Monday, January 17, 2011

What America Can Learn From the Rise of Infanticide in Pakistan

Yesterday, I read an article discussing how infanticide is on the rise in Pakistan. This is of course disturbing in and of itself, however, I believe that anti-abortion groups need to take a look at this situation.

The article states that abortion is illegal in Pakistan. So, in desperation women commit infanticide instead. While the effect is the same in abortion and infanticide, I believe that infanticide is worse. One reason abortion is controversial is because different people have different definitions of when the dividing group of cells becomes a baby. Once a women reaches her full term and gives birth, there can be no doubt that it is a baby being killed. Additionally, with abortion, the horror of the act is confined to the mother and the doctor performing the procedure. Can you think how horrible it would be to find a baby dead in the dumpester?

Additionally, making abortion illegal does not stop "back alley" abortions. These can be very dangerous to the mother's health. If a woman is going to get an abortion anyways, then she should have access to safe, clean facilities. Even if one sees abortion as taking a life, having a safe abortion could be seen as saving a life. Furthermore, the life of the mother could be seen as more valuable than that of the fetus/baby because she has created more social connects and thus there are more people that care about what happens to her.

So, pro-lifers in this country can look to countries where abortion is illegal and see the results. Undoubtedly, any country that outlaws abortion will see similar outcome, to a certain degree. While the infanticide in Pakistan can be largely seen as a byproduct of poverty, if abortion were illegal here, then some women would inevitably see infanticide as their only option.

Abortions are like drugs, you can make them illegal, but they will not stop. Illegal abortions could be sought. Others will induce a miscarriage through herbal means. If a woman eats excess amounts of parsley, it can cause a miscarriage. Will parsley have to be outlawed? How do we imprison someone for excess parsley consumption?   

Nobody likes the idea of abortion. However, outlawing it will be a greater harm to society than having them legal. While we might label abortion as murder, we cannot truly judge a women for her decision to get an abortion because we are not walking in her shoes. It is the women that has to live with the knowledge of what she has done. If we believe that abortion is a sin, let God be the judge of it, not us.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Why Becoming Muslim Was One of the Most American Things I Have Ever Done

     In America these days, and indeed much of the rest of the West, there a feeling that Islam is not compatible with Western ideals. Anyone who embraces Islam is, therefore, seen as turning their backs on their own society. This idea is of course reinforced by the fact that the news often features converts that really have turned their back on Western society and joined the likes of Al Qaeda.
     The American Revolution was based on the principles of the Enlightenment. These are the ideals that shaped our government. According to Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant:

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity
is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another.
This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but
lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The
motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own
understanding!...It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in
place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge
my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think,
so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me."

     Therefore, America was founded on the idea that all rational beings should think for themselves and not just "follow the pack." For myself, and many other converts to Islam that I have met, the path to Islam starts with questioning the things we are told about religion. We use our reason, and assess religious tenets and practices for ourselves, instead of just going along with "the guidance of another."

     Kant says "Have courage to use your own understanding!" It really does take courage to convert. Not only does it take courage to go against how one was brought up, but for women that decide to wear the hijab, it requires courage to declare to not just one's family, but the whole world your new religious affiliation.

     "It is so convenient to be immature!" Therefore, it is not surprising that many religious converts fall back into the habit of being solely guided by others. The convert's enters into the religion anxious to do everything right, and so consulting people established in the religion, it is easy to fall back into allowing others to think for us about religious matters. This could explain why some converts fall in with the extreme groups.

"Thus it is difficult for each separate individual to work his way out of the
immaturity which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown fond
of it and is really incapable for the time being of using his own understanding,
because he was never allowed to make the attempt. Dogmas and formulas, those
mechanical instruments for rational use (or rather misuse) of his natural
endowments, are the ball and chain of his permanent immaturity. And if anyone
did throw them off, he would still be uncertain about jumping over even the
narrowest of trenches, for he would be unaccustomed to free movement of this
kind. Thus only a few, by cultivating the;r own minds, have succeeded in freeing
themselves from immaturity and in continuing boldly on their way."

     I will conclude this post by encouraging people in all religions (either converts or those born into a religion) to think for yourself about religious matters.
     If you would like to read the rest of Kant's essay "What is Enlightenment?", you can find it  here.

Also, please view my new blog A Religious Renaissance.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Solitaire and Other Games

Thanks to the fact that solitaire has come standard with Windows computers for years now, it is one of the most popular computer games. A simple game that just requires the player to organize the cards into their suites. A quick, easy break from the drudgery of work.
These days, it is Bejeweled Blitz that I turn to for my game break. A game of quickly matching gems by color. It only requires a minute, and is more exciting than solitaire.
These games, while seemingly different, come down to basically the same concept. Organizing cards or gems based upon some criteria.
And these games are played by millions of people. I personally find them to be addictive and spend more time on them than I would like. I really could make better use of my time. Perhaps if I didn't have these games, I could have time to straighten my desk.
In fact, why should these games be preferred to straightening my desk (or any other space for that matter)? They are all basically the same task of organizing items. So, if I find it unappealing when I am organizing productively, then why is it so appealing in the "games"?
Could it be the mere association created by the labels of "work" and "game"? I think that that is part of it, but I think that it is more about the significance attached to each activity. The "games" don't have the significance attached to them that actually organizing one's living space does. There is a pressure to get it organized the right way. That is the difference.
Personally, I don't intend to stop playing the games. But next time you play one, you might consider that you are doing work in disguise.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Everyone a Terrorist?

Is it just me, or is the the term terrorist being overused?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, there were talks of a body scan "opt-out" day, where people would undergo the pat downs to protest the scans, that might be thought of as obtrusive. Commenting on this, Whoopi Goldberg said that she thought that the mass opt-out was an act of terrorism.
Here is a clip of the comment:

Additionally, Wikileaks founder, Julian Assage, was called a "high tech terrorist" by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. Here is the transcript from Meet the Press.

According to my dictionary, terrorism is "the use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."

In the case of the body scan "opt-outers" there was neither violence or intimidation involved. These people were exercising their right to choose between the two screening methods. This is not terrorism, it is a peaceful protest. Inconvenient? Yes. Inefficient? Yes. Terrorism? No.

Now, in mentioning Julian Assage, I will not (at this time) comment if he is right or wrong in posting the information that he has posted. I will only attempt to assess if his actions fall under the definition of terrorism.

Well, he did not engage in violence or intimidation in posting the leaks. Therefore, this could not be counted as an act of terrorism either.

Now, both of these instances might have had political aims, but just because one has political aims, does not make them a terrorist. The protests in the 60's had political aims, but they were not counted as acts of terrorism. Why should these be counted as such?

In overusing the word terrorist, we end up shifting the severity of events. Can the people who refused the body scans be declared equals to the people who committed 9/11?

Calling the people that refused body scans terrorists suggest a criminality to their actions, when there is none. Additionally, it trivializes the actions that really are terrorism.

People never change. This is just a repackaged form of McCarthyism.