Monday, November 17, 2008

Schopenhauer on human solidarity in a world without God

A facile charge frequently leveled against atheism by religious apologists is that without God, human beings have no reason to care about one another.

This obviously says a lot about the person making the claim, for they are inadvertently admitting that without their belief in God, they would no longer feel the need to behave in a respectful and considerate way towards others, but would instead embrace radical selfishness, hatred, contempt, and destructiveness.

The claim itself is false for a number of important reasons that I won't be covering in any detail in the post. However, I would like to point to one interesting example of an atheist philosopher making a case for human solidarity based on the shared experience of the 'human condition'.

Arthur Schopenhauer is perhaps best known as a philosopher of 'pessimism', but in many respects a cold, rational evaluation of the nature of the world by necessity will result in a somewhat 'pessimistic' conclusion. Judaic monotheism in particular contains within it an awareness of the fundamentally flawed nature of existence, hence the tale of a 'fall', the endless attempts at creating theodicies to 'explain' (essentially justify) suffering, and some modern Christian theologians' focus on the Incarnation as God 'suffering alongside us'.

From the perspective of atheism, the attempts at reconciling a flawed world of suffering with a perfect God of love fall down as incoherent, fanciful, and a flight from reality.

In his essay '
On the Sufferings of the World', Schopenhauer looked honestly and without supernatural self-deception at the world and concluded:

[T]hat a God like Jehovah should have created this world of misery and woe, out of pure caprice, and because he enjoyed doing it, and should then have clapped his hands in praise of his own work, and declared everything to be very good — that will not do at all!

He continued:

Even though Leibnitz' contention, that this is the best of all possible worlds, were correct, that would not justify God in having created it. For he is the Creator not of the world only, but of possibility itself; and, therefore, he ought to have so ordered possibility as that it would admit of something better.

There are two things which make it impossible to believe that this world is the successful work of an all-wise, all-good, and, at the same time, all-powerful Being; firstly, the misery which abounds in it everywhere; and secondly, the obvious imperfection of its highest product, man, who is a burlesque of what he should be. These things cannot be reconciled with any such belief.

To view the world as, fundamentally, a world of 'misery and woe', and to accept this inevitability as the 'price' of existence is to be liberated from illusion and from the intellectual dishonesty involved in maintaining fantasies of a divine creator. Indeed, 'you will regulate your expectations accordingly, and cease to look upon all its disagreeable incidents, great and small, its sufferings, its worries, its misery, as anything unusual or irregular'. Obviously, Schopenhauer did not advocate a passive acceptance of suffering, for joy is the aspiration of all humans and

every state of welfare, every feeling of satisfaction, is negative in its character; that is to say, it consists in freedom from pain, which is the positive element of existence. It follows, therefore, that the happiness of any given life is to be measured, not by its joys and pleasures, but by the extent to which it has been free from suffering — from positive evil.

Now we come to Schopenhauer's basis for human solidarity:

In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another. Nay, from this point of view, we might well consider the proper form of address to be, not Monsieur, Sir, mein Herr, but my fellow-sufferer, Socî malorum, compagnon de miseres! This may perhaps sound strange, but it is in keeping with the facts; it puts others in a right light; and it reminds us of that which is after all the most necessary thing in life—the tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbour, of which everyone stands in need, and which, therefore, every man owes to his fellow.

When we see our fellow humans' suffering, we should, according to Schopenhauer, be able to see ourselves mirrored in them. There is no need to invoke invented notions such as humans all being 'children of God' or 'equal in God's eyes' to feel solidarity. If anything, a stronger bond is felt precisely through the fact that we are not 'children of God', but rather the products of nature, which does not favour us, does not concern itself with our suffering or our happiness, and which has no 'plan' or 'purpose'. We stand alone in a world that is not made 'for us' and we have evolved through pain, struggle, and hardship. The fact that most of us in developed nations feel little pain when compared with past generations is precisely because we have evolved societies which ever-increasingly protect and sustain human survival.

In the past, tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbour were presented variously as signs of virtue and also as compulsory actions, enforced by a God who will judge those who fail to help others. These supernatural injunctions were used to 'explain', justify, and enforce the need for human solidarity. However, there is absolutely no reason to suggest that these qualities are any less valid or any less necessary when the superstitious aspects surrounding them are removed.

