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March 26, 2006

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There's a typically good article from Jon Lee Anderson in this week's New Yorker - sadly not online - about Liberia, its new leader Johnson Sirleaf, and the moral difficulties associated with trying to play all the king's men; and Taylor too. And the UN, and Firestone, and Anderson's childhood.

Nigeria announced Saturday that it was ready to hand over former Liberian president Charles Taylor to a U.N. tribunal

Your attention please! I am LARRY OGDOWU special envoy to the MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS for the Country of Nigeria. I am prepared to deliver to you former Liberian president CHARLES TAYLOR together with the sum of EIGHTY-THREE MILLION DOLLARS CASH ($83,000,000.00) in exchange for your assistance in facilitating a transaction of the utmost confidence...

Afghan Court Drops Case Against Christian.

Great that the case is being dropped. I hope this gives Afghanistan enough breathing room to somehow work the general issue out. On the other hand, it would, in so many ways, have been better if Afghanistan's judiciary were able to say not 'there's not enough evidence', but 'we don;t try people on this charge.'

"On the other hand, it would, in so many ways, have been better if Afghanistan's judiciary were able to say not 'there's not enough evidence', but 'we don;t try people on this charge.'"

The question of how one reconciles the fact that -- so far as I know, and perhaps I'm misinformed -- the desire to execute apostates is a popular one in Afghanistan (and to varying degrees in some other Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and a few others) -- and preserve democracy and an independent judiciary, while maintaining some alignment with the rest of the world, clearly isn't simple.

It seems to go back to that obvious "what sort of formally Reform Islam' can be produced?" question, given the absense of a real hierarchy in the system.

Reportedly the execute-apostate things is a haditha, nor a sura, which is to say, in the oral tradition, not in the Koran itself, but the hadithas are taken very seriously, of course, and the execution notion has a fair amount of popular acceptance, even if it's only been done relatively rarely by modern states. (See piece here.)

the desire to execute apostates is a popular one in Afghanistan

Afghan">http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/24/international/asia/24cnd-convert.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26hpQ26exQ3D1143262800Q26enQ3D3eb5e2f7675024d8Q26eiQ3D5094Q26partnerQ3Dhomepage&OP=2e044385Q2FJDQ3BQ3AJ8_gHq__sLJL77eJ7-JL(JE3sQ3Bq3WsE_3WQ5DJWHEWJL(g38Fg_3tQ3BqsQ22XsQ60Q5D">Afghan Clerics, in Friday Prayers, Call for Convert's Execution

It seems pretty clear he will be killed by the populace unless he is spirited out of the country. Even then he will likely have to go into hiding.

I am obviously glad things might work out OK for this guy – but part of me wishes this had been played through to a firm conclusion now. It seems all involved have just side-stepped the issue. I’d like to see this hashed out now. Have we spent American blood to install a government that at least in this case, seems little better than the Taliban?

If he had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death I like to think it would have forced those elusive “moderate” Muslims to the surface.

Now, thanks to a relentless 20-year campaign led by former President Jimmy Carter…

If only Mr. Carter would limit his activities to building houses and eradicating disease, I might even learn to respect him.

"I’d like to see this hashed out now."

Often punting is the least bad option. Would it be useful to "hash this out" by having the Afghan government reflect popular will in democratic fashion, and stand by such executions? By having us then break relations and withdraw aid and support? By having us go to war with Afghanistan again?

Would that be helpful and better?

Or do we have magic brainwash devices by which we can change the minds of illiterate or barely literate Afghan peasants by next week or next month, or six months from now, as to what they believe their religion says?

Or should we sweep away a (semi) democratic Afghan government, and install a secular strongman, and replay being the Russians?

What other sort of "hash[ing] out" solution do you see as being on the table?

"Have we spent American blood to install a government that at least in this case, seems little better than the Taliban?"

Yes, of course. You thought there was another option? Why?

"If he had been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death I like to think it would have forced those elusive “moderate” Muslims to the surface."

You think there are a majority of those in Afghanistan? Why? (Some, sure; and, hey, you know what? Most of them are communists.)

Ugh, guinea worm, yeuchh!!

We so need to get OFF this planet.

Would it be useful to "hash this out" by having the Afghan government reflect popular will in democratic fashion, and stand by such executions? By having us then break relations and withdraw aid and support? By having us go to war with Afghanistan again?

