Standing On Their Own Tail: Islam And Its Guardians

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Efforts to define Islam by the actions of its individual members are generally frivolous. If a single Islamic fanatic blowing himself up at a children’s concert is not indicative of Islam being a religion of violence, then a single Islamic moderate helping to carry the resulting corpses from the rubble is not indicative of it being a religion of peace. If we continue with this kind of situational point scoring rather than pursuing a conversation about the core values of its agreed-upon teachings, the political, journalistic and artistic paranoia surrounding Islam will never be resolved.

Instead, we should turn our attention towards the ideological factors that motivate a Muslim to act as they do, and assess how appropriately they have behaved in relation to these factors. Only then can we hope to decide whether or not a person is representing Islam, and then in our criticisms we are really judging the underlying ideology, not the agent who enacts upon it.

This critical distinction between the believer and their beliefs is seemingly ignored (or worse, obscured) by the majority of those who comment on Islam or Muslims, a mistake resulting in the spread of the kind of genuine bigotry that they so ostensibly detest. It is the responsibility of both the Left and the moderate Right to prevent any continuation of the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, and there is only one way this can be done: by talking honestly about the shortcomings of Islam.

Is it any wonder that membership of crackpot far-right cults is increasing in a culture so paralysed by attempts to do just this? Where else is a person with innocent concerns about Islam supposed to turn if nobody else is willing to so much as listen to them without obsessive hostility? It doesn’t take long for such groups to indoctrinate a person once they have taken this first, fatal step, especially after a precedent for distrust of mainstream political conversation has been set. Those who wish to undermine the power of these organisations are standing on their own tail by fostering precisely the kind of retreatism that defines the most ideologically dangerous groups of our time.

You needn’t agree with a person in order to listen to them. (I would view a statement like this as nothing more than an obvious platitude were it not so routinely contradicted.) In fact, the single best thing you can do when faced with an opinion you are either merely sceptical of or positively despise is to take it seriously. The greatest possible outcome of such a situation, as far as you are concerned, is for the person who presented the opinion to you to doubt it, and perhaps change their mind. This cannot occur without fair conversation.

By dismissing anxieties about Islam as unenlightened, unairable, and bigoted, and by conflating them with anxieties about all Muslims (which are always ungrounded and easily confronted), we drive those who hold them into environments where genuinely unenlightened convictions are quickly developed. We have to stop this immediately, and begin to engage more openly with critics of Islam. Remember the alternative.

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46 comments

  1. The hypocrisy in fact belongs to people like you and Sam Harris who deny that you’re judging or demonizing Muslims at all. Though you claim to be taking a sober and objective look at the “ideology” of Islam, you’re just cherry-picking the quotes from the Koran and the pronouncements of Muslims that validate your hatred and mistrust of people you consider your moral and intellectual inferiors.

    And you have the gall to make it sound like it’s political correctness that’s somehow responsible for fueling the alt-right and white nationalism. Yeah, you’re a real skeptic.

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      1. Weird straw man arguments, Alex.

        No, the left is not pushing people into White Supremacy groups by coddling Islam. It’s really not.

        Why do you believe that is true? Do you actually have evidence of that?

        This is a sophomoric hot take which itself conflates the defense of Muslims with the protection of bad Islamic ideas like misogyny.

        You want to criticize the ideas of Islam, and you’re free to do so, as are others. It’s just that in a climate where Muslims are marginalized in the West, it’s prudent to be careful with how arguments are worded. It’s as simple as that. Carry-on.

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      2. Alex, if you’re sincere about “pursuing a conversation about the core values of its agreed-upon teachings,” why have you never bothered to talk to a Muslim about his or her religion?

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      3. If critizising the errors of a religion is demonizing, if showing the disgusting points in varios religious books is hatred, every discussion ends.

        you, sir, are apologetic of all the evil religions, like islam, have caused and are still causing and are therefore an enemy of humanity

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    1. Pistagyerek, I agree with you, and this is where I have a severe disconnect with Harris as well, and even Hitchens whom I consider a hero of mine. We’re not excusing the atrocities committed by extremists, I’ve never met any secular liberal who has. Maybe they exist in “some possible world”. I’ll read it as many times as you like Alex, I reject your insinuations in the video, and I have a strong desire to not give legitimacy to white nationalism. That doesn’t mean I’m excusing the barbarism committed under the flag of religion, or the flaws of that religion itself. I’m an Atheist, it goes without question I don’t have any favorites when it comes to religion. You want to use the modern American definition of liberal for the purposes of your video, but you’re not an American, you don’t live here. I don’t what its like in the UK, where yes, you do have people trying to pass laws I consider absurd protecting religions from criticism. No such thing exists here in America really, people can pretty much get away with saying anything they want about Muslims, things that are rather taboo for people of other cultures, races and religions. Theres no shortage of Americans willing “call out Islam” on any side of the political spectrum, I assure you. And we do NOT have a “moderate right” anymore in this country. Donald Trump has an 86% approval rating with Republican voters. The moderate right doesn’t exist in America in 2018. I really don’t think you fully appreciate, either being young, or not being an American how close we are to a repeat of 1930s Germany.

