The Islamification of the Conservative Party

Creeping Sharia hits America
Creeping Sharia hits America

Regular readers of this blog will remember the day last April when much of Britain finally got bored with the far-right English Defence League and its anti-Muslim propaganda, and dealt with it in the only way we Britons know how: in the absence of legal guns and a trigger-happy mentality (as demonstrated by our wonderful, freedom-loving American cousins), we instead take the piss.

That day may have subdued the EDL a little, but American morons are harder to tame. Right-wing propagandists in the US have succeeded in persuading many lesser-educated Americans that “Sharia” is sweeping across Europe. This is, of course, the oldest fear-mongering tactic of them all: since people can see with their own eyes that their own town or state isn’t being Islamified, you convince them that it’s happening somewhere else; somewhere far away that they have no experience of. Thus, I often encounter Americans on Twitter who will tell me that London (a city that I’ve lived in my whole life) is being terrorised by “Muslim gangs”, or that British law is being subverted by Sharia. London isn’t (of course) being taken over by radical Islam; but try to convince a right-wing Texan Fox News viewer who has never held a passport of that fact – you can’t.

Here is a typical recent tweet from a typical right-wing American (@kmita3) to illustrate how easily fear and ignorance spreads among frightened and ignorant people:

I found it particularly ironic that this announcement came in the same week that the British House of Commons decided to fully legalise gay marriage in the UK, by a margin of 400 votes to 175, thus casting some doubt over how quickly Sharia law is actually taking over British society.

Apparently (I learned this morning via a useful blog post) there are eight Muslim MPs in the House of Commons (around 1% of the total, which again challenges the idea that Muslims are “taking over”). Of the eight, four voted for gay marriage, one opposed and three abstained or didn’t show up. So a full 50% of Muslim MPs voted in favour of gay marriage, beating the 43% of Conservative MPs who supported the change. Of the eight Tory MPs in Wales, 100% voted against gay marriage. In other words, Welsh Tories are far stronger supporters of fundamentalist Islamic principles than British Muslims are.

Clearly the Conservative party has been afflicted by Creeping Sharia! Furthermore, the US Republicans seem to have been even more Islamified!! I find it unlikely that even 43% of Republican congressmen would vote for gay marriage (or perhaps even 4.3%).

So, in a bizarre way, the “Islamification” pundits are right. But it’s not British society, London or Paris that have been Islamified, but the white, Christian, European and American right-wing. Fundamentalist Islamic values – such as opposition to abortion, contraception and homosexuality – have crept into our societies. We must stop these crazed lunatics from destroying our values… before it’s too late.

Gay Marriage: Beware The Backlash

Gay marriageYesterday, by 400 votes to 175, the House of Commons approved a marriage equality law that finally allows gay men and women to marry on (almost) the same basis as heterosexuals. It was a historic step for the UK, especially as the bill had been pushed hard by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who is desperate to modernise his party (or at least, to convince the public that the Tories have modernised).

It was a great day for progressives; the Commons split roughly along the same lines that the public had done in polls. Many people looked back in astonishment at the fact that homosexuality had only been legal in the UK since 1967, and public tolerance of gays only reached a tipping point in the past two decades. We’ve come a long way, Britain.

However, Cameron seems to have miscalculated. While his popularity in the country was no doubt lifted by yesterday’s vote, his own party split down the middle; those Conservatives voting in favour of gay marriage were outnumbered by those voting against, and a number abstained, wavering between a personal wish to support the measure, but pressure from their local parties to oppose it. We learned two things yesterday: Britain has become a more tolerant place; and the Conservative Party still has a long way to go. Rather than demonstrate that the Tories have modernised, Cameron helped expose the fact that they haven’t; and in the process he antagonised the powerful right wing of his party. He emerges from these events weaker, and will now be under immense pressure to bring the dinosaurs back on board.

