Je suis Charlie

Yesterday, two (presumably) fanatical islamists, armed with heavy automatic weapons, attacked the french satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. They murdered 12 unarmed artists, and injured many more. If witness reports are correct, the two gunmen yelled, among other things, that they were ‘avenging Mohammed’.

Here’s what I think.

  • I’m deeply saddened and shocked by this senseless, brutal, indefensible and cowardly massacre. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims.
  • I wish I could also say that I’m surprised – unfortunately, and everyone agrees on this, it was only a matter of when, not if, religious nuts would bring death to another European capital.
  • It seems that the murderers think that they have the right to kill a couple of humorists for what they (the murderers) interpret as an insult to their religious idol, Mohammed. In other words: these people believe that brutal violence with assault weapons is the correct response to artistic expression with pen and paper. It should be obvious to anyone that these people, and anyone who agrees with that kind of sentiment, must be locked up.
  • If you think Mohammed, a successful war lord in his own time, needs you to avenge him, you seriously overestimate your importance and underestimate his accomplishments.
  • This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. It would behoove the Muslim community to finally rally more than token indignation over this cowardly, barbarous act. After all, Muslims are known to mobilize en masse when someone so much as mishandles a book. Show that you have your priorities straight and agree that people are more important than any book ever written.
  • After such an outpouring of support for the victims of fanatical, intolerant Islamists, the moderate Muslims can then rightfully worry about repercussions. Perhaps, at the same time, abstain from using the word ‘Islamophobia’. At all.
  • We (the west) must finally talk about this blatantly obvious issue. We should no longer ignore the fact that an inordinate, disproportionate share of religiously motivated violence is attributed to Islam – no other religion in the world racks up more victims (be they dead, injured or repressed), most of them Muslims, than Islam. Yet, Islam is not the world’s largest religion. This fact has not escaped the rest of the world, and even though many try to hide how they feel about it, it is creating unease.
  • One of the reasons we don’t talk about the disproportionate amount of violence in the name of Islam is that anyone who voices such sentiments runs the risk of quickly being branded a ‘racist’ or ‘islamophobe’.
  • As a result, only the kind of people that embrace racism and xenophobia openly talk about the obvious problem Islam has with violence: Nazis. French ‘Front National’ exponent le Pen already exploits the murderous attacks, and the impact they have on the French people – to further their own fascist agenda. Do we really need the dimwitted right to fight the religiously fanatic? We should not leave this important discussion only to intolerant irrationals, political arsonists and unethical pompous asses.

If we act now, we can ensure that the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre did not suffer and die in vain. We can make their injuries and deaths count. However, if we don’t act and revert to tip-toeing around the white elephant in the room that is Islam’s problem with religiously motivated violence, we may have missed an opportunity to turn tragedy into something meaningful.

Because these acts of barbarism will happen again and again until we do.

Aisha, Mo & Imran

Imran Ali has tried to defend what is arguably one of the worst facts of the Islamic religion: the consensus among most muslims is that the prophet Mohammed, at age 53, had sex with 9 years old Aisha bint Abi Bakr. There is no reason to doubt this, so trying to defend an immoral act as vile as child rape is rather stupid, perhaps as stupid as William Lane Craig’s completely misguided attempt at defending the Israelite massacre of the Canaanites as narrated in the Bible. Craig’s disgusting defense of genocide now has a counterpart on the Islamic side.

Somewhat predictably, in Resolving Misconceptions Regarding A’isha Bint Abi Bakr’s Age at Marriage, Imran doesn’t employ subtle sophistry. He merely tries to shift blame, misdirect and resort to equivocation:

The issue of A’isha Bint Abi-Bakr, Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife, has arisen purely due to the fact that she happened to be much younger than him unlike his other wives most of whom were even older than him

No. The issue is not the age difference. The issue is that she was a child when she got married (at age 6) and only 9 years old when Mohammed forced her to have sex with him. No-one would have accused Mohammed of child rape had Aisha been 19 and he 73 (an even greater age difference).

There have been misconceptions and controversy regarding her exact age at the time of her marriage partly because we are dependent on reported information and even with accurate reporting, it is difficult to sustain 100% accuracy all the time regarding the exact time period, and partly because this issue has been misappropriated by the enemies of Islam who have popularized the wrong accounts to defame the Messenger of God.

