Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Easy Questions Only

“Nothing is off the table. I don’t think you could possibly insult me,” said Robert Azzi. His June 7th talk: “Ask a Muslim Anything” at the Berwick [Maine] Public Library began at 6:00 pm and I arrived five minutes late. Before I could find a seat and unpack my camera and recorder, the Q&A had started. The first question was something about President Trump not inviting Muslims somewhere. I didn’t hear it exactly and Aziz gave an answer critical of Trump and many in the audience giggled appreciatively. It was a clue about the political leanings of speaker and audience.

The first questions were from women concerning Muslim women driving in Saudi Arabia and wearing head coverings. Aziz offered a short history of women in Islam going back to “The Prophet” as he referred to Muhammed, who lived 1400 years ago. He described a rising patriarchy a few centuries ago and strengthening in 20th century Saudi Arabia.

Up to this point, Azzi answered questions graciously. Then a man asked: “Doesn’t that mean that she’s being ‘sharia compliant’ when she wears the head scarf?”

Azzi’s demeanor changed abruptly. “No!” he said.

A woman asked him to repeat the question and he did, whereupon the questioner said: “…and by the way I have several references in the Koran to where it’s mandatory and also in Muhammed’s Sunna…”

Azzi talked over him saying: “Let’s just take one question at a time, shall we?”

“Well, I wanted to go back to the other question…”

“Well, let me — let me talk about sharia for a minute, all right?” said Azzi, clearly agitated.

“Sure, that would be good,” said the man.

“I think, for example, that a lot of Muslims can lead a more sharia-compliant life the United States than they can in most Muslim majority countries, and that is…” Then he stopped, and said testily to the questioner, “Don’t look so puzzled. Let me finish here.” I recalled his opening assertion that nothing would be off the table and he couldn’t possibly be insulted.

“Sharia is not a body of law,” he claimed.

“But it is a body of law,” the man said. “It was codified in ‘The Reliance of the Traveller’ back in the 14th century.”

Talking over him again and stuttering about Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, he raised his voice and said: “Now let me finish!”

“Go ahead,” said the man.

“Sharia in the Koran speaks to justice, and authority, and hospitality, and equity…” Then he stopped again. “I’m not finished!” he yelled, though no one had interrupted. “We have a lot of time here. I’m here for two hours.”

“Umm,” murmured the questioner.

“If you would kindly memorize your questions rather than looking at your tablet…” said Aziz scornfully. The man had an iPad in his lap.

Then he lectured us all, saying Americans’ views are affected by their “privilege” and that Middle Eastern countries were “exploited, marginalized, and colonized by Europeans they’re now trying to recover from.” He cited Ferguson, Baltimore, Denver, and Minneapolis/St. Paul as “our own colonies.”

A woman referred to Iran under the ayatollahs, and young people rising against the totalitarian regime. “I think you need to be very careful there,” said Azzi, then blamed everything on a CIA coup more than half a century ago. My suspicion that Azzi and the audience were left-of-center was strengthened. “…if the [western imposed] burdens were lifted off all these countries equally, Iran was probably the most pro-American country in the Middle East,” he claimed.

Another man said Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammed and compared him unfavorably with Jesus Christ citing the former’s multiple wives, sex slaves, and consummation of marriage to a nine-year-old. Then he asked how Aziz could leave Christianity and adopt Muhammed’s religion. Aziz seemed to have regained his composure and answered that difficult question fairly well. He said New Hampshire allowed 14-year-olds to marry until recently, that Muhammed’s life was in a different place in time with different mores, and made other points.

“Why are there so many suicide bombers in the Muslim religion?” asked a woman. 

He paused for several seconds. “[Because] we’ve entered an age of asymmetrical conflict where the marginalized and the disenfranchised don’t have the weapons and tools of resistance that their oppressors have,” he claimed.

It’s all our fault, I guess.

A woman who grew up in the Middle East suggested culture there valued life less than we do. Aziz said that was racist, that she disdained Muslims because they’re not white Jews, or Christians and privileged, and her statement was offensive. Another man who spent years in Afghanistan said he agreed with the woman. The rest of the audience started snapping at them both. Azzi let that go on a while before wrapping it up.

I left thinking the program might better have been called: “Ask a Muslim easy questions.”


Montedoro44 said...

Bravo Tom, considering the attacks you endured in your two preceding blogs from proponents of the BDS cult. Mr. Aziz's type of presentation is common all over the USA, and it often happens that audience members become suddenly unruly when they hear questions that lie outside their worldview. That alone is a meaningful event within the event.