And that’s where we should worry. The Tory right (and its inbred cousin, UKIP) has been on the warpath recently on a number of social issues. Abortion has been put back more firmly on the agenda than at any time since its legalisation, with the Health Minister Jeremy Hunt declaring support for halving of the time limit from 24 weeks to 12. And just as worrying, the “sexualisation” bandwagon (which is an all-fronts attack on “explicit” sexuality in the public eye, from music videos to children’s clothing) seems to have gained mainstream acceptance.

The obvious reaction to the “sexualisation” panic is to introduce more “morality police” to oversee TV programming, approve Internet censorship controls and create a “slut-shaming” atmosphere in the public space. Right-wing Tory MPs such as Claire Perry and Nadine Dorries have long been pushing for such actions; an angry, mobilised Tory right may now be in a position to force a weakened David Cameron into giving way on these issues.

The short-term outcome from yesterday’s win on gay marriage may be some rapid government moves against abortion and in favour of more censorship. Once we’ve finished celebrating yesterday’s victory, we may have more battles to fight.

Indian Rape and its Islamophobic Apologists

121219IndiaRape_7048234I’ve known S for over 20 years. When I first met her, she was 17, but pretended to be a decade older – and she could easily have passed for 27. Faking her age made it easier to explain the fact that she had two children of school age. The children’s father, she said, had left, but visited regularly. As I got to know her over the years, the truth slowly emerged. Growing up in a Hindu home, she had been raped at age 11 by an “Uncle” (note, every older person in Indian culture is an Uncle or Auntie), and became pregnant. Refusing to bring “shame” on the family, her parents kept the situation quiet, and if any blame was cast, it was at S, not the abuser.

Having established her status as a “slut”, S became the regular sex toy for her older brother. Age 13, she allowed her original abuser to impregnate her a second time, in the hope that he might take her as a wife, or at least mistress, and end her pariah status – but he was married, and did not. Within her home, S had to endure the growing wrath and hatred of her mother, who blamed her for damaging the family name. She was eventually, with her children, cast out, and ended up as a single parent in a council flat.

She avoided Indian men as much as she could; whenever she befriended one who learned of her lonely and vulnerable status, she again fell pray to abuse. Westerners who idealise “traditional” societies, where respect is always due to elders, fail to understand that this power in the hands of “uncles” is a recipe for sexual abuse. The formula that states the elder must never be challenged by the younger is one that creates countless victims of rape.

India’s dirty little secret had largely been overlooked in the wider world until the recent horrific gang rape and murder of a Delhi student that shocked the world. The fact that a gang of young men could repeatedly rape and beat a woman on a bus for an hour, before throwing her into the street, indicates that they expected to get away with their crime – but they failed to realise that the world has changed in a fundamental way. The Internet, and social media, put their actions under a national and global spotlight, and India, and the world, recoiled in disgust, embarrassing Indian authorities into taking action. Indians demonstrated against corrupt and incompetent officials who have always allowed such crimes to be dealt with quietly, or not at all. They were met with the standard Indian state response: water cannon and batons.

Amidst all the noise, there is a notable silence: there is a loud, organised online community of Islamophobes that revels in reporting every horror that takes place at the hands of Muslims. These people form a broad alliance of propagandists who know that by amplifying some events, and ignoring others, a picture of “Muslim barbarity” can be painted. These people range from European and American fascists and Zionists to – yes – Hindu nationalists in India. I watch many of these people on Twitter, and their network is always ready to mention a rape in Pakistan, a stoning in Saudi Arabia, a stabbing in France, if the perpetrator is of Muslim background. But in my observation, none of these commentators, whether English Defence League supporters in the UK, Pamela Geller’s American hate network, or Israeli Arab-haters, have had anything to say about the Indian case.

Many of the Muslim-haters pose as secularists and human-rights advocates; yet their silence on “non-Muslim” events, from the Delhi rape to the rape and bloodshed in the Congo, to the mass slaughter and rapes of Tamils in Sri Lanka gives the lie to these labels. In their campaign to paint Muslims as Untermench, fascists, Zionists and Hindu nationalists provide shelter for barbarity. In pretending that Hindus are somehow more human than Muslims, they give cover for Hindu rape and violence. According to their narrative, a rape victim in Kabul is more worthy than one in Delhi. The British victim of sexual abuse by a Pakistani immigrant deserves a mention, but the victim of a white British person does not. An “honour killing” in Yemen must be endlessly mentioned on Twitter, but one in India must be ignored.