As Schopenhauer argues, in order to survive, everyone stands in need of certain acts of human solidarity, and just as we need these acts of kindness from others, so also, in turn, we owe them to others. Human solidarity is in fact a rational response to the 'human condition', and mutual co-operation and ethical reciprocity require no 'God' at all. If anything, following Schopenhauer's line of reasoning, those who refuse the supernatural illusion and face the fact that we are all fellow-sufferers and that there is no heavenly escape outside 'this life' and no 'divine plan', are actually more likely to feel a fundamental need to show kindness to one another than those who think 'this world' is only the momentary antechamber to another world of eternal joy.

Republished from I Kid You Not

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Portrayal of Religion in the Media: Religion is Political

I was doing some research on the topic of this article on the Internet. There were many complaints about the Western media's presentation of Islam, lamenting thewrong image of Islam being portrayed in the media. I agree that the media is not true to the real issue and portrays a designed image of not only Islam but religion in general. However, I look at the problem from a different angle. After spending some time on web searches but I did not find any protests or complaints about how the media glorifies religion and religious institutions and hierarchy. As an atheist, secularist and one who sees many wrongs with religion, I was disappointed. I would like to state here my view of how the media help cover up the evils of religion and helps maintain this outdated value system as part and parcel of the dominant ideology.

Proponents of Islam complain that the Western media portray Islam as a source of aggression, that it stereotypes Muslims as terrorists. They maintain that this is a political agenda by the Western powers who feel threatened by Islam presenting itself as an alternative civilisation. There are some assumptions here, with some of which I agree and some with which I disagree.

Political Agenda

Religion is political. We are made to believe that religion is merely about faith, spirituality and morality, without which humanity will lack any sense of ethics, goodness and humanity. This is the dominant and official view of religion, espoused by the state and education system. A lot of work and money is used to make this image of religion the accepted dominant view. Religion is one of the main ingredients of the dominant ideology. Religion belongs to the political realm as the British monarchy, the Labour or Conservative parties do. Moreover there is a great deal of money involved. Religious institutions have a great deal of wealth at their disposal and constantly struggle to get their hands on more. Perhaps to some extent the Church has lost its power over public opinion in the West. But it is still an inseparable part of the political system, except in France. In Britain the Church and the monarchy are two important pillars of the political system. Religion plays a major part in the education system. Therefore, any presentation of religion in the media, including Islam, is a political act with a political agenda.

In my opinion there is a macro agenda behind religious portrayal. That is, whatever the agenda of every single programme, overall, the role and influence of religion and religious institutions must be maintained and upheld. Religion is not generally questioned nor criticised. A critical programme of religion will in general criticise a certain interpretation of a particular faith. This is true about all religions, including Islam. Therefore, all the complaints and laments about "injustices" done to Islam by the media, is nothing but political pressure to consume even more time and receive a less critical approach.

Wrong Image

Let's move to the complaint that the media portray a wrong image of Islam. I agree. But, I do not see it quite the same way as the proponents of Islam. In my opinion, the media does not come even close to exposing the vile teachings of the real Islam. The view we receive is that an extremist interpretation of Islam is to blame; otherwise, Islam is a nice and peaceful religion. This is total nonsense. There are definitely different interpretations of Islam, some softer and more peaceful than others. In the past three decades we have witnessed the rise of a very violent political force into power in the Middle East and North Africa, which is ideologically based on Islam and uses any measure of terror to gain power, i.e. political Islam, the so-called extremists. If we are only concerned about bombs in our trains, buses and neighbourhoods in the West, then we can blame political Islam and forget about what Islam and Islamists are capable of doing to the society upon which they rule.

Islam, like any other religion, is deeply misogynistic. Women are not considered whole human beings, they are the property of their male relations, and have no rights to move about, to work and to take part in society without their male owner's permission. Even with the man's permission, they are not allowed to occupy some professions; they cannot become judges or political leaders, for example. Gender apartheid is an important pillar of society under Islam.

The penal code in Islam is extremely harsh, violent and inhuman. Muslims are by their faith deprived of music, happiness and fun. To sum it up Islam is a very morbid, dull and violent religion. There are Muslims who live as per the tenets of modern society, but they cannot claim that this is another interpretation of Islam. Islam, as a religion, does not allow for these things, period.

