Religion & Philosophy

Obama is wrong: Islamic beliefs are incompatible with the modern world

Islamic terrorists aren’t attacking churches, they’re attacking schools and newspapers.

Ipoint-counterpointn 2001, Bush called for a “crusade” against Islamic terrorists. His choice of words caused many to cringe, although as it turned out he was on the money. The last thirteen years have been a never-ending battle between Judeo-Christians and Muslims that has destroyed much of the Mideast, just like Crusades 1.0. Also just like the original crusades, this latest effort has been a colossal rort, rife with waste, chicanery, profiteering and downright theft. Bush said “crusade,” and by golly, he meant it. (In fact, you could probably argue that most wars we fought in the 20th Century were crusades, from WWII to Vietnam, where the uber-Catholic Dulles brothers supported the Catholic Diem against Ho Chi Minh, to our cold war on “godless Communism.”)

This week at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama again used the C-word, but in a very different context and to different purpose. He was attempting to decouple “Islam” and “terrorist,” and specifically to argue that Islam isn’t the root cause of terror, but rather poverty and unemployment are. (Specifically, he cited the crusades as an example of “terrible deeds” done in the name of religion by the West.)

Bullshit.

There’s no evidence poverty causes terror. Bin Laden wasn’t poor. Nor was Zawhiri. Or the 9-11 hijackers. Or the Boston Marathon bombers. Terrorism is a middle class pursuit.

The link between terror and Islam is much stronger. Now not all Muslims are terrorists, true enough, but an astounding number of terrorists are Muslim, enough so that it’s hard to pass off as coincidence. There’s a very obvious reason why it could be the religion itself which is the cause of terror: It’s a religion with a set of beliefs fundamentally at odds with those that underpin our modern society.

Consider free speech. It was telling that even as many in the world held up “Je suis Charlie” placards, in Sydney and other places many held up “Je suis Muslim” signs, showing solidarity with the killers, or at least their intent, rather than the victims. How do “moderate Muslims” suggest we avoid Charlie Hedbo tragedies in the future? Ban any mockery of religious figures. Period. That is, they’re not on the side of free speech, but on the side of religion. Nor is this antipathy to free speech just on issues related to religion. The leaders of virtually every Islamic country, from Iran to Egypt to Saudi to Turkey, have instituted severe restrictions on the press.

Or consider women’s rights and education. Boko Haram, the popular name of the Nigerian-based Islamic terrorist group that raided a girl’s school and kidnapped 276 girls into slavery, actually means “education is forbidden.” And the reason for the Afghan Taliban’s resistance to the Takari government in the 1980’s was first and foremost because they disagreed with the Russian’s insistence on educating girls and other reforms. Recently their Taliban brothers in Pakistan raided a school and killed 145 children and teachers as a reaction to the world’s sympathy for the attack on Malala Yousafzai. Even in those Muslim countries where women are not killed for the crime of education, they’re still controlled and limited in everything from dress to driving a car, e.g., Iran and Saudi.

Keep going down the list—democratically elected governments, freedom to worship, independent judiciaries, tolerance of minorities, etc. It’s a long list, and Islam is at odds with most of it.

(All religions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism have fundamentalist wings who espouse terrorism. However, those differ from Islamic terror both in scale and scope. Also, most adherents to those religions have been able to accommodate their belief systems with the modern world and decry terrorism.)

In short, the problem isn’t just that radical Islamists have adopted a set of violent tactics that we abhor, but rather that the belief system itself just doesn’t fit in a modern world. It’s Islam that is the problem and that needs to change. Obama prevaricated because we are faced with, to use the words of Al Gore, an uncomfortable truth: Our devotion to religious tolerance and democracy doesn’t really work so well when dealing with a religion that doesn’t believe in either tolerance or democracy.

One of the reasons we’re hesitant to just come out and say this is because most people belong to a different religion. If a Christian criticizes Islam, for example, it’s seen as self-serving. Well, I’m an atheist. I have no God in this fight. And it’s because I’m an atheist that I object to letting Islam off the hook for terror. Islamic terrorists aren’t attacking churches, they’re attacking schools and newspapers.

