An apologist says that Islam is the best way to prevent sexual abuse

In the panoply of “this must be a joke but isn’t” articles, here’s one from the new Independent (click on screenshot to go there). The author, Qasim Rashid, is identified as “an attorney, author, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.”

I was of course startled to read this, as the tenets of Islam as it’s practiced in some places would seem to promote sexual abuse (not necessarily rape, but beatings, mistreatment and spousal rape), particularly in the institutionalized denigration of women, the stipulation that they cover themselves to avoid enticing men, the prevention of women from getting jobs and their assignment to domestic roles, and so on. What teachings of Islam would prevent sexual abuse?

It turns out that Rashid, a Muslim apologist, is of course simply using his faith to hitchhike on the Harvey Weinstein scandal.  And by “teachings of Islam,” what he means is “what I interpret the Qur’an to say”. If you construe the “teachings of Islam” to mean instead “How the Qur’an is interpreted in many places”, then Rashid’s argument falls apart completely. Remember that the teachings of Islam are based not just on the Qur’an, but on the reputed sayings of Muhammad (the hadith) and the described sayings, deeds, or practices of Muhammad (the sunnah)  and more recent interpretations by mullahs.  And for every Qur’anic verse quoted by Rashid, I can quote another that counters it (see bottom of this post).

But the big problem is using selected bits of the Qur’an to represent the “teachings of Islam”. What about how it’s interpreted? That has led to female genital mutilation (approved and promoted by at least three schools of Islam), the female-oppressive sharia laws that dictate that a woman’s word is worth but half a man’s in court (from the Qur’an, by the way), the dictate that a daughter inherits only half as much as her brothers, and, of course, the numerous other ways that Islam oppresses women in many places—via laws, dress, restrictions, and so on.

It turns out that Rashid is just another version of Reza “Whitewash” Aslan. First he says words familiar to American feminists:

I’m a Muslim, and a civil rights lawyer with a special interest in advocating for women’s rights. My advocacy is informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse. Yes, the cancer of sexual abuse against women that we see in Christian majority America is just as prevalent in Muslim majority Pakistan, but also in Hindu majority India and state atheist China. This proves that men worldwide are failing in our responsibility to end sexual abuse and gender based violence.

Where are the data? And what about the likelihood that sexual abuse in strict Islamic countries may not be reported as often—for good reasons? Women aren’t believed in court given that their testimony counts half as much as a man’s! And, as The Religion of Peace notes:

Under Islamic law, rape can only be proven if the rapist confesses or if there are four male witnesses.  Women who allege rape without the benefit of the act having been witnessed by four men (who presumably develop a conscience afterwards) are actually confessing to having sex.  If they or the accused happens to be married, then it is considered to be adultery.

Rashid’s article continues.

Let’s start by understanding two facts. First, a woman’s attire, alcohol intake, marital status, and education level do not contribute to sexual abuse – abusive men do. Second, sexual abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every level of society – social norms, media, and Government – is complicit in promoting the rape culture that perpetuates sexual abuse.

First of all, I take issue that every level of society, including the U.S. government, perpetuates “rape culture”, or even that America has a rape culture (the term is never defined). If you interpret it as Rashid does—that the laws and government are complicit in perpetuating sexual abuse—you can make a strong argument that he’s wrong. American society does not approve of rape, and convicted rapists get harsh punishments. The government—at least before Obama—issued strong guidelines for universities that made it easier (too easy, in my view) to convict an accused rapist or harasser.  All over America women are speaking out against sexual harassment, and it’s far more prevalent that we’d like (ideally, none), but that does not mean that we live in a “rape culture”, any more than we live in a “burglary culture”. I have never heard any man say it’s okay to rape women.

But what’s especially  hypocritical is Rashid’s statement that “a woman’s attire. . .do[es] not contribute to sexual abuse.” For it is precisely for that reason that many Islamic states, and much Islamic custom, dictates that women must cover their hair, their faces, or their whole bodies. Women are seen as temptresses, who, by flashing a bit of hair or skin, could unleash the uncontrollable sexual passions of men. In other words, women’s dress, in much of Islam, is seen as a major contributor to sexual abuse, and it is the woman’s responsibility, not the man’s, to prevent sexual assault based on her covering. We all know how uncovered women are treated in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Afghanistan: they get beaten by morality police. And woe to a Western woman who goes uncovered in Iran!

