Meanwhile, in Egypt

• Islamist gunmen shoot and kill man who sold alcohol.

• Muslim mother douses her two daughters in kerosene and burns them alive for dating and staying out too late.

Believe or Die

For the second time in a month, enormous crowds in Bangladesh took to the streets to demand the death penalty for blaspheming bloggers.

If I wrote this blog in Bangladesh, and you read it there, we’d be in protective custody at best; more likely, we would have been murdered already.

Pew, What Reeks? Indonesia’s Self-Esteem

Heartwarming news from Indonesia.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tackled the global perception that Islam and democracy could not work together. The President said Indonesia was a good example of how democracy, modernisation and Islam worked hand-in-hand.

Furthermore, the President said Muslims in Indonesia got along well with democracy and modernity. Thus, the Indonesian democratic model could offer valuable lessons to Arab Spring countries, which are now facing similar challenges.


Indonesia is the most populous majority-Muslim nation in the world. 88 percent of Indonesians follow Islam — that’s more than 200 million Muslims.

Keep that in mind as we take a look at how Indonesia fared in the Pew Research poll that just came out.

According to Pew [report in full, pdf], 93% of Indonesian Muslims say they support religious freedom. Two thumbs up!

But in practice, the sentiment is as good as meaningless. The tolerance you would expect from a populace that claims to love religious liberty shrivels to almost nothing when you scratch the surface. Old-fashioned fundamentalism rules the day. Consider:

• 72% of Indonesian Muslims (144 million) want sharia law, and fully half of all respondents want to apply it to everyone, not just to Muslims.
• 45% favor corporal punishment, and 48% favor stoning of adulterers. Lovely. That’s more than 90 million Muslims who want to transport all of us back to the Middle Ages.
• Almost one in five favor the death penalty for Muslims who leave the faith. How’s that for religious freedom?
• 37% (74 million) say they’d rather have a strongman leader than democracy, with 61 telling Pew the opposite. A roughly 6-to-4 ratio of pro-democracy Muslims versus totalitarian-minded ones doesn’t seem to indicate an abiding love of an egalitarian republic.


• 95% of Indonesian Muslims say you have to believe in god to be moral.
• 91% believe drinking alcohol is immoral; 95% say the same about homosexuality. (Don’t be a drunk queer in Yudhoyono’s progressive paradise, or prepare to do a lot of running and ducking.)
• 93% say wives should always obey husbands.

Like Turkey, Indonesia wants to sell itself as a beacon of Islamic modernity. But if these are the realities in an Islamic country that swears to have made a commitment to moderation and democracy, I’ll leave you to conclude what that means for Muslim countries without such a pledge, and without such a lofty impression of itself.

[image via Asia News]

Islam and Terrorism: Ali Rizvi Punctures the Pet Myths of Radical Muslims and Their Enablers

Over at the Huffington Post, Ali A. Rizvi has an eye-opener of a piece about militant Islam.

He starts off with a quote.

“The ambassador answered us that [their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Guess who? Rizvi reveals that

The above passage is not a reference to a declaration by al Qaeda or some Iranian fatwa. They are the words of Thomas Jefferson, then the U.S. ambassador to France, reporting to Secretary of State John Jay a conversation he’d had with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli’s envoy to London, in 1786 — more than two and a quarter centuries ago.

That is before al Qaeda and the Taliban, before the creation of Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, before Khomeini, before Saudi Arabia, before drones, before most Americans even knew what jihad or Islam was, and, most importantly, well before the United States had engaged in a single military incursion overseas or even had an established foreign policy.

At the time, thousands of American and European trade ships entering the Mediterranean had been targeted by pirates from the Muslim Barbary states (modern-day North Africa). More than a million Westerners had been kidnapped, imprisoned and enslaved. Tripoli was the nexus for these operations. Jefferson’s attempts to negotiate resulted in deadlock, and he was told simply that the kidnapping and enslavement of the infidels would continue, tersely articulated by Adja in the exchange paraphrased above.


Adja’s position wasn’t a random one-off. This conflict continued for years, seminally resulting in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed into law by President John Adams in 1797. Article 11 of the document, a direct product of the United States’ first-ever overseas conflict, contained these famous words, cementing America’s fundamental commitment to secularism:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext, arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Yes, the establishment of secularism in America back in the 18th century was largely related to a conflict with Islamist jihadism.

So where did Abdul Rahman Adja’s bin Laden-esque words come from?

