Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lessons for 9/11: The Tension between the west and the conservative Islamists

Today the American Embassy was attacked in Egypt and Libya.

The anger was over a film that the more fundamental islamists felt insulted Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.  The film has been connected to the idiot pseudo Christian fundamentalist quack in Florida, Terry Jones, who has previously burned a copy of the Koran.  This hate monger promotes misinformation and ignorance about Islam, he promotes hatred and intolerance.  He should be locked up for acting not in conscience, but as a menace to serving military and diplomatic staff, and as an impediment to U.S. foreign policy. He and his little group of ugly and demented pyros should never have a religious tax exemption, a building use permit, or a burning permit. He is a detriment to this nation, specifically, and to religion generally. The next time you feel like condemning Islam for not censoring their lunatics, remember we have ours. Don't expect more from others than we are willing to do with our own nut jobs.

From the Atlantic:

The movie is called Mohammed Nabi al-Muslimin, or Mohammed, Prophet of the Muslims. If you've never heard of it, that's because most of the few clips circulating online are dubbed in Arabic. The above clip, which is allegedly from the film (update: Kurt Werthmuller, a Coptic specialist at the Hudson Institute, says he's confirmed the clip's authenticity) is one of the only in English. That's also because it's allegedly produced by Florida Pastor Terry Jones (yes, the asshole who burnt the Koran despite Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' pleas) and two Egyptians living in the U.S., according to Egyptian press accounts. The Egyptians are allegedly Coptic, the Christian minority that makes up about a tenth of Egypt.

Obviously, there's a lot to this story that's still unclear. What we do know is that some members of Egypt's sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media have been playing highly offensive clips from the highly offensive film, stressing its U.S. and Coptic connections. In the clip below, controversial TV host Sheikh Khaled Abdallah (known for such statements as "Iran is more dangerous to us than the Jews" and that Tehran had engineered a deadly soccer riot in Port Said) hypes the film as an American-Coptic plot and introduces what he says is its opening scene.

Continuing from the Atlantic: As the fervor has built, both the Coptic Church and the U.S. embassy to Egypt issued formal condemnations of the film. The latter, made just this morning, began, "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The statement also noted the September 11 anniversary, adding, "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy." What exactly does the film say? It's still not clear, but it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to "child-lovers." The New York Times' Liam Stack, offering some offhand translations of the scene shown above, called it a "doozy." The man in the scene says of his goat, "This is the first Muslim animal." He asks the goat if it likes girls; when it doesn't answer, he bursts into laughter and says, "He doesn't like girls," according to Stack. Other scenes in the above clip seem to portray Muslim Egyptian characters, who for some reason all have strong New York accents, as immoral and violent, particularly toward the Christians whom they pursue with near-genocidal fervor. A number of Islam's founding figures, including the prophet, are accused of homosexuality and child molestation.

This is promoting more hateful bigotry; the basis for calling the historic figure of the prophet a child molester is based on what was at the time, and still is in more primitive cultures, property transactiosn through marriage between families or tribes.  We have a similar history of child marriage in western europe, including royalty like the Kings of England.  Holding such a ceremony is not synonymous with pedophilia; there is no obssessive attraction or sexual orientation towards children in it. A similar tradition has existed in Judaism, and continues to be a problem in Israel, which places marriageable age for girls at 3 years and 1 day. 

Statements like this by idiots like Jones, or other extremists religious fanatics, our own version of the Taliban, neither understand what pedophilia really is, nor do they understand bestiality, or incest or same sex orientation when they lump them together like this.  They only show their ignorance, and driven by their ignorance, their fear and hatred of what they don't understand and what seems foreign or 'other' to them.  It is a hallmark of how conservative s minds work that they hate and fear anything they identify as different or other or 'outisders' from their own identity and identity groups.

Another wacko hate monger is Pat Robertson, seen campaigning with Mittens on R-money.  While Mitt lies about some non-existent plot to remove 'In God We Trust' from our money and from the pledge of allegiance -- which, btw, has only been around since the 1950s,   The notion of removing the motto from our money is an urban myth that was debunked by Snopes back in 2009It is not historic, it was not a motto selected by our founding fathers or put on our money by them either.  And the pledge of allegiance was dreamed up to sell magazines to students as a marketing ploy; that has no historic bona fides EITHER.  Just in case any of you thought that the nut jobs were only "other people".  I repeat the point I made earlier - we have our own share, and we don't do nearly enough about them to limit the damage they cause by lying, by ginning up anger and hostility and fear through lies.  Pat Robertson is a crazy old crackpot at the best of times; it is ludicrous that anyone give the old fool a hearing on anything.  NO ONE WHO ASPIRES TO THE PRESIDENCY SHOULD BE ENGAGING IN THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR, IN THE COMPANY OF THIS KIND OF EXTREMIST, OR SURROGATES LIKE THE JOKE/JOKER, DONALD TRUMP.

continuing from above:
And yet, here the movie is, not just offending apparently significant numbers of people, but producing real-world damage. That damage is apparently limited to one American flag (CNN at one point reported that it had been torn, rumors continue to circulate that it was burned) and presumably the evenings of the U.S. embassy staff, but the U.S.-Egypt relationship is tense enough, and Muslim-Coptic mistrust has already produced scant but horrifying violence against the Christian minority. That doesn't mean this incident will become anything more than a bizarre moment of cross-cultural misunderstanding (the protesters seem to assume that, as in Egypt, movies must secure the state's approval), but that it could go so far is yet another reminder of the tensions just beneath the surface in Egypt.

