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Philadelphia Atheists Meetup Message Board Religions and Religious Studies › UK - Muslim peace conference condemns terrorism

UK - Muslim peace conference condemns terrorism

Anne H.
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 269
George, to be fair to John, the London Declaration on their site doesn't say anything about freedom of speech/blasphemy, and the calls for equal rights for women and for democracy are so vague that they can probably be interpreted to mean almost anything.


For example, I know plenty of Orthodox Jews who do not think that the fact that there are different rules and different roles defined for men and women in their religion is in any way sexist. They believe that it's about recognition of natural differences between men and women, and about shoring up the deficiencies and enhancing the strengths of each sex. Of course, those cis-female or cis-male or intersexed or transgender or genderqueer folks who don't fit into their narrow boxes are kind of fucked. But they really do believe that they're promoting equality. The relevant refrain here is, "Equal does not mean identical." I've heard similar attitudes from some parts of the Muslim community (as well as from Catholics and other Christians; for all I know Hindus and Buddhists and etc. play the same bullshit game too).

Another claim that I've heard from some Muslims is that Sharia is the only *true* democracy, Allah's democracy, and you'll note that the phrase used in the London Declaration is "true democracy". I also don't see this group calling out the more brutal implementations of Sharia, or the anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-sex restrictions it entails.

Now, I'm not trying to microscopically parse their words and claim that what they're "really" doing here is trying to put a friendly face on creeping Sharia or something like that. But it *is* fair to wonder exactly what this group is really hoping to accomplish. For my part, I don't see any reason to take them at anything other than face value --- they love their religion, but they don't like the part where people are using it as an excuse to be terrorists. And, you know, I'm glad that they recognize that terrorism is bad and that they're trying to repudiate the terrorists who claim to be associated with them. It's just that I think they're still turning a blind eye to some of the deeper problems in their religion. They still think that the Koran is a wonderful book and that the world would be a beautiful place if everybody followed it, and I don't think they've really thought through what exactly that means.
A former member
Post #: 214

I did not read the Declaration until I opened the link provided by Anne. I am impressed with the Muslim effort. I think it is a great start. Below are my feeling about why there is some political theater but that should not take away from the meritorious mission presented in the Preamble: Muslims “are now compelled to declare their unequivocal rejection of the beliefs and activities that divide them and their unreserved embrace of the beliefs and activities that unite them.” The Declarations are consistent with the Preamble. My criticism was over-reaching and you were right to be critical. We are often most enlightened by criticism.

Political Theater---In my earlier commentary, I took issue as you know with the Conference claim that 99% of Muslims are moderates. That would mean about a 1,000,000 Muslims worldwide have extremist views. An extensive Gallop Poll (2001 -2006) showed 10% of Muslims (not 1% as Professor ul-Qadri would have us believe), from a sample of tens of thousands, do not condemn killing noncombatants. In 2008, 29% of Jordanians were recorded as viewing suicide-attacks as often or sometimes justified. In the largest majority-Muslim nation, Indonesia, 26% of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are justified; in Pakistan, that figure is 16%; in Bangladesh, 19%; and in Iran, 20%. When ul-Qadri indicates erroneous statistical data (1%), I consider such hyperbole to be political theater and get annoyed. The problem among Muslims is greater than represented.

I have seen before where the Sufi sect’s reasoning does not mirror the general Muslim population. Many Muslims are critical of this Sufism from what I recall. I hope we can find out how this request turns out for Muslims worldwide to sign on to this Declaration. I think and hope that this Declaration could be an educational tool that many should agree to but I suspect it will not turn around many extremist Muslims who are indoctrinated at an early age and incited to violence by their leaders.

Anne points out, "I'm glad that they recognize that terrorism is bad and that they're trying to repudiate the terrorists who claim to be associated with them. It's just that I think they're still turning a blind eye to some of the deeper problems in their religion. They still think that the Koran is a wonderful book and that the world would be a beautiful place if everybody followed it, and I don't think they've really thought through what exactly that means." I would have liked them to say that the Qur’an should not be taken as the literal and inerrant dictation of Allah to his Messenger Mohammed. I will believe it when I see them renounce divine intolerance for speech that offends Islam. Perhaps the Arab Spring is a sign that better days are coming.

