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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What you can't say about Islam - the backlash against Elizabeth Moon

Here is the thoughtful, rather temperately-worded blog piece by Elizabeth Moon that led to her being disinvited as a guest of honour at the feminist science fiction convention, Wiscon 35 (to be held in May next year in Madison, Wisconsin). Moon is actually much less temperate about people like me, i.e. baby boomers, than she is about Muslims (I have no idea what her opening sentences are all about, but do read on). However, her remarks on Muslims in America were apparently considered so inflammatory that she was no longer a viable guest of honour for a relatively small convention held in a relatively small American city.

Shame on Wiscon. If you were thinking of going to Wiscon 35, I urge you to find something else to do that weekend. The Wiscon organisers, of course, have (and should have) the legal right to decide whom they consider an acceptable guest of honour; conversely, you have the right to decide where to spend your money. Don't spend it on a committee that commits acts of bastardry such disinviting a guest because of something fairly moderate that she said in a blog post.

More generally, it is frightening how much it seems you now have to watch what you say in public if you don't want to be ostracised. Judge for yourself. Read the entire post by Moon, to get it in context ... but these are apparently the paragraphs that have made her persona non grata:

When an Islamic group decided to build a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack, they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people. Not only were the attackers Islamic--and not only did the Islamic world in general show indecent glee about the attack, but this was only the last of many attacks on citizens and installations of this country which Islamic groups proudly claimed credit for. That some Muslims died in the attacks is immaterial--does not wipe out the long, long chain of Islamic hostility. It would have been one thing to have the Muslim victims' names placed with the others, and identified there as Muslims--but to use that site to proselytize for the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent (I cannot forget the Jewish man in a wheelchair pushed over the side of the ship to drown, or Maj. Nadal's attack on soldiers at Fort Hood) was bound to raise a stink. It is hard to believe that those making the application did not know that--did not anticipate it--and were not, in a way, probing to see if they could start a controversy. If they did not know, then they did not know enough about the culture into which they had moved. Though I am not angry about it, and have not spoken out in opposition, I do think it was a rude and tactless thing to propose (and, if carried out, to do.)

I know--I do not dispute--that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could. I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways. I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Koran (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I've given to other holy books) or throw paint on mosques or beat up Muslims. But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack--but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E....(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.) So I don't give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don't get it.) The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom. It would be helpful to have them understand what they're demanding of me and others--how much more they're asking than giving. It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country. (And the same is true for many others, of course. Libertarians, survivalists, Tea-Partyers, fundamentalist Christians, anyone else whose goals benefit only their own group. There's been a huge decline in the understanding of good citizenship overall.)

Now, we could have an interesting discussion about whether Moon's comments are correct, or the best emphasis, or open to counterexamples, or whatever. I'm not at all sure that I agree with them, myself, or think they are the most helpful thing to say in the circumstances. In fact, my own emphasis would probably have been rather different. But that's not the point.

Whether we agree with them or not, I find it extraordinary that her remarks would lead to her no longer being welcome as a guest of honour at a science fiction convention. If Moon's remarks now count as hate speech, such as to make the speaker unacceptable at venues such as Wiscon, many of us are in deep trouble. As I think of all the things I've said in public that are far more provocative than this, I wonder just how anodyne we need to keep our public comments these days, at least if they are about Islam or Muslims, if we are not to lose our speaking platforms.

Forthright atheists are often accused of being prepared to speak out against the wrongs of Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism, but not those of Islam. To a large extent, those accusations are false: we could find many examples where leading atheists do criticise Islam, and particularly political Islam. Still, many of us concentrate on what we know best, which is often Christianity. Furthermore, there's an intimidation factor: let's acknowledge it, radical Islamists have done a good job of muting the critique of Islam simply by demonstrating a propensity to extreme violence - think of what happened to Theo van Gogh and the current situation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who must be heavily guarded wherever she goes. The intimidation factor is raised to an even higher level if it's reaching the point where comments such as those of Elizabeth Moon can make you unwanted by convention organisers in Madison, Wisconsin. To borrow a phrase, Wiscon is not helping.

In all this, the convention organisers have done a disservice to the free flow of ideas about matters of public interest. They have also treated Elizabeth Moon with outrageous rudeness - there is no indication that she did anything to provoke what has happened to her, except use her blog to express some opinions. The Wiscon organisers ought to feel some rage.

H/T Damien Broderick

103 comments:

SimonSays said...

I don't know how it is in Australia, but here in the US, PC sensitivity is not only for speaking out against islam-far from it in fact. The recent firings (or forced resignations) of Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr, and Rick Sanchez were all examples of the same type of sensitivity, just in the other direction. All of which received a tiny fraction of the condemnation that Juan Williams' firing received.

Ophelia Benson said...

Godalmighty.

That is intensely depressing.

Peter Hollo said...

I don't think this really has anything to do with PC or "what you can't say about Islam". It's a very intemperately-worded spray (that is, the second half of her post) and the weasel words are distinctly troubling.
Of course there are many important things to say about how a lot of Islam treats women and treats human rights. But the way this article was worded does not do it.

Since Moon conveniently deleted (or hid) the entire comments thread on that post, you can see some of the reaction at Lavie Tidhar's post on the World SF blog.

See his highlighting: "many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks"; "I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons"; "But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had."

These are not thoughtful or temperate statements. They are clearly implying that you know, most of the Muslim world is pretty much implicated in 9/11, and indeed the post is justifying the ridiculous (manufactured) outrage at the building of an Islamic cultural centre a few blocks away from the site by a group of just those temperate Muslims, many of whom may even have "all the virtues of civilized persons"!

If she had said that "many atheists have all the virtues of civilized persons" we'd see some entirely justified outrage from PZ. It's the "many". It's the Oh, I realise there are moderate Muslims but I'm going to go ahead and group them all together with the extremists anyway.

The World SF thread is a good place to see the reaction it caused. As an early commenter says, "What a ridiculous dangerously innocuous post."
Wiscon disinvited her as GoH because (after I believe some heated discussion) they decided they didn't want to be seen to be endorsing her views, which seems fair enough to me.

ColinGavaghan said...

I guess it depends why she was to be honoured. Personally, I'd be somewhat embarassed to have someone as a GoH who holds such a thin and Fox-like grasp of world events, though whether I'd go as far as to uninvite them is another matter.

As for the post itself - it really is pretty astonishingly ignorant, and arguably quite hypocritical.

'the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent (I cannot forget the Jewish man in a wheelchair pushed over the side of the ship to drown'

I assume she's referring to Leon Klinghoffer & the Achille Lauro hijacking. Well, apart from the fact that he was shot in the head, and his body thrown overboard (for an incident Moon can't forget, she's pretty sketchy on the details), he was in fact killed by the largely secular Palestine Liberation Front. Seemingly, though, every atrocity committed by a group which has Muslim members (and by no means all of the PLF's members were Muslim) is to be laid at the blame of the 'Islamic religion.' So, by analogy, Christianity is responsible for the Shankill Butchers and the Omagh bomb? Or is that, somehow, different?

In fact, not even that, but lone lunatics such as 'Maj Nadal' (that would be Nidal, but I'm beyond worrying about precision by now) will be attributed to 'the islamic religion'. Just as the Yorkshire Ripper, one presumes, will be blamed on Christianity, since he claimed to be acting on commands from the Christian God when he killed & mutilated 13 women.

More to the point, the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were launched by a president and a prime minister who claim to have been inspired by the will of that same Christian God. Unless Moon wants to take on board the collective blame for those invasions - for the annihilation of Fallujah, for instance, or the atrocities at Abu Grahib - she maybe wants to be a little more precise with her attacks.

And then she goes and deletes all the responses to her blog post. Pffft. Some free speech martyr.

ColinGavaghan said...

I should add, lest there be any doubt, that there are plenty of valid reasons to be critical of Islam, as there are of Christianity and many other religions, and no-one should be censored or censured for expressing them.

DonF said...

That convention needs to be boycotted.

Neil said...

Based on her comments, she is racist and ill-informed. Of course she has a right to say these things, but I would think ill of any organization that would associate herself with these comments. The same libertarian impulse that leads to think that Moon should be allowed the free expression of her ideas should lead you to think that conventions that use their platforms to send messages should also be permitted to do so (I'm sure you agree). What I don't get is why you think it is this expression of an opinion that should be condemned, and not Moon's.

Darlene said...

This piece describes in great detail why I have no issue with her disinvite, and is said much better than I could have: http://elf.dreamwidth.org/362415.html

And I find nothing temperate about Moon's piece.

The other issue, which was much worse then the post, was her deleting all the comments and shutting down any possible conversation.

Had I been thinking of going to the con, I would have not after reading her piece, because I try very hard to not offer support to those who espouse bigoted views.

Saikat said...

If this is supposed to be inflammatory, I cannot even begin to imagine what a non-inflammatory yet critical view of Islam as a religion is supposed to be. But then again, what is there to be critical about? It is, after all, a religion of peace.

Camus Dude said...

Especially sad given her wonderfully strong female character Paksenarrion, who broke many fantasy stereotypes about women. That trilogy of books is definitely worth owning.

Russell Blackford said...

Sorry people, but just can't see the intemperate bit. Maybe I need a bigger microscope.

That doesn't mean that her views are correct (I've tweeted if not posted my views about the convention centre debate, and they're rather different). But people don't usually get disinvited from being guest of honour at a science fiction convention for saying things that are merely incorrect or even provocative. People who have said incorrect and provocative things are made guests of honour at science fiction conventions all the time.

If she'd been disinvited for saying nasty things about atheists or about, say, the Israeli government, I'd be equally opposed to it. But that's not what happened.

ColinGavaghan said...

Moon's piece isn't a critique of Islamic theology, or a remotely incisive geo-political analysis. It's a rant from someone who seems to have seen a lot of violent incidents involving Muslims (although apparently only those in which the Muslims are the perpatrators; a glance at Wikileaks over the last few weeks may open Ms Moon's eyes somewhat), and surmises that they must be attributable to the 'Islamic religion'.

'A group must grasp that if its non-immigrant members somewhere else are causing people a lot of grief (hijacking planes and cruise ships, blowing up embassies, etc.) it is going to have a harder row to hoe for awhile'

So Muslims in the USA are to be held accountable for the the 'non-immigrant members' of their 'group'. Firstly, the notion that roughly 1/6th of the world's population is any sort of 'group', for which all should take collective responsibility, is highly questionable - as Peter says, roughly tantamount to talking about 'atheists' as a whole. Or, say, expecting Mexican immigrants to take flak because 'non-migrant members somewhere else' were rounding up leftists in football stadiums.

Secondly, her 'analysis' of, inter alia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine and Chechnya - if those troublesome muslims would just stop blowing things up and, y'know, causing grief - would shame Christine O'Donnell.

