All posts filed under: Religion

Islam’s Liberal Counter-Insurgency

A review of The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, by Sara Khan. Saqi Books (September 2016) 256 pages In his 2004 book The War for Muslim Minds, the French political analyst Gilles Kepel offered a stark review of the ongoing struggle to reconcile Islam with modernity. At the time of writing, the democratic project in Iraq was collapsing into escalating disorder and sectarian terror. More ominously, America’s inability to police the mayhem, the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and the failure to uncover the promised WMD stockpiles were not only damaging American credibility, but also the credibility of Western democratic ideals themselves. In the book’s final chapter, however, Kepel turned his gaze towards Europe and found grounds for optimism. Here, he argued, democratic participation offered Muslim reformers with unprecedented opportunities. Unencumbered by the violence, corruption, and authoritarianism strangling open discussion and progress across the Muslim-majority world, a new generation of activists might succeed in defining and fashioning a secular and progressive Islam, liberated from the retrogressive doctrines that were pulling …

The Hijab and the Regressive Left’s Absurd Campaign to Betray Freethinking Women

Progressives should act like progressives – even when Islam is concerned The first woman in a hijab to anchor a television news broadcast!  To dance as a ballerina!  To fence in the Olympics!  To — cue for gasps at the sheer progressive splendor of the moment — pose in Playboy!   Headlines proclaiming such “firsts” — performed by Muslim women living, nota bene, in the United States and Canada — have appeared often in the press over the past couple of years. Surely by now you’ve seen them.  The associated coverage is frequently gushing, but when it is not, it is not probing, and certainly not critical.  It is, in fact, part and parcel of the regressive left’s insidious attempt at brainwashing well-meaning liberals into lauding what should be, in our increasingly diverse societies, at best a neutral fact: freedom of speech means freedom of religion.  Women should be free to dress as they please.  Some Muslim women wear hijabs and are the first to do so in various endeavors.   By no means does freedom of religion, however, …

Fleeing Theocracy: An Asylum Seeker’s Defence of the West

For a few years as a teenager I was a devout Christian.  I even converted from one Christian sect to another before I entirely abandoned religious belief. Contrast my experience with that of any Muslim wishing to abandon their religion in most parts of the world and it is clear that leaving Christianity and leaving Islam are two very different affairs. In leaving Islam you might not just lose your religion but also your life in the process. The reason that Christianity, especially so in the west, is less rabid and aggressive in dealing with critics and opponents is due to the influence of the Enlightenment philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with their emphasis on free speech, freedom of conscience and the rights of the individual. Before the Enlightenment, Christianity, just like Islam today, imposed severe punishments on those it believed had blasphemed or for converting to another religion or rival Christian sect. Unfortunately, for many inhabitants of other parts of the world and even within certain communities in the west, the rights that most of …

Is the New Atheism Movement Irrelevant?

The new atheism movement doesn’t have the public visibility that it once had. One of the founding members, the polymathic journalist Christopher Hitchens, passed away in 2011, and various controversies have resulted in a fragmentation of the movement. To this day — 12 years after the movement was inaugurated by Sam Harris’ compelling book The End of Faith — new atheism remains dominated by white men, even though women comprise 44 percent of the “religiously unaffiliated” demographic in the contemporary United States. Despite these shortcomings, I would argue that new atheism — led by luminaries such as Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Boghossian — is not only more important today than 12 years ago, but that it could be one of the most important cultural movements in the coming decades. There are two broad reasons for this. First, we should note that secularism is winning the (ir)rationality wars within Western civilization. A 2009 study, for example, found that religion is headed for “extinction” in nine Western countries. And the “nones” …

Review: Islam and the Future of Tolerance

A review of Islam and the Future of Tolerance, by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2015), 144 pages. In Islam and the Future of Tolerance, ex-jihadist and Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz teams up with Sam Harris in an open dialogue to prevent radicalisation and to promote reasonable interpretations of the Islamic faith. An essential question Nawaz seeks to answer is how to converge on interpretations of Islamic theology that are consistent with modern political liberalism. Their conversation canvasses Nawaz’s ambitious project to convince millions of Muslims worldwide that the religion of Islam can indeed be rendered compatible with liberal values and institutions. Harris, despite his repudiation of the religion’s truth-claims elsewhere, also embraces this pragmatic objective, on the basis that converting all religious believers into atheists is simply not a feasible precondition for lasting peace across the majority-Muslim world. The unlikely duo’s strategy thus echoes the approach of influential political philosopher John Rawls, who argued that we should not demand citizens to converge on fundamental worldviews as a condition for particular …

Liberalism’s Great Challenge: How Can We Critique Ideas while Protecting People?

