Breeched Wales Bloviating in the Hot Sun

Location: Long Island, New York, United States

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Trying to Have a Discussion About Islam

I'm trying to have a discussion about Islam with Vavoom over at Tedrow Drive but he is being evasive. One of the commenters there responded to me as if my questions were equally applicable to Christianity and Judaism. He's of the mistaken viewpoint that Islam had some claim to some form of historical moral superiority. I don't think that is the case. I tried to post my reply to him but it was too big for the comments section. That's why I have the word "bloviating" in my tag line.

I didn't proofread this so I may go back and fix it for spelling or grammar. I won't remove or add sentences, and will only change a sentence to give my true meaning if I have a typo or something.

Heres my reply:

Mindful: “Your criticisms of Islam apply equally well to both Christianity and Judaism. Doesn't the Bible approve slavery and say that we should kill those who work on the Sabbath? For centuries, non-christians were persecuted for voicing their beliefs.

I don’t go to Muslims to criticize Christianity and Judaism. The Muslims already have their own misguided reasons for doing so. Some of which you have bought into. I go directly to Christians and they can defend themselves against many of these charges. For instance, many do not take the bible literally. I have been to churches and they do not use the whole bible. In fact they go out of their way to teach that certain parts are overruled by the appearance of Christ. In particular the parts about slavery and killing those who work on the sabbath.

I just had a conversation with a Catholic the other day and he is very much aware of the stupid teachings in the bible, he rejects them, and he is honest in saying that most Christians are not even aware of them. He does not believe the bible was written by god but by fallible men and that it is full of mistakes and frankly evil stuff.

There are fundamentalist Christians who believe in the literal truth of the bible and those are the most dangerous kinds of Christians. They tend to be the ones involved in bombings of abortion clinics and the like. This is not a general problem even with them however since Jesus did not run around chopping peoples heads and hands off, raiding caravans, making war on peaceful neighbors, massacring whole populations, like Mohammed did. For the most part I have to agree with the Christians that the bad behavior in the past is against the teachings of Christ.

Christians and Jews have other defenses that Muslims don’t. In Christianity and Judaism it is God doing allot of the killing and punishing. In fact when he punishes he even punishes Jews. When he commands the slaughter of innocents or does it himself it becomes a historical issue. Much of the time God is killing Jews. God may have commanded the Jews to slaughter the Midianites, Canaanites, or Baconites J but what does that matter to anyone today? That Jews slaughtered some tribe called the Midianites at some time in the past may be reprehensible but puts no one in danger today. I can find no general commandment in the Bible for Jews and Christians to kill any group today. That is not the case with the Koran.

Today’s Jews are not responsible for some unjustified slaughter that occurred two thousand years ago. Not even if they teach that the slaughter is valid Jewish doctrine and they personally believe in it. The reason why they are not responsible is because they didn’t do it. Now if they teach the slaughter was evil, an opinion held by most Christians and Deists, then they are blameless in all ways. However, if they sanction it then they are not blameless and can be held in contempt for at least this one evil belief. Even in this case however such a Jew is not a danger to anyone in the present. Furthermore, if you read the text on the killing of say the Midianites there is no general requirement by God for Jews find and kill them today. Even if there were Midianites they would have a reason to be unhappy with history but would not need to be in general fear of Jews.

I want to also apologize to any Jews. I really shouldn’t be using the bible in this case. It would be the Torah, and other religious texts.

Now if the Jews were strict literalists, if the Torah taught them to slaughter Midianites up to the present day, if Jews were actually slaughtering Midianites, then the Midianites would be justified in protecting themselves. Not only would the Jews actually participating be guilty but also those who were advocating the crimes. The murderers themselves guilty of murder and the inciters guilty of incitement to murder.

Furthermore, if the murderers were a member of some organization that had sanctioned such behavior then other members can be held responsible, should they become aware of this and not disassociate themselves. If you join an organization that has literature that calls for the murder of innocents, go to meetings where the leaders of the organization incite for such actions, you donate money to support the organization, and then some other members act on these beliefs then you share part of the guilt. This is a lesser crime than murder, or direct incitement to murder, but it is still a crime and you should be punished, force to pay restitution, and possibly locked up if you continue in such behavior in order to protect your victims.

