Posts Tagged ‘muslim’

So I thought I’d write up a little piece about my experiences as an unashamedly open atheist in Indonesia to give anyone who reads this stuff an idea of what religion was like there. Here’s the first instalment.

Indonesia: A Moderate Islamic Country?

I jumped off the plane in Java expecting the worst. I’d heard something like 90% of Indonesians were muslim, and the rest were some other form of religion. I’d read and blogged about the treatment of an Indonesian atheist who posted a few Facebook statuses that upset his town and he was subsequently bashed and had his business place smashed up. So right from the start as I walked into the international terminal I was getting ready to shut my mouth for the coming month.

As I lined up at immigration I suddenly became aware of, and somewhat surprised at, the number of middle eastern muslims in the queue with us. Young men in their 20s and 30s were all hanging out chatting loudly whilst next to each of them stood their lesser half, donning the dark black burka from head to toe with barely a 2cm slit for their eyes.

I was with two others, Jane and Bill, who were from the museum and scientists like myself out here for fieldwork. Jane bumped into one of the younger men waiting in line as the queue moved forward. He turned and looked her up and down, and left his gaze on her chest as he grinned salaciously. Creeped the hell out of her, as it did Bill and I. As this happened another middle eastern man walked up to where we were standing in line and bent down under all the ropes as one of the immigration officers became vacant. Several Italian men at the front of the line became enraged, and one of them started shouting at him in english asking why he did that. The middle eastern man pretty much just brushed it off and said “It’s ok, I’ve been here before”. Man these guys were just oozing with self-entitlement and chauvinism!

Eventually we made our way through immigration and into the baggage collection area. I got my first real glimpse at a room full of Indonesian people. There were many women in the head veils, and men wearing their islamic caps, however there were also quite a few men and women not wearing any religious garment. We picked up our luggage and left the airport whilst getting quite a few stares from people, as ‘bules’ (pronounced ‘buley’, meaning Westerner or white person) weren’t that common in this country I quickly found out.

We were picked up by an Indonesian man who worked at the museum in Bogor, with which we were collaborating on this project (all research has to be done in collaboration with Indonesian scientists nowadays or it’s impossible to do fieldwork there). We crammed into his car and some of the first things I noticed were the arabic writing on islamic decorations in the car. I prepared myself for a long, awkward, silent trip to the hotel, but was incredibly surprised, and had to stop myself from giggling, as the man turned the radio on and out came blasting the latest album from the Indonesian Idol winner. Not the sort of music I picked for an islamic man (turns out Indonesians are obsessed with the worst kind of pop-music, and especially love Karaoke). This guy seemed already, and my first impressions of him were that he was a really nice, boisterous, eccentric, kung-fu Panda in appearance (seriously he had this look down pat), and happy man. Not the sort of adjectives I had expected to be throwing his way, but it was a nice surprise. The call to prayer sounded as we were driving, and kept getting softer then louder as we passed by the numerous mosques along the highway. I asked the man what does he do with regards to praying if he’s driving. He told me he never really bothered with it. I was shocked yet again…!

My first few weeks had me meeting some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, at least as a tourist in a foreign country. Everyone in the street wanted to say hello to you, wanted to speak to you, wanted to know your name and where you were going (never worked out why that was such an important question for them? “Hello Mister! Where you going?”). Within the first day I was approached by two groups of Indonesian girls, all wearing hijabs, who wanted photos with me and/or wanted to practice english with me. I was so surprised these girls were even acknowledging my presence, from previous experiences with islamic girls in Melbourne, Australia, let alone them looking me in the eye, smiling, laughing, wanting to speak to me. And pretty quickly it became obvious that this would be a repeated pattern all throughout our travels in Java and Sulawesi. No matter where you went, everyone smiled, everyone acknowledged you and pretty much treated you like a close mate, although sometimes too close…

Looking awkward during the first of 100s of photos I was asked to be in with locals

It had me questioning my previously staunch anti-islam beliefs. How could such nice, friendly, open people, despite being islamic, be so bad? They seemed like any other average person from Australia, just often wearing an islamic cap or hijab. I’d expected it to be like walking off the plane into Yemen or Iran when I’d gotten to Indonesia, after learning it was the country with the most muslims in it in the world. Maybe I was wrong, maybe these guys weren’t that bad…?

For the first week or so I felt somewhat ashamed that I had had such a negative preconceived idea of these people, solely based on religious grounds, prior to coming to this country. I had wanted to dislike anyone, thing or idea even remotely related to the religion of islam prior to coming here, but it felt like perhaps these guys weren’t as bad as the muslims of the middle east. I had always thought there was no such thing as a moderate muslim. That to be islamic meant you wanted death to all unbelievers, and for islam to spread and take over the world. But could I have been wrong? Could there be ‘moderate islamic’ country after all? Could it be Indonesia?


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(Some of the following is reposted from Maryam Namazie’s blog.)

