Monday, 30 November 2015

Should The UK Bomb Syria?

David Cameron has laid out his plan to extend operations against ISIS from Iraq into Syria and will hold a vote in Parliament on Wednesday to decide whether her Majesty's armed forces should intervene in Syria to fight ISIS by way of airstrikes. Among other things is requring a "poltical transition" in Syria to bring about an end to the civil war and to increase humanitarian aid.


70,000 moderates

A significant part of the proposal there is an estimated 70,000 moderate (for want of a better term) rebels who do not belong to extremist groups that can help in fighting ISIS. Already, many people are skeptical of this number and will ask "who are these people?" While others like Robert Fisk will claim that these "moderates" don't exist and are "ghost soldiers" and Cameron's own Conservative MP's labelled these figures as "magical".

The brilliant Charles Lister explains here who these people are.

"Many of the groups who fall within both these categories are armed factions the Islamist-averse United States’ CIA has already ‘vetted’ and assessed as ‘moderate’ enough to receive lethal assistance. Some others are recognised by Syrians as ‘mainstream’ members of the revolution – some moderately Islamic – and crucially, as being strongly rooted within local societies. Combined, these factions likely represent roughly 65,000 fighters."





"Making a total of 75,000 fighters, these 105-110 factions broadly represent what one could today label as ‘moderate’ in Syria’s context. This means they are explicitly nationalist in terms of their strategic vision; they are local in terms of their membership; and they seek to return to Syria’s historical status as a harmonious multi-sectarian nation in which all ethnicities, sects and genders enjoy an equal status before the law and state. They remain focused on fighting the Assad regime, however, as it represents a more immediate priority for most, in terms of self-protection, the defence of civilian populations and of course, pursuing the revolution’s ultimate objective. Beyond these factions, it becomes more complicated."

This should answer the question of those who snidely claim "Where are the moderates?". Well here they are, all that is needed is for them to be organised and weaponized.

#DontBombSyria

Predictably, the "anti-war" movement mobilized, #DontBombSyria has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of days and'Stop The War' organised a protest to oppose the potential British intervention in Syria with their lame chants and even lamer speakers such as Tariq Ali and George Galloway. The Ayatollahs of the regressive left. Just goes to show how much of a sham this "rally" was when they have someone like Galloway who has a track record in supporting tyrants and thugs like Saddam Hussein, Bashar Al-Assad, the Mullahs in Iran etc.

Both Galloway and Ali's speeches were absolutely terrible not to mention quite bland with the same old regressive left cliches. My favorite part was when Galloway was on stage and he said Turkey is the "principle ally of ISIS and Al-Qaeda" expecting a rapturous response. Instead he recieved relative silence and even a few quiet boos because what he said is so untrue. Talk about an anti-climax.

Tariq Ali's speech was essentially that the UK should not intervene in Syria at all. Though he couldn't make that argument without taking a cheap shot at Hilary Benn. He also called Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland a "Blairite" though he didn't say Jonathan's name explicitly and he fantastically equated the wars in the Middle East to the media in Britain criticising Jeremy Corbyn (yeah, I know amazing).

I hope Tariq realises this is not about Jeremy Corbyn, no matter which way you want to spin it. This is about Syria and the welfare of the Syrian people. The sufffering of Syria should not be used as a proxy for domestic political squabbling. Personally, I find that gross.
 
But there are a couple of statements Tariq said in his speech that I want to scrutinise more in detail.

“the Russians have gone in to fight ISIS and they are fighting ISIS, there’s no doubt about it"

This is a half-truth. While it is true that the Russians are bombing ISIS positions in Syria especially after the Sinai plane bombing. However, what he doesn't mention is the fact that the overwhelming majority of Russian bombings in Syria have been against anti-regime rebels like FSA, Ahar Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Fatah.

This graphic from Vox (of all places) demonstrates this point better


He then says on defeating ISIS

 “If this is your aim then you should be fighting side by side with Assad and the Russians… that’s the logic”

I will be charitable to Tariq. I'm not sure he is actually advocating that we should ally with Assad, Iran and Russia to fight ISIS but I believe he is saying that if Cameron is serious about fighting ISIS (which he doesn't believe to be the case) then logically he should work with Assad and Putin because they are "fighting ISIS".

