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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Islamophobia: my view

What does the word ‘Islamophobe’ mean. I agree in the main with the Urban Dictionary (Crusador Prime)’s perceptive description as: “A non-Muslim who knows more than they are supposed to know about Islam”.
Some mainstream dictionary definitions optionally include the adjective ‘irrational’ to the standard ‘hatred or fear’ of Islam. My personal take is that I do dislike the shaky tenets that source the Holy Books defining Islam. I also fear what it may become, given increasingly more radicalised Muslim groups’ stirring in the West, combined with modern information and communications capabilities, and some Muslim leaders being open about the world-dominating aims of their religion.
I have absolutely no problems with Muslims, it is their Islamic religious culture that I find worrying. Sometimes I am offended by the callous way that women are treated and appalled by the robotic nature of Quranic verse learning, recitations and prayer rituals. However, I am physically unsettled by the barbarities evident in the punishments prescribed by Sharia Law.
Any tolerance that I have of Islam is based simply on Muslims’ rights to free speech and expression, which I fully support. Baroness Warsi, ex Conservative Foreign Office minister, warned that British Muslims perceived a ‘cold war’-style offensive against them by successive governments. Baroness Manningham-Buller, ex-MI5 chief, said extremist opinions need to be “exposed, challenged and countered” rather than banned.
There is clearly a fine line between free speech and expression and the restrictions involved with suspected terrorism. It is a regrettable but demonstrable fact that most terrorist suspects are Muslim and they follow an Islamic agenda. Unfortunately terrorism, generally waged in Islam’s name, is today a real, clear and present danger in the UK and the West generally. We thus have a duty to society to set up whatever structures we feel will expose and isolate those intent on doing us harm.
You might argue that I am an Islamophobe. If so, it is based in my view on perfectly rational considerations and arguments.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Caliphate: a gruesome real-life, video game-style experience

The concept is based on the original ramblings of a 7th-century warlord who imagined he was fast-tracked by Allah to receive revelations.
Caliphate is currently recruiting socially-immature young people together with assorted misfits, who consider their lives unstimulating or lack-lustre, for this new Jihadist-building experience. The whole package is wrapped up in the pseudo respectable mantle of religion and given credence by some apologists and assuaging journalists.
It offers the excitement of joining the radical Islamic club, with its simplistic ideology of the literal reading of primitive founding texts and blind obedience to its numerous barbaric dictates. Conscripts need the ability to detach from the reality of modern civilisation and commit, or be an accessory to, stomach-turning atrocities without conscience. What they think they get in return is validation, power and a degree of respect.
ISIS are the managing agents for Calliphate and their chosen arena is Iraq and Syria. The recruits attack the legitimate but ill-disciplined and poorly-trained armed forces. They also destroy the culture, and disrespect the traditions, of the hapless peoples who have inhabited this currently ungovernable and unstable region, in some cases for thousands of years.
Tactics are mainly as given in Muhammed and his cohort’s personal manual, the Quran. Initially, suicide bombers, intent on bringing about Armageddon, are sent in to cause havoc. Then it’s the ‘shoot-em-up’ or decapitating activities against the infidels who won’t convert to this gruesome fundamentalist theology. The spoils of war are just those that are recounted about the life of the sociopath and sexual deviant Muhammed. Opposing forces are slaughtered mercilessly and captured females are passed around the men and those who survive the physical and sexual abuse are sold on as slaves. All of these actions are sanctioned in the Islamic scriptures and seemingly palatable if you regard the subjects as ‘less than human’, just as the Nazis did with Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.
Parading through conquered towns in the black uniform, black flags and guns is all part of the macho, ‘video game’ image that the Calliphate projects to attract disaffected youth. The callous and barbarous mentality easily appeals to the baser instincts of naive, juvenile minds and they are simply fodder for Islamist recruiters to this obscene Jihadist cause.
ISIS, under the self-proclaimed Calliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is living out a twisted version of reality which is at odds with all the norms of a civilised society. The documented aims of Islamic Jihad: “Islam with its vast revolutionary programme aims at establishing unity of human society on the basis of justice and mutual love. It wants to restore human freedom and humanize the world.” These aims are laughable when ISIS are representing public relations.
One sincerely hopes that this abomination will be utterly destroyed, just as Hitler’s Reich was, and the surviving perpetrators brought to book. But one is forced to wonder, at what cost?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Warning: Expletives may offend

