13 April 2015

ISLAMIC TERRORISM



Islamic Terrorism

Stop Denying the Obvious 

In recent years I have become weary of listening to news of the latest Islamist atrocity followed by leading politicians bleating on about “Islamic State” and their like practising a “perversion of Islam” –“essentially a religion of peace”.

I suspect it has something to do with the innate ability of the British people to exercise tolerance to the point of absurdity, just because we think tolerance is a good thing. Also, since Islam is a Religion having long-distant but vague connections with the Abrahamic and Christian religions, it must therefore be benign: so those who follow it should be respected for their views.

I have long since held the opinion of Islam that it cannot be described as a religion of peace. The evidence to the contrary is slapping us in the face almost every time we switch on the TV News, and yet we are still reluctant to face the facts, and become apologists for the religion. We have become paralysed by so-called Political Correctness, by which we cannot allow ourselves to face the prospect of being accused of either Racism or Islamophobia.

Racism is a stupid word in this context, since Muslims are not a Race. Phobia is an irrational fear of something. I don’t think that fear of Islam is in any way irrational, so I’m not even sure if the word “Islamophobia” is correct.

I should admit that there was a time when I counted myself amongst those who strongly defended the rights of Muslims to follow their religion which (I also believed) was a “Religion of Peace”. But that view was consequent upon my ignorance, and I think that ignorance is widespread amongst those who would aspire to govern this country.

Having subsequently come to an entirely different point of view I was heartened to see my feelings echoed in a book that recently came to my attention: Heretic – Why Islam needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The fact that she and I are “on the same page” is important only insofar as she was born, in Somalia, into a Muslim family, and brought up strictly to observe the tenets of Islam. I therefore think that her opinions are far more important than mine, based as they are on inside knowledge of what it means to be a Muslim. Her views carry infinitely more weight than my own, so I urge people to buy this book and become better informed about Islam.

By the time Ayaan Hirsi Ali had become a teenager she realised that the religion she had been schooled in was repressive, prevented innovation and change, was not subject to debate or analysis, was abusive to women, socially in their 2nd-class citizenship and physically in the practice of female genital mutilation. Against massive opposition from her own family she parted from her religion and fled to the Netherlands in 1922, where she went from cleaning in factories to winning a seat in the Dutch Parliament. A prominent speaker, debater, and writer, she was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. She is now a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Her book Heretic .. opens with a paragraph that invites us to fill in the blanks from any number of newscasts that we might have heard in recent years:

                On ________, a group of ________ heavily armed, black-clad men burst into a ________ in ________, opening fire and killing a total of ________ people. The attackers were filmed shouting “Allahu akbar!”
                Speaking at a press conference, President _______ said: “We condemn this criminal act by extremists. Their attempt to justify their violent acts in the mae of a religion of peace will not, however, succeed. We also condemn with equal force those who would use this atrocity as a pretext for Islamophobic hate crimes”.

Of course, the most recent example you could use to fill in the blanks would be the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Though if you hark back a few years to their most spectacular evil act you’d also have to change a few words as well to involve aeroplanes and skyscrapers. But I think you see the point she is making.

The author goes on to say ..

                For more than thirteen years now, I have been making a simple argument in response to such acts of terrorism. My argument is that it is foolish to insist, as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts of radical Islamists can be divorced from the religious ideals that inspire them. Instead we must acknowledge that they are driven by a political ideology, an ideology embedded in Islam itself, in the holy book of the Qur’an as well as the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad contained in the hadith.

The really scary thing for us to recognise is that every barbaric act (beheading, crucifixion, burning, amputation &c) carried out by so-called Islamic State, or Al-Quaeda, or Boko Haram, can be fully justified by reference to the Qur’an. Therefore, far from being “un-Islamic”, they are indeed being wholly Islamic!

Now, speaking as an atheist, I have little time for either the Bible or the Qur’an, but there is a big difference between the two. Whilst the Bible is full of bloody and gory exhortations and punishments by God (not to mention a number of stories that can only be described as fantasies), adherents to the Bible, on the whole, do not accept every word in that book as the literal and final Word of God, to be followed as LAW.

