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Do we agree there is a problem?

 
Bartender
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After encountering Tommy Robinson on twitter, I googled around and could not form any concrete opinion about his views...till I saw Do you agree, there is a problem?
 
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I listened to about the first twenty minutes of that talk; does he say anything new in the rest of the talk? I am surprised that OU allowed him to go on for nearly 1ΒΌ hours and didn't restrict him to 20 minutes.
Yes, there are all sorts of problems and they are real.

One of the problems is that a few people are thugs/violent/murderous/etc and use race or religion as a pretext for such violence.
Another is that many otherwise law‑abiding people try to restrict anybody expressing any extreme opinions; that happens at both ends of whichever spectrum we happen to be in. Note that TR said he was restricted from expressing certain opinions because he was on licence from prison; that restriction is part of the punishment along with imprisonment.
Yes, there are real problems in certain parts of this country from several different “racial” groups or religious groups and there is a great deal of hatred in all directions, but there are still only a few people involved. As we saw in Paris two weeks ago and in Ulster for over half my lifetime, even a few people can cause a great deal of trouble.

It would be interesting to hear whoever else spoke at that debate. The whole idea of those events is to offer people with differing opinions the opportunity to discuss them in public.
 
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It's easy to fall into all sorts of fallacy arguments with topics like this:

- we might conflate the argument with the messenger.
- we might conflate honest criticism with any number of mis-characterizations.
and so on...

That said, and wading in...

About half the world's 1.6 billion Muslims perform the five times a day prayer. The last line of that prayer (which is the first verse of the Quran), ends with (roughly translated):

"Our God is forever angry with the Christians and the Jews".

It can't be good to utter this idea, out loud, 4 BILLION times a day. It just can't be good.

==

We're told that Islam is a religion of peace. But what is Islam? Is it the set of ideas codified by Islamic scripture? That would be a precise definition, but when the scripture is criticized, we're told that Islam isn't the scripture. Okay then, is Islam what Muslims believe? When it's pointed out that about 30% of Muslims worldwide believe in Sharia law we're told it's not Islam, it's the culture. We're told this even though Islam is dominant in many regions all the way from Western Africa, through the ME, into SW Asia, and all the way to SE Asia. And this geographical range of course includes many different cultures.

We're told that we shouldn't judge Islam by its extremists, and that seems fair. But 500 million folks who believe in Sharia is a number we should not take lightly.

Multi-culturalists often claim that all cultures are equal, but is that really true? We don't allow slavery or polygamy or cannibalism. Why should we accept institutionalized misogyny, anti-semitism, intolerance, homophobia, and attacks on secularism?

I'm a strong believer in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, drafted years ago by the UN. If you haven't read it, I'd urge you to. And I'd ask you to consider why the Organization of Islamic Cooperation rejected it and decades later wrote the Cairo declaration instead?

None of this is to say that secular society is perfect - far from it. This is also not to say that other religions are squeaky clean, they most certainly are not.

I guess all of this is to say that I'll be critical of any group that resists basic human rights and/or wants to undo secular society - I'll be an equal opportunity opposer.
 
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Well, I can't be bothered listening to some Youtube diatribe from the likes of TR. There is enough right-wing propaganda in our media these days thanks to UKIP, never mind the EDL and its ilk. Freedom of speech does not require me to listen to this stuff.

I have no time for fundamentalism of any kind - Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu etc - and I agree with Campbell that the problem is not with massive populations or entire religions, but with a small minority of violent extremists. So I have to disagree with Bert's broadbrush condemnation of Islam, which I think misses both the historical context of much of today's Islamist violence and also at least some acknowledgement that our own history is hardly spotless.

