Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Fade To Black

"Life, it seems, will fade away / Drifting further every day"

One wonders what has to happen, how monstrous has to be the violence, before anyone in our Government will be hit by a cluebat, and actually begin to do something about the problem of jihad terror.

First it was David Cameron saying, repeatedly, that Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam - and expecting our intelligence not to be insulted by his words.

Then we hear that there will be a minute's silence this Friday for the victims of the Tunisian jihad shooting - as if these people were just tragically killed by an earthquake, as if they just died because something happened to them and it's all very terrible and sad...as if these people were not savagely murdered by a group that has declared war on us, and wants to kill or subjugate all of us down to the last man, woman and child. This was not a tragedy - IT WAS AN ACT OF WAR. What is David Cameron going to do to win the war?

Nothing, it seems. Nothing at all, except - aptly - remain silent.

Then we see that our security forces have been engaged in a large counter-terror exercise today, revealing that rather than proactive action against the Islamic State and its ideology, we have been reduced to nothing more than simply waiting for the next terror attack to happen, and hoping that it won't be too bad. Maybe only a couple of people will die instead of almost three dozen.

And then we realise that the closest thing to proactive action that is being done is to try to identify school children "in danger of radicalisation", including the enlightening suggestion that "Homophobic views may be a sign that a pupil is at risk of becoming an extremist". We know this is sort of true - ISIS is, after all, famously homophobic. But we also know for damn certain that such an ideological marker will also be used to target Christians who believe that homosexuality is sinful as potential "extremists". In this enlightened 21st century Britain, we acknowledge that those religious types who do condemn gay marriage are ridiculous, ignorant and archaic - but we also know damn well that - unlike Muslims - they are no threat to anybody, and aren't going to do anything to gay people, except perhaps not sell them a wedding cake. And so we know that no useful purpose will be served by this pretense of government action and understanding.

This is the age of willful blindness and capitulation. Relax, infidels, it will all be over soon.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Wrong Questions, No Answers

Sometimes it amazes me that this blog even exists. Why is it that I actually have to run a blog explaining the nature and magnitude of the Islamic jihad threat? Why isn't it already widely known? Especially on a day like the one just past, in which one simply has to turn on the news in order to understand the severity of that threat, with no online commentary needed?

There are a number of explanations as to why this is so, but taken together, they point to the same basic problem: Willful ignorance.

There are many examples of this, but one that struck me recently, and which gets to the heart of why the Muslim world has such a problem, comes from a recent BBC article entitled "Me and Abu Taubah", by Nina Arif. It demonstrates the utter inability that moderate Muslims have to successfully convince their co-religionists that they are wrong about their "perverted" understanding of Islam, and bring them back to the true peaceful, loving teachings of the Qur'an. (#sarc)

The article documents Arif's six-month period of online and mobile conversations which an ISIS jihadist calling himself Muthenna Abu Taubah. After describing how she tried to learn about his ideology, and admitting that she agrees with his "grievances about Muslims having their freedoms curbed", she goes on to ask an absolutely unbelievable question:

But why had Taubah (Arabic for "repentance") chosen the path of jihad as a response to injustice?

This is unbelievable because the answer is in the question.

Taubah is not just Arabic for "repentance" - it is also the name of a chapter of the Qur'an. Chapter 9 - Surat al-Taubah - is without question the most violent chapter in all of the Qur'an, and contains the key war proclamations that sanction "jihad against injustice" (i.e. non-belief) in Islamic thought and law. These include, among others, the following:

“Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (9:5)

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (9:29)

“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth...” (9:111)
O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination. (9:23)

O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous. (9:123)

Could it be that Muthenna Abu Tauba named himself after this sura because it reflected his devotion to jihad? If she was honest, Arif would ask the question, since if she knows what Taubah means in Arabic, she must also know that it is the name of a Qur'anic sura. But if she does know that, she gives no sign of it in this article.

Her dishonesty shows itself up again right at the very end of the piece, when she observes:

Aside from a lesson in scripted jihadi responses, our exchanges brought me insight into an individual who perhaps lacked the absolute conviction he first tried to project. It left me wondering how many others in the seemingly impenetrable Isis army could also be having doubts.

