Sunday, October 01, 2006

Labels, Identity, and Religion

As I was blog-hopping today, I wound up at Culture For All. While I was reading the responses left under the post entitled "The Nature of Being Jewish", I happened across a comment left by one of my fellow Louisianians. It was so remarkably incorrect that felt very motivated to point this out lest anyone else happen upon that post and believe him. It then occurred to me that it might make sense to cross-post my remarks here. I started another post a few days ago that I think will be slightly related to this Culture For All post. I suppose I should go ahead and finish it tonight. Anyway, here is a slightly modified version of what I said there:

I'm used to seeing people make assumptions about New Orleans despite the fact that they were not raised here and may not have even ever lived here at all. During Carnival, it's always funny watching the big stations (e.g. CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews) air stories about Mardi Gras or Voodoo or some other facet of New Orleans that outsiders in "white bread America" might be curious about. They are usually so clueless about the culture here that they are stuck talking about what's "apparently" true instead of what is true. However, I get a bit aggravated when locals, the born-and-raised folks, get in front of outsiders and show that they haven't taken the time to understand anything about the culture they were blessed to be raised in.

Under "The Nature of Being Jewish", Thomas Forsyth makes a bunch of very silly and erroneous comments about my beloved city. One of the things that really bugged me was his comparison of New Orleans' Catholic schools to the public schools.

"While I went to Catholic school, it was not because my mother was especially religious. It was instead because the public schools in New Orleans are failures with a few exceptions."

What he fails to mention is that the Catholic schools, like other private schools, are not subjected to the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (L.E.A.P.) testing that all public school students must pass in order to be promoted and eventually graduate. Of course, the Catholic schools could choose to administer the test to students but it really wouldn't be to their advantage because many families opt to send their children to these private schools so that they won't have to take the test and it would definitely affect their financial bottom line if testing showed that their education wasn't any better despite the grades that students receive. Since that is the case, there really isn't any reason to believe that Catholic schools in New Orleans are doing any better than public schools when it comes to educating comparable students. Given the other statements Forsyth made, I'm inclined to believe that his family just bought into the scare-tactics private schools use to hype their for-pay programs.

By the way, for the record, students have always been able to do well in public schools here when they are given the proper environment for learning. My parents were big believers in public school and we all went to them. Our magnet school program is one to be envied by many places. One of them, New Orleans Center For Creative Arts, is the absolute best school in the state with many parents sending their children from out of town and even other states just to attend it. The same can not be said of any of our city's Catholic schools; There is no Catholic school that can boast of having produced even nearly as many of our city's famous arts icons as N.O.C.C.A.

It's also a bit embarrassing to hear a Catholic person from New Orleans who attended Catholic schools in this city claim that there is no Catholic culture even though he admits that he spent the first decade of his life thinking that everyone in the world was Catholic. With the plethora of churches (the majority of which are not Catholic) in New Orleans, I don't ever remember being unaware that there were many, many other religions. There were so many holidays (e.g. Tet, Kwanzaa, Chanukkah) celebrated in the public schools that I think his experience is the exception and not the rule. Personally, I think that the diversity of our public schools is another reason to eschew the private school system in favor of one that better reflects the society around it. I, for one, have no desire to send my child to any supposed place of learning where most segments of our society are conspicuously and purposely absent or under-represented.

For hundreds of years, New Orleans has taken great pride in its religious and cultural diversity. Nevertheless, New Orleans provides proof that Catholic culture does exist. As a matter of fact, whenever a significantly large number of adherents to a particular religion reside in a distinct geographical location you'll find that their religion plays a large role in what constitutes the culture of that area. I think it's generally true that culture plays a major role in creating religions and, conversely, religion greatly affects the formation of the cultures where its adherents reside.
In New Orleans, we have the Carnival season which is a distinctly Catholic holiday. The culmination of the Carnival season is Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, which are also Catholic affairs. Following Carnival, there is Lent. I can not think of a single upscale restaurant in the city that does not offer special menu offerings catering to the dietary restrictions of this period. Heck, even the student cafeteria at the University of New Orleans has a Lenten menu and it's a public school.

There's also the fact that our entire state of Louisiana is not divided up into counties but instead into parishes modeled after the Catholic church's territorial divisions of authority. Several of our parishes are even named after Catholic saints: St. Bernard, St. Tammany, St. Helena. Indeed, none of the parishes are named after non-Catholic religious figures.

While there are several distinct ethnic groups here most share the Catholic culture regardless of their actual religion. I also come from a very old Southern family (We are direct descendents of Gilbert du Montier Lafayette himself amongst others). Despite the fact that my family's various Louisianian branches are African, Native-American, Irish, and French there is not a single one of these groups that hasn't been greatly altered by the Catholic culture that exists here despite the fact that many of them were not all practicing Catholics or even any sort of Catholic at all.

As a result of all this, I don't see the use of the term "Jewish" as an ethnic identifier and as a descriptor for adherents of a particular religion to be a unique or even uncommon phenomenon. There are many others. A big example of this would be the term "Hindu". It can refer to those who live in a particular area of the world or it can mean the adherents of a religion. In the attempt to make Jewish suffering seem worse than all others, I think that some people erroneously claim that the Jewish experiences are unique to them. The other post I'm writing will discuss this a bit more.

28 comments:

air said...

don't we all want to get it right this time round? Doesn't everyone who searches spirituality follow a call for harmony and understanding? And isn't the core of most religions live and let live?

here's a little video about the passion of christ. We have composed a soundtrack in search to unite ethnic religious backgrounds. It can be watched on google video, with the link below.

The message is simple: No matter what we believe, we are still humans and that makes us all the same, doesn't it?

