"I am all in favor of the skeptical mind. Do not believe anything unless you have experienced it. Do not believe anything - go on questioning, however long it takes." - Osho

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Extremists suck.

I was watching a British TV show this morning called The Big Questions. It airs every Sunday, and normally asks three different political or religious questions which an invited audience then proceed to debate over. However, today they asked only one question: does Britain have a problem with Muslims?

That isn't the debate I want to get involved in- it's a smaller issue within that which someone in the audience mentioned. During a discussion about Muslim extremists, it was asked why the world tends to focus on Muslims when they're talking about extreme religious views. This is a question which I've often wondered about myself.

File: Wikimedia Commons
The most profound example, for me, is America's invasion of the Middle East (I know that Britain also invaded them, but this is not as applicable to British society). How can America- more specifically the Bush administration-  justify invading another country partly due to religious extremism when they seem to have a huge problem with it on their own soil? In my mind, it should be more important to counter the growing religious fundamentalism and racial hatred in their own country.

In an age when Neo-Nazism and similar movements appear to be on the rise in America, something should be done about countering this craziness at home before a hypocritical move is made into other countries for the same thing. Although I'm aware that this isn't the only reason why Iraq was invaded, it can't be denied that it is a factor- Bush wanted revenge after 9/11.

I'm not saying that Muslim extremism isn't a problem- of course it is, and we've seen this repeatedly over the last few decades. I completely condemn any person or organisation who would think to harm people over what they do or do not believe in. I'm also in no way saying that I believe that soldiers who fought and died in the ongoing war did so for nothing; ultimately, peace and religious freedom are worthy causes, and we should be proud of our military for fighting for them. I simply believe that before other countries are invaded, we should first address the same issues in our own nations.

This might fuel a debate... So go ahead and comment. I'm interested to hear other people's views.


  1. I would say that there is a problem on both sides. And I speak on this as someone who is a british asian and someone who read a lot of muslim history growing up.

    Muslims for the most part aren't really doing much to dispel the image that they have a crazy element. They "excuse" the behaviour of their fundies even if they don't personally believe in their nonsense. They themselves often possess some beliefs which I consider inappropriate such as the Burkha/Abbayah and the custom of forced marriages. There is also the slightly seedy custom of inter-familial marriage which I loathe as a practice. The islamic oppression of women is dare I say it, biblical in proportion. And not many people are willing to speak out because the moment you do speak out people quickly lump you in with the BNP and EDL. My biggest gripe about muslims and islam is that they refuse to make the step to do things with the rest of society in the UK instead preferring to "stick together". The self ghettoisation hurts them.

    On the opposite end we have morons who don't understand multiculturalism. The EDL and the BNP and all those people in between who whinge about people not being sufficiently british (AKA White and English. Never met a BNP supporter who wanted more people in the UK to learn welsh or gaelic) . The thing is muslims make an excellent scapegoat for the ills of society. Crime? A lot of muslim youths are involved in petty crime. Education? Young muslim boys are regarded as the lowest per capita educated demography. They are insular and have a penchance for producing terrorists. They are the ideal scapegoat for such people who seem to think that all of the UK's ills are due to a small demography.

    "I have no job because of the shady machinations of those darkies and their women who dress like ninjas" is a better conspiracy theory than "I have no job because I didn't work hard in school for good grades and didn't see the value of uni or a technical training and so am stuck sans basic qualifications". No one likes to blame themselves for their choices. Muslims just make a convenient one. If it were not for muslims the EDL and BNP would whine about Poles and Czechs/Slovaks who come and work in really crummy jobs. As if the EDL supporters are going to stand for hours in a field picking strawberries for a tiny pay!

  2. It's not extremists who are the real problem, it's the moderates: you should read Sam Harris:

    "[The] problem with religious moderation is that it represents precisely the sort of thinking that will prevent a rational and nondenominational spirituality from ever emerging in our world. Whatever is true about us, spiritually and ethically, must be discoverable now. Consequently, it makes no sense at all to have one’s spiritual life pegged to rumors of ancient miracles. What we need is a discourse about ethics and spiritual experience that is as unconstrained by ancient ignorance as the discourse of science already is. Science really does transcend the vagaries of culture: there is no such thing as “Japanese” as opposed to “French” science; we don’t speak of “Hindu biology” and “Jewish chemistry.” Imagine a world in which we could have a truly honest and open-ended conversation about our place in the universe and about the possibilities of deepening our self-understanding, ethical wisdom, and compassion. By living as if some measure of sectarian superstition were essential for human happiness, religious moderates prevent such a conversation from ever taking shape."