I also think there are additional crimes that can be associated with these evil beliefs.

I believe it is a crime to knowingly and with reasonable regard to the truth, deceive another into believing something that is untrue about someone else that would lead that person to behavior that is harmful to either themselves or the other person. I spend a lot of time thinking about such ethical issues.

There are laws on the books, libel laws, related to this crime so it is at least partially recognized. I think these laws are inadequate as to their scope. For instance, I understand that libel only pertains to specific lies about an single individual. You cannot sue for libel if the lie is about a group that you happen to be a member of.

I am of the opinion that this, libel upon groups, is a crime regardless of whether there is a law against it, similar to my belief that slavery is a crime regardless of whether it is lawful. There are some countries with laws of this kind on the books. In Germany for instance there are laws against promulgating Nazi ideology. Don’t be confused into thinking this would apply too broadly. My crime includes the adjective phrase “knowingly and with reasonable regard to the truth”, and people do make mistakes. But I think a reasonable man test should apply, and that gross over generalizations fail this test.

There is no reasonable person who can believe that “all Jews are greedy”. If you teach this to another person, especially a minor, then you are committing a group libel and I think anyone in the group has standing to sue you to stop. Furthermore, if the person you teach this to commits a crime against a member of the aggrieved group that you should be held partially responsible.

There are many teachings in Islam for which none of the excuses available to Christians and Jews apply. In addition Muslims are obeying these evil teachings today and they cite them in their sermons, both before and after members of their mosques commit their atrocities. To lesser and greater degrees many Muslims are guilty of the crimes I have discussed above, in addition to others.

I understand that, as with most religions, there are many Islamic sects, regional differences, and even differences of opinion within particular sects. I know many Catholics and their opinions vary greatly. I only know this however by speaking to them and discussing many different issues. All present day Catholics that I have met do not condone the murder of heretics. This has not always been the case and the only reason I know is because I have asked. There are to my knowledge no Catholics running amuck killing heretics. I have discussed the issue of killing heretics with educated middle class Muslims and they have no problem with it. For instance, a Pakistani I know was asked about the heresy laws of his own country (and others) “Isn’t that wrong”. His response was “You just don’t like it because you are not a believer”. Really, this is the level of moral understanding that I have seen from well-educated Muslims. Worse still I see plenty of Muslims, even clerics from esteemed religious institutions who should know Islam, calling for the murder of non-Muslims.

It is not a common practice for Catholics to kill family members that turn apostate. I know of no current teachings of the Catholic Church to do so. I understand that there are crazy people like say John List, and I do not count this against modern Christians in general. List may have found his inspiration in the bible but it was not due to anyone in the Catholic faith telling him to take it literally. If John List was a fundamentalist and his preacher told him the bible was literally true, and if a reasonable person could interpret the bible to be teaching to kill your family then I would hold the preacher accountable. I doubt that is the case. This is a behavior that is practiced in Islam. They kill family members for minor violations of Islamic law like sleeping around to protect the family honor. The same goes for apostates, which, is an even worse crime in Islam.

My issue is with the evil teachings of Islam that I have read with my own eyes.

Mindful: During that time, the muslim world treated non-muslims with respect.

This is a false statement. You have failed to skeptically investigate the claims. I think you are ignorant of the actual treatment of non-muslims during the period. Muslims are in a state of denial about their religious history that is similar to Christian denial. There are Muslim apologists just like there are Christian ones There is a difference however in how they proceed, Christians deny that these past evils were due to following Christ, Muslims just deny the history completely.

Under Islamic law conquered Christians and Jews have the status of Dhimmitude. Dhimmis are required to pay a Jiyza, or political poll tax. During collection of this tax there is a requirement that the Dhimmis are made to feel subdued. Often there was a humiliating public ceremony in which the tax was collected during which the dhimmis were given some sort of beating.

