Saturday, 20 July 2013

Why Islamphobia is not a phobia of Islam

Quite frankly I am sick of the word "Islamophobia".  The reason is that it is completely the wrong term.  Burning down mosques, pulling off hijabs and indecent graffiti are not forms of Islamophobia but anti-Muslim.  It seems that users of the word "Islamophobia" think that an irrational fear is when you are able to put the words "irrational" and "fear" into a single sentence about a specific subject, but this is simply not the case.

An irrational fear (or phobia) is when the fear itself is irrational, not the process which leads to deciding if something is dangerous or not.  Given accurate and sufficient data to show that something is harmless, one may still fear that thing if they use an irrational or illogical process to evaluate the data and therefore incorrectly conclude that thing presents a sufficient risk.  This is not a phobia, this is and misconception, an erroneous conclusion, irrational thinking.

For something to be a phobia it is the fear itself which must be irrational, i.e. there is no way for the person experiencing the fear to justify the level of fear they experience.  For example, given the data that a plastic doll has never attacked anyone and reaching the logical conclusion that dolls are therefore harmless, it is still possible for someone to fear plastic dolls whilst at the same time knowing there is nothing to fear.  Knowing there is nothing to fear and yet fearing it anyway is what makes the fear itself irrational and therefore a phobia.

For Islamophobia to be a phobia of Islam one must genuinely believe that there is very little or no threat at all, whether or not this opinion is well informed, ill informed, or completely uninformed is irrelevant, the important factor is that despite concluding there is no threat the person continues to fear Islam (or disproportionately fear Islam if one decides it poses a small threat).

  1. A fear of dolls is a phobia if you know that dolls cannot willfully harm you.
  2. If a person knows that most spiders are not poisonous then fearing all spiders is a phobia.
  3. If a person knows that few spiders are poisonous then a small amount of fear is warranted, but a high level of terror of all spiders is a phobia - because the fear is known by the phobic person to be disproportionately high for the threat.
  4. If a person believes that all spiders are poisonous then fearing all spiders is not a phobia, it is an irrational/erroneous conclusion, possibly based on little or incorrect data.  If it is proven to the person that most spiders are not poisonous it should change their level of fear of spiders, if they remain desperately fearsome of all spiders then it becomes a phobia.
People who have a phobia tend to avoid exposure to that which they fear, or when forced to be exposed to the thing they fear they are uncomfortable and wish to leave.  People who have a spider phobia tend to run away from spiders rather than seek them out to kill them.  People who have a clown phobia tend to run away from clowns rather than to seek them out and attack them.

One cannot say that Muslims pose no risk at all, but only in the same way that one cannot say strangers pose no risk at all; but fear of what Muslims might do is related to how they look (visually identifiable as a Muslim) or when they are in a social situation which identifies them as a Muslim.  The risk of being killed or harmed by a Muslim is probably less statistically likely than being killed by a non-Muslim, a complete stranger, or even someone you know.  It seems that the level of risk of harm from Muslims is what is actually being discussed when people argue as to whether or not Islamophobia is a real phenomenon.  This however distracts from the fact that the conclusion one reaches is nothing to do with whether or not fearing a belief or believer is a phobia.

So what are we really dealing with if not a phobia of Islam?  First there is the case of people being anti-Muslim.  This is a case of guilt by association, blaming the whole for actions of a few or of bigotry towards those deemed to be the "most different".  In many cases it is racism towards non-white people which is openly displayed because racists somehow feel it is more socially acceptable to hate Muslims (claiming they deserve it) than it is to admit they hate Pakistanis, and by extension hating anyone who seems to sympathise with them by dressing as them.

This is particularly highlighted by the accusations made against Muslims.
  1. Rape gangs: The circumstances of these actions were not permitted by Islamic laws.
  2. Female genital mutilation: As far as I can tell this is a social phenomenon rather than an Islamic one.
  3. Forced marriages: Although the female's consent is assumed she is permitted to object.
Regarding Islamophobia what can we conclude?
  1. Whether the person has accurate, inaccurate or no information is not a factor.
  2. Whether the person is rational or irrational in reaching their risk assessment conclusion is not a factor.
  3. Whether or not Islam is in reality a threat is surprisingly also not a factor.
  4. Only if the person fears Islam whilst believing that it is harmless or disproportionately fears Islam whilst believing it is of little risk makes their condition a phobia.
Racists and anti-Muslims might use Islam and Muhammad as topics of insult because they know it will emotionally hurt Muslims, but they're attacks are against the Muslims themselves.  The term Islamophobia is not only an incorrect description of hatred towards Muslims and/or the resulting attacks against them, it is also such a vague term them any valid criticism of Islam can easily end up with one being accused as Islamophobic, and thus by extension someone filled with hatred and a possible violent attacker.  One can be outright anti-Islamic yet at the same time believe Muslims to be equals worthy of the same rights as themselves.

