Oct 142010

In the United States today there is a growing fear of Sharia Law encroaching on our liberties. The loudest voice in the media on this subject in the US is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. While the media reports his claims they have yet to look into the ties has with radical religious groups in America. By rallying the fear of foreign takeover he is effectively running a smokescreen for his fundamentalist Christian allies. While advocating for family values and against Sharia encroachment Gingrich works to advance an agenda every bit as radical as jihadi terrorism.

The start of these claims came with the increasing publicity surrounding the Park51 Muslim community center controversy. On July 28th Gingrich posted his condemnation of the project on his website. Part of his denunciation included his assertion that the project was part of a global effort to impose Islamic fundamentalism on the United States and the world. In his remarks he specifically noted, “Radical Islamists see politics and religion as inseparable in a way it is difficult for Americans to understand”. He continued to speak out against the Park51 center throughout the month of August. On September 12th Gingrich released a direct to DVD documentary called America at Risk, a film about the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to the United States. He then followed up with his call at the Values Voter Summit on September 18th for a federal law banning Sharia law in the United States. Newt Gingrich has continued to put himself out in front on the issue of anti-Sharia efforts in the US with the media reporting his efforts at face value.

The irony is that his crusade against religious fundamentalism in America starts and stops when the threat is any form of religious extremism that isn’t Christian. An excellent example of this selective approach can be found in the venue where he called for a ban on Sharia law. The sponsors for the Values Voters Summit include the Family Research Council’s political action group, the American Family Association’s action group, American Values, Liberty University, and the Heritage Foundation. The FRC and AFA are both groups that are fairly prominent in the Religious Right as major organizations that have long, established standing and reputations. Liberty University is an institution billed as the premier Christian university in America and was founded by the late Jerry Falwell to educate their students in a proper, Christian fashion. American Values was founded by Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council until 1999. With the exception of the Heritage Foundation, who attended only to provide issue education, each of these organizations stand for the flagship positions of the Religious Right. Each is highly active in organizing evangelical and fundamentalist Christian activists in and out of government. On the front page is a list of breakout sessions including highlights such as, “American Apocalypse–When Christians Do Nothing, Secularists Do Everything–The Case for Christian Activism”, “How to Reach the Online Generation (Without Losing Your Soul)”, and, “Establishing a Culture Impact Team In Your Church”. Among other things all of these groups are very vocal in their claim that separation of church and state is unconstitutional.

Gingrich is no stranger to Christian conservatives. He worked with social conservative groups extensively under the slogan of Family Values while he was Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. Since then he has remained an active professional speaker and author. One of the more prominent gigs was the 2007 commencement address at Liberty University. During his speech he praised the founder Jerry Falwell and called for the graduates to challenge, “radical secularism.” The themes he covered in his speech were the same that he argued for in his 2006 book Rediscovering God in America. In his book Gingrich argues that advancing secularism is working to drive God out of public life in America. At the Rediscovery of God in America Conference in June of 2009 Gingrich asserted that America is “surrounded by paganism”. His next big splash in September of 2009 was the documentary Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage. Here Gingrich again claims that Christianity and God are under attack in America.

These claims, along with his recent call for a Federal gay marriage amendment, are all consistent with the rhetoric and positions of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. They have consistently campaigned for gay marriage bans in all fifty states and have proven successful in twenty-five. Evangelical efforts are not confined to just banning gay marriage. Candidates with their support in school boards across the country have fought for teaching a more Christian curriculum. Their most recent, and largest, success was in Texas. In May of this year the conservative faction on the school board succeeded in pushing for sweeping changes to the history curriculum. Some of these changes included the downplaying of the importance of Newtonian physics and Darwinian evolution, the whitewashing of the work of Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for religious liberty, and push the “fact” that America was founded as a Christian nation. In August the school board released a decree banning all textbooks that had pro-Muslim or anti-Christian content. Supporters of this measure claim it was necessary to protect Christianity.

Gingrich’s claims of a Sharia takeover of the United States are rather ironic considering his own affiliations. If Gingrich and his allies in the Religious Right had their way Christianity, as it is according to them, would be the only religion allowed in the United States. They are not shy about their intentions; at their sites, conferences, and on the campaign trail they openly announce it to the world. Gingrich’s campaign against Sharia law serves their purposes ideally. By rallying the public against Sharia law Gingrich provides a perfect cover while Christian fundamentalists quietly make their vision for America reality.

Also published at http://ryansdesk.blogspot.com/2010/10/sharia-smokescreen.html

  98 Responses to “The Sharia Smokescreen”

  1. Ryan conveniently ignores the real evidence of the threat of Sharia.

    (1) First of all, it’s not just right-wing blowhards like Gingrich who have sounded the alarm about Sharia. In an interview in September of 2009, Femke Halsema, the leader of the Dutch “Left Green” Party (“GroenLinks”), declared “I will always vehemently oppose any alleged introduction of Sharia.” And progressive atheist/secularist activists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have also focused on the issue of Sharia. See for example Harris’ essay “The Myth of a Moderate Malaysia”, which looks at how Sharia Law functions in that country.

    (2) Second of all, prominent western Muslims are quite interested in promoting Sharia law in the West. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (the public relations genius behind the Ground Zero Mosque) launched the international Sharia Project at a meeting he convened in August of 2006 in Malaysia (which is his other main base of operations outside the US). A recent Pew study found that groups dedicated to Sharia law (especially the Muslim Brotherhood) are extremely influential among Muslims throughout Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood also has very close ties to the Islamic Society of North America.

    (3) Third of all, Sharia law is already well established in other western countries where Muslims make up only a small minority. In the UK, where the Muslim population is below 5%, the number of Sharia courts is increasing dramatically (they tripled in number in 2009), and the scope of the cases they handle is broadening.

    (4) Lastly, Ryan seems to think that we must choose between opposing Sharia and opposing Christian fundamentalism. Why on earth can’t we oppose BOTH? In a 2006 speech, Femke Halsema (see point 1 above) called the Catholic Church, Islamic Fundamentalists, and the American Christian Right a “religious axis of evil”.

    Opposing Sharia law should be a no brainer for Pagans. Just because a right-wing git like Gingrich opposes it, too, doesn’t mean we should have a knee-jerk response to take a different position. Many right-wingers opposed the invasion of Iraq, and many opposed the Patriot Act — while many liberal Democrats fell over each other rushing to support both.

    Don’t let Gingrich do you thinking for you.

    • “Why on earth can’t we oppose BOTH?”

      I agree.

      Also, I have an observation: I may be wrong, but it seems to me that a lot of the argument that Sharia is a red herring, and that we should really be paying sole attention to Christian fundamentalists, comes from people who are focusing primarily on American politics. In terms of purely American politics, I might agree that the Religious Right is the biggest and most obvious threat. However, I think that a focus on religion and politics around the world, perhaps specifically in Europe and India, it seems clear that Islamic fundamentalism is a clear threat, also.

      So, I wonder if the disagreements as to which is the bigger threat might not stem from a difference in where people’s attentions are being focused.

