Having followed with mounting disbelief the encroachment into American science classes of a single form of mythology as an alternative explanation for the well-proven theory (1) of evolution, and been keeping an eye on 'our beloved leader' (Tory Bliar to everyone else), it is now with no surprise but growing concern for our future that on 10 March 2006 an article in The Guardian announced that creationism was to be taught alongside evolution in biology classes, instead of comparative theology, where it belongs.
So as a recommendation for inclusion in next term's classes, I present the following :
I suppose it won't be long before sex-toys are banned along with oral and anal sex and, because a handful of cells are deemed 'human' and to have a 'soul', then an abortion at any time , and under any circumstances, even rape or non-consensual incest, is illegal (don't mention stem-cell research, whatever you do, for 100-200 cells could be a person, and that's all that matters). See Alabama and other Southern States for examples of good-ol' home-grown Christian values. And yet, just as we cave in to the Xian fundies, look who's queuing up to turn city boroughs into places where U.K. laws should no longer apply due to the majority of inhabitants apparently not wanting them…
Yes, it's those cartoons.
This applies as much to the Jyllands Posten who published the now-infamous 12 images back in September 2005(2) as it does to most of the Middle-Eastern Islamic states, for in the first case the newspaper had previously refused to publish images it found defamatory to Christianity, and in the second case the number and tone of their anti-Jewish cartoons easily equalled any injury they have claimed. And why, just because some of them deny themselves the ability to produce a representation of Mohammed do they then want to enforce it upon everyone else? Their feelings might be hurt. Grow up, already!
When one of their own does make such portraits, they are then excused as being of Mohammed as a young man and thus when he was still a normal person rather than as a prophet, because it's representations of the prophet and not Mohammed that are forbidden, but it all goes back to a fear of worshipping idols (and angels won't visit people that have pictures of living things in their homes, which is a bit of a bummer), and is merely another facet of the same lack of self-control that leads them to repressing women and blaming them for all temptation, so that's another thing they have in common with Christians. Yes, I realise that expressing this opinion as I do exposes my rampant Islamophobia, but I'm beyond caring now. Usually when a child throws a temper-tantrum they cry out "I'm not going to play with you!" but now they are demanding "You must play by our rules, and if your rules don't agree with ours, we'll get them changed."
Psst! Wanna see some dirty pictures? This image(3), of a man whose censored face is an exact inversion of the eye-slots in the women's burkas contains nothing whatsoever to associate itself with Mohammed (unlike the 'bomb-head' image which contains the shahada), and is a perfectly valid criticism of that culture. If women wish to wear those clothes, then by all means do so, as many do over here because they have that freedom (but then again, if you're pretending to be invisible you can hardly complain when you're treated that way, and if with your gloves and visors you have no wish to interact with the rest of us, then we'll return the favour), but in many other countries they are not given that choice; they aren't even allowed to drive, or leave their home without a man to 'look after' them. And who do they need protecting from? Other men whose first and only reaction to seeing a woman (regardless of whether or not she's allegedly 'safe' inside the black tent) is to rape her. This is of course entirely her fault for still being alluring and so she's killed to maintain her poor suffering family's 'honour'.
Anyone who now openly criticises such regimes and attitudes is now called 'Euro-centric' or 'Neo-imperialist' to indicate either ingrained historical bias or just blatant prejudice. It isn't right, they say, that we should impose our beliefs and value-systems upon other cultures; but, I am not, and neither do I agree with our own governments enforcing our values upon others who do not want it. If they do want it, and want help in establishing an alternative to their own systems, then by all means we should aid them, but not in the way that the old USSR and the current USA 'helped' countries by invading them.
