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November 26, 2005

Khatami, Human Rights, and Secularism
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

burqa.jpg Iran's former president Khatami's visit to Germany, Nov 15-20, was mostly headlined in the international news around the current nuclear crisis in his talks with German politicians. However, the visit was made upon the invitation of the Körber Foundation. Following a reception at the Bergedorf Round Table in Berlin he gave an evening speech

... at the Berlin Institute of Advanced Studies on "Religion and Pluralism." At this event, which took place within the Institute's current project "Modernity and Islam," Khatami detailed his views on Islam's relationship with secularism. He said it is his firm conviction that secularism is a purely Western phenomenon and is not an option within the Islamic world. At the same time he reaffirmed his founding idea of the dialog of cultures, saying for example that he supports equal rights for men and women.

In Khatami's speech I see a repeated pattern common in the kind of thinking that largely led the reform movement intellectually 8 years ago. Khatami gives a very flashy high point in his speech on the equality of rights of men and women. But he comes short of the more fundamental issue of secularism. Why? Here's the crux of his reasoning:

Khatami pointed out that ethics must be the foundation of human thought and economic and political affairs [...] He said: "Of course we may assume many general and non-historical meanings for secularism, but turning a subject that is in all its existence a historical matter into a non-historical matter is a balatant mistake" [...] He explained: "Secularism is the experience of the Western culture and thought. Insisting on spreading it to places where the underlying intellectual background, and the political and social reasons for its appearance are lacking, is clearly a mistake, regardless of being desirable or not."
This argument is based on the assumption that secularism is a historical artifact. Of course, in the sense that anything has a history, any social or political aspect of various human societies are historic artifacts. But that is not what we mean by "historic artifact." What is meant is, as Khatami singled out, that the particular experience is not transferrable to other human societies. This historic fatalism is at the core of the failure of the intellectual basis of the reform movement. It deprives its adherents of a most important source of progress: human experience.

There is of course no direct way of showing that history has its own destiny, since we are the ones making that history. There is in the same way no direct way of showing that it does not. But we may see, indirectly, that in coming up with an understanding of our human societies, we are able to assume that certain aspects of a human society are "universal" human experiences. This will then lead to consequences through arguments that base on that assumption with very far-reaching results. Respecting a code human rights is such a "universal" human experience. Secularism is another.

Here is the basis for separating the state and religion that applies universally to all human societies of today's dimensions: we must separate politics, which makes categorical decisions for all members of the society, from practices that cannot possibly be agreed upon by all those members without foregoing their chance of changing their mind. Prominent among all such practices is of course religion. This is closely linked to, say, the equality of rights of men and women, which Khatami apparantly advocates. Otherwise we cannot ensure a minimum of rights for all the members of the society, since the political power will use its own religious practice to set those right unequally for the members of the society it is ruling. Combined with Khatami's assertion that "ethics must be the foundation of economic and political affairs" the absence of secularism is a recipe for the deadliest kind of social order history has ever witnessed in various forms and names. Khatami repeatedly admited in his previous public speeches that even if all (or a close-to-all majority of) members of the society consider themselves muslims their individual "interpretations" of what they consider Islam will be different from and even in conflict with each other, yet he cannot see the logical link between this fact and secularism via human rights.

Armin Shams at November 27, 2005 01:58 AM [permalink]:

in the name of God,
Dear Babak,

If we want to be exact, religion is an idealistic concept like science, which is known by God. In non-scientific debates, usually "Understanding of Religion" is said to be religion. With this wrong definition (which makes no major problem in our debate), religion is quite dynamic and changeable. People who do not believe in The Idealistic Religion, make their own ethical system and try to prevent what they don't accept (the best known understandings of the idealistic religion) from entering it (they may call it secularim). This is an ill process. A good definition for a non-ill secularism can be on the basis of believing in the fact that our understanding of religion should evolve to approach the Real Idealistic Religion known to God. Present Secular systems fail to see that if there is a God with a sent publicly known understanding of the religion, basing society on it can be the wisest way of having a good ethical system and then we can develop better understandings of the idealistic religion.