      While I do want to combat Christian fundamentalism here, I do also identify quite strongly with my family’s and religion’s European roots, and would like to make sure that, say, Germanic heathenism is flourishing in its historical homeland a century from now. The spread of fundamentalist Islam in Europe is a threat to that, I feel.

      • At this point the greater threat is already inside the house and has the keys. Beating the fundies who have slipped in the house will lay the foundation for keeping other fundies out. Focusing on the lesser and weaker of the two groups while the stronger uses it as a distraction will only hurt us.

        • But Ryan, in this case, isn’t it like having a wild man waving a gun, charging into your home, and slamming the door shut, screaming that flesh eating zombies are right behind him and to not let them in? Leaving you with the decision to either listen to the other voices from all over claiming that zombies are attacking and let this guy help watch your door, or shooting him because you don’t like the fact that he’s wild and the zombies can’t be a real threat because “Zombies aren’t real?”

          I Say we fight both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists! We don’t need their Monotheism or their God, but both groups are more than eager to thrust it down our throats. Don’t go hating the local crazy when there are even crazier guys coming your way and he wants to stop them.

          • Except your analogy isn’t apt. There have been a grand total of ZERO successes in actually getting Sharia Law into US law. The same can’t be said for the Religious Right.

            I’d rather spend my time on those who are the greater threat. If we beat the Religious Right then Muslim fundies are going to be much easier to take care of. We don’t exactly have the resources or luxury to go after both, especially since the ones who are going after the latter are steering the narrative in the direction of us being a Christian Nation.

            • Zero success as of this moment. But time is ever flowing, and Muslims want their religion to be on top, just as the Christians do. I consider them both a threat, but many Pagans are ex-christians, which shows we can take back people from the Christ god. However, those who wish to leave the Muslim faith are often killed for their troubles. Which is the greater threat?

              • The one who can pass laws, issue legal rulings, and is being actively courted as a voting bloc by both the major political parties.

                Islamic fundamentalism currently meets none of those criteria in the United States. Their ability to actually impose their objectives on America, except by threats of violence, is nearly nonexistent. The Religious Right, on the other hand, has had far more successes and is still a major political force. They also have no problem making the threat of a Sharia takeover out to be much bigger than it is to rally people to their line of thinking.

    • 1.) I am only focusing on what is happening when it comes to American politics because that is what most directly impacts my life and my Folk. What happens across the pond, while important, doesn’t impact my life the same way that the Texas School Board’s actions do.

      2.) There has been a grand total of ONE success for Sharia law in the US. A judge in New Jersey ruled that a Muslim husband had the right to rape his wife under Sharia law. That ruling was promptly overturned on appeal as detailed here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/08/05/advocates-anti-shariah-measures-alarmed-judges-ruling/ The odds of Sharia Law actually successfully being implemented in the US are somewhere between slim and none. The odds of Biblical law, on the other hand, are much higher considering the Religions Right’s political power and influence. I’d rather spend my time fighting what is likely instead of what is implausible.

      3.) You are ignoring the larger picture. The more noise that is made about the minuscule threat that Sharia poses to the United States the less attention there is on the fundies who are MUCH closer to accomplishing their objectives. You also ignore that any measures they are pushing to curtail Sharia law are likely to be written and implemented in a fashion that also serves their interests. If you open the door for the government to meddle in one minority religion you are setting the precedent for the same to be done to ANY minority religion in this country.

      4.) Why do you have an issue with a Muslim cleric condemning Muslim fundies, Christian fundies, and the Catholic Church exactly? I’m in full agreement with him that Islamic Fundamentalists are part of a religious axis of evil, they encourage terrorism, suicide bombings, and attacks on innocent people. The American Christian Right is its own ugly beast which I’ve covered in this essay and the Catholic Church right now is still running interference for pedophile priests. What exactly is wrong with the statement that you cited?

      I agree that opposing Sharia law is a no-brainer for Pagans and Heathens. But in advancing opposition to it be mindful that you don’t take actions that backfire on us. Personally I’d rather put my efforts and energy into fighting the group I know has power, influence, and the ability to make their Fundamentalist agenda happen. If we beat the one that is the real threat than any attempts by supporters of Sharia law will be blunted by the same actions. If we take action, instead, against the less-likely of the two threats and in the process help the Religious Right get what they want then we will have wounded ourselves in the process.

      Look at the big picture and consider who is leading the charge on this issue. They, not us, are the ones who have the power. It would not surprise me if they were to use this opportunity to advance their agenda under the cover of fighting Muslim fundamentalism. In fact, based on the Religious Right’s track record, I would bet money that they would do exactly that.

      • Actually Ryan, in this day and age of globalization, and the fact that treaties the US makes with foreign powers overrides both all US law, what happens out in the larger world not only directly effects you, it can effect you more powerfully than many local laws and happenings.

        • Then provide proof of some kind of treaty that would somehow bind the US into putting Sharia law in place and imposing a Muslim theocracy.

          • So far, I don’t know of one. I’m talking about treaties in general and you wanting to ignore the larger world in favor of an enemy you know over one you don’t.

            • I know there are a lot of larger treaties, like trade treaties, the Geneva Conventions, the treaties involving the UN, and several others that are very applicable. In cases of economics and other issues like that they are very influential and have a great deal of impact on American life. I make a point of paying attention to them on issues like trade and economic issues.

              In this case it doesn’t have the same impact yet. Now if OPEC starts threatening to close off the spigot if we don’t pass a blasphemy law then I’d be standing up and paying attention. I know that Europe is facing some serious tensions with Muslims right now but the entire story can’t be summed up just with Sharia law and Muslim fundamentalism alone. The issue is much more complex and has a lot to do with the increasingly desperate economic situations in Muslim countries which is leading to increased immigration to Europe.

              Unlike the US Europe doesn’t have a culture founded on immigration and a good part of the tension is coming from Europe adjusting very poorly to the flood of immigrants. France in particular is a hotbed of this because the bulk of their immigrants are coming from Algeria and other parts of French North Africa. In France in particular the bad blood between the Algerians and the French (France’s colonial history is pretty ugly to say the least) has added fuel to that particular fire. Factor in a global economic downturn and uncertainty in the Eurozone and you have a perfect breeding ground for some serious social tension. Yes, Muslim fundamentalism is an element of it, but it is not the sole cause. It is an aggravating factor in an already ugly situation.

      • “The more noise that is made about the minuscule threat that Sharia poses to the United States the less attention there is on the fundies who are MUCH closer to accomplishing their objectives.”

        People seriously disagree about how “miniscule” the threat is at this point. If we look to Western Europe there is no reason to be at all dismissive about the size of the threat.

        But even if the threat is small right now, then now is the best time to make sure the threat does not grow larger. If we wait until Sharia courts are multiplying every year it will be much more difficult.

        And the fact is that Christian Dominionists are not at all close to “achieving their objectives”. Especially in terms of (1) gay rights, (2) women’s rights and (3) separation of powers, Christian Dominionists have very little to show for all their efforts.

