I have listed some of the most common and inane arguments cited when highlighting the Hijab’s origins as a tool of patriarchal theocracy. These lines are most commonly heard in the West, where the vast majority of the world’s most privileged women reside; and typically feature ad hominem and fear-mongering tactics that seek to distract from Islam and Islamism as institutions and refocus on highly westernized and individual interpretations of the faith that have no relation to Islam’s historical meaning and practice.
But it’s about a woman’s choice! Prohibiting it makes one no different than ISIS!
Stating that the hijab is a tool of patriarchal theocracy to police women’s bodies and codify female worth as ancillary to man’s and primarily sexual, is not the same as arguing for the hijab to banned, such as in France. In fact, they have absolutely no relation to one another. So this first argument is a non-argument, and is a perfect example of the kind of re-framing that western hijab apologists will do when faced with the reality of religiously motivated headscarves.
Secondly, the hijab has nothing to do with choice, actually, quite the opposite. The hijab is ‘about’ policing women’s bodies and tethering them to patriarchal concepts of female purity, male property, and bearers of the burden of family honor. ‘Choice’ has nothing to do with the history and concept of hijab. To counter this is similar to asserting that the subordination of nuns to priests in Catholicism, another conveniently female to male power dynamic, is about choice and not the usual sexual politics. Such counters seek to deny the history, if not the present global practices, of that particular church.
Thirdly, these often made comparisons to ISIS are not just baseless, but grotesque. If one has doubts they may wish to live under ISIS for one day and then compare that experience to a year in Paris. Taking the exception in democracies and comparing them to the rule in terror-run dictatorships, is as teenage as it is hysterical.
The oppression of women and minorities we see in the Muslim world are not the product of the hijab but of American and Western imperialism.
This argument is another classic dodge to avoid holding cultures accountable for their values and instead blame foreign conspiracies for their inferiority complex. It goes without saying that Western imperialism has a lot to answer for, but contempt for human rights and free thought is a problem that Islam, like any religion, has created for itself. It did not need any outside help. Were this argument legitimate the imperialist Islamic polity, the Ottoman Empire, would have to be explained. Islamic contempt for science, free thought, and human rights developed alongside the religion, not after toxic Western influences. In short, ideologies are responsible for their own values, not conspiracies, real or imagined.
But indeed, the hijab is not the sole cause of female oppression in the Muslim world, it is however a symptom.
I don’t care what extremists say, the hijab means feminism and freedom to me!
If everyone just went about tailoring Islam to their own particular values, it would cease to exist as a cohesive institution. Islam either has something to say about the hijab or it does not. If it does, then there is one, defined thing the hijab represents. If it says nothing about the hijab, then a so-called extremist’s interpretation is as good as the so-called moderate’s. And guess which set of practitioners prevails? I’ll add here, simply because one’s interpretation of a faith is more peaceful than another’s, does not qualify it as the truer interpretation.
The strongest indicator would seem to be the interpretation of those countries that practice Islamic jurisprudence, Sharia Law. Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan all agree that the hijab exists to burden women with notions of female honor, male property, and emblemize woman’s worth as a sexual object. So you can ‘not care’ all you want, and invent all the cutesy representations of the hijab that you wish, but in the Muslim dominated world there is an overwhelming consensus that the hijab represents not female liberation, but female subordination.
In one Pew study asking what was appropriate for women to wear in public, the overwhelming majority of seven different Muslim countries supported some kind of head scarf. If the hijab was really about choice and freedom, then this study would leave me to wonder where the notion of ‘what’s appropriate’ figures into it.
But the Koran says men and women are partners, and that women should seek knowledge too.
Really? Well does it say what kind of partners men and women are? Or what sort of knowledge women should seek? Does the Koran ever explicitly state that men and women are equals? The word ‘partner’ does not necessitate equality. Nor does the command ‘seek knowledge’ translate to ‘seek equality’. And if men and women are equals under Islam, why don’t men wear a hijab? This is similar to Catholicism’s justification of male dominated power in the church. Are we to believe that men and women are equal in Catholicism despite the fact that women cannot hold any meaningfully high office there? Come on ladies…this is some pathetic reaching.
These lines are often used to ‘prove’ that the hijab is not a symbol of sexism. But these vague, optimistically translated passages say nothing about the relationship Islam intends between men and women.
