Nineteen more killed by “religion of peace”

From today’s New York Times:

Two days of rioting in Bangladesh by conservative Islamists demanding an antiblasphemy law have left at least 19 people dead, more than 100 wounded and dozens of shops and vehicles destroyed, the official news agency BSS reported on Monday. The violence convulsed a country that was still reeling from a safety crisis in the garment industry that was set off by a deadly factory collapse last month.

Police officers armed with water cannons, sound grenades, tear gas and cudgels battled the protesters on Sunday and Monday in Dhaka, the capital, while the authorities banned further rallies and closed an Islamist television station accused of inciting the trouble, BSS reported on its Web site. It said at least three of the dead were police officers.

. . . Bangladesh’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim, but its government is officially secular. Confrontations between conservative Islamists and the governing Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have become increasingly violent this year, inflamed in part by judicial prosecutions of Islamists for war crimes related to the country’s fight for independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The tensions have been further aggravated by what Islamists regard as unpardonable blasphemies by bloggers, who are accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The Hefazat-e-Islami organization has been demanding a new law that would severely punish such acts, but Ms. Hasina has rejected the demand.


1.  Those who are rioting are not the “atheist bloggers” or those who “insult the Prophet Muhammed.”

2.  The rioters are calling for more extreme laws to punish critics of Islam, even though strong laws are already on the books.  The atheist bloggers (four of whom have been jailed) can, for instance, be sentenced to up to ten years in jail for “hurting religious sentiments.” You can bet your tuchus that nobody is going to jail in Bangladesh for hurting Christian sentiments.

3. These are not just a few rioters, but thousands of them. And they explicitly say they’re acting in the name of Islam. It’s hard to avoid the impression that many of them have literally been driven insane by their faith.

How much more evidence do we need that the extremists and their supporters are more than just a tiny fraction of Islamic faithful, or that they’re motivated by things other than religion?


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “One point, One demand: Atheists must be hanged”, chanted the demonstrators as they marched along at least six highways, blocking transport between Dhaka and other cities and towns. –from


  2. Nate
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Here are the 13 point demands of the Islamist group:

    1. Restore the phrase ‘Complete faith and trust in the Almighty Allah’ in the constitution and repeal all the laws contrary to the holy Quran and Sunnah.

    2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the maximum punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Allah, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and Islam and smear campaigns against Muslims.

    3. Take measures for stringent punishment against self-declared atheists and bloggers, led the so-called Shahbagh movement, and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against the Prophet.

    4. Stop infiltration of all alien-culture, including shamelessness in the name of individual’s freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of male and female and candle lighting.

    5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels canceling the anti-Islamic women policy and anti-religion education policy.

    6. Officially declare Qadianis (Ahmadiyyas) as non-Muslim and stop their propaganda and all conspiratorial ill-moves.

    7. Stop setting up sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country.

    8. Lift restriction on saying payers in all mosques across the country, including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, without any hassle and remove obstacles to carrying out religious activities.

    9. Stop evil efforts to spread hatred in the mind of young generation regarding Islam through the misrepresentation of religious dresses and cultures in the media.

    10. Stop anti-Islam activities by NGOs across the country, including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and evil attempts of Christian missionaries for conversion.

    11. Stop attacks, mass killing, oppression and indiscriminate shooting on Alem-Ulama, devout followers of the Prophet and towhidi janata (revolutionary people).

    12. Stop threatening teachers and students of Qawmi madrasas, Islamic scholars, imams and khatibs and conspiracies against them.

    13. Free immediately all the arrested Islamic scholars, madrasa students and towhidi janata and withdraw all false cases filed against them, compensate the victims and bring the assailants to justice.

    • Sunny
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how the female PM feels about #4.

      • Paul S
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        I think she’s have a bigger problem with #5. If I read that right, it’s a call to prevent women from getting an education. That’s quite a bold statement for Islam; it could be the new slogan for Islamic fundamentalists. “Indoctrinated and uneducated”

    • Suri
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      And then we westerners are supposed to NOT feel scared of these people?
      What if this happened in the UK or Can?
      I know muslims are a minority in western countries NOW and they will probably still be in 20 years but who wants to share a country or city with a hostile minority?

      Liberals are just enabling something that will become a bigger threat in the near future.

      • Jeremy Rodell
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        How many Muslims have you met? I don’t know many, but those that I had met find the nutters on the Islamist extreme a major worry as it’s everyone else in their community who then gets the blame. Liberals do not tolerate the intolerant, and that’s especially true of those who use violence when there are democratic processes available to them and everyone else.