Muslims need not pay such a tax and therefore the Islamic ruler's only tax base was often the Dhimmis under their control. One way to get out of the tax is to convert to Islam, which often the rulers would not allow lest their tax base be eroded. There was an open invitation by the rulers for non-muslims to come to their countries, but one can see that this is for selfish motivations and not out of some form of beneficence. Like when certain Muslim conquerers released some of their prisoners for ransom, this was not a sign of tolerance. Often an Islamic ruler is praised for such a ransom when in many other cases he just had everyone slaughtered.

Dhimmis were required to wear special clothing so that they could be harrassed in public, were not allowed to testify against Muslims, were not allowed in many occupations, were not allowed to be the bosses of Muslims, were not allowed to build or repair their churches and synagoges, not carry weapons, couldn’t build their houses higher than Muslims, and so forth. Their position was precarious because they were often subject to purges, and the local Muslim population had no monetary incentive not to abuse them. Often a spat between a Muslim and a Dhimmi would degrade into a Muslim riot to punish all the Dhimmis for the transgression, even if it was originally the Muslim that was wrong. Also this whole time Muslims were allowed to own slaves, and Christians and Jews not. So guess who made up the slaves?

You may not be aware of this but many of the Southern US plantation owners thought that they were doing their slaves a favor. Not only that but quite a few slaves were allowed a sort of Dhimmi status and were allowed to go into the trades. Not because the slave owner was showing any kind of respect, but purely on a financial consideration. It is often possible to make more money on a slave by allowing the slave to educate himself in a trade and buy his own freedom. Slaves don’t make very good employess precisely because there is nothing in it for them. Not only that but there are costs involved in maintaining slaves in their positions. This practice of manumission via self-purchase has been common through-out history due to the financial incentives. It has nothing to do with any moral enlightenment on the part of the slave owner.

Such slaves were allowed to walk around freely, get jobs, etc. In the case of the southern US there was already a identifiable difference, skin color, between slave and slaveholder, so there was no need for distinctive clothing. In the more ancient slave holding communities this condition did not hold, so both capturing escaped slaves and identifing them were both more costly and provided different incentives in those societies that lead to different social attitudes. Once slaves bought themselves freedom in these more ancient societies they could literally change their skin color by switching their dress. The same was not true in the south and many of the slaves who bought their freedom moved north to avoid the social stigma of their skin color. The Dhimmis in Islamic culture had no so out. They were literally tax slaves who could never buy their freedom, unless perhaps they converted to Islam.

Of course, there is the issue of unbelievers such as myself who are not Christian or Jews. They were for the most part just put to death, without even an opportunity to convert, as were many Jews and Christians. There was no tolerance for beliefs outside of this small sphere. Atheists and Idolators were not tolerated in Muslim society and their only choice if they survived the murderous invasion was conversion or death.

Mindful: In the past, Islam was the religion of peace, both morally and geopolitically, and you would have been inveighing against Christians for hewing to their own misguided scripture.”

I am glad you recognize my moral superiority. :) It was people like me inveighing against Christian beliefs and Christian behavior that did lead to their reformation. Both the belief and the behavior has changed for the most part. Christianity still needs work in on some beliefs and some behavior but for the most part it is a peaceful religion. Islam has not experienced such a reformation.

It was Vavooms railing against the idea that Islam needed to get out of the 17th century that originally got my attention over at He seems like a rational guy but I think he is not seeing the big picture here. Islam really still is in the 17th century compared to Christianity and Judaism.

If you knew your history then you would realize there was never a period of time in which Islam could claim to be the religion of peace. As they say, history is always written by the winners.

Mindful: Imagine if the vast majority of Christians lived in poverty and ignorance. Do you think they would be great humanitarians? Do you think they would grow up gentle and giving? They would not.

The empircal evidence doesn’t back you up on this claim. The most violent and fanatical Muslims have been the richest, not the poorest. Osama Bin Laden was rich beyond my wildest dreams, and was educated in the finest institutions. Do you forget how and where the suicide pilots had access to flight instruction?

There have been and are vast populations of Catholic Christians living in abject poverty but they are not running around blowing up innocents. My grandfather was a poor sharecropper and my mother used to work in the fields picking not only their own crops but the crops of others. She used to get paid the same amount as the adults because she picked just as much, at age six her father demanded the same pay for her, and she was quite proud of that. He died from a rattlesnake bite he got in the woods, around the time my mother was seventeen.. She had four sisters and two brothers. All of who grew up to be gentle and giving.