Read the entire article for yourself. See how many times she describes Abu Taubah as having rejected her claims that Islam is a religion of peace, and insists that what he is doing is Islamically correct and morally justified. Then ask yourself whether her claim that he is "having doubts" about anything remotely resemble the conversation you have just read about.

One of the most significant reasons "moderate Islam" has failed so miserably to curb so-called "extremism" within the faith is because it has demonstrated itself time and time again to be completely incapable of challenging the jihadis on ideological grounds, and in complete denial about the gruelling and searingly self-reflective work that needs to be done in order to undertake that task.

That is why, as much as I wish more than anything for Islamic reform in the sense championed by the likes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I also remain entirely pessimistic that such a thing will ever even begin seriously in my lifetime.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sharia: The Numbers

There is an abundance of disturbing polling data from across the Muslim world that strongly suggests that the desire to implement sharia in its draconian entirety is still a very strong driving force around the globe today.

For example, according to a 2007 World Public Opinion / University of Maryland poll, 71% of Muslims – hardly a fringe minority – surveyed in four major Islamic countries (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia) openly declared that they wanted to see the resurrection of the Caliphate. 74% also wanted strict (that word was emphasised) application of sharia law in every Islamic country.  In early 2009, a follow-up poll by the same team achieved similar results.

Similarly, a 2010 survey by the respected Pew polling organisation found that about eight in ten Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan (82% each) endorse the stoning of people who commit adultery, while 70% of Muslims in Jordan and 56% of Nigerian Muslims share this view. Muslims in Pakistan and Egypt are also the most supportive of whippings and cutting off of hands for theft; 82% in Pakistan and 77% in Egypt favour making this type of punishment the law in their countries, as do 65% of Muslims in Nigeria and 58% in Jordan.

Pew has repeated these results many times. For example, another poll of Pakistani Muslims, specifically, found that 78% favour death for those who leave Islam; 80% favour whippings and cutting off hands for theft; and 83% favour stoning adulterers. Most recently, a large report published by Pew in 2013, compiling data from four years of research in almost forty countries, found that in ten of twenty countries where there were sufficient samples for valid statistical analysis, the majority of Muslims surveyed supported amputating the limbs of thieves and stoning adulterers to death. The highest rate of support (89%) was in Pakistan, with Afghanistan (85%) and the Palestinian territories (84%) close behind. The lowest rate of support, recorded in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was still 21%, or almost one in four.

Now imagine what might happen to a non-Muslim country when people with this mindset are allowed to settle and live in it in unprecedented numbers. You don't need to be a mathematician to know that the cultural sums don't compute.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Antidote

Please go here to watch a short video by Dutch MP Geert Wilders, which will be aired on television in Holland next week, in which he stands up for freedom of speech by showing Muhammad cartoons.

In a world where our political leaders are generally less honest and courageous about Islam than David Cameron (and I don't mean that as a compliment to Dave), it is wonderful to see that there is a Western politician out there who gets it - even if it really is only one.

"What is not allowed by Islam and the violence of terrorists, we will do it anyway. And we call that: Freedom of speech."

David Cameron Continues to Speak Both Truth and Falsehood About Islamic Jihad

Not for the first time, David Cameron has shown that he has the cajones to say some things that most other British politicans dare not say - and once again he has shown that despite the courage of his convictions, he has very little understanding of what he is talking about.

In a speech at a security conference in Slovakia on Friday, the Prime Minister warned of the dangers posed by those who "quietly condone" Islamic State's jihadist ideology. He said the police and intelligence agencies were not responsible for people deciding they wanted to go to fight for IS in Syria, and that recent cases show how young people from Britain are at risk of sliding towards "violent extremism".

Mr Cameron said: "The cause is ideological. It is an Islamist extremist ideology, one that says the West is bad, that democracy is wrong, that women are inferior, that homosexuality is evil.

"It says religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and Caliphate trumps nation state and it justifies violence in asserting itself and achieving its aims. The question is: How do people arrive at this worldview?"

Here we have both the good and the bad of Cameron's analysis of the problem. On the one hand, he summarises more succinctly than most of our political class will dare the basic ideological tenets of the enemy. But then he flaps his hands in the air and wonders how anyone could come to believe these kinds of things.