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2501450645271647970

Professor Zero said...

Enjoyed this post.

Red Tulips said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by, but I have to disagree with you on your opinion re: Judaism.

In fact, Judaism is separate from other religions for a number of reasons. Jews have lived in their own cut off, Jewish communities, speaking their own language, Yiddish, for centuries. They were hence able to develop a unique Jewish culture quite separate from the Eastern European culture. (Ashkenazi Jews) This culture was distinctly Jewish and not Russian or Polish. Moreover, Judaism is also a birthright - namely, one is considered Jewish just for having been born Jewish.

The Sephardic Jews have a somewhat different history than Ashkenazi Jews, but in fact also developed a separate identity apart from the main location in which they lived.

Culture and religion are tied hand in hand, but I assure you that in Judaism's case, the two are very much intertwined.

Lest we forget, there are atheist Jews, such as myself.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Judaism is separate from other religions but it is not unlike other religions in terms of formation. Jewish people have never been totally cut off from other communities and ethnicities. Even the Yiddish language is proof of that. No culture forms in a vacuum. Judaism and Jewish culture are mixtures that contain elements of religions that existed long before it did.

Judaism is not the only religion that one acquires simply as a result of having been born Jewish. Islam is also another birthright religion. All you have to do is be born and you are automatically a Muslim even if you don't have Muslim parents.

Sephardic Jews share cultural elements with the communities they existed amongst. If a group of people really didn't intermingle with other groups around it, then the population would eventually die out.

Culture and religion are always intertwined. No culture exists without incoporating religion because of the role that religion plays in the life of those within the culture.

Lest we forget, there are atheist Hindus, atheist Christians, atheist Buddhists, atheist Muslims, and a whole host of other atheist people who--because of their cultural background--inherited a label that is usually associated with a particular religion.

Red Tulips said...

First of all, you are wrong about being Muslim. No one is born Muslim if their parents are not Muslim. Otherwise, the world would be considered Muslim.

Secondly, Muslims care a hell of a lot more about people actually believing in the faith. Apostates are not looked at kindly. One cannot be an open atheist Muslim in any Muslim community and live without fear. Not so with Judaism and Hinduism (Hinduism does not even require a belief in God, it actually is a way of life, not just a religion). Christianity is tied to Western culture, but rarely will you hear someone actually say "I am an atheist Catholic." They would say "I am a lapsed Catholic." One could be an atheist Christian and believe in western civilization (which is heavily based on Judeo Christianity), but Catholics or Protestants do not consider someone to be actively Catholic or Protestant if they do not believe in the religion. Not so with Judaism, where mere birthright is all it takes for someone to be considered a Jew, and hence atheist Jews are still considered Jews.

Thirdly, Judaism does not have the same geographic connection - until Israel formed - that other religions have. In fact, Hindus have an Indian as well as a Hindu culture, and share much with Muslim Indians for that same reason. Jews, in contrast, never had their own state until Israel, and yet even across Sephardic and Ashkenaziism, there are many similarities. Why? Because both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews were somewhat cut off, historically, from the rest of the community. Of course not totally cut off. But make no mistake about it. There is absolutely a unique Jewish history and culture that exists separate from the religion.

Fourthly, I believe that modern cultural Judaism is absolutely tied to antisemitism, and absolutely tied to Hitler. The identity of Judaism is linked to who Hitler would throw in the gas chambers. Ironically, I believe Hitler really helped to cement the Jewish identity in a way that no one else has.

Fifthly, if one looks at Shlemazl (http://shlemazl.blogspot.com) one could see the example of what I mean by the atheist Jew and how a belief in Judaism or even a religious education does not make one a Jew. He was born in the USSR and was not allowed to attend Hebrew School, and yet, because of antisemitism and his historical roots, 100% identifies himself as Jewish. He, like me, is an atheist Jew - except, unlike me, he did not even have a Jewish education and in fact NEVER believed in God. This shows how Jewishness is absolutely an identity separate from the religion of Judaism.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Actually, you're wrong about being a Muslim. You should study the concept of fitrah if you want to understand what I'm talking about. Here's one link you can check out:

fitrah information

Furthermore, I disagree with your assertion that "Muslims care a hell of a lot more about people actually believing in the faith". I reject that generalization just as I would if someone came here and said "Jews care a hell of a lot more about money more than other ethnicities do". Both statements are based on stereotypes that do not reflect reality. Sure some Muslims care about whether other people believe in Islam but others could care less what others believe in. Jewish apostates are not viewed very kindly by some Jews. Instead of just buying into the stereotypes, I find it much more rational to simply deal with people as individuals as I'm sure you would want others to do with you. And please do not continue with the idea that it is impossible for an atheist Muslim to live in a Muslim community without fear. That's simply preposterous. Plenty of atheist Muslims do it and I see no reason to deny their existence. Just as living in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community would mean that there are those who will put pressure on an atheist Jew to conform to what they see as correct and living within a Brahmin environment would mean that an atheist Hindu would be pushed to conform, there are religious Muslims who will do the same to atheist Muslims. That doesn't mean that either type of atheist is going to walk around afraid to believe what they do. What's the point of this demonization, Red Tulips? This is the same sort of anti-Semitic tripe that so many Jews around the world have to deal with. Why add to it by buying into these erroneous assumptions?

By the way, all religions are a "way of life". That's the very definition of "religion".

Sure some people refer to themselves as "lapsed Catholics" but they could call themselves "ham sandwiches" and it wouldn't affect whether or not they are atheists. Furthermore, it seems like you're doing the same thing with Catholics and Protestants as you did with Muslims. There is no one belief regarding who is and isn't a Catholic or Protestant amongst all the people who use such labels. Depending on whom you ask, even an excommunicated Catholic is still a Catholic. This idea about being an "active" Catholic or Protestant is the same that occurs with Jews. Some would say that you are simply an "inactive" Jew but a Jew nonetheless. Mere birthright is not all it takes for some people to consider someone a Jew. The African Jews are proof of that.