But Islam has the solution!

This is where Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example provide a solution that no state truly can. And while there are people who don’t believe that sexual abuse is even a problem, some on the left will disagree that accountability to a higher power is a solution.

This is a reasonable argument, in part, due to the hypocrisy of allegedly religious men like Congressman Tim Murphy, who condemns abortion and infidelity, yet was caught encouraging his mistress to have one, or former Indiana GOP chair Rick Halvorsen who was convicted of incest. Yes, Islam implores accountability to the creator, but rather than preach empty dogmatic theories, Islam instead prescribes a proven secular model.

What, exactly, is that “proven secular model”, and how is it “secular” if it comes from religion? And where are the data “proving” it?  Rashid simply quotes the Qu’ran, taking verses that he interprets to mean the equality of men and women:

In a recent internationally broadcast lecture given live before roughly 6,000 Muslim women, the Khalifa of Islam said, “Chapter four, verse two of the Holy Quran…clarifies that women were not created out of the body of a man or from his rib. Rather, the Quran testifies to the fact that men and women were created from a single soul and are of the same kind and species.”

Thus, the Quran 4:2 first establishes men and women as equal beings. Chapter 4:20 then forbids men from forcing a woman to act against her will, thereby ensuring women maintain autonomy and self-determination.

I think he means Quran 4:1, which says this (verse 2 makes no sense in his context):

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.

This says nothing about the equality of women; it just says that men and women were created out of a single soul, bits of which were dispersed among the sexes. Were they dispersed equally? We don’t know.

Verse 4:20, however, does say this:

O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion. And do not make difficulties for them in order to take [back]part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality. And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them–perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.

That’s not too bad, except that it’s okay to inherit female sex slaves in battle by compulsion. But the problem is that we’re taking scripture as the standard, rather than how it’s interpreted—or, as we’ll see, cherry-picked. Were we to use the Bible as a standard of behavior towards people, we would stone adulterers to death, have slaves and beat them under certain conditions, commit genocide, kill children who insult their parents or people who work on the Sabbath, and so on. Rashid simply elides the notion that “Islamic doctrine” includes how it’s been interpreted by the several schools of Islam. This is a favorite tactic of Reza Aslan.

And this is simply dissimulation:

The Quran further obliges men to provide for a woman’s every financial need, while holding that anything a woman earns is hers alone – preempting financial abuse. And when it comes to the Islamic concept of Hijab, it is men who are first commanded to never gawk at women, and instead guard their private parts and chastity, regardless of how women choose to dress – pre-empting sexual abuse.

. . . Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad by example demonstrated that the burden of modesty, respect, and combating abuse of women rests on men. Indeed, men must take the lead in stopping such sexual abuse. After all, while the Quran obliges women to dress modestly as a covenant with God, Islam prescribes no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise.

The problem, of course, is that in many places women are not allowed to earn anything of their own, for they’re forbidden many jobs, or even to work outside the home. Further, their inheritance is worth only half of their brothers’, and if they’re divorced (by a man saying “I divorce you” three times), they get nothing.  As for “the burden of modesty resting on men,” that’s bullshit; for covering (not dictated in the Qur’an, but now Islamic practice) places the burden of avoiding abuse on women. And as for “Islam prescribing no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise,” tell that to the women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Sudan who get beaten if they aren’t sufficiently covered. How dare Rashid tell such lies!

The part about “men guarding their private parts” is also bullshit. Yes, men don’t walk around in Muslim countries with their genitals dangling freely, but they often dress just like Western men, and certainly don’t cover themselves like women. To say that the degree of modesty in dress dictated by Islam is the same for men and women is to tell a whopper.

In the end, these are not “secular” guidelines, but religious ones that have been cherrypicked to conform to what the West sees (using secular standards, not the Bible) as proper treatment of women. You can confect good sexual guidelines for how to treat people without any notion of religion.

