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February 04, 2005

Comments

Am I obsessing about the threat of Wahhabism?

Yes. Next question?


The Quest for Nuance, Part VIII

I have no stake in defending Wahhabbis. I was almost killed by one in Yemen while on a Shi'a religious pilgrimage. So do not mistake my motives here.

But It isnt Wahhabism that is the enemy - its the militant minority within the Wahhabi sect that translate the rhetoric of their faith into action.

There is a slight, but non-negligible, line between teh Wahhabi faith and the religious invocations of OBL and crew.

(Have I mentioned i am a Shia and that Wahhabis hate me and think I'm an apostate? Just making sure we rae on teh same page here.)

Castigating the Wahhabi faith is like castigating the entire Puritan faith for the actions of those in Salem circa 1600ish. I've been to Salem, BTW, and had the chance to stare that history in teh face as well.

Religious intolerance is the first step towards religious violence - but by no means the only step. Taking it further requires a psychosis of sorts. That psychosis can and IS being cultivated in madrassahs funded by Wahhabi mosques. But not deliberately as part of the wahhabi faith.

The best argument against a Wahhabi is to say that actually translating the belief into action is a form of bid'a , or inovation. Essentially, the violence makes the Wahhabi themselves into a murtad/apostate.

I am very much against any faith - including Christian Identists or Wahhabis or Messianic Orthodox Jews whose mohels draw blood with their mouths - being castigated on the basis of what they believe, however disturbing. I am very much in favor of recognizing teh threat posed to a tolerant multiculti society by having elements such as Wahabi preaching among us.

But I believe that psychosis needs nourishment and that the problem is the psychotic, not the excuse by which they use to justify their rampage.

ok, ive rambled enough. I feel bound to say these things even though were Wahhabism to vanish overnight it would be largely good for me and mine. Its in Allahs hands.

Aziz: I am very much against any faith - including Christian Identists or Wahhabis or Messianic Orthodox Jews whose mohels draw blood with their mouths - being castigated on the basis of what they believe, however disturbing.

No religion is inherently good or bad: it's what you do with it.

I agree with you - but when people are determined to believe that a religion is inherently evil, I don't honestly think that you're going to convince them otherwise. I had a recent, ahem, discussion, with an (incompetent) Christian evangelist on the Sponge-Bob> thread: I wasn't arguing with him in the hope of convincing him, because I knew I wouldn't. He had faith that he knew the truth: he didn't want to be better informed.

Once someone has faith that what they believe is so, for them, it's so. Arguing with them is only worthwhile if it's entertaining for you and for others.

Jersey City is where the slaughtered Armanious family lived. Coincidence? Possibly, but we don't know yet.

Words fail me.

OK-I mean I now know in detail what I already was aware of in a general way. But how does this support the invasion of Iraq? Please, not the "outpost of democracy" since several outposts already exist.

Can fanatical extremists be fought through conventional war against governments not supportive of or connected to the fanatics?

Can fanatical extremists be fought by conventional war against governments that have only a little connection or are connected only by ethnicity?

I hope Iraq ends up with an independent democratic government. If that happens (inspite of, not because of the Bush Administration), why would it diminish the fanatical hate of extremist groups located eslewhere and affliated with no government?

What have we done so far that would have the effect of reducing support for fanaticism (apart from invading Afganistan and removing the Taliban, which, in my opinion, was something we had to do although I would have prefferred to stay and do the job right).

Hey, that FreedomHouse thingie is pretty cool. With it, you can note that Iran is more democratic and free that American ally Saudi Arabia, and has the same freedom rating as both Afghanistan and Iraq. Close US allies Jordan and Pakistan also suck on the freedom scale.

And the rest? Sorry Charles, it's long, and I gave up looking for any point you were making beyond "fanatical sect bad." But I already knew that.

We need to more fully back the more tolerant strains of Islam, and give the more tolerant practitioners the tools to widen and grow their messages. We need to put the screws on the House of Saud through constructive engagment and, if progress is not made, begin a process of dissociation from this corrupt government.

That's a bit vague, and I'm not sure what you think it will accomplish. The regime in Saudi Arabia (and regimes in Jordan, and Kuwait, and Pakistan, and Egypt) are all being supported by the US to prevent takeover by more militant firebrands of the sects you're warning us about. "Disassociating" from the Saudis would probably mean their overthrow by people we don't want in control of the world's largest petroleum reserves.

Aziz,
I don't doubt that there are good Wahhabis. I also understand that many of the 9/11 terrorists were Qtubists, not Wahhabis. But the larger question remains. With Saudi money artificially propping up this ideology, are you not concerned about its spread? Even if the militant segment is a minority as you suggest (aren't most militant segments minorities?), what is the source of their spriritual nourishment? Their imams are giving them religious cover to launch terrorist attacks in the name of Allah. The fatwas issued by its chief imams speak for themselves.

In support of Aziz's point, I would speculate that the Yemeni cleric in question is actually a salafi himself, Bird. As are some of our pals, e.g. Prince Turki., the Saudi Ambassador to London and former intelligence chief during the Afghan jihad. So it all depends. I would also say that one of the issues with the report is that a lot of it is probably out of date. For instance, Bin Baz is dead. Still, I'm no fan of Wahhabism or its radical global variants ... I'm not really sure what the solution is here, because it seems like a tough thing to just transform an entire culture.

Josh, keep in mind that Jersey City only has a population of about a quarter of a million people. I think it's safe to assume that all crimes committed there against Coptic Christians were performed by Wahhabist Muslims until someone proves otherwise. Are you willing to take the risk that they weren't? Are you??

