Shadow Sharia

People have opined that shadow laws that run parallel to normal jurisdiction like Sharia are bad. I agree – it must be one law for all. Introducing a competing law for one part of the population is an incredibly stupid idea. Judging a person by two different set of rules undermines everyone’s belief in justice: if the same deed results in more than one possible sanctions, something is wrong with your system. If everything results in the same, they are the same system, and no second set of laws is required.

What bugs me most, though, is that the most vocal proponents of shadow sharia law are really advocating something else: They want one law for believers, one for infidels, and none for themselves.

Priestly dilemma

Here’s a strange dilemma: Every once in a while I read a report or see a brief video clip of priests from different religions meeting. Of course, I think it is always good when people meet in a friendly way. However, while watching priests smile and greet each other, I can’t help but wonder what they are thinking of the other guy.

After all, if each priest truly believes what they preach their flock, they must be equally confident that their opposite is full of it. In that case, their friendly face is nothing but an empty front; no-one ever agreed to something meaningful while talking to an idiot.

But perhaps these priests have legitimate doubts with regards to their gods and the veracity of their scripture. In this case, a meaningful and intelligent conversation is possible with exponents of other religions that are equally unsure. The problem here is that the priests then go back to their flock and pretend that their faith in gods was absolute.

Of course a third alternative remains: both sides know they are con artists, and afford their opposites all the courtesies of professional charlatans.

Humble Belief?

You should be more humble.

It’s really convincing when Christians play that card – usually after they humbly assert that their faith is the only true one, that their god created the entire universe, that I’ll be going to hell because I don’t love that god, and that I’m arrogant for not believing their preposterous scripture.

But tell me – who is the humble one here: He who admits that ‘I don’t know if there is a god’ – or the person who states that ‘I know for fact that this is god, and he wants you to exactly do that‘?

Tell me, dear Christian: when was the last time you heard your priest say ‘maybe there is a god’ or ‘perhaps Jesus wants you to love thine neighbor’? I certainly never did when I went to church. All I ever heard were assertions: god did this, said that, performed this miracle, and made people go there. None of that was ever accompanied by a cautionary ‘maybe’ or humble ‘perhaps’. It was always stated as fact. Do you really think being that arrogant qualifies as being humble? Then why are you accusing atheists, who are doing none of the above, as being arrogant?

Ricky Gervais once observed that it is revealing that atheists are never accosted by ‘hateful satanists’ for not believing in their demon. It’s always the ‘loving Christians’ who insult me for not believing in their god.

Because, seemingly, being insulting is the new humble.

Pope Dumbass

Many catholics are proud of their pope. Catholicism, they say, has come a long way – from the days when the catholic church ruled in Europe – a period we today justly call the Dark Age – to today. They say that the despotic, terrible organization of blind faith has turned into a kind, loving brotherhood of moderate belief. And when pope Francis stepped up to replace Benedict (who, somewhat disaffectionately, was also known as Gods’ Rottweiler), people thought that finally kinder heads had prevailed.

In the wake of the Charlie Habdo massacre, though, Pope Francis showed that hopes for a better, more humane catholic church are premature. Instead of flat-out denouncing violence as an answer to words, God’s representative on Earth told the world that in his view, violence is a viable response to verbal provocation.

As the AP reports Pope Francis stated:

If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. […]

There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.

This is from the guy who runs the organization that used to burn people at the stake, broke them on the rack, or incarcerated them for disagreeing with their faith, let alone ridiculing it. Ask Galileo Galilei how much fun it is to be found guilty of disagreeing with false beliefs (Galileo proved that the earth moves around the sun, and for his discovery was sentenced to life imprisonment by Popes Paul V and Urban VIII). What an ass.

Being a learned man, Francis wouldn’t think twice about ridiculing the Flat-Earth Society. Yet it is a fact that there is more evidence for a flat earth than there is for gods. It’s therefore more likely to be true than religion – but Francis in all honesty wants to force us to treat with dignity an idea that is more ridiculous than a flat earth?

We must be able to ridicule any idea; stupid ideas deserve to be ridiculed. We should ridicule those who, for example, believe that the white race is somehow superior, or that women exist to serve men. Why is the idea that you must worship an invisible being that controls lightning and earthquakes any different? Special pleading for religious ideas has no merit, and is merely a result of undeserved entitlement. If the idea of a particular religion stands on its own, those who ridicule will eventually be proven wrong, and in due course become the object of ridicule themselves. If they don’t – well…

Pope Francis’ mentality of ‘criticize anything except religion’ is dangerously wrong and an unwelcome reminder of the Dark Ages, where narrow-minded bigots killed their critics with impunity.


