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Thread: Totalitarian Ideology and the Enlightenment

  1. #111
    Senior Member Array
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    Quote Originally Posted by ergophobe View Post
    Here is an alternative to Freedom House which I referred to earlier. It's an indicator of Religious Freedom in the World. From the report by Paul Marshall:
    Hudson Institute > Center for Religious Freedom >Survey Files

    "Religious freedom is also not confined to any one area or
    continent (see Figure 1). There are relatively free countries in every
    continent. Japan, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Botswana, Mali,
    Namibia, Senegal, and South Africa score better in this survey than do
    Belgium, France, Germany, and Greece. Estonia and Hungary are
    among the freest countries in the world. Most Latin American
    countries also score well. There are absolutely no grounds for thinking
    that religious freedom is an exclusively Western concern or

    By area:
    "Israel (excluding the occupied territories) scores a three, and Jordan,
    Lebanon, Morocco, and Oman, a four. Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Syria,
    Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen score a five, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt,
    Pakistan, and the Palestinian area six, and others seven (Iran, Iraq,
    Saudi Arabia). These findings, as well as those for other areas, are
    broadly consistent with other reports’ findings regarding human rights
    and freedom generally in these countries."

    By religion:
    The Muslim majority countries comprise the religious areas with
    the largest current restrictions on religious freedom. This pattern
    parallels problems with democracy, civil liberties, and economic
    freedom, but the negative trend with respect to religious freedom is
    even stronger. Of the twenty “unfree” countries and territories
    surveyed, twelve are Muslim majority. Of the seven countries
    receiving the lowest possible score, four are Muslim majority. This is
    a phenomenon that goes beyond the Arab world or the Middle East. In
    measures of, for example, electoral democracy, the Muslim world
    outside of the greater Middle East scores better than the Middle
    Eastern countries, and over half of the world’s Muslims live in
    electoral democracies: the problems with democracy are concentrated
    in the Middle East. However, in terms of religious freedom, the large
    Muslim democracies of Indonesia and Bangladesh score a five and a
    six respectively. In these cases, the problems of religious freedom are
    due not to government repression but to widespread societal religious
    violence, including religiously based terrorism, aimed at minorities
    and at undercutting the government. It should also be added that there
    are religiously free Muslim majority countries, including some of the poorest, Mali and Senegal, which are religiously freer than many European countries."

    So, you'd still prefer to look at the answer by Indonesians to the vague question regarding Shari'a law instead of their answers to specific questions that actually mentioned real practices such as traditional punishment and reduced rights for women where small minorities said they supported it with the largest minority being 30% for social welfare portions of Shar'ia. I'm not sure why you would choose to concentrate on a question that is least revealing in understanding what these people are actually supporting besides that it's the one that comes closest to supporting your general argument. Still, I hope others will continue to look at all the questions, the variety of answers, how these differed across government type and region.
    1.) You keep bringing up information that I already know (albeit not from the same source, and I thank you for bringing the Hudson Institute site to my attention) and which actually supports my conclusions. You will notice that Paul Marshall points out in his overview that the level of religious freedom in most Muslim countries (which actually affects Muslim dissenters more than religious minorities) is consistently low, relative to other countries, even after accounting for indicators such as government repression. Exceptions (such as Senegal and Mali*) can more easily be explained by researching the dynamics of the regional variants of Islam (for example, admixture of Islam with indigenous beliefs-the overall population of Mali in particular was Islamized only in the twentieth-century-and the religious dominance of idiosyncratic and regionally concentrated 'Muslim brotherhoods"), and how these differ from other Muslim areas.

    Ergophobe, I spent a long time in an increasingly desperate search for information that would convincingly repudiate the conclusions I eventually reached, largely because I understand and share the fears you have mentioned (backlash against reform efforts in Muslim countries, and the degradation of non-discrimination norms in the West) and because my conclusions suggest that change will most likely be long and difficult.

    2.) I paid more attention to the first question of those polls two reasons:
    a.) it concerns first (or possibly second or even third, if you want to be technical) principles that influence subsequent opinions, which may change as external conditions change. The proportion of Indonesians that currently want more Shariah than is currently in place is in fact consistent with the proportion which voted for "Islamic" political parties in the last election, but the first question suggest that that proportion is subject to change.

    b.) Current levels of Shariah vary by country; the current level of Shariah in Indonesia (at the national level, see below) is quite small and moderate. In other countries (such as Pakistan)...not so much. The case of Indonesia (which is fairly exceptional to other Muslim countries, with many traits similar to that of Senegal and Mali) is further complicated by the substantial autonomy that provinces have in this regard, and the lack of will by the national government to reign in provinces that legislate beyond their powers or tolerate private vigilante groups (Marshal obliquely refers to this dynamic in his overview).

    *On an unrelated but interesting note, Mali is also unusual in that the perpetrators of the last military coup turned out to be genuine statesmen who followed through on their promises that the coup was for the sake of democracy rather than personal power. I can't immediately recall any other instance where that was so self-evidently the case...

