Thursday, 29 April 2021

Persecution News - The Doubt That Strikes Terror in the Heart of Religions.

Said Djabelkhir,
Algeria: quash the conviction of humanist academic Said Djabelkhir, Freethinker
Sentenced to 3 years in prison and a 50,000 Dinar fine.

Can you imagine a fundamental disagreement between two scientists over a basic principle in science resulting in the state locking up one of the scientists while supporters of the other called for his execution?

That's exactly what has happened in Algeria because of a fundamental disagreement in Islam.

With science, one way or another the difference would be resolved by debate, discovering the facts and allowing them to speak for themselves. An honest assessment of that evidence would then lead to a consensus while the minority view would still be debated and researched and eventually would reassert itself, or more likely wither away into oblivion as a historical anachronism to be taught to student of history as stuff we used to believe before we knew any better.

It is a fight that must continue for freedom of conscience, for freedom of opinion and for freedom of expression. The fight for freedom of conscience is non-negotiable.

Said Djabelkhi
Science can do this because science is led by evidence and the facts are rightly regarded as neutral in any debate. The debate is never about who can shout loudest or has the power to carry out threats and enforce dogma, but about the quality and reliability of the evidence as the basis for forming opinions, and there is no shame or loss of standing in a changed mind - quite the contrary, in fact.

But religion doesn't have that luxury because there are no neutral facts to act as referees in the debate and knowing this make proponents very insecure, especially those whose power and privileges depend on religion. The debate is almost always 'won' by whoever can best enforce the dogma and bully the other side into compliance.

Before you run away with the idea that this is a problem unique to Islam, remember that until a couple of hundred years ago, this was just as much so for Christianity as it is today for Islam and there are still Christian countries with anti-blasphemy laws, similar in scope and purpose to those in Algeria and other Islamic countries.

Said Djabelkhir, as a researcher and a humanist, has always welcomed and promoted discussion and criticism of his ideas in a civilized and transparent manner, and he has always been a prominent advocate for freedom of speech and thought. It is greatly disappointing that the Algerian authorities have chosen to place religion higher than legitimate academic enquiry.

Kacem El Ghazzali
Humanist International
The problem is especially acute in Islam because fundamental to the religion is that unproven and unprovable claim that the Qur'an was literally dictated by a messenger from Allah (the angel Gibril) to Muhammad and is thus the unquestionable, inerrant, eternal truth, as revealed by an omniscient god to mankind. So, anything which questions that absolute also questions the supposed absolute truth in the Qur'an, as interpreted by Islamic clerics. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, the entire power structure depends on the say-so of Islamic clerics who derive their power from the Qur'an and the notion of divine authority inherited from Muhammad himself as Allah's chosen and 'perfect' ultimate prophet, because the Qur'an says so.

Given the fragility of that claim, you can understand the twitchiness of the clerics, who can't afford to allow even the slightest relaxation of that absolute for fear that the entire edifice will begin to crumble and collapse.

Mind you, Christianity's claim to be based on divine authority and revelation is no better and, in many ways, essentially the same - the circular fallacy that the Bible is the word of God as revealed through prophets - because the Bible says so.

For this reason, the Humanist academic, Said Djabelkhir, has been charged with 'blasphemy' in Algeria under Article 144 bis 2 of the Algerian Penal Code, and faces 3 years in prison and a 50,000 Dinar fine. He will undoubtedly face an uncertain future when released as the experience in other Islamic countries is that those accused, let alone convicted, of blasphemy are frequently assassinated even if they go into exile.

Djabelkhir's crime? As an expert on Sufism (the Islamic equivalent of Quakerism with Humanist leanings) he founded an organisation dedicated to a more progressive form of Islam, known as Cercle des Lumières pour la pensée libre (Circle of Enlightenment for Free Thought) and, in his writings, had questioned some aspects of Islamic rituals such as the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and animal sacrifices at Eid which was seen as "an attack and mockery of the authentic hadiths of the Sunna [the custom and practice] of the Prophet,” [which] had caused individuals psychological harm.

Giving reasons to people to have a healthy doubt about certain aspects of their faith is seen as causing them psychological harm! The only harm free thought is doing is threatening the power, privileges and livelihood of the clerics.

A faith which is afraid of open debate is not a faith; it is a fear.

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