Friday, May 22, 2015

Raif Badawi on the nature of liberalism in Saudi Arabia

In May 2012, shortly before his arrest, Badawi addressed the nature of liberalism.
"For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind."
His final thought quoted Albert Camus: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
In another piece that month, Badawi invoked the Quran to support the importance of liberalism, the need to separate religion and state and implied that Islam itself has been distorted by the Saudi political establishment to promote illiberal and authoritarian ideals.
"No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress. This is not a failing on the part of religion but rather that all religions represent a particular, precise spiritual relationship between the individual and the Creator. ..However, positive law is an unavoidable human and social need because traffic regulations, employment law and the codes governing the administration of State can hardly be derived from religion."
Translations: Mona Mahmood, Amnesty International, Ian Black, Raya Jalabi and Gatestone Institute.

Free Speech Phobia

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
A Clash of Kings, George Martin

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lawrence's audacity and flexibility

“Lawrence seems to have possessed a natural gift for remaining silent and motionless, without betraying himself – he had always been fearless; from boyhood on he had deliberately cultivated indifference to danger and hardship, as well as emotional independence, as if rehearsing for the role he was about to play, and his lack of fear somehow communicated itself to others in the sense that they felt he belonged where he was whoever he might be."
Michael Korda’s book Hero, on the life and legend of Lawrence
Lawrence certainly had his vices but of his virtues he had an audacity and flexibility that made him unique.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Natures constant drum

Natures constant drum. Survive and reproduce. Survive and reproduce. This is why food and sex dominate the rhythmic natural drive of organisms and why for the human primate so much of its cultural landscape is built around these two mountainous drives. Food and Sex are masters of the natural machine.

John Gray - There are no good outcomes

A campaign of mass murder is never simply an expression of psychopathic aggression. In the case of Isis, the ideology of Wahhabism has played an important role. Ever since the 1920s, the rulers of the Saudi kingdom have promoted this 18th-century brand of highly repressive and exclusionary Sunni Islam as part of the project of legitimating the Saudi state. More recently, Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabi ideology has been a response to the threat posed by the rise of Shia Iran. If the ungoverned space in which Isis operates has been created by the west’s exercises in regime change, the group’s advances are also a byproduct of the struggle for hegemony between Iran and the Saudis. In such conditions of intense geopolitical rivalry there can be no effective government in Iraq, no end to the Syrian civil war and no meaningful regional coalition against the self-styled caliphate.
But the rise of Isis is also part of a war of religion. Nothing is more commonplace than the assertion that religion is a tool of power, which ruling elites use to control the people. No doubt that’s often true. But a contrary view is also true: politics may be a continuation of religion by other means. In Europe religion was a primary force in politics for many centuries. When religion seemed to be in retreat, it renewed itself in political creeds – Jacobinism, nationalism and varieties of totalitarianism – that were partly religious in nature. Something similar is happening in the Middle East. Fuelled by movements that combine radical fundamentalism with elements borrowed from secular ideologies such as Leninism and fascism, conflict between Shia and Sunni communities looks set to continue for generations to come. Even if Isis is defeated, it will not be the last movement of its kind. Along with war, religion is not declining, but continuously mutating into hybrid forms.
Western intervention in the Middle East has been guided by a view of the world that itself has some of the functions of religion. There is no factual basis for thinking that something like the democratic nation-state provides a model on which the region could be remade. States of this kind emerged in modern Europe, after much bloodshed, but their future is far from assured and they are not the goal or end-point of modern political development. From an empirical viewpoint, any endpoint can only be an act of faith. All that can be observed is a succession of political experiments whose outcomes are highly contingent. Launched in circumstances in which states constructed under the aegis of western colonialism have broken down under the impact of more recent western intervention, the gruesome tyranny established by Isis will go down in history as one of these experiments.
The weakness of faith-based liberalism is that it contains nothing that helps in the choices that must be made between different kinds and degrees of evil. Given the west’s role in bringing about the anarchy in which the Yazidis, the Kurds and other communities face a deadly threat, non-intervention is a morally compromised option. If sufficient resources are available – something that cannot be taken for granted – military action may be justified. But it is hard to see how there can be lasting peace in territories where there is no functioning state. Our leaders have helped create a situation that their view of the world claims cannot exist: an intractable conflict in which there are no good outcomes.
Philosopher John Gray - The Truth about Evil

CAIR condemns Garland attack

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the attack.
“Violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory,” the group said in a statement. “Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence.”
LA TIMES
This is an important statement because it helps underline the principle that violence should not be the response to offensive speech but rather more speech. It is important not to legitimize the violence from extremists by giving religion a privileged place beyond criticism. In a pluralistic society all ideas must be open to criticism.

Monday, May 4, 2015

First they came...

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
They = Takfiri - Salafi zealots
First they came for the polytheists and I did not speak out because I was not a polytheist.
Then they came for the apostates and I did not speak out because I was not an apostate.
Then they came for the Christian and I did not speak out because I was not a Christian.
Then they came for the Shia and I did not speak out because I was not Shia.
Then they came for the perceived impure Muslim and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim.
Then they came for the Western liberals - and there was no one left to protect them.***
People who kill for theocratic totalitarian reasons will not stop at one group…they will keep eating the edges until they get to the center and have their totalitarian theocracy.
This is why it is important to protect fringe groups with freedom of speech and expression.
Takfiri-Salafi zealots should have freedom of expression. As they verbally demonize kuffar, apostates, infidels, rafidas, and those they deem munafiqs.
If we allow the Takfiri zealots freedom of expression to demonize everyone not them than we better damn well let the rest of society have freedom of expression.
No one group should have privilege from offensive speech. All groups should have to deal with others who they think offensive without resorting to violence.
To stay with Constitutional principles we must allow the freedom of speech of religious extremists as well as allowing the freedom of speech of anti-religious extremists.
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
George Orwell