14 replies »

  1. This: ‘In fact, you could probably argue that most wars we fought in the 20th Century were crusades, from WWII to Vietnam, where the uber-Catholic Dulles brothers supported the Catholic Diem against Ho Chi Minh, to our cold war on “godless Communism.’

    vs. this: “It’s a religion with a set of beliefs fundamentally at odds with those that underpin our modern society.”

    You are very confused.

  2. Democracy, freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of religion, independent judiciaries, women’s rights, minority rights, all are the result of enlightenment thinking, which broke the monarchy/aristocracy/theocracy model in the West. It’s not Islam that is the problem. It’s totalitarianism. Atheist totalitarianism does not allow for any of those things either, except that it equalizes women and minorities by taking away all rights from everyone. Democratic participation was present in the medieval Islamic world. The reason secular democracy has failed to gain a foothold in the modern Islamic world is a consequence of imperial legacies, inherited oil wealth, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the fact that a lack of democracy gives ultra-conservative Muslims a disproportionate voice, just as the Church was a force of repression in pre-revolutionary France. The internet allows the propaganda and repressive ideology to spread in rapid and unpredictable ways. Don’t blame the Christians because a small minority make a lot of noise denying equal rights to their fellow human beings. Don’t blame the Muslims either.

      • I’m an atheist, and an American. I believe that everyone in our country should be free to practice the religion of their choosing, unless doing so poses a threat to the life, safety, happiness, and liberty of others. I have no problem with people humbly and sincerely adhering to their religious faith, as long as they don’t try to convert me.

        I don’t much care for mainstream atheism in the U.S. It is too evangelical, becoming too much like a religion itself by ridiculing and demonizing the religious, thereby and ironically taking on too many characteristics of that which it is meant to decry and oppose.

        As for “atheist totalitarianism”, what I personally want is for the United States to be free of any religious influence in social policy, health policy, public education, civil rights (including LGBT issues), and science policy. The religious in America, particularly Christians, have no business using our supposedly democratic government to impose their moralities upon a very diverse population who do not uniformly share, adhere to, nor necessarily respect the values of a religion not their own, or any religion at all.

        And if all of the preceding briefly-stated beliefs make me an atheist totalitarian, so be it.

  3. Otherwise: I am also an atheist. Well, technically, I’m an agnostic, because I don’t believe in absolute belief in anything, including an absolute belief in the non-existence of anything. So, I guess I’m an agnostic who feels that God, as God is described by the major world religions, is so unlikely to exist that to believe God exists is perverse. That’s pretty darned close to atheism.

    Having said that, I’m not sure where to start with what you’ve written, here. Some of it is just factually incorrect. Some of it has very weak support so that it can’t be deemed factually incorrect, exactly, but probably belongs in the same set as those who fear vaccines.

    I hardly know where to start. Almost every sentence beyond the opening two paragraphs contains some sort of error or misinterpretation. Addressing them all would take almost a book. Honestly, man, I usually think a great deal of what you write, but this … This is almost like reading, say, Pat Roberts’ website.

    I’m stunned and confused.

    First, there’s plenty of evidence that extreme hardship, including poverty and/or political dominance/lack of justice causes rebellion. It doesn’t cause all of them (the American Civil War was not caused by the misery of those rebelling), but it causes a large number of them. On very few occasions, this rebellion takes the form of civil disobedience. Usually, it’s violent. Yes, the middle class, and even some members of the upper class, are often the leaders of these rebellions, but they could not lead a general populace that was not miserable. This is true of Wat Tyler, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the American Civil Rights movement (which spawned its own terrorists on both sides), Ghandi’s revolution, the Sepoy Rebellion, the slaughter of Roman citizens along the Ionian Coast as a precursor to Mithridates … and the list goes on and on and on.