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      1. I concur with your analysis of Alex’s wrongheadedness as well as of the state of affairs in America, Harold.

        I’m an atheist too, and I wish it were as easy to explain away the modern dynamic of terrorism as Alex and Sam Harris make it sound like it is: blame it on Islam and start the bombing. Far from emerging as a backlash against political correctness, the alt-right and white supremacism have benefited from the free speech absolutism of Alex and his ilk; that’s why they call their gatherings “Free Speech Rallies” and complain that they have an inalienable right to demonize minorities with utter impunity.

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      2. To say you have no favourites is a bit of an undeveloped opinion in my eyes. I don’t like any religion but having seen the damaged caused by Islam I can say it is the single first religion I want dismantled. Christianity and Buddhism can wait when there’s literally people attending concerts with the sole intention of blowing themselves up. Paint it however you like, say it’s not all muslims and you’d be right. But it’s far more muslims than it is anyone else.

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    2. pistagyerek That’s not an argument you have presented. It sounds more like an excuse to avoid the real issues presented by Alex.

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    3. You are an atheist and I have respect for you because you don’t attack Islam and other such religions in the manor of alex and disrespect then by calling them names such as “ women in bags “ alex hownevet is just attacking Islam, this is not a way to get your point across and is very rude. He has a demonising and very aggressive approach. Being an atheist myself I agree with some parts of Islam and against others but i would never be *distrispectful* or rude about any religion. We simply have no right. Thank you for your calm approach to try and talk some sense into this young man.

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    4. Pistagyrek, tell me how many nations has islam conquered? though the sword, what was Spain called when they conquered it? How close did they get to Paris? what stopped them? the invading armies? How many have been killed, conquering nations? Did Mohammed conquer nations? how many armies did he have? if you can’t answer these question you have no idea what your talking about… you are just talking half out your behind, and the other half out your poor, whimpering emo sissified heart. Real men fought every war for you while you hid behind your mothers skirt crying, like a girl.

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    5. +pisagyerek Are you suggesting that Muslims don’t also cherry pick the verses that they feel confirms their beliefs? If Islam is in fact morally good and just, why is it so easy to look at the Quran and find edits and statements against morality? Why do the apologetic’s of Islam always go straight to the racism and far right narrative when attempting to rebuke the opposite to their position? Why not talk openly about the moral evils in Islam, the problems of Islam and the issues in the Quran?

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  2. Pistagyerek, My biggest problem with Harris, and I guess Alex is, they make it all about the religion, which I don’t think any of us disagree on the point that it has barbaric laws in it. But the geo political factors to Islam being what it is today are entirely ignored. Hitchens whom I love dearly was the most extreme of the intellectual “new atheists”. Hes also a perfect example of that dangerous path that Harris and Alex can lead to, the right in America loved to put him on their to give left leaning legitimacy to their stupid pre-emptive war in Iraq which we’re still paying for, thankfully we’re not in Iran.. YET.

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    1. That’s exactly right. Demonizing Muslims as brainwashed psychopaths and faceless “women in bags” who enable terrorism and deserve our contempt makes it very easy for the powers that be to fight their wars of occupation for well over a decade, with very little opposition from a populace who don’t feel obliged to make distinctions between Muslims and terrorists if Alex and Sam Harris say they don’t have to.

      The fact that Alex is trying to shift the blame onto the PC brigade who won’t allow freethinkers like him to air their “innocent concerns about Islam” stretches the bounds of credulity, if in fact there’s any such bounds left these days.

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      1. Oh come on. Maybe you need to reread the actual blog post. Alex made a clear distinction between the Doctrine, and the People. And you’re right, demonizing all Muslims is wrong but demonizing Islam is not. It is an objectively immoral religion. In comparison to the rest of the world many Muslims actually are brainwashed psychopaths and women in bags. And what gives you the right to decide who does and doesn’t get to air their ideas about anything? There are genuine, legitimate concerns surrounding Islam stop making out like the people you listed are holding some secret bias and actually listen to what they have to say for just once as you clearly haven’t yet.

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      2. I acknowledge that Alex made the distinction; what I’m saying is it’s a distinction without a difference.

        I hope you don’t expect me to believe that Alex, or you, or Sam Harris, is making anything resembling a sober, objective, informed critique of the religion of Islam, and the history of the Middle East and the cultures there. You’re just regurgitating bigoted rhetoric about Muslims being violent and irrational, then denying responsibility for the bigotry by pretending that it derives from careful study of the tenets of Islam or something. This ploy has whiskers on it, and you should at least realize that no one takes it seriously anymore.

