Some Reflections on Recent News

Before you ask, “Where are the supposed majority of moderate Muslims denouncing terrorism?” it might be useful to ask, “Where are the supposed majority of moderate Republicans denouncing Donald Trump?”

It’s so easy for a religion, a political party, a race, a culture, a sexual preference, or just about anything to get hijacked by assholes, and it’s so hard to get it back once that’s happened.

How many ways do we human beings divide ourselves up?

Christians and unbelievers. Muslims and unbelievers. Jews and unbelievers. Buddhists and unbelievers.

Those with penises and those without. Those who like penises and those who don’t.

Whites and coloreds. Blacks and Whites. Kikuyus and Luos. The Loyalists and the Nationalists.

Those who suffer under the oppression of the Patriarchy and those who enjoy Privilege.

Those who know we’re all just human beings and those who don’t.

And so it goes. The list goes on and on. The details don’t matter. They really don’t. They just don’t. Who the fuck even cares? You sure don’t.

Maybe someday we’ll find a way to stop dividing up the human race into teams, but that day is a long way off.

Team Stupid blew up some people in Belgium the other day. A couple days after that they blew some up in Iraq. A few days earlier they blew some up in Turkey.

We all have just one life. There’s no Heaven or Paradise or 78 Virgins awaiting any of us. There’s no Jesus to forgive your sins. There’s no Buddha to grant you Enlightenment. We won’t be reincarnated or reborn.

This is it. Your one show. Everything you do is carved into the Universe forever and never, never goes away.

There is never any shortage of reasons to hate. You can even hate hate. You can even be intolerant of intolerance. You can kill for any nation or any religion. You can kill for goodness and love.

There’s no solution in thought. There’s no idea or string of ideas that will ever solve this. There’s no book. There’s no creed. Nothing your brain can ever work out is going to fix this. Forget about it.

That doesn’t mean there’s no solution. It’s just that you can’t think this one through. There’s no “Just do this and it’s all better” answer to this one. There’s no pill you can pop.

Some people are crazy. They are never going to learn. They are committed to Team Stupid come hell or high water.

When you say everyone has a right to live, then they do too. When you say everyone has a right to voice their ideas, then they do to. When you say everyone has a right to bear arms, then they do too.

Your responsibility to and for everything extends beyond your feeble ability to even so much as comprehend more than a tiny fraction of everything you own and everything you are.

You want an answer? Here? From me? You have got to be joking.

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67 Responses

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  1. John_eg
    John_eg March 25, 2016 at 3:55 pm |

    “Team stupid blew up some people in Belgium”

    You mean Muslims blew up some people in Belgium, do you find that difficult to say?

    1. Sabi Wabi Woo Woo
      Sabi Wabi Woo Woo March 26, 2016 at 1:49 am |

      Your missed the entire article didn’t you, I guess that qualifies you as a bona fide member of Team Stupid.

      1. John_eg
        John_eg March 26, 2016 at 2:39 am |

        I read all of the article Sabi Wabi Woo Woo, let me try again…

        “It’s so easy for a religion, a political party, a race, a culture, a sexual preference, or just about anything to get hijacked by assholes”

        Muhammad himself engaged in violence. In Islam the gap between the original ideal and the “hijacking assholes” is not so large since it isn’t difficult to interpret the Koran as sanctioning violence against infidels.

        Why is any U.S. voter to blame if they look at terrorists coming out of Molenbeek on the news and think “I don’t want that happening in my city I’m voting Trump”?

        Brad linked to a news piece about Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Burma. People tend to find that shocking when they first hear about it. But imagine being Buddhist in Saudi Arabia for example, we don’t find it surprising that non-Muslims are persecuted in Muslim countries. And Islamists want to impose Sharia law in Europe and everywhere they can (Search for Sharia4Belgium on Youtube…). Talking about these issues means accepting there are aspects of Islam which need to be criticised and that at this current point in history further mass immigration of Muslims into western countries may be dangerous for those countries. Happy to hear opposing viewpoints but that doesn’t include writings on this subject which simply duck the difficult questions, and I’d put this blogpost in that category which makes it a contrast to Brad’s writing on most other subjects.

        1. Sabi Wabi Woo Woo
          Sabi Wabi Woo Woo March 26, 2016 at 3:37 am |

          You read it but you didn’t understand:

          BW: How many ways do we human beings divide ourselves up?

          John_eg : You mean Muslims blew up some people in Belgium, do you find that difficult to say?

          Your initial statement says Muslims blew people up, not terrorists, or Islamist terrorists or ISIS or Daesh or ISIL or whatever other term you want to use. You went with the the blanket term “Muslims” thereby offending any true follower of Islam and dividing them (bad people ie Muslims) from us (Good people with religions/beliefs that have never been warped or abused by assholes seeking power over others).
          So yeah I stand by my statement that you didn’t understand where Brad was coming from.