    To the degree that rebellion takes the form of “terror” (and that can be defined in many, many different ways), it generally happens when general rebellion has no chance of succeeding because of a severe, local imbalance of power. The Spanish partisans who invented the term “guerrilla” while resisting Napoleon are a prime example (and they took great pleasure in torturing those they caught). Personally, I don’t think that ISIL is a terrorist organization. It is a generalized rebellion that has taken control of territory. They are brutal. That is all they share with the terrorists at the moment.

    Here are some other statements:

    1. “How do “moderate Muslims” suggest we avoid Charlie Hedbo tragedies in the future? Ban any mockery of religious figures. Period.”

    How do you know it’s “moderate” Muslims saying these things? I know some American Muslims. Most don’t agree in the slightest. The Pope said the same thing, BTW. Last time I checked, the Pope wasn’t Muslim. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/16/opinion/schlumpf-pope-paris/

    I think you and I would agree that any religion that asserts its claim to absolute, revealed truth is likely to be an opponent of free speech when it comes to anything that contradicts that revealed truth. Luckily, we have the Enlightenment on our side to battle the forces of the fundamentalists (at least for now), but that doesn’t change the nature of those sorts of religions.

    2. “Nor is this antipathy to free speech just on issues related to religion. The leaders of virtually every Islamic country, from Iran to Egypt to Saudi to Turkey, have instituted severe restrictions on the press.”

    I’m not sure I’d call Turkish restrictions “severe,” They’re about the same as those in Mexico, a decidedly Catholic nation, and most Islamic nations have greater freedom of the press than China, which is not Muslim. Non-Muslim Russia and India don’t come off too well, either: http://rsf.org/index2014/en-index2014.php

    I think we have a problem with post hoc, ergo propter hoc, here. The reasons for press restrictions vary widely from one predominately Muslim nation to another. Turkey, for instance, is a secular nation on the lines built by Ataturk. Ataturk required nationalism to replace the bonds of Islam, which have no national boundaries. Turkey has long been fighting the battle to build nationalist sentiment, and has controlled the press largely to that end. The Turkish government actually fears Islamists. They do not control the press because of Islamist pressure to do so.

    The Saudis are very different. Their entire legitimacy to rule comes from the 18th century, their support of Wahhab, and their later assumption of the mantle of defenders and purveyors of Wahhabism. They have many tribal enemies in Saudi Arabia, and Roosevelt made a deal with them long ago to supply them with all the weapons they need to maintain control of their kingdom in return for all the oil we need. The Saudis control the press to maintain their power.

    What I think we have here is a classic case of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” Press is controlled by rulers, generally, to maintain their rule more easily. Some rulers use Islam, or at least a part of it, to maintain control (the Saudis, the ayatollahs of Iran). Others use press control to maintain secular control (the Pakistanis, Jordanians, Syrians, and Iraqis — at least for the moment). Some are in flux, and each new government has its own reasons.

    Islam has nothing to do with this, other than providing yet another reason to control the press.

    3. “Boko Haram, the popular name of the Nigerian-based Islamic terrorist group that raided a girl’s school and kidnapped 276 girls into slavery, actually means “education is forbidden.”

    Actually, it doesn’t. It means a certain kind of propagandist education with British colonial roots. http://www.megatchad.net/publications/Newman-2013-Etymology-of-Hausa-boko.pdf

    It’s an important difference. Hey, I have no love for Boko Haram. I have a son who is in periodic, direct danger from them, and I fear the day I’ll get a call that he has been taken. I hate those people, but “boko” does not mean all Western education.

    4. “And the reason for the Afghan Taliban’s resistance to the Takari government in the 1980’s was first and foremost because they disagreed with the Russian’s insistence on educating girls and other reforms.”

    The “Taraki” communist government took over in 1978. At that date, according to Wikipedia,”women made up 40 percent of the doctors and 60 percent of the teachers at Kabul University; 440,000 female students were enrolled in educational institutions and 80,000 more in literacy programs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Afghanistan

    The Khalq, communist government had many, many enemies for very many different reasons. Perhaps their biggest enemy was the Parcham faction from their own party. And I’ve never seen a credible source that didn’t cite communist land reform as the primary driver of the rebellion against the communists. The communists may have pushed education a bit farther out into the hinterlands, but by this time, education for women had been in place in Afghanistan since 1935.