Yes, how could those who are described by those who know them as "devout Muslims", and who do things such as holding evening classes on the Qur’an and creating websites where they share lectures from Islamic scholars, ever get the idea that "religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and Caliphate trumps nation state", and that violence is necessary in "asserting itself and achieving its aims"? Could it have anything to do with...Islam?

Cameron and his ilk don't just answer this question in the negative - they refuse to allow anyone to ask the question in the first place. For them, Islam is a religion of peace, and the vast majority of Muslims condemn and reject the "extremist" interpretation of it, so that even when people are devout Muslims, who read the Qur'an and know it intimately, and then seem to get the idea that violence and hatred is not condemned at all in the Qur'an, it must somehow not have anything to do with Islam. If it did, then their initial presuppositions might not be true - and that's just inconceivable. The truth shouldn't be defined by the facts, but rather by what makes us feel better.

And so Dave has to resort to blaming "questions of national identity", and suggesting that "making sure young people in our country feel truly part of it" will solve the problem. I'm sorry, but why isn't Dave asking why it is only Muslims who are answering questions of national identity in this insanely barbaric way? There are Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Africans, Jamaicans, Koreans, and many other groups in this country, all of whom must at some point have to grapple with questions of national identity, and none of them have formed international groups that have declared war on the rest of the world, and behead, immolate, enslave, rape and kill people on a daily basis. None of them have alarming numbers of British residents travelling overseas to join such groups. Why is it only Muslims who need to take a "British values" short course in order not to be induced to go out and join a barbaric death cult?

The PM's oversights are even more inexcusable considering that in the same speech, he did show some understanding, however limited, of one of the most serious problems of all. He mentioned that some British Muslims "don't go as far as advocating violence, but do buy into some of these prejudices". This "paves the way for young people to turn simmering prejudice into murderous intent", and to "go from listening to firebrand preachers online to boarding a plane to Istanbul and travelling onward to join the jihadis".

Whether he knows it or not, Dave has made an extremely important observation here. Poll after poll in the Muslim world has shown that while the majority of Muslims reject terrorism and murderous violence to advance the cause of Islam, that majority also endorse the imposition of sharia law in the Muslim world, in all its draconian glory.

In the UK specifically, following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, the ComRes polling agency carried out a widely publicised survey of British Muslims and their attitudes towards blasphemy and extremism in the UK. Despite mainstream media attempts to present the results of the poll as somehow encouraging,  what they actually showed was that 27% of British Muslims (over a quarter) said they have some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks, while 24% felt that violence against those who publish images of Muhammad can sometimes be justified. This would seem to explain why there have been a number of public Muslim demonstrations in the UK – often attended in the thousands or even tens of thousands – advocating the criminalisation of criticism of Islam,  and not a single one in support of freedom of speech.

And so we can see the problem as Mr Cameron has summarised it. Many Muslims will never go to join Islamic State, and disapprove of their actions for a number of reasons. And yet, they still have a cultural mindset that sympathises with any attempts to enforce sharia, no matter how brutal and savage, and which instinctively feels a degree of hesitation over engaging in any form of self-reflection that might lead to serious reform and meaningful action to tackle the worldwide serial "misunderstanding" of Islam that we see on the news every single day.

This is what we have in Britain in 2015: a Prime Minister with enough common sense to understand a good part of what we should do about the problem, but who systematically closes down all the avenues towards dealing with that problem, by denying its root causes, applying poor, inconsistent logic, and shutting down those who attempt to inject realism into the debate.

This is Britain in 2015. It doesn't make one too optimistic about what Britain will be like in 2025.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Better Off Out

I cannot be the only one who feels a little bit sick every time I read yet another one of these treacly articles in the media, asking us to feel sympathy and concern for those who leave this country to join the evil death cult of Islamic State.

On this occasion it's the husbands of three UK sisters feared to have travelled to Syria with their nine children to wage jihad. There have been other high-profile examples in the recent past as well.

There are two reasons for the sour taste in my mouth every time I read articles like this:

1) Those who travel to join Islamic State must know about all the beheading, live immolation, throwing gays from rooftops, sexual enslavement of unbelieving women, and general barbarity that this organisation has been responsible for. And yet, they still go to join it. That is simply monstrous, and I therefore do not want them to come back to this country. Ever. I hope they die without ever setting foot upon the shores of this nation again. That is what all who value life and freedom should want and hope for. If I was religious, I would pray that any children involved are returned safely and given to non-Muslim foster parents who can reverse the brainwashing before it becomes too ingrained. But for over-16's, there should be NO return, and NO exceptions. Ever.