They couldn’t have been a response to American imperialism (the start of the conflict precedes the presidency of George Washington), U.S. foreign policy, globalization, AIPAC or Islamophobia. Yet his words are virtually identical to those spouted ad nauseum by jihadists today who justify their bellicosity as a reaction to these U.S.-centric factors, which were nonexistent in Adja’s time.

Now, Rizvi reaches his key point. If I could mind-beam it to every person in the West — especially to those who keep insisting that there is some elusive “root cause” to Islamic jihad that transcends religion — I’d be a happy man.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and the foiled al Qaeda-backed plot in Toronto, the “anything but jihad” brigade is out in full force again. If the perpetrators of such attacks say they were influenced by politics, nationalism, money, video games or hip-hop, we take their answers at face value. But when they repeatedly and consistently cite their religious beliefs as their central motivation, we back off, stroke our chins and suspect that there has to be something deeper at play, a “root cause.”

The taboo against criticizing religion is still so astonishingly pervasive that centuries of hard lessons haven’t yet opened our eyes to what has been apparent all along: It is often religion itself, not the “distortion,” “hijacking,” “misrepresentation” or “politicization” of religion, that is the root cause.

Next, here’s Rizvi making short shrift of the feeble accusation every critic of Islam must swat away over and over: that we’re “islamophobes.”

As an atheist Muslim (I’m not a believer, but I love Eid, the feasts of Ramadan and my Muslim family and friends), I could be jailed or executed in my country of birth, the country I grew up in and a host of other Muslim countries around the world for writing this very piece. Obviously, this is an unsettling, scary feeling for me. You may describe that fear as a very literal form of “Islamophobia.” But is that the same thing as anti-Muslim bigotry? No.

Semantics matter here. As much as I have differences with the contents of Islam’s canonical texts, I know that most Muslims are good, peaceful people who have barely read the Quran and seldom follow it except for the occasional cherry-picking and hearsay, much like the adherents of any other religion. Most of the 1 billion Muslims in the world (with the largest populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) don’t even understand Arabic.

My own incredulity over seething Muslim anger against Western makers of cartoons and satirical TV shows always leads me to this question: How puny is your faith that a few words of jest can injure it? How feather-light is your belief in Allah that a cartoonist drawing your prophet warrants you drawing your sword?

Good idea

Good idea

Rizvi, however, has a more substantial response:

It is important to understand why criticism, satire or mockery of any ideology isn’t bigoted or racist. Criticizing capitalism does not make you an anti-capitalist “bigot.” Criticizing religious ideology is no different. No one is born pre-circumcised or pre-baptized with a hijab or a yarmulke sewn to their heads.

It is clear now, as it always has been, that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, educational status, financial status, citizenship status, marital status and family background have little to do with Islamist terrorism. Before the Russian Tsarnaevs from North Caucasus, we’ve had Richard Reid, the Hispanic Jose Padilla, the Nigerian underwear bomber, California’s Adam Gadahn and others. The only common denominator among them is Islamic belief and religious fervor, which is not a race or ethnicity.

His conclusion:

The “root causes” of jihadist terrorism are the same today as they were when Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja said those historic words to Thomas Jefferson. We want to be honest about it so that we can actually do something about it.

For the fast-growing secularist/humanist movement, criticism of religion isn’t a demonstration of bigotry but a struggle against it. To us, bigotry against bigotry isn’t bigotry, and intolerance of intolerance isn’t intolerance.

[top image via Naval History and Heritage; bottom image via undhimmi]

My Husband the Biblical King

Good judgment and intelligence took a 10-year leave of absence:

Tracey Sharp was induced to live for more than a decade in a menage of seven ‘wives’ who shared a single ‘husband’. Moreover, she was persuaded to believe the absurd fiction that Philip Sharp, once a Messianic Jewish rabbi, was a Biblical king who had been instructed by God to have multiple wives and a brood of children.

‘I do question how I got involved,’ says Tracey, 46, who has two daughters, Naomi, nine, and Mischa, three, by the self-styled king. She left his Sussex harem in November after their relationship disintegrated into a succession of blazing rows.


Why did all these women fall under a deluded man’s spell? All it took was Philip Sharp invoking the will of god.

“He said he’d had a visitation from God and was about to be a king, and I think he genuinely felt God had decreed he should take many wives and that what he was doing was right. … I was in love with the man and he is very powerful and persuasive. He assured us everything was sanctioned by God and he quoted passages from the Bible to back this up. He could have told me the sky was luminous orange and I would have believed him.”

The women were instructed to keep their heads covered — Sharp wanted to be the only one to see their hair — and were called to prayer at 6:30am every day. Says his estranged wife,

‘The hardest thing was recognizing that he wasn’t a king. He wasn’t called by God. He was just a man with a giant ego.

