That liberal-conservative continuum, where Democrats and Republicans represent ‘polar-opposites,’ — I am not on that continuum. I can see it from where I stand. But I am not defined by Democrat nor Republican points of view. I am defined by my own point of view. Not everyone sees the world this way. Some can only see it from the perspective of the fish they school with.
In Saudi Arabia, the 14 prisoners who were condemned to death for attending a pro-democracy rally have had their death sentences upheld by their ‘justice system.’ The prisoners have been transferred to Riyad, where executions are typically held. Now they await a royal decree that the executions can take place.
In Davis, California, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric named Ammar Shahin gave a sermon this past week during which he prayed for the death of all Jews. Why? Because, in his mind, this is what Allah wants.
Mr. Shahin and the Saudi judicial system are guilty of the same flawed thinking. They both believe that God ordained the violence in their hearts. He did not. They merely have dark hearts. Neither party speaks for God. And neither speaks for Islam. I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace. But I cannot see peaceful intentions in praying for the death of Jews, nor in the execution of people who simply want a voice in how their government is run.
Islam has to change. It is unimaginable that a hatred for Jews, or the execution of these prisoners, is something that God would want. Ammar Shahin. Saudi judges. Why are your hearts so dark? Why do you stand on the side of evil?
In the news stories about the 14 condemned Saudi protesters, I only saw 2 names being shared. Munir al-Adam and Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat. I wanted to learn the names of the other 12. Sharing their names would be a great way to bring awareness to their plight. I emailed Reprieve.org.uk, looking for a full list of names. They responded first thing this morning. Unfortunately, at this time we don’t even know the identities of the condemned men.
Reprieve has an online petition to the Saudi Government speaking out against the death sentence handed to these political prisoners. Anyone who values human rights and democracy, and wants to do something, they can sign the online petition.
This has been in the making for some time. I was inspired to write a book. I was disturbed enough to try. For the past few years I have been hard at work developing the themes and concepts I wish to discuss, and integrating them into a model of the book. The book itself was too complex to write in one go. I had to build a model of it, to help me see what I was trying to say.
In some ways, the book has been a healthy diversion from life’s problems. I have a form of muscular dystrophy that makes things quite challenging. Several years ago I was forced to quit the working world, and deal head on with this. It took a lot of effort to learn how to live with failing strength. But I have. Recently I moved from Arizona to North Carolina. Soon I will move from an apartment into a home. This was unthinkable three and four years ago. But think it I did and now here I am.
Last year, at the beginning of summer, I made my first road trip, on my own. I went to the 29th annual Pima Writers Workshop, in Tucson. I submitted a manuscript to be critiqued by an agent. First time doing that. The guy likes my writing, but not as a book. This did not stop me. But it got me thinking about the scope of what I am trying to describe. I have an awful lot of material that contradicts our understanding of ourselves.
One of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this year was to write for an audience. Begin publishing. This blog has been on and off the back burner since its inception. It has been difficult to keep this up while dealing with everything else. But when I found the home, it occurred to me that I had achieved a goal I had set when I first could no longer work. I had gotten myself out of one living situation I could no longer handle physically, and into one that I could. A couple weeks ago I met at the house with a contractor to get a quote on a wheelchair ramp and a front deck, to replace the wooden staircase leading to the front door. Afterwards, getting back in my van, I had to pause for a vision. Something was telling me that I could finally pick up the blog again, and sustain it.
We live in a world gone mad. I have been following the problem of radical Islam with intense disturbed fascination. My writing interests have converged with world events. I have spent my life finding the words to describe a phenomenon that regularly now is making the news. Then, in the past few days, news broke of the pending executions of 14 pro-democracy demonstrators in Saudi Arabia. As a writer, I feel a need to do something. It is time to put an end to this madness.
My goal is to stop these executions from happening, by bringing attention to their plight. But this is a short term goal. Long term, my goal is to challenge our understanding of God, so that radical Islam loses its power. My method will be to counter the narrative of radical Islam by describing it in new terms. Religions like Islam and Christianity present a false view of God. I am building a case. We need a new understanding. Something rational. Because we have reached the limits of faith.
Morally speaking, is Saudi Arabia any better than the Islamic State? The Islamic State is our enemy, and deservedly so. They use Islam as justification for violence. The violence is meant to silence their critics, and to intimidate the masses. Saudi Arabia is our ally. They are set to execute 14 men for attending a pro-democracy rally. The youngest of the group, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was only 17 when he was arrested at an airport in his homeland, on his way to study at Western Michigan University. He never got there. Instead, he was tried and sentenced to death for attending a rally. He is set to be executed for exercising political speech. What is the difference between ISIS and Saudi Arabia? Why are we allied with one and against the other? Do they not represent the same form of evil?
This is outrageous. Saudi Arabia, an economic ally of the United States, is prepared to execute 14 men for the crime of what we in America would think of as a simple exercise of free speech. Five years ago, they were convicted for attending a pro-democracy protest. Another man on Saudi death row was convicted of inviting people to the protest, and administering first aid to demonstrators at the event. (This story does not make clear why demonstrators needed first aid. In all likelihood, Saudi police were involved.) These men were convicted of simply exercising the freedoms of thought, speech, and to organize. Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States, but they do not share our values. We support freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. Saudi Arabia uses Islam to brutally control the masses within their domain. They are in many ways, the antithesis of America. Their government is founded on an irrational set of beliefs. It stands for immoral positions.
Enough is enough! As an American, I am compelled to oppose the execution of all political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. Anyone who supports democracy is our friend. Anyone who opposes democracy is our enemy. Saudi Arabia must make a choice. These men facing execution are allies to our values. The Saudi Government wants them dead. We cannot allow this to happen. If they want to be our partners, they must embrace our values. If they cannot embrace human rights, the people of the United States should demand that our government force the Saudis to stop. As nations, we should either go our separate ways, our we should work to separate Islam from government within Saudi Arabia.
To stop these executions, please reach out to your congressmen and congresswomen. Please call or write the White House. Demand that the United States Government take a firm an unequivocal stand against Saudi human rights abuses.
The UK based legal charity, Reprieve, is spearheading the fight for the lives of these 14 men.
When free versions are available, why did I pay good money for this translation of the Quran? Some of the value is in the English-language translation itself. But much of the book is commentary from experts on Islam. I paid for that. Initially, I made a good faith effort to read the entire book, page by page. But by the time I made it through the introduction, through the first surah and into the second, I realized that the commentary was bogging me down. Most of this book consists of commentary. For now, it distracts me from my purpose.
So I have spent the week reading the Quran, but focusing on Mohammed’s words exclusively. It is slow but rewarding work. I take the time to copy passages into my journal so that I can better argue with the ideas themselves. When I read, I argue. If I don’t argue, I am not engaged. The fact that I am arguing much with the Quran means that I am very engaged by what it says. When I get to the end of the 114th surah, I will have the basis for my for the article I am writing. I won’t be done. But I will be on my way.
I want to explain why I cannot embrace Islam. Idealogical differences motivate me. More than a quarter century ago, I left the Catholic church. My reasons for rejecting Christianity were just as valid then as they are now. But they apply equally well to Islam. I am convinced more than ever that religion misrepresents God.