Modern Islamism seems to be largely a product of the failure of secular nationalism and liberation movements following the collapse of the Western and Ottoman empires. Western powers preached freedom to Muslims recently liberated from Turkish rule, but systematically undermined efforts to achieve genuine independence from Western interference, from Egypt through Palestine to Iraq and beyond. After WWII, this contrast between words and deeds became even starker, with the creation of Israel (which many people in the region saw as a Western Jewish colony planted in their midst - as one West Bank Palestinian ruefully asked me, "If the West wanted to help the Jews after the Holocaust, why not give them Bavaria?") and with the polarisation between Western and Soviet proxies in the region. For example, the reason we have problems with Iran today is because we undermined their democratically elected government back in the 1950s and imposed the Shah on them, ultimately resulting in the religiously inspired revolution against the Shah. In Syria and Iraq, we are dealing with the consequences of half a century of Western and Soviet interference.

And our choice of friends in the region doesn't help. A couple of weeks ago, we saw Western leaders declaring "Je suis Charlie" after the events in Paris, while the same week their Saudi friends were inflicting a barbaric medieval punishment on a dissident. This week, our leaders are all mourning the Saudi head of a dynasty of head-lopping autocrats who have in many cases been actively sponsoring extreme Islamist groups around the world, sometimes with our connivance (Afghanistan) and sometimes without (Pakistan). We blame Palestinians - under a brutal and racist occupation - for electing Hamas in Gaza, but we cosy up to the Saudi leadership and other dictators without a qualm of conscience. We may not be aware of this gulf between our words and deeds, but people in the affected regions are all too aware of it. And when you've had your nose rubbed in this kind of hypocrisy for long enough, it is at least understandable that you might reach for more extreme ideologies - even those based on pseudo-medieval fantasies of a mythical Caliphate - in response. This stuff doesn't come out of nowhere - we reap what we sow in many cases.

What is particularly terrifying today is that this desperate cynicism and growing rejection of democracy has reached a critical mass, where even countries that were relatively free of Islamism - like Nigeria - are now seeing the growth of Islamist thugs like Boko Haram. Again, it would probably be worth looking at where the money comes from for weapons and extremist madrasas, because I suspect many such trails would lead back to Saudi Arabia, as they do from Pakistan. Of course, I hope we would agree that when somebody picks up a gun or sets off a bomb, they are responsible for their own actions, but we should also recognise that our own governments bear at least some responsibility for creating the conditions that allow such extremism to grow. Perhaps the problem with Islamic extremism is that, unlike most secular nationalist movements we have suppressed in the past, Islam is a global religion with global networks that can be exploited by violent extremists. Just like our own networks of power that we have used to maintain our position in the past.

And when it comes to criticism of specific aspects of Muslim societies, we should remember that it wasn't always this way. For most of the last millennium, the safest place to be a Jew was probably under Muslim rule, where the other "people of the Book" were relatively free to practice their own religions in peace. It wasn't the Arabs who killed 6 million Jews within living memory, and slavery is still a recent cultural memory in the USA and Caribbean. Sadly, anti-semitism, intolerance, homophobia and attacks on secularism are familiar features of even mainstream dialogue in many Western countries e.g. Fox News broadcast inflammatory lies about a major British city only last week. And just try electing an atheist president in the USA and see how far you get.

Meanwhile, the position of women in Muslim countries varies widely, but ironically it was generally better under our secular "enemies" (Iraq, Syria, communist Afghanistan) than under our devout friends (Saudi, the Gulf states). It's true that most of these societies are not places where we as Westerners would want to live, and I agree with Bert that we should actively promote greater democracy and freedom, especially for women. But that's not what our governments are doing, is it?

Personally, I think we should be far more robust in our defence of the liberties we claim to uphold, whether on the streets of Paris or London, or indeed in our dealings with the oppressive regimes we have favoured with such catastrophic results in the past. And that includes our allies - whether it's Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or even Israel/Palestine. People in these troubled regions are not idiots, and they can see our hypocrisy even if we cannot.
 
Bert Bates
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Hi Chris,

I think we largely agree (believe it or not )

I have a different take on how to weigh history and historical influences, but other than that, we're on the same page. I do think that the "West" is facing an ever-growing oligarchy. Sadly, the side-effects of oligarchy provide an excellent smoke-screen for religious apologists when hiding the enormous problems created by religion in the 21st century. I think it's time for a thread on oligarchy...
 
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