2. REJECTS GOD OR ALL THE PROPHETS, which is non-scientific, but not uncommon

Best Wishes

Shahram at November 27, 2005 08:14 AM [permalink]:
Dear Babak, I would like to offer a rather long comment, which is not a response to your contribution but offers a similar approach to the same problem that you have risen: I think you are raising a salient point. Khatami's argument fundamentally suffers from an acute methodological positivism in analysis. In modern humanities and social sciences, as opposed to the old Aristotelian philosophy, it is not taken for granted that one can define a concept in isolation from various contexts in which it has had various expressions, but has shown certain generic attributes. Secularism does not make any sense unless it is inevitably juxtaposed with religious-based attempts to dictate the cultural, political, and societal affairs of the state at any level. Understood in such broad terms, secularism has always existed as the attempt of the individuals who attempted to confront the attempts of the religious factions in all societies to take control of the state in any shape or form and at any level of analysis (social, cultural, and political). Hence, to me we talk about secularisms, fundamentalisms, and so forth, as opposed to one highly aggregate concept that extends through time and space to time immemorial of the creation of the so-called god-kings and the so-called holy prophets. By methodological positivism that I mentioned earlier I mean that he is trying to offer an apparently "fact-based" analysis where facts are just clear to those who dogmatically believe in their sources of belief and do not question them critically. There goes his reductionism to consider secularism a linear and one that is specifically a Western one. It also shows that he has no knowledge of the epistemic problems of modern humanities and social sciences. Teleology, as you mentioned with respect to destiny, is another problem that even Khatami and the so-called moderate clergy similarly suffer from. They establish arbitrary periodizations that have to run their course. The problem, to point at least to one aspect of it, is that secularism is not concept, but a Zeitgeist. Its appearance became clearer in the aftermath of the enlightenment era in the eighteenth century, but as an intellectual phenomenon with radical social and political aspects, it existed even in the medieval times both in the so-called Islamic world and the so-called Christendom. Just to make a reference to some of these developments, we can look at the clash between non-clerical factions and clerical factions under the Sarbedaran movement in Khorasan. The same conflict existed under the Samanis and Saljuqis, amongst those who wanted to force the kings to seek the advice of the ulama in running the affairs of the state and those who promoted the primacy of the Persian aristocracy and bureaucracy. In medieval Europe, similar patter can be seen. The Holy See was not the prominent power all the time, and was every now and gain subjected to the secular power of the Italian city-state republics (some of whom ardently opposed inquisition and did not accept it) and/or was subjected to the interference of the Holy Roman Emperors or Kings of France. In this sense, as long as religiously inspired politicians with dogmatic agenda are around who would like to insert their views across commonly agreed religious fault lines (such as the coalition that we saw established by the Abrahamic religious leaders in Ontario for the establishment of the Shari’a tribunals), or messianic ones such as Bush ( ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Bandeh Khoda at November 27, 2005 12:29 PM [permalink]:

In the name of Mankind,

I think you guys complicate a very basic issue. I have no objection to the intellectual analysis of Mr. Khatami's comments, but in my view the only thing he is saying is "goh khordam".

From the time religion existed it has tried to control the public sphere, there have always been people who have tried to limit the poisonous influence of religion over state matters. Secularism is one the anti-theses of religion and its natural consequence.

Monnrachy has the same fundamental problems as religion, since it does not gain its authority from the vote of the people, but from birth.

Both are regressive forms of control that deem humanity incapable of making decisions for themselves.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 27, 2005 04:16 PM [permalink]:

This was a very timely post and a very crucial matter.
Shahram's comment was also very important in attacking directly the refusal of the likes of Khatami to aknowledge universality whenever it is against their agenda.

All I want to add is the conclusion we are to derive from this tendency within the socalled reform movement. in other words why isn't Khatami willing to accept secularism?
The reason is directly related to the core concept of this Islamic republic they have. As Beheshti explained when advocating the inclusion of the "velayet-e faghih'" (Guardianship of the jurisprudence) in the consitution at the beginning of the revolution. He said this revolution and this system belongs to the category of systems with an ideology ("maktabi") and is "essentially" different from liberal democracies that seek teh minimal government and maximal individual freedom.
All Khatami is saying is presenting the same fundamental viewpoint in a nicer package more suitable for the 21st millenium rather than the height of leftist revolutionary culture at the end of the seventies.
And of course that settles teh issue. You are either in favour of giving the choice to the individual or taking it away from him under some excuse.
Khatami, as well as Beheshti, Khomeini, Mesbah Yazdi, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Marx,Inquisition,.... belongs to the second category. His main function has been to confuse many by spinning the terminology and devoiding any word from its meanings to the extent that even normal speaking on such mor eor less simple matters (as Bande Khoda said earlier) has become impossible. that is why unlike Bande Khoda I think a deeo analysis and critique of the subtle spinnings, as doen by Babak and Shahram here, is not only useful but crucial.
This is in contrast to people like Mesbah yazdi or Nazi theoreticians whose vulgarity at least serves the public in making division and demarcations more clear and less obscure.