On the other hand Muslims who take their religion seriously accept the Qur’an as the final and immutable instructions from God, given to his Messenger Muhammed. It has remained set in the 7th century of Middle-Eastern tribal life, and has rarely been open to interpretation, analysis, modification, query or discussion (except by non-Muslims and ex-Muslims of course). Querying the validity of the Qur’an is simply not an option, whereas for centuries Jews and Christians have deliberated over the interpretation of the Bible, and have in practice (since the Reformation) gradually moved towards a flexible interpretation, even to the point of never referring to certain sections of it. We should acknowledge that in medieval times the practices of Christianity were very similar to what we are now seeing in fanatical Islamism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is saying Islam needs the same Reformation as that of Christianity, and it’s needed urgently.

In the more extreme Evangelical Christian sects in the USA there are many who do take the whole Bible literally and refuse to recognise the current scientific view of the Universe and our place in it, but even if I lived amongst them, should I openly declare my rejection of Christianity I dare say it would be unlikely that hordes of angry American Christians would rise up and call for my immediate death. But you try converting from Islam to another religion, or question the validity of the Qur’an, or the divine nature of “The Prophet” then you are potentially on Death Row.

I think it is therefore incumbent upon all of us, especially our “leaders” to understand this fundamental difference between Christianity as it is generally practised - having evolved into a 21st century religion (which by the way doesn’t override the secular laws of the land), and Islam – rooted (apparently immovably) in the 7th century. 

We in Britain say to our Muslim citizens, “You want a new mosque? OK, build one here.” 

Try building a new Christian Church in an Islamic State.

Islam is based not on what good we can do in this life; it is based on the importance of the next life, where you will find a Paradise that is described in great detail, down to the number of rooms and gardens, and how they look, and the number of black-eyed virgins ready to cater for your every need. (Obviously this is a male-dominated Paradise; it doesn’t sound very appealing for women!)

And you can get to this wonderful “next life” by killing all those “pigs” and “monkeys” that refuse to accept the Prophet’s divinity. Western liberal democracy? Freedom of thought? Respect for women? It’s all sinful. There are billions of human beings out there who don’t accept your adherence to the word of Allah through his Messenger, so make a start – just strap this bomb to your chest – Paradise awaits your arrival.

Finally, saying Islam is not a religion of peace is not the same as saying there are millions of Muslims who are not peaceful. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is saying that peaceful Muslims have somehow managed in their own minds to modify or ignore certain central tenets of their Faith. They have contrived to activate cognitive dissonance reduction. These are the people we should be encouraging, instead of constantly trying to make excuses for the atrocities of the radical adherents, by citing things like social deprivation and foreign policy errors made by our leaders.

© Lionel Beck
April 2015







16 March 2015

UK GENERAL ELECTION - MAY 2015 - MY MANIFESTO



Election Manifesto for the
None-of-the-Above Party

European Union

In the belief that the advantages of being in the EU outweigh the disadvantages, we propose that the UK should comply fully with EU principles except those with which we disagree.

Border Control:  We will take full control of our own borders. If we wish to plant hollyhocks and delphiniums in them, we will not be dictated to by the French that they should be entirely given over to garlic bulbs, nor by the Germans that we should plant sausages.

Freedom of Movement within the EU: We intend to propose that the chains on leg irons should have another couple of links added to increase freedom of movement.

Greek Exit: We wish to discourage the whole idea of a Greek Exit on the grounds that in the event of a serious fire this would discriminate against those of us who are not Greek.

Education

The teaching of “Creationism” will be banned in all schools. God knows it’s wrong.

Sex education in schools will include and introductory course in Latin, with particular reference to the meaning of “coitus interruptus”.

Defence

We intend to stop sitting on defence in order to reduce the incidence of splinters in bottoms.

The Economy

People who avoid paying their taxis will be compelled to use other forms of transport. We propose to remove VAT (Value Added Taxis, i.e., those that carry advertising)

We will increase the Personal Allowance to £12,500 thus taking millions of people out of any obligation to pay taxis. Taxi operators will consequently become insolvent but will obviously benefit from the aforementioned increased Personal Allowance as their income will below that threshold.

Transport

We will always be in favour of transport, as being a useful means of getting from A to B and vice versa.

We will build a network of mobility scooter paths in order to reduce the deaths of pedestrians.

People who drive with their mouths open and wearing hats at the same time will have their driving licences revoked.

Highway authorities will be prohibited from erecting signs saying NO ROAD MARKINGS. The rationale is that a driver who is unable to see that the road on which they are driving has no markings should not be in possession of a driving licence. Similarly, signs saying NEW ROAD LAYOUT AHEAD will be banned on the grounds that local people saw the changes being made, and people from outside the locality were not aware of the original layout. They also become particularly meaningless when the signs remain in place for up to five years.