The damage that has been inflicted on Fallujah, Grozny and Beirut by (predominantly) Christian and Jewish forces vastly outweighs what Muslims have inflicted on The West. Does Moon feel responsible? If not, why not? I'd love to ask her, but apparently she doesn't want to hear 'slag'.

In comparison to your own blog posts, which are invariably meticulously reasoned and precisely worded, Moon's reads like the outpourings of a tabloid-reading clown. And I don't think we need lose any sleep about these sorts of views being censored; the USA has a whole 'news' network dedicated to their propogation.

March Hare said...

She is wrong on many facts, if that is in order to further her point then that may be considered intemperate.

So when she says Muslims should have been more circumspect about building the Islamic Community Centre near Ground Zero then she obviously wasn't listening to Fox News congratulating their idea as a great outreach between the faiths to heal the wounds - until they decided it was a better narrative to stir up controversy over it.

"the long, long chain of Islamic hostility" like Oklahoma? Why not count the bodies caused by state sponsored terrorism of the west (regime change in Iran and Iraq for example) compared to all Islamic terrorism against the west.

"to use that site to proselytize for the religion that lies behind so many attacks on the innocent"
This is a disgraceful statement:
1. It isn't that site! It's 2 blocks away.
2. The religion isn't behind the attacks, the people behind them are of that religion.
3. It isn't proselytizing on whichever site it is on. It is a community centre. It proselytizes as much as the YMCA does.

She shouldn't have been dis-invited, but her post was ignorant and, most importantly, spoke out against libertarians at the end, despite them being the American citizens most faithful to the original vision of the country.

Chris Lawson said...

Much as it pains me to say, Russell, I disagree with you on this one. When I first read Moon's post I didn't find it all that inflammatory, but in hindsight that is because I skimmed towards the end where most of the flamebait can be found. I won't pick it apart, but there's plenty to object to. A few choice examples:

"We have always had trouble with immigrants..." which is not true except in the sense that some populist groups have found it expedient to whip up fears and rumours (even the very peaceful German immigrants were vilified by the Nativist parties; they ended up joining the Union Army to the tune of 170,000 men -- which means the despised German immigrants were more committed to the integrity of US sovereignty than was the Confederacy) and also because not all US Muslims are immigrants. In fact, around 25% of US Muslims are converts. I'd also add the Muslim immigration did not cause a great deal of resentment in the US. Moon is turning this into an anti-immigration issue for no good reason other than that it makes it even easier for her to denigrate Muslims while superficially trying to look liberal on migration issues. (She's all in favour of immigration and it's unfair how immigrants have been treated, but still those Muslim immigrants aren't real citizens and they damn well ought to speak our language and assimilate like straight away.)

"English-language-only instruction was one method used ... Was this ideal? No, but in a couple of generations, nearly all immigrants' grandchildren were able to speak English, even if their kids dropped out of school." Was there ever a wave of immigration that did not have the next generation (let alone the second) speaking the prevailing language?

"When an Islamic group decided to build a memorial center at/near the site of the 9/11 attack, they should have been able to predict that this would upset a lot of people." An argument that could be used to prevent Muslims building anything anywhere. And a lot of other people, besides. When Dawkins wrote the God Delusion, he knew it would upset people. When MLK ran the Birmingham boycott, he knew it would upset people.

"...not only did the Islamic world in general show indecent glee about the [9/11] attack..." The indecent glee, as it were, was largely confined to Muslims in the Middle East. Condemnation of 9/11 by Muslim leaders and scholars was not hard to find. Specifically, American Muslim groups were rapid and unwavering in their condemnation of the attacks -- and it is American Muslims who want to build the centre.

"...Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship..." except that to believe this, you have to agree to the prosecution of thought crime. In the US (and Australia), believing stuff does not and should not unfit anyone for citizenship.

"...I don't give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with..." The Homeland Security Office would like to know where Moon got her Innocent Muslim Detector Kit.

Worst of all, "...many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons..." which I hope needs no comment.

Chris Lawson said...

Much as it pains me to say, Russell, I disagree with you on this one. When I first read Moon's post I didn't find it all that inflammatory, but in hindsight that is because I skimmed towards the end where most of the flamebait can be found. I won't pick it apart, but there's plenty to object to.

ColinGavaghan said...

So (and at the risk of flogging this one to death), having just read Moon's wikipedia entry, I don't know whether to be more alarmed that she's a Marine Corps vet, or a history grad! :-/

AllanW said...

One may think that Moon’s ignorance was used in a negative way to decide whether she was a valid speaker at the feminist science fiction convention Colin but if so then this test can be used on anyone at any time as we are all ignorant about important things.

I suspect rather that the test of her worthiness was a positive one, failure to reach some pre-determined level of conformity to a small and exclusive set of behaviours that was the real key to their decision.

It reveals the committee who made this decision to be pompous tyrants so fragile in their own grasp of affairs that they seek to quash all possible diversity of opinion in order to protect the sanctity of their prejudices. A truly illiberal, anti-intellectual, irrational and uncreative stance.

It never ceases to amaze me how the organising bodies for creative arts endeavours so often exemplify the opposite stances and attitudes to those they are supposed to be promoting or furthering.

Neil said...

If you can't detect the bigotry in comments like "many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons" then you're not the writer I think you are, Russell. And if you think Moon is putting forward a view on the Ground zero mosque (which isn't a mosque and isn't at Ground zero) which ought to be taken seriously, even if only to be refuted, then you haven't been paying attention. Her views are talking points from Fox. I would boycott a convention that gave her a platform.

Friend of Icelos said...

"Secondly, her 'analysis' of, inter alia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine and Chechnya - if those troublesome muslims would just stop blowing things up and, y'know, causing grief - would shame Christine O'Donnell."

I'm going to step in just for a moment to disagree with that. Considering O'Donnell's Tea Party base, and considering how she's presented herself so far, I honestly suspect people would be more impressed.

Russell Blackford said...

Sorry folks, but I'm not backing down on this. To put it mildly, I think that unreasonably high standards of civility are being applied to Moon. I can't imagine that such standards would be applied if she'd said similar things in a similar tone or even with similar errors about, say, libertarianism or communism (though maybe they would be if she'd criticised the Pope or Christianity in general). As a matter of fact, she does say something nasty about libertarians, but no one has protested. Why, I wonder, is Islam being treated with more solicitude than at least some other belief systems? Will this solicitude be extended to other religions?

I tried to avoid getting into the merits of the issue she wrote about in this part of her post, but for the record I state my short view in my following post. To me the substantive issue about the centre is pretty much a no-brainer. But that's not the issue I've raised.

Nor is free speech the issue. I don't think this is about free speech, which I view rather narrowly, and you'll note that I didn't mention free speech in the post. Her speech is not being suppressed by the state; Wiscon is quite entitled (legally) to disinvite her; and I think it should have that legal right. If she turned up in protest and demanded to be allowed to speak, I'd consider it grandstanding and I'd turn against her like a shot. But she's doing the right thing in staying away, and her public response seems quite dignified.

The issue is simply about my fear that an extreme sensitivity about anything seen as critical of Islam or Muslims has become so commonplace that saying something like Moon said on her blog - the sort of setting where far more robust language is almost expected - can now get you disinvited as a guest of honour at a science fiction convention. Normally, a guest-of-honour invitation is pretty rock solid, so this is a drastic step (even though, again, I support their legal right to take it).I would certainly not be happy if those sorts of standards were applied to me by such things as science fiction conventions. I think that anyone who wants to be publicly critical of Islam or whatever else we're supposed to be solicitous about from time to time (the Pope? Christianity in general?) should be worried about this development.

SimonSays said...

Russell: The fear you're describing is simply not commonplace in the US. As others have said, there is an entire right-wing echo-chamber that says equally inflammatory things all the time made up of Fox News, talk radio, and numerous websites for an audience in the tens of millions.

Their views (pretty similar to Moon's) are generally heard on pretty much every other cable network such as CNN and MSNBC as well as op-ed pages of respectable national newspapers like the NY Times and the Washington Post.

I think you're extrapolating from one case and it does not look like you're even close to seeing the big picture.

March Hare said...

Russell, I did comment on her disgraceful attack on libertarians.

However, whatever her views on Islam, Tea Partiers, etc. that should not have gotten her dis-invited to a science fiction event, unless her talk was going to be on a topic that the hosts were not comfortable with.

What she should really do is find out what being a good citizen of a free country means and stop claiming it is a bunch of stuff she agrees with. I'll start her off: respect people's freedom of speech/belief; respect other's property/person; keep within the law; participate in the democratic process. And, erm, that's it.

Russell Blackford said...

Simon, I let this go the first time but you keep bringing up things that are simply not relevant to what I'm talking about. I've obviously pushed one of your buttons - I've reminded you of other things - but try to focus on the issue. We are talking about the extreme solicitude towards Islam that can lead to someone like Elizabeth Moon - a distinguished author with pretty good feminist credentials - being demonised and blackballed, possibly even having her career damaged, for criticising Islam or Muslims in a blog post!.

Moon may have led with her chin in some ways, but there's a larger issue about people who are not FOX news nut-jobs being demonised for criticising Islam. It happens all the time, often to women who object to the misogyny built into Islam as a belief system, something that Moon refers to. Have a talk about this to Ophelia, or better still to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or to many, many other people.

You are not seeing the big picture, my friend; you're fixating on parochial issues of US politics and media coverage. Those issues are important to the extent that we all have to fear how US power might be deployed, but there's a bigger world out here, and a much bigger picture, that this development with Elizabeth Moon connects to.

lquilter said...

Moon is not blackballed; she is not "persona non grata"; she is not "unwelcome". Simply, her "guest of honor" status was rescinded.

I'm not sure why so many otherwise reasonable people have trouble distinguishing between (A) a group of people declining to make a statement ("We are honoring this person") and (B) a group of people stifling the speech of someone. Surely, having said X, one is entitled to change one's mind or retract the statement.

SimonSays said...

To clarify: I'm not saying that Ms. Moon was disinvited for good reason. Far from it, it's a ridiculous decision. However what it isn't is unusual in today's America.

Russell: I'm genuinely confused about what your standards are for what is "parochial". As large a convention as Wiscon may be and as established a writer as Moon is...I consider the entirety of the US mainstream media (not only Fox News) to be much more indicative of US intellectual culture. I do not think this is a controversial assertion on my part.

I frankly can't speak to Ms. Moon's popularity and significance outside the US or of the Wiscon, however I can't help but interpret her dismissal through any other frame of reference than that of the political culture of the US-since she is an American and Wiscon is occurring in the US...I am assuming with mostly American attendees. I might be wrong though, so feel free to correct me on this point.

You mention "extreme solicitude toward Islam"...my question is: extreme compared to what? By what standard are you judging the extremity of the allowable discourse? I think it's perfectly reasonable to compare with criticism of other things, as have you. We simply disagree on what would serve as a valid comparable. So I agree that it's preposterous to have someone's livelihood be threatened by a blog post or a passing comment. However, it sadly happens all the time for other types of views. Octavia Nasr was fired from CNN (arguably worse than being disinvited to a convention) over a single tweet.

