Posts Tagged ‘ Islam ’

What Goldsmiths Feminists and LGBTQ+ Society Don’t Get

Many years ago, as a medical student in Lahore, I wrote a  blog challenging non-medical use of circumcision, namely for religious reasons. The blog went viral on campus. One evening, my anxious roommate informed me of an angry discussion going on about my blog in the hostel common room among some 100 Muslim students, and that I must escape.

I didn’t need to be told twice. I’d sensed the hostility long before that. I’d already been receiving threats of bodily harm on Facebook and on the blog’s comment section.

A small protest broke out on campus, and the Muslim students demanded the Dean to expel me from college, or let them ‘handle’ the matter themselves.

I secretly met with the Dean. I lied to her about the blog being mine. There wasn’t much else I could say. I was human, and I didn’t want to be expelled, or worse. Although a Muslim myself, I was ostracized by the Muslim community. I didn’t complain. That was the better of the possible outcomes, and to some extent, I thought I deserved it. My parents certainly did, and oh, there’s an interesting story there too.

Eventually, I discovered that I had options. I thought about it, did my research, and gradually became an atheist. Before coming out of the closet, I brought up the subject of atheism with my mum and dad in the car, on our way to Islamabad. He told me it’s acceptable to be one from the beginning, but one cannot leave Islam. Why, I asked. Because it’s not a joke, he said, and murtids (apostates) are to be put to death.

You might accuse me of exaggerating, but I’m not. This is also the law in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: Blasphemy and apostasy are punishable by death.

Needless to say, I did not come out of the closet that evening.

Please note that I used the general term ‘Muslim’ here instead of ‘Islamist’, as in my country, these are not well distinguished. No Musalman identifies himself as an ‘Islamist’ – it’s a label we unilaterally slap onto them to separate them from those whom we describe as the good Muslims. But Islamism is a culture existing within the Muslim community. Consider how you would feel if I argued, “Not all Men are Misogynists!”. I’ll use the same language that you use for white men.

I realize that this idea upsets you, but please bear with me.

Muslims exist simultaneously in two different worlds. One is yours, the Western world, in which Muslims are a marginalized group, and often subjected to gross anti-Muslim bigotry.
Muslims2Worlds
The other world is where I live. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where Muslims are the ruling class. Islam is not a counter-cultural phenomenon here. It is the established order. It is the law. It is the man. It is the bane of all the minorities within the Muslim states, and even Muslim communities abroad.

And this is a world you are NOT acquainted with. Islamists have convinced you that all the stories about blasphemers being lynched, and atheists being hacked to death, and Iranian women being stoned to death for adultery, or forced to wear burqas, are “way overblown” and mostly just a way to make Muslims look savage.

While that may be the motive for white Islamophobes, the problem is not a myth. Just as an MRA might argue that all the stories about the high prevalence of rape in the United Kingdom or the United States are “way overblown”.

But I know I’m not overreacting.

Maryam Namazie comes from a world where Muslims aren’t a “minority”, but the privileged class, and her tone is suited to that paradigm.

She embodies the agony of all ex-Muslims, including me, who live in constant fear in Islamic countries.

She embodies the frustration of gay brown people, like me, who Muslims attempt to suppress by quoting scripture and telling religious stories to their children about ‘Qaum-e-Lut’.

She embodies the defeat of feminists, like me, who fight for political reforms to end domestic violence, only to have the bill shot down in the Pakistani parliament because it goes against Quranic injunctions.

Those ISOC boys who interrupted the talk by an ex-Muslim Iranian woman, telling her to shut the fuck up, are a marginalized minority to you, but an oppressor to us.

They say that if we insult Islam and call it out as an archaic, barbaric system, then we’re being Islamophobes. The question is, how can we NOT talk about Islam, when Islam is what gets thrown in our face every time we ask for the freedom to love whom we want, and believe what we want?

As a person from a Muslim background, I empathize with your need to clamp down on rhetoric that could be used to incite anti-Muslim bigotry. But stop demanding me to put the welfare of my own atheist ex-Muslim community aside, and go out of my way to aid the empowerment of those who enable my oppression.

Give us a chance to fight the ideological demons that are internal to our Islamic world, the same way you’ve fought with your Christian right.