Montedoro44 said...

oops -- "Aziz" apparently should be "Azzi".

Jared J Bristol said...

Having been there, Azzi also refused to answer the question as to "How can you revere Mohammad, a man who beheaded around 700 young Jewish boys after a certain battle?" He was also very rude and condescending to people who asked pointed (not easy) questions. He was clearly trying to whitewash Islam. I never got to ask what he thinks of islamophobia. I would have countered with "A phobia is an irrational fear, like being petrified of open spaces. But Islam is evil, so fear or at least trepidation is quite reasonable. It's a made up term by the Muslim Brotherhood to shut down the honest appraisal of Islam...to shut down free speech. Beware people.

Brian said...

Yawn....yet another in an endless stream of columns from someone obsessed with other peoples race, sexuality and religion, and too dim-witted to comprehend that the things they take for granted are part of their white privilege. I've seen enough of this sad and pathetic behavior over the years, but don't worry, I'll be back next week to check out the next column!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Montedoro44 said...

I see that the BDSers are already activated, trying to change the subject. Probably a good idea not to do that.

Here is a similar representative of Islam, traveling from Indonesia to promote interfaith understanding -- Indonesian Muslim leader Yahya Staquf:


He is in Israel this week preaching his message, and per the article, "braving angry protests at home in order to spread what he calls a message of interfaith compassion." He says "there needs to be “a new discourse” to recognize that Muslims and non-Muslims are equal and should be able to coexist peacefully."

Yes, well the infidel world already knows that. But that contradicts Islamic, Koranic doctrine, including codified present-day sharia. Since he is just a hop away, maybe he will take his message to the PA and to Hamas. Ya think?

The "new discourse" he wants has to be with his fellow Muslims, who would kill him for his apostasy. Let him make a list of the Koran verses that contradict his message, and recommend that the ulema strike them from the Koran. As long as he visits only infidels, he's just shilling for Islam.

If things heat up for him in Indonesia, maybe he will seek asylum in Israel.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I told you; no more anonymous posts.

Anonymous said...

For the useful idiot, Brian: “The debate is lost when slander becomes the tool of the loser.” -Socrates

Marty said...

The question I would like to have asked is
How can any one believe any thing a Muslim says when they practice Taqiya, which allows actually tells them to lie to any one who is an infidel about Islam,

Jason said...

This is pretty amazing stuff, you have a obvious Israeli troll spouting lies and non sense that anyone can fact check. It is the same old tired "look over there" pathetic type of argument and it's not only ineffective but embarrassing and insulting.

Anyone with a conscious, any decent human being, Christian , Jew, Muslim,should back BDS. It's not hard to justify, we have a rogue apartheid state murdering innocent civilians, snipers no less, the ultimate cowardice, while blatantly stealing land that they have been told by international law not to edo yet they keep doing it, while holding chemical weapons and nukes while denying it!! It's unreal! And the mindless zionists in the USA are riled up on Muslim fear porn!! How many muslims were arressted on 9/11 ? None. Israelis? Five...huh...ask yourself why you didn't know that and if you did why aren't you speaking up?
Israel was sterilizing African women without their knowledge people. The USS liberty anyone? It goes on and on, the list of crimes against any decent notion of humanity. YouTube the sniper who shoots a teenager trying to get to a wounded person. Terrifying and it'll make you question this so-called "special relationship". don't listen to these desperate swine trying to justify evil either. Absolutely BDS.

Do your own research. You'll be signing up for the bds movement in no time.

Jason said...

Clearly the Zionists, especially the numerous Zionist-christians in this land, are feeling the hammer about to drop. The Israeli lie that we have been propping up is about to be shattered and the racism, theft, and lying is about to be exposed. Which is why you have the trolls and their desperate and shameless tactics, as well,as guys like tom, who I suspect knows that the US backing of Israel is not only morally wrong but doesn't jive with the constitution or the values the founding fathers intended. In fact, they would be appalled. So they re-direct their anger toward muslims and backed by a media chock full of zionists the propaganda is spread. It isn't rocket science folks.

Edward bernays was right and Americans have been dumbed down to a frightening level.

It would be nice to see, in writing, how any American, in terms of legality and morality, can back the apartheid state.

Montedoro44 said...

The leader of CAIR Michigan, once while whitewashing Islam in an "Islam 101" lecture, explained that taqiyya is a Shia practice, and since he is Sunni, therefore he must be telling the truth, or at least that he wasn't using it. What a whopper. Metataqiyya?

Jason said...

