Blasphemy is Bullshit


Blasphemy is Bullshit

It is a clear demonstration of an imaginary deity’s impotency and incapacity to do its own bidding when humans have to make edicts to defend its alleged hurt pride. Blasphemy laws are more about the insecurity of the believer than an attempt to protect a god. Any god in need of such human intervention is a god not worth its salt.

People all over the planet are being threatened, imprisoned, tortured and killed by religious fanatics for daring to make comment about the veracity of religious magical thinking.  This is one of the worst aspects of accepting mythology as fact.  It turns humans into mob-ruled ideological monsters willing to destroy the lives of others in protecting their own doubts and fears.

Replacing freedom of expression and speech with legally binding penalties for a myriad of subjective notions is a recipe only benefiting tyrannical religious/political systems.

I urge all rational and reasonable people to strongly oppose any attempts at having blasphemy initiated into law anywhere on the planet.

 

David Nicholls
(Former) President
Atheist Foundation of Australia

Man Jailed for 10 Years in Blasphemy Case


Man jailed for 10 years in blasphemy case
From the Newspaper

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A Pakistani policeman guards a jail entrance. — File Photo

CHAKWAL: After a trial spread over 14 months and conducted in an uneasy environment, Additional District and Sessions Judge Raja Pervez Akhtar jailed a blasphemy accused for 10 years and imposed a fine of Rs200,000 on Tuesday evening.

The verdict left the lawyers of both groups baffled and they now intend to go to the Lahore High Court — one would file an appeal for getting the sentence quashed while the other would file a review petition.

Convict Ghulam Ali Asghar, a resident of Chinji village in Talagang tehsil, was booked on Nov 17, 2011, on a charge of blaspheming the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by misquoting a Hadith in Punjabi language.

Judge Raja Pervez Akhtar acquitted Ghulam Ali Asghar of the allegation levelled under 295-C (the section which forbids blaspheming the Holy Prophet [PBHU]), but imprisoned him for ten years under 295-A (which forbids outraging religious feelings) and also imposed a fine of Rs200,000. The convict will have to undergo an additional jail term of six months if he does not pay the fine.

Pakistan’s Female Ambassador to The United States Accused of Blasphemy


Alleged blasphemy: SC admits petition filed against Sherry Rehman for hearing

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Sherry Rehman. — Photo by AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday admitted a petition filed against Sherry Rehman over allegedly committing blasphemy, DawnNews reported.

The petition was heard by a two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Ejaz Afzal.

The bench directed CPO Multan Amir Zulfiqar to take action in accordance with the law.

The petition against Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, was filed by Faheem Akhtar Gill, a citizen of Multan.

Gill had requested to the court to register a case against Rehman for allegedly committing blasphemy.

The petition claims that Rehman had committed blasphemy while speaking on a news channel two years ago.

In Nov 2010, Rehman had submitted a bill to the National Assembly Secretariat seeking an end to the death penalty under the existing blasphemy laws.

Later in Feb 2011, the then prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, had categorically stated that the government had no intention to amend the law.

After Gilani’s rejection, Rehman had told AFP she had “no option” but to abide by the decision after the premier had ruled out any discussion.

In Nov 2011, Rehman was appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to the US after Husain Haqqani had tendered his resignation over the memogate controversy.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of desecrating the Holy Quran or insulting Islam often provoke public fury.

An Inside Look at the Taliban’s Bankers


An inside look at the Taliban’s bankers

In Afghanistan, the lines between insurgency and official business are often blurred. Reporter Matthew Green takes us through the clandestine world of the infamous hawala bankers – the men deemed to be secretly funding the Taliban.

Why I’m Voting for President Obama


Why I’m Voting for President Obama
Five years later, much has changed
Via:- Randall Gross

I’m voting for President Obama because I trust him to do the right thing, and even on the issues where we don’t agree I know that he will make his choices based on principles and what he sees as best for our country as a whole rather than based on political expediency or the dictates of narrow interests. I have confidence in him as President and I know that he’s principled because I’ve watched him in action first as a candidate and then as our president for five years now.

When this started out I was not a Barack Obama fan – instead I was one of the many here at this site writing posts against him and campaigning for his opponents (that included Clinton, Guiliani, Romney, and McCain at various points as the long primary season wound into the national election). I was against him as president and was pretty firmly seated in the “anyone but Obama” camp because I still believed all the far right bumper stickers about him, and even took part in some of the attempts to slime him with Reverend Wright and other things.

