this cliché, but some things are just too perfect such as this Orwellian display by the vice president of NUS in the UK. Everywhere I look I see more and more division being created. Tumblr has close to one hundred genders to choose. We are all being defined and fit into neat categories. What is the need in my having to identify as a CIS male of South Asian birth and Arabic descent?

On Campuses, professors have to sanitize their courses. Students and faculty are being brought up on the most ludicrous charges, and it doesn’t matter that, for the most part, they are exonerated they have to go through the process and end up with being demonized while they are defending themselves. Here some of the most unbelievable charges that have been leveled against people on campuses.

At Columbia University, there was the case of Emma Sulkowicz aka Mattress Girl and Paul Nungesser, who, even though had the charges dismissed, is still labeled as a rapist.
This division by tolerance is creating so many little-specialized groups that you are now having a ranking of who is the more marginalized. For example, gay men are now the most privileged of those in the LGBTQAAAIP (currently the new acronym) community. All this talk of privilege is once again letting you know who has the right to a voice and to whom we must not listen.

There is also an insidious hypocrisy within the PCRA. In the same breath, one of these brave defenders of the downtrodden will call someone like Maajid Nawaz a racist and then a house Muslim, or a porch monkey, or Uncle Tom without once seeing the irony and actual bigotry in their statement. Feminists will fight against the injustice of stare rape, mansplaining, or manspreading but say nothing of the way women are treated in places such as Saudi Arabia. Bakeries will be boycotted for not baking a cake for a gay wedding but of the throwing of gay men from rooftops and the regimes that make homosexuality a crime punishable by death, nothing.

Those in the PCRA need to take a look at history and governments that had in place the policies that they are so proudly displaying. The segregation, labeling, official speech, and sanctioned speech are all trademarks of totalitarian fascist states. They might argue that they are doing it for the common good but so did the dictators in those regimes.

Due to this need to not offend we are causing real harm. Here a couple of examples of political correctness so turned on its head that the actual victims did not get any justice.

Then there was this case in Germany of a Moroccan woman who wanted a divorce from her abusive husband but was denied by a female judge because the woman and her husband were Muslim and Islam tolerates wife beating, so the woman knew what she was in for. Luckily this has been overturned, but this woman had to endure a few extra months of abuse because a judge did not want to insult a culture.

Where and when will this end? The more incensed that the PCRA gets, they come out with more sanctioned speech. We are at this stage only being shamed into speaking correctly but how long before we too will have our lips mutilated and padlocked shut? We are not standing at the edge of a slippery slope, but we have been pushed down the greased sides of a ravine, and we are careening towards the rocks.

Then there is the affront that all this sanctioned speech gives to the English language. While you might think that my prose is an attack on English as well but at the very least, I am not using tortured euphemisms. The following list of politically correct words would be laughable if it weren’t also so scary.

I do see some signs of respite from this nonsense. More and more people are speaking out against it, and maybe it has reached a critical mass of ridiculousness that it is starting to implode on itself. Time magazine had its run in with the PCRA when it released its list of words to be banned in 2014 and included feminist on the list. In some ways Time magazine is being attacked by the beast it helped create, by criticizing Charlie Hebdo when they were fire bombed in 2011. I only hope that these intolerant ivory towers of tolerance continue to attack each other and destroy themselves with their hateful inclusiveness.

Here are a couple of videos by the always funny and brilliant George Carlin talking about the ridiculousness of politically correct speech; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkhUivqzWv0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuEQixrBKCc

 

Endangered by Safe Spaces

Safe spaces, trigger warnings, these are some of the things that are stifling free speech in universities across North America. This assault on free speech will have the effect of stultifying our future leaders. Without free speech campuses will not have the ability to teach students and open them up to ideas.

We are getting a culture in our universities that does not want freedom of speech but freedom from speech. This thinking is spilling out into society in general, and we are being forced to censor ourselves continuously so as not to offend.

Creating safe spaces and giving into the pressure to have trigger warnings is not allowing students to hear ideas that they don’t agree with and thereby limiting their ability to debate and argue against them. Without being able to listen to a contrary argument how on Earth do you expect to counter it?

Students and student organizations need to re-take a long hard look at, what I would consider, perhaps the two best writing on free speech. Areopagitica by John Milton and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. In these two works, both Mill and Milton argue that free speech is not for you but for those against whom you are arguing. It is so that you can hear the opposing argument. By hearing the contrary opinion, you then can either learn something to make your case stronger or, the opposing point of view might be right and only by hearing it might you have your mind changed.

If you want to spend your tenure at university without hearing one opposing argument, you cannot say that you have had a complete education. How, possibly, can you say that your education has been complete and given you the necessary skills to deal with life outside of academia when all your coursework had been sanitized.

Trigger warnings are, handicapping teachers. How is a professor supposed to give a lecture when he/she has to stop and warn their students every single time he/she might say something that will cause one, a few, or all of his/her students to hear something that may cause them to relive a traumatic experience or even just be offended.