No shit hon. They all are.


P.S. Think seven wives is impressive? At last count, this Islamic faith healer had 86.

[image via Daily Mail]

Shedding Blood For Allah: Pew Study Says More Than 350 Million Muslims Support Violent Jihad

Tuesday saw the release of a major international Pew Research study into the opinions of Muslims on a variety of topics. The full report (PDF) is here, but let’s just take a quick peek:

The study is a four-year effort by Pew, which conducted 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages for the survey. In total, 39 countries and territories were included, all of which had over 10 million Muslims living there. …

A majority of Muslims in Asia, Africa and the Middle East favored sharia law being adopted as the law of their countries, with the highest support recorded in Afghanistan at 99 percent. …

The study says that 72 percent of Indonesian Muslims favor making Islamic law the official legal code in the country, compared to 86 percent in Malaysia and 77 percent in Thailand having the same opinion.


A strong majority surveyed said so-called honor killings could never be justified. The only exceptions came in Afghanistan and Iraq, where majorities condoned executions of women deemed to have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.

Finally, to Pew’s credit, it didn’t ignore the elephant in the room:

The survey found the global median for Muslims opposed to violence in the name of Islam was 72 percent.


Even though that group includes individuals like the 2009-era Tsarnaev brothers — then still moderate and not yet radicalized — let’s take it at face value and rejoice that a solid majority of Muslims does not openly engage in (or openly support) murder for Allah. 72 percent! Terrific!


Except … well, what about the other 28 percent? There are 1.3 billion Muslims on this planet. If 28 percent of them support violent jihad, that’s 364 million Muslims who condone the murder of apostates, blasphemers, gay people, cartoonists, loose women, and possibly everyone godless enough to attend the Boston marathon.

In the United States, the picture is only marginally better. Eight out of ten U.S. Muslims say it’s not cool to strap a bomb to your chest and kill a bunch of kuffar. But two out of ten say that’s dandy. There are 2.6 million Muslims living in the U.S. … x 19 percent  … Yep, almost half a million of them give suicide bombers a big thumbs-up.

Relieved? Reassured? Me neither.

Now let’s take a closer look at the report itself (pages 68-71), rather than the summary:

The survey finds widespread concern about religious extremism in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle EastNorth Africa region. In nearly every country surveyed in these regions, at least half of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremist groups.

So roughly half a billion Muslims have no such concerns. Got it.

In Indonesia, nearly eight-in-ten Muslims say they are worried about religious extremism (78%), including more than half (53%) who are worried about Islamic extremists.

That’s adorable. That means that 25 percent of Indonesian Muslims are worried about non-Muslim extremists (of which there are very few in that country) to the exclusion of the violent agitators, murderers, and terrorists in their own midst. And in their way, they’d be right. They themselves will likely not be the targets of fellow Muslims. That fate will have to be borne by Indonesian Christians, Buddhists, or agnostics — or by tourists brave enough to visit a Bali nightclub.

My main takeaway from the Pew study is that the Muslim world seems to be radicalizing at breakneck speed.

Consider: After Gallup opinion-polled tens of thousands of Muslims across 35 nations in the mid-aughts and released its report in 2007, we were told that Muslims were almost totally non-violent. They only desire that the West show a little “respect” for their religion.

At the time, Dalia Mogahed, the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, could hardly stop talking about how widespread the Muslim aversion to Islamic violence was. She said she found that 93 percent of her fellow believers don’t want to see a drop of blood spilled in the name of Mohammed. What she left out was that the seven percent who do amounted to 91 million Muslims.

No doubt there is a difference between Gallup’s questions and methodology on the one hand, and Pew’s on the other. But if their respective numbers are even in the ballpark, and in seven or eight years’ time we’ve gone from roughly 90 million devout self-confessed supporters of Islamic violence to more than 350 million, we may well wonder if the message that Islam is “the religion of peace” is getting through to the followers — much less anyone else.


A huge thanks to Pew for gathering and publishing the data. There is much to be learned from the report, and I’ve already spent a couple of hours poring over the fascinating data. Over the next week or two, in dribs and drabs, I’ll share more of the results.

[photo via Sultan Knish; graphic via]

133,000 Somali Kids Died; Blame Islamists?

Two years ago,

A decision by extremists Islamist militants to ban food aid and international donors numb to a series of unfolding disasters made south-central Somalia the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.