        Of course there is a challenge here, but it’s important to keep it in proportion: the % of Muslims in the UK population is still only 5% (10% in London) and there is no evidence to suggest that more than a small proportion of those support the Islamist agenda, let alone are willing actively to promote it. The % in the US is even smaller.

        The underlying problem as I see it is simply rapid change: in a country like Bangladesh you have 160 million people, 90% Muslim and the vast majority very poor and ill-educated. Then there’s a small elite who are educated, some of whom have realised that you don’t have to be a Muslim to be a good person, even if your parents are, and a few who are brave enough to declare their atheism. That’s going to feel like a massive threat to the foundations of many people’s lives. And fear is the fertile ground on which Islamism (and other forms of fundamentalism) breeds. Hence the clash we’re seeing now.

        • Gary W
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          there is no evidence to suggest that more than a small proportion of those support the Islamist agenda, let alone are willing actively to promote it.

          I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “the Islamist agenda,” but multiple opinion polls have found substantial levels of support among British Muslims for violence and oppression on the grounds of defending Islam.

          Perhaps most alarmingly, one poll found that almost a quarter of all British Muslims (22%), and almost a third of young British Muslims (31%), believe the 2005 London bombings by Muslim terrorists were justified.

          • Maurits van der Veen
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

            I do not believe those poll numbers are correct. The best I could find was that roughly that percentage of British Muslims said they had some sympathy with the motivations of those who committed the bombings, but the vast, vast majority thought the bombings were wrong

            • Gary W
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              Here’s a link to a pdf document with the poll results.


              Page 32:

              To what extent do you agree that the July bombings were justified because of British support for the war on terror?

              Strongly agree: 11%
              Tend to agree: 11%

              Total agree: 22%

              Among British Muslims under the age of 45, an even higher percentage (31%) said they agree that the bombings were justified.

        • Suri
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          Then their whole comunity should openly and strongly condemn such behavior and do something about it.

          If liberals don’t tolerate extremism then why do they have a problem with people who openly condemn such behavior and ideology ?

          Well it only took 2 of them to kill three and injure dozens in boston.

          Dozens of people’s lives have changed forever because of two extremists.

          It only took a handful of the to kill almost 3000 and hurt hundreds in 9/11. Then there is also Madrid and the UK bombings.

          Hundreds of people have to live in pain every day because of a few “rotten apples” …. Well, that is exactly the problem it only takes a few…. And in predominantly muslim countries there are more than a few.
          India, Russia, Indonesia, U.S, Canada, Spain, several African countries, Iraq … The terror is far reaching …how is this not a problem for westerners and easterners alike?

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:01 am | Permalink

            It’s a huge problem. But it’s going to be made worse rather than better by stoking prejudice against all Muslims simply on the basis of their faith, rather than focusing on the extremists and those who support them.

    • Konrad
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Wait – “candle lighting”? Stop infiltration of all alien culture, including candle lighting??

      • Marella
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        I wondered if maybe it meant something completely other, but it is actually about lighting candles. Some Muslims object to it because Christians light candles for religious purposes (as do Jews) and so it is suspect, but I think it’s a pretty fundamentalist concern since the link below said it was ok.

      • garardi
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 7, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

          I didn’t get that one either. I thought they were against romantic dinners 😉

  3. Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Fuck Mohammad. Sideways with a barbed-wire crucifix and no lube!

    And fuck any religion — most especially a “religion of peace” — whose answer to distasteful speech is violence. Civilized people answer speech they don’t like with more speech or shunning or both. Only the most despicably cowardly of barbarians repays insults with injury.



    • Paul S
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Ben, I always enjoy your posts, but I don’t understand why you beat around the bush this time. You usually say what you mean. 🙂

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        I actually like that Ben uses all this harsh language, then happily ends with “Cheers” 😀

        • Dan McPeek
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          Ben ends with “cheers” ‘cuz he’s from Arizona (as am I) and doesn’t want to give the rest of the country the wrong impression (that we’re not a tolerant citizenry). Actually, this state sucks. If it weren’t for the climate..!

          • Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            The climate here is awesome. The weather, on the other hand….



      • Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Hmm…not the response I was expecting. I could come in again, if you like, after I get out of my comfy chair….


        • Graham Martin-Royle
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

          It’s your own fault, if you will insist on shilly-shallying around and not getting on with what you actually mean. 🙂

          • Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            Very well, then.

            Amongst the ways that Mohammad can go fuck himself….


      • Marella
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Ben is my favourite commenter, if I’m feeling lazy I just read Ben’s comment on a post to see what my opinion is. 😉

    • Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Hey! Found something I can agree with you on. In spades.

