I'm in doubt now: Are we hate infusing and fueling racists?
Recently, I went on stage with fellow Ex-Muslims to have a discussion and share our experiences and impressions specifically about Islam and Blasphemy. Our main guest, Waleed Al-Husseini is a former prisoner of conscience in his country of origin (Palestine). Because he questioned and criticized Islam publicly he got arrested, locked up and tortured. He came to fear so much for his own safety that he ended up seeking asylum in France where he's living now, though not exactly cleared from any threat.
I am originally born in France and the 2 other panelists were Cemal Knudsen Yucel and Jeanette who are respectively Turkish/Kurdish and of Pakistani descent.
Now, I have mixed feelings about my own interventions. It was my first time participating in that sort of event, I don't think my ideas are so well organized and I'm not as articulate as I wish I was. But I genuinely enjoyed sitting up there with my friends discussing what we believe is critical in the context of today's situation regarding Islam.
Cemal started the seminar by talking about Blasphemy in the Islamic world and showing a few disturbing pictures to illustrate what Blasphemers risk and endure as we speak. We could see pictures of men and women being lynched by mobs, shot in the head and/or burned for the crime of having questioned, doubted or dismissed Islam. Any of these acts apparently constitute an insult to Islam, or at least a part of the Muslims community, to the point that they are willing to kill human beings and then go on with their lives in apparent impunity. Then ensued a presentation by Waleed of his own experience with Blasphemy in a Muslim country and a quick presentation of both Jeanette and myself. I thought we would have a bit more of a back and forth conversation together between us but we quickly skipped to questions from the audience.
The second person to "ask a question" was Kari Helene Partapuoli (former leader of Anti-Racist Center) and I feel I didn't get to answer
her as I would have liked right then and there. I’m putting “asked a question” in quotes because in her several minutes long statement, there were something like 2 or 3 questions, although mostly not and the questions were quite loaded with open criticism of our motives.
Kari Helene Partapuoli's intervention got us all EX-MN quite (understandably) riled up. I would like to give Kari the answer I didn’t during the discussion. I’m including her statement below.
Please be aware that I’m not trying to ridicule anyone, I’m including what she said to be orderly. Clearly, anyone can be more articulate in written form than orally.
Please also watch the video of the event for your own reference.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "Thank you very much, my name is Kari... Thank you all for your views on this discussion. Now in Norway you have around 150 thousand members of mosques and it's around the same number, 150 thousand of members of Catholic churches in Norway and this would be mostly immigrants from Poland. And you know of course that in Europe it's a diversity of religions and religion means a lot for a lot of people."
First of all Kari, thank you for taking the time to come and talk to us. These statistics that you provided, however, about the number of Muslims and Catholics in Norway, I fail to see how they can be relevant to the theme we were there to discuss that evening namely: "Blasphemy and Islam". Let me only tell you that in my opinion, it is too many in both cases. Yes, we know there is a diversity of religions in Europe and that it means a lot to many. You could also have acknowledged that for many, religion doesn't mean only good things, mainly bad things in fact. That for many people also, religions are meaningless, useless and/or harmful.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "Now I'm wondering about... of course you're an organization called Ex-Muslims, so I'm wondering: Do you see?...
Do you have criticism of other religions as well or do you only see the fear of Islam?
Yes, we are called Ex-Muslims because the founders of this organization are specifically Muslim apostates. You are certainly not without knowing that Apostasy is punishable by death by the very doctrine of Islam (hence the perceived fear) and as a result, several countries will, if not apply sharia law themselves, let the religious zealots among their population carry it in total impunity.
Now, of course, we are critics of other religions, we are all atheists as far as I know. I certainly am and it is the study and the criticism of Catholicism which first led me to identify as “atheist” at some point in time. My friends from EX-MN have had a similar reflection as I did about their own religion and probably ended up labeling themselves "atheists" just like me. But there is a major difference between them and me I’d like to insist on, that is: By coming out publicly as unbelievers, but first and foremost as apostates of Islam specifically, they ran a considerable risk for their safety and that of their family. Many apostates of Islam or simple critics of it, living here in Europe today, are still hesitant to voice their opinions for fear of reprisal upon their families back in their home countries, the most vocal among them living under constant protection.
