Tag Archives: Woolwich

Video: Oxford Union Debate “Islam Is A Peaceful Religion”


The motion “Islam Is A Peaceful Religion” was moved at the Oxford Union Society the day after Lee Rigby was brutally murdered in Woolwich. It has only this month been uploaded to Youtube.

    Matthew Handley opens case for the motion:
    Anne-Marie Waters opens case for opposition:
    Adam Deen responds for the motion:
    Daniel Johnston counters the motion:
    Mehdi Hasan for the motion:
    Peter Atkins concludes debate against the motion:


    My posts that are relevant to the above debate:

Dehumanising by Islam and cherry picking of verses by extreme Islamists

A theological alternative view to change attitudes to apostasy where it is illegal can be read here, based on my discussions with Sam Harris and Quilliam Foundation.

The motion passed 286/168.

UPDATE: Write up of the debate and video of Hitchens V Ramadan on same motion can be found here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Religion

A Response to terror

How to respond is the question to a brutal murder on the streets of London by killers shouting “Allahu Akbar” demanding we have British troops returned from Afghanistan, and EDL taking to the streets as football hooligans looking for confrontation.

Regarding pulling troops out of Afghanistan, before the murder in Woolwich YouGov reported:

YouGov’s Public Opinion polling in April of this year found that a strong majority of the British public (77%, split between leaving immediately and leaving gradually) were in favour of bringing British troops home from Afghanistan, while 14% were not in favour, and 9% said they didn’t know.

Regarding getting rid of our government, voting intentions just before the murder had Labour on 38%, Conservative 27%, UKIP 16%, Liberal Democrat 10% (Source)

Not only is there a democratic process to be used by aggrieved citizens, but a swell of public opinion to be tapped into on these issues. The young men turned their back on using these means to create their own outrage. Violence can never be legitimised in a society that allows dissent. Anyone that suggests their savagery was justified lacks credibility on the issues and is not just an enemy of reason but of humanity.


In Spain the Madrid bombings of 2004 nearly 200 were killed and over 2000 injured, and the hundreds of thousands that protested against terror was dignified and moving as Spanish people showed solidarity with each other and mourned the victims.

We can contrast that moving spectacle of solidarity, protest and movement with the English Defence League when they descended on Woolwich the night of the murder.


So how should we in the secular, humanist and atheist community show solidarity with the Muslim community? The answer I would hope would be straightforward but it is has proven on social media not to be. The statement of the obvious needs repeating unless we are prepared for others to make up for our silence.

In no particular order as all important:

1. Do not treat Muslims as a homogenous group – everyone is an individual
2. Do not dehumanise Muslims – we are all human beings
3. Calmly note our difficulties and problems with Islam – and how that impacts on Muslims too
4. Speak out against outrages to religious freedom and human rights taking place
5. Talk to each other and find out how we can stop people being radicalised by others

This will not be easy, you will lose people who think this is the time to be quiet about criticising Islam, or think you should be abandoning secular liberal principles to respond harshly to the Muslim community.

We need to speak up even more so that our voices can be heard. In a civil society commitment and enthusiasm can make a difference where will power and not brute force triumphs. These values are what bring us together in a pluralistic state.

Now is the time to stand for human rights, secularism and the democratic process.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under British Politics, British Society, Religion, secular

The dehumanising done by Islam

I have written that we should not dehumanise Muslims. However, we can be critical of religion and certainly those that try to be the apologists of it. Mehdi Hasan in writing “Woolwich Attack: Demonising Muslims Won’t Help” does not help by trying to rewrite the history of Islam. It feels like he is trying to take advantage of the solidarity we show Muslims by trying to get us to swallow that Islam has been misunderstood.

Perversely, it was the non-Muslim cub scout leader who, in trying to save the soldier’s life and standing up to his alleged attackers, was acting in accordance with Qur’anic principles. Let’s be clear: Islam, like every other faith, doesn’t permit the killing of innocents.

I have asked him via twitter what could possibly be perverse about a non Muslim going to help someone she thought was injured in the road, and verbally challenging the attackers? He may be wanting to contrast her actions with the killers. That is not what perversely means. Rather it sounds like a Freudian slip that Ingrid Loyau-Kennett showed heroism and compassion without needing to be a Muslim – how out of character for a non-believer, how perverse.

In case you think I am being too hard read what Hasan had to say in 2009:

“We know that keeping the moral high-ground is key. Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.”


The problem Hasan has is the belief the Koran must be right as the Word of God. As such, if we find anything there which is an anathema to us we must be mistaken in our interpretation. That does not work. The translation is very clear, and how the Koran and Hadith are applied in the world a testament that followers of Islam can think that too.

If Islam does not want us ever to harm the innocent, it becomes most important to know who qualifies. Clearly the following people are not as innocent as we would like them to be.