2) The media never, EVER questions whether the family members who cry crocodile tears at these press conferences are actually being sincere in their "shock and despair", despite the long track record suggesting that Western jihadis are frequently radicalised by their own families. It has already been revealed this year that the father of one of the three schoolgirls who went to Syria to be "jihadi brides" had previously attended an Islamic supremacist hate rally led by Anjem Choudary and attended by Michael Adebowale, one of the killers of Lee Rigby. The video shows Abase Hussen marching at the front of the demonstrators, behind a banner reading: "The followers of Mohammed will conquer America". He was filmed chanting "Allahu Akbar" amid dozens of protesters and standing just yards away as the American flag is burned. The BBC article about the new case of the three sisters also mentions that their brother is understood to be waging jihad in Syria, as well. How is it that an entire family of siblings - who, given their marriages, presumably all live apart - could become "radicalised" and the rest of the family know nothing about it? Why is no one asking this question?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Asghar Bukhari and the Zionist Shoe Fairy

If you are feeling a little depressed and empty inside after watching the season finale of Game of Thrones (no spoilers here), and you need a little pick-up, you can't do any worse than to click here and watch Ashgar Bukhari, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), accusing "Zionists" of breaking into his house and stealing one of his shoes.

Bukhari is a nasty character who (of course) gets frequent airtime as a Muslim spokesman in the British mainstream media, where he generally does very little but shout and snort furious inanities. But as riotously funny as his latest video is, it is worth remembering that Muslim antisemitic conspiracy-mongering has a much darker side.

We only need to look back in recent history to see the tragic consequences of hateful anti-Jewish lies, as epitomised in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and in Nazi propaganda. Muslim conspiracy theories can be no less deadly. In August of 1929, Hajj Amin Al Husseini, who was at that time the Mufti of Jerusalem, incited a series of anti-Jewish massacres that left hundreds of people dead in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. Al-Husseini provoked the local Muslims by claiming that a Jewish religious gathering near the Western Wall was actually part of a plot by the Jews to take over Muslim holy sites, and quoted from the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion to buttress his point. He also made the emphatically religious statement: "He who kills a Jew - his place in the life after death is assured!"

And we have seen where such conspiracism leads in Iran, which has managed to make the most chortle-worthy accusations against Israel about the use of "animal spies" - while at the same time taking steps to amass a nuclear arsenal for the sole purpose of destroying the "Zionists" and their sovereign state.

So by all means, laugh at Asghar Bukhari and his wacky Zionist shoe fairy - it is a lot less than he deserves. But temper that laughter with the recognition that such paranoid conspiracism is designed to do but one thing: demonise and dehumanise Jews.

And we all know where that leads.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

How Akbar Ahmed Rewrites European History

 Admiral Ackbar Ahmed

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post published a propaganda piece by American Islamic Studies professor Akbar Ahmed, in which he attempts to discredit what he calls "one of the right-wing tropes about Islam in Europe", which is that the religion "has made no contribution to Western civilization." He does this through a series of lies, distortions and irrelevancies, which are debunked below.

Some of Ahmed's arguments involve nothing more than claiming this or that historical figure or leader admired Islam or was influenced by it, which even those sympathetic to his cause must admit doesn't amount to any direct influence on Western civilisation, and only shows that Westerners have always been open to ideas and cultures from outside, including Islam. Other arguments require a bit more detailed refutation, though.

"1. Contrary to common belief, Muslims did not first arrive in Europe with the intention of conquering it."

Ahmed's comedy alternative history here is really quite breathtaking.

Contrary to his fantasy history, in which Muslims took over Spain in order to prevent a genocide of Jews by Christians, Spain was brutally conquered by the Muslims in 710-716 AD. Most churches were converted into mosques. In 730, Cerdagne, near Barcelona, was ravaged and a bishop burned alive.  The jihad persisted throughout the entirety of Muslim rule in Spain. Every year – sometimes twice a year – raiding expeditions were sent to ravage the Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, the Basque regions, or France and the Rhone valley, bringing back booty and slaves. Andalusian corsairs attacked and invaded along the Sicilian and Italian coasts, even as far as the Aegean Islands, looting and burning as they went. Many thousands of non-Muslim captives were deported to slavery in Andalusia, where the caliph kept a militia of tens of thousands of Christian slaves, brought from all parts of Europe, and a harem filled with captured Christian women.