Armin at November 27, 2005 05:34 PM [permalink]:

Bande Khoda: "... poisonous influence of religion over state matters ..."
- As the history suggests, many of the rullers of the world have claimed to accept some religion, but a minority of them have been loyal to this claim. Many of the claimants have utilized religion and a sign of that is their non-adherence to ethical basis of the religion they claim. It is wrong to attribute the utilization of the religion to the religion. One will not understand secularism without understanding the religion, what many debates on this site highly suffer from.

Bandeh Khoda at November 27, 2005 11:53 PM [permalink]:

I think dignifying the comments of these religous types with intellectual analysis and discourse can be futile at best and detrimental at worse. By definition intellectual discourse relies on the fact that people are willing to learn from interaction with one another. For religous types, they have already made up their mind and just wish to "win" in the discourse. By engaging with them, one gives their regressive rhetoric basic legitimacy, which I think is a mistake.

I used to think that it would be beneficial to openly challenge the religous mind on the basis of its assumptions. Now I am convinced otherwise. Whereas Marx indicated religion to be the "opium of the masses", I see religion to be the LSD/Mushroom of the Masses. It not only sedates them, but permanently affects their brain and undermines their critical thinking skills. Think about it, religion first provides the answer and asks people to accept it by faith, and then graciously allows them to discuss why the answer is correct.

That is why it doesn't take a wechslerian genius to believe in Islam. In fact it doesn't even take basic intelligence. Most uneducated masses in the world have more faith in the existence and wisdom of god than our wechslerian genius will ever have. That is why our genius sounds the same way as any neighborhood Basiji instead of 1 person out of 18 million :)

Armin at November 28, 2005 02:58 PM [permalink]:

This should be enough to inform you how wrong you are: Religion itself tells me to kick itself away if I have a good reason to do so. It never tells me to justify it. Do not mix me and my religion with some of those you know. The goal is not set, I am ready to accept every proof, it's just a scientific discussion, nothing more, and the fact you see I defend gnostic shia religious claims is because they are the most current results of my studies, nothing more, and I kick everything away if I have a good reason.

Apparently, you are so blinded by believing in yourself that it does not allow you to think other people can scientifically achive unexpected results that you have not achieved and that refutes your theories, what a wechslerian 180iq genious (that maybe I am, maybe not) is known by such achievements. Apparently I have escaped the self-righteousness some of you convict me, and I am ready to accept my scientific/ethical mistakes, but how about yourselves? "Atamoroonannas belberr va tansaone anfosakam"? (Quran: "Do you invite people to good deeds and forget yourselves"?)

I had said before: "... the main scientific reason for accepting the religion comes from another basis. You do not need to prove a theorem in two ways to accept it. The probabilistic proof to God's existance, Muhammad's honesty in his claim of being a prophet and historical analysis of what can most probably be attributed to him, are the basis." This can start a scientific discussion which begins from "Zero", like other sciences (unlike your unproved claims and my counterclaims and door-openning ideas/suggestions).

If we want to make it more academic and fruitful, what I mentioned above is my suggestion for discussion (God->Prophets->NarrationsHistoricalAnalisys), which takes long and is a hard discussion which needs our study besides discussing it. I am also ready to hear your scientific reasons started from a "Zero" standalone point.

If I shall start, this is my question to begin the scientific discussion I emphasized on its importance that much (I am mainly in this route in my ethical/theological studies):

"How can we evaluate ethical/religious arguments?"

Best Wishes

Babak S at November 29, 2005 02:52 AM [permalink]:

Thank you Armin, Shahram, AIS, and Bandeh Khoda for your comments. In view of your comments I would like to offer the following further thoughts and clarifications:

Here I take secularism to stand for the general idea that religion and religious reasoning must be separated from state affairs. That's the core. Exactly how that is implemented may indeed depend on cultural characteristics and historical traits of a people.