  2. #112
    Gotta catch you all! Array Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    Exceptions (such as Senegal and Mali*) can more easily be explained by researching the dynamics of the regional variants of Islam (for example, admixture of Islam with indigenous beliefs-the overall population of Mali in particular was Islamized only in the twentieth-century-and the religious dominance of idiosyncratic and regionally concentrated 'Muslim brotherhoods"), and how these differ from other Muslim areas.

    Once again, blatant ignorance. Or rather, I'd say your so-called "experts" only see the history of these countries through pink-tinted glasses. Or rather, they probably have never set foot there.

    Islam was introduced into this area very violently, and during centuries, you had a lot Jihads which tried to wipe out the indigenous religions, or the few remaining tribes that did not want to convert to Islam.
    Most of the times, the survivors were sold into slavery. So they had to flee, and always to the south. And in countries of Western Africa where Islam and traditional religion still try to coexist, you're always on the brink of civil war, precisely because of that violent history that still permeates the minds.

    Overall, this process costed million of human lives.

    That's how Senegal, Guinea and Mali eventually became Muslim lands: thanks to genocides, ethnocides, deportations, and slavery. That's how a tiny minority of Peuls (Fulbe) and Tuaregs became the local majority.

    And once again, don't say that the situation in Mali and Senegal is that good, because that's false. It may look superficially better than other Muslim areas, but once again, it's far, very far from the situation you know in the Western world.

    There's a real gap between "noble intentions" and how the law is really interpreted and implemented in the streets of Bamako or Dakar. Blasphemy is still a crime. Atheism and apostasy are still a crime. But I'm not suprised that a conservative think-tank primarily made of staunch believers does not consider that Atheism and the right to curse religions belong to "religious freedom". Hypocrits!
    "A man who only drinks water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men" -Baudelaire

    7w8 SCUxI

  3. #113
    Senior Member Array matmos's Avatar
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    Mar 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Blackmail! View Post
    And once again, don't say that the situation in Mali and Senegal is that good, because that's false. It may look superficially better than other Muslim areas, but once again, it's far, very far from the situation you know in the Western world.
    From International Religious Freedom Report: Mali

    Relations between the Muslim majority and the Christian and other religious minorities are generally amicable. Adherents to a variety of faiths may be found within the same families. Many followers of one religion attend religious ceremonies of other religions, especially weddings and funerals. Islam as practiced in the country opposes the use of violence. Christian missionaries, especially the rural-based development workers, enjoy good relations within their communities.

    There were no reports of instances in which persons who had changed their religion experienced adverse social consequences.
    It seems that Mali is slightly more fortunate today than when under French rule.

    From the same source:
    On April 28, 1998, a mob of about 300 Muslims attacked Christian missionaries and nongovernmental organization workers in the town of Menaka, in the northern region of Gao. Several missionaries were injured; their assailants stole property and burned and partially destroyed a small Christian church and two missionary houses. The attack followed the public showing of a film on the life of Jesus, which reportedly exacerbated already existing tensions between Christians and Muslims. The local Muslim clergy as well as government officials quickly criticized the attack.
    There does appear to be tensions. But it looks like you have to give the hornets' nest a kick first.

    Arguing that atheism is not tolerated in Mali is mincing with words. Supply us with some material by a disgruntled Malian atheist, or name your source.

    Otherwise you're holding Mali to an impossible standard (by requiring further proof of its secularity to your standard), and with no way for LR to refute your assertions.

    Then again the Europeans were very good at imposing standards. One for them and one for the natives.

  4. #114
    Allergic to Mornings Array ergophobe's Avatar
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    Hello Blackmail - good to see you friend. Also, thanks for giving me more to think about and pushing me to get beyond my ENFPness that loves sweeping statements to examine the details. I really appreciate what Morgan, LR and you help me do...

    However.... you knew I couldn't resist

    I think that just for the sake of debating, you are taking your argument a bit too far. And even if you're right globally, locally, you should have remained cautious.
    It's either right or wrong Blackmail. Deciphering general patterns and descriptions of specific cases are two separate exercises with different goals. The first gives us a broad understanding of a phenomenon and should be supported largely by examples of individual countries. Yet, it can never be used to understand perfectly and in detail the politics of a single case. That's using a tool for a purpose it was not intended.