I don’t know what being a “great humanitarian” has to do with it. Many of the greatest humaniarians of all times lived in abject poverty as children, Carnegie and Mother Teresa among others.

Vavoom, is worried about word count but look how much information it took to correct your three false sentences. I guess I could have said “Malarkey” but I assumed you were earnest but ignorant and not just a garden variety liar. It is my concern for the truth and that you know it that requires me to do more than that.

Mindful: The radicalism of state-sponsored Islam today is the effect of a century of poverty and misrule instigated in large part by the misguided actions of European (christian!) powers after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

I have to chuckle. Do you only get your history from Muslims? Why is it that only non-whites get to pull the historical victimhood card. Europeans were victims of the Romans conquest long before Muslims existed. There was a four hundred year history of Muslim conquest of Christian lands long before the first Crusade, and all the Crusades were started based on actual honest grivences. Muslims had invaded all the way into Spain and held it for hundreds of years before they were pushed out.

Christianity was not originally spread by the sword and it was the Muslims that precipitated the situation in Spain, in which after centuries of Dhimmitude the inhabitants threw off their chains. They were extremely intolerant of their overlords and anyone who appeared to work with them. This is not surprising, often brutal slave colonies like Haiti turn against their masters. The Haitian flag included the symbology of a white baby impaled on a spike. It is understandable and one of the reasons slavers are often afraid to free their slaves. So it was partially the Muslim’s fault the inquisition occurred. This is something I was not aware of until recently and had always blamed it on the Christians.

There are other problems with Christianity with regard to intellectual intolerance, but again the Muslims shared this trait. After all Islam is a bastardized form of Christianity. Thus Muslims burned down the library at Alexandria with the guy in charge saying something to the effect that “If any book disagrees with the Koran then it is pernicious and needs to be destroyed. If any agrees then it is superfluous and should also be destroyed”. He burned the books to heat the bath houses. Perhaps to wash off the guilt.

You are quite ignorant if you think that Islamic society was just peacefully minding it’s business up until the Ottoman empire was destroyed. Islam had taken over one million white slaves during the eighteenth and into the early nineteenth centuries. For over two hundred years they had raided not only European shipping but often landed in European lands to take slaves. Britain in particular was a target, and I mean literal slave raids in the country itself. Britain put up with this for over 200 years before it was put to a stop in 1830 by the descendent of a British white slave who had made his escape.

The Ottomans entered into WWI on the side of Germany. Do they get a free pass for that also?

I get sick of the Muslims constantly whining about our Western interference into their politics. What about their interference in ours? Take Sirhan Sirhan for instance. Why can’t I complain about the all the bribes coming from oil rich countries, you know registered lobbyists, to influence my leaders. I feel just as oppressed by some of the things my government does as they do by theirs. Why can’t I blame them. Why the hell for instance are my borders open to Muslim imperialist expansion while they prevent all immigration to their countries, why can they use government funds to build Mosques here, while not even private funds can be used to build a single Church in their country? If we are running the show then why don’t we get their oil for next to nothing? If we are running the show then why aren’t we forcing them to build churches and why aren’t the laws set up in their countries to our citizens favor and not the other way round. How did it end up that they nationalized US and British oil companies if we are in control? Why is it that since the “misrule instigated in large part by the misguided actions of European (christian) countries” that the Muslim population has advanced at a rate far exceeding those of western countries? Isn’t that a measure of welfare? Didn’t they benefit from medicine and trade with us? Does the doubling of their population reflect on us or them and the way they treat their women, as baby machines?

Note that the prior paragraph consists mainly of retorical questions and does not neccesarily represent my views in any particular instance. I was mocking the silly claims made by the other side.

Mindful: So maybe we can lay the blame of all today's chaos at Jesus's feet. But that would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? Just as ridiculous as blaming Mohammed.

Jesus didn’t call for mass slaughter, nor did he practice it. So he cannot be blamed directly or indirectly in any case. On the other hand Mohammed did both.