On the other hand jokes about pedophile priests are generally acceptable-so it depends on who/what you are discussing.

Don't get me wrong, you've provided an example of "extreme solicitude", however if you're gonna claim that this is something pervasive you need to do better than give me the example of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (disgraceful death threats notwithstanding), who is a respectable public intellectual in the US that is published by a top-tier publisher and is seen and read on major US media outlets.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"We are talking about the extreme solicitude towards Islam ..."

You need to establish that Moon was disinvited for such solicitude rather than because she suggested, for example, that one's religious beliefs would unfit one for citizenship.

ColinGavaghan said...

Russell, if people keep banging on about Fox News and the like, perhaps it's because of the heading you gave to this post. The fact is, you can say such things - and worse - about Islam. Furthermore, you can say them and still receive a platform: on mainstream tv news, on talk radio, in newspaper columns (check out Melanie Phillips in the UK's Daily Mail), in best-selling books, and, of course, on the internet.

If you'd headed this with something like 'Wiscon overreacts to anti-Muslim post', then I'd agree that the Fox thing would be a red herring. But I hope you can see how some of us drew the inference that you were postulating a more general silencing of anti-Muslim comments, which - outwith a few rather specialist arenas (academia may well be one, feminist science fiction perhaps another) - really doesn't appear to convey an accurate picture of the overall landscape.

As for the GoH thing: I'm not familiar with the etiquette at SF cons, but it seems to me that Wiscon is rather unusual in so clearly identifying itself with a political position. That being so, maybe it's more reasonable to expect a degree of political 'vetting' of Guests of Honour. But I'm fairly ambivalent about the disinvitation because - like I say - I don't really know the etiquette, or (more importantly) the whole story behind it (there have, for instance, been rumours of a 'heated exchange' between them). Unless and until either Moon herself or the Con organisers speak out about this, I'm much more comfortable discussing what is i the public domain, i.e. the content of the blog post.

Kirth Gersen said...

Elizabeth Moon said, "It would be helpful to have them understand what they're demanding of me and others--how much more they're asking than giving."

Russell Blackford asked, "Why, I wonder, is Islam being treated with more solicitude than at least some other belief systems?"

If we cannot address these issues to our satisfaction -- clearly and without weaseling -- then any further defense of the committee's decision would seem premature. The question is not whether Moon's writing was "intemperate," but rather whether Islam in particular, and Muslims in general, are being given special immunity to criticism that all other beliefs and groups are not afforded.

Arizona said...

Neil: "she is racist" and "you can't detect the bigotry"
Darlene: "those who espouse bigoted views"

I would be interested to know if anyone has adequately clarified just what "racist" and "bigoted" mean. I am openly critical of several aspects of Islam and I have found myself accused, both tacitly and overtly, of bigotry or racism. It may be some Australian quirkiness but I see nothing racist even in making generalised statements about Muslims, such as:

"In several Muslim countries around the world women are required to wear the hijab (or even the niqab or burka). It saddens me that Muslim women in the West do nevertheless choose to wear the hijab. To me, these women are silly."

Many "races" (genetically distinct groups) make up the nation of Islam, so generalisations about Muslims are, if anything, bigoted but not necessarily racist.

Israel is widely criticised in the mainstream media and no one thereby accuses the media of "racism" against Israeli Jews (though that criticism, in some cases, does veer into anti-Semitism).

My own working definition of bigotry is "the inability to say a good thing" about a people or a defining characteristic (culture, religion) of a people. For example, I test critics of Islam by pointing out valuable aspects of Islam, especially ones that we might all benefit from, by integrating them into our own culture. If I am then labelled a "useful idiot" or "Karen Armstrong look-alike" I know I am in the company of bigots.

Islamophobia is the name that has become attached to anti-Islam bigotry but it's high time we recognised and became more vigilant in combatting Islamophobiaphobia, the irrational fear that criticism of Islam will lead inevitably to bigotry and racism.

Russell Blackford said...

Simon, the heading is nothing to do with FOX news, and I'm amazed at the thought that that might be the sort of platform Moon would want - though of course it's the platform she may now be driven to, now that she's being demonised widely as a racist and a bigot.

The post is about Elizabeth Moon and what can hapoen to people like you or me or her or other people who've experienced intimidation or demonisation (some of whom I can't name because it would be breaching confidentiality or privacy) if we are critical of Islam or Muslim leaders or the Muslim community in our countries. And it's against the background of far greater intimidation suffered by, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie.

This has nothing to do with FOX news, and you'll mislead yourself about the issue at stake here if you read my post through that filter.

I take it that what has pushed your buttons is a set of events involving someone called Juan Williams. Until yesterday, I'd never even heard of this person, who is apparently some American television personality. The post is not about Juan Williams and it's a complete coincidence that I found out about what had happened to Elizabeth Moon about the same time as the events surrounding Williams (or that the two sets actually happened about the same time, if that's what happened - I still don't know anything much about Williams).

Russell Blackford said...

To be fair, Arizona, people sometimes are demonised as anti-Semitic for criticising Israel or Jewish organisations. E.g. Richard Dawkins copped some flack for this not many years ago. I oppose that kind of demonisation, too. A whole lot of prominent Jewish intellectuals, including Peter Singer, felt the need to put out a statement condemning this sort of thing, here in Australia.

Otherwise, thanks for your supportive comment.

J. J. Ramsey said...

"This has nothing to do with FOX news"

Except for the fact that what's on FOX news is prima facie evidence that your claim about "extreme solicitude towards Islam" is false.

KurtKishKitsch said...

Seems like Islam has to be treated with extra care when other religions could (and are) criticized. Islamophobiaphobia

SimonSays said...

Arizona: I lived in Europe (Greece to be precise). Probably the biggest difference between the US news and foreign news is that in the US you will almost never hear anything critical of Israel, whereas in Europe this is not an off-limits subject by any means...my guess is that Australia is probably closer to Europe in this respect.

In the US, there are countless examples of people who criticize Israel and have been vehemently attacked as anti-semitic (or self-hating if they are jews themselves). I can post some examples if you wish, but three easy ones off the top of my head are Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein, and Noam Chomsky.

All of this is not to excuse or to justify anything, simply to show that this kind of ostracization has been occurring for years here in the US and I absolutely agree with Russell that it's atrocious.

Russell Blackford said...

JJ, you're being ridiculous. It needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that FOX News is not solicitous towards Islam. Everyone knows that much. I am well aware that such views can get expressed on FOX news. :rolleyes: Jeeze, get out and get some perspective; have a look around at the wider world.

SimonSays said...

Russell: Would the "wider world" you speak of include the Washington Post?

Here's a quick sampling of articles regarding Imam Rauf during the height of the Cordoba House controversy: http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/2010/08/what_should_imam_rauf_say/all.html

As you can see there are plenty of opinions that are pretty in line with what Elizabeth Moon said. To my knowledge, none of these commentators suffered any retaliation. I could offer up more examples from equally respectable (non-Fox News) sources if you wish.

Again, just trying to make sure we are measuring things by the same standard. If I misread what you are saying, do feel free to point out where.

Grant said...

Given Wiscon's particular identity I think they'd have been damned if they dropped Moon and damned if they'd kept her on the ticket. Either way, once she posted what she did the situation became untenable.

Chris Schoen said...

Russell,

I'm confident that if Elizabeth Moon had said that we needed to be concerned about blacks' "long, long chain of hostility," that women fighting for suffrage were just "probing to see if they could start a controversy," or that she's tired of letting gays "believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship" that you would support the retraction of her "guest of honor" status. I'm genuinely curious why she gets a pass for making similar statements about Muslims. (The bit about "indecent glee" is just libelous, as anyone who troubles themselves to spent five minutes on google can see. The "Islamic world" was near unanimous in its condemnation of the 9-11 attacks, the exceptions being restricted to a few bad neighborhoods/refugee camps in Palestine and Jordan.)

If Moon had characterized atheists as taking pleasure in tragedy, being intrinsically violent, morally suspect, ungrateful for the gifts society had offered them, and unfit for citizenship except by the grace of her enormous patience, are you sure you would support her being recognized as a guest of honor at this convention? (For the record I've never seen you make remarks more provocative than these).

Moon's impeccable credentials as a feminist, by the way, are rather beside the point. Anybody can be a bigot, regardless of how rational or accomplished they may be in other areas of life--as we saw recently with James Watson.

ColinGavaghan said...

Well, I think JJ and Simon are making more valid points about the wider 'marketplace of ideas' then you seem to realise, Russell. But we've all had our say, I sense you don't really want to discuss that any more, and hey, it's your blog.

What is true is that there is a super-sensitivity to perceived 'islamophobia' in some quarters, especially of the political left. This sees any critique of Islam, or of Muslims, as morally equivalent to racism. This isn't a new issue, but rather a new manifestation of an old one. As Simon showed right at the start of the discussion, super-sensitivity to criticism of Israel has been an issue for years, and has led to a few people losing actual jobs in media. Actually, I'm not sure it's even accurate to label it 'super-sensitivity', as opposed to a mischievous, tactical conflation of principled opposition & critique with ‘bigotry’.

We saw the same phenomenon around Roman Catholicism during the Pope's recent UK visit. Check this nonsense out, from the arch-bampot George Galloway: http://blogs.dailyrecord.co.uk/georgegalloway/2010/09/pope-bashers-are-throwback-to.html (and, btw, file under historical cherry-picking!)

Some of this is, to be charitable, very badly misplaced. Religions are entirely valid subjects for criticism, as are their clergy, and even more so when they wander into the political arena. Rebutting all such criticism on the basis that it's 'like racism' is a sneaky, lazy, but in some contexts quite effective tactic. (Which isn’t, btw, to deny that, sometimes, religion is used as a mask for racism.)

What I do expect of such critique is that it be minimally factually informed, logical and fair. Listing a handful of atrocities committed by muslims (or, in the case of the PLF, people who looked like they might be muslims), and laying them at the door of the 'islamic religion', does not a coherent thesis make. And seeking to justify collective blame or distrust of American muslims because of what other muslims have done elsewhere in the world is, to say the least, pretty unfair. It isn't racism, but it's ticking a fair few of the boxes on the 'what's wrong with racism' list.

March Hare said...

KurtKishKitsch, other groups can have the same 'respect', all they have to do is have members that are willing to violently respond to any perceived threat, leaders who will pass death sentences on critics and adherents that will follow through on those threats.

Nothing about that makes them fit for 'civilised society' but it is exactly what the fundamentalist Christian right in the US do, have a look at bombed abortion clinics or dead doctors.

Perhaps the organisers were not engaged in some PC nonsense but instead were fearful for their lives by having an honoured guest speaker who was recently critical of Islam. That would at least be understandable, if not necessarily forgiveable.

