August 9, 2014

What Does It Mean When a Woman Wears a Muslim Headscarf?

The following was written by the liberal Canadian philosophy professor, Elsa Schieder, PhD, reprinted with her permission:

I've been experiencing a big personal change, to do with seeing a woman wearing the Muslim headscarf. I used to have no response. Now every time I see this, I ask myself: "Just what does she believe?"

Like most Western people, I've learned to be very accepting — and even appreciative — of different styles of dress, food, music. So I used to have no response to the Muslim headdress, the hijab. It was just — you do your thing, I do mine. My response was to the color, the style — in other words, I responded as if this were a fashion item.

That has been changing. In fact, this change has lagged far behind my learning about Islam. Perhaps shockingly, it's taken me years to respond more fully to the Muslim headscarf.

There's more than one reason for this. First, I used to see few headscarves in my home city. Then, there used to be less Muslim persecution of Christians worldwide. There was also no group declaring an Islamic caliphate, rampaging from one Middle Eastern area to the next.

Most of all, my sense is that it's taken a long time for it to sink in that I'm seeing women walking around advertising that they're part of a religion that seeks world domination, that seeks the destruction of my culture and way of life, that views all non-Muslims as filthy Kafirs — to be deceived, beheaded, crucified, plotted against, terrorized, humiliated, according to the Quran, which they believe is true — or what are they doing, wearing the Muslim headscarf?

Do most non-Muslims in the West respond with hostility, aversion, fear to women advertising their adherence to such an ideology? A Canadian journalist put on the Muslim headdress for a few days in order to record the prejudice Muslim women experience — and found that she was treated more positively than without it! (She saw this as a sign of racism — that people were not entirely neutral to the headdress, and instead cared to show they were tolerant and accepting! Oh well, what can you expect from the politically correct.)

I'm asking: Does it make any sense to be extra nice to someone belonging to a religion that has, as a goal, the destruction of my society? That views people like me as inferiors who are to be made to pay a special tax? That believes no one is to talk of any non-Muslim religion to Muslims? That approves of the murder and rape of non-Muslims, the enslavement of non-Muslims, the murder of gays, the inferiority of women?

No one has asked me to respond to people wearing the Nazi swastika as if this were meaningless, to people chanting Sieg Heil as if this were a quaint cultural artifact.

So what the blinkety-blank is going on here? It's vital to respond to what is happening. If we don't respond to, say, a lion prowling our way, we're much more likely to end up as lion supper.

That has made me sit down and create a handout. You'll find it at the bottom of the page. You're very welcome to download, print and distribute. You can also send it.

It starts:

A woman is wearing
a Muslim headscarf.
What does it mean?

For me, connecting the headscarf to what it stands for has changed everything. In fact, it melted something frozen inside me. It's only natural to connect something to what it stands for. A flag. It stands for something. If we respond positively or negatively, this is because of what we see the flag stands for.

Likewise with the Muslim headdress, the hijab.

The next thing. It's vital to get the word out.

The natural response of non-Muslims to the Muslim headscarf is recoil. It stands for something more dangerous than AIDS, than Ebola.

Most of us have had our senses numbed.

All the best to a world awakening to the reality of Islam and to taking appropriate action.

Again, if this suits you, you're welcome to download the handout below. It's a one-page two-sided handout.

All the best,


See, download, or print the PDF handout here: A woman is wearing a headscarf. What does it mean?

August 6, 2014

Thought Contagion and Islam

I searched Google to find out if anyone had written about Islam as a meme (if you don't know what a meme is, click here). I found several articles, but none were what I was looking for. Then I came across an excerpt from the book, Thought Contagion. It was exactly what I was looking for. But here's the funny thing: I already owned the book and had even read it!

But when I read it, the World Trade Center was still standing and the information was only mildly interesting to me at the time. Things have changed. I read it again, and it felt like I was reading it for the first time.

The author, Aaron Lynch, looked at several institutions in his book — families, politics, and religion — and in the religion section, he looked at most of the major religions, including Islam. What can memetics (study of memes) tell us about Islam and the trouble in the Middle East?

