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Currently We Are Trying to Steer Clear from Blogs on Blasphemy

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Last month an editor from The Express Tribune asked me if I wanted to write a blog on United Airlines barring two girls wearing leggings from boarding. I responded:


This article is interesting, and it seems just absurd that an airline would ban anyone for wearing leggings, however I’m not sure if I’m the right person for it, I’m much more interested in writing about a different topic. The #HangAyazNizami hashtag is exploding ever since he was arrested. Blasphemy is one of the more important issues in Pakistan, and the extremists are pulling down the entire country with their ideology. I also realize how sensitive the issue is, and would be respectful both of Islam and its followers in the context of speaking against judicial executions. This goes back to the dialectic between fundamentalists and Salmeen Taseer for his support of Asia Bibi. I would examine compulsion in religion and how this contradicts punishment for blasphemy. Let me know if you’re interested.



But The Express Tribune responded thus:

“Currently, we are trying to steer clear from blogs on blasphemy.”

We know the danger, as the BBC reports, “At least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.” This goes back to Rushdie and Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who wrote on topic:

“No blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.”

Then Pakistan then experienced another tragedy. A young student, Mashal Khan, was murdered on campus.

“Students beat classmate to death while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar'”

PEW reports that 64% of those in Pakistan support capital punishment for those who blaspheme, and section 295C of the Penal Code also mandates the penalty. So it’s not mere cowardice to avoid polemics if you are on the ground in Pakistan.

We fight those who support blasphemy laws, for they are at the forefront of the dialectic between benevolent humanity and the evils of religious chauvinism. We also fight those who obfuscate in their condemnation, out of cowardice, ignorance, or complicity. Many in Pakistan and the West are guilty (a tangent that runs too deep for a short blog).

Therefore, those who have freedom of speech, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, must challenge the evil of blasphemy laws and recognize many “blasphemies” are actually not evil at all, but calls for tolerance.

To double down on the above, just like I have no desire to burn the American flag, use racial slurs, or mock the religious, I also claim my right to criticize the United States, culture, and religion. Those who criticize are often falsely accused of being unpatriotic, racist, and blasphemous when in fact they are pushing ideas that will help humanity progress. That’s why not enough can be written in support of free speech and against blasphemy, whether secular or religious.

Such evil ideology can only flourish in a vacuum of speech. From Mao’s China to North Korea, those who control speech control society. And right now, in Pakistan, evil is flourishing.

Pakistan, we realize the danger you face and we support you, but please write about blasphemy. Be convincing, be strong, be courageous, spread the risk. We who have speech support you.


Written by Caleb Powell

April 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

Milo Yiannopoulos, Vida Rz, and the Right to Be a Bigot

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How should we respond to a bigoted post on social media?

Facebook:  My Facebook “friends” include liberals, conservatives, libertarians, etc. Many post political views that warrant exchanges. Often hatreds erupt, and underlying this is free speech’s relation to “hate speech.” The former covers the legality of speech, the latter relates to ethics.

(This post is not primarily about Facebook protocol, but here I’ll mention I rarely block or unfriend anyone, making exceptions for pornbots, solicitors, and the rare tool. I try to welcome, respect, and engage with those whose views clash with mine, and hope the feeling is mutual.)

The Milo Effect:  Recently I wrote an article at The Express Tribune Blogs on Milo Yiannopoulos where I defended our right to express our hatreds, and made clear this does not condone bigotry:

“Let’s face it, most of us hate something or someone. Whether it’s broccoli, rush hour traffic, Trump, conservatives, liberals, terrorists, dictators, bigots, or anti-free speech fascists. I claim my right to excoriate that which I hate, and you should too.”

Free vs. Hate Speech:  The Milo brouhaha highlights the current dialectic regarding speech. In Bangladesh, speech inaccurately deemed “hateful” can get a blogger murdered. Thus we debate “hate speech” in the marketplace of ideas. Example:  Vida Rz’s joke.

The Joke:  Unlike SJWs, who shut down and ban speech, the Alt-SJWs seem to double down on bigotry. I tried to engage, to see if Vida and her friends would consider the context of Charlie Hebdo or Raif Badawi, I mentioned that my grandfather was born in Iran (we’re Mizrahi), and to support Iranians’ rights should mean something. 

Did Raif Badawi get 1,000 lashes so Vida Rz could use “free speech” to call Muslims goatfuckers? I told Vida and company:

Bizarre, folks. As if Raif Badawi and dissidents in Evin prison fought for the right for free speech so dingbats like you can make bigoted unoriginal jokes. Fair enough, it’s the marketplace of ideas. If you want to fight bigotry, it’s quite simple, don’t be a bigot back, don’t play the SJW perpetual game of Tag, You’re Racist.” 

