Anti-pro-Islam textbooks, brought to you by Texas

Via Education Week comes today’s installment of satire confused as public policy:

The Texas state board of education, which earlier this year stirred national controversy with its overhaul of social studies standards, today narrowly adopted a resolution warning textbook publishers against infusing their materials with “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions.” The resolution was approved by a 7-6 vote by social conservatives on the board, who warned of what they describe as a creeping Middle Eastern influence in the nation’s publishing industry.

The resolution declares that a “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks,” and that the board should reject any future textbooks that favor one religion over another.

The Washington Post points out that the “facts” used by the board in making the decision were not accurate; however, facts probably stand no chance against the political machine that is the Texas school board. It also raises the question of whether we should worry about the pro- or anti-religious biases of duly elected or appointed public officials. Texas wields considerable clout in the textbook publishing world as the largest “adoption state” in the U.S., where a central body approves public school textbooks rather than individual districts. It’s not clear whether the resolution will prompt textbook publishers to make immediate changes to sections devoted to Christianity and Islam.

Meanwhile, the Association of American Publishers claims that textbooks are already necessarily fair and balanced because “there is no good reason for them to submit things that would be biased”. Luckily for America, “bias” and “reason” go hand-in-hand.

How to beat your wife

Further evidence that extremism is a problem in the Muslim world.

I doubt the views expressed in the video are a perfect reflection of Islamic law, but there are several verses in both the Qur’an and the hadiths that seem to condone wife beating. Here is one such verse:

Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme. (Qur’an 4:34)

The appropriate translation of the above verse, however, is hotly contested. I side with those who think Islamic writings at least justify light beatings for recalcitrant women. But by no means did Islam introduce patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes to the Middle East. At worst, it merely codified them.

Continue reading How to beat your wife

Quran Burning = More US Troop Deaths?

The Dove World Outreach Center (what a name) is going to hold a “Burn the Koran Day” event on Sept. 11 to mark the falling of the World Trade Towers. While they are within their rights to do so, there has been some discussion of it potentially becoming a PR disaster for the US in the Muslim world. General David Petraeus wrote that “Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.” He is arguing that Qurans should not be burned because it endangers the men and women of the US armed forces serving overseas. The full story can be found here.

It should be noted that there is opposition to “Burn the Koran Day” by a group of  Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders. One member, Richard Cizik said “Watch out, for if you so casually trample on the religious rights of others, your own children may someday see their religious liberties deprived. As an evangelical, I say … you bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ.”

What do you think? In times of war should we refrain from some forms of freedom of speech? Is it noble to do so, or would you look down on someone who did that? Do you think Petraeus has a point? Should we refrain from other types of protests against specific religions? What if they were burning a Bible, Torah, and Quran all together? Is that ok?

To start us off: I personally don’t have a problem with someone deciding to not participate in such an event if they thought it was too offensive (whatever that may mean) to the target group. I would not think of that as allowing the target group to dictate the terms of the argument, I’d think of it as a personal decision not to fight that particular fight.

Ok, now tell me why you all think I’m full of it.  :)

Extremism in the Muslim world

In the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which is actually a multi-cultural community center), you might have come across this illustration:

There are some who mistakenly believe all Muslims are terrorists. The illustration lays bare the absurdity of that belief. Islam boasts nearly 1.6 billion adherents; Al Qaeda, less than 10,000. Put another way, only .00063% of Muslims belong to Al Qaeda.

The majority of Muslims preach and practice peace. American Muslims are especially moderate. So I appreciate the illustration insofar as it disabuses people of the “all Muslims are terrorists” stereotype. However, I think the illustration is itself overly simplistic. It downplays the very real, dangerous, and widespread extremism in Muslim world.

Continue reading Extremism in the Muslim world

Florida church to burn Qurans on 9/11

Atheists were divided over “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” but I think we should unanimously and unequivocally denounce “International Burn a Quran Day.”

Look, there’s nothing wrong with criticizing the Quran for its violent verses. But it’s the height of hypocrisy for evangelical Christians to be making those criticisms, when they excuse the violence and other Bronze Age barbarities in their own holy book.

More info about this church and its book-burning event here.

Iran considers stoning a woman for adultery

Okay, so admittedly yesterday’s post was petty (though I remain annoyed with the Mormon Times). But my grievance in this post is most definitely not petty. From Fox News:

An Iranian woman faces being stoned to death after being accused of committing adultery with two men involved in the killing of her husband, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

If the barbaric sentence is enforced it would be the first stoning to take place in the hardline Islamic Republic in years, the Israeli paper said.

Continue reading Iran considers stoning a woman for adultery

American youth arrested in Egypt for Mormonism

The Press Trust of India reports:

Authorities in Egypt have arrested a number of American youths on charges of preaching the Mormon doctrine, a faith regarded as a supplemental testament to the Bible.

The youths were arrested by the State security intelligence service in the Luxor Governorate on June 8.

The arrest came after several Egyptians, who saw them exercising their weird rites, made complaints against them.

The number of people arrested has not been disclosed as yet and it is not known whether they were taken to the State security service in Cairo or referred to the supreme State security prosecution on charges of contempt of religions.

Moreover, no information was disclosed about the deportation of the American youth to their country.

The restrictions on religious freedom in Egypt are a joke. Atheism is also criminalized in Egypt, so we ought to be especially sympathetic to these Mormons’ plight.

This is a developing story that has yet to be confirmed by the State Department. I’ll update this post as details become available.

A mosque near Ground Zero? Sure.

If you have somehow managed to avoid the controversy, allow the Boston Globe to bring you up-to-date:

Is ground zero the right place for a major new mosque and Islamic cultural center? Cordoba House is a 15-story, $100 million development to be built just 600 feet from where the World Trade Center stood; the plans include the mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurant, and bookstore.

The prospect of an Islamic center so close to ground zero is, not surprisingly, controversial. Many relatives of Sept. 11 victims are strongly opposed. One group, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, calls Cordoba House “a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day.’’ But the project also has strong political support. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are among its backers, and Cordoba House was endorsed by lower Manhattan’s Community Board No. 1 in a near-unanimous vote [29 to 1] last month.

And just yesterday, several thousands of people attended a rally to protest the proposed Islamic center. Among the most upset are some of our fellow atheists. Pat Condell went off in one of his trademark screeds about the mosque:

Continue reading A mosque near Ground Zero? Sure.