Help Wanted: Ex-Muslim Seeking White Liberal Allies

Hi, are you liberal?

Do you stand by the minorities?

Are you a friend of the underdog, an ally of the marginalized?

There is a minority of the minority in town that just won’t trend on Twitter.

Hello, I’m a brown, gay, bi-gender, ex-Muslim atheist. Please notice me.

Like a lot of things, ‘privilege’ is a spectrum. Muslims are a marginalized community in Europe and America, often subjected to dangerous stereotypes. I supported Tahira Ahmed, the Muslim woman refused an unopened can of diet coke aboard a flight for “security reasons”. I yelled at Richard Dawkins – a person who I usually admire – on Twitter, for his paranoid rants against a Muslim child arrested for making a clock.

I stand up for Muslims wherever they face persecution, but they don’t stand up for me. Oh, and if you object to my use of the word “they”, notice that I’m making use of the same language you’d use for white people. You must recognize the context in which I speak.

In my part of the world – the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – Muslims are not an oppressed minority. They are the ruling class. If they find out who I am, I would be legally executed, if not lynched – not even because I’ve said anything blasphemous, but because I’m an ex-Muslim, an “apostate”.

Islam here is not a counter-cultural phenomenon. It is the writ of the establishment. It is the bane of the minorities, dissidents, freethinkers and liberals such as yourself who refuse to abide by the “official” customs. Things like hijab, niqab, dupatta or any form of pardah are not an “identity” here; they are garments either imposed by law, or enforced by sanctioning the social harassment of women who refuse to wear them.

People like myself, dear friends of mine, have fled to countries like UK, Canada and the United States. These ‘blasphemers’ and ‘apostates’ of the East, the first-hand witnesses of the effects of unmitigated Islamic power, often become ‘Islamophobes’ in the West. Why wouldn’t they be fearful of a religion that has been used to justify all forms of cruelty against them?

‘Good’ Atheists like CJ Werlerman, wouldn’t know the difference. We have often been accused of being “native informants”. We are guilty of not putting the full weight of our support behind a community that treats us with derision, not just in Pakistan, but abroad as well.  It is more than just ‘possible’ for a group to be oppressed in some way, and be an oppressor in another.

Who’s defending us? Werlerman? Lean? Greenwald? Ben Affleck?

Many of my people are locked in accidental alliances with the neo-cons, the anti-Muslim bigots – the likes of Pamela Gellar and Pat Condell – both of whom I intensely dislike. Again, what choice do we have? You defend, and even celebrate Islam as a courtesy to its marginalized adherents in your countries, but that ideology is poison to us; and our only consolation is that not all Muslims follow it uniformly.

Why would you ask us to make peace with a scripture that refers to my kind as the “worst of all beasts”? Why would you want me to get along with a religion that throws Sodom and Gomorrah in my face when I try to speak up for LGBTQ rights? Why would you expect me, as a feminist, to not condemn a book that justifies domestic abuse of women, denial of their equal inheritance rights, and the practice of having a woman’s testimony being valued as only half that of a man’s.

Would you like us, the “native informants”, to pretend that there is no culture of shunning and mistreating ex-Muslims in the Muslim community, so not to intensify anti-Muslim prejudice that is abundant in Europe and America? Do you want us all to go down quietly, because the needs of the many (Muslims) outweigh the needs of the few (ex-Muslims)?

What about my friend, Irtaza, who committed suicide because his Muslim family and community wouldn’t accept him as an atheist?

You expect us to join you in the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry, and I want to. I get you. But in the struggle against anti ex-Muslim bigotry, we stand alone. We remain unacknowledged.

People deserve advocacy. People deserve not to be reduced to their religious, racial or gender identities. But bad ideas and cultures deserve no sympathy. Neither must the baby be thrown out with the bathwater, nor should the bathwater be rescued along with the baby.

Nathan Lean does it again: Being an Apologist for a Bad Ideology

At soLean Dawkinsme point in history, the liberals in the West decided that Christianity, particularly Catholicism, was no longer beyond reproach. Since then, the religion has endured (not unreasonably so) a constant barrage of verbal and literary assaults.

And they succeeded. They dethroned Christianity and brought in, to our collective elation, the secular values that they now hold dear.