Islam is an idea, disliking Islam means only that you dislike an idea.  The term "Islamophobia" is a strong tool for silencing criticism of a specific idea.  Not only does this word make criticism of Islam difficult it also serves as a gross injustice to the crimes being committed against Muslims today.  To attribute crimes of hate as an irrational fear / phobia of a specific idea belittles the severity of what is actually happening.  People are being attacked because they are Muslims.  The people being attacked are not collateral damage of people attacking their common idea, they are a social group that is being alienated and attacked and that is much worse than any attack against their beliefs.

Most Muslims you meet are more likely to offer you a free dinner than blow you up on a bus.  We must make sure we protect these Muslims rather than their beliefs.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Welcome to Ramadan!

I'm waiting for a system update to complete, so seeing as I have some free time and it is the start of Ramadan I thought I'd write down something that I originally planned for a video but now find I don't have the time to create.

Perseids

The Perseids /ˈpɜrsɨdz/ are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so-called because the point from which they appear to come, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. The name derives in part from the word Perseides (Περσείδες), a term found in Greek mythology referring to the sons of Perseus....The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for about 2000 years, with the earliest information on this meteor shower coming from the Far East.[1] Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the "tears of St. Lawrence", since 10 August is the date of that saint's martyrdom.[5]The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the peak in activity being between August 9 and 14, depending on the particular location of the stream. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. As with all meteor showers, the rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space
Source: WikiPedia - More information on the NASA website

Shooting stars, Jinns, and the Quran

The Quran claims the heavens are guarded by shooting stars which shoot down devils (or "Jinn") that try to eaves drop on revelations from Allah.  The successful of these eavesdropping Jinns then descend from the heavens and reveal those stolen revelations, mixed with lies, to poets.

    • 15.16-18 And verily in the heaven we have set mansions of the stars, and We have beautified it for beholders. And We have guarded it from every outcast devil, Save him who stealeth the hearing, and them doth a clear flame pursue.
    • 67.5 And verily We have beautified the world's heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles for the devils, and for them We have prepared the doom of flame.

    • Shall I inform you upon whom the devils descend? They descend on every sinful, false one. They listen eagerly, but most of them are liars.As for poets, the erring follow them.

    • 37.6-10 We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars,- (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits, (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly but be cast away from every side, repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty. Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.
    • 72.1-9 Say: It has been revealed to me that a company of Jinns listened (to the Qur'an). They said, "We have really heard a wonderful Recital! ... There were persons among mankind who took shelter with persons among the Jinns, but they increased them in folly ... And we (The Jinns) pried into the secrets of heaven; but we found it filled with stern guards and flaming fires. We used, indeed, to sit there in (hidden) stations, to (steal) a hearing; but any who listen now will find a flaming fire watching him in ambush."

    * Please do click the "Tafsirs" link after each verse to read the understanding of the verse from the point of view of the classical Muslim Quran commentators.

    Muhammad's prophethood

    Muhammad was born in 570CE and claimed prophethood in 610CE aged approximately 40.  According to Hadiths (stories from Muhammad's life) he used to spend days meditating/contemplating in the cave of Hira, and this is where it is claimed he was first visited by the angel Gabriel and given his first revelations from god (Allah).

    Take the Julian date of August 610CE and convert it using a Julian to Islamic calendar converter and we find that it falls on Ramadan.  Muhammad's first revelations would have come during a period of intense meteor showers, which was thought to be missiles attacking eavesdropping Jinns, maybe suggesting to him that something extraordinary was happening in the heavens regarding revelations from Allah.

    This perhaps is the rationale behind these verses in the Quran about revelations from the heavens and shooting stars being used to shoot down Jinn who try to eaves drop.

    To all cultural/practicing Mulsims and apostates, have a happy Ramadan!

    Wednesday, 3 July 2013

    Does the Quran permit sex with slaves?

    After a short exchange with a guy named "Tanvir Chowdhury" on Twitter Tanvir wrote a detailed response as to why he thinks sex with slaves is not endorsed by the Quran.  I shall quote Tanvir's response and intersperse my comments.

