The Problematics of Selective Progressivism, and Selective Media.

[What do you call a white Republican who is against same-sex marriage? If you call them a bigot, then you’re calling 90% of Muslims bigots. While you accuse others of racism, you are actually being racist here because you’re applying different standards to different people based on their race because Islam is viewed as a “brown man’s religion”. You are not being liberal by supporting illiberal ideas coming from people from different countries, religions, and cultures.

I would ask somebody who reads Salon, if you claim to be against homophobia, like I am and many people are, you should stand against it whether it comes from the Evangelicals, the black church, or the Muslim in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Iran. Otherwise you are the racist. If you think it’s acceptable for “other” people do it just because they’re a different race other than a “white male” then you’re not really a liberal — you don’t subscribe to the concept of equal rights and anti-racism. You’re propagating racism and you’re part of the problem….]

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Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is a secular and human rights activist who was awarded The President’s Volunteer Service Award, Gold, from the Obama Administration in 2016. He’s experienced life under Saddam Hussein and lived in Iraq during the American invasion and civil war which followed after. He escaped Iraq in 2009 after the loss of his brother, cousin, and friends to Al Qaeda. Faisal focuses on helping liberal, secular ideas and dissidents flourish in the Middle East and is currently writing his first book. He started the Global Secular Humanist Movement, and recently launched a podcast called the Grey Zone and joined the Secular Jihadists podcast.

I think many people who study liberal arts and subjects like sociology are exposed to only one type of history — which is white history and white colonialism. They’re inculcated with the idea that the Holocaust, genocide against Native Americans, and Japanese internment camps represent white people. When people are only exposed to these ideas, of one oppressor — meaning white people — what they’ll do when they hear a person criticize a foreign culture is to get immediately defensive on behalf of that culture. And they’ll do it to protect a former victim of imperialism, racism, etc. _____________________________________________________________________________________________

[But the people who are most hurt by this — by preventing this discussion — are the minorities within the minorities….

I think another problem is that people see Muslims as a minority, but they’re not a minority globally. They’re the second biggest religion in the world. The true minorities are those living within them who do not subscribe to conservative Muslim values….

I’m all for acknowledging the problem of Islamic extremism and how we should fight it. But that means you have to look for the people with good values within these communities, the individuals who subscribe to ideas of universal human rights, liberal values, and you have to stand with them. Because when you generalize, you are literally equating the fighters of the terrorists with the terrorists themselves. You’re equating the Maajid Nawazs’ of the world with Al Qaeda. That is so far from the truth. If you say that Maajid, Ali Rizvi, Sarah Haider and all of these people are as bad as ISIS, you’re literally advocating for killing us as well. If you’re saying the solution to ISIS is bombings and drone attacks and all of us are ISIS, you’re asking for us to be killed as well just because we share the same skin color and same language….

One of the things many people don’t know about Al Jazeera is that is mostly owned by the royal family of Qatar which is financed by oil and gas. It’s a company that doesn’t rely much on advertising because they have other sources of revenue.

The version I grew up with of Al Jazeera is a channel that is literally the spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood and a light version of Al Qaeda. You can see them entertaining the idea of supporting groups like Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria — which is literally Al Qaeda’s affiliate. Let’s not talk about what they think about homosexuality and Jews and their anti-semitism, because it’s bad….

But then you have Al Jazeera English speaking about Black Lives Matter, pandas, climate change, because what they’re trying to do is make Islam look as good as possible. They want to make Muslims appear victimized. And they want to make the West look as bad as possible. They show the worst that exists in the West. Flint, Michigan — they were reporting on that constantly. Standing Rock as well, you get the idea.

But you never see them criticizing Islam, Islamists, or the Muslim Brotherhood. They only show you the side of Aleppo that is controlled by Islamist and Jihadist groups. They never criticize Qatar but they criticize Saudi Arabia because they’re rivals….

This is one of the reasons why many ex-Muslims and Muslims who support ideas about liberalism and separation of Mosque and State are afraid to speak out. They know they’ll receive a huge backlash from many out there.

The biggest backlash people like me face is actually from Islamists. They think my ideas are antithetical to Islam and an enemy according to their ideology.

The far-Left, or the regressive-Left as Maajid Nawaz refers to them, believe in the narrative that to criticize Islam and even Islamism is a form of imposing your own values on them. Regressives consider values like liberalism to be Western values so they think that you are imposing the white Western values on the brown Muslim — and to them that’s terrible. They think that Islam is a brown man’s religion. Even though there are many adherents to Islam who are white, black, Bosnian, Sudanese, Chinese. So any criticism of it from a white person is a form of racism. Any criticism coming from a brown person who was adhering to that religion is the equivalent of a black person supporting white slave-owners. That’s where terms like “Uncle-Tom” and “House Muslim” come from. They think  you are trying to assist the white imperialist “agenda” against the brown victims.