Fairness and Balance

The complaints against the media address the issue of fairness and balance, as well. They claim that the media is neither fair nor balanced vis-à-vis Islam. I agree with the statement, but again from the opposite angle. We talked about presenting different interpretations of Islam. However, the question is whose interpretation? How do we decide whose interpretations must be voiced? At present, the media voices two groups: one, the self-appointed Muslim leaders; two, those who express a moderate and nice interpretation of Islam. This, to my opinion, is neither fair nor balanced. Hardly any harsh, critical views of Islam or any other religion for that matter are presented by the media. By carrying out this practice, the media plays an important role in the dynamics of power struggle in favour of the so-called religious leaders.

Abuse and hypocrisy are two basic ingredients of religion and religious establishments. Historically many people have been killed under the name of god and religion. The most violent abuses have been carried out by men of god. And
still in this day religion continues to kill, maim, abuse and terrorise. But the media is mainly concerned with presenting a game of holy and spiritual make-believe.

What is it about religion that makes it untouchable? Even when gruesome scandals are revealed, such as child abuse by the Catholic Church both in Ireland and the USA, the state and the mainstream media tend not to concern themselves as they should. We heard much more about the child abuse case against Michael Jackson, a case which was disproved in the court of law, than the Catholic Church with a few hundred cases of child abuse against the whole establishment which cost the church millions of dollars. Why is the media so reluctant to expose the religious hierarchy? Why do men of God get a free ride?

The public is becoming increasingly disenchanted with religion and religious establishments in the West. The media does not reflect this important fact. Atheists are becoming more outspoken but this, too, is ignored by the mainstream media.

Instead the media continues to aid the mystification of religion as an untouchable institution. The most banal and backward teachings are treated as the absolute truth, a given fact, hardly questioned and rarely criticised. The media is an important instrument in upholding the myth of God.

Azar Majedi is the chair of Organisation for Women's Liberation-Iran and a veteran campaigner for women's rights and against political Islam.

Republished from:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pujiono Cahyo & Underage Lust

A Muslim cleric has caused public outrage in Indonesia after marrying a 12-year-old girl.

Pujianto Cahyo Widianto married the girl in the central Java city of Semarang, during an unofficial religious ceremony.

He reportedly chose her from a pool of 20 girls, before flying to Singapore with his new bride, as well as his first wife.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Possible charges

Investigators from Indonesia's child protection agency said Mr Widianto had chosen the girl based on her intelligence, maturity and physical development.

They said Mr Widianto, who runs an Islamic boarding school, had planned to put the child in charge of his second business - a calligraphy workshop.

It is unclear if the marriage has been consummated. If it has, Mr Widianto could face charges under child protection, marriage and labour laws.

He is reported to have justified his actions by saying he was emulating Islam's Prophet Muhammad, and that he would wait until his wife reached puberty before having sex with her. But there has been fierce reaction to the marriage within Indonesia.

A senior member of the prominent Islamic party, PKS, said he thought Mr Widianto was wrong in what he was doing, and wrong in his thinking about Islam.

Police say they have not asked Singapore to extradite the cleric, but are continuing investigations.

43 year old Pujiono Cahyo Widayanto/Widianto, aka Syech/Syekh Puji, the head of an Islamic boarding school (Ponpes Miftahul Jannah) in Bedono, Jambu, Semarang, Central Java, in August 2008 informally married (nikah siri) Lutfiana Ulfa, 11 years and 10 months old, who had just begun studies at a local junior high school, but has now taken up wifely duties at home.

Ulfa & Pujiono Cahyo Widianto

Sheikh Puji is a very wealthy man, being the owner of PT Sinar Lendoh Terang (Silenter), a handicrafts exporter, and appeared in the news in August for distributing 1.3 billion rupiah (about $130,000) in zakat or charity to the poor. His first wife is 26 years old. In 2005 he was a candidate for the Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN) in a regency election but withdrew from the race at the last moment, and has long been involved in local politics.

He also intends to marry two other girls, aged 9 and 7. Of these latter two, Syech Puji says that neither has begun menstruating, so he will refrain from interfering with them, while Ulfa has already entered puberty.

Syech Puji believes his actions have a legitimate basis in Islam, considering that the prophet Muhammad married the 7 year old Aisha.

I'm not just doing what I like, it's based in religion. It's in accordance with the prophet's teaching. You can marry a 7 year old if you like but you can't have relations with her until she starts menstruating.

