Bill Maher the Mother Lode of Lies

Muslim Matters - 9 October, 2014 - 20:38

Bill Maher is once again on his tirade against Muslims. For a standup comedian who's made a living out of mocking all things sacred, it's hard to understand why anyone would believe the misinformation he spreads. His vitriol against Muslims and Islam are well-known; he has declared quite openly that he's alarmed with a growing Muslim population in the West and fears a 'take over by Islam'.

Maher pretends that he's labeled as a racist for being a simple critic of Islam. Any honest observer, however, would recognize that he has a clear track record of launching baseless attacks on Muslims. He does this repeatedly by misconstruing facts, making unsubstantiated claims and cherry picking radical interpretations that support his pre-conceived notions of the faith.  Couple this with his condescending attitude and vile speech and you've got yourself a text book case of bigotry.

Take for example, his recent claim that 'vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person'. Maher makes these profoundly inaccurate and unsupported statements and passes them as facts on national television with no consequences.  This isn't mere criticism – it is a clear attempt to incite xenophobic sentiment with the intended goal of demonizing Muslims.

Maher often states there are 'polls' and 'research' to support his view that large swaths of Muslims are a violent and intolerant people – it's not just a few bad apples he argues. Actual research, however, has repeatedly shown that Muslims overwhelmingly reject violence; in fact they are more likely to oppose violence than other religious groups. As for religious freedom, Muslims yet again show near perfect support for it.

Another example of Maher's flagrant misconstruction of facts was on the recent flare up with Ben Affleck on his show. He again tries to give us the impression that Muslims are largely an uncivilized people by quoting a Pew poll which supposedly states that 90% of Egyptians support the death penalty for leaving Islam. The Pew poll he's referring to is most likely the 2013 edition- and he forgot to mention one important piece of information: the poll offers no direct statistics on Muslims who support capital punishment for apostasy.

Instead, the poll offers statistics on people who support such apostasy laws as a percentage of those who support the adoption of Shariah as the official law of their country. It excludes Muslims who prefer to restrict the Shariah to the private sphere, who are opposed to the idea of a theocratic state or those that don't have strong views on the subject. As a result, the numbers are misleading since the sample population for the survey doesn't represent the total population. When this is taken to account through extrapolation, the poll actually indicates that as a whole, most Muslims oppose penal codes for apostasy – something Ben Affleck deduced from common sense.

Bill Maher quotes the disproportionally high numbers for Egypt that stand out from the survey – as if the country represents the entire Muslims world. In fact, the numbers he mentions are completely wrong since the poll never offers figures for the country's complete population. Even if they were to be extrapolated (which introduces an error), the support would be at 64% – not the 90% he so forcefully claimed.

Maher also fails to mention the significant disparity Egypt has with other Muslim majority countries on this issue: Indonesia (13%), Lebanon (13%), Tunisia (16%) and Turkey (2%). Why single out Egypt and not mention the world's largest Muslims country, Indonesia? Clearly, Bill has an agenda to make overarching simplifications about Muslims that are rooted in nothing but misinformation.

As an aside, an important question to consider is that why it's only Muslims who seemed to be polled on such controversial questions? What would the stats be if similar question were posed to Israeli Jews, Christian Arabs, Indian Hindus, Catholic Filipinos and American evangelicals? If you ask questions outlandish enough to any population, there's bound to be support for it from a particular segment. More importantly, to what extent can we use polls to understand a population on such matters? These are important questions to consider.

Despite the contextualization I've offered to Bill Maher's lunacy, one would argue that sizable Muslim minorities still support apostasy laws and this doesn't explain the main grievance. I think that's a fair point and agree that the contentious issue of these penal codes still needs addressing by Muslim scholarship. How is traditional Muslim governance to adapt to the modern nation-state? What is the relevance of exacting classical penal codes when they are unable to uphold justice and their implementation leads to more harm than good?

Muslims are working through these issues and these need to be addressed from within; Tariq Ramadan's moratorium call is an example of this. There's no denying that the Muslims world is facing a multitude of problems, but mocking these from a Hollywood studio is not going to get us anywhere, unfortunately.