However, as pointed out previously Russia is more concerned about keeping the Assad regime alive and fighting other rebel groups that are a more direct threat to the regime than ISIS is. Furthermore, entering into a grand alliance with Russian imperialism in Syria would actually help ISIS as it would validate their conspiracy theory that there is a Crusader-Zionist-Rafidah alliance to destroy Sunni Islam which in turn means Sunni Arabs (ISIS' main constituent) are more likely to support ISIS because the only alternative is to be ruled by Assad and Shia militias who has committed many atrocities against them. With this being the case Tariq Ali's argument is null and void because Assad and Putin are a huge part of the problem not the solution.

He also talks about how the war in Syria is between the "Assad regime and ISIS and all the other Jihadi groups". How people get away with this demagogy I don't know, Tariq defines Assad's opposition as solely ISIS and Al-Qaeda thereby all of the rebel groups are Jihadists and says it is "nonsense" that there is a moderate third way. As I've mentioned previously we do know that there is a moderate third way, if that wasn't enough here is some more. This borderline Islamophobic rhetoric is very dangerous as it delegitimizes the Syrian revolution and makes people in the west view Syria through a purely war on terror point of view where they see the revolution solely as a grand Islamic Jihad with ISIS leading the charge. But the truth is more complicated than that.

In essence, this protest was all about telling David Cameron not to bomb Syria while having nothing to say of Assad and Putin's airforces that are bombing Syria and killing many innocent civilians everyday. Shameful hypocrisy.

Listen to Syrians

I am not someone who obessess too much about demographics but what I found interesting when examaning the pictures of the rally one could'nt help but notice that the crowd was mostly white and probably privileged, middle class, leftists who really are not interested in taking a morally serious postion but want to posture and virtue signal behind silly jingles.

I skimmed through the photos with a fine toothcomb and I seriously had to play the game of "spot the hijab" and I found none. Seems like hijabis were only useful for the Iraq war but if they give an opinion on Syria that you find uncomfortble. Well...."Screw em, we don't need them". There wasn't even any Pan-Islamists (notoriously anti-western) present at the demonstration because even they could see this as the joke and sham it was. So much for the "left-muslim" alliance.

I would reccommend to the folks at Stop The War that if they really care about Syria why not listen to what Syrians themselves have to say? But as we know Stop The War has not listened to Syrians and has actually prevented them from speaking. They obviously do this as Syrians would shatter their rigid worldview since they say truths that make the "anti-war" left very uncomfortable.

It is about time to say that Stop The War has lost all crediblity whenever they speak on issues such as this. As Christopher Hitchens once pointed out. If the likes of them had their way then Saddam Hussein would still own and occupy Kuwait, Milosevic would have made Bosnia a part of his "Greater Serbia" project, The Taliban would still be in power in Afghanistan with Al-Qaeda as their guests. Moreover, ISIS would've committed an act of genocide on Mount Sinjar against the Yazidi population. And now they have pretty much gotten their way in Syria where they oppose all forms of interventionism against the Assad regime. So, to borrow the language of intersectional politics, these white, privileged leftists should stop speaking over Syrian Arabs and actually listen to them.

Since Stop The War is not interested in that, it looks like I'll have to do it for them. If you actually listen to Syrians and Syrian activists. Generally, they will say that Assad is the main problem in Syria, not ISIS since Assad's forces is responsible for 95% of civilian deaths in Syria since 2011 and the regime has tortured and murdered people on an industrial scale in it's dungeons.

Secondly, they also want the protection of civilians from barrel bombs and airstrikes through a no bombing zone. This will also empower moderate rebels to fight ISIS as they won't have to face the scourge of Assad's barrel bombs and it will hopefully lessen the creation of refugees.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I do think that in fighting ISIS it is misguided to just focus on Iraqi areas controlled by ISIS and ignore the Syrian ones especially as ISIS' revenue streams, supply lines and command structure are  located in Syria which allows ISIS to use its Syrian territory for strategic depth. So in that sense I agree with Cameron.

However, I don't think airstrikes alone will suddenly bring about the demise of ISIS, it will only add to the cumulative damage ISIS has been recieving for the past year by other air forces already bombing in Syria mainly The United States. In other words, airstrikes are not really going to do much, what is required is a ground force component (preferably local) to actually take territory from away from ISIS.

In my opinion, the best way to defeat ISIS is to support the forces that are in the best position to defeat it, namely the at least 70,000 Syrian rebel forces referenced by David Cameron that have for the last four years been fighting the Assad regime, Iran, Hezbollah, and ISIS. More importantly, we have to focus on the fact that the Assad regime is responsible for the most civilian deaths and is the main source of the massive civilian displacement. ISIS will never see the day of defeat as long as the Assad regime remains. We have to do whatever is necessary to support these forces. If the Prime Minister is really concerned with fighting ISIS , why hasn't he done more to arm Syrian rebel forces and why hasn't he pressured the US to lift its criminal blockade on the rebel forces receiving the anti-craft weaponry necessary to take on Assad's air force and protect civilian life from the Assad regime's attacks on civilian areas?