While it is difficult to establish 100% accuracy, here a mere 80% accuracy is sufficient. Yet, due to the numerous different sources that are in agreement, it is trivial to establish with grater than 90% accuracy that Aisha was 9, at most 10 years old when Mohammed ‘consummated’ his marriage to her. But even if we add a year, she would still have been be a pre-teen.

The generally agreed-upon sources to establish Aisha’s age are Sahih al-Bukhari and the accounts of historian Ibn Sa’d al-Baghdadi. Both accounts are difficult to misappropriate, and the majority of all muslims agree that these sources are accurate:

Sahih al-Bukhari narrates that

the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).

and Sa’d al-Baghdadi even quotes Aisha herself:

“The Prophet married me in the month of Shawwal in the tenth year of his prophecy, three years before the Hijra, when I was six years old.”

These dates are specific. They are easy to verify by cross-reference, and few people would ever accuse either author of wanting to slur Islam. It is exceedingly difficult to misappropriation these facts, and few muslims have ever denied these accounts.

Imran even quotes the same source as he continues:

Ibn-e-Sa’d has stated in at-Tabaqat al-Kubra that when Abu Bakr (A’isha’s father) was approached on behalf of the Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair and that he would first have to settle the matter with him. This shows that A’isha must have been approaching maturity at the time.

No. It merely shows that child marriage was common at the time, a fact that is borne out by many independent accounts and records. It does not establish anything about Aisha’s age or sexual maturity. In civilized countries today it may have been an indicator that she was sexually mature. At that time – no. Even today child marriages are a problem in many regions of the world.

Imran then continues with a rather disquieting discourse of questionable veracity on human female biology for the sake of proving that Aisha could have reached sexual maturity, arguing that perhaps no physical damage was done and conveniently ignores any psychological damage that such an act can inflict on children.

After that unpleasantness, he posits:

Aisha married willingly under circumstances that supported that marriage in an age when it was not an unusual thing and at an age when a girl normally reaches puberty

Just how ‘willing’ can a six-years-old girl be? Of course at the time women and girls were treated as property. Of course child rape was not a crime when the sex toy belonged to you. Whether the girl had actually reached puberty or not was no issue either. And by the way: humans reach sexual maturity at 12-15 years of age, not at 9.

The youngest “mothers” of the world (married or unmarried) mostly happen not to be Muslims, but from amongst those who are most critical of A’isha’s young age at marriage, i.e. from the West. […] It shows the degree of moral degradation of the West and the westernized minds that they have no objection about having boyfriends and indulging in illicit sex at an early age but it is not acceptable to marry and have a husband at the same age to perform the same act legally with moral and religious sanction.

Here Imran goes completely overboard, deliberately conflating adolescent sex, paedophilia, and puritanical taboos about sex. The issue at hand, Imran, is not young mothers nor teens having sex – but old men having sex with children, i.e. child rape! What a disgraceful attempt at misdirection and shifting the blame. Calling the west ‘morally depraved’ while advocating adults having sex with children is a new low even for religious apologists.

All equivocating aside: it is a fact that 50-plus years old men must not have sex with pre-teens. Just like slavery is and always was evil (and therefore makes the Bible morally unacceptable on this account), so has sex with children always been, and will always be, immoral. The problem isn’t so much that Mohammed’s deed was socially acceptable at the time, it is that in many regions of the world his precedent is used to permit child rape today; it makes raping children socially acceptable today.

Let’s be blunt: these are not misconceptions. Muhammed was 52, and Aisha was 9 (or 10) when he forced himself on her. At the time it was socially acceptable. Today this constitutes child rape. Because Mohammed was 52 and Aisha still a child, the accusation of paedophilia has some merit, even if Mohammed wasn’t in the strictest sense a pedophile: he regularly did have sex with a child.

Imran, who I suspect is equally revolted by child rape, is doing girls everywhere a great disservice when he tries to defend, or at least lessen, the crime of child rape. It’s indefensible, and you are ill advised to try to make it look better or gloss over how damaging it is to its victims.

Imran – Some things in your scripture are simply evil. Accept that. By trying to argue the merits of child rape you make yourself look as immoral and ethically inept as Professor Craig when he defends genocide in the Bible.

