Take a look at the Wikio Science Top 20. Same old, same old. I’m always sniffing around for new science blogs, and am struck by how many of the top bloggers I’ve met personally. Eight of the top 20 on Wikio for example. Are there many unknown gems out there?
Josh Green reminisces about the rise of Talking Points Memo. Some people “have it”, some do not. Joshua Micah Marshall “has it.” He’s always had it. I started an abortive blog in the fall of 2001, but gave up after a week. Then I started blogging in April of 2002, and never looked back. For most of the 2000s I was a code monkey who blogged as a hobby on the side. I never managed to give it up, and it’s led me to some really awesome places.
Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life.
Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father’s barbershop, Husayin was secretly posting anti-religion rants on the Internet during his free time.
Now, he faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for “insulting the divine essence.” Many in this conservative Muslim town say he should be killed for renouncing Islam, and even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.
“He should be burned to death,” said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public “to be an example to others,” he added.
Over several years, Husayin is suspected of posting arguments in favor of atheism on English and Arabic blogs, where he described the God of Islam as having the attributes of a “primitive Bedouin.” He called Islam a “blind faith that grows and takes over people’s minds where there is irrationality and ignorance.”
If that wasn’t enough, he is also suspected of creating three Facebook groups in which he sarcastically declared himself God and ordered his followers, among other things, to smoke marijuana in verses that spoof the Muslim holy book, the Quran. At its peak, Husayin’s Arabic-language blog had more than 70,000 visitors, overwhelmingly from Arab countries.
Husayin is the first to be arrested in the West Bank for his religious views, said Tayseer Tamimi, the former chief Islamic judge in the area.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority is among the more religiously liberal Arab governments in the region. It is dominated by secular elites and has frequently cracked down on hardline Muslims and activists connected to its conservative Islamic rival, Hamas.
Husayin’s high public profile and prickly style, however, left authorities no choice but to take action.
Instead, he began going to an Internet cafe — a move that turned out to be a costly mistake. The owner, Ahmed Abu-Asal, said the blogger aroused suspicion by spending up to seven hours a day in a corner booth. After several months, a cafe worker supplied captured snapshots of his Facebook pages to Palestinian intelligence officials.
He could face a life sentence if he’s found guilty, depending on how harshly the judge thinks he attacked Islam and how widely his views were broadcast, said Islamic scholar Tamimi.
Even so, a small minority has questioned whether the government went too far.
Zainab Rashid, a liberal Palestinian commentator, wrote in an online opinion piece that Husayin has made an important point: “that criticizing religious texts for their (intellectual) weakness can only be combatted by … oppression, prison and execution.”
- I think many readers of this weblog could sympathize Walid Husayin. He seems to have been an “internet atheist,” obsessed with the rejection of theism which was so strongly normative in the world around him. Because of the familial expectations he clearly had to live a lie in public, so he took out his angst in private. We’re not talking Michael Servetus here, we’re talking an angry 15 year old on LiveJournal (no offense, but in societies where men live with their families deep into their 20s they are usually psychologically teenagers in my experience).
- Burning a religious dissenter has some negative connotations for people in the West. That sort of stuff basically stopped after the Enlightenment, though the famous burning of the aforementioned Michael Servetus at the instigation of John Calvin shows just how acceptable such barbarism was in the West even in the early modern period. From the perspective of modern Westerners though that was the past, and like slavery burning someone for blasphemy is no longer thinkable (unless you’re a follower of R. J. Rushdoony). Things are different in much of the Muslim world, especially the Arab world. If Islamophobia is the irrational fear of Islam, what do you call the rational fear? Are those who want a cordon sanitaire against these sorts of cultural values without any foundation in reality? I don’t begrudge Muslims of whatever stripe arguing for the superiority or virtuosity of their belief system; that’s the nature of their meme. Rather, I’m always struck by the lack of reflection that many secular Westerners have as to the realized perniciousness of Islam in the world when judged by the values that Westerners today hold to be fundamental.
- The 70,000 visitors is vague. 70,000 visitors total is not large, but 70,000 per day is reasonable. The fact that Walid Husayin attained some level of pseudo-fame in the Arab world attests to a pent up demand for a violation of the norm of ostentatious piety. Throughout the history of civilization there have been sects and movements which operate as a counter-narrative against the pieties of the age. Cynics in ancient Greece of the Stoics and Platonists. Daoists in the China of the Confucians. The Carvaka who rejected the strictures of Brahmanical Hinduism. This strain also existed within Islam, exemplified by the poet Al-Ma’arri, who declared that “The sacred books are only such a set of idle tales as any age could have and indeed did actually produce.” But the fact is that the Abrahamic religions in particular have a long track record of not tolerating counter-cultural religio-philosophical movements. Al-Ma’arri and Plethon were notable tokens, not representatives of an alternative school. In contrast to the often imperfectly realized acceptance of the fact of plurality of opinion in Greece & Rome, in China, and in Indic civilization, Christianity and Islam tended toward ideological monopoly.
- The blog Breaking Spells asserts:
Regardless, only the most backward of societies -the most primitive of this world- would still have the barbaric and mindless law which allows a death sentence for blasphemy….
Here’s a map of the UN’s Human Development Index (black is the lowest category, but lighter blue shades are lower):
Some Muslim countries, like Pakistan, have low HDI. Others, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, have high HDI. Additionally, much of Latin America and Africa has lower HDI than the “core” Muslim world (Arab-Turk-Persian). The Muslim nations really aren’t primitive. Geneva in the 16th century wasn’t primitive. A well developed system of thought-policing from on-high is unfortunately a feature of more advanced societies, though the trend is obviously not monotonic as a function of development. The causal connections are not necessarily clear.