We would probably all agree that expletives (profanities or ‘swear words’) are used for a variety of reasons. For example, emotional effusion, rapport or bonding with peers, complementing a serious lack of word power and as abuse, intending predominantly to offend.
They normally have context and purpose. The same profanity I might use fairly naturally with my friends, could be considered upsetting or inappropriate by a casual acquaintance but completely out of the question and quite unacceptable, when used in the company of an elderly aunt.
“I've been accused of vulgarity. I say that's bullshit.”  Mel Brooks
When being dealt a sudden shock, as when hammering a thumb instead of a nail, an issued expletive can be used out of context yet often be seen as appropriate, since it has the purpose of covering or camouflaging the pain.
Like many other things, profanities are subject to their own version of relativity theory. Senders and receivers can observe different versions of the same thing.
“Holy shit," I breathed. "Hellhounds."
"Harry," Michael said sternly. "You know I hate it when you swear."
"You're right. Sorry. Holy shit," I breathed, "heckhounds.” 
Jim Butcher, Grave Peril
It is well known that insulting someone using extreme profanities can inflict severe psychological stress on the target and bystanders. I shudder to think of the damage done to her son, sitting on her knee, when this lady unleashed a tirade of abuse on Tube passengers. Many of the expletives used were demonstrably through lack of language power exacerbated by her drunken state.
“Obscenity and profanity have no meaning … other than emotional expressions of inarticulate people with small vocabularies.” 
Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A particular example of emotional outpouring is the following Ricky Gervais tweet.
Ricky feels very strongly, as incidentally I do, about animal dignity and rights and chooses to show his strength of feeling by using an expletive that he knows will shock and grab attention.
I have to admit I was offended by the use of the word in this context for two reasons. First Twitter is a public forum and second, I have qualms with the word’s connotations. It is vulgar slang for female genitalia and is being used here to describe someone in a derogatory way as unpleasant, stupid or obscene. Francis Grose’s 1785 ‘A Classical Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue’ gets right to the point by describing the word as "a nasty name for a nasty thing”. This is precisely what I find unacceptable; the consideration of a normal part of the female anatomy as ‘nasty’, which I think is disrespectful to women and is grounded in primitive male ignorance. This is my main objection to the use of this particular word.
I need to add however, that although I find this particular word offends me (for the reasons given), I would defend the right of Ricky or anybody else’s free expression in using it. I accept being offended but reserve the right to say so. My case is simply that in most cases the English language is rich enough to be able to express ideas in a much richer way than a perceived crude expletive can.
So, here are a few alternatives for Ricky, if he so chooses to consider them: “If you enjoy seeing an animal terrified or in pain, you …
… are a mindless, unsophisticated ignoramus
… an execrable member of your species
… are sadly lacking in empathy
… are unpleasant, stupid and obscene
… are not taking your dominant species’ responsibilities seriously
… are a sadist.

All of the above are describing ones feelings in a more meaningful and precise way than a coarse expletive can, but admittedly not with the same sledgehammer force.
That bastion of the Mormon faith, Spencer W Kimball, proclaimed, in a surprising feat of logical reality: “Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.” 
There are times however when an expletive can encapsulate the feeling you are trying to convey quite succinctly and precisely and be quite difficult to better. Lenny Bruce illustrates this beautifully in his ‘throw away’ remark:
“If you can't say "Fuck", you can't say "Fuck the government.” 
... and of course, that would be truly tragic.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Warning: Free speech may offend

“The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression.” Earl Warren
It is true that the first casualty of a totalitarian regime is the free flow of ideas, most especially those that question its authority or tenets.
This is particularly evident in the single unreformed Abrahamic religion, Islam. It is deeply offended when criticised since it is a ‘faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah’ and is thus incontestable. The Quran is everything that you need to live your life of worship, so what call for expressing critical views of what it says?
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” Salman Rushdie
Free Speech is essential in the discussion and critical examination of ideas. As soon as it is stifled, there is no scope for public examination of alternatives and consequently change to the current order by consensus becomes impossible. It is used as a control device by autocratic regimes to keep the status quo. Islam is a prime example of this and so will always be rooted in the brutal morality of the 7th century, unable to change and ISIS encompasses this with some relish as the model for its barbaric regime.
Under the banner of free expression, ‘Holocaust deniers’, and others whose views seem to fly in the face of reality, must be allowed to be heard. Their own utterances will in the end disbar them from being taken seriously in a free and informed society. I believe we should not legislate against opinions such as these, no matter how ridiculous they seem, simply on the basis of offence, no matter how deep or heartfelt.
However, fourteen European countries have now made Holocaust denial illegal and this has dealt the true concept of free speech a heavy blow. The UK expert ‘against racism and intolerance’, Michael Whine, has said that persecuted minorities:
“are best protected in open and tolerant democracies that actively prosecute all forms of racial and religious hatred."
Surely the essence of an open and tolerant society is allowing the free expression of views even when they may displease, insult or even distress.
“You have the right to be offended but you have no right to demand that I do not offend you”, asserts Maajid Nawaz in his excellent ‘Free Speech’ video It is a view that I entirely subscribe to. Great reformers and philosophers have always offended or blasphemed against accepted norms and he believes that freedom to speak represents our freedom to think.
Of course, freedom of speech and expression will always have limits. The US First Amendment guarantee of free speech and expression as recognized by the Supreme Court is a limited one. You will be prosecuted for incitement, obscenity and threats, for example. There is a broad sweep of exceptions under The Human Rights Act incorporated into UK law including words or behaviour intending or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace and also included is incitement to terrorism.
The dangers of curtailing free speech are far greater than accepting the consequences of personal expression within the law.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Two female professionals stand up to Islam