  4. Jeremy Rodell
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The events in Bangladesh are terrible. But that does not excuse using them to mount another indiscriminate attack on all varieties of Islam – and hence all Muslims (ref the ironic “religion of peace” headline). It’s the religion of 90% of the 160 million people who live in Bangladesh – a nominally secular country – including the government (with a Muslim woman Prime Minister by the way) which the Islamist rioters are seeking to influence.

    All this achieves – assuming anyone with Islamist sympathies reads it – is to play into the hands of the extremists and their narrative of Islam under attack by the west.

    Surely we should make it easier, not harder, for those Muslims who are as horrified by the Islamist demands as we are to resist them. Telling them their religion is evil is not a smart way to do it.

    • Occam
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      So what, specifically, do you propose?

      • Jeremy Rodell
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        For a start, use every means to put pressure on the authorities directly (write to embassies) and indirectly (via US/UK governments) to make sure they know the world is watching and that defence of basic human rights to freedom of beliefs is their responsibility.

        While doing so, do NOT lecture Bangladeshi ambassadors on the claimed evils of the religion of 90% of their population!

        What exactly do you propose?

        • muuh-gnu
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          So your logic basically amounts to “if national socialism proclaimed itself a religion, we today would NOT lecture Nazi ambassadors on the claimed evils of the uberideology of 90% of their population!”

          > What exactly do you propose?

          Containment. Dont let the plague spread to the west.

          We are openly fighting Nazis and Nazism and openly calling it the evil it is, we are training out children to recognize it and to react allergically to it, why cant we do the same with Islam? Without the protective guise of “religion”, Islam and Nazism are essentially identical.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            If you think that Islam and Nazism are essentially the same, then there’s little point in carrying on a debate in which the distinction between extreme Islamists and moderates Muslims is the key point.

            Presumably we should also lump all Christians into the same pot, from fundamentalists to liberals. Or indeed all atheists, including you and me. I guess it makes for easy thinking.

            • Mike Lee
              Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

              Where I live, you virtually NEVER here any criticism of the behaviour of radical Islamists in countries like Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq etc., by the so-called moderates…not in our newspapers. The only time “moderate” Muslims speak out is when the Israelis conduct some form of retributive action against Hamas in Palestine.
              Now why would that be…?

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:55 am | Permalink

                I don’t know why that would be, and I guess you don’t either. Possible reasons: they’re not interested; they tacitly support the rioters and not the other Muslims who are the victims; they’re frightened of home-grown Islamists; they don’t realise that silence on these issues stokes prejudice against them; when they say anything that doesn’t fit the prejudice, it doesn’t get reported. There are probably more and the real reason is probably a combination.

                If we want them to say more, then the wrong way to go about it is to tell peaceful people that their religion is violent and evil. That way, if they do have the courage to stand up and argue, the Islamists will say they are taking sides with those who are fighting a war against Islam. That’s exactly what they want.

        • Occam
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          What exactly do you propose?

          A Slo-Time Envelope.

          Failing that, and if we must share a planet with people with whom we disagree, and who disagree with us to the point of being driven into a homicidal rage by the very fact of our disagreeing with them, why not try the grammar of co-existence?
          The problem with co-existence being, of course, that it presupposes both sides sharing at least a common interest in existence. If even a tiny minority on one side is enraged enough to prefer its own destruction, provided it entails the destruction of the perceived opponent as well, the problem has no direct solution.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

            Agree with you about co-existence (language, grammar…). The question is how to bring that about. Talking to those who are willing to engage in dialogue, rather than throwing rocks at them, seems to me to be the best option available. Personally I’m doing that in a small way here in London, working with people from different belief backgrounds – including Muslims – to visit schools for dialogue as opposed to try-to-beat-the-other-guy debate.

            Dialogue with the extremists is probably impossible. The only route is prosperity and education. But the Islamists regard education in the sense that we mean it, and of course especially education for women, to be a western plot to undermine them. But my guess is that there are plenty of young people who long for it.

            • Suri
              Posted May 6, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

              Longing for it is not enough, as long as extremists are tolerated by their own comunities , no change will ever happen.

              People need to start alienating, rejecting, spitting on extremists , consider them as the vermin, the plague they are in order to cut them off and away from society. This has to start in their own comunities. No foegiveness, no tolerance. The first step is to recognize that they are trash, no young men should follow the steps of such “role models”.

              And you said it yourself , if they see education as a threat, and they get that idea from their religion, how do you change that?

              • muuh-gnu
                Posted May 6, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

                They have to start doing with their Nazis what we are doing with “our” Nazis, at least here in Europe: Massively oppressing them on every opportunity. The fact that they are not doing it means either that they do not want to do it or that they are not able to do it because their Nazis are the dominant subgroup and the moderates merely a passive ressource pool for the extremists. The moderates are either not willing or not able, any of which enables the extremists to openly engage in their extremism.