In their careful selection of victims, the Islamophobes are apologists for the sexual violence that they ignore. By deeming most rapes as unworthy of mention, these people become apologists for rape. It is heartening that India has recently taken a  tentative step towards accepting the huge scale of sexual abuse in that country. And it’s shameful that many people have declined to talk about it, for fear of weakening their crusade against Muslims.

Hilarious: BNP Fail

I posted this image a couple of weeks ago to Twitter and Facebook, but it’s so good, it deserves to be posted here for posterity. The far-right British National Party recently tried to tap in to public outrage about a Christian hotel owner who refused to allow a gay couple to rent a room. The party’s leader, Nick Griffin, got himself in trouble by tweeting an apparent threat, including the address of the gay couple:

“So Messrs Black & Morgan, at [their address]. A British Justice team will come up to Huntington & give you a bit of drama by way of reminding you that an English couple’s home is their castle. Say No to heterophobia!”

In posting this, Griffin simply demonstrated how out-of-touch he is with the British public’s attitudes towards homosexuality. Griffin received widespread condemnation, and is reported to be under police investigation. This gaffe was followed by a poll on the Nationalist Media Network site, featuring a photo of the gay couple, and asking “Would you leave a gay couple to babysit your child?”

You can see the public response below. Thankfully, the BNP and similar extremist groups seem to be on the decline, after making gains for several years.

Thanks to @VickyClementine for the screen-grab.

Muslims, The Far-Right And Gay Rights

Gay Muslims
Smashing Moronic Stereotypes

The distinctive difference between the European and American far-right is this: European fascism is often secular in nature, while the US variety fanatically adheres to fundamentalist Christianity. This allows European fascism to paint itself as “modern”, and so in contrast show that “foreign” cultures are backward. This method worked in demonising Jews in Nazi Germany, and is being deployed today against Muslims.

This difference shows itself most strongly when it comes to issues surrounding gay rights; the American right is viciously homophobic. No hurricane or earthquake can pass without some moron calling it God’s retribution for tolerating homosexuality. The American right rallies “in defence of marriage” – a coded term for rejecting same-sex unions. Meanwhile, European fascists loudly parade European “tolerance” of homosexuality as a stick with which to beat Muslims. They claim that intolerant Muslim immigrants are poisoning “our culture of tolerance”.

This is a straw-man argument. Europe’s supposed tolerance of gay rights is extremely recent, and far from universal (11 of the 27 EU members don’t recognise gay marriage). The Nazis’ slaughter of homosexuals in concentration camps is almost certainly the greatest attack on gays in history (since Sodom, anyway). Although homosexuality was legalised here in the UK in 1967, gays were still afraid to openly walk the streets until perhaps the late-90s, when public acceptance had finally reached tipping point.

The far-right method is simple: point out the barbaric treatment of gays in Iran and Saudi Arabia, where executions take place; then blur the line between these two states and the 50+ other Muslim-majority countries. All this is done while ignoring attacks on gay rights in the non-Muslim world, including in the US. While some of the worst abuses of homosexuals have come from Christian-majority African and Caribbean states like Uganda and Jamaica, these are ignored – especially when US evangelicals are found to be backing Uganda’s attempts to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality.

The fascist method is to create simple myths about whole groups of people. The idea that there is a single “Muslim culture” is laughable to anyone who has travelled extensively. The cultures of Muslim Arabia and Muslim West Africa, for example, couldn’t be more different.

