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

“But it Does me no Injury For my Neighbor to Say There are Twenty Gods or no God. It Neither Picks my Pocket nor Breaks my Leg.”

The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record

America’s True History of Religious Tolerance | SMITHSONIAN

[From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”

First, a little overlooked history: the initial encounter between Europeans in the future United States came with the establishment of a Huguenot (French Protestant) colony in 1564 at Fort Caroline (near modern Jacksonville, Florida). More than half a century before the Mayflower set sail, French pilgrims had come to America in search of religious freedom.

The Spanish had other ideas. In 1565, they established a forward operating base at St. Augustine and proceeded to wipe out the Fort Caroline colony. The Spanish commander, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, wrote to the Spanish King Philip II that he had “hanged all those we had found in [Fort Caroline] because…they were scattering the odious Lutheran doctrine in these Provinces.” When hundreds of survivors of a shipwrecked French fleet washed up on the beaches of Florida, they were put to the sword, beside a river the Spanish called Matanzas (“slaughters”). In other words, the first encounter between European Christians in America ended in a blood bath.

The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.

The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.

Throughout the colonial era, Anglo-American antipathy toward Catholics—especially French and Spanish Catholics—was pronounced and often reflected in the sermons of such famous clerics as Cotton Mather and in statutes that discriminated against Catholics in matters of property and voting. Anti-Catholic feelings even contributed to the revolutionary mood in America after King George III extended an olive branch to French Catholics in Canada with the Quebec Act of 1774, which recognized their religion.

When George Washington dispatched Benedict Arnold on a mission to court French Canadians’ support for the American Revolution in 1775, he cautioned Arnold not to let their religion get in the way. “Prudence, policy and a true Christian Spirit,” Washington advised, “will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors, without insulting them.” (After Arnold betrayed the American cause, he publicly cited America’s alliance with Catholic France as one of his reasons for doing so.)

In newly independent America, there was a crazy quilt of state laws regarding religion. In Massachusetts, only Christians were allowed to hold public office, and Catholics were allowed to do so only after renouncing papal authority. In 1777, New York State’s constitution banned Catholics from public office (and would do so until 1806). In Maryland, Catholics had full civil rights, but Jews did not. Delaware required an oath affirming belief in the Trinity. Several states, including Massachusetts and South Carolina, had official, state-supported churches.

In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”

Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every…man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

As a Christian, Madison also noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, “disavows a dependence on the powers of this world…for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them.”

Recognizing the idea of America as a refuge for the protester or rebel, Madison also argued that Henry’s proposal was “a departure from that generous policy, which offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country.”

After long debate, Patrick Henry’s bill was defeated, with the opposition outnumbering supporters 12 to 1. Instead, the Virginia legislature took up Jefferson’s plan for the separation of church and state. In 1786, the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, modified somewhat from Jefferson’s original draft, became law. The act is one of three accomplishments Jefferson included on his tombstone, along with writing the Declaration and founding the University of Virginia. (He omitted his presidency of the United States.) After the bill was passed, Jefferson proudly wrote that the law “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”

Madison wanted Jefferson’s view to become the law of the land when he went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. And as framed in Philadelphia that year, the U.S. Constitution clearly stated in Article VI that federal elective and appointed officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

This passage—along with the facts that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion—attests to the founders’ resolve that America be a secular republic. The men who fought the Revolution may have thanked Providence and attended church regularly—or not. But they also fought a war against a country in which the head of state was the head of the church. Knowing well the history of religious warfare that led to America’s settlement, they clearly understood both the dangers of that system and of sectarian conflict.

It was the recognition of that divisive past by the founders—notably Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Madison—that secured America as a secular republic. As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. …For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

He was addressing the members of America’s oldest synagogue, the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (where his letter is read aloud every August). In closing, he wrote specifically to the Jews a phrase that applies to Muslims as well: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

As for Adams and Jefferson, they would disagree vehemently over policy, but on the question of religious freedom they were united. “In their seventies,” Jacoby writes, “with a friendship that had survived serious political conflicts, Adams and Jefferson could look back with satisfaction on what they both considered their greatest achievement—their role in establishing a secular government whose legislators would never be required, or permitted, to rule on the legality of theological views.”

Late in his life, James Madison wrote a letter summarizing his views: “And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

While some of America’s early leaders were models of virtuous tolerance, American attitudes were slow to change. The anti-Catholicism of America’s Calvinist past found new voice in the 19th century. The belief widely held and preached by some of the most prominent ministers in America was that Catholics would, if permitted, turn America over to the pope. Anti-Catholic venom was part of the typical American school day, along with Bible readings. In Massachusetts, a convent—coincidentally near the site of the Bunker Hill Monument—was burned to the ground in 1834 by an anti-Catholic mob incited by reports that young women were being abused in the convent school. In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, anti-Catholic sentiment, combined with the country’s anti-immigrant mood, fueled the Bible Riots of 1844, in which houses were torched, two Catholic churches were destroyed and at least 20 people were killed.

