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May 21, 2006

Comments

IslamLand's been downhill since the jihad conquered that Small World ride.

And while I digest the content of your post, a simple question: what do/did you call it when self-described Christians decided to militantly force their religious ideology down others' throats?

"Immigration minister Rita Verdonk"

Umm, isn't that right-wing, maybe Christian etc. etc.?

"For the crime of " foo, Bar is getting sued. Maybe you don't want "crime" there, then.


"But it's another thing altogether when a person decides that others must also submit."

Here, here. We're argreed we should get conservative Christianity out of our classrooms and bedrooms?


More substantively, how does one distinguish between living according to a moral system and imposing it? How does one weigh the unfortunate aspects of Islam vs the unfortunate aspects of any other religion?

Anyway, welcome back.

Not all of Hirsi Ali's lies were known before the recent documentary. Also, she is an MP for a strongly anti-immigration party (Verdonk's party) and supported the deportation of an immigrant who had told lies in her application... . Should she therefore be kicked out of Holland? I don't know, I do know people should be aware there's more than one side to this story.

As for 40 per cent of British Muslims wanting Britain to be ruled by sharia law: the poll that's Bawer's source in fact shows that 40 per cent of British Muslims think there should be certain areas of the UK where sharia law can exist. (It is unclear whether they accept that it would have to be subordinate to British civil and criminal law.)


Not all of Hirsi Ali's lies were known before the recent documentary. Also, she is an MP for a strongly anti-immigration party (Verdonk's party) and supported the deportation of an immigrant who had told lies in her application... . Should she therefore be kicked out of Holland? I don't know, I do know people should be aware there's more than one side to this story.

As for 40 per cent of British Muslims wanting Britain to be ruled by sharia law: the poll that's Bawer's source in fact shows that 40 per cent of British Muslims think there should be certain areas of the UK where sharia law can exist. (It is unclear whether they accept that it would have to be subordinate to British civil and criminal law.)


The ISB suit (pdf). If I started a media campaign accusing the people building a church down the road of being pedophiles, bigamists, and brain-washing cultists with a side business in drug smuggling, conflict diamonds, and slavery, I'd expect a suit. And I'd probably manage to find a willing pundit to ask if I would get the death penalty if convicted.

I've no clue about the ISB, of course.

Hard to know where to start, Charles. Each of those countries has its own specific political and economic situations, and the flavor of Islam varies a great deal over geography and culture.

Perhaps I'll start by welcoming you back!

Sorry again (double comment). I think the only way to stop them is (for me) to ignore failure messages...

Welcome back, Charles.

You write of the compulsion to enforce submission to one's religion on others against their will as if this is something unique to Islam. In fact, it is a trait unique not to Islam in specific, but to a whole host of related religions in general, whose other traits in common are an authoritarian approach to society, unquestionable belief in their own teachings as the True Path, and a scriptural requirement to spread their beliefs to others.

Many sects of Judeo-Christianity fall into this family of religions. So does Islam. What makes militant Islam different and more dangerous now is not the content of the Qur'an, which is really not any more or less bloody-minded than the Bible, but rather the confluence of certain aggresive sects of Islam with politics.

The more authoritarian branches of Christianity do, to this day, significant damage to Americans and American society, particularly when it comes to fundamentalist Christianity's truly sick obsession with sexual repression. We are fortunate to have a political system that, for the most part, is resistant to the worst of the American Taliban's attempts to enshrine their prejudices and religious strictures in law and enforce them on others. We are also fortunate to have a Constitution that affirms freedom of religion, and it is that--despite fundamentalist Christian attempts to neutralize it--that keeps them from doing more damage and becoming more violent. When militant Christianity and politics converge, and when they feel they have no political avenues to pursue, we see tragedy.

In the last 30 years we've had literally hundreds of Christianist bombings, shootings and arsons at abortion clinics, compared with (if I recall correctly) two Islamist attacks on US soil. Even if you only take into account these incidents of spectacular violence instead of the more garden-variety oppression through attempting to enshrine their religion in law, that still paints a highly imbalanced picture--and it's why I'm far more worried about the former than the latter.