As for the idea that Muslims are somehow less tolerant than Jews, Hindus or Christians? Reality flatly disputes this. A poll of British Muslims and Christians last year found that Muslims were marginally more proud than Christians of Britain’s tolerance towards homosexuals; when asked if they agreed with the statement: “I am proud of how Britain treats gay people”, 47% of Muslims agreed (contrasting with 46.5% of Christians). And how about the French Imam who blessed a gay union earlier this year? Reality undermines the myth that somehow Muslim immigrants are reducing European tolerance.

Conservative religion worldwide is guilty of extreme homophobia; American evangelical leaders, the mullahs of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and leaders in many African countries – Muslim and Christian alike – attack homosexuality as an evil. Amusingly, some non-white homophobes often refer to homosexuality as a “white disease“, showing much in common with the fascists who label homophobia a Muslim import.

My own experience agrees with the poll quoted above. Most Muslims I know are accepting towards homosexuality; and a night I spent in a very gay (but mixed) nightclub in the Moroccan city of Agadir showed me that these attitudes are widespread outside Europe too. Fascists, of course, deliberately ignore all these subtleties. Their job is to convince morons that Muslims are damaging “our culture”, and that requires simple, black and white stories to be disseminated.

Tories, Abortion and Fundamentalists

Andrea Williams, Fundamentalist
The Face Of British Fundamentalism

Abortion has been legal and easily accessible in the UK since its legalisation in 1967, and there is little public support for a change to the law. However, it’s easy to get complacent – laws can be overturned by shrewd and well-funded campaigns without any public support. The Conservative Party, beneath its new “progressive” makeover, still harbours what remains of Britain’s religious right.

Nadine Dorries MP is working hard to challenge Britain’s 24-week abortion limit – her initial strategy is to propose a cut to 20 weeks, but some Tories (including the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt) are angling for an even more draconian cut to 12 weeks. This Wednesday, Dorries will introduce a debate into the Commons on reducing the term to 20 weeks.

I won’t go into the detail of the pro-choice argument here, but the important difference between 20 and 24 weeks needs to be made clear: some tests on the health of the foetus can only be done for the first time at 20 weeks. Some parents-to-be face a heart-wrenching decision after 20-weeks, as to whether to continue with a pregnancy when defects have been detected in the foetus. The vast majority of non-medical abortions will take place within the 20-week timeframe; reducing the limit from 24 weeks would most affect those people who intended, prior to the 20-week scan, to continue the pregnancy to term. To remove this choice would be an incredibly cruel act.

Dorries claims (dishonestly) to not be a fundamentalist on sexual issues, but the company she keeps is revealing. She is very close to the right-wing Christian fundamentalist Andrea Williams of Christian Concern, as shown in the video below. Williams holds a variety of extreme views, and yet thanks to Dorries, enjoys access to the Houses of Parliament. The British dislike religious fundamentalism, but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels; fundamentalists are already in parliament, and trying to reverse hard-won progressive victories in the field of sex and sexuality.

Please watch and share the video:

Todd Akin Attacked For Being Stupid (Being Evil Is Fine)

Todd Akin, Moron
Can This Man Tie His Own Shoelaces?

Moron-watching is made both easy and fun, thanks to US Republicans. Barely a day passes without an insane outburst from a leading Republican politician or supporter; sometimes the utterances are so stupid, I have to double-check the source to check it’s not The Onion or some other spoof site. But invariably, the reports are true, and the stories are a gift to moron-watching. Whether they’re passing laws to make climate change illegal, labelling contraception campaigners as sluts or inventing Islamic infiltration of government, the Republicans provide endless moronic hilarity.

I often wonder if they’ve peaked – how could they possibly continue to match this level of craziness? But if I was in any doubt, this week, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin came to the rescue. Akin’s comment was on a familiar subject – the ongoing attempt to deny abortions to American women, even in the case of rape or incest. In most developed countries, that would be enough for the speaker to dismissed as a lunatic. But in the US, such people are not only listened to, but elected to political office.