The universal argument given in favour of secularism in this sense at the end of the original post could be supplemented with the following: when religious reasoning is allowed to play an essential role in deciding the state affair A, the ruling faction/group would itself often break up when different sides of it cannot reach an agreement on the reasoning that is being put forward for setting rule R with respect to A. Those in favour or against R inevitably will resort to their power base and tools to enforce their view. So a religious war will be waged on the political scene, and the winning subfaction/subgroup will then enforce its view as the official code. This evolution of religion tied with politics will eventually lead to an all-comprehensive official religion, or ideology. Yet most of the society cannot possibly agree with this official religion since they have either had conflicting opinions from the outset or have been excluded and often discarded from the power game along the way. The experience of the Islamic republic in the historically short 25 years of its evolution is a vivid testimony to this scenario.


Instead of "God->Prophets->NarrationsHistoricalAnalisys" would you be able to take "God->Freedom->Consequences" as a course of devising your world-view?

Armin at November 29, 2005 04:18 AM [permalink]:


1. In a society in which a religion (I like to call any ethical system a religion, by definition, God-made or man-made) is not well-understood, it should probably be treated as a style (salighe) not a science. Style cannot be a pilar of the state (let alone "the pilar"). In this case I believe in some kind of secularism for that society.

2. If a religion (namely an ethical school, God-made or man-made) is well-understood and accepted in a society and most of those people scientifically studying that religion agree on some points, those points can be a pilar, or maybe the pilar of the society. In this ethically more advanced society, secularism means rejecting science.

3. Islam, in fact is one religion, but it has been claimed by different ethical schools, so we can assume and define it as a group of religions in that point of view. We should say which one(s) we are talking to. Gnostic Shia Islam is the advanced understanding of our time, according to my studies.

1 and 2 in other words: Not everyone can build an space shuttle (understanding of ethical systems) and not everyone can use it (in politics or ...).

What to do?

God->Freedom->Consequences is wrong. We do not need God to prove freedom. So it is "God + Freedom->Consequences" which is a general approach:

Freedom->Consequences: Freedom is general. What freedom? How? A freedom that does not limit the freedom of the others. Still general? OK. We will try to use science to resolve the freedom collisions of people.

God: Is there a God? Who is God? Has God provided ethical information? There are answers that should be added to our Freedom->Consequences discussion. Islam claims God exists and has provided ethical information that helps human to resolve freedom collisions.

To see if the claim of Islam is true and whether it is a science (therefore a source for a good ethical system) or it is only a style, I think we should start from this question:

"How can we evaluate ethical/religious arguments? (In particular, in our discussion, Islam)"

To answer this, I am studying "God->Prophets->NarrationsHistoricalAnalisys" probabilistic proof chain. It has had promising results (and also question marks). I start from "zero" and because of the complexity of the problem, my methodology is "probabilistic". Artificial Intelligence can teach you that if you don't use flexible probabilistic approaches to takle complex problems, you may loose information or consume much time on achieving results (much sometimes may practically mean never). Surprisingly this lesson has not been learnt well by some Philosophers.

If you like we can start the first section of the God part of the probabilistic proof chain by a probabilistic proof to deny randomness of creation of human.

Best Wishes

Bandeh Khoda at November 29, 2005 09:00 AM [permalink]:


Why did you start with god in your proof chain? Start with random quantum fluctuations in pre-big bang universe :) From there it wouldn't go to prophets, but to M-theory and the 11 dimensions of the multi-verse. Instead of narrations (hadis) you would have quantum physics and instead of analysis you would have empirical science. That's the more "scientific" probabilistic proof chain.

Mark Leinauer at November 29, 2005 05:21 PM [permalink]:

I've enjoyed this discussion immensely, and I feel compelled to make this comment:

Though I vehemently disagree with Khatami's theory and analysis, I have to at least respect the fact that he is intelligent enough to craft them. I'm an American Lawyer, and what depresses me is the inescable fact that our - elected - leader is completely incapable of such complexity of thought. Can anyone even picture president Bush debating this topic? The very thought makes one laugh.

America certainly has its share of great minds - I'm definitely not trying to spread the notion that we're all a bunch of illiterates - but for some reason we've decided to eschew intellectual merit for religious convictions, personality or simple world view when we elect a leader. Why have we simply ignored intellectual ability when choosing a representative?