        What I object to most strongly is Alex’s disingenuous claim that it’s the PC thought police that’s somehow empowering the alt-right and white supremacists in their Islamophobic crusade. In fact, it’s free-speech absolutists like Alex who are providing intellectual cover for the right-wing bigots, who call their fascist rallies “free speech demonstrations” and claim that demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims have no consequences in society whatsoever.

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      3. I acknowledge that Alex made the distinction; what I’m saying is it’s a distinction without a difference.

        I hope you don’t expect me to believe that Alex, or you, or Sam Harris, is making anything resembling a sober, objective, informed critique of the religion of Islam, and the history of the Middle East and the cultures there. You’re just regurgitating bigoted rhetoric about Muslims being violent and irrational, then denying responsibility for the bigotry by pretending that it derives from careful study of the tenets of Islam or something. This ploy has whiskers on it, and you should at least realize that no one takes it seriously anymore.

        What I object to most strongly is Alex’s disingenuous claim that it’s the PC thought police that’s somehow empowering the alt-right and white supremacists in their Islamophobic crusade. In fact, it’s free-speech absolutists like Alex who are providing intellectual cover for the right-wing bigots, who call their fascist rallies “free speech demonstrations” and claim that demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims have no consequences in society whatsoever.

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      4. pistagyerek – There is a very clear distinction between:
        “Some Muslims are motivated by their religion to murder, and I find this action abhorrent” and
        “All Muslims are motivated by their religion to murder, and I find them abhorrent”

        By ignoring this rather obvious distinction you are shutting down the conversation. What you are advocating for leaves no room to criticise horrendous behaviour. You may think you are defending the many Muslims that are moderate, but the result of making criticism of terrorism off limits is to promote division and a lack of understanding on both sides.

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      5. John Smith,

        No one was making that particular distinction, which is the reason I ignored it. The distinction Alex is making is the well-worn rhetorical ploy of ideology vs. agent, an attempt to examine the “core values” of Islam and how they motivate bad behavior, rather than the agents of the behavior themselves.

        In fact, I’m the only one who’s focusing on the real context of the “horrendous behavior” of terrorists. It’s not just the people and their religious beliefs, it’s repressive societies run by warlords and crooks, a patriarchal cultural mindset that defines manhood in a way that makes it easy to radicalize resentful young men, and a political situation where the West destabilizes Middle Eastern nations basically at will.

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      6. “The distinction Alex is making is the well-worn rhetorical ploy of ideology vs. agent…”

        I think that distinction is one and the same. If you disagree, are you saying we should look only at the agent, and completely ignore the obvious religious factors that were the entire justification for terrorist acts?

        “It’s not just the people and their religious beliefs, it’s repressive societies run by warlords and crooks, a patriarchal cultural mindset that defines manhood in a way that makes it easy to radicalize resentful young men…”

        And if the reason that culture continues to persist is because of a religion that says this is how things should be, do you still advocate ignoring the religious factors?

        “…and a political situation where the West destabilizes Middle Eastern nations basically at will.”

        Agreed. In the west we watched heard on the news that our troops had dropped a bomb in the wrong place, killing 20 people at a wedding. We then promptly forgot about it the next day. I doubt the remaining family members were able to move on so quickly. When we invade a country and drop bombs that kill civilians, we shouldn’t be surprised that the men that had to bury multiple family members would want revenge.

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      7. “the obvious religious factors that were the entire justification for terrorist acts… because of a religion that says this is how things should be…”

        It sounds like you’re more incensed about the religious justification for the terrorist acts than about the terrorist acts themselves. Do you want people to stop slaughtering and oppressing others, or do you just want people to have rational, evidence-based reasons for doing so?

        Since we’re talking about ignoring distinctions here, what about the distinction between Muslim and terrorist? If you’re trying to assert that Islam is the cause of terrorism, what’s the problem with all these Muslims who don’t engage in terrorist violence? Are they just not really serious about their faith or something?

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      8. “It sounds like you’re more incensed about the religious justification for the terrorist acts than about the terrorist acts themselves”

        I wouldn’t categorise how I feel as ‘incensed’. But I think if we want to stop these acts we need to look at why people are committing them. And pretending the people committing them aren’t using their religion as their excuse won’t get us anywhere. Taking that off the table as an area to investigate and saying “Nope, that’s out of bounds. You can’t criticise that” isn’t going to help.

        “Do you want people to stop slaughtering and oppressing others, or do you just want people to have rational, evidence-based reasons for doing so?”

        I don’t see these as two competing options. If people had rational, evidence-based reasons for the things they believe and the things they do that would lead to a huge drop in the slaughter and oppression of others. In other words, one is a big part of the solution to the other.