What these judges either fail to realise or merely ignore as inconvenient is that if you agree with cultural relativism then the whole concept of 'all people are equal' goes out the window, because you're reduced to a new kind of racism whereby it is all right to condone public beheadings and female genital mutilation being done by 'them': other cultures who we cannot judge by our own standards. Deal with them on their own terms? Fine, and if I ever visited their countries I'd fit in with their laws; yet, when they visit countries not their own, they not only expect but soon demand that everyone fit in with their way of thinking or be deemed 'Islamophobic', 'racialist', whatever. Well, you can't have it both ways. Don't like what they're doing? Then issue sanctions and isolate them as we did with South Africa, for although it will be bloody in the short term, if the general population truly want some form of democracy (even the corrupt one we profess to have), then they'll rise up and take it from their rulers. But, if given that opportunity, how many would then vote for a theocracy? If that's what they want, then we have to at least respect their choice, but what happens when that same mind-set then exhorts them to try and impose that system onto other countries who do not want it? Simply claim the status of victim, and demand rights for yourselves that you'd never give to anyone else if the positions were reversed.
A Danish imam, Ahmad Abu Laban, took those 12 images and added 3 of his own, then went on a tour of Egypt & Syria during which he was to meet ministers in the Arab League. Two of the images showed a cartoon of Mohammed as a paedophile (which by Aisha's own admission was the case as their marriage was consummated when she was 9, unless the 'consummated' is another one of those 'translation errors' that are trotted out whenever someone points out something inconsistent or just plain awkward), and a doctored photograph of a praying Muslim being buggered by a dog. The third was a badly degraded image of 'Mohammed as a pig'.
As far as I know, the origins of the first two remains unknown, but as for the third… As was revealed by a blogger on NeanderNews, it originated in a region of France called Trie-Sur-Baise, where there is an annual pig-squealing championship, and showed contestant Jacques Barrot wearing a pair of pig's-ears and squealing into a microphone; this originally appeared on 15 August 2005 in an AP article on MSNBC. The imam's picture was a faxed copy of this (which ended up looking like this), whilst Ahmed Akkari, fellow member of the Islamic Society of Denmark and spokesman for the imam's tour , lied in saying that it was an "insight into how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims", as the fact the image was of an entirely unrelated entertainment in another country was conveniently omitted as it didn't suite his agenda.
Consider this quote from Afghan judge Ansarullah Mawlafizada regarding Abdul Rahman, a Muslim who converted to Christianity (he read the bible), and so under Islamic law was guilty of apostasy, punishable by death :
The Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back. … Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity. That is why we have told him if he regrets what he did, then we will forgive him.
And another example, this time from Sheik Abdalla Ali in Somalia :
When people accept practicing Islamic Sharia Law every body will enjoy life based on peace and prosperity. … He who does not perform prayer will be considered as infidel and our Sharia Law orders that person to be killed.
Never mind the sheer hypocrisy, what kind of mind-numbing self-deluded reality-disconnect does to take to come out with such a blatant contradiction, or am I assuming too much in thinking he actually realises what he has said rather than merely spewing out entrenched dogma whilst appeasing to the baying masses who clamour for death at every perceived insult? Why, in fact, if their belief is so firm, are they vehemently opposed to any form of comment (never mind the unforgivable sin of criticism) at all? And I'm not just referring here to a western infidel such as myself, but any normal Muslim scholar who asks questions of their holy book's history in the same way that Christians have been doing for the last century, almost as another branch of archaeology.
This is of course precisely what they're afraid of, not that their book is perfect (because it's from sky-daddy v3.0, the latest and therefore greatest) but rather that anyone might point out how vapid and inconsistent (and in places just downright nasty) it is, and thus, because they have nothing else to sustain them, undermine their entire system of belief. This, too is everyone else's fault, though the tragedy is that they are just as much victims of their own theology as they have been taught only to believe without question, that a single book riddled with contradictions (oh, sorry, they are 'abrogations' for things which have changed despite its supposed god-given perfection and immutability) contains everything needed for life, and if modernity doesn't match it then the world must be dragged back centuries to accommodate it. Any scholarly attempt (regardless of the investigator's religious affiliation) to investigate the book's origins and how the various chapters were collected from an oral tradition are met with hostility and, naturally, threats of violence, so everyone else lets the bully win and self-censors in case the poor frightened dears get upset.