Will Shetterly said...

There is a free speech issue here. Compare this with the ACLU's comments about Clark University's President John Basset Canceling Norman Finkelstein's speech:

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/clark-university-president-john-basset-cancels-finkelstein/

This is also remarkably similar to the cancellation of Ellen Hopkins' appearance in Texas:

http://www.ncac.org/NCAC-Protests-Cancellation-of-Ellen-Hopkins-Appearance-at-Teen-Lit-Fest-in-Texas

Russell Blackford said...

Exactly right, Colin, about the pope's visit, etc.

Bruce Gorton said...

Racism:

The Tea Party is noted for using violence and intimidation to shut down dissent, for its rather dim view of female rights, for its shaky concept of science and for wanting to bring about an end to secularism in America.

They even get called the American Taliban.

When one criticises Islam, the ideology driving the Taliban, much as one would criticise conservatism, the ideology driving the tea party, it is called racist.

Therefore every one of you who criticises the Tea Party is a racist. Same deal.

And if you are not, I would just love to hear your explanation of why.

Will Shetterly said...

Bruce, I'm amused, but Islam isn't the ideology of the Taliban: Salafism, aka Wahhabism, is. Blaming Islam for the Taliban is like blaming Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan.

keith123 said...

I'm really starting to hate the word 'unhelpful'. Adolf Hitler no doubt found it unhelpful that Europe finally decided to take a stand against his aggression. Of course Muslims aren't going to find it helpful that someone actually draws attention to their underhand tactics. However, that Russell Blackford, while writing a pretty reasonable piece, also finds certain criticisms unhelpful I find disturbing. What would have been helpful? To have written only positive things? To have written nothing at all? To have written only what Russell agreed with?

I also find it rather convenient that atheists only 'write about what they know' when it comes to religion i.e. Christianity. It is therefore wise of them to remain uneducated about Islam lest they learn too much and find they have to start writing about it. I mean it's only nine years since the planes hit the Twin Towers. That's hardly enough time for us to have learnt enough about Islam to comment, right?

keith123 said...

Bruce Gorton,

You seem to have misunderstood what racism means. As you might guess, the word is connected with race. The Taliban in Afghanistan, apart from having a different religion, also happen to be a different race to us (if that word means anything at all, which I personally believe it does). This is why criticism of the Taliban's religion can often be construed (usually wrongly but maybe not always) as racism.

Members of the Tea Party on the other hand are the same race as the people who criticise them. This is why it would be idiotic to call this racism.

I have no idea whether I have misunderstood your point or whether it was just an amazingly stupid one.

J. J. Ramsey said...

Colin Gavaghan: "Listing a handful of atrocities committed by muslims (or, in the case of the PLF, people who looked like they might be muslims), and laying them at the door of the 'islamic religion', does not a coherent thesis make. And seeking to justify collective blame or distrust of American muslims because of what other muslims have done elsewhere in the world is, to say the least, pretty unfair. It isn't racism, but it's ticking a fair few of the boxes on the 'what's wrong with racism' list."

The catch is that when the criticisms just so happen to resemble similar criticisms of a political wing that has a history of coding racist sentiment in dog whistles that superficially appear race-neutral, the charge of racism makes a lot more sense, especially when, as you noted, the criticisms in question tick off boxes on the "'what's wrong with racism' list." It doesn't help that Moon is portraying Muslims as immigrants, that is, foreigners, and that the supposed immigrants clearly are of a different race. At the very least, Moon is using arguments that others have used to convey racist sentiment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Arizona and Bruce Gordon. Criticizing Muslims is not racist because Muslim is not a race nor is it an ethnic group, nor any inborn characteristic which a person cannot change about himself/herself. Being a Muslim is a choice (maybe not so much a free choice, but still a choice). Speaking collectively of Muslims is not wrong, as it would be speaking collectively of Jews. One cannot be an atheist and a Muslim, like one can be an atheist and a Jew. All Muslims have one thing in common: they believe in the Koran. What is contained in the Koran is an ideology, among other, that women are second class citizens. Why should it be wrong for me, a woman, to discriminate against a man who believes I am lesser of a human being than he is? If I were an owner of a business, why should I be forced to hire someone with such a belief? The business relationship would definitely not work.
Barbara B.

ColinGavaghan said...

@Keith: 'I mean it's only nine years since the planes hit the Twin Towers. That's hardly enough time for us to have learnt enough about Islam to comment, right?'

Funnily enough, some of us didn't start taking an interest just at the point Americans started getting killed.

I've lived all of my life in majority Christian countries, and never so much set foot in a majority Muslim one, so - however much I read - I'll never feel as qualified to hold forth about the effects of Islam as I do about Christianity. But that doesn't mean I have no opinions at all.

One thing I do feel pretty sure about from my reading is this: not all wars in which Muslims are involved are 'religious wars'. And not all acts of terror committed by Muslims are committed because they are Muslims.

I also know that majority Muslim countries range from the militantly secular (in the literal sense, i.e. if the clergy look like getting too powerful, the military step in and take over!) to the flat-out theocratic. And that there are many different strains of islam, from the mystical sufism to the ascetic salafism. And that indiviual Muslims range from the fanatically devout to those who show the barest cultural observence.

I could be critical of Islam in general insofar as it is a belief system with supernatural underpinnings. I could be very critical indeed of some of its adherents and exponents, and of the way it is given effect in certain jurisdictions. But I also recognise that there are such glaring differences between strains of Islam, and between individual Muslims, that it's a fool's game to try to generalise.

Btw, both the Taliban and the Tea party movement comprise a mix of races (if that word means anything at all, which I personally believe it doesn't)

ColinGavaghan said...

@JJ, personally, I didn't get the sense that Moon was laying down any cleverly coded messages at all. If I were to guess, I'd say that she would pretty appalled to be considered a racist. The second half of her post read like an ill-considered, poorly informed rant, rather than something cunningly devised by Lee Atwater as a knowing wink at the cognoscenti.

What I meant was that sort of sloppy generalisations upon which she relies are the same sort of sloppy generalisations that makes racism so moronic. But I think we should all guard against hot-button words being bandied around without due thought an precision, and that means 'racist' and 'fascist' just as much as 'muslim' and 'islamic'.

Anonymous said...

Chris Schoen said:
“I'm confident that if Elizabeth Moon had said that we needed to be concerned about blacks' "long, long chain of hostility," that women fighting for suffrage were just "probing to see if they could start a controversy," or that she's tired of letting gays "believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship" that you would support the retraction of her "guest of honor" status. I'm genuinely curious why she gets a pass for making similar statements about Muslims.”


Unlike being a Muslim, no one has a choice about being an African, a woman, or gay. Africans, women and gays do not all follow some ideology, which can be criticized. But being a Muslim is a choice, just like being a Catholic, a communist, a Nazi, a liberal, a conservative, an atheist, etc. It is not wrong to judge or criticize someone for the choice he/she has made. It is wrong to criticize someone for an inborn characteristic.


Chris Schoen said:
“If Moon had characterized atheists as taking pleasure in tragedy, being intrinsically violent, morally suspect, ungrateful for the gifts society had offered them, and unfit for citizenship except by the grace of her enormous patience, are you sure you would support her being recognized as a guest of honor at this convention?”

She would be perfectly free to say that, but hopefully she would also provide some statistics or rational arguments to back up these statements. And then atheists would be perfectly free to refute her arguments.

Barbara B.

Arizona said...

Just for the record, I do class Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and Richard Dawkins as Jew haters. The post issue concerns Islam and I don't want to contribute further on what I regard as the non-issue of Judeophobiaphobia.

Will Shetterly said...

Arizona, all have them have pointed out good things about Judaism, so by your own definition, they're not not Jew-haters. But I agree that Zionism isn't the topic. Speech is.

Chris Schoen said...

@Barbara B.

Are you pulling my leg?

It is not wrong to judge or criticize someone for the choice he/she has made. It is wrong to criticize someone for an inborn characteristic.

In that case it is curious that Moon devotes none of her blog post appealing to Muslims to reconsider their ideology. Rather she seems largely occupied with justifying granting Muslims second class status.

I also note her criticism is suspiciously unempirical. Exhibit A, the "indecent glee" of the Muslim world after 9/11 is a pure Fox Newsism. There can hardly be a worse defamation than claiming that any group has uniformly celebrated the mass murder of innocents. Seems like the kind of thing a "thoughtful, temperate" person would double check on before publishing.

Exhibit B: The murder of Klinghoffer. This was committed by the PLF, a secular, not Muslim, organization. Whoops. (But they were swarthy, so close enough?)

Exhibit C: "Maj. Nadal" (by which she means Major Nidal Hasan). Now this man is a Muslim, and did kill people in cold blood. But at present there's little evidence to suggest that Hasan went on a shooting spree at Ft. Hood because he felt that it was a fulfillment of Islamic principles. Maybe this will turn out to be the case. But right now it's just speculation without evidence, of a kind it used to be acceptable to direct toward blacks, Jews, and gays, because everyone knows what those people are really like.

Moon calls Muslims violent, undeserving of citizenship and ungrateful for whatever scraps the more deserving sectors of society decide to thrown them. Apparently this doesn't strike you as prejudicial. Your call, but unsubstantiated slurs hardly seem to me to rise to the level of "criticism."

Arizona said...

@ Will Shetterly
I do apply tougher (e.g.) criteria when assessing Jew hatred because the consequences have been and continue to be more dire than from any other form of bigotry.

Anonymous said...

@ Chris Schoen

I, Barbara B. said:
“It is not wrong to judge or criticize someone for the choice he/she has made. It is wrong to criticize someone for an inborn characteristic.”

Chris Schoen said,
“In that case it is curious that Moon devotes none of her blog post appealing to Muslims to reconsider their ideology. Rather she seems largely occupied with justifying granting Muslims second class status.”

Muslims’ ideology is also their religion, and it is very difficult to change someone’s religion. But I see nothing wrong with criticizing religion.

In my opinion, someone who believes that women should cover themselves from head to toe, be flogged for wearing pants, and be stoned for being a rape victim, deserves second class status.

As for your criticism of her statements, you have every right to criticize, just as she had every right to make them. I was not commenting on these specifics.

Chris Schoen said,
“Moon calls Muslims violent, undeserving of citizenship and ungrateful for whatever scraps the more deserving sectors of society decide to thrown them. Apparently this doesn't strike you as prejudicial. Your call, but unsubstantiated slurs hardly seem to me to rise to the level of "criticism."”


Muslims’ ideology (religion) is violent. If Muslims are following it, as they should, then that makes them violent. Someone, who does not respect the rights of others (as Muslims do not respect the rights of women), does not deserve respect. That someone still has rights, but how can you blame women for not respecting Muslims? If someone does not respect me, I have no obligation to respect him.