I'm a firm believer in secularism and in western style liberalism in general, and it pains me to see how absent we are from these discussions.
Living in the States one often hears that we have to win over the "hearts and minds" of the Arab world in order to coexist peacefully with them. It seems odd that we've completely ignored the mind part.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 29, 2005 05:24 PM [permalink]:


you are just repeating yourself.
Scientific study are critical endeavours to refute ideas and theories. So a 'scientific understanding by MOST people' is not good enough a reason to curtails other's basic freedoms. You have to go for the minimal restrictions on people's freedoms and religion is NOT the minimal. If people like it they can continue to live acording their religion but that should be their choice, not yours or that of MOST scientists (or clerics or mystics or pesuedo-scientists).
It's really quite simple.

As for your suggestion:
Your method is replete with falshoods as well as misunderstanding of terms and methodologies.
First of all we never start at "zero". This is nonsense.
We are always in standing in the middle trying to find keys to understand what we observe (by our existing theories-including the genetic based ones due to natural selection like our sense information), ie choose proper 'axioms' based on what we have now, NOt as a starting point from zero, to expand the theory as far as it goes to explain the phenomena and giev opportunities to test and refute it.

So for your question:
"How can we evaluate ethical/religious arguments?"

The phenomena is that we can identify with others in an instinctive level, and we want to survive. (the scientific theory that provides the best framework to try and explain the origins of these two innate features in us is called evolution).
Now, the combination of the two means that we need to try to reduce the total suffering of all sentient beings in the world by our actions if we want to live a full life that accomodates these two "ethical" urges.
In order to know what to do in each circumstance to reduce the total suffering we have to rely in our theories that explain the reality of teh situation as goos as possible. (But they are all guessworks in the bottom line). So we have an ethical responsibility to reject the less good factual theories as well and then act on the basis of the (for the moment) prevailing theory to reduce the suffering.

Islam fails this miserably. It's factual theory is faulty, with unnessecary complcatiosn and undefiend terms like God that add nothing to the explanatory power of the theory but act only as an excuse under which to inject certain dogmas that have been handed down by a tradition and a myth of how the tradition has started, dogmas and codes of conduct many of which has no relationship with reducing suffering, but actually add to the total suffering or at best wastes energy on trivial irrelevant rituals. It fails miserably on scientifc discoveries regarding biology, archealogy, physics, cosmlogy etc.
It includes many untestable claims about especially a fantasy like afterlife, that can't be refuted and so is not prone to rational criticism, with horrendous consequences in belittling the real livesof real humans in this world.
It disriminated against half of the population for being female, or for leading other life styles, be it religious or sexual or... and causes these groups a lot of unnessecary pain instead of releaving their already existing sufferings.
It provides easy justificatiosn for wars of dminance and aggression and bloodshed.

The list goes on for ever. and many of it has been discussed here already)

Babak S at November 29, 2005 07:48 PM [permalink]:


To the question "How can we evaluate ethical/religious arguments? (In particular, in our discussion, Islam)" there are plenty of answers from different perspectives. One can evaluate them, like any other argument, form the point of view of logic. One can evaluate them on the basis of their assumptions, etc. In so far as a certain ethical argument provides us with a theory that explains certain aspects of the real world, we can even evaluate them by performing tests to see the validity of the consequences of that theory. In all these aspects such an evaluation is common with a scientific evaluation. But you must be careful to understand the logic of such scientific evaluation:

A scientific evaluation never seeks to prove something positively, that is beyond fallibility. That is logically impossible given that our experience is always a finite subset of the possible experiences in the world. Instead in science one always tries to disprove a proposed scientific theory. That is, all theories are taken to be fallible, and if they do not bear the results of our tests they should be discarded and a new theory must be proposed. So there is no such thing as "proof" beyond fallibility. Proofs in their mathematical and logical sense connect the assumptions of the proof and the claims of the proof. So even having a "proof" is not a protection against fallibility.

Thus if an ethical assertion is to be set beyond this inevitable fallibility it cannot be borne by a scientific evaluation. In this respect does the "probabilistic proof to deny randomness of creation of human," a.k.a. creationism, have a testable (falsifiable) consequence we can put to test? If it doesn't it cannot be subject to scientific evaluation. If it does you must explicitly state it.

What exactly is the relationship between ethics and facts, however, is another aspect of this discussion that is best left to another occasion. Though you may want to check out this little piece.