On the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, we need to hold our leaders to a higher standard than that delivered by George W. Bush, who ignored all of the serious warnings about Osama bin Laden and terrorist attacks, who focused only on Saddam Hussein, because apparently he had been holding a grudge since the first gulf war.  We need serious leaders, we need leaders who are grown ups and who behave seriously -- unlike the Mitts on R-money 'In God We Trust' nonsense.  We need leaders who don't make the mistakes that resulted in 9/11, who understand international cultures and religions, and who can navigate the global community with strategies other than blow it up or invade it.

We need to see our own failings, like the Bible parable about getting the post our of your own eye before trying to tell someone else how to get a speck out of their eye.  We need to make it illegal as a hate crime to burn holy books, an act of terrorism against muslims in this country, and we need to address the damage that is done by the kind of inaccurate vilifying and harassment against muslims inherent in this film by Terry Jones.

There is a huge difference between promoting hatred, misunderstanding, and lies, compared to another position, one I do condone, which is promoting an understanding of historical Islam as distinct from religious belief.  After reading this post from the Canadian Atheist, about Islam, which tracks with some of the world history content I read back in college, THIS I would be willing to support, even if it risked offending rabidly fundie Egyptian Islamists or their Libyan equivalent.  I encourage everyone to read it; it impressed me enough that I added it to our blog roll.  I find this kind of scholarship no different than understanding the historical figure of Christ, or Biblical archeology.  THIS is the kind of thing that Americans SHOULD know about Islam, not the Jones garbage, or the Pat Robertson superstition Christianity. Applause for a better, reasoned and accurate approach to religion goes to the UK and to Canada, over our own -- although they have their own hate mongering extremists too.

From the Canadian Atheist, Rethinking the Rise of Islam:
I have not read the English writer Tim Holland’s recent book, In the Shadow of the Sword, but my interest has been piqued by a kerfuffle surrounding a related documentary that Holland apparently made for the UK’s feisty public broadcaster Channel 4. The documentary, called Islam: the Untold Story, triggered hundreds of complaints to Channel 4 and the regulatory body Ofcom. A brief review in The Telegraph provides some clues as to what aspects of the program viewers of a certain religious persuasion might have considered to be offensive, biased and/or inaccurate:
Here, by contrast, presenter Tom Holland took the brave step of applying the West’s own (admittedly more recent) traditions of scholarship and scepticism to Islam’s origins. What he found was rather surprising. In the 7th century, the Arabs did indeed roar out of their desert peninsula and conquer half the world. But in those days were they Muslims at all? And if so, why didn’t they, or anybody they conquered, mention the fact?
Clearly these are uncomfortable questions – and for a while Holland kept asking them without providing an answer. Eventually, though, he forced himself to come clean. No, those world-conquering Arabs probably weren’t Muslims. Only later did Islam appear, and possibly as a neat variation on the Roman use of religion to demonstrate God’s approval of their empire. Moreover, Prophet Mohammed’s life is a historical blank and for decades after his death, Mecca was a place of no special significance. Holland – who by now seemed to be involved in a game of How Far Can You Go? – did stop short of questioning whether Mohammed ever actually existed. But only just.
I had little idea about any of this. Although I’ve long been skeptical about the existence of a historical Jesus, or at least one who said and did more than a tiny fraction of even the non-miraculous things attributed to him, I’ve been inclined to assume that his pal Mo was on pretty solid historical ground. Apparently, however, the latest episode in the saga of the two mighty prophets was more apt than I realized when I first saw it.
I once read Karen Armstrong’s biography Muhammed, though I no longer have a copy handy. Armstrong certainly seemed to consider Mohammed to have been perfectly real, and she made his life story seem considerably more captivating than the legend of Jesus Christ (more women and more fighting, for starters). However, he also came across as unsympathetic in many respects, often appearing to pull suras out of his arse in order to justify his own authority and privileged position (to be clear, this interpretation is mine rather than Armstrong’s, though my take on the matter is hardly unique). If early Muslims had invented the whole story, they might well have come up with a more unambiguously heroic protagonist. Holland’s conclusion that Islam coalesced only after the Arab conquests is entirely compatible with the possibility that its central prophetic figure was based on a real, and genuinely exceptional, leader in 7th century Arabia.

THIS is the kind of thing we should be learning about Islam; not the made up hysterical hate crap of Jones.  This is the factual basis we should require of our leaders on the subject of religion, not the equally hysteria-fueled crap of Mitt Romney.  It's a matter of substance, intellect, but most of all it is an issue of character.  All of those are never more important than on occasions like 9/11.

We can learn from our mistakes, and elect Obama, or we can repeat them with Romney and Ryan.

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