                Jeremy’sapproach seems to be a nice guy and merely _hope_ that because of his niceness the loyalty of a few young people will change away from their crazy religion by itself, without him ever mentioning that strictly following the religion _is_ what causes the evil, while the extremists do not have that limitation while recruiting them. That is like trying to convert young Nazis without ever mentioning that they should give up Nazism or that the Fuhrer was a bad bad guy. It’s beating around the bush and hoping the best.

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:46 am | Permalink

                That isn’t what I’m saying. Of course violent thuggery must be opposed, and hopefully the law will be used to oppose it (though sadly Bangladesh doesn’t have a great record on human rights quite apart form the current issue). And I think that tackling some of the complex root causes is also essential, for example, would there be so many madrassas peddling hatred (presumably funded from somewhere else) if there were a decent state school system?

                All I’m saying is that the simplistic approach of claiming that Islam as an undifferentiated whole is violent and evil, when the very people who need to deal with those complex issues are themselves both Muslim and, as far as we know, not violent and evil, is neither factually correct nor likely to do anything other than make the problem worse.

            • Occam
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 2:17 am | Permalink

              Jeremy, now that you tell us about the work you’re doing (and I find it admirable), we can have a better understanding of your motivations.
              The problem seems to me that you can only reach out to people who will allow to be reached.

    • Paul S
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t we learned that accommodation doesn’t work for any religion, and in the case of Islam, where are the Islamic voices against this violence? Is it that there are none who are against the violence or that the ones who are against it are afraid of retaliation? In either case, if they don’t see the inherent problems, then it is incumbent upon others to point it out.

      • Jeremy Rodell
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        So if you were a moderate and educated Muslim in Bangladesh, you’d be out there facing the mob – all of them specially bussed in and firetd up by the Islamist agitators? Of course not, nor would I.

        No-one should “accommodate” violence or those who wish to oppress freedom, including freedom of religion. All I’m saying is that there are plenty of people who consider themselves Muslims who would agree with that. And they are the only ones who stand any chance of addressing these issues in a 90% Muslim country. How exactly do it help to insult their beliefs by putting them in the same “all Islam is evil” bucket as the rioters?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          I actually like that Ben uses all this harsh language, then happily ends with “Cheers” 😀

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            Oops, wrong spot. Will try again.

        • Posted May 7, 2013 at 2:01 am | Permalink

          So if you were a moderate and educated Muslim in Bangladesh, you’d be out there facing the mob – all of them specially bussed in and firetd up by the Islamist agitators? Of course not, nor would I. ”

          I think you are giving the Bangladeshi people less credit than they deserve. It seems that several of the moderates among them have been doing exactly that (i.e. opposing the Jamaat mob) over the last few months. Why, they have even been demanding that the extremist-Islamist Jamaat mob be barred from politics altogether.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

            Good point – thanks for highlighting it.

      • Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        “where are the Islamic voices against this violence? “>

        Here. What the post does not mention is that much bigger protests have recently been happening in Bangladesh (a country with a 90% Muslim population) against the silly demands and criminal activities of the extremist Islamists mentioned in the post.

        • Paul S
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          ok, I read (quickly) the wiki and I didn’t see a call to end violence anywhere. What did I miss?

        • Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

          But, was it happening to the bloggers who I understand were arrested by the authorities?

        • Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

          Paul S and Roq Marish:

          Yes, the Shahbagh protests were against the Jamaat extremists (who have been at the forefront of harassing the bloggers) and in support of the bloggers and of the conviction of Jamaat extremists for war crimes during the 1971 War of independence. I don’t know how Paul S missed it, but the very first paragraph of the article says,

          Later demands included banning the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party from politics and a boycott of institutions supporting (or affiliated with) the party.

          In fact, as the article mentions, one of the bloggers killed by Jamaat extremists was one of the Shahbagh protestors.

          So yes, there has been much popular condemnation in Bangladesh of the Jamaat and its extremists demands and criminal activities.

          • Paul S
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

            I did see that part of the article and again I still haven’t seen a call to end violence anywhere. I also don’t see anywhere in the article where the protesters are condemning extremist Islamic views. If I read the first paragraph right, the protesters were upset that Abdul Quader Mollah wasn’t sentenced to death.
            Where are the humanitarian protests? Where are the Muslims that speak out against violence? Where are the Muslims that speak for women’s rights?

            • Spade
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

              They’re probably intimidated by the extremists into keeping silent, unfortunately.

              • Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

                The exact opposite of that has been happening over the last few months in Bangladesh, where thousands have protested on the streets against the violent and repressive politics of the Islamist Jamaat party. Have a look at the link to the Shahbagh protests I posted above.