On my side, I had to fear virtually nothing due to my loss of faith and apart from a few animated Christmas diners maybe, my safety was never at stake nor did I ever lose any friend or even acquaintances because of my lack of belief per say, none that I know of in any case. But you are right, Judaism and Christianity deserve their fair amount of criticism. After all, Apostasy is punishable by death by both doctrines as well, a bit less obviously in Catholicism but hell is certainly guaranteed in the new testament for those who reject Jesus Christ as their savior. Maybe the Vatican is too busy protecting it's pedophile priests from international trials, and maybe rabbis are too busy cutting and sucking on little boys’ penises, but I have yet to hear about any sort of physical punishment for the crime of leaving these religions. There is no doubt that social rejection is happening but it's arguably for the best as far as the Apostates be concerned. It might be sad but not directly life threatening.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "And also, you said something about religion being a private matter but do you accept Freedom of religion as much as you accept Freedom of speech? I mean, you are talking about living in a liberal democracy, for many of us, Freedom of religion and Freedom of criticism of religion are sort of the core values of this liberalism."
Yes, we absolutely recognize Freedom of speech as much as Freedom of conscience which can lead to religious beliefs or not, so we equally advocate for the Freedom FROM religion which Islam doctrine, on the other hand, doesn't recognize. We recognize the right for anybody to adopt whatever faith they see fit, but we oppose the right of organized cults to impose their doctrine and by extension the rules based on those doctrines on the rest of us who don`t subscribe to their beliefs. However, it is naive not to recognize the political game that cults are playing and how they are using their influence as well as how they are being used to influence governments.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "I hear a bit here that there is a bit of criticism of parties we don't agree with.
That worries me, if you're gonna be serious about criticizing Islam you have to also be serious about Freedom of Speech and Freedom of opinion, I think.
So I'm hearing some worrying signals from what I'm hearing."
We couldn't be more serious about Freedom of speech and that is the exact reason that made us gather and address the problem of Blasphemy in Islam. I will simply assume that you know what Blasphemy is, but I would like to point you towards the fact that Blasphemy is precisely a form of speech, of which the Freedom is actually not guaranteed in Muslim communities, and for which the man you were talking to has been jailed, tortured and whose life is still in danger as I'm writing this. I have to say I think you have some nerves to come in front of these people and explain to them what are
the “core values of liberalism” from your Norwegian perspective while they have experienced the lack of that very liberalism in their countries of origins and/or from their own parents here in Norway. The least you could have done would be to give them the benefit of the doubt and ask real questions. If you are truly interested in what they have to say, if you are "serious about Freedom of Speech". Added to that the fact that Blasphemers towards Islam have paid with their life their "Freedom of speech" all over Europe , I find it very absurd to have to remind you of what happened to William Nygaard, here in Oslo in 1993(!) I don't even need to go on and cover what happened to a bunch of cartoonists in France, so called land of the human rights, a few years ago. I can simply stay in your own backyard and rest my case.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "The last thing, I agree that criticism of religion is necessary, I think that you are painting a picture of Europe that's too positive, because I think that there are certainly European countries where you could not criticize Christian religion, this would be Catholicism and this would be for example, orthodox Christianity. So you're painting a bit too positive picture there and maybe a bit naive because, because your focus is maybe too narrow, I think."