But wait! Is Islam really that woman-friendly, even in the Qur’an? Check out these verses from the page “A woman’s worth” from The Religion of Peace site. And yes, do establish that these verses (in italics) are characterized correctly (Roman type):

Quran (4:11) – (Inheritance) “The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females”(see also verse 4:176). In Islam, sexism is mathematically established.

Quran (2:282) – (Court testimony) “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.” Muslim apologists offer creative explanations to explain why Allah felt that a man’s testimony in court should be valued twice as highly as a woman’s, but studies consistently show that women are actually less likely to tell lies than men, meaning that they make more reliable witnesses.

Quran (2:228) – “and the men are a degree above them [women]

Quran (5:6) – “And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it”Men are to rub dirt on their hands, if there is no water to purify them, following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).

Quran (24:31) – Women are to lower their gaze around men, so they do not look them in the eye. (To be fair, men are told to do the same thing in the prior verse).

Quran (2:223) – “Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will…” A man has dominion over his wives’ bodies as he does his land. This verse is overtly sexual. There is some dispute as to whether it is referring to the practice of anal intercourse. If this is what Muhammad meant, then it would appear to contradict what he said inMuslim (8:3365).

Quran (4:3) – (Wife-to-husband ratio) “Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four” Inequality by numbers.

Quran (53:27) – “Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.” Angels are sublime beings, and would therefore be male.

Quran (4:24) and Quran (33:50) – A man is permitted to take women as sex slaves outside of marriage. Note that the verse distinguishes wives from captives (those whom thy right hand possesses).

And here are a few hadith and surah from the same page:

Sahih Bukhari (6:301) – “[Muhammad] said, ‘Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?’ They replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence.’

Sahih Bukhari (6:301) – continued – “[Muhammad said] ‘Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women replied in the affirmative. He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religion.'” Allah has made women deficient in the practice of their religion as well, by giving them menstrual cycles. 

Sahih Bukhari (62:81) – “The Prophet said: “‘The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women’s) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract).'” In other words, the most important thing a woman brings to marriage is between her legs.

Sahih Muslim (4:1039) – “A’isha said [to Muhammad]: ‘You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses’ These are the words of Muhammad’s favorite wife, complaining of the role assigned to women under Islam.

Abu Dawud (2:704) – “…the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.” 

Abu Dawud (2155) – Women are compared to slaves and camels with regard to the “evil” in them.

Ishaq 878 – “From the captives of Hunayn, Allah’s Messenger gave [his son-in-law] Ali a slave girl called Rayta and he gave [future Caliph] Uthman a slave girl called Zaynab and [future Caliph] Umar a girl to whom Umar gave to his son.” – Even in this world, Muhammad treated women like party favors, handing out enslaved women to his cronies for sex.

Al-Tirmidhi 3272 – “When Allah’s Messenger was asked which woman was best he replied, ‘The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives a command, and does not go against his wishes regarding her person or property by doing anything of which he disapproves’.” (See also Abu Dawud 1664)

Ishaq 969 – “Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons.” – This same text also says that wives may be beaten for “unseemliness”.

Tabari Vol 9, Number 1754 – “Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for themselves.” From Muhammad’s ‘Farewell Sermon’.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have photos from the young Jamie Blilie, who’s just 13: our youngest contributor.  The captions are indented:

A black phase Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), northeastern Wisconsin.

Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis):

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) in full song.

A Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), also in full song.  I’d only heard them give the “meow” call; but this one gave us a full piping thrush song, very beautiful.  This was at William O’Brien State Park,  just east of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, on the St. Croix River.  This was a tough shot to get, in thick brush.

Unidentified. (Readers?)


Boots and ducks

It’s finally boot weather, so I broke out one of my fanciest pairs: hand-tooled cowhide made by Falconhead of El Paso. Had I not found these on eBay, I couldn’t have afforded them: (I probably posted these before):

And the faux Honey and her boyfriend disappeared from the pond during our big thunderstorm. Before they left I got a decent photo, and could see her beak markings. They don’t seem to me to resemble the ones of the real Honey (at bottom). Or do they? See the enlargements at bottom. Readers, please help me out!