I withdraw my criticism beyond the expression of my concerns above. I wonder when they will plan a follow up to demonstrate what worked in real numbers. My statistics reveal this is a far bigger nut to crack than Ul-Qadri indicated. Meanwhile, I will wait for the body guards to be removed from Geert Wilders. Sorry Anne, I just had to get it in. biggrin
Anne H.
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 270
To be fair, John, I think if you polled the American public with respect to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan you would find a pretty large percentage who wouldn't care about killing noncombatants in those places either. Not giving a shit about the lives of enemy civilians, and even being enthusiastic about killing them, is unfortunately a pretty common human response, due to our tribalistic tendencies. You yourself have indicated that you don't much care about the civil liberties of members of groups you consider to be enemies (Muslims and people who are mistaken for Muslims by dumbass crackers). Usually this indifference to civil liberties doesn't cost people their lives... but sometimes it has and will, and it may take a fairly substantial toll even on those whose lives are not endangered. (By the by, the fact that we're like this is one of the many challenges humanism has to contend with, and one of the many reasons I don't endorse any humanist vision which is not just as rooted in an awareness of our flaws as it is in a celebration of our positive qualities.)

So, y'know, I don't think it's good that there is a significant percentage of Muslims who don't condemn terrorism, but I don't think this necessarily makes Muslims obviously worse than anyone else.
A former member
Post #: 215

Anne writes to me, "You yourself have indicated that you don't much care about the civil liberties of members of groups you consider to be enemies (Muslims and people who are mistaken for Muslims by dumbass crackers)." When you have a lack of confidence or losing argument you seem to invent hyperbole that you attribute to your interlocutors to better assure that you are always on the winning side. From your position on the far left, you condescendingly claim people who disagree with you (like myself) are racially or ethnically or religiously insensitive. You get hysterical and fail to appreciate that there may be a respectable argument coming from someone who believes public safety should be paramount and that cost-effective decisions should be made to protect the socio-economic interests of a nation. That is coming from people who are in Congress and Senate and Presidency. Fact is you hate to be on the losing side of this argument. While the elected officials are not always right, I can trust them to do the right thing with classified information. Your position is irresponsible based on blind faith in Greenwald and contrary to what American statesman have formulated as public policy. Russ Feingold ran your position in his campaign and lost. The public breathed a sigh of relief, as did I, even though I hated to lose an otherwise fine liberal US Senator.

Anne, don't most of the Muslims of the world live in backward countries? Their cultures have not kept pace with developed nations. Despite their oil riches, they are oil-welfare economies; they depend on an intolerant Qur'an as their constitution and clerics as their leaders; and many, not a few, often revere an organized army of terrorists without a national flag when they launch attacks against innocent citizens of other nations. Some Muslim tribes, when they are not doing that, are fighting among themselves with violent results. I think that makes the extremist Muslims worse than most if not all other religious groups that are now on the planet. To boot, extremists hate us and want to kill us or censor our unbeliever talk with threats of mass murder.

Your far-left position is irresponsible and out of sync with American values even those of the liberal Barack Obama who is doing an excellent job, given political constraints. These polls in Muslim lands only reflect the tip of the iceberg. Extremist vigilantes kill your for speech they don't like. In reform minded Egypt the government jailed a guy for criticizing the army. Their intolerance appears endless; if it not religious, it is political. The Muslims are indoctrinated like the Christians were in the 12th Century. The “extremists” are happy about your your willingness to embrace all of them with equal rights and to provide individual liberty protections; they look at your commitment to rights (disregarding public safety) as opportunities to perpetrate mass murder. They train about left wing policies in Militant training facilities so they can better terrorize Americans. You want to give them more rights to plan terror under the radar. We sure are lucky the people in power in America do not adopt your view or those of your intellectually eloquent civil rights pundit, Glenn Greenwood on these matters. I probably agree with Greenwald on everything else.