Mindful: The fact of the matter is, the clerics that want to kill Salman Rushdie are responsible for their own actions.

Of course, so what? That is the case regardless of whether Islam calls for the murder of apostates or not. They should know that the Koran is a false document and should behave themselves.

Do you really think that the Koran would stop them from believing something they really wanted to believe?
Do you even listen to the other side? I think it is clear that there is nothing about the Koran that would stop them. Why would you think that. Why would I expect a book instructing them to kill apostates to act as a restrain. No I would expect such a book to spur them on.

Mindful: If they need to believe something, they can just reinterpret it.
I don’t think that the option of reinterpreting the Koran is open. It says in plain language to kill.

Mindful: They are playing for power and, in their part of the world, violence is the best way for them to achieve it.

Violence is the best way only because in their part of the world intolerant Islam holds sway. Pat Robertson opened his stupid mouth (and that was not some sort of religious edict) about it would be a nice thing if Chavez got assassinated (and it probably would) and look at all the trouble it got him in. He had to apologize. Muslim clerics are constantly calling for death and it only increases their esteem with the Muslim population.

Theo van Gogh was killed for speaking up against Islamic treatment of women. The person who did it was doing it for power the same as any cleric. Any time you murder someone else you are using power to get your way. This is not just about political power. It’s not just politicians but the common guy on the street in Muslim countries that will murder for insults to Islam, like someone printing that Muhammed would have married one of the Miss Universe contestants. Hell some Palesteinians rioted and attacked Christians just a little while ago over the insult of a rumor of Druze schoolgirls posing for nude pictures.

Mindful: The only difference between them and the Christian leaders of the western world is that they grew up in a culture of hatred.

I can’t believe you mean what this sentence says, since you are trying arguing the opposite. Have you written something you didn’t intend? Do you mean to say that Islamic culture is a “culture of hatred”?

Mindful: The reason Vavoom calls you prejudiced is because you judge people by their religion. Why not judge them by their actions instead?

First off I don’t believe Vavoom actually called me prejudiced. He said that he “wrote off my comment as prejudicial” and that my “generalizations smacked of prejudice”. He couldn’t actually make a direct charge because I didn’t actually make any judgement about him based on his religion.

Second off, the phrase “you judge people by their religion” is kind of a loaded accusation. Everyone judges people by their religion. I am sure that you would be surprised if you sat down at a dinner with some orthodox Jews and they served up a big baked ham. I certainly won’t disagree with the statement in that sense. I certainly do believe that Jews have a tendency to avoid pork.

However, even in this case I wouldn’t assume that every single Jew doesn’t eat pork, and I am sure some do. Although I would make fun of them for not being good Jews. :) A good comedy skit might be some goy munching down on a ham samwich and a Jew getting indignant that he wasn’t offered a bite, and saying his generalization smacked of prejudice. “What do you think all Jews avoid pork just because the Torah says so?”

Thirdly, to my knowledge I have not judged any individual based on his religion in any of these posts, other than expecting a Muslim to be able to answer some hard questions about Islam.

Mindful: Vavoom is a good person.
Yes, it appears so to me. What is your point? I haven’t charged him with any crime worse than pointing out a little hypocrisy and a dash of intellectual error.

Mindful: I know that because he does good works. I know many people, both Muslims and Christians that do good works. The other kind, bad people, are not bad because they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or even Satanist. They are bad because they do bad things.

I think this is a naïve statement. What about people who do both good and bad things? John Gotti and Osama Bin Laden are both loved by many people for their good works. Both were quite charitable.

Mindful: As the bible says,
First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
-Matthew 7:5

I don’t appreciate being quoted to from Christianity about proper methods for intellectual inquiry. The bible has many more lessons on how to stick your head in the sand than to discover the truth. Doubting Thomas ring a bell? It is especially ironic that you do so after positing that Christianity is no more depraved than Islam.

Mindful: In other words, we need to make a true effort to understand the roots of violence and intolerance in the world.

By which you mean I ought to knuckle under to your ill informed belief on such. Like your theory that it is poverty that is the problem. Funny thing I have found is that many people who espouse this theory tend to want policies that would lead to more poverty, like reducing capitialism and increasing socialism.