Real Honey:


New duck (greatly enlarged from above):

Honey. (The more I look at these, the more the bill stippling looks the same. But maybe it’s confirmation bias.)

Vote (once) in this poll:

Monday: Hili dialogue

Good morning on October 16, 2017 from a slowly clearing Chicago: our two days of gloom and rain have stopped, and it will be sunny but cool today (high of 61° F or 16° C). I have to fast today, so I get only one large latte (with Splenda) as my “food” intake. It’s National Liqueur Day (my favorite is Chartreuse— very complex and herbal). But the big news is that it’s Global Cat Day!  There are videos at the site, and you can even sign a pledge to help all cats, especially feral ones (this used to also be Feral Cat Day):

I pledge to be an ally to cats, including those who call the outdoors their home. I will advocate for compassionate policies that protect every cat in my community.

Hug your kitty today, and maybe feed an outdoor kitty.

On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined. On this day in 1846, John Collins Warren first demonstrated ether as an anesthetic at Massachusetts General Hospital (he removed a patient’s neck tumor). On October 16, 1859, John Brown and his men led their unsuccessful raid on Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia.  On October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first family planning clinic in America. Exactly seven years later, Walt and Roy Disney founded the Walt Disney Company. On this day in 1940, the Warsaw Ghetto was established. And a decade later, C. S. Lewis started the Chronicles of Narnia series by publishing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a book I couldn’t stand. On this day in 1973, Henry Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—an enormous travesty! Finally, exactly eleven years thereafter, Desmond Tutu, a worthy recipient, was awarded the same prize.

Notables born on this day include Noah Webster (1758), Oscar Wilde (1854), Eugene O’Neill (1888), photographer Paul Strand (1890), William O. Douglas (1898), Günter Grass (1927), Nico (1938), and Bob Weir (1947). Here’s a Paul Strand photo, “Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France”:

Thos who died on this day include Lucas Cranach the Elder (1553), most of the famous defendants of the Nuremberg trial, who were hung, including Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltnebrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Gene Krupa died on October 16, 1973, and Moshe Dayan in 1981. Others who died on this day include Pierre Salinger (2004) and Deborah Kerr (2007).

Here’s Cranach’s famous portrait of Martin Luther (1543), done three years before Luther died:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is looking for inspiration:

Hili: Something is hiding over there.
A: What?
Hili: Some deep thought.
In Polish:
Hili: Tam się coś ukrywa.
Ja: Co?
Hili: Jakaś głęboka myśl.

Reader Rick found this meme from Language Log:

From reader Blue:

From reader Gethyn, who labels this “From the cat version of Gulliver’s Travels“:

From reader Charleen; look at how much this pet pig wants a belly rub (be sure to turn the volume up):

And this from Matthew Cobb (for more humanlike houses, go here):

Finally, also from Charleen, a rabbit plays with leaves:

Another animal crime: dog attacks beer-drinking, bowtie-wearing duck in a pub

This just in from reader Krod, and the story, from The Poke, seems to be real (also verified in The Somerset News). You couldn’t make this headline up:

A duck known for drinking beer from a glass and wearing a bow tie got into a fight with a dog in a pub in Devon, reports the Cheddar Valley Gazette.

The duck, called Star, is apparently well known for accompanying his owner to various pubs, some of which give the duck his own stool.

 As sometimes happens when alcohol is involved, Star had a disagreement with a dog called Meggie – which also belongs to Star’s owner Barrie.

Barrie, of Chulmleigh, Devon, said: “Star pushed his luck too far and Meggie snapped – splitting Star’s bottom beak right down the middle. Star reportedly came out the worst for wear with a split beak, but after a visit to the vet is expected to make a full recovery. Add your own joke about the vet’s bill.

Photos of Barry Hayman and his duck Star:

From the Somerset News:

. . . . vets have reassured Barrie that Star should be able to take to the stage again and the injury will not affect the duck’s dulcet tones.

He said: “He just won’t leave me and so we go everywhere together. I’ve not trained him to follow me. He just seems to like it and he is one fantastic duck.

“He loves to come to the pub, where everyone loves him. He is such a personality and attracts so much attention.”