My data about the polls was only to point out the prevarication of the Muslim leaders that indicated the extremists constituted only 1% of the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. There appears to be 150,000,000, not 1,500,000 nut jobs that will at least get vicarious thrills to see buildings in America get knocked down and teenagers blown up in soda shops. I have no idea what American polls would say. I like to think that Atheists and Humanists would have a problem killing noncombatants unless the CIA and Military must use the drone or smart bombs to get into the rugged mountains to hit terrorist targets where the US would take on severe casualties if land infantry were used in gorilla warfare. I have no idea where you invented ancient tribalism as causation of anything American except Muslim extremist aggression.
Anne H.
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 271
John, my apologies if I've mischaracterized your views, but it does seem to me that you're pretty clearly stating here (as you have elsewhere) that you feel that the civil liberties (and sometimes lives) of innocent Muslims (and people who are mistaken for them) are acceptable collateral damage in the fight against those Muslims who are terrorists. Those Muslims who refuse to condemn terrorism, on the other hand, think that the lives of civilians killed by terrorists are acceptable collateral damage in the fight against infidels. There is a certain unfortunate symmetry here whether or not you choose to see it. It is not necessarily the case that what you are advocating is "just as bad as" what they are advocating, or just as based in an irrational worldview, but I do think both ideas spring from the same tribalistic roots, in which outsiders' needs are devalued compared to those of tribe members. That was the only point I was intending to make here, and I don't think you've really said anything that impinges on that point.

But seeing as how we're already on a stupid tangent, I'd also like to point out that the arguments from authority and popularity are no more effective here than they are in the Geert Wilders thread. If we were to go by what most authoritative people state and most ordinary people believe, atheism could be characterized as just as irresponsible and out-of-sync with American values as my views on civil liberties, if not even more so.

As for the question of "blind faith", I'm not the one who says that we should "just trust" the government that they won't abuse our civil liberties if we just let them ignore the Constitution a tiny little bit just this one time. It's particularly absurd to "just trust" the government about this when we already have a whole giant stack of well-documented and proven abuses of power arising from the current "War on Terror" alone. In any case, I don't know why you're so fixated on trying to set Glenn Greenwald up as if I'm blindly following him. I've actually hardly read him all in years, once it became apparent that he was mostly just having to repeat the same damn rebuttals over and over and over to those too obtuse to have listened the first time. It's certainly an important job, but it gets tedious to listen to after a while if one has already comprehended his points, you know? The only reason I recommended him to you is because he does at a decent job at explaining "Defending Our Freedoms 101", with more in the way of quotes and citations available to him than I usually keep at my fingertips. Well, that and you seem to be impressed by arguments from authority, so I would've thought his expertise would actually carry some weight with you, but it seems that you only care about someone's status as an authority if they're an authority who already agrees with you.

I should also note, seeing as how you also like the argumentum ad popularium, that he's far from the only one with these views. In fact, if you followed the atheist blogosphere at all, you'd find that pro civil liberties and anti government overreach views are actually by far the majority among vocal and active "new atheists", despite the prominence of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris (and they get a *lot* of criticism for their take on Islam --- I'm pretty sure there's video out there somewhere of Hitchens getting booed at an atheist convention when he switched from talking about atheism to talking about how great the war in Iraq was). It may be true that strong and consistent support for civil liberties is not a majority position among Americans (although neither is comprehension of basic scientific and historical facts, so that's not saying much), but that's certainly not true among atheists. Most of us at least have some inkling of the fact that, as the least-trusted group in America, we'll be up against the wall even faster than the Muslims if civil liberties protections are eroded too far. (The only thing that's saving us right now is that you mostly can't tell if someone's an atheist just by looking; perhaps if we all had to wear some kind of identifying symbol on our sleeves it would be easier for them to single us out...)

I'm also very disappointed to see you referring to someone as "eloquent" in order to sneer at them. I thought that kind of nasty anti-intellectualism was the domain of Tea-Partying wreckers, not people with pretensions to rationality. If you don't like what Glenn Greenwald says, then actually address his arguments rather than simply repeating over and over that Muslim terrorists are really scary.
Anne H.
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 272
Oh, one more point. It's just unbelievable to me that you can cite the opinion of crazy militants that our freedoms are our weakness as if that's supposed to carry any weight in a discussion amongst sane people. The hallmark of these nutters is their fundamental failure to comprehend the benefits of freedom --- they also cite the fact that I can drive and vote and go outside wearing my own ordinary clothes without a male chaperone and fuck whomever I like whenever I like if they're willing and blaspheme Allah for laughs without getting my head chopped off as if these are major weaknesses of our civilization. They *don't fucking get the point of freedom*, so of course they see our Constitutional guarantee of civil liberties protections as just one more bit of Western decadence to be distorted to their advantage.

