First They Came for the Muslims

And then they stopped, because we said ENOUGH. You come for the Muslims you come for all of us and we will not stand silently by and just let you:

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has promised to launch a series of investigations of Muslim Americans beginning in February. “I’ve made it clear that I’ll focus the committee on counterterrorism and hold hearings on a wide range of issues, including radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism,” he told Newsday. King has repeatedly said that he only wants to single out “Islamic terrorism” in his hearings on domestic security, and has even claimed that there are “too many mosques in this country.”

This man should not be in public office, he belongs in a museum on pre-World War 2 fearmongering in the leadup to the holocaust.  I say that as a Jew who lost a section of his family to the nazis.  How do you think it started?  Launching investigations into the target community, attacking their patriotism, their honor.  Establishing them as a dangerous other.

This is of course utter bullshit, but what else do we expect coming from a Republican like King?

As of 2006, some 212 Muslim-American soldiers had been awarded Combat Action Ribbons for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seven had been killed

Remember the attempted Times Square bombing?  I do.  Foiled by a Muslim.

Why does a man slinging bullshit at the entire Muslim community have any responsibilities regarding our security?  Instead of a phobic hate filled lunatic, a sane, intelligent and experienced person ought to be the chairperson of the Homeland Security Committee.  You know, someone who will go after actual terrorists and not spend his time huddled in a corner asking law enforcement to rough up some Muslims for him.  Is that really too much to ask?  While I’m at it – asking for sensible things – why isn’t a prominent politician on the air right now pointing out that Rep King is a nutjob, unqualified for his position, and utterly full of shit?

Anti-Burka-Crusaders and Anti-Choicers: Common Threads

As the Anti-Burka tide rises in Europe (hahaha, Anti-Islamic politics?  What religious minority will those wacky Europeans go after next?), I was struck by problems in the law’s reasoning, as well as similarities with the anti-choice anti-abortion nuts here at home.

The law is ostensibly about protecting dignity and equality:

“Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place,” the French government said when it sent the measure to parliament in May.

Much like anti-abortion folks are all about protecting women and their weak little women brains from themselves, this carries an element of that sexism firmly entrenched in the law.  Even if a woman makes the choice freely, there is something wrong about it, and she needs to be forcibly freed from her choice by legal means.

Look, I’m personally not a fan of the Burka.  I also don’t go around aborting fetuses (well, every weekend anyway).  You don’t see me crusading against a woman’s control of her own damn body now do you?  Take a lesson from that Europe.  Hell, if you hate Muslims THAT much just pass a toothless resolution and be honest about your bigotry.  You handled your anti-semitism phase so well, the world is just dying to see how you manage this little hate-fest.

The New Taliban

What’s keeping me up at night?  Via Majikthise, an article in Rolling Stone by the incredibly brave Nir Rosen.  I couldn’t stop reading it.

At one point, I got the distinct impression our leaders are acting like irresponsible doctors prescribing anti-biotics, sending more and more troops.  Amid the same signs of hope for negotiation Rosen picks out, he finds pretty solid evidence we are seeing the development of superbugs:

The guarantees of safety that once protected civilians have been replaced by a new generation removed from traditional society — one for whom jihad is the only law.

In spite of assurances about women being allowed to attend school and work, we see pictures of theocracy in action:

As we wait for the Doctor to arrive, Shafiq has other problems to deal with. His nephew has been arrested by a Taliban patrol after being spotted walking with a girl. After Shafiq secures his release, other Talib fighters call to complain that they heard music coming from his house the night before. Exasperated, Shafiq protests that it was only Al-Jazeera. He doesn’t mention the Iranian pop singer.

The outlook is pretty grim (emphasis mine):

Simply put, it is too late for Bush’s “quiet surge” — or even for Barack Obama’s plan for a more robust reinforcement — to work in Afghanistan. More soldiers on the ground will only lead to more contact with the enemy, and more air support for troops will only lead to more civilian casualties that will alienate even more Afghans. Sooner or later, the American government will be forced to the negotiating table, just as the Soviets were before them.

What’s more, the direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan is now likely to spill over into Pakistan. It may be tempting to attack the safe havens of the Taliban and Al Qaeda across the border, but that will only produce a worst-case scenario for the United States. Attacks by the U.S. would attract the support of hundreds of millions of Muslims in South Asia. It would also break up Pakistan, leading to a civil war, the collapse of its military and the possible unleashing of its nuclear arsenal.”

…But the Taliban have their own faith, and so far, they are winning.

This is the reality of Afghanistan as it stands today.  A new Taliban, divided, is taking the country back.  We need people with intelligence and good judgement leading this country to take advantage of that:

The internal split provides an opening — if U.S. intelligence is smart enough to exploit it.

“The U.S. should try to weaken the Taliban,” a former Taliban commander tells me. “They should make groups, divide and conquer. If someone wants to use the division between Haqqani and Omar, they can.”

Its a very slim silver lining hiding underneath an enormous storm cloud.

CA: Liberty Counsel and Marriage for Christians Only

The Liberty Counsel has issued a brave and bold call for marriage to be limited to opposite sex couples (via Pandagon):

The desperation of the wingnuts to stop the launch of legal same-sex marriage in California next week is now laughable at this point.

Today Liberty Counsel is filing a petition requesting the California Court of Appeal to stay the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

…This case is far from over. We will not give up. The people will have the final say on marriage.

In the interests of preserving the sanctity of marriage, believers in the one true religion have taken the extra step of adding in a measure to the ballot to limit all marriages to Christian Marriages.