Would it be useful to "hash this out" by having the Afghan government reflect popular will in democratic fashion, and stand by such executions? By having us then break relations and withdraw aid and support? By having us go to war with Afghanistan again?

OK – comment retracted. Heck with it. After all, we have putative allies in Turkey, Pakistan, and Egypt where honor killings are still commonplace. So as long as Afghanistan remains nominally on our side, we can look the other way when these things happen.

You think there are a majority of those in Afghanistan?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be many of them (moderate Muslims) anywhere. At least they know enough to keep their heads down – I assume because they like their head right where it is.

Have we spent American blood to install a government that at least in this case, seems little better than the Taliban?

What OCSteve said. And yes.

OCSteve: "Have we spent American blood to install a government that at least in this case, seems little better than the Taliban?" -- Probably not, even with the crucial 'in this case' qualifier. The Taliban would just have executed him: no bowing to world opinion, no one anyone could even try to work with, no nothing. At least here we have not just a very conservative judiciary and an apparently somewhat incoherent constitution, but also a reasonable guy running the place, and a parliament that's both representative and non-insane.

If you remove the qualifier, of course (and I'm aware that you didn't speak to this, so here I'm changing the subject, not disagreeing), then you get to add in such non-negligible factors as: having a government that may not be able to root al Qaeda out entirely, but that will nonetheless never roll out the red carpet for them, and also: having a government that is at least trying to do something non-awful for the Afghan people.

"Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be many of them (moderate Muslims) anywhere."

I think you go wildly wrong there. There are hundreds of thousands of American Muslims; how many do you observe committing terrorism? How many are engaging in honor killings (a few, sure, but when they do, it makes the news; what's the ratio to the population?)?

How many are marching in the streets, not over feeling marginalized as Muslims, or fearful of their civil liberties, or in support of Palestinians, but in support of Al Qaeda?

And once you've got past those, you're left (I know the routine) with saying "well, they're not speaking up enough in protest about X."

But most people don't march in the streets, or politically agitate. Period. It's a ridiculous metric. People aren't circus monkeys who have to dance to prove they're harmless.

By behavior, most American Muslims are demonstrably moderate; that's all we require of any Americans. Not loyalty tests or questionaires on whether they have any wrongthink.

Oh, and since I specified "American Muslims" there, I should add that while I wouldn't guess at numbers of Muslims elsewhere who think what, demonstrably most of them aren't out volunteering for war against the West, making bombs, or killing people, either. They're trying to raise families, be good to their kids, get ahead in life, and the rest of what most people on the planet are trying to do.

Back during the cartoon riots a few months ago, I pointed out that there are estimated to be about one billion Muslims on the planet. The number who showed up at protests for a few tens of thousands. (And probably most didn't support or expect violence, though it's hard to know for sure -- but we have no reason to assume otherwise; certainly the number who actually committed violence was a literal handful.)

So, apparently, we have evidence that some .01% of world Muslims might be willing to show up somewhere where a few dozen Muslims will commit violence against property. Not exactly a demonstration that few Muslims in the world are moderate. (Are most of them probably offended at cartoons of the Prophet? -- sure -- most Americans are offended at the burning of the flag, but that doesn't mean they support killing people over it, and aren't, generally speaking, "moderate.")


DUDE! I did NOT need to know about that! The idea of multiple 3-foot long worms boring holes in me is creeping me the hell out.

"The idea of multiple 3-foot long worms boring holes in me is creeping me the hell out."

I'm sure we could make the idea fashionable if we just explain that it's a new sort of piercing, and all the kewl kids are doing it. Hott band members leading the way is the key insight. And hexapodia.

RE: Moderate Muslim.

You cannot meaningfully talk about "Moderate muslims" without specifying where they grew up[ and how they were educated.

Typically a person raised in a 100% muslim community and educated in a tradional fashion (regardless of specific culture, most "traditional" education is done locally by the tribe/village and is conservative in orientation) will be less "moderate" than a muslim raised in a cosmopolitan area and in a more 'modern' school.

Cultures adapt themselves to material conditions, but it often takes at least 2 full generation or even longer - especially if there exists no central education system charged with spreading the new ideas. Furthermore, this process is seldom peaceful - EVERY group of people has its conservatives who are simply suspicious and opposed to all change from tradition. I'm not just typecasting "cultures" either - in every small town you will find an old guy rambling on about how "it was better in my day".

Well, much of the Arab and Central Asian world has experienced and relatively recent injection of MASSIVE cultural, political, and economic change and there has naturally been a reaction.


