Violence over Blasphemy in Egypt and Libya

September 12, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

Our big story is the country’s big story: Anger in Egypt over an American-made film by an Israeli-American real estate developer that purportedly “insults” Islam and the prophet Muhammed has erupted into violence and protests at the US Embassy in Egypt. This violence then spread to the US mission in Libya, where the ambassador there, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staffers were killed. This is the first death of a US envoy abroad in more than 20 years. 

The first public statement from US officials came from the embassy in Egypt and seemed to place blame for the violence on the film, not the attackers, though the statement was released before things got really crazy (emphasis mine):

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others. 

This was pounced upon by Republicans in the US as an example of the Obama administration “siding with” the attackers. (See GOP chairman Reince Priebus here, Mitt Romney here.)

Secretary of State Clinton, however, insisted that the statement of the embassy in Egypt was not the position of the US government, and made clear the government’s position on freedom of speech (emphasis mine): 

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

Obama statement from this morning:

While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants. 

The embassy in Egypt is scrambling to clarify its stance. 

This story will continue to be of singular focus for CFI, as the freedom to speak, doubt, and criticize is at the heart of our mission. Our best hopes are with those in the midst of this unjustifiable violence, and our sincere condolences are with the friends and loved ones of those already lost.

In other news…

Ron Lindsay has a must-read post (no, I know he’s my boss, but it really is must-read) on the growing divisiveness within the movement over things like feminism, harassment, and Atheism+:

[The movement is] divided because too many in the movement are not willing to recognize that their fellow secularists can be mistaken without thereby being bigots; that their fellow secularists can have different understandings of the implications of feminism without being misogynists or “sister-punishers”; and that their fellow secularists can have can have different perceptions of the problem of harassment without being feminazis. We’ve divided the movement because we’re not talking to each other; we’re just insulting each other. 

Kylie Sturgess posts an interview transcript with Mark “Gravy” Roberts on debunking 9/11 conspiracies. 

Sharon Hill reports from Dragon*Con, and rather than sticking to the Skeptic Track, she dives into the woo and weirdness of the Paranormal Track:

At times I felt duped having spent time listening to these people. It was not easy to sit quiet and observe but that’s what you must do to learn. It’s CRITICAL for skeptics to experience and attempt to understand the opposite viewpoints.  

Sharon also casts a skeptical eye on a “fakety fake” dragon photo

Family of Rimsha Masih in fear for their lives as neighbors threaten to burn them alive.

Homeless are fed by atheists in Fort Worth. 

Americans United goes after Catholic church electioneering in El Paso. 

Vice: NASA scientist Rich Terrile thinks it’s entirely possible we’re all living in a computer program

Christian Post blog piece wrestles with whether atheists have an intellectual leg up on believers. 

Gwydion Suilebhan and Gabriel Walsh present a short film on the wonder of evolution. 

The exorcism business in Poland is booming. 

Quote of the Day      


My trade and art is to live; he that forbids me to speak according to my own sense, experience, and practice, may as well enjoin an architect not to speak of building according to his own knowledge, but according to that of his neighbour; according to the knowledge of another, and not according to his own. 

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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