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born, American (formerly Dutch) activist, writer and politician. She describes herself as an atheist.
In her latest book Heretic, Ayaan argues that a reformation of Islam is overdue. It is “…the only way to end the horrors of terrorism, sectarian warfare and the repression of women and minorities.”
“Islam is not a religion of peace,” she writes and describes how some of the Quran’s key teachings - not least the duty to wage holy war - are incompatible with the values of a free society.
There is a distinct triumvirate of Muslims within Islam that needs identifying. First, the religious zealots, who follow Sharia (Islamic religious) law and embrace Mohammed’s violence. Second are those that practice Islam and are devout but without violence, but who, she says, are mistakenly termed moderates. The third, to which she belongs, consists of the dissidents, those thinking critically about Islam, some of whom like her have renounced the faith. ‘It is the Muslim reformers within the last group who need our backing, not the opponents of free speech’.
Ironically, she thinks that although the religious zealots are a clear threat to the West, they are much more of a problem to Muslims themselves.
Another ex-muslim Wafa Sultan is a Syrian psychiatrist born to devout Muslim parents.
She was enveloped by the culture from birth and all of her earlier life was saturated by the faith; in effect, she was brainwashed.
She now describes herself as a Muslim by birth but not now by belief. The final straw came when she suffered the trauma of witnessing her professor (a world-renowned opthalmologist) murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great)!" she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."
She disagrees with the apologists who say Islam is being demonised and asserts that Islam has never been misunderstood; it is definitely the problem, but ‘noone is stating the truth’. She believes it is a mistake to consider that the fight is against just political, militant, radical or Wahabi Islam. The struggle is against Islam itself.
Wafa says Islam is ‘what the prophet Mohammed did and said’ and that reading the ‘traumatising and shocking biography of Mohammed’ is a way of truly understanding the foundation and nature of Islam.

These two steadfastly brave women, according to Islam, are apostates and thus in theory under an implicit sentence of death. They both deserve our whole-hearted support in their struggle.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Peddling dreams: Religion and the War On Drugs

There are two high-profile world views out there which I think the majority of people subscribe to.
The first, “Religion is generally good and should be supported”. The second, “the taking of (non-prescriptive) drugs is generally bad and should be prohibited”.
Both religion and the war on drugs fly in the face of reality and the available evidence. They are two chimeras hanging heavily around humanity’s neck.
The Gods and their messages, as evidenced in their so-called holy books, really have no basis in fact. The presented evidence is weak, mostly hearsay and private revelation. The cost of taking religion on board is very high: the loss of freedom in becoming a slave, the pointless praying to and worshipping something you will never know or see, living your life based on the principles and moral standards of primitive societies. Religion should be seen as a backward step for modern society and respected only in terms of its historical relevance, music and architecture. It belongs in a fantasy world where the laws of physics are broken and unicorns fly. We know it really, but we won’t admit it. God is not the reason for our existence, Nature is.
The ‘war on drugs’ has failed miserably. It has not particularly impacted on general usage and has positively nurtured a massive ‘black’ economy, not least of which are the multi-billion-dollar drug cartels. The simple truth is that wherever there are people wishing to consume and others ready and willing to supply, economic activity will follow and evolve, despite even severe legal constraints. US prohibition in the 20s proved this, but the lessons have not been learned. There is an unholy alliance between conservative opinion and the liberal State. The first knows what’s good for us; the second is happy to comply through regulation. The war being waged is a huge waste of human resource and economic potential. Society needs to embrace the drug culture and manage it from within, not try to contain it from without. Progress here can only be through first de-criminalising then legalising all drugs, while commissioning legitimate companies to produce substances under strictly controlled and regulated environments. The tax income should help educate and, where necessary, treat.

The message is the same for both of these issues: wake up from the dream and go with reality. It just makes sense.