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L'Ordre

L'Ordre

A pluralistic or secular constitution doesn’t attack a religion, but protects them all

posted by Harry J. Bentham

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie.

It is magnificent, but it is not war; it is madness.

Pierre Bosquet


This blog’s primary focus is religion and politics. Either subject is inherently controversial, but no results are more controversial than when the two are mixed to create their explosive cocktail.

I guess I’m lucky. Few bloggers have such a blatant pretext to professionally stir up controversy.

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Many atheists seek to champion the cause of secularism when they commentate on political matters. While I have no objection to what they do, I find that their actions are a precarious path, given their atheism will be seen as their motive, and so it is easy for those atheists to be accused of hypocrisy in choosing to promote secularism. As I argued in my recent feature article, “Tolerant Christians vis-à-vis Evil Islam?”, individuals motivated by anti-religion are just as religious as individuals motivated by religion. Any position, whether for or against, responding to a religious tradition is a religious position. Any lawmaker who accuses a religious community of being errant or problematic is making a religious value judgment, whether or not the individual is himself a member of a faith tradition.

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US politicians who single out Islam as a threat to America – something certain conservatives like to do – are violating the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. The purpose of separating religion from politics has never been to keep irrationality or even bloodthirsty fanatics out of politics (indeed, irrational and bloodthirsty nationalism is still the basis of almost all politics, and became even the more so because of the Enlightenment). The only purpose such a separation serves is the protection of religious groups from lawmakers. In other words, the Establishment Clause is all about leaving religious people alone and allowing them to practice peacefully without fear of persecution. This is as it should be. If an atheist lawmaker were to incorporate anti-religion into his political ideology or to propose laws that would outlaw religious activities of any kind, such a move would violate the required separation of church and state.

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In my participation at the Mont Order Club’s discussion panel in February, I stated that I have no religious background, despite the Mont Order’s seemingly religious name and other facets and my premier involvement in publicizing that group. In fact, I have actually written fairly vitriolic “atheist” posts at other publications in my diverse background as a writer on the net. Nevertheless, I also emphasized at the Mont Order that I bear no hostility towards religious groups. If anything, when it comes to religious disagreement and controversy, I bear hostility towards the people who attack and slander religious groups.

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As with the atheists who promote secularism as if it will somehow eradicate religion, there is a similar misunderstanding among religious people – especially the Christian right in the United States – that secularism is about eliminating religion. However, as I have argued, it is about protecting religion.

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The same assessment can be made about terrorism. There is religiously motivated terrorism by religious people, and then there is religiously motivated terrorism by anti-religious people (usually they are against a particular religion, Islam being the usual target of hate and the target of Anders Breivik’s terrorism in Norway). Whether an attack is based on an errant reading of holy scripture or based on a prejudice against a religious community or sect that is believed to be in error, the attack is religiously motivated. Hence, one doesn’t need to be a member of any religion to be a religious fanatic.

Beyond criticizing religious groups and individuals and trying to conflate them with terrorist groups or acts, or misrepresenting secularism as an attack on religion rather than a measure aimed at protecting religion, there is the matter of nationalism. It too, has almost all the dangerous properties of a religious cult. In fact, as I and many antistatists argue, nationalism is the real death cult, and it is right under our noses. Why do people decry the idea of a theocracy, a political system based on one group’s concept of God, but feel it appropriate to obey authority figures who make the prejudiced argument that our geography needs to be defended – – with world-destroying nuclear weapons?

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It is widely accepted now that human beings have inalienable rights and that we are all equal. How is it possible that there could still be cavemen among us who believe that “nations”, based on convoluted arguments about cultural and value differences, are worth dying for? When one looks objectively at all the different kinds of madness and war in the world, it is shortsighted indeed to single out religious extremists as the challenge. We are lied to by terrorist governments, who malign racial and religious minorities and perpetuate the lie of the nation as a way of mobilizing the youth to war. The solution to a false doctrine is the destruction of its idols, hence the destruction of the idols of nationalism is necessary and inevitable. It will become a fact of life as our countries lose the social cohesion they once had and cave in to the forces of social globalization. Furthermore, the major religions in the world aren’t going anywhere, but our false nations are going to go.

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By Harry J. Bentham

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Cage’s point about MI5 terrorizing Muslims is credible

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Sous un gouvernement qui emprisonne injustement, la place de l’homme juste est aussi en prison.

Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the place of the just man is also a prison.