                I just find it amazing that people just take it for granted that everyone in Bangladesh would be intimated by the extremists and that no one would bother to protest against them.

            • Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

              “I did see that part of the article and again I still haven’t seen a call to end violence anywhere.”

              If calling for a complete boycott of those causing the “violence” does not count as a “call to end violence” for you, then I guess you can fault the Bangladeshi for not having the wisdom to have consulted you on the language of their demands. Here, for those of us who are less literal minded than you, is an excerpt from the oath of the Shahbagh protesters (also on the link I posted above):

              We swear an oath that the leadership of the mass of people from the Gonojagaran Mancha (National Awakening Stage) will continue the movement from Teknaf to Tetulia until capital punishment is handed down to those Razakar and Al-Badr members who committed crimes against humanity like mass killing and rape in 1971. We take the oath that we will remain vocal, both on the streets and online, until the politics of the war criminals, Jamaat and Shibir, is banned and the citizenship of their members cancelled.

              Sounds to me like a very clear and blunt denouncement for all the policies and the violence that the Jamaat extremists stand for.

    • Gary W
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      All varieties of Islam are bad. Some are just worse than others. The overall impact of the religion on human welfare is highly destructive. Social and economic conditions in most Islamic nations are appalling. The more religious the country, the worse its conditions are likely to be.

    • Cremnomaniac
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m not so sure that indiscriminate is an accurate way to characterize the criticism.

      From the BBC:

      The Hefazat-e Islam is a tightly-knit coalition of a dozen or so Islamist organisations… The organisations in the Hefazat coalition are based at more than 25,000 madrassas, or religious schools, across Bangladesh.

      Teachers at these madrassas belong to these organisations and all students are brought out en masse to participate in street rallies and marches.

      25,000 schools, get that? If accurate, it represents a sizable portion of the 90%. Add to that Jamaat-e-Islami indicated their support for the current movement (BBC), and you may have a majority.
      It also means there are 100’s of thousands being indoctrinated to this mindset.

      Besides that, it doesn’t really matter which “variety of Islam you choose. It’s all based on the Quran, with enough violent verses to justify any lunatics behavior. Or worse, make lunatics of good people. I think, maybe, we need to be indiscriminate.

      • Jeremy Rodell
        Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you. It’s really worrying. And this is a new development, just as we’re seeing greater violence in Pakistan.

        But how do you think it should be addressed? Send it the atheist crusaders? Or maybe support for moderate Muslims would be more effective. If so, it’s not a great idea to start by telling them they’re religion is evil and violent, when they probably know more about it and would disagree. Like Christianity, much of Islam seems to be down to selection and interpretation, otherwise it would be uniform, which it most definitely is not – ref the recent attacks by Sunnis on Shias in Pakistan and Iraq.

        Focus on violent verses and interpreting them in a way to justify the Islamist view – while ignoring the less convenient ones – seems to be one of the ways the Islamists exploit the ignorance and gullibility of their target audience. They’d love to hear confirmation from atheists of their view.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          I think you can commend moderate Muslims for standing up to radicals (they were instrumental in catching the attackers in Toronto and issued a statement saying how they were against people who behave this way) but acknowledge that you do not hold to the beliefs (maybe not all at on the same day at once ;))

          I know I praised them for standing up because it’s not always easy to do:


          Muhammad Robert Heft, a Muslim community leader in the Scarborough area of Canada’s biggest city, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that he expected ordinary Muslims would experience problems because of the allegations.

          But he said Muslims had helped the security services detain the suspects.

          “There is going to be backlash,” Heft told the Sun. “But I want to reiterate. Who was the one who tipped the RCMP off? It was our community.”

          “We have to be on the front lines,” he said. “To either nip it in the bud in the very beginning or co-operate with authorities so they can be brought to justice.”

          “In our community we may look a little different, but in our hearts we love Canada. It’s our country. It’s our tribe,” he added. “We want safety for all Canadians regardless of their religion.”

          Police also said a tip from the Muslim community had helped their year-long investigation, Reuters reported.

          Full story:

        • Gary W
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          You’re peddling the same accommodationist/denialist line that apologists for Christianity peddle. You want us to deny, downplay or ignore the clear evidence of a causal link between the teachings and traditions of Islam and real-world violence and oppression. You want us to ignore the clear evidence that all varieties of Islam are harmful nonsense, and pretend instead that there’s an intellectually and morally defensible form of the religion.

          Your arguments make no more sense with respect to Islam than they do with respect to Christianity. Accommodationism is arguably even worse when applied to Islam because of Islam’s much stronger link to violence.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

            And what action are you proposing to make the world a better place in this respect?