Halal Schmalal

In Australia the Boycott Halal movement is making some waves. They demand that the Corporations Act 2001 be changed so that only Muslims bear the cost of halal certification on everyday products.

As with the Pegida movement in Germany, a potentially dangerous extremist group is picking up a real issue that is ignored by the mainstream and is generating political hay from it.

Indeed, the amount of food produce that is certified Halal is staggering. People who don’t know what ‘Halal’ certification means for a particular product will substitute their own idea of what it may mean. Since more and more products are certified, pretty soon it looks as if your traditional food is replaced by foreign, religiously tainted stuff. Which is usually not the case. More than 95% of all Halal-certified products haven’t been changed at all to meet the criteria.

So should we boycott Halal-certified food? Well, if becoming Halal means that some ingredients are changed, it’s perhaps a valid concern. Boycott the food if you feel that it has worsened, and the producers may change it back. If becoming Halal only means putting another sticker on the same tin, boycotting it is stupid. It’s the same product, it’s merely certified to comply with yet another silly superstition.

So what about forcing Muslims to cough up the cost for certification? That’s good old discrimination of a religious minority, and plain stupid. First, how could that work? If I’m a muslim but don’t buy Halal pecan nuts, do I still have to pay for their certification? Will there be a Mulsim tax like there was a Jew Tax in Europe? Let me give you a different example: would you agree to a bill that levies taxes on environmentalists to pay for ‘eco-friendly‘ certification in clothing? It’s that stupid an idea.

The food companies certify a product in order to sell more of it, and price it accordingly. It’s the producer’s decision to certify, and they pay the certification bill. That bill gets passed on to the consumer. You can choose to buy the finished product, or buy something different. But don’t blame a certain market segment (muslims) for a company’s decision. Here, the Boycott Halal movement simply peddles the formerly antisemitic Kosher Tax urban legend with a fresh coat of anti-muslim paint.

Jackasses. Well, at least they’re Halal.

Merry Christmas to all

I’m off to celebrate Christmas. Yup – the believers don’t get it, my godson doesn’t care as long as his loot quota is filled – but everyone agrees that it’s Christmas, so that’s what we celebrate.

So Merry Christmas! to everyone – to my heathen, pagan, unbelieving and believing friends.

And especially Merry Christmas! to my jewish friends! I can see you grinning from here!


Nuclear Blasphemy

There is this recurring pipe dream many liberals have (and this did include me) that most muslims are peaceful people (which is true) and that only a tiny minority harbors dangerous ideas. People who say differently are often denounced as bigots, racist (really?) or ‘Islamophobes’. Now, there doubtlessly are people who deserve to be denounced for irrational hatred of Islam or religion. Others have unfairly been accused of being anti-Islam for merely pointing out a provable fact.

While I agree that the majority of muslims are peaceful, it is also a provable fact that the absolute majority of muslims today harbor dangerous ideas: that blasphemy and apostasy are punishable offenses. This is definitely not something that only a few lost causes believe: a few days ago, the Lahore Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty for Asia Bibi, the woman whose only crime is an alleged unkind word about Allah. She is to be put to death because of something she said – and the majority of her country agrees that this is justified. The same is true for most (perhaps even all) muslim dominated countries; it would be foolish to argue otherwise, as that fact was established via polls multiple times over the past three years. So while most of these muslims are indeed peaceful and loving people, a dangerous flaw in their ideology will prevent them from stopping grave injustice. That is the indisputable result when a majority harbors dangerous ideas, and Asia Bibi will pay the ultimate price.

Now, you may think that this is tragic on an individual level, but should have no significant consequences for the world. Until you realize that the same country that sentences a woman to die for uttering a word, also has an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

What do you think will happen if this nation felt that another country has insulted their god? Do you really think that in this case suddenly the majority will realize that blasphemy is not an offense punishable by death? Phrased drastically:

Do you really want someone who thinks insulting his imaginary fried is a capital offense have their hands on a nuclear trigger ?

Of course above question is much too simplistic, as there are (hopefully) more checks in place that control the release of nuclear weapons. I don’t think that Pakistan is on the verge to nuke another country.