Excellent post, Charles.

I need to know much more in detail about Wahhabism and, for instance, its specific methods of Islamic methods of jurisprudence. I find the openness, the pride that the Saudi Government takes in support to be interesting. The Nazis and Communists would prefer that local chapters would appear more indigenous, and that the ideology be more universal. I can imagine that perhaps the Sauds are trying use their control of the Holy Sites to gain hegemony over world Islam.

"What have we done so far that would have the effect of reducing support for fanaticism [in Iraq]"

I have I suppose excessive hope in the influence of what may be a very great man, Grand Ayatollah Sistani. The Yemeni story demonstrates the great respect for reasoned oral argument in the Islamic community. I believe Sistani and a few of his colleagues have a vision for an expansive Islam that is not only much more compatible with Western traditions but will prove an able competitor to Wahhabism in the ME and beyond. The best thing to come from Iraq is a platform for Shia proselytization.

I have I suppose excessive hope in the influence of what may be a very great man, Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

On what basis? Sistani survived for years under Hussein's regime by playing politcis very carefully, in contrast to the al-Sadr family, who openly opposed Hussein and as a result had more than a few family members killed by Baathist hitmen.

I suspect that what we've been seeing from Sistani up till now is some very deft political footwork intended to result in election victory for the Shiite religious slate. But who knows what will come next?

The problem with "fully back[ing] the more tolerant strains of Islam" is that unless such backing is done very deftly and discreetly it may do more harm than good. Any strain of Islam that becomes known to most Muslims as an American mouthpiece is likely to be about as popular as al-Hurra.

I would somewhat question Charles' initial implication that Freedom House, headed by James Woolsey, is unbiased. I've read their stuff for years - generally it's good, but there is a conservative bias IMHO. They do not soft-pedal critiques of regimes that conservatives like, but their criticisms of regimes that conservatives dislike seem much more extreme. I don't know much about the Center for Religious Freedom, but the Center could be even more biased. I'm not saying we should disregard Freedom House or CRF (especially Freedom House, no one does their kind of work), but just be a little careful with what they say.

One of the candidates for president in 2004 did denounce the Saudi government's support for religious extremism. The other has a policy of close personal friendship and general favor-granting to the Saudis. It would be nice to see more pressure on the President and the Republican leadership to use the power they have to deal with this; whatever left groups may or may not say, they are not in a position to do much of anything about it.

"On what basis? Sistani survived for years under Hussein's regime by playing politcis very carefully"

The June 29th fatwa, as explicated by Marc Gerecht's article in Atlantic Monthly was radical in its concept of popular democratic governance, yet in direct descent from Ayatollah Khomeini precedent fatwas set in Iran. The article archive requires subscription, and I have forgotten my password. :)

And his admirable political skill (survival is not to be dismissed) and ambition leads me to believe he has learned lessons from Iran's failures to export their revolution.

The June 29th fatwa, as explicated by Marc Gerecht's article in Atlantic Monthly was radical in its concept of popular democratic governance, yet in direct descent from Ayatollah Khomeini precedent fatwas set in Iran.

As that fatwah (I read that article) was endorsing a process that might ultimately lead to a religious Shiite majority government, I think that it was less an issue of greatness and more one of pragmatism. If the provisional government refused to honour that process, they were looking at civil war.

"I think that it was less an issue of greatness and more one of pragmatism."

Ok, but I think more a long term pragmatism than an immediate temporary concession, to be reversed. The Shia are minorities in most ME countries, and the concept of secular democracy (with religious guidance) is one most useful to the Shia in Lebanon or SA. And tolerance of the Kurds and Sunnis in Iraq is a necessity I think he has turned into a principle.

And I believe he is sincere. After the fall of Saddam, he could easily have issued a fatwa banning liquor sales, but essentially let localities decide, unfortunately quite often armed gangs (Sadr) burning out stores. He is no saint or secular liberal, but I honestly believe he is a small-d democrat.

And I believe he is sincere. After the fall of Saddam, he could easily have issued a fatwa banning liquor sales, but essentially let localities decide, unfortunately quite often armed gangs (Sadr) burning out stores. He is no saint or secular liberal, but I honestly believe he is a small-d democrat.

Let's hope so. And let's face it, he looks like a secular bleeding heart liberal beside al Sadr.

Time will tell, I guess. And as he's getting on in years, let's also hope that there's someone in the wings with a similar political stance who can earn the same level of respect that the Shia have for Sistani.

Hey this new improved Bird-Dogged ObWi isn't so bad after all. Every time I visit irony soars to new heights...

Bird: Do we tolerate the White Power movement?

Tolerate? Never! But at least we're civilized enough to spontaneously Capitalize Its Name, as we would with a political party or a religion.

Bird: No, the FBI has been all over them.

Aha. That explains why those SPLC guys are sitting on their butts playing video games all the time. Seriously though, approximately how much attention has the FBI has paid to white supremacist groups lo these past few years, anyway? I mean you wouldn't say something like "all over them" unless you had some vague idea what you were actually talking about, would you?

Bird: We need to more fully back the more tolerant strains of Islam, and give the more tolerant practitioners the tools to widen and grow their messages.

There's that we again. Who are "we" exactly? Americans? DHS? Owners of printing companies? State Department? NORTHCOM? Christian evengelicals? Local peace officers? ObWi readers? LGF readers? Who is it that's falling short of your expectations here and what we can we do to live up to them?

Wahhabism is a serious problem all right, but if I didn't know better I'd almost think you were more interested in self-serving rhetoric than practical progress...

if I didn't know better I'd almost think you were more interested in self-serving rhetoric than practical progress...