            Personally I have no desire to “accommodate” extremists – they have to be defeated if they can’t be ignored. The problem I have is pretending that the major religions – Islam in this case – are monolithic and do not contain a massive spectrum of views and practices. The evidence doesn’t back that view up at all. Nor is there any evidence to suggest Islam is going to cease to exist. Given that, the only way to improve things is to make common cause with the many Muslims at the reasonable end of the spectrum, as change in Islam will only come from within.

            Alienating exactly the people who we should be talking to and supporting – and instead supporting the Islamist contention that there is a “war on Islam” going on – is the opposite of what we should be doing if we want peace and freedom for all. Talking should surely always be the first resort. Starting by insulting the other person’s beliefs makes that impossible.

          • Gary W
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            And what action are you proposing to make the world a better place in this respect?

            Oppose religion. The kinds of action that Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, etc. are taking and promoting.

            The problem I have is pretending that the major religions – Islam in this case – are monolithic and do not contain a massive spectrum of views and practices.

            I’m not pretending that. I’m saying that all variations of Islam are harmful nonsense. They should all be opposed. There is no good version of Islam; there are just different degrees of bad.

            Nor is there any evidence to suggest Islam is going to cease to exist.

            There is lots of evidence that religion tends to decline as social and economic development increases. Religion isn’t going to cease to exist within the foreseeable future, but its power, prestige and popularity will likely continue to decline. We should promote and accelerate that trend.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 1:02 am | Permalink

            I see no evidence that Jeremy Rodell is wanting anyone, even Gary W, to ‘deny, downplay or ignore the clear evidence of a causal link between the teachings and traditions of Islam and real-world violence and oppression’. He is pointing out that not all Muslims are Islamist thugs, or supporters of Islamist thuggery, just as all Christians are not subscribers to the views of the Westboro Baptist Church. This is something that is worth pointing out to those who are unable to discriminate and who like nice big simple world-views.

            • Gary W
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

              He is pointing out that not all Muslims are Islamist thugs, or supporters of Islamist thuggery, .

              Nobody is denying that. But it’s irrelevant to the point that Islam is the cause of a huge amount of violence and oppression. That’s a huge problem. Pointing out that not all Muslims are Islamic thugs does not address the problem. It’s an attempt to divert attention from the problem.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted May 8, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

                That is infantile nonsense.

        • Boris Molotov
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          Here is the “crusade” you are looking for: human rights.
          We should support the minorities, including the athiests in these Islam-dominated countries to protect their human rights, the women’s rights, freedom of thought,freedom of (yes) religion and expression. Appeasing them with gentle words is just appeasing the oppressor and supporting fundamentalists. We should stop looking for special excuses based on geography and religion and start supporting human rights.
          Even if you take an areligious approach,as a humanitarian and human rights advocate you will soon run you into trouble with Islam in many countries.
          The fact is that the interpretation of Islam ,shared by a large majority of people in these countries, are in opposition to human rights. You also seem to be ignoring the fact that there is no correct interpretation so there is no way of controlling who is perceived as correct. The books on which the religion is based DOES have hate speech and bigotry written into them. You simply cannot ignore this. It is usually a literal reading of holy books that wins an argument at the end of the day, simply because you can back up any argument as the word of God and justify it with violence. For those of weak composition, either mentally, physically or socially will fall to fundamentalism even if it is not of their choice. We need to protect these people too!
          It is human and secular values that provides the counterbalance for moderate Muslims to become moderate. The US muslim population is evidence to that. Having double standards on human rights because a country is Islamic is hypocritical and downright bigoted. The people in those countries need protection from religion too.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            Er…I agree with all of that. There should not be double-standards on human rights. But how do you make it happen?

            • Boris Molotov
              Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

              Personally, I think its already happening through democracy in action and the ultimate martketplace for ideas and freedom: the internet. It’s a game changer. As the internet becomes more and more accessible and web sites like this one get read and others write blogs more minds are opened and ideas shared. I think it has more power then any dogma or ideology and a natural tool for human rights advocacy.
              It’s important to protect this freedom, especially at home and ensure that access to the internet is engrained as fundamental human right. Violators should be criminal under international law.

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:16 am | Permalink

                Agree, the free flow of information through the web is a real game-changer. Though, as we’re seeing in Egypt and elsewhere, on it’s own, it’s not enough.

            • Suri
              Posted May 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

              I vote for foreign monetary aid in exchange of strong, big secular governments and progressive policies.

              As for democracy, in my opinion most of those countries are not ready for democracy because their majorities don’t have the education and neccesary mind set to do that…not advicating for a dictatorship either but they need a strong secular government.

              • Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

                As Alexander Hamilton once said,

                “Sir, the Public is a great beast.”

                That is why we have the Electoral College for President. It was feared that a poor, illiterate populace would fall in behind a dictator, elect him as President when his election would mean the end of elections and freedom. The wise minds (so it was thought) that populated the Electoral College would ignore the popular vote, and vote in as President an alternative that would preserve freedoms and the system of voting (democracy).

              • Boris Molotov
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:02 am | Permalink

                Not sure. I prefer parliamentary democracies with “first past the post” systems (prevents excessive minority governments) to prevent the situation you describe. If the electoral college is to work, districts need to be redrawn occasionally to accommodate population change.

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 3:58 am | Permalink

                I think we can all see some of the flaws in that…

        • Cremnomaniac
          Posted May 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Your question is a fair one. My answer is the it (religion) needs to be denounced completely. I can’t remember the passage from The God Delusion, but Dawkins suggests that by their shared beliefs, moderate islam provides an implicit support of extremism. The same way that moderate Christians bolster more loony ones. If moderates want to come out and condemn the violence, great. I’m not going to tell them their beliefs make any sense. It will always leave the door open to extremism.

          You seem to suggest that there is some clean line to be drawn between moderates and extremists. There isn’t. Beliefs fall across the spectrum, and they change.

          The only approach (and I really hate the term you’ve used here) is an atheist crusade. I’d much rather call it a reason crusade. I’m a firm believer in calling a pig a pig. If the pig gets upset and buries itself in mud, then its proved my point. The very same way in which islam is proving itself to be an impediment to the progress of humanity. Other religions are as well, but not to the same degree.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted May 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            I thought that the idea you attribute to Dawkins was actually Sam Harris in The End of Faith. So I located it; it is the section titled The Myth of “Moderation” in Religion, pages 16-23 in my paperback edition. Far too long to quote here, but two excerpts:

            “The only reason anyone is “moderate” in matters of faith these days is that he has assimilated some of the fruits of the last two thousand years of human thought (democratic politics, scientific advancement on every front, concern for human rights, an end to cultural and geographic isolation, etc.). The door leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside.”

            Harris makes a point here similar to one made by Steven Weinberg, that religious moderation is a product not of religion (after all, the texts are supposedly the perfect revelations of the creator god), but of the encroachments of truth and social progress from the outside.

            “The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism.”

            And Harris goes on to explain that, in accordance with the previous point, fundamentalism is the naturally occurring form of the abrahamic faiths, not religious moderation.

            Good stuff.

            For completeness sake, here is the passage from Steven Weinberg’s Facing Up (pages 255-256) to which I referred:

            “Religious readers may object that the harm in all these cases is done by perversions of religion, not by religion itself. But religious wars and persecutions have been at the center of religious life throughout history. What has changed, that these now seem to some people in some parts of the world to be only perversions of true religious belief? Has there been a new supernatural revelation, or a discovery of lost sacred writings that put religious teachings in a new light? No—since the Enlightenment there has been instead a spread of rationality and humanitarianism that has in turn affected religious belief, leading to a wider spread of religious toleration. It is not that religion has improved our moral sense but that a purely secular improvement in our moral values has improved the way religion is practiced here and there.”

            • Posted May 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

              So much wisdom in all of the quotes.

              Thank you for taking the time to extract the messages!!

            • Cremnomaniac
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

              Thank you for digging that up. Harris put it quite well, as does Weinberg. I was, however, thinking of the God Delusion wherein Dawkins makes the same point. I’ll have to look for it now.

              2 points for that BTW.

          • Jeremy Rodell
            Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:14 am | Permalink

            So in the choice between peace and war, you’d go for war – the “reason crusade”. Presumably you’d be personally happy to risk your life in the cause of the crusade. And you’d be quite happy to go to a country where 90% of the people are Muslim and kill people in the name of “reason”.

            As a humanist, I condemn that view utterly.

            • darrelle
              Posted May 7, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

              That is a bullshit interpretation and you know it. Your entire argument amounts to, “atheists should shut up and stay out of the conversation.” You fret and accuse that straight talk will only make the problem worse. There is no evidence that that is actually true, but there is evidence to suggest that it is not. You constantly straw man other peoples positions. Very few, if any, of the people you have been talking to here would agree that Islam is a monolithic religious group and all believers are the same or deserve the same treatment.

              Demanding that criticisms of the religion of Islam are not useful action plans for solving the social and economic problems of Islamic societies is either a diversion or ignorance. It is a category error.