I'm surprised to see you say that Judaism doesn't have the same geographic connection that other religions have. If it didn't, then how did Jews come to have any genetic connection to each other? If these groups (Lemba, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, etc.) did not share a geographic connection until Israel was formed, then they would not have a shared ancestry. It is the geographic connection that makes Jews one of the several Semitic groups in the Middle East. This is what makes them genetically similar to each other and also genetically related to the Muslims and Christians indigenous to this same part of the world. All of these groups have the same origin. If they were cut off from the rest of the community, then they wouldn't be almost genetically identical to the Arabs that also live in these areas.

Whether or not there is a unique Jewish culture has nothing to do with the fact that Jews weren't isolated from the communities they existed inside of. The history of genetic Jews is the virtually the same as that of all the other Semitic people. Incidently, this is the main reason why Israeli researchers who have been working to design biological weapons that would only effect certain ethnicities have reached an impasse. Any biological weapon that will kill the Arabs around them will also kill them too.

All that it takes for a group to have a unique culture is for them to adopt new behaviors (rituals, dances, et cetera). No isolation is necessary. But I'm not sure how any of that is related to your idea that there is a Jewish history and culture separate from the religion. If you're trying to describe the culture of a group, then their religion must also be studied because that is a major part of what culture is. Without examining the religious beliefs, then any conclusions about a culture will be based on an incomplete picture of who they are. It wouldn't be their religion if it didn't play a major role in their customs.

Since many of the people who are Jews today would not have been thrown in the gas chamber (because they aren't even in the lands where Hitler ruled), there's really no way of proving that Jews in general base their identity on who Hitler would have killed. Sure, Hitler united Jews to some extent just as the Trans-Atlantic slave trade united Africans from many different cultures into a group where the individuals (African-Americans) within it relate with each other more than they do with those who remained back in their ancestral homelands.

Regarding Shlemazl, it wasn't because of anti-semitism and his historical roots that he identifies himself as Jewish because other people share those same experiences but do not identify themselves as Jewish. It is a choice to consider oneself a Jew just as it is a choice to consider myself to be a Native/Black/Irish woman and not just a "Louisianian". If Jewishness is absolutely separate from the religion of Judaism, then all people would have the same reaction (to historic events like the Shoah) as you and Schlemazl have. These same experiences influence others in the same situations to be drawn towards Judaism so it's impossible for your last sentence to be true.

Red Tulips said...

I never said mere birthright is all it takes to be born a Jew, as there are conversions. However, the African Jews in fact were born Jewish. (I assume you refer to Ethiopian Jews?)

The geographic connection of Jewry is a connection to the land. In fact, Jews never felt fully comfortable where they were - having been expelled from Spain in 1492, and fearing pogroms in Eastern Europe, not to mention all sorts of other situations that have caused Jews to live in places where they were viewed as the 'other.'

As far as Muslim apostates...please show me any in any Muslim country who is actually an OPEN APOSTATE and does not get death threats. I am not aware of a single one. Yes, it is different in the West, but even still, an openly apostate Muslim is NOT looked at kindly by his fellow Muslim citizens.

In contrast, there are MANY openly atheist Jews, Christians, and yes, Hindus. Hinduism actually allows for atheism within the very religion, as it is a philosophy and a religion rolled up in one - so one could believe in Hinduism and be an atheist. (as odd as that seems) There is no one Hindu belief, in any case.

My point about Christianity is that atheist Christians are still part of the majority culture of the US. I guess the way I see it is that the vast majority of Americans are Christian, and so being Christian does not necessarily make one different. Hence, the sort of identity that an atheist Christian would have is different than that which an atheist Jew would have. I am not sure if I am explaining myself well.

Judaism is a religion, a culture, and an identity. The three things are of course intertwined, and yet, one could belong to the culture and identity without believing in the religion. Hence, Judaism is a culture as well as a religion. That was my original point.

Christianity is a culture, religion, and identity as well...however, Christians in the US or any Western country are in the majority, and so the Christian identity and culture is not as separated from the mainstream identity as Judaism is. This is different in places where Christianity is a minority.

Islam is a culture, religion, and an identity - however, when one rejects the religion, one does face the problem of being labeled an apostate and dealing with those ramifications. And there are ramifications.

Hinduism is a religion that also could be viewed as a philosophy. It is a culture and identity as well. However, because it is a philosophy as well as a religion, one could actively be considered a Hindu while not believing in God (or in Hindu's case - Gods).

I hope this clarifies things a bit.

Bint Alshamsa said...

I would say that the African Jews are born Jews but, unfortunately, that is not the opinion held by many in Israel. If it were, then these African Jews would not have to go through these extra hoops and hurdles in order to enjoy the same rights that other Jews have. By the way, I'm not just talking about Ethiopian Jews; They are but one group of several African Jewish communities.

I refuse to go along with gross generalization no matter what ethnic or religious group we're talking about, including Jews. Sure, some Jews were uncomfortable where they lived but plenty of other Jews didn't feel that way. Even when Israel was established, most Jews did not go there and today most Jews live outside of Israel. If it were just a few thousand Jews that chose to remain outside of Israel, then you might be able to make a case for saying that Jews were uncomfortable in the countries they inhabited but when you have a situation where two-thirds of all Jews live outside of Israel, it's hard to see how one could prove that Jews needed Israel in order to feel at home some place.