        • Then provide a link to a legally recognized, operating Sharia court whose rulings are upheld as law in the United States. If Sharia law and courts are ACTUALLY advancing in America then you should be able to prove it. A source for that claim would be excellent. I’ve provided plenty of sources in my article of the claims, efforts, and positions as well as successes.

          As far as the Christian Dominionists you are ignoring the scale and degree of influence they posses in our government. The only reason they haven’t gotten their full agenda yet is because they don’t have enough people to force a Constitutional amendment or Constitutional convention in office. Currently they are still one of the dominant factions in the GOP, just look at the incredibly conservative stances many of the current slate of GOP candidates are taking on social issues in this election. They are also being actively courted by the Democrats though so far with little success.

          To dismiss their influence simply because they haven’t gotten all they want yet is akin to shoving your head in the sand. They don’t JUST work on the national level. These guys made an active effort to take over the GOP from the inside by getting people elected to local governments and school boards then going up from there. They know that controlling the government bodies who control the schools is a very powerful position to hold and they demonstrated this in Texas just this year. If you can write the history books and control what is considered truth then everything else is just a matter of time. Currently their pet issues like abolishing separation of church and state, something that hasn’t been a controversial issue since the time of the Founding Fathers, are major issues in the national political dialogue. These guys aren’t working to win the quick game; they’ve been pushing to get to their current position since the 1970s.

          • “Then provide a link to a legally recognized, operating Sharia court whose rulings are upheld as law in the United States.”

            Ryan, you are seriously confused.

            There are no Christian courts or any other similar institutions, and yet you recognize the threat posed by those who wish to see Christianity officially established as the state religion, right?

            And yet you say that we should not oppose Sharia until Sharia courts are already up and running?

        • “And the fact is that Christian Dominionists are not at all close to “achieving their objectives”. Especially in terms of (1) gay rights”

          That statement is nothing short of laughable. Let’s see, over 40 states have banned same-sex marriage, 6 states have banned gay adoption, gay Americans are not allowed to serve in the military and be open about their sexuality, the list goes on and on. But you just keep telling yourself that the ‘Christian Dominionists’ haven’t achieved any of their objectives in regards to gay rights.

  2. Here are links to things referred to in my previous post (I’m posting them separately because anything with more than one link apparently gets automatically put into moderation).

    On Femke Halsema see my blog post and links therein:

    Sam Harris’ “The Myth of a Moderate Malaysia”:

    The “Sharia Project” & the Cordoba Intitiative:

    Pew report on Islamic groups in Europe:

    On the Muslim Brotherhood in the US:

    On the spread of Sharia courts in the UK:

    • How about a link talking about those Sharia courts having force of law in the UK. Reading that article I don’t see much difference in legal weight between the Sharia courts it references and outside mediation and arbitration in the US.

  3. I’m not sure why we can’t oppose fundamentalism of any stripe or shade. Political, religious, philosophical…any time we refuse to allow room for others to exist freely I think we do a great injustice to sentience.

    Regressive ideas must be respectfully opposed by all intelligent beings. Attaching a specific animus to one particular grouping of them is an ignorance all its own. Wherever there is harm or potential harm we must correct the imbalance. It seems simple to me.

    • Except one specific grouping is in a much stronger position to make what they want happen. Making Islamic Fundamentalism at home the big threat in the media draws attention away from the Christian fundies who have always preferred to work through obfuscation and secrecy and actually have made parts of their agenda happen. If people are afraid of Muslim fundies taking over they won’t be looking for the Christian fundies to do the same.

      People can be easily swayed during a climate of fear. This has been seen multiple times in US history, a great example being McCarthyism in the 50s, the Red Scare in the 20s, or the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic in the 80s. If people are afraid of something coming to get them they will be much more open to radical measures to quell the perceived threat without asking too hard about what they actually do. The same thing can easily happen with this mess and we need to be aware and pushing back.

      • I can certainly see your point and I didn’t mean to come across as in disagreement with you! The cynical actions of the Religious Right only do further harm to interfaith diaglogue.

        And while I do see the misdirection of our Western fundamentalist groups as an issue, I think it’s only a symptom of the larger, human problem of general ignorance. Education and ethical steadfastness are the only answers. When a person claims to be a Christian and pickets at a burial ceremony we should respond as a culture in respectful opposition. When a person claiming to be a Muslim speaks about killing someone for sharing her or his humorous comic, I feel our cultural response should be the same.

        Freedom and equal treatment for every being is the ultimate goal, to me. I try to be thoughtful and respectful when talking with other sentient beings. We have emotions and egos, I feel that follows.

        Ideas are invincible, though, and should be discussed and dissected constantly by anyone with interest. We should talk about the application of different religious law without getting pent up in personal investment. Not sure if that all makes sense and I do agree with your point! I just think there is a larger issue of fundamentalism (Pagan fundamentalism included, of course) that every human needs to be concerned with.

  4. I can respond based on what I see and hear locally, from some of my relatives who are Gingrich supporters and other Fundies who “camp” with them.

    The rhetoric they’re touting goes something like this (heavily nutshelled):

    1. Islam is dangerous because it is a false religion, and adherents of false religions are tools of Satan.
    2. Tools of Satan have no morals or conscience and are capable of any crime or violent action.
    3. The way to preserve the safety and strength of America is to do away with false religions like Islam.

    Fundamentalist extremism needs to kept on a leash regardless of it’s breed. That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that two main MO’s for NAMs and their fellows are building up the Monster Factor and herding crowds. It’s easier to get people to agree to things they’d normally oppose when they’re busy being afraid. Smokescreen is a valid term. How much bilge got passed during the Bush administration while people were looking for WMDs behind every rock?

  5. I also don’t see why violent or oppressive fundamentalism of any kind should not be opposed. (But I do agree that some of the people bitching about Islam are a bit of the pot calling the kettle black)

    For those who feel people unfairly or disproportionately focus more on Islam, perhaps the reason is that people can freely oppose intrusive or violent Christianity but don’t feel that our society is willing or able to do the same with intrusive and violent Islam.

    The above article talks about how newspapers across the USA refused to run a cartoon Titled “Where’s Muhammud” – a take off of the “Where’s Waldo” picture books. The joke in the cartoon is that Muhammud isn’t in the cartoon at all. It is a pointed reference to the fear of violence and angst by those targeted by that violence that occur when there is even a possibility that someone may depict Muhammud.

    Here’s a an interview with Penn Jillette – a man known for his series “Bullshit” and also NOT known for pulling any punches or dancing around a topic.


    Let’s talk about your TV show Bullshit! Will you ever run out of theories to debunk and people to expose? If you build a kingdom on bullshit, you’re not in danger of running out of it. Our producer says that Teller and I can take any subject in the news and do a credible show on it. Sure, we like to have a villain, something to call “bullshit” on, but if we don’t, we can depart from that model.

    Are there any groups you won’t go after? We haven’t tackled Scientology because Showtime doesn’t want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists—I’m not sure. And we haven’t tackled Islam because we have families.

    Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back … Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific. [...]

    You do go after Christians, though … Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good fucking Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.

    • I never said anywhere in there that Sharia law and Muslim fundamentalism should not be opposed. Simply that the people leading the charge against it now are more interested in their fundamentalism having no competition instead of beating back fundamentalism itself.

      If we take actions that help create and perpetuate a fear of Muslim takeover then we provide the perfect distraction to allow Christian fundies to do their work under the guise of, “protecting America.” All fundamentalism must be opposed, but the greatest focus should go to the greatest threat. Muslim fundies, while willing to threaten individuals and organizations, haven’t succeeded in getting any of their agenda made into law in the United States. The Religious Right, on the other hand, has succeeded in making their agenda a big part of the modern political discourse and passed substantial chunks of it on state and federal levels.

      • Well…I think you need to qualify that. Some of the people leading the charge are “more interested in their fundamentalism having no competition instead of beating back fundamentalism itself.” However – many of the people who have been leading the charge for a very long time are former and current Muslims (especially women) who have moved to the West to escape the oppression and violence of fundamentalist Islam. Some are ardent civil rights activists and the like.

        I do have a question – could you fill in a bit more about “The Religious Right, on the other hand, has succeeded in making their agenda a big part of the modern political discourse and passed substantial chunks of it on state and federal levels.” And do you think they are more or less able to press religious views into law than they have in the past? In other words…do you believe that the threat of oppression and violence from Christians is increasing or decreasing?

        • My issue is with the Christian fundies who are taking control of the issue. It is one thing to combat against the civil rights violations and horrific crimes of fundamentalist Islam. It is another to, as Gingrich and others on his side of the line are doing, paint all Muslims with the same brush. The former is a constant fight against a particular problem, the latter is Red Scare v3.0 and uses similar tactics to the first Red Scare, Joe McCarthy, and the Cold War at its worst. The narrative is almost cut and paste identical with the ones that were prominent during the Cold War, like Gingrich as the most prominent example, using the fear of a secret enemy undermining and overthrowing us from within. Those pushing the latter aren’t interested so much in fighting the crimes of Islam as exploiting them for their own ends.

          I think they actually have more power now because of a combination of time and socio-economic conditions. The Religious Right got their ball rolling back in the 1970s and have been working very steadily since then on all fronts. While in the long run assuming all current demographic trends continue they are going to lose that is assuming those trends continue. The Texas School Board example I cited in the article is a very bold move, up until now religious conservatives in this country have only managed to pull off more modest gains on a local level. During the Reagan and both Bush administrations they used their connections to get a lot of judges into the federal judiciary who are sympathetic to their cause; of the members of the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court four of them were boosted by social conservatives. All of those justices are also (by Supreme Court standards) fairly young. If you control who interprets the law and who approves the textbooks then you effectively control the country.

          These guys don’t go for quick coups. Every single one of their major gains over the course of the last two decades has been the result of constant pressure, activism, and effort. All of the anti-gay marriage amendments, for example, were the result of a persistent campaign against gay rights that goes back to 1976 at the latest. The home-schooling movement and places like the camp shown in Jesus Camp (if you haven’t seen that movie watch it!) started up in the 80s and 90s and now have an entire generation of children who are coming of age that have been effectively indoctrinated into this ideology

          The current socio-economic climate does not help. People are often more willing to embrace radical ideas and solutions when they are desperate, right now there is no shortage of desperate people looking for any answer that sounds right. I’m not saying we’re going to be seeing jackbooted thugs walking down the street tomorrow but we have a combination of forces that are converging in a fashion that makes for a nasty outcome.

          Paradoxically enough I don’t foresee violence, at least not yet. There have always been violent radicals in their movement but the movement itself has shown a consistent preference for working through the system. The only events that would likely lead to violence by Christian radicals would either be if they get all of what they want or if they become marginalized and forced out of power. In the former case they would have all they would need to get away with it, in the latter defeat tends to breed desperation. The greater the defeat the greater the desperation.

      • I suppose what you’re saying, in short, is that Fundamentalist Islam poses a threat of violence and war (for varying reasons) while Fundamentalist Christianity poses a threat that’s already in the works politically. The latter is the theocracy with a head start and social acceptance (If you’re Christian/worship God, you must be good, and arguing with the person is arguing with God and goodness).

        • Exactly. External threats are easier to deal with than internal ones. Isolating an external threat is easily done, isolating internal ones is much more tricky especially when the internal problem has reached the scale these guys have.

    • These are really good examples that you give, Cara. I hadn’t even heard of the “Where’s Muhammad?” cartoon! Wow, what an indictment of Islam it is for major newspapers to be so afraid of running a cartoon that does not even have Muhammad in it!!!

  6. Here are five specific reasons to oppose Sharia:

    (1) Sharia violates the basic democratic principle of equality before the law. There must be one law for everyone. Period. Sharia constitutes a parallel legal system that not only has its own laws, but has its own courts, its own police, and not only its own prisons, but also its own system of corporal and capital punishment as well.

    (2) Under Sharia there is no religious freedom. One of the most serious violations of Sharia law is “apostasy”, the act of leaving Islam. Under Sharia law if you are born a Muslim you must remain a Muslim, and if you don’t then you have committed one of the worst possible criminal acts against Allah. The usual punishment is death, although “moderate” Muslims opt for prison sentences.

    In Malaysia (Imam Feisal’s home away from home and considered a “moderate” Muslim “democracy”), if a person born Muslim tries to leave the Islamic religion, they are subject to arrest by the civil authorities who then turn the person over to the Sharia courts for trial and punishment.

    (3) Sharia law is patriarchal. Sharia treats women as the property of men. Sharia law in western countries openly functions as a tool for the domination and control of Muslim women who, in theory, should enjoy the freedoms and rights associated with the ideas of liberal democracy.

    (4) Sharia law is homophobic. Sharia treats homosexuality as a serious crime with punishments up to and including the death penalty.

    (5) Sharia law is by definition theocratic.

    • Did I ever say anything about not opposing Sharia law in the article? I’m not putting words in your mouth, please don’t put any in mine.

      • Ryan: “Did I ever say anything about not opposing Sharia law in the article? I’m not putting words in your mouth, please don’t put any in mine.”

        Ryan, please provide a direct quote from me where I misrepresent anything that you have said.

        • Nice try.

          By posting up a list of, “Here are reasons why Sharia must be opposed” by implication you are arguing I made the opposite point.

          I never did. Unless you have a point your list is irrelevant to the discussion and the article.

          • What I am saying is very simple, and I have made myself very clear. But I’ll say it yet again.

            (1) I have said that you ignore the real evidence about Sharia as a threat to basic rights and freedoms in the west, Ryan. To support this I have presented multiple sources of such evidence.

            (2) I have said that you ignore the fact that there are prominent progressive voices that have come out in opposition to Sharia, Ryan. To support this, I have cited prominent progressives who have spoken out against Sharia.