Clerics' Council/Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) leader Umar Shihab condemned the marriage to Ulfa:

Men should marry adults, there are a lot of other prospective brides around. Why has he married a 12 year old? The poor girl.

His actions have been mostly condemned in other quarters, with some saying that he has broken the Marriage Law, and is liable to criminal prosecution.

One supporting voice is that of politician Hilman Rosyad Syihab from the Islamist Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), who says that marrying young girls is allowed within Islam provided the marriages are not consummated until the girl has begun menstruating.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An invitation to meet Mr Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya, aka Adnan Hoca) - "future ruler of the entire world"?

I was recently invited to fly to Istabul to interview Mr Adnan Oktar, also known as Harun Yahya, a Muslim who has published very many books challenging evolution, including, of course, his lavishly illustrated and produced Atlas of Creation, provided free to thousands of schools around the world.

I received a phone call from Mr Oktar's representative, Seda Aral, correcting "minsinformation" about Oktar, and explaining why his successful attempt to shut down Richard Dawkins website in Turkey was entirely justified. Oktar styles himself a defender of freedom of speech, and insists he was defamed.

Actually Oktar also attempted to get e.g. The God Delusion banned in Turkey, despite the fact that it says nothing about Oktar.

Dawkins explains why Oktar is a world-class nincompoop
here. It's hilarious.

Despite the offer of an all-expenses-paid trip to Turkey as the guest of Mr Oktar, I'm not going.

It seems many others have received such offers,
such as this writer for New Humanist (scroll down and you'll see one of the comments is from "Nathan" who also received an invitation). Oktar's budget for self-promotion seems to have no limits - as Dawkins points out, OUP estimated the cost of producing his Atlas at half a million quid. Where's the money coming from (there's a clue below)?

Why aren't I going? I am not nearly as well-known as Dawkins, of course, so I don't much mind appearing at low-key events such as
this one in London, because I don't think I am providing much "oxygen of publicity", and may succeed in casting a few doubts into the minds of the audience.

However, Oktar is different - he's powerful and, I suspect, dangerous, and I wouldn't feel comfortable taking his money. The Dawkins episode is nothing compared to some of the other stuff it seems Oktar has got up to. He stands convicted by a Turkish court and faces a three year prison term. Oktar is appealing against the conviction. While this conviction has been reported in the West (see
Reuters), the sheer scale of the various allegations being made against Oktar (in court and out) has not yet received much attention over here. To date, it's only the Dawkins website ban that's attracted interest.

For example, there have been some
very serious allegations about cult activity:

Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) is a cult leader who have enslaved many children of rich and elite. His sexual and mental abuse of his subjects is a well known fact to Turkish people. His confession in police alone, which is corroborated by his former followers to details, is sufficient to put him behind bars. But so far, money, connections, blackmail and all the tricks available to his well-connected and super rich followers have kept him out of trouble. But his days are numbered and now there is a major case against him in Turkish courts for black mail and illegal activities.

Also this:

Though Adnan is a lay person by academic standards, he is a gifted manipulator, a patient and highly skilled team manager: he uses various highly efficient psychological devises and marketing gimmicks to depict his image as a divinely ordained leader with a great mission. It would be in the best interest of the naïve and young pupils to join his cause, since soon he will be ruling the entire world and they would be his lucky and powerful aids. Besides, the cult provides a holy club for the children of the rich and well connected; they also get second-hand girls as a fringe benefit. In turn they lose their freedom and part of their identity; but we know that millions of people are ready to trade those precious rights and values to join a cult or a religious organization. Though the dates for victory he has given have been extended several times, who would not be the secretary or the spoke person of the long-awaited great ruler of the entire world?

Oktar insists he is simply the victim of conspiracy.

Oktar, also known as Adnan Hoca, was arrested after "Operation Adnan Hoca" which involved 2,000 Turkish police officers, according to
this quite amazing story from the Turkish Daily News. It's long, but it's worth it - gun battles, sex, blackmail, conspiracies: it's got it all.