Relatively moderate responses to Charles so far; how long will that last?

(1) The point that Christianity has been no less intolerant in the past is true but irrelevant, as we are living in the present & have to deal with its problems. (It becomes relevant if anyone's saying Islam is inferior to Xtianity b/c of its violence, which I give CB credit for not doing, today.)

(2) Xtianity & Judaism have their lunatic fringes, sure. The concern that I get about contemporary Islam is, are most Muslims sincerely willing to denounce the examples cited by CB as lunatic-fringers?

Islam is the religion of a lot of people living under tyrannies great and small, living in poverty, and happy to seize upon an ideology that tells them they're actually the winners.

So while I think the real problem is with politics and economics, not religion, the point remains on the table: will Muslims allow their religion to be co-opted by the Osamas of the world?

(3) Think how much better off the Palestinians would likely be today if Yasser Arafat had been a Gandhi/MLK-type figure. Does Islam have a tradition of nonviolence like Hinduism and Christianity do? (I ask from genuine ignorance, assuming that the Sufis or somebody like that do indeed have one.)

Water

Not only Christianity and Islam. Hindu in the quick link above, longer articles can be found. Unlike some(Tacitus?) I think the militant proselytizing and demands for hegemony have more to do with particular cultures than the contents(?) of their guiding religions or ideologies. But I also think a religion that has become so personal that it is not interested in politics has ceased to be a religion and become a spirituality.

"What they don't have, which is an essential part of ours, is the idea of elected representation." ...BL

Bernard Lewis wrong! Felt good to say that. I need a closer study of the relevant societies before I can accept this. Representation can be implemented in a variety of ways; Parliamentary systems like Britain do not elect their Prime Minister;America used to have indirect election of Senators. I could imagine all sorts of systems that would be fairly representative without direct elections. Is Sistani somehow "elected" within the Marijah, or by having more numerous followers?

"While we've long heard and read from many on the Left about American imperialism and hegemony..."

To relieve Charles from attacks of strawmanism, this is me. I did this. I also include multitudes.

Islam is the religion of a lot of people living under tyrannies great and small, living in poverty, and happy to seize upon an ideology that tells them they're actually the winners.

And the South actually won the Civil War.

Most of these tyrannies you mention are Western client states. Do you think there might be some sort of correlaton there?

I think the militant proselytizing and demands for hegemony have more to do with particular cultures than the contents

Particular cultures at particular times. The Spanish were once very keen on spreading the word and dominion of God. Now, not so much.

Hope the schedule lets up, Chas, and good to see that you are still alive.

The urge is to look at these incidents and start picking them apart, which some have already done, which leaves you with the impression that the gauche side of the commentariat is missing the forest for the trees. Rather than do that, I would focus on something that you quote Lewis on, which is

So, limited, contractual, consensual government is part of the Islamic tradition, and was a living part of it until the process of modernization came and destroyed everything.

It's important to realize that 'modernization' is, in the eyes of almost everyone, been made equivalent to 'westernization', so it is not surprising to see so much confusion about who is lashing out against what. Failing to take that into account gets us tropes like 'they hate us for our freedoms". This is not a liberal only sort of ideal. The author of this piece (who I am assuming is the founder of the organization and I am shocked that I am quoting him here in agreement) would never be thought of as a liberal, yet is echoing some of the same points as a (dare I say it) Chomsky tract.

In fact, Lewis has this to say just above it

It doesn't have to be in our own image. I don't see why we should assume that what is variously known as the Westminster model or the Jeffersonian model should apply here universally. I think that trying to impose our kind of democracy is foredoomed to failure.

If this were to come from one of the League of Iraq war haters, you would probably dismiss it with a wave of your hand. But stripping away any kind of personal bias, this really suggests that there is a point being made that defenders of this war have just never gotten. Whether that currently includes you in those ranks, I don't know, but it is food for thought.