Every person should have a right to wear what they wish. But the hijab isn’t just a necklace or scarf worn to keep the head warm. It is a religiously motivated symbol, and pretending that it doesn’t have a history or intent is as silly as wearing a swastika and claiming it is just a pattern. We need to be honest, not stupidly optimistic, about what these symbols represent and what their agenda is.
There is a strange cognitive dissonance that echoes between the western and eastern halls of practicing Muslims, and it surrounds the question of headwear.
In recent years the West has taken a number of stances on the various head scarves and bags Muslim women wrap themselves in. In France, an uncompromising approach has been taken in regard to the fuller covering, the burqa. While in the USA, there remain, as far as I know, no laws that prohibit shrouding oneself like an embalmed corpse. For the best I suppose.
Traditionally Muslim countries have been equally varied though tending conservatively, ranging from mere suggestions to indulge in sartorial chauvinism to unequivocally demanding the burqa at all times in public.
There is an interesting trend among Muslim American and European women who claim their head scarves and coverings are in fact acts of female empowerment. Indeed, they seriously and resolutely claim that by exercising their right to these various covers they are joining the West’s ranks of radical feminists by defiantly showcasing an emblem of their supposedly oppressed faith.
The trouble with this logic is that no matter how one describes, rationalizes, or founds the practice of shrouding women, be it just their hair or their entire body, the inescapable reality is that an extreme and covetously violent chauvinism underpins it. A paralyzing fear and contempt for female sexual liberty and personal independence was and remains the only driving force for this nonsense and it is a truism to say so. Any person in disagreement is either deluded or insidious.
If you doubt this then ask yourself for alternatives. Why does it behoove Catholicism to forbid women from access to its hierarchy, the people capable of making real and meaningful decisions? Was not Mother Mary the purest Christian to ever live? Good enough to give birth to God but apparently not enough to be pope or even a mere parish priest. Why should the Mormons have permitted polygamy for men but not for women? Are there so few male Mormons? And again, why in Islam should family and male honor depend so desperately on female purity and virtue? Strange indeed that women alone should be burdened with so much responsibility and yet so little actual power.
It goes without saying that the vast majority of countries that do not forcibly segregate their men and women lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. Why anyone pretends otherwise seems bizarre and I can only assume that it is the overwhelming privilege of choice that convinces these women they are committing an act of bravery rather than surrender. Were they living in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan I ponder if they would remain so resolute.
I of course believe people should wear what makes them comfortable and if that includes mummifying yourself every morning out of submission to your husband and religion then hey, knock yourself out. But when it comes to these Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, and other such ladies that claim their respective faiths support equality, and that their acts of submission are in fact acts of protest against an intolerant world, I can do little but scoff. It is a desperate, pathetic, and very sad delusion these people exist in, convincing themselves that they are loved instead of despised. It reminds me of a chained and starving dog that thanks its abusive master for remembering to throw it scraps.
It must be that the deeply religious, especially deeply religious women, have some of the lowest self-esteem in all humanity. To allow yourself to be so debased, degraded, found so unworthy, can only be testament to a yawning void of self-love and reflection. These western women are so different from their sisters in other states where, more often than not, the ultimatum is behave or burn.
I am going to talk about the shooting in Orlando, perpetrated by a Muslim man in a gay club.
It fascinates me that everyone seems deliberately intent on diverting as much attention as possible away from this asshole’s religion and redirecting it toward gun control, homophobia, and mental health. It is as though everyone save for far right conservatives have immersed themselves in the grand delusion that ideology had no part to play here. What a sad day it is when The Right sees more clearly than The Left.
Indeed, had a Christian or white supremacist perpetrated this crime I question whether there would be such a poverty of self-reflection and self-criticism regarding the ideology ruddering it. But alas, the man was Muslim and so due to the liberal-feminist teachings of America’s newly founded nydus of pro-vegan hipster bull-dike speech police, it has become anathema to even consider the role a barbaric belief system like Islam might have played in motivating this young man to murderously assault a gay club.
Gun control is an important issue. Some might even venture to call it a culturally complex one. It deserves to be considered and discussed. That homophobia or mental health, however, should be bandied about as though separate and distinct from, as opposed to part and parcel to, extreme Islam is not only bizarre but intellectually dishonest, cowardly, and just plain fucking stupid.
Of course someone who takes Islam or any religion this seriously is bat-shit fucking insane. Many people call themselves Muslim or Christian but the only ones taking those colossally bad ideas seriously are the ones wielding the automatics.