The Force Behind the Adnan Hoca Operation: Agar's Revenge

The Adnan Hoca operation, which involved 2,000 police officers and resulted in the apprehension of Adnan Hoca, has the support of two well-known politicians: Mehmet Agar and Celal Adan



Adnan Oktar, otherwise known as Adnan Hoca, and his disciples, who were taken into custody during a midnight operation last weekend, were the victims of a political struggle. Adnan Hoca's followers are members of the Science Research Foundation (BAV) and have been trying to take sides in the leadership contest going on in the True Path Party (DYP). About two months ago they engaged in a gun battle that featured three of Adnan Hoca's disciples on one side and DYP Deputy Celal Adan and his men on the other. The fight took place at the Ceylan Inter-Continental Hotel Istanbul and eventually ended in the police station. Celal Adan left the hotel in the car of independent Deputy Mehmet Agar, formerly of the DYP.

Adnan Hoca's followers were kept in custody for some time at the Beyoglu police station. Their statements that followed signalled a call to war.

In his statement, BAV General Secretary Bahadir Guven accused Celal Adan and Mehmet Agar in uncompromising terms, insisting that these two politicians were behind all the dark relationships in Turkey. Guven said that when they realized there was a partnership between Adan and Agar and that the two intended to overthrow DYP leader Tansu Ciller they tried to stop this conspiracy, at which point they were confronted with a gunfight. Guven also suggested, that Agar, as many people suspect, is the "patron of Susurluk," the 1996 automobile crash that led to the revelation of relations between the government, the police and criminal elements.

After the press reported on the "Gunfight at a Luxury Hotel" the two sides kept silent. This silence was broken last weekend when the Istanbul police carried out their unusual operation.

Nearly 2,000 policemen conducted simultaneous raids in 40 districts across Istanbul. Their goal was to take Adnan Oktar and his disciples into custody. The centers of the raids were Aktar's villa at Kandilli and his estate at Silivri. In all, police searched 38 houses belonging to Adnan Hoca and took everyone they found there into custody -- including Adnan Hoca himself, who had not been seen in public for six years. Oktar's appearance had changed during this time; he had put on weight to resemble opera singer Lucian Pavarotti, who might not be pleased with the comparison.

The actual residences where Adnan Hoca and his disciples had been living were another point of interest. Surprisingly, the woodland villas in Kandilli and Silivri were decorated in the opulent style of the Dolmabahce Palace. The Kandilli villa was actually a complex, consisting of two separate buildings and a total 13 rooms. Inside three iron gates is a small grove, secured by hidden cameras and Dobermans. The police participating in the Silivri operation were treated to an even more unusual sight. The estate, which served as a summer residence for Hoca and his followers, resembled a zoo, complete with camels, horses and two artificial lakes.

The stated reason behind the roundup of Hoca and his followers was blackmail. The group is claimed to have used hidden cameras to capture politicians and performing artists. The resulting tapes are said to have trickled down to some in the right-wing parties.

Is it true that the raids on Hoca's villas, referred to in the press as "the snake's headquarters," were ordered by Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan? Even the police who took part in the operation do not know the answer to this question because they weren't informed about where they were going until the last minute. Istanbul Police Chief Hasan Ozdemir directed the operation himself, delivering envelopes to his immediate subordinates on which were written the instructions, "Open during the operation." Special efforts were made to prevent news from leaking out to Oktar and his followers because the police department didn't trust some of its own members. Those who were responsible for the operation and who knew about the close links between Adnan Hoca and his disciples and high-level police chiefs and politicians chose to behave this way.

The timing of the operation, which included top models and famous performing artists, also received attention. Why did they take Hoca's disciples into custody now, when they had known for a long time about the allegations of blackmail?

The answer to this question lies in the gunfight that took place at the Ceylan Inter-Continental Hotel Istanbul two months ago. The struggle between the two groups within the DYP lit the fuse for the operation. Adnan Hoca and his disciples were supporting Tansu Ciller and collecting confidential information on her rivals. The Adnan Hoca group, working as an organization, had a wealth of surveillance equipment ranging from hidden cameras disguised as buttons to high-tech eavesdropping equipment. The partnership between Tansu Ciller and her group and Adnan Hoca and his group began when Ciller began benefiting from Oktar's "professionalism." Among the many claims about this partnership is that Ciller had made promises to Adnan Hoca's group regarding the next elections in exchange for the work they were doing for her.