Interested in learning about Iran? I found this a few years ago and think Mr. Steves does an amazing job. The follow up lecture is very much worthwhile. I learned a great deal watching these two videos. You probably know the host Rick Steves from PBS. The travel show guy.
A refreshing non-politicized look into Iran with many interactions with real Iranians. Sorry, no one chanting death to America. Both the Iran episode and the follow up lecture (again, almost essential viewing for the curious) are easily found on YouTube.



The lecture is called "personal impressions" I think

Montedoro44 said...

Here is another introduction to Iran. It is a paragraph taken from the preamble to the Constitution of The Islamic Republic of Iran, which is the full name of that state:

An Ideological Army

In establishing and equipping the defense forces of the country, the focus shall be on maintaining ideology and faith as the foundation and the measure. Consequently, the Army of the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Pasdaran Revolutionary Corps are formed in accordance with the aforementioned objective. They will undertake the responsibility of not only guarding and protecting the borders, but also the weight of ideological mission, i.e. striving (jehād) on the path of God and struggle on the path of expanding the sovereignty of the law of God in the world; in accordance with the Qur’anic verse: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies” (8: 60).

What other constitution includes its obligation to make war on other countries? Well, it isn't exactly a country, but the Hamas government of Gaza does, and its target is Israel. Its entire covenant revolves around this theme, but this introductory statement sums it up:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

This statement is richly informative, as it proudly admits that Islam has obliterated other cultures before Israel. It is a long list, and it involves a lot of blood and destruction.

Article 13 winds down like this:

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.

"The people of Syria are Allah's lash in His land. He wreaks His vengeance through them against whomsoever He wishes among His slaves It is unthinkable that those who are double-faced among them should prosper over the faithful. They will certainly die out of grief and desperation."

And now we understand the real meaning of "Jihad", and why initiatives, proposals and international conferences don't seem to be getting anywhere. This is the threat that Israel faces -- it comes straight from Allah; it is non-negotiable, it is genocidal, and it locks the poor Palestinian Muslims into participating in a struggle that many of them don't want and can't say so or opt out of for fear of getting killed for it. Hamas sacrifices its own population to advance its holy war.

BDS carries water for Hamas.

BDS adherents don't give a shit about the Palestinians; it is more important to them to help destroy Israel. Even Norman Finkelstein, no friend of Israel, eventually figured that out:


Charles said...

"NEW YORK—Seventeen years of war in the Middle East and what do we have to show for it? Iraq after our 2003 invasion and occupation is no longer a unified country. Its once modern infrastructure is largely destroyed, and the nation has fractured into warring enclaves. We have lost the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban is resurgent and has a presence in over 70 percent of the country. Libya is a failed state. Yemen after three years of relentless airstrikes and a blockade is enduring one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The 500 “moderate” rebels we funded and armed in Syria at a cost of $500 million are in retreat after instigating a lawless reign of terror. The military adventurism has cost a staggering $5.6 trillion as our infrastructure crumbles, austerity guts basic services and half the population of the United States lives at or near poverty levels. The endless wars in the Middle East are the biggest strategic blunder in American history and herald the death of the empire.

Someone has to be blamed for debacles that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead, including at least 200,000 civilians, and millions driven from their homes. Someone has to be blamed for the proliferation of radical jihadist groups throughout the Middle East, the continued worldwide terrorist attacks, the wholesale destruction of cities and towns under relentless airstrikes and the abject failure of U.S. and U.S.-backed forces to stanch the insurgencies. You can be sure it won’t be the generals, the politicians such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the rabid neocons such as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton who sold us the wars, the Central Intelligence Agency, the arms contractors who profit from perpetual war or the celebrity pundits on the airwaves and in newspapers who serve as cheerleaders for the mayhem."

Find the rest at teuthdig.com "scapegoating Iran" by Chris hedges

Charles said...

That should be truthdig.com at the end of my previous comment. I also copied the following from that site and another article by Chris hedges where he talks about the new film "killing Gaza" by two Jewish filmmakers, dan cohen and max vlumemthal. Film doesn't lie Folks.
The film begins in the Shuja'iyya neighborhood, reduced to mounds of rubble by the Israelis. The wanton destruction of whole neighborhoods was, as documented by the film, accompanied by the shooting of unarmed civilians by Israeli snipers and other soldiers of that nation.

"Much of the destruction took place in the course of a few hours on July 23," Blumenthal, who narrates the film, says as destroyed buildings appear on the screen, block after block. "The invading Israeli forces found themselves under ferocious fire from local resistance forces, enduring unexpectedly high casualties. As the Israeli infantry fled in full retreat, they called in an artillery and air assault, killing at least 120 Palestinian civilians and obliterated thousands of homes."