My position is this. I am all for fighting ISIS and resisting the forces of Jihadism but we need to do it in a smart and effective manner. Airstrikes alone is pointless as it will not hasten the inevitable destruction of ISIS unless you have a viable ground force alongside them. But in order to get the moderate Sunni Arabs on your side you have to have a strategy that stops Assad bombing them and one that will put an end to Assad's rule in Syria. 60,000 of the 70,000 moderate rebels are fighting in fronts where they are fighting the regime. Do you seriously think they are going to switch fronts and turn their guns towards ISIS because David Cameron said so?

The debate in the UK should be about how to find a solution to the problem of ISIS and Assad not simply throw bombs and expect a miracle to happen. The ultimate aim should be to complete the Syrian revolution and allow Syrians to emancipate themselves from the clutches of Bashar Al-Assad and Baathism, once and for all.





Thursday, 26 November 2015

The "Fundamentalist's Advantage" Gone Wrong

Originally written by Steven Gonder (@sdgblu4ever) 

In The No True Muslim Fallacy, I previously discussed what I referred to as the "fundamentalist's advantage." Despite that I chided ridiculous claims that ISIS weren't real Muslims, I also made note that, provided degrees of legitimacy to a faith, fundamentalists generally have a more studious observance of the core texts than moderate followers tend to.

Now, this type of religious observance (fundamentalism) is similarly chided as being the main reason for violence and terrorism. Many commentators seem to think that the core values of beliefs aren't the problem, but the interchangeable pursuit of extremism or fundamentalism is. Religious doctrine gets a free pass in a lot of cases.

Radically odd, however, is the blatant double standard that occurs depending on whether these fundamentalist or extremist doctrines are positive or negative in effect.




Molly Manglewood rejected giving any and all legitimacy of Christianity to people who don't follow the tenets of the selected passages she mentioned. The only ones she mentioned which show reference to refugees are those of the Old Testament. To substantiate this apostasy/pseudo-believer line of reasoning, passages from James are listed.

But this requirement standard of belief Manglewood forwarded is absolutely dangerous. It's important to keep in mind what this tweet is: a bunch of out-of-context quotes, some referring to people who had ancestors in Egypt, others being vague generalities about what to do with faith. The Old Testament commands, for instance, are often considered void after the purported sacrifice of Jesus.

You may not believe in the sacrifice of Jesus invalidating the aforementioned commands of earlier books such as with Leviticus, but disqualifying moderately disobedient people as Christians just doesn't hold up:

Matthew 21:28-31 are, for instance, emphasized with intent mattering more than action:


There are various other passages I could cite.

But to divert back to the core point, this level of devout adherence to scripture is what leads to the motivations driving acceptance of violent, puritanical interpretations. If people honestly believe that contradicting scripture, even in insignificant or ambiguous ways, will result in them not being a true religious person, and subsequently being damned to eternal loss, they're more likely to take proactive measures against it.

We can see an obvious example of a positive statement in The Bible being treated as inextricable from the absolute duties and qualifiers of a Christian. This is fundamentalism. Shaun King expressed similar thoughts to Manglewood:



Now, for very specific reasons, this is a more egregious tweet than what Manglewood got away with. As a bonus, there's the intellectually smug "don't you dare" that reeks of self-delusion and misinformation. But the most disastrous factor is that, unlike Manglewood, he only quoted Leviticus here. Now, Leviticus is one of the most brutal books in The Bible, with commands and instructions that directly contradict what Shaun King fights for. I doubt this famous African-American rights activist is going to be very fond of slavery:

Leviticus 25:39-46, ladies and gentlemen.

How about this, also in Leviticus?




Molly Manglewood may have liked Exodus 22:21, but the 3 previous statements I doubt she'd have approved of as much:




I could go on for hours, but the evidence is blatant enough. With a lot of people, it seems to come down to an approach of: you must take all the kind parts of The Bible literally, at face value, and perform them or you're not a Christian, but don't you dare ever apply the same rationale to the parts that promote the stuff we don't like. 

Yet, despite verses like Leviticus 20:13, people still are surprised about "homophobia" and other practices people call others bigots over. Telling LGBTQ and anti-slave activists they can't be true Christians would be about equal to the points King and Manglewood made. This is nothing short of delegitimizing religious moderates. And that's extremely dangerous. Much of the religious sectarian violence in the world can be attributed to fighting over who's "hijacking" what religion. 