First of all, nor Catholicism or orthodox Christianity are countries. However, I believe I covered that topic in my answer to your first question but I can add a layer: No! There is no European countries where criticism of any religion is as frowned upon as it is about Islam in Muslim communities, worldwide. Jail, torture, mob lynching and summary executions for criticizing Islam are tremendously more common (maybe exclusive) than it is any other religious community anywhere in the world. I can't say with certitude that it never happens in Christian communities across Europe, but if it does it must be somehow anecdotal because I feel like I would have heard from it as the concerned and interested atheist I am, always looking for an argument to put in the face of religion. If I’d ever hear about it, I absolutely would speak against it as I'm sure all of us at EX-MN would do. There are lots of problems that come with Judaism, Christianity and other religions, but this is a big specialty of Islam at the moment, no contest, no discussion.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "But criticism of religion and even criticism of atheism I think is absolutely needed. But you also have extreme groups who use hatred, use hatred against... not Islam as a religion but Muslims as human beings, as individuals and these groups often also have the same hatred towards Jews and now, there's many examples, I mean "Punish the Muslims" was just one of these... the latest examples here in Norway. Now I'm wondering: These groups who do promote using violence and also do promote what I would call hatred, how do you make sure that you differentiate between hatred and criticism? Because this is essential in making a good environment for criticism."
Criticism of atheism? What is there to criticize? Do I really have to explain to you that atheism is not a belief but the lack thereof? Do I have to explain to you that there is no doctrine of atheism? There is not A "Holy" book to tell atheists what to believe or not, tell us how to dress up and how to dress our daughters and wives, who we can have sex with, how or when, what we are allowed to eat or not... You catch my drift. If you want to criticize me for not believing in god, be my guest and go ahead but soon enough you will simply be standing there with those imbeciles arguing that if I have no god, I must have no moral or something along those lines... Again, atheism is, and only is the LACK of belief in a god, it is not even the lack of religion since there exist atheist religions, yes, religions without a god. Look into it please, if you are serious about criticizing religions... and atheism.
Now on with your worries that we are fueling hate groups against Muslims. In my opinion, Islam and by extension Muslims, are actually very good at fueling that hate on their own if I can put it that way. It is incredibly easy to demonstrate that many beliefs taught by the doctrine of Islam are absolutely incompatible with western values. It is by following these doctrines that Muslims are fueling the hate. It is easy to demonstrate that Muslims are not hated for their ethnicity (There is no Muslim ethnicity) or their skin color (There is no Muslim skin color) but for their ideas, for their beliefs. Not simply as human beings as you put it. We hear often that we ought to criticize the religion but not the people. We should criticize Islam but not Muslim. Now let me ask you, can you criticize racism without criticizing racists? I think it's hard. Now I can tell you right away that I hate racism, Christianism, Judaism and Islam more or less equally, but I don't hate any people (with maybe an exception for preachers) because people, supposedly can change their mind. A racist can become non-racist and a religious person can leave her religion, so I believe there is hope in dialog so long as it is permitted. To that I would add that I understand and share your worries especially when I see the rise of "far right" political parties in our respective countries but I fail to understand how you can see that hate towards Muslims while choosing to ignore the hate that stems from Islam and get passed on through Muslim individuals.
Next, your comment about the people hating Muslims being the same people hating the Jews is just out of this world, if I may. It proves to me that you have actually never paid attention to what's in the Quran, if ever you read it at all since it is a fact quite hard to overlook. Islam and many Muslims are, if not just resentful towards Jews (not Judaism but Jews), purely and simply hateful, one might say totally anti-Semite and you can be certain that it is not by accident that Mein Kampf became a best seller in several Muslim countries.
In France, the infamous Mohamed Merah went on a several days rampage in the Toulouse area. During his killing spree, he went at the end of class of a Jewish school where he killed a rabbi and a teacher who was with his children at the time. The CCTV then showed Mohamed shooting one of the kids, aged 5(!), while she was crawling next to her father and little 4 years old(!) brother's dead bodies. THAT is the result of Jew hatred. Last month in Paris, Mireille Knoll (85) was found dead in her apartment. She had her throat slit, was stabbed 11 times and then burned by 2 Muslim attackers for no other reason than being Jewish, we know that because they threatened her on several occasions before. THAT is hate. In France again, a new group has emerged a few years ago, and an (un)holy alliance has been made between (far right)Christians and Muslims which has for main characteristic a fierce attitude towards Jews specifically, it is called "freedom and reconciliation" and is quite openly "anti-Semite". So that is it about your attempt to link "Islamophobes" and "anti-Semites".