        “Since we’re talking about ignoring distinctions here…”

        I wasn’t. I said the distinctions are important.

        “…what about the distinction between Muslim and terrorist?”

        That’s a critical one. And I think the core of where our opinions differ. I (and others, like Sam Harris) say “Some Muslims use their religion as justification for performing abhorrent acts”. But you seem to hear “Muslims rightfully use their religion as justification for performing abhorrent acts” and claim “Bigot!”, “Hypocrite!”, “Demoniser!”. That’s why I say what you are advocating for closes down conversations, and it’s done based on misrepresentation of what is actually being said.

        “If you’re trying to assert that Islam is the cause of terrorism…”

        I’m not. I’m saying that some people use the Islamic faith as their justification for terrorism. That does not imply they are right to do so, and it does not imply it is “the” cause of terrorism (there is no one cause of terrorism).

        “…what’s the problem with all these Muslims who don’t engage in terrorist violence? Are they just not really serious about their faith or something?”

        This question only makes sense if you mistake saying “they use their religion as their justification for their actions” with “their religion clearly justifies their actions”.

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  3. K, I’d be more than willing to defend my point of view in a better setting, I find this comment section limited, evenmore so than Facebook posts. But suffice to say, I disagree with you as well in your defense of the defense. I’m not saying people should be regulated in what they can say or don’t say. I’m not an advocate of that, but the question is where do we draw the line on self regulation? I think Alex’s biggest problem if I had to point a point on it, is he misjudges his enemy, not the Islamist Fundamentalists, the Authoritarian Right in America. Who are more than happy to spend all day every day attacking liberals and secularists, but when they need to drum up a good war for the Military Industrial Complex will have no problem welcoming secularists with open arms to give more legitimacy to their aggression. As I said, YES, we get it, Islam is oppressive every where in modern civilization its used as a form of government without exception. My biggest disagreement with Alex is right around the 5:15 mark where he says “you wont get away with it intellectually” beg to differ. Because there is a difference in history and geopolitics. Theres no oppression of Christians in modern civilization. Most of the bigotry in America at least (which is all I can speak to with no first hand experience elsewhere), women, minorities and LGBT I believe come directly or indirectly from the Christian influence. As I said they have a very different history than the Muslim world. Different history, requires a different approach.

    I know some people in America like to pretend they’re oppressed at prospect of baking a cake for a gay wedding as if its the worst thing since chattel slavery but its not. But in contrast there is a different history of Western treatment of the Muslim world. We’ve been in bed with the House of Saud for a century now? We’ve usurped Iran’s democratically elected leader to strengthen a brutal Shah in Iran, and not surprisingly that blew up in our face. We drummed up Wahabbism to fight the “godless Soviets” in Afghanistan, those chickens came home to roost. Those are just a couple examples of geopolitical factors that have added fuel to the fire that YES, is Islamic doctrine itself. We can’t pretend there isn’t some responsibility foreign policy of western nations that has contributed to this, not if we want reasonably attack this barbaric ideology and combat it. When we send a predator drone to blow up a suspected terrorist and kill 20 innocent civilians in the process, to them, we’re the terrorists, and they have a point to feel that way. I’m not saying I have all the solutions, but I think smarter people than me, which I would include Alex in that need to tread carefully in their rhetoric, not only for the sake of avoiding lumping people in with terrorists, but for how it will be used to legitimize “solutions” that frankly exacerbate the problem by elements in this country that simply don’t give a shit about rational and nuanced solutions.

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  4. I’m surprised there is so much backlash against your opinion. I may be misjudging the situation in the USA, but I am of the impression that the Left privileges Islam and dismisses every criticism as Islamophobia.

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  5. I liked the Post and Video, and agree with the majority of points, that we can’t judge actions of religious practitioners as cause to discriminate and persecute the religion, and should instead focus on finding out the values held by the religion that allowed the extremist religious practitioners to defend their bad (my opinion) actions.
    By saying my opinion, I don’t claim authority over what is good or bad for all, but freedom for others who might have a different opinion, and can then share it with me with sufficient cause to help me rework my belief.

    My argument

    I shouldn’t talk to people with strong beliefs around discrimination or values of a faith.
    Here is why.

    I am an Intellectual Idiot, which I base on the opinion that I can most of the time detach my personal opinions on a subject to switch perspective and gain different insight, which apparently counts as one of the definitions of an Intellectual.
    But I often fall back into old patterns of personal bias and prejudice, without noticing that I’m doing so, sometimes causing conflict with the person I’m talking to. Impulsive repetitive unconscious in the moment, bad behavior is my definition of an Idiot. Another way of putting it would be the lack of common sense.

    I study subjects with great enthusiasm and variety, but loose most information and meaning due to weak mental strength and willpower. (I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
    I believe it is curable and am looking into self treatment of this condition, but without a master in the field to guide me, progress is slow and full of setbacks)

    This impulsive nature is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it has allowed me to be quite creative with coming up with solutions (because I am able to cheat), on the other hand, it has held me back in developing the general amount of human resilience and willpower.