          I am not saying that Islam shouldn’t face criticism , I am saying your first statement was divisive, incendiary and essentially lacking in even cursory intelligence qualifying the person who made that statement as a bona fide member of Team Stupid. Luckily for you if your a Zennie, that person died like a gazillion times between when you wrote it and now so hopefully that wrong view has had a million chances to look at the way it creates self and other, slapped itself on the wrist and said ‘do better next time’ and taken the opportunity to be less of a jerk next time.

          1. John_eg
            John_eg March 26, 2016 at 4:19 am |

            Sabi Wabi Woo Woo, to whom was my statement incendiary and divisive? Only to someone with a very thin skin. How is it different to you calling me stupid which you’ve now done twice?

            Brad is pushing the idea that Islamic violence has nothing to do with Islamic teachings, it is just assholes who could have hijacked anything else as a vehicle for their violence. But how does he know this? The ISIS leader has a Phd in Islamic theology so I’m guessing he understands Islam better than Brad. Imagine him saying Brad’s writings really have nothing to do with Dogen?!

            Brad writes at length here about not dividing ourselves from other people, great! But in Europe it is Muslim communities that divide themselves from the wider culture not the other way around, and this becomes a problem when radicalisation begins to spread within those communities. As for “…those who know we’re all just human beings and those who don’t…” Take the scandals in UK cities where Muslim men have formed gangs that abuse non-muslim children (google Rotherham sex scandal), who is seeing an out-group as less human than their in-group in those cases?

            These are serious issues, I don’t think you’ve grasped that if you’re more worried about my “incendiary” remark.

          2. Sabi Wabi Woo Woo
            Sabi Wabi Woo Woo March 27, 2016 at 4:20 am |


            John: Sabi Wabi Woo Woo, to whom was my statement incendiary and divisive?

            Me: Umm I reckon Muslims might be offended maybe? As a non-Muslim I can’t speak for them in this case, but claiming Muslims blew people up in Belgium rather than ISIS or Islamist (which seems to be the PC word for linking terrorists inspired by a warped view of the Quran) Terrorists is part of the problem. In one sweep it is reducing an entire culture and religion with its myriad forms, interpretations and lived experience down to nothing more than a bunch of psychotic bullies. This can only be done by someone with little experience with Muslims. I grew up with Muslims (I was a white minority in my Western Sydney, Australia School yard, and spent much of my time playing and studying alongside Muslims), and have travelled extensively through Turkey, Egypt and Asia, and have always found them to be the most hospitable, accommodating and friendly people.

            John: Only to someone with a very thin skin. How is it different to you calling me stupid which you’ve now done twice?

            Me: I didn’t say you were stupid -I said you were on Team Stupid, that is the team that seperates self from other and claims moral superiority over them. By doing this you work side by side with the terrorists and help them to accomplish their aims just as much as some naive kid who is convinced to strap on a bomb and walk into a cafe filled with tourists. If the terrorists aim is to start a war between Islam and the west, then getting westerners to turn on Muslims and claim that they are all defective in their reasoning, that their religion is inherently violent and that they wont stop until we are all adherents of their defective faith, then the terrorists cause is advanced everytime some westerner carries on in this way. Rather would’nt it be better to go your nearest Muslim neighbour, declare solidarity with them, and offer your support for them in what for them must be a world that is increasingly hostile towards them.

            Also any religious text can be interpreted in different ways – Zen is full of violent stories/analogies that could be misconstrued and used to justify being an arsehole. Indeed Brian Victoria’s Zen at War is full of examples of how Zen can be twisted to justify killing the ‘Other’.

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 25, 2016 at 4:17 pm |

    That made a lot of sense; blowing off steam, whilst putting in a plug for non-thinking.

    I find it more useful to plug away at realizing the kind of separation of activity that D. L. Bartilink described, the movement of the diaphragm one thing, the activity that sustains pressure in the fluid ball of the abdomen another. The rubbing of the stomach, the patting of the head.

    Or if you prefer:

    “We should keep our thoughts on the spirit and not on the ch’i. When they are on the ch’i, then it is blocked. If there is ch’i, then there is no strength; without ch’i then essential hardness is achieved.”

    (“Master Cheng’s Thirteen Chapters on T’ai-Chi Chuan”, translated by Douglas Wile, pg 12)

    Meanwhile, back at the oasis, many Arabs were eating their dates.

  3. Mumbles
    Mumbles March 25, 2016 at 5:24 pm |

    Wrong-minded people do voice opinions
    as do truth-minded people too.
    When an opinion is stated, the sage is not drawn in-
    there’s nothing arid about the sage.

    Nowhere does a lucid one
    hold contrived views about “it is” or “it is not.”
    How could he succumb to them,
    having let go of illusions and conceit?

    The priest without borders
    doesn’t seize on what he’s known or beheld.
    Not passionate, not dispassionate,
    he doesn’t posit anything as ultimate.

    Sutta-Nipata, K.R. Norman trans.

  4. Bubba
    Bubba March 25, 2016 at 6:56 pm |

    Splish, splash
    I was takin’ a bath
    Long about a Saturday night… yeah!
    Just relaxin’ in the tub
    Thinkin’ everything was all right.