            (3) In your original post you nowhere indicate that you are even personally opposed to Sharia law. All the evidence needed for this is your original post which is right there for everyone to see.

            • 1) You have yet to provide real evidence that Sharia is actually advancing in the US. I have asked you multiple times for sources to prove this. So far all you have is fundamentalist rhetoric.

              2) I never said that Gingrich was the only voice or the Religious Right was the only voice. Simply that Gingrich and those of his ilk are using this issue to their own ends.

              3) Now you are shoving words in my mouth. I have said more than once in discussion the exact opposite. I’d like to see you actually prove, using my article, that I ever said anything to that effect.

              Let’s see your evidence Apuleius. I have provided you with multiple opportunities to prove your point and back yourself up. I have yet to see you do that.

              • Ryan, In your original post you did not once state anywhere that you are opposed to Sharia law. Did you forget to mention it?

                • So by your logic because I don’t specifically say I’m opposed to Sharia law I must be in favor of it?

                  Your entire line of reasoning is illogical and founded on fallacies not to mention supported by zero evidence whatsoever.

                  • I have not claimed that you are in favor of Sharia law Ryan. I have merely pointed out, repeatedly, that you failed to ever bother mentioning in your original post that you are opposed to it. I consider this to have been a very telling oversight on your part.

  7. I forget who was it who first suggested that God didn’t need defending. It really made an impression on my thinking.

    And, of course, being raised with the idea that something wrong is always wrong, it strikes me as funny just how often the only difference between right and wrong is who’s doing it. Oh, world, is right and wrong, and good and evil, merely a question of alignment? If it is, why give a shit at all what people do, so long as their alignment is right?

    Well, then you wouldn’t have any political might, would you? For religions that wish to transcend the profane world so much, they tend to be very mundane in their obsessions, don’t they?

  8. Ryan is now claiming that I am putting words in his mouth. Oh well. For the record, my two criticisms of what Ryan has said are:
    (1) he is ignoring the real evidence of the threat posed by Sharia.
    (2) he is making it seem as if the only opposition to Sharia comes from the Christian right.

    To this I would add that he says NOTHING in his original post that indicates that he himself is, in fact, opposed to Sharia law.

    • I’ve asked you to provide evidence to back you up.

      You have yet to provide.

      Where is your proof Apuleius?

      • The problem, Ryan, as I already pointed out, is that you are asking me to provide “proof” for something that I have not said.

        • Actually I’m asking for proof on things you have said.

          You are claiming Sharia law is advancing.

          The ONLY proof you have offered are the Sharia courts in the UK which function like outside arbitration boards under laws that have been in place long before those courts were set up.

          I want proof it is spreading, like you claim, in the US.

          Let’s see your proof.

          • Here is how it works, Ryan:

            (1) QUOTE something that I have said.

            (2) Then challenge it — that is, provide some argument, in your own words, against what I have said (not against what you imagine I might have implied).

            Otherwise I have nothing to say to you.

            • If you can’t back up your claims then why are you bothering? You have said, MULTIPLE TIMES, in this discussion alone that Sharia law is advancing.

              I’ve asked you, multiple times, to prove it is doing that in the US.

              You have yet to do it.

              If all you’re here for is to troll then please go waste your time somewhere else.

  9. A week ago a called home for a chat with my father because I’m going through a divorce. His method of distracting me from all of that was to talk politics for two hours. Why is this relevant to the topic? He is a Teabagger (and he hates being called that); I am a Witch (and I hate being called an Atheist). Sharia law came up. I said, “Dad, Don’t you think it is fear mongering to make the claim we are being attacked by Muslims? I mean, our soil is safe and sound.” My Dad says, “It is a war of ideology.” I say, “So how do you think I feel that you have to be Christian to get elected president? Why does a candidate need that proof to run?” He says, “Our country was founded on Christianity…church and state should not be seperate…” Blah blah. A long discussion of the faulty logic in all of that followed (including talk of Masons, Indians, Quakers, etc.) So then I say, “Beck, Gingrich, and Pallen want to see ‘god’ back at the head of our country. It is not everyone’s god. Maybe in four hundred years, my people will be persecuted if they are not protected by our countries laws and constitution as they stand now, as the forefathers intended for people to be protected from a Theocracy.” He says, “I’m sorry Melanie, but your people probably will be taken out into the streets and killed, but it won’t be Christians. It will be Muslims.”
    There is much more to this discussion, which I have had with my dad many times. I went on to say that ‘god’ is how Beck keeps viewers, and how Gingrich and Pallen approach getting elected. That is how I imagine the clerics acted back in the dark ages. They are saying, we are people of god, I can be the voice of god, believe in me, and pay homage to me (oh the money I am going to make). And hey, the concept of a war, even ideological, will spark anyones attention (and bring more Teabaggers to the polls).
    I don’t think we are threatened in any way by Sharia Law in our country right now, but what I do think threatens us is the push for a god, right now it is Jesus, to be at the Head of America. What I want to say is that Sharia Law can be defeated and kept from our system by protecting the state from any and ALL churches, including Christianity. In a school house, children should be protected with a curriculum that will benefit their futures, but not sway them in any direction spiritually. A curriculum that honors them, in their many paths, no matter what their paths. That is true public education. That is possible. There should be (someone should try organizing this in the future, I would so show up), a march on Washington for keeping public education godless. I am not an Atheist! If we all protect our system, and our seperate faiths, then the system is sound. No worries over Sharia Law or Christian ‘law.’
    Tea Party members and their leaders would want my daughter, not a Christian, in a classroom with a Christian foundation in learning. I will bleeping die first! But in our American history, it has happened that races and peoples were forced to learn Christianity. This should be prevented.
    My metaphor for looking at and healing all of this is the ocean. We are all the fish in the sea. The country is our ocean, our water, our oxygen provider. We all live there; we all breath from it. Lets keep the ocean fit for all of us to live in. Lets keep those currents flowing for the benefit of all. I think one of our currents is the Constitution with a sound and valid seperation of church and state. Gingrich and those like him are trying to mess with that current. We shouldn’t let them.
    Blessed Be,

    • Tea Party members and their leaders would want my daughter, not a Christian, in a classroom with a Christian foundation in learning.

      Really? I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do. Thank you for informing me of this.

      • There might be one of you out there that doesn’t want this. I’m sorry, I made a generalization. Maybe I should emphasize that this is what I have seen from the (not Tea Baggers) Tea Party and certain news channels, and I have a family of Tea Party people who want this. From their own mouths, they want prayer in school, take out Darwin from school and insert Adam and Eve, and they are doing what their savior wants them to do. Just take a quick tour of you-tube keywords Tea Party march. The leaders make phrases like ‘I need to call a meeting with the Pastors’ and ‘lets put god back at the head of our country.’ They are not talking about my Gods…so what am I supposed to think? That is gathering a ‘people.’ There is talk about Progressives changing education for their benefit, and that totally is on my radar too, but what about Conservatives changing education? That has happened and is happening.
        Now, or course, some of you are in the Tea Party based on finance or Fiscal Conservatism and might be against health care or whatever, but what is coming from the mass of you together is Christian bs. A lot of what Beck said in his ‘Common Sense’ made sense, especially things like acting with Tolerance to every man, but in action, the Tea Party acts with Intolerance.
        Too much of the Christian god in marches on Washington.
        And please correct me when I’m wrong, I might learn something. :-)

        • Melanie, there are multiple examples of people in the Tea Party movement who are not Christian at all, let alone fundamentalists who wish to impose Christianity as a state religion.

