Saturday, April 03, 2010

A debate betwen a Muslim and an atheist

Happy Families in 1988, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

At the time the Conservative Party in the UK was introducing Clause 28, referring to 'pretended family relationship', Gay Times interviews a Happy Family.

CharlesFred says:
Gay News was the famous gay magazine from the 1970's which was prosecuted for blasphemy in connection with the publication of a poem called The Love that Dares to Speak its Name by James Kirkup. It was published in June 1976. The poem, written from the viewpoint of a Roman centurion, graphically describes him having sex with Jesus after his crucifixion, and also claims that Jesus had had sex with numerous disciples, guards, and even Pontius Pilate.

The indictment described the offending publication as "a blasphemous libel concerning the Christian religion, namely an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in his life and in his crucifixion".

Gay News lost the case both in the original trial and the appeal and when brought later to the European Court of Human Rights, they refused to admit the case.

As a postscript, there is a move in Holland to remove Blasphemy as an offence. I think this is more to do with giving people the right to offend Muslims than any thought that Christianity does not require protection. Anyway, there have not been any convictions in Holland for over two decades.

A. says:

Whoa these gay themed shots almost gave me a heart attack in the office today. When I opened your page in the office today (to copy your address to use your buddy icon in comments) my colleague suddenly showed up behind me. Lookin at semi nude(the model in the underwear) photos in office ain't considered cool here :D
But he didn't notice because pics appear small on the whole page.

CharlesFred says:

Oops! Sorry, A! I am glad you're not in trouble. I took a nap on the train home, so am reading the Lahore article (double page spread). Going out to a concert later (Sevval Sam from Turkey) so not sure if I have time to write back this evening... enjoy yours!

CharlesFred says:

I will try to find out who this young chap is and will google him to se if I can find out what happened to him.. whio knows? He may be a Cabinet Minister by now?

A. says:

Now on the topic. Charles I think Blasphemy should be considered an offense. People in the Christian world have unsactified everything(generalized statement, not intended to offend anybody). There are somethings that should be respected. People have all the right to question things. But Charles they should always stay in limits when doing so. I mean they shouldn't be outright disrespectful when doing so. Respecting each others religion is very important.

A. says:
Have a nice time at the concert. I'll like to write a few more lines on the above topic. I am thinking right now. You can respond later ok :)

CharlesFred says:

I think you are right, A, in the main. I might not think that religion needs special protection, but in general, I think opeople should respect each other much more. In, Holland there is this terrible tendency to thiik that everything which is capable of being said, should be said - being so-called freedom of speech. Yes, freedom of speech in the law, but do not mis-use this freedom to attack and undermine other people.

We had a big fat anti-social guy around here who used to have his TV programme and a newspaper coluumn which he sued to attack Muslims in particular and call them really bad names. Eventually, one guy got so mad at him that they killed him (in a very nasty way on another street near here). He is being rightly punished and it is not up top him as a good Muslim to do God's work. I do think the guy who was killed was asking for trouble by being so offensive.

A. says:

You are right Charles. You have said what I wanted to say. Religions don't need protection true very true. Blasphemy is not about protection Charles it about discouraging people from being outright disrespectful.
Charles everybody needs to learn a lesson or two in tolerance these days. People have taken freedom of speech to a whole new depth. Charles all I want to say is that people should remain civilized when questioning things or commenting.
Charles you know I really didn't like Da Vinci code either. What I don't like about that book is that it is a fictional story right? So why did it use Jesus who is not a fictional Personality, to weave its story around? Whats your take on this?

CharlesFred says:

(I am in the tram onto the other side of town - west - to go to the concert).

I think there are question marks over the historical evidence that Jesus existed as there were no records of his existence in any of the archives of the Roman Empire, which I find quite surprising. Plus I feel that some of the stories were made up to fit in with the earlier prophecies to make it seem as if he was The Messiah.

And as for the book, I have no problem with anyone writing this or pubishing it. With a book you can easily avoid it by not reading it.

I think the worst people are those who kill other people in the name of their religion. I know the Jewish god asked them Jews to kill other races, but I don't think there is any excuse in these days to kill in the name of religion. People who do are very wicked in my view. It is God to judge and punish, not man.