Even after he was elected I was still heavily criticizing him regarding jobs and the economy all the way into 2010, but over time he slowly turned all of those negatives around. He demonstrated his leadership time and again, and took a lot of heat not only from the right, but also from many of the progressives in his own party to work through issues with a highly recalcitrant Congress. Under his guidance I watched as multiple branches of our Federal Government became more open, more effective, and more efficient.

At the same time I watched the right become bitter and hardened, witch hunting not only our new president but also anyone in their own party who didn’t kow-tow to their hard right litany at every other step. The cracked pots were let in the back door, and I ran out the front, at first to become an independent, and then a year later a registered Democrat.

Meanwhile, President Obama took the fight directly to the specific terrorist organizations who were attacking us and destabilizing the subcontinent of Asia and the Middle East. He quickly got results, using a combination of drone warfare, sanctions, agreements and diplomacy to further US interests and missions.

He didn’t care if the terrorists were hiding in Yemen and Pakistan and being sheltered by factions of those country’s military. He went after them anyway, just as he had promised in his campaign; he took out leader after leader until we got Osama Bin Laden hiding in Abottobad, Pakistan. Both Romney and McCain had roundly criticized him for saying he would go into Pakistan during the campaign, but he persisted until justice was done.

I’ve watched our President in action, turning the country around, doing what was required to save the auto industry, putting the country back to work with construction projects across the nation when we needed it most, and I’ve seen him persevere while the rabid right did everything in their power to cause him and our country to fail. I’ve seen him smile and still try to deal with Republican congressmen even as one of them called him a liar during an address to a joint session of Congress.

That joint session was for his landmark health care initiative, and I’m glad it passed. Now all of my nieces and nephews have a chance to stay on their parents health insurance as they go into those starter jobs. Now my pacemaker isn’t a pre-existing condition hurdle to changing insurance if I want to.

It’s now five years later, and I’m a big supporterIt was that kind of bile and the over the top charges like “Death panels” at that joint session and Barack’s persistent work against our real foes overseas that made me reconsider the propaganda I’d been fed, and made me dig deeper into the issues. At most junctures I found myself deciding that our president was right, and his opponents were absolutely crazed, as I dug into the facts of each issue.

I found that we agree on most issues regarding climate, social issues like gay marriage, and women’s rights. I fully support the regulations on Wall Street — we can’t afford vulture and wild West capitalism of the sort his opponent wants.

It’s now five years later, and I’m a big supporter. I honestly don’t think there is anyone out there who can do a better job as President for the next four years. Instead, I firmly believe that putting anyone else into office would seriously jeopardize the slow but steady recovery that we are in.

That’s why our President, Barack Obama, not only has my complete confidence and trust as president, but also my vote for the next four years.

Obama: “You Know I Tell the Truth”

British Al-Qaeda Gang Planned ‘Another 9/11′ in UK Led By Muslim Terrorists Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali


British Al-Qaeda Gang Planned ‘Another 9/11′ in UK Led By Muslim Terrorists Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali.
Via:- pibillwarnerGo to full article

Jihadist group, from Birmingham UK, were to target crowded areas to cause “mass death” in a terror plot that was set to be even more devastating than the 7/7 London bombings, Woolwich Crown Court was told.  Two of the alleged ringleaders had received terror training in Pakistan and made martyrdom videos to be released after they had “blown themselves up”.

They were taught in bomb-making, how to use weapons and poisons before returning to the UK to recruit others for their plot. That included arranging for others to be sent to Pakistan for training as well. They planned to detonate homemade bombs in up to eight rucksacks and may also have blown others up with bombs on timers.

A total of 11 men and one woman were arrested by police on various terrorism charges last September. The details emerged as the trial began today of the three central plotters. Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, all unemployed from Birmingham, all deny a number of terror charges including planning a bombing campaign, recruiting others for terrorism and terrorism fundraising.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, told the court: “In September 2011, and after, officers of the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit arrested a number of young men from the Birmingham area, who are resident in this country.  “With it the police successfully disrupted a plan to commit an act or acts of terrorism on a scale potentially greater than the London bombings in July 2005, if it had been allowed to runs its course.  READ THE WHOLE THING CLICK HERE.

USA TODAY REPORTS ….Dirtbags Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid, and Ashik Aliallegedly inspired by the anti-Western sermons of U.S.-born Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen in September 2011. Altman said Naseer and Khalid traveled to Pakistan for terror training, where they learned details of poisons, bombmaking and weapons use and made “martyrdom videos” justifying their planned attacks.