    Does #Islam permit a #Muslim man to have sex with his slaves in addition to his legal wives? Those arguing it does, frequently cite the #Quran, verses 23:5-6 as support for their position.
    These verses as translated by Yusuf Ali reads:“Who abstain from sex,Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame”
    The phrase “right hands possess” (arabic: Ma malakat aymanukum) used in verse 23:6 is presumed to mean “captives” (obtained through defensive war). And hence, many interpret this verse as permitting sex with one’s war captives or slaves.
    However, the translation by Muhammad Asad reads slightly differently:“and who are mindful of their chastity[not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses - that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]: for then, behold, they are free of all blame”
    Whilst I do like that you have chosen the nicest translation of the original text I find it unfortunate to say that this is a biased approach.  I would prefer it if the Quran said not to have sex with slaves, that is my preference, but it's a mixed blessing that reality doesn't conform to my preferences.


    1. Ahmad Ali: Except from their wives and women slaves of old are free of blame, 
    2. Arberry: Save from their wives and what their right hands own then being not blameworthy
    3. Daryabadi: Save in regard to their spouses and those whom their right hands own: so they are not blameworthy
    4. Khan: Except from their wives or the legal bondwomen that they possess, for then there is no blame upon them
    5. Maududi: save from their wives, or those whom their right hands possess; for with regard to them they are free from blame
    6. Pickthall: Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy
    7. Qaribullah: except with their wives and what their right hand possess, and then they are not blamed.
    8. Sahi Intl: Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed
    9. Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,
    10. Shakir: Except before their mates or those whom their right hands possess, for they surely are not blameable,
    There is quite a bit of variation here.  Some interpret "Right hands possess" to mean slaves, some just quote it as it literally appears in the Quran.  Ahmad Ali adds the words "of old" which do not exist in the Quran, a good example of translating the text to mean what you want rather than translating what it actually says.  From this all we can conclude so far is that we need to work out the definition of "Right hands possess".

    1. Except with your wives or (to put it another way) with those your right hands possess (through marriage).
    2. Except with your wives or with those your right hands posses.
    The words "to put it another way" and "of old" do not appear in the original Arabic so must be inferred from other parts of the Quran, as Tanvir has done.
    Muhammad Asad’s rendering of this verse indicates that there is no blame if one has sex with whom they “rightfully possess” through wedlock (ie. marriage). The justification for this rendering is given in his commentary on this verse, reproduced below:
    “Many of the commentators assume unquestioningly that this relates to female slaves, and that the particle aw ("or") denotes a permissible alternative. This interpretation is, in my opinion, inadmissible inasmuch as it is based on the assumption that sexual intercourse with ones female slave is permitted without marriage: an assumption, which is contradicted by the Qur'an itself (see 4:3, 24, 25 and 24:32)
    I will address each referenced verse in turn.

    4:2-3

    • 4:2 Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good for the bad (in your management thereof) nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth. Lo! that would be a great sin.
    • 4:3 And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice.
    Various hadiths explain that 4:2-3 are verses about men marrying female orphans in their care.  Two things these verses forbid are
    1. That the man mixes the wealth of the orphan with his own because she has more money (Mainly  described in 4:2)
    2. If the man desires the orphan for reasons other than money he must ensure that he pays her a suitable Mahr (dowry), one that another suitor would have paid.  Giving her anything less than she deserves would be unjust
    References
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_55_26.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_47_12.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_55_26.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_65_4616.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_65_4617.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_67_2.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_67_30.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_67_36.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_67_76.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Bukhari_90_12.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Muslim_57_7713.htm
    Of the two options 
    1. Your wives
    2. Your slave girls
    Which of these make sense when applied to verses 4:2-3.  The term "right hands possess" doesn't seem to be referring to one's wives as it is advising on some kind of relationship.  It makes no sense to permit a man to marry those who his right hand possesses if that term means he is already married to them.

    4:3 instructs the believing man that if he cannot treat the orphan justly (by means of not taking their wealth and by giving them a suitable dowry) they should instead marry 2,3 or 4 other women they like.  If they cannot do justice to so many women (i.e. they cannot afford a suitable dowry for that many) then have only one (because that is less expensive), or the captive(s) your right hand possesses.

    The final point could either mean to have sex with slaves instead of getting married, or it could mean that a dowry for a slave is less or even non-existent, so a man who cannot afford a wife could choose a slave as a cheaper option.  Although this verse does not say "have sex with slaves" it does demonstrate that it is logically impossible for "right hand possesses" to mean one's wive.