Qur’an (4:89) – “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”

Bukhari (52:260) – “…The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ ” Note that there is no distinction as to how that Muslim came to be a Muslim.

Hasan suggests apostasy is only a sin awaiting punishment in next life

Speaking of dehumanising:

Our rights in Egypt, as Christians or converts, are less than the rights of animals,” El-Gohary said. “We are deprived of social and civil rights, deprived of our inheritance and left to the fundamentalists to be killed. Nobody bothers to investigate or care about us.” El-Gohary, 56, has been attacked in the street, spat at and knocked down in his effort to win the right to officially convert. He said he and his 14-year-old daughter continue to receive death threats by text message and phone call. (Source)


al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152 – Muhammad said “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver.”

Speaking of dehumanising:

Citing the Qur’an, Javadi-Amoli said politicians who pass laws in favour of homosexuals are lower than animals. “Even animals … dogs and pigs don’t engage in this disgusting act [homosexuality] but yet they [western politicians] pass laws in favour of them in their parliaments.” (Source)


Sura 9:29
YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

Speaking of dehumanising:

The restrictions placed on non-Islamic faiths, and enshrined in law in some countries different legal status of non believers.


Quran 4:34
“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.”

Sura 2:223 – Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like.

Speaking of dehumanising:

“The passage of a law in Afghanistan asking Muslim women to unconditionally submit to the sexual whims of their husbands once in four days is a shocking piece of legislation that seeks to dehumanise women reducing them to mere chattels devoid of human rights.” (Source)

My secularism means no Muslim should be threatened or denied their rights and must be treated equally as a citizen. An issue that I want Hasan to go further on is promoting acceptance and equal rights for gay Muslims. I know humanist Muslims that condemn the verses above. But the rights we give apostates, unbelievers, homosexuals and women are not because of Islam.

It is in spite of Islam.

UPDATE 1pm: The article above is concerned with how cherry picking is used, indeed by all faiths, or a different interpretation given to fit in with enlightenment values. All can quote mine, but my point above is not just that detractors of Islam quote mine – extreme Islamists do too to legitimise their actions, by law or by terror.

The key difference being I want Muslims to live in peace and harmony. Jihadists want us all, believer or not, to accept their version of faith and will do this by all means they can.

Because of how they view a book written over a millennia ago.

Is it too much to ask we move beyond one ancient book to work out how we should treat one another?

Follow up blogs: Hasan replies – perverse meaning of words

Buffet Style religion – the cherry pickers

A response to terror

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, British Society, Religion, secular

Woolwich: do not be terrorised by those that use fear


Sadly, not all of humanities problems will be resolved by a sit down to resolve our differences. For those of us that have been paying attention, in a world where a schoolgirl blogger is a target for a bullet between the eyes in Afghanistan, Baghdad markets are places to detonate bombs, and a Syrian rebel eats the heart of a government soldier, what happened in Woolwich is a rare moment of brutality in our land compared to the darkness of terror that happens around the world.

That was the purpose of the attack – the stated aims of the bloody handed man to camera was a reminder that beheadings happen in other lands, in front of people. The target a soldier that had served in Afghanistan. Their aim to provoke a violent backlash to engulf London into fire. The suspects waited for the police to arrive so they could have a final confrontation. One Both of the suspects are in custody in stable condition after being shot the other shot dead at the scene. Hopefully investigators can piece together what happened to lead to such savagery on our streets. [Update: at time of writing reported one had been shot dead]


The mind of the murderers is one to examine, before deciding to blame a catch all bogey man like foreign policy, religious freedom or Islam – as sadly those who dislike complex nuance in favour of one problem one easy solution may. The latest reports suggests one of the suspects was an Islamic convert during or just after college; radicalisation to jihad may be a factor. The blame game will go on of course. The fault however lies squarely with those that would commit such an atrocity in the light of day wanting to cast in shadow how we go about our daily lives. In the fight against global jihadism it is preciously how we live which upsets them – it makes us all targets.

So yes it would be wrong to completely dismiss world events, and global Jihadism from what happened. It would also be wrong to hold UK Muslims to account for the actions of two people. Muslims are the main victims of jihadism.

In the wake of this tragic event, we need to stand in solidarity with our servicemen and women, the people of Woolwich and Muslims. Revenge and hate crimes are never legitimised by dehumanising people. I cannot criticise religion for that without stressing it is a very human trait that we all must avoid when provoked.

Murderers took away a life most savagely. I am resolved they will not take my humanity. I will not live in fear, or be terrorised into thinking differently by those that use violence or intimidation.

Follow up blogs:
A Response to terror

Dehumanising done by Islam

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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Filed under British Politics, British Society, Religion, secular