We have already seen the pathetically convenient excuse, ‘that is not my faith’ or ‘that is not the true Islam’ but who the fuck are these people to make that claim? Where is their badge of authority on the subject? With books as poorly written as the Koran or Bible, who at all can claim any authority on them? I might add as well, only the literal interpretations have any grounding and guess which camp that favors?
As for the claims that this is truly about America’s problems with homophobia, what bosh! What utter nonsense! This country has made one of the fastest 180s in favor of LGBT people in the history of mankind, coming about from federally backed institutionalized hate to legal support of gay marriage, parenting, adoption, antidiscrimination, and even pioneering genderless bathrooms against the will of its own state governments!
And oh, in case anyone was stupid enough to not notice, Islam is categorically anti-homosexual, anti-sex, anti-equality. So, shocker, ladies and gentleman, but Islamic extremism and homophobia are not mutually exclusive, nor is mental health.
I want to continue this diatribe to lambast the gay Muslims who have with such squalid glee taken the opportunity to use this event to further their own sad agendas and talk about how they are the ‘real’ victims of Orlando.
A religion is an institution. We can join and leave institutions. In America you do not have to remain Muslim for fear of mortal reprisal. I am exhausted of religious people comparing their plights to gays, ethnic peoples, and women, who cannot change their identities. A Muslim can stop being Muslim. No one can stop being black, gay, or having a vagina!
Gay Muslims, get a fucking grip, have some self-respect, and abandon that barbaric institution that has done absolutely nothing but hold humanity back. I extend the same exhortation to LGBT people in all religious circles. Start taking yourselves seriously. Your religions do not support you and they never will and no twisting of their words will make it so. Be honest with yourselves!
It may well behoove us to exhort our religious citizens to speak out against the ghastly evils their comrades commit but it would benefit us even more greatly if we simply acknowledged religious beliefs for what they are; silly, primitive superstitions that conduce to profoundly sinister consequences.
This man might have been crazy and he might have been homophobic and his gun might have been gotten too easily, but at the end of the day the only certain thing is that a very bad idea looms over it all, and surprise, it had consequences, just as bad ideas often do.
Ben Carson, Republican presidential candidate and more shockingly, a retired neuro-surgeon, has declared that Muslim Americans should not be considered for the presidency.
His exact words were, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” When asked about whether a candidate’s faith should matter to voters, he went on to state that it depends on whether that faith is in line with the Constitution.
I need to take a very deep breath before I continue…
Carson says he wouldn’t support a Muslim candidate strictly on the basis of their Islamic faith because it is not in line with the Constitution. Our once-upon-a-time-neurosurgeon seems to be under the grand delusion that any religious faith could be in line with a secular legal system.
Since, as far as I know, every religion in existence subordinates secular law to its own, it can be safely asserted that no faith is in keeping with the Constitution of the United States. Further, the Constitution clearly forbids the government from supporting any single religion while subordinating them to the rights of human beings as opposed to any concept of divine law. This is entirely counter to the goal of every faith which is to become central to a believer’s life and the leading authority in all things moral and even political.
Carson also mentions some crap about a compatibility with ‘American values’. Well…if American values celebrate pluralism, secularism, democracy and the progression of human rights, then again, Christianity is antipodal. As is every faith in this regard since all of them claim a monopoly on ONE divine truth, brooking very little in the way of tolerance.
But more than any of this, how is a whack-job Muslim going to be any worse for this country than say, crazy Christian Bush was? How is any deeply religious person a good candidate for the presidency? Were Carson speaking from a place of concern regarding religious extremism he wouldn’t have ignored the question of a Mormon president or Evangelical. But we can safely assume he believes Muslim Americans to be specifically prone to extremism. Bosh. And demonstrably so because all nonsense ideologies which condemn critical thought and reason tend to foster dangerous, unreasonable people. Islam is scarcely unique in this way.
You cannot serve two masters ladies, gentlemen and otherwise. You either truly and sincerely believe in your faith, in which case ‘man’s law’ and the Constitution is secondary to it, or you fully acknowledge that the only law and authority that has any real power is that which spawns from the Capitol.
Carson is an obvious bigot because he irrationally targets a group of people no more or less dangerous than his own, Christians. Not shocking from a Christian Republican but disturbing from someone who is apparently qualified to operate on human brains.