On their return in July 2011, he said, they began to recruit others to the plot and to raise money by posing as fundraisers for Muslim charities. Altman accused the men of “despicably stealing from their own community” to fund their plot.They also began experimenting with chemicals ”to make an explosive mixture for use in an improvised explosive device,” the prosecutor said, aided by Naseer’s academic background — he has a degree in pharmacy.

Many of the group’s plans soon went awry, however. Four other young men dispatched by the plotters to Pakistan for terrorist training were sent home within days when the family of one man found out, Altman said. They have pleaded guilty to terrorism-related offenses.

Rahin Ahmed, an alleged co-conspirator described in court as the cell’s “chief financier,” attempted to increase the group’s budget by trading the money it had made through bogus charity fundraising on the currency-exchange market.He lost the bulk of the terror cell’s money through his “unwise and incompetent” commodities trading, the prosecutor said, READ THE WHOLE THING CLICK HERE.

The Silence of Feminists as Islamic Women Suffer and Die


Feminists dally as Islamic women die
  • by: Ida Lichter

LAST Wednesday, Afghan girl Mah Gulwas beheaded on the instruction of family because she rejected prostitution. Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, was shot in the head by Pakistani Taliban gunmen in the Swat Valley because she campaigned for women’s secular education. Absence of outrage by Muslim leaders is shameful but why are so many Western feminists silent?

In Swat, the Pakistani Taliban systematically restricted girls’ education. During 2008, they destroyed about 150 private schools and converted others into madrassas, or religious seminaries. Government schools were closed down, teachers murdered, acid was thrown on to the faces of schoolgirls, and several officials were beheaded.

A local Islamist leader explained: “Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society.”

The attack on Malala and two companions on a school bus has shocked Pakistan, especially in view of the bloody war in Swat fought by the army in 2009 to unseat the Taliban and enforce national law. In Pakistan, more than half the adult population is illiterate and in rural Sindh and Balochistan, female literacy rates are less than 2 per cent. Honour killings, bartering of women for land and animals, domestic violence and rape are endemic.

Female politicians have not always supported women’s rights. When prime minister, Benazir Bhutto appointed women to the High Court but made no significant changes to discriminatory laws and assisted the Taliban. In Afghanistan, women have made great strides over the past 10 years; education was established, and three million girls now attend school. International women’s rights groups helped expose Afghan Taliban abuse and develop the new constitution for the transitional Afghan government; but the mainstream movement, with some exceptions such as the Feminist Majority Foundation, has not fought consistently for the rights of Afghan women.

Many intellectual feminists value cultural practice but as Afghan women’s rights activist Sima Samar asserted, this respect does not apply to traditions that oppress women and violate human rights. Some feminists have joined an unholy alliance with political Islam, disregarding the oppression of women and homosexuals in favour of overarching aims to rid the world of colonialism, neo-colonialism and capitalism.

Today, support of the international feminist movement is particularly urgent. In Tunisia, a woman who was allegedly raped is facing an “immorality” charge and possible prison sentence.

Salafist leaders in Egypt are calling for changes to the draft constitution, so that Article 2 will affirm Islamic sharia as the main source of legislation rather than the principle of state law. Moreover, article 36 prescribes gender equality only if it does not contravene sharia. Egyptian women activists are campaigning for removal of sharia references in the draft constitution, as well as extreme demands from Salafists.

Pressing for basic women’s rights in Pakistan and Afghanistan is part of a regional challenge and should be a priority for Western feminists. Instead, many tolerate sexist violence in the area and subjugation of women through customary law and religious legislation mandated by the state. While they continue to ignore Islamist misogyny, feminists are dallying while their Muslim sisters burn.

Ida Lichter is the author of Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression

Religious Fundamentalism | Taliban Shoot Young Girl | Bullet Lodged In Brain


Malala Yousafzai has bullet removed from head after Taliban shooting

Relatives say 14-year-old Pakistani peace activist appears to be doing well after three-hour operation

Army doctors treating Malala Yousafzai in Peshawar

Army doctors treating Malala Yousafzai in Peshawar. Photograph: EPA

Pakistani surgeons have removed a bullet from the head of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl and peace activist who was shot by a Taliban gunman on Tuesday.

Relatives of the girl, who rose to fame for her outspoken opposition to Taliban militancy in her home town of Swat, said she appeared to be doing well after a three-hour operation.

Her father, Ziaudduin Yousafzai, said doctors were encouraged by a CT scan taken after the operation. She was unconscious but had moved her hand slightly after coming out of surgery.

