Sunday, May 30, 2010

In search of the Muslim mainstream

With Draw Muhammad Day over many commentators have penned bloggy retrospectives. Read Jesse Galef's excellent piece here for example. I'll give no elaborate reflections but I will bring your attention to a key point of fact. I did not press the issue previously as I felt it would distract from our message. During the whole Chalking/DMD drama it was often remarked by our critics that the violent or extremist Muslims are also an extreme minority. The president of the local MSA wrote to us "...this event seems to be a reactionary and rash response to the actions of a fringe organization that does not represent mainstream Islam in any way whatsoever." Exactly how is "mainstream Islam" rightly characterized? Is Omar Fareedi correct? If one is speaking purely about western nations, he surely is. That seems more like a comment on the nature of western nations than Islam though. Also, the vast majority of Muslims don't live in the west (world map). Westernized Muslims can not alone account for whatever is meant by "mainstream Islam".

In late 2009 Pew released a survey called "Declining Support for bin Laden and Suicide Bombing". The report details how support for suicide bombing targeting civilians has declined in several predominantly Muslim countries. This seems like a very positive report, at least things seem to be going in the right direction. That said, it tells us some very troubling things about very big groups of adherents to the peaceful religion of Islam.

Country / % of country's Muslims that say suicide bombing of innocent civilians at least sometimes justified / number of people in that %

Pakistan 13___21.8 (million)
Turkey 26___18.5
Indonesia 35___68.9
Jordan 44___2.3
Egypt 48___33.3
Lebanon 56___1.4
Nigeria 67___51.7
total: 197.9 million

These are just 7 of the 48 countries in the world which are majority Muslim, but these are the ones Pew included in their study. For reference, the world is about one fifth Muslim, amounting to about 1.3-1.5 billion most of which live in Asia. By no stretch of the imagination can 67%, 48% or 56% be considered a minority group. Even in "secular" Turkey 26% of Muslims would say suicide attacks against innocent civilians are sometimes justified. This or even Pakistan's 13% can't be considered a tiny fringe group. The raw numbers are also alarming as almost 200 million Muslims in just 7 nations are fine with the occasional terrorist strike.

Most curious of all, hardly anyone seems to have noticed or cared about any of this. This was applauded as some sort of triumph because the %'s have dropped in recent years. I wonder how many hundred million murderous citizens do you get down to before a Nobel Peace Prize is anticipated?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

AAFter All is Said and Done, It's Been a Great Year

Greetings AAFers and AAF alums,

Like all good things, this school year had to end. Quite a time it was, though. With events like Blasphemy Day, the Debate, all 18 barcrawls, Talkmageddon '010, and others, it's easy to look back and proclaim success. Of course, none of these would have been possible without you: our loyal members. The AAF Officers Board would like to thank all of you for showing up to our events, voicing your opinions, or at very least, staying on our mailing list. For those of you who are moving on, you will be missed. For the returning members next fall, we hope you find your way back into our humble organization (and our hearts <3).

Sentimental gibbering aside, it's time to talk about the future. If you thought AAF couldn't get any better, you thought wrong. Here is just a taste of things to come:

-Fall Cookout
-AAF Volleyball
-Bigger, Badder Debate co-sponsored by the University
-Blasphemy Day 2: Electric Boogaloo
-Darwin Day, done right
-Panel Debate/Talkmageddon '011!!
-1st Annual AAF Limerick Contest

-And more!

Have a great summer. Can't wait to see you all in the fall!

-AAF Officers

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Do you condemn Hezbollah?

Just came across an Interesting video, figured I'd share. It's part of the Q&A session of a lecture given by David Horowitz, who I hadn't heard of but a little bit of research has told me that, while I personally and probably AAF disagree with him on many many things, he is quite an interesting guy. To quote directly from wikipedia, "In 1992, the Heterodoxy magazine, which Horowitz co-edited, was founded. The magazine focused on exposing what it perceived as excessive political correctness on American college and university campuses." Seems vaguely similar to some of the issue's we've been having, yeah?