          There is at least one openly Heathen Tea Party supporter who is an elected official: Dan Halloran. At least two of the regular contributors to this discussion forum are Pagans who are very sympathetic to the Tea Party!

          • I know there are those who are not in it based on religion or Fundamentalism, but it looks like a very religious majority. The logic of it doesn’t bother me. This is a free thinking nation and we have rights to gather. The Christian values and how they are influencial in America bothers me, especially when there is fear being introduced in regards to other peoples, and the ban on gay marriage just urks me.
            I get a lot of the religious side from family and friends. I hear a lot from them about fear of Sharia and Muslims in general. But most of it is not based in logic or in what is really going on in our country.
            Just like there are really good Christian people, there are really good Muslim people. Maybe what they do with their religion in America because it is a country of education and freedom will be something entirely different, with women having full access to Mosques at some point, etc. Maybe they do away with Sharia Law down the line. I can’t wait to see what their Muslimah will do here. I don’t think it will be the repression a lot of people are thinking of, and armies destroying us…really? We have a military.
            But how influencial are Christians ideologically and otherwise in our country as oppossed to Muslims? That is what I have been trying to say. They have marches on Washington…I think they might be more influencial. I can’t imagine what would happen if American Muslims marched on Washington for any reason. There would be five of them, and they would be mistaken for terrorists.
            I think there is almost nil Muslim presence in our country.
            Thank you for the info about Dan Halloran, will be checking that out.

          • Please don’t bring up Dan Halloran. More than a few of us Heathens don’t consider him one of us after he threw Heathenry under the bus and portrayed himself as a monotheist just to get elected.

            • “Don’t now try to get yourself elected. If you do you had better cut your hair.”

              • I think I understand what you’re getting at Apuleius, concerning the necessity of hiding one’s true beliefs if one goes into politics. I’ve known Dan since he became Theodish back in the mid-’90s, though, and his tendencies towards monotheism were apparent, and disturbing, even then. So, I understand where AcidQueen is coming from.

                • Question: Do you not have monotheistic Heathens? Is that not allowed? We have monotheistic Hellenists and have no problem with it.

                  • “Do you not have monotheistic Heathens?”

                    Not as such, no. There are heathens who focus more on one god than others, certainly. Dan has struck me as a henotheist (a categorization that, if I recall, he has accepted); that is, that he seems to worship one god to the exclusion of others, while acknowledging the existence of those others. I know of no one else in heathenry, let alone the comparatively smaller world of Theodism, who is that exclusive in their worship.

                    “Is that not allowed?”

                    That’s a slightly more difficult question to answer. Please understand: a great deal of the focus of Theodism is to discover the religious beliefs and practices of pre-Christian Germanic peoples as much as it is possible to know them, and then to adopt those beliefs and practices. To put it another way, we seek to understand and practice Germanic religion as it was understood and practiced before the Conversion, as much as it is possible to do so (and it is a great deal more possible than many people would think). The exclusive worship of one deity is not supported by the evidence we have for Germanic religion, and seems to go against the grain of Germanic religion generally. As such, many Theodish people (myself included) feel that it is distinctly out of place in a Theodish context.

                    • Hmmmmm….that’s really interesting. We Hellenists are reviving our religion and so we look for historical guides in doing so. But we focus on the practice (what you do) and not on the beliefs for unifying as Hellenists as the beliefs were extremely varied. We aren’t trying to exactly recreate it as much as answer the question “What would Hellenismos be like today if there hadn’t been an interruption?”

                      As for Henotheism – we have much to support that in our religious history. There were people who set up in a cave or a grove and only worshiped one nymph their whole life. Did Heathens not have anything like that? Our Priests and Priestesses generally focused on one God or Goddess to the exclusion of others. And some people in trades did the same.

                      We also have Monotheists who do believe that the Gods are just aspects of a supreme Being. And while that is a minority view – it’s not anything we get worried about.

                  • Cara: “We have monotheistic Hellenists and have no problem with it.”

                    How could anyone who refuses to honor any of the ancient Hellenic Goddesses and Gods be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, a “Hellenist”?

                    And how could anyone who pays honor to all of the ancient Hellenic Goddesses and Gods be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, a “monotheist”?

                    Monotheism requires a person to explicitly reject all Gods but one. The Gods that are so rejected must be identified as one of three things:
                    (1) intrinsically evil.
                    (2) nonexistent.
                    (3) unworthy of veneration as Gods.

                    Are there really “Hellenists” who hold this opinion of the Gods? I seriously doubt it.

                    A person can, of course, proclaim him or herself “monotheist”, without understanding what that means.

                    • Apuleius wrote:
                      Monotheism requires a person to explicitly reject all Gods but one. The Gods that are so rejected must be identified as one of three things:
                      (1) intrinsically evil.
                      (2) nonexistent.
                      (3) unworthy of veneration as Gods

                      or maybe (4) all the other gods are aspects of a single deity?

                    • I don’t find it a big deal. They are in “The One” camp, philosophically speaking. What are called Gods and Goddess are all part of The One. Some call this soft polytheism – others call it monotheism.

                      We are an orthopraxic, not orthodoxic, religion. This isn’t that earth-shattering.

                    • Eran Rathan: “or maybe (4) all the other gods are aspects of a single deity?”

                      Monotheism requires its adherents to0 renounce and completely break with traditional polytheistic worship. Anyone who calls on the old Gods using the names and other traditional things associated with those Gods, is not a monotheist.

                      Few people today understand what is actually meant by words like monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, pantheism and monism. But the vast majority of the adherents of any religious tradition are always going to be inept at articulating the beliefs and practices of that religion.

                      The ability to understand trinitarianism is not essential to being a Christian, just as properly understanding polytheism is not necessary to being a Pagan.

                    • Apuleius wrote:
                      Monotheism requires its adherents to0 renounce and completely break with traditional polytheistic worship. Anyone who calls on the old Gods using the names and other traditional things associated with those Gods, is not a monotheist.

                      Ah, then I guess what you wrote at the Wild Hunt, specifically, “And “conversion” to Christianity is not necessarily a binary, all-or-nothing, process, that, in and of itself, draws a clear bright line across history after which Paganism simply disappears. Christianity often co-exists with non-Christian religious traditions. in Africa today there are tens of millions of church-going Christians who simultaneously persist in their traditional religious beliefs and practices, for example.”

                      Means that they aren’t monotheists?

        • Just messing with you a bit Melanie.

