Right after I published my previous post about how Dawkins is creating a cult of personality around himself and using it to scam his atheist followers, a friend of mine mentioned the following article “Richard Dawkins launches children’s summer camp for atheists,” which was published by The Telegraph in 2009. The article reported that Dawkins was setting up summer camps for children akin to those organized by churches and other religious organizations, which suggests that Dawkins “makes atheism look even more like the thing he is rallying against,” according to a spokesman of the Church of England commenting on Dawkins’ plans. This article confirms exactly what I have said in my previous post; atheism, especially the one preached by Dawkins is less the absence of religion and more an alternative religion.
Last week during my journey back from Prague to Leipzig, where I live, I had a conversation with a German lady who was sitting opposite to me in the train. When I told her that I study religion, she remarked categorically that religion for her is nothing more than a scam on a grand scale to rip people off and take their money away. It is not surprising to hear such a view from a person who grew up in East Germany—the most godless place on Earth—and it is arguably an opinion that is shared by many atheists around the world, including the neo-atheist “saint” Richard Dawkins:
Imagine a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’, no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no ‘honour killings’, no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money.
The God Delusion, p. 23-24
I am not writing here to argue against such a view of religion. It is true that many preachers, clerics, and religious organizations collect money from people dishonestly to enrich themselves, although I believe a lot of the money raised via religious channels is used for fair and charitable purposes. I would like, however, to point out that atheism too can be converted into a scamming enterprise, and Dawkins is apparently doing just that.
Few days ago three members of the radical feminist group FEMEN disrupted an event of Berlin’s Islamic Week by charging topless into the hall where it was taking place with anti-Islamic slogans painted all over their bodies. A number of policemen seized the women and dragged them outside, while the event proceeded as scheduled. The question that I would like to answer in this post is whether this act of protest, provocative as it may be, constitutes a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or simply a form of hate speech. I’m not concerned here with the method of protest, but the language used.
In 1869 Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published the first version of the modern periodic table of elements in which he classified chemical elements according to the number of protons in their atoms. It is a fascinating tool to categorize and organize chemical elements. Elements which share similar physical characteristics and chemical behavior are put together in groups, periods, and blocks to make it easier for students of chemistry and scientists to work with them. As a student of social sciences, I would like in this post to give some reflections about the implications of organizing elements in this particular way.
يرتبط مصطلح “العلمانية” لدى المواطن العربي (سواءً كان مؤيداً أم معارضاً لها) بعلاقة سلبية مع الدين من قبيل الفصل أو التضاد، فالمؤيدون للعلمانية ينظرون بريبة لحضور الدين في الحياة العامة، ويفضّلون بقاءه بعيداً محصوراً ضمن نطاق الحياة الشخصية للفرد، لذلك ترتبط العلمانية بالنسبة إليهم بمفهوم الفصل: الفصل بين الدين والسياسية، الفصل بين الدين والتعليم، إلخ. في المقابل ينظر المعارضون للعلمانية على أنها أيديولوجيا عدائية تجاه الدين، بل ويربطها بعضهم بالإلحاد المطلق، لذلك تصبح العلمانية في نظرهم ضد الدين.
لا بد وأن هذا البعد السلبي لعلاقة العلمانية بالدين يرجع بدرجة كبيرة إلى طبيعة التيارات العلمانية الغربية الأكثر تأثيراً على العالم العربي، والتي ساهمت بالتالي إلى نحوٍ بعيد في صياغة مفهوم العلمانية لديه، على رأس هذه التيارات تأتي العلمانية الفرنسية (والتي تعرف في بلاد المغرب العربي باللائكية)، وقد طبق هذا النموذج إلى حدٍّ بعيد في تركيا المجاورة على يد مصطفى كمال أتاتورك (العلمانية الكمالية)، كما تم تطبيقه إلى حدٍّ ما في تونس على يد الحبيب بورقيبة، وقد أثر كذلك على العديد من الأنظمة السياسية العربية التي خلفها الاستعمار الفرنسي.
Cover for the most recent album Wa Ma Khufiya Kana A’atham (2013) by Bahrainian oriental metal band Narjahanam
Metal music has gone global. It is a fact that is recognized by most fans and followers of this genre of popular music. Many documentary films, academic books, and media features have documented excitedly the globalization of metal music tracing it to the farthest corners of the globe.
One of the regions in which metal music has thrived in the past decade is the Middle East. Following the explosion of folk metal—a variety of metal music in which folk tunes, instruments, and themes are fused with conventional metal music—in European metal scenes some 15 years ago, many Middle Eastern bands have attempted to create their own version of folk metal. The term “oriental metal” has hence entered metal nomenclature to refer to bands that incorporate “oriental” sounds with metal music.
Lizzie Velasquez, who speaks in the video above, is a writer and a motivational speaker. She was born with a very rare genetic condition that makes her unable to gain weight no matter how much she eats. She has never weighed more than 28 kg, and this makes her look very “ugly.” She narrates in this video (8:30) the pain and emotional trauma she experienced when she found out—as she was still in high school—that someone had posted a video of her on YouTube describing her as “the world’s ugliest woman.” One of the commentators told her: “Lizzie, please, please just do the world a favor, put a gun to your head, and kill yourself!”
She, however, never allowed herself to be imprisoned in the image the people wanted to impose on her. Instead of hiding behind closed doors, she decided to become a motivational speaker and confront people face to face. She also wanted to become a writer and now she is about to publish her third book at the age 24. I strongly recommend that you watch this video, which is not only about her story, and not only about “beauty” and “ugliness”, but also about how to define yourself as a person instead of letting other people define you.