If I didn't know better I'd almost think you were more interested in snark than the real effort of making a substantive remark.

To expand on BrianS's point, Freedom House has long since moved to the James Woolsey end of the Eleanor Roosevelt-James Woolsey spectrum. Their political makeup has remained much the same over the thirty years I've been aware of them: right wing internationalists, particularly hawkish on Israeli/Middle East issues.

A scary and disreputable bunch, in my book.

"I'm not really sure what the solution is here, because it seems like a tough thing to just transform an entire culture." ...praktike

I really do think Wahhabist extremism has more to do with Saudi Arabia than with Islam, and that there are parallels with the cold war, in that the collapse of the Soviet Union took international communism down with it. Another parallel might be right-wing Christianity, in that the Mennonites and even the Mormons are not the source of dissension that the South is the focus of.

That does not necessarily make the problem any easier, for Saudi Arabia is a tough nut to crack.

Chas
Thanks for the time and effort along with the cites within the post. I appreciate the fact that these posts don't write themselves.

Having said that, I have to strongly object to the three sentences about the Armanious family. Given that there seems to be no new information about the murder, you are using murder vicitms to advance your views. Regardless of how bad you think Wahhabist extremism is, that is no excuse. You cannot not claim that these people are, a la Corrie, 'historical figures'. If you feel impelled to mention the Jersey City linkage, fairness would dictate that you ask people to also read the comments of the post, or this is simply echo chamber stuff, just like this and this. Also, you may be unaware of this, but the link you give for the 'We just don't know' is blocked by registration. Please also note that Jihadwatch postulates that the media, including the same NYTimes that you cite to support you, is engaged in a coverup of the facts.

Also a general question, Spencer has this piece that says

Yet law enforcement officials have received information from at least one Copt -- a close friend of the Armanious family -- indicating that the crime was indeed religiously motivated. He has said that an imam in Jersey City declared this Christian family's blood "halal," (i.e., licit to shed), because of their proselytizing activities among Muslims. He has named -- by name -- a suspect in this crime, whose motive was religious and who has fled the country.

I have never heard of halal being used in this way, and I wonder if anyone has more information about halal/halaal

I also found this list of links informative

"halal" means lawful. ie,

Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab said that what Ibn Taymiyya had forbidden was unbelief. He called "unbelievers" those who vow, pray, walk around or kiss the coverings of, take soil from shrines, and who ask for help from awliya'. He claimed that those who do not consider these as unbelief are unbelievers, too. In fact, he wrote, "It is halal to kill and confiscate those who make mediators of prophets or awliya' with a view to attain shafa'a or nearness to Allahu ta'ala,"

source

Stan
this is not a shoot the messenger sort of thing, but a page that is titled
"Wahhabi's[sic] label Musims[sic] Mushriks" doesn't really inspire confidence. I know that it means "lawful" and in English, we can have a "lawful killing" (which I think means that a death caused by police in the line of duty", but I have never heard this kind of usage.

Neither have I. My admittedly underinformed understanding has always been that, within Islam, "halal" has roughly the same meaning that "kosher" has to Jews.

"halal" has roughly the same meaning that "kosher" has to Jews.

I thought that it was interesting that halaal can also be used to refer to earnings, meaning money not earned from gambling, prostitution, or selling intoxicants or involving interest (usury) and that halaal money has to be used for purchasing food and for a hajj.

A link for some of the preparations for a hajj

A scary and disreputable bunch, in my book.

Utter nonsense. Look at who funds them. Look at their 2003 Form 990 and look at who's on their Board of Trustees. I think it's scary and disreputable that you find Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Mara Liasson, Bill Richardson, Andrew Young and Tom Foley a scary and disreputable bunch.

Given that there seems to be no new information about the murder, you are using murder vicitms to advance your views.

Take the effort, register, read the link, and assess for yourself the quality of the reportage. There is indeed new information of the investigation. The FBI has taken over the matter and new information was uncovered relating to the websites Armanious visited. When I read two links in the span of a day or two involving Jersey City, the antennae goes up. As for my using "murder victims to advance your views", any commentator who brings up 9/11 does the same thing. That herring looks awful reddish to me.

Thanks for the post.

My own belief is that terrorism is more rooted in ideology (with poverty and oppresion as important ingredients, but not automatically creating it), and that wahhabism as practiced is a major promoter of terrorist ideology. The Saudi royals have supported it not because they are automatically true believers, but because they find legitimacy for their royal dictatorship in promoting this religion (and the religion gains strength by siding with the winning horse). Its an age old formula practiced by many religions and dictatorships (royal and otherwise), and the Sauds have been doing it themselves for hundreds of years.

The Saudis are all over this issue -- see this for a bit of their push back. Of some interest is this article titled -- " From Exclusivism to Accommodation: Doctrinal and Legal Evolution of Wahhabism." As if it has been getting better, rather than worse, over time.

One interesting side theory -- the wahhabi point of view florished in part because the Sauds succeeded over the last 200 years in their struggles against other forces by being so paranoid about outsiders. Its hard for such ideology to evolve into something peaceful once it becomes ascendant.

When I read two links in the span of a day or two involving Jersey City, the antennae goes up.

That's how the echo chamber works. That article in the New Jersey newspaper is written by Tom Troncone, who also wrote the earlier article in the Bergen record which misrepresented the features of the killing and featured this passage

Milad Garas, an uncle of Amal Garas, said Saturday that he was told investigators are probing whether the killings could have been prompted in part by the chat sessions. He also pointed to a passage in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, that details how enemies should be killed - bound and their throats slit, an assertion that drew a rebuttal from some Islamic scholars, but was supported by others.