It would not be prejudicial to say Nazis hated Jews. It is similarly not prejudicial to say Muslims hate women. Misogyny is clearly visible in their “holy book”.
Barbara B.

Stublore said...

"Chris Schoen said...
...."
Are you! kidding me?
Nidal had a history of dodgy to say the least islamic views.
And he started the rampage by shouting "Allah Akhbar!" as he fired.
And he was in e-mail contact with Alwaki, not exactly a moderate is he?
But of course none of this links his rampage to his islamic views./sarcasm off.
If you hear hooves think......?

Will Shetterly said...

Arizona, people of other persecuted categories might disagree. And many Jews do disagree. Just sayin'.

keith123 said...

ColinGavaghan,

"Funnily enough, some of us didn't start taking an interest just at the point Americans started getting killed."

Good, then you got a head start.

"I've lived all of my life in majority Christian countries, and never so much set foot in a majority Muslim one, so - however much I read - I'll never feel as qualified to hold forth about the effects of Islam as I do about Christianity...

Many people have lived all their lives in my country (England) and still don't understand the voting system, how the CofE came to be the state religion or what the Home Secretary's job is. Simple residence in a country doesn't qualify you for anything at all.

"One thing I do feel pretty sure about from my reading is this: not all wars in which Muslims are involved are 'religious wars'."

Of course. However, an inordinate number of wars involving Muslims does indeed seem to have some religious element to it.

"And not all acts of terror committed by Muslims are committed because they are Muslims."

I believe that being a Muslim might lead you to view the world in ways that make acts of terrorism more likely. This is especially so when Muslims believe that the political sphere and the religious sphere are inseparable. That some secular and military leaders wish to hang on to their power at all costs. I’m not convinced that this shows that a whole people wishes to keep it’s country secular.

"I also know that majority Muslim countries range from the militantly secular (in the literal sense, i.e. if the clergy look like getting too powerful, the military step in and take over!) to the flat-out theocratic. And that there are many different strains of islam, from the mystical sufism to the ascetic salafism. And that indiviual Muslims range from the fanatically devout to those who show the barest cultural observence."

And to the extent to which they 'show the barest cultural observance' is the extent to which they are not proper Muslims. You seem to be talking about de facto atheists and, of course, this is not who Moon was talking about. To admit the existence of a grey area around the borders doesn’t therefore mean that a mainstream black doesn’t exist. And providing you precede the word ‘Muslims’ with ‘some’ or ‘most’, then this doesn’t strike me as being overly inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Arizona said:
“ do apply tougher (e.g.) criteria when assessing Jew hatred because the consequences have been and continue to be more dire than from any other form of bigotry.”

There is no comparison here. If someone is born a Jew, he/she cannot change that fact about himself/herself. Furthermore, it is wrong to put someone down because of a characteristic he/she has no control over. When there were prosecutions of the Jewish people, a Jewish person could not change his/her ethnic background (although some obtained fake documents and changed their names). But there is nothing simpler than changing one’s religion or getting rid of it. A Muslim can easily become an atheist or a Christian or a Buddhist. Muslims should realize how morally backwards their religion is and just get rid of it.
Barbara B.

keith123 said...

ColinGavaghan

"And not all acts of terror committed by Muslims are committed because they are Muslims."

I believe that being a Muslim might lead you to view the world in ways that make acts of terrorism more likely. This is especially so when Muslims believe that the political sphere and the religious sphere are inseparable. That some secular and military leaders wish to hang on to their power at all costs. I’m not convinced that this shows that a whole people wishes to keep it’s country secular.

"I also know that majority Muslim countries range from the militantly secular (in the literal sense, i.e. if the clergy look like getting too powerful, the military step in and take over!) to the flat-out theocratic. And that there are many different strains of islam, from the mystical sufism to the ascetic salafism. And that indiviual Muslims range from the fanatically devout to those who show the barest cultural observence."

And to the extent to which they 'show the barest cultural observance' is the extent to which they are not proper Muslims. You seem to be talking about de facto atheists and, of course, this is not who Moon was talking about. To admit the existence of a grey area around the borders doesn’t therefore mean that a mainstream black doesn’t exist. And providing you precede the word ‘Muslims’ with ‘some’ or ‘most’, then this doesn’t strike me as being overly inaccurate.

"I could be critical of Islam in general insofar as it is a belief system with supernatural underpinnings. I could be very critical indeed of some of its adherents and exponents, and of the way it is given effect in certain jurisdictions. But I also recognise that there are such glaring differences between strains of Islam, and between individual Muslims, that it's a fool's game to try to generalise."

As I said above, I disagree.

keith123 said...

ColinGavaghan,

"Btw, both the Taliban and the Tea party movement comprise a mix of races (if that word means anything at all, which I personally believe it doesn't)"

Making such a statement makes no sense unless you believe in the idea of race. However, whether or not you believe in it is neither here nor there. It is what the racist believes that counts here and to him members of the Taliban are all swarthy-skinned and thus fair game for insult. This is racism.

This is not the case with the Tea Party, even if there does happen to be some black/yellow/brown-skinned people amongst its advocates. Race is simply not at issue here and I'm not sure why you are trying to make it one. In the same way that not all wars involving Muslims are religious wars, maybe not all attacks on political movements are racially motivated.

ColinGavaghan said...

@Arizona, I understand what you are saying about the historical scale of anti-jewish bigotry. You are right, in terms of the shere scale of the barbarism & butchery, it almost certainly is unparalleled.

(As an aside, the only thing to push it close in terms of consequences must be the atlantic slave trade, which saw an estimated 12 million black Africans enslaved, 2 million dying during transportation, and countless more brutalised, killed or raped on plantations.)

With respect, though, your 'tougher critieria' approach doesn't make sense. Murder is a more serious crime than shop-lifting, but we don't require less proof to convict a murderer. I can understand that you may be more sensitive about some kinds of bigotry, but I would encourage you to try to retain some fairness with regard to such vituperative epithets as 'jew-hater' or 'anti-semite'. They are very serious insults, for a very good reason, and should not be bandied around too casually. Apart from anything else, it risks diluting opposition to the very real evil of genuine anti-semitism.

ColinGavaghan said...

Btw, the Derschowitz piece to which you linked is very reasonable, and I would certainly hope to try to follow most if not all of his points. A couple of them, though, may explain my problems with Elizabeth Moon's post (assuming that we can apply the same standard to criticism of Muslims):

8. Blaming all Jews or “the Jews” for Israel’s policies or imperfections.

15. Blaming the Jews or Israel, rather than the anti-Semites, for anti-Semitism or for increases in anti-Jewish attitudes.

Btw, I think this is a very welcome and long overdue opportunity for this discussion. Being able to criticise religion, or states/institutions associated with a particular religion, without being accused of 'racism' or 'bigotry' is a highy important issue, and requires a bit of thought on all sides.

Russell Blackford said...

Colin says: What is true is that there is a super-sensitivity to perceived 'islamophobia' in some quarters, especially of the political left. This sees any critique of Islam, or of Muslims, as morally equivalent to racism.

And that's really my point. There's this super-sensitivity or super-solicitude to Muslims, and Moon has fallen victim to it. Of course I don't think this super-solicitude exists on FOX news, but it exists among many people who are capable of making life difficult for someone like me or Elizabeth Moon or folks who read this blog. You can find yourself demonised as a "racist" or a "bigot" and ostracised in certain circles very quickly for stuff in a tone, and with a degree of inaccuracy, that would never lead to such ostracisation and demonisation if you were criticising, say, communism or libertarianism (or communists or libertarians) rather than Islam (or Muslims). Lots of wild things get said about other systems of belief and those involved in them, but any inaccuracies relating to Islam or Muslims are pounced upon as evidence of something like racism. Compared to these other systems of belief, excessively high standards are applied, in the circles I'm talking about, if Islam is involved.

All this chills the climate of frank, robust speech about belief systems and cultures. The aspect I'm talking about is not a free speech issue in the strict sense of an issue about our right not to have our speech suppressed by the government, but it's worrying nonetheless, and I think we should speak up against it when we see it happen, even if it's uncomfortable. (Of course there are also more straightforward free speech issue when governments enact laws against "religious vilification" and the like.)

None of which is to deny that there may be a similar over-solicitude towards Israel (though it's not usually in the same circles: I'm sure that Elizabeth Moon could have said a lot of harsh and inaccurate things about Israel and it wouldn't have led to her being disinvited to Wiscon).

SimonSays said...

I'm sure that Elizabeth Moon could have said a lot of harsh and inaccurate things about Israel and it wouldn't have led to her being disinvited to Wiscon).

Can you point to some sort of study or article that at least corroborates what you are saying? Or is this opinion based on the two examples you've given of Moon and Ali?

Russell I'm really not trying to pick on you, however...in the US mainstream this is simply not a true statement by any stretch. I would urge any commentators who (like me) live in the US to please offer their input here.

Criticism of Israel is anathema even among the most liberal of commentators. I would think that my first two examples of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr (ie two reporters with long careers that lost their jobs) would be enough to at least cause you to question the assertion you are putting forth. I've also stated several people (many more than the two you've mentioned) that were not sufficiently supportive of Israel in the US and have suffered repeated derision as a result.

I might be wrong however, so if you can offer a way to make that comparison via some study or method of quantification I would be very open to that.

ColinGavaghan said...

‘Simple residence in a country doesn't qualify you for anything at all.’

Sure, but non-residence makes it difficult to evaluate the views of residents. Residence, at least for a time, may be a necessary but insufficient criterion for forming a balanced view of what ordinary muslims in majority muslim countries actually think. Another necessary but insufficient qualification may be familiarity with the language of the populace in question. I can speak with a range of UK or NZ people, read the letters columns to newspapers, listen to radio talk-ins, etc, etc. But I can’t do any of those things with regard to the majority Muslim world. Instead, I'm restricted to English-speaking Muslims and what intermediaries choose to translate for me. Again, this is a significant limitation on my understanding of these cultures. This doesn’t stop me holding any sort of view, but it makes me less confident than in my views of Christian, English-speaking cultures.

‘an inordinate number of wars involving Muslims does indeed seem to have some religious element to it.’

But are they causes, or just elements? The Chechen, Palestinian and Iraqi resistance movements certainly have semi-religious identities, but in another sense, these are pretty old-fashioned uprisings against (what are perceived as) occupying forces. The NI and Yugo conflicts had religious elements too, but they weren’t conflicts about religion, any more than the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

‘I believe that being a Muslim might lead you to view the world in ways that make acts of terrorism more likely. This is especially so when Muslims believe that the political sphere and the religious sphere are inseparable.’

Many people would like their national laws to correspond more closely with their religious or moral views, but they don’t typically resort to terrorism to get their way. If you're going to allege that Muslims are more likely to resort to terror tactics than, say, Christians or socialists or nationalists or adherents to other ideologies, you’d really need some evidence to back that up. The fact that Americans or British are, at the moment, on the receiving end mostly of Muslim attacks doesn’t prove that, on the whole, Muslims are more likely to resort to terror tactics. (The European experience throughout the 70s and 80s would certainly incline one to suspect that white European nationalist groups like the IRA, UVF or ETA were a bigger problem.)