But people should not be punished for pointing out the truth, even if that truth does not meet what we wish was true: that only a few bad apples spoil the batch. Currently, a substantial portion of the muslim society is tainted by ideas that can cause immense suffering. This doesn’t mean that it makes people behave immoral, but it can – and does – prevent them from becoming more ethical. Being ethical means to never intentionally harm someone and to prevent people from making others suffer. It’s the latter part that is more important – because it’s what makes us a society. If prevent harm to others is somehow subverted, the whole society suffers, dragging their ethical standard down. If your religion or some other ideology stays your hand while a human is made to suffer – because they are gay, blaspheme, changed their religion or have a different skin color – you and the society you live in is ethically deeply flawed.

I should be able to point out this basic fact without being branded as an immoral, irrational bigot.

Or be put to death for blasphemy.

Crossed out

Soccer Club Real Madrid are proud of their logo. It contains an image of the royal spanish crown. The crow itself is, well, crowned by a small christian cross. Real now has made the rare decision to remove the cross from the crown. Not to appease hordes of militant atheists that were offended by a religious symbol and demanded that it was removed, centuries of tradition be damned!

No, Real chose to remove the cross because they signed a lucrative deal with Abu Dhabi’s national bank. The streets of Madrid have been strangely calm – no reports of outraged Christians that demand putting Jesus back in Real yet.

There are a number take-aways here: many self-professed devout christians, so it would seem, are only christians as long as it’s financially favorable. Further, it is a fact that the religious intolerance of a muslim organization has led to the removal of the cross – which is rather ironic given Spain’s history with Islam.
Finally, it’s strange that christians have less objections when their holy symbol is removed to appease another religious group than when people demand it removed for humanity.

Then again, that’s exactly how religion works.


Sigh. If the cause weren’t so tragic, it would be high comedy: in the UK, Christian politicians are sniping at each other over the question who is the better Muslim. It’s like men explaining what women really think. So we have a veritable feast of Islamsplainin’ going on.

This particular incident, it seems, began when devout Christian and UK Premier David Cameron officially stated that the grisly murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by fanatical muslims was a betrayal of Islam and of Britain’s Muslim communities.

Strangely, no-one cared about the fact that Cameron’s statement blatantly missed the point: the murder of anyone is a crass betrayal of human values; anything after that is only small fry; nobody gives a dam if it also betrays the values of the spotted owl society, or, for that matter, those of a religion.

Showing little wisdom (and no taste at all by trying to make political hay out of a murder), Lord Pearson of Rannoch took exception with Cameron’s silly statement – of course for all the wrong reasons. As the Guardian reports, the Lord thundered in feigned reighteousness

My lords, are the government aware that Fusilier Rigby’s murderers quoted 22 verses of the Qur’an to justify their atrocity? Therefore, is the prime minister accurate or helpful when he describes it as a betrayal of Islam?

Now, Lord Pearson, himself a Christian, deliberately overlooks the fact that his own scripture is overflowing with blood. I hate to quote your own book, Pearson:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

(and when is say hate I mean I really enjoy doing that)

Of course, it only took little time for the discussion to deteriorate into mud-slinging. Hilarity ensued when both sides of the house started calling each other the non-word of the century: Islamophobe. That word’s definition still is

A word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons

as it was so aptly summarized by Andrew Cummins. It’s a sure sign that you have lost the argument if you need to resort to that term.

The absurdity of the discussion is highlighted by the following megaton of stupidity, delivered free of charge by a UKIP spokesman:

Lord Pearson […] is talking about how Islamic scholars are constrained by the comprehension that the Qur’an is the perfect word of God unencumbered by human frailty, unlike the Bible. In contrast the apostles are human and like all human things are prone to error.

Which is of course news to the majority of Christians to whom the bible is the perfect word of God, not to mention believe in the pope’s inerrancy. Yeah, ‘my scripture beats your scripture’ has always been the most convincing argument evah!

The biggest joke: these Bozos run your country.

It’s his nature

After retroactively discovering the Americas for the glory of Islam, Turkey’s number one nutcase has again said something profound. Profoundly stupid, that is.

Never one who runs the risk of being mistaken for a feminist, Erdoğan took the opportunity to prove once and for all that he’s a world-class jerk when it comes to women’s rights. Slapping his international audience for women’s rights and freedom across the face, the premier intoned rather tone-deaf:

“You cannot make women and men equal; this is against nature. […] What women need is to be able to be equivalent, rather than equal.”