    Well… I stepped out the tub
    Put my feet on the floor
    I wrapped the towel around me
    And I opened the door.

    And… then-a… splish, splash
    I jumped back in the bath
    Well… how was I to know
    There was a party going on.

    They was a splishin’ and a splashin’
    Reelin’ with the feelin’
    Moving and a groovin’
    Rockin’ and a rollin’… yeah!

    Sutta-SplishSplash, Bobby Darin trans.

  5. Wedged
    Wedged March 26, 2016 at 7:15 am |

    Why no blog and promotions about the new book? It came out yesterday…you should be using this blog to promote…last book u had a live video feed too. We should all be talking about the book!!! I keep checking the site thinking there must be posts about it so we can get conversations about that going.

  6. John_eg
    John_eg March 26, 2016 at 9:39 am |

    “As for Islam being somehow inherently violent or whatever… OK. I don’t believe that. But for argument’s sake, let’s just say it is. What can be done about that? You can’t change the Koran and you can’t make however million Muslims there are just drop the whole thing. So ultimately does it even matter whether Islam is inherently violent? I mean in practical terms. Because wiping out an entire religion, well that’s never worked before.”

    We can’t change the Koran or wipe Islam out you are correct. We could restrict the migrations of Muslims into western countries until circumstances change though, something that a US presidential candidate has said he will do and become popular as a result. Yes I am British and No I’ve never been an immigrant I another culture. I don’t dispute that it is difficult for migrants in other cultures, I’m not blaming Muslims for not integrating enough, my concern is with Muslims migrants who want to impose Islam on the wider culture or attack the host society in acts of terror. The experience of Muslims in Brussels is probably different from your experience in Kenya/Japan, there is already a large enough Muslim sub-population in that city that they don’t have to struggle to integrate with the host culture they can stay within that Muslim bubble. This is not about small minority groups of Muslims, in Brussels they are potentially a future majority group. Are non-muslims justified in being concerned about that? I would feel yes, that’s all I am saying.

    1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
      DontQuoteScriptureAtMe March 27, 2016 at 12:29 am |

      I’m in Britain too. I grew up in the Britain of the 1970s and 1980s with an Irish name and an Irish background. If you believed the way we were portrayed in the media, we were the idiots who could do nothing other than drink, fight and show our intellectual inferiority to the British.

      Later I went to live in the north of Ireland. In the north of Ireland, some people would sympathise with the IRA. Usually these people came from urban areas with levels of cross-generational unemployment that would have made a British person baulk. They would leave the house to walk down to the town and would be stopped and searched a handful of times, with crass comments made by bored British squaddies who knew no better.

      My point being that I know what it is like to be different to the host community. I know what it is like to feel anger and frustration at the way you are treated. I know what it is like to be an adolescent male undergoing all sorts of challenges to your dignity, right at a time when your brain is still developing its ability to empathise, to restrict antisocial behaviour, to act in a manner that doesn’t reject society.

      This has got very little to do with Muslims. It has to do with *people*, usually male, who feel aggrieved and resentful. They also feel relatively powerless and increasingly frustrated. Then someone points out a “solution” to them and they are manipulated into doing what they do.

      Don’t obsess about their religion just because it is the most obvious thing to obsess about. Stop all this talk about “Muslims” and “non-Muslims”. It’s about as useful as berating “Men” for rape and violence. The issues that we face are inequity, division, violence, murder, manipulation of young minds, racism, sectarianism, anger, frustration, harassment, unemployment, poverty, war, etc.

      As for Islam being inherently violent, it both is and isn’t. C’mon Team Dogen!!! There are many Muslims who lovingly embrace the peacefulness and inclusion of their religion and there are many who don’t and think gays should be thrown from tall buildings and women should be buried under dumper truck loads of stones and boulders. The religion is not the thing here – the people interpreting the religion are the thing.

      Look beyond the descriptors that other people are feeding you. Look to see similarities rather than differences. They are there (and perhaps more blindingly obvious than the differences).

      1. John_eg
        John_eg March 27, 2016 at 8:32 am |

        Hi, thanks you make a lot of interesting points here. As I have said, I don’t dispute that life is challenging for migrants in another culture. It is also true though that it is difficult for native residents of a culture when their communities change rapidly and many of their neighbours have a different culture or speak a different language.

        There are no doubt similarities between Muslims and Europeans. You could certainly say the British and Irish are mostly similar, and yet it was still difficult for you as a young Irish man in Britain in recent times, despite Britain having had a substantial Irish population since way back in to the 19th Century. That kind of goes to show to me that the adjustments that mass migration requires take time.

        Many Muslims are peaceful yes and I agree we shouldn’t blindly accept descriptors other people feed us. The best thing is to focus on actual data and facts. Take the collection of polls here:

        One found that 33% of Muslim students in Britain supported a worldwide Islamic caliphate (and were willing to admit that to a pollster). I think Europe should proceed with caution regarding migration because we don’t know what the future outcome will be, the same way I think we don’t know for sure what the climate will do in the future, but should cut CO2 because the consequences could be disastrous.