This one will be brief but I need to address the rising caterwauls of such victim-mongering self-righteous lunatics as Kim Davis; you know, the woman with the ugly hair-cape she calls a haircut.
Let’s be clear, Christians are in no way and never were a persecuted class in the United States. There has never been a time, place or institution that systemically and institutionally discriminated against them. The assertion that LGBT people and their politics are encroaching on the rights of Christians is as absurd as it is unfounded and indicative of the petty, small and certainly pathetic mentality of a very insecure political majority. Conversely, Catholics and Protestants have long lorded their power over queer peoples and continue to do so today.
Kim Davis has been likened to Rosa Parks. Let’s go on a journey whereby we demolish that laughable and offensive comparison. Rosa Parks was a tax paying citizen of the United States whose human rights were consistently and blatantly violated by unnecessarily disallowing her from sitting where she wished on public transportation, among other things. Kim Davis is an elected official by her own conscience, elected to uphold the law of the land. She chose to pursue that position, understood what it would entail and accepted it under those conditions.
Further, Kim Davis, unlike dear and sweet Rosa, is not a victim of political oppression since she is in no way persecuted.. In fact, she victimized others by depriving them of their legal rights. Merely because Kim Davis must certify some paperwork for a gay marriage does not mean she personally approves it. It is not as though the government forces her to verbally or in writing countenance the act. She is simply expected to uphold the approval of the government. Gay marriage is a victimless event. Depriving someone of their right to a marriage, however, is not. See the difference?
Just in case a member of my five-person audience is as stupid as Davis is, allow me to elaborate with an example. Imagine a police officer has to arrest an activist for engaging in political terrorism – let’s say they blew up a monument to make a statement about workers’ rights. The officer may fully support the activist but he must still fulfill his duties as an officer of the law and arrest the man or be terminated. The officer does not personally condone the law enforcement of the state by his arrest, he only follows through with a job description. If, however, he feels strongly enough that he cannot follow through with his obligations he is free, that is to say FREE TO MAKE A CHOICE ON HIS OWN TERMS, to vacate his position. This is far from being persecuted or oppressed.
If, however, I enter a pharmacy as a woman who believers herself in need of the day-after-pill and the pharmacist refuses to sell me the pill on the basis that he is a Mormon and cannot religiously countenance my desire to nix my pregnancy, that would make me a persecuted and/or oppressed individual at the hands of a religious fascist. The pharmacist’s right to religion does not extend to refusing me a legally sanctioned service, even if they are in the position to deliver that service. The pharmacist only has the right to take the job or leave it, nothing more. Just as the police officer only has the right to do his job or leave it, again, nothing more.
Kim Davis is just a really physically ugly manifestation of the insecurity of Christian conservatives everywhere, lamenting the loss of their supremacist power over queer people everywhere. End of story.
In today’s America the call-out culture continues to grow, although like most of feminism’s 21st century advents it is misguided; failing to focus its energies where truly necessary. Instead of calling out American-led militarism or our hypocritical foreign policy, social justice warriors and their tumblr obsessives focus on t-shirts and actors at the Oscars.
There are of course other issues they could contend with were they not so busy sipping away at their fair-trade coffee while churning out their usual verbiage, like the growing trend of cultural relativism in the States and how it sabotages human rights efforts abroad while protecting bigotry at home.
You may well ask what I am talking about now. I mentioned in an earlier article the bizarre and upside down concerns everyday Americans have and prioritize, like free-range non-antibiotic pork or gluten free foods while ignoring America’s relationship with such theocratic fascist regimes as Saudi Arabia. Along the same vein, despite what some feminists would have you believe, it is safe to say that racist and sexist commentary will be soundly stamped out where found while homophobic commentary, so long as it is phrased appropriately, will be left untouched.
Even now Texas refuses to acknowledge gay couples’ rights to their own biological children and celebrates their refusal to recognize same sex marriage. In Michigan, there is legislation being prepared that would allow adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds while still receiving public funds.
There are absolutely no laws specifically targeting any ethnic group from doing anything in this country. There is no exercised law stopping black heterosexuals from marrying or adopting children. There is no exercised law that prevents Muslims from teaching their children or others about their religion. There is, of course, institutional bigotry that pervades with or without the law but this is another matter compared to that which has the force of both social and legal support.