Prior to this, the Islamic armies had already invaded, conquered and subjugated much of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Syria and Iran, as well as Egypt and North Africa, ALL unprovoked wars of aggression against Christian peoples. The idea that they did all this, and then went and conquered Spain for peaceful purposes is just laughable.

"2. By describing Muslims as "backward", "retarded" and "barbaric," it is suggested that they are not capable of balancing their religion with rational thought. Yet Muslims had already attained a balance between the two positions centuries before other European societies."

As evidence of this claim, Ahmed cites the 12th century philosopher Averroes. He was indeed a great philosopher who influenced many Western thinkers, but there is nothing “Islamic” about his approach, and while Western scholars and scientists learned much from his writings, he had no influence at all on the development of Islamic thought, and after his death, he was practically forgotten in the Islamic world. He was also discredited by the Sufi thinker al-Ghazali - a much more highly revered figure in the Islamic world than Averroes ever was - who declared him to be a heretic and wrote that he should be killed. Whatever good work Averroes did was effectively eradicated in Islamic societies from that point forward.

"3. The first man ever to fly was the scholar Ibn Firnas near Cordoba in the 9th century."

According to historian Lynn White, Ibn Firnas covered himself in feathers, attached a pair of hand-made wings to his arms, and jumped off a building, flying "some distance" before crashing and injuring himself. If you're wondering how this contributed to Western civilisation, you're not the only one.

"5. Islam is frequently accused of being intolerant and rejecting harmony with other cultures and religions. Yet Muslim Spain or Andalusian civilization offers one of the most shining examples of harmony, peace and prosperity between different religions in the history of Europe."

This is a common myth, but utterly discredited by history. In the regions under stable Islamic control, Jews and Christians did indeed live “peacefully” – but only as long as they agreed to live as dhimmis, denied basic rights. They weren't even allowed to build new churches or synagogues or restore old ones, and their ability to worship was often severely infringed. Ahmed mentions some isolated examples of Muslim tolerance in Cordoba, but doesn't mention that in the same region in the mid-eighth century, the Muslim ruler Abd al-Rahman I compelled the local Christians to cede their last surviving cathedral to the Muslims and it became a mosque, meaning that the Christians of Cordoba no longer had a single place of worship in the whole city.  Criticism of Islam was also strictly prohibited, and many Christians were executed on charges of blasphemy for defending their faith and condemning Muhammad and the Qur’an.

Dhimmis were segregated in special quarters and had to wear discriminatory clothing. They were subjected to heavy taxes, leading many to abandon their land and flee to the towns.  Moreover, if one dhimmi harmed a Muslim, the whole community would lose its status of protection, leaving it open to pillage, enslavement and arbitrary killing.

In short, Muslim Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.

The artice goes on for a lot longer in this same vein, reminding us that there are some Muslim politicians and even cricketers in this country, before rounding up with the observation that some countries in eastern Europe, such as Albania and Kosovo, are predominantly Muslim - therefore, Islam is a part of Europe, so there. How these peoples became Muslim in the first place, Ahmed doesn't deign to tell us, but I'll give you a small clue: It begins with a J.

So there we have it: Islam contributed to Western civilisation, in part because some ancient Muslim scholars and scientists inspired some Western scientists, who went on to achieve almost everything that has benefitted the civilised world ever since; and also in part by brutally conquering some parts of it.

In your face, right-wing Europeans!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Muhammad Cartoon Billboards Go Up In Arkansas

AFDI Vice President Robert Spencer stated: “Many people on both the Left and the Right are saying that we should do nothing to provoke Islamic fundamentalism. The immediate answer would seem to be that we should do nothing to provoke violent jihadis, that the prudent thing to do would be to avoid doing things that anger them. But if we did that, they would not stop coming at us. Last September, an Islamic State spokesman boasted: ‘We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.’

"In light of that, what is the point of asking whether or not we should provoke them? They’re already provoked. A more useful question now is whether it is really productive and helpful to signal to them that we will acquiesce to their threats of violence and change our behavior accordingly, or whether we will instead signal to them that their violent threats are not going to frighten us into submission.”