The point I have been arguing all along is that those *very civil liberties you want to trash* protect us from our government in ways more fundamental than anything a government which does not recognize civil liberties can ever possibly do to protect us from terrorists and other external boogeymen. Because you have forgotten history, you don't have any respect for the very real experiences America's founders had with the dangers posed by governments which were not obligated by their citizens to defend those citizens' civil liberties. They recognized that government is better than anarchy because it lets us band together to defend ourselves from external threats (which is why we are the United States rather than fifty independent nations), but also that government limited by civil liberties restrictions is better than a government free to do whatever it thinks (in its oh-so-finite wisdom) is best for us, because such a government also protects us from itself.

Our freedoms are our *strength*, and they're what makes us different from and better than the murderers for Allah. If we give them up, we lose the war on crazy Bronze Age authoritarianism without them firing another shot.
A former member
Post #: 216
Let me put it this way, Anne, by using the statistics that roughly pertain to the Muslim world population. If you have a Ku Klux Klan that is only 1% of a population of extremists that constitutes 10% to 20% of the general white population of 10,000, that would mean that there are 100 Klan's men that pose a terrorist threat to the African American minority. They cover their faces like terrorists and so you cannot tell who are the Klan's men among the 10,000 population. Now to protect the minority population, I would be willing to take the chance that some law enforcement official will make a rare mistake or commit some abuse (for which he would be culpable) in order to preempt harm coming to the minority population. With your reasoning, you would rather not surrender any individual liberties to protect the target population from harm. Perhaps you can explain why that is. I want to err on the side of public safety in the war on terror regardless of the source of that terror. Our national security is our strength when we protect all our citizens from harm when they are exercising those individual freedoms. Without public safety our freedoms would be endangered.

Anne H.
Philadelphia, PA
Post #: 274
John, judging by voting patterns (voting for extremist candidates) and survey results (concern about the killing of noncombatants in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for torture of "War on Terror" prisoners, and so forth), it's also true that 10-20% of Americans support extremist views of the nature you're decrying Muslims for supporting at the 10-20% level. (Of course, Americans don't support suicide bombing because we don't *need* suicide bombers --- unlike the Muslim terrorists, we have plenty of perfectly good airplanes and tanks and missiles that we can use instead, and it's just dumb to ask your own soldiers to die for your cause when it's so easy to make the other side die for theirs.) By your logic, Americans as a group are just as terrifying as Muslims.

So it would seem that these numbers you're citing about Muslims that are supposed to scare me into wanting to take away their civil rights are actually pretty typical of humans in general. If we should be taking away the civil rights of all Muslims and all people who we think look like Muslims and all people who are from countries with majority Muslim populations just because some Muslims are bad, then we should be doing the same for Americans in general, including you.

The really hilarious thing about this conversation is how I'm supposedly a terrible evil "leftist" because I'm arguing for individual rights and individual responsibility for crimes, while you claim to be defending some other non-leftist pose in which there are only collective rights and collective responsibility for crimes. Isn't collectivism supposed to be, oh, I dunno, a little bit *leftist*? Wasn't that glorious champion of the right Ayn Rand one of the ones who argued for individual responsibility? When did things get flipped around so that the right wing are the ones who feel that whole communities should be held responsible for individuals' crimes, while the left wing are the ones who argue that the only person responsible for a crime is the one who committed it?
A former member
Post #: 217
Anne--You opted out of the analogous reasoning about the Ku Klux Klan. Your comments about poll comparisons have nothing to do with the need for law enforcement strategies that would be needed to protect African Americans from Klansmen. Actions are taken, not on polls per se, but planned lynchings, burnings, and terrorist threats and the need to preempt these social harms. This protects the democracy better than bleeding heart appeasement and accommodation for the enemies of the people. People regardless of color should be equally protected from harm. Throwing the Blacks and Muslims under the bus in order to protect your personal liberties (without the slightest sacrifice) may reveal a bias that you may want to explore. "Thou protests too much".

There is no collective culpability in my reasoning. The statistics help understand the dimensions of the problem. People's opinions as revealed in surveys become a problem only when the people of the criminal subculture plan to go over the line and violate the law especially with mass murder. There is protection of the collective population by taking extraordinary measures that assure effective public protection. Ignoring such suspicions results in people getting hurt. The actions of a few make it bad for the larger group that you seem concerned about. We must go after the individuals that should be held accountable before-the-fact rather than after-the-fact.
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