A translation of passage 47:4 of the Quran reads in part: "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers [in fight], smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly [on them]."

That article then goes on to quote Fredrick Denny from U of Colorado about his interpretation of the Quran passage. That seems a bit off, contacting someone from Colorado to offer his interpretation.

The idea that this is new 'information' is belied by this quote from the story

He said the key factor in determining whether the site played a role in the killings would be pinpointing when information about Armanious was posted.

“If it was posted after the homicide, that makes the whole issue somewhat moot,” DeFazio said. “But if it was posted prior to the homicide it would give it some more credence.

Given that the pictures were posted on jihadwatch, it is highly unlikely that the pictures were there earlier, because don't you think it would have been turned up earlier?

I would also point out the last sentence of the article, which is

FBI and Hudson County investigators are examining the bedroom computer of Sylvia and Monica, which prosecutors said was the only computer in the modest two-family home.

So the father was trying to convince Muslims to be Christians from his daughters' bedroom computer?

Also, I find it interesting that Jihadwatch has a whole set of musings here and here on Copts and their conflict in Egypt, which would obviously take the spotlight off of the focus you have on Wahhabism, given that the assassination of Sadat was, if I remember correctly, was the work of Wahhabi believers. In addition, the website was supposedly run by someone from Jordan, which has not been very fertile ground for Wahhabism. I'm hoping someone who knows more about all this might chime in, but your opinion seems to have more passion than factual support.

That herring looks awful reddish to me.

I'm really sorry that you can't accept a polite point about treating a family's death with a little dignity. I tried to avoid any snark because I was serious about it. If it were just an important point for your argument, it would have served you to spend more than three sentences on it, so it was clearly not. It reflects very poorly on you.

As for your discussion of Wahhabism, I've been googling a bit, and I highly recommend these links which seem to belie your singlemindedness as far as Wahhabism is concerned here and this, the first from the list I gave previously.

Just to round things out, this post and thread should note that the source of Wahhabi funding is the American consumerate - an irony sure to hold its place among history's most remarkable. (My apologies if this has been mentioned already and overlooked by me.)

LiberalJ: It reflects very poorly on you.

On some topics, Bird is more interested in snark than the real effort of making a substantive remark. This is one of them.

Thank you for the link, Charles. The funders list makes my point that Freedom House is a Cold War relic, kept alive by bipartisan support for U.S. intervention wherever it's ideologically convenient and beneficial to U.S. corporations.

The overwhelming proportion of funds ($11 of $13 million in grants in 2002) are from the U.S. government (State Department, AID, NED). The remaining $2 million come from right-wing foundations (Bradley, Scaife, Freedom Forum, Richardson) plus the usual giant corporate funders -- Ford Fdn and just about every drug company. True, there's also money from foundations that don't exclusively fund right-wing efforts: Soros, Mott, and Tinker. But they play the same role that Andrew Young and Mara Liasson do on the board: corporate tools and a bipartisan face.

Though the organization has moved with the times and now has offices in Nigeria, Kazakhstan, and a few other spots, the decorative banner on the website highlights the string that reveals their origin and real interest: New York, Washington, Budapest, Bucharest, Belgrade, Warsaw, Kiev.
The Center for Religious Freedom's press releases are picked up by (and produced for) the National Review and the Weekly Standard. It was ever thus with Freedom House output.

Freedom House is to genuine human rights work what the National Endowment of Democracy is to genuine democracy.

Guilty as charged, yer Honor.

Before sentencing commences allow me to mention that my preference for snark over substance rests on the belief that when your child knocks over the cookie jar while raiding it, and negotiations ensue about the need to bake more cookies in a timely fashion because the existing ones have been on the floor and are being licked and eaten by the dogs, those negotiations do not need to be taken seriously.

Your admonition is years late and billions short, Charles. You had plenty of warning that the Bush administration is a staggering disaster, and you lent your voice to them anyway. Now you're upset because they refuse to undermine the House of Saud? That's basically what we're talking about. Supporting jihad is how the Saudi royals stay in charge. You might as well be asking the WH to stop flogging the war on terror. And at this point the royal family needs the jihadis a lot worse than the jihadis need the royal family, while the nature of the relationship between the royals and the White House is left as an exercise for the reader. As Aziz points out Wahhabism per se isn't the problem. Hearts and minds are the problem.

On to "substance." Good governance is about hard decisions and taking responsibility, not about an ever-increasing stack of lies, diversions, band-aids, and coverups. There are legitimate national security reasons why SA can't be allowed to destabilize, and there are also legitimate national security reasons why the current power structure in SA can't be allowed to continue.

That tension was an obvious problem long before 9/11, but beyond question a totally new and different Saudi Arabia policy was called for afterwards. That clearly should have been the single primary focus of both State and DoD during the months immediately after, when US leverage and credibility was at it's highest. Instead we got zilch. A CinC wandering around aimlessly using up jet fuel while his secrecy-obsessed XO mans the helm, deliberate domestic agitprop, and a disgustingly anti-american bill rammed through without even legislative discussion, let alone public discussion. Then invasion of a country which apparently posed no threat to us, and as a chaser state-sanctioned torture exposed for all the world to see. Oh yeah, I forgot, it's all Michael Moore and Sy Hersh's fault for having the temerity to talk about it. No doubt it will be their fault if Iraq dissolves, too.

