Posts Tagged ‘middle east’

Muslims Beaten Mosques Burned

January 10, 2016

That is the claim made by a recent e-mail I received from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

Last week, a Muslim store owner in New York was beaten by a man yelling, “I kill Muslims!” A pig’s head was left outside a Muslim community center in Philadelphia. And in California, a mosque was set on fire while people prayed inside, and a woman threw hot coffee on Muslims praying in a park.1

And that’s just a partial list of the hate crimes directed at Muslims—and those mistaken to be Muslim because of the color of their skin—sweeping the country.

The only way to stop it is for all of us who reject hate to speak out. Loudly.

That’s why we’re helping jumpstart a nationwide campaign called “Hate Has No Business Here.” We’re organizing small-business owners, community centers, libraries, schools, town halls, places of worship, and others to stand up against Islamophobia.

Will you chip in $3 and help stand up against anti-Muslim hate crimes?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

The wave of Islamophobia since the Paris attacks is terrifying, and the FBI was reporting a disturbing rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes even before Paris.

And with Republican presidential candidates whipping up fear, things could get out of control fast.

That’s why we were so inspired by a couple of small-business owners in Minnesota who launched a nationwide campaign with a simple gesture. They put a sign in their window saying, “Hate has no business here.”

Now we’re teaming up with them and the Main Street Alliance to get these signs posted in businesses all over America.

Your donations will allow us to distribute thousands of posters—and expand the campaign to public spaces across America. We’ll collect stories and photos and drive media coverage to push back against the stories of hate and violence.

Will you chip in $3—and help stand up against anti-Muslim hate crimes?

Click here to chip in.

In the wake of our “We Are Better Than This” ad campaign in The New York Times, we’ve all been looking for more positive steps we could take, together, to turn the tide against hate and religious, racial, or other profiling. “Hate has no business here” is right in that spirit.

Thanks for all you do.

Anna, Erica, Robert, Jo, and the rest of the team

There are many among the progressive left who have a heavy emotional investment in the idea that the American people are racist, intolerant, ignorant rednecks who have to be restrained from going on a murderous frenzy against the Muslims. I suppose this gives them a pleasant feeling of superiority over their countrymen.

The fact is, despite a supposed surge in hate crimes against the Muslims, Jews are far more likely to be the victim of hate crimes than Muslims. It’s not even close. According to the article at snopes.com I linked to:

Hate crimes of all types are, thankfully, fairly rare. And it is true that hate crimes against Jews outnumber the number of hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims. The FBI reported that in 2014, there were 609incidents of hate crimes against Jews and 154 against Muslims.

Case closed? Not quite. This could, after all, be an example of lazy reporting. Sure, the raw number of hate crimes against Jews is higher, but national crime statistics are typically reported as a rate: number of crimes per 100,000 population.

Although estimates of the Jewish population in the U.S. were fairly stable across various websites, estimates of the Muslim population varied dramatically – anywhere from 2.1 million to 6.7 million. The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study seemed to offer the most reliable and objective statistics on religious affiliation in the United States.

According to the Pew study, Jews and Muslims both represent fairly small proportions of the U.S. population, coming in at 1.9% and 0.9% of the U.S. population as a whole. With a total U.S. population of 318.9 million as of 2014, there are approximately 6.1 million Jews and 2.9 million Muslims in America.

Easy math tells us that although there are roughly twice as many Jews in the U.S. than there are Muslims, hate crimes against Jews occur four times as often. Expressed as more official rates per 100,000 population, Jews suffer from hate crime incidents at a rate of 10.05 incidents per 100,000 population while the Muslim rate is roughly half as much, at 5.37 incidents per 100,000 population.

Meanwhile in Europe, there has been a significant rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes over the past few years, with the rapidly increasing Muslim immigrant population largely responsible. Added to that the fact that there is no place in the majority-Muslim Middle East, outside of Israel, where a Jew can expect to live in peace, and it begins to seem as if the Muslims are far more often the persecutor than the persecuted.

These facts do not excuse hate crimes against Muslims, but they do shatter the narrative of the poor, persecuted Muslims suffering at the hands of the bigoted, Islamophobic Americans. When you consider the number of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies committed by Muslims over the past decades, American people have shown a remarkable degree of patience and tolerance. If some Christian terrorist organization had been committing attacks like 9/11 in any Middle Eastern country, by now there would not be a Christian alive throughout the entire Middle East. Even now, Christians in the Middle East are in serious danger of extermination for the heinous crime of existing.

As that article points out, hate crimes are rather rare in present day America. Hate crimes make the news precisely because they are something out of the ordinary. If America was really the nation steeped in bigotry that Move0n.org imagines us to be, hate crimes would be a daily occurence, hardly worth mentioning in the news. In fact, in many ways the United States is among the most tolerant nations and Western nations generally are more tolerant than non-Westerners. Yes, we do have a history which includes slavery, segregation, imperialism, etc, but these sort of things are the norm in human history. We are the exception in that we decided such things are wrong and should be stopped. If Moveon.org is concerned with the ill-treatment of religious minorities, their efforts would be better focused in places like the Middle East.