Well, anyway, a Muslim woman, who is, based on what she said, presumably a member of the MSA, asks him to clarify how the MSA is related to groups like Hezbollah who use terror and violence. The discussion is fascinating. 3:00 especially literally gave me the chills, but be sure to watch the whole thing:

I wonder how the average MSA member would respond to these questions? I feel like they would openly condemn these groups, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe someone will make a topic about it on , which while a work in progress will be the official place to go regarding Muhammad chalkings.

YouTube: The Young Turks cover Chalkgate 2010

The Young Turks is an excellent secularist Youtube channel and this video reporting on our protest activity has already been viewed 22,162 times.

Excerpt (3minute mark) Look, I'm from a Muslim background.. my family is Muslim, I was Muslim etc.., [...] they are choosing to get offended. It's a total choice, they don't have to get offended at all. It's like they're looking for a reason to get offended.

Thanks Cassy @NU for the link.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh Blolcats, so strident yet so fuzzy.

Blasphemy lolcats from /r/atheism, just to take a breather from the heavy topics. I trust everyone is done or mostly done with their semester. Enjoy the break everyone!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Washington Post's Eboo Patel Slams AAF Over Chalkings

Evidently Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama's Faith Advisory Council, occasionally stops in at our blog here. He quoted my earlier posting about our protest chalking in this Washington Post blog entry criticizing AAF, AHA and SHIFT as bigots:

It's not so different than saying that the black students on your campus remind you of the armed robber you saw on the 5 o'clock news because they share a skin color. That's called bigotry when it involves race, and it's called bigotry when it involves religion.
Patel's arguments have all been raised against us several times in the past few weeks and in spite of his high profile, he does not add missing depth that would make them coherent. Patel gives examples of how free speech could imaginably be used poorly and in pointlessly destructive ways, implying but not establishing our actions were pointlessly destructive. For example,

Will the free speech cloak protect you from social outrage if you went to a party dressed in blackface? If you chalked a swastika on the sidewalk leading to the campus Hillel?
It is here implied context and purpose are somehow irrelevant, as if our choice of means was random, arbitrary, and in response to nothing. Patel's logic fails miserably. First, socially unacceptable symbols or phrases really are used in protests and for other reasons by respected members of society. Comedian/activist legend Lenny Bruce frequently used racial epithets and crude language to illustrate the silliness of proscribing words wholesale and the absurdity of racism in the first place. In recent decades the homosexual community co-opted slurs like "gay" and "queer" as in-group speak even though these were considered bigoted or at least crude words. Just months ago Sarah Silverman in front of a huge TED audience riffed about adopting a retarded child in order to prove a point about the hypocrisy of forbidden language. To assert all of these people were just trying to offend is beyond duplicity; it lays bare the aim of people like Patel to attack political adversaries no matter the cost to the truth.

Second, none of the things from his list are actually sacred cows of any kind. Is he asking (suggesting) that the N-word a sacred cow? Are "mothers"? How 'bout cancer? The answer, Mr. Patel, is no. All of these things have been fodder for many satirists and comedians. Denis Leary even named one of his specials "No Cure for Cancer," which has quite a few cancer jokes. There are so many "yo mamma" jokes entire books are dedicated to them. The "N word" has been trotted out regularly for comedy by the likes of Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Joe Rogan. You know why those aren't sacred cows? Because no one ever threatened to kill Leary or Chappelle. In fact no one even suggested it was somehow an affront to diversity that they used those jokes.

In past eras all someone had to do was suggest you had been a communist and you were through. In our time the term is "bigot". It is almost reflexively hurled at anyone who is in political disagreement with the status quo. Patel suggests we used the phrase "you people" to insert racist words into our mouths - none of us ever said that. Like previous eras, it doesn't matter if the claim can be substantiated - the accusation is enough. Like before there is an "in" and an "out" group. This time it's the powerful and Politically Correct who are "in" and they do their damage by suggesting we are "out", we are bigots and "intolerant". Nevermind that we protest our good intentions and that our actions are logically connected to worthy purposes. We're bigots no matter what we say, after all why else would we be accused?