But the same must not happen in the Islamic world. When people like Richard Dawkins attempt to catalyze the rationalist uprising in the Muslim-majority countries, people like Nathan Lean insist that it’s racist. It was okay for them to pound on Christianity and rid themselves of its yoke, but we just have to find a way to get along with our Islamic oppressors.

Living as a minority in what is a quintessentially Islamic country (about 97% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim, and all laws are subject to approval by Islamic experts), I must impress on how little Nathan Lean knows what he’s talking about. The idea proposed by modernized Muslims and Western liberals is that Islam is a diverse religion, and not all Muslims believe in the same set of principles…which is absolutely true!

Here’s the thing though: if Islam is not represented by those who circumcise girls, kill unbelievers, murder my fellow “apostates”, stone and lash people to death, and allow wife-beating….

…then Islam is also not represented by the peace-loving, modernized Muslims. For them to claim that their benign version of the religion is more authentic than the Islam of the Taliban, Al-Qaeeda and garden-variety kufar-haters, would mean for them to deny the religion’s diverse nature which they always talk about.

What we do instead is look at the bigger picture; of what it has contributed to the world, and what it has stolen from it. Compared to a control group, we consider its propensity to generate intolerance, bigotry and chaos. Compared to any other literature, we consider the scripture’s susceptibility to violent interpretations. Not all its followers, not even a majority, are malevolent. But we do note the tendency of this belief system to inspire hate and malice at a rate higher than what could normally be expected.

Old Testament too has more than its fair share of abominably violent dicta, and Christianity has dealt a massive blow to science and humanity. However, it is ludicrous for liberals in the Western countries to excuse Islam’s present influence by alluding to what the Catholics did hundreds of years ago: the crusades, inquisition, witch-burning and so on. To do so, is like me telling an adult, “It’s okay if you can’t count to 20. I couldn’t do that either 23 years ago (when I was an infant).”

Many years ago, Pakistani professor, Pervez Hoodhboy, wrote an outstanding book called, “Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality”. In it, he put forth the same “racist” and “bigoted” ideas that Lean attacks Dawkins for.  It’s tragic when facts do not coincide with Mr. Leans’ sense of political correctness, but that’s really how the cookie crumbles.

In the book, he acknowledged Muslims’ (some of them were actually atheists/agnostics under Muslim rule) contribution to science back in the middle-ages….as did Dawkins in the second part of his controversial tweet, but that is largely ignored by pot-stirrers whose livelihood depends on mining quotes and presenting them in an inflammatory fashion. But more importantly, Hoodbhoy discussed in detail the crisis of scientific thinking in the Muslim world and pointed to Islam, as gently as he possibly could as a citizen of a country where blasphemy laws exist, as a hindrance to our progress.

Obviously, there are more factors at play here than just religion. Socioeconomic instability, illiteracy and political uncertainty all hinder progress, scientific or otherwise. But is Islam at least a major contributor to this problem?

Consider this: Not too long ago in Pakistani Parliament, a domestic violence bill was blocked mainly because parties like Jamat-e-Ulema-i-Islami (JUI-F) claimed that it violated Quranic law. The Quran , in one of its surahs, allows a husband to beat a wife. Moderate Muslims interpret it differently (I have no idea how, because the verse 4:34 is extremely clear about it), but the truth remains that religion was a major reason why Pakistani husbands were allowed to continue legally thrashing their wives that day.

I wonder what Lean would’ve said had something similar happened in Washington DC; if a domestic violence bill had been stalemated because of bible-thumpers? Knowing that Mr. Lean is no hypocrite, I reckon he would’ve published a tirade against the angry liberals questioning Christianity’s role in this injustice, and called them all “bigoted”.

Nathan Lean, we request you to stop.

We, the minorities/liberals/free-thinking who are hiding/suffering/dying under Islamic rule, are fed up of liberals in the West being apologists for an ideology that is inspiring so much intolerance and hate towards us.

So here’s a simple solution to help you deal with what I, as a doctor, have provisionally diagnosed as munchausen-by-proxy syndrome – the compulsion to fake symptoms of poor health in a patient, in order to get attention for yourself as the patient’s guardian.