Americans are right to hastily set about the destruction of racist, sexist, and other hateful trends that continue to crop up in American culture and society. But there is an obvious double standard when religion is involved and LGBT individuals are not the only ones who suffer at the hands of it. Women are also sidelined when criticizing theocratic cultures; labeled as racist and bigots for pointing out the obvious in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. And certainly in our own country, one can scarcely even discuss the matter at a University for fear of being labeled grossly intolerant, even if you’re an immigrant having endured personally everything you’re discussing.
Indeed, cultural relativism says that if you can claim the practice and beliefs as an essential and deeply rooted part of your culture then others outside cannot make a value judgement on it. This is so obviously bosh I can’t believe it even bears being said. If racism within America is sinister then racism outside America is equally so. And if homophobia for non-religious reasons is intolerable then so is homophobia grounded in religion. One cannot have it both ways. Bigotry is either absolutely bad or it is not. If you are to maintain that LGBT people and women deserve equal treatment under secular law then no nation’s culture or religion can be made to excuse otherwise.
A culture, and especially a religion, is no excuse for hateful behavior. If you doubt this then please, spend a year in a country that puts their god first such as in Saudia Arabia and we’ll talk again then. It is important that we ask why it is that a religious ideology like Islam or evangelical Christianity can be inculcated into children and without restriction while something as basic to the human condition as sexuality is barred from tuition in multiple states, and especially non-heteronormative sexuality. Religion is a nonsense set of superstitious beliefs that culminate into some of the worst ideas known to man and yet it takes absolute priority over human sexuality?
It is time to get real people. There are good ideas. There are bad ideas. And then there are ideas that can be reasonably debated. It is time we got honest about which ones the bad ones are and why they are so vehemently protected. There is nothing intellectual or reasonable about it. It is about vested interests and it is intellectually and ethically dishonest to say otherwise.
I often rant and rave about religion and I stand vehemently by the claim that all religion is bad for you. I’ll quote Maryam Namazie here and say that religion, much like a pack of smokes, should come with a warning sign. That being said, I fully support everyone’s right to believe in whatever bosh they please, so long as they are not foisting it onto others.
One religion in particular, however, is doing a spectacularly fabulous job at just that, which in the process has managed to confuse many of us, leading the West and others to conflate a religious people like every-day Muslims with a religiously political group like Islamists.
The far Right in both America and Europe has largely capitalized on this confusion, scavenging it to cloak their racism and xenophobia in a cape of well-intentioned nationalism whereby Muslim immigrants are sacrificed on the altar of Western values of freedom and democracy.
This in turn has aided Islamists who, equally fascist, have gleefully lunged at the opportunity to expose the Far Right’s skulking bigotry, bolstering their cause for both greater tolerance and the dissemination of their theocratic values disguised as a besieged minority.
The result of this clash of fascisms has been the demonization of Muslim immigrants and secularists who, using arguments bogarted by the Right, have been lashed and pilloried by self-righteous leftists as islamophobic.
The term ‘islamophobic’ was invented to silence opposition to the theocratic political movement of Islamism. It is meant to evoke images of nasty, irrational xenophobes and homophobes but in reality, it is nothing like them. For one, there are very legitimate reasons to be terrified of Islam or any religion. Secondly, ideologies are not the same as people.
Leftists of all sorts clamor this term, justifiably suspicious of the Far Right and its ‘concern’ with immigrants. But what they don’t seem to understand is the danger of such a term when applied to secularists, atheists and humanists who are legitimately concerned with issues of freedom of speech, media and minorities at the hands of such extremist political agents as Islamists.
It has never been trendier to attack the Far Right and yet their equally chauvinist doppelganger, the theocratic fascists known as Islamists, have been inoculated against critique by the very nomenclature the left created to combat such ideological poison.
Islamism was not concocted by immigrants and they certainly cannot be faulted for it, no more than my Lutheran parents can be faulted for fundamentalist evangelicals. Sharia law in the West was not an issue 40 years ago and there were plenty of Muslims in Europe at that time. Islamism appeared in force after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran which can be directly correlated with America’s feckless foreign policy to establish a ‘greenbelt’ around the USSR.
Sharia law is the method by which Islamists establish their totalitarianesque grip on society. It is indistinguishable from Far Right political sympathies save for how far leftists will go to depict these fascist theocrats as beleaguered minorities.