    For instance, take that source you quoted. It is ABSOLUTE bullshit (forgive me to be so straightforward). Because for instance:
    I quoted two sources: Freedom House and The Hudson Institute's Religious Freedom Around the World. I have no trouble agreeing with you on potential biases that these reports have but calling them bullshit does no service to our understanding. All measures have inherent biases. Being aware of what the biases may be help us better use the measure and recognize its limitations. For each of these institutes, their measures (data) has been reviewed independently by academics and pros and cons of using the data highlighted. Let's not confuse the measures with the policy suggestions either makes. Let's consider each separately:
    1. Freedom House. Started by Eleanor Roosevelt and still receives funding from the U.S. government and is said to be somewhat biased in favor of countries that support U.S. foreign policy. Also they use country reports and rank each country on 1-7 - limited and subjectively dependent on how the individual reads the report. Yet, the bias is limited in that countries may get a slightly higher ranking if they are well on the path to U.S. supported democracy or slightly lower ranking if anti-US along with being antidemocratic. i.e. We're not going to see Saudi Arabia being labeled as free even though it's a friend of the U.S. By and large, it remains a good way to get an overview of civil and political liberties around the world and still has the largest coverage of countries. Plus, importantly, their methodology is VERY TRANSPARENT and has been reviewed multiple times by academics.
    2. Religious Freedom around the world: This is newer and from a think tank with a conservative bent, as you rightly suggested. However, we shouldn't mix data with policy suggestions again. The data, if collected using transparent measures is to be judged separately from the reports and policy suggestions this think tank makes. It contains the same subjective biases the Freedom House data would but is a pretty good contribution to large scale data on this subject. The data has been reviewed by independent sources such as the Harvard Human Rights Journal and is also open for use and examination.
    Review from the Harvard Human Rights Journal

    1/ The reason why countries like Belgium and France are not "that" high in their ranking is because they have banned Scientology after several repeated legal abuse. It's the ONLY reason, and it is very controversial. Is Scientology a religion or just a scam made to extort you lot, lot of money? That's not as simple as it seems.
    Religious freedom is religious freedom - it doesn't depend on which religions we like and how we define religion. The idea is to look at the state and see if it plays a role in regulating religion in the public sphere and how religious communities interact with each other. They state what their method is and apply it across all the countries.
    Whether scientology is a religion or not in your opinion is irrelevant. Here's a quote from the State department's report on religious freedom in Belgium from 2004:
    "The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom; however, several religious groups, particularly Jews and Muslims, as well as religious groups that have not been accorded official "recognized" status by the Government, cited instances of discrimination by the public and government officials." The 2009 report also mentions a raid on a Sikh prayer ceremony.

    In comparison, let's take Mali.
    2/ On the other hand, I should recommend you to wander in the streets of Bamako (capitol of Mali) and tell me if in practice, religious freedom is that high. For instance, cursing Islam here in public is FORBIDDEN, and will lead you to a fine. And if you continue, you will be jailed.
    In Senegal it's the same: Blasphemy against Islam is strictly forbidden, and can get you into a lot of trouble. Blasphemy against other religions is of course allowed (how hypocritical!).
    Mali is a secular country in its constitution. The state is very concerned with maintaining that secularism. There is no official religion. The society is majority Muslim and several democratic elections later (since 1992), we're seeing a vibrant society which is seriously dealing with the important issue of resolving a secular state with a majority Muslim society. As institutions strengthen and civil liberties get even more firmly enshrined, we'll see more changes.

    I think your point about comparing Mali to well institutionalized democracies in Western Europe is a fair one and it's well taken. I'll still argue that Mali and Senegal are in a different category with civil and political rights and religious rights for minorities as compared to Persian gulf states, for example. That's a huge difference and don't see a problem with it being highlighted.

    Here's a quote from the Benjamin Soares article from African Affairs Vol 105 Issue 418 (2005).
    "Rather, some Muslim activists seem able to articulate some of the concerns of many ordinary Malian Muslims, who face the contradictions of living as modern Muslim citizens in a modernizing and secularizing state where the ‘un-Islamic’ seems to be always just around the corner in this age of neoliberal governmentality. Most observers would be reluctant to consider such forms of Muslim activism, which range from efforts at moral reform and discipline to possible challenges to the state’s legitimacy, as evidence of the expansion of civil society in Mali. Many Malian secularists and outside observers find such activism alarming and warn of the dangers of political Islam here and further afield. As I have suggested, rather than simply labelling (or denouncing) this as fundamentalism or Islamism, one must understand such developments in Mali in their complex genesis and equally complex transnational connections in this age of neoliberal reforms."

    Back later for Indonesia and more. Must return to work.

    To be continued....

  5. #115
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Array Mole's Avatar
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    Mar 2008

    Lightbulb Geert Wilders and Free Speech

    What is disturbing is that Geert Wilders is on trial in the Netherlands for free speech.

    Mr Wilders is the leader of the second largest political party in the Netherlands and he may very well be elected Prime Minister of Holland.

    Unfortunately free speech is the very basis of liberal democracy and it is under attack by the very institutions that should be defending it.

    So here we have free speech being used against us by those who want to destroy free speech. It's an interesting paradox.

    We met the same paradox in Oz when the Communist Party of Australia was using our freedom to destroy our freedom.

    And we were asked in a referendum whether we wanted to ban the Communist Party of Australia, but we decided not to ban the Communist Party but instead we would exercise our freedom speech to oppose the Communist Party. And I think it was the right decision, at least for Australia.

    But when the Islamists want to ban free speech, they seek to disarm us in advance.

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