About that "punish a Muslim" thing you mentioned, I don`t know much to be honest. If real, it is not something I would praise in the least but please recognize that, a Muslim girl getting a few insults or even her veil ripped off by some idiot is far less appalling than Jewish kids getting shot after school or old ladies getting brutally murdered by total maniacs full of Islamic Jew hatred. Not even to mention that many times those stories about persecution of Muslims are made up, like that girl in Canada did a few months ago. They are crying wolf with the effect that it usually as. You have to take all this in consideration and hopefully it will temper your worries towards us as all we do is telling what we see, the way we see it. We are not promoting hate, we are denouncing hate. We are not encouraging violence from any group towards any other group, we are denouncing and fearing Muslim violence towards our group and others. You can choose to think that our concerns aren't justified but then we would simply disagree and you have to respect our opinion. You can be certain that if Christians were killing apostates, gays or adulterers, we would denounce it with the exact same passion.
Kari Helene Partapuoli: "And just one final thing, because this gentleman here said something about bringing Muslims to Europe to have more liberal views and there has been actually... I don't think that you should open all of that discussion but, There has actually been a research done saying that... showing that: Muslims in Europe... yes you have extreme groups for sure... will share the values of the people in the country in which they moved. (Someone try to interject and says it's a lie), No it's not a lie that there has been research which show that. Now if you are gonna have debate where you want to be taken seriously, you have to respect different matters of opinion, this I think is a great value. (Cemal and Waleed are trying to start answering but...) I would just like to say that this is the Pew research academy and maybe that's good, and also, you know the (unintelligible) think tank, they were also writing about this. Immigrants are becoming more similar to Norwegians, I mean we actually do influence each other, maybe you (addressing Jeanette and/or Cemal) are also an example of that I mean you're born here, you're going against some of the things and maybe moving closer into the Norwegian culture."
I don't completely understand what you are referring to here nor what is the point you are trying to make but I know the PEW research center article you mentioned and it is true that in European countries, Muslims have more liberal views than Muslims born and raised in Muslim majority countries, it is a fact, not an opinion and it can give us a tiny bit of hope but it is in no way lifting any concern towards Islam itself. However, things are changing rapidly due to a massive immigration and the PEW research also shows that in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestinian Territories, Malaysia, Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Tunisia, a very large majority of the Muslims asked, supported sharia and also, that it is in direct correlation with whether or not Islam is the officially favored religion of the country. Now what do you think happens when someone holding these views migrate to another country? Do you believe they magically change their mind as they cross the border? Do you believe they will keep it for themselves and not attempt to pass them onto their children? We are aware that an immense majority of Muslims are not extremists or even against extremism, but the minority who embraces extremist views and actions is nonetheless considerable. Grossly 20% out of 1,7 Billion Muslims according to different intelligence agencies, that's roughly 400 million people worldwide, about 80 million more than the entire population of the USA. THIS is worrying. You have to respect facts, this I think, is a great value.
To finish, Cemal was not born here and being born here didn't prevent Jeanette's parent from marrying her to a stranger by force. You are explaining to us that immigrants becoming more like Norwegians is a good thing, the very fact that these immigrants let's say from Pakistan are becoming less like Pakistanis but more like Norwegian would then be a sign of progress on their account. Then you are suggesting that Cemal and/or Jeanette are going against "some of the things" only because they're here and not in their Muslim majority country of origin… I don't know how to explain to you that Cemal certainly didn't wait to move to Norway to start "going against some of the things", nor did Waleed wait to be in France and maybe, just maybe Jeanette started to go against some of the things that happened to her because they actually happened to her in spite of the fact that she was born in Norway.
What you are displaying here is that racism of lower expectations Majiid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are often referring to. Besides, you implicitly recognized that there is a negative difference between growing up in a Muslim country and a secular country like Norway, wouldn`t it mean that there might be a problem inherent to Muslim ideology? If I understood you well, and it`s possible I didn’t, I believe this is actually going against the message you are trying to convey and the values you are trying to defend.