The Far Right may use the same arguments that secularists and atheist use to assail theocratic fascism but the agenda is entirely different. How you accomplish something is as important as the accomplishment. The Far Right’s agenda is to darkly coopt the forces of nationalism with liberal nomenclature to create a scapegoat of immigrants, thereby currying popular support and validating their xenophobic values.
Secularists and atheists, however, are not concerned with immigrants, ethnicity or nationalism. We are concerned with religion in the public square and its obvious roots to fascism. The Right, however, is quite pro-religion when it pertains to Christianity. An anti-religious stance is a key distinguishing factor since it is an obvious point of divergence.
Our agenda is the preservation of free speech, media and a secular government that, instead of allowing every religion into the public sphere, excludes all of them. Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish but their beliefs are not entitled to protection from criticism or state sanctioned coercion.
We need to acknowledge that the Far Right’s intentions are insincere while recognizing that criticism of religion’s pernicious and aggressive incursion into public life is legitimate and indeed, necessary. This is no battle against immigrants and it is no battle against Muslims. It is a battle against Islamo-fascists and the Far Right who would have us believe they are the anecdote. One fascism does not negate another.
After Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill which would allow private business owners to discriminate who they serve based upon their religious beliefs, people on both sides have been clamoring to argue why it should or shouldn’t be supported. The issue, however, is really quite simple as this is one of the most cowardly acts the Right has ever undertaken in an attempt to justifiably alienate a group they’ve been quickly losing legal ground to. I want to bring particular attention to the blogger Matt Walsh who believes it is everyone’s right to discriminate in this fashion. I want to deal with some of his claims which are as follows:
This law allows people the freedom to choose who they do and don’t associate with.
This law is supported wholly by the first amendment of the United States.
Discrimination (on the basis of identity) is not a bad thing.
This law doesn’t target gays.
I’m not really sure what country Matt thinks he is living in nor am I sure he realizes what it would mean for America to take this law seriously. Maybe he should spend a little time in Saudi Arabia or Iran to get a feel for what fascist theocracy is really like. After all, those are both countries in which one’s religion has become justification for all manner of ‘God given rights’ ranging from stoning someone you disagree with to depriving women of the vote. According to Matt it would be disrespectful to deprive the religious people of Afghanistan the right to murder adulterous women or homosexuals.
Maybe Matt is one of these people who have mistaken secularism for a concept that means all religions in the public sphere as opposed to what it really means which is NO religion in the public sphere. Here, however, he would argue this is where the ‘private’ in privately owned business comes in but he would still be wrong. Any business offering its services to the public is no longer private in the sense that Matt imagines, that being like a home owner preventing some lesbians from joining his croquet party.
Discrimination on the basis of identity like this IS actually a bad thing, especially when it cannot be justified. Being gay does not prevent someone from practicing their religion. Where, exactly, in the Bible does it say that in order to practice your faith effectively you must not render services to sexual minorities? Even if we were to take this law seriously how could they biblically substantiate it?
The assumption that the First Amendment supports Indiana’s measure is also fallacious for the simple reason that it prohibits any law respecting an establishment of a religion. This law clearly protects invidious and sinister social behavior under the guise of ‘freedom’, allowing religious social policy into the market place. Matt would desperately argue that the First Amendment also protects against the impediment of one’s exercise of their religion but what impediment existed that necessitated this law? We’ve already established that simply being gay does not impede a person from practicing any particular faith. Nor does any holy book specifically mention that rendering services to any member of the LGBT community is tantamount to blasphemy or apostasy.
If we reexamine these claims we can see how all of them are unjustified. People already have the right to associate with whom they choose, selling a cake to a person does not bond you to them. The First Amendment prevents religious practices from either being legally promoted or prohibited, and this law unfairly promotes so-called religious values without remedying any legitimate impediment to their practice. Further, discrimination based upon identity is a bad thing for society. It alienates, disenfranchises and stigmatizes the targeted minority for something utterly beyond their control. And while it is true that this particular law does not specifically target LGBT people it is pretty clear that is who it is meant for, after all Walsh himself cites numerous instances of such discrimination to justify the bill in his other article.
Additionally, this privileges the values of religious people over non-religious people by legitimizing nonsensical claims so long as they are supported in a major religious institution. What if you are part of a small cult that believes in refusing food to babies? What if you are a racist agnostic or atheist who supports their ideology with junk science? Why is it, exactly, that the magical thinking of major religions should be prioritized over other forms of magical thinking?