  3. Hardly, the issue here in the UK is that the muslims have a habit of defending their extremists as fighting for muslim causes and solidarity rather than denouncing them as people who follow a tribal mentality and a bane of civilisation. And that any GENUINE criticism (AKA you guys aren't speaking out against terrorism and against the religious leaders who support it. You guys keep thinking there is a conspiracy to screw you over. You guys keep oppressing women. You guys don't have a habit of integrating into society as a whole and you denounce those members of your group who do integrate.)

    These are genuine problems and that everytime you bring them up people use excuses such as "western conspiracy" or "jewish conspiracy" (How come there are no Sikh or Buddhist conspiracies?) or that we are out to destroy their culture, when the truth is we want them to give up the "insane backward stuff" and keep the rest.

    It's like how in the USA people hold up insane christians as "fighting for christianity and america".

  4. I agree to some extent- I think that the lack of action of the moderates towards extremists can cause a lot of problems. If fundamentalists don't feel pressure from their communities to normalise their views somewhat, then it's unlikely that they'll develop a more accepting view of wider society.

  5. Avicenna- again, I agree to a certain extent, but you have to be careful not to generalise too much. I feel that there are a lot of people within the respective communities who condemn the actions of extremists/fundamentalists, and that's over every religion. But I do agree that certain groups (and there are many guilty of this) as a whole do act as though they're being victimised.

  6. Just to further the points made above, I might add that tribalism makes you blind; or better yet, very cross-eyed. Watch a match between say, Liverpool and Barcelona: where the ref marks a foul against liverpool; you will find the liverpool fans insulting the ref because their player NEVER touched the opponent while the Barcelona fans insult the ref because the player in question is a criminal that should have been red carded....this, after watching the same image, from the same angle, multiple times and at slow speed.
    As someone who was argentinian and 12 around the time of the Falklands war, I have seen my mind change opinions about something which at that age, I thought was a cause worth giving my life for, today, I see more than a few reasons why I was wrong, the first being the will of the people that live there... now it os scary to imagine how many 40 year old argentines still might think it a good idea to go to war.

  7. To be fair even the UK had their Jingoistic Flag Wavers who were quite happy to wave the flag but not so happy when their boys started coming back (or not since the majority of the british casualties where when the equally brave Argentinian airforce sank some of our ships. The problem with flag wavers is they assume that stiff upper lip/the american way/samurai spirit/the master race/the pride of the motherland can win battles without realising that the enemy is often equally possessing the same bravery as you do. I can show you tasteless nonsense from the UK mario from the Falklands era.

    I am of the opinion war is a necessary evil but it must always be the last effort. It is a symbol of failure not of success. The problem is when people forget that they often are reminded horribly.

    Plenty of people wave the flag and state things like "if there is a war on, I would be on the front lines with them" often ironically while there is a war on.

    As for football, for all the tribalism in it I have witnessed some beautiful moments of solidarity such as the Liverpool practice of wearing Juventus scarves and when Manchester City hosted United on the anniversary of the plane crash. For every scummy move there is one of surreal beauty. The current state of affairs in the UK is nothing like that, its just a completely scummy mess of people who are idiots on both sides of the Nationalist/Muslim argument. No sane individual can stand up for fear of being dumped into either side.

    And it is to my annoyance that the BNP has been able to drum up sikh support for their anti muslim nonsense. Just found out they have fulfilled their "darkie quota" (because face it that's what they think of me and other people who aren't lily white) using a few sikhs who hate muslims as much as they do.

  8. Slightly off topic to the original post but i really feel that so many of our problems come down to tribalism. I can see how there may have been an evolutionary advantage to distrusting other groups back in our caveman days but we need to get past that crap now.
    You may well have seen it, but there was an experiment done that shows just how hard-wired it is. A teacher told her young students that brown eyed children were less important/had less rights than blue eyed children. The blue eyed kids then quickly started mistreating and bullying the brown eyed ones. There's a youtube video of the experiment which is worth a watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BrFHq-t2VY&feature=related.
    While, this particular experiment was carried out in the USA, I would speculate that you would get similar results regardless of country.... Which is sad :(

  9. There are so many problems contributing to issues as complex as these, it's absolutely impossible to cover them all. However, all of them should be tackled quickly, internationally, and in the most effective and harmless ways possible.