 

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Some Thoughts on ISIS

November 22, 2015

There has been a lot written lately on what should be done with the growing threat of terrorism sponsored by the Islamic State and about Islamic radicalism generally. I don’t imagine I have anything significant to contribute to this discussion but here are some thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

One reason for the appeal of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East that doesn’t seem to get much attention is that the recent history of the Islamic world, particularly at its Arabic speaking core is largely a history of repeated failure. Generally, the Middle East has had a very difficult time adjusting to the modern world. With the exception of Israel, which doesn’t really count since it is a Western transplant, the countries of the Middle East are backwards and poor with repressive, corrupt governments. They produce almost nothing the rest of the world wants in trade, except for oil. They contribute little to the progress of science and technology. Their militaries may be well equipped with purchases from the United States and Russia, but they are ill trained and not very effective, particularly against any Western power. It must be very humiliating, since Islam promises that the Muslims are the best of men who enjoy Allah’s favor, to see the infidel West enjoying success and prosperity while they languish in poverty and powerlessness, especially for proud, young men.

This may be part of the reason there is so much hatred of Israel among the Arabs. Israel is in the same part of the world, has much the same resources and geography though without oil, and even some of the same culture among the Jews from the Middle East, yet Israel is a vibrant, prosperous country that has contributed far more to the world than one might expect from a country of its size, more than the entire rest of the Middle East combined. There might be a good deal less hatred of Israel if Israel were just another third world sewer.

It is not that the Muslims haven’t tried to modernize. For most of the twentieth century,

various Muslim countries have attempted modernize, secularize, and westernize themselves, with varying degrees of success. Kemel Ataturk in Turkey, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, the Communists in Afghanistan, and others such as Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi all tried to transform the states they ruled. Unfortunately, these Muslim leaders picked up all the worst ideas that the West had to offer,  such as socialism, communism, militant nationalism, and others, combined with traditional Middle Eastern despotism created nothing but a series of  repressive failed states. Modernization and westernization didn’t seem to work. It is not too surprising that many people began to believe that the Middle East was going in the wrong direction. . Maybe the failure of the Islamic world was due to them abandoning the ways of Islam.Maybe instead of becoming more Western, they should become more Islamic. One by one these secular dictators have fallen, to be replaced by Islamic rulers. Turkey is something of an exception since it has long had the forms of democracy if not always the realty. However Ataturk’s secular legacy has been increasingly challenged over the last decade with the rise to power of the Justice and Development Party.

It is also worth noting that all these twentieth century efforts to modernize the Middle East were largely the top down efforts of a small, educated, westernized elite and enacted by force, while the more religious and traditional majority have been indifferent or actively hostile to efforts to modernize and westernize their countries. It doesn’t seem as if the westernized elite spent much time or effort trying to educate or change the minds of the masses in the Islamic world nor to try to achieve some sort of synthesis between Islamic and Western values. They have remained nominal Muslims while trying to undermine the influence of Islam in the people’s lives. It should not be surprising that the majority of people throughout the Middle East have tended to resent these efforts as an attempt to force an alien, irreligious culture on them. To make matters worse, the secular modernization efforts don’t seem to have worked. Countries like Egypt, Iraq or Iran have not become as wealthy and powerful as Western nations despite any attempts at westernization. The Westernized elites and despots have failed them.

Considered this way, the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East is not really that different from the revolts against the elite in the West. ISIS and al-Qaeda are not that different in principle from the TEA Party in the United States or the UK INdependence Party in Britain or any of a number of other populist movements throughout the West. ISIS and the TEA Party both seek to revive a former greatness by going back to fundamentals. What makes all the difference is that Tea Partiers study the constitution and run for office. Radical Muslims study the Koran and engage in terrorism. What makes this difference? In the West, we have learned to settle our differences more or less peacefully. In the Middle East, they seem to have not.

It is often said that the Middle East is a tribal society and that is the cause of so much violence in the region. Maybe, but the West is tribal too. Look at a map of any major city in the United States and you may still find neighborhoods labeled “Chinatown”, “Little Italy” or the like, a relic of the days when immigrants came and settled among people of their own nation, or tribe. Every human society is prone to factions. Why is it that in the West the tribes have somehow managed to learn to live in peace and even to blend together while in the Middle East old hatreds continue for generations to the detriment of the common good?

Part of the appeal of Islamic radicalism, as well as the original appeal of Islam in Mohammed’s time, is that it promises to surmount these petty differences between tribes and nations carved out from colonial empires and create a united kingdom under the rule of God. No doubt many Muslims feel that the disaster began when the Islamic community began to fracture into competing sects and empires. In the twentieth century, there was a strong pan-Arab nationalist movement promising to unite the Arabic people. If Arab nationalism didn’t unite the Middle East, perhaps Islamism might.