Unsettled as a result of this specialized work undertaken by Hoca and his followers, Adan and Agar, as opponents of Ciller, took on the roles of leaders in the anti-Hoca operation. The two men secretly prepared a report on Adnan Hoca's activities and turned it over to Interior Minister Tantan. The report detailed the illegal activities of the group, making reference to a rich archive of material to be used in blackmail. This included videotapes of many of the politicians and businessmen in Turkey having illicit sex. Filmed by hidden cameras over the course of several years and transferred to CDs, the documents are supposed to have been invaluable to Hoca's disciples, who are claimed to have used them to put pressure on important politicians.

Interior Minister Tantan, who took office asserting that his main goal would be to totally wipe out crime, instructed the Istanbul police chief to destroy Adnan Hoca's group. While these developments were taking place in Ankara very secretly, another development was taking place at the Istanbul State Security Court (DGM). DYP Istanbul parliamentarian Celal Adan applied to the DGM public prosecutor to begin criminal proceedings. The incidents progressed as Adan and Agar wished. All of Adnan Hoca and his group's secrets came out in public. The group, which had become a sex and blackmail team, were questioned for days, with two extensions of the legal custody period.

As the questioning continued in Istanbul, repercussions were heard in Ankara. A group supposedly complained to President Suleyman Demirel, asking why this operation had not taken place earlier. Demirel himself did not approve of the timing of the operation, which was attracting so much attention on the eve of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul.

It is also being claimed that National Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Mehmet Gul, who is well-known for his close relationship with the Adnan Hoca group, complained to MHP party leader Devlet Bahceli that the operation could destroy the coalition government. In addition to reaching the heights of the Presidential Palace and causing tension between the MHP and the Motherland Party (ANAP), the operation also touched on Necmettin Erbakan, the former leader of the Welfare Party (RP) and spiritual leader of the Islamists.

It is known that Erbakan's son Fatih has close links with the Adnan Hoca group and that the former RP leader himself had often met with Adnan Hoca. The press provided additional evidence of this close relationship. The Erbakan-Adnan Hoca was particularly obvious when the daily Milli Gazette, Erbakan's mouthpiece, published articles criticizing the operation against Adnan Hoca under such headlines as "Slander and Mudslinging Campaign."

Application for criminal procedures from Mazlum-Der

Aside from the criticism in Milli Gazete there was a response from Mazlum-Der. Yilmaz Ensaroglu, the head of the Islamist human rights association, criticized the police operation against Adnan Hoca at a press conference, questioning its legality:

"The operation against BAV does not have any legal basis because there is no concrete accusation against BAV. The police conducted detailed searches in the houses of people related to BAV, but all they found were lots of computers, documentary video cassettes, a couple of licensed guns and some cultural publications. On the other hand, certain newspapers are asking their readers to file complaints against BAV on behalf of the Istanbul Chief of Police. The crime that did not exist is being created through advertisements, invitations and threats."

Ensaroglu: 'It could be a masonic conspiracy'

Ensaroglu pointed out that Oktar, who was the honorary chairman of the BAV, had been associated with other conspiracies in the past. "It is a very well-known fact that Adnan Oktar's works on Freemasonry and Zionism have disturbed certain people for a long time," Ensaroglu said. "And it is also known that these people have constantly carried out propaganda and conspiracies against BAV and Adnan Oktar. One of the most concrete examples of this is the cocaine conspiracy of 1991. At the time, an unexpected and sudden raid led to Oktar being kept under custody for 62 hours, and, after being taken to Forensic Medicine, it was confirmed that cocaine was detected in his blood. However, in the following months, it was confirmed by 24 different international medical institutions that the cocaine was given to Oktar in the food and drink he consumed while he was in custody. Later, Forensic Medicine admitted this, and Oktar was acquitted."

Ensaroglu also called on the public to be sensitive towards these embarrassing and illegal operations that were taking place just as the major OSCE summit was about to take place.

Babuna: 'I have no connection'

Among those whose houses were raided as part of the operation against Adnan Hoca and his followers was Dr. Oktar Babuna, who reached public notoriety through the nationwide blood donor campaign he initiated after it was discovered he had leukemia. It was claimed that Babuna, who had returned to Turkey from the United States after being cured of cancer, had for a time been one of Adnan Hoca's disciples. Based on these claims, Babuna's house was included in the police raid. However, Babuna stated during a press conference that while he had seen Adnan Oktar once or twice he was not one of his disciples. On the other hand, there were claims that not only Dr. Babuna but his brother and father, Professor Cevat Babuna, were also among Adnan Hoca's disciples. Furthermore, it was being claimed that Adnan Hoca and his disciples had actually organized the Babuna blood donation campaign, which earned them trillions of lira.