You can't say you didn't know who you were voting for. You voted for people who have shown over and over that they take the easy way out, place their own interests above those of the nation, and hide in the shadows instead of working in the open. You bought a bill of goods, and now you're uneasy about the quality of the governance you're getting. Next you'll be complaining that people like me are pointing out that it's all W's fault when we should be coming up with constructive solutions instead. Ha! It's going to get worse Charles. It's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

I see this morning that Soj has made a point similar to yours and my only problem with it is that I think it's unrealistic to expect even a weak condemnation from State. Of course she didn't call for restricted civil liberties for Muslim clerics in the US, but in that respect you've already gotten your wish anyway. Oh, and she didn't have any vague muttering about DoJ's purportedly low tolerance for white supremacists. Anyway, as with the cookie jar, the messenger has something to do with the credibility of the the message. Coming from a vocal supporter of the administration I can't quite take this message seriously.

Condescending? Obnoxious? Inflammatory? Sure. I throw myself on the mercy of the court. But my conscience is clear, and your conscience isn't my problem...

Japonicus,
While your point about the single computer in the daughters' bedroom is interesting, the rest of yours do not refute but merely raise side questions. You can question why a guy from UC was contacted, but the fact remains that he is an expert, with "more than a dozen books on Islam" to his credit. When the authorities are not forthcoming, it is no crime to consult experts, such as here for example, where a forensics professor and former FBI profiler were interviewed. While you seem eager to dismiss the religiously motivated hate crime angle for the Armanious murders, I choose not to be close-minded about it. The fact remains that FBI is involved that is that the investigation has not ruled out several motivations.

As for my succumbing to an "echo chamber" effect, I find it supremely odd that you can make such a sweeping conclusion from my reading of a mainstream press report and a bipartisan study.

I'm really sorry that you can't accept a polite point about treating a family's death with a little dignity.

I completely reject your assertion. The news of the Armanious murders is in the public domain, and few answers have been forthcoming. While you emphasize that "three sentences" were written, one of the sentences was all of one word, and there were 16 words on Armanious in a post that contained over 2,800.

As for your discussion of Wahhabism, I've been googling a bit, and I highly recommend these links which seem to belie your singlemindedness as far as Wahhabism is concerned

While the link is interesting, you're changing the subject. The issue of this post is the spread of Wahhabism outside Saudi Arabia while your two links discuss religious extremism within Saudi Arabia, of which Wahhabism plays a major part. Adding the mild insult of "singlemindedness" to the "look over there" links reflects very poorly on you.

Freedom House is to genuine human rights work what the National Endowment of Democracy is to genuine democracy.

Well, if you think the pursuit of freedom is a "Cold War relic" or that the group is not bipartisan (despite the overwhelming evidence that it is), then I can't help you, and there's no sense banging my head against the brick wall of your closed mind.

Bird is more interested in snark than the real effort of making a substantive remark. This is one of them.

A snark in excess of 2,800 words? Radish's snark-ridden comment merited the remark it deserved.

Radish,
Your admonition is years late and billions short, Charles. You had plenty of warning that the Bush administration is a staggering disaster, and you lent your voice to them anyway.

So, since you voted for Candidate X, does that mean you agree with every single position? You're long on harsh opinions and tirades, and short on the facts, Radish.

The news of the Armanious murders is in the public domain, and few answers have been forthcoming. While you emphasize that "three sentences" were written, one of the sentences was all of one word, and there were 16 words on Armanious in a post that contained over 2,800.

Public domain? I'd ask you to think what you just said.

I would also point out that I was being polite when I said three sentences. Your pointing out that one sentence was only one word underlines that fact that the murder was not important to your thesis, just something that you could pretend made your analysis more immediate. You clearly are recycling the material you find on sites that propose some evil Muslim conspiracy of Islamic believers who are going kill us all, I tell you, kill us all. As far as changing the subject, I just think that people might be interested in links on the same basic subject. If you believe that the spread of Wahhabism is completely unrelated to the historical circumstances of the sect, I find that further proof of your singlemindedness, which now appears more like willful blindness.

I'd also appreciate if, when you respond, you would separate what I say from what others say. I didn't write anything about Freedom House and I did not write anything about snark. I suspect that a lot of your problems stem from the fact that you put all the positions of those you feel disagree with you in a general category rather than actually take the time to separate them.

Charles' Freedom House response is directed at my comment.

if you think the pursuit of freedom is a "Cold War relic" or that the group is not bipartisan (despite the overwhelming evidence that it is), then I can't help you...

Charles, you misstate what I said in both cases.

The pursuit of freedom is one thing; Freedom House is another.

I never denied the organization was bipartisan. In fact, I explicitly acknowledged that it's the product of a bipartisan coalition of interventionists: neocon Republicans, Cold War labor (Penn Kemble was still taking in six figures from them in 2002, for God's sake), and corporate Democrats.

This is my last comment on a post of yours. It's uncomfortable to encounter trollish style from a main poster.

So, since you voted for Candidate X, does that mean you agree with every single position?

No, but if you actually disagree with him strongly on a position -- continued support for the Saudi Royal family -- that affects what you characterize as one of if not the most important issue facing America and the free world in the 21st century -- the spread of militant Wahhabist Islam -- then perhaps it's a little . . . boneheaded? Shortsighted? Ignorant? . . . to vote for Candidate X just because he promises you a tax cut, late-term abortion limitations, or some other shiny gewgaw.

Neil
Charles' Freedom House response is directed at my comment.

