Atheists who do as Christians do 11

Atheists of the Left – “Humanists” some call themselves – often reveal with unconscious irony how close Leftism is to Christianity: the same moral myopia, hubris, and sentimentality.

In order to enjoy the cheap emotional satisfaction of feeling they are “good people”, they go in for this sort of thing.

We quote from the Friendly Atheist at Patheos:

After the Daily Caller News Foundation posted a map of supposed “radical mosques” in the U.S., it wasn’t long before threats were made against them.

But in a wonderful gesture on Monday, the Humanists of the Palouse reached out to the Muslims, sending them a letter of concern and offering whatever help they could:

To our Muslim friends in the Moscow/Pullman area,

Recently, we have been made aware of threats to our community, centered on the Pullman Islamic Center and it and many other Mosques being mis-reported as “radical”. In today’s climate, these threats should not be taken lightly, and we certainly do not. We fully support your right to practice religion free from harm and harassment.

We recognize your members as valued residents of the Palouse. The Humanists of the Palouse want you to know that we will always defend religious freedom and cultural diversity, and threats against these are threats against our very way of life. We stand with you, and offer our support.

If you feel threatened, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to accompany anyone who feels that their safety is at risk (e.g. grocery shopping, on a walk around town, or just for someone to talk to). If we can advocate for you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and know that you have friends and allies amongst The Humanists of the Palouse.

The Center’s Board of Trustees soon issued this heartfelt response:

The entire Board of Trustees of the Pullman Islamic Association joins me in thanking you and the Humanists of the Palouse generally for this powerful statement affirming civil rights in this country. We are especially moved that a humanist group so completely supports the local Muslim group, since Islam is the most disrespected group in this country. We have noticed that the correct way to define and appreciate humanist groups in general and yours in particular is as lovers and defenders of civil rights, individual and group democratic dignities and freedom of thought, not as haters of religion. Your group’s neighborly defense of freedom of religion in the Palouse demonstrates your focus on freedom and social justice. We are impressed by and thankful for your firm support and offer of assistance and solidarity.

One of our Board of Trustees members is meeting with an FBI agent today, which demonstrates that the federal police are taking this threat seriously. Given this sobering reality of threatened arson and violence your support will always be appreciated by the leaders and membership of the Pullman Islamic Association. We hope we will not need to ask for your offered assistance, but if we do need or want such support, we will indeed reach out to Humanists of the Palouse.

That’s how you do it, friends.

You can disagree on theological issues, but I’d hope local atheist groups around the country would be willing to reach out to Muslims who are actually being persecuted by overzealous conservatives eager to shut them down.

If they lose their religious freedoms, we all do.

Can they possibly not know that sharia law – inseparable from the ideology of Islam – condemns apostasy, which is what atheism is deemed to be? And prescribes death as the punishment for atheists? (Atheist men; women not always.) In some Islamic lands they are imprisoned rather than executed. But all risk their lives, and such freedom as anyone has in a Muslim majority country.

These are reports of atheists, apostates, free thinkers who have been sentenced to prison, and/or flogging, and/or death in Islamic countries recently – the crime of atheism often being euphemized into something else in court. And some who have been killed by their Muslim compatriots.

1. From the Economist, on Alexander Aan in Indonesia:

A MOB attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”.

His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished. …

Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences. …

Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for inciting hatred. (Atheists born to non-Muslim families are not considered apostates, but they can still be prosecuted for other crimes against religion.) Even in places where laws are lenient, religious authorities and social attitudes can be harsh, with vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings.

Many, like Kacem el-Ghazzali, a Moroccan, reckon the only solution is to escape abroad. The 23-year-old was granted asylum in Switzerland after people found out he was the author of an anonymous blog, Atheistica.com. …

Nahla Mahmoud, a 25-year-old Sudanese atheist … fled to Britain in 2010. …

Ibn Warraq, the pseudonymous Indian-born author of “Leaving Islam”, a collection of essays by ex-believers, … lives in exile and has received death threats for campaigning on the behalf of apostates. … Arguments for the death penalty [he says] are usually based on a Hadith, one of the sayings which, along with the Koran, form the basis of Islamic law: “The Prophet said: whoever discards his religion, kill him.” …

Ibn Warraq says that the nub of the problem is that sharia makes atheism the number one sin, ahead of murder.  …

2. From the Guardian, on Ashraf Fayadh in Saudi Arabia:

A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.