The first in-depth scientific study of famine deaths in Somalia in 2011 [released today] … estimates 133,000 children under age 5 died, with child death rates approaching 20 percent in some communities.

The story is from Fox News and leaves out a few things.

Aid organizations in Somalia say the U.N. dragged its feet in declaring a famine in Somalia,

because it didn’t want Islamic extremists, called al-Shabab, to confiscate the relief supplies. “It was a political decision and it did cost lives,” says Burns [a senior relief worker in Somalia].

Which would suggest that there was blame to go around. The Guardian noted in a 2011 headline:

Somalia famine relief effort hit harder by food aid delays than by rebels


victims of the famine in areas controlled by al-Shabab were cut off from aid. “Throughout the famine, they never received a dollar in cash or in kind in terms of famine relief,” Burns says.

I would seem that Mohammed’s warriors do indeed have rather a lot of emaciated corpses on their minuscule conscience.

[image via niketalk]

Myanmar Buddhists Reprise ‘Kristallnacht’: Gov’t Tells Besieged Muslims to Stop Breeding Already

There was more Buddhist-on-Muslim sectarian violence in Myanmar today. Two mosques were badly damaged and hundreds of Muslims’ homes went up in flames.

Buddhist mobs hurling bricks overran a pair of mosques and set hundreds of homes ablaze in central Myanmar on Tuesday, injuring at least 10 people in the latest anti-Muslim violence to shake the Southeast Asian nation.

Terrified Muslim families who fled the assaults around Okkan, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Yangon, could be seen hiding in forests along roads and crouching in paddy fields afterward. Some, in a state of shock, wept as their houses burned in the night.

About five weeks ago, there were similar riots and attacks, some involving saffron-robed Buddhist monks who went to town with clubs and knives. Multiple mob murders were reported then, including the killings of children. The violence was so gleeful and vicious that the International Herald Tribune compared it to Kristallnacht.


Luckily, the government knows just what to do with the tiny Muslim minority (four percent of Myanmar’s population).

On Monday, a government-appointed commission investigating the [earlier] violence issued proposals to ease tensions there — including doubling the number of security forces in the volatile region…

Good, because cops stood idly by before, outnumbered by the mob and not all that interested in stopping the mayhem…

…and introducing family planning programs to stem population growth among minority Muslims.

Read that again. To help Muslims who were burned and beaten out of their homes, the Myanmar government tells them to curb their breeding.

As it stands now, Buddhists may still multiply to their hearts’ content.

[image by Soe Zeya Tun / REUTERS, via]

A Question For Terrorists (and Their Apologists)

When it comes to Muslims and violence, it’s not often that the New York Times goes beyond the standard narrative that radical Islamists are (a) poor, (b) poorly educated, and (c) understandably upset over a series of real or perceived injustices, from the U.S.-led  invasion of Iraq to the publication of some Motoons.

But Times columnist Thomas Friedman, to his credit, is willing to hold the perpetrators of terrorism to account without making excuses, and with — get this — logic.

If you’re unhappy about some perceived slight against you and your fellow believers, Friedman asks of extremist Muslims,

[W]hat in God’s name does that have to do with planting a bomb at the Boston Marathon and blowing up innocent people? It is amazing to me how we’ve come to accept this non sequitur and how easily we’ve allowed radical Muslim groups and their apologists to get away with it.


A simple question: If you were upset with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn’t you go out and build a school in Afghanistan to strengthen that community or get an advanced degree to strengthen yourself or become a math teacher in the Muslim world to help its people be less vulnerable to foreign powers? Dzhokhar claims the Tsarnaev brothers were so upset by something America did in a third country that they just had to go to Boylston Street and blow up people who had nothing to do with it (some of whom could have been Muslims), and too often we just nod our heads rather than asking: What kind of sick madness is this?

Of course, rationality has never been religion’s strong suit, and Islam is quite possibly the faith that’s most impervious to logic. Friedman’s question may have to be repeated a few million times before it begins to sink in. Check back in a few generations.

[image via New York Daily News]

Footloose, Muslim-Style

The killingest of the buzzkill faiths strikes again:

Five Indonesian teenage girls have been accused of blasphemy and may face jail after making a video in which they mixed Islamic prayer with dancing to a Maroon 5 song. The girls were expelled from their high school in Tolitoli city, on Sulawesi island, and reported to police after the video of their dance to the US band’s hit “One More Night” went viral online.

The school brought the video, which was posted online in March, to the attention of police who questioned the girls on suspicion of blasphemy. “The school and members of the community were offended by the video and felt it insulted Islam,” Tolitoli police chief Rudi Mulyanto told AFP. “We are considering the case, and if we think it is serious, we will recommend they be officially charged in court.”