Star even has his own Facebook page under the name Star Hayman.

Indeed—you can find the duck’s Facebook page here.

Dastardly offense in Colorado

I don’t believe in capital punishment, but if any crime deserves a sentence of life without parole, it’s this one (click on screenshot to see the sordid tail from The Longmont News):

Longmont police on Friday arrested a woman on suspicion of disorderly conduct after they say she pulled a gun on a squirrel outside of a coffee shop.

Kylie Morrison, 31, was released on a summons for misdemeanor disorderly conduct following the incident, according to an arrest report.

Police responded to Cafe Luna on a report of a woman with a gun and placed Morrison into custody. Witnesses told police that Morrison had been sitting in the coffee shop and talking to herself but later exited the building and sat outside. Morrison appeared to be “high on something” and started throwing items at a squirrel when it got too close to her, the report stated.

One of the witnesses began feeding the squirrel to coax it away from Morrison, who allegedly became irritated, drew a gun from her bag and pulled the trigger three or four times. The gun didn’t discharge, but a witness told police she froze in her tracks until Morrison put the gun away.

This being America, the Second Amendment also applies to squirrels, who have every right to defend themselves. Remember, guns don’t kill squirrels, people do!

h/t: Woody


Biloxi pulls “To Kill A Mockingbird” from eighth-grade readings

From the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, we hear of a new example of book-banning in the Biloxi school district of that state. As is often the case, the book is To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), a wonderful novel by Harper Lee that won the Pulitzer Prize and was, of course, made into a superb movie.  I suspect most of us have read it and know the plot, which involves a lawyer of honor (Atticus Finch) defending a black man falsely accused of rape (he’s convicted). It’s a strong indictment of racism. But it also uses the word “nigger” 48 times, and that’s the main reason people complain. (How are children going to learn what the “n-word” means unless they ever hear the full word?) There are also other grounds for complaint, some of them credible, but none of them even remotely bad enough to warrant keeping this book away from children. To Kill a Mockingbird, according to the American Library Association, ranks as the 21st book most often banned or challenged in America. (If you want to get really depressed, go look at the list of the top 100, with the Harry Potter series being the most banned or challenged and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou holding down the #6 spot.)

At any rate, the Clarion Ledger reports that reason for removing this book from the eight-grade curriculum (those are children about 14 years old) was clearly the “n-word”, not any other reason. Note, though, that the school district is too cowardly to give the reason:

The Biloxi School District got complaints about the wording in “To Kill A Mockingbird” — an American classic being taught in 8th grade English Language Arts classes — and pulled it from the curriculum.

It was an administrative and department decision, a member of the school board said, and not something that the school board voted on. It happened Wednesday or Thursday.

Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.

“It’s still in our library. But they’re going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”

When asked Thursday morning if the book had been pulled from the course, Superintendent Arthur McMillan issued a statement five hours later that said: “There are many resources and materials that are available to teach state academic standards to our students. These resources may change periodically. We always strive to do what is best for our students and staff to continue to perform at the highest level.”

McMillan did not answer any questions on the issue.

What a ridiculous bit of dissimulation! Here’s the real reason:

Sun Herald received a email from a concerned reader who said the decision was made “mid-lesson plan, the students will not be allowed to finish the reading of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ …. due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”

The reader said, “I think it is one of the most disturbing examples of censorship I have ever heard, in that the themes in the story humanize all people regardless of their social status, education level, intellect, and of course, race. It would be difficult to find a time when it was more relevant than in days like these.”

The book, praised by a teacher, and obviously previously approved by the school for its thematic reading program, was simply yanked because of a single epithet:

The current themes for 2nd term language arts classes in Biloxi this year are the Golden Rule and taking a stand. With “To Kill A Mockingbird” specifically, the teens were slated to learn that compassion and empathy are not dependent upon race or education, according to the school’s website.

The book is listed on the curriculum as core text for 8th grade ELA, the Common Core state standards for English Language Arts.