We can't be allowed to harass the put-upon Politically Correct minority, the Muslims, who have no one on their side other than the Assistant Dean of our University and members of President Obama's team. They're practically defenseless against us, 20-odd chalk-wielding students so full of hate only smiley stick figures could quench the thirst for evil.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Breaking news! NU Atheists Chalk Muhammad

The secularist group SHIFT at Northwestern University became the third major campus student group to chalk stick figures of the Prophet Muhammad today according to the news blog NorthbyNorthwestern. SHIFT has also posted a formal statement about their event citing the events leading to their protest including the threats made against the South Park creators and the previous protests:

At the University of Illinois, the secular student group AAF (Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers) decided to show their support for Parker and Stone by drawing stick figures around campus and labeling them as "Muhammad." (For pictures of the event and an official statement from the group itself, you can read their blogpost.) Because they received such a backlash from the Muslim community on their campus, this past week the AAF sent out a mass e-mail to all of the student groups in the nation affiliated with the Secular Student Alliance (which includes SHIFT), imploring everyone to act similarly on his/her own campus, so that we may establish a solidarity among secular students for free expression, and in doing so, rebuke the power that we have given to fear-mongerers wherever we have allowed needless censorship. Thus far, the University of Wisconsin has followed suit (a very interesting reaction resulted from the Muslim community at their campus, actually; you can read about it here), but it will take a lot more than two (and now, three) groups to achieve the desired solidarity.

This is why SHIFT has chalked Northwestern's campus: to support both the AAF and South Park, as well as to facilitate an open discussion about censorship and political correctness (which is scheduled for this Sunday at 4 PM in the Shepard piano lounge).

Adding, "we feel as though standing in solidarity with these individuals/groups who have so far acted in defense of these rights will help to dilute the effects of the unfortunate taboo that surrounds the depiction of Muhammad." AAF knows well this was a difficult choice and commends SHIFT for joining the ranks of those who will take a stand for free speech. The scheduled meeting to discuss the event afterward is also a great idea.

UPDATE NU's President will formally meet with SHIFT to discuss the matter. President Shapiro will be attending their open talk on sunday. See the Facebook event here. (I'd just like to point out our own president and our campus newspaper had no interest in such things.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Polish Pop Star Could Get 2 Years in Jail for Blasphemy

All in all, we have it pretty good. The rest of the world isn't as lucky. Paliban Daily reported,

Think the religious right goes overboard in the US? Under Poland’s blasphemy law, a Polish pop singer is facing two years in jail for interview comments about the Bible.
26-year-old Dorota Rabczewska, known as “Doda”, is a Polish pop star. Generally not much different from American pop stars — other than being a member of MENSA — Doda likes to speak her mind. That’s gotten her into some hot water this time around.
Hey Poland, know why the EU won't let you in the clubhouse? This. This story broke just a month after Doda's boyfriend Adam Darski was also charged with offending Catholics by ripping a Bible in half on stage during a concert. Poland isn't the only place freedom of expression is under assault from religious groups. Just a month ago a Briton was convicted and given a suspended sentence for the crime of leaving blasphemous images in an airport prayer room (yes evidently such a thing exists). Also last month the mostly muslim nation of Indonesia's high court upheld the country's blasphemy law to the dismay of human rights advocates, as reported by the USA Today.

Freedom isn't free
Now there's a hefty f'in' fee
And if you don't throw in your buck 'o five
Who will?

FFRF's Ad blitz for Secularism

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) ran a full page ad (left) in the May 6 New York Times, it reported here. The ad promotes separation of church and state and praises the recent district court ruling against the National Day of Prayer.
This comes just a day after the FFRF launched a bus-based ad campaign in Madison asserting the secular nature of the US and its founders. See a few below, and read more about the bus ads here. The ads are beautifully rendered and hopefully will remind many Americans of the true history of the United States.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On What Constitutes Hate Speech and Our Present Understanding of Tolerance

      To qualify as hate speech under U.S. Law, speech must directly exhort to acts of physical violence against a person or group of people, or it must directly urge to overthrow the government.   Drawings of smiling stick figures of Muhammed do not call for violence against Muhammed (who died around 1,300 years ago, I believe), and they cannot reasonably be construed to call for violence against Muslims.  This settles the question of whether or not atheist groups' actions legally qualify as hate speech. 
      Can AAF's actions be seen as indirectly encouraging people to hate Muslims?  No, their clear intent is to assert the primacy of free speech.  To read more into it would be truly stretching the literal content and expressed meaning of the words and images; one should not be surprised that Muslims might do just that considering that the Abrahamic religious traditions are well versed at taking literal content and arguing for whatever alternate meaning suits their purposes at the time.  Those of us interested in genuine text exegesis are justified in balking.

“Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God...promises, covenants, and oaths, which are bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist.”

One is apparently very careful to protect the reverence given Muhammed, I hear, so let's take a look at the Sura in the Koran named after this supposedly great man: 
“When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them, and of the rest make fast the fetters.  And afterwards let there either be free dismissals or ransomings, till the war hath laid down its burdens.  Thus do.  Were such the pleasure of God, he could himself take vengeance upon them: but He would rather prove the one of you by the other.  And whoso fight for the cause of God, their works he will not suffer to miscarry; He will vouchsafe them guidance, and dispose their hearts aright; And he will bring them into the Paradise, of which he hath told them.  Believers!  If ye help God, God will help you, and will set your feet firm: But as for the infidels, let them perish: and their works shall God bring to nought.” (Sura 47 “Muhammed”: 3-9)
How could one interpret this passage as anything short of the worst form of hatred?  Amazingly, moderate Muslim scholars often present defenses of it as a spiritual allegory, but one can clearly see that those who are following this passage of the Koran do not belong to the MSA, but rather to Al-Qaida.  The Koran, however, is not an ironic postmodern narrative, and the less crassly credulous among us will not buy it when Muslim theologians piss on us and tell us it's raining.  Those of us who refuse to afford extra respect to traditions simply because they have been deemed oppressed by our home culture historically will similarly balk, as will all people who assess arguments based on their clearly stated tenets.
      And yet even very moderate Muslims claim that the Koran is the literal word of God, the perfect and final source of all knowledge.  That is quite a claim.  If they truly followed their Holy Book, one has a legitimate case against them for espousing a doctrine of hatred, intolerance and violence.  If it weren't for our society's politically correct, misplaced reverence for the Islamic tradition, I'm sure someone would have done this by now.
      And yet, I strongly oppose any action against any Muslim based on his or her stated belief in the perfection of the Koran, even though it contains messages of violence and hatred (intermixed with messages of charity and love; reading it, I have always thought the author must be bipolar).  Why do I oppose this?  Because I do not believe in thoughtcrime (Orwell, “1984”). 
      The issue of thoughtcrime brings me to the second accusation being leveled at AAF: intolerance.  What exactly is tolerance?  Does tolerance mean accepting or respecting anyone's views or belief system regardless of what one thinks its consequences to be?  Sadly, this is the notion of tolerance that many people have been taught since around the mid-1980s, and because it has come to them from university professors and high school teachers, many have imbibed it as the proper, right-thinking person's doctrine.  Following this conception, it is not enough merely “to tolerate,” one must “embrace” diversity.  (For those who believe in “embracing” anything and everything, diversity points might be maximized by embracing total free speech, like that of AAF,  instead of tolerating only that which satisfies present dogma.) 
      The Enlightenment's conception of tolerance is modishly criticized as “Eurocentric”  and “outdated.”  However, the Enlightenment's notion of tolerance proclaims freedom of conscience and establishes actions as the sole criterion for considerations of punishment.  The Enlightenment's conception of tolerance does not condemn thinking one way or another, or expressing one opinion or another, but rather it believes people should be judged on the basis of their actions alone.  It is based on this notion of tolerance that AAF is free from any accusations of intolerance or hate, just as the Muslims in the MSA are free from accusations of hate on the basis of the clear content of the book they esteem as the perfect moral guide to be followed without error.  Even if members of AAF did hate Muslims (I don't know of any who do), this would not be a crime in any way, although there are many who seemingly wish it were.  AAF is justified in defending itself against all Orwellian persecutors of conscience.