Malala could be moved abroad for further treatment. A plane is on standby in Peshawar and Rehman Malik, the interior minister, has contacted the family to make sure their passports are in order.

Three years ago Malala blogged on the BBC website about the terror of living amid a rising Taliban insurgency. Last year she received the country’s first peace prize. She was on a Taliban hitlist for publicly advocating what the movement derides as “secular governance”.

On Tuesday morning as she and her classmates sat on a bus to take them home after a midterm exam, three men reportedly approached in search of Malala.

“The man who stopped the vehicle signalled to his other armed accomplices that Yousafzai was inside,” the bus driver, Usman Ali, told the Express Tribune newspaper. “Another armed man went to the back of the vehicle and started firing inside.”

Malala attempted to deny her own identity, but one of the other girls pointed her out. According to the Express Tribune, a total of four girls, including Malala, were injured.

On Tuesday the Taliban appeared more than happy to take the credit for the attempted murder. “She was pro-west, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her ideal leader,” said a spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan. “She was young but she was promoting western culture in Pashtun areas.”

The attack has horrified many in Pakistan, especially liberals who have long been aghast at what they see as the feeble response by the state and some religious political parties towards the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani offshoot of the hardline Islamist movement that closed down girl’s schools and ran public executions when it was in power in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack. Even the head of Pakistan’s military, General Ashfaq Kayani, made public his anger during a meeting with Malala’s parents at a military hospital in Peshawar.

The attack has alarmed residents of Swat, which was infiltrated by Taliban insurgents who burned schools and executed its enemies. An operation by the Pakistani military eventually forced the Taliban out of the valley in 2009, but the attempt to kill Malala indicates their continued ability to mount attacks in an area still living under a heavy army presence.

“The suicide bombings and blasts may be over in Swat but this attack has rung alarm bells reminding us that militants are still in Swat,” said Iqbal Hussain, one of Malala’s teachers.

He said the girl’s classmates were anxious to return to school despite the attack. “Girls of Swat are courageous and bold and they want to continue their education they cannot be bettered by these tactics of the militants,” Hussain said.

Conservative Islamist Fanatic Seeks Death of Crippled Girl


Rao Abdur Raheem: The Militant Lawyer Who Wants Disabled Christian Girl Dead
‎Via:-| Richard BartholomewGo to full article

From the Guardian:

A lawyer representing the man who accused a Pakistani Christian girl of blasphemy has said that if she is not convicted, Muslims could “take the law into their own hands”.

Rao Abdur Raheem cited the example of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who last year shot dead a politician who had called for reform of the much-abused blasphemy law.

…Raheem said he had taken on the case for free because he was convinced that Masih should be punished. “This girl is guilty. If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job,” he said.

I’ve written about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and their baleful consequences, previously. The current case, however, is particularly egregious; the accused girl, Rimsha Masih, reportedly has a learning disability. Raheem, however, is unconcerned about this: her medical assessement, he claims, was “illegal” and should not be taken into consideration.

In December 2010, Raheem created a self-described “lawyers’ forum”, called the Movement to Protect the Dignity of the Prophet; according to the New York Times, the group produced a petition in support of Qadri which was signed by a 1,000 lawyers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Members of the group also reportedly ”greeted Mr. Qadri’s… court appearances by throwing rose petals”. The NY Times noted:

…The lawyers’ stance is perhaps just the most glaring expression of what has become a deep generational divide tearing at the fabric of Pakistani society, and of the broad influence of religious conservatism — and even militancy — that now exists among the educated middle class.

They are often described as the Zia generation: Pakistanis who have come of age since the 1980s, when the military dictator, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, began to promote Islam in public education and to use it as a political tool to unify this young and insecure nation.

Raheem has also turned his attention to the internet and the US embassy; the Express Tribune reported in May that:

Margalla police station registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Facebook and three other websites under sections 295-A and 298-A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on the directions of Additional Sessions Judge Kamran Basharat Mufti. The application had been submitted by the Namoos-e-Risalat Lawyers Forum (NRLF).

One of the complainants, Advocate Rao Abdur Rahim, told The Express Tribune that they had been informed in July 2011 that Facebook and a few other websites had been posting ‘blasphemous’ posts on their websites and the material was being uploaded from inside Pakistan.

…”We gave three applications: one against Payam TV for telecasting a movie ‘Yousaf’, one against Facebook and three other websites and one against the US embassy in Islamabad for organising a gathering of gays and lesbians,” the petitioner said.