One 8th grade teacher on the school website described it as: “Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, “To Kill A Mockingbird” takes readers to the roots of human behavior — to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into 10 languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”

It’s ludicrous to keep this excellent book, which fits right into the curriculum, out of the students’ hands because of one word: a word that was historically an offensive word used to convey bigotry. But the theme of the book is the hurtfulness of bigotry, and I cannot believe that a teacher can’t teach that book without sensitively defusing that word for the students. (The teachers could have a seminar on how to do it.) None of us use the word, but we all have seen it or heard it and know exactly what it means and that it’s deeply offensive. And surely most African Americans have heard it, as it’s used by many of them as an term of comity.

Likewise, I know all the equally offensive words used for “Jews”: kike, Hebe, sheeny, Yid, Christ-killer, Hymie, and many more. I learned most of those well before I was 14; I either heard them or saw them in books.

But if the books containing those words are banned, then how will you learn? Are are students so tender of psyche that they can’t even be exposed to a word (with proper teaching) without turning off completely? It’s too bad if they are, because they’ll also miss books like Huckleberry Finn (#14 on the banned list). And it is the sheer vitriol of the “n word” that makes it important to read—to see how it was used historically as an expression of hatred and bigotry. Are we now to wipe out of American history that there was bigotry and how it was used? How else will you know, without instruction, that the word is now verboten precisely because things are getting better? What a shame to miss that lesson.

You can find the contact information for officials of the Biloxi Public Schools here.

Bisexual student threatened by a University of Texas official after saying he said he didn’t have a “high opinion of Islam” because he’d be killed in some Muslim countries

This report comes from the Volokh Conspiracy site at the Washington Post, which got it from Gay Star News. The quote below, from the WaPo, includes links where you can hear the audio recording and read the transcript that documents the incident.

In short, Alfred MacDonald, a bisexual philosophy student at the University of Texas at San Antonio, had a conversation with a fellow student that got reported to MacDonald’s boss, Eve Browning, Chair of Philosophy and Classics. Volokh says this:

Gay Star News reports on an accusation made by Alfred MacDonald, a philosophy graduate student at University of Texas at San Antonio (who has since moved to another university); see also this Bruce Bawer (PJMedia) post. MacDonald says he was involved in a conversation with a fellow graduate student that turned to religion:

The student MacDonald was talking to mentioned she was a Christian while her fiance was Muslim.

MacDonald responded by explaining he didn’t have a ‘high opinion of Islam’ because ‘there are Muslim countries where I could get executed.

‘I mentioned that I didn’t have anything against her fiance personally and that I was strictly talking about the religious beliefs themselves.

‘I took this to mean that she wanted to talk about our personal lives, so I mentioned my fiancee and our leanings and we talked about what restaurants she’s worked at….’

MacDonald was then called into the department chair’s office, where she told him that he could be subject to administrative discipline for this speech; he secretly recorded the conversation and put what he says is the audio online here and here (shortened version), and the transcript here. (Secretly recording a conversation to which you are party is legal in Texas, though in some other states it’s illegal without all parties’ knowledge or consent.) Some excerpts:

Dr. Browning, in a long conversation, told MacDonald that his comment was inappropriate and violated University standards, ultimately threatening to expel him if he said anything like that again.

Now be aware that MacDonald appears to be a problematic student for several reasons, not just the comment at issue. For example:

  1. He’s had problems with being late, being lazy in his assignments, or making stream-of-consciousness comments in his philosophy classes, and was apparently reported for those as well. Browning discusses this general behavioral problem.
  2. There’s no doubt that MacDonald’s comment to the fellow student was churlish; there’s no need to go off on Islam when you’re talking to a friend engaged to a Muslim, and the offended student appears to have been MacDonald’s friend.
  3. His comment was simply not relevant to the conversation, so MacDonald may have problems relating to people socially.

So MacDonald may have deserved some criticism for his failure to do his schoolwork, but he was called into a meeting with Browning that heavily emphasized his criticism of Islam. MacDonald recorded that conversation (links above), and it was transcribed. Although recording conversations in most states is illegal unless both parties consent, that’s not the case in Texas, so MacDonald’s recording was legal.