      Furthermore, this notion of tolerance being used to accuse AAF of intolerance is bankrupt because, were it widely applied, it would render society impotent to make judgments about the ethicality of actions, and it would remove any possibility for programmatic social reform.  If our idea of tolerance is acceptance of any and every idea, then we should be accepting Nazism, racist ideologies, misogynist groups, and any other crackpot, bigoted ideas a group may put out there.  How many MSA students would march around and deface AAF postings that unequivocally expressed hatred for Nazis or the Aryan Nation?  I'd wager none.  Such an experiment would isolate the variable “hate speech,” and positively show that it is not the active ingredient motivating MSA's rejection of AAF's action.  They are opposed to being offended.  No one has the right not to be offended.  Perhaps MSA students feel it indicates a hostility to them that will result in some real form of discrimination some time soon. 
      As Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers, AAF should resoundingly reply: Look who you are talking to!  Atheists are the single most maligned group in history, such that atheism was long taken by the religious and irreligious themselves as synonymous with immorality.  One of the first great atheist philosophers of the Early Modern Era, Benedict Spinoza, responded defensively to accusations of atheism, saying “they would not call me an atheist if they saw that I lead a moral life.” If atheists themselves show such an awareness of its connotations, we can be sure of the values of the sort of society that gave the word “atheist” such a meaning.  Atheism has been equated with immorality and evil by Islam and Christianity since their respective inceptions, and it is only due to the work of the Enlightenment that they suffer atheists to live at all.  Even some more conservative figures of the Enlightenment, like John Locke, whose Second Treatise of Government (1690) is credited as being a major source for U.S. Law, writes of atheists in another place, “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God...promises, covenants, and oaths, which are bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist.” And yet, does one hear atheists demanding not to have their beliefs on metaphysical questions maligned?  I have not heard of this being done: I have only heard of atheists insisting on the separation of Church and State, and on people being held accountable for their actions.  Muslims have not won a special right not to be offended by virtue of their being discriminated against by some.  A stated support for free speech and an attempt to prevent the same from being exercised (or an attempt to punish the same after it has been carried out) is not a belief in free speech at all. 
      Claims concerning the appropriateness of AAF's protest on the UIUC campus, given the moderate nature of the MSA, are legitimate insofar as this is understood to address nearly all forms of campus protest.  This “relevancy heckle” should be similarly raised by the MSA to campus protests against the immigration law in Arizona (we cannot really affect Arizona law here; why not go there to protest?), to campus protests against Proposition 8 (an issue in California), to campus protests against genocide in Darfur, war in Iraq, etc.  If you think this campus protest is inappropriate because it will not speak directly to the radicals and those controlling the issue directly, fine: then similarly oppose other protests on college campuses that do the same, which, by the way, amounts to nearly all campus protests.  With the relevancy variable isolated, one also can reasonably induct that the MSA's (and others') objection does not lie with the “relevancy” of the AAF's actions.  Campus protests on any of the aforementioned matters would surely offend some: conservative Christians could be offended by protests against Proposition 8, those who feel slighted by illegal immigration could be offended and outraged by immigration law protests, etc. 
      In conclusion, criticism of AAF and AHA's actions as hate speech and intolerance are hollow, and a simple analysis shows that the true opposition lies in the belief of some that they have a right not to be offended (and the belief by others that certain groups to which they do not belong have a right not to be offended).  It would not be necessary for AAF to take actions that might offend some if those same truly assented that they have no right not to be offended, but seeing as they do not, I view any action calling out Muslims or any other group for thinking they are exempted from this as an appropriate defense of free speech and exposure of hypocrisy.  Hopefully we can build a society in which free speech is truly respected by all, and then, offending others would lack rhetorical purpose and be rendered pointless; this is the true way to stop such protests.