The film includes a brief clip of young Israelis in Tel Aviv celebrating the assault on Gaza, a reminder that toxic racism and militarism infect Israeli society.

"Die! Die! Bye!" laughing teenage girls shout at the celebration in Tel Aviv. "Bye, Palestine!"

"f*cking Arabs! f*ck Muhammad!" a young man yells.

"Gaza is a graveyard! Gaza is a graveyard! Ole, ole, ole, ole," the crowd in Tel Aviv sings as it dances in jubilation. "There is no school tomorrow! There are no children left in Gaza!"

Terrified Palestinian families huddled inside their homes during the relentless shelling. Those who tried to escape in the face of the advancing Israelis often were gunned down with their hands in the air, and the bodies were left to rot in the scorching heat for days.

"I was inside when they started bulldozing my house," Nasser Shamaly, a Shuja'iyya resident, says in the film. "They took down the wall and started shooting into the house. So I put my hands on my head and surrendered myself to the officer. This wasn't just any soldier. He was the officer of the group! He didn't say a word. He just shot me. I fell down and started crawling to get away from them."

Charles said...

"Shamaly, who hid wounded in his house for four days, was fortunate. His 23-year-old cousin, Salem Shamaly, who led a group of volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement to dig bodies out of the ruins in Shuja'iyya, was not.

"On the offensive's 14th day, July 20th, 2014, four other activists and I went to the Shuja'iyya neighborhood, which Israel had bombed for days, to accompany rescue teams in the rubble during the two-hour cease-fire," Joe Catron, one of the members of the International Solidarity Movement rescue team, says in the film. "A young Palestinian, whose name we later learned was Salem Shamaly, asked us to go with him to his house, where he hoped to find his family. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time we thought the cease-fire would make it safe."

"As we crossed an alley with a clear line of sight to Israeli positions by the separation barrier, a gunshot from their direction struck the ground between us. We scattered into two groups, sheltered behind buildings on either side. After a pause, Salem stepped into the alley, hoping to lead his group to our side, but was struck by another bullet. He fell to the ground."

The film shows Shamaly wounded on the ground, barely able to move and crying out in pain.

"As he lay on his back, two more rounds hit him," Catron continued. "He stopped moving. The gunfire kept us from reaching him. The Israeli artillery began flying overhead and striking the buildings behind us. We were forced to retreat, leaving him. We only learned his name two days later, when his mother, father, sister and cousin recognized him in a video I had tweeted."

"We couldn't retrieve his body for seven days," Um Salem, the mother, says in the film. "His body was in the sun for seven days.""
(The way in which the Israeli army acts is most certainly restrained and appropriate ( the level of sarcasm implied here is through the roof). These are some brave defenders of democracy, heroes even, right Tom, Montedoro44?? )

CaptDMO said...

And nobody asked if Muslim immigrants, and domestic converts, realize that certain
aspects of Islam, and Mohammad, will simply not be tolerated in THIS "culture"?
No mention of "magic dirt"?

Nick Peace said...

I missed your earlier notice about "No Anonymous posts anymore." Also, the software at the bottom still let me choose anonymous. I'll try to recreate the earlier comment.

I applaud Mr. Azzi for the work he has done trying to increase understanding between different cultures and different religions. I have gone to see him speak myself.

I would emphasize that Islam is not a monolithic religion and there are a wide variety of practices and cultures. Islam stretches from the western coast of Africa through the Middle East through Asia to the islands of the Pacific. Tribal custom and tradition play a significant role in the variety of practice. That's why, for example, women couldn't drive in Saudi Arabia (until recently) but have been prime ministers and heads of state in other Muslim countries.

Tom also downplays the role of the West in interfering with the domestic politics of the Middle East. We have indeed taken sides, propped up some rulers, and overthrown others in the name of oil and Israel. His glossing over of the CIA's involvement in the 1953 overthrow of the Mosaddegh government in Iran demonstrates an unwillingness to understand the Muslim perspective.

As a religious person myself, I take a very different view. God through Jesus told us to love our neighbor, to love mankind. He didn't say only Americans, only Christians, only white people.

Don't let fear and cherry-picking data stop you from learning about your fellow humans.

P. C. Poppycock said...

For Brian:


Ann McGarity said...

Your experiences at this presentation were almost identical to mine. I also think the title should be renamed. How about "Ask a muslim anything that doesn't annoy him. " As you say, it was whitewash and for me a waste of time.