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2007/12/19

Mohammed the teddy-bear

In an earlier post, I mentioned the superb "own goal" that the Sudanese government had made over the amazingly stupid Muhammad-teddy-bear-naming-insult saga, making a laughing-stock of themselves.

A friend sent me this picture the other day, which pokes fun at the situation the Sudanese created. The caption on the picture says, "I recently purchased a teddy bear for 10 pounds, named it Mohammed, then I sold it for 20 pounds. My question is, have I made a prophet?"

On the face of it, this could seem amusing, but it could also be disturbing and amazing that the innocent act of children naming their class teddy-bear
Mohammed could be so twisted into something horrible by religious bigots holding positions of state power. Those bigots were considering imposing a barbaric punishment on the hapless class teacher, who had presumably previously thought herself to be living and working within a normal, civilised society.

History shows us that Western civilisations can give thanks for at least two factors which have enabled/allowed civilisation to climb out of a barbaric state:
  1. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, which had its roots further back in time. The problem then was the Roman Catholic church, which had a lot to answer for then, and which - some say - still has a lot to answer for today.

  2. The separation of church and state (state secularism) - essentially freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and which provides no religion with state privileges or subsidies. This has its roots throughout history, in society's pursuit of "free thought".
The SRI (Stanford Research Institute) 1982 report entitled The Changing Images of Man gives some hope that, in theory, even though a society may seem to be stuck in an awful condition - e.g., in state-controlled barbarism (such as, for example Nazi Germany, the Cambodian Pol Pot regime) - the pressure from what is in the minds of people in that society - minds which see a higher potential purpose for mankind - will eventually cause change to the state for the better.

The thing is, Muslim-dominated states - e.g., including Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan - have already had about 600 years to climb out of this type of state barbarism, and yet they have apparently been unable to successfully complete the exercise, despite a veneer of civilisation. Many people (e.g., including my Iranian neighbours) have fled the terrible dogma and strictures of such states in order to lead more-or-less humane existences as peaceful immigrants to the Western world.

Unfortunately, some migrate, but feel obliged to take their learned toxic dogma/ideology with them, and they establish footholds in a new host society - footholds from which they seek to implement and spread the toxic dogma and strictures afresh - i.e., attempting to enforce their old paradigms and strictures as a straitjacket for the new host society (witness what has happened in the UK - esp. Leeds - and elsewhere in Europe). In the latter case, the process of acculturation - taking on the new culture of a host society - would seem to be unlikely, if not impossible under such circumstances, as would full cultural integration. This is part of "The trouble with Islam Today" (refer Irshad Manji's book) and which has been commented on in various books and interviews by many critics - faithful Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

So, is the theory discussed in the SRI report sound? How are things to be improved?

I would not deem to challenge the theory, but neither can I see how things might be improved. I have read and re-read the Quran (AKA "Koran") over the last several years in an attempt to understand the Islamic faith and to reconcile what practitioners of the faith say and do. However, these things do not reconcile easily. There seem to be few, if any, indications that we can be sanguine about things. Here are just three (there are more) contra-indications:
  1. Dogmatic paradigms cannot shift: For example, on July 5th 2005, the New Zealand Herald ran an article Some stoning okay says Choudhary, where the New Zealand MP Ashraf Choudhary, when asked, "Are you saying the Koran is wrong to recommend that gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death?", replied " No, no. Certainly what the Koran says is correct.", and then added, "In those societies, not here in New Zealand."

  2. There is a New-Age form of anti-Semitism that may affect us all: There is what has generally been recognised as a new and more sinister form of anti-Semitism. Whereas classic anti-Semitism was about having a world free of Jews, the new form of anti-Semitism is about having a world free of a Jewish state - e.g. as per the quotes of the Iranian President. This new form could be, potentially, ultimately deadly for all those who are not followers of Islam. This is suggested by the demographic spread of Islam and because the Quran is interpreted/taught as obliging Muslims to consider all infidels as the enemy. Islam draws a clear distincton between the world of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the world of heresy (Dar al-Harb) - they are antithetical. (Refer a superb, but chilling pictorial summary of the concepts here.)

  3. Islam as a fascist ideology: To quote a post from Ashley:
    "It is time that the politicians and PC elite understood and respected the inescapable fact that Islam is a totalitarian, anti-humanitarian, political ideology that uses religion to give divine sanction to fascism and in particular to fascist regimes. It is an outdated, failed ideology which has been tried and tested in the laboratory of time and has failed to make its way from the 7th to the 21st century. They can do with it what they may, lie about it, pray about it, roar, sue, spit, threaten, start a jihad, burn a flag, bomb an embassy, shoot an elderly nun in the back, whatever, but the facts remain. It is time they stopped, stopped the deception, be it self deception or otherwise, but it has to stop."
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