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Brief Guide to Sharia Punishments

Probably the most well-known and troubling aspect of sharia law for many non-Muslims is its system of hadd punishments. These consist of a number of brutal and dehumanising penalties imposed for various crimes, many of which would not even be considered crimes in non-Muslim countries. These punishments include stoning to death for adultery, execution for homosexuality and apostasy, amputation of limbs for theft, and lashing for fornication and alcohol consumption.  The purpose of such draconian punishments was described as follows by the preeminent Muslim jurist Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi (d.1058):

Legal penalties are checks imposed by God Almighty to restrain from doing what He has forbidden or failing to perform His commands. Because men are naturally driven by desire to ignore the promises of the hereafter for the sake of immediate pleasure, God Almighty has set such punishments as may deter the ignorant by fear of suffering and painful punishment. Thus, His taboos would be avoided and His duties performed for the greater welfare of mankind and more perfect observance of the law.

These hadd punishments are not simply a relic of the ancient past. For example, sharia law is currently on the books in 12 states across predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, and there are documented cases in the country in recent years of people having their hands amputated for theft, with many more such sentences being issued but later repealed after widespread public outcry.  This is in line with the unambiguous mandate for the punishment in the Qur’an: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (5:38)
Similarly, in Sudan in 2010, footage emerged on the Internet of a woman being brutally lashed by police for an undisclosed crime relating to “immoral activity and prostitution”. When this incident began to receive international attention, the Governor of Khartoum, Dr. Abd al-Rahman al-Khadr, justified the punishment, saying: “What was aired was the implementation of an Islamic punishment...We should consider the more important issue in this case – our penal code is in keeping with Islam, and the sharia is the main source of our legislation. Islamic punishments are carried out to purge the perpetrator.”  Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir also defended the flogging, remarking: “If she is lashed according to sharia law, there is no investigation. Why are some people ashamed? This is sharia.”

The lethal penalty for adultery is also still enforced in the Muslim world. A February 2012 report identified fourteen Muslim countries where the punishment of stoning to death for adultery is either a dormant part of the legal system or actively practised. 

Apologists for Islam disassociate themselves from such brutality by noting that the Qur'an “only” prescribes a maximum penalty of lashes for adultery (24:2). However, stoning remains an uncontested part of sharia based on the hadith.

In one hadith, Muhammad's companion Umar ibn al-Khattab – who went on become the second Rightly-Guided Caliph, or leader of the Muslim community, following Muhammad’s death in 632 AD – maintained that the Qur’an’s prescription regarding adultery was incomplete. Umar claimed that there was originally a verse in the Qur’an mandating stoning to death as the appropriate punishment, but it was somehow left out of the final composition:

I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, ‘We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,’ and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of Rajam be inflicted on him who commits illegal sexual intercourse, if he is already married and the crime is proved by witnesses or pregnancy or confession...Surely Allah's Apostle carried out the penalty of Rajam, and so did we after him. (Sahih Bukhari v.8, b.82, no.816)

Umar's reference to Muhammad carrying out stoning is attested to elsewhere in the hadith and sira. On one occasion he encountered a group of Jews in Medina who had arrested an adulterous couple. Although stoning is mandated in the Torah, neither Jews nor Christians have ever historically practised it, having developed traditions of interpretation that prevent them from taking such verses literally. When Muhammad asked the Jews what they were going to do with the adulterous couple, they tried to pretend that the Torah didn't say anything about stoning. He angrily rebuked them and ordered the couple be stoned to death (Bukhari v.4, b.61, no.3635). On another occasion, a woman came to him and confessed that she had committed adultery, and asked for his forgiveness. He forgave her – and then had her stoned to death. (Sahih Muslim b.17, no.4206)