Thanks, I knew that, I just don't appreciate the lack of care and I think it is indicative of a 'lump everyone together' approach. In the not so distant past, I would have used that as a springboard for some way to discredit the post ('you clearly take as much care with X as you do with sorting out who is saying what') but I am assuming that Chas has good intentions and is merely writing from his heart. But if "The issue of this post is the spread of Wahhabism outside Saudi Arabia", what exactly is the Armanious family doing in there anyway?

This is my last comment on a post of yours. It's uncomfortable to encounter trollish style from a main poster.

Look Nell, you're the one who called Freedom House a "scary and disreputable bunch". I'm sorry you're having trouble backing up your words with facts. You should be careful yourself with such trollish and unfounded statements.

but if you actually disagree with him strongly on a position -- continued support for the Saudi Royal family -- that affects what you characterize as one of if not the most important issue facing America and the free world in the 21st century -- the spread of militant Wahhabist Islam -- then perhaps it's a little . . . boneheaded? Shortsighted? Ignorant?

No, it's called reality-based, Phil. Kerry said harsh words about the Saudis, but to me, he would have been a terrible commander-in-chief because of his dovish voting record and his consistently being on the wrong side of history since the early 1980s. Other than a few statements, there is no evidence that a Kerry policy with the Saudis would have been measurably different from the Bush policy.

Let's be clear. Our alliance with the Saudis dates back to the 1930s and has existed through six Democratic presidents and five Republican presidents. With the growth of extremism on Saudi soil and the evangelism of Wahhabis, we do need to take stronger stand against the House of Saud.

Japonicus,
If you believe that the spread of Wahhabism is completely unrelated to the historical circumstances of the sect, I find that further proof of your singlemindedness, which now appears more like willful blindness.

I addressed the "historical circumstances" of Wahhabism in the link on the front page of the post. Did you read it? You are mischaracterizing me with that "willful blindness" rubbish.

I suspect that a lot of your problems stem from the fact that you put all the positions of those you feel disagree with you in a general category rather than actually take the time to separate them.

That is untrue, since I copied specific statements made by specific commenters.

Bird: Kerry said harsh words about the Saudis, but to me, he would have been a terrible commander-in-chief because of his dovish voting record and his consistently being on the wrong side of history since the early 1980s.

Only if you define "on the wrong side of history" as "opposing Ronald Reagan". For example...


we do need to take stronger stand against the House of Saud.

OK, then. Let's get down to brass tacks.

1. What will "taking a stronger stand" entail? It's a nice, pretty vagary that sounds tough, but what does it mean? And how, in the process of taking that stronger stand, does the U.S. mitigate against even worse militant Islamists in Saudi Arabia who might eagerly await the chance to fill a power vacuum?

2. How do you suggest George Bush take this "stronger stand?"

3. How are you urging him to take it?

Whoops, Sorry, Nell not Neil.

Chas
I addressed the "historical circumstances" of Wahhabism in the link on the front page of the post. Did you read it? You are mischaracterizing me with that "willful blindness" rubbish.

I tend to think that multiple sources are better than one off posts comparing Christianity to Islam in broad strokes, especially when filtered through tacitus and redstate posts. I mean, that article that you feel addresses the historical background of Wahhabism had such gems like

Western elites, religiously challenged as they are, don't understand the mixture of threat and temptation that the Wahabis pose to the Muslim world because they do not know how analogous Christian heresies have roiled Western civilization.(emphasis mine)

or

The wars in the 16th and 17th centuries between what came to be known as Catholics and Protestants turned on theological points that had coexisted peaceably until they were taken up by rivals for power.

Tell that to John Huss

Or how about this

Some ideas necessarily are political, and necessarily matrices of mass murder. Hence, statements such as Thomas Jefferson's that whether my neighbor believes that there is one God, many gods, or no god at all neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, are applicable only to Jefferson's peculiar circumstances. If one's neighbor were a Thuggee, an adept of the Hindu sect that worships Kali, the goddess of death, by killing as many people as possible, one might work for his conversion to Unitarianism. Even those Americans most virulent against the Ten Commandments would be compelled to guard their pockets, legs, and more against neighbors whose commandments commanded them to reverse the Ten: Thou shall kill, steal, swear falsely, take thy neighbor's wife, etc.

Reading crap like this makes me little inclined to take any history he presents as disinterested. Of course, Codevilla is an professor in international relations (which I am sure includes ancient Church history), having a PhD from Claremont. I accept that you aren't going to quote Juan Cole, but if you could move just a smidge towards the group of people who know what they are talking about, I would appreciate it.

As for discussing Wahhabism, I certainly don't have any special expertise in it, and your posts strongly suggest that you don't either. I guess I'm just one of the pomo academic types, but I think it important to have multiple sources rather than an international relations prof masquerading as a church historian and Islam expert. But I admit, it is embarassing to find your sources dissolve like wet toliet paper thrown in someone's yard.

You accuse me of changing the subject, but if the subject is Wahhabism, then my links were appropriate. It's you who is changing the subject by not defending your inclusion of the Armanious family. And I assume by your silence on the question of Coptic-Muslim conflict that you have not found a Copt-Wahhabi friction to justify putting those three sentences in your post, which was my original point. I took seriously your post that you wanted to engage with people from the other side, but what I tend to see from you is deny, diminish, deflect.

I would also note that my request that you identify who you are quoting from is simple manners. I am not accusing you of falsifying quotations, (if it were that, I would not be this polite), I am just telling you what I suspect. It's up to you whether you want to make it true or untrue.

