Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ah, Freedom

As America continues to spread freedom in the Middle East, a couple of stories in this week's news seem to go together. The first one is a little hard to verify, and has to do with a fatwa issued by an Iraqi religious leader. Now that Iraq has successfully converted to democracy, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has ordered that gay people be punished as harshly as possible. The Advocate has it:
In the midst of sectarian violence that threatens to drag Iraq into civil war, the country's influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a violent death order against gays and lesbians on his Web site, according to London-based LGBT human rights groups OutRage.

Written in Arabic, the fatwa comes from a press conference with the powerful religious cleric, where he was asked about the judgment on sodomy and lesbianism. “Forbidden,” Sistani answered, according to OutRage, “Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.” Iraqi cleric wants gays killed in "most severe way"

OK, who's really surprised by this? Religious extremists are what they are, it doesn't seem to really matter what the religion is. We've got 'em, they've got 'em, and the scary thing is to think about what would happen if our radical Christians and their radical Muslims ever figured out a way to join together.

But I'm not thinking that's likely.

I'm quoting unusual sources today, but ... here's a story from Voice of America, about how wonderfully democracy is improving the lives of people in Afghanistan:
An Afghan man who recently admitted he converted to Christianity faces the death penalty under the country's strict Islamic legal system. The trial is a critical test of Afghanistan's new constitution and democratic government.

The case is attracting widespread attention in Afghanistan, where local media are closely monitoring the landmark proceedings.

Abdul Rahman, 40, was arrested last month, accused of converting to Christianity.

Under Afghanistan's new constitution, minority religious rights are protected but Muslims are still subject to strict Islamic laws.

And so, officially, Muslim-born Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and not for practicing Christianity.

Appearing in court earlier this week Rahman insisted he should not be considered an infidel, but admitted he is a Christian.

He says he still believes in the almighty Allah, but cannot say for sure who God really is. "I am," he says, "a Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ."

Rahman reportedly converted more than 16 years ago after spending time working in Germany.

Officials say his family, who remain observant Muslims, turned him over to the authorities. Afghan Man Faces Execution After Converting to Christianity

Well, I guess the good news is that they're not likely to join up together any time soon.


Anonymous RT said...

The difference being, one group of religious fanatics are willing to impose their values on their society with acts of violence, the other tries to do it by being a single-issue voting block. Which society would you rather live in?

But your right about forcing freedom upon a culture that don't deserve it being a colossal mistake. One only has to look at the legitimately elected government in Palestine to see that allowing these brainwashed fools to vote will only give their terrorist / Islamist brothers political legitimacy.

Of course that leaves me wondering if the sectarian hatred permeating Iraqi society, that will keep them from ever being able to peacefully govern themselves, is any greater that your hatred for the 53% of Americans that chose to elect a government here that does not reflect your values.

Why is partition an obviously viable solution in their society and not in ours?

Sunnis are never gonna be happy living under Shiite leadership, and you're never gonna be happy compromising with the right in America. The Sunnis, in line with their cultural tendencies for violence, are going to continue to use violence to get their way, you are going to continue to participate in a voting block that reflects your values, in the hope of imposing your perspectives on our entire does that make the right wing any worse than you?

You both want to tell people how to think.

March 19, 2006 7:00 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Hey, RT, you're mixing up a lot of different things there. I don't know about forcing freedom on somebody, I don't think it's a good idea, in fact ... it's the opposite of freedom. And I consider these stories to represent the failure of that attempt, of course. Reasonable people would prefer freedom, wouldn't they? So what is it about these guys that makes it so hard? I would have to say it's the same force that is undermining freedom in America today: blind religious extremism.

As for hatred for the blah blah blah. Fear drives the current regime and keeps them in power. Remember the "orange alerts" during the election season? Those guys were working the emotional intensity of the American public like it was the volume knob on SRV's strat. Numbers falling? Turn up the alert. Numbers good? Turn it back down. You have not heard anything about those alerts since the election, have you? Man, even I have to admit that was some world-class manipulation of public opinion -- this terrorism thing has worked real well for this administration. They know how to use our fear to control us.

I don't hate people who are afraid of being attacked by wild-eyed brown people with weird beards and robes and turbans and stuff. That's some scary stuff, and the administration made sure people were reminded of it every day. I don't hate them, I know these people, my own friends are scared to death of terrorists, every unattended backpack is cause for fear, every aerial photograph of a city is information for the terrorists. The administration's manipulation of the media was expert and successful, and I don't hate people who fell for it.