    With the amount of studying I do, I’ve developed the ability to frequently steamroll peoples arguments into obscurity (because I subconsciously cheat), and have made people believe that I’m much smarter than I really am, causing them to adopt my misguided ideas or theories as facts.

    If I can make most people i meet, think I’m smart, imagine the damage I will cause by inspiring them into action over a false belief I had. Think of the conflict this might cause with other people who know better.

    I know that the comment so far was theoretical, and can therefore not give sufficient evidence for proof, so I want to conclude with an observational story of my mind.

    Half a year ago I had a friend with a similar condition to my own, who is actively campaigning for better mental health services in England. He is very much opposed to the current mayor of Bristol and the conservatives austerity approach. He is known for his impulsive anti establishment behavior, screaming through his megaphone through the streets in Bristol.
    When he last came over, we had a long debate about the political environment we are currently living in. He was frustrated that people weren’t out protesting, with all the inhumane treatment, suffering and dying many people experience here in England on a daily basis, because of the Conservatives austerity approach.
    I tried to explain to him, that the government was doing its best to stop treating people unfairly, but were unable to handle the complexity and problems that currently are haunting England.
    This is not something he wanted to hear, and I was unable to read the situation well enough to prevent him from seeing me as the new enemy (strong word, but suffice to say we aren’t friends anymore). We both used the same type of logic but ended up talking about different points and meanings that were mixed up so badly, it became obscure. We antagonised each other so badly, we lost the ability to cognitively reason and appreciate each others differences in opinion.

    I’ve studied enough Psychology to know that Consciousness as a view of being a Soul is a grand illusion. From that I draw that I wasn’t the only one who lost rationality in that situation, and that we both were too far lost to stress and anxiety to be able to communicate with each other effectively. You could argue that I didn’t do anything bad, but I know that I caused my friend a great deal of distress, and am very ashamed of it, but unable to put it right.

    This might not be sufficient to prove my point, but I have countless stories very similar to this situation to lead me to the opinion that my knowledge of Islam and it’s followers is insufficient to talk with most people about it, and not cause bad opinions to block their judgement.

    What is my current calm opinion of Islam?

    Islam is inspired by a book inspired by a Bedouin 1400 years ago, who claimed he had an ability to communicate with Angels who told him about the existence of only one true God.
    His intentions might have been pure, but history and human nature interfered and caused his knowledge to be corrupted and misused.
    This caused separation and prejudice among the people who were inspired by his words, but unable to interpret it’s true meaning.
    The Koran has many great ideas, fit for inspiration, but it’s nature to take everything within as truth makes it unfit for modern literal translation on the basis of living a successful secular life. I think most Muslims would agree with this view, and have therefore opted with a much looser interpretation of the Koran and it’s teachings.
    I’m inspired by three of its pillars.
    Salah: prayer (I would substitute it for Mindfulness and meditation)
    Zakāt: charity
    Sawm: fasting (for health benefit reasons)

    I base this opinion on my study of the two Oxford Books, A very short introduction to the Koran & Islam. Please be aware that I don’t claim to be right, and that if what you read disturbs you, you should accept this as the views of a self proclaimed idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and let this help you rest your conscience, if you don’t feel inclined to help me correct myself.

    Why post such a long and extremely personal comment?

    I believe the world is full of people in situations and mindsets quite similar to my own, and if we were to let loose a vast quantity of lack of common sense on an unsuspecting portion of humanity, we create even more conflict with disastrous consequences. We lack an ingredient to help us function in this world of misinformation and bias.
    I believe this ingredient to be hidden in those most wonderful of two words “Good Will”.
    I’m working on a way to achieve this state more frequently, and documenting on it, in the hopes that it may inspire others in the future.
    Maybe you can tell me where I can read about becoming more open, nonjudgmental and can learn to catch up to my current lack of common sense.

    Thank you, and keep up the good work.

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    1. “I base this opinion on my study of the two Oxford Books, A very short introduction to the Koran & Islam.”

      You and Alex make it seem like there are no Muslims in the UK with whom you could discuss these things. It’s a testament to their sincere interest in understanding these complex cultural phenomena that the New Atheists interpret Islam in exactly the way that allows them to dismiss it as an irrational death cult.

      Skeptics indeed.