    The Soviets insisted on nothing. In fact, according to Steve Coll in “Ghost Wars,” the Soviets were taken aback by the communist takeover of Afghanistan, thought Afghanistan wasn’t yet ready for communism, and tried hard to pull back reforms implemented by the communist Afghan government, fearing a revolt that they would have to try to put down (which is what actually happened). http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Wars-Afghanistan-Invasion-September/dp/0143034669/ref=sr_1_sc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424561559&sr=8-2-spell&keywords=steven+afghanistn

    The Taliban never fought the communist regime and Soviets as a unit, because it wasn’t formed by Mohammed Omar until 1994. It was the warlords, like the infamous Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who fought the Soviets, only to fight each other post-communists, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and tearing apart the nation’s cities and infrastructure. The Taliban was formed to build a pan-Islamic, non-tribal force to battle the warlords. They won, and their fundamentalist natures helped make Afghanistan what it is, today. Of course, US weapons for the warlords, and Pakistani subterfuge in arming those warlords who were most likely to oppose India, made it all possible.

    5. “It’s a religion with a set of beliefs fundamentally at odds with those that underpin our modern society.”

    In two of its three major, dominant philosophies, you may be correct, assuming you are correctly articulating, in your head, the set of beliefs that underpin “our” modern society, but the rest of what you wrote suggests that you don’t know why you may be correct. Judeo-Christian is not nearly as correct a term as Judeo-Muslim, because Judaism and Islam have much more in common that Judaism and Christianity. Both Judaism and Islam have a large set of rules/laws, supposedly straight from God’s mouth, for governing how everyone needs to live their lives every day. Fundamentalist Jews and fundamentalist Muslims have much in common, this way. What hampers Islam is that Mohammed lived so long that what he said, and what others said he said (the hadith), makes for a very, very long list of things a “good” Muslim is supposed to do in daily life. Most of those things are quite good things. A few don’t coordinate well with modern, Western Enlightenment ideals.

    Nevertheless, despite Wahhabism and those who follow Jalaluddin-i-Afghan, there are secular modernists who have worked, and are working, very hard on an intellectual, theological way out of the sunna and hadith binding properties of Islam. There have been several secular modernist rulers: Abdel Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Shah Reza Pahlavi, King Abdullah II, the various rulers of Pakistan, and a few others. Unfortunately, the West, and particularly the United States, has seen fit to destroy most of these rulers, or to put them in place and let them destroy themselves. I mean, for the love of God (whom neither of us believe in), the Ba’ath Party was a nationalist, secular modernist party, and the first damn thing we did when taking over Iraq was to eliminate Ba’athists from the military and government. Now, a lot of them are with ISIL.

    Good thinking.

    6. “Even in those Muslim countries where women are not killed for the crime of education, they’re still controlled and limited in everything from dress to driving a car, e.g., Iran and Saudi [sic]”

    Whoa, whoa. Where are you getting your information? I have a good friend who’s Iranian. She is now in the US, but she learned to be a rheumatologist in Iran before moving here. Yep, in the early days after the 1979 revolution, she had to cover her hair and the like, but she was a little girl in 1979, and she was still well educated there. Hey, Iran sucks, and there are restrictions on what men and women can study. Saudi Arabia sucks, too. But Pakistan? I know a delightful young lady from Karachi who speaks English with a slight, British accent, and is about to be a Fulbright Scholar in the US, studying public administration and policy. She wears jeans and skirts, eats what she wants, and drives where she likes. Turkey? Relatively poor by European standards, but not restrictive. Where do you get this nonsense that women are limited in all Muslim countries?

    7. “(All religions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism have fundamentalist wings who espouse terrorism. However, those differ from Islamic terror both in scale and scope. Also, most adherents to those religions have been able to accommodate their belief systems with the modern world and decry terrorism.)”