Right Reverend Matthew Staver was blunt in his assessment of the “Heathen” problem:

“We’ve been polite long enough.  I think we’ve established, with majority support in California I might add, that we can base the rights of all on the religion of the majority.  The next logical step is to stop pretending that Jewish, Muslim, or even (have mercy) Hindu marriages are not sanctified by our lord Jesus Christ.  The fact is nonbelievers are committing a sin even more deadly than sodomy by rejecting God’s only son, and the one path towards salvation.  Frankly I’m not even sure they should be allowed to adopt.”

Matt was confident his efforts would pay off, and with echoes of Virginia in 2006, those about to lose their marriage rights seemed to concur:

“The Tanakh clearly states sodomy was punished by He on Most High.  If we have to avoid marriage to keep gay people from getting married, meh” said Ben (declined to give last name).  “The Koran forbids homosexuality.  That is the most important thing.” said (asked not to be named).

Is California poised to unite Church and State in holy matrimony?  The Liberty Counsel is down on one knee…

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The Bible: Why Believe?

Commentor mdking has inspired me to ask a question:

People putting the God cart before the Morality horse are nuts. Period. Maybe it’s not medication nuts, but the mental wiring is all wrong.

Lot had sex with his daughters after the Sodom and Gomorrah ordeal. So, was God’s picker adjusted to drunken pervert in selecting Lot??

You can’t salvage an ethic from the Bible without being VERY selective.

What about people putting their holy book of choice before morality?  Scripture contains some very nasty takes on what it is to be moral.  Killing innocents to pay for the sins of their parents.  Killing people for loving outside of their faith.  Given this, why believe the Bible at all?  Why make excuses for the passages one rejects while clinging to the supposed truth value of the rest?  How can the faithful keep claiming it is a work of God when it contains errors that indicate a backwards view of morality and ethics? Defenders will state “the Bible was not meant to be taken literally”. I’ll buy that. But why ascribe to it a higher status than any other book of fables and morals? Why not use Aesop’s fables as a guide? If it is the infallible word of God, then why does it contain laws and rules that are immoral to follow? The cognitive dissonance this produces is one that plays a toxic role in the society we all have to live in.

Islam and Theocracy

The Daily Elephant believes Islam is a political idealogy (and hence open to more criticism):

Islam is not just a religion.  It is also a political movement.  Here is a statement from a popular Islamic website:

Secularism cannot be a solution for countries with a Muslim majority or even a sizeable minority, for it requires people to replace their God-given beliefs with an entirely different set of man-made beliefs. Separation of religion and state is not an option for Muslims because is requires us to abandon Allah’s decree for that of a man.

If Mosque and State cannot be separated than Islam is, by definition, a Political Entity.  It is comprised of both faith and political ideology.  While I make no arguments against Muslims believing in God, I make every protest against this belief in Theocracy.  No ideology has ever been more destructive than Theocracy.  It has never worked, and will never work.  Religion can bring people inner-peace, guidance, and self-respect.  But when it is placed in the hands of Kings or Congressmen, it turns into a weapon.

It is important to distinguish between the religion and the political movement.  You don’t have massive numbers of Muslims in this country clamoring for an Islamic state.  The rantings of some are not the beliefs of all.  By the same token, you have some Christianists calling for theocracy here at home (no mention of them in subtlepress’s post, although his view of Huckabee’s presence in the race as bogus hints at an equal approach).  They too, do not reflect the religion they base their theocratic tendencies in.  So while theocracy is undeniably destructive, and it is to be opposed with vigor, the theocratic railings of some Muslims does not a condemnation of Islam make.

I also find contention with another point subtlepress makes implicitly, namely, that religions are not open to dissection and critique.  I think they are.  Turning a critical eye on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism is a good idea, and I believe entirely proper even without the trappings of overt political involvement.

Afghanistan: Blasphemy and Human Rights

I’m sorry, there is no kind way to say this.  A country that supports blasphemy as a crime, in particular a crime punishable by death, is ass backwards in the stone age.  I saw this via Ann, but had been following it via slashdot.  A student has been sentenced to be murdered for reading about women’s rights (and sharing what he found):

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

In solidarity, I will say this to the violent cowards running Afghanistan:  Your interpretation of Islam is wrong.  You would be committing murder:

The UN, human rights groups, journalists’ organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai’s government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

The world will look down on your country.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.

Those outside views have indeed exerted pressure, not just on Mr Karzai, but on the whole Senate (The Independent):

In a dramatic volte-face, the Afghan Senate has withdrawn its confirmation of a death sentence on Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student convicted of blasphemy for downloading a report on women’s rights from the internet.

The move follows widespread international protests and appeals to the President, Hamid Karzai, after the case was highlighted by The Independent and more than 38,000 readers signed our petition to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. In Britain, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, backed the campaign, and there have been demonstrations in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

This is an encouraging first step, but the ruling remains in place:

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is hugely welcome and I hope it will not be long before this appalling judgment is reversed. The international community must continue to make it clear that Afghanistan cannot cast aside basic principles of justice and human rights.”

HOW YOU CAN SAVE PERVEZ

More than 38,000 readers of The Independent have now joined the campaign to save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh – and yesterday’s breakthrough shows the impact this petition has had. But the student’s fate is by no means decided.

So add your voice to the campaign by urging the Foreign Office to put all possible pressure on the Afghan government to spare his life. Sign our e-petition at www.independent.co.uk/petition

Pervez should not face a single punishment for blasphemy.  It is not a crime, and there is nothing to be gained by pretending it is one.  However there is much to be lost.