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Jerry Coyne criticizes The Guardian

Jerry Coyne criticizes The Guardian for its “faitheism and mush-headed religious apologetics” and finds a piece by Nancy Graham Holm titled “Prejudiced Danes provoke fanaticism” to be particularly despicable.

In the article, Holm refers to the now infamous Danish cartoons, one of which portrayed Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban (Holm incorrectly states it was a turban with a stick of dynamite). Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist, created a political cartoon that was a satirical criticism of Muslim extremists and the violence they lavish on society… violence seemingly swathed in a robe of self-righteous indignation. The extremists’ indignation comes from any disagreement about their unjustified assertion that Islam should be held in gloriously high esteem and revered by all… hence their outrage over Westergaard’s cartoon.

Holm says of the cartoon, the paper who published it, and the Danes in general…

Why did the editors of Jyllands-Posten want to mock Islam in this way? Some of us believed it was in bad taste and also cruel. Intentional humiliation is an aggressive act.


Danes fail to perceive the fact that they have developed a society deeply suspicious of religion. This is the real issue between Denmark and Muslim extremists, not freedom of speech. The free society precept is merely an attempt to give the perpetrators the moral high ground when actually it is a smokescreen for a deeply rooted prejudice, not against Muslims, but against religion per se. Muslims are in love with their faith. And many Danes are suspicious of anyone who loves religion.

As Coyne says, “Rightly so!”

Holm seems to be blaming the cartoonists and the Danish newspaper for the violent reaction of Muslim extremists. While the cartoons, perhaps, spurred on the actions of the extremists, I don’t think the blame can be placed, even in small part, on the cartoonists. That is akin to blaming the rape victim for looking sexy.

Coyne says…

What the cartoons expressed was not “intentional humiliation,” but criticism of a sexist, oppressive, and lethal form of Islam.  And by blaming Islamic reaction on the Danes themselves, Holm allies herself with those religious loons who find “offense” everywhere, and with the benighted Irish who passed the blasphemy law.

Finding offense seems to be a religious pastime in which not only Muslims participate. From the manufactured “War on Christmas” controversy to Christian outrage over atheist bus ads and billboards, religious fundamentalists seem to be on the lookout for anything onto which they can hitch their pious indignation. Any criticism of cherished beliefs is treated as a grave personal insult.

I commented on Coyne’s post, saying that all religion is (and should be) fair game for criticism and analysis… just as politics, art, literature, and science are. If the adherents to a particular religion don’t like it and become violent, the fault is not of the critic or analyst… much as the rape victim is not at fault for being attacked.

Holm doesn’t seem to get that.

Traditional Islamic Values

An Iraqi immigrant, 48-year-old Faleh Almaleki,  has been arrested for punishing his daughter for becoming “too Westernized” according to this MSNBC article.

Okay, maybe “punishing” wasn’t the most accurate word for me to use. Here’s what the article says.

An Iraqi immigrant has been arrested in Georgia for allegedly running down his daughter because she was becoming “too Westernized,” police in a Phoenix suburb say.

“Running down?” Like… with a car? Yep.

The father was upset that his daughter had become too “Westernized” and he aimed his car at her Oct. 20 in a Peoria parking lot.

His twenty year old daughter, Noor Faleh Almaleki, is hospitalized in serious condition. Her father had reportedly threatened her because of her lifestyle, saying she was not living up to “traditional Islamic values.” Another woman, purportedly her roommate, suffered “non life-threatening injuries.”

I haven’t read the Qur’an yet, but I’m starting to wonder if “traditional Islamic values” include running down your daughter (and her roommate) in a automobile? This is barely a step away from “honor killing,” a horrid practice not uncommon in some Islamic societies and almost always perpetrated against women.

I don’t know what kind of punishment, if he’s convicted, would be appropriate for Mr. Almaleki. I suspect he feels that he was being true to Islamic teachings as he smashed his car into his increasingly “Westernized” daughter, and that alone should put him in the category of “dangerous psychopaths,” in my opinion, and he should be treated accordingly. Any parent, regardless of religious affiliation, should be considered despicable for brutally beating a child, regardless of the reason… including (perhaps especially?) in the name of their religious beliefs.

Religiously-inspired violence is particularly heinous because it has all the indications of pre-meditation. It’s not violence in a blind fit of rage, but violence that has been considered, calculated, and deemed righteous in the eyes of the perpetrator… because of his interpretation of his chosen religious dogma.

In Almaleki’s case, he seemed to have felt that his daughter’s acts were an insult to Allah or Muhammad (or whatever “traditional Islamic values” are) to such a degree that she should be intentionally struck by a speeding vehicle and hospitalized (or killed… don’t know what his intended conclusion was). If his parenting skills are based in “traditional Islamic values,” then I think we need far, far fewer of those kinds of values.

I’m guessing his daughter might feel the same way.