Regarding atheist Muslims: I think that the term "Muslim apostates" is just as offensive as calling an atheist Jew an "apostate Jew"--we should call people whatever they prefer to be called. Look, this is a very simple matter. I'm sure that you could go to Jerusalem and behave in a manner that offends religious Jews to the extent that some people would be willing to chase you out of town with torches and pitchforks just like the scene in "Frankenstein's Monster". Likewise, an Atheist Muslim could go to Mecca and accomplish the same thing. At the same time, an atheist Jew could quietly go about their life not celebrating any of the rituals or restrictions associated with Judaism and face very few problems even if those around them were religious Jews. The same is true for atheist Muslims. There are ramifications to leaving any religion just as there are ramifications associated with every single action. That doesn't mean that you'll have to walk around in fear for the rest of your life or start to believe that the entire world population of Muslims wants to stone you to death. If you live in a Muslim community you'll quickly find out that this idea that they all pray five times a day and fast during Ramadan and believe that martyrs all receive 72 virgins after they die is just preposterous. Muslims run the same gamut as Jews--from religiously devout to devoutly atheist. People who are religious Muslims are no different from people who are religious Jews. Some are hateful, cruel, and insulting while others are loving, kind, and compassionate. If we define Islam by the actions of its worst members and then do the same with to Judaism, then we would have two equally atrocious religions. However, to the extent that both religions help people find meaning in their lives and provides them with a reason to engage in introspection, I see them as both having merit.

When it comes to Hinduism, there are those within it that are just as violent and murderous as the worst of Muslims and Jews and Christians. Just as there is no one Hindu belief, there is no one Islamic belief or one single Jewish belief. Individuals interpret religions differently even when they all belong to the same faith. It's just not logical to judge someone based on the actions of someone else. I just won't do that to someone because I certainly do not believe that I should be held responsible if ever some Black or Native American or Irish individuals or groups blew up buildings nor would I claim that you should be held responsible every time some Jewish individual or group blows up buildings.

Yes, one can be actively be considered a Hindu without believing in God just as one can actively be considered a Christian or a Jew without believing in God. There is no one group that has the authority to decide who and what other people can consider themselves to be.

It is a logical fallacy to say that "the Christian identity is not as separated from the mainstream identity as Judaism is" because there is no monolithic Christian identity. I myself grew up as a member of a faith that a lot of people do not even consider to be Christian. One boy in my daughter's class is Korean and because he is Asian, people regularly assume that he's Buddhist when, in reality, he and his family are Christians. Being Christian in America doesn't mean that you'll be any more accepted than if you are Jewish. It all depends on the community where one lives. I think that we'll all be better off when people stop assuming that they have it so much worse than those around them and instead start to understand that we all go through the same sort of struggles--for love, for freedom, for acceptance, for meaning. I've never seen anyone's life actually improve because they adopted the attitude that the world should treat them with kid gloves because of what they've gone through. Heck, I've got cancer but even that doesn't entitle me to claim that my struggles are worse than yours or anyone else's.

Incidently, Hinduism is monotheistic. There are no "Gods" in that religion but there are "gods". The difference is quite significant because confusion about this has led to a lot of misunderstanding about Hinduism.

Red Tulips said...

Bint alshamsa:

Well, I guess you clarified Hinduism better than I did. I also guess you have a point about Christianity, though different sects of Christianity are still Christian and celebrate Christmas.

I dispute what you have to say about Jewish and Muslim atheists.

There is no problem for any Jew to be an open atheist in any part of the world with Jews. Perhaps there will be shunning from the Orthodox members of the community, but that's it - no threats of death or violence.

This absolutely contrasts with Muslims. If a Muslim goes from being religious to then being an open atheist - and letting it be known as such - then there will not just be shunning. There WILL be threats of violence (though perhaps less so in the West). You say this is not so. Why is it that I have read of such death threats against open atheist Muslims?

That said, I found an interesting piece in the Guardian about an atheist Muslim:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/friday_review/story/0,3605,678644,00.html

I did not come up with the term apostate. I don't view apostate as a negative. I do not use it derogatively. But why is it that others do? Only in Islam is there death for apostacy.

I do want to take a second and clarify something. When we speak of Islam, there really are two Islams. One is the peaceful and law abiding version that does not interpret the Koran violently. The other is the violent version of the faith. Not all Muslims condemn atheists. I want to be clear I am not stating as such.

Back to my original point...

So are we agreed that Judaism is a culture as well as a religion, but of course the culture is influenced by the religion?

The same for all religions, of course, but I would argue particularly where the religion is a minority in a society.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Ah, but that's where you're wrong. Some Christian groups do not celebrate Christmas. Some do but not all. Some celebrate Halloween but some do not. It really all depends on the group. Just as some Jews do not consider everyone who calls themself Jewish to be "authentically Jewish", there are some Christians who do not consider everyone who calls themself a Christian to actually be the real thing.

Your generalization about Jewish athiests simply isn't logical. Unless you've lived amongst every single atheist Jew in the world, how could you possibly know that none of them would face any problems? Heck, you wouldn't even know whether I'd face problems as an atheist and we live in the same country. Communities differ. A neighborhood in Pakistan isn't exactly the same as a neighborhood in Turkey.

How could you possibly know what every single Jewish person in the world would do if they found out that someone close to them was now proclaiming that they are a Jewish atheist? If they did commit an act of violence against this openly atheist individual would it really be the first time that a Jew has ever killed another Jew based on their differences in beliefs?

It's irrational and, quite frankly, paranoia to claim that you can somehow know exactly what would happen to anyone who is openly atheist in a mostly Muslim community (because this idea that there are any truly Muslim countries is very debatable). Notice, even in the article that you linked to, the uncle wasn't stoned or beheaded or shot even though he was an atheist. The guy was a Muslim atheist, a supporter of Reagan, and living in karachi but still managed to live out his life.