What was probably illegal was Browning’s threat that MacDonald’s exercise of “hate speech” (legal on a public university campus) could get him expelled. Since he’s transferred to another school, that’s no longer the issue, but you can see how offended his chair was at what he said.

In my view, Browning had no right to threaten MacDonald for such a comment; I wonder if she would have done it had the criticism been about another faith. Or whether someone would have complained had it been about another faith. But that doesn’t matter, for while criticizing any religion may be inappropriate in such a conversation, it’s neither “hate speech” nor illegal. You can read the transcript here; here are a few bits (emphasis is mine):

ALFRED MACDONALD: No. We got to the subject of Islam, not the fiance.

EVE BROWNING: Do you understand how someone would find that offensive?

ALFRED MACDONALD: How someone would FIND that offensive, yeah; how they could perceive it, yeah; yeah, I mean, if I…

EVE BROWNING: It’s a confusing comment to me because Muslims do not all live in countries in which bisexuals are executed. Muslims live in the United States–


EVE BROWNING: –Muslims live in France, Muslims live in every country in the world — it’s the fastest growing world religion.

ALFRED MACDONALD: Yeah, one of my good friends at the university is Muslim.

EVE BROWNING: And do you tell him that you object to his religion because there are places on earth where gay, lesbian and bisexual people are discriminated against, including your own country?

ALFRED MACDONALD: Well, “her.” And my verbiage was “killed” not “discriminated against.” I mean, Death penalty’s pretty severe.

EVE BROWNING: What does that have to do with her being engaged to a Muslim?

ALFRED MACDONALD: Nothing. I wasn’t talking about the engagement to the Muslim. I was talking about Islam in that particular moment.

EVE BROWNING: Well, let me just say that kind of thing is not going to be tolerated in our department. We’re not going to tolerate graduate students trying to make other graduate students feel terrible for our emotional attachments.

ALFRED MACDONALD: Um… all right.

EVE BROWNING: And, if you don’t understand why that is, I can explain fully, or I can refer you to the Behavior Intervention Team on our campus which consists of a counselor, faculty member, and person from student affairs who are trained on talking to people about what’s appropriate or what isn’t.

ALFRED MACDONALD: I just won’t bring anything up about Islam again. That’s pretty simple. Although I’m not sure what you mean by… so I’ve read the student handbook pretty th–well not pretty thoroughly, but I’ve read it at least twice, and what do you mean by “it won’t be tolerated?” Like I’ll be straight up prevented from registering? Or the team that you mention, the behavior intervention team, they’re going to do something or… what exactly is the penalty for breaking that assuming that I’m in some other situation where I say something that someone else finds offensive and you…

EVE BROWNING: We’d put it either before the behavior intervention team or the student conduct board and ask them to make a recommendation.

ALFRED MACDONALD: Ask them to make a recommendation? What does that mean?

EVE BROWNING: Whether they would refer you for counseling; whether they would recommend that you be academically dismissed; they would assess the damage. They would probably try to speak to the students who are complaining and the faculty that are complaining and make a recommendation. In any case…

ALFRED MACDONALD: And this is over… I thought that UTSA was a public university with first amendment protections? So I could be dismissed for stuff like that? Just…

EVE BROWNING: Making derogatory comments? Yes.

Two more snippets:

EVE BROWNING: I would add to that that confrontational interaction with other graduate students is objectionable and unprofessional. So you need to decide whether you have been excessively confrontational. The example that you give me is very objectionable to me, and had I been there I would have taken exception to it very strongly. So “who were the people offended?” — they were offended enough to talk to a professor about it, and you need to think “what effect are my words having on these people?”… and you don’t seem to be acknowledging that their response was legitimate. I believe it was. Just from what you’ve said. And that’s the most I know about this; I wasn’t told anything more general than … I’ll read it to you: “Mr. MacDonald improperly inserted himself into the conversation and worse yet, says another faculty member, when he learned that Sarah’s fiance and his family subscribed to Islam, made comments on Islam which Sarah felt to be extremely offensive. She was deeply offended.” So that’s what I knew before you described it; now that you’ve described it I completely agree that that was an offensive thing to say. So what we need from you is a commitment to meet these expectations.


