Time to shake things up a bit with something that is immediately awful and harmful, and something I have a hard time being sarcastically dismissive about. So strap in, I guess. If you haven’t read my post from a while quite a while ago, I am an atheist, so the topic I’ll be talking about hits closer to home than usual. I may bitch a lot about BLM and feminism and how I think they’re awful for the most part, which I do, don’t get me wrong; but in the end of the day, I can only care so much about things I feel obligated to address just to break the stereotype that all women/black people/etc. think X thing. Religious beliefs, though, are actually something you can choose about yourself, something that actually says something about you as a person, something that actually informs who you are as a unique human being. As a general rule, anything that involves being harmed or abused for the damnable crime of “thinking the wrong things” really disturbs me as a concept, so that on top of me being an atheist makes the Ayaz Nizami debacle resonate with me a great deal.
For some background: Ayaz Nizami is a Pakistani atheist who, along with reportedly two other atheists, was arrested for blasphemy after posting on a few atheist Facebook pages and online forums. This follows right on the footsteps of an atheist in neighboring India, H. Farook, being hacked to death with sickles by a mob for expressing atheistic sentiments online. People have taken to the internet expressing themselves about what the punishment for blasphemy should be, which is why #HangAyazNizami was trending. I guess we know what the consensus is.
This is the same country where tens of thousands of people supported and mourned the death of an assassin of a government official who wanted to protect Christian minorities. This is the same country where the government has actively given a call to arms to its people to start seeking out and reporting blasphemy, particularly of the anti-Islam kind, to be punished. According to Pew researchers, the Middle East and North Africa are the main places where you can still find laws against blasphemy (18 out of the 20 countries) and apostasy (14 out of the 20 countries), with Pakistan being one of the harshest, often sentencing blasphemers to the death penalty. Other countries are nicer and just send people to prison for 2-15 years. Aren’t they reasonable?
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For some more nice info about Pakistan in particular: 61% of them think that there is only one interpretation of Sharia law, 84% of them are in favor of making it the law of the land, 87% of them think religious judges should handle disputes, 89% think stoning is an apt punishment for adultery, 76% think apostasy from Islam should warrant the death penalty, 91% think it’s bad that their country doesn’t follow Sharia more closely, 88% think a wife should always obey her husband, 26% think that a woman has the right to a divorce, 85% think that it’s necessary to believe in god to be moral, 93% think sex outside marriage is morally wrong, 90% think homosexuality is immoral, 71% think divorce is immoral, a bit more than half think honor killings are justified, and 87% think society should not accept homosexuality, which falls in line with the mainly-Muslim countries where not even younger generations are slightly more accepting of it.
I put these stats there for a nice micro-example of how these are not “fringe” notions. It’s not 1% of Muslims with extreme, fundamentalist ideas who think apostates should be killed and that gay people are evil and that women have to defer to their husbands, even legally. These are not uncommon ideas to have in overtly Muslim societies. And I’m sure that if you asked the people who gave their answers to this poll, they’d say there were religious moderates. Yes, the lovely moderates we hear so much about, the ones who are peaceful and fine and just minding their own business.
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I’m not a fan of religion. There are days where I actively despise it as a concept. The Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) are awful and mostly incoherent, and I used to be inclined to give the more Eastern-centric religions a break . . . until finding out about the whole “using Reincarnation as an excuse to hate and further the abuse poor people” thing, after which I threw in the towel and admitted to myself that making excuses for religion was pointless. This isn’t me saying that religion causes bad things to happen. I mentioned in my original post about atheism that I think people would find excuses to be crazy and violent even if religion wasn’t a thing. That being said, I think religion gives people an excuse to be violent and explicit groups of people who it is morally acceptable to mistreat or treat as lesser than you. “There are other stupid things in the world,” doesn’t strike me as a particularly compelling argument for why religion should just be given a pass and treated like some great thing.
This most recent happening with Ayaz Nizami (who, best case scenario if no one steps in, is going to be imprisoned for the rest of his life) just serves as yet another all-too-frequent example of an idea being granted the title of sacrosanct. This is what happens when a large group of people decides that their ideas should never be criticized. Should never even be joked about or made fun of. Should never be questioned. And this is why it annoys me to all hell when people in the US and Canada and Britain and Germany trip over themselves to defend Islam from any criticism, doing nothing but reaffirming this already-ridiculous notion that it should automatically be regarded with the highest of respects.