Secular and reformist Muslims plead that we learn to tell the difference between critiquing ideas and attacking people. When Islam is at question, members of the American Left and Right race into opposite corners. After the Orlando nightclub massacre, to cite one recent example, conservatives spewed anti-Muslim invective to the point that ordinary American Muslims were afraid to leave home. Donald Trump implied that Muslims, broadly, know when a fellow believer is going to shoot up a nightclub or government office but fail to act (as if gun-loving men, broadly, know when one of their fellows is going to shoot up a political rally or Black church or abortion clinic). From their corner, liberals denied that Allah-blessed homophobia, or Islam’s concept of martyrdom, or the rallying cries of Jihadis might inspire a self-loathing, bipolar believer to redeem his soul through mass murder. Staff for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch actually edited the shooter’s words of Islamic fidelity out of audio recordings for fear of inciting racist reprisals. In the weeks that followed, as men claiming …

In Defence of Christians

On July 26th, jihadists stormed into a church in Normandy and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest who had been giving mass inside. This came at the end of a month in which dozens had been slaughtered in attacks on France and Germany but still shocked Europeans, who began to post #JeSuisPretre — “I am a priest” — on Twitter. This was an awful attack, but it was predictable. Jihadists hate our freedoms, says common wisdom. They do, of course, but they also hate our traditions. Militant Islamists harbour an age-old resentment towards Christianity, and express it through violence and oppression. Across the Middle East and Asia, Christians have died in their hundreds. In Iraq, the Christian population has plummeted after such attacks as the 2013 Christmas bombing, where 38 men, women and children were killed. In Pakistan, this year, 70 people died when jihadists attacked Christians on Easter. In Lebanon, just last month, a Christian village was hit by multiple suicide bombings that killed five people. Along with Ahmadis, Christians in Muslim …

Why Isn’t Sexual Slavery a Feminist Priority?

That Nadia Murad’s #StandforYazidiWomen campaign hasn’t captured the attention of Western feminists is an appalling oversight. Some of the most popular feminist topics on Twitter last year included equality for public nudity, sexism in the tech industry, and racial diversity for Oscar nominations. Yet the topic of global sexual slavery brings a scarcely believable absence of attention. The Yazidis, viewed as devil worshippers by their captors, were overrun by ISIS in north-western Iraq in August 2014 in the beginning of what is now being recognised as a genocide. Most of the men and older women were instantly slaughtered. Thousands of younger women and girls were taken to the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’, where they were traded among Jihadists as sex slaves. Nadia is a survivor of this mass sexual enslavement, and now a human rights advocate. Regarding her fight, Nadia said “I am continuing to do this, with resiliency, because millions of women and girls have no rights. Their lives were destroyed, and their lives will remain destroyed if we don’t say anything. To bring back …

Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

True progressives really should get around to constructing a Doric-columned Hall of Shame to memorialize, for all to revile, the imbecilities, curios of casual hypocrisy, and artifacts of outright intellectual and moral treason the benighted diehards of the regressive left choose to display as a matter of pride these days when the subject is Islam and former Muslims, especially former female Muslims.  The contrast between the lofty liberal ideals espoused by such leftists and their sordid output should concern us all, though, of whatever political persuasion.  They have largely succeeded in squelching forthright, reasoned discourse about Islam and Islamist terrorism, which jeopardizes national security and the lives of some of some of the most vulnerable, including women who have left the faith, or who, rightfully or wrongfully, are accused of disrespecting it.  For in de facto alliance with regressive leftist denouncers of “Islamophobia” — a semantic swindle of a noun equating criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims as people — stand assassins, as the late Elsa Cayat of Charlie Hebdo, the late Farkhunda Malikzada of Afghanistan, …

The Josiah Effect: How Moderate Religion Fuels Fundamentalism

For years, my response to the most vocal critics of religion was to say, “By all means, rail against the extremists, but leave the moderates alone. They haven’t done any harm.” I was unconvinced that moderate religion gave shelter to fundamentalism, and I could find no justification for criticizing those familiar, comforting forms of the Abrahamic faiths that play a prominent role in the lives of even the most peaceful citizens of modern society. But then I looked in the mirror. It was after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. A pair of brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had stormed the magazine’s offices and executed unarmed cartoonists, shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” The incident reminded me of another pair of brothers: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing. In each case, I saw myself in the younger sibling. Cherif and Said Kouachi While the rest of the world was holding up signs saying, “I am Charlie,” I was thinking, I am Cherif. I was not, nor had I ever been, a terrorist. But I saw …