Okay, now would you be willing to start with God+Freedom->Consequences in your analysis? Are these consequences in conflict with the other approach?

Of course Freedom here means the maximum freedom logically possible for individual human beings.

Babak S at November 29, 2005 07:58 PM [permalink]:


In this particular case I would prefer to have an illiterate who understands the issue at hand in his gut as the President instead of an intellectual who cannot see the link so clearly demonstrated by repeated human expereince. On the same note, you must know better than I do that these kinds of discussion started on the right foot in the US with the foresight of the founding fathers. So it does not so much matter now that GW Bush cannot spell the sentences in the US constitution right, just that he is constrained by that foresight and that even he cannot and I would guess doesn't wish to go against them.

Of course if an intellectual could do the job it would be much better, but the price of intellectual ability should certainly not be set higher than seeing the simple truth.

Armin at November 30, 2005 03:23 AM [permalink]:


Bande Khoda,
My probabilistic proof chain is not going to replace physics, it's a proof itself based on math and Physics.

Starting from "Zero" simply means not presuming something that should be proved.

Evolution cannot have created life, unless you say it has been intelligent that in fact in that case you have named our intelligent God, evolution.

Your information about religion is very limited. God is somehow introduced/defined beautifully in Gnostic Shia Islam by its 1001 names, which is a beautiful and fruitful scientific base for understanding ethics and religion. Islam has had great results, scientific and empirical in the real life, but for those who understand it and do what it says. I have seen the great results myself. If you can't lead a plane or you have crashed, don't damn the plane-building idea. Complex ethical technology products like Islam need expertise and honesty as their pilot to not to crash, otherwise the result will be terrible.

If being minimalist is good as a rule, we must ride dunkey because a plane crashes. No, we just need to use the plane when and only if we can. In the case of ethics/religion, it means when we proved something is with a high enough chance right. Genuine clerics must be "scientists" in ethics (regardless of what they may wear) and depending the result they achieve, it may be necessary to force something. 60% chance of a great danger can definitly force something and waiting for everybody to accept is not wise. The fact that people abuse these things is not a defect of science, "we" should try to distinguish science from justification and resist the wrong decisions, religion won't do it for us and expecting this from religion is unlogical.

The other world claim is testable. E.g. prove against God, it will be probabilistically dismissed. Prove God->Prophets->NarrationsHistoricalAnalysis, it will be probabilistically accepted.

Armin at November 30, 2005 03:48 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

"So there is no such thing as "proof" beyond fallibility."

- Yes, the fact behind you sentence is evident, and in the other hand Godel's theorem teaches good lessons that there is corectness beyond proof in a limited system, so evolving forever is a must.

"Okay, now would you be willing to start with God+Freedom->Consequences in your analysis? Are these consequences in conflict with the other approach? Of course Freedom here means the maximum freedom logically possible for individual human beings."

- There's no conflict, according to my studies (till now). After the God issue, we can probabilistically prove that prophets have "opened the doors" to maximum freedom rules, a complex science which we are always fallible to understand it and we forever can revise our understanding (it's purely science, like Physics, we have new theories in Physics, we have new theories in understanding Islam, but the pace seems to be slower due to the complexity). Falsifying claims in a probabilistic proof can be done for example by knocking one step, e.g. if I say if we pick someone randomly it would probably be a doctor, you falsify it by saying for example that only one percent of the society are doctors.

Best Wishes

Babak S at November 30, 2005 04:28 AM [permalink]:


Isn't "60% chance of a great danger can definitly force something and waiting for everybody to accept is not wise" in conflict with "maximum freedom rules"? Unless the "thing" that is forced is not the actions of those who have not accepted it, the answer is clearly positive.

Also, there's no such thing as "probabilistic proof" of something's existence, especially something that is deemed to be absolute.

Babak S at November 30, 2005 05:07 AM [permalink]:


Another example: You said in another comment section:

[women being punished by men if they don't provide sexual favors] is for a "lajooj" person, not a person with a good reason, and this optional punishment is like physical jokes friends make with each other (unless you want to make an ugly face of Islam by exaggeration, the fake face I will be the first of Kafirs to it).

and in response to "In the same line why exactly does performing the male SEXUAL act entitle the male to punish his partner while the opposite is not allowed?" you wrote

Women have similar punishment rights, but practicing them in this world is againt wisdom because of physical advantage of men (if you even slightly beat a bad man you may be harshly beaten), so at least for this reason this punishment right is not advised to be practiced outside the court.