A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried earlier this month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

3. From Patheos, the Friendly Atheist itself, on Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia:

December 26, 2013 by Paul Fidalgo [who is admirably scathing in his disgust – ed).

Saudi blogger and religious dissident Raif Badawi has been cruelly punished and toyed with by the Saudi legal system for about a year now, and things have taken a darker turn. According to Badawi’s wife, now living in Lebanon, the high court will try Badawi on the charge of apostasy. If convicted, Badawi could be executed.

This comes after a court opted not to charge him with apostasy in January, but did put him up on charges of “insulting Islam and showing disobedience”. How did they come to this decision? Badawi is the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, which is bad enough, but imagine the horror that washed over Saudi society with this kind of action:

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.

As a result of this heinous behavior, in July, Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison.

Which was horrifying enough. But now it looks like Badawi is being brought up on apostasy charges in earnest. Badawi’s case is one of many being watched by the Office of Public Policy at the Center for Inquiry, where I work, and our Campaign for Free Expression. Browse the cases we have listed there, and you’ll see that, sadly, Badawi’s case is hardly unique.

Cases like this need more international attention, and those who position themselves as “allies” of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States, need to discover their consciences. How can the civilized world refer to itself as such when an ally practices such barbarism, it looks the other way?

The judge in Badawi’s subsequent appeal stiffened the original 2013 sentence – seven years in prison and 600 lashes – to 1000 lashes, ten years in prison and a fine of $266,000. See our post, The punishment of reason, January 12, 2015, where there is an eyewitness description of the first of the series of lashings Badawi is being subjected to.

Badawi had written, “My commitment is… to reject any repression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful, law-abiding way.”

This was interpreted by the judge as “insulting Islam”.

Badawi’s health is now frail. He is unlikely to survive the lashings.

4. From Poetry Foundation, on Hashem Shaabani in Iran:

We were saddened and horrified today to learn of the death of Hashem Shaabani, who was executed on January 27th by the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

From Radio Free Europe:

An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God”. 

Press reports said Shaabani was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani.

In a statement on February 5, Freedom House said Shaabani was subjected to severe torture and interrogation during his three years in prison.

Human Rights Voices also reports on the execution, writing:

To those who knew him, was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system … In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says  … I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.” 

5. From the Guardian on Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed in Pakistan:

No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. …  In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. …

Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas. …

6. From a Reuters report on Ananta Bijoy Das and others in Bangladesh:

Third Atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh.

A blogger was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in Bangladesh on Tuesday (May 12), the third killing of a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation in less than three months.

Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger who advocated secularism, was attacked by four masked assailants in the northeastern district of Sylhet on Tuesday morning, senior police official Mohammad Rahamatullah told Reuters.

Rahamatullah said Das was a 33-year-old banker.

He was also editor of science magazine “Jukti,” which means “logic,” and on the advisory board of “Mukto Mona” (Free Mind), a website propagating rationalism and opposing fundamentalism …

According to the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group, Islamist militant group Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh said al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had claimed responsibility for the attack. …

Imran Sarker, the head of a network of activists and bloggers in Bangladesh, said Das was “a progressive free thinker and a good human being”. …

Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years …

On March 30, Washiqur Rahman, another secular blogger who aired his outrage over [Avijit] Roy’s death on social media, was killed in similar fashion on a busy street in the capital, Dhaka.

Their deaths followed the killing in 2013 of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who backed calls to impose the death penalty on Islamist leaders accused of atrocities in Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

Why do our fellow atheists – of the leftist “Humanist” persuasion – not burn with anger against the ideology that persecutes atheism, secularism, rationalism, and shun the company of its devotees?

If they think they are earning the goodwill and tolerance of the Muslims towards whom they’re making this gesture, they’re pathetically deluded. Their nice little letter is not going to change sharia law, or the minds of those who want to impose it on us all.