          I absolutely agree that there are people in the Tea Party groups who are everything what you say. But, Tea Party groups have taken the stance that religion and social issues are not part of the Tea Party, only economic issues. So what you have is a group where people agree on one narrow area but may disagree wildly in other areas. So we work together on the area where we agree – an economic one.

          Many Tea Party groups are made up of libertarian-leaning people. If someone, like one of your family members, brought up the idea of pushing for prayer in schools, it (in all likelihood) would get mighty ugly within that Tea Party group. Really ugly. It’s why most of the groups have rules that those topics are not even to be discussed.

          BTW – much of what is in the media about Tea Party groups is BS or exaggerations or a misrepresentation of the smallest minority that make it appear it is the majority. Just think how Pagans are portrayed and talked about in mainstream society.


          • I appreciate the info. I struggle with relating to Tea Party people because I’ve been the one and only Pagan in the midst who disagreed and ‘god’ was the foundation of argument.
            I admit, I put my guard up with them. Sure. I will check out those tags, and do some mental weighing.

  10. Oh yeah, I forgot to say. Really nice way to cheer me up dad. The Muslims are going to take my Folk out into the street and kill them. Really nice distraction. :O

  11. I can’t help but wonder what sort of logic the Muslim extremists employ (if any) to justify thier “No pictures of Muhammed” policy when there are plenty of medieval examples of it (it was relatively common in Persian art).

    interesting archive of Muhammad images, most circa 1300:

    Wikimedia has many of the same images, though slightly less thorough:

    • There’s a specific verse in the Hadiths that claims at the end of the world the only people Allah is going to cast into damnation for all eternity are those who have usurped the power of creation from Him. If you want to engage in theological hair-splitting you COULD claim an artist qualifies.

      Personally I think that argument is as full of it as the one about God hating gay people based on one verse in the Old Testament.

      • Ah, well, according to that sort of nonsense logic, the only people NOT going to hell are those who make nothing – no clothes, no houses, no tools…so basically, the only people going to their heaven are politicians, priests, and lawyers.

        Well, they can have them.

  12. Related in a general sense: in the Netherlands, the trial of politician Geert Wilders for defaming Islam, etc., has completely collapsed, with the prosecutors requesting aquittal.

    • Wilders’ trial raises a very relevant point to the current discussion. The existing legal/criminal system can be manipulated to enforce a kind of “Sharia-lite” by (1) criminalizing criticism of Islam as “hate-speech”, while (2) legalizing the brutalization of women, gays and “apostates” within the Muslim communities in the name of “multiculturalism” and “sensitivity”.

      The fact that Wilders’ trial has gotten this far shows that many of the worst aspects of Sharia can be accomplished without actually establishing Sharia courts.

  13. Concerning Islam vs. Christianity (particularly the intolerant and fundamentalist versions thereof) as the primary threat to our religious freedom: I don’t see how it’s an either-or proposition, because both are threats.

    In the US, fundamentalist Christianity is clearly the overarching threat to pagans everywhere, given how entrenched they are in positions of government. Opposing them – specifically through existing legal and political means – presents its own set of difficulties and does, I think, require some kind of strategy.

    It can also be seen that, around the world, Christianity is a major threat to surviving indigenous polytheisms in Central and South America, Africa, Northern Asia, East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Archipelagos, as well as being a threat to both surviving and resurgent polytheisms in Eastern Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

    Islam is a threat to both surviving and resurgent polytheisms in Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.

    So, if I were primarily interested in securing only my own religious freedom (or in securing religious freedom only where I live), perhaps Christianity is the major threat that I should be attending to, as Ryan suggests. In the metropolitan area closest to where I live, though, there is a sizable Muslim (Somali) population, members of which have already started to try to inconvenience non-Muslims based on their interpretations of Sharia law: (http://www.usatoday.com/money/biztravel/2006-09-17-airport-check-in-usat_x.htm). This sort of thing can lead, over time, to a kind of “Sharia-lite”, to use Apuleius’ phrase. Thus, I can see where Islam might be just starting to be a threat locally, as well.

    Really, though, I’m not only interested in trying to secure religious freedom for myself or the area in which I live, because I don’t see a future in which that freedom is secure if Christianity and Islam are both on the march elsewhere; evangelizing religions, once given free rein elsewhere, will come to where I live in time. The world is only secure for religions such as ours when the ideologies (both religious and secular) that denigrate our religions as foolishness, error, or sin are held, at most, by small and powerless groups of people; or when such ideologies are heavily fettered in their intolerance by law, all over the world.

    So, this means that we are confronted on at least two sides, if we limit the conversation to major, powerful, international religious movements. Christianity is a threat, here and around the world; Islam is often a threat in those places where Christianity is not, although the two overlap is some places (parts of Africa, India, etc.).

    I do not see that we have to ignore Christianity in order to focus on Islam, or vice-versa. We have to pay attention to both. I do not see this as a waste of resources, but a necessary way to long-term religious freedom all over the world.

    Sharia is not a “smokescreen”, it is the *other threat* that we must also pay attention to.

    • Following up on this, I think that the best way to spend our time and energy is probably to figure out some kind of a strategy for dealing with threats, both short-term and long-term, to our religious freedom.

      Any ideas?

  14. Anyone who wants to can purchase and wear a t-shirt that says “Mary was only a virgin … if you don’t count anal.”

    Artists who produce works like “Piss Christ” might lose their NEA funding, but they won’t face prosecution.

    The writings of Thomas Paine are freely available, despite the fact that declares that “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity.”

    But if you commit any kind of “offense” against Islam in the United States you can be fired from your job and forced to go into hiding.

    I the UK, France and the Netherlands, those who are perceived as “insulting” Islam are subject to criminal prosecution.

    These are not the inventions of Newt Gingrich. These are facts.

    • Apuleius writes:
      But if you commit any kind of “offense” against Islam in the United States you can be fired from your job and forced to go into hiding.

      Fired from your job? Really? Want to provide a citation for that? (And I’m not talking the generic ‘No discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, orientation, etc.” from the DoL, because if you want to get down to brass tacks anyone can be fired for making fun of any religion, especially in an ‘At-Will’ state.)

      And as for being ‘forced into hiding’, well, politicians deal with death threats every day, and I don’t see them disappearing all that often (no matter how often we may wish some of them would go away).

      And to disprove your point, you can buy as many copies as you want of the Satanic Verses, the people at the Dove Outreach Church were not arrested for their use of “Islam is of the Devil” on their t-shirts, and the book “Why we Left Islam” (a fascinating read) is available at Amazon.

      And I think that a good deal of the issues with Europe is that they have worked slowly towards the same level of free speech rights that we in the US take for granted – their large influx of immigrants is not something they’ve had to deal with before, and the integration of a new large population takes time and can be difficult. Buggerit, look at the difficulties that the Irish had in integrating in the US, and the Ashekenazi Jews after WWII, and the Hispanic populations now in the US. There will always be a period of flux in the migration of a large population, we just happen to be in the middle of a major migration period.

      • “Fired from your job? Really? Want to provide a citation for that?”