Now that is not only jaw-droppingly stupid, it’s also on par for what we expect from a fundamental religionist. His sophistry betrays the immoral thinking many religions are built upon. Bible, Torah and Quran already have woman’s equivalency with men: In the Quran, four women are equivalent to one man, in the Torah and Bible, she is equivalent to 3/5 of a man. Equivalency is not Equality. This is taught in elementary school nowadays. It’s inconceivable that Erdoğan doesn’t know this.

Now, hidden deep down in his speech, the premier does say that women should have the same rights as men. But it’s buried under a veritable landslide of patriarchic unreason, stone-age mentality, and long stretches of void that elaborate the obvious: yes, women and men are physically different. Bravo. It’s good to know that Turkey’s leadership has clued in to this surprising fact.

Instead of saying things that are obvious yet can easily be misrepresented by misogynists to justify their actions, Erdogan should stop being an ass and acknowledge openly, and in a straightforward manner what should be front and center to every ethical being: that even though men and woman are different, they must have the same rights and freedoms.

Then again, Erdoğan can’t help himself. Saying something intelligent, so it would seem, is against his nature.

Erdoğan’s America

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – not particularly known for his intelligence – wants to set the record straight. As the Guardian and other outlets report, Erdoğan maintains that muslim sailors reached the Americas more than 300 years before Christopher Columbus did:

Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178

More interesting than the question whether this is true, though, is the question why anyone would want to say something like this. So some people say that Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. But is this really something to be proud of considering the fact that

  • Columbus’ (re)discovery ultimately led to immense suffering and death – the indigenous population was almost wiped out both intentionally and accidentally. Why would you want to claim responsibility for that? Even US Americans are finally clueing in to the fact that celebrating Columbus Day is like celebrating the Huns’ arrival at the Gates of Rome.
  • Why is the religion of the discoverer relevant? If you do want to put your God in the spotlight this way, you’ll have to explain why so many more discoveries were made outside your religion. 
  • It’s common knowledge that the Vikings made multiple landfalls on the american continent before 1000 AD; the Polynesians very likely reached South America more than 1500 years before the first Northmen set foot on Newfoundland – yet you don’t see either of them running around trumpeting that fact. Why would they?
  • More to the point, the original discoverers of the Americas are the indigenous people that the Johnny Come-Latelys killed: the Americas were originally settled 16’000 – 20’000 years ago, most probably via a land bridge from Asia. They almost certainly were superstitious, but they definitely didn’t adhere to Islam, Christianity or any other religion we know today. 

If there is one thing I wouldn’t obsess about is the question who really discovered the Americas and what deities they believed in.

So what can we learn about this silly claim?

If you feel that your religion has some kind of penis envy versus some other religion and that you must stake a claim for your religion, make sure it’s about something worthwhile.

Selling Islam

Expressing indignation over Sam Harris’ and Bill Maher’s ‘sweeping generalizations’ about Islam, Reza Aslan, in an interview with CNN went on record stating [at the 5:38 mark] that

In [muslim] Indonesia, women are absolutely 100 percent equal to men

Now, taking into account that Aslan is a professional apologist, that statement still is a jaw-droppingly brazen lie. It is impossible for someone like him to not know about the Sharia law-regulated Aceh province of Indonesia. Sharia law, especially in criminal cases, is synonymous with gender inequality, and violates fundamental human rights – especially women’s – something that Aslan, a scholar of religious studies, doubtlessly knows.

Today, Time and other news outlets report that women in Indonesia who want to become policewomen must demonstrate their virginity, and that married women are not eligible to join the police force (in case you wondered: men do not have to prove their virginity, and married men are accepted into the police).

Which makes you wonder what ‘absolutely 100 percent equal’ means in Aslan’s universe. It casts a dim light on his other arguments – especially the one where he calls FGM an ‘African problem’, when it is common knowledge that this vile practice is also prevalent in Indonesia (surprise!), Malaysia, Pakistan and India, none of which can in any way be called African countries. Aslan should know better, and I’m quite sure he does.

What is it that makes intelligent people like Aslan be untruthful on behalf of their God – when they know that sooner rather than later their religious brothers will do their worst to help us catch them in their lies?

When public dishonesty becomes the best approach to selling your religion, it says a lot about the product.