Young members of the Worker-communist Party of Iran who live in Iran have joined the scream! Since they would be executed for this act, their faces are covered with slogans saying ‘Long Live Women’s Freedom’, ‘No to Hejab’, ‘No to Islamic Reaction’, and ‘No to Gender Discrimination’. They have printed the calendar and pasted it behind them. This photo has made my day.

I’m a strong proponent of women’s rights, especially in counties like Iran where women are treated more like belongings than individual human beings. So seeing these people taking part in this project is heartwarming to say the least. Power to them!

Anyone is able to take part in this Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar. Below is a brief description of the project:

Today – 8 March 2012 International Women’s Day – the Nude Photo Revolutionaries Calendar is being launched in homage to Egyptian atheist, student and blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy who posted a nude photo of herself, announcing the post on Twitter under the hashtag, #NudePhotoRevolutionary.

The calendar is the idea of campaigner Maryam Namazie to support Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and join her ‘screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy’.

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So I’ve had my first email/message from a Muslim. It wasn’t abusive, but it was offensive in so much as I lost 2 minutes of my evening reading this babble… Forgive me for posting it as if you’re reading this now you’re probably about to waste a few minutes of your life on it as well.

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. We ask Allah to exalt his mention as well as that of his family and all his companions.

The claim of this man that he does not believe except in what he sees is wrong and he is the first one to deny this himself. He believes in many things that he does not see but only sees their impact. For instance, he believes in the gravity but does not see except its effect, and believes in the electric current but does not see except its impact and so on. Therefore, a person who ponders upon the world around him knows that this universe has a Creator. Allah says (which means): {We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth. Is it not sufficient in regard to your Lord that He is a witness over all things?}[41:53]. It is impossible to believe that something exists by itself without someone having created it or made it. A person who ponders over the modern inventions would know that it is impossible for them to exist by chance. So if this is impossible, how can it be possible for us to believe that this world with all its precision, system and order exists without a Creator; a Creator who is Perfect from all deficiencies and imperfections? Allah says (which means): {Were they created by nothing? Or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, but they have no firm belief.}[52:35-36]. In addition to this, every creature has a natural predisposition to believe in his Creator, and he is in need of Allah and in need to return to him at times of difficulties and hardship no matter what his current inclination may be. Allah says (which means): {And when they board a ship, they supplicate Allah, sincere to Him in religion [i.e. faith and hope]. But when He delivers them to the land, at once they associate others with Him.}[29:65]. Claiming that the reason of development is disbelief in Allah and His religion, is a wrong claim that has no foundation. On the contrary Islamic religion advocates progress in all fields that are important in our worldly life and in our religion and the Muslims did not deteriorate except when they neglected their religion and abandoned a good part of the message that was sent to them. It is indeed wrong to believe that the situation of the Muslims today accurately reflects the importance of Islam. So if a person wants to judge with justice he has to look to the first generation and the generation after it when the nations of the world were under Muslim rule. The western countries and others did not develope in industry and in other important innovations until they utilized the sciences developed by Muslims many years ago.

The testimonies of the just western people testify to this. Moreover, the atheists and non-Muslims have not reached this technological progress because of disbelief and abandoning the Religion of Allah. But they have reached this status because of their effort in reaching and obtaining the utmost of this worldly life. Allah says (which means): {Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments — We fully repay them for their deeds therein, and they therein will not be deprived. Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And of no effect is that which they used to do.}[11:15-16].

Allah knows best.

They’re going to have to try a little harder than that to convert me unfortunately. I couldn’t be bothered replying with anything more than the following:

You have the ability to learn more than you could ever imagine sitting no further than at the edge of your finger tips. Countless answers about the universe await you here, http://www.google.com.au/ Truth is in your grasp, don’t waste it.

UPDATE: I got a reply…

This person’s clearly just copying and pasting text to me, as within a minute of my reply to him I received this:

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” — EINSTEIN

There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” — DARWIN


I know, I know… I shouldn’t get sucked in and reply. As soon as you give these loonies the privilege of a response you give the poor souls the idea that they have something to stand on with regards to their opinion. But I couldn’t help myself, and actually wanted to look into and refresh in my own mind the exact meaning behind those quotes. And so I retorted:

Einstein’s quote actually reads as:

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

No “Himself” or “Spirit”, he didn’t believe in a god, any god, let alone YOUR god allah…

Einstein said this in a letter dated in March, 1954:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” – Einstein

We KNOW that Darwin was an agnostic from his mouth too:

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.” – Darwin

A more plausible explanation as to why Darwin wanted to leave the specific correlation between God and the beginning of life unanswered (by using the word Creator as in the above quote), was so that those who believed in God could follow their beliefs, and those who did not could follow theirs. So as an agnostic, who was at best a deist believing that a deity may have started the ball moving but nothing more when it came to the universe, he didn’t want to choose one side or the other and offend people by his agnosticism (hence Darwin’s Bulldog Thomas Huxley did the debating for him in public (he was an atheist)).