    You’re committing the cognitive bias of recency. Until 9/11, the most deadly terrorist attack in modern history was at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by the Zionist Irgun in 1946. A bomb killed 91 and wounded 46 people, most of those mere employees of the hotel. The head of the Irgun was Menachem Begin, later head of state of Israel. In my lifetime, there have been Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Ku Klux Klan, the Red Brigade, the Shining Path, Baader-Meinhof, the Weather Underground, the Basque BTA, Irish Republican Army, the PKK … and these are just what I can remember. Before that, the world was plagued by anarchists who seemed to indiscriminately bomb whatever was convenient. And, yes, everyone was just as panicked about the anarchists as they are about the Islamists.

    Just at the moment, the Islamic world happens to be the one that feels oppressed enough to produce, out of its 1.8 billion adherents, a few thousand willing to kill and die committing atrocities against others, and a few tens of thousands willing to fight and die to carve out a territory and a nation of their own in a revolutionary event that, like most revolutionary events, is savage and brutal beyond belief.

    I don’t know what to say, man. I have great respect for you, and I find this poorly researched piece to be entirely out of character.

    I have spent the past few months reading a great deal about Islam and the “middle world” view of world history, and it seems pretty clear to me, barring some new information, that what is happening now with the Islamic world is what happened in the world of colonial domination. It’s just that the ideology is sometimes different. But I have no doubt that there would be no issues, whatsoever, without the continued effects of Western domination, colonialism, and interference in affairs of the middle world. That interference hasn’t produced all the misery, but it has contributed a great deal to it. And even when it hasn’t contributed to misery, it has contributed to injustice and wrested self-determination from many, many people. The IRA wouldn’t take that and they fought back.

    Some from the middle world are fighting back, too.

  4. JSO

    I have the same respect for you. But no, it’s not full of inaccuracies or poorly researched. I had cites for every single contentious statement I put in. Not sure why, but the editor pulled them. But every single one of your objections has a real, not bullshit, reference to back it up. (Obviously, I don’t mind being called wrong, but calling me a poor researcher offends me. :))

    0. Rebellion yes, terror no. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8465.html. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2049646/The-middle-class-terrorists-More-60pc-suspects-educated-comfortable-backgrounds-says-secret-M15-file.html

    1. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/02/why-moderate-muslims-balk-at-je-suis-charlie.

    2. Turkey has long been secular, but is now being led by the AKP, which has religious ties. “Since 2011, the AKP government has increased restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and internet use,and television content,as well as the right to free assembly.” Wikipedia

    3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boko_haram

    5. Of course the basic tenets of Islam are mostly fine. The problem is that the current interpretation of those, in practice not theory, is at odds with our modern world. Arguing about what’s in the Bible or in the Quran is and always has been a futile argument. As Shakespeare said, “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose,” and the problem is that the current interpretation is at odds with modernity.

    6. OK, I’ll see your anecdote and raise you one–my Iranian friend who’s a pharmacist and political activist in Atlanta who doesn’t live in Iran because she doesn’t want to be “allowed” to wear jeans.

    7. I’m not committing the mistake of recency, I’m arguing FOR recency. Read my post over on Sammy’s piece. I recognize that Christians did horrible things during the Crusades, things that are far worse than anything we can imagine even ISIS doing, and I recognize the historical terrorism by Jews, etc, etc. For that matter, I recognize the terror committed by white men post Civil War, including my great-great grandfather, who was too young to ride with the Klan so he held the horses while they lynched black people. I get that every culture and every religion has had its terrorists at some point. But right now, the atrocities are being committed by Islamic terrorists.

    JSO–I understand that all of these things are complex. Tuchman says wars are always complicated things, which is why historians spend their lives arguing about why they are. For each of these groups there are many factors at play–tribalism, oil revenues, etc, etc, but the common banner is Islam. Now we really really dont like to say that because we’ve had it deeply drilled into us not to discriminate against religions. It’s woven throughout our history from the Pilgrims to Mormons to the Holocaust. We tend to be very selective about which religions we discriminate against (Branch Davidians) and only do so if they challenge the authority of the government itself. But just because we don’t want it to be so, doesn’t mean it is so.