    4:22-25

    • 4:22 Do not marry your father's ex-wives
    • 4:23 Unlawful also are your mothers/daughters/sisters/aunts/nieces/foster mothers/foster sisters/mothers in law/ex-wives of genetic sons/women who are sisters/step daughters in your charge (unless not had sex with her mom)
    • 4:24 Unlawful for men are already married women, except those he legally possesses.  All non-mentioned women are lawful if you pay a fair dowry.
    • 4:25 If you cannot afford to marry a believing woman then believing women your right hands possess.
    Could "right hands possess" be referring to women you already possess in marriage?  Again 4:24 rules this out.  Women forbidden to men are those whom are already married *except* if he rightfully owns her.  Possible variations here are whether right-hand-possesses means "slave girls" or "your married wives", and also whether the verse has switched the topic from "legal in marriage" to "legal for sex".  I will address every variation

    1. Your wife, for sex
      This option makes some sense*
    2. Your wife, for marriage
      This option makes no sense
    3. Your slave, for sex
      This option makes sense
    4. Your slave, for marriage
      This option also makes sense
    * Although this seems to make sense the verse does say that women who are "already married" are unlawful to you.  This would mean that your wives who are married (presumably to you) are unlawful to you, which makes no sense.

    The only two remaining options here that make sense are 3 and 4.  Without knowing if the verse has switched from marriage to sexual intercourse it is impossible to say what is being permitted, however the verses seem to be referring to a context of marriage (as does 4:26) so could very well be saying that a man is permitted to marry one of his slaves even if she is already married to someone else (presumably Jewish and Christian women, as Muslim women cannot have more than one husband).

    Relevant hadiths which claim verse 4:24 came about as a result of victorious Muslim men not wanting to have sex with female captives because they were polytheists.
    • Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah her pleased with him) reported that at the Battle of Hanain Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah's Messenger (may peace te upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that:
      http://www.thequrancollection.com/Hadith_Muslim_17_41.htm
    • http://www.thequrancollection.com/hadith_muslim_17_43.htm
    The hadiths are both Sahih (strong), but as to their authenticity I cannot comment.  If not authentic then this at least demonstrates how easily manipulated (or "misunderstood") the verses are in order to permit state sanctioned rape.

    24:32

    And marry such of you as are solitary and the pious of your slaves and maid-servants. If they be poor, Allah will enrich them of His bounty. Allah is of ample means, Aware

    This verse says that Muslim men and women may marry slaves whom are pious/righteous. It uses different words for "slaves" than the other verses do for "right hands possess" which could mean there is a difference between those whom one's right hand possesses and one's slaves.  However it could also be the case that a different word was used because the slaves referred to are "righteous".

    If this different word is used only for righteous slaves then I would expect to see other references in the Quran specifying that the slaves are in some way righteous.

    Imai: Female slave

    • 24:32 Slaves who are righteous
    • 2:221 Don't marry idolaters until they believe, a believing slave girl is better
    There are only two occurrences in the Quran for Imai, and both are referring to women slaves whom are better due to the fact that they are righteous/believers.

    Ibadi: Male slave

    • 2:23 Allah's slave (Muhammad)
    • 2:90 Allah's chosen servants
    • 2:138 Allah's worshippers
    • 2:178 Slave's life for a slave's life
    • 2:186 Allah's servants
    All other occurrences may be viewed here, there are too many to list.  For the most part it seems to refer to Allah's slaves who would be considered more righteous than polytheists and non-believers.

    To deal the final death blow to the idea that "right hands possess" means "possess through marriage" one only need look at the verse before this one, 24:31.  It reads

    And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands' fathers, or their sons or their husbands' sons, or their brothers or their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, or their women, or their (right hands possess), or male attendants who lack vigour

    The word used for the believing women's slaves is "ayman", which is the same word used in verse 23:6. So we have here another example of the exact same concept but instead from the point of view of a woman. If "right hand possesses" does in fact mean "your legally married spouse" then Allah seems to have forgotten that he had already said "their own husbands" and repeated it later in the same sentence; if (as Tanvir said) it is logical to list the same item twice "23:6 wives or (in other words) those whom their right hands possess (through marriage)" then 24:31 says a woman need not hide her private parts from "their women or (in other words) those whom their right hand possess (through marriage)".  A Muslim woman cannot marry another woman, so clearly this verse, which takes the same form as 23:6, cannot possibly be referring to her spouse.

    Based on the various hadiths cited, the logical/illogical variations of meaning, and the fact that verse 23:41 seems to contradict the suggested meaning of 23:6 I can only conclude that "right hands possess" means one's slaves/captives of war.

    I'd continue, but this is big enough as it is and I think I have already made my point.