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I’m just going to repost this story as it is via this link to the New Humanist webpage. It’s a huge shame that there are such violent and aggressive people ruining otherwise peaceful debates/events such as this one simply because they regard religion. I wonder when and if such islamic aggression will reach our shores here in Australia, as it already has the US and Europe.

Yesterday evening, a talk on “Sharia Law and Human Rights” organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary, University London, had to be cancelled after threats of violence. The talk was due to be given by Anne Marie Waters of the One Law For All campaign, which campaigns against the use of Sharia in the UK.

The president of the society describes what happened:

“Five minutes before the talk was due to start a man burst into the room holding a camera phone and for some seconds stood filming the faces of all those in the room. He shouted ‘listen up all of you, I am recording this, I have your faces on film now, and I know where some of you live’, at that moment he aggressively pushed the phone in someone’s face and then said ‘and if I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Muhammad, I will hunt you down.’ He then left the room and two members of the audience applauded.

“The same man then began filming the faces of Society members in the foyer and threatening to hunt them down if anything was said about Muhammad, he added that he knew where they lived and would murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, seemingly there to support him. We were told by security to stay in the Lecture Theatre for our own safety. On arriving back in the room I became aware that the doors that opened to the outside were still open and that people were still coming in. Several eye witnesses reported that when I was in the foyer a group of men came through the open doors, causing a disruption and making it clear that the room could not be secured. Unfortunately, the lack of security in the lecture theatre meant we and the audience had to leave and a Union representative informed the security that as students’ lives had been threatened there was no way that the talk could go ahead.
“This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate. Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room who wanted to engage in debate.”
The police were contacted about the incident and the Society is waiting to hear how their investigation will proceed.Jenny Bartle, president of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS), commented:

“More and more atheist, humanist and secular student societies are forming on campuses across the UK and we deserve the same levels of respect as any other community. Our members have as much right as anyone else to participate in the free inquiry, discussion and debate which should exist in universities. The threats our members have received are both troubling and repugnant and we reject all attempts to counter debate with violence. At the same time, we welcome the support from across faiths that many of our societies experience on campus to help us secure the freedom to have our say, just as we support them in having the freedom to have theirs.”
 Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association gave support to the society:
“The attempted intimidation that this society has experienced is shocking. Free expression, the free exchange of ideas and free debate are hallmarks of an open society; violence and the threat of violence should never be allowed to compromise that, especially in our universities. We will work to support our affiliate society at Queen Mary’s and look forward to a speedy police investigation and resolution of this case.”

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As I’m sure most of you are aware, at least those of you with Facebook accounts, Facebook’s ads derive from things you like, groups you’re a part of, and even from key words you use in status updates. For some bizarre reason Facebook has been plastering the side of my home page with the ad below for the last year or so. About once a week it pops up, and I’ve no idea why, besides the fact that I use the word ‘muslim’ from time to time in status updates.

But hey, I guess it’s nice to see what muslim women are allowed onto the internet, and even to sign up to dating sites apparently. Although I find it funny that they would have display pictures of their faces, or veiled faces as I’m sure plenty are. It seems a little hypocritical that they would be able to use their features, which they are usually forced to cover and be ashamed of, in order to attract a muslim man. But all religions, islam being no exception, are hardly strangers to hypocrisy.

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According to a recent article in Now Lebanon an Egyptian muslim leader, Salafist Sheikh, has concluded and announced that women’s faces should effectively be treated like vaginas when it comes to being covered:

What is a veil? A veil is what covers the woman’s face. Therefore the woman’s face is like her vagina.

What claptrap. This kind of ultra-conservative attitude just perpetuates the needless separatism between the sexes, as well as shame and oppression of sexuality. Body parts are only as taboo as any given society or culture deems them to be. Native Australians and Africans for innumerable centuries donned little more than a mammal skin around their waist at the best of times, yet remained cohesive societies that survived through millennia after millennia. Until modern day conservative Christian missionaries force fed them Adam’s apple, bestowing upon them the unnecessary shame and insecurity they so proudly carry and proselytise.

I find it hard to believe these ancient and more apparel-relaxed peoples would have persisted for as long as they did if each and every man surged with an unquenchable thirst for rape and violence anytime he spotted a woman’s hair, neck, face, or breast (God forbid).

It’s just one more sexist and dogmatic meme that allows religious societies, and more specifically the men within them, to control the sexuality of the ‘lower’ sex, not to mention their own insecurities and fears.

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I’ve started to see more and more children wearing hijabs while out with their parents in Melbourne. I’ll leave this post devoid of my views on it and simply ask you, is this ok? How do you feel about it?

We gave Michael Jackson a hell of a time for parading his children around in masks and with blankets over their heads, should we be as worried about this religious practice? Is it ok to be oppressing children from such a young age, especially with regards to their sexuality, which I’m sure infants pay little to know attention to otherwise?

It seems a lot of people justify this by saying “it’s part of their culture, therefore it’s ok”. Are we just holding it as a taboo though, fearing that any criticism thrown the way of Australian muslims will be taken as racism?

Anyway, I’m interested in getting a discussion going about this and genuinely want to know your views.

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