People have faith in God and trust in what they have been taught, and I don't hate anybody for that. But there are those who exploit that faith, who claim to be faithful, gain the trust of those who really are, and use their religious connections to promote their own greedy agenda.

I don't hate the fifty-three percent (which you exaggerate, but ...) who voted out of fear. They're just people. But I have a very negative opinion of those who exploit them.


March 19, 2006 8:01 PM  
Anonymous RT said...

I will not deny that the right plays their "strong on National defense" card, but how is that any worse than going around to college campuses, and on MTV, and telling young voters that if they don't vote for a leftist there will be, without a doubt, a military draft starting in spring of 2005? Both sides are guilty of using fear as a political tool.

But to my point above, the issue you trumpet here, while it may eventually prevail in deep blue Montgomery County, how do you think it would play in South Dakota?

Their representatives voted to impose their moral values on the entire society, by making it illegal to perform an abortion, because they didn't have the political courage to make having one illegal. Its safer to alienate a few doctors than all the female voters.

You know they are not going to be able to impose their religiously motivated BS on you in Maryland, but at the same time you gotta realize that the agenda you promote here will never fly in their society.

What I am asking you is, since we are just as ideologically divided as the Shiite and Sunnis are, why is separate governments a solution to their problem of wanting representation that reflects their values, and not seriously considered as a solution to our bitter divisiveness?

Why did you decide to blow off Vancouver? Why do you live under a government that don't reflect your values, and if you ever manage to change it to fit your values, why should I live with one that don't reflect mine?

Does it make us stronger if we stick together and keep undermining each other every chance we have? Does compromising with each other make either of us happy? Why not go our separate ideological ways?

March 19, 2006 8:48 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

RT, let me tell you what our agenda is here. The schools are going to teach some classes in Health about sexual orientation. Some people have some crazy stuff they would like to include, mainly because it supports their religious beliefs. Most of us here, like everywhere else, don't care one way or the other about sexual orientation, some people are straight and some aren't, and it's none of our business. But we do not want the schools to be a place to run people down for the way they are, or a place to push a ridiculous religious agenda.

The world is not about gay people, but there are a good number of them out there, and it makes sense to acknowledge their existence and accept them for what they are. We just discovered yesterday that a kid my kids grew up with came out of the closet. OK, so what? He's seventeen and he knows what he is, he's a good kid, probably going to Harvard. It's not a big deal to his friends, and the schools should not make an ugly thing out of it.

Our agenda is just to make sure the schools teach the facts about these things, rather than some junk. Our agenda is mainstream. Even in South Dakota.

The American experiment from the beginning has been about allowing people to be different from each other. That's what the "freedom" thing is all about. You don't have to do things my way, and I don't have to do it your way, and there really doesn't have to be any conflict about that. Most of the time you'll hang out with your people and I'll hang out with mine, the partitioned society you like so much, but sometimes we have to agree on things we share. Like, my kids go to public school, and if you hate gay people I don't want them picking it up in class. So we fight about how the schools can be neutral on the topic. I say they remain neutral by giving information that is supported by science and medical research, and that is fair in giving respect and equal treatment to people by default. It's the most American thing there is.


March 19, 2006 9:54 PM  
Anonymous RT said...

Yeah well, the vast majority of parents in red states, and apparently a vocal minority in Montgomery county, don't want their kids taught that homosexuality is normal behavior.

Right or wrong, you have as much respect for their wishes as they do for yours. They want textbooks to reflect their ideology, and you want them to reflect yours. You both want your message to be forced on everyone.
You both think you are right.

Neither side is ever going to get what they want, which is forcing their ideology into curriculum or legislation, impose their way on everybody.

If they wanted Creationism to have mandatory equal time in Montgomery county classrooms you would be going apeshit trying to stop it, why should their response to what you are trying to expose their children to be any different than yours.

They don't want their children taught that homosexuality is normal behavior, if you cant compromise with them on this issue, why should the nation as a whole have to compromise with the opposing ideology?

Would you not be happier with a government that reflected your values, and not have half the people trying to undermine it the entire time its in office?

I just dont like any group trying to insert their ideology on the entire society, in this case you are just as guilty as the religious zealots are.

March 19, 2006 10:27 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

RT, the word "normal" has never been proposed for any of this. There is no judgment about whether it's "normal" or not. The fact is, it exists, and there's better than 50-50 chance that there's at least one gay kid in a class of 30 students. They need to know something about it, and so do their friends. Anyway, that's not our choice, that's the law, they're going to learn something.