A. says:

Oh go enjoy the concert Charles we have all week to discuss this :)
You are right. I am still thinking, cant find the right words to say what is in my mind right now.

CharlesFred says:

Thanks, Afraz, we have plenty of time to discuss. Getting busy here at De Meervaart, mainly ladies, mostly Turkish. She sings songs from the Black Sea region of Turkey, where we went on holiday last year. I even love the music of that wonderful country.

A. says:

I reached the office late again :( Missed Mommy's breakfast so had to settle for flavored milk and biscuits :(
The weather outside is cool.
Charles now I think I am ready to address the issue again. Charles what I wanted to say was that absolute freedom is an illusion and so is freedom of speech. We should try to encourage people to question things. We should encourage them to find answers. They should have freedom to do so. But the illusion that you can say whatever come into your mouth should be done away with. There should be checks and balances on everything. In this case by checks and balances I mean ethical boundaries and not some moral police kind of a thing. The boundary between hate speech and being inquisitive should be stressed upon and more clearly illustrated.

A. says:

Will write more after I come back from Juma (friday) Prayers.

CharlesFred says:

(And I will respond later too, I promised my boss to get some things done today - just doing a few comments on the flickr photos here and there).

A. says:

Sure Charles take your time. I am enjoyin this a lot so we'll finish when I say so ok :)

CharlesFred says:

Back again, A... where to start?

I think you are right in your assertion that absolute freedom is an illusion, and I think that is what a country like Holland is struggling with at the moment. What makes it more difficult in Holland is that children are taught to be questioning, to have a big mouth and to say what they think, under the cloak of being direct and that everything should be up for discussion. Unfortunately, subyelty is not thought of as a virtue and nor is respect for other people's point of view.

Also, I think there is another problem which we might have here, which you might not have in Pakistan, and that is that many freedoms have been won in the face of opposition by religious (read Christian) leaders, such as the right to chose one's partner, to same-sex marriage, to read what we like, to divorce, to abortion and so on. You can think what you like about these things, but they have been won by the people. Therefore, there can be a negative feeling towards religious people who first tried to stop, then try ot attack or undermine such freedoms. The feeling is that religion is a private matter, right for people to practice amongst themselves but not to interfere with other people doing their own things. This is a very individualistic view of teh world, but it is what we have here.

Freedom to, say, same-sex marriage is an easy freedom - you either have iot or you don't, although tehere are arguments about whether civil servants should be allowed to not marry people because they do not approve and so on... but in the main it is quite an easy freedom to administer and apply, and it is mainly a private arrangement entered voluntarily between two people who love each other.

Freedom of speech is very different, because it is one-sided affair. You have the right to say what you like, it seems, but the person you might be attacking or undermining, has no say in this. He/she can easily be a victim and has no say in what is being said about him/her. We need to find a sort of contract between each other to define what is and what is not acceptable in such situations your 'ethical boundaries'. I think we might get there (being optimistic) but at the moment, we are not and this creates problems.

A. says:

Ok good to see you back.
I agree with the gist of what you have said Charles. I will start from your last sentence. This is what I am trying to say all along Charles people should be taught to keep in mind that they should not unnecessarily victimize other people. It is all about ethics. What do you think?

A. says:

Being too individualistic aint very healthy either. We are social animals. We need other people to survive. This modern world view that we all can live in niches of our own is plain wrong. Charles I have studied biology all my life and you know what I discovered an year or two ago? I discovered that sequencing the DNA and finding out what genes do aint going to give us the final answer or the complete picture of the human. Most part of us lies in our complex social interactions and in thing called mind and the non physical entity called thinking (according to some philosophers).
I hope I have not drifted away from what we were talkin about :)

A. says:

And what I said about Jesus was what we know about Jesus from Quraan.

CharlesFred says:

I think you are right, Afraz, about not victimising people but that is easier said than done and here we can get into another long discussion. Going back to the issue of gay people, it is the religions which, more than most, have victimised gay people in the past and many stil have that tendency. People will use their religion as a cloak, justification and excuse to victimise gay people, on the basis that 'it is against their religion' (When, if they would take the trouble, they might see that the original texts are not as clear as they might think on this issue).