I note you skip over Nell's point about your changing her opposition to Freedom House into her opposition to 'the pursuit of freedom' (that one slipped right by me, I have to admit), which comes rather close to misquoting, but again, I am going to cling to the slender reed that you are letting your passion get the best of you. I'm going to follow her out of this one and simply suggest to you that if you want to get out of a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

see, this is the kind of thing that reminds me of a spoiled eight year old. And now Phil is engaging you with serious questions, despite the fact that you're suddenly advocating this position:

With the growth of extremism on Saudi soil and the evangelism of Wahhabis, we do need to take stronger stand against the House of Saud.

all nonchalant like, as though it hadn't been a staple of the "far left wing liberal irrational Bush-hating" critique since about December of 2001. At least that part of the far left wing liberal Bush-hating contingent that has half a clue about Middle East politics, which I admit is not everyone, but which even includes Michael Moore, for pete's sake. I mean even Michael Moore was making that point before you Charles. Think on that for a minute.

Why is it critically important now if it wasn't important in 2002? And if it WAS important in 2002 then why aren't the people who were sticking their hands in their ears and saying "lalalala PATRIOT act america-haters Iraq Saddam I can't heeeear you" when the traitorous liberals were running around with our hair on fire about blowback taking any responsibility for having screwed it up?

Dude, it's too late. Y'all really did screw it up and there's no do-over. Our post-9/11 leverage is just so much ash and twisted metal now. There is no conventional military threat, no economic sanctioning, and no diplomatic or psy-ops pressure which we can bring to bear on the royals which can outweigh the pressure the jihadis can bring. How did that happen? Iraq. Which you think was such a good idea. Second Bush term is icing on the cake to alienate the Europeans as well.

There. I treated you like an adult, despite my disinclination to do so... I hope you appreciate it :P

Only if you define "on the wrong side of history" as "opposing Ronald Reagan".

Er, no. Remember his Gulf War vote, Jes? We can go on but we've gone over that old argument too many times already. The election's over.

But if "The issue of this post is the spread of Wahhabism outside Saudi Arabia", what exactly is the Armanious family doing in there anyway?

The central issue, Japonicus, is the spread of an extremist brand of Islam being spread in mosques and Islamic centers throughout America and beyond. In the Freedom House study, there is a direct quote from a person who listened to hardline Wahhabist preaching in Jersey City. The Armanious family resided in Jersey City, and religious motivations have not been ruled out. Also not ruled is some sort of Egyptian feud or plain old robbery. However, hardline extremist rhetoric was found on Islamic websites frequented by Armanious, and the FBI is investigating. The forensics professor and former FBI profiler both said that it was unlikely that the primary motivation was robbery.

As for Codevilla and your "wet toilet paper" opinion, noted that you are unsatisfied.

I would also note that my request that you identify who you are quoting from is simple manners.

First, I don't regularly hit the preview button so typos and mistakes happen. Second, responding to multiple folks in a non-Scoop environment is taking some adjusting to. Third, there are small details of etiquette here which I have not been heretofore aware of. So thank you for the suggestion.

I took seriously your post that you wanted to engage with people from the other side, but what I tend to see from you is deny, diminish, deflect.

OK, let's talk about some of the "engagement" that has taken place from your side.

7:44pm: "Wahhabism is a serious problem all right, but if I didn't know better I'd almost think you were more interested in self-serving rhetoric than practical progress..."

8:37pm: "A scary and disreputable bunch, in my book." Referring to Freedom House. An unfounded opinion, with the writer attempting to discredit the source and, by extension, this post and this writer.

1:02pm: "On some topics, Bird is more interested in snark than the real effort of making a substantive remark. This is one of them."

2:27pm: "Your admonition is years late and billions short, Charles. You had plenty of warning that the Bush administration is a staggering disaster, and you lent your voice to them anyway." A changing of the subject from Wahhabi evangelism to Bush bashing.

So excuse me for the occasional terseness and abruptness, but when also accused of "singlemindedness", poor reflections, etc., terse and abrupt statements can occur.

Nell,
I misread what you wrote, so I apologize. However, your attempt to discredit Freedom House by taking a few facts and then leaping to unfounded and untenable conlusions does not persuade. I dispute your notion that Freedom House is a "Cold War relic" since part of their mission is the opposition of dictatorships both left and right. I don't think Andrew Young or Bill Richardson would take kindly your insinuation that they're Democratic stooges or tokens. The foundations that give money to Freedom House aren't the corporate toadies that you suggest. The Ford and Pew Foundations give money huge chunks of money to left-leaning causes, and the ones who control the purse strings are mostly liberal. Your statement that Freedom House is "kept alive by bipartisan support for U.S. intervention wherever it's ideologically convenient and beneficial to U.S. corporations" is a strange theory that lacks factual support.

OK, Phil.

1. What will "taking a stronger stand" entail? It's a nice, pretty vagary that sounds tough, but what does it mean? And how, in the process of taking that stronger stand, does the U.S. mitigate against even worse militant Islamists in Saudi Arabia who might eagerly await the chance to fill a power vacuum?

We should tell the Saudis that their funding of mosques, imams and Islamic Centers and related organizations in America will not be accepted. We should pressure them to curtail funding of madrassas and mosques that preach the more extreme versions of Islam. Much of this may already be happening behind the scenes, but we need to pressure the House of Saud to cooperate with terrorism investigations, to more actively find and arrest terrorists and those who harbor them. The bombings in Riyadh last year got their attention, and they are taking stronger stands against terrorism. We need to pressure them to fire their religious police, and to start distancing themselves from the more extreme religious elements. At this point, there is no palatable alternative to the House of Saud, so we're stuck with them. We have some leverage because of our longstanding relationship and economic ties. We can tighten the screws on Saudi immigration and we can hold out economic carrots to exert change. We should be public with our attempts but not overly so because we're dealing with the birthplace of Islam. Those are some suggestions.