Yousaf is actually an Urdu television serial, telling the Koranic version of the story of the Biblical Joseph. Episodes can be found on YouTube.

Raheem has a Facebook page, consisting for the most part of jpegs of urdu documents. His group also has a Facebook page, under the spelling “Namos E Risalat Lawyers“, where a booklet in support of Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been posted. Hypocritically, both pages carry material condemning the violence of militant Buddhist monks in Burma (a subject I looked at here).

There’s also a YouTube channel related to the group, under the name “nrlfp50″ (The booklet on the group’s Facebook page includes a reference to a website, “nrlfp.com”, which is currently defunct). One of the videos posted is footage of a rally in support of the murderer Qadri:

UPDATE (2 September): Rimsha had been handed over to the police by a local imam; the AFP reported on 24 August:

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, the imam of the mosque in the Islamabad suburb of Mehrabad, insisted he had saved the girl, Rimsha, from mob violence by handing her to police but said the incident arose because Muslims had not stopped local Christians’ “anti-Islam activities” earlier.

Yesterday, it was reported that Chishti “has called for the law to be followed to its conclusion, even if that means the girl is executed”. However, his enthusiasm for having alleged blasphemers executed may perhaps now have cooled somewhat:

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti appeared in court on Sunday after witnesses claimed to have seen him adding pages of the Qur’an to a bag of ashes Rimsha Masih had been carrying away for disposal last month in order to strengthen the case against her.

…Tahir Naveed Chaudhry from the All Pakistan Minority Committee said it had always maintained that evidence was planted on her.

“And now it is proved that the whole story was only designed to dislocate the Christian people,” he said. “He must be prosecuted under the blasphemy law as it will set a precedent against anyone else who tries to misuse that law.”

Rao’s bloodlust, though, remains undiminished:

“Our case is totally separate from the case against Chishti,” he said. “The man who accused him of adding pages from the Qur’an also confirmed that Rimsha burned a book containing verses from the Qur’an.”

Years After Acid Attack Horror, Suicide Stirs Pakistan


Years After Acid Attack Horror, Suicide Stirs Pakistan

Declan Walsh in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_06 Apr. 10 11.55

Fakhra Younas went under the surgeon’s knife 38 times, hoping to repair the gruesome damage inflicted by a vengeful Pakistani man who had doused her face in acid a decade earlier, virtually melting her mouth, nose and ears.

The painful medical marathon took place in Rome, a distant city that offered Ms. Younas refuge, the generosity of strangers and a modicum of healing. She found an outlet in writing a memoir and making fearless public appearances.

But while Italian doctors worked on her facial scars, some wounds refused to close.

On March 17, after a decade of pining for Pakistan, a country she loved even though its justice system had failed her terribly, Ms. Younas climbed to the sixth-floor balcony of her apartment building in the southern suburbs of Rome and jumped. She was reported to be 33 years old.

More here.

Retarded Pro-Blaspemy Islamists Seek Facebook Censorship


LAHORE – The Lahore High Court Justice Sh Azmat Saeed on Monday ordered ministry of information and technology to block access to all websites in Pakistan especially American social networking website “Facebook”, spreading religious hatred on internet and to submit a compliance report by October 6. The judge, however, made it clear that no search engine including “Google” would be blocked.

The court issued this order while hearing a petition seeking a permanent ban on the access to American social networking website “Facebook” for hosting competition featuring blasphemous caricatures. Muhammad & Ahmad, a public interest litigation firm, through chairman Muhammad Azhar Siddique advocate filed this petition and prayed for a permanent ban on access to Facebook for hosting a fresh blasphemous caricature drawing contest world over under a title “2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day-May 20, 2011″.

The petitioner pointed out that Islamic values are being derogated in the name of information that is hurting feeling of billions of Muslims. He said despite order of the court, ministry of information technology did not block websites spreading religious hatred.

Petitioner requested that Facebook and all similar websites be permanently blocked or banned in Pakistan for airing, placing, visualizing obscene caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The petition aims at stopping unholy drawing contest as well as blocking access to the facebook site in order to save feelings of millions of Muslims from being hurt by the objectionable caricatures which the masters minds of the “2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day-May 20, 2011 are planning through the dirty contest. He pleaded that due to holding of fresh competition, SHO Civil Lines Police Station be directed to register a criminal case under Section 295-C and other relevant provisions of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) against the perpetrators.

Petitioner has sought directions for the federal government to stop display of material with respect to blasphemy of any religion or Holy Prophet on Facebook and all other such websites in Pakistan. He said the government be directed to establish a permanent authority, having legal status, who would monitor such objectionable activities across the world, so that blasphemy of Holy Prophet should be banned forever, including the holy personalities of all religions.

