Tag archives for: islam

Have You Ever Actually Read That Thing?

I saw this headline today:

How Islamic is Islamic State?

And I started gibbering just a little. I admit, I haven't read the full article because, frankly, I don't really care about the answer. It's a stupid question.

But, like those who insist on calling the hijab a cultural artifact when confronted with the grim reality of women who are forced to wear it, many people seem to find the question pertinent.

It disturbs me how much energy is spent debating the issue. Ask yourself: if ISIS really were following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make the murder somehow more acceptable? And if ISIS were not following the Koran to the letter, would that, in itself, make them somehow fairer targets? Much more importantly, why on earth should the contents of the Koran matter in this assessment?

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You Keep Using That Word

It's hard to talk about the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo without sounding like you're either a) apologizing for violence or b) spouting tired platitudes about free speech.

I mean, sure, like everyone else, I fully condemn the attacks, given that being offended is not a reason to, you know, shoot people. I feel really weird having to say that. Like they joked on The Daily Show, I sometimes worry if I'm being "denouncy" enough.

But there was something in France's reaction to the attacks (all those myriad "Je suis Charlie" placards) that rubbed me the wrong way, though I was having trouble identifying what it was.

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Religion Versus Culture

In the past, I've commented on France's ban of the niqab, noting in passing that the distinction some people make between religion and culture (emphasizing, for example, that the niqab is a Middle Eastern cultural tradition rather than a specific Islamic law), is irrelevant to question of whether a woman has the right to wear whatever the hell she wants in public - including, of course, a niqab if that's what floats her boat.

At the time, I more or less glossed over what I thought the actual distinction was between culture and religion, so with that in mind I'd like to expand a little on these thoughts and make the further claim (not so very controversial, I think) that the line between religion and culture tends to be blurry at best and, at worst, damn near non-existent.

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On the Banning of Niqabs

I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but last year France started fining women who wear the niqab in public, in defiance of a recently passed law banning religious face coverings in public. From the article, other countries (Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland) are planning similar legislation.

The article is noteworthy, not only for the content, which is informative, but also for the handy reference at the bottom explaining the difference between hijabs, niqabs, burkas.

(According to the article, hijab is a generic name for a headscarf, a niqab is a veil the covers the face but not the eyes, and a burka covers the the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh to see out of)

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