Islam and Muslims

I just wrapped up an extended Twitter “discussion” on Muslims and Islam. I didn’t even bring them up, someone jumped in with an attack on Muslims while I was getting scolded for being too intolerant of intolerance.

And then this happened:

islam

(Not sure why, but the original tweet seems to have been deleted.)

So let’s talk about this, shall we?

I do not support,condone or defend Islam. I don’t like any organized religions, but I’d have to place Islam at the bottom of the list among major world religions. It’s extremely patriarchal and oppressive toward women, and even though it’s true a strong majority of Muslims don’t condone it, has been used to justify a great deal of violence in the modern world.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to countenance persecution of or discrimination against Muslims just based on them being Muslims. That is both morally wrong and unwise. Attitudes among Muslims run on a spectrum, and vary greatly country to country and region to region. For example:

Attitudes toward Islamic law vary significantly by region. Support for making sharia the law of the land is highest in South Asia (median of 84%). Medians of at least six-in-ten Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa (64%), the Middle East-North Africa region (74%) and Southeast Asia (77%) also favor enshrining sharia as official law. But in two regions, far fewer Muslims say Islamic law should be endorsed by their governments: Southern and Eastern Europe (18%) and Central Asia (12%).

[I]n some countries where Muslims make up more than 90% of the population, relatively few want their government to codify Islamic law; this is the case in Tajikistan (27%), Turkey (12%) and Azerbaijan (8%).

Distinct legal and political cultures may help to explain the differing levels of support for sharia. Many of the countries surveyed in Central Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe share a history of separating religion and the state. The policies of modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, for example, emphasized the creation of a secular government; other countries in these two regions experienced decades of secularization under communist rule. By contrast, governments in many of the countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region have officially embraced Islam.

By the way, Sharia sounds scary (and it definitely can be) but of course it’s more complex than many people realize. Severe punishments (beating, stoning for adultery, execution for apostasy, etc.–which I condemn, in case there is any doubt) are only part of it, and again support for them varies greatly throughout the Muslim world.

Even though I don’t follow any religion myself, our country was founded on religious freedom, and that means I’m free to be atheist as much as Mary is free to be a Christian and Ahmad is free to be a Muslim. Freedom of religion is freedom of religion, as long as your beliefs aren’t harming others. That means we absolutely want to keep violent extremists out of our country, and combat violent extremism around the world…which by the way, Muslims are helping us do.

We also want to let in those who are fleeing extreme violence, like in Syria. And we want to welcome those who choose to be part of a secular nation like the United States, where no religion is dominant over others. We’re not going to eradicate Islam; it’s preposterous to try. What we want is to encourage progressive Islam and welcome its adherents. Those who believe women deserve equal rights, that killing gays is wrong and unprovoked violence in the name of their God is evil.

By painting all Muslims (yes, I’m #NotAllMuslims ‘ing this) with a broad brush, and assuming they all want to do us harm, we’re only making it easier for extremism to thrive, and harder for the religion to modernize and moderate. It just doesn’t make sense.

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Details, Details

Details and facts matter. This is true whether they are convenient for us or not. So some time has passed, we know more about Donald’s executive order about immigration, and some other historical context has come to my attention. So let’s talk about it.

About that list

First, like many others I implied that Donald cherry picked the list of countries to be effected by the ban based on his business interests. This appears to not be the case. As many conservatives, including the administration, are pointing out today, the list of countries originated during the Obama administration. It started with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law. After that, the Department of Homeland Security (again, under Obama) added to the list, bringing it to what it is today. Mea culpa! So the administration didn’t create this list, but I’m sure they were overjoyed to find one that happened to align with Donald’s businesses AND was created under Obama, giving them deniability. Nonetheless, the facts are what they are and we need to acknowledge them.

So that means this is really Obama’s policy, right? Wrong! The list of countries is shared, the policy is not. Due to the Act, the people from these countries (or who had recently traveled to them) are not be eligible for visa waivers, meaning they have to apply for a visa (and go through the requisite screening process) to enter the US. This legislation was criticized at the time, from both sides, but the fact is it goes nowhere near as far the latest executive order. The policies are not at all alike.

But wait, there’s more

Another attempt to tie this to Obama, and therefore indicate that protests are either wrong or hypocritical, is to compare it to his 2011 action regarding Iraq. In a nutshell, in 2011, after a terrorist plot was discovered, the Obama administration stopped processing applications for refugees from Iraq for six months. This article does a good job of describing the differences between this executive order and Obama’s 2011 action, but I’ll summarize the key ones here: Continue reading

Muslims and Police, What?