The HS2 project will be re-routed to replace the current East Coast main line, thus avoiding going anywhere near Birmingham. 

The railways will be returned to Public Ownership, and all trains brought up to the same standard as French TGVs.

Justice

Capital Punishment will be restored, but reserved exclusively for two groups of people: those who put apostrophes in the wrong place, or use apostrophes where they are not needed, and those who persistently fail to turn up for hospital or GP appointments.

Social cohesion and integration

We intend to set up a new government agency known as the Office of Political Correctness (or “Ofspeech”) to be headed up by Jeremy Clarkson.

Cartoonists will be required to operate on a not-for-prophet basis.

Cartoons, dolls or puppets representing Punch & Judy will be banned on the grounds that they are offensive to white people, being a gross caricature of both their facial features and their personal ethics. That’s the way to do it.

All religions will be discouraged, and everyone will be obliged just to be nice to each other.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy should be in English so we can understand it and this, basically, would involve not sticking our noses into everyone else’s business.

Health

A & E Departments will be known as Alcoholics & Emergency Departments. For people who fail to turn up for appointments, please see the Justice section above.

In order to be worthy of their huge salaries, doctors need to be prepared to be hauled out of bed at 3 in the morning to examine Grandma’s arthritic knee.

Politics

Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesdays will be replaced by a half-hour session of custard pie throwing; this would be similar to the current level of behaviour, and yet be far more entertaining.


To see further details of our policies please visit our Website (currently down for maintenance).







12 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie


Sunday 11th January 2015 saw an amazing gathering of over a million people in Paris.

It was a mass demonstration of great dignity, peace and solidarity against the disgusting murders of journalists, cartoonists, police officers and ordinary shoppers a few days earlier by four Islamic Jihadists.

I watched this awesome spectacle for several hours on the BBC News Channel, and I would describe it as a manifestation of Civilization versus Barbarism.

For one day, at least, Civilization smashed Barbarism. We must hope that it lasts for considerably longer than one day.

We saw, united in friendship and common cause, white people, black people, brown people, Christians, Muslims, Jews, people of no faith at all; people from all over Paris, France, Europe and beyond, including Prime Ministers and Presidents from all over the place, arms linked during a slow and dignified march from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in the cause of freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

I don't care whether or not Charlie Hebdo published cartoons that were offensive to some Muslims. That could never justify going on a shooting spree. And as Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation said yesterday, "When someone tells you a cartoon offends Muslims, what he is really saying is that it offends him".

I was moved by an interview with a Jewish man and his daughter in the crowd who were each holding a white rose. He explained that the roses had been given to them by his Muslim neighbour as a symbol of peace. A French woman standing next to a man from North Africa said, "I don't know this man, but he is my brother".

On a final note regarding the satirical magazine and it's "offensive" cartoons, it is important to realise that it is not just Islam that has been the butt of their jokes, but Christianity as well. There was recently a cartoon depicting Jesus hanging on the cross, with the caption, "I'm a Celebrity - get me out of here!" No bunch of crazed Christians went on a shooting spree.

I believe whenever there is anything in our political institutions or our religions that are either stupid or ridiculous, then it is incumbent upon us to ridicule them. We survive by having a sense of humour .. something sadly lacking in most religious fundamentalists of whatever faith.

 

30 October 2014

Catholic Church catches up with Science


I has been my long-held view that Religion and the churches that peddle it, do not, as a rule, lead the development of society. What happens is that from time to time the Church takes a leap forward to catch up with society.

Take the matter of contraception; officially discouraged by the Catholic Church, we all know (and that includes the Church) that it is widely practised by Catholics. I venture to suggest that the time will come when it receives the Church's official approval.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis - who in many ways has so far been a remarkable Pope - has (according to USA Today) just made an interesting statement about Creation. Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences he said "When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so; He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment."

This is not entirely new because earlier Popes have talked in similar terms. I think the current Pope's pronouncements carry more weight, however, because of his radical views on many things, and because of his popularity.




"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

Pope Francis .. October 2014

 
 

It is probably because the Catholic Church has previously dabbled in a more scientific view of creation that the more rabid evangical protestants (found predominantly in the USA) denounce Catholics as not being "Proper Christians".

