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Islam's Violent Factions Are Mostly Killing Other Muslims, Says Salman Rushdie

It is one thing not to discriminate against people, says Salman Rushdie, i.e. peaceful practitioners of Islam, but to foreclose an open debate over the merits of religion is a mistake.

Salman Rushdie: I think there’s something very worried happening as it were on the left, you know. It used to be that it was the conservatives both in America and Europe who used to criticize people for criticizing religion, you know, that used to be a right wing politic. Now it’s become a left wing politic that somehow – and I think the argument goes that mostly groups in America and Western Europe are often economically disadvantaged and suffer from various kinds of prejudice and racism and have difficult lives and therefore to criticize the religion is to further attack them and that shouldn’t be done. And I mean that’s as best as I can put that argument and I think that was the argument in that Affleck issue. And I think it was the argument in the division within PEN American Center about honoring Charlie Hebdo and it crops up over and over again. I mean it happened just to a certain extent when the trouble was surrounding me. But actually less so than in those days the argument was – the criticisms were still mostly from the right, from people like, you know, the Cardinal of New York or the chief rabbi of Great Britain or the Pope, you know. All of whom found it perfectly possible to sympathize with Islamic religious leaders about me.

So and that taught me something interesting about the unity of the God Squad, you know. Now it seems that this liberal spirit of appeasement of political correctness is a new problem. Because of course it’s obviously quite right to say that communities that are discriminated against and oppressed and economically disadvantaged need to have those issues looked at, you know, and we need to try to deal with those issues. That’s not the same thing as saying you can’t criticize ideas they seem to hold. If you can’t ring fence ideas. It’s one thing to say people must not be discriminated against but to say that ideas become illegitimate or legitimate because they’re held by disadvantaged people is – it’s just a flaw. It’s very important to remember that when free expression is diminished or restricted it’s usually minority groups that suffer first. It’s their free expression that is restricted before the majorities.

So it’s always in the interest of minority communities to defend free expression because their own rights are involved. And if by doing that they have to put up with a certain amount of criticism of their own ideas then that just goes with the territory. And it’s very worrying to see well-meaning people, people who are coming from a good place, joining in with the world of censorship and therefore ending up in a very bad place. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to be highly critical of religion in general and in particular right now the use is being made of the Islamic religion because of, I mean, what’s happening in the world, you know. I think to say that that’s not to do with Islam is just a logical impossibility. Of course it is. If everybody engaged in acts of Islamic terrorism says that they’re doing it in the name of Islam who are we to say they’re not. I mean now of course what they mean by Islam might well not be what most Muslims mean by Islam. But it’s still a form of Islam and it’s a form of Islam that’s become unbelievably powerful in the last 25 and 30 years.

A form of Islam that if that oppresses and kills Muslims more than anyone else. That’s to say most of the Muslim deaths in the world right now are not caused by American drones. They’re caused by Islamic attacks on Muslims of another type, you know. Shiite attacks on Sunnis. Sunni attacks on Shiites. Most of the oppression of Muslims in the world right now is carried out by other Muslims, you know. Whether it’s the Taliban in Afghanistan or, you know, the Ayatollah or wherever it might be. But to say that this is not Islam is to misname the problem. The problem is that there’s been a mutation in Islam which has become unusually virulent and powerful. And it needs to be dealt with but in order to deal with it we have to first call it by its true name.

It is one thing not to discriminate against people, says Salman Rushdie, i.e. peaceful practitioners of Islam, but to foreclose an open debate over the merits of religion is a mistake.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

Videos
  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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How to do archaeology with place names

Mapping the frequency of common toponyms opens window on Britain's 'deep history'.

Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • A place name is more than a name – it's a historical record of the name-givers.
  • By examining some of the most common toponyms, Britain's 'deep history' is revealed.
  • See where Danes, Welsh, and Anglo-Saxons stamped their name on the land.

Trans-generational communication

This is Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, in the northern English town of Washington.

Washington DC is a place named after a person who was named after a place. This is Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington, in the northern English town of Washington.