I don’t think Islam is the greatest evil in the world, as Mr.Dawkins’s somewhat hyperbolic tweet claimed (I think it was an intentional exaggeration).  But as a Pakistani liberal and freethinker, I can say with certitude that I would’ve personally been using a much smaller dosage of anti-depressants had religion not been in my picture.

If you feel Muslims are being victimized because of someone tweeting facts (and that too, as a response to Muslims who boast how much science owes to them, because someone in the Islamic empire invented sulphuric acid a thousand years ago), you really haven’t been paying to what goes on in the name of Islam around the world. I implore you that you do.

Western Liberals Hate Persecuted Minorities in Islamic Countries

The title says it all. I’ll elaborate..

Ayaan Hisri Ali was only 5 years old when she had her clitoris snipped off in the name of a certain religion. A self-made woman, she pulls herself out of a trouble existence in Somalia, and blooms as an activist and a writer in America. She became a politician in Holland, and dedicates her life to exposing the misogyny inspired by religion, as well as other human rights violations.

The white feminist brigade now regard her as an Islamophobe. It’s a pity because, really, what has Islam ever done to her to deserve such ‘irrational hate’?

In fact, the greatest Islamophobes known to Western liberals are not just hicks from the bible belt, but the same ex-Muslims, those persecuted dissidents, who sawed off their feet to run to the more enlightened parts of the world; places where Islam would no longer be used against them. All “blasphemers” of the East with bounties on their heads, eventually become “Islamophobes” in the West.

Islamophobia is conceived as a form of racism, which is easily among the daftest ideas anyone has ever come up with. Islam is not a race. It is an idea, or a set of ideas, that has no rights.

Muslims deserve respect as people, as one can never truly deduce from one’s “Muslim” label what he/she believes. Muslims are, like everybody else, an extremely diverse group with a diverse set of beliefs.

Western liberals have already adorned the Holy Pope with a thorny crown, due to Christianity’s propensity to inspire racism, homophobia and misogynism. No liberal’s heart aches for this blatant Christophobia because many years ago, they decided that Christianity is not immune from criticism and must be called out for all the nonsense it inspires.

How American liberals and secularists deal with Christianity, is how Pakistani liberals and secularists deal with Islam; with eye-rolls, impatience, skepticism. The mention of the word leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of many a non-Muslim here, as they recall the injustices they’ve suffered in its name.

Every effort by activists against minority abuses in Tunisia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran – any Islamic country – is effectively thwarted by quoting scripture. In Pakistan national assembly, a Domestic Violence Bill was shelved because it contradicted Islamic values, earlier in 2012. The bill was sent into a coma as women activists screamed for justice outside the Parliament.

Do you have any idea what it feels like, to live in a country where Islam is a constant bane for women’s freedom and equality…..and then listen to Western liberals being apologists for the ideology that’s used to rubbish all our struggles for minority rights, women rights and even social justice in general?

To come home defeated from a protest, as a mullah-ridden parliament shoots down another bill for social equality in Islam’s name….and then hear some white feminist say dumb shit like, “Islam is not the problem! Patriarchy is!”

Yes, but what of the systems, the ideologies that are reinforcing and inspiring this patriarchy? Patriarchy is not some mystical dark energy that oozes out from soil, it is a social setup maintained and upheld by certain engines. Old, organized religion is, beyond a reasonable doubt, one of those engines.

As for the Muslims, it is incorrect to stereotype them all as oppressed. But it should be noted that a large number of them have been stripped of some basic rights, including the freedom of belief and self-expression.

Most Muslims do not feel oppressed, because they never use this right anyway. What they believe and express is already in line with what the Islamic societies demand. It is the non-Muslims, the ex-Muslims, the secularists, dissidents, who feel the true sting of not having this right. And when they complain, they have their voices drowned out…every…single…fucking…time, by the Muslim majority dismissing the notion of any unusual oppression in their society.

Western Liberals, as a courtesy to the Muslim minorities in their countries, have fallen in bed with an ideology that is the complete antithesis of their own secular ideas and liberal agenda.

You don’t have to be a “Mussie-hater” to be critical of the Islamic ideology and its effects on our world. No more than you have to hate smokers to acknowledge the risks of cigarettes to our health.