I don’t think it is very useful to blame one president or another or one policy or another for the rise of ISIS. Something like ISIS would have happened regardless of what we have done. It is tempting to believe that a superpower is the cause of everything that happens in the world but much is beyond our control. The cultural attitudes and societal trends that have led to present conditions have been occurring for a very long time and much depends on how the people in the region resolve, or fail to resolve their problems. Ultimately, we cannot solve their problems for them.

The West has had a violent, tumultuous history on its path to to liberty and democracy, and perhaps some parts of Europe have not quite completed the journey. It took periods of terrible bloodshed, the Wars of Religion during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Napoleonic Wars of the nineteenth century and the World Wars of the twentieth century to make Europe what it is today. It maybe that the Middle East must go through a generation of bloodshed to convince the people to live in peace. If so, than the only thing we can or should do is leave them alone to fight it out, taking care that the conflicts do not spill over outside the Middle East. It  may also be that allowing a generation of Muslims to live under an Islamic State is the only way to sour them on the whole idea. The people in Iran do not seem to be very enthusiastic about Islam these days. They have lived under their own Islamic State and they are sick of it. We would like to think that we can solve the world’s problems, but maybe this time we can’t . Maybe the best we can manage is to protect ourselves and hope for the best.

 

The Shape of Noah’s Ark

March 23, 2014

If I mention Noah’s ark, you probably imagine a structure that looks something like this.

noahs-ark-afloat

This image of the ark owes more to popular imagination than the actual instructions in Genesis. Although God gave Noah guidelines to the size and composition of the ark, He didn’t really specify the shape of the ark.

14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. (Gen 6:14-16)

The NIV and many other modern translations use cypress to translate the Hebrew word gopher. It is not certain what kind of wood gopher actually refers to and older translations often simply transliterated the word. I would prefer they use the term gopher. A cubit is a translation of the Hebrew word ammah. Both the Latin cubitus and the Hebrew ammah are a measurement based on the length of the fore arm, from the elbow to the finger or wrist. Ancient measurements were seldom standardized but a we may think of a cubit as about eighteen inches. This would make the dimensions of the ark about 450 feet long, 50 feet wide and 30 feet high, or in metric terms about 137 x 23 x 14 meters.

It is not clear whether a wooden vessel with such dimensions would actually be seaworthy. There are, of course, many modern ships which dwarf Noah’s ark, including aircraft carriers, cruise ships and super tankers, but they are made of steel, which is stronger than wood. Another problem with large wooden ships is that  longer timbers flex allowing water to leak in. According to Wikipedia, one of  the longest purely wooden ship that actually sailed was the Wyoming with a length of 329 feet. The planks in this ship twisted in heavy weather so the crew had to continually pump out the leaking sea water. It sank in 1924 with all hands lost. In the nineteenth century, there were  the HMS Orlando and the HMS Mersey at 335 feet. Their length made them all but useless and they were eventually decommissioned and sold for scrap. There have been other wooden ships of similar size or larger, but for the most part they used some iron or steel in their constructions or they did not actually sail in the open sea. There are historical records of even larger vessels in ancient times, but these accounts cannot be confirmed and were likely exaggerated.

It would seem, then, that Noah’s Ark as it is usually imagined isn’t likely to have survived the great flood and to have stayed afloat the the year or so it took for the waters to recede, unless the ark was miraculous or gopher wood had properties not found in any contemporary type of lumber. So, must we regard the story of Noah’s ark as purely legendary? Perhaps. Or, perhaps Noah’s ark was not built in quite the way it is usually pictured. This leads me at last to this report at Fox News about the possible appearance of the ark.

In Darren Aronofksy’s forthcoming epic “Noah,” the vessel by which the biblical hero saves himself, his family, and pairs of animals from the apocalyptic flood appears like a huge shipping container standing some 50 feet tall and 500 feet long.

The design was inspired by “going back to what God tells Noah in the Bible,” Aronofksy said in a behind-the-scenes featurette recently released by Paramount.

The problem is, Russell Crowe’s Noah might have gotten the wrong instruction manual.

The original Noah’s Ark was a giant round vessel, says a script on an 3,700-old clay tablet now on display at the British Museum in London.

Found in the Middle East in the late 1940s by Leonard Simmons, who then passed it to his son Douglas, the cracked, smartphone-sized tablet consists of 60 lines in cuneiform. It was translated by Irving Finkel, curator of the British Museum’s 130,000 Mesopotamian clay tablet collection.

The tablet turned out to be a detailed construction manual for building an ark with palm-fiber ropes, wooden ribs and coated in hot bitumen to make it waterproof.

The vessel, however, was round.

“The Babylonians of around 1750 believed the ark in the flood story was a giant version of the type of coracle that they actually used on the rivers,” Finkel told Discovery News.

The coracle described in the tablet was “the largest the world had ever dreamed of, with an area of 3,600 square meters, and 6-meter high walls,” Finkel said.