On the far-Right there are strong elements of xenophobia. There are many people who adhere to the concept of white superiority — which is a bad idea — and they subscribe to this idea that there is a clash of civilizations. That there is a war between the East and the West. That’s wrong. There are many people from the East who are liberals and who adhere to universal liberal values. Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, Ali Rizvi from Pakistan, I’m from Iraq. So there’s many people in the East who support universal human rights — sometimes more than the people in the West!]

Faisal Al Mutar on Media Bubbles, the Two Faces of Al Jazeera, and Nuance

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The Eternal Greek Debt to Islam | The Abbasid Caliphate, al-Kindi and Philosophical Nuances

[European antiquity, philosophers largely wrote in Greek. Even after the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean and the demise of paganism, philosophy was strongly associated with Hellenic culture. The leading thinkers of the Roman world, such as Cicero and Seneca, were steeped in Greek literature; Cicero even went to Athens to pay homage to the home of his philosophical heroes. Tellingly, the emperor Marcus Aurelius went so far as to write his Meditations in Greek. Cicero, and later Boethius, did attempt to initiate a philosophical tradition in Latin. But during the early Middle Ages, most of Greek thought was accessible in Latin only partially and indirectly.

Elsewhere, the situation was better. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Greek-speaking Byzantines could continue to read Plato and Aristotle in the original. And philosophers in the Islamic world enjoyed an extraordinary degree of access to the Hellenic intellectual heritage. In 10th-century Baghdad, readers of Arabic had about the same degree of access to Aristotle that readers of English do today.

This was thanks to a well-funded translation movement that unfolded during the Abbasid caliphate, beginning in the second half of the eighth century.]

alkindi

[Muslim intellectuals also saw resources in the Greek texts for defending, and better understanding, their own religion. One of the earliest to embrace this possibility was al-Kindī, traditionally designated as the first philosopher to write in Arabic (he died around 870CE). A well-heeled Muslim who moved in court circles, al-Kindī oversaw the activity of Christian scholars who could render Greek into Arabic. The results were mixed. The circle’s version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics can be almost incomprehensible at times (to be fair, one could say this of the Greek Metaphysics too), while their ‘translation’ of the writings of Plotinus often takes the form of a free paraphrase with new, added material.

It’s a particularly dramatic example of something that is characteristic of the Greek-Arabic translations more generally – and perhaps of all philosophical translations. Those who have themselves translated philosophy from a foreign language will know that, to attempt it, you need a deep understanding of what you are reading. Along the way, you must make difficult choices about how to render the source text into the target language, and the reader (who might not know, or not be able to access, the original version) will be at the mercy of the translator’s decisions.

Here’s my favourite example. Aristotle uses the Greek word eidos to mean both ‘form’ – as in ‘substances are made of form and matter’ – and ‘species’ – as in ‘human is a species that falls under the genus of animal’. But in Arabic, as in English, there are two different words (‘form’ is ṣūra, ‘species’ is nawʿ). As a result, the Arabic translators had to decide, every time they came across the word eidos, which of these concepts Aristotle had in mind – sometimes it was obvious, but sometimes not. The Arabic Plotinus, however, goes far beyond such necessary decisions of terminology. It makes dramatic interventions into the text, which help to bring out the relevance of Plotinus’ teaching for monotheistic theology, repurposing the Neoplatonic idea of a supreme and utterly simple first principle as the mighty Creator of the Abrahamic faiths…]

Full article here | AEON

 

Are These 2 Reasons to Reform Islam Convincing Enough? | Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks

AYAAN - FEB28 - Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about her autobiography. tb (Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images) By: Tony Bock Collection: Toronto Star

AYAAN – FEB28 – Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks about her autobiography. tb (Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
By: Tony Bock
Collection: Toronto Star

[Author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali says she doesn’t buy into worries about Islamophobia in the United States. Ali doesn’t think it’s as big a problem as it’s often laid out, and that the treatment of Muslims in America far surpasses the treatment of Christians, women, Jews, et al. in traditionally Muslim countries. Furthermore, she subscribes to a theory that manipulative interest groups encourage Muslims in America to feel victimized.]  Read and watch the full opinion piece here | BIG THINK

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch-American feminist filmmaker and political writer. She is author of several books, the latest of which is Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She is also founder of the AHA Foundation, a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Dutch parliament.

Ali is a vocal critic of Islam whose writings often focus on the religion’s subjugation of women. Her work is controversial and has resulted in numerous death threats. In 2004 Ayaan gained international attention following the murder of Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, a film about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest. This tragic event, and Ayaan’s life leading up to it, are all chronicled in her best-selling book, Infidel.

 

Author, Journalist and Activist Asra Nomani Talks to Bill Maher about Extremism

Let’s Listen to Bill Maher: On Paris, religion and race, Maher walks a fascinating and tricky line | SALON

Why a 10-year-old Suicide Bomber Is Not Front-Page News

Nigeria’s Horror in Paris’ Shadow | The Atlantic

Boko Haram’s Deadliest Massacre | The Guardian

[Hundreds of bodies – too many to count – remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria from an Islamic extremist attack that Amnesty]International described as the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.]