        “This has got very little to do with Muslims. It has to do with *people*, usually male, who feel aggrieved and resentful.”

        Either way that isn’t comforting given that a majority of the million plus migrants who have entered Europe during the migrant crisis are young men ( and probably feel aggreived and resentful against the west given the prevalence of anti-western feeling in the Muslim world.

        1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
          DontQuoteScriptureAtMe March 27, 2016 at 9:55 am |

          I accept all that you are saying – if we divide the world into Muslims and non-Muslims, west and east, them and us, our land and their land, then it can look very frightening. I think Brad was making much the same point.

          I also recognise that the massive global population shifts are frightening. Countries feel that their identities are under threat and all of a sudden, they find themselves living cheek by jowl with people whose beliefs are hard to comprehend.

          The best way forward is to treat everyone as you find them; drop the labels; work when you are working; rest when you are resting. Avoid causing pain and suffering to yourself and others.

      2. Kyla
        Kyla March 28, 2016 at 5:53 am |

        Like this blog entry and this comment by DontQuoteScriptureAtMe has a lot of great points.

    2. tysondav
      tysondav March 28, 2016 at 6:23 pm |

      John, sadly you are wasting your time. American Zen has been hijacked by liberals and liberals are ruled by Politically Correct rules. You cannot offend minorities, no matter what the truths are.

      Brad, PLENTY of minorities migrate to other countries and don’t 1. try to force their minority beliefs on the majority 2. blow stuff up when #1 doesn’t go their way. No other minorities have the same problem as Muslims. Now the PC liberal Zen community will say that is a racist comment and that I am not a compassionate person. But I don’t live in a fantasy world like they do. I live in the real world.

      I wish everyone could “just get along” and we could all sing songs by the campfire and live happily ever after. Unfortunately there is a large minority of the world’s population that doesn’t want that.

      1. John_eg
        John_eg March 29, 2016 at 12:33 am |

        Hi tysondav, to be fair though Brad has previously written that being Buddhist does not imply being liberal-left, here for example:

        That showed a lot of perspective so I was surprised when that perspective seemed to have disappeared when he wrote his piece about Trump.

        To summarise his argument as I understood it: The consequences of who becomes president are far-reaching, even to the survival or not of life on earth. Anyone thinking seriously about the future consequences of their vote wouldn’t vote Trump… because Trump might start a nuclear war (Really??).

        What this misses is that people who support Trump are thinking about the future consequences and are deeply concerned about the impact of mass migration and radical Islam on their societies.

  7. Bubba
    Bubba March 26, 2016 at 10:25 am |

    What are the characteristics of the attitude that overcomes division?

    1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
      DontQuoteScriptureAtMe March 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm |

      Can’t say! Can’t say!

    2. Dogen
      Dogen March 29, 2016 at 3:59 pm |

      They are expressed perfectly in this video…

  8. Jinzang
    Jinzang March 26, 2016 at 11:48 am |

    In my experience, most people who say they are religious really aren’t. What I mean is that they do whatever they want and then justify what they did with their religion. Applies to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, whatever. So don’t believe it when the nice man on television says terrorism happens because of Islam. It’s angry, alienated young men, the same as it has been since the dawn of civilization.

    I’m old enough to remember when Buddhist monks were burning themselves in Vietnam. Had to listen to all the talking heads explain how Eastern religions had no respect for life and backed it up with quotes from Buddhist scripture. All of it was nothing more than empty talk and the same is true now.

  9. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon March 26, 2016 at 3:36 pm |

    Imagine there’s no countries.
    It isn’t hard to do.
    Nothing to kill or die for.
    And no religion too…

    1. Cygni
      Cygni March 26, 2016 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 26, 2016 at 9:22 pm |

    I have had the new book for a while.

    Me likey.

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 26, 2016 at 9:24 pm |


    Brad talks about doo doo in the new book!

  12. Chong Do
    Chong Do March 27, 2016 at 12:24 am |

    Hmm… I think I get what Brad is getting at here. My teacher once told me that the key to dealing with discomfort during meditation is to “give up”. In other words, accept that your legs hurt, accept that there is nothing you can do to stop them from hurting, and then keep sitting anyway.

    This is the mentality that I take with my day to day life. Living in the world is painful. Buddha told us that 2,500 years ago (Samsara is full of suffering). And it will still be painful 2,500 years from now because human beings do dumb stuff like blowing up airports and subway cars. I can’t change that fact. The only logical choice IMHO is to “give up” on the situation being any different, and decide how I will show compassion in the midst of all the suffering that surrounds me. With this in mind, I’m going to sit on my cushion and stare at a wall for 30 minutes… after that I’ll take out the trash so my room mate doesn’t have to.

  13. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon March 27, 2016 at 4:38 am |

    Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures advocate violence, up to and including death, against “unbelievers,” “sinners,” neighbors occupying desirable real estate, etc. Beliefs influence actions. These facts should not be ignored or minimized when looking for motives behind violence. Jains, for example, do not typically commit murder when they feel that they are being politically, economically, or socially oppressed and if they did they could not justify it with their scriptures.