Homosexuals also face severe persecution throughout the Islamic world. More than thirty Islamic countries have laws on the books that prohibit homosexuality and make it a criminal offense. In most cases punishment ranges from floggings to life imprisonment. In Mauritania, Bangladesh, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, convicted homosexuals can also be sentenced to death. 
As with the other punishments we have discussed, this behaviour is merely a normative, traditional part of sharia. The Qur’an reproduces the Biblical story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom, but unlike the Bible,  the Qur’an clearly and unambiguously states that God destroyed Sodom because its people engaged in homosexual activity: “We also (sent) Lut [Lot]: He said to his people: 'Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.'...And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!” (7:80-84)
In the hadith, Muhammad is quoted as saying: “If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” (Sunan Abu Dawud b.38, no.4447) It is therefore not surprising that in its discussion of what to do with one who commits “sodomy or fornication”, the important sharia manual Reliance of the Traveller states that “If the offender is someone with the capacity to remain chaste, then he or she is stoned to death.”   It quotes the above hadith as justification for this punishment.  Other legal authorities, citing the example of Muhammad’s closest companions, recommend a number of equally brutal penalties, including burning alive, crushing under a falling wall, throwing from a rooftop, and beheading.
It should be clear from all of the above that the hadd punishments that sharia commands are not only barbaric and completely incompatible with 21st century civilisation, but also have a living legacy of death and suffering that can no longer be ignored.

N.B. Especially savvy readers may have noticed that there has been no discussion here of sharia's two most notorious punishments: the death penalties for blasphemy and apostasy. This is not an oversight. They will be discussed another day.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

"They're Coming For You, Too, Chris"

Earlier this week, it was revealed that a would-be Islamic jihadist who was recently shot dead by police in Boston, Massachussetts was planning to behead the conservative blogger and activist Pamela Geller, the organiser of the recent Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, which was almost gatecrashed by gun-toting Muslim thugs.

Because she is a conservative, and because she criticises Islam, the mainstream media is constantly out to demonise and defame her, and hence we have seen numerous examples of people accusing her of somehow being unnecessarily "provocative" by displaying innocuous drawings of a fictional character from desert myth.

We saw it again with Geller's recent interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo. Now, you may not agree with Geller on everything, and neither do I, but I do admire her passion and desire to defend freedom at whatever the cost to her reputation and personhood, and her desire never to submit to fascist intimidation. Do watch the interview here, and see her expose the cowardice and hypocrisy of her interviewer, who cannot disguise those faults in himself, no matter how much he preens that he supports her right to freedom of expression.

If there are any free people left in the West a couple of decades from now, they will owe an enormous debt to Pamela Geller.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

How Sisi's Religious Revolution Has Fallen Flat

Back in January, Raymond Ibrahim, an American-Egyptian scholar of Islam, reported that Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had called for an Islamic reformation, saying that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are “antagonizing the entire world”, and that there needed to be a "religious revolution" to drag Islam into modernity.

Months later, this has been seized upon again and again by commentators who express the hope that Sisi is the long-awaited reformer the Islamic world needs to rid itself of the violence and intolerance that has plagued the world in its name for the last fourteen hundred years.

The problem is that the facts have not borne out such an eventuality, as is underlined by this report today from the International Business Times, where we learn that on Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced Muslim scholar Islam El-Beheiry to five years in prison on charges of contempt of religion, after he was accused of blasphemy by the state-backed religious institution al-Azhar, the most prominent Sunni religious authority in the Muslim world. El-Beheiry made a name for himself on Egyptian airwaves for questioning the teachings of hardline preachers and encouraging a more critical approach to foundational Islamic texts.

This assuredly non-reformist decision is not the first such abuse under Sisi's leadership. There have also been recent government campaigns, under his tenure, designed to punish blasphemy against Islam and “confront” the spread of atheism, leading to widespread arrests, jail sentences and harrassment.

Furthermore, Ramy Aziz, an Egyptian journalist based in Europe, has chronicled other abuses by Sisi's security forces, particularly against Christians. Aziz's conclusion is uncompromising:

Sisi may frequently pay homage to religious moderation and combating extremism, but his rhetoric is empty. He is simply trying to cozy up to the West as it search for partners to confront radical Islamist groups, and in doing so, legitimize his regime, which is still viewed with suspicion by the international community. Sisi’s comments might make for a good soundbite in the Western media, but do not mistake him for the Middle East’s long-awaited reformer.

Sisi is either a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing "moderate Muslim", in reality only "moderate" when compared to the most murderous of his jihadist co-religionists, or he is simply an outright incompetent reformer. An analysis of his 2006 US Army War College thesis, which champions the very sharia law and caliphate system championed by the likes of ISIS, and condemns secularism, would strongly suggest the former.

Neither option seems to offer much reason for optimism.