“A round boat makes perfect sense in Mesopotamia where round boats are likely to have been used on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It would not have made much sense in the Levant where you don’t have rivers like that,” Elizabeth Stone, an anthropology professor at New York’s Stony Brook University, told Discovery News.

Indeed, a waterproofed coracle would never sink.

“Being round isn’t a problem — it never had to go anywhere: all it had to do was float and keep the contents safe: a cosmic lifeboat,” Finkel wrote in his British Museum blog.

This makes a lot of sense. I would guess, without knowing much about ship building, that a round vessel would be better able to withstand rough seas and flooding. It might be more difficult to steer, but Noah wasn’t trying to get anywhere. This is even some Biblical reason for believing the ark was not shaped like a sea going ship. The Hebrew word that is translated into ark is teba, which is used in only one other place in the Bible, to describe the basket that Moses’s mother placed the infant Moses in to save him from Pharaoh.

 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. (Ex 2:1-6)

This basket was, perhaps, a small coracle, such as was used for river travel. The ark, then, could have been a very large coracle. The idea behind Noah’s ark was not so much a ship for traveling by sea as a refuge against a disaster.

Incidentally, the Hebrew word for the Ark of the Covenant, the one Indiana Jones was looking for is aron. If Strong’s Hebrew dictionary of the Bible is correct than the Biblical Hebrew word for ship was oniy.

This, does not, of course mean that the story of Noah’s ark and a global flood is literally true, though perhaps it adds a bit of credibility to the story. Irving Finkel  doesn’t believe it, though.

“I do not believe the ark really existed,” Finkel said.

“I think that the flood story echoes the memory of a real devastation but that the ark is a component of the mythology that developed to avert the fear of its happening again,” he concluded.

I think there is a lot more to the story than a vague memory of a disaster and a myth developed to reassure people, but that is a topic for another time.

 

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Tunisia’s Constitution

February 16, 2014

 

 

Last week, while my computer was in the shop, I received a couple of interesting emails from Melanie Jones of watchdog.net. Here is the one she sent expressing her enthusiasm for Tunisia’s new constitution.

 

Dear David Hoffman,

This week, Tunisia passed a truly historic constitution widely heralded as a progressive and monumental document.

Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:

  • Guaranteed equality between men and women
  • A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
  • A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
  • A democracywith civil laws that respects freedom of religion
  • An established right to due process and protection from torture

In one stroke, Tunisia’s become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years.

This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!

MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
— The folks at Watchdog.net

P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4238?n=55842607.pQX7mf

 

Melanie Jones is more easily impressed than I am. A constitution is only a piece of paper. You can write in any rights or protections you might want, but if the governing class of a country is not willing to abide by the rules in the constitution, that constitution is worthless. The Soviet constitution promised freedom of expression, religion, assembly and others, but no one in the Soviet Union enjoyed such freedoms. The leaders of the Communist Party had no intention of ever allowing themselves to be restrained by the sentiments expressed by their own constitution. It is likely the same might be the case in Tunisia.

I know that Tunisia is one of the more “liberal” countries of the Middle East, but I have to wonder how well a constitutional guarantee of equality between men and women is going to work in a country that is 98% Muslim. Tunisia’s former government was aggressively secular and their law code is more influenced by the French Napoleonic Code than Islamic Sharia law. Unfortunately, enforced secularism by dictators in the Arab world often causes more radical Islamic movements to form, and since they are often the ones who most opposed the oppressive government, they are often the faction of the opposition with the most credibility with the people. This has happened in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is possible something similar will happen in Tunisia, although so far the Islamists have not gained much influence and the leaders of the new government have rejected  any proposal to make Sharia the basis for legislation.

It remains to be seen whether Tunisia will be able to fulfill the promises made regarding environmental protection and health care for its citizens.  Such thing are usually luxuries enjoyed by wealthy countries and Tunisia is not a wealthy country, although the Tunisian economy has been growing at a steady rate. We will have to wait and see.

 

 

 

 

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Israel Treats Wounded Syrians

January 22, 2014

If anyone wonders why I tend to support the State of Israel over its enemies then they should read this story from Israel Hayom which I found courtesy of Jihad Watch.

Israel Defense Forces troops brought a wounded Syrian couple to Poriah Hospital near Tiberias Thursday night. The couple, residents of the embattled town Daraa, arrived with gunshot wounds in their legs. The male is 27 years old and his wife is 23 and in the early stages of pregnancy.

While the two did not have life threatening wounds, the two have been through an immense amount of duress recently: Two months ago, the couple lost their daughter two weeks after she was born. “Because of the gunfire and the siege on our town in the Daraa area, we were left with no choice but to deliver the child at home — and the medical condition of my baby deteriorated,” the woman told Israel Hayom. “All our pleading at the [Syrian] army checkpoint to go to the hospital did not help. We went back home and our daughter died there.”