Lastly, a private business still operates in service of the public and there are federal laws in place to protect people from needless discrimination, it is called the Federal Civil Rights Act and it allows that ‘full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.’ Title VII of which is being extended to include discrimination on the basis of orientation or gender identity. Note that it says ‘public accommodation’, making no reference to whether the business is publicly or privately owned.
It should also be noted that Constitutional arguments are not absolute since laws and cultures change, even our founding fathers acknowledged this. After all, there was a time when the Constitution sanctioned slavery and reduced black Americans and women to subhuman status.
Jefferson’s memorial famously states,
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
And just to remind people that America WAS NOT (despite popular opinion) founded on any religion, especially not Christianity, the Treaty of Tripoli submitted by John Adams and ratified unanimously by the Senate states:
‘…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.’
Tirades like those from Matt’s blog are as boring as they confused. Christians in America need to stop forcing their religious values into the public sphere and onto their neighbors. No one is limiting the rights of Christians to practice their faith, only who they can force their faith’s values upon. I wish I could say these events are surprising but the religious in America commonly assert themselves in ways that are both unjustified and cloaked in victimhood. It seems that for Christian Indiana the mere act of engaging a potentially gay person is a violation of their rights.
There is a tremendous amount of confusion these days among secular liberals about the difference between Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. The constant and incessant conflation of these two concepts is typically the driving force for such nonsensical and morally defunct declarations such as Reza Aslan’s explanation of why Charlie Hedbo happened. Most of them follow this line of logic:
When you offend people they get angry and angry people do violent things. So don’t offend people.
Safe to say the message is generally slightly more subtle than that but that is the message nonetheless. That was the point of Aslan’s lecture, it’s what the Pope meant when he cautioned against critiquing religion and it’s what Glenn Greenwald is fond of self-righteously diatribing about. All these people follow the same line of thinking and draw the same tired and entirely fallacious comparisons.
They inevitably claim that racism in Europe or the West is to blame. They will then compare critiquing religion to racism and if they have time left over they’ll mention some European nations’ laws against Holocaust denialism or blather about the exceptionality of extremism.
Let’s unpack these remarkably popular and obtuse arguments, exposing them for the bosh that they are.
To critique a religion is to critique an ideology. A religion is a cosmological stance saddled with an ideology on life and how to lead it. It typically states life’s origins and inevitably asserts a divine truth alongside values it associates with that truth. This means that a critique of religion is no different than a critique of a political or social ideology like Marxism or Identity Politics. This is leagues away from the same as questioning a person’s worth for their ethnicity.
A person’s religion speaks to their values and thus character. What else is there to judge a person on? Whereas a person’s ethnicity says absolutely nothing about them save what their heritage is. Those who cannot distinguish between these two vastly different concepts, that of values and that of heredity, have no place in any discussion requiring even a monad of critical thought.
That having been said, let’s consider for a moment that arguments like those asserted by Reza Aslan about failed integration are true. Let us assume momentarily that such global institutions as capitalism and imperialism are truly to blame for Islam’s association with murderous acts of terror. Even were this true it would still damn Islam as an ideology that it could so easily be co-opted and used to justify imperialist jihad and violently asserting theocratic principles the world over.
So even if we grant the ludicrous idea that all these Muslim terrorists are lying to themselves and that every time they cry out to Allah they really mean ‘down with capitalism’ or ‘down with institutionalized racism’, it still speaks to Islam’s breathtaking ineptitude as an ideology on life that it could fall victim so easily to such sinister application of its ‘infallible’ principles.
The reality is that secular liberals don’t know what it is to truly believe in a religious ideology. These are people who are so spectacularly isolated by secular civil society that it is quite impossible for them to grasp the concept of die-hard belief. And were capitalism and political disenfranchisement the real primary reasons for this overwhelming tide of theocratic fascism we would not have seen so many born and raised western converts to the cause. Indeed, instead of accepting this reality it is more palatable to simply dismiss zealotry in exchange for a venue secular liberals are more comfortable in, like politics. And while Islamism and Sharia Law are definitively political movements that does not in any way diminish the outstanding role a sincere and genuine belief in the faith plays.
The general uneasiness of liberals to openly discuss bad ideas when in religious pill-form is not the only problem, however. The second fundamental contention I have with many of these apologists is their entirely unfounded stance that they have a right to not be offended.