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      1. My Dear pistagyerek,
        you haven’t been paying attention to my meaning, that I would be the wrong person to talk with Muslims about their faith. I would serve as an antagoniser and aggravate, causing Muslims to withdraw and go on the offence.
        I’m sure you’re smart enough to see now that my point is very much your own that some people are too stupid to just go out and spread their opinions of other peoples business.
        The last thing I want to do is cause trouble, but I have no way of preventing it once I open my mouth. When I use it, it’s not me who’s speaking but some 31 year old impulsive body that focuses hard on remembering it’s previous conclusions and how to translate them in a meaningful way that make sense in that situation. I become to distracted to notice my behaviour.
        It is only when I sit down and write, that my thoughts have a chance to slow down enough that I can catch any errors in my logic. And only then when I’m not exhausted or suffering from any other annoying physical symptoms.
        Also I’m not an Atheist. I’m a Spiritual None.
        No where did I say that Islam is an irrational death cult, and I take offence to you suggesting that I did. I don’t even believe that Muslims can be lumped up as one religion, as the cultures and groups are too diverse to find much similarity. Some Muslims I met, don’t even read the Koran, or stick to the five pillars of Islam, and my knowledge of it surpasses even theirs.
        In your opinion, isn’t that a dangerous situation for me to open my mouth in?
        More context: My sister has an active interest in Islam, as she is involved with a Muslim and has been in the past. When I last spoke to her about it, our views were quite different, but the problem was that I was able to back it up with books, where as she was only able to use hearsay. I haven’t spoken to her for a while now.
        So in Conclusion, Thank you for pointing out that I make it appear that there are no Muslims in the UK with whom I could discuss these things. That was my full intention, you just got the reason wrong.
        There are obviously a lot of Muslims around with whom I can talk about it, but it’s not a good idea to do so, since my intention is peace, but my actions start conflict. This should not be handled by an Idiot, who is too impulsive to recognise his error in the moment. I don’t doubt the Muslims good intentions, I doubt my own.

        Peace be upon you.

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      2. Ok, I noticed an error in my own logic. You didn’t say I was an Atheist or that I believed that Islam is a death cult. But you suggest that my opinion could lead people into drawing that conclusion.
        Thanks for pointing that out, but could you tell me a better way of putting it so I don’t cause people to jump to the wrong conclusion? I did say that I found parts of it quite inspirational, even giving examples. What more should I include?

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    2. wow as a muslim I agree with alot your saying, i.e lack of communication and tunnel vision and follow the crowd mentality and the main issue with many muslims is that they follow their own traditions and culture rather than correctly follow the religion and of course there is the Geo political scene too and mass hysteria caused by the media and politicians, just like they did with the Jews in the 1930s.

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  6. The facts of history. We all need to agree on facts that have driven our history as a species. One of the facts that can not be disputed by any side of a discussion about the impact of religion on all cultures is the overwhelming number of people that have been killed in the name of a given religion. For all the claims of being peaceful, loving, understanding and so on, religion of all stripes have spilled the blood of their fellow man when they are presented with an opinion, idea or belief that is not aligned with their own. More deaths and wars have been brought upon mankind by religion than any other single event.

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    1. “More deaths and wars have been brought upon mankind by religion than any other single event.”

      I agree with what you have stated, but a belief in god is not the same as accepting all of the dogma of any given religion. It’s the latter that I think is the real danger; taking every word written or spoken under the guise of religion to be the indisputable truth that must be followed.

      I think we all accept that people will read what they want from their religion. It is not the religion in and of itself that is the problem. For any given religion moderate people will read and interpret their holy texts and try to make sense of them in a modern context; they will try to understand the message. People that take everything literally will just believe every word without any consideration.

      All religions are susceptible to this. It is just easier for someone to have extreme literal views based on the Qoran than on the Christian bible (for example). The Qoran in places calls for pushing the religion on to others. It says lying is acceptable if it is in defence of Islam. Although Christianity shares the old testament, it has a new testament which in places calls for loving thy neighbour, and forgiveness, and it maintains that lying is a sin. Nut jobs will be nut jobs; they just have a much harder time equating horrible actions with the message of the bible than is the case with Islam.

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    2. “More deaths and wars have been brought upon mankind by religion than any other single event.”

      Um, did you forget the 20th century? The most destructive wars in history weren’t religious in nature. I’m not saying that this means religion is just peachy, because it’s still a problematic influence in society. But it just goes to show that getting rid of religion doesn’t make slaughter and oppression magically disappear.

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      1. “Um, did you forget the 20th century? The most destructive wars in history weren’t religious in nature. I’m not saying that this means religion is just peachy, because it’s still a problematic influence in society. But it just goes to show that getting rid of religion doesn’t make slaughter and oppression magically disappear.”

        I agree with everything you’ve said there. But I think religion has its roots deeper than many people consider. Hitler and Stalin are given as common examples of killings done by atheists. I think there’s a lot more to it than racking up the millions of deaths they oversaw in the ‘non-religious’ column. The Nazi’s made extensive use of Christianity to promote what they were doing, and Hitler himself always maintained that he was a Catholic.

        And Stalin was only able to come to power thanks to the strongl held idea Russians of the time had that their leaders were close to godly.