Eight days ago, the couple was struck with another tragedy. Their village came under attack, “artillery bombardment, gunfire, and planes bombing from above,” the woman said. “In the evening my brother came and took us, my mother and two other wounded people and we tried to flee the village. During our exit from the village we were fired on by the army and my brother was killed before my eyes. We managed to escape back to the village and were treated in a field hospital. But the wounds got worse — until my cousin took us to the border and we got into Israel for treatment,” the woman said. Her brother, 19, fought with rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Currently the couple remains hospitalized, both in the same room. The woman is struggling with being away from her family, but admitted that she did not expect such friendly treatment from her enemy. “We were surprised by the treatment and dedicated medical care we got in Israel,” she said. “We hesitated coming to Israel, because we were taught to hate it. We were taught this is a brutal enemy state, but we learned that reality is different. People here have a conscience. Our enemy is in Syria, not in Israel. If only we could stay here.”

The couple were not named in the article and their faces were concealed in the photograph. I suppose it would not be safe for them if it were known that they spoke well of the enemy.

139013026393323059a_b

What would have happened to a wounded Israeli if he fell into the hands of any of Israel’s enemies? Maybe, he would be given medical treatment, and maybe not.  Judging from the recent, and not so recent history of the region, it would be foolish to expect decent behavior from the people of the region, they have been taught to hate their perceived enemies for so long. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where human rights are respected and the only country where you can expect people to act decently. The Israeli are a civilized people and Israel’s enemies are barbarians. I am going to support the civilized people over the barbarians every time.

 

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Crossing the Line

June 14, 2013

The Obama administration has determined that the Assad regime in Syria is using chemical weapons against the rebels and so has decided to send arms to the rebels. As CBS News puts it.

The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.

“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.

President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.

“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.

In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted.  Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.

“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.

To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

I think that this is a very bad idea. There are no good guys in this conflict. On one side there is a vicious secular Arab nationalist/socialist government that has an awful human rights record. On the other side there are rebels who are Islamist and almost certainly have ties to al-Qaeda and will probably impose Sharia law on Syria. Neither side is likely to be grateful for any aid we provide and both sides hate us and the West. As far as I can tell our only options are staying out of this conflict or, if we’re feeling especially cynical and Machiavellian, to keep the fighting going as long as possible.

And then there’s this from the Los Angeles Times.

Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to American cities and towns.

A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families.

The State Department is “ready to consider the idea,” an official from the department said, if the administration receives a formal request from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is the usual procedure.

I don’t think this is a good idea either. Hasn’t the bombing of the Boston Marathon taught us anything about the wisdom of allowing refugees from war-torn Muslim countries? We really do not need to import more radicalized fanatics who hate us into this country. In fact, I would suggest, as a matter of policy, that no Western country accept Muslim immigrants under any condition and the Europeans should consider ways of evicting the immigrants who are slowly taking over their countries.

 

 

They Want Sharia

May 2, 2013

It has long been an article of faith among many in the West and especially among our learned elites that the vast majority of Muslims are essentially moderate people who want freedom and democracy just as the people of the West do. Terrorists such as Osama bin Ladin and the Tsarnaev brothers who held to be part of a tiny minority of extremists who twist and distort the peaceful teachings of Islam. The problem with this view is that it is simply not true. While the great majority of Muslims are not terrorists and would prefer to live in peace with their neighbors, the truth is that the doctrines of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood are a lot closer to the mainstream of Islamic teachings than many in the West would like to admit.

There is a recent public opinion poll of the citizens of various Muslim countries which suggests that a large number of people in these countries would prefer to live under Islamic law or Sharia. Here is the story in Yahoo News which was originally published by Reuters.

Large majorities in the Muslim world want the Islamic legal and moral code of sharia as the official law in their countries, but they disagree on what it includes and who should be subject to it, an extensive new survey says.

Suicide bombing was mostly rejected In the study by the Washington-based Pew Forum, but it won 40 percent support in the Palestinian territories, 39 percent in Afghanistan, 29 percent in Eygpt and 26 percent in Bangladesh.

Three-quarters of respondents said abortion is morally wrong and 80 percent or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want sharia courts to decide family law issues such as divorce and property disputes, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said on Tuesday.

Views on punishments such as chopping off thieves’ hands or decreeing death for apostates is more evenly divided in much of the Islamic world, although more than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia say they are justified.

To be fair, it is likely that many of those who support the implementation of Sharia may not realize some of the implications of such rules. It is likely that after a decade or so of living under Sharia, many would come to detest it.

Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radical Muslims want to impose it on Western societies, but the survey shows views in Muslim countries are far from monolithic.

“Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia,” the study said. “Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims.”

Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Koran, the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions. Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to personal hygiene.

Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist who was special adviser for the project, said Muslims in poor and repressive societies tended to identify sharia with basic Islamic values such as equality and social justice.

“In those societies, you tend to see significant support for sharia,” she told journalists on a conference call. By contrast, Muslims who have lived under “narrow if not rigid” Islamic systems were less supportive of sharia as the official law.