Bill Maher has no interest in actually understanding problems or offering solutions – he's an entertainer, and bashing Islam makes for very good entertainment. His formula is to take problems from one part of the Islamic world (or concoct them), exaggerate them greatly and then use it to dehumanize the global Muslim population. He caricatures an entire people with brush strokes of prejudice, using the ink of intolerance and his canvass of hypocrisy.

And his solution to problems of the Muslim world: abandon your faith, adopt sexual promiscuity and you'll be liberated. Clearly, Maher is a professional jester – it's a good trade for him, and he should stick with it.

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Australia's terrorism laws 'could criminalise preaching from Qur'an'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 9 October, 2014 - 03:42

National imams council tells parliamentary committee that Muslim preachers on social justice could face charges

Preaching from parts of the Quran calling on Muslims to defend their land could fall foul of Australias new counter-terrorism laws, senior Islamic clerics fear.

The Australian National Imams Council said the proposed broadening of the offence of advocating terrorism to include those who promote and encourage violence would have serious implications on free speech and will have a chilling effect on legitimate religious and political debate.

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Review: Human Universe

Inayat's Corner - 8 October, 2014 - 21:29


It is almost two years ago now, that Professor Brian Cox, treated us to his splendid series The Wonders of Life, which I raved about here at the time. So, it was with a real sense of excitement that I watched the first episode of his brand new series Human Universe.

He began by asking us to consider the significance of the International Space Station. We are the only species on Earth that has managed to leave the ground and head out into space. It is a wondrous technological achievement. What made this possible?

Cox goes to the Ethiopian Highlands and visits a group of Geladas. Science has established that these primates are evolutionary cousins of ours. Around 250,000 years ago, our ancestors first began making spears out of Obsidian – black stone that forms as a result of volcanic activity. Yet why have the Geladas remained in that part of Africa while we humans – who also emerged in Africa – have gone on to colonise the world and even reach out into space?

The key difference, says Cox, is language and writing. Writing meant that knowledge could now be transferred much more simply and widely. It “freed the acquisition of knowledge from the limits of the human memory…[and]… created a cultural ratchet, an exponentiation of the known which ultimately led us to the stars”.

Cox’s lyricism here about writing is surely justified and will surely cause many Muslims to pause for thought, for the very first words of the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Surah al-Alaq drew the attention of humankind to this very phenomenon:

Recite in the name of your Lord who created -
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous -
Who taught by the pen -
Taught man that which he knew not.

(Qur’an 96:1-5)

Cox moves swiftly from the construction of spears to agriculture and the building of the earliest cities to space travel. It is a giddying journey. He finishes back with the astronauts of the International Space Station. While waiting in Kazakhstan for them to arrive back on Earth in their Soyuz module, Cox calculates mathematically exactly how the Soyuz module will first slow its entry into Earth’s atmosphere and then let gravity do its work.  It is all based on two equations that we owe to Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton was one of humankind’s true geniuses. Cox reminds us that when Newton was asked about his outstanding contribution to our store of knowledge, he famously said he had not done this by himself but had stood “on the shoulders of giants”. People like Galileo, Descartes and others all the way back to Euclid and the Ancient Greeks.

The first episode was entitled “Apeman, Spaceman” and is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer for another 29 days.




Muslim youth summit told female genital mutilation is not part of Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2014 - 21:00
Two-day event in Gambia, backed by Guardian, hears Islamic scholar say FGM is not demanded by the Quran or hadith

A youth summit of more than 100 young Gambians has been told by an Islamic scholar that the practice of female genital mutilation is not Islamic. Hama Jaiteh told the Muslims gathered at the first youth summit on female genital mutilation (FGM) in Banjul, Gambia, that Islam was being used to shield an evil intention [that is] harmful to a persons development.

The event was arranged to help build up a legion of young people ready to tackle the practice across the nation.