No one has the right to have their beliefs unequivocally respected and positively acknowledged at all times. Religions least of all because religions HAVE NO RIGHTS. People have rights, and among them include the right to tell a joke and criticize things. By demanding that people verbally acknowledge and publically respect your religion you impose your religious values on the public and that is theocratic fascism. My right to call your beliefs nonsense does not hinder your right to practice them.
Further, examining the contents of such publications as The Satanic Verses or Charlie Hedbo in search of rationalizations misses the point. When people are murdering other people because of cartoons and fiction then it needs to be unequivocally condemned in the name of press freedom and freedom of speech, END OF STORY.
Detractors will hastily point to anti-Holocaust denialism laws like those in Austria or Germany. They’ll say, then what is with this double standard for the Jewish community? Indeed. Let’s go there momentarily.
I think anti-Holocaust denialism laws are bad laws. Everyone should be free to deny the obvious and then be publicly ridiculed for it. Anyone who questions the effectiveness of such community-based measures should look into Paula Dean’s run-in with the American public over her use of the ‘N’ word or the fate of Duck Dynasty’s patriarch after he spoke against gay relationships.
Secondly, notwithstanding, there remains a big difference between the colossally bad idea that is Islam (or any religion for that matter) and these laws. That being the simple fact that the Holocaust as a historical event can be proven beyond all doubt. Whether from eye-witness accounts to documents or video, there is not a single shred of evidence that contradicts the overwhelming deluge of proofs in support of it. Islam’s claims, however, like all the Abrahamic faiths, is entirely unsubstantiated. Its claim on divine truth is as vacuous as the existence of unicorns.
This complacency and self-righteous indignation in the face of such remarkably clear assaults on the dignity of free speech is what happens when people take their rights for granted. Were Greenwald to exclaim his homosexuality in Iran he would be killed and were Aslan to correct ISIS’s interpretation of the Koran, he would be beheaded. There is a reason people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maryam Namazie do not tap dance around the issue of theocracy and its fascist ends and it is because they have lived it. Maybe people like Aslan and Greenwald need to spend a very long set of weekends in Iran or Saudi Arabia to familiarize themselves with people who share the same scruples regarding the freedom to call a spade a fucking spade. Freedom of speech only matters when it permits critique and questioning of the taboo and sacred. If it can’t be used for that then it can’t be used at all.
An article in the Atlantic about ISIS really made my day. It was coherent, well researched, and ruthless.
The writer touched on some issues that I think are particularly salient especially since they pertain to more than just Muslims.
When discussing ISIS many people like to point out that they are extreme and unusual and thus illegitimate. President Barack Obama is fond of this and has made mention of it multiple times in an obvious attempt to mitigate racist reactions.
The reality, though, is that ISIS follows the Koran quite closely and is not without its scholars. To paraphrase from the article, the best any critic could do is to say that core texts and teachings are no longer valid today but this ultimately means admitting the Koran requires an update which is apostasy by many counts.
Majority opinions do not negate minority opinions in the land of religious exegesis. The hermeneutics of holy books is only limited by what cannot be cited or reasonably understood within them. When the prophet of your holy book unabashedly sanctions crucifixion and slavery then it is reasonable to interpret your faith as one that condones them.
Christians are also victim to this reality and equally reticent to disabuse themselves. Gay Christians and their supporters have tried similar tap dances around biblical realities. Many scholars have built up an entirely new message around the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, claiming it is not about sexual deviance but rather ‘hospitality’, whatever that means. But this is not the only story they need to account for. In numerous places, both in the Old and New Testament, the Bible is clear on God’s stance on homosexuality.
There is nothing unreasonable about calling the Christian god a homophobic douche-bag. Doing so, however, would mean admitting that their religion (Christianity) has no place for LGBT people or their personal social beliefs. As a result, it becomes necessary to obfuscate and reconstruct their religion’s narrative on sexuality.
In the same way Muslims in much of the world cannot accept that their religion could be practiced with so much violence. But rather than admit this delusion steps in to rescue them from the labor of critical thought.
Why ISIS exists is a more complicated question and one I am not prepared to answer. But that ISIS’s practices are Koran sanctioned is beyond a doubt. True believers of the Christian god are no less honest or literate when they demonize non-normative sexuality or command women to submit to men.