Random Offensive Idea #2

17/4/13. 5:19 pm Random-offensive-idea-that-I’m-not-proud-of-but-makes-sense

In the spirit of equality, Islamic nations must implement death penalty for insult to Charles Darwin, Huxley, Dawkins and other atheist heroes, as a way of protecting atheists from being gravely offended. This shall be in acknowledgment of the fact that religious people do not have All Rights Reserved to being offended.

Furthermore, a Belieber bill must be passed to protect the sentiments of Justin Bieber fans by immunizing him from serious insult.

Should the above propositions be denied, a ‘Grow The Fuck Up’ bill must be introduced to the floor, which calls for the government to be relieved of the responsibility of safeguarding the sentiments of emotionally unstable citizens.

Inspiration: Turkish pianist convicted of blasphemy

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Note: The author neither attempts to implement, nor endorses the implementation of a ‘Random Offensive Idea’. These dramatic/violent posts are purely satirical in nature.

On Nude Protests: Open Letter to MuslimahPride and Friends

Dear Muslimahs,

You deny that you’re oppressed. That may very well be true, but consider the following:

In the early 1900’s, an organization known as the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOW) was operating unflaggingly to prevent women, such as your yourselves, from being able to vote. Interestingly, this anti-suffrage movement was being spearheaded by prominent women like Mrs. Arthur Dodge and Mrs. Crannell. These women too did not believe that they were being oppressed by being denied their voting rights.

Femen, or feminists in general, are not opposed to your right to wear hijab, or cover yourself up however you please. We do have concerns about this kind of self-imposed clothing restrictions that men don’t have to put up with, but forcing you not to wear such clothing would defeat the purpose of feminism. Your right to wear these garments has never been in question.

But know this..

Pardah (conservative clothing) is never really your ‘choice’ unless you have the right to refuse pardah also. Claiming that it is your choice is like standing outside a closed mall saying that you “choose” not to shop there. What other option do you have?

If a community where relieving yourself of pardah would be perceived as a green signal for harassment, or even get you in trouble with the law, you are not choosing pardah. You are submitting to it. The only question here is, are you submitting willingly or unwillingly?

Please repudiate the notion that the Western idea of gender equality is different from yours; that is is acceptable for Western women to be able to wear what they wish, but you’d rather not have that freedom because you’re Muslims. Besides, the movement is not just about you. It is about countless women out there who are forced to follow Islamic values against their will.

There’s a growing paranoia among the Muslim world that the Western feminists are marching in to rip the hijabs off your heads. That is not how this is going to be. Nobody is promoting nudity! That is simply an art of protest that screams: “My body, my choice”.

Lastly, you may be concerned about FEMEN’s alleged disrespect towards your religion. You need to understand that your religion is consistently used for moral dictatorship and causing tremendous suffering to the cultural and religious minorities in Islamic countries. It is impossible to condemn what happened to women like Aliaa Elmahdy and Amina Tyler, without addressing the ideology that inspires such problems again and again.

I acknowledge that Islam is not a monolithic faith, and that your interpretation of it may not be the same as that of the Islamists who threatened to stone Tyler to death for her nude protest. But you’re missing the point FEMEN is trying to make with provocative statements like “Fuck your morals”; it is that we should not have to debate over the interpretations of religion to reach a conclusion that enforcing our values on others is just plain unacceptable.

We, as civilized and tolerant human beings, should be able to decide upon that using our conscience alone, regardless of what your religion has to say about it.

To each, her own. And yes, this freedom is for you too.

A Western Liberal’s Guide to Islamic Realities

If you’re an American liberal, or a liberal from any one of the other ‘Western’ nations, there’s a chance that you’ve worn out the word ‘Islamophobia’ through repetitive use.

One such liberal is Nathan Lean, who wrote an almost-horeshit article for Salon recently. “Almost” because it raises some valid points, “horseshit” because, well, it’s horseshit.

For too long, many Western liberals have acted as apologists for the Islamic ideology as a special courtesy to the Muslim minorities who, since 9/11, have suffered much discrimination. Please stop that. Recognize the difference between attacking Muslims and attacking  their beliefs, these are not the same.