Henry David Thoreau


The human rights group Cage has taken a lot of fire for saying Mohammed Emwazi, also called “Jihadi John” and an Islamic State militant with global notoriety, became a radical largely because of being unduly harassed by MI5 prior to his extremism.

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Islamic State hostages who were killed. Not a single effort was exerted by the British government to prevent their deaths, but the government still speaks of British citizens as if it cares about their lives rather than its own savage existence.

You can read Cage’s profile of Mohammed Emwazi here and its claims about Emwazi’s radicalization here. The British government actually emerged from the shadows to condemn Cage and other human rights activists who oppose indefinite detention, surveillance and torture of terror suspects, labeling them as “apologists” for Islamic State atrocities.

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Apologists? I would like to point out that they merely suggested that his crimes were partially motivated by mistreatment and profiling by the British state, which is a legitimate claim.

It is time to start worrying about the state of democracy in Britain, when the state lashes out at pressure groups for suggesting that the security services’ misdeeds help motivate extremists seeking to exact revenge against the state. In the moral outcry against Cage’s arguments, Boris Johnson added his views, alleging that the security services “keep us safe” and advancing his opinion that it is abhorrent for anyone to question the actions of the security forces.

I have a question about the determination of the security services to “keep us safe”. Why is it that they are so bad at this? MI5’s attempts to stop terrorism have been pathetic, and the British government has made no effort to save any British citizens from Islamic State. Cameron’s government had a chance to negotiate the release of British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning and didn’t do anything. Perhaps it was too busy protecting cowards like David Cameron and Boris Johnson from the repercussions of their foolish and selfish foreign policy. A duty that I demand security forces take less zeal in, in the future.

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By Harry J. Bentham

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Russian aggression, or a war no-one cares about?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

La haine est un sentiment fatiguant.

Hate is a tiring feeling.

Éric Delcroix


In the harebrained first Crimean War and subsequent Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, Britain’s history is full of examples of citizens being easily led into fevered nationalism over distant international affairs that don’t concern our lives.

Anti-Russian hysteria and fanatical obsessions with confronting Russia in its own historic heartlands are not new. In fact the word “jingoism” was created just to describe this condition.

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Probably no regime has sacrificed more of its soldiers towards distant and irrelevant conflicts than the English Crown and its instruments – extending all the way back to the Crusades. The British Empire continued the folly of that tradition, using its “balance of power” theory as a reason to attack any other power, no matter how distant or utterly irrelevant to Britain’s own security, and come to the aid of states that are of no strategic importance to Britain, simply because of an impulsive desire to create “just wars” or the conditions to sell weapons and rally larger armies than our small island could possibly need.

The word “jingoism” itself was invented to refer to a specifically British kind of madness, although it sometimes also manifests in Americans. Interestingly, jingoism referred to something that was first expressed in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 in the following poem:

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We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too
We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

The British press, including even the supposedly liberal Guardian, are singing this crazy tune now, trying to convince British readers that they should care about a conflict utterly distant and irrelevant, and undeserving of even a small opinion being rendered on it. Too bad we all have such short attention spans and will be telling them to shut up long before we get as involved as we did in the Crimean War and other previous adventures to deter Russian designs on Crimea and the Black Sea area.

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By referring to this sentiment, jingoism by definition refers to a British desire to get involved in ambitious, adventurous overseas conflicts to contain the military activity of other countries. Specifically, Russia is the example of the exact kind of distant country that only the craziest and most irrational form of nationalism could possibly drive Britain to oppose. It is a case of marching to war in an irrelevant conflict, with a distant adversary, in a region we don’t understand, to boss another country around in its own backyard.

Jingoism also carried with it the connotation of futility and failure. Britain’s prior involvements in wars in the Ukraine region always resulted in failure. The problem is that, while the government and the press can whip citizens up into fevered nationalism over a distant affair – what we understand as the folly of jingoism – it is very difficult to maintain such interest.

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One might accuse Putin’s Russia of jingoism. Certainly, Russia has its fair share of irrational nationalists. But the Russians and the pro-Russian rebels in Donbass aren’t bothering with a distant or irrelevant conflict, but a conflict in their very neighborhood. Jingoism doesn’t refer to people being concerned by violent events very proximate to them, but to propaganda trying to get people to care about very, very distant foreign conflicts on faraway continents and an irrational argument to get involved in them despite their irrelevance. In that sense, Russian propaganda over Ukraine isn’t jingoism, but British and American propaganda is jingoism in the extreme.