If you’ve been living under a rock (or aren’t American, though I suspect this is getting a lot of international attention) you might not know that America’s first Orange President has followed through on one of his more odious campaign promises by ordering a de facto partial ban on Muslim immigrants.

Partial because it applies only to certain countries. And how many of the 9-11 hijackers came for those countries? None…zero. Of course, some people noticed something curious about the Muslim countries excluded from that list, namely that they are countries in which Donald has business interests! Isn’t that special? Oh, and one more thing. People who already immigrated to the US legally are caught up in the web. Continue reading

Trump Happened

So, Trump happened. I kept hoping I’d wake up from this nightmare, or some superhero would swoop in and save us, but no, this is the reality. Donald Trump is sitting in the Oval Office at the White House.

Now what?

I’m gay, but I’m also white and male and I earn a comfortable living (aside: I’m willing to bet most in the “Gays for Trump” camp fit that description as well), so I enjoy a certain amount of privilege. If I were to put my head down, stay quiet and not cause any trouble for the next few years, I’d probably be–relatively speaking–OK.

Fuck that.

It’s not good enough. It should never be good enough, not for me, not for you, not for anyone. I plan to use whatever privilege I have to support and protect those who need it. And when I run out of privilege, I’ll keep going. This time is going to be a true test of our character. I don’t know what the fighting is going to entail, but I suspect there will be a lot it. We can’t allow our country to get less equal, less safe or less free. America has always been a work in progress. Even 18 months ago, when the idea of President Trump was a joke to almost everyone (even Donald himself), no one thought this country was perfect. But we had just witnessed an era of progress, despite unprecedented obstructionism from our historically useless Congress, dominated by a radicalized Republican party. I was excited to keep that progress going!

But that progress is going to have to wait; that radicalized party is in control, and led by a monster. For now we’ll be fighting tooth and nail just to keep what we have, to not take too many steps back.

So the first thing I’m going to do–the first of many, but we have to start somewhere–is to attend the Chicago version of the Women’s March tomorrow (or today, it’s almost midnight as I type this). Of his many bad qualities, Donald’s attitude–and resulting behavior–toward women is probably the most appalling. He views women as objects, either to be obtained like trophies or as a means to an end. They’re certainly not equals. Even without him, the Republican party had been chipping away at women’s health for years and more recently began ramping up that assault, attempting to obliterate Planned Parenthood.

It’s a small thing, but tomorrow (today) I’ll stand with my sisters and send a message.

If you come for them, you come for me, too.

Guns: Bullet Points

Guns, guns, guns. So much going on. I thought I’d put down, in concise terms, how I feel about guns since a lot of people seem to jump to some rather inaccurate conclusions. What more appropriate way than the use of bullet points?

  • I believe owning a gun makes one less safe, not more safe. This isn’t just a hunch, it’s backed by plenty of evidence.
  • The US would be a better country if guns were:
    • More scarce
    • Harder to get (waiting periods, universal background checks, etc.)
  • I believe no one (outside of military or law enforcement) has a legitimate need for high-capacity assault-style weapons like the AR-15.
  • The epidemic of gun violence in the US is a complex problem requiring complex solutions. There is no simple fix, no one law that will change everything.
  • No, we cannot eliminate all gun violence and that isn’t the goal. We can and should drastically reduce it.
  • Gun control isn’t binary, it’s not all or nothing. So one can advocate for gun control without wanting wholesale confiscation of guns.
  • “Gun control doesn’t work in Chicago you stupid idiot moron leftie!” — Chicago doesn’t have walls, it has open borders. Indiana is right next door and it’s very easy to get a gun there. There are hundreds of millions of guns in the US, there is only so much local regulations can achieve.
  • I do not think the “No Fly List” in its current form is the way to prevent terrorists from getting guns.
  • While I’m not a fan of guns (clearly) I also don’t believe that black people should be killed by police for having one.
  • The NRA is akin to a terrorist organization at this point. It makes meaningless statements like “No guns for terrorists, period.” while impeding any real attempt at reforming gun laws. They intimidate through fear, both for politicians (fear the NRA will support opponents) and regular people (fear that the government is going to take all their guns away, and fear that if you don’t have a gun you’ll fall victim to horrific acts of violence).