    1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
      DontQuoteScriptureAtMe March 28, 2016 at 1:57 pm |

      “Jains, for example, do not typically commit murder when they feel that they are being politically, economically, or socially oppressed”

      *Typically*…Muslims, Christians and Jews don’t commit murder either.

  14. dzj
    dzj March 27, 2016 at 4:39 am |

    This reminded me of a category scheme for animals the Argentine writer Louis Borges invented for a short story…

    ” a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge’. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into:
    (a) belonging to the emperor,
    (b) embalmed,
    (c) tame,
    (d) sucking pigs,
    e) sirens,
    (f) fabulous,
    (g) stray dogs,
    (h) included in the present classification,
    (i) frenzied,
    (j) innumerable,
    (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
    (l) et cetera,
    (m) having just broken the water pitcher,
    (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”

    writing this comment, I sorta was reading the wikipedia article on it earlier… (so there goes the ‘I thought of this spontaneously arising from this article-pretense’)

    Honestly, this thing has good miles on it. I’ve seen it cited in a number of contexts to humorous effect (not including the present citation).

    Wikipedia cites Foucault saying…

    “This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old definitions between the Same and the Other.”

    *Shakuhachi flute sounds. Aeroplane passes over. Hum of traffic & distant television.*

    “Windschuttle cited alleged acceptance of the authenticity of the list by as a sign of the degeneration of the Western academy”

    Windschuttle is the foremost revisionist historian of Australian history – basically – white settlers were benevolent christians, genocide was exaggerated, carry on, nothing to see here.


    Team Stupid 2016.

    PS: Brad, Team Stupid is looking for volunteers. It’s never to late to get involved in the campaign. Help us defeat Team Stupid today! Just $10 can make a difference & be on a list in a categorical scheme ‘How I didn’t Fuck Up And Actually Did Good Things In Life’.

    PPS: Ah, no, thought of that categorical scheme did in fact arise from this article! Just multiple tabs open – forgot chronology – as evidenced

  15. John_eg
    John_eg March 27, 2016 at 9:01 am |

    Sabi Wabi Woo Woo,

    I made that comment because I felt Brad was being mealy-mouthed and was trying to convey that, in hindsight I’d probably have said something different.

    Even so, although I didn’t bother to emphasise that most Muslims are not engaged in violence, that’s because I assumed people reading would already know that. I also assumed that this blog doesn’t have many Muslims readers (maybe I’m wrong) and if it does they can take issue with what I said here in the comments if they wish to.

    If I heard a negative remark about Britain I would take it in context, if the context was for example a British controlled drone strike that just killed Muslim civilians. I would like to think that if I was Muslim I would be able to appreciate western anxieties regarding Islam within their current context as well.

    […can’t wait to mail these cookies to the moderator when my comments get approved…]

  16. A Lump of Green Slime
    A Lump of Green Slime March 27, 2016 at 9:49 am |

    A lot of the current problems with Islam have been caused by the Saudis using their massive oil wealth to disseminate and then kill off moderate forms of the faith by displacing them with their own highly idiosyncratic, dogmatic, and generally intolerant version of it. Prior to this, if you go back about a hundred years, Western academic specialists on Islam like Hamilton Gibb and Sir Thomas Arnold were remarkably positive about a faith that they saw as being highly tolerant. Muslim majority countries back then received praise for being multicultural success stories.

    First of all, here’s Gibb:

    “It [Islam] possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavours, so many and so various races of mankind.”

    Then there is the assessment of Sir Thomas Arnold:

    “On the whole, unbelievers have enjoyed under Muhammadan rule a measure of toleration, the like of which is not to be found in Europe until quite modern times. Forcible conversion was forbidden, in accordance with the precepts of the Quran… The very existence of so many Christian sects and communities in countries that have been for centuries under Muhammadan rule is an abiding testimony to the toleration they have enjoyed, and shows that the persecutions they have from time to time been called upon to endure at the hands of bigots and fanatics, have been excited by some special and local circumstances rather than inspired by a settled principle of intolerance… But such oppression is wholly without the sanction of Muhammadan law, either religious or civil”.

    More recently, Bernard Lewis (certainly not a writer who could be said to be overly sympathetic to the faith) has written this:

    ‘Until the seventeenth century, there can be no doubt that, all in all, the treatment by Muslim governments and populations of those who believed otherwise was more tolerant and respectful than was normal in Europe… there is nothing in Islamic history to compare with the massacres and expulsions, the inquisitions and persecutions that Christians habitually inflicted on non-Christians, and still more on each other. In the lands of Islam, persecution was the exception; in Christendom sadly, it was often the norm.’

    Contrastingly, Wahhabism – the uber-puritanical, Saudi version of Islam – is virulently anti-Shia (which accounts for the recent deterioration in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are also presently fighting a proxy war in strife torn Iraq and Syria) as well as being – in theory at least – hostile to non-Muslims.

    As William Dalrymple has pointed out, the Saudis now dominate as much as 90 per cent of Arabic language newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, radio and TV. They have also promoted the mass radicalisation of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kurdistan by funding the hard-core Wahhabi, Salafi and Deobandi schools that now dominate education there.

