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Edward Feser on Islamophobia

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Philosopher Edward Feser at his blog has a very interesting post on the concept of  “Islamophilia” and its twin,”Islamophobia”, a term used commonly to shut up people who note the obvious:  that adherents to Islam commit most acts of terrorism in the modern world:

By the same token, it would be ridiculous to dismiss McCarthy’s claim merely on the grounds that it must reflect nothing more than “Islamophobic” “bigotry.”  Indeed, McCarthy could fling an accusation of “Islamophilic bigotry” back at anyone who would make such a claim.  As I pointed out in the post on liberalism and Islam, there are several factors that predispose political liberals too quickly to dismiss the very suggestion that there might be a connection between Islamic doctrine on the one hand and violence and illiberal politics on the other.  For example, the very workability of liberalism as a political project presupposes that what John Rawls called “comprehensive doctrines,” or at least comprehensive doctrines with a large number of adherents, are compatible with basic liberal premises (and thus “reasonable,” as Rawlsian liberals conceive of “reasonableness”). If it turned out there is a “comprehensive doctrine” with a large number of adherents which is simply not compatible with basic liberal premises, that would be a very serious problem for the entire liberal project.  Hence liberals are bound to be reluctant to conclude that there is any such “comprehensive doctrine,” or to look for evidence that might support such a conclusion. 

Then there is the fact that egalitarianism is one of the dogmas of modern liberalism, just as the divinity of Christ is a dogma of Christianity or the divine origin of the Quran is a dogma of Islam.  Many liberals find it almost impossible to understand how even a mildly negative characterization of some religion, culture, or group could be anything but an expression of unreasoning hatred.  Hence epithets like “bigot” play, within liberalism, the same role that words like “heretic” often do within religion.  They are a means of silencing dissenters and sending a warning to anyone even considering dissent from egalitarianism.  The irony is that plugging one’s ears and screaming “Bigot!” at someone who is trying to present a reasoned argument is, of course, itself a kind of bigotry — perhaps the worst kind, insofar as someone self-righteously in love with the idea that he is the paradigmatic anti-bigot is the least likely of all bigots to see his prejudices for what they are.

Again, see the earlier post on liberalism and Islam for discussion of other aspects of modern liberalism which can predispose many liberals against looking at Islam objectively.  The point for the moment is this.  On the one hand, McCarthy can note that any critic inclined to dismiss his position as mere bigotry should seriously consider that there are reasons why the critic may be himself less objective on the subject at hand than he likes to think he is.  And on the other hand, McCarthy can point to what one finds in Islamic scripture and law, in the history of terrorism during the last few decades, and indeed in the entire history of Islam as evidence in favor of his position.

Of course, that does not by itself demonstrate that McCarthy is right.  But any critic of McCarthy plausibly faces a “falsificationist challenge” of a sort that parallels the falsificationist challenge Antony Flew once raised against theists (a challenge I discussed in the earlier post on the logic of falsification).  Paraphrasing Flew, the challenge might be stated as follows:

What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of your claim that there is no special connection between Islam and terrorism, or between Islam and illiberal politics?

In other words, if evidence of the sort McCarthy cites does not establish his claim, what evidence will the critic admit would establish it?  Unless the critic can offer a serious response to this question, he cannot plausibly claim that it is he rather than McCarthy who is free of prejudice. Continue Reading

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Ahmed Mohamed Hoax?

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By now most of America knows about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14 year old teenager arrested at his school:

 

Irving’s police chief announced Wednesday that charges won’t be filed against Ahmed Mohamed, the MacArthur High School freshman arrested Monday after he brought what school officials and police described as a “hoax bomb” on campus.

At a joint press conference with Irving ISD, Chief Larry Boyd said the device — confiscated by an English teacher despite the teen’s insistence that it was a clock — was “certainly suspicious in nature.”

School officers questioned Ahmed about the device and why Ahmed had brought it to school. Boyd said Ahmed was then handcuffed “for his safety and for the safety of the officers” and taken to a juvenile detention center. He was later released to his parents, Boyd said.

“The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm,” Boyd said, describing the incident as a “naive accident.”

Asked if the teen’s religious beliefs factored into his arrest, Boyd said the reaction “would have been the same” under any circumstances.

“We live in an age where you can’t take things like that to school,” he said. “Of course we’ve seen across our country horrific things happen, so we have to err on the side of caution.”

 

Obama has invited the kid to the White House and he has become Exhibit A against American “Islamophobia”.

One problem with all this:  it is possible that the entire incident was staged by the boy and his father.

First, Anthony at Art Voice has taken a very close look at this clock allegedly “invented” by Ahmed:

I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. So, before you scroll down and leave me angry comments, please continue to the end (or not – prove my point, and miss the point, entirely!)

For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics. Surely you’ve seen a modern circuit board, with metallic traces leading all over to the various components like an electronic spider’s web. You’ll notice right away the highly accurate spacing, straightness of the lines, consistency of the patterns. That’s because we design things on computers nowadays, and computers assist in routing these lines. Take a look at the board in Ahmed’s clock. It almost looks hand-drawn, right? That’s because it probably was. Computer aided design was in its infancy in the 70s. This is how simple, low cost items (like an alarm clock) were designed. Today, even a budding beginner is going to get some computer aided assistance – in fact they’ll probably start there, learning by simulating designs before building them. You can even simulate or lay out a board with free apps on your phone or tablet. A modern hobbyist usually wouldn’t be bothered with the outdated design techniques. There’s also silk screening on the board. An “M” logo, “C-94” (probably, a part number – C might even stand for “clock”), and what looks like an American flag. More about that in a minute. Point for now being, a hobbyist wouldn’t silk screen logos and part numbers on their home made creation. It’s pretty safe to say already we’re looking at ’70s tech, mass produced in a factory.

So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 756.

The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.

For one last bit of confirmation, I located the pencil box Ahmed used for his project. During this video interview he again claims it was his “invention” and that he “made” the device – but the important thing at the moment, at 1:13, we see him showing the pencil box on his computer screen. Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly.

So there you have it folks, Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me.

If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.

I refer back again to this YouTube video interview with Ahmed. He explains that he closed up the box with a piece of cord because he didn’t want it to look suspicious. I’m curious, why would “looking suspicious” have even crossed his mind before this whole event unfolded, if he was truly showing off a hobby project, something so innocuous as an alarm clock. Why did he choose a pencil box, one that looks like a miniature briefcase no less, as an enclosure for a clock? It’s awful hard to see the clock with the case closed. On the other hand, with the case open, it’s awful dangerous to have an exposed power transformer sitting near the snooze button (unless, perhaps his invention was to stop serial-snooze-button pressers by giving them a dangerous electrical shock!)

Go here to read the rest.  Why go through all this for a fake alleged invention?  Ahmed’s dad might be a clue: Continue Reading