If Akin had merely argued for abortion to be denied to rape victims, he would have been almost part of the mainstream. But he took things further, by answering as follows in response to a question on the subject:

From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child. (video)

Akin’s comment, unusually, was attacked by fellow Republicans, and he has been under pressure from within his party to stand down from the Senate race (fellow moron-watchers will be delighted to hear that he resisted that pressure). But he’s not under attack for wanting to deny the right to an abortion to rape victims, but simply for his idiotic misunderstanding of science (something which is normally a Republican badge of pride).

Denying abortion to rape victims is almost mainstream Republican ideology; indeed, Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan also appears to take this view.

Perhaps Akin’s fellow Republicans are really most upset at Akin’s suggestion that God provides for some kind of “natural abortion” when women are raped – hardly a message that supports the anti-abortion side of the argument.

So it seems the Republican Party has no problem with Akin’s abhorrent views; they simply objected to them being spoken out loud, especially in such a moronic fashion.

Black Jesus

African Jesus
Jesus wasn’t European. He wasn’t African either.

I’ve blogged previously on some of the moronic theories surrounding Afrocentric thinking; this image, liberated from Facebook, illustrates one of my favourites.

Like many nonsensical ideas, this is based on a grain of truth: some European artists did paint Jesus as white, and often blond with blue eyes. There are two main reasons for this, the first being simple ignorance; the second being that the Vatican, on a relentless mission to persecute Jews, tried to hide the awkward fact that their Messiah (if he had indeed existed) was a Middle Eastern Jew.

From the Afrocentric perspective, the inaccurate depiction of Jesus as a northern European could only mean one thing: yet another white conspiracy to steal the true history of the black man.

The top two pictures seem to based on a moronic misreading of Revelation 1:14-15:

14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

So the designers of this image have decided that “hair white like wool” means Jesus sported an afro (they’ve obviously never seen a lamb) and “feet like bronze glowing in a furnace” means he had dark skin (they’ve obviously never seen molten bronze either).

This leaves the map, which is deliberately misleading. The continent of Africa is shown, with an inset showing the Middle East (which isn’t in Africa, although it is adjacent to Egypt).

This is about as nonsensical as conspiracy theories come, and incredibly easy to pick apart. So why do people believe it? This theory results from the collision of two strong and conflicting memes. The African diaspora has experienced incredibly brutal treatment from white society, but also received Christianity from whites. The impulse to separate the two is natural. Perhaps it would be more intellectually honest to reject Christianity altogether; many have of course done so. Some have adopted Islam (though this comes with the problem that it, like Christianity, originates outside Africa). Others have tried to adopt African animist beliefs, but this is fraught with difficulty. Animist belief varies widely from place to place in Africa, and has only been documented in recent centuries. Of course, adoption of Atheism may resolve much of this conflict, but is a step too far for Afrocentrics raised in strongly Christian homes.

Unfortunately, the teaching of myth as history is strong in the Afrocentric tradition, and it perpetuates rather than resolves the problems faced by the black diaspora in Europe and America. Teaching black children to adopt evidence-free dogma, rather than scientific reasoning, relegates them to the educational second ranks in Western society. Teaching a child to question, to look for evidence, and to keep an open mind, is essential to success in a modern, rational society.

The saddest thing of all is that, rather than celebrate the true strengths of African civilisation, which are unique, the Afrocentrics try to impose Western measures of success on Africa, and end up looking foolish in the process. The painting of Jesus (essentially a Roman invention) as a black man is a great example of this.

White Supremacists, Islamophobes and Moronic Correlations

White supremacists
Some Morons

Once upon a time, before Twitter was even thought of, and even before the Web, there existed on the Internet a public domain service called Usenet. This consisted of a large number of threaded discussion groups on different topics – anyone could create a newsgroup, and server space was donated, usually by universities, to allow the system to work. Usenet carried groups covering every subject under the sun, from mountain biking to US politics – and of course porn.

I found US political newsgroups interesting to track. Hate groups proliferated, and even until 2005 or so (when I last accessed Usenet), the prime target for American morons was black people. Coordinated bullying campaigns against Muslims, as we see today on Twitter and the blogosphere, had yet to come into existence. This was the last gasp of organised white supremacy, a centuries-old idea, which flourished throughout US history, until the election of Barack Obama finally killed off their widely held belief that blacks could never make it to the pinnacle of society.