How is an English professor supposed to give a lecture on Huck Finn when he/she has to talk about N-word Jim? When discussing All’s Well That Ends Well do you need to give a trigger warning that some slut shaming is about to happen when in Act V Scene 3 Lafeu says “This woman’s an easy glove, my lord; she goes off and on at pleasure”?

The atmosphere on campuses seems toxic. You keep hearing stories of people who have been censured for the smallest offense. An extreme example is a student in Scotland who was almost kicked out of a student council meeting for raising her hand. You can read about it in this article.

At Yale, a lecturer resigned after having written an email about Halloween costumes. The husband of the teacher, who is also a professor at Yale and the master of Silliman College, is seen being scolded by a student. This girl sounds more like a petulant child than a young adult. Someone should have told this fragile little creature that no, a university is about creating an intellectual space, and it is not about building a home. When you go to college, you leave home and accept that you are going somewhere to is supposed to give you the abilities to deal with the real world.

The more I see, read and hear about universities I wonder how any learning goes on. All I seem to hear about is students and faculty spending all their time looking for offense.

Once hurt the students are allowed to go to a safe space so that they can start feeling better. The healing comes in the form of Play d’Oh, bubbles, balloons. Adults do not act in this way. When going to university, and you are asking for this, you are saying that you are not able to cope with the real world, and would like to make it go away.

By demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings university students are admitting that they are not mature enough yet to deal with important subjects. If that is how you feel then, you are not in the right place. How, for example, will you defend someone in a rape case when you; need to go to a safe space whenever the details of the case are discussed, would require a trigger warning every time that a witness will give their account of the events.

With the amount of debt that a lot of students are putting themselves in just to get an education, you would think that they would want to squeeze every ounce of education they could get.

The biggest problem with safe spaces and trigger warnings is the fact that you are depriving yourself the ability to counter speech that you find offensive. How are you going to be able to debate someone when you have to go running to cuddle a puppy when you hear something even the slightest bit uncomfortable. When you aren’t free to speak openly how will you let someone know that something is abhorrent to you?

The students who are doing this are purposely giving away their freedom of speech. By not allowing the other to speak you are paving the way for when you are identified as the other and are silenced yourself. If you believe someone has ideas that you find repugnant, do not block them from speaking but instead study the issues and ask them pointed questions. If theses people are as disgusting as you say they will by talking prove themselves to be; racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, or whatever-the-fuck-phobic you want to call them.

These moronic ideas are all about shutting down ideas that you don’t like and just telling people to shut up and sit down. All these social justice warriors out there aren’t providing any solutions they are just yelling out catchphrases and drowning out any conversations that might hurt their feelings. Instead of just screeching your ignorance for the whole world to see you should maybe listen to what is being said outside of the puppy filled safe echo chamber in which you live.

The last example I will give of how free speech is being, or in this case attempted to being, stifled is this video of some students interrupting speakers who had been invited to speak. They are doing this only because they don’t like what is being said.

A Wrong Left Turn.

In the last 15 years, I have seen the Left in Western democracies slowly erode away it’s own values.

When people speak out about ideas in Islam that are used to oppress people, or as justifications for violence, the Left is quick to condemn them as racist if they are white, as native informants if they are or were Muslim, or they refer to either group as Islamophobic. By doing this it is aiding Islamic extremists and the Right in the West. By lumping together the people who are talking about ideas and those who are painting all Muslims with a broad brush. The Left is stopping a dialogue that needs to happen if we want to live in a peaceful world.

What did the Left do when Salman Rushdie had a fatwa issued for his death? Where was the Left when Denmark was targeted due to some cartoons published in a newspaper? Where was the left when Charlie Hebdo was first fire bombed and then later had members of its staff killed? In all these cases after an almost-begrudging show of support for the victims the talk on the Left turned and they began attacking the victims because they dared to express their opinion and had offended some by doing so.

The Left is so concerned about protecting victims that it seems to see all issues as ones of victims and victimizers. The dilemma it is confronted by here is that it considers all generic Brown people as victims that have been oppressed by White cultures in the West. With the oppression of Muslims by other Muslims and by Muslim regimes the Left has a problem. It can’t see the victims for the Brown people. With its need to find and help victims, it attacks anyone who says anything against Islam. I agree that if someone makes sweeping derogatory claims about Muslims as a people he/she is bigoted and needs to be called out on it: but when Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes remarks about the issues arising from certain ideas and ideals in Islam, that she finds unjust, she also get called racist. The actions of Brandeis University in 2014, when they withdrew an honorary degree that they had offered her due to her remarks criticizing Islam, are an excellent example of this.

I prefer the blatant bigotry of someone like Donald Trump to the hidden bigotry of the Left. Let me make one thing clear before I continue: I in no way agree with anything said by Trump or people who think like him. The bigotry of the Left is far more insidious as it is couched in lofty ideals. When the Left, immediately after an attack by Islamic extremists, says things like: “The extremists aren’t Islamic and they are only doing it as a result of Western foreign policy or Imperialism”, I feel, as should every Muslim or ex-Muslim, insulted. What you are doing when you say things such as this is to say: “Oh you poor Brown children let us more-advanced White parents look after you.” It goes even deeper than that it also says, “You brown people need us whites to fix your problems and what’s more, you need us to cause your problems.”