Reuters’s John Lloyd does exactly what I hoped that journalists would not do in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre: tip-toeing around the issue that Islam extremism represents. In Unintelligent, but constitutionally protected, Lloyd quotes the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius:

freedom of expression must not be infringed … but is it pertinent, is it intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire. The answer is no.

Unfortunately, ‘is it intelligent’ is not the important question to ask here.

[…] the publication of a series of cartoons of Mohammad in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, showed Mohammad in various nude poses. Whatever their quality, they do not just make waves – they make deaths. We can no longer pretend otherwise. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses taught us too much.

The aftermath of Rushdie’s book did indeed teach us a lot, but in a very different way than Lloyd means. Lloyd, so it appears, thinks that since provoking retribution is unwise if you want to stay alive, it is also unintelligent under any circumstances to make any waves. In short: you should not speak up if your life is in danger.

LLoyd quotes Stephane Charbonnie, publishing director of Charlie Hebdo on why they publish controversial content, and then comments:

In Charbonnier’s argument, radical Islamists are special only because they threaten random violence, as well as targeted violence against those who don’t consider them special.

That is an astute observation, and it would have been a great article had Lloyd agreed and left it at that. Unfortunately, he believes that somehow all media must always restraint themselves as to not provoke. Quoting Onora O’Neill he continues:

“freedom of the press does not require a licence to deceive”, she writes. Where there is clear deception, or worse, clear provocation, the media also acquire a license to kill.

Except that Charlie Hebdo is not doing the killing, they were being killed. This notion that the media is responsible for death is completely wrong – it’s like saying that you ‘force the kidnappers to kill your son if you don’t give in to their demands’. No, Charlie Hebdo is intentionally provoking the bully that is Islamist Extremism. The problem is not the provocation – it’s the bully .

In the past years, the press, and much of the establishment, have bent over backwards to appease this bully. Is that intelligent? Appeasement always encourages and emboldens the bully.

After Rushdie, we cannot say we don’t know the costs of provocation. Was it intelligent to rack them up again?

Let me be blunt: This is the reasoning of a coward. Rushdie paid a high price, and instead of rushing to his defense, people have started to appease the Islamists.

We know enough about our societies to understand that the margins contribute much, sometimes most, to our freedoms. The […] cartoon publishers are not in line with these groups. They’re not fighting for a great cause. They’re sticking it to the radical Islamists, and watching them howl.

Lloyd couldn’t be more wrong. The cartoon publishers are fighting for a higher cause – and they stood very, very alone. It’s disappointing that Lloyd does not see this: the islamists are the ones who are dealing out violence to those who speak up. The press has censored itself in the past – it was why the original Mohammed cartoons were published in the first place! The press is afraid of the bully, and regularly hands over their proverbial lunch money in exchange for not being beaten up. Charlie Hebdo, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to ridicule the bully.

So you may ask if it is intelligent to provoke the bully. No, not unless you want to get injured. But that is not the pertinent question.

Much, much more important is this question:

Is it necessary?

The artists at Charlie Hebdo have paid with their lives to us show just how much it is.

Mental Drivers

In Russia, you now can’t drive a car if you are a ‘sexual deviant’. In Russia, that of course includes being LGBT. The ‘reason’ behind this is that being sexually deviant (e.g. gay) is classified as a mental disorder, and people with mental disorders are banned from driving to make the road safer.

Of course, obvious mental disorders – like the delusion that there is a god that watches your every move – do not bar you from driving.

Only in Russia.

Of Unicorns

Many Christians are somewhat irritated when atheists bring up Unicorns. Atheists do that mostly to show that in general, logic can’t prove a negative: the fact that atheists can’t disprove god’s existence is not proof of his existence; the way to show this to the believer is to ask them to disprove the existence of unicorns.

Because everyone knows that unicorns don’t exist.

Except that Isaiah 34:7 does mention unicorns.

Well, believers usually don’t know that fact either.

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.

Voting Rights

There is a disturbing trend in politicians to try to put ‘new rights’ up for vote: should gay couples be allowed to marry, or should women be allowed to drive cars.

Here’s the problem: true rights are not supposed to be voted on. Once discovered, they must apply instantly, universally. They are there to protect us from those who vote. If all rights could be voted on, democracy would become what has erroneously been attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch

If we allowed the wolves to vote on protection for minorities, they’d vote that down in an instant. Then the’d vote on lunch.

That’s why we must never allow votes on rights. We must simply implement them once we discover they exist.