Image: Public domain

Giving a location a name is a possessive act. It transforms an 'anywhere', a random space, into a 'somewhere', a certain place. A place with meaning, not just for the name-givers, also for later generations. Because place names are sticky. They can survive for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. And even if today's toponym, worn with use, sounds different and lost its original meaning, it still remains a 'vector of trans-generational communication'.

In isolation, each toponym is like an archaeological dig – hiding multiple layers beneath a well-trodden exterior. In context, surprising toponymical patterns emerge. As in these maps by Helen McKenzie. She's disassembled British place names to examine the frequency of some of their most common constituents. They reveal deep history hiding in plain sight, on countless road signs across the UK.

Denmark's footprint in England

The toponymic \u200bsuffix -by is most prevalent in the area around the Humber.

The toponymic suffix -by is most prevalent in the area around the Humber.

Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission

Take -by (or -bie). It's one of the most common suffixes in place names throughout England, but also Scotland and Wales. Familiar examples include Grimsby and Whitby, on the North Sea coast; Derby inland, Formby on the Irish Sea coast and Lockerbie in Scotland.

There are hundreds of other examples, and they are among the most lasting relics of Scandinavian influence in Britain. By in Old Norse signified a farmstead or village. In modern Scandinavian languages, a 'by' still means village or city. In English, the word has also given rise to the terms 'by-election' and 'by-laws' – although pronounced differently than the suffix.

As the map shows, the suffix is most prevalent in the area around the Humber, and northern England in general. This is the core of what was once known as the Danelaw, a large swathe of northern and eastern England that was under Danish rule for about 80 years, until the expulsion of Eric Bloodaxe from Northumbria in the year 954.

But 'by' also occurs in Wales, as far south as Cornwall and as high north as central Scotland – a testament to the scale of Scandinavian involvement in Britain.

The valleys of Wales, and beyond

\u200bThe green, green valleys of south Wales.

The green, green valleys of south Wales.

Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission

The anglicised version is 'coombe', which gives an indication of how to pronounce what looks like three consonants in a row. As the Welsh word for 'valley', it stands to reason that this toponym is most prevalent in the valley-rich south of Wales. Examples include Cwmbran, Cwmafan and Cwmfelinfach.

As for the comparative antiquity of British languages, Welsh is the much older rival of English. The post-Roman, pre-English inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic antecedent of Welsh. They were pushed west by the invading Anglo-Saxons. A telling – but disputed – piece of toponymic evidence is the Welsh word for England, Lloegr, which some say means 'lost lands'.

Better evidence are the many Celtic-influenced place names throughout England, including such well-known toponyms as Dover or Manchester. Focusing on Cwm and its anglicised variant, we find pockets throughout southern, central and northern England, as well as in Scotland.

Tons of -tuns all over Britain

\u200bThe area of central England around Merseyside has the heaviest concentration of -tons and -tuns.

The area of central England around Merseyside has the heaviest concentration of -tons and -tuns in Britain.

Image: Helen McKenzie, reproduced with kind permission

'Tun' is an old English word for enclosure that is cognate with Dutch 'tuin' ('garden') and German 'Zaun' ('fence') – for more on that, see #615 – and by way of 'ton' gave rise to 'town'. Perhaps the world's most famous example is Washington: the U.S. capital's name derives from the country's first president, whose name comes from the eponymous town in northern England. Its name, in turn, probably originated as Hwæsingatūn, the estate (tūn) of the descendants (inga) of Hwæsa – an old English first name that means "wheat sheaf".

The Anglo-Saxons planted countless tuns/tons throughout England, with the second-highest concentration in the northeast, around Washington. The highest concentration, though, is centered on the part of central England towards Merseyside (Liverpool and environs), with Bolton, Everton, Preston and Warrington some of the best known examples.

But really, there are tuns and tons all over Britain, with distant areas of Scotland and Wales the only exceptions. Note the concentration in southwest Wales: southern Pembrokeshire, once known as Little-England-beyond-Wales.

Maps reproduced with kind permission of Helen McKenzie. For a few more maps on toponymy and a lot more on other subjects (including emploment density in Hackney and otter sightings in the UK), check out Ms McKenzie's Instagram, at helen.makes.maps.

Strange Maps #1037

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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