I regret to inform you, Effendi, but we Brown people are more-than-capable of screwing up our regions, countries, etc., without any help from you. When someone like Donald Trump says the things he does, at the very least he is affording us the right to say yes we did screw things up and we need to rectify it.

If this is, as the Left will say, a problem of foreign policy, would you please explain the following to me: what did Western foreign policy have to do with Saudi Arabia executing 47 people to start off 2016? If the Western democracies designed foreign policies exactly as the Left would like them to be, would Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim majority countries give the voices of dissent in their countries an open forum? Would they give women the same equality that is found in the West? Would they give to the LGBT communities the right to live their lives with whomever they wish? These injustices are issues that arise from ideas in Islam, and how they are implemented, that needs to be addressed.

The Left has to start actually living up to their ideals. While you are protesting for pay equality between the sexes, which is as it should be, protest the embassies of Muslim majority countries that subjugate women. After you protest a bakery that won’t make a cake for a gay wedding, protest the same embassies to give the LGBT communities in their societies the right to live their lives openly with whomever they please so that they, too, will then be able to be to be rightly-offended and outraged at a bakery for not making them a cake, instead of living double lives and hiding their feelings and desires.

Those of us who are in the communities of ex-Muslims and practicing Muslims, who wish to speak out about this, do not need you to defend us. We are able and willing to speak out against these injustices. However, the multitudes who live in Muslim majority countries or in Muslim communities in the West that cannot speak out due to the fear of reprisals, being ostracized by their families and communities, imprisonment, corporal punishment, torture, and death, these are your victims. The women who want to be able to take off the veil, drive a car, leave their homes without a chaperone, etc. are the people you should be standing up for. The LGBT community members who have to hide who they really are need your help. Voices of dissent, be it those who want to leave the faith or are just questioning tenets of their faith that they think are wrong, need to be heard. If you are not willing to help them, and are willing to let them live lives of quiet desperation so be it. But do not stop those of us who want to help them have a voice to be able to get some measure of protection and freedom.

The Left has also become highly inconsistent in its outrage. Here are a couple of examples: The Left and the U.S. army directed their outrage at a U.S. army captain when he stopped an Afghan army commander he saw sodomizing a little boy. The outrage, rightly so, directed at the Catholic Church because of the systematic abuse and rape of little children was directed, in this case not directed towards the perpetrator but at the person who put a stop to it. The U.S. officer was the one punished for this because he attacked someone’s culture. I, personally, will always call out a culture where the rape of children is acceptable. A few years back, when the FLDS compound in Texas, I believe, was raided and child brides taken into custody by the state, again rightly so, there was no outcry from the Left that this was wrong of the state do and that this was just the culture of the FLDS. However, when people criticize a country such as Iran that has set the age of consent for girls to be married at 9 you are labeled racist because that is just the Iranian culture. I am quite sure that those young children will be more-than-happy to know that others have helped protect their culture so that adults can keep abusing them.

By stifling this debate the Left, is also causing problems for the governments and citizens of Western democracies. An example of that is the issue again of child brides. No one has been able to talk about this for fear of being labeled racist or bigot. This lack of debate has led to many modern moral dilemmas that governments are loathe to address. In Norway a fourteen-year-old girl and her twenty-three-year old husband arrived as refugees. They had an eighteen-month-old baby and she was well into her second pregnancy. What is to be done about this? By not allowing this debate to continue, we have no idea what to do in these situations. These are not easy things to hash out. Do we allow the young girls stay with their “husbands” as is happening in Holland? Do we just say we will separate the families, and have a sudden influx of teen and pre-teen mothers to deal with? Do we imprison the fathers? These are not topics that can be discussed when you only want to listen to things that make you comfortable. We will only be able to come to a way of treating these cases through an open and honest debate including viewpoints from all sides, and not just attacking anyone who’s opinions differs from ours.

A couple of the problems with this debate are that we are becoming so used to getting an instant answer from Google, and that we are fighting these fights in the Twitter verse, that no-one is actually taking time to investigate the issues. These are not debates that can be had in 140 characters. This needs discussion and dialogue from all sorts of people. Anyone who thinks he/she have valid points, should be allowed at the table and this needs to be sorted out. When looking into this, the Left would be prudent to use the following as a guide to how this investigation should be done.

“The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration and not the sayings of human beings whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man, who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.”

-Ibn al-Haytham

My family moved to Canada from India when I was six, I am very proud to be Canadian and that is how I think of myself. One of the things I love best about Canada, and by and large, all Western democracies are the openness and freedom afforded to all its residents. The Left is allowing our societies to become closed. It has been said that it is good to have an open mind but not so open that your brains fall out. I would argue that it is good to have open societies, but not so open that we let our own values fall out.

In closing I would just like to say that I hope the Left will change so that I can feel proud again to say that I am of the Left. If as Keats said, “Truth is beauty, and beauty truth” then the Left has become a far-less-beautiful place to be.