Memetically, Islam is a very successful memeplex (group of memes). Several embedded memes help make it so. For example, if Muslims drift away from Mohammed's teachings, Allah will end the world. That makes converting others and promoting Islam a matter of survival. It also motivates Muslims, as Lynch points out, "to dissuade each other from losing faith."

It is also a requirement of Islamic faith to make a public prayer five times a day. The unusual posture attracts attention, and the prayers can be heard by nearby people. Under some circumstances, this might help Islam spread. And the fact that the Muslim is repeating his prayers five times a day makes it very easy for him to stay focused on Islam. It would be almost impossible for him to forget it.

Islam is different from other religions in at least one important way: It began at a time and in a place where no empire constrained its spread. In other words, if you start a religion within the Roman Empire, you're going to have certain limitations. The Romans would see any new religion — especially a militant or political religion — as a threat to its power and would make sure it stayed peaceful. A religion that preached tolerance and goodwill toward others might survive, but a violent or militant or political new religion would be quashed immediately.

But Islam had no such restriction when it began, so it could incorporate "conversion by warfare" into its memeplex, and it did. As Lynch wrote, "The faith provides for a jihad or holy war, which historically led to Islamic rule over whole societies." Once a country was conquered by war, pagans were often given a simple choice: convert to Islam or die. That is written into Islamic law. If any members of the newly acquired country were Christian or Jewish, they were required to pay a special tax and became a second-class citizen, unless they wanted to convert.

This information answered a question I had for a long time. Why are there "Muslim" countries? Do you see Buddhist countries? Hindu countries? Christian countries? I know there are countries where these religions are in the majority, but has the religion taken over the government? No. But the way Islam was created, taking over the government is what the faithful will do. Not the extremist. Not the crazy ones. The faithful Muslims, if they follow the teachings of Muhammad, will take over the government, establish the religion as the national religion, and rule using the law of Allah.


According to the Koran, if you die while fighting for Islam, you are guaranteed eternal paradise. This meme not only encourages bravery in battle, but it encourages continual warfare against non-Muslim nations. You cannot die fighting for Islam if there is no fighting going on. This answered another question I had for a long time: Why can't the people in the Middle East just work out their differences and get on with their lives? That question assumes that warfare is not desirable. I was assuming war is a temporary break in an otherwise peaceful, productive life. But that is an assumption that was not shared by the writer of the Koran.

So continual warfare is part of the teachings of Islam. And another meme has been added to reduce the costs of war. When men die, the ratio of women to men changes, of course, leaving widows childless or unable to take care of the children they already have. But the Koran says each man can marry up to four wives. This makes the men more at ease with going to war, and makes sure warfare doesn't reduce the numbers of the next generation of the faithful.

This is all very interesting in a detached, academic sort of way, but as you can easily surmise, this has profound implications. How then, should the rest of the world interact with Muslim countries? The religion has slowly spread and taken over countries. Should they be stopped? How can you stop such a thing?

In the heyday of Islam, Muslims were invading India, China, Europe, and Africa all at the same time, spreading rapidly, taking over countries, building an Islamic empire. They were fought back and contained, and had been contained for a long time. But they are inventing new methods to fight.

What can we do? The first thing is to know what we're dealing with, and political leaders repeating "Islam is a religion of peace" doesn't really help clarify the situation.

I have heard from several people saying they are Muslims and they have no desire to fight anyone. Obviously, it is possible to be moderate about anything. But Islam requires a lot from its followers and appears to inspire more commitment more often and with more militancy and governmental aspirations than any other religion.

If you'd like to know more about the memes in Islam, the best way is to read the Koran (you can do it online) and find out for yourself what it really says. This is the manual orthodox Muslims are using. Since you and I are their target, it seems like a good idea to know what they are basing their actions on and why. I think you'll find it surprising.

Read more: The Terrifying Brilliance Of The Islamic Memeplex