None of this is to dismiss the possibility that there may be aspects to Islam that more incline believers to this sort of tactic, or that muslims are statistically more likely to resort to terror tactics. It’s possible, and it’s a legitimate area of study. But it’s a very serious allegation that, IMO, would require some pretty serious evidence. To my mind, given that the phenomenon of Islamic terror attacks in Europe pretty much all followed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, my guess for the moment is that the more likely explanation that they are politically rather than theologically motivated.

Russell Blackford said...

Simon, I don't think you're being serious. I'm sure I understand science fiction fandom vastly better than you do.

ColinGavaghan said...

‘And to the extent to which they 'show the barest cultural observance' is the extent to which they are not proper Muslims.’

So, shall we limit our discussion of Christians to those who regularly attend church, pray and adhere to the sola scripta? If so, then there are many fewer Christians than is regularly claimed, and pretty much all of Europe and Australasia can proudly declare itself atheist. (Yay!) Alternatively, we could recognize that – thankfully – a great many people who self-identify as muslims, christians and jews mean it in a predominantly ‘cultural’ sense, and are far from fundamentalists or zealots.

‘providing you precede the word ‘Muslims’ with ‘some’ or ‘most’, then this doesn’t strike me as being overly inaccurate.’

It may or may not be inaccurate. Since neither you nor Moon provide a shred of evidence about what 'most' Muslims think or do, it is hard to know. A few examples of terrorist atrocities is a very poor basis on which to generalise about 1/5th of the world's population. (Unless, I repeat, you want to judge the world's Christians by the standards of the Lord's Resistance Army and the Yorkshire Ripper.)

SimonSays said...

Russell: So this whole discussion and back and forth has been exclusively about the science fiction community?

I'll accept that you probably know more then.

However please see why someone might be confused by the fact that you bring up Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the blog post (who to my knowledge is not on the science fiction circuit) as well as also saying:

More generally, it is frightening how much it seems you now have to watch what you say in public if you don't want to be ostracised.

Hence why I've been making a general point about the US public at-large.

Anonymous said...

ColinGavaghan said:
“Sure, but non-residence makes it difficult to evaluate the views of residents. Residence, at least for a time, may be a necessary but insufficient criterion for forming a balanced view of what ordinary muslims in majority muslim countries actually think.”


If you did not believe in the Nazi ideology, why would you be a member of the Nazi party? If you did not believe in Islam, why would you be a Muslim?


ColinGavaghan said:
“Another necessary but insufficient qualification may be familiarity with the language of the populace in question.”

The Koran has been translated into English. We know what it says. The Koran is a misogynist book (among other). You would not ask a Jew to respect Nazis, would you? Why are you asking a woman to respect Muslims? You are a man. I bet if you were a woman, you would see Islam in a whole different light! As a woman, I do not appreciate being considered a property of a man. Muslims have no respect for women, therefore, I have no respect for Muslims.
Barbara B.

Anonymous said...

For all of you here who are standing up for Muslims:

UAE high court rules men can beat wives, young children if there are no visible marks:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/10/18/2010-10-18_uae_high_court_rules_men_can_beat_wives_young_children_if_there_are_no_visible_m.html

Barbara B.

keith123 said...

ColinGavaghan,

First of all that my last post was almost unreadable. Even I could barely make myself wade through it.

No, I don't have evidence that Muslims are more likely to commit acts of terrorism than other religions short of the obvious fact that it is intrinsically more militaristic and violently expansionist than, say, Jainism.

However, the fact that some Muslims tend to divide the world into Muslims and non-Muslims strikes me as one reason why this might be so. Take, for instance, the UK bombings (since you raised the topic). The men who perpetrated the bombings were neither from Iraq nor from Afghanistan. They were British Muslims of Pakistani origin. They ostensibly commited these murders because they felt solidarity for brother Muslims.

Now, it's more than possible that some white Brits also felt some anger at the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan but somehow this didn't translate into the bombing of fellow citizens. It seems that Muslim solidarity trumped pretty much any other obligations they might have felt.

Incidentally, it appears that the bombers were not alone among the Muslim community in the conviction that Britain somehow 'had it coming'.

To turn things around and answer your objection of the IRA bombings during the 1970s in Britain, I find it hard to believe that Irish Catholics would bomb mainland Britain because of a British invasion of, not Ireland itself, but of another Catholic country.

Religion to most people is just one aspect of their identity. As far as I can tell, to many Muslims it constitutes a larger part of their identity, simply because they appear to take the whole thing more seriously. For this reason it is not surprising when Muslims burn embassies because of a few cartoons or threaten to kill a woman because she allowed a class of children to call the class teddy Mohammed.

Combine such earnestness with a belief that you will be rewarded in heaven for defending Allah to the death (not only yours but others), even for trivial slights and you have a powder keg of a situation.

This is just the way I see things. I can't furnish you with evidence that is more concrete than this. Even so, I'm not sure what that evidence would look like, especially if quoting numbers of recent acts of terrorism is disallowed.

Incidentally, I by no means rule out that Islam could change and become less dangerous. When I said that Muslims 'might' be more likely to commit acts of terror I did of course mean Muslims today, not in some hypothetical future when Islam has become all peace and light. However, I see no signs of it happening soon and the Koran itself doesn't give much room for optimism.

Chris Schoen said...

In my opinion, someone who believes that women should cover themselves from head to toe, be flogged for wearing pants, and be stoned for being a rape victim, deserves second class status.

This is a bit of a non-sequitur, since none of the Muslims Moon is excoriating (e.g. those wanting to build Cordoba House) advocate "flogging women for wearing pants."

But that aside, what did you have in mind, Barbara, to demarcate this second-class status? Should we allow them to vote? Sit at lunch counters? Attend the same same schools as non-Muslims?

Russell Blackford said...

Simon, it's not just the sf community, but you asked me to prove something that I said specifically about the sf community.

In my experience, it goes much deeper ... into the general literary and academic communities for example, and parts of the mass media. I'm talking about the fact that people like me and many readers cannot say certain things about Islam, Muslims, Muslim leaders and communities, and so on, without being demonised, shunned, intimidated. The things that we cannot say go far beyond the narrow range of obviously hateful or even angry speech.

But while we're on the subject of the science fiction community, the World Fantasy Convention is happening right now, in Columbus, Ohio, and all this is being discussed. I decided not to go this year, but I have plenty of friends there including my wife. From what I'm hearing back, there is no real precedent for disinviting guests of honour in this way for any reason, let alone for anti-Israel remarks. The nearest example anyone seems to know of involved ... once again, comments regarding Islam.

But sheesh, even Dawkins gets demonised for saying things about the pope or whatever. It is a theme of this blog to defend our legal right and our practical ability to criticise religions and associated cultures. That was the context of the post.

It was never specifically about the US. I mentioned that the convention is in a relatively small city in the US to make clear that it wasn't in the sort of place that was likely to be a target for a retaliatory terrorist attack after a blog post at level of being inflammatory that we're talking about, so that concern wasn't the reason for the disinvitation. The same thing can happen anywhere in the Western world right now. In the kind of circles where many of us move, you need to be very careful what you say or face the possibilty of losing speaking engagements, being branded as racist by people who are supposedly on your own side, etc., etc.

Arizona said...

@ Will Shetterly, I'm only giving my opinion, not a judgment in a supreme court.

@ Barbara B.: "If someone is born a Jew, he/she cannot change that fact about himself/herself."

During many of the persecutions both by Christians and by Muslims, Jews were often invited to change their religion through baptism or reciting the shahada. The Nazis persecuted the Jews on semi-racist grounds and conversion was not offered.

@ ColinGavaghan: "in terms of the shere scale of the barbarism & butchery, it almost certainly is unparalleled"

The chilling aspect of the holocaust is that it was perpetrated by a highly civilized people on a completely defenseless, law abiding, and highly socially integrated population. In Egypt and Babylon, the Jews also knew slavery but they had good reason to expect something better from 20th century Christian Europe.

Regarding my tougher criteria, I think I've been unclear. If I can have a conversation with a person, bring up a good thing about the people being criticized, and find complete rejection there, then I am comfortable with labelling those people as bigots. It's a judgment or assessment that I usually keep to myself, simply as an aid to orientation in the conversation. That a public person (like Chomsky or Dawkins) has a good word to say about Jews is not enough to get them off the hook because their views are influential and the consequences more serious. I'm a person of little standing or influence and I doubt that I am hurting Chomsky or Dawkins by freely expressing my view. The term "anti-Semitism" has become difficult, partly due to overuse and partly due to the fairly legitimate claim of Arab Muslims that the term applies to them equally. I prefer the term "Jew hatred". While I acknowledge that it could be tactless, it seems to me to come closest to telling it like it is.

I would agree with you that Derschowitz's points #8 and #15 should, in principle, apply also to Muslims. As a group, they are not responsible for sep11, for Iran's follies, or for Saudi Arabia's religious intolerance. Nor are law abiding and socially integrated Muslims responsible for Islamophobia. However, I have noted time and again, both in conversation with individual Muslims and in reading the public exchanges with prominent Muslims, a certain defiant and defensive attitude combined with virtually no evidence of self-reflection, a mix that is worrying and even sad. I think we would have no issues at all with Islam if Muslims were genuinely confident in their faith. I think they struggle against doubt and humiliation and are really too frightened to dig deep enough into their spiritual heritage in order to retrieve the treasures there. The confident assertiveness of the new atheism is not helpful in this regard but it is a trial that they and other religionists must endure. Much dross will burn away in these battles but pure gold will remain. They cannot yet see that clearly.

Russell Blackford said...

Some tidying done of double and triple posts, or whatever. Hopefully nothing has been lost.

ColinGavaghan said...

@Russell: I keep getting 'your post is too long' messages, but the msgs seem to turn up eventually anyway. If I have submitted slightly edited versions of the same post, 'pologies, but that may be why.

Russell Blackford said...

Don't worry about it, Colin. Your posts sometimes turn up in triplicate - the system seems to freak out if posts are beyond a certain length - but straightening it out is not difficult.

All posts currently have to go through moderation. I don't like doing this, but it means I can weed out really crazy stuff (Dave Mabus for example) without having to move to a different platform with more functionality.

Anonymous said...

Russell said: "Simon, I don't think you're being serious. I'm sure I understand science fiction fandom vastly better than you do."

Your experience with fandom may be vast, but you've admitted you haven't been to a Wiscon. Elizabeth Moon would not and should not have been disinvited as Guest of Honour at a Worldcon or any convention BESIDES WisCon, the convention whose mission statement is to "encourage discussion, debate and extrapolation of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class."