You have Majid Nawaz and Ayan Hirsi Ali of all people being labeled as dangerous Islamophobic bigots. You have social media sites actively guarding against “Islamophbic, hateful content.” But, rest assured, all the tweets unironically calling for a man to be hung in the streets for speaking against Islam are still readily available to be seen by anyone who wants them.
You have Canada passing motions that make “Islamophobia” something that can get you in federal trouble, because how dare you not respect someone’s religious affiliation. How is this not some glorified blasphemy law? How? And why does no other religion get it? I’m guessing it’d still be okay for me to go on over to Canada and call a Christian photographer who’s just not feeling up to snapping photos at a gay wedding an insufferably moralistic cunt. It’s okay to not give two fucks about the religious convictions of a Christian, but expressing displeasure with the religion that has currently provided the world with almost 500 violent attacks (most of them small scale, which is why they aren’t newsworthy at this point) in the last 3 months isn’t allowed. All in the name of tolerance. Muslims should be insulted by this. They are being depicted as either a.) ticking time-bombs who are going to literally explode the second they feel disrespected or b.) fragile victims who crumble under criticism of their apparently deeply held beliefs, even when criticism of all the other religious beliefs is seen as fine and normal.
I understand why this is happening. People want to be kind. They want to be tolerant. They want to be good people. There actually was a rash of genuine Muslim-hatred after 9/11, back when you could throw a rock and hit somebody who thought we should nuke all of the towelheads and kick all the sand niggers out of our country. I understand feeling bad about that and seeking atonement for it. But we’ve gotten to the point of overcompensating. In our attempts to prove that we don’t hate Muslims, we are over-correcting past missteps by giving the Islamic religion a pass for things that we wouldn’t otherwise accept.
A Christian shoots up an abortion clinic and kills 5 people? Christianity is awful. A Muslim shoots up a club and kills 30? Well, he was indoctrinated into America’s strong anti-gay sentiments. People aren’t allowed to wear any identifying religious garb at a certain business . . . unless a Muslim girl wants to wear a headscarf, in which case it’s an outrage that she can’t wear her religious garb. A Christian doesn’t want to bake a cake for some gay people? Screw their religion. A Muslim doesn’t want to be taught by a woman in the classroom? Well, that’s their religious belief, so . . .
I’ll provide a quick anecdote. One day, some friends and I were discussing a professor from another university who was a sexual predator yet inexplicably hasn’t been fired just because he was such a big deal in academic circles. He sexually harassed and groped female students. At one point he outright drugged a girl, and she woke up an indeterminate amount of time later topless, on his lap, with his hand in between her legs. On another occasion, he asked a female Muslim student for a kiss, and pulled off her headscarf while he yanked her closer to him, after which she pulled away and left. Now, both incidents completely and utterly disrespect the wishes and bodily autonomy of another human being. That being said, I think we can all agree that being outright drugged and raped is worse than having an accessory pulled off your head while someone roughly grabs your arm. Guess which incident my friends thought was the more deplorable, punchable thing for that man to do? Hint: they didn’t want to punch him until they found out he pulled off a Muslim girl’s headscarf, because that would make her feel really bad.
It is nothing but people scrambling to prove how tolerant they are, to the point where they are willing to sacrifice their other principles to do it. “Muslim women are the best feminists” being one of the most egregious examples of this. Yeah, have fun going to feminist bastion Saudi Arabia and being physically assaulted in public for not wearing a headscarf. To be fair, many countries are overcompensating in the opposite direction, taking into account legitimate fears and translating that into counterproductive policies like outright banning burkinis and whatnot. What people don’t seem to realize is that religious freedom means having the freedom to practice a religion as long as that practice doesn’t impose on the rights of others and having the freedom to criticize that religion mercilessly, if you so choose.
Meanwhile, as Canada enacts the first steps of its anti-Islamophobia motion, Ayaz Nizami is going to be put to death for criticizing Islam, and Ayan Hirsi Ali is sleeping with armed guards outside her bedroom, and Majid Nawaz is getting death threats, and the former editor of Charlie Hebdo is at risk of losing money over committing hate speech, all because they said something unkind about the religion of peace.