ISIS views Shia Muslims as not being real Muslims, and uses that as justification for killing them. King and Manglewood view people who aren't accepting of refugees as not being real Christians. Many moderate Muslims don't view ISIS as real Muslims. Certain Protestants don't consider Catholics real Christians. Given the extremities of punishments that are required to be performed from a literalist approach to texts like the Torah, New Testament, Qur'an, Hadith, it isn't particularly surprising that we see so much religious violence today. And it's from people who read the books like King and Manglewood do.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

My Thoughts on The Paris Attacks




On Friday morning, one would have not been mistaken to think that the fight against ISIS had made some positive progress, with the liberation of Shingal by The Peshmerga from ISIS' dominion in northern Iraq and the killing by drone strike of Muhammad Emwazi (Jihadi John). Albeit the killing of Emwazi was more symbolic than catergorical and the liberation of Shingal is not exactly going to speed up the inevitable defeat of ISIS.

However, on Friday night in Paris, we were reminded again that this Jihadist cancer is still alive and well gnawing away at civilisation just like they had done a few days ago with the suicide bombings in Beirut and the beheadings of Shia Hazaras in Afghanistan. In Paris, terrorists launched a series of attacks that have claimed the lives of at least 160 people and 300 people injured. This make it the deadliest terrorist attacks in Europe since the Madrid bombings in 2004. ISIS has released a statement where they claimed responsibility for this and we definetly know it was a Jihadist attack because we have credible reports the gument shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they slayed the innocent.

In the aftermath of these horrific attacks, I have noticed alot of kneejerk finger pointing and simplistic analysis which is often done through a political lense that lacks complexity and nuance. You have the regressive left essentially blaming Western foreign policy and changing the subject to irrelevant topics. While on the other side you have those who want to shoehorn immigration and the refugee issue into this debate because that is their pet issue they want to talk about.

To be honest, I really am not surprised or shocked by the fact that we got the usual deflection, obsfucations and masochism from the regressive left.

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks first response to the Paris attacks was to change the subject to Dylan Roof and the Iraq war. Later in the show one of his colleagues claimed that France closing it's borders will potentially "further radicalize muslims".  This clearly bigotry of lower expectations. So muslims will all of a sudden start killing people if they don't get the desired immigration policy they want. How contemptable. The closing of the borders is likely a short term measure as part of the state of emergency France is under right now. However, suppose France did make this a long term policy, it still would not provide an excuse or an "explaination" for radicalization. Despicable.




WOW! I am so glad we have Ayatollah Piers Morgan to be arbiter of who is a "real" muslim and who is not a "real" muslim thereby engaging in takfiri reasoning and Kuffarsplaining. Piers has probably never read the Qu'ran in his life, yet he considers himself an expert in Islam.


Another trait in the regressive state of mind is to dig  for western "hypocrisy" in light of a terrorist attack in the west and engage in fatuous whataboutery. Notice he had to shoehorn Palestine in there as per usual. Don't get me wrong the problems in  Palestine, Lebanon and Yemen are serious issues that definetly should be talked about, but why is Ben excavating for "hypocrisy" now? I'm afraid I find this contemptable.








Then we have the "grievance" argument. Remember when regressives talk about "grievances" in relation to Islamist terrorism what they mean is "this attack happened because of "Western foreign policy" which is what the Latuff cartoon above implies. This a simplistic and wrong analysis of the situation.  The attackers did not target symbols of French militarism or the French state. Rather, they attacked places where young, multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan Parisians hanged out such as cafes, resturaunts and bars like La Belle Equipe, Le Petit Cambodge and the Jewish owned music venue Bataclan.

The other venue attacked was the Stade de France, the home of the French national football team, (Les Bleus) another symbol of multi-racial and multi-cultural France.

For too long now the regressive left has said that these Jihadists are the bullhorn of long forgotten "muslim grievances". I suppose they are, if you want to define a "muslim grievance" as the grievance of seeing an undraped female head or face,  the hatred of cosmopolitanism and cultural diversity embodied in cities like Paris, the presence of a Shia muslim, a Jew and non-muslims on what you claim as "muslim soil". The horror of not having an totalitarian, imperialist super state called the Caliphate which they have now resurrected in Iraq and Syria. Anything can be twisted into a grievance by Jihadists.