Of course, the presence of other factors (like racism) can drive a person to rebel. There will always be those who, for personal reasons, reject an open and pluralistic society for a closed one where everyone "knows their place" in the whole thing - these people are always going to be attracted to idealogies that promise "total truth" - facism, communism, religious totalitarianism are all going to attract those who want ANY truth more than the "meaninglessness" you find in cosmopolitan socieites.

I really find the conventional language to be rather bad.

"Muslim" ignores the differences in Arab, Central Asian, and South East asian "cultures" (and their various component cultures).

On the other hand, breaking them down an refusing to admit a shared identity is also not accurate - many take the concept of the Umma seriously even if we don't.

Blaming "Islam" is usually interpreted as blaming the contents of the Koran and (while popular amongst Christian Supremacists) often viewed as close to "islamophobia". On the other hand, how can we deny that certain core concepts inherent to the middle eastern monotheism (Xtianity, Judiasm, and Islam) seem almost destined to cause violence. All the books have passages that people who want to commit violence can use to justify their own actions. The rejoinder is usually "but most people dont do that". True, but 99% of poor people don't commit crimes and yet we ackowledge the link between poverty and the 1% who do. Why do we feel so strongly that this is different?

Can you really tell people that other people are destined to be tortured by God for all of eternity and NOT dehumanise them?

Wherever I see people talking about the Guinea worm I am linking to WaterAid because clean water prevents Guinea worm from spreading and a whole lot of other diseases likewise. Of course it's no U.S. Family Network but it is a pretty good buy for your charitable buck.

Hilzoy, Taylor has "mysteriously disappeared" prior to being extradited.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=1776832

votermom: yes, I saw that just as I had to fly out the door. I was afraid something like that might happen, and only hope he doesn't take this opportunity to reignite the Liberian civil war.

Ugh.

"I was afraid something like that might happen, and only hope he doesn't take this opportunity to reignite the Liberian civil war."

As the story barely alludes to only a bit of the situation, things are pretty effed up in Nigeria, as well, and Nigeria is pretty damn important. I briefly touched on only one aspect of Nigeria's importance here a few weeks ago. Remember when we used to have nightly special news programs about American hostages, back in the day? How many of you followed this American hostage situation? Not so many, I'd bet.

As I noted, everyone is all a-twitter about the U.S.'s "reliance" on Mideast. The minor fact that, back in reality, we get far more of our oil from Nigeria does unremarked and little noticed. Plus there's the natural gas situation. Plus the huge population of Nigeria, which is also split between a Muslim and non-Muslim population, and constantly getting near the verge of five different kinds of civil war.

So Nigeria itself is worth just a tad of attention, even if people hate to actually differentiate between different countries in Africa, cuz it's so confusin', I say with a tad of cynicism, and as someone who managed to make a post not all that long ago in which I mixed up which Congo I was talking about, myself. (Still cranky from exhaustion/sleep-wake problems, sorry; nothing meant personally towards anyone.)

looking for blogs on Charles Taylor, I found a somewhat incoherent one that contains this wonderful misspelling:

"The second incident involves Sec. Rice telling the Afghanistan policy makers (Paraphrase) “We did not give you a democracy so you can use your religion to enact what we believe are undemocratic laws by putting a man to death because he no longer wants to be a Muslin."

Who could blame him? I wouldn't want to be a muslin either.

"I wouldn't want to be a muslin either."

On the other hand, I could stand to be terry-cloth for some time.

I assume everyone heard that Taylor was arrested again.

I wouldn't cotten to the idea of being muslin, but I do often feel quite wooly-headed.

r4d20 writes:"Typically a person raised in a 100% muslim community and educated in a tradional fashion (regardless of specific culture, most "traditional" education is done locally by the tribe/village and is conservative in orientation) will be less "moderate" than a muslim raised in a cosmopolitan area and in a more 'modern' school."

I think that's getting more into tribal vs. modern, urban vs. rural, and other issues that are essentially orthogonal to Islam.

It's a bit like comparing white American Christians' treatment of blacks in the rural deep south with white Christians' treatment of blacks in the urban north, and saying that the southern redneck Christians are more 'pure' or 'traditional' Christians, and the more urban moderates are somehow practicing a debased form.


Oh, also I'd point out that the closest analogs to tribal rural Muslims are probably some Christians in Africa, who sometimes engage in some pretty nasty behavior of their own.

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