Unlike Western law codes which leave a wide space of private actions, Islamic law tends to be totalitarian, in the sense that even private actions and beliefs are covered by the law. If a Man’s home is his castle in the West, under Sharia his home and his life belongs to Allah.

More than four-fifths of the 38,000 Muslims interviewed in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith freely and that this was good.

This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97 percent of Bangladeshis and 96 percent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 percent in Egypt.

The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities. In several Muslim countries, embattled Christian minorities say they cannot practice their faith freely and are subject to discrimination and physical attacks.

The survey produced mixed results on questions relating to the relationship between politics and Islam.

Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states – 54 percent in Iraq, 55 percent in Egypt – and falls to 29 percent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 percent in Lebanon, 75 percent in Tunisia and 70 percent in Bangladesh.

In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist militancy than any other form of religious violence.

I am sure that if a pollster had asked Whites in the Jim Crow South whether the Blacks were content with their lot, the great majority of Whites would have answered, sincerely, yes. No where in the Islamic world are Christians free to worship as they please. At best they can hope for a grudging tolerance. I have to wonder just what the respondents mean when they talk about democracy. It is no good if they are thinking democracy is a way to vote away other people’s’ rights and liberty.  Freedom is more than just having regular elections, even if they are free and honest. In order for a people to be truly free, they have to learn to respect the rights of others. No one wants to be oppressed. The trick is not wanting to oppress other people, especially the despised minority. So far, the human rights situation throughout the Middle East does not lend much support for the idea that the people of that region really understand this. The article ends on a slightly optimistic note.

Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89 percent in Tunisia and 79 percent in Indonesia saying yes and 45 percent in Iraq and 30 percent in Afghanistan saying no.

Majorities from 74 percent in Lebanon to 96 percent in Malaysia said wives should always obey their husbands.

Only a minority saw Sunni-Shi’ite tensions as a very big problem, ranging from 38 percent in Lebanon and 34 percent in Pakistan to 23 percent in Iraq and 14 percent in Turkey.

Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68 percent in Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65 percent in Tunisia, 60 percent in Nigeria and 57 percent in Pakistan.

A section of the survey on U.S. Muslims noted they “sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world”. Only about half say their closest friends are Muslim, compared to 95 percent of Muslims globally.

So American Muslims are assimilating. That’s good as far as it goes. I hope there is never any sort of religious revival among our Muslim population.

Not So Merry Christmas For Many

December 25, 2012

I hope everyone who is reading this is having a very, merry Christmas and that you are all having a wonderful time with your families. As you celebrate this joyous holiday, keep in mind that Christmas is a time of fear for Christians in the Middle East. There are a couple of articles at Jihad Watch that I think are worth sharing.

First, Christmas in Pakistan. This article is from Deutches Wille.

Christians celebrate Christmas amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The year 2012 was one of the worst years for them in the country.

In many parts of the world, Christmas means a time of celebration. But for Christians in Pakistan, who live under constant fear of persecution by the state and majority Sunni Muslims, there is not much to celebrate.

Christians make up about two percent of the 180 million people living in Pakistan. Rights organizations say that like any other religious minority, they face legal and cultural discrimination in the Islamic Republic.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Controversial blasphemy laws introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s make life for Christians more difficult. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas; they say the Christians are thereby often victimized.

Before the rise of Islamic extremism and religious intolerance in Pakistan, Christians celebrated Christmas with much enthusiasm. They would put stars on their houses and decorate their towns with lights and flags. But many now worry about the risk of being conspicuous.

“We are scared. We are frightened. We cannot sit together, we cannot speak loudly, we cannot celebrate openly. We receive threats,” Ashraf Masih, a street sweeper, told AFP. “If we sit together and talk, all of a sudden the Muslim owner of the house will come and ask ‘Why are you here, what are you talking about?'”

Qadri was celebrated by extremists for the murder of a governor critical of blasphemy laws

Aslam Masih, a 37-year-old gardener, told AFP in an interview that previously they used to celebrate Christmas in the town church but now it it had been closed.

Here is Robert Spencer’s piece at PJ Media on the jihad against Christmas.

Armed guards are patrolling outside churches in Nigeria. Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia are cowering in fear. Why? Because it’s Christmastime.

Many Muslims take a dim view of Christmas at best, and at worst actively menace Christians celebrating it. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Sheikh Yahya Safi, the head imam of Australia’s largest mosque, summed up an all-too-common view when he warned in a fatwa Saturday that “disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path,” and that “a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them.”

Likewise the chairman of Indonesia’s top organization of Muslim clerics declared: “It’s better if they don’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It’s still up for debate whether it’s halal or haram, so better steer clear of it. But you can say ‘Happy New Year.’”