They seem simply not to believe that the Muslims they contacted might be members of “radicalizing” mosques – which is to say, mosques with imams who urge them to support terrorist groups or join ISIS. There’s no hint that they explored the possibility. In their minds, the accusation must be wholly unjustified.

And one more thing. When those poor persecuted Muslims “in the Moscow/Pullman area” whimpered that “Islam is the most disrespected group in this country”, they are lying. The president of the United States is the son of a Muslim and an Islam lover who has brought Muslim Brotherhood advisers into his administration – and has clearly formed policies on their advice..

At the time of this writing there have been 27,322 deadly attacks carried out by Muslims since 9/11. (See the tally in our margin, taken from The Religion of Peace.) Muslim terrorists do all they can to terrify non-Muslims, and then cynically accuse them of an irrational fear of Islam, calling it “Islamophobia”.

Muslims are the target of few “hate crimes” in the US. But they perpetrate more than any others do.

We quote from an article by David J. Rusin at Islamist Watch. His staistics come from a December 2014 report of 2013 figures. (We await the 2014 report this coming December):

New FBI Hate Crime Stats: Another Blow to Islamist Fictions

There were 1,031 incidents inspired by religion last year, 625 (60.6 percent) of which were anti-Jewish. Anti-Islamic ones constituted just 13.1 percent.

On April 15, 2013, Muslim terrorists murdered three and injured hundreds at the Boston Marathon, prompting familiar warnings about an imminent anti-Muslim backlash. The FBI’s findings are proof that such collective punishment did not materialize — as it almost never does.

How have Islamist groups greeted the FBI data? With silence. It is the sound of disappointment on the part of radicals who need Muslim victims, preferably real ones, to serve as human shields for the Islamist agenda. Bad news for Islamists is once again good news for the rest of us.

Zikr versus Fikr 1

Poetry is taken very seriously in Iran.

It is taken very seriously by the rulers of Iran, who stand high among the rulers of the darkness of this world.

And have been further elevated by the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, who has bowed deeply to them, and crawled at their feet, and grovelling there has begged them to use him as their footstool.

The highest of them all, the Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, writes poems.

They know what a poem is. What it should be. What it must be: a hymn to Allah. If it is not that, it is not a poem.

And if anyone writes something about anything else and dares to call it a “poem”, he or she deserves at the very least to be flogged and flogged and flogged again, and shut away for many years, and have their writings banned. Some deserve nothing less than to be shot or bled to death. 

Amir Taheri writes at Gatestone:

Does a seminar on reforming the meter and rhyme schemes of Persian poetry violate “Islamic values” and threaten the foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

That is the view of the Islamic Court in Tehran, which last month sentenced two poets, Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mussavi, to nine and 11.5 years in prison respectively, plus 99 lashes of the cane for each in public.

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One of the two, Mrs. Fateme Ekhtesari, was sentenced to 11.5 years for “undermining the security of the Islamic state” by composing and reciting in public a number of “poems full of ambiguity and capable of being read in deviant and dangerous ways”.

So if any of her images turns the devout reader’s imagination to blasphemy, flog her, imprison her, and ban the evil poem.

Ekhtesari is a surrealist poet whose verse could, and indeed is intended to, be read in many different ways. One of her diwans (collections of verse), for example, is called Crying on the Shoulder of An Egg. Another comes under the title A Feminist Discourse Before Baking Potatoes.

In the case of Iranian women – of all women under the yoke of Islam – we understand the need for a “feminist” movement; a movement to set them free, whatever it may be called.

And we do not argue with any poet’s subject matter, even if it is religious.

Feminism is a strong theme with Ekhtesari, who insists that, as God created both men and women from the same “red mud” mentioned in the Koran, there is no reason to prevent the latter from enjoying any freedoms available to the former.

In Islam, for a woman to claim equality with men is a sin, a crime, an enormity.

The Tehran Islamic Prosecutor insisted that Ekhtesari’s “ambiguous poems” were meant to pass “dangerous political messages that could encourage people to distance themselves from the True Faith”.