Elizabeth Moon refused to discuss. She refused to debate. That's why she was disinvited - not straight after making those comments, but some weeks later after refusing to discuss them.

People should be able to criticise Islam without fearing reprisal. Guests of Honour at WisCon should be open to debate about their bigoted beliefs. The two topics bear no relation to one another.

T.

Russell Blackford said...

(a) Wiscon should be held to the same standard of courtesy as everyone else. (b) Sge did engage and had every right to delete comments when subjected to an organised campaign of intimidation - which is what happened. I know more than you think. (c) You don't disinvite someone because you don't like their level of engagement on their blog. People get to run their blogs as they want.

It sounds like you've swallowed the committee's propaganda line.

Anonymous said...

I (Barbara B.) said: "If someone is born a Jew, he/she cannot change that fact about himself/herself."

Arizona said: “During many of the persecutions both by Christians and by Muslims, Jews were often invited to change their religion through baptism or reciting the shahada. The Nazis persecuted the Jews on semi-racist grounds and conversion was not offered.”

I meant Jews as in ethnic group, not religion. One can be a Jew and an atheist.

Arizona said: “Nor are law abiding and socially integrated Muslims responsible for Islamophobia.”

To me they are responsible for Islamophobia because of their treatment of women and their attitude towards equal rights.

Arizona said: “I think we would have no issues at all with Islam if Muslims were genuinely confident in their faith.”

I would have exactly the same issue: Muslims are misogynists. Misogyny is written into their religion.

Arizona said: “I think they struggle against doubt and humiliation and are really too frightened to dig deep enough into their spiritual heritage in order to retrieve the treasures there.”

What treasures? Are you joking? And they should feel humiliated because of moral backwardness of their religion. They can take their newborn daughter and cut off her clitoris with a razor. They should be ashamed!
Barbara B.

Arizona said...

Hello Barbara,
You wrote: "I meant Jews as in ethnic group, not religion. One can be a Jew and an atheist."

True, but during the religious persecutions Jews were seen mainly as religious and could convert to escape persecution. Even today, a Jew can become a Muslim - some have done so - and then be accepted among Muslims, including those Muslims who work toward the eradication of the Jewish State and of all of its Jewish inhabitants. Jews who convert to Islam are thus no longer counted (by Muslims) as Jews that might need to be eliminated. The Jewish community widely accepts Jews as "still Jews" after adopting atheism but they are divided over Jews who convert to Christianity or Islam. Some accept them as "still Jews" and some don't.

You wrote: "To me they are responsible for Islamophobia because of their treatment of women and their attitude towards equal rights."

In the context of the discussion, I was tacitly referring to *our* laws and *our* societal norms when I wrote "law abiding and socially integrated Muslims". I took this to be the tacit assumption in the Derschowitz article. Since our laws and norms disallow the mistreatment of women and affirm their equal rights, it follows that a law abiding and socially integrated Muslim cannot be contributing to Islamophobia in the way you claim here. I think you are picturing Muslims who whip or stone rape victims or do not allow women to drive cars. They are abiding by different laws here, not ours. I would agree that they are contributing to Islamophobia but they are not the Muslims being referred to in the discussion.

You wrote: "I would have exactly the same issue: Muslims are misogynists. Misogyny is written into their religion."

You are failing here to distinguish Muslims from Islam and you are failing to allow for a variety of interpretations of Islam. The Taj Mahal stands as an imposing testimony to one Muslim's capacity to love and honour a woman and I know some plain ordinary Muslim males who are very loving and supportive of women, including a non-Muslim woman like myself. I would agree with you that the Koran (including the supporting traditions and biographies) fails to measure up to modern standards regarding women's rights. However, this does not have to lead to misogyny or be interpreted as such. What comes from reading the Koran is as much in the reader as in the text itself.

Arizona said...

Hello Barbara,
You wrote: "I meant Jews as in ethnic group, not religion. One can be a Jew and an atheist."

True, but during the religious persecutions Jews were seen mainly as religious and could convert to escape persecution. Even today, a Jew can become a Muslim - some have done so - and then be accepted among Muslims, including those Muslims who work toward the eradication of the Jewish State and of all of its Jewish inhabitants. Jews who convert to Islam are thus no longer counted (by Muslims) as Jews that might need to be eliminated. The Jewish community widely accepts Jews as "still Jews" after adopting atheism but they are divided over Jews who convert to Christianity or Islam. Some accept them as "still Jews" and some don't.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara continued ...

You wrote: "To me they are responsible for Islamophobia because of their treatment of women and their attitude towards equal rights."

In the context of the discussion, I was tacitly referring to *our* laws and *our* societal norms when I wrote "law abiding and socially integrated Muslims". I took this to be the tacit assumption in the Derschowitz article. Since our laws and norms disallow the mistreatment of women and affirm their equal rights, it follows that a law abiding and socially integrated Muslim cannot be contributing to Islamophobia in the way you claim here. I think you are picturing Muslims who whip or stone rape victims or do not allow women to drive cars. They are abiding by different laws here, not ours. I would agree that they are contributing to Islamophobia but they are not the Muslims being referred to in the discussion.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara continued

You wrote: "I would have exactly the same issue: Muslims are misogynists. Misogyny is written into their religion."

You are failing here to distinguish Muslims from Islam and you are failing to allow for a variety of interpretations of Islam. The Taj Mahal stands as an imposing testimony to one Muslim's capacity to love and honour a woman and I know some plain ordinary Muslim males who are very loving and supportive of women, including a non-Muslim woman like myself. I would agree with you that the Koran (including the supporting traditions and biographies) fails to measure up to modern standards regarding women's rights. However, this does not have to lead to misogyny or be interpreted as such. What comes from reading the Koran is as much in the reader as in the text itself.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara continued


You wrote: "What treasures? Are you joking? And they should feel humiliated because of moral backwardness of their religion. They can take their newborn daughter and cut off her clitoris with a razor. They should be ashamed!"

Barbara, I don't think you have a frame of mind that would be ready to receive a treasure and respect it for what it was worth. Still, I will put forward one of my favourite passages from the Koran and see how you take it.

Koran 42: 40-41 (Arberry trans) ... and the recompense of evil is evil the like of it; but whoso pardons and puts things right, his wage falls upon God; surely He loves not the evildoers. And whosoever helps himself after he has been wronged -- against them there is no way.

This sums up Judaic law - "an eye for an eye" - followed by the Christian way - "love your enemy" - but then rounded out by Islamic law which allows for self defence and avenging a wrong done to one. There is a move from revenge to compassion to a more realistic self-assertion. I like the simplicity of this summing up. I realize that Muslim self-assertion can be very annoying to some Christians but I think it is better to be consciously so rather than hateful while pretending a Christian love and understanding. So I do think that, in practical terms, Allah's advice does complement or complete the Judeo-Christian prescription.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara continued

As for female circumcision, it is indeed a terrible thing. However, it is not a specifically Islamic practice but rather a more ancient practice common among African people of various religions. It is shameful that Islam has not been able to eradicate it and this should be an important aspect of Muslim introspection. However, the circumcision of male babies is also a terrible thing even if somewhat less terrible than for young females. It has been widely practiced among Christians for pseudo-medical reasons and, of course, it is central to the Judaic faith. I think it best to leave the Muslims to their introspection and get on with our own.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona

I (Barbara B.) wrote: "I meant Jews as in ethnic group, not religion. One can be a Jew and an atheist."

Arizona wrote: “True, but during the religious persecutions Jews were seen mainly as religious and could convert to escape persecution.”

I am not sure about that. I have seen many films about the Holocaust, and I was always under the impression that Jews were being prosecuted for their ethnic background, not their religion, similarly to the Roma. Maybe in other history there were prosecuted for their religion.

Arizona wrote: “Even today, a Jew can become a Muslim - some have done so - and then be accepted among Muslims, including those Muslims who work toward the eradication of the Jewish State and of all of its Jewish inhabitants. Jews who convert to Islam are thus no longer counted (by Muslims) as Jews that might need to be eliminated.”

That could be because Muslims are a religious group and they are motivated by religion. The Nazis were not motivated by religion.

I (Barbara B.) wrote: "To me they are responsible for Islamophobia because of their treatment of women and their attitude towards equal rights."

Arizona wrote: “In the context of the discussion, I was tacitly referring to *our* laws and *our* societal norms when I wrote "law abiding and socially integrated Muslims". I took this to be the tacit assumption in the Derschowitz article. Since our laws and norms disallow the mistreatment of women and affirm their equal rights, it follows that a law abiding and socially integrated Muslim cannot be contributing to Islamophobia in the way you claim here. I think you are picturing Muslims who whip or stone rape victims or do not allow women to drive cars. They are abiding by different laws here, not ours. I would agree that they are contributing to Islamophobia but they are not the Muslims being referred to in the discussion.”

For Muslims to fully integrate into Western norms they would have to forget their religion, which clearly states that women are property of men.

Barbara B.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona cont…

I (Barbara B.) wrote: "I would have exactly the same issue: Muslims are misogynists. Misogyny is written into their religion."

Arizona wrote: “You are failing here to distinguish Muslims from Islam”

According to Wikipedia, a Muslim is an adherent of the religion of Islam. So I don’t understand you.

Arizona wrote: “and you are failing to allow for a variety of interpretations of Islam.”

That is true, and that is because the Koran is not a book of poetry. It says what is says.

Arizona wrote: “The Taj Mahal stands as an imposing testimony to one Muslim's capacity to love and honour a woman and I know some plain ordinary Muslim males who are very loving and supportive of women, including a non-Muslim woman like myself.”

What I have to say to that is, they can take their love for women and shove it up their noses. Women want equal rights!

Arizona wrote: “I would agree with you that the Koran (including the supporting traditions and biographies) fails to measure up to modern standards regarding women's rights. However, this does not have to lead to misogyny or be interpreted as such. What comes from reading the Koran is as much in the reader as in the text itself.”

If the Koran does not recognize women as equal to men, people who adhere to this text also do not grant women equal rights, otherwise, why would they be calling themselves Muslims? If someone does not agree with the Nazi ideology, that someone would not join the Nazi party and called himself a Nazi. You, on the other hand, claim that someone can be a Nazi and still respect the rights of Jews.
Barbara B.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona cont…

I (Barbara B) wrote: "What treasures? Are you joking? And they should feel humiliated because of moral backwardness of their religion. They can take their newborn daughter and cut off her clitoris with a razor. They should be ashamed!"

Arizona wrote: “ I don't think you have a frame of mind that would be ready to receive a treasure and respect it for what it was worth. Still, I will put forward one of my favourite passages from the Koran and see how you take it.”

Koran 42: 40-41 (Arberry trans) ... and the recompense of evil is evil the like of it; but whoso pardons and puts things right, his wage falls upon God; surely He loves not the evildoers. And whosoever helps himself after he has been wronged -- against them there is no way.