The Pope's view on Creation is anathema to those who like to adhere to the Disneyesque view of Genesis and indeed the rest of the Bible. In fact the Pope falls into line with other eminent thinkers such as Lionel Beck and Thomas Paine. What? Oh, alright, Thomas Paine!

So if we accept evolution, the question that now arises is, at what point along the evolutionary path did the organic beings that preceded primitive humankind acquire a Soul capable of surviving death and "ascending" into "heaven"?

I'm not going to try and answer that one becasue I wish to retain some semblance of sanity, but I'm sure there are people out there who are going to tell me the answer.




07 August 2014

Entrepeneur is a French word but ...

Last week my wife and I were in France - Rocamadour to be precise. It's a stunningly spectacular place, a mediaeval town perched half way up the side of a limestone cliff.



The thing is, though, the French can be incredibly charming and helpful, but also quite the opposite.

Although Entrepeneur is a French word, the French appear to have a shaky relationship with the concept of customer service. How do their businesses make money? I should explain that our observation of their strange business practice was confined to catering (in three instances in restaurants and cafes, and one instance on an SNCF inter-city train.)

At noon one very hot day in Rocamadour we had only a limited time for lunch, being due to join a coach trip. All we wanted was a glass of wine and a Crepe. There were several establishments prominently displaying menu boards outside, most of which included CREPES. The first one we entered advertised an air-conditioned dining room, so considering the excessive temperature outside, we were happy to dive inside. The patron wished us "Bonjour" and watched us go into the dining room. The dining room was empty. We sat there admiring the view of the gorge outside for five or ten minutes during which time we were totally ignored. The guy who had greeted us just sat behind the bar in the adjacent room. So we walked out as the man behind the bar bade us "Au Revoir"! Opportunity to take our Euros completely missed.

We then walked to another restaurant that was three quarters empty. It was now about 12.15 pm. We sat down at one of the many empty tables and a waiter took our order for a carafe of rose wine. The wine was delivered to our table promptly. At the same time a waitress arrived to take our food order. We ordered two Grand Marnier Crepes, at which point the lady explained that between Noon and 3 pm we could only order a full meal, whereupon the waiter whisked away our carafe of wine and two glasses as quickly as it had been delivered. Opportunity to take our Euros completely missed in favour of some self-imposed rule that it would be better business sense to send us on our way.

By now, time was getting short and in desperation we tried a food outlet that was selling snacks from a window. Their menu included CREPES, so we asked for two Grand Marnier Crepes. The answer was "Non". They were not cooking crepes at this time of day. Opportunity to take our Euros completely missed.

My temper was now reaching the same temperature as the midday sun, and we retreated back to our hotel for a drink of water and a cereal bar.

I mentioned this to our Tour Manager, and he remarked that whilst most of western Europe was moving towards customer-oriented service, the French appeared to marching in the opposite direction. Well, good luck with that, my Gallic friends!

My final experience of this inflexible attitude was on the train from Brive-la-Gaillarde back to Paris, when I went in search of the buffet car. I walked the full length of the train and missed it, mainly because there wasn't a buffet car as such - just a man standing in a doorway at the end of one of the carriages. Behind him on a shelf was a small coffee machine, and on the floor were some cardboard boxes of snacks. I asked him for two coffees. He handed me two stirring sticks and some packets of sugar to place in my pocket, then poured the coffee into two small polystyrene cups and placed lids on them. I had a long way to go back to our seats in a crowded train, including some bodies scattered over the floor. I spied a pile of small paper carrier bags on a shelf and asked this worthy SNCF employee for a bag. He said emphatically "Non!" I broke into my magnificent French and cried "Pourquoi?!" He then proceeded to explain (with an agreeable smile on his face it has to be said) that the bags were for food and I hadn't bought any food; moreover I had only two small cups to carry and they had lids on, so there would be no spillage! (There was).

Only in France!!


11 June 2014

Atheists are Lost for Words

Oh my God!  .. I’ve just realised that religion and language have been so intertwined over the centuries that oft-repeated phrases become problematical for those of us who have concluded that GOD (as we understand Him through the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions) does not exist.

What in God’s name are we going to do about it? Invent new phrases, or be comfortable in the knowledge that everyone uses them without actually thinking?

Jesus!! .. it’s difficult! God only knows how it’s all going to turn out. But surely, being able to use words and phrases that might cause offence to some people is my God-given right?!