Source: – http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/09/facebook-to-be-blocked/

Of Madness and Muslim Martyrdom: The Ideal Age of Indoctrination


Qanta Ahmed, MD

Posted: January 3, 2011 11:30 AM

New Year’s Day, New York — This week’s news reports out of Egypt of a suicide bombing targeting Alexandria’s Coptic Christians in a New Years Eve mass are a sobering start to the New Year. At the present time seventeen are reported to have been killed and many more injured. The prevalence of suicide martyrdom operations has now become so commonplace that as a viewership we are badly inured to them. Its worth remembering that the ideology supporting these fanatical attacks may begin long before the bomber reaches adulthood.

Last spring I received a letter from a Saudi father in Jeddah. His twelve-year old daughter had returned home from school that day, casually mentioning that her Saudi teacher had endorsed suicide attacks as permissible in Islam. The matter had been discussed in the context of Palestine. He writes:

“… my daughter was confused another topic which totally contradicts what I say to her on how its nice to have friends from all over the world regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Her teacher, originally from Palestine, was talking to her class on how becoming martyrs on the road to freeing Palestine from infidels is the highest and most noble thing -Islamism is spoon fed to our kids. I used to think to be a good parent all one had to do was ensure one’s child gets a good education. Now I realize to be a good parent these days I have to protect my child from education!”

He added a link to a video, which had been circulating at the time. It was a highly produced, glossy arrangement featuring a handsome Arab male lead and a young singing companion. The melody was very catchy, and bore repeated viewing very well. The child’s angelic voice was sweet and pure, an excellent contrast to the Arab male’s heartening and sexy baritone. Dressed head to foot in black, with a dash of designer stubble, he was a no less than a Lebanese Ricky Martin.

I followed the song in translation. The verses were about dying for Palestine, wanting to become bride to the beloved Palestinian soil and looking forward to martyrdom. The pretty five-year-old child was enunciating every word perfectly, in a highly produced, moving hymn to martyrdom.

I sent the link on to a former colleague of mine from Riyadh, now a stay at home mom in Jeddah. Watching the video she realized this was the tune her five-year-old had been singing for weeks. She wrote to me at once to tell me why she recognized the song that her child had been singing.

‘She most probably heard it in school. I did nothing. You must realize Qanta that with 5yr old kids that is the best policy because they forget so easily (she has actually forgotten it as I write to you because this was a few months ago) and they cannot understand this anyway. Palestinian kids live this and it is a reality for them. And yet I don’t believe as you do that television programs can actually brain wash children unless the parents allow that to happen. I believe that parents are the ones that shape the beliefs of children at this age unless they forgo that responsibility’.

I asked the mother, how her daughter could have seen the video.

‘I never said she saw the video. She must have heard the song from one of the other kids at school because at the time when I asked her what she was singing (because it was all warbled) she couldn’t elaborate. They do watch some things at school but related to the educational material that is being discussed or cartoons if they stay beyond hours which fortunately my kids don’t’.

I asked how she handled this as a mom.

“We didn’t do anything Qanta. She is five years old. Children have very short memories at that age. She has probably forgotten….”

Developmental psychologists know that children do not forget. In fact, there may be no other more critical time (when children are forming tenacious attachment to imaginary figures, including God and God-like figures) than the tender ages of five and seven.

Political powers espousing radical contemporary Islam which foster martyrdom as a form of preemptive asymmetric warfare aim to influence children at exactly these ages. The broadcasts of Palestinian’s authorities on Hamas TV are an extraordinarily prescient example viewed from an developmental psychological attachment-maturation perspective.

Hamas TV’s Sesame Street-like broadcasts have become widespread, hosted by children of similar age broadcast to their peers advocating martyrdom to their child viewership. The shows have an enormous popular appeal and are widely accessible, adding materially to the belief that there is more value in uniting with the non-corporeal entity of God than seeking attachment to any other entity, and that willful death can be the only consummation of such attachment.

As is often said of the media, Hamas TV is not only the OTHER parent, in Gaza it is the ONLY parent. Data gathered by Palestinian Media Watch reveals Hamas TV broadcasts children’s programming which routinely dehumanizes Jews ( and by extension Palestinians), murdering Jews and eating them, albeit in puppet form. Organizations like Children’s Rights Institute are among the first to articulate the exposure of children to such ideology as a form of child abuse. These images and actions are likely therefore to be incorporated into very real and lasting constructs for the preschool Palestinian watching them, effectively enshrining dehumanization at the earliest stages of development. Repetition of content has the effect of both maintaining attention and sustaining retention over prolonged periods of time.