    The situation we are in might therefore be summarised with an analogy (one I have adapted from Khaled Abou El-Fadl) : imagine that the Westboro Baptist Church received state sponsorship from the USA and were also in possession of the most holy of Christian sites. Suppose further that this state sponsorship was being used to finance the spread of the toxic message of the Westboro Baptist Church throughout the Christian world. If this happened, it is not unreasonable to imagine that the number of adherents of the Westboro Baptist church would significantly increase, and that the sect would become a serious contender in any effort to define Christian orthodoxy.

    In other words, what we are largely exposed to in the media are negative stories about extremism and violence in Islam that may have plenty of traction when it comes to Wahhabism (because the ongoing atrocities are inspired by Wahhabi theology – with an assist from Sayyid Qutb and the outlook of the Muslim Brotherhood), but rather less when it comes to the wider Muslim world and the faith as a whole. It would be a bit like judging the world Christian community by the standards of the Westboro Baptist Church.

    The taqwacore band The Kominas absolutely nail some of the Islamaphobic consequences of all this in the wonderful video to their song ‘See Something, Say Something’, which I commend to all readers of this reply. It can be found on YouTube.

    However, it is important not to downplay how serious the present problems are. The Westboro Baptist Church have remained a minority group. But the Wahhabis have been far more successful. Khaled Abou El Fadl – a Muslim moderate – has written this in his book ‘The Great Theft’:

    ‘[The Wahhabis] have been able to make alarming inroads throughout the Muslim world. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a real danger that the puritans will be able to redefine the nature of the Islamic religion.’

    This is because the puritans are aggressive, zealous and vocal. They are also very well-funded, see the propagation of their faith as a holy struggle, and do so unrelentingly. Contrastingly, moderate Muslims are more inclined towards quietism, and they don’t have the financial clout to promote their more mainstream views.

    However, according to Steven Fish in his book ‘Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence’, Muslims are not unusually religious or inclined to favour the fusion of religious and political authority. Nor are Muslims especially prone to mass political violence. Democracy is the favoured form of government for this relatively silent minority.

    John_eg, in closing I would suggest that you sample the writings of the following authors when it comes to the moderate take on the violence associated with the Qur’an and the early Muslim community under the leadership of Muhammad, especially when it comes to matters like the controversial ‘sword verse’ and the ‘terror verse’: Asma Afsaruddin, Ziauddin Sardar, Reza Aslan, Jonathan AC Brown, and the aforementioned Khaled Abou El-Fadl.

    If you do, you will see that for moderate Muslim intellectuals, there is a massive, yawning chasm between the ideals of the early Medinan community when it came the legitimate use of violence, and those promulgated by the likes of ISIS. Heck, there are even pacifistic Muslim thinkers out there if you go looking for them, like Jawdat Sa’id, Wahiduddin Khan, and Fethullah Gulen.

    1. John_eg
      John_eg March 28, 2016 at 4:50 am |

      Hi, thanks that’s an interesting post, I will look up some of those authors.

    2. Kyla
      Kyla March 28, 2016 at 5:57 am |

      Thanks for this info.

  17. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 March 27, 2016 at 10:45 am |

    This comment thread has completely turned to crappola.

    1. Anonymous
      Anonymous March 27, 2016 at 1:30 pm |

      I tried to rescue it by referencing Brad’s new book and the in depth discussion of doo doo! You can’t blame me!

      1. Kyla
        Kyla March 28, 2016 at 10:46 am |

        I ordered mine off this site but our Canadian postal system has automated a lot of sorting so things arriving take a while. I am looking forward to it and it would be great to discuss it with others.

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 27, 2016 at 11:05 am |

    I agree, Khru, I’m learning a lot here; thanks especially to “Blob of Chartreuse Jello”.

    Here’s a dandy little article, did I quote this before, that says religion appears to be mostly a way for people to get themselves to forgo general copulation; the “do onto others” really is unimportant to most (but we knew that):

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 27, 2016 at 11:05 am |

    And now, a dobro parlor guitar (not), to remind us that there’s more to the picture than meets the eye (need more Sufi Sams in Medina?):

  20. Dog Star
    Dog Star March 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm |

    Religion and politics. What could possibly go wrong? In absolute terms, we’re all founding members of Team Stupid. Politics, which is by nature divisive, is as close to its pure expression as anything can be. Of course, religion is, too.

    1. Kyla
      Kyla March 28, 2016 at 6:00 am |

      Even with all our intelligence we seem to be the most stupid animals on the planet. We could have gone in a completely different direction. Maybe there is really only an illusion of choice. It seems the human race is so completely stuck in delusion that we have gone beyond the ability to change the course we are on—we are destroying the planet, each other, every other animal living with us and even destroying the universe beyond with our pollution.

  21. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 March 27, 2016 at 6:43 pm |

    This has now become one of the best comment threads I’ve ever read.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen March 29, 2016 at 4:02 pm |

      How about now?