White supremacists were masters of finding (and misusing) correlations that supported their cause, and their favourite correlation of all was that between race and intelligence (as measured by IQ and academic achievement). Educational achievement in the US (and elsewhere) consistently showed a hierarchy: Chinese, then Indians, then whites, and blacks falling last. The statistics were undeniable, and white supremacists used them repeatedly to demonstrate white “superiority” over blacks. They were so determined to “prove” this point that they were even willing to accept the “superiority” of Asians over whites (which kind-of undermines the idea of white supremacy).

Reality of course was somewhat different. IQ (it turns out) is in large part a measure of a society’s degree of education, particularly in science-based areas. IQ scores have increased very significantly over the past 100 years. Within the US since the Civil Rights era, whites have gained in IQ but blacks have gained more – the gap is rapidly narrowing. Furthermore, the statistics on educational achievement weren’t as simple as they seemed. In the UK for example, Indians do outperform whites, but closer examination shows that when treated as a separate group, Bangladeshis (of the same broad racial group) do not. Similarly, African immigrants do much better at school than black immigrants from the Caribbean. The correlation between race and IQ turns out to be about issues of class and culture, not inherited ability.

White supremacy seems to have imploded as a coherent movement. But what happened to the white supremacists? Many of them turned their bigotry, hate and statistical tricks against the new “threat”, Muslims. Of course, not everyone who dislikes or fears Muslims was active in white supremacy. Many confused people genuinely believe in the “Islamic threat” to “the Western way of life”. But those pulling the strings, and creating the propaganda, learned their tricks from the old far-right: fascist and white supremacist groups.

This week, I found myself dealing on Twitter with dodgy “facts” about Muslims (largely from a handful of reactionary Atheists), and was struck at how the old white supremacist tricks are still alive and well (I was also struck with the poor quality of reasoning used by some Atheists, a group from which I tend to expect better).

In one example, I was sent a news link about a poll showing that some young British Asians support “honour killings”. Although the article didn’t mention religion, the person followed up with a tweet claiming that the article showed a link between honour killings and Islam. A quick look at honour killing statistics does show that the majority of cases (though far from all) relate to Muslims.

Is that enough to show a correlation between Islam and honour killings? Well, no – as with the IQ argument linking race and intelligence, the argument doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. Firstly, honour killings happen largely across an area spanning parts of the Middle East, west and south Asia including Muslim, Sikh and Hindu populations. Second, most Muslim countries fall outside this area. The practice appears to be unknown in black African Muslim countries, where women take a more dominant role in society than in many Asian societies. So the correlation between honour killing and Islam breaks down: the correlation appears to be with certain Asian societies, not with any religious group.

The correlation is, of course malicious. Those who began this rumour probably knew perfectly well it was false; but most of those who now perpetuate the myth lack the understanding to realise that they are propagating a lie. Other dishonest correlations exist too: Muslim-baiters like to correlate female genital mutilation with Islam. But this practise is a largely African one, and happens across both Christian and Muslim societies.

A number of reactionary Atheists have this week accused me of “defending Islam” by using arguments like the ones above. But I think I’m defending truth, using scientific reasoning – which is what (I thought) Atheism was based on. I have no love for any religion, and do my best to persuade the religious that their beliefs are wrong. But equally, I believe that everyone has the right to believe and worship as they want, and most importantly I despise bullying, especially of the large-scale variety inflicted on Muslims, Jews, blacks and other minority groups.

Reason is the enemy of barbarity, and the spread of reason is the only thing that can end honour killing, female circumcision, and other brutal practises. But finding such a lack of reason among Atheists has left me sad and disappointed – I suppose I see myself as part of an Atheist tribe, and discovering that members of my tribe can be as ignorant as members of any other has been a useful lesson that we are all fallible.