The result?  A few people supported me, but mostly I got called a “pussy” and an “SJW.” Vida proclaimed her right to hate Muslims b/c “they” wanted her dead. She didn’t quantify. (I linked to the post, but it has since been deleted)

Final word:  We’ll stand by the Westboro Baptist Church’s constitutional right to say “God hates fags,” but we’ll use the same right to condemn bigotry. We reject the Neo-PC SJW authoritarianism party line and don’t need the self-imposed censorship of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Why? Because we recognize that only free speech can destroy bad ideas, and you can’t do that from a safe space.

Written by Caleb Powell

March 21, 2017 at 8:46 am

PEN World Voices: Should We Boycott Israeli Writers?

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Andrew Solomon

On April 5, 2016, Andrew Solomon, president of PEN America, sent a letter to over 4,000 members asking for comments regarding a call to boycott “two Israeli writers who are taking part in this year’s PEN World Voices Festival.”

Solomon noted PEN’s position, “put forth in 2007…is opposed to cultural boycotts.” World Voices Festival Director Jakab Orsos and Chairman Colm Toibin reiterated this by responding that “PEN and PWVF must always fall on the side of maximum protections for free expressions.” Who would suggest otherwise?

Ethan and Omar: Two PEN members of the Adalah – NY:  New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Not surprisingly, many signatories supported religious chauvinism when they protested last year’s award given by PEN to Charlie Hebdo.

E & O make two mistakes. The first concerns their view of Israel-Palestine, but this should be open to debate; the second, though, is their egregious “Campaign.” Boycotts, when just, have merit; when misguided they become soft censorship. Outside of, say, inciting violence (The murder of Ahmadi Asad Shah in the U.K. relates to how Khatme Nabuwwat instructs followers to kill Ahmadiyya), all speech must be allowed. But fascists by nature need censorship to promote their ideas and suppress opposition, for their ideas cannot disseminate otherwise. (They claim they would support Israeli writers, but not under Israeli sponsorship, which is equivocation.)

That Ethan and Omar wish to boycott the only state in the Middle East where Jews can live free from prejudice, women have equal rights, and homosexuals live openly, suggests duplicity. How can they explain that Israel had 200,000 Arab citizens in 1948 and the present day population is 1.8 million while the Arab states’ Jewish populations have, without exception, dwindled? In Saudi Arabia and Yemen there are no remaining Jews. At the same time these two “fascist lites” ignore Palestinian government responsibility for the miserable situation of the Palestinian people:  corruption, refusal to renounce violence, and call for the destruction of Israel. When you ascribe moral inferiority to Israel, without applying your standard to yourself or other nations, you are not only anti-Semitic but a hypocrite.

The error of E & O’s position on Israel is reflected by their subversively fascist view of speech. To E & O, I quote the biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s (who wrote under the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre) interpretation of Voltaire’s ideal:  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Thus we will listen to your views and attempt to counter with superior arguments. You should allow others the same opportunity.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

Melissa Chen: Free Speech Destroys Islamic Extremism

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Melissa Chen on Blasphemy

Free Speech:  The right to speak without censorship or restraint except for libel, slander, or inciting violence. Also, to speak w/o government interference.

Expanding Limits:  The present cultural climate of “Psychotic PC” has extended limits on speech to include the criticism of ideas or political views. Hyper-sensitivity to “racism/Islamophobia/homophobia/sexism” has created Neo-McCarthyites aka Social Justice Warriors who believe “My bigotry is justified, yours ain’t.” These fascists must be stopped. To inhibit free speech, as Melissa Chen notes above, is to repress the means that destroys evil ideas.

The Significance:  Donald Trump and Zakir Naik may speak without censorship or restraint, and we will respond with  better ideas. Those who bolster their counterargument with a demand that we limit speech are not only regressive, but lack the strength of their convictions. They are insecure in their ability to debate.

Progress:  Superior ideas win without the need of force of censorship. From ancient days through the Age of Englightenment and beyond, bad ideas needed protection to survive:  Patriarchy, Kleptocratic Regimes/Communism, fundamental Christianity, and slavery were replaced with women’s rights, socio-capitalistic democracy, secularism, and Emancipation.

Three books that incite misogyny/homophobia/and religious supremacism:  If the trilogy of holy books from Judaism/Christianity/Islam went under the same scrutiny that the Radical PC  supporters and Social Justice Warriors demand, these would be the first three books to go.


Moderation:  When religions moderate for the benefit of all, it is because of free speech. As philosophies, religions have much to offer, as ultimate truths they are flimsy. Only free speech can transform ideology in a progressive manner, and thus to want a tolerant and benevolent world is to champion speech.

Related:  These Bangladeshi bloggers were murdered by Islamist extremists. Here are some of their writings

Written by Caleb Powell

April 24, 2016 at 8:53 am

Charlie Hebdo One Year Later

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The Pen members who condemn Hebdo as racist, also condemn this man, Dominique Sopo.