As helpless onlookers, we soothe ourselves by suggesting the martyr bomber is psychiatrically ill, unstable, acting from a position of psychotic break or merely ‘brainwashed’. We soothe ourselves without support for this in scientific data, yet we cling to this belief simply because it makes us feel sane, stable, psychologically well and, in contrast, human. Distancing ourselves from the perpetrators enables us to remain safely apart and firmly unshaken in our elite isolations while they are portrayed as increasingly inhuman.

When we think of martyr-suicides within a framework of ‘suicide is sick’ we avoid the more chilling construct of ‘suicide is wrong but rational”. By assigning a sick role to the concept of suicide we are spared considerations of its morality and accompanying dilemmas. When suicide is seen as sick it is spared a moral judgment — instead it is seen as essentially amoral. The act is condemned but the perpetrator is not judged, because he or she was ‘sick’. Suicide bombing becomes amoral, rather than immoral.

The event — which results in the death of so many — is in fact one of many calculated, considered and measured choices. This is evident in the bomber’s preparation before departure for voluntary missions, paying unsettled debts, being unusually tender to family members, preparing a final video-taped exhortation ( which acts as a social contract), donning the clothing, mounting the transportation (which often costs more than the materials which will shortly detonate) and finally choosing the agreed target, evading capture and detonating the explosive. This is a series of calm, considered and fully premeditated, rational acts. Suicide bombing by default is elective, not compelled — elective acts to choose one’s own death amidst those of so many others. Suicide bombing therefore is fundamentally immoral against the actions acceptable to wide swathes of humanity, irrespective of faith compass.

The recipients of the attacks — New Yorkers, Londoners, citizens of New Delhi or Bali, Israelis, Iraqis and American forces in Iraq and most recently and ferociously of all — Pakistanis — see the suicide bombing as morally reprehensible, repugnant and fundamentally immoral in a way that overshadows any other immoral event. However from the vantage of societies from which suicide bombers emanate: Palestine, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon (ironically often the very same places targeted for attack) the suicide bombers are seen simultaneously as morally exemplary by segments of society. Such exemplars are they, that they are canonized immediately after death, their funerals become processions, their names bestowed on streets, schools, and computer labs, football teams and entire communities are effectively institutionalized memorials to terror. Such subliminal and overt veneration builds an environment where the moral foundations of a community firmly rest on the decapitated shoulders of martyr-murderers.

While the martyr may have fervent supporters who vigorously sustain these acts, many in the audience attempt to sidestep engagement or comment, forming the silent, reluctant majority. Willing spectators, nonetheless, they seek to remain uninvolved, disengaged, and neutral. This is precisely the group most sought after by the martyrdom operatives because this majority remains available to mobilization. Potentially, their masses can be motivated to fall behind the cause and generate perpetuating vitalizing momentum. The silent majority, therefore, are the most critical component of the societal audience, an audience which today comprises of hundreds of millions if not more.

Conversion is in fact the ultimate goal of the martyr. He seeks to generate greater and greater subscribers to his politico-religious viewpoint through his highly televised, promotional death. When narratives fail to evoke sufficient pathos, or when audiences are saturated and inured to violence and mayhem, such aims fail, and do so categorically.

Explicit accounts, videotapes, cassettes, internet uploaded movie files all seek to ignite the collective guilt and repentance for being less worthy, less pure, less valiant than the martyr. Repeated recitation, canonization, rote ritualization, all are deployed to sear the martyrdom act into societal memory for maximal impact and manipulation. Modern day Islamist terrorists know this and apply it with an almost unparalleled mastery. They add scripture to support their evil rationale. The most often quoted verse from the Quran has become the foundational mantra for modern day contemporary Islamist terrorism.

‘And do not think those who have been killed in the way of Allah as dead; they are rather living with their Lord, well provided for. Rejoicing in what their Lord has given them of His bounty, and they rejoice for those who stayed behind and did not join them, knowing that they have nothing to fear and they shall not grieve’. Quran 3:169-70

This verse is perhaps the most direct proof that martyrs are separated from other Muslims, though martyrdom is hardly a central tenet of belief. Instead this verse is to comfort those bereaved during legitimate just warfare deemed (in the words of the Prophet (SAW) ‘the lesser Jihad’.