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Rightwing media attack 'Imam Ben Affleck' for defence of Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2014 - 15:07

US conservative groups target actor after a recent TV appearance in which he described TV host Bill Maher and author Sam Harriss depictions of Islam as gross and racist

Rightwing commentators have lined up to criticise Ben Affleck for his defence of moderate Islam on a US talk show.

Affleck accused TV host Bill Maher and author Sam Harris of gross and racist depictions of the religion during a televised debate on HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night. He reacted furiously to claims by Maher that Islam manifested as the only religion that acts like the mafia and which would fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.

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Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story

Muslimah Media Watch - 8 October, 2014 - 14:51
A few months ago, I wrote about the “rediscovery” of Noor Inayat Khan, from the 2011 campaign to commemorate her, to the biography, Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu to the planned docu-drama, which at the time I had not yet watched. I have since watched the one-hour film, which is [Read More...]

The Suns Unite against Isis campaign is a proxy for anti-Muslim bigotry | Nesrine Malik

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2014 - 14:42
You, Muslim! Is your Islam British enough? Are you standing up to extremism? If not, you are Part of the Problem, apparently

Imagine your average British Muslim family sitting around the breakfast table with the papers this morning. On the front page of the Sun, an image of a woman in a hijab fashioned out of the Union Jack and the headline United Against IS hollers out at them. In the right-hand corner, a subheadline urges them to stand up to extremists.

Yes, you there, Muslim bleary eyed, sipping your coffee, who thought the activities of a militant group thousands of miles away had nothing to do with you are you standing up to extremism right now? Is your Islam British? If not, then you are Part of the Problem.

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Australia's first national mosque 'open day' aims to clear up prejudices

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2014 - 04:49

Islamic leaders say they hope opening up mosques to the wider community will allow people to ask questions directly and find out more about the religion

Nine mosques around Australia will open their doors later this month as part of a new National Unity Day, inviting non-Muslims to take tours and ask questions of Islamic leaders to clear up prejudices and mutual misunderstanding in the community.

The first national mosque open day, to be held 25 October, will be followed by a march in 20 cities organised by an interfaith community group, Welcome to Australia.

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Tony Abbott apologises to Alan Jones for not acting on 'hate preachers'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 8 October, 2014 - 00:34

Prime minister says a red card system will happen quickly after Alan Jones raises concerns about Lakemba lecture

Tony Abbott has apologised for not moving sooner against hate preachers while flagging a red card system to deny people entry to Australia.

The prime minister told the Alan Jones radio program on Wednesday morning Australians were permitted to say stupid things but the government should act to prevent people from overseas entering the country to stir up trouble.

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Australia: Muslim’s Car and Pizza Shop Targeted in Hate Attack By Arsonists

Loon Watch - 7 October, 2014 - 21:16


The Daily Telegraph

The owner of a pizza shop in Sydney’s southwest has had his car and restaurant set alight, while anti-Muslim graffiti was sprayed across the eatery’s walls.

Police are investigating a possible link between the incidents at the owner’s home and Mimi’s Pizza in Hammondville. Only a malfunctioning wick stopped the shop from being destroyed.

Neighbours report that the graffiti included slogans such as “F***en Muslims” and “You dogs go home”.

Police say arsonists set fire to the car, parked outside the pizza shop owner’s home, at about 2.30am this morning and they believe the same people may have attempted to set fire to the shop sometime before 6am.

“It would appear a wick was used but halfway through it went out and the shop did not catch on fire,” Inspector Bob Tunks said. Insp Tunks said the bottom of the door was singed but no further damage was sustained.

Two back walls of the premises displayed obscene graffiti targeting Muslims.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks targeting Muslims, including five threatening letters sent to Muslim businesses in Lakemba earlier this week.

Keitha Kennedy, owner of the The Catch Up Cafe near Mimi’s Pizza, said this is the first incident of its kind she had known in the area. “I was stunned,” she said. “I’ve lived for 34 years in Hammondville and I’ve never known anything like this.”

Ms Kennedy added that she had seen slogans such as “You dogs go home” painted on the walls and said the restaurant owner was in shock this morning.