“She writes something but means something else,” the prosecutor claimed. “Her trick is to avoid saying anything in a straightforward way, creating space for all manner of dangerous thinking.”

The prosecutor based part of his case on the claim that what matters in Islam is “zikr,” that is to say, a constant remembrance of God by repeating, if necessary in silence and to oneself, the formula “There is no God but Allah”. Those who abandon “zikr” for its opposite — which is “fikr”, that is to say, thinking — move away from the Path of Faith.

Zikr versus Fikr. Faith versus Reason. The aim of Islam is to smother the world in Zikr. Snuff out Fikr. Put an end to Reason – the most dangerous thing in the universe. 

The irony in all this is that Ekhtesari is not a political poet. In fact, she has written that those who try to use poetry to advance political ideals betray both.

As editor of the monthly literary magazine Only One Tomorrow, Ekhtesari offered space to writers and poets across the ideological spectrum, including some Khomeinists. Her magazine was shut down soon after Hassan Rouhani became president.

However, as a poet, Ekhtesari cannot but be affected by the ambient social and political order in her homeland. She cannot turn her face the other way when she sees ugliness, oppression and terror – themes that force their way into some of her poems.

Ekhtesari is also an original theoretician of poetic modes. Her collection of essays entitled Linguistic Tricks in Postmodern Sonnet [Ghazal] is both intriguing and instructive.

Ekhtesari’s fellow convict-cum-poet is Mehdi Mussavi, who received a six-year [or nine-year?] sentence. Mussavi is the founder and principal animator of a poetry workshop in Tehran where Ekhtesari has often spoken and recited her poems. The workshop is supposedly dedicated to developing a new form that Mussavi calls “postmodern ghazal”.  The classic form of Persian sonnet, ghazal, has been the subject of numerous attempts at modernization, notably by Simin Behbahani, one of Iran’s greatest contemporary poetesses.

To call the ghazal a sonnet is misleading. It is a traditional form with rules, as is the sonnet, but its form is nothing like that of the sonnet. But we’ll let that pass.

What matters here is Mehdi Mussavi’s moral wickedness as a poet and the danger it poses to the Iranian state.

Like Behbahani, Mussavi argues that, having experimented with modern forms, including European-style prose-poetry, for almost a century, Persian poets need to return to traditional forms, albeit with changes to reflect modern realities.

Mussavi rejects the argument of the older generation poets such as Ahmad Shamlou, who claimed that the traditional ghazal is so beholden to the musicality of its meter and rhyme schemes that it cannot relay any meaning in a powerful way.

According to Mussavi, once the Persian poet has learned to play by the traditional rules, he could invent virtually countless meters and rhymes capable of expressing any sentiment.

Just literary controversy, you might say. Insiders chat. But in Islam, the literary is political, every idea is political, because Islam is a totalitarian religio-political ideology. 

Literary opponents of Mussavi’s theories, especially on the left, argue that he, like Behbahani and other reformers of the ghazal before them, suffers from a sense of insecurity in a changing world where the Iran they knew is being remolded into something repulsive in the name of Islam.

The Islamic Court charged Mussavi with propagating “immoral images” in his poetry and thus “insulting sacred values of the Islamic ummah”. 

Equally painful is the Islamic Court’s decision to impose a blanket ban on the publication and recital of any poems by Ekhtesari and Mussavi. Under an edict issued by the Islamic Guidance Ministry in 2003, people like Ekhtesari and Mussavi, who are found guilty of “insulting Islam” and thus put on the official index, become “non-persons” – even their names and pictures are banned.

Both Ekhtesari and Mussavi had spent several months in prison two years ago, but were released after the Islamic Prosecutor Ayatollah Ra’isi failed to prove any political crime.

That is why this time, the prosecutor focused on a claim that the poets had attacked “the sacred tenets of the faith”.

The sentencing was made easier thanks to a recent lecture by “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laying down the rules of what he believes “good Islamic poets” should observe when writing poetry.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world where poetry has always been regarded as the highest form of literary creation. In Iranian cities, streets and parks were more often named after poets than conquerors or empire-builders or, until the mullahs seized power, Islamic saints and/or theologians. If an Iranian home has at least one book, it is likely to be a collection of poems.