The jihadist literature has taken this verse and distorted its intent to the extreme degree, justifying preemptive acts of terror in the interests of political and ideological gain as a means of inferring martyrdom status on those who perpetrate terror through premeditated suicide attacks.

Ayatollah Khomeini changed modern Muslim attitudes to Islamic martyrdom by focusing on the epicenter of Shi’ism, the martyrdom of Al-Husain. Al Husain was portrayed by Khomeini was a willing martyr rather than a tragic figure doomed to die. In this revision of the ancient martryology, Khomeini catalyzed the evolution of quietist Shi’ism into radicalized, proactive advocates of political martyrdom. Khomeini articulated this equal-opportunity martyrdom crisply.

” the action of seeking out martyrdom is among the highest forms of martyrdom and sacrifice in the path of religion……..there is no difference between male and female ( in this) “

Other leading Shiite clerics augmented this new, aggressive view:

  
The color red signifying blood is a central theme. In Gaza, and other disputed territories, sites of suicide attacks are ritually refreshed with lamb’s blood to keep this association acute, and vivid, days after the remains have been cleared. Modern poets do that too, revealing the extent to which beliefs about the values of martyrdom have become internalized, globalized and accepted even at the echelons of power is captured in a poem written by the late Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UK ( 2002) Ghazi- Al- Qusaybi.

‘For the Martyrs (Li’l-shuhada’)’
God bears witness that you are martyrs; the prophets and friends (of God) bear witness.
You have died so as to glorify the word of my Lord, in the dwellings glorified by the Night Journey (of the Prophet Mohammed).

 

 

Have you committed suicide?? (No) we are the ones who have committed suicide in life, but our dead are alive.

 

O people, we have died, so prepare to listen how they eulogize us.

We were impotent until even impotence complained of us, we wept until weeping had scorn for us.

We prostrated until prostration was disgusted by us, we hoped until hope asked for assistance.

We licked the shoe of (Israeli Prime Minister) Sharon until the shoe cried: Watch out, you are tearing me!

We repaired to the illegitimate rulers of the White House whose heart is filled with darkness.

O people we have died but dust is ashamed to cover us

Tell Ayyat (Al Akhras): O bride of the highest heavens. (We) ransom all beauty for your pupils.

When champions are castrated, the choice (ones) of my people.

Beauty confronts the criminal, she kisses death and laughs in proclamation- when leaders flee from death.

Paradise opens its gates and is cheerful. Fatima the splendorous (daughter of Mohammed) meets you!

Tell those who have embellished those fatwas against suicide attacks): Grant a delay. Many fatwas have heaven in an uproar.

When jihad calls, the learned man is silent, the reed (pen), books and the jurisprudents.

When jihad calls, there is no asking for fatwas: the day of jihad is (a day of) blood

Ambassador Qusaybi further underlines the emasculation of collective manhood by singling out a female martyr in the figure of Ayyat Al Akhras who in her final exoneration videotaped before her suicide attack asked ” Where are the Arab Leaders?” and “I am going to fight instead of the sleeping Arab armies who are watching Palestinian girls fighting alone,”.

Reviewing the literature over past months around these areas has been deeply unsatisfying, posing more questions than revealing answers. In the process, I have discovered myself firmly on an insurmountable boundary as defined by modern Muslim martyrdom: on the side of the denouncers. This in itself is a source of deep personal discomfort since it separates me from much of the most vociferous kinship of the modern global Ummah endorsing unconditional support of the Palestinian Cause, overlooking the moral dilemmas this poses for a believing Muslim.

Separation of Muslim from Muslim within Islam is a highly charged, lonely, and negatively regarded position for a Muslim to take, but some of us must choose this place of exile if we are to go on being believing Muslims. And so, if exile is my only salvation, I must choose it.

This article first appeared in Dutch National Trouw on December 11th 2010, edited by Ms. Andrea Bosman, translated by Ms.Sarah Lawson. The article is an extract from my Templeton-Cambridge thesis submitted for the 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship in Journalism, Science and Religion.

  
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‘What does a martyr do? His function is not confined to resisting the enemy and in the process either giving him a blow or receiving a blow from him. Had that been the case, we could say that when his blood is shed it has been a waste. But at no time is a martyr’s blood wasted. It does not flow on the ground. Every drop of it is turned into hundreds of thousands of drops, nay into tons of blood and is transfused into the body of his society… Martyrdom means transfusion of blood into a particular human society, especially a society suffering from anemia, so to speak, of true faith. It is the martyr who infuses such fresh blood into the veins of such a society ‘.