        I don’t know enough about either to say neither would have been able to do what they did without religion, but it may well be the case.

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      2. “The Nazi’s made extensive use of Christianity to promote what they were doing, and Hitler himself always maintained that he was a Catholic.”

        That’s nonsense. The whole racial supremacy thing championed by the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese is bad enough. Even worse is how the Catholic Church capitulated to the Nazis, aided in the Blitzkrieg and Holocaust, and denied it afterward. There’s no need to pretend that Hitler was some sort of Christian zealot, because insiders like Albert Speer recalled that whenever Hitler didn’t have to appeal to a gullible crowd, he disparaged Christianity and never went to Mass.

        You seem to place way too much importance on religion; it’s really just a glorified set of ingroup-outgroup markers. It’s more about cultural identity than a set of literal beliefs that motivate behavior.

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      3. “That’s nonsense.”
        Hardly. If you think it’s as simple as ‘Hitler was an atheist and that’s the end of it” you’re missing a lot. Mein Kampf lays out Hitlers ideology and makes many references to Christian belief, and their army had “God with us” on their belt buckles. There’s good evidence that Hitler wasn’t a Christian, but he certainly knew how to use religious belief to get people to do what he wanted.

        “There’s no need to pretend that Hitler was some sort of Christian zealot…”
        I’m not saying he was Christian (although I’ve seen others make that case; it’s far from a consensus among historians that he wasn’t). I’m just saying that he maintained the public perception that he was because it was a useful political tool. He used religion.

        “You seem to place way too much importance on religion; it’s really just a glorified set of ingroup-outgroup markers. It’s more about cultural identity than a set of literal beliefs that motivate behavior.”
        For many people this is the case. But for many, many more it couldn’t be further from the truth. When there are people in this world willing to blow themselves up due only to their religious belief, classifying it as “just a glorified” anything is totally inappropriate.

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      4. “There’s good evidence that Hitler wasn’t a Christian, but he certainly knew how to use religious belief to get people to do what he wanted.”

        Once again, you’re making it seem like using religious justification for oppression and slaughter is somehow more objectionable than oppression and slaughter. It’s a fact as plain as day that getting rid of religion is no recipe for creating peace and prosperity. So if we’re still talking about how getting rid of religion is going to make the world a better place, we’re deluding ourselves.

        “When there are people in this world willing to blow themselves up due only to their religious belief, classifying it as “just a glorified” anything is totally inappropriate.”

        So people blow themselves up “due only to their religious belief,” and not because of political, socioeconomic, and ideological factors? Terrorism is totally a religious phenomenon? I think you’re interpreting current events in a suspiciously self-serving way.

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      5. “Once again, you’re making it seem like using religious justification for oppression and slaughter is somehow more objectionable than oppression and slaughter.”

        I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. It can’t have been the sentence of mine you quoted – that said nothing of the type.

        I’ll happily state my position:
        * Oppression and slaughter of other humans is wrong. Always.
        * Religion can be used as a device to enable oppression and slaughter of other people. In addition to despising how horrible oppression and slaughter are, I also despise the hypocrisy of people that do it under the guise of religion.

        “It’s a fact as plain as day that getting rid of religion is no recipe for creating peace and prosperity. So if we’re still talking about how getting rid of religion is going to make the world a better place, we’re deluding ourselves.”

        You seem to be reading things that just aren’t there. I never said anything like getting rid of religion will make the world peaceful. But I do believe that removing unfounded belief systems that guide people’s actions, and working towards shared human goals like minimising harm to others is the best way towards a more peaceful world. Religion fares badly here, because it isn’t able to show anything it asserts is true, yet people treat it as though it is irrefutably true and base their actions around that. This is the danger of religion. And while I don’t suggest removing religion is a magic bullet to removing conflict in the world, I absolutely suggest that removing extreme religious belief will make the world a more peaceful place. I only need to show you one suicide bomber that was motivated purely by his religious belief to show my suggestion to be true.

        In other words, remove the requirements of absolutes from your statement and it becomes true. We don’t need absolutes. Not getting to an absolutely peaceful world isn’t a good reason not to take real steps that will make the world incrementally more peaceful.

        “So people blow themselves up “due only to their religious belief,” and not because of political, socioeconomic, and ideological factors? Terrorism is totally a religious phenomenon? I think you’re interpreting current events in a suspiciously self-serving way.”

        You spoke earlier of a distinction that you couldn’t see. I’m seeing a pattern – you seem not to make many distinctions at all:
        * I say some people blow themselves up due to their religious belief, you read that as ‘everyone that has ever blown themselves up has done it due to their religious belief’
        * I suggest removing the cause of much of the conflict in the world is good, you think that I’m saying it will make the world 100% peaceful
        * I say that Hitler used religion to do harm, you read that as ‘Oppression and slaughter are bad, but religious justification for these things is worse’

        Your arguments aren’t addressing what I’m saying because none of these things at all represent what I am saying.