This is far from exhaustive. I’ve written plenty about guns, so if you want to know more, check out the “gun” tag.

And Then There Was One

Trump holding up hands with tiny fingers
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Someone pinch me, I think I’m dreaming! It can’t really be that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, can it?

Ted Cruz “suspended his campaign” (the term generally used for dropping out) last night, after losing the Indiana primary to Trump by a large margin. Last night one of John Kasich’s senior staff (I forget which, will update if I find it) was saying he would stay in, but today the reports are that Kasich will suspend his campaign, leaving Trump as the last man standing from a previously enormous Republican field and the GOP nominee.

OK, I should say “presumptive” nominee. I guess there could still be some shenanigans during the convention. And the Donald could also announce that he was just fucking with us this whole time, and that we’re a bunch of morons and drop the mic. Wouldn’t that turn some people’s world upside down?

Ladies and gentlemen, all this time I have been playing a character. A loud-mouthed, lying, racist, misogynist with no real qualifications for the job, to be exact. I never thought it would get this far, but Americans are more stupid than I would have ever believed! As my character would say, ‘What a bunch of losers!’ I suggest all the Trump 2016 supporters take some time to reflect on what they were really supporting, and who they are. And our leaders, especially those in the Republican party, should think long and hard about how they helped create an environment in which Donald Trump the character could come so far. Let this serve as a wake-up call.

With that, I am suspending my campaign to be the Republican nominee for president. Good luck, and God bless America.

Oh, I wish!

Some day there will be books written with various opinions on how exactly we got here, but for now we need to just focus on how to avert disaster.

Still digesting all this. You can expect more blogging on the election to come.

You Don’t Get It

There is a common refrain coming from supporters of the recent anti-LGBT laws like HB 2, that those protesting are ignorant, and simply reacting to spin and misinformation. That we don’t get it. In the address announcing his executive order, NC Governor Pat McCrory said:

 You know, after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, passion and frankly selective outrage and hypocrisy especially against the great state of North Carolina.

And people like this guy trolls Twitter for mentions of HB 2, posting memes abusing the likeness of legendary NFL referee Ed Hochuli:

Continue reading

Why Your Point is Pointless

Are you someone who has said something like the tweets below, in the media, on social media or just to friends?

You probably thought you were gosh-darned clever, and caught these guys red-handed being hypocrites!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the point you’re making doesn’t actually exist. You’re really making a terrible analogy. Continue reading

Reblog: Ryan T. Anderson’s salad of rotten apples and oranges

Ryan T. Anderson is ALL ABOUT the anti-LGBT laws in Mississippi, North Carolina and Missouri, and he has the sads that businesses and major artists are not so enamored with them.

At The Slowly Boiled Frog, Mr.David Cary Hart takes on one Ryan’s recent screeds.

Anderson tries to redefine the controversy. The Mississippi law is anything but narrowly applicable. And those public restrooms in North Carolina include those in public schools (which was the point of the Charlotte ordinance). Also, Mr. Anderson conveniently ignores the fact that the state nullified numerous municipal nondiscrimination ordinances in North Carolina’s largest urban areas. Thus “at issue” are laws that officially make LGBT people second-class citizens. It is a new flavor of Jim Crow.

Check out the full post here: Ryan T. Anderson’s salad of rotten apples and oranges

To Boycott or Not to Boycott

boycott

With the recent passage of some pretty crappy laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, I’ve seen calls to boycott the states.

But is boycotting the right thing to do? Boycotts have mixed results in bringing about change. The reality is they don’t often substantially impact the target’s bottom line, but instead focus media attention and harm the target’s image, according to Northwestern University’s Brayden King. How much financial impact could individuals have boycotting a state? Even if you add in the various governments that have banned travel, how many of their state and municipal employees are really traveling to MS and NC on “non-essential” business anyway?

King notes that the study has one ironic conclusion: “Companies with poor reputations to begin with are less vulnerable to boycotts, because they have less to lose.”

Extend that to states, and I think North Carolina has more to lose than Mississippi, so a boycott may be more effective there. Indeed, we’ve seen NC getting more media attention, despite the belief of many (including myself) that MS passed a worse law.

Things start to heat up when companies and celebrities get involved. I’m not talking about releasing some empty statement about how they are “disappointed” with the law. I’m talking about PayPal canceling plans to open a new facility (which would have brought 400+ jobs) and Bruce Springsteen canceling a show in North Carolina. These are attention-grabbing headlines. Continue reading