Yes they have grievances, but it is nothing like the grievance we have with them. It should be we who they are afraid of, it should be our opinion that they should be worried about. Because we too have unalterable values and we do care about defending The Enlightenment and the values of a civlized world.

While the regressive left tried to play the card of masochism and blame terror attacks on Western foreign policy, some on the right have and will try to ramp up an anti-immigrant agenda, the more extreme elements will go for a more anti-muslim agenda.



As of now we're not sure of the backgrounds of all the attackers. We do know that a Syrian Passport was found next to one of the gunmen belonged to someone who registered as a refugee.They are also checking on the fingerprints of another man at the request of French investigators. However, authorities are not ruling out the possibility that the passport may have been a fake or may have been stolen or bought from a well established black market.

Another question that must be asked is why would a Jihadist who thinks modern notions of citizenship and nationality is haram, all of a sudden take his passport to a suicide mission and make sure it got found? For me this seems too calculated.

A plausible alternative theory could be that they used this passport so that they could tap into the anti-refugee sentiment in Europe in order to further discredit and delegitimize the refugees who are fleeing the nihilistic carnage that is currently engufling Syria of which ISIS has had a part in committing. In fact, ISIS loathes those fleeing to Europe from Syria. They view them as sinners because they are not going to their Caliphate.

I am not saying this is the right one because ultimately we don't know for certain if the Syrian passport found next to the Jihadist is actually his passport or if it's just a fake or if its one that has changed hands.

Let us assume anyways that at least one of them was an imposter refugee (which is possible) then it will raise questions about the extent of the fear of ISIS infiltration into Europe among the refugees and migrants coming into Europe. These fears should not always be dismissed out of hand because as Patrick Kinglsley writes here in The Guardian

"Thousands of refugees arrive on the Greek islands every day. While each has to be registered before they can make it to the Greek mainland, the process is a brief formality rather than a lengthy investigation. In registrations witnessed by the Guardian during the summer, refugees simply presented identification to the Greek authorities, before being allowed to leave minutes later without anything like a background check."

Shows that in theory, if a would be terrorist wanted to reach Europe through Lesbos in Greece, it would be relatively simple to do.

Still, the arguments linking the Paris attacks and Jihadism to the refugee crisis are still questionable and closing the borders completely to Syrian refugees is not an answer. It is just a kneejerk, reactionary policy that will not decrease terrorism. This is because most Jihadist terrorism in Europe has come from people who are homegrown. It is that homegrown Jihadist threat that needs to be tackled, diverting the issue towards refugees is not serious analysis, it is just posturing and unncessary fear mongering.

Again, I must stress that this is not to say that you can't have a debate on the refugee/migrant issue. It is just that linking it as an explaination for the problem of Jihadism is questionable.

If anything this attack should make us a little more empathetic, possibly even sympathetic if we can manage the task towards Syrian refugees who have faced this kind of violence nearly every day for the past four years.

This article sums up why we should be cautious about the Syrian Passport angle for now until we get more evidence.

We must then be very careful not to give the Jihadists what they want which is further polarisation. This is an established part of their strategy, to eliminate the grayzone or in other words make this a "West vs Islam" conflict. We cannot make this into an anti-muslim crusade, we must maintain that moral distinction between criticising ideas and spreading hate about people. Insisting on this is not "moralizing" or being "PC". It is an absoulute fucking necessity.


Sadly, there will be muslims who bare no responsibility for these attacks who will recieve bigotry as a result and possibly may experience hate crimes as "retribution". If and when they occur they must be condemed absoulutely and every action must be taken to prevent and punish such incidents, just like we do with anti-semitic, homophobic and racist hate crimes. We should never enter realms of collective blame as it risks futher tearing apart our civilisation.

In closing, I will say to my ordinary muslim comrades that you don't have anything to apologise for and you don't have any responsibility for attacks committed by Jihadists. However, I would plead to you to not deny that there is a problem, not to obsfucate on the issue of Islamism and Jihadism, or come out with banal platitudes like "this has nothing to do with Islam". That statement is flat out untrue and it does not help in decreasing anti-muslim bigotry because it is so intellectually dishonest and gives the impression that muslims have something to hide.

While it is also true that many muslims and muslim organizations condemn Jihadist attacks. This is obviously good and it should be acknowledged. However, the bar should not be set so low that merely condemning ISIS is enough. What is required in the long term to win this struggle against Islamism is to first, admit that a problem called Islamism exists and not to deny it's connection to Islam. Second, show solidarity with brave muslims reformers like Maajid Nawaz and Iyad El-Baghdadi and non muslims alike in helping the civil society lead, universal values based resistance against Islamism and Jihadism.