Of course you did not come up with the term "apostate". However, I still think it is disrespectful to use a label to refer to someone when they've expressed how they see themselves. If you tell me you're a "Jewish atheist", it would be disrespectful for me to call you a "Lapsed Jew" or a "Jewish apostate". Furthermore, I'm not buying into the stereotypical idea that Islam is the only religion where death is the prescribed sentence for apostates. Do you have any idea how many religions there are in this world?

Actually, there is more than two Islams. There are as many kinds of Muslims as there are kinds of Jews. Each person has their own set of beliefs about what Islam means. There are violent people within each religion and that includes Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and there are even violent atheists.

I don't know how to say this any other way but religion is a part of culture. If you're not considering the religious beliefs of a group, then you're not really discussing their culture because religion is a very large part of what creates cultures. It all goes back to the very definiton of "culture".

Red Tulips said...

bint alshamsa:

I can say confidently that any Jew can live in any Jewish community in the world and not fear systemized violence against them if they came out as an atheist. This is a fact. They may not be liked by the orthodox, and they might be shunned. But violence? No. I say this confidently.

I cannot say this confidently of Islam. And it is only the very extreme sects of Christianity (Woodsboro Baptist - 120 members total) where I would say the same re: the violence.

I have nothing against a Muslim atheist. I say good for them! But they are considered apostates. And that is why I use the term. I do not use a term that is not being used by them. I fail to see how that is disrepectful. Rather, it's acknowledging a reality.

Of course there is more than one form of Islam. There are two main divides, Sunni and Shia, and further divides beyond that. But what I was referring to is that, regardless of personal beliefs, there are two types of Muslims - peaceful ones who do not interpret the Koran as a hate document, and hateful ones who do. I wanted it to be clear I was not and am not casting all Muslims with the violent brush when I was speaking of Islam. NOTE: in the article I linked there were threats of violence against the uncle - at the time of the Salman Rushdie bruhaha.

I agree that many things make up a culture, including the religion. However, my underlying point is that one can be 'Jewish' and not believe in the religion, hence culturally identify oneself as Jewish, without believing in the religion. Are we finally agreed upon that?

Bint Alshamsa said...

Even if you confidently say that any Jew in the world can live in a Jewish community without fear, can you prove this is true? We can all say things confidently but that doesn't mean what we say is a fact. It doesn't much matter if you can't say the same for Islam or Christianity or Wiccans or Buddhists or Hindus or any other group.

If you have nothing against Muslim atheists, then I would hope that you would choose to call each individual by whatever label they ask to be used in reference to them. There is no one view about the use of this label so it is disrespectful to just decide that they should all accept the term that you are labeling them with willy-nilly.

There is no world-wide agreement regarding what the official divides of Islam actually are. Furthermore, people do not just come in two varieties and that includes people who are Muslims (or Jews or Christians either). This is same sort of classifications that have caused the deaths of innumerable millions in the past. Just as Jews have very complicated views about what their holy books really mean, the same is true about Muslims. It is not rational to try and lump every sort of Muslim into two over-simplified categories.

And hey, I never claimed that one can't be Jewish and not believe in the religion. That was already common ground before we even started conversing with each other. As far as I'm concerned, anyone born of Jewish maternal or paternal parents can be considered a Jew, anyone born in Israel can be considered a Jew, anyone who converts to Judaism can be considered a Jew, anyone who was birthed by a Jewish woman can be considered a Jew and anyone who is adopted by Jewish parents is a Jew. I have no interest in denying someone's Jewishness.

The rant that I'm writing about Belledame (a Jewish woman) and another feminist blogger (a Latina) is all about how some saw fit to question their right to claim a particular ethnic background. I am absolutely livid with how some people feel so free to do this with women of color like us. I try to make it a point to speak out whenever I hear someone engaging in that sort of questioning of one's ethnic "credentials". As a woman who has had her own ethnic background doubted many times in the past, I don't think there are too many subjects that anger me more than this.

Red Tulips said...

bint alshamsa:

In fact, regardless of a Muslim's opinion on the Koran, there are two main types of Muslims: peaceful and nonpeaceful. Yes, there are Sunni, Shia, Sufis, and so many other divides I am aware of. But that all is irrelevant because all I care about is whether the Muslim comes in peace or war. They can believe whatever else they want on whatever basis they want.

The peaceful Muslims - across all stripes - may disapprove of Muslim atheists, may call them apostates, but they will not threaten them with death or cause them to fear for their lives. A Muslim atheist can easily live in peace with people such as these.

The Islamofascists (yes, I call them that) or if you prefer, 'warring Muslims' actively seek the death to apostates - what they call apostates.

I do not view apostate as a bad term. I view it as a descriptive term, and that's it.

In any case, there are Kahane Jews and certainly some extremely radical Jewry out there. But even the most radical of Jewry live in broader communities and face ramifications should they kill anyone. So they keep their violence in check. Not so for many Muslims, who live in nations that wil turn a blind eye when an atheist is killed. Scarily enough, I am seeing whole sections of France give way to Muslim micro communities that are self governed. I worry I see the rise of 'warring Islam' in Europe. And there is the crucial difference.