On the other hand, people and groups need to show a little less sensitivity to what other groups might say. Religious groups and gay groups can very easily feel offended by the slightest thing and I don't think that is right either. Life out there is tough and you can't always have everything your own way. You will not be popular with everyone and you just have to live with that and deal with it. Turn your shoulder and get on. It was like that on the playground and it is like that in society.

CharlesFred says:

Of course ,we are social animals and if we are surrounded in our neighbourhoods by yuppies who cut down trees, we flock to social networking sites like facebook and even turn a photo site like flickr into a social forum. I totally agree.

I studied economics, where many of the theories are based upon himans having rational and predictable minds, and, guess what?, most of the theories do not work. Humans are far too complex to be analysed and predicted as if they were chemical reactions in a laboratory.

A. says:

Yeah you are right Charles I absolutely agree to the sort of unanimous conclusion that we both have reached.
Gay people is a tricky topic for me Charles. Being a Muslim I have always had the impression that Homosexuality is not a legitimate lifestyle. That people should not indulge into homosexuality. Charles in Islam we have to obey Allah's orders. This is what our religion says.
My own personal take on this is that if one says that homosexuality is innate and is a part of human nature then we should not do it JUST because Allah has said so. If Allah had said that it is permissible then there would have been no problem in following such a lifestyle. For me its a plain matter of obeying what Allah has said even if your heart and mind says otherwise; which they do more often than not.
Charles I have said all this keeping in mind the openness that I share with you. Hope that you wont mind. I mean no ill ok. Seriously :)

CharlesFred says:

No problem, A, but dinner is on the table now and F is making comments, so I will have top leave the debate. I understand totally what you are saying from a Muslim point of view. I, and most people in Holland (say) are not Muslims so do not...

A. says:

Have a good dinner Charles. What did Fred make by the way?
I really enjoyed this debate. Will keep on engaging you in such discussions from time to time :)

CharlesFred says:

Oh? Are we done, A? Fair enough. Dinner was some sort of beans, with roasted paprikas and merquez sausages - a new recipe. Trying to eat less meat and fewer calories. It was nicer than we thought it might be!

By the way, I do not want you to think I am obsessed about homosexuality, but it is something I know quite well about (more than being a woman, say), which is why I used it as an example.

Discussed some of our topics with Fred, he made the observation that he was brought up in a Christian way (as a Protestant) and was taught to be intolerant (towards Catholics) - maybe in a similar way as Sunnis and Shias.

Anyway..,. I have really enjoyed this debate as well but maybe next time we will do something lighter like a game of Ludo?

Enjoy your evening. It is Good Friday here, a celebration of the day Jesus was crucified, so a good day to watch a couple of episodes of the recent BBC series, A History of Christianity.

A. says:

I wasn't done Charles but I think we arrived at the right conclusion about the freedom of speech and stuff so didn't feel like dragging the discussion much.
But wow this is like the first time I really enjoyed havin a debate with somebody. People usually get angry during discussions and are so opinionated that they don't even give a second thought to the other persons opinion. This turns me off. I like having debates where you can speak your heart out without the fear that you might hurt somebody. It only happens when both you and the person you are engaging with share the same level of tolerance. Happens very rarely.
And I don't think that you are obsessed with homosexuality Charles. One tends to speak more of the things that they hold close or what they have experienced first hand. I tend to that a lot too.
Fred is so right Charles. Most of the times we are trained to have this set of opinions about other groups of people. I am so against this. I want to fight against such mindsets and individuals or at least will try to. The treatment of black people is the perfect example of this. We will keep discussing on such topics from time to time InshaAllah!

Ludo sounds good. I am so up for it. lets do it :D

CharlesFred says:

Thanks, A, yes, I have greatly enjoyed our debate. I used to love debating at university, where I did it a lot with my friends, whre it often did get very heated. Still have debates every now and then but so often one's friends (close-by) are not that interested and prefer to talk about other things.

Interestingly enough, one of the episodes we watched last night, told us that Western Europe got its ideas for universities, the institution, the formats (lectures and tutorials), exams, costumes etc all came from Islam. I didn't know that. I did know that a lot of our learning had come from Islam but not the institution as well.

Did we find a place to play Ludo?


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