I just wish we can have an honest debate about Islamism/Jihadism without the denial, masochism, obsfucation and crass moral equivalences of the regressive left. Ultimately, if reasonable people cannot take control of the debate then the far-right and neo-Fascists are very happy to dictate the terms of the debate. This will not be good for our civilisation because the far-right are not interested in debating bad ideas and trying to save civilisation and culture. They want to tear it apart aswell.

In the end, our love for Paris will outlive and destroy the Jihadist's hatred of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Vive La France, Vive la République and Vive La Enlightenment

Saturday, 14 November 2015

The No True Muslim Fallacy

Daylight prepares to return over France as I write this, and the horrifying brutality of the recent murders and bombings in Paris, France - resulting in the death of over 100 people, with approximately 200 more wounded - hasn't desensitized us too strongly yet. Paris is trending on Twitter with over 14 million tweets referring to those keywords, and there are various other hashtags associated with it. That's just Twitter. 

Paris is currently under curfew. 100+ hostages were killed. France was declared to be in a state of emergency. Despite no group having explicitly taken responsibility for the suicide bombing and killings, it is suspected that the perpetrators were almost certainly jihadists, likely directly affiliating with, or supporters of, a radical Islamist group. In particular, ISIS is suspected.

As is often the case, people seemed to be almost playing "hot potato" with whom to blame in this situation. Some people were bemoaning interventionism in the Middle East. Others were adamant it was religiously motivated (it was rumoured that one of the perpetrators was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar"). Perhaps it's a combination of the factors. ISIS, however, is known for killing people for far more reasons than pure American or European interventionism. The motivations for this situation are of yet not certainly known.

Yet another problem resurfaced: the No True Scotsman fallacy (but in this case it's fair to refer to it as the No True Muslim fallacy). It is the fallacy where one employs selective elitism as to what types of people are the true individuals of a certain group, and not phonies. This is often used in cases where someone is to blame or has done something considered reprehensible, and parties look to deflect or deny any legitimate association. In the case of religion, the fallacy is employed almost consistently, and that's a big problem. 

Here's an example of this fallacy in play:



This is a blatant example of the widespread fallacy. I haven't particularly researched the affiliations and religious justifications of the KKK, but Westboro Baptist Church and ISIS are subsets of Christianity and Islam, respectively. Both heavily justify their use of action with scriptural sourcing and interpretation. ISIS and Islam aren't different from each other much more than than a Mustang is different from a Ford. Same goes for Westboro and Christianity. Unfortunately, people posit ridiculous ideas such as:

  1. Westboro members are not real Christians
  2. ISIS are not real Muslims
  3. Shias are not real Muslims

The first two of those three ideas float around a lot in liberal religious apologeticism, but the third of which is a idea enacted (though not created by) ISIS themselves. Certain religious apologists use the violence ISIS commits against other Muslims as evidence that ISIS have no legitimate association with the religion. Ironically, ISIS justifies killing Shias in the same way. 


This comment by Piers Morgan is perhaps the epitomization of delusional ignorance on the subject. The almost 25,000 retweets of a blatant logical fallacy suggests to me that this uninformed bias permeates society. For further reference: the tens of thousands of tweets in the hashtag #TerrorismHasNoReligion on Twitter.

ISIS attacked an area in Beirut recently, heavily populated with Shia Muslims. As written in the New York Times.
 
"
The group portrayed its motives as baldly sectarian, saying it had targeted Shiite Muslims, whom it views as apostates. It mentioned almost as an afterthought that it had targeted Hezbollah, the Shiite militant organization that backs the Syrian government in the civil war raging next door."

Over 40 people were killed, 200+ wounded in the incident. This same dismissive attitude people have toward the legitimacy of ISIS is oppositely polarized to that ISIS has against other Muslims. So then it becomes a war of *will the real Muslim please stand up?* Almost as baffling is that people who dismiss ISIS as real Muslims often tout the diversity of interpretation, and that fundamentalism is the problem. This is silly because when faced with arguing over who is the more legitimate type of Muslim, the only legitimate way of doing so is to cite and compare actions against the religious texts that are the basis for the religion. In the case of Islam, that would be the Qur'an, with the Hadith as a secondary source (despite that the Hadith is generally viewed inconsistently in how valid it is). In this case, it becomes, as I like to call it, the "fundamentalist's advantage." The more strictly and literally a text is viewed, the harder the legitimacy of the association of the individuals seems to dispute. For example, if someone claimed that the Qur'an is a metaphor for human beings' love for toilets, and if that someone believed in the Qur'an in that way, it'd be much harder to make the case that he/she is a Muslim, while he/she rejected any supernatural claims therein. On the grounds of who's a more studious observer of the faith, fundamentalism wins over wildly improbable theories. 