They are no better now than the Christians were a few centuries ago, and like their fundamentalist brethren in the U.S. are adept at using the politics of victimisation to demand everyone accept them. Another thing they share is that they're only 'moderate' (in the loosest sense) when they are in the minority, and it was in such circumstances that the oft-quoted "Let there be no compulsion in religion: … " [Sure 2:256 (The Cow)] was written, but not only is this the single such sentiment in the entire book, it's in the context of accepting Allah as the only God, so hardly the freedom it's professed to be; the rest of the Qur'an cancels this out and simply incites people to kill unbelievers wherever they are found, with lots of juicy grapes (sorry, virgins, lots of virgins!) in heaven.
As an example, consider the following statements (both are all in capitals but I've made it easier to read and so it doesn't appear as if I'm shouting):
The first existed at the site 1948 - 1989, when it was replaced by the second (due to a re-examination of the numbers). Apart from the more emotional content of the newer plaque, which is irrelevant here, it is clear there has been a reduction of 2,500,000 people, which is quite a large amount. Merely indicating this means I am called an anti-Jewish holocaust denier, and to ask why there is such a difference (the latter figure was arrived at by authorities at the Auschwitz museum, who ought to know what they're talking about) only compounds my 'crime'.
This leads of course into the recent and almost farcical trial of David Irving, for silencing lines of questioning (as above) by legislation and judicial sentences as happens in Austria and Germany is not the way to deal with the situation. If someone challenges the figure of six million (which was the total amount across all camps, not just this one) or claims there were no gas-chambers, and their existence is such a well-proven fact that to deny them has been made into a federal crime (and that's such an over-reaction, on par with sharia), why silence the doubters by censoring them instead of presenting all the available evidence and refuting their points one by one, thus showing them to be idiots?
I don't want to descend into the depths of conspiracy theory and neo-Nazi propaganda that pervades various newsgroups, but surely the best (indeed the only) way to deal with such things is in the open, for all to see? Question an accepted fact which you don't believe, and have a discussion, but the problem with this is that it leads to the possibility that you will learn you were wrong (whether evidence is shown that there were indeed gas chambers, or that less than the dogmatic 6 million were killed), so it rarely happens as people don't like being shown up, and most can't see it in any other terms, instead of saying "I've learned something new, isn't that wonderful?"
This also applies to someone such as Nick Griffin, who was tried merely for expressing personal opinions in private (he was caught as part of a 'sting' operation that exposed views we already knew he had, so it was somewhat pointless), and to show how silly the whole thing was, all he had to do was quote from the Qur'an to back up his claims. That he is a member of a fairly extreme Nationalist party is surely relevant to his outlook, but not the reason for his trail, which saw him acquitted, because although he could be found responsible for stirring up racial/ethnic/cultural tensions (strangely, though, none of the anti-Jewish hate preachers are treated in the same manner), unlike the chapters he quoted he had never once called for people to be killed.
The risk of 'offence' is part of living in what we in 'the Western World' have until very recently taken almost as an axiom (and we've only had it for a few decades anyway); that it is being challenged by people who do not want it, is something that should be resisted at all costs by those who value learning and open discourse in all its forms, and that such resistance is deemed 'Islamophibic' or 'Homophobic' merely demonstrates how far the encroachment has come. Certain people say they do want it, but then apply restrictions that amount to nothing more than "You may criticise or lampoon everything except my religion, my holy men, etc, etc.". Al-Jazeera's cartoonist Shujaat Ali is an excellent example of this attitude. And what is it with all these people being so easily (and so over-the-top violently) 'offended'? If someone says words which I find offensive, it's my decision to feel that way (or not), not an inherent characteristic of the words or images or sculptures themselves, and so certainly cannot affect me if I hear about an incident second- or third-hand.
