I hope no one is surprised by this


I fully expect this however, I’m sure the writer of the article is approaching this from a Eurocentric view.  Saudi Arabia, the oil drenched monarchy is an anachronistic, despotic backward society so full of irony that it is hardly recognizable from it’s glorious Islamic past.  It touts itself as the guardian of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina with all the attendant pomp and ceremony yet denies its citizens and the Muslim expatriate community that lives there the basics one comes to expect from “society” of freedom of thought, association, human dignity.  Is it any wonder that those most affected by this encroachment on their life choose to abandon what they consider responsible for their plight

 In this country known as the cradle of Islam, where religion gives legitimacy to the government and state-appointed clerics set rules for social behavior, a growing number of Saudis are privately declaring themselves atheists.

The evidence is anecdotal, but persistent.

“I know at least six atheists who confirmed that to me,” said Fahad AlFahad, 31, a marketing consultant and human rights activist. “Six or seven years ago, I wouldn’t even have heard one person say that. Not even a best friend would confess that to me.”

A Saudi journalist in Riyadh has observed the same trend.

The idea of being irreligious and even atheist is spreading because of the contradiction between what Islamists say and what they do,” he said.

The perception that atheism is no longer a taboo subject — at least two Gulf-produced television talk shows recently discussed it — may explain why the government has made talk of atheism a terrorist offenseThe March 7 decree from the Ministry of Interior prohibited, among other things, “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”

The number of people willing to admit to friends to being atheist or to declare themselves atheist online, usually under aliases, is certainly not big enough to be a movement or threaten the government. A 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International of about 500 Saudis found that 5 percent described themselves as “convinced atheist.” This was well below the global average of 13 percent.

But the greater willingness to privately admit to being atheist reflects a general disillusionment with religion and what one Saudi called “a growing notion” that religion is being misused by authorities to control the population. This disillusionment is seen in a number of ways, ranging from ignoring clerical pronouncements to challenging and even mocking religious leaders on social media.

“Because people are becoming more disillusioned with the government, they started looking at the government and its support groups as being in bed together and conspiring together against the good of the people,” said Bassim Alim, a lawyer in Jeddah.

“When they see the ulema [religious scholars] appeasing the government,” he added, “people become dismayed because they thought they were pious and straightforward and just. “

I believe people started being fed up with how religion is really controlling their life and how only one interpretation of religion should be followed,” said activist Fahad AlFahad.

Together, the appearance of atheists, a growing wariness of religious controls on society, as well as the continuing lure of jihad and ultraconservatism signal a breakdown in the conformity and consensus that has marked the Saudi religious field in the recent past. It is becoming a more heterogenous and polarized faith scene.

The mosques are full but society is losing its values. It’s more like a mechanical practice, like going church, you have to go on Sunday,” said a former employee of state media. “We no longer understand our religion, not because we don’t want to. But because our vision of it, our understanding of it, has been polluted by the monarchy…[and]…by the official religious establishment that only measures religion by what the monarchy wants and what pleases the monarchy.”

The growing skepticism about religion and clerics is more visible nowadays because of social media outlets, including tweets, blogs and Facebook pages.

Here are three illustrative tweets from Saudis:

— Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahad has been tweeting nonstop abt God. I pity his disconnectedness from today’s public. It’s not the 1980′s. Pathetic

— Because our illusion that our version of Islam is the only correct one needs to be washed away

— Could the ulema issue a fatwa against domestic violence? I mean the fatwa committee has prohibited playing Resident Evil 

At the same time, however, there is a countervailing trend in that some young Saudis are joining radical Islamist and jihadi movements, a trend reinforced by the war in Syria.

“When the Arab Spring started, young religious people were asking about Islam and democracy,” said Saud Al Sarhan, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “But now they are just asking about Islam and jihad, after what is going on in Syria.”

This attraction towards militant ultraconservatism is also apparent in the activities of unregulated religious vigilantes. Even as the government’s own religious police have come under stricter controls, these bands of young religious “volunteers” attack social gatherings to stop what they deem as prohibited activities, including music, dancing and gender mixing. In one famous incident in 2012, these “volunteers” raided the annual government-sponsored cultural festival known as Janadriya, where they clashed with security forces.

It is still dangerous to publicly admit one is an atheist because of the dire punishment one can face from a court system based on sharia, which regards disbelief in God as a capital offense.

In addition, conservative clerics who have considerable sway among Saudis, use the label ‘atheist’ to discredit those who question their strict interpretations of Islamic scriptures or express doubts about the dominant version of Islam known as Wahhabism.

That is what happened with 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari who in 2012 tweeted some unconventional thoughts about Prophet Muhammad, none of which indicated he did not believe in God. Still, he was called ‘atheist’ and to appease the religious establishment, the government jailed him for 20 months.