  22. zenmite
    zenmite March 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm |

    Heaven, hell, paradise, reincarnation…..this is the error of eternalism. This is it…there is no heaven, hell, paradise or reincarnation. This is the only life you have. When you’re dead you’re gone. …This is the error of nihilism. An old dude was asked about a man lying in his coffin…” Tell me he alive or is he dead? The old dude replied; “I won’t say! I won’t say!” Thought can’t solve the problem of division because it is the divider. “Us & Them…after all we’re ordinary men.”

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara March 28, 2016 at 8:35 am |
        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara March 28, 2016 at 9:16 am |

          A flower, to use Tich Naht Hahn’s memorable example, is full of the sun which shone on it, full of the cloud that rained on it, and full of the gardener who dug the soil for it. A flower is full of the whole Universe. It is empty of only one thing: its own independent existence as a flower. And because of lacking such an immutable and separate existence, a flower is a very transient thing, not eternal.

          ~ Chodo

          What is it with Gudo Roshi’s students and not being able to spell Thich Nhat Hanh? Y’all can spell ancient Japanese, Chinese, Sanskrit and Pali… but not the name of the 2nd most famous living Buddhist, after the Dahlia Llama? Bizarro!

  23. Kyla
    Kyla March 28, 2016 at 6:03 am |

    Yesterday I saw a news story about a dog being tortured physically and sexually and then being hung from a tree. I could not stop crying. It was like the last straw, the sign the human race just can’t get any lower than we are. Or can we? 🙁

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara March 28, 2016 at 7:16 am |

      Stupid is the fifth element. Sometimes it seems like this world is just wind, fire, piss and dirt – tied together with stupid.

      In my childhood, some of the kids used to torture and kill cats. They were scared, and probably acting out feelings that came from being abused themselves. It’s all one big ever-moving ferris wheel at a freakshow – powered by stupid.

      There was a shopkeeper in my home town, a Muslim guy. I knew him. Everybody liked him. Last Friday, he posted on facebook, wishing a ‘happy and blessed Easter’ to his Christian customers. Two hours later, some other Muslim guy came round to his shop, stabbed him and jumped on his head, and killed him: vengeance for the ‘blasphemy’ of his facebook comment.

      Even if I know that all labels and divisions and viewpoints are arbitrary and false, I have to say something, or I’m just accepting the stupid. About what happened to that shopkeeper – I don’t know what to say.

      1. Kyla
        Kyla March 28, 2016 at 10:44 am |

        That’s heartbreaking, what happened to that shopkeeper. 🙁 One can easily just feel like running to some shack in the woods or some Buddhist monastery or the like (to just wide from the world, what is going on), is the answer but I don’t think it is for me. I just don’t want to become like the people I see delighting, or think they are delighting, in horrific sadism. I have to not succumb to hate.

        I know my mother used to torture and abuse cats because she was so sick but that does not excuse it. So I can see intellectually the reason, but the hurt still hurts.

        1. monistmark
          monistmark March 29, 2016 at 7:32 am |

          Kyla, I share your heartbreak. I don’t even watch TV news anymore. It may or may not help, but generally people do much less of this sort of horrible violence than they used to. It’s not just my opinion, there is a lot of evidence. Stephen Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, makes that point very persuasively. So have Noam Chomsky, Dr. George Gerbner and others. My point isn’t that violent acts don’t happen or aren’t profoundly horrible. They do. They are. The thing is they happen less often than they ever have on our planet, and the evidence for that is solid. Knowing this gives me a little relief. I suppose what surprises me is that, when I have lent The Better Angels of Our Nature to friends who believe the world is becoming more violent, they admit Dr. Pinker is right, but they still seem pissed off. Maybe they just think I’m a jerk for arguing with them. I can be difficult that way. Or maybe it’s because there is a part of us (of me, at least) that gets some kind of satisfaction from believing things are getting worse even if that isn’t the case. I have to admit, there are times it seems I must get some reward from being unhappy. In no way do I mean to minimalize the horror of what you describe. I just hope that it helps to know that people, by and large, over most of the world, are behaving better as time goes by.

          1. Kyla
            Kyla March 30, 2016 at 8:33 am |

            I would agree that things are vastly improved if you look at history as a whole. In this world now however, we have access to information like never before and unfortunately, the worst gets the front page in print and on the internet. It sells. So in one way, we are less ignorant of the violence of the world compared to hundreds of years ago or even fifty years ago but we have to remind ourselves the information dissemination will always favour violence.
            That helps give perspective.

    2. Khru 2.0
      Khru 2.0 March 28, 2016 at 8:09 pm |

      Kyla, there is certainly suffering in this world because of greed, hatred, and ignorance. But there is also love. Many of the people who do these horrible things (your mother included) are themselves deluded and don’t yet realize that all things, including themselves are connected to everything else. I also hurt when reading the news and the Buddhist gobbeldygook I just regurgitated doesn’t fully answer those hard questions sometimes. At least know that you’re not alone. We walk this path together through our practice.