The fact is, there are families with two parents of the same sex, there are gay people who are not mentally ill, you don't choose to be gay, and none of the real medical and psychological associations believe that it's a disease. Just facts. You or your church might think there's something wrong with it, and you can tell your kids that if you think that's the right thing to do. The schools won't contradict you, they're not going to say gay people are better than the rest of us, or we have to be nice to gay people, or get into the meaningless discussion over whether it's "normal" or not (and what a silly concept that is, RT, I'd've expected a little more out of you. How important is it to you to be normal all the time?).

If your values require you and your kids to remain ignorant about the topic, here in Montgomery County you just don't sign the permission slip, and they're out. But if there's going to be a class, it's going to have facts in it, and it's going to model respect so students can learn to be good Americans.


March 19, 2006 10:37 PM  
Anonymous ginmar said...

Uh, you do realize the story about Sistani is a fake, right? How nice to fight one prejudice with another. Sistani has repeatedly called for Shi'ites to refrain from retaliating against Sunnis. Furthermore, the source story identified him as the leader of the BADR Corps and SCIRI, which he is not. That alone should have been enough to discredit this story.

So nice to see Muslim-bashing being used to...what, exactly?

March 19, 2006 11:05 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Ginmar, please lead us to the evidence of that. I know that perceptive readers thought it was unlike him to say such a thing, but at the time I blogged this the report was being considered genuine.


March 19, 2006 11:07 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

OK, an update, two minutes later: I can only trace this back so far. Healing Iraq has a link to THIS PAGE on al Sistani's web site, which is unfortunately in Arabic, so we can only trust Zeyad's translation of it. There are nearly 200 comments on that post, and I didn't read every word of them, but I did skim through it, and didn't notice anybody saying it was a fake. And some of those commentors, I think, are Arabic and can read the statement.

I would also point out that the reason this story is here is, contrary to Muslim-bashing, to point to the irrationality of religious extremism of all types, in particular this post noted that the Muslim point of view was rather similar to the Christianist point of view here in the US, and I did note I was glad the two groups will not merge.


March 19, 2006 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putting aside the question of whether Sistani ever said this, is there any basis for equating any of this to any widely held Christian perspective? Is there any example of any modern leader of millions of Christians who has suggested executing homosexuals? The whole idea of Christianity is to save those who they see as lost, not execute them.

March 20, 2006 4:57 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

Please no one save me from "Being Lost"- I am Jewish and I know some Christians consider that as being lost.

March 20, 2006 2:59 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I would think that most non-Christians agree that the most annoying thing about some Christians today is this sense that not only do they believe they have the key to life, but that it's incumbent upon them to save those who don't.

That is insulting.

March 20, 2006 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please no one save me from "Being Lost"- I am Jewish and I know some Christians consider that as being lost."

Not to bore you, Andrea, but most Christians don't consider you lost if you're Jewish. Only if you don't believe in the Messiah. My church will be hosting a Seder in a few weeks, conducted by a individual trained at a top rabbinical school in London. He will explain during the dinner how the Passover feast foreshadows the coming of the Messiah.

In any case, my point before was that this post mischaracterized the approach of Christianity to those it considers sinners.

March 21, 2006 7:58 AM  
Blogger digger said...

My pastor, in exhorting my church to turn out the vote in one of Maine's LGBT equal rights laws, spoke wistfully of the days (od-testament days) when the penalty for being gay was death, and regretted that the only way we have to fight homosexuality now is the ballot box.

Remember, according to the state of Virginia, my social life is a felony. Homosexual behavior is still reason for court martial in the military. Would some Christian leaders like to kill gays? You betcha.


March 21, 2006 10:05 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Anon said, "In any case, my point before was that this post mischaracterized the approach of Christianity to those it considers sinners."

This post didn't say one word about the approach of Christianity to those it considers sinners.

Everyone knows that different Christian denominations and sects have the different views of how to deal with sin and sinners. Take purgatory for example. Not all Christian denominations and sects believe in it but some do.

Anon said, "Is there any example of any modern leader of millions of Christians who has suggested executing homosexuals?"

No, not millions, but there are leaders of smaller Christian sects who seek death for homosexuals, who they refer to as "sodomites." For example, Fred Phelps and his followers travel all over this great nation proselytizing their Christian views, seeking to increase their flock. (FYI -- They are scheduled to visit Congress today.) The first heading over at the WARNING page for Phelps' website for his Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, reads, "SODOMY IS AN ABOMINABLE SIN, WORTHY OF DEATH" and another reads "JESUS CHRIST DIED ONLY FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE."