The reason why it is safe to be an atheist Jew in any Jewish neighborhood is because of the rule of law. There is no place on earth that will allow Kahane Jews to kill an atheist in their midst and get away with it. The same cannot be said for Muslims. (and not all Muslims are killers, as I have repeatedly said, etc etc etc)

Btw, interesting how the conversation has morphed.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Okay, so you've decided that there are two main types of Muslims. What if someone were to arbitrarily decide how many types of Jews there are in the world--those who love money and those who don't? If after making that decision, the person goes on to say that they only have a problem with the Jews who are greedy money-lovers, would that make the categories they've created any more reflective of the true level of variety that exists amongst all those who consider themselves Jewish? What if the person said that they think calling someone a greedy money-loving Jew isn't a bad term, it's just a descriptive term and that's it. Would you buy that? I don't think so. It's still ethnic stereotyping and that just isn't rational or acceptable to me.

The problem with your ideas about radical Jewry is that there is no one united view about who is and isn't one. While you may see Kahanists as radical, that is certainly not how they view themselves. In fact, they also make the claim that Goldstein's killings prevented the death of Jews. Has the government gone out and deprived the children of Kahanists from being a part of the same school system as the rest of Israelis? Have they created restrictions about whether these Kahanists can enjoy the same familial unification rights as other Israelis? No. You see, Israel doesn't punish all ethnicities that have members who support the slaughter of others. It's just another example of how Israel's laws are applied unequally based on ethnicity.

Red Tulips said...

bint alshamsa:

I would disagree with your analogy. Jews who love money do not claim a bibical justification for loving money. Loving money is not linked to the Jewish faith. Muslims who are terrorists claim a Koranic justification for their actions. They absolutely base their violence on their religion.

That said, not all Muslims see their religion as justifying such violence. I call them 'peaceful Muslims.' The ones who use religious justifications for Muslims are 'warring Muslims.'

This is not engaging in stereotyping, rather, it is engaging in a discussion of the factual situation we are dealing with.

The Kahane Jews have committed acts of terror in the past and justified the terror based on the Jewish faith. The difference, however, between Jews and Muslims is that the Kahane Jews are a marginalized minority. They have a tiny number of members and are reviled by the wider Jewish community. You can look this up on wiki.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kahanism

Moreover, the Kach party (Kahane affiliated) has been banned from Israel.

In contrast, Hamas stands for genociding the Jews of Israel, and was elected to power in the territories. And so while one would be tempted to claim that Jews and Muslims are equally violent, the facts do not bely that.

There is no mass movement in support of the Kahanists. There is a mass movement in support of the jihadists within Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Red Tulips,

I wish I could say that I've never heard people say that common Jewish stereotypes have no roots in their religious beliefs. Likewise, many Jews also claim a Jewish justification for their actions. For example, there is the whole "redeemed"/"unredeemed" land issue.

The Kahanists are but one group, Red Tulips. Unfortunately, they do not reflect the entire number of people in Israel who engage in violence against those of other ethnicities and religions.

It is quite simplistic to say that Hamas stands for genociding the Jews of Israel. Those who have been denied equal status (as human beings who are as deserving of life as Jews are) often rely on Hammas and other groups like them for the type of services they need in order to make survival in Israel/Palestine possible. As long as there are Jews who essentially say "Bravo!" upon hearing that Israel discriminates against non-Jews, what sort of people do you think those non-Jews are going to support?

I do not buy into the sort of quasi-eugenist argument that the adherents of some religions are less/more violent than others. All are human beings therefore the potential for violence is the same.

At the same time, if we were to compare the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians with the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis, I think we would see that there has not been an equal amount of violence on both sides.

Again, if you want to make a logical comparison regarding support for tactics, you'd have to look at how many Israelis support the actions of all those who commit violence against other ethnicities/religions and not simply those who support one particular group of Jews.

Red Tulips said...

bint alshamsa:

Hamas, in its charter, states it wishes to obliterate Israel. I am not GENERALIZING anything. This is what they state. This is the party the Palestinians elected into office.

The Koran can be seen as a hate document or not, depending on interpretion. There is absolutely a religious basis for suicide bombing. And as such, I view Muslims in two camps: those who ascribe to that line of reasoning, and those who don't.

There are other delineations, but they don't matter to me in the sense of who we are at war with. It's not a Sunni/Shia divide. It's a divide as to interpreting the Koran in a warring way or not.

That is just a FACT.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Your statement was an over-generalization. You claimed that

Hamas stands for genociding the Jews of Israel

which is quite different from what you state here

Hamas, in its charter, states it wishes to obliterate Israel.

I'm sure that many in Hammas would not shed a tear if Israel was no longer a state but there goals are no different from those held by many Israelis, including many that Israelis have voted into office. Do you really think that I can't find any elected Israeli politicians who have not said that they wished to wipe every Palestinian off the face of Israel/Palestine?

What is the point of this double standard? If this line of thinking is unethical for Palestinians, isn't it also unethical for Israelis? Unless you buy into the religious claims of either groups, there is no reason to see one person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population as superior to another person wishing death and destruction upon an entire population.

It doesn't much matter whether the Qu'ran can be seen as a hate document. ANY religious book can be seen as a hate document if you want to see it as that. Anyone can use religion as an excuse for bombing others if that's what they want to do. For instance, just look at how some Jews use their religion as an excuse for bombing others.

We are not at war with anyone. You may be but I am not. I don't believe in going to war against my fellow mankind because war inevitably involves the killing of innocent people and as you know, I have no desire to join the ranks of those--Palestinian, Jewish, Christian or otherwise--who find this sort of behavior acceptable.

Red Tulips said...

bint alshamsa:

The only ones who wish to kill every Palestinian are the Kahanist Jews. The Kahanist movement has been officially BANNED from Israel. There is not ONE Israeli politician in the Knesset who wishes for the death to every single Palestinian.

In contrast, it is mainstream (and taught to every Palestinian) to kill every Israeli. This is mainstream for them. It is difficult to find a politician in the Palestinian territories that doesn't wish for this.