This basically says that evil is evil. But Muslims do not think that treating women like property is evil. The Koran tells them it is the right thing to do.

Arizona wrote: “This sums up Judaic law - "an eye for an eye" - followed by the Christian way - "love your enemy" - but then rounded out by Islamic law which allows for self defence and avenging a wrong done to one. There is a move from revenge to compassion to a more realistic self-assertion. I like the simplicity of this summing up.”

And this is as senseless as most religious writings.
Barbara B.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona cont…

Arizona wrote: “I realize that Muslim self-assertion can be very annoying to some Christians but I think it is better to be consciously so rather than hateful while pretending a Christian love and understanding. So I do think that, in practical terms, Allah's advice does complement or complete the Judeo-Christian prescription.”

I am not defending Christianity or any other religion. They are all nonsense. But Islam bothers me the most because it has the strongest condemnation of equal rights for women.

Arizona wrote: “As for female circumcision, it is indeed a terrible thing. However, it is not a specifically Islamic practice but rather a more ancient practice common among African people of various religions. It is shameful that Islam has not been able to eradicate it and this should be an important aspect of Muslim introspection.”

I agree.

Arizona wrote: “However, the circumcision of male babies is also a terrible thing even if somewhat less terrible than for young females. It has been widely practiced among Christians for pseudo-medical reasons and, of course, it is central to the Judaic faith.”

I agree with that too, except for the part that circumcision is a Christian thing. It is practiced in the United States by ignorant people of all faiths and maybe even atheists.

Arizona wrote: “I think it best to leave the Muslims to their introspection and get on with our own.”

I don’t consider male circumcision my own. I am neither Jewish nor American. I do speak against it. I send informational letters if I hear of anyone who is going to have a baby boy. But I fight for all human rights and I have no regard for religion. Morality comes first.
Barbara B.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara (1)

During the *religious* persecutions Jews were seen as a religious group. The Nazi persecution added a racist element to that, thus disallowing conversion as a means of escape from persecution.

You wrote: "For Muslims to fully integrate into Western norms they would have to forget their religion, which clearly states that women are property of men."

All that a modern Muslim needs to do is recognize that the Koran was applicable on these points 14 centuries ago and not today.

You wrote: "a Muslim is an adherent of the religion of Islam. So I don’t understand you."

A Muslim is a person, Islam is a faith and Islamism a political ideology. It's one thing to hate or denounce (aspects of) Islam(ism) and quite another to hate or denounce the people associated with it, people who will have various types and levels of adherence. There are, for example, many cultural Muslims who are effectively atheists but are not vocal about it.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara (2)

You wrote: "That is true, and that is because the Koran is not a book of poetry. It says what is says."

The Koran does claim that it says what it says and that it is not poetry. That doesn't prevent people from reading sections of it as poetry and it doesn't prevent people from interpreting it in many many ways. Because it is in ancient Arabic it lends itself to multiple understandings.

I'm sorry that you don't appreciate the love and support of men but rather see this as jeopardising women's equal rights.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara (3)

You wrote: "You, on the other hand, claim that someone can be a Nazi and still respect the rights of Jews."

That could have been the case in some instances. However, Jew hatred was a central part of Nazi ideology so that Nazis respecting Jews would have been a rare thing. There are many many Muslims today who don't respect Jews, I cannot deny that. Nor would I deny that there is a core of Jew hatred in Islam that is embedded even in the Koran. It lives side by side there with a clear respect for Jews. There are modern Muslims who see past the hatred, who can contextualize it and even repudiate it as an error. These Muslims prefer to dwell on the respect side of the equation. I admit that they appear to be rarer or at least more quiet than the straight forward Jew haters.

The Muslim hatred of Jews is much like the Christian hatred of Jews. Both see the Jews as a challenge or an obstacle to their own supremacy, especially viz a viz each other. Jews are an easier target for attack than the other equally powerful monotheism. Many atheists and liberals are now joining in for similar reasons: it's easier to direct one's aggression at a vulnerable target than directly to confront the real enemy. You seem to have avoided this trap and for that I do applaud you.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara (4)

You wrote: "And this is as senseless as most religious writings."

I didn't really think you'd like or recognize my "treasure".

You wrote: "But Islam bothers me the most because it has the strongest condemnation of equal rights for women."

I think you go too far here. The Koran actually enhanced women's rights by the standards of the time. It nowhere condemns those rights but merely fails, by modern standards, to enhance them sufficiently.

Arizona said...

@ Barbara (5)

I'm glad to see we agree on some things, around the issue of bodily mutilation without adult consent.

You wrote: "But I fight for all human rights and I have no regard for religion. Morality comes first."

You sound to me to be very much a person of the modern Western world which is a Christian and post-Christian world. You sound like a cultural Christian even if no longer a believing one.

As a human rights activist I would assume that you are guided by the UN Declaration which, at Article 18, upholds religious freedom. This would include Jews' rights to practice circumcision. On the other hand, infant genital mutilation could be interpreted as contrary to Article 5 relating to "cruel treatment". So unfortunately, even this modern "sacred text" or "religious writing" contains implied contradictions.

Also unfortunately, claims to moral supremacy are not reserved for religionists.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona

Arizona said:
“During the *religious* persecutions Jews were seen as a religious group. The Nazi persecution added a racist element to that, thus disallowing conversion as a means of escape from persecution.”

I don’t think the Nazis were concerned about religion at all. I think the Jews were prosecuted more because of their culture, which did not allow for integration.

I (Barbara B) wrote: "For Muslims to fully integrate into Western norms they would have to forget their religion, which clearly states that women are property of men."

Arizona wrote: “All that a modern Muslim needs to do is recognize that the Koran was applicable on these points 14 centuries ago and not today.”

Then why follow the Koran? Why get so upset if someone wants to burn it?


I (Barbara B) wrote: "a Muslim is an adherent of the religion of Islam. So I don’t understand you."

Arizona wrote: “A Muslim is a person, Islam is a faith and Islamism a political ideology.”

Yes, a Muslim is a person, an adherent of the religion of Islam.

Arizona wrote: “It's one thing to hate or denounce (aspects of) Islam(ism) and quite another to hate or denounce the people associated with it,”

No it isn’t. It’s like saying “It’s one thing to hate or denounce aspects of Nazism and quite another to hate or denounce the people associated with it.” If you are a morally decent person, you don’t associate with Nazism period.

Arizona wrote: “people who will have various types and levels of adherence. There are, for example, many cultural Muslims who are effectively atheists but are not vocal about it.”

I don’t recognize any levels. The Koran says what it says. You either believe what is says and call yourself a Muslim, or you don’t. There is no such thing as atheist Muslim, just as there is no such thing as atheist Catholic, or atheist Protestant, but there is such a thing as atheist Jew or atheist Buddhist.
Barbara B

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona

I (Barbara B) wrote: "That is true, and that is because the Koran is not a book of poetry. It says what is says."

Arizona said, “The Koran does claim that it says what it says and that it is not poetry. That doesn't prevent people from reading sections of it as poetry and it doesn't prevent people from interpreting it in many many ways. Because it is in ancient Arabic it lends itself to multiple understandings.”

No, there are no multiple understandings unless you twist it around. Women in Koran are seen as property of men. There is no other way to interpret it.

Arizona wrote: “I'm sorry that you don't appreciate the love and support of men but rather see this as jeopardising women's equal rights.”

I can appreciate ONE man’s love, not a whole bunch of men! But there cannot be love without respect of equal rights.

I (Barbara B) wrote: "You, on the other hand, claim that someone can be a Nazi and still respect the rights of Jews."

Arizona wrote, “That could have been the case in some instances. However, Jew hatred was a central part of Nazi ideology so that Nazis respecting Jews would have been a rare thing. …..,,,cut>>>

You did not understand my comparison. Saying that a Muslim respects women’s rights is like saying that a Nazi respects the rights of Jews.

Arizona said, “….Many atheists and liberals are now joining in for similar reasons: it's easier to direct one's aggression at a vulnerable target than directly to confront the real enemy. You seem to have avoided this trap and for that I do applaud you.”

I don’t hate Jews as an ethnic group, but I do hate some religious Jews for their beliefs. For example, I recently sent a protest letter to two Jewish organizations in New Zealand for opposing humane slaughter laws. Religious Jews cannot eat meat unless the animal was painfully killed! I told them, if you cannot eat painlessly killed animals then become vegetarians. In fact, there are Jewish religious leaders who advocate vegetarianism:
www.jewishveg.com/

Barbara B

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona

I (Barbara B) wrote: "And this is as senseless as most religious writings."

Arizona wrote: “I didn't really think you'd like or recognize my "treasure".”

No, I don’t think so. I am a rationalist. I don’t value nonsense.

I (Barbara B) wrote: "But Islam bothers me the most because it has the strongest condemnation of equal rights for women."

Arizona wrote: “I think you go too far here. The Koran actually enhanced women's rights by the standards of the time. It nowhere condemns those rights but merely fails, by modern standards, to enhance them sufficiently.”

“Koran enhances women’s rights”!!!!!!! That is so absurd I cannot even comment on it.
Here is how Koran enhances women’s rights:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101103/ap_on_re_eu/iran_stoning

I (Barbara B) wrote: "But I fight for all human rights and I have no regard for religion. Morality comes first."

Arizona wrote: “You sound to me to be very much a person of the modern Western world which is a Christian and post-Christian world. You sound like a cultural Christian even if no longer a believing one.”

I’d like to think that I am a person of the modern Western world, but most of all I’d like to think that I am a rationalist. History is not my fault. I don’t think I am any kind of Christian. As I said above, I don’t believe in love as having anything to do with morality. That is very anti-Christian.
Barbara B.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona

Arizona wrote: “As a human rights activist I would assume that you are guided by the UN Declaration which, at Article 18, upholds religious freedom. This would include Jews' rights to practice circumcision. On the other hand, infant genital mutilation could be interpreted as contrary to Article 5 relating to "cruel treatment". So unfortunately, even this modern "sacred text" or "religious writing" contains implied contradictions.”

I don’t believe in freedom of religion if it violates the rights of others (including the rights of children and non-human animals). Circumcision violates the rights of children to bodily integrity. The Jews could make it so that they wait until the child reaches the age of majority and decides for himself. Then I would have nothing against it. Heck, they can cut off the whole penis if they like.

Arizona wrote: “Also unfortunately, claims to moral supremacy are not reserved for religionists.”

I believe, like Immanuel Kant and many other philosophers, that the final authority on morality is reason. Present a rational argument to justify your moral claims. Religions cannot do that.
Barbara B.

Russell Blackford said...

I'm closing this thread now. It's pretty stale by this point, and the one or two people who are still debating aspects have had plenty of chance to have their say.

Anonymous said...

@ Arizona
If you have anything more to say, you may email me privately:
stkrtk@yahoo.com

Barbara B