Adam Chambers
Ph.D. Candidate – Germanic Languages & Literatures

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More Muhammad's than you can waggle a disapproving finger at

Updates! First as you probably know the UW AHA protest was a great success. Since Hemant Mehta and their own blog recounts the event well I will not go into great detail. The campus Muslims at Madison followed the atheists around adding "Ali" after Muhammad to some of the drawings and distorting them in other ways. This is at least a more humored approach, but it didnt last. Soon the Muslims simply started erasing. AHA has condemned these acts of censorship of expression. In other news..

Muhammad returned to the UIUC campus today.

This time not the handiwork of AAF but of unknown gifted artists who AAF commends. The authors are promoting "Everyone draw Muhammad day" which is May 20. As before, other unknown individuals decided to be the playground police:

Notice it isn't just the word "Muhammad" they tried to wash off here but the entire text promoting an event. Are we not allowed to promote events either now, MSA? Should everyone ask your permission before buying chalk?

I've gotten word students from at least three other colleges that are planning similar events. May 20th will bring droves of Muhammad's everywhere. You can't silence us. This is not going away.

AAF Makin' Headlines

For a readable full-size image of this article click here. Reporter Paul Wood presented the topic in a fair light quoting both us and the other side accurately as far as I can tell. Is this the first of many? Time shall tell.

Monday, May 3, 2010

(Citation Needed)

So, since we've been doing this event, I've always wondered why exactly Muslims are so angered when other people depict Muhammad. I had heard from multiple people that there is nothing in the Qur'an that says you can't do it, but that it does discuss the issue in a couple Hadith. I had also heard that the reasons for the law go back to the fear of worshiping false idols. Surely Muslims should not be afraid of worshiping stick figures, right?

So, being the little skeptic that I am, I started to do some research on my own. My results were pretty similar to what I had heard through various resources. But then I found this website that had a lot of good information about it. They even did a summary at the end:

  1. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all consider idolatry a heinous sin.
  2. The Qur'an does not prohibit making images, only worshipping them.
  3. Hadith clearly and consistently prohibits all images of any living being, with special mention of punishment for painters.
  4. One exception to this rule is dolls for children, probably because children are not considered in danger of worshipping them as idols.
  5. Neither the Qur'an nor Hadith mention depictions of Muhammad.
  6. The Hadith prohibiting images are directed at Muslims only (e.g. Muslims are instructed not to enter buildings where there are images, not to demand their removal).
  7. Muslim outrage against depictions of the Prophet does not usually extend to outrage against all images.
  8. The Hadith prohibiting images do not call for Muslims to take action against those who make images, but instead say that God will punish them severely at the Day of Judgment.
  9. Muslims have applied the prohibitions against images in various ways throughout history and there is still some variation today.
  10. Figurative art of Muhammad and other humans has been a significant part of late medieval Islamic art. But it was generally limited to secular contexts and elite classes who could afford fine art.
  11. Shi'ites tend to be more open to religious images than Sunnis.
  12. The main reason given for not depicting Muhammad is to avoid the temptation to worship the image.
  13. Neither the Qur'an nor Hadith say that viewing an image accidentally is a sin, but in the Hadith the Prophet teaches Muslims to avoid them.

If you want to see where this information comes from, feel free to read the entire article and the sources they refer to at the end.

After so many Muhammad pics I figured we could give Jesus a turn.

Now onto the important part- nowhere in Islamic literature does it state that you should find depictions of Muhammad offensive, unless you also consider all depictions of living things offensive, which most Muslims nowadays do not (as far as I can tell). It also nowhere specifies for Muslims who see these people making images to call to action; it says that Allah will take care of it. And if the main reason for not depicting Muhammad is to avoid temptation to worship, then the stick figures we drew should be no problem at all.

And now the question, and this is for everyone, regardless of your opinion on our chalkings (although I think the opinions may be correlated): Does any of this matter? Should we take a religious individual's offense less seriously if they have no religious basis for it? Contrary to what some of you may think, I do not enjoy offending Muslims- but I feel like if Muslims took the time to try to understand where these beliefs come from they might realize they have no reason to be offended at all.

Of course, I may also be missing something. If I am and people care to enlighten me as to where the source of the reason to be offended by our stick figures is feel free to do so, as I'm genuinely interested.