Lord knows, even the ghastly 21st century manifestation, “Text-speak” (which is surely the spawn of the Devil) does not make things any easier for the atheist .. OMG !

For God’s sake help me out here. But don’t leave troll-like comments, or you can just go to Hell. I sometimes think that internet “trolls” are people who have the misfortune to live in God-forsaken towns and just feel compelled to give everybody else Hell.

Good God! .. is that the time? I must get to the end of this soon. (“Thank Heaven for that!” did I hear you cry?)

It’s even difficult for me to work out how politely take my leave of you, since the simple “goodbye” is a contraction of the 16th century (or thereabouts) God be with Ye.

So, as I sign off from God’s own country (Yorkshire) I hope you’ll remember me in your thoughts and prayers.


God bless .. and I’ll see you in my next Blog (God willing).

28 March 2014

The Great European Union Debate

EU - Deputy Prime Minister Clegg (left) v UKIP Leader Farage (right)

At last, thanks to the challenge laid down by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg on LBC the other week for UKIP Leader Nigel Farage to enter into a public debate on whether or not the UK should stay in the EU, we can begin to discuss some of the facts. I look forward to the second debate to take place soon on BBC2.

I am an enthusiastic European, but I'll say this about the EU: it is riddled with faults, top-heavy bureaucracy, money-wasting procedures, and a set of accounts that have not been signed off by auditors for years.

UKIP's solution is to leave it. The pro-Europeans' solution is to stay in and do something about the faults.

Both solutions are fraught with difficulties.

There is a balance to be made, and pro-Europeans like myself say that the benefits of membership outweigh the dis-benefits. Perhaps that judgement is subjective, and the only way to be objective is to be presented with facts. Which is why I'm glad these debates are taking place.

The next problem, when presented with “facts”, is resisting the temptation to say that facts we don’t want to hear are either lies or fear-mongering.

Putting millions of jobs at risk can either be a fact, or fear-mongering, or both. If you don’t like the statement you can say that the leaders of businesses like Siemens, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hitachi etc. are lying when they say they are investing in Britain because we are in the EU.

Stating that 480 million people have the right to enter Britain is a fact, but since it is somewhat irrelevant, it is also fear-mongering.  If a French politician was to say, “70 million British people have the right to enter France” he would be factually correct, but what would be the point of him saying it?

Anti-Europeans ask what's so special about the The European Arrest Warrant. It is favoured by senior police officers because pre-EAW the average time to execute a successful extradition was one year; under EAWs the average time is under 50 days.

Then they say we have criminals walking the streets because of failures in deportation proceedings. Deportation failures are often caused by rulings handed down by the European Court of Human Rights. This has nothing to do with the EU, and if we left the EU we would still be bound by the ECHR until or unless we legislated our way out compliance with any of those Court rulings.

UKIP are not against immigration, but are in favour of controlled immigration. I don’t have any quarrel with that. Under the free movement of jobs and people in the EU, it is clearly not possible to control migrants from EU countries. If that causes a problem, then it should be reviewed.

Like it or not, the kind of world we live in now makes membership of a powerful group more useful than being a little man on your own.

The EU is arguably big on bureaucracy and small on Democracy. I do feel that democracy is on life-support but then in my view we never have had democracy before or after membership of the EU. Coming out of the EU is not going to make us any more democratic until or unless politicians bite the voting system bullet.

The one thing to be said about the European Elections is that they won’t be based on “first past the post”. The (predicted) big win by UKIP next month is largely thanks to the use of a system of proportional representation. Come the General Election, both Clegg and Farage will be victims of a voting system that takes little account of their true support.

The hectoring practice of the EU to get the right answer to any referendum on a treaty change is a weapon in the armoury of those who want to withdraw. The practice of calling a referendum and then calling another one until the right answer is achieved is a huge puzzle to me. Firstly, if a government is prepared to call a second one because they didn’t like the answer, then that government is at fault. But then again, how does the right answer come about? How or why do people vote one way in the first referendum, and another way in a second referendum? Which of the two is democratic? They both involved people voting.

At UK General Elections about half the people bother to vote, and in European Elections the figure is more like one third. It’s a disgrace. Voting should be a compulsory element of being a member of civilized society. Education of children is compulsory, paying our taxes is compulsory; why not voting? Ballot papers should have a “None of the above” or “Abstention” box.

By the way, I have no objection in principle to a (democratic) United States of Europe.