By denying the legitimacy of ISIS, people unintentionally make the situation more damaging or distressing for the future of Islam. People, even hardcore conservatives, can see through this fallacious and irrational assertion that ISIS aren't real Muslims, and these hardcore conservatives and/or true bigots can use this to fuel distrust of Muslims and the people who defend them. If you want to help build a more coexistent, inclusive society for Muslims, denial isn't the way to do so. 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Tommy Robinson has a Right to Speak



Yet again, universities confirm that they're no longer institutions where people can broaden their horizons and explore a diversity of views wherein they can make up their own minds. But that they have now become echochambers where some wannabe Stalinist appoints himself as the arbiter of what views are "acceptable" or not.

Just a few days after Tommy Robinson (the former leader of The English Defence League) spoke at a massive PEGIDA rally in Dresden, in which he warned of "Islamic invasions" by "fake refugees". Robinson announced on Twitter that both Durham and Edinburgh universities disinvited Robinson from addressing students.

According to this Huffington Post article which quotes Robinson claims the reason why Robinson's invitation to Durham was rescinded was because he gave a speech at a Pegida launch in Holland a week earlier. After hearing the news Robinson "told the Huffington Post UK that he had pushed the university for a better explanation, but had not been given one".

The article then states. "Robinson said he was due yesterday in Edinburgh to be part of a panel discussion on the use of social media "for recruitment to a cause". He said the university cited "security risks" when they withdrew his invitation earlier this month".

In addition, there may be a possibility that the university itself may have twisted the arm of the Durham Union Society to disinvite Robinson. However, the press officer refused to comment on the allegation when asked by Huffington Post UK.

Interesting, as according to Breitbart, Durham invited Yusuf Chambers an Islamist activist from IERA who is known to have advocated brutal sharia punishments such as death for Zina or adultery and pre-marital espousing homophobic views. So, there seems to be a bit of inconsistency in regards to how Durham applied its policy of disinviting "dangerous" speakers.

What I also find interesting is when Maryam Namazie (an activist I have immense respect for) had her invitation to Warwick University rescinded, the secular and humanist community on Twitter and elsewhere went ablaze with righteous anger (rightly so). There was pressure to re-invite her which succeded and the students were allowed to hear what she has to say.

However, with news of Robinson being disinvited to speak I dont see as much outrage as with Namazie. Free speech is a fundamental right that is the bedrock of a free society, it is not some privilege that is handed down to certain individuals who fit a certain bill or criteria. Therefore it should not be seen through a politcal lense where you only defend it for views you like.

The issue is not whether you agree with Tommy Robinson. Personally I'm not a supporter of his because for every truth he says, he says two completely idiotic things and sometimes he flirts with populism and Eurabia theories in regards to muslims and Islam. His recent speech in Dresden was a perfect example of this. Still it does not mean he should've been disinvited.

The issue is in the United Kingdom we have gotten ourselves into a ridculous precedent where speakers get disinvited, no platformed and shut down from universities because of ludicrous accusations of "offense", "hate speech", "dangerous speech". This, I find worrying because an institution of learning should be a place where even the most unpopular view can be heard and challenged by means of reasoned debate and discussion, not silenced for fear of upsetting the sensitivities of a few people.

So, by banning Robinson you're not just denying him his right to air his views, more importantly you are denying the students their right to listen to what Tommy has to say. The purpose of free speech is not just for you to say what you want but for the person you are listening to and the comments you hope to hear in return. In other words, for the purposes of your own education and enlightenment.

What makes this so wrong is that these universities are making the students prisoners of their own opinions and forbidding them the means of possibly changing them.

We must stand with Tommy Robinson's right to speak, agree or disagree with his views, and the right of the students to listen to a diversity of views in order for them to make up their own minds. Hopefully, pressure can be generated on Durham and Edinburgh university to reverse their stupid bans.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

An Intercept Writer References Out-of-Context Drivel and Gets it Wrong... Again

This piece was originally written by Steven Gonder (@sdgblu4ever on Twitter) . His blog is here.

In addition, please forgive the weird black highlight blocks in the text, it must've been some glitch  and I could not get rid of it so I tried to make it so that you could at least see the text, which hopefully you can. Apologies.



Before reading this analysis, I recommend forwarding the video to 5:00 and leaving it for about 10 seconds (thanks to Rapheal Leonardo for finding this).