Also, Raef Badawi, in his early 30s, was accused of being atheist because he called for freedom to discuss other versions of Islam besides Wahhabism on the website “Free Saudi Liberals.” Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July 2013. His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair, a human rights activist who also has been jailed, said Badawi told the court that he was a Muslim but added that “everyone has a choice to believe or not believe,” the BBC reported.

A Riyadh resident who has extensive contacts with young Saudis because of his job in higher education said that he “tries to warn young people that they are living according to an Islam constructed by the government, and not according to the Islam given us by God.”

Increasingly, he said, some youths “are going to ignore religion and become atheist, while others are going to understand the game.”

Your tax dollars at work for you!


Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) spent one minute too long debating with someone…..I really don’t care who…..during a Congressional hearing funded by the American tax payer whether someone who accepts Jesus Christ as the ‘way, the truth, the life’ will or will not go to Heaven!?! Should time on the government’s clock be spent on this topic?!?!  What are Gohmert’s intentions on knowing the answer to this question?  Will he institute a faith based litmus test for citizenship….thereby abrogating the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment?

Don’t forget where Gohmert comes from…..T-E-X-A-S the state where people are intimidating citizens with vigilantes walking around with tx rifleslong rifles strapped across their backs in a manner so extreme even the NRA consider their in your face attitude politically unacceptable, weird before it backed off feeling itself intimidated as well.  T-E-X-A-S is the state where the #DemonicGOP wants to correct homosexuals with “reparative therapy” which in essence is saying the way one is is not acceptable to them…….and it doesn’t take much to conclude such “therapy” might come whether one wants it or not.  (Having people walking around with the full blessing of elected officials carrying semi-automatic long rifles in the streets subconsciously drives home that point.)  T-E-X-A-S is the home of white elected officials who want to enforce the disenfranchisement of its African-American
voter idcitizens…..voter nullification as it were and has gone on to legislate some of the more stringent voter registration laws in the country.  Gohmert is just as normal as they come in the state of T-E-X-A-S but still as dangerous in his beliefs as the others.

American Exceptionalism


Seal of the United States Department of State.

Seal of the United States Department of State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is how the term is defined according to Wikipedia

American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy.

America demonstrated that characteristic with this initiative

The US on Monday criticised France and Belgium for banning women from wearing face-covering Islamic veils in public, while warning of growing anti-Semitism and hostility towards Muslims in Europe.

The US State Department’s report on religious freedoms, researched in 2011 but released on July 30, 2012, warned that freedom of worship was being undermined across the globe — particularly in China and Pakistan.

Commenting on the report, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that more than a billion people worldwide lived “under governments that systematically repress religious freedom.”

“When it comes to this human right — this key feature of stable, secure and peaceful societies — the world is sliding backwards,” she said.

In Europe there was “growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered ‘the other’,” according to the report, which also complained of a “rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others.”

There is no equivocation in the US report and its recommendations, and it spares no one even its allies, instead taking the position of America’s founding fathers of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Supposedly these are the same ideals of our allies, notably France, but in practice it’s apparent equality and fraternity do not apply when it comes to its Muslim citizens.  America justifiably called France on its hypocrisy.  Everyone should never forget Europe has been the sight of two world wars, the last one we now applaud our participation in for fighting against the political and religious tyranny of Nazi Germany.  After finding the scale of that country’s genocide against European Jewry America has proudly proclaimed its fight was a noble cause to rescue Europe and the world from religious fratricide by a government that had its start with discriminating against its religious minorities in matters of dress and appearance.  Those countries outlined in the US report are today doing the same thing.  Let’s hope America’s demonstration of real leadership and initiative can avert such a catastrophe that seems to be all too characteristic of  Europe and for now not of us, the

US.

How Low Can You Go?


When you hate people irrationally, you can go this low

Look at David Koresh. He had a religious institution until the government decided to load up their missiles and blowed it up and killed everybody.

That from Joe Brandon Jr, attorney for the plaintiff’s in the suit to stop the construction of the Murfreesboro, TN mosque from being built.  Brandon wants to deny citizens their right to religion based on what he thinks the federal government may do to them if they exercise that right.  In other words blame the victim. Perhaps he was giving a backhanded victim status to himself and all those who oppose the construction by saying Murfreesboro will become another Waco, Texas  and the good “other” citizens will be the worse for it because the presence of a mosque made the US government go Waco on it.  The devil made me do it is an even better excuse than the one Brandon was offering.