I have made a true effort to understand the root causes of violence and intolerance in the world. They are multiple and varied. Funnily enough some of the worst violence and intolerance has been spawned by people trying to “do good works”. People like Marx come to mind.

Mindful: Sometimes we can do that best by examining the origins of the violence and intolerance in our own past.

That’s fine if we are not the only ones doing it, and if it doesn’t make the mistake of punishing the children for the sins of the fathers. It’s a double standard if only people of European ancestry are held to this standard. I don’t see this kind of introspection in the Arab world. The amount of self-flaggelation about history that goes on in America is frankly embarrasing, when compared to the self deception encountered in the Muslim world. The ruins of the World Trade Center hadn’t stopped smoking before Muslims were coming up with a pro-Islamic twist on the events.

You may not know this but I am not Christian, nor a member of any religion or ideology with any history of intolerance. I rejected Christianity at a very young age specifically because I found it ethically untenable. I was around seven when I decided that a God as described by could not exist due to the ethical contridictions that were inherent in the way Christianity was taught. How can you make a honest intellectual inquiry when you are being threathened to burn in hell for eternity if you don’t believe the arguments being postulated, regardless of whether they are true or false.

Mindful: Let's make sure that we are not damned by the very standards we try to enforce upon others.

“What’s this we shit paleface.” I pass my standards with flying colors.

Let's make sure we judge people by their actions, not their beliefs.”
Well there are two meaning to this sentence depending upon what we choose the word “judge” to mean.
1) If by “judge” you mean “to find guilt in” then I agree. However, remember that it is precisely for this reason that I am against Islam. After all, does not Allah burn people in hellfire forever on the mere issue of belief? Doesn’t the Koran instruct over and over to be predjudiced against unbelievers?
2) If by “judge” you mean to “gage and predict behavior” then I disagree. I think beliefs are a good metric by which to do so. If you do not think so then I suggest you try wearing a white sheet to a Nation of Islam rally to test your theory. You might be surprised at what actions people take due to their beliefs. What you cannot judge people upon, in this sense, is their lack of belief. A lack of belief is no guide to their actions. If a person literally believes every word of the Koran then I am perfectly justified in being concerned with their potential actions. Especially, if others who share this belief have acted badly and then justified their actions on the basis of this belief.

Finally, I’d like to say that my purpose is to get more input on this religion called Islam. I am trying to find a Muslim who believes for instance that I have a right to move to Pakistan, open a institution, and teach about the evils of Islam. I want to find a Muslim who will tell me that the Koran is full of falsities, absurities, and just plain evil. I want to hear a practicing Muslim tell me that yes indeed Muhammed murdered innocent people to take their belongings, raped their women, ordered the execution of poets, and even stole the wife of his adopted son after he saw her naked and couldn’t control himself. I want to know how they rationalize this in their head. Seems to me if my own beloved prophet had done this stuff then it would put me in a state of psychic distress. No wonder some Muslims kill people for even questioning the religion a little bit.

The other purpose was to correct Vavoom on some of his misunderstandings. He made statements to the effect that it was Americans responsibiliity to learn Islam,and vote for Muslims. It made it sound like it was non-Muslims responsibilty to lift up Muslims. If that is my responsibilty then with that responsibilty must go authority. My first decree is that that stop believing in the evil ideology, my second that they learn some real history, and my third that they take a skeptical eye to their religion. I however do not accept this responsibility. It is their responsibilty to act in an ethical manner, not mine to teach them how. Nor mine to feed them and clothe them. Nor mine to teach them proper history. Nor mine to learn their religion.

If I choose to learn their religion it will be to my benefit and to protect myself. I have no duty to do so for their benefit. If I choose to lift them out of their ignorance, then it will also be for my benefit, and incidentally for theirs. When I have finally understood their religion to the degree necessary, my first task isn’t going to be reasoning, people of faith are famously resistant to reason, my first task is going to be informing non-muslims of the threat, if any.

I don’t really care if Vavoom thinks that is egotistical. What the hell does he think his prophet was if not egotistical. The guy thought he spoke for god.