Muslim intimidation and violence against Christians around Christmas is only an extension of the intimidation and violence Chrisitans increasingly suffer throughout the year. Yet these incidents have received only scant attention in the mainstream media. And not only the international media, but also the human rights establishment and the United Nations continue to take virtually no notice. In their conceptual framework only Westerners can do evil and Christians cannot possibly play the role of victim. The chimera of “Islamophobia” consumes their time, attention, and resources; after being so consumed with this fiction, what can be left over for the actual persecution of Christians?

And so for the all-too-real Christian victims of Muslim fanaticism and hatred in Islamic lands, it’s yet another quiet, hushed, precarious Christmas.

And last, Christianity began in the Middle East yet the religion is close to being extinct there. Centuries of discrimination and intimidation ave decimated the oldest Christian communities in the world. Jihad Watch has an article from the Telegraph on this.

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.

And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.

It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.

The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.

“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”

“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”

And yet Islamophobia is supposed to be a major problem of our time. If you are not afraid of the most violent and intolerant religion in the world than you are not paying attention to what is going on.

Merry Christmas to all. Hopefully Christmas will be a time of joy for everyone sometime soon.

 

 

James Earl Obama

November 5, 2012

Is Obama really like Carter? There have been many who have made the connection based on the similarities of a faltering economy and a weak foreign policy. I don’t think the connection is entirely accurate based on the two men’s personality and presidential style. In personality, Obama is actually rather more like Nixon. He seems to be an introvert who doesn’t like people all that much and is not really a natural politician. He also has a nasty, vindictive side to his personality, like Nixon. Obama does not seem to be quite the intellectual Nixon was, though Nixon was careful to hide this in order to appeal to the ordinary people.

In governing style, Obama and Carter could not be more dissimilar. Carter was a micromanager, who oversaw everything that was going on in the White House, perhaps at the expense of losing sight of the big picture. Obama does not seem to be interested in the minutiae of governing and seems to leave the details to others. Perhaps he sees himself as being like Reagan who set the overall policies and left the details to his staff. Obama has taken this as far as largely outsourcing his legislative work, including his signature achievement Obamacare, to the Congressional Democrats.

In this column, in USA Today, Robert Pastor argues that Barack Obama is indeed like Jimmy Carter, and that is a good thing. Here are a few excerpts and comments.

Both think that war should be the last option, and that a multilateral approach is a better way to share the burden and to strengthen alliances. To rescue our hostages and mete out justice to bin Laden, Carter and Obama took risks. Carter’s rescue mission in Iran failed, though he did get all our hostages out safely. Obama succeeded against bin Laden, but we suffered a terrible loss at the U.S. Consulate in Libya with the death of our ambassador and three other Americans.

I don’t think that we have ever had a President who didn’t believe that war must be the last option. The trouble lies in understanding how to prevent wars. Obama and Carter both seem to believe that the US is the problem in the world and therefore if only we adopt a humbler posture, other nations will reciprocate. This really doesn’t work. In fact, potential aggressors are likely to view an apologetic America as a weaker America and will be more inclined to cause trouble. I do not think that it was a coincidence that the hostages were released on the last day of Carter’s presidency. The leadership of Iran reasoned that Reagan was more likely to behave aggressively and decided that the costs of continuing to hold the hostages was greater than the benefits.

Carter and Obama both understand that peace in the Middle East requires pressure on both sides. Carter paid a political price but succeeded at Camp David. Obama tried but failed. Believing our interests are identical with one side, Romney might not even try.

Threatening war against Iran and Syria as Romney has done might be more satisfying than negotiating with fanatics, but Carter’s goal was to gain the release of U.S. hostages and Obama’s is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If we see negotiations as weakness, we will be left with no other option but war. Obama is not Carter, and the times are very different. But Carter’s legacy is instructive for both candidates. Strength should be judged by a willingness to make decisions that might be unpopular but would advance the national interest.

It may well be that war is the only option left with Iran. Whether or not the leadership of Iran is made up of fanatics, the simple truth is that there is little, or nothing we can offer them that might induce them to give up the quest for nuclear weapons. They are rational enough to understand that if they acquire nuclear weapons, they will be in a far better negotiating position. They interests lies in delaying any present negotiations until they gain nuclear weapons.

As for Camp David, Carter actually had little to do with that. The peace between Israel and Egypt came about because Anwar Sadat realized that Egypt would never be able to defeat Israel. He therefore decided that Egypt had more to gain with peace than by continued fighting. If Sadat had good reason to believe that Israel was weak and could be defeated, he would not have made peace. The problem in the Middle East right now is that Israel’s enemies have good reason to believe that by continuing their efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel, they can weaken and ultimately defeat Israel. Undermining Israel, as all of the people who profess to be for peace seem to be doing, only makes peace less likely because it gives Israel’s enemies hope that they can prevail.

And yes, our interests are largely identical with one side. Israel is a democracy with values similar to our own. Its enemies are terrorists and dictatorships who hate us, and our values. I do not believe we should be even-handed at all in our relations in the region. We should support our friends and oppose our enemies.