Eventually, the British public will come to realize that we just aren’t as interested in Ukraine’s future as Russia and some of the other regional players in the conflict are. In the end, the people who actually have a stake in the events in Ukraine are the ones who are going to fight it out tenaciously. This judgment stands even though Britain can proudly boast of having superior soldiers to Russia. No argument about patriotism, national honor, or the balance of power can convince the public that it is worth getting British soldiers killed on a distant and irrelevant battlefield on Russia’s doorstep, in the name of forces that have nothing to do with us and not the slightest understanding of who or what we are about.

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Jingoism referred to a crazed, warlike adventurism in distant lands that don’t concern us, pursued because of a press intent on war for the sake of national strength and honor. This is the Twenty-First Century and it is time for Britain to start acting on that. Our strength is irrelevant, our honor archaic. Our apparent need to get involved in “helping” Ukraine by sending advisers or armaments says more about British imperialist revisionism than that of our Russian counterparts. Like our clinging to the Malvinas and Gibraltar, it is part of our stubborn refusal to dissolve the British Empire despite it formally coming to an end.

Perhaps, as I have speculated before, some magnates somewhere want to keep the British Empire – and its jingoism – perfectly alive in suspended animation as a backup plan in case the American Empire turns out to be less sturdy than it claims to be. There is no other explanation for all the strategic military bases Britain continues to hold at various key locations around the globe – inactive as they may be – and continues to adamantly defend its legal claims on.

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By Harry J. Bentham

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Attack ideas, not people

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Je meurs en adorant Dieu, en aimant mes amis, en ne haïssant pas mes ennemis et en détestant la superstition.

I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition.

Voltaire


Returning to the subject of Islamophobia and the detractors of that particular definition of offense, I recently wrote a feature article at The clubof.info Blog addressing it.

“Islamophobia versus criticism of Islam”

You can read the full feature article, “Islamophobia versus criticism of Islam”, here.

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I notice an absurd but dominant notion among many anti-Muslim circles, for example within online discussion threads, that bloggers, commentators, politicians or intellectuals who defend Muslims must be Muslims themselves. British MP George Galloway is one of those people. As if it would matter. It seems to me that accusing people in that way is reminiscent of the climate that existed in the Spanish Inquisition, when Muslims and Jews were hunted down and tortured because of their faith, and simply being accused of being “one of them” was enough to get someone sent to the dungeons. It is unfortunate that such behavior has not yet been overcome in western states (e.g. Guantanamo) and that the broader political audience may even be reverting back to that medieval way of thinking.

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From my feature article:

And if Islamophobia sought to criticize Islam, whence cometh their theses against Islam? Where are the intellectual battles being fought by Islamophobia against the errors of Islam? In what lecture theaters are academics explaining where Islam is wrong, and how to non-violently correct its errors in the mind before one goes out to shoot these people or make drone strikes against them? Instead, all that we find are lobbyists, who know very little about Islam but a lot about making war against Islam.

I consider Islamophobia to not be a principled rejection of Islam for its supernatural claims or the content of the Qur’an, or the statements of certain clerics, but a form of prejudice and hate directed against a community. Because of this, some of the ideas “critics of Islam” have put forward, including Salman Rushdie, about Islamophobia not being a valid concept, are harmful. There are very real people out there who hate Muslims and not simply terrorism, as they claim, which is usually just a way of making themselves look like the victims. It is extremely ignorant for we in the west to act like our civilization has been attacked by the Muslim world, when it is in fact our countries that have repeatedly been bombing the Muslim world and have killed millions of people there.

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As I emphasize in the feature article, I consider the threat from terrorism to not be the terrorism itself but the idiocy of our reactions to it. I believe those reactions, blaming the Muslim community and lashing out at them, are what terrorists aimed to create in the first place. By getting the apparent cover of a community to hide behind and distract the state’s attention towards discriminating against that community rather than hunting specific criminals down, terrorists succeed in delegitimizing the state. Of course, I think state delegitimization is inevitable, but it shouldn’t have to happen like this, creating so much discord and potential for violence that will destroy the bonds of communities themselves rather than simply the government.

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My final point is that criticism of Islam targets specific claims in Islam that can be debated in a civilized format, whereas Islamophobia targets Muslims. Propaganda against a community to try and justify internecine war against them, as much of the political right in Britain and America are guilty of, isn’t legitimate criticism.


By Harry J. Bentham

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