2. How do you suggest George Bush take this "stronger stand?"

See 1.

3. How are you urging him to take it?

I just have. You work with the tools you have.

Chas
Thank you first of all for apologizing to Nell. I apologize for being a thread nanny, but it is only by scrupulously assigning opinions to their rightful owners that we can be clear as to who is saying what and move the discussion forward. My suggestions for etiquette are simply suggestions.

I would also note for the record that I did not cite Jes, Radish or Nell in my comments, so my complaints about your response are specifically to my comments, which center around the Armanious case. The notion of 'your side', while helpful for playing pick up basketball, is not conducive for reflective discussion.

Let me add one other thing. We have to take a more adversarial stand against the practices of the Saudi regime, publicly and privately. If we want to be taken seriously about spreading freedom and democracy, we have to identify Saudi Arabia as one of the five least free nations on the planet and to call for reforms. If the Bush administration does not, it is exposed to accusations of hypocrisy. This is also not a short term endeavor. The pressure we apply has to be constant.

Chas
Here is your previous 10 point plan for dealing with Wahhabism. While I am tempted to drop some snark linking the fact that you offhandly dismissed my calls for energy conservation/innovation while now saying that this is not a short term endeavour, I will try and restrain myself. However, I would point out that you seem to only push points 3-5 of your program, which is why some may feel your current emphasis ignores previously made statements. I would urge you to spend your capital not on picking fights with 'my side' over this, but convincing 'your side' of the necessity of the other points on that list (the side thing is used for ironic effect only)

Bird: If the Bush administration does not, it is exposed to accusations of hypocrisy.

Yes: that's been true for over three years now. But they got re-elected just the same.

However, I would point out that you seem to only push points 3-5 of your program, which is why some may feel your current emphasis ignores previously made statements.

I forgot that I wrote a 10-point plan. I still like all of the points. I don't believe that I "dismissed" your calls for energy/conservation/innovation. It's all fine and good over the long term, just that it doesn't address more immediate and short term concerns.

Radish,
see, this is the kind of thing that reminds me of a spoiled eight year old.

Snark-laden opinion.

And now Phil is engaging you with serious questions, despite the fact that you're suddenly advocating this position

LJ's link refutes your false "suddenly" reference, and Phil asked serious questions to a serious position. There's no "despite" to it. I've also written similar ideas in other locales. You, on the other hand, bypassed constructive engagement and chose attack. At the same time, you proffered no alternative ideas or solutions. Your tack reminds me of the same failed tactics that Fred Hiatt talked about.

all nonchalant like, as though it hadn't been a staple of the "far left wing liberal irrational Bush-hating" critique since about December of 2001.

Just like earlier, you're making a huge and false assumption that conservatives such as myself have monolithically agreed with Bush's too-tender interactions with the Saudis. The real alternatives are to vote for the other guy or to try effect change within your own party. After considering the other guy, I chose the latter option.

At least that part of the far left wing liberal Bush-hating contingent that has half a clue about Middle East politics, which I admit is not everyone, but which even includes Michael Moore, for pete's sake.

If you think Michael Moore has a clue or is right about Saudi Arabia, I suggest that you are not a member of the claque with half a clue. Michael Moore executed a series of deceptions in his movie that, when taken cumulatively, ended up being a fundamentally dishonest portrayal.

I mean even Michael Moore was making that point before you Charles. Think on that for a minute.

Oh, I've thought about it all right. Michael Moore is a crackpot propagandist who presents his "documentaries" dishonestly. You really want to be on the side of a man who called thugs and terrorists Iraq's "minutemen"?

Why is it critically important now if it wasn't important in 2002? And if it WAS important in 2002 then why aren't the people who were sticking their hands in their ears and saying "lalalala PATRIOT act america-haters Iraq Saddam I can't heeeear you" when the traitorous liberals were running around with our hair on fire about blowback taking any responsibility for having screwed it up?

There's no way to respond to the mass production of straw and bogeymen.

Dude, it's too late. Y'all really did screw it up and there's no do-over. Our post-9/11 leverage is just so much ash and twisted metal now.

The "screw it up" reference is, again, more larded opinion. We have plenty of leverage with the Saudis, especially after three successful elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and the PA. And you over-presume that we had leverage right after 9/11, particularly when huge chunks of the Saudi population didn't think bin Laden did it or approved of what he did.

There is no conventional military threat, no economic sanctioning, and no diplomatic or psy-ops pressure which we can bring to bear on the royals which can outweigh the pressure the jihadis can bring.

Gloomy self-defeating attitude noted.

How did that happen? Iraq.

Gloomy self-defeating attitude begets false premise. The fact of the matter is that the January 30th election was a major setback to the enemies of freedom and democracy. Our success is dependent on how well the election timetables can be kept, how fast Iraqi troops can be trained, how well their new constitution is drafted and other factors. But the Muslim world saw and took notice what happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and the PA.

Which you think was such a good idea.

It was a good idea to remove Saddam, but there were indeed too many bad ideas floating around on managing the post-war. We made it much harder than we had to.

Second Bush term is icing on the cake to alienate the Europeans as well.

It's raining false premises. Europe has quieted its vociferous oppostion since the Iraqi election and even France is making conciliatory noises. So many liberals don't see the other side of things, that perhaps Europe went too far in alienating us.

There. I treated you like an adult, despite my disinclination to do so... I hope you appreciate it

That was being treated as an adult? Hate to see how you treat kids.

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