  5. Otherwise:

    I’m a bit disturbed by how you avoided answering many of my points. For instance, I pointed out that the Pope also believes that freedom of speech must be limited by keeping its mouth off of religion. You implied that this is a Muslim issue. Is the Pope Muslim?

    On the issue of whether misery “causes” terror, you are making the assumption that middle class, or even wealthy, people suddenly decide to set off bombs even though their people — the people they identify with — are perfectly happy and content. One is experience of a personal sort. The other is a shared experience. The Marquis de Lafayette obviously felt kinship with the impoverished, even though he was wealthy, himself. And, yes, a part of the French Revolution is still called “The Reign of Terror,” so the definition of terror is important. However, I don’t think anyone could deny that the Spanish partisans of the Napoleonic wars were terrorists by the modern definition, and they came from all walks of life.

    On Turkey being secular: Despite short-term politics, Turkey is still quite secular. Are you suggesting that Turkey has suddenly abrogated its constitution, and is now the same as Saudi Arabia?

    But, hey, that’s not the point. You made a bald statement that all Muslim nations restrict freedom of the press, and you are correct. I pointed out, in a nuanced statement, that these restrictions have many root causes, and that Mexico is no better, nor are many other nations. In other words, this is not an Islamic problem, everywhere in the Islamic world. You chose to tell me, after all that, that Turkey now has a party running the country that may or may not move it away from secularism. That seems … well … it’s a bit maddening to spend all that effort and receive such an dismissive reply.

    For three, “boko” does not mean all Western education, as I demonstrated in a scholarly piece by an etymologist. I honestly don’t think a wiki, useful as wikis are, trumps that.

    You completely ignored point four, in which I believe I demolished your timeline for events in Afghanistan, as well as the causes of the NON-Taliban rebellion against the communists. As much as I like you and respect you, this is a bit of a pattern. I really can’t recall any time you’ve ever said, “Yeah, you’re right. I got that wrong. Thanks for the correction.”

    For point five, you have completely ignored the three major, CURRENT philosophies in Islam, opting to repeat generalities. You also lump all Islam together. Good God, man! There is no Sunni pope. There may not be two Sunnis who agree on anything. In rural areas, you have Sunni imams who don’t read or write, don’t speak Arabic, but have learned the Qur’an phonetically, and that allows them to lead prayers. And you have Sunni imams who are extremely learned. I mean, it’s like saying all Protestant ministers believe the same thing. And then you’ve go the Shi’i, and they have twelvers and fivers and seveners, and the Shi’i and Sunni don’t even believe the same hadith. There is not “current interpretation” of anything. Anything at all. There are a lot of different interpretations. Muslims not only can’t agree on hadith and sunna, they can’t agree on abrogation, and that’s absolutely key to the interpretation of the Qur’an. Geez, man. Where is this monolithic Islamic society of which you speak?

    On point six, I gave you two anecdotes, one from Iran and one from Pakistan. You chose to ignore the second one, which was the stronger. Have you walked the streets of Karachi or Lahore or Islamabad? Have you toured Defense housing areas? Those cities are modern. Hell, the Muhajir of Pakistan are just like you, only they make the same points about the Pashtuns. They don’t know that people like you lump them in with Pashtuns, nor do they seem to realize that not all Pashtuns are terrorists and rabid fundamentalists. The MQM, which controls Karachi, is an extremely racist organization toward all Pashtuns (and, BTW, my friend is Pashtun).

    On seven, you make the common mistake of thinking that history is linear. It is not. When it comes to human tendencies and movements, it is cyclical. On occasion, there is something new in the world. When Isaiah explained to the Hebrews that the Assyrians weren’t more powerful than they because their gods were more powerful, but that, in fact, YHWH is the only God, and all that was happening to them was happening as punishment because they had turned away from what God commanded, that was new. And it has echoed throughout history as a beacon to every oppressed people mired in monotheistic religion. As James Carroll has so aptly chronicled, it was this “turning to God” that perpetrated so much violence on European Jews, with its most recent manifestation in anti-semitism in economically distressed parts of former East Germany, parts of France, etc. The Shoah/Holocaust was not the terminus. It was simply the latest episode, at that time.