Why I stand with Charlie Hebdo:  I’m still pissed. One year ago Islamist sociopaths killed cartoonists & Jews, many good people stood by their side, and other good people did not, accusing Hebdo of racism and thus blaming them. I’d like to think moral ambiguity exists in almost any existential conflict, but I think, regarding free speech and how this correlates with secular humanitarian principles, in this case only one side is right. Hebdo is not racist.

Alain Mabanckou

Dominique Sopo, président de SOS Racisme:  “Charlie Hebdo est le plus grand hebdomadaire anti-raciste, prétendre le contraire est injurieux et manipulatoire.”

Or“Charlie Hebdo is the greatest anti-racist weekly, suggesting otherwise is insulting and manipulative. ”

SOS Racisme is the leading anti-racist organization in France. They ought to know about French culture and what is and what isn’t racism. That didn’t stop 203 PEN authors (Jennifer Cody Epstein signed and then rescinded) from combining cowardice, ignorance, support of religious chauvinism, and faux liberalism, from protesting the award.

Despite the regressive thought of the PEN anti-Hebdo writers, and Glenn Greenwald, the vast majority of writers backed Hebdo, including Katha Pollitt at The Nation and Congolese Alain Mabanckou.

To all the victims, RIP.

The day I heard of Jan 7, 2015 Hebdo coincided with David Shields and my book launch at the University of Washington Book Store. After our introduction, I waved cartoons and said my peace. What I say is platitude laden and not profound, nevertheless, I’m sticking with it. Shields grimaced at my moral grandstanding, whatever. Shields took no stand, because, of course, he feels it’s too easy to just be against killing. My jeremiad begins at 3:00.

Written by Caleb Powell

January 7, 2016 at 6:36 am

Steven “Honored to call myself an Anti-Semite” Salaita vs. Erika Christakis

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Steven Salaita

Steven Salaita's Store

Steven Salaita’s Store

The context: On June of 2014 three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. U. of Illinois professor Steven Salaita then Tweeted the above. Eleven days after Salaita’s Tweet the NY Times reported that the three had been murdered.

The firing: Steven Salaita continued with anti-Semitic rants, “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being” to “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” The U. of I. fired him.

The lawsuit: Many student organizations ignored Salaita’s bigotry, protested, and demanded he be rehired. Salaita sued, and on November 12th, 2015, won a $600,000 settlement.

Yale – 1984 (actually, Nov. 2015): An articulate email from an assistant professor telling students not to over react about Halloween costumes from Erika Christakis, however, generated the opposite response from students. Let’s check out what Christakis wrote:

Erika Christakis: “As a former preschool teacher… it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably ‘appropriative’ about a blonde ­haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day…(and) what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans?” The Atlantic

What is the standard? Students demanded Christakis resign. So I ask, why does a calm query into student sensitivity generate outrage, while unapologetic bigotry garner support?

Roxane Gay: “The story we cannot forget is that black students at both Mizzou and Yale reached a breaking point. These are students who could no longer endure what had become unbearable.” The New Republic

Unbearable? The idea that all minority students at Yale have suffered is silly. The idea that they’ve been inconvenienced is more legitimate. They’re privileged. Yes, racism still exists in society, but it’s coming to the point where everyone is a bigot accusing everyone else of being a bigot (I’m not exempt). But what are the definitions? What’s bearable?

Roxane Gay: “Campus police made a sport of asking me, and other black students, to show our student identification cards.”

Legacy of racism: Roxane, slavery fits the definition of “unbearable.” Same with Jim Crow. What Malcolm X and the families of murdered church goers in South Carolina went through, seeing loved one dies, merits the definition. Selecting you out and asking for your I.D. on campus is wrong, but it’s bearable. And you’ve succeeded, and these students will succeed, too, or have a damned good chance. Racism in 1867 kept minorities down. Racism, now, hinders, but does not stop, minorities from succeeding. Let’s keep moving forward. Hyperbole is regressive and not needed. But, if you’re going to talk bigotry, please include Mr. Salaita.

Alan Dershowitz:  “They may want superficial diversity, diversity of gender, diversity of color, but they don’t want diversity of ideas.”

Final words: Roxane and Jonathan Chait debated on NPR, and Chait closed with this:

“I’m in favor of safety. What I object to is defining safety to mean the absence of contrary points of view. And by contrary, I don’t mean hate speech, I don’t mean threats, I don’t mean swastikas. What I mean is the performance of a play that people dislike politically, the appearance of an op-ed that somewhat mildly criticizes views that you hold – those are things that people have defined as threatening a safe space, and that’s a really troublesome concept for a liberal.”

What he said!

Alan Dershowitz: Why are opponents of micro-aggressions silent when it comes to Jews?
Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind
WSJ:  The Rise of the College Crybullies

Written by Caleb Powell

November 13, 2015 at 10:49 am