        On Saturday, September 11 of this year, Derek Fenton publicly ripped some pages out of a copy of a Koran and burned them. He was detained by police, but not charged with any crime. By Monday morning the New Jersey Transportation Authority announced that Fenton had been discharged, after 11 years there, for violating their “code of ethics.”

        But that’s not all. Both the Governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie AND Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer took the highly unusual step of publicly coming out strongly in favor of Fenton’s firing for insulting the Religion of Peace.

      • “And to disprove your point, you can buy as many copies as you want of the Satanic Verses”

        You are aware, of course, that Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding for writing that book. He still receives an official notice, once a year, from the Iranian Government, reminding him that the fatwa against him is still in force.

        Just a week ago, the Washington Post refused to run a cartoon because the word Muhammad was in the cartoon’s title, even though Muhammad himself was not portrayed in the cartoon!!

        • Apuleius:
          On Saturday, September 11 of this year, Derek Fenton publicly ripped some pages out of a copy of a Koran and burned them. He was detained by police, but not charged with any crime. By Monday morning the New Jersey Transportation Authority announced that Fenton had been discharged, after 11 years there, for violating their “code of ethics.”

          How is this any different from someone getting fired for making anti-semetic remarks?

          • >> How is this any different from someone getting fired for making anti-semetic remarks? <<

            Critiquing Judaism as a religion, even in a very harsh and insulting way, is completely different from anti-Semitism.

            Everyone must be free to practice whatever religion they choose. But we must also be free to express our opinions about religions generally. The sacred scriptures of Judaism are filled with the harshest possible condemnations of other religions.

            Harsh criticism of religions (and of Religion generally) have been an important part of western culture since the Enlightenmnent.

            If actions that are considered blasphemous and insulting are not protected, then freedom of expression is non-existent.

            • Just to follow up:

              The sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are filled to overflowing with “hate-speech”. Should these religions be banned? No. But they should not enjoy “protection” from precisely the kind of insults and condemnation that they routinely employ against all other religions.

              The line should be drawn at doing anything that actually interferes with the rights of Jews, Christians, Muslims, or anyone else, to believe in, practice, and profess their religion.

              No Muslim is prevented from believing in, practicing and professing Islam when someone burns a page from the Koran. There really is no contradiction whatsoever between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The only problem comes when people try to pervert the principle of religious freedom to silence free expression.

            • Apuleius writes:
              Critiquing Judaism as a religion, even in a very harsh and insulting way, is completely different from anti-Semitism.

              I agree – but I fail to see how burning the Koran and yelling racial or religious epithets at someone is different (well, ok, yelling at someone could get you charged with verbal assault, but still…) Both are actions intended to intimidate and/or harass someone for being ‘different’.

              • Eran Rathan: “I agree – but I fail to see how burning the Koran and yelling racial or religious epithets at someone is different (well, ok, yelling at someone could get you charged with verbal assault, but still…) Both are actions intended to intimidate and/or harass someone for being ‘different’.”

                The “intended to intimidate” argument is nothing but a license to censor. Christians and Muslims, especially, always cry “persecution” whenever any criticism of their religion is heard.

                The Catholic League wants to silence comedians who continue to get mileage out of the ongoing Priest sexual abuse scandals. Kathy Griffin stands in front of huge live audiences, and then is broadcast to millions more, calling Catholic Priests “kid f*ckers”. And then when she won an Emmy she held the statue up on national TV and yelled “Suck it, Jesus!”

                In fact, the Catholic League demanded that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences publicly “denounce Griffin’s obscene and blasphemous comment”, and the argument they used was this:

                ““It is sure bet that if Griffin had said, ‘Suck it, Muhammad,’ there would have been a very different reaction from the crowd and from the media who covered this event. To say nothing of the Muslim reaction.”


                • You did not answer my question – why is it different to yell racist or religious epithets or whatever versus burning a Koran or Bible?

                  • Eran Rathan: “You did not answer my question – why is it different to yell racist or religious epithets or whatever versus burning a Koran or Bible?”

                    The person (in this case, you, Eran) who claims that a crime has been committed is responsible for demonstrating that this is the case.

                    Did you ever study Civics in high school? There is a fundamental principle, generally considered quite important in a democratic society, called “presumption of innocence”.

                    You, Eran, however, have abandoned this principle, or perhaps never believed it. Those whom you accuse of “intimidation” are guilty, in your mind, unless they can prove their innocence. meh.

                    The ACLU, btw, is on the record stating that Derek Fenton’s actions on 9/11 were constitutionally protected speech, and that his firing was illegal.

                    • I’m not going to bother responding to your ad hominem – frankly, its sad that you feel the need to resort to that.

                      from the State of Maine Revised Statutes:

                      §2931. Prohibition

                      A person may not, by force or threat of force, intentionally injure, _intimidate_ or interfere with, or intentionally attempt to injure, _intimidate_ or interfere with or intentionally oppress or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege, secured to that person by the Constitution of Maine or laws of the State or by the United States Constitution or laws of the United States. [1999, c. 51, §2 (AMD).]

                    • Additionally, I have not stated where I stand on Fenton’s firing – without access to the NJ Transit Authority’s Code of Ethics, I can’t say whether or not it is illegal – I merely asked why his actions were in any way different from making anti-semitic remarks and subsequently being fired for it.

  15. Responding to Cara here, on henotheism and such; the comment ladder got down to the last rung up there, and I couldn’t append my reply to the last comment.

    “We aren’t trying to exactly recreate it as much as answer the question “What would Hellenismos be like today if there hadn’t been an interruption?””

    And I think that Hellenismos might be in a better position to figure out what that might be like, given the rich trove of textual evidence that was left behind by a relatively highly literate Greek cultural area. Hellenists can pretty much know what Hellenic religion was all about, and therefore can make more highly educated suppositions as to how that would’ve evolved between the 4th century and now (although I think that an uninterrupted tradition of Hellenic religion would’ve resulted in a history so different that one could not predict what the present day would’ve been like if that had happened).

    People trying to revive a religion from a largely non-literate culture, though, where the written sources are either from outsiders or post-date the Conversion, have to put in a lot more work to try and figure out the underlying worldview of that religion and culture (which is what Theodism attempts to do, basically) before they can attempt to say what it would’ve been like if it hadn’t been interrupted. Otherwise, attempts at “modernization” of such a religion tend to just obscure even further what is at the heart of it.

    So, instead of trying to practice our religion as though it hadn’t been interrupted, we try to pick up where we were interrupted, as much as is possible.

    “As for Henotheism – we have much to support that in our religious history.”

    Sure, the word comes from Greek, after all.

    “There were people who set up in a cave or a grove and only worshiped one nymph their whole life. Did Heathens not have anything like that?”

    Hmm… maybe? There were devotees of specific gods and goddesses, we know that; and the evidence suggests that such devotees might’ve spent most of their religious efforts on that one deity, or on a small set of deities, especially the priests of those deities. We don’t have any evidence that this was entirely exclusive, though.