Any effort at moral equivalence here is based on a total lack of knowledge of the facts.

Red Tulips said...

Let me add that the Hebrew bible does not call for the death, conversion, or dhimmification of nonbelievers.

The Koran does.

Hence, it is a bad comparison and false moral equivalence on your part to say "Well, every religion advocates violence."

No. Only Islam advocates this specific policy of death, conversion, or dhimmification.

Not every Muslim adheres to those words in the Koran. I call them 'peaceful Muslims.' Those who do adhere to the hatred should more accurately be called 'genocidal Muslims.' Wars, are, after all, sometimes justified. Genocide, in contrast, is NEVER justified.

You may not be at war with these people, but it doesn't matter. They are at war with you, and would kill you and your family if they could.

The sad thing is that the genocidal Muslims have killed more Muslims than even nonMuslims. More Muslims have been killed by Muslims than any other group. Why kill a Muslim? If the Muslim is seen as secular, that is a threat to the genocidal Muslims. If they have a different belief at all, it is seen as a threat.

Just look at Iraq - this is what is going on over there as we speak.

Steven said...

You night have heared of the concept that there is a "Muslim Nation" but Islam never had a country, Islam seeks to spread Islam over the entire globe - it is fluid.

I haven't read the posts, but let me say simply that (Judah)-ism is a nation. The Jewish people have a single country and each time we have been expelled from the hills of Zion we always hope to return. Judaism is a nation because we have a set home, plus we have our own unique culture, plus Jewish people do not need to believe in God to be Jewish (Rabbi's say for two generations).

In comparison, anyone who does not declare that Mohammed is God's prophet etc etc are not Muslim. There are no if's or buts or conditions - its just how it goes. Christians are not Chirstian unless they accept Jesus as their lord and saviour. As you can see, there is a difference between Judaism and other religious groups because Jewish people may not even be religious.

You can make an argument that one may not enter the Jewish nation unless they make a religious conversion, that is probably your best argument on the subject - but the simple reality is that Judaism can't be labeled as just a religion like Christianity and Islam. We don't fit into the boxes nicely, but who cares - I think its nice that way.

Steven said...

By the way, Hamas and the PLO's goals are genocide. Its pointless to debate it, its just a simple fact. Read the charter, see how they act, watch their media, listen to their leaders, its absolutely foolish to claim anything different. Have a look at how the PLO is linked to Nazi Germany to get a nice reminder of what they really stand for - they are even worse than Hamas.

Steven said...

"Actually, Tay-Sachs is not a Jewish disease. This is a myth. If you look up information about this disease you'll find that it does indeed occur in people who are not Jewish."

And you are so sure that they were never genetically Jewish... how?

I know someone in Portugal who only just found out that she was Jewish and her family tried to make her Christian for her own protection.

After all the forced conversions lots of people don't even know they are Jewish, it is something which can not really be debated. The fact is there is a huge trend and we draw conclusions from the trend. Just like we don't know smoking causes cancer, even though it is painfully obvious it does. All the studies show are trends.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Steven:

And you are so sure that they were never genetically Jewish... how?

Either they are Jewish or they are not. If there is no reason to believe that they are Jewish, it isn't logical to assume that they are. This disease that is so prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews and Acadians comes in several different variations. Furthermore, the presence of Tay-Sachs has some characteristics that are very interesting for those who would like to claim that Jews are somehow genetically different from the other Semitic people in the Middle East. You can find a very good explanation of this here.

After all the forced conversions lots of people don't even know they are Jewish, it is something which can not really be debated.

It isn't so much forced conversions that's at work here. Those who consider themselves "ethnic Jews" are no different genetically than the other Semitic people in that region. Even if someone has a particular combination of genes that is commonly found in some Jews, there is no more reason to call them genetically Jewish than there is to call them genetically Palestinian or genetically Christian. In other words, these labels don't really correspond directly with any scientific reality.

Your analogy about smoking shows the flaws in your argument. What is "obvious" to some doesn't necessarily mean that what they believe is a fact. We know that smoking is associated with cancer in some people. Science can not say that smoking causes cancer unless there are facts to prove that. Likewise, we know that groups who are not Jewish carry Tay-Sachs mutations at the same rate as it is found in Jews. Unless there is some proof that these mutations originated in Jewish populations, we have no reason to assume that it did. The trends don't even suggest that there is some origination of the Tay-Sachs mutation amongst populations that call themselves Jewish.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Steven:

By the way, Hamas and the PLO's goals are genocide. Its pointless to debate it, its just a simple fact.

Stating that something is fact does not prove it to be so. You are simply making assertions.

Read the charter, see how they act, watch their media, listen to their leaders, its absolutely foolish to claim anything different.

Having done all of that, I do not draw the same conclusion as you have. Examine this hypothetical statement to you, if you please:

It is absolutely foolish for you to claim anything different from the points I have made.

Now, tell me, what did that statement accomplish in the way of determining the truth of my claims? Do you understand what I'm getting at? Saying that anyone who feels differently from you is foolish simply isn't logical.

Have a look at how the PLO is linked to Nazi Germany to get a nice reminder of what they really stand for - they are even worse than Hamas.

If we're going to discuss how groups act in comparison to Nazi Germany, then why should we stop with Hammas and the PLO? Why not examine how Jewish groups and statements and media and actions compare to Nazi Germany too?

Bint Alshamsa said...

Judaism is no more (or less) a nation than Islam. People within a particular nation may be adherents to a certain religion but it is the people who make up the nation.

Jewish people do not have a single country. They belong to many different countries. If they were all a single country, then none of them would be citizens in the places where they reside. Where some members of a group hope to live does not determine that their claims about that land are any more valid than those made by others.