UW Atheists Chalk Muhammad, first to follow U of I Protest

No doubt to the chagrin of nuanced post-modernists and free speech-optional Muslims everywhere, Chris Calvey and his merry band of stalwart Madison intellectuals known as AHA (Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics) are likely creating images of Muhammad on their quad as I write this. Like the UI protest, AHA is determined to prove that basic human rights are not up for negotiation:

We are aware that depicting images of Muhammad is a controversial issue that is highly offensive to many Muslims around the world. We acknowledge that you may view this as an unproductive, misguided, or hurtful event. We are very sensitive to these facts, and want to ensure that this event is done in a way that does not lead to Muslims feeling uncomfortable on campus. That is why I want to explain our position and our intentions as clearly as possible before the event takes place.
These drawings are not intended to mock, intimidate, or harass anyone -– rather, we aim to make the following statements:
1) We have the right to criticize religion and to perform actions considered blasphemous, even if many individuals find this offensive.
2) A free society cannot tolerate violence or threats of violence which seek to limit our freedom of expression.
Further, we fully understand that Revolution Islam is a radical, fringe organization that does not represent mainstream Islam in any way. It goes without saying that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, in the U.S. and across the world, do not view their tactics as acceptable.

Chris Calvey wrote the above as part of a letter to the UW Muslim Student Association, though it was not particularly well received giving them the courtesy shows clearly what the intent of this sort of protest is. Only the most obstinate and agendized could truly find grave offense in harmless stick figure drawings. In response, the UW MSA has filed a complained just as the UIUC MSA (presumably) filed a complaint of intolerance against AAF. This is true even though the policies and by-laws of both universities explicitly protect freedom of expression including that which can 'cause offense'.

AAF supports and commends AHA for their courage and gumption. The detractors can bring all the water they want, but they cannot wash away the message or the ideals they represent.

Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist and dancer of has already given AHA good review here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

German MP calls for Europe-wide Burqa Ban

While a huge boon to Muslim women in mosquito-infested areas as well as to Arab cross dressers (talk about easy), western Europe has become increasingly anxious about elements of Muslim culture that seem to clash with euro-values.

In 2009 Switzerland passed a ban on the construction of minarets, saving innocent Swiss folk from the oppression of beautiful, innocuous obelisks which had increased in number to 4 in recent centuries. Germany, France, Belgium and other nations have banned head-coverings associated with Muslims in certain places and professions such as teaching. Now the Daily News is reporting the vice president of the European Parliament is calling for a Europe-wide bad on the Burqa, a sort of Muslim snuggie that is closed in the back:

While praising the Belgian parliament for passing the measure to ban the burqa and the niqab, Koch-Mehrin expressed her wish for a similar law to also be applied in Germany and the rest of Europe. She defined the Islamic garment as a “mobile prison” that constitutes a massive infringement on women’s rights.

How quickly even the birthplace of the enlightenment succumbs to fear and xenophobia. In fairness I have to admit that if the US had a predominantly Islamic nation as close as western Europe does we'd probably have a 7,000 mile pigs blood moat around our perimeter. Texas would probably outlaw pita bread, if it hasn't. Some of the arguments aren't terrible- conspicuous religious displays aren't appropriate in neutral public places such as schools. At least France bans all ostentatious religious displays in schools, not just those of Islam. Some also argue that security can not be maintained when full body burqas are worn because people can not be identified or pass normal security checkpoints. These justifications might be persuasive if they were not usually pushed by fear-mongerers. I do not agree with any expansive public ban of burqas. It is not any government's job to regulate fashion no matter its motives. I do find such clothing to be oppressive and generally as good an idea as smoking for a society but it should be eliminated via cultural imperialism, humiliation, and good ol' peer pressure like god intended not from heavy handed federal laws. Until then I consider it a matter of freedom of personal expression. Europe, you should relax.. you've practically made withering of religions an art form and you never needed thuggish laws for that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Update: Campus Muslims Try to Censor Quad

Perhaps unable to find gigantic [CENSORED] signs to cover the artwork, individuals erased many drawings yesterday. While no one has taken credit for this as of yet a few spotted were recognized as members of the student Muslim group.

The self-appointed campus Mutaween has evidently decided it is the morality police at UIUC. UIUC now has de facto student-led censorship of free expression. They went to great effort to undo our work - but to no avail.

There were just too many to handle. Over 150 across two quads. The vast majority of those remained all day Friday and were no doubt seen by thousands. The pictures are now floating around the internet, posted at this and other blogs like The Friendly Atheist, as well as reddit, digg, on flickr and imgur. You can't wash it all away.

Any question about the silencing of criticism is now over. This is no longer just about Viacom/Comedy Central but about what is permissible on our own university campuses. AAF will continue to fight against opponents of free expression in any way it can.