When this article was published this morning, the subs at the Indpendent gave it the title ‘Why we have to get over our fear of Islamophobia‘. Twelve hours later, they’ve renamed it to ‘Islamophobia: Why we have to get over our fears‘. Whatever they choose to call it, this is an amazing article. The author of the piece is Rania Hafez, a teacher educator and academic and founder and director of ‘Muslim Women in Education’.
‘Islamophobia is the new racism’ is now a seeming truism, or so Baroness Warsi and many others would have us believe. She claims that Islamophobia has ‘passed the dinner table test’ and that anti-Muslim prejudice is now normal and uncontroversial in respectable society. Warsi’s views are echoed by many British Muslims, who claim to experience such prejudice daily.
Only this week we discussed the appalling human rights abuses and denial of religious freedom for Christians in Pakistan. In Iran things are diabolically worse.
David Allen Green reports in the New Statesman that Iran plans to hang the Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani for apostasy. He was arrested for questioning the state monopoly of the use of Islam for the religious instruction of children. But after his arrest the terms of his case became progressively worse and he will now be hanged because “the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry”. He has appeared in court three times this week and each time has refused to renounce his faith when asked to do so by the court.
Next time some Islamist (or their fellow travellers) attempt to re-purpose Islamophobia in Europe to their political advantage, ask them if conditions for Muslims in Europe is anywhere near as dangerous and difficult as it is for Christians living in Pakistan.
Consider this depressing story of a 13 year old girl who was expelled from school and whose mother transferred to another city after making a “blasphemous” spelling mistake on her exam paper.
On Thursday, Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the apparently offensive word on her pupil’s sheet. The teacher, Fareeda Bibi, reportedly summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her. Her punishment, however, did not end here. When Faryal’s class fellows learnt of the alleged blasphemy, the teacher brought the principal’s notice to the matter, who further informed the school management.
i came upon this notice in synagogue this morning. it makes interesting reading – as a piece of satire, of course, which i hoped and prayed it is, but unfortunately, on investigation, it isn’t, although it was, due to its over-the-topness, taken as such by the regulars, which was a relief. i know there are synagogues where it would not occur to anyone to think it might be satire – there is at least one commentator who sympathises, but nevertheless thinks it’s “overstated”!
the state of "yiddishkeit" yesterday
anyway, it appears to be (you can download it from here) from one of the increasingly odd sub-groups of the breslover sect of hasidim, who you may have seen in the recent tv documentary partying at their annual jamboree at the sect founder’s tomb in the town of uman in the ukraine. they are regarded as somewhat odd even by other hasidim (in a kind of sufi high-on-G!D hippy kind of way) but they are rather obsessed with the kabbalistic aspects of correct sexual activity, the piece itself being extremely revealing of the attitudes that filter through in much of the discourse from the haredi world, particularly the hasidic bits, so i thought i’d share it, with some translation and commentary:
“More precision needed. There should be a stamp for that. MPN should be like LOL or TMI.”
i agree. what narks me somewhat (and no doubt there are all sorts of reasons why i am wrong about this) is that this is *precisely* what bothers me about statements about a) religious people and b) the tendentious-as-feck word “judeo-christian”.
“But there again – that’s a matter of fact, not something that can just be declared from the armchair as if it were self-evident. Are Muslims as “diverse” as any other group of people living in the UK? Are all groups living in the UK exactly as diverse as each other, neither more nor less? I don’t see why that would be the case. It’s certainly not impossible that there is something about Islam and/or the history of people who emigrate from majority-Muslim countries that makes Muslims as a group tend to be different from other people as groups, including being less “diverse.” That’s something to find out, not just to announce as a necessary truth. Or a sacred cow…”
i have been, for some time, a supporter of the “zoo rabbi”, r. natan slifkin, who had the temerity to come out publicly in favour of evolution and has struggled with numerous attacks on his positions and, of course, the inevitable ad hominems and various disgraceful attempts to discredit his work by people of whom decidedly better should be expected.
i came across this particular gem of an essay from his website today. it is an elegant argument for the ability to reconcile scientific and religious viewpoints:
“…Even if the Darwinian mechanisms were inadequate, presumably G!D had some sort of means of transforming creatures via natural law, which science would eventually discover. Dissing the neo-Darwinian explanation would mislead people into thinking that it necessarily happened in a supernatural manner.
Secularism is not secularisation. An excellent distillation of this point has been made on CiF by Humeira Iqtidar and it is a must-read for people who (often wilfully) confuse a secular state with a secularised society.
Secularisation is not just the increase or decrease in visible markers of religiosity or in church attendance, but also a fundamental shift in religious belief towards rationalisation and objectification. The Protestant reformers were not arguing for less religion, they were asking for more – for a continuously religious life against the Catholic cycles of sin and repentance. Yet, as Max Weber’s influential work suggests, they ended up rationalising and secularising. To say all this is not to suggest that Pakistani Islamists will have exactly the same impact as the German Protestants. There can be little doubt that they will produce a very different subject and citizen because of the disparity in context.
Not only very beautiful but the incredibly brave Sherhrbano Taseer, daughter of the late Salman Taseer – here interviewed on MSNBC. Sherhbano’s father was the governor of Punjab who was gunned down in the street for challenging the country’s Blasphemy Law and for standing up for the rights of non-Muslim minorities. It should be clear to anyone that by following the same campaigns as her father she is very possibly putting herself in danger.
The last part of the interview is on the distribution of US aid to Pakistan (1.5 billion USD per year) and how it is spent in Pakistan very interesting and it goes like this:
Dutch demagogue and anti-Muslim bigot Geert Wilders is hero-worshipped by those who cannot discern between Muslims and radical Islamic extremists or between Islam and political Islamism. He also sports a really ugly blonde bouffant but that’s just me being subjective.
Yesterday the blonde bigot was acquitted of inciting hatred of Muslims in a court ruling that will strengthen his political influence and exacerbate tensions in Europe.
On the issue of his acquittal and the question of freedom of speech, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has it just right:
As I’ve said from the beginning of Wilders’ trial, it’s wrong to prosecute anyone for free expression, no matter how hateful and deranged that expression is.
But it’s sadly ironic that Wilders was acquitted of exactly the same kind of persecution he wants to impose on all Muslims; he often calls for the Koran to be banned, advocates that Islam should not be considered a religion at all, and explicitly advocates that Muslims be stripped of the rights of free speech and free religion.
we at the spittoon seem spend a lot of time both criticising people who appear to be disingenuous, swivel-eyed fundamentalist weasels and their stooges, as well as calling for honest, open-hearted dialogue and support for a stronger, more liberal society in which both jews and muslims have a role to play, not just as citizens, but as jews and muslims. we believe both in the robust defence of liberty and the principles of democracy as well as aspiring to a better, more peaceful future in which people of differing religions, cultures and points of view will be able to live together – call it a messianic vision, if you like, or even “roddenberry-lite”, but we don’t see why people can’t “sit under their vine and fig-tree, with nobody to make them afraid“.