    The fact is that there has been very little Islamic violence towards the West until very recently. If Islam were so evil, why hasn’t this violence been around since, oh, 1750?

    Man, I’ve seen enough of what you’ve written in the past that I don’t believe you’re a bigot. But if I hadn’t seen those things, I’d be pretty convinced right now that you are.

  6. Sigh. I’m sorry. I was trying to point out the areas where either I disagreed or where I had used a different source than you. I was trying to push the argument forward. I didn’t know I had to show where I agreed as well, but OK.

    1. Pope. Many people other than Muslims have called for self-censorship based on religious grounds, including the President of France before the massacre. The source I cite though was a poll, which presumably reflects the opinion of the group rather than that of an individual. The fact that the Pope does or doesn’t believe in self-censorship doesn’t change whether Muslims do. It’s bad thinking to conflate the two. Now, Sammy has made the point that Christians and Muslims agree on lots of things and self-censorship may well be one of them. The difference is that Christians didn’t shoot up Charlie Hedbo when they don’t get their way.

    2. What causes terror? You accuse me of not having sources, then when I give you sources, you try to explain them away, and you’re going to call me intellectually dishonest? You may want to rethink that one. I’ve published five books, dozens of articles and given hundreds of speeches, and I’ve been called many things, but never intellectually dishonest.

    3. OK. You used Wiki, I used Wiki. I was just showing you I had sources, not making an argument over translation. If it’s not right the right translation of Boko Haram, it’s not right, but I didn’t make it up.

    4. I did skip over point 4 because I didn’t have the source to hand. Sam found it and put it back in the post. Again, causality of discrete events is complicated stuff and you could well be right, but the source I used, which is a reputable one, argues otherwise.

    5. I get that Islam is complex. I’ve lived outside the States for over ten years, most of that in developing nations, and I’ve worked and traveled in forty. The list includes some Muslim countries and Israel. However, it is necessary to aggregate things to discuss them. And in the case of Islam, both Shiite and Sunni, educated and uneducated, have shown themselves to be anti-progress.

    6. Seriously? Two anecdotes are better than one anecdote? Are you really going to go with that? 🙂 OK, here are some more anecdotes. How about the time I was talking to the engineering student from Saudi who was talking about the need for progress, then because I nodded, went off into a (literally) foam-flecked rant about the Iranian revolution was OK because it “put those bitches back where they belong, respecting men, not walking around like whores.” Or the Columbia MBA who worked for me in Indonesia who quit to go to “protect Mecca from the Americans.” Want more? I have more, but anecdotal bullshit is bullshit whether it’s your anecdotes or mine.

    Now I haven’t walked around Lahore lately, but my first published piece on Islam was in the LA Times way back in 2001, so it’s not like this isn’t something I’ve thought about.

    No, I haven’t studied religion, and I’m not sure why I need to to make this argument. I don’t need to study metallurgy to drive a car. My argument is based on empiricism.

    I very, very, very frequently admit I’m wrong when presented with superior logic or with data. I really don’t have much of a problem with doing that. In this case, you insulted me. You nit picked my sources. You argued that your position was right because you’d studied it (which you do a lot, btw), which is a logical fallacy–judging the quality of the argument by the credentials of the source. I’m not going to admit I’m wrong based on that. Nor did I find your counter-arguments compelling.

    And of course I’m a bigot. I’m very aware of it and try to avoid even positive bigotry, i.e., saying black people can jump higher than white people. Everyone’s a bigot. It’s just whether one realizes it and tries to deal with it. In this case, I’ve tried to correct for my bigotry and the information bias that comes from living in the States. Have I done so sufficiently? Not sure. It certainly is possible I’m wrong. But so far neither Sammy, nor Josh, nor you has proven it. There is a compelling counter argument, but none of the three of you chose to make it.

    Sorry I got you angry. You’re very smart and I enjoy your perspective. But not enough to say you’re right when you’re simply obfuscating.

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