Nathan Lean makes the following objections about the activities of prominent atheists, which I will respond to individually.

1) Dawkins cannot assert that Islam’s a dangerous ideology if he hasn’t read the Quran.

I liked Dawkins’ example that you can conclude that Nazism is dangerous without actually reading the Mein Kampf (this is not a correlation between the two books).

It’s evident from Dawkins’ works that he is very well aware of Islamic concepts and beliefs, even if he has not read the exact text from which these beliefs are derived.  That, and the statistical fact that religious terrorism is almost entirely a fief of Islam in today’s world, imbues some credibility to Dawkins’ claims.

2) Chomsky has criticized Dawkins and Hitchens as “religious fanatics” who demand that their followers blindly support the whims of politicians.

Chomsky’s a dick. Take it from a citizen of Pakistan, whose army Chomsky has publicly praised as highly efficient – the same organization that is accused of providing protection to Osama bin Laden (whose hideout was only a short drive away from a military academy) as well as other Islamist groups, consistently interfering in the country’s political processes, and committing unspeakable human rights violations in Balochistan.

Besides, the crux of Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ entire narrative is evidence, evidence and evidence. Speaking of which, Chomsky cannot offer any proof that these two have ever led their followers to blindly support anything.

3) Dawkins’ tweets about women in Islam

Dawkins tweeted: “Islam is comforting? Tell that to a woman, dressed in a bin bag [trash bag], her testimony worth half a man’s and needing 4 male witnesses to prove rape.”

Assuming that Nathan Lean has read the Quran, unlike Dawkins who allegedly just pulls stuff out of his behind, he should be aware of the following verse:

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And let two men from among you bear witness to all such documents [contracts of loans without interest]. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her. (2:282)
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And unlike Christians, most Muslims today take the Quran literally.

The four-witnesses rule has been followed by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan until 2006 (and still followed in certain Islamic countries). And full body covering is a common religious rule which, though not strictly found in the Quran, is followed by countless Muslims around the world in the name of Islam. These are not just actions of a “few bad Muslims”, these are hard Islamic principles.

And then there’s the objection to this tweet by Dawkins: “Next gem from BBC Idiot Zoo: ‘Some women feel “protected” by the niqab.'”. It’s an objection that makes no sense, unless you think covering your face is a harmless thing, and not a social barrier. Clearly, you’re not a feminist.

Dawkins and other prominent atheists have been just as sardonic and acerbic with unreasonable Christian dicta.

4) Dawkins lambasted UCL and the Islamic group for allowing segregation.

They didn’t allow the segregation, they enforced it. Lawrence Krauss reported that he was outraged to see some nice young people being split up and told where to sit by the organizers, which was apparently the trigger for him almost storming out.

Lean makes a fair point that Dawkins should have criticized the gender-separate seating options for orthodox Jews at the Barclays Center, New York. But it’s highly likely that it simply did not fall on Dawkins’ radar (the UCL gender-segregation incident was made famous in the atheist community because it was hosting a God debate. Also, unless you’re advocating the two-wrongs-make-a-right-rule, I think we’re done.

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Dear Western Liberals,

I’m an ex-Muslim, born and raised among the Muslims in an Islamic country. I’ve studied Islam in much detail. And unlike you, who might have done the same probably just to appear more open-minded to your liberal friends, I did it because I had very little choice in the matter.

Your apologia for Islam offends us; a personal slap to my face, and to the face of just about every ex-Muslim, every woman, homosexual, non-Muslim, freethinker and free-spirit, who has been discriminated against, if not overtly oppressed, under Islamic law.

Your fervor for defending Muslims from discrimination and wicked stereotypes is admirable, and I share this fervor as well. But I must insist that you recognize the distinction between protecting Muslims’ from bigots, and acknowledging the dangers posed by the Islamic ideology.

No, all Muslims are not misogynists or terrorists. But that is usually because they have made a conscious or subconscious decision to ignore many of the rougher, archaic tenets, or re-interpret them to become more compatible with the modern era. Otherwise, you cannot be a spokesperson for gender equality, the LGBT community, free speech, AND Islam at the same time.

Again, please stop cozying up to an obviously harmful ideology as a courtesy to the mistreated Muslim minorities in your countries.