      1. Kyla
        Kyla March 30, 2016 at 8:35 am |

        It is very helpful to keep perspective and be reminded of the good in the world, that there is compassion and love. Unfortunately the violence sells more, makes a better news story. We get the odd feel-good story abouts someone acting selflessly but it’s not main news. On the other hand, I don’t want to live with my head in the sand so the price of knowing what is going on and not being ignorant is having to build resistance to being totally overwhelmed by it.

  24. Harlan
    Harlan March 28, 2016 at 10:08 am |

    Please take the time to sign the petition allowing guns to be brought to the Republican National Convention. American constitutional rights are being denied to those of us who want the freedom to bring a gun to the fight for the Republican Party’s future. These are dangerous times and it is our right to be protected at all times. To quote Dog Star, what could possibly go wrong?

    1. mb
      mb March 28, 2016 at 11:58 am |

      I think the RNC this time around should include a full-scale Civil War re-enactment using real weapons! And the winning side gets to choose the nominee – sounds fair to me!

      Also…I’ve seen references here and there that this petition was originally intended to be a satire. I don’t know about that, but if so, it got way out of hand and was treated as a serious endeavor by the legions of “2nd amendment defenders”. Just makes one wonder how the Secret Service could possibly do their job to protect the candidates if the open-carriers somehow get their way. And what with Trump just about promising violence if he doesn’t get the nomination and there are protestors there (and there will be), this is a perfect recipe for mass insanity…

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 28, 2016 at 7:40 pm |

    Liked your book, Brad. I don’t fully get why Dogen has to be so mystical, or indirect, or allegorical, or vague at times, and I don’t know that anything I read makes me better get why that may be, unless he just loved playing with the language, but I still liked the book and got tons out of it.

    1. Dogen
      Dogen March 29, 2016 at 4:05 pm |

      The rain in spain falls mainly to left of my… __ain.

  26. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 28, 2016 at 8:41 pm |

    “Maybe there is really only an illusion of choice. ”

    Ignorance, begets choice, begets a stationing of consciousness… begets grasping after self (in form, feeling, perception, habitual activity, or consciousness).

    Ignorance ceases, but there is no one who ceases to be ignorant (Fred, where ya been!).

    As to the stationing of consciousness, consciousness shifts location, but we have to be awake when we are falling asleep to see it. Or asleep when we are waking up.

    D. L. Bartilink wrote of how the movement of the diaphragm can be independent of the the activity that sustains pressure in the fluid ball of the abdomen. Feldenkrais wrote about how people tend to hold their breath when they get up out of a chair, and how the experience of motion in each of the three planes might be helpful.

    I’m writing about how the location of consciousness that sustains pressure in the fluid ball of the abdomen can simultaneously be the place in the posture that is supported by pressure in the fluid ball of the abdomen.

    “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way in this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.”

    What is practice, but an image in the place of an image?

    Things beyond the boundaries of the senses I find are often as simple as the independence of the movement of the diaphragm from the activity that sustains pressure in the fluid ball, and all of it is just the flip side of the autonomic movement of breath.

    “Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be readily apparent.”

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara March 29, 2016 at 9:46 am |

      ““Maybe there is really only an illusion of choice. ”

      The Tibetan guy that Cygni linked says, “karma in buddhism is the union of predestination and free will”, or words to that effect.

      This guy tickled rats, and found out that mental health is a zero sum of seeking and avoiding.

  27. Chong Do
    Chong Do March 29, 2016 at 12:50 pm |


    That’s a cool video. I’ve taken a really strong interest in neuroscience as a result of my practice the past few years, and it’s always cool to watch videos like this that show just how much Buddha nailed it back in the day.

    Of course, they also show why we only had three people show up for our last two day retreat at my Zen center:) I feel like Zen teaches us to step off the seeking vs. avoiding treadmill, and enter a place (the absolute) that lies right in the middle of pleasure of pain where we don’t feel either as strongly as we once did. It’s effective, but it would appear that our brains are designed to do the exact opposite unless given proper training.

  28. Chong Do
    Chong Do March 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm |


    That’s a cool video. I’ve taken a really strong interest in neuroscience as a result of my practice the past few years, and it’s always cool to watch videos like this that show just how much Buddha nailed it back in the day.

    I feel like Zen teaches us to step off the seeking vs. avoiding treadmill, and enter a place (the absolute) that lies right in the middle of pleasure and pain where we don’t feel either emotion as strongly as we once did. It’s effective, but it would appear that our brains are designed to do the exact opposite unless given proper training.

  29. Mumbles
    Mumbles March 30, 2016 at 4:46 am |

    Maybe it’s just all a big Cosmic Joke.

  30. Dogen
    Dogen April 4, 2016 at 3:25 pm |

    You want an answer? Here? From me?

    ~ Brad Warmer


    There’s no pill you can pop.

    Nothing your brain can ever work out is going to fix this.

    They are never going to learn.

    You can even hate hate.

    Your responsibility to and for everything extends beyond Team Stupid.

    We won’t be reincarnated or reborn.

    And yeah, I support Donald Trump. Jealous?

    ~Brad Warmer

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