ALFRED MACDONALD: …Would it really get me fired to say that I could be killed somewhere?

EVE BROWNING: In that situation as you’ve described it, absolutely yes.


EVE BROWNING: Don’t even ask. It’s clear you’re not taking my word for it. I don’t care to convince you. If I can’t persuade you that it’s in your interest to behave in ways that other people don’t find offensive and objectionable, then at least I’ve done my job.

ALFRED MACDONALD: Well I know that it’s in my interest. I’m just trying to understand the reasoning.

EVE BROWNING: You don’t have to.

ALFRED MACDONALD: Well, this is a truthseeking discipline!

EVE BROWNING: In your hypothetical situation where you’re going to get fired for that comment you can sit and talk to the human relations officer until you’re blue in the face. [laugh] It would not do any good.

Now if you read the entire conversation, you’ll see that Browning is often acting properly, telling MacDonald that he has to get his act together about his work and class attendance. And, I suppose, it’s okay to mention that a student complained about his remark about Islam. What’s not okay is Browning’s explicit threat, made in her official capacity as a faculty member, that MacDonald’s comment about Islam violated university standards and could get him “fired.” And her final laughing statement about how the “human relations” officer would ignore him is simply rude.

I’m not going to give Browning’s email as she says she’s been threatened over what she said (and listen up: the Left should not be issuing such threats. Complaints, yes, but not threats.) But if you want to complain about First Amendment violations on a public university campus, you can email the UTSA President, Taylor Eighmy, at I will, and I’m going to be very polite.

h/t: Orli


Alert: residents of nine U.S. states will need a passport for domestic travel in 2018

Yes, that’s right: soon a driver’s license will no longer do, for the residents of these states don’t have licenses that conform to federal regulations:

  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Washington

According to Forbes and the government itself, if you live in one of these states, you’ll need a passport to fly anywhere after January 18, 2018 unless your state has been granted an extension (and those would last only until October). That’s not very far away!

Some states are working on getting flight-compliant ID cards, but none have so far been issued. If I lived in one of these states and plan to fly, I’d apply for a passport now if I didn’t have one. It takes some time, and there’s going to be a rush.

Don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger.

I get spam

Every day I get dozens and dozens of spam comments, which, fortunately, WordPress has an algorithm for dumping. Virtually all of them are made by people trying to comment simply as a way tout their website—usually one that sells something. I pulled out this comment, by “Stefani”, to show you how devious but funny their attempts to make a “genuine” comment can be. (They often pretend to ask questions or compliment the website.)

Stefani was selling a website design service. The comments often are aimed at photo pages or posts wildly inappropriate for their services; this one was aimed at my post “Pandas falling all over the place!

I wish to show some appreciation to you for bailing me out of this problem. Right after surfing around through the the net and finding strategies which were not pleasant, I was thinking my entire life was done. Living minus the answers to the issues you’ve solved by means of your main review is a critical case, and the ones which may have adversely damaged my entire career if I had not noticed your website. Your main natural talent and kindness in touching all things was helpful. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had not come upon such a stuff like this. It’s possible to at this moment relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for the reliable and sensible guide. I won’t hesitate to suggest your web sites to any individual who ought to have guidance about this subject.

I’m so blessed that my post on pandas saved this person’s future!

Here are two more that came this morning. This one, from “123”, was aimed at the post “A loveless left-handed snail can’t find a mate“:

Hey there, You’ve done a great job. I will definitely
digg it and personally suggest to my friends.
I’m confident they will be benefited from this web site.

Here’s another website developer (“Yong”) hoping to flatter me into posting his comment by linking to his/her site. It was aimed at the post “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ bigotry“. Lots of spam is along these lines:

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

And from a Regressive Leftist named Jen trying to chew me out while commenting on the post “Huffington Post clarifies Oppression Hierarchy by incisive analysis of cultural appropriation (dreadlocks versus Chinese tattoos)“:

I don’t particularly like when people who don’t know what cultural appropriation is, write an entire article about it. This was a painful read. Please do your research beforehand.

Such pain she must have endured! Sadly, she didn’t enact the emotional labor to tell me what cultural appropriation really is.