[For this analysis, I used red text highlight for passage writer quotes, green for Hitchens quotes, and purple for Hitchens being quoted in a passage writer quote.]

This tweet is clearly visible on the Twitter feed of Murtaza Hussain. For reference, this is the same Murtaza Hussain who previously had referred to Maajid Nawaz as both a "talking monkey" and a "porch monkey" in separate but related tweets, and also doxed The Nation writer Aki Muthali. As a writer for The Intercept, headed by the notoriously anti-"New Atheist" Glenn Greenwald, Murtaza Hussain is very much familiar with prominent secular-endorsing writers, and Hitchens is no exception. In predictable form, he seemed to interweave the public disdain towards Columbus Day with building animosity towards and taking cheap shots at Hitchens. I admit that when I read this tweet, the passage seemed convincing, that perhaps Hussain may have been on to something. Unfortunately for Hussain, this was not the case; the passage is severely out-of-context and integrated with strawmen. 

An accurate representation of the original context can be seen here. It's almost immediately apparent the passage excludes that Hitchens took issue with the revisionist nature of the anti-Columbus movement: "It is risible in the same way that all movements of conservative anachronism are risible, and reminds me of Evelyn Waugh's complaint that he could never find a politician who would promise to put the clock back."

The passage, of course, neglects to mentions that, with the writer instead resting on the laurels of providing a narrative degrading Hitchens. Hitchens further substantiates his dislike for anachronistic narratives, referencing that territorial conquering was by no means exclusive to European settlers: "This details the long courtroom battle fought by various factions of the Sioux to reclaim their rights in the mountains of South Dakota. You can guess the story: treaties broken, lands filched, settlements put to the torch, women and children vilely abused. And all of it done by the Sioux to the Kiowa Indians, who had controlled the Black Hills before the Sioux got there in 1814. Actually, the book deals mainly with the greed and depredation of the palefaces, which is no doubt as it should be. But it is honest enough to say that the Sioux did drive off the Kiowa, and it quotes Chief Black Hawk saying candidly, 'These lands once belonged to the Kiowas and the Crows, but we whipped these nations out of them, and in this we did what the white men do when they want the lands of the Indians.'" It's also worth noting here that Hitchens considered addressing the abuses of the "palefaces" as being the correct course of action. 

Hitchens continued: "This is only a micro-illustration of the absurdity of founding a claim of right or justice on the idea of the indigenous. The Arawaks who were done in by Columbus's sailors, the Inca, the Comanche and the rest were not the original but only the most recent inhabitants.


The second major contention he had with the anti-Columbus movement was the element of pessimism: "They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway." This is by no means a settled moral fact, but it's a far cry from the ludicrous statement that Murtaza Hussain provides that claims Hitchens thought genocide was great. 

The passage writer rearranges and strawmans Hitchens quotes "Those 'who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery' fail to understand that this is 'the way that history is made, and to complain about it is as empty as complaint about climatic, geological or tectonic shift.'" by neglecting to note that genocide and slavery is not the antecedent, but rather the actual antecedent is taking the good with the bad of progressive civilization: "They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway."

Hitchens also supported Sioux getting what was their due, but again felt they had disputable rights to the land they inhabited: "Reapportioning Andalusia according to "precedent" would be as futile an idea as restoring Sioux rights that are only "ancestral" as far back as 1814. The Sioux should be able to claim the same rights and titles as any other citizen, and should be compensated for past injury. That goes without saying. But the anti-Columbus movement is bored by concepts of this kind..." 

The passage writer so ignorantly or disingenuously suggests that "The annihilation of the Native Americans was an instance that left humanity 'humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before,'" but again shoehorned the statement out of context. The original context wasn't referring to Native American genocide but advancement of civilization by various means (which don't by default mandate the extermination of native settlers): "But it is sometimes unambiguously the case that a certain coincidence of ideas, technologies, population movements and politico-military victories leaves humanity on a slightly higher plane than it knew before. The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into "America" inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and thus deserves to be celebrated with great vim and gusto..."

Whether you agree with what Hitchens actually said or not, Hussain and this mysterious passage writer (Hussain didn't link the article he got it from) both severely distorted what Hitchens actually wrote. The passage writer is more to blame here, but Hussain is not a Good Samaritan when it comes to ethics of discourse. It would be a relief if this were the last time we'd see vile misinformation created by, endorsed by, or propagated by The Intercept, but it's most likely not the last time, given the precedents and morals of the associated individuals.