These "punishment rights" (for either sex) are in conflict with "maximum freedom rules" (and in the actual case where they are given only to men and not women are sexist, but I'll spare you that). They involve "punishing" someone for her decision regarding her own body. Calling her "lajooj" (stubborn), which is a subjective trait depending on somebody else's perception, does not change this fact. Even if an alleged breach of contract occurs in a society where "maximum freedom rules" are in place the dispute must be resolved in a court of Law to serve justice on both sides of the dispute, and prevent arbirtrary punishment. Both of these are logically paramount to keeping the "maximum freedom rules" in place.

This example and the one in my previous comment above make me believe that your studies have indeed led you to conclusions that are in conflict with the principle of Freedom.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at November 30, 2005 10:05 AM [permalink]:


Bandeh Khoda at November 30, 2005 01:27 PM [permalink]:


The shrewdness of Mr. Khatami to forumlate the same total BS in nice words did nothing but harm our society. The current government in Iran is a result of his betrayal of the trust of the Iranian people and his empty pledges and false promises.

Armin at December 1, 2005 07:36 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

"Isn't "60% chance of a great danger can definitly force something and waiting for everybody to accept is not wise" in conflict with "maximum freedom rules"? Unless the "thing" that is forced is not the actions of those who have not accepted it, the answer is clearly positive."
- No. By 60% chance you know a chocolate is poisonous and you force another person that do not believe it to not to eat it. You may even beat him, if you have no other choice.

"Also, there's no such thing as "probabilistic proof" of something's existence, especially something that is deemed to be absolute."
- The above case contains a probabilistic proof to not to eat the chocolate. The probabilistic proof to the "existance" of great danger.

"These "punishment rights" (for either sex) are in conflict with "maximum freedom rules" ... They involve "punishing" someone for her decision regarding her own body." ... Even if an alleged breach of contract occurs in a society where "maximum freedom rules" are in place the dispute must be resolved in a court of Law to serve justice on both sides of the dispute, and prevent arbirtrary punishment. Both of these are logically paramount to keeping the "maximum freedom rules" in place.
- In marriage, both sides have responsibilities regarding each other that limits their freedoom in a way to gain more another way. Bringing an "inside family" sexual matter to courts can be more unpleasant and against freedom, specially given the fact that the punishment is only as severe as physical jokes of friends (etc.).

You can judge Islamic rules if you have a big list of pros and cons, if not a complete one which is practically impossible. You seem to be rich in listing cons, so gather the pros as well. A better way may be going through the probabilistic proof chain I had mentioned (or another scientific way if you can, whatever the result).

Best Wishes

Babak S at December 1, 2005 08:40 PM [permalink]:


Enough said that in a working common-sensical definition of freedom, a probability for danger does not provide grounds for coersion, unless that danger cannot be averted by person A without compelling person B to act in a certain way or ways. In your example of a poisonous chocalate, even a 100% probability of certainty of danger, in which case the danger is simply certain harm or deadliness, can be dealt with by A and/or B simply by avoiding it individually. All that should be done is to let A and B know about it. If after such information B decides to take the chance and dies there is no moral burden on A or others. In the more realistic case where only tiny probablities are demonstrable, the result of such coersions is that B looses her freedom, which has far-reaching more disastrous consequences than the possibility of getting food poisoned.

I think you must admit it at this stage that you do not believe in "maximum freedom rules" at all.

Armin at December 2, 2005 03:32 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

Neither knowing and letting another person know is always simple (like the choc case), nor the chance of danger is always low. Maximum freedom based rules for forcing people to do sth should be based on something like this (of course more complex):

ChanceOfDanger * FreedomLossByDanger >
ChanceOfFreedomLossByUsingTheForce * FreedomLossByUsingTheForce

Armin at December 2, 2005 03:44 AM [permalink]:

In reality, even in simple cases like the choc one, people may not listen to you for myriads of reasons, at least soon enough, e.g. your choc eating brother doesn'y listen because you have told a joking lie to him a few mins ago and you have a few seconds to do something. Your wrong understanding of max freedom lets him die. See the basic equation idea.