The judge ruling in the case, Judge Robert E. Corlew III who wasn’t persuaded by the absence of Brandon’s logic declared that county officials had legally approved the building of the mosque and the construction could proceed, declaring ‘Islam is still a religion’. That simple declarative statement, which Brandon and the plaintiffs he represented tried to nullify with innuendo guarantees the followers of Islam the same right to worship as  any other religious denomination in the country.   The rule of law, so preciously trumpeted by neocons for marauding, invading armies of empire was competently and successfully applied to several hundred families of Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennesse.

A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS


We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims.  We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance,  respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence.  We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

After the above declaration there are over 80 signatories affixed with an update link to other names constantly being added. Muslim Americans it appears have as good an understanding of the US Constitution as some of their antagonists.

A Smooth Comeback!


In response to Pastor Terry Jones’ International Burn a Koran day, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has decided to post the advertisement below in Jones’ city local newspapers.  MRFF is acting because of concern members of the US military have expressed about the impact Jones’ book burning will have on the lives of military personnel posted in Muslim countries.  It wasn’t but a few short years ago that any act considered endangering the lives of US servicemen was considered treasonous, but today racist elements in American society have managed to turn that notion on its head and instead say any act which doesn’t outrage Muslim sensitivities is appeasement, no matter how provocative the act may be or how it might endanger lives.  MRFF’s response is the kind that will defeat the likes of Jones and the rest of the pilers on who’ve got on board with this xenophobic, Islamophobic notion of either denying Muslims their citizenship rights or provoking them. ‘Attaboy’ to MRFF!

Florida Minister says he won’t back down-UPDATE


The minister in Florida who wants to have a burn the Quran day on September 11 says he won’t back down from doing it and I say good for him!  It is his constitutional right to burn copies of the Quran, the religious book of Muslims.  Let’s not forget we live in a country where  it is the right of any American to burn the US flag, and we all remember the turmoil  reaching that decision caused America. It is one of the “hazards” of living in a free society; protested speech against patriotic or religious symbols is not illegal. American Muslims more than any other group, should understand that,  and  should register their disagreement with the burning  of Qurans act,with thoughtful and or provocative editorials like this one ,  or planned  peaceful  protests like this,  for even though what Jones wants to do is legal it is morally reprehensible.  That’s as far as his opponents should take it, however.

It is this type of dissent  Muslims should expect from  those who oppose their building of a masjid near the site of the former WTC buildings; one may disagree with the building of the Cordoba House at Park 51, and may protest the  building going up there, however it is the right of the supporters of that project, codified by the legal authorities responsible, for the house to be built there and Cordoba House’s supporters should proceed with resolve to see it through  even during times of  intense opposition to it AND  the opponents should resign themselves to the inevitability of its completion .  What will then become a true battle of ideas a distinction between those who oppose book burning versus those who oppose a religious house of worship will be how the different groups express their opposition and accept the rule of law.  In other words, the behavior of the opposition will have more of an impact on the public debate about the presence of Islam in America than the action which spurs that opposition.   America will have to choose between those who promote racist, stereotypical, violent reaction to protected speech and religious freedom and those whose opposition is principled, respectful or thoughtful.

Given America’s past inclination to mob/racist rule the outcome is not so certain and definitely not in the near future.  One of the reasons why we must have this frank discussion about race in this country is because the racist template we’ve set for ourselves over the years  allows us to insert whatever group of the day we want to hate into  it and then hurl invective and discriminatory actions at them which we try to make into law to suppress them.  We still have not managed to steer clear of this disease because we haven’t really tried to cure it. Saddle up America, here we go again; we’re in for another  protracted campaign for the soul of this country.

UPDATE

Jones did back down and if anyone can understand the reasons why he did so, please explain them to me.  The man who claimed to have received messages from God  is unfathomable, sick, crazy in the head and one as intimately  familiar with him as his own daughter has come out and said so.  There’s even mention of  a mental disorder here as well. Why we, citizenship media as well as corporate media gave him so much of our time, bandwidth and news print is one of the mysteries of life.  A “pastor” with a minuscule congregation of about 50 managed to hold the entire world hostage with his delusions of grandeur and his fear injected venom which paralyzed a nation, diverted its attention from a more pressing national agenda than his personal dementia and left us, after his ‘never mind’ moment feeling used and abandoned from it all.  We deserve it….we put in way too much time feeding the ego of a man whose ego is as large as any other megalomaniac or larger, being called by a US Army general, the Secretary of Defense, the FBI, the NYC police chief and countless others who otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day can be very gratifying, but what did all of that give us, the People?  It revealed for us that dark side of our collective nature that loves to be frightened and angered; it allowed the haters in our midst to feed us their daily ration of  hatred and loathing for “others” who are really “we”, “us”.  Someone wrote on their headline, ‘Florida Pastor Makes National Jackass of Himself’….and my answer would be no he didn’t.  He made jackasses out of us.

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