Statement from the Science Research Foundation

A statement released by the BAV included the following claims:

The houses [that were raided] do not belong to Adnan Hoca. The house and the estate raided by the police do not belong to Adnan Oktar, they belong to wealthy members of the foundation. Adnan Hoca was giving a speech at the house in Beylerbeyi on the night of the operation.

The items in the houses in Beylerbeyi and Silivri display a sense of aesthetics that aims to raise national values. The existence of the statues, the imperial signatures belonging to the Ottoman Empire, the imperial edicts and the gilded objects are not a reflection of tastelessness but a reminder of the flamboyance of Ottoman-Turkish culture.

It is slander to say that there were cassettes to be used for blackmail. After inspection, it will be shown that the video cassettes and computer disks do not contain any compromising material.

The claims about sex parties are also slanderous. The female members of the foundation are such virtuous and honorable women that such immoral actions could have no connection with reality.

The statement denies the claims related to cocaine as well, indicating that Adnan Hoca instilled patriotism and moral values in many young people. The cocaine reportedly found in Adnan Hoca's blood in 1991 was given to him through food and drink while in custody.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Why I am an Ex-Muslim, Part #1

By Tauriq Moosa

Whilst I find biographical writing egotistical in most cases, I hope to indulge here in a trajectory of thought rather than a life. I hope to show my own severing of the Islamic veil, which shrouded everything within its bleak dichotomous imagery, and how it is that ex-Muslims are a rarity. Though we are growing in number, there are not many who are willing to openly criticise Islam - I consider this to be part laziness, part apathy and part incredulity by "moderate" Muslims.The major reasons and criticisms will be dealt with in the second part.

Is it racist to loathe some one's nonevidential-based and metaphysical beliefs? I do not think so. If this were true, I'd be considered alongside the person who decided "Whites Only" was a good sign to make on park-benches. We do not find black people declaring themselves ex-black, or white people declaring themselves ex-white. To say then that I am a racist is incorrect. I was Muslim, now I am no longer.

The question then is why declare oneself by what one is not. Why focus on being an ex-Muslim?

Power in Words

Defining oneself by a negative is something we as sceptics and atheists often have to puzzle over. Indeed, such a sentence might itself preclude this notion. I have said and I will continue to say that atheism is not a thing, a group, a set of goals. It is not a group of people clamouring for their world view to be adopted, since it is not a world-view. It comes close to be meaninglessness as air comes to being an ocean breeze. Indeed, the harshest critiques of labelling arises from amongst the "upper" echelons of the pursuit of reason.

Sam Harris in his address at Atheist Alliance in 2007, picks up on this theme of racism and atheism too, when he states:

Attaching a label to something carries real liabilities, especially if the thing you are naming isn't really a thing at all. And atheism, I would argue, is not a thing. It is not a philosophy, just as "non-racism" is not one. Atheism is not a worldview—and yet most people imagine it to be one and attack it as such. We who do not believe in God are collaborating in this misunderstanding by consenting to be named and by even naming ourselves. So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves "atheists." We should not call ourselves "secularists." …  "humanists," or "secular humanists," or "naturalists," or "skeptics," or "anti-theists," or "rationalists," or "freethinkers," or "brights."

We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar—for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.

No doubt, my dear readers, some of you will already have objections to this. Whilst I am not dealing with atheism in general, the application to ex-Muslim can be seen as a two-pronged defence: To labeling ourselves atheists and maintaining the use of ex-Muslim.

The main reason: No, there is no such thing as non-racism. But there was a very prominent, destructive, irrational and un-evidential claim known as racism. But we can not deny the activism of "black consciousness"; No reasonable person today would support my country's history of apartheid. Yet during that time, people proudly - but sometimes in secrete for fear of reprisal - called themselves "anti-apartheid activists". Yet would any of us today call ourselves "anti-apartheid", well yes, if there was an apartheid to oppose.