Judaism is a nation because we have a set home, plus we have our own unique culture, plus Jewish people do not need to believe in God to be Jewish (Rabbi's say for two generations).

This idea that someone may feel that they have a "set home" doesn't mean that anyone else should see that place as their home. If we're going to look to the past, then we can say that every single person on this earth's "set home" is somewhere in central Africa. You see, this idea of "home" is really subjective. People can live in one place for seventy or more years and never consider it home. Or a person can never have lived in a place at all and consider it home. There are plenty of people who consider themselves to be Muslims and Christians who have just as much reason to call Israel/Palestine home as do those who those who consider themselves Jewish.

All cultures are unique. However, every single culture that exists is a combination of characteristics found in other cultures as well. Christians don't need to believe in a God in order to be Christian. What a particular rabbi or priest says does not change the facts about this.

In comparison, anyone who does not declare that Mohammed is God's prophet etc etc are not Muslim. There are no if's or buts or conditions - its just how it goes.

Do you have facts to back up this assertion? If you go back and read the posts in this conversation you'll see that we've already discussed this issue. How you say "it goes", isn't fact-based at all.

Christians are not Chirstian unless they accept Jesus as their lord and saviour.

Wrong again. One needn't accept Jesus as anything in order to be a Christian. I think it may help if you actually study the meanings of these labels you're using.

As you can see, there is a difference between Judaism and other religious groups because Jewish people may not even be religious.

Where is the difference? This is true regarding lots of groups. If you look at the conversation that has taken place already, you'll find more about this.

You can make an argument that one may not enter the Jewish nation unless they make a religious conversion, that is probably your best argument on the subject - but the simple reality is that Judaism can't be labeled as just a religion like Christianity and Islam.

Of course it can. One can label any group as they see fit. That's because labels don't have to correspond to any scientific reality as is proved by the many labels that have been used in this conversation.

We don't fit into the boxes nicely, but who cares - I think its nice that way.

No group as large as an entire ethnicity or religion fits into "the boxes" nicely no matter how much others might want to believe. Everyone wants to feel special but nothing that humans do today is really all that unique from what our species has been doing since we became hominids.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Red Tulips:

Let me add that the Hebrew bible does not call for the death, conversion, or dhimmification of nonbelievers.

Any holy book can be used as an excuse for violence and bigotry of all sorts. The Hebrew bible is also used by some in their attempts to justify violence and bigotry.

Hence, it is a bad comparison and false moral equivalence on your part to say "Well, every religion advocates violence."

Where did I say this? As a matter of fact, I did not. So why not respond to what I've written instead of creating straw man arguments? And what's up with the morals talk? You're the only one who has been talking about that. I have yet to make any claims about anyone's morality.

No. Only Islam advocates this specific policy of death, conversion, or dhimmification.

There is no one unified interpretation of Islam any more than there is one such interpretation of Judaism.

Not every Muslim adheres to those words in the Koran. I call them 'peaceful Muslims.' Those who do adhere to the hatred should more accurately be called 'genocidal Muslims.'

You can call them all "falafel sandwiches" if you want. However, none of these labels prove anything about the people they are directed at.

Wars, are, after all, sometimes justified. Genocide, in contrast, is NEVER justified.

These are both unproven assertions. Just as some think that wars are sometimes justified, so do some think that genocides are sometimes justified. I say that neither are justified because they both result in the death of innocent people and the killing of innocent people just isn't ethical.

You may not be at war with these people, but it doesn't matter. They are at war with you, and would kill you and your family if they could.

Who are "these people" that would kill me and my family if they could? As far as I'm concerned, anyone who would drop bombs on innocent people are a threat to me and my family. If someone would kill one innocent person, why should I believe they wouldn't kill me? "These people" are those who think that slaughtering innocent people is acceptable if it accomplishes some goal that they desire to achieve; They include people who claim to belong to all sorts of religions and even some who do not claim to belong to any at all, apparently.

The sad thing is that the genocidal Muslims have killed more Muslims than even nonMuslims. More Muslims have been killed by Muslims than any other group.

Even sadder to me is the fact that more humans have killed other humans than those that have been killed by any other hominids.

Why kill a Muslim?

I suppose you'd have to ask someone who thinks that it is sometimes acceptable to kill innocent people.

Just look at Iraq - this is what is going on over there as we speak.

What's going on in Iraq is exactly what I'm talking about. People who think that killing innocent people is acceptable are going about doing exactly that. Unfortunately, there aren't enough people in this world who simply don't believe in the killing and incarceration of innocent people.

The world didn't learn any lesson from the genocide and enslavement of Native Americans or the genocide and enslavement of Africans or the genocide and enslavement of Jews nor has it learned anything from the genocide of the Palestinians.

I suspect that we will see many more genocides in the future as long as people try to justify killing whenever it's expedient for them.

Bint Alshamsa said...

Red Tulips:

The only ones who wish to kill every Palestinian are the Kahanist Jews.

Exactly how did you come to believe that? Do you really have any proof that every Jewish person who has ever wished to kill all of the Palestinians are Kahanists?

There is not ONE Israeli politician in the Knesset who wishes for the death to every single Palestinian.

Is it really rational to believe that you can know all of the thoughts held by someone you've never even met? And even if you had met them, would that give you the psychic ability necessary for you to determine what you're claiming here?

In contrast, it is mainstream (and taught to every Palestinian) to kill every Israeli.

This is erroneous rubbish. Can you prove any of these claims? How could you possibly know what every single Palestinian wishes?

Any effort at moral equivalence here is based on a total lack of knowledge of the facts.

I agree with that but for the life of me the thing I can't figure out is why you keep talking about morals.