Anon said, "The whole idea of Christianity is to save those who they see as lost, not execute them."

That may be your understanding of Christianity, but it is obviously not the understanding of all those who call themselves Christians.


March 21, 2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

"Not to bore you, Andrea, but most Christians don't consider you lost if you're Jewish. Only if you don't believe in the Messiah."

Ah, Wyatt, are you really that naive? That small issue was the only reason Jewish Christians split from Judaism in the first place, and matters have only got much worse since then.

Then again, you were the one who said Judaism and Christianity were just two denominations of the same religion. So you're not only in left field, you're out beyond the parking lot and the dumpsters.

March 21, 2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


Two points for now. One, had the Bush administration fought the war with some semblance of competence, as demanded by those in the military hierarchy who weren't Bush toadies, they would have had to institute a draft. There's no other way to send 500,000 tropps to Iraq. Bush was afraid to ask for real sacrifice, so he didn't insititute a draft, and he lost the war. Nice move. We shopped and lost.

Second, do you really support partition? You won't get an argument from me. I think this country's three biggest mistakes are, third, the Iraq debacle, second, the isolationism of the 30's, and first, re-admitting the South to the Union. If you can get the Confederacy to secede again, then I agree, we'll all be much happier. Good luck with that. We might actually agree on something.

March 21, 2006 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My pastor, in exhorting my church to turn out the vote in one of Maine's LGBT equal rights laws, spoke wistfully of the days (od-testament days) when the penalty for being gay was death, and regretted that the only way we have to fight homosexuality now is the ballot box."

Robert, what church was this? It doesn't make much sense for a Christian pastor to long wistfully for the days before Christ.

"Remember, according to the state of Virginia, my social life is a felony."

I thought the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional last year.

"Homosexual behavior is still reason for court martial in the military."

Only non-discreet activity.

"Would some Christian leaders like to kill gays? You betcha."

Kind of a universal type statement. You could play mad-libs and insert any two nouns and still come up with a feasible statement. Let's try it:

Woud some gay leaders like to kill Christians? You betcha.

March 21, 2006 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That may be your understanding of Christianity, but it is obviously not the understanding of all those who call themselves Christians."

Christine, there is no sizable following among Christians for anybody who calls himself a Christian advocates force or violence to attack sinners. It's just an illogical contradiction of terms. And the more seriously one takes scripture, the more true this will be. Don't get me started quoting scripture.

March 21, 2006 7:32 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

First, I'd like to apologize to Retta. I had assumed RT was another pseudonym for Retta, and I was wrong. Again, it would help civility for people simply to identify themselves.

Wyatt, most of the leaders of the gay community that I know are Christian, so I sincerely doubt they would like to kill Christians. While fundamentalist Christianity is primarily distinguishable from fundamentalist Islam by its non-violent nature (which, of course, hasn't always been the case, as the Muslims remember all too well), there are Christianists in this country who do call for executing gays. I believe the Dominionists are at the top of the list, though there is even a candidate for Congress in Ohio, I believe, who put that in his platform. A Democrat, no less. (And who said recently that we don't allow a diverse set of voices?)

March 21, 2006 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an interesting table that lists current religious wars and conflicts at this website.

More than 65% of current religious conflicts (15 of 23) involve Christians.

March 21, 2006 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More than 65% of current religious conflicts (15 of 23) involve Christians."

Meaningless statistic. Doesn't address attackers and attackees. Also, countries aren't Christians, people are.

Less does it address the original post, comparing America's devout Christians to Muslim fanatics in Asia.

March 21, 2006 10:08 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


The difference between "devout" and "fanatic" is in the eye of the beholder. I don't doubt for a moment that most Islamic fanatics are devout, nor that only some devout Muslims are fanatics. The same holds for the Christianists in the US. If by devout you imply modest, then there's no problem.Are Dobson and Robertson devout, in your book? And they're not fanatics?

March 21, 2006 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

"Meaningless statistic. Doesn't address attackers and attackees. Also, countries aren't Christians, people are."

Countries don't kill each other, people do. Northern Ireland hasn't been fighting itself all these years, Catholics and Protestants have been fighting each other. Maybe the statistic is meaningless to you, but it's not to others. Christianity has a long and well-known history of forcing people to convert all over the world.

"Less does it address the original post, comparing America's devout Christians to Muslim fanatics in Asia."

From what I read, it sounds like some of America's devout Christians want to turn Montgomery County public schools into Christian madrassas that are intolerant of homosexuality and teach nothing about contraception and STD avoidance other than abstinence.

March 22, 2006 8:05 AM  

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