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

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.

Here we are again

Here we are again. Yet another mass shooting in America, this one setting a new record as the deadliest. This time the victims were primarily LGBT and primarily latinx. While geographically distant, it still hits too close to home.

What has changed since the first mass shooting I wrote about here–the murder of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT–in 2012?

Other than a bunch of other shootings happening between then and now, well, nothing.

The same inaction in government. The same bullshit from the NRA and their brain-washed, gun-worshiping minions. The NRA, while spouting meaningless platitudes about their policy being “no guns for terrorists” continues to block any and all attempts to increase gun regulation, while stirring up fear in the masses and pushing the need for guns for self defense.

Despite the obviousness of the fact that having more guns per capita than any other country on Earth has not made us safer, they keep pushing for more and more guns, and people are eating it up.

In 2012, I eviscerated their ridiculous claim that more guns will make us safer and this all still holds true.

And gun nuts, without any evidence, repeatedly claim that gun control won’t work, that bad guys will still get guns and good guys will be defenseless. This claim isn’t based in reality:

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have much tougher gun laws. According to the CBC, “It takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm in this country, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.” Oh, dear! By the NRA’s logic crime in Canada must be out of control! Is it? No. In fact, there were 598 homicides in the entire country in 2011! How about in the USA? According to the FBI that number was 14,612 last year! OK, to be fair let’s adjust for population differences.

Homicides per 100,000 population (2011):

Canada: 1.73

USA: 4.7

As of 2014 those numbers are down slightly:

Canada: 1.45

USA: 4.5

Would-be heroes are most likely deluding themselves. In 2009, ABC News did an experiment based on actual mass shooting in Illinois, testing the theory that an armed student in the lecture hall could have intervened and stopped the shooter. The theory didn’t fare well. Even the volunteer with the most gun experience was “killed” in the mock-shooting. It’s worth a watch here.

Was this a perfect experiment? No, but it should nonetheless be an eye opener for those who think that untrained civilians with guns have a high chance of successfully intervening against a bad guy with a gun. The blog post I linked above has some anecdotes of failed attempts along these lines, for example:

In February, 2005 David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire (with a MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle) at his ex-wife and child, outside a courthouse! And courthouses, as the NRA correctly pointed out, are already protected by armed security. A civilian, armed with a pistol, attempted to intervene and was shot and killed. Arroyo was able to escape from a gunfight with police, including a trained sniper, and take officers on a car chase before eventually being taken down.

Will something finally change? I wish I could say I thought so. But I’m very skeptical. However, we’re seeing more movement than before. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 15 hour filibuster on the Senate floor yesterday, with support from many of his Democratic colleagues:

Senate Democrats ended a nearly 15-hour filibuster early Thursday after Republican Party leaders reportedly agreed to allow votes on two proposed gun control measures.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said that a compromise had been reached. Votes would be held on whether to ban people on the government’s terrorist watch list from obtaining gun licenses and whether to expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, he added.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our legislative branch that a 15 hour filibuster was needed just to get the point of permitting a vote on legislation.

If passed, will these measures be perfect? Will they fix everything? No, and no. The problem is so large, deeply-ingrained and multifaceted, it will be take a great deal of time and effort to really make a serious dent, but we have to start somewhere.

I won’t hold my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

 

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

Hate in the States

msprotest
Protest in Mississippi

As I type this, hundreds are gathered in Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi, protesting the state’s HB 1523, the preposterously-named “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” and urging the governor to veto it. The fallout from North Carolina’s HB 2 (pdf) is still coming down. What the heck is going on?

While the recent successes for LGBT rights in the U.S.–particularly the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling–have caused many to let their guards down and celebrate victory, others have been urging us to stay vigilant. In his book “It’s Not Over“, author, activist  and radio host Michelangelo Signorile predicted a backlash, and warned us against “victory blindness”. It turns out, he was right.

We have seen a rash of anti-LGBT laws sweep the country, mostly at the state level and often under the guise of “religious freedom”. Let’s take a look at a few of the worst of them. Continue reading

Ryan Anderson is a Sad, Lonely Man

Red heart with white equal signIt’s that time of year again when couples celebrate their love (out of obligation or desire) and singles wallow or embrace their singleness. Looks like our favorite Ryan T Anderson is in the wallowing camp. His “woe is me” is indirect though, and not obvious unless you’re familiar with him.

He wrote this piece on the topic of love for Valentine’s Day: Does love really equal love? I’m going to be honest, I only skimmed it. Ryan says the same things over and over again in slightly different ways, so if you’ve read a couple of his pieces that’s all you really need. This one was more of the same: love is not all equal, same sex relationships are different (meaning inferior), oh heavens to Betsy! Oh, and straight people ruined marriage and opened the door for those pesky gay people to get married. Damn straights!

Who is Ryan Anderson? He’s a man in his mid 30s who has never been married and does not appear to even be dating. He’s Catholic, but he’s not a clergyman. He’s educated, employed and a decent looking guy when he’s not letting his beard grow out of control. Why is it that he’s single and had no discernible history of romantic relationships? Continue reading