              And throwing out a term, “reason crusade,” that there is no reason to suppose, given the context of the discussion so far, means anything like war, and then pretending like it obviously does after one of your opponents picks it up and uses it to respond to you, is pathetic. I find it very difficult to believe that you really think Cremnomaniac meant what you attribute to him. Or, if you mean that merely speaking plainly and directly about Islam will instigate a war with its believers, then your arguments fail and you seem to be advocating only that we not poke the hornets nest for fear of getting stung.

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                It was not me who picked up the term “reason crusade”. But I take your point – re-reading the comments I can see that Cremnomaniac may not have meant a literal war, but rather a metaphorical one. If so, of course that’s better.

                But the key point remains. Despite what you say, you only have to read the headline “Nineteen more killed by ‘religion of peace’ ” and many of the comments to see that the undifferentiated criticism of Islam – indeed a “reason crusade” against Islam – and hence all Muslims, is precisely what is meant. If you want to back a loser, then that would be up to you if the risk wasn’t taking the rest of down with you.

                Of course we should argue – if necessary very strongly – for what is right and reasonable, and kind (a word rarely featuring here). But pretending that anyone can argue Islam out of existence is, frankly, daft. On the other hand, helping those Muslims who are willing to engage in dialogue to see that the modern world is not an existential threat to their faith sounds like a good thing to do, and a more practical one.

              • darrelle
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

                Why should a muslim perceive criticism of his faith as an existential threat to his faith?

                If criticizing Islam is not engaging in dialogue, what is it? This type of dialogue is exactly, one of, the reasons that christianity is no longer as bad a problem for western societies as Islam is for societies where it is the dominant religion. Fight the good fight however you think best, but be decent enough to allow others to fight it as they think best, since there is no good evidence, except for your fine sense of the niceties of discourse, that indicates that criticism of Islam doesn’t work to change some of its adherents minds about some of the issues we criticize.

              • Jeremy Rodell
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

                I’m not saying there should not be criticism of Islam. I criticise it personally. What I’m saying is that telling moderate Muslims who are interested in dialogue (as opposed to “prove-the-other-guy-wrong” debate), and who are the only ones with any hope of influencing the extremists or – more importantly – the vulnerable people in their communities who can be turned into extremists, that their religion is inherently violent and evil, is going to make the problem worse, not better.

                As far as possible, I’d hope we can respect our fellow human beings and look for areas of agreement rather than disagreement as a starting point. For some, of course, that’s simply not possible. They hate everything we stand for. But they are not the whole, or even major, part of the story. There is hope, for example, take a look at

              • Gary W
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

                What I’m saying is that telling moderate Muslims who are interested in dialogue … that their religion is inherently violent and evil, is going to make the problem worse, not better.

                And you know this, how?

                I doubt I would tell them that I think their religion is “inherently violent and evil.” I’d tell them that there is overwhelming evidence that their religion causes a huge amount of violence and oppression, that there is no rational basis for believing its factual claims are true, and that its overall effect is destructive to human welfare.

              • Cremnomaniac
                Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

                For calrification

                Merriam- Webster
                Crusade: a remedial enterprise undertaken with zeal and enthusiasm.

                Good grief. I would have started my comments by pointing to the hyperbolic nature of “atheist crusade” if I’d thought we were talking about actual war.

  5. Trophy
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Relevant article about accusationso of Islamophobia:

    “I also understand that extremism in any ideology isn’t a distortion of that ideology. It is an informed, steadfast adherence to its fundamentals, hence the term “fundamentalism.” When you think of a left-wing extremist, do you think of a greedy capitalist? Would you imagine a right-wing extremist to be dedicated to government-funded social welfare programs? The “extremists” and strict followers of the Jain faith, which values the life of every being, including insects, don’t kill more than their average co-religionists. Instead, they avoid eating foods stored overnight so as not to kill even the microorganisms that may have collected in the meantime. [b]In a true religion of peace, the “extremists” would be nonviolent pacifists to an extreme (and perhaps annoying) degree, not the opposite.[/b]”

    • Trophy
      Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Ooops, I missed the post immediately below. That teaches me to read all the new posts before commenting!

  6. jimroberts
    Posted May 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted May 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    How much more evidence do we need that the extremists and their supporters are more than just a tiny fraction of Islamic faithful, or that they’re motivated by things other than religion?

    Might a “not” be missing in the last part of the sentence?

  8. Diane G.
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink


  9. madscientist
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    “sound grenades”? I guess that’s what my generation called “concussion grenades”.

  10. Posted May 7, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    All they are saying … is give Hadith a chance.

  11. Lennart Pettersson
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

  12. Bruce Gorton
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Want to know the really funny thing?

    These exact same Muslims were burning Qurans,

  13. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Alright, put the sculpture down and back away from it. Sculpture won’t hurt you if you just pretend it’s not there. Sheesh.

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