“He was very emotional and upset and he said that his car had been burnt out outside his house last night. Then he went to check his shop this morning, when the sun had come out, and he saw the hoses through the door and the accelerant — it was like a big wick,” Ms Kennedy said.

She described him as “a lovely man”, adding that he previously owned a shop in Lakemba, but moved to Hammondville because “because it was getting too rough.”

“He brought his kids down here and put them in the school and now this has happened,” she said. “He just said he really wants to pack up and move again. He can’t stand it.”

UK soldier Ryan McGee admits making nail bomb

Loon Watch - 7 October, 2014 - 21:09


A serving soldier from Manchester charged with a terror offence has admitted making a nail bomb.

Ryan McGee, 19, was serving with the 5th Battalion The Rifles when he was detained in December at an Army base in Germany after the discovery of a suspicious device at a Salford house.

He also admitted a separate charge at the Old Bailey of possessing a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook on bombs.

McGee, of Mellor Street, Eccles, was bailed ahead of sentencing in November.

The Anarchist Cookbook includes instructions for the manufacture of explosives as well as for home-manufacturing of drugs.

McGee admitted possession of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terror and making explosives contrary to the Explosives Substance Act by making an Improvised Explosive Device.

BBC News, 3 October 2014

Update:  See “Salford soldier pleads guilty to making nail bomb and having bomb-making manual The Anarchist Cookbook”, Manchester Evening News, 3 October 2014

Update 2:  See “Teenage soldier who made nail bomb and owned terror handbook dressed in Klu Klux Klan costume for Facebook photo”, Daily Mirror, 4 October 2014

France: Muslim school targeted with racist graffiti

Loon Watch - 7 October, 2014 - 21:01


via. Islamophobia-Watch

Trouve Ta Mosquée reports that a Muslim school at La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin in north-central France has been targeted by racists. On Sunday two swastikas and the slogan “sale raton” (“dirty rat”) were found sprayed on the front gate.

The attack immediately followed a decision by the mayor of La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin to order the school’s closure. Trouve Ta Mosquée argues that the mayor’s decision – which would appear to have been unlawful, and motivated by hostility to the Islamic character of the institution – gave the green light to the far right to target the school.

La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin graffiti (2)

La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin graffiti (3)

Scalia says beards aren't a big enough deal for the supreme court. So why do we regulate them at all? | Ruthan Robson

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 October, 2014 - 20:37

The governments determination to control personal grooming has implications beyond one prisoners religious rights

The highest court in the United States spent 45 minutes on Tuesday morning considering legal arguments about a half-an-inch of facial hair. Some might say there are more important issues before the justices. Even Justice Scalia expressed some pique that the issue was even before the court. But we trivialize the ubiquitous regulation of grooming and dress at our peril whether or not they occur in prisons, and whether or not they involve religious practices.

In Holt (Muhammad) v Hobbs, the US supreme court has to decide whether the ban on facial hair for incarcerated individuals in the state of Arkansas violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) passed by Congress in 2000. That law provides says governments cant impose a substantial burden on a religious exercise of someone in prison unless they have a compelling interest and are using the least restrictive means to achieve their goals. The statute sets an exceedingly high standard, and it seems unlikely that the Arkansas Department of Corrections will be able to meet it, if Tuesdays oral arguments are any indication.

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Beard rules draw supreme court justices' mockery in religious rights case

The Guardian World news: Islam - 7 October, 2014 - 20:31

Jokes and banter about security combs and arbitrary rules fill surreal hearing about prisoners religious rights to grow beards

Opinion: Scalia says beards are no big deal. So why regulate?

Prison rules governing the length of facial hair were ridiculed in the supreme court on Tuesday as justices grappled with the question of whether Muslim inmates should be allowed a religious exemption to grow beards.

In often surreal exchanges between sceptical justices and lawyers, the question of whether Arkansas convict Gregory Holt should be allowed to keep his half-inch long beard proved less a test of religious freedom than of judicial patience.

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