With that criterion, Carter’s decision to negotiate a Panama Canal Treaty — a very unpopular but essential decision — should qualify. Carter promoted human rights not just against our Cold War enemies, but also against anti-communist military regimes. He was not afraid to negotiate with adversaries, establishing relations with China and securing the release of 3,600 political prisoners and CIA veterans from Cuba.

I am not at all convinced that handing over the most important maritime trade route over to an unstable, corrupt nation is such a good idea, not to mention the simple fact that we were the ones who built it. The problem wasn’t with Carter’s willingness to negotiate with out adversaries. The problem is that Carter gave the impression of being a weakling who would turn against out allies to appease our enemies. It was all very well to make human rights a keystone of our foreign policy, but if we restrict our alliances to nations with perfect human rights records, we will find ourselves with very few friends in the world. We don’t often have a clear choice between good and bad. More often the choice is between bad and worse. Communism was the greatest threat to human rights throughout the Cold War, and by losing sight of this fact, Carter did the cause he professed to support a great deal of harm.

It’s time to re-define what we mean by strength and weakness. Strength should mean the readiness to take necessary but unpopular decisions. Leadership requires understanding the perspective of our adversaries and negotiating with persistence rather than assuming that our interests are incompatible and that only force can achieve our goals. Americans should be reminded of the many hard, but courageous, decisions Carter made and why we are better off because of them.

We are not precisely because Carter did not understand the need to be strong. International politics has not really changed all that much in the last five thousand years of recorded history. Names and customs change, but the realities of power do not. The most important of these realities is that if you truly want peace, you must be prepared to fight for it. Expressing an unwillingness to ever fight, or signaling that you want peace at any price is the surest way to war. Negotiations are good, so long as you are negotiating to advance your country’s interests and not talking for the sake of talking to avoid conflict.

Romney is Right

September 13, 2012

 

Mitt Romney has attacked Barack Obama for the statements his administration has released after the attack on the US embassy in Cairo.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday issued a paper statement sharply critical of President Barack Obama over his handling of violence in the Middle East earlier in the day.

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said in the statement. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Naturally, Obama’s defenders in the Democratic Party and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) have attacked Romney for playing politics, etc. They have suggested that this was a major mistake on Romney’s part. I don’t agree. The statement by the embassy and Obama’s first response were disgraceful. I read a column by Gail Collins, titled Mitt’s Major Meltdown. I think it is Obama’s middle eastern policies that are suffering from a major meltdown but here are some excerpts.

Mitt Romney broke our deal.

Perhaps he didn’t know he’d made it, although, really, I thought it was pretty clear.

He could do anything he wanted during this campaign as long as he sent out signals that once he got in the White House he was not likely to be truly crazy.

We, in return, were going to be able to continue with our normal sleeping patterns through the fall.

Here is the Republican candidate for president of the United States on Wednesday, explaining why he broke into a moment of rising international tension and denounced the White House as “disgraceful” for a mild statement made by the American Embassy in Cairo about the importance of respecting other people’s religions:

“They clearly — they clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And — and the statement came from the administration — and the embassy is the administration — the statement that came from the administration was a — was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a — a — a severe miscalculation.”

Feel free to reread this when you’re staring at the ceiling at 4 a.m.

This all began on Sept. 11. There were protests in the Middle East, at least some of them involving an anti-Islamic movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a cowardly, drunken torturer of children and old women. I did not see any puppies being dismembered, but then I only watched the 14-minute trailer.

A man identifying himself as Sam Bacile told The Wall Street Journal that he made it in California with $5 million from more than 100 donors. However, nothing Bacile said about himself seemed to hold up in the light of day. And if he did raise $5 million, those donors need to hire a lawyer. The trailer looks as though it was made by a 13-year-old boy with access to a large supply of fake beards.

The film popped up on YouTube dubbed in Arabic, stirring outrage. In response, the American Embassy in Cairo said it deplored “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”

Does that seem all that bad to you, people? It was definitely a film whose only point was to offend people of the Islamic faith. I would also call whoever made it not well-guided.

Yes, it does seem bad to me. The statement was essentially shifting the blame for the violence in Egypt and later Libya from the mob that was perpetrating it to the film that allegedly incited the mob. The idea seems to be that no one anywhere may do or say anything that any Moslem might possibly find offensive or that Moslem will react with a murderous rage that the person who offended him will be responsible. That can’t work, unless the whole world is willing to live under Sharia law.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest if someone wants to make a film that portrays the false prophet Mohammed in a bad light. They have every right in the world to do so. If someone is offended by this, too bad. That doesn’t give them the right to murder and riot.

The only proper statement from an American president would be a unequivocal denunciation of the rioters and a clear statement that we will not censor ourselves or abridge our God-given liberty to appease a group of savages halfway around the world. Giving in to these barbarians, even a little, is not only despicable and cowardly but also unwise.  If you give into a bully once, he will expect you to do so again and again and will keep on getting worse. It is long past time we began to stand up against these bullies in the Moslem world.

 


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