Babak S at December 2, 2005 04:15 AM [permalink]:

You are mixing things up, Armin. I am not saying if your brother is just about to eat a possibly poisonous chocalate, you should look at him indifferently. Instead you may temporarily stop him by taking the cholcalate away, explain the situation, and then let him decide. Ultimately, after you have explained yourself and he has understood you and that you are not lying, you must let him decide for himself. This is a game-theoretic idealization, but one that is needed to analyse the actions of rational persons and their outcomes. In real life, in politics, etc. there is or ought to be enough time for a person to explain her positions, arguments, and theories.

I did not say the chances must be low; my argument works as I said before even if there is a 100% probability for the chocalate to be poisonous. I am no fan of using equations in discussing concepts like this. Equations do not necessarily make it easier to understand the concepts. How are we to measure Freedom? Who should do that? Whereas the existence of a person's freedom in deciding a particular task is objective, the quantity of freedom of a person over a variaty of decisions is not. These are all unnecessary complications, and do not change the basic and simple fact that by coercing a person to do something that would not interfere with anyone else's freedom, you have taken away his freedoms, treated him like a mentally handicap person, and the rest of it.

Again, I see no way out of the admission that your conclusion is in conflict with, as you wrote, "maximum freedom rules".

Babak S at December 2, 2005 04:25 AM [permalink]:

That said, let me take this conversation to its final conclusion: your statements (whatever the "proofs" and arguments behind them) contradict the principle of Freedom, and if implemented in the public sphere lead inevitably to violations of human rights far beyond what you can imagine, or perhaps would like to admit at any time, as they have in Iran as we write these lines. This is no coincidence, because what you advocate as a basis for your ethical system cannot possibly be agreed upon by others without forgoing their chance of changing their minds, or giving that up to a higher authority, religious or otherwise.

And this is exaclty the universal human experience that is denied by Khatami, and many others in Iran now, and before in history elsewhere. By doing so, they only show that they lack either the insight to see it for themselves, or the intellectual honesty to accept it when it is presented to them.

Armin at December 2, 2005 08:17 AM [permalink]:

Dear Babak,

People are not Islans, they are connected in the society and their apparently personal decisions may have quite severe social oucomes (e.g. drinking alcohol).

You still do not completly get what I mean (or I need to say it better). If as you had mentioned we need to end this discussion, I suggest you remember these about Islam:

1. Einstein: "[ethics] Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Your religion is without science, I don't surprise you cannot trust the blind eyes.

2. Islam teaches you to not to believe anything wrong (even if it is itself). The door is more than open to leeave (you are kicked to leave a wrong religion). No goal is pre-determined but honesty and science. Complete freedom of thought. My studies probabilistically show till now that Islam opens the door to the infinite world of maximum freedom rules. It is infinite, let alone to be known as a set goal by us.

3. Einstein: "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." Understanding religion is a very complex science. Don't jump into conclusions without enough study.

4. Einstein: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Over-simplification in ethics is a kind of ethical dunkey riding (of course still better than the disaster of building an airplane that crashes).

5. Einstein: "The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge." According to my studies till now, Islam is born in rational knowledge, it does not control it by preset wrong things, it is controled (understood) by it. I would/will leave a rationally wrong religion. What are your presumptions? Not to study/accept Islam?

Best Wishes

Quotes from:

Armin at December 2, 2005 08:40 AM [permalink]:

"Equations do not necessarily make it easier to understand the concepts."
- Right.

"How are we to measure Freedom? Who should do that?"
- Hardly. It's a complex accumulative science (society is a whole). We do the science and God has helped us by religion. God->Prophets->NarrationsHistoricalAnalysis probabilistic proof chain leads us to this fact.

"the basic and simple fact that by coercing a person to do something that would not interfere with anyone else's freedom, you have taken away his freedoms, treated him like a mentally handicap person, and the rest of it."
- We may take his freedom to give him more. In the other hand, in many cases, apparently personal issues have social impacts. The problem is not in the idea of building an airplane, the problem is in not to do it right.

A Shia Muslim at June 30, 2006 08:45 PM [permalink]:

Both are regressive forms of control that deem humanity incapable of making decisions for themselves.

And any other form of government doesn't do this because...
What a laugh!!
Most decisions made are made by a select few individuals in governement not all people and this applies to many other system of governance. Regression is promoted in secular democratic socities to enslave them to consumerism fact.

it not only sedates them, but permanently affects their brain and undermines their critical thinking skills

Actually it gives them the ability to think critically by studying things around them that are for example maybe thought to be unislamic.