Similarly, the tide must turn with faith. I believe it must be eradicated, for good if we are to even grasp at the near-infinite beauty of a good life. No: We do not call ourselves non-astrologers, as Harris states. Nonetheless, just as it needed activism to render most people's accepted world-view of "race" into something aversive, I think it will take such "activism" to render faith into the vice it is. But this is for another article.

I believe, then, that the use of reason effectively dealt with racism, such that only stragglers and madmen could present themselves proudly as racists today. Similarly, with faith: It too is a great retardation of intelligence. But one so great that even those who do not have "faith" sometimes think it must be sacred, left to its own devices, "it's not harming anyone" (those I call IDGAFS1).

And a form of faith that has coiled into a great fist, smashing the ground beneath our feet, is Islam. All religions have their horrors and their extremists, no one denies this. Essentially, it is our main point in critiquing it: Religion is man-made. That must be religion's most salient and nocuous property.

And no more so demonstrated than through the repugnant, almost childish knee-jerk reactions from fundamentalist Muslims. Having unwoven the threads of caustic intellectual abuse, by the hands of the vice of faith, I can finally step back to see this for what it is. But there are no woods to step out of to see trees of respect, love, or reason. Faith would have us cover our eyes and just nod to shadows. Islam, being what it is, as dangerous as it is, would send those shadows out to fight. It is time to fight back.

We know what a terrible darkness such shadows of truth hold.

The Triumph of Reason

I can admit something I was never very proud of before: I do not think I ever truly believed in a god or afterlife. Along with probably most of you, I am the addressee of Pascal's Pensées: He who is so made that he can not believe. I learnt the Quran - and still know it - from beginning to end. I can read and write in Arabic. It is a very beautiful language and the incredible aesthetic beauty of its script no less appealing.

But what does the Quran say? If you had asked me that after I had read it the first time, then proceeded to memorise it, I would have stared at you blankly.

As we speak, there are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, comprising 22% of world. The results may vary but we can assume this: There's a lot. Of those, I'm an uncertain how many of those are children of Muslim parents (did you flinch when you thought of "Muslim children"?). We can safely say though that millions of children around the world are taught to read, learn and recite in Arabic without understanding a word they're saying.

I did not know I was reading this, when I recited:

98:6 Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings.

88:23-24 But whoso is averse and disbelieveth /Allah will punish him with direst punishment.

These are mere tips of growing icebergs, as fundamentalists freeze ancient ideas into growing pandemics of destruction.

Perhaps your own thoughts can formulate on why it is dangerous to learn in a language you essentially do not speak, to learn sentences you would not condone. I do not condone murder or destruction or harm to any person, yet here I was, learning verses spoken by "Allah Himself" (via Jibreel, to Muhammad, to the scribes, to etc.). Who was I to question my duty as a Muslim?

I attended seven madrassas. At each one, I was physically abused by the jaded jackals of god's word. If we did not pronounce certain Arabic letters correctly, our fingers were bleeding after a good dose of punishment by a cane. We yelled at, screamed at, hair was torn out in anger as were not feeling Allah's power and grace and beauty. It is neither hard nor uncommon to consider such occurences and perhaps that's what makes it so wrong. A lot of my ex-Muslim friends also went through similar conditions. All this amidst a growing society, fresh from the battle against oppression - a society still licking its war-wounds and scrambling for some semblance of stability.

I neither consider myself scarred, harmed or abused to any great degree. I am neither angry at those men nor wish them harm. In a sense, I thank them for instilling the most powerful seed that resides in the human mind: Doubt.

We all know the foundation for stable thought in analysis begins with Cogito ergo sum. Yet, we must also remeber Dubito ergo Cogito (I doubt, therefore I think), THEN Cogito ergo sum. I found myself wondering, if god's love is so great, if his power so immense, why do I constantly feel nothing but the biting cain against my knuckles?; Why do I feel nothing but paper when I touch the Quran?; and where is that rapturous experience that exudes from all the imams and mullahs I had interacted with?

It was then that stumbled across the most important book in my life: The Satanic Verses. It was to render that doubt into reason, to turn my apathy into action and so stabilise why I think being an outspoken ex-Muslim is important…



1. Idgafs are not necessarily "not giving a frack", as the term suggests, but they are primarily nonbelievers who treat faith as something that should not be attacked, mocked, criticised, or at least attempted to be understood using emotion. Most nonbelievers I know are like this, even though they would be supporting me in any other area to promote reason.