As many as a million people, joined by 40 world leaders, filled the streets of Paris on Sunday in solidarity after two separate terrorist attacks claimed 17 innocent lives last week. The day before, more than 3,000 miles to the south, a girl believed to be around 10 approached the entrance to a crowded market in Maiduguri, a city of some 1 million in Nigeria’s Borno State. As a security guard inspected her, the girl detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing herself and at least 19 others. Dozens more were injured.

Saturday’s suicide bombing elicited little coverage compared to the events in Paris, which have dominated headlines since last Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper. Why the slaughter of 17 innocents in France receives more attention than the death of roughly the same number of Nigerians is the kind of question that can result in accusations of indifference, racism, and media bias. But the contrast between the attacks in Paris and the suicide bombing in Maiduguri actually reveals something far more sinister: the ravages of state failure.

BOKO

Contexts | How Many of Us in the World Knew Hebdo Before January 6?

Most Europeans reacted in the Charlie Hebdo killings in a truly American manner; at least in its American constitutional manifestation regarding freedom of speech. In Europe, freedom of speech has not taken supreme precedent over other rights, privileges, sensitivities or beliefs since… like forever. Little things like sentiments of the majority, propriety, manners, religion, social norms du jur, fashion, prominent political, ideological forces mostly overpowered -and overpower as we speak- the constitutionally established, in almost all European states, and protected right to free speech.Given that even in America other factors play a significant role in often restricting the supreme right to express oneself freely, and even having laws that include distinct exceptions to this rule (slander, provocation of violence, copyright, etc.), still Europe has clearly demonstrated that free speech, quite often, is not a definitive, irrevocable political and social force.

Free speech is a positive right (“right to” as opposed to negative rights, as in “right from”), forged and culminated in its present form in Europe after World War II. A traditionally Caucasian, Christian domain, Europe has been “forced” to encounter several foreign, hostile, otherwordly invaders or nuisances: Jews, Roma, Africans, Arabs (thus, Muslims), immigrants from “behind the Iron Curtain” (do you remember this expression?); “barbarians.” It would be easy, and lately quite apt in certain American social sciences circles, to assign these European –and, often, American– attitudes’ roots to the Greeks: “pas me’ Ellen va’rvaros” (anyone not Greek, a barbarian); a generic assignment to the word “Greek”, if one has not read much other than poorly translated, rarely comprehended, small fragments of certain Athenian scripts of the Golden Age (an interestingly biased term in its own right), and often adulterated by the nuances of the -European- Renaissance.

Applying this background to Charlie Hebdo killings, I cannot but remember Baudrillard’s comments in The Spirit of Terrorism:

Here, then, it is all about death, not only about the violent irruption of death in real time…… but the irruption of a death which is far more than real: a death which is symbolic and sacrificial – that is, to say, the absolute, irrevocable event.

This is the spirit of terrorism.

Never attack the system in terms of relations of force.  That is the (revolutionary) imagination the system itself forces upon you — the system that survives only by constantly drawing those attacking it into fighting on the ground of reality, which is always its own. But shift the struggle into the symbolic sphere, where the rule is that of challenge, reversion and outbidding. So that death can be met only by equal or greater death. Defy the system by a gift to which it cannot respond except by its own death and its own collapse.

The Muslim brothers and their friend who murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are no more than a caricature themselves, a cartoon, like the ones which offended them; or those who convinced them to carry out their sad mission only worthy of cowards. Or, anyone who becomes vengeance only when carrying a gun against someone who doesn’t. Well-fed, middle-class, far faraway from any Syrian slaughterhouse, Afghani or Iraqi front.

No, I am not demeaning the potential power of a sketch, a cartoon, an honest sentence or a photograph. Nevertheless, how many outside France –and perhaps in a few more European countries– knew what Charlie Hebdo was before the killings? What was Hebdo cartoonists’ enduring, ground-breaking, new political, social, aesthetic value? How did they “shift the struggle into the symbolic sphere”, and how did they establish a new rule, “that of challenge, reversion and outbidding?” How did their work “meet death by equal or greater death?”, except their physical annihilation, and narratives about Islamic fundamentalism and evil Otherness?

And finally, to the large silent majority out there, watching conventional news and, over and over again, the word “terrorist” misappropriated and consequently engrained into their memory, how did Charles Hebdo “defy the system by a gift to which it cannot respond except by its own death and its own collapse?” Once again, we are the good guys. And they are the assholes.

An Older Cartoon by The New Yorker Responds to the Hebdo Attack

CARTOON“When dealing with a subject like religion or ethnicity in cartoons, it’s hard to avoid offending someone somewhere sometime – I’m sure I have,” Robert Mankoff wrote, going through past New Yorker cartoons on Judaism and Christianity that had upset some. He concluded with the cartoon above, by Michael Shaw.