And yet, with the seizure of power by mullahs in 1979, Iran has experienced one of the most dangerous phases in its long history, as far as poets – and intellectuals in general – are concerned.

Another irony is that both the founder of the regime, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his successor as “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, cast themselves as amateur poets. Khomeini banned publication of his own divans while he was alive, believing that appearing as a poet might soften the dour persona he was building as leader of a revolution that could execute 4000 people on a weekend.

Since his death, however, hundreds of his poems, most of them traditional-style sonnets (ghazals) have been published by the foundation bearing his name.

Ali Khamenei does not publish his poems, but organizes private readings with a few dozen “appreciators” once or twice a year and is reportedly “in seventh heaven” when his entourage quote one of his verses.

Ekhtesari and Mussavi have been sent to jail, not killed. Other poets have not been so lucky.

Hashem Shaabani was hanged on the eve of President Rouhani’s visit to Ahvaz in 2014. Shaabani was not the first Iranian poet to be murdered by the mullahs. The left-wing poet Sa’id Sultanpour was abducted on the day of his wedding on Khomeini’s orders, and shot dead in a Tehran prison. Rahman Hatefi-Monfared, writing under the pen-name of Heydar Mehregan, had his veins cut and was left to bleed to death in the notorious Evin Prison. Under President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a plan to kill a busload of Iranian poets on their way to a festival in Armenia failed at the last minute. Nevertheless, Rafsanjani succeeded in eliminating more than a dozen writers and poets. The worst spate of killings happened under President Khatami, when more than 80 intellectuals, including the poets Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad-Ja’far Pouyandeh, were murdered by the Islamic regime’s security agents.

Death sentences 1

To think for yourself and express your thoughts is a capital offense in Iran and Saudi Arabia, because Islam will not tolerate it.

This is from Poetry Foundation:

We were saddened and horrified today to learn of the death of Hashem Shaabani, who was executed on January 27th by the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

From Radio Free Europe:

An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God.”

Press reports said Shaabani was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani.

In a statement on February 5, Freedom House said Shaabani was subjected to severe torture and interrogation during his three years in prison.

Human Rights Voices also reports on the execution, writing:

To those who knew him, Hashem Shaabani was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system…In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says he could not have remained silent against ‘hideous crimes against Ahvazis* perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly arbitrary and unjust executions’.  He adds, ‘I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.’

And this is from the Friendly Atheist section of Patheos Press:

Saudi blogger and religious dissident Raif Badawi has been cruelly punished and toyed with by the Saudi legal system for about a year now, and things have taken a darker turn. According to Badawi’s wife, now living in Lebanon, the high court will try Badawi on the charge of apostasy. If convicted, Badawi could be executed.

This comes after a court opted not to charge him with apostasy in January, but did put him up on charges of “insulting Islam and showing disobedience.” How did they come to this decision? Badawi is the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, which is bad enough, but imagine the horror that washed over Saudi society with this kind of action:

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.

As a result of this heinous behavior, in July, Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison.

Which was horrifying enough. But now it looks like Badawi is being brought up on apostasy charges in earnest. Badawi’s case is one of many being watched by the Office of Public Policy at the Center for Inquiry, where I work, and our Campaign for Free Expression. …

Those who position themselves as “allies” of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States, need to discover their consciences. How can the civilized world refer to itself as such when an ally practices such barbarism, it looks the other way?

Hangings in Iran

* Ahvazis – people of the city of Ahvaz or Al-Ahwaz, capital of  Khuzestan Province, Iran. Many of them are Arabs. Sympathetic as we are to Hashem Shaabani and his principles, we hope he was not defending the four Ahvazis who had been executed for a terrorist bombing in their city in 2007. (Terrorists should be executed. But the Iranian regime has no principled approach to terrorism. It is itself a terrorist regime. And just think of the thousands who have been killed, and continue to be killed by Iran-sponsored terrorists, chief among them the criminal organization Hezbollah.)