At about the same time, Joseph Smith founded a new American religion—and soon met with the wrath of the mainstream Protestant majority. In 1832, a mob tarred and feathered him, marking the beginning of a long battle between Christian America and Smith’s Mormonism. In October 1838, after a series of conflicts over land and religious tension, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered that all Mormons be expelled from his state. Three days later, rogue militiamen massacred 17 church members, including children, at the Mormon settlement of Haun’s Mill. In 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum while they were jailed in Carthage, Illinois. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

Even as late as 1960, Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy felt compelled to make a major speech declaring that his loyalty was to America, not the pope. (And as recently as the 2008 Republican primary campaign, Mormon candidate Mitt Romney felt compelled to address the suspicions still directed toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Of course, America’s anti-Semitism was practiced institutionally as well as socially for decades. With the great threat of “godless” Communism looming in the 1950s, the country’s fear of atheism also reached new heights.

America can still be, as Madison perceived the nation in 1785, “an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion.” But recognizing that deep religious discord has been part of America’s social DNA is a healthy and necessary step. When we acknowledge that dark past, perhaps the nation will return to that “promised…lustre” of which Madison so grandiloquently wrote.]

The Potential Power of Legal Precedent… in a Global Can of Too May Worms

Destroying history is now being charged as a war crime | The Huffington Post

An Islamist fighter has pleaded guilty in the Hague for destroying parts of the fabled West African trading city of Timbuktu, in the International Criminal Court’s first case based on the destruction of cultural artifacts.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi has admitted today (Aug 22) to razing all but two of the city’s 16 mausoleums as well as a mosque dating back to 1400 during a raid by Islamist radicals in 2012. Ahmad told the tribunal in the Netherlands that he regretted “the damage [his] actions have caused.”

In March, Ahmad was charged for “war crimes of intentionally directing attacks against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion,” according to the court. “Deliberate attacks on cultural property have become actual weapons of war,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said during proceedings today.

The case also marks the first time an ICC defendant has pleaded guilty. The trial, likely to be over within a week because of Ahmad’s guilty plea, should lead to one of the ICC prosecutors’ few wins.

Of more than 30 indictments at the ICC, only three defendants have been convicted—Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga, and most recentlyJean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, former politicians and rebel leaders from Democratic Republic of Congo. The ICC’s inconsistent track record has invited accusations that the court’s limited authority renders it ineffective.

WARCRIME

Confirmation of charges hearing in the case of The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi | ICC | Flickr

Organ Harvesting, China and the Falun Gong

[Since the crackdown began in 1999, hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been arrested and detained. Researcher Ethan Gutmann estimated that at least 15 percent of the population incarcerated in labor camps for the purpose of “re-education” is made up of Falun Gong practitioners. These findings are supported by the US State Department. According to human rights groups, detainees have been subjected to forced labor, torture, arbitrary execution and organ harvesting. In 2009, The New York Times reported that “at least 2,000” people had been killed since the crackdown began…..

During a Falun Gong rally in Taiwan in 2006, four demonstrators play in an action drama against what they said was the Chinese communists’ killing of Falun Gong followers and harvesting of their organs in concentration camps. China recently placed the outlawed group at the top of its list of terrorist organizations, despite no history of violence against others….]

Read the full story here | LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

Falun Gong | WIKIPEDIA

Why is Falun Gong Banned? | NEWSTATESMAN

Organ Harvesting in China | New York Post

 

 

Two Spirit People: a Time When the World Was not Divided Into Male and Female

[In some early native American societies, those who identified as Two Spirited were respected as spiritual leaders within the tribe. They dressed in both men’s and women’s clothing, and they often served special roles such as storytellers, counselors, and healers.

Two Spirit traditions were threatened, though, when Europeans colonized the Americas. The notion of a third, fluid, male-and-female gender conflicted with the colonizers’ heterosexual views, and in 1879, the U.S. government removed thousands of Two Spirited people from their tribes. They were sent to live in an Indian boarding school. Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was the flagship Indian boarding school in the United States from 1879 through 1918. Founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt under authority of the US federal government, Carlisle was the first federally funded off-reservation Indian boarding school, according to Dickinson College historical records in Pennsylvania.

Today, views of Two Spirits vary among the more than 800 tribes in the United States and Alaska. Depending on a community’s adherence to religious traditions, Two Spirits may be respected in one tribe but not recognized in another community.]

Read the full story | INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY

Also…

1 TWO SPIRITS

In many Native American tribal societies, it was not uncommon for some men to live as women and some women to live as men. In this land, the original America, men who wore women’s clothes and did women’s work became artists, ambassadors, and religious leaders, and women sometimes became warriors, hunters and even chiefs. Same-sex marriages flourished. Berdaches—individuals who combine male and female social roles with traits unique to their status as a third gender—have been documented in more than 150 North American tribes. By looking at this aspect of non-Western culture, Roscoe challenges the basis of the dualistic way most Americans think about sexuality, and shakes the foundation of the way we understand and define gender.

 

Read more athttp://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/01/13/two-spirit-trials-and-tribulations-gender-identity-21st-century-158686

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