Separating out people into groups and identifying them as 'homosexual', 'Islamic', 'black', 'Christian', whatever, should only be done by the people themselves as a form of self-identification (and if they feel the need to, though even there I'd have to ask 'why'? (are you insecure? self-important? lonely?)), rather than as a means of bean-counting to meet some kind of quota ("we don't have enough people of type 'x' so must employ them regardless of suitability"), but how far do you take it: white ex-Christian lesbian Wiccan, ochre-brown one-armed Muslim, Irish Jewish (as in culture) Atheist (as in lack of belief). In all other aspects of civil life, it should (no, must) be entirely irrelevant, unless you want a theocracy.
I know why the recent laws have been passed, as if to somehow make up for past discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality, etc., and I'm expected to feel guilty for what happened then and that my current lifestyle is part of that process, but why create the separate crime of a homophobic attack, or one based on skin-colour, when the attack itself is already judged illegal and its sentence covered in existing law? (At least here, for other countries still not only discriminate but also punish such differences.) Does it make the person feel any better knowing they have been the victim of a 'hate-crime' rather than just a run-of-the-mill GBH or rape? People are people, irrespective of gender (real or perceived), sexual orientation (and what's that got to do with me unless I'm looking for a prospective partner or a bit of fun for a night?), skin-colour, belief (or lack of), number of limbs, etc., and if the laws are fair, will be treated equally despite it (because it's totally irrelevant) not because of it.
Although many people say that everyone else "must" respect their beliefs, no one has ever managed to say why this should be so, and most of them are incapable of separating the belief from the believer (I admit in some cases it's all but impossible as religion is such a part of cultural and self-identity that many people would be utterly lost without it, but that's perhaps another argument for how insidious it is), conveniently translating critique of the belief into affront to the believer ("I'm offended, wah, wah!"); neither have they convinced anyone but themselves and all the political appeasers precisely why I should respect any system of values and/or their adherents who do not respect me and therefore despise half the population of the world and demand the death sentence for the victimless crime of blasphemy, the crime of loving someone of your own gender, the crime of knocking a book off a table, the crime of… etc. etc..
Example: I will fully defend your belief that the world is flat, despite massive contrary evidence, for you may explain it all away to your own satisfaction without harming me. If, having informed you of my intention to sail around the world, your belief in my inevitable demise makes you fear for my safety, I will try to appreciate your concern (though not the reasons for it), for you dream of me falling off the edge into the abyss; this also is your right. When, however, that concern leads you to sabotage my ship, threaten my fellow crew-members, and imprison me 'for my own wellbeing', that will not, and cannot, be tolerated; and any excuse that you are killing my body to save my immortal soul will be met with the contempt it deserves, for even assuming I have a soul to be saved, it's mine and I alone will make the decision as to its future.
Though I disagree with them completely, I think people should be free to denounce homosexuality (even those people from cultures who idolise the beauty of young boys), and would defend them, for making such speech and even thought a 'crime' is exceedingly dangerous and leads only to further censorship as other groups demand the same prohibitions. The correct response to such provocation is not to censor it but to laugh at it, ridicule it (and in the case of IDiots and David Irving dragged kicking and screaming out into the light where it can be dismissed with massive amounts of evidence), and help it along with a couple of well-placed rotten tomatoes (unlike the stones used in the ceremonies of murder, these can be of any size). Continual denial of the facts, such as the flat-Earther example above, lead only to scorn or pity, and as long as they remain harmless there is nothing else to be done except laugh. Needless to say, the favour would never be returned when they disagree with whatever I might say, and they would demand my silence through my death.
There is a world of difference between calling someone a sinner and saying they are bound for hell (like the presumably jobless man who heckles passers-by through a loudhailer at Oxford Circus), which is freedom of expression (though overly-loud and desperately boring in its sound-bite repetition), and wanting to kill them to 'save' them or because they have 'sinned'. Incitement to murder is surely part of freedom of expression, as is shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre, but the repercussions are more than adequately covered by existing civil laws and need no reinforcement with badly thought-out legislation that, if taken to its literal conclusion, will enable anyone to charge the Bible and Qur'an with incitement to murder; though they of course do frequently condone such acts, none but fanatics actually use it as the basis for their own behaviour. Unfortunately, the number of such people is growing, with each sect creating others in opposition; all, naturally, 'know' they are right.