Thursday, February 26, 2009

Muslim facts and free speech

Yesterday I went to a presentation given by the Muslim Student Association. It was a talk and movie meant to tell people about the religion. It was mostly a mix of propaganda and stuff I already knew, but I did learn a few things:

In Muslim cultures, women always keep their last names when they get married. They consider it rude to change one's identity. At judgment day, they believe that people will be called according to the lineage of the mother.

Shias believe that there is nothing wrong with sex change surgery. People all over the Middle East go to Iran to change their gender.

They believe that Jesus was a human with no human father or genetic mother, that he was created from clay just like Adam.

Muslims believe that the Bible is the 'inerrant word of God'. But they will only believe the stuff in the other holy books if it does not conflict with the Koran. Anything in any other book that conflicts with the Koran is considered to be 'translation error' introduced by humans.

They believe that all prophets were without sin. They believe that David never slept with Bathsheba or had Uriah killed. They believe that Noah never got drunk and naked, etc. Apparently the Koran said that all prophets are sinless. So all those stories that say otherwise are more 'translation errors'.

After the movie, I asked the first question of the Imam, who is from Egypt. My question was "Do you believe that it should be illegal to criticize or mock religion?" After a bit of hemming and hawing, he basically said 'Yes.'

Afterwords, a Canadian Muslim came up to me and asked if my question was about freedom of speech. I said it was, and she told me, "He must not have understood your question. We might protest an insult, but we would never use the government to stop people from saying things."

So I went to the Imam and asked him again, specifically about government laws. He confirmed his belief that the law should stop people from saying things. He talked about the laws against holocaust denial in Europe. He was not complaining about these laws; he felt that they were right and proper, and that all religions should be 'protected' like these laws 'protect' the Jews.

As I once mentioned to my brother, I used to think that the Second Amendment made the USA special, and that most modern democracies had the equivalent of the rest of our Bill of Rights. But I have recently realized that we are one of the few places on the planet with a First Amendment. We are the only place where the legal system has the attitude of Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

PS: There are no advertisements in Gmail as I write this. It seems that 'Muslim' is one of the magic words that will make the Google ad system turn off all advertisements. I have commented on this kind of thing before.

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