        My point was that I think you are largely underplaying the role religion had to do with the conflicts of the 20th century, and continues to have as a (or the) motivating force in suicide bombings and other horrible acts.

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      6. What you said was that “there are people in this world willing to blow themselves up due only to their religious belief,” and I felt within my rights to question whether religious belief is the only factor that motivates suicide bombing and terrorist violence.

        I’ve asked Alex whether he plans to talk to Muslims about these issues or whether he’s satisfied believing that the way he defines and represents their motivations is correct. He hasn’t responded. Have you ever talked to Muslims about these issues, or are you satisfied with discussing them from your ivory tower?

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      7. “What you said was that “there are people in this world willing to blow themselves up due only to their religious belief,” and I felt within my rights to question whether religious belief is the only factor that motivates suicide bombing and terrorist violence.”

        You are of course withing your rights to ask whatever question you want. I never said you had no right to ask a question, I said you were consistently mischaracterised what I was saying (and thereby arguing against a straw man).

        Hopefully you now recognise that saying ‘There are some people whose sole motivation is religion” is a very different statement than “Everyone is motivated by religion, and not even slightly from other factors”

        “I’ve asked Alex whether he plans to talk to Muslims about these issues or whether he’s satisfied believing that the way he defines and represents their motivations is correct. He hasn’t responded. Have you ever talked to Muslims about these issues, or are you satisfied with discussing them from your ivory tower?”

        Which Muslims should I talk to? The majority that aren’t extreme and don’t want to blow anyone up? The ones that are equally horrified when they see someone blowing themselves and innocent bystanders up. (In fact they’re probably more horrified than I am when the act is done in the name of the religion they profess).

        Or should I talk to the extremists? The ones willing to behead people in the middle of the street for not believing the right thing?

        This comes back to my original point (in the earlier thread) – what you are doing is attempting to censor talking about the motivating factor in a lot of the terrorists acts that are committed. You earlier wanted to call people bigots if they dare say that the extreme Muslims and their belief is dangerous. Now you want to say I’m living in an ivory tower; that my opinion is irrelevant.

        What you advocate is ridiculous. There should be nothing even slightly controversial about calling the act of blowing up innocent people horrendous, and wanting to discuss the reason the person committed the act. And it seems you aren’t consistent on this. You’ve had no issue pointing out that America going to war and blowing up innocent people is wrong (a view I agree with). So why is it that your criticism of the US government is allowed, but anyone critcising the same thing among Muslim extremists is off-limits, bigotry, or “living in an ivory tower”?

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  7. Another reason why non-Muslims should be critical of Islam is that Muslims who renounce Islam are treated even worse that non-Muslims. Daring to criticize Islam could easily entail a death trail, an international fatwa, so we should do it for them.

    Even if Muslims clean up their act and their Quran, there are already different “schools” of Islam, some of which won’t change their interpretation, just like Baptists still believe in most Old Testament nonsense.

    I was glad to read from the media that the brand new local mosque was headed by a progressive tolerant Imām. Then I listened to his preaches on YouTube. So the media really need to be objective and not shy about investigating such issues. Right now they just propagate the Muslim PR BS.

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  8. Talking about Muslims like some weird exotic unknown rather than three dimensional people and engaging Islam as a dynamic tradition which shaped a global civilization is the fault of this whole piece.

    Not your fault- the Left do it today.

    Muslims with an authentic connection to their tradition don’t really care about this teen or any other Western political actor. You are all lost and hugely irrelevant within the Muslim community.

    Your commentary is just condescending quasi anthropology.

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    1. You could reach out and talk to Muslim intellectuals and scholars. Instead you choose to make straw arguments.

      Bottom line though buddy – your comments about Islam don’t really matter to Muslims. You’re another unoriginal Western colonial bot.

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  9. I am a Muslim, and even a fundamentalist that you most probably would hate.
    But I agree with you because this is extremely dangerous on both sides.
    Not being able to express the obvious (regardless of it being true or not) is very problematic.
    I still remember the day that a Muslim boy brought a timed-bomb-like invention to his school. And then complained about his teacher reaction being prejudice. And then Obama defends him, Mark Zuckerburger defended him as well… and I was like “Whats going on?!!!” This is clearly will make the people angry. Because they had all the right to be suspicious. What a stupid invention and a silly story that was.
    Feeding the feeling of resentment that will only produce radical views and actions.
    And it always boggles my mind, why the west are doing this?
    Why would you give the foreign minority the right to break the social norms of the majority?? I really don’t understand.
    Yes, I would hate it as a Muslim for making it uncomfortable to me. But at least I understand where you coming from. I mean what would I expect? A non-Muslim Muslim ? WAH!

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