It’s Tough Being a Secular Democratic Liberal Muslim

Maajid Nawaz is one of many reformist Muslims taking a tricky route through the quick sands of Islam. Danger is all around. I don’t think it helps is case if he’s not completely honest and consistent with his words. I support his efforts, but sometimes I think he’s in danger of playing the rhetorical games that make Islam such a mess.

In response to a tweet by Maajid Nawaz.
Continue reading “It’s Tough Being a Secular Democratic Liberal Muslim”

Why Islam?

One theme comes out in comments by some Muslims on recent programmes about Islam, “Why pick on Islam?”

I’m not a fan of any faith, given that they all have dodgy interpretations. But Islam seems to be at the centre of many faith conflicts. I just happened to catch a few recent episodes of BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief.

Try these episodes, while you can:
07 Feb 2011 – Sunni/Shia Tensions – Islam v Islam
24 Jan 2011 – Ayodhya – Hindu v Islam
17 Jan 2011 – Egypt – Christianity v Islam

In addition to the victim question, “Why pick on Islam?”, there’s also the other element, of minimising the extent to which Islam is often interpreted in a violent manner, such as the persecution of apostates, as described in the 17 Jan episode.

Maybe Muslims feel they are the centre of criticism. But maybe that’s because there is plenty to criticise.

Anticipating Islamaphobia-phobia, Again

I think that sometimes those that criticise Islam are seen as Islamaphobes, as if they make stuff up about the extent to which homophobia exists in Islam; or about or how women are viewed; or about how kafirs are viewed; or about how kids are indoctrinated in faith schools; or about the political nature of Islam. As if there is no rational reason to be concerned about Islam, or the reluctance to criticise Islam.

I’ll be interested to see what is shown in this programme, Dispatches: Lessons In Hate & Violence , beyond this clip.

Be prepared for the backlash of denials. It’s happened before, here in 2007, where complainants managed to convince the police that Channel 4 had it wrong. It appears that if the religious make enough noise, if they can be offended enough, their voices will be heard. But, it didn’t end there. There is, or was at that time in 2007, a distinct bias towards tolerating Islamic intolerance. As shown here.

It’s not just police that are in denial. Every Islamist’s favourite non-Muslim Brit, George Galloway, can be relied on to back them, no matter how vile they are. Here, from 2008, is his response to another dispatches programme that had similar evidence. The ridiculous GG doesn’t get how biased he is here. GG seems to lose the plot entirely, and takes on the manner of a berating Islamist speaker. Does GG really think those investigated would say what was recorded under cover if it had been in the open? And GG has the nerve to lecture on interviewing, while making his own political speech. He’s right of course, that there are extremist Zionists and Christians. Some of the crazies on the recent Louis Theroux story from the West Bank, and his reports on US Christians attests to that. But to use this to sidestep the points made in the programme on Islam is just bollocks.

I wonder if the new programme will help the government reconsider its position on faith schools. Sure, most faith schools won’t be like this. But faith schools, indeed faith itself, facilitates this. Because faith, ultimately, relies on accepting stuff on authority. The ultimate authority may be claimed to be God, but in practice it’s the authority of those that claim the authority to interpret the words of God.

And when a religion inherently advocates strong sanctions against those within the religion that criticise it, or against those that want to leave it, or against those that fail to meet its most stringent requirements, then that adds to the stranglehold it has on reason, criticism and scepticism. And when it uses the mechanism of taking offence to attempt to censor non-Muslim criticism of Islam, the results are fiery. I wonder what claims of Islamaphobia will emerge, and to what extent various non-Muslim organisations and individuals ignore the points made in the programme because of their phobia of Islamaphobia – heaven forbid that a post-modern liberal relativist give up their relativism for the sake of common sense and evidence.

So, I’ll look forward to the responses to the Dispatches programme as much as the programme itself.

Political Islam

There may be plenty of British Muslims that are perfectly peaceful, want nothing more than to be allowed to follow Islam on a personal basis.

But that isn’t where the trouble for democracy lies. This Telegraph article, and this Channel 4 Dispatches programme, show the real intent of many ‘politicised’ Muslims. But it’s not as if being ‘politicised’ is restricted to a few fundementalists. Islam is both a religious and a political movement, and it’s long term intentions are made clear over and over again. And the concept of infiltrating organisations that have views or policies that are incompatible with Islam (i.e. with Sharia) with the intent of taking control and applying Sharia wherever they can, is perfectly compatible with the long term aims of Islam.

Pay attention!

Aspect Blindness and Personality

I wanted to note these points here following the reading posts by Ibrahim and Sam on the following blogs:



The charge that atheists suffer from Aspect Blindness regarding religion can be just as easily, if not more so, directed at the religious.

I think part the absolute commitment to the religious view is part of one’s personal makeup, but put more generally it is a consequence of certain personalities.

I have had experience of religion. I was raised a Christian, I had doubts in my teens but wasn’t fully aware of the strength of the atheistic alternative (I was agnostic), and eventually came to realise the flaws in the religious view. But, I’ve been around enough religious people to recognise several types. Some are religious by default, as JustBrowsing describes. Some really are strong unquestioning believers that simply reject any alternative, with some element of fear, either of the spiritual consequences, or simply of the unknown. Many are what I’d class as ‘troubled’, in that they desperately want to find something spiritual as a source of comfort and guidance because they have some sort of difficulty with the basic physical world and what they see as all its nastiness – such as crime and ‘evil’, or natural disasters, things that from my point of view I can classify simply and naturalistically as “some people aren’t nice to each other” and “shit happens”. I’m not troubled by the world and its problems and the fact that I can’t fix them all. I’m not saying I’m heartless or fearless – I feel deeply disturbed to witness human and animal suffering, and I’d be as scared as the next person if I were mugged; but I can put these things into context so that I’m not fretting every minute of the day. I don’t become depressed with the state of the world or my personal life. I do have a driving need to learn new stuff, but I’m not disturbed by the lack of answers.

In some cases the religious view is one of ‘blind faith’, the outright unquestioned denial of the possibility of an atheistic view. But in many case I’d describe faith more as ‘tunnel vision’ or ‘aspect blindness’, rather than simply ‘blind’, as a consequence of personality, where critical reasoning is accepted and used, but sufficiently distorted and abused to affirm the religious view.

Maybe I have personality issues that drive me towards a critical questioning and a general scepticism that results in my atheism, and maybe it’s difficult for me recognise it in myself. I’m open to analysis, by professionals or amateurs.

It might be said that I’m this way because I haven’t had a religious experience, and that if I had I’d know. I can’t refute this categorically, but by the same token how am I supposed to know? And how would anyone else know what I have and haven’t experienced? Maybe I have similar ‘spiritual’ experiences, but just as people have different thresholds of pain I have a low threshold of the ‘spiritual’ experience. Maybe that’s all it boils down to, different strengths of ‘zap’ in the brain, and that the brains of those that perceive a stronger ‘zap’ interpret it all anthropomorphically as some superior presence. How would you tell the difference between that and a real religious God invoked revalatory event?