Blasphemy in Indonesia carries a maximum sentence of five years, though minors usually face half the adult sentence and are locked up in juvenile detention facilities. The girls are in grade 12, where students are normally aged 17 or 18. Police did not give their ages but said they were being treated as minors. The school principal told a local news website that the school had consulted the country’s top clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council, as well as the FPI on the matter.

The FPI notification makes this case especially worrisome. FPI stands for Front Pembela Islam, the Islamic Defenders Front. The paramilitary group is known for “rampant violence” in the ostensible defense of Islam. Its targets have included Playboy Indonesia, shops that sell alcohol, restaurants that remain open during Ramadan’s daylight hours, and Christian churches.

FPI’s demonstrations of faith range from incitement to property destruction to manslaughter.

[image via the Herald Sun]

Muslim Preacher In U.K. Child-Sex Ring

A child-sex ring in the greater Manchester area whose members raped young teenage girls for two decades is no more, with most of its regular participants now behind bars.

Nine Asian men were yesterday jailed for a total of 77 years for raping and abusing up to 47 girls — some as young as 13 — after plying them with alcohol and luring them to takeaways. …The [court] heard that the men — who are all from Pakistan, apart from one who is from Afghanistan — groomed and ‘shared’ the young white girls because they [the girls] were vulnerable.

One of those convicted is Islamic preacher Abdul Rauf.

To protesters who thought that the charges betrayed racism against the U.K.’s Asian population, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood of Greater Manchester Police said:

“It is not a racial issue. This is about adults preying on vulnerable young children. It just happens that in this particular area and time the demographics were that these were Asian men.”

However, the gang’s ringleader yesterday branded the judge a “racist bastard” after he and eight other men were jailed. The extraordinary outburst came after Judge Gerald Clinton accused the gang of targeting white girls because they were not part of their “community or religion.”

convicted sex-ring leader Shabir Ahmed

convicted ringleader Shabir Ahmed

With experts on paedophilia insisting street grooming by Muslim men was a real problem, the judge made it clear he believed religion was a factor. Police have played down the racial backgrounds of the men, saying the girls — mostly from broken or ‘chaotic’ homes — were targeted because they were vulnerable, not because they were white.


Note: Moral Compass launched in February of this year. Roughly 90 percent of our posts are tied to current news events, but we occasionally feature media reports from 2012 or earlier. The sex-ring story, above, is from May of last year.

But here’s a report from just yesterday, similar in many ways:

Three men who abducted a vulnerable 13-year-old girl from the streets of London and forced her to become their sex slave have been jailed. The girl, who was described as being from a broken and troubled family, was subjected to sexual abuse over four days after being persuaded to travel with the men to Ipswich in Suffolk in July last year.

Mohammed Sheikh, Hamza Ali, Suran Uddin

Mohammed Sheikh, Hamza Ali, Suran Uddin

The men plied her with drugs and alcohol to keep her subdued.

Mohammed Sheikh, Hamza Ali and Suran Uddin were all convicted of trafficking and sex offences following a trial. Uddin was jailed for 15 years, Sheikh will serve eight years and Ali five years. All three were placed on the sex offenders register and Sheikh and Ali could face deportation to Somalia, their home country.

[Images via the Daily Mail]

A New Ending for ‘My Brother the Islamist’

A few years ago, British filmmaker Robb Leech began delving into the reasons why his white middle-class stepbrother Rich had converted to radical Islam.

Rich Dart, who’d started calling himself Salahuddin al-Britani, associated with fundamentalists such as the outspoken terrorism promoter Anjem Choudary, and advocated that Britain should place itself under Sharia law.

Over twelve months, Robb filmed his stepbrother’s new life, and turned the footage into the hourlong 2011 BBC documentary My Brother the Islamist. It’s available in its entirety on YouTube. I’ve embedded it below for your headscratching pleasure.

Just be aware that as of today, it needs both a new ending and a new title. 30-year-old Salahuddin al-Britani, formerly Richard Dart, was convicted on terrorism charges this afternoon, along with two accomplices. Dart had travelled to Pakistan to try to undergo terrorist training; also, with his co-conspirators, Imran Mahmood and Jahangir Alom, he plotted a bomb attack on Royal Wootton Bassett, a town that plays a central role in the repatriations of British soldiers killed in combat.

Dart/al-Britani pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years behind bars.

The film about him should now probably be renamed My Brother the Terrorist.

The Guardian‘s account of today’s trial is here.