All of the proselytizing religions contain a seed of religous bigotry. As Bob says, the form a relgion takes has to do with the life e xperiences of its adherents in a given place at a given time: look at the variations in Christianity.
I don't think we should blame Islam for terrorism done in its name. That's the slippery slope towards religous bigotry. It is more helpful to try to figure out what forces are at work that lead people to emphasize the jihadist aspect of Islam over all other aspects.
I'm not any kind of expert on Middle Eastrern affairs so I don't have much faith in my opinions, but I think thwarted nationalism, a sense of grievance at least partly justified, based on historical imperialism and current treatment of the Palestinains, and the disorientation oand dislocatios caused by overrapid population growth and urbanization have something to do with it.
Not that I'm excusing, of course. But if we are going to take action to reduce terrorism we do have to identify root causes. Wars on terrorism are notoriously ineffective; ask the British!
In any case the "original sin" of Islam is the same as the "orignal sin" of Christianity. People are people, for better or worse.
And hello, I'm glad you are back, too!

The idea that Islamic "imperialism" can be compared with sustained political, economic, military, intelligence, and diplomatic interventions over a fifty-year period by a superpower whose military spending equals that of the next ten nations combined is laughable.

See, it's not just Bob McManus?

The point that Christianity has been no less intolerant in the past is true but irrelevant, as we are living in the present & have to deal with its problems.

I assume this was in response to someone else above, and not me, since I wasn't referring to Christianity's brutal past. I was referring to the contemporary, modern-day actions of Christianists and certain more aggressive sects of Christianity.

Nevertheless, I do not think that the large-scale atrocities committed in the name of God by so-called Christians are irrelevant to the discussion. Charles seems to be asserting that there is something intrinsically, inherently different about Islam that makes it more dangerous, and not a religion of peace. It is, according to his recent musings, "not a religion of peace, but of submission, by its very definition".

The reason why Christianity's brutal past is relevant is because it gives lie to this: the difference between the Christianity of the Crusades and the Christianity of Martin Luther King is not in its scriptures, but in which parts of them a person chooses to adhere more closely. The late Reverend King chose to emphasize Jesus' messages of inclusiveness, love, and peace. The Pat Robertsons and Pope Urban II's of the world choose, instead, to focus on the more authoritarian, fire-and-brimstone aspects of the Bible.

Right now there are many flavors of Islam that have merged the more militant and intolerant parts of the Qur'an together with politics and social discontent to form a volatile and dangerous mixture. Those who attempt to argue that this is so because Islam is inherently violent are apparently unaware that they are, in the process, also arguing that the Crusades occurred because Christianity was inherently violent.

Neither is true. In fact, both are demonstrably false.

Lewis's "I think that trying to impose our kind of democracy is foredoomed to failure" seems like the sort of statement that Bush responds to with accusations of racism:

There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.

It's kind of intersting to go from tis post over to the post on Outside the Beltway, the one about the staff at Patrick Henry University quitting. I had never heard of this school but appraently it was founded to serve home-schooled kids and feed them into the upper echelons of the Republican party or government positions under Republican administration. So kids raised and "educated" to be narrowminded extremists go to a college that is dedicated to reinforcing that narrow extremism, in preparation for applying that narrow extremism to govenment policy under Repblican administrations.
Shouldn't we be concerned about religious fanatism here at home?

The examples of subjugation and violent jihad obviously mean that we have a long struggle ahead of us.

You must have been dropped from the talking points faxlist, Charles. The War On Terror will be over in just a few months!

We are pitted against a sizable contingent of Muslims who seek to subdue western civilization, putting their own version into primacy, rather than live peaceably alongside as equals.

"Sizeable?"

Charles writes "Fortunately, Turkey has a decades-long tradition of secular government, and people are taking to the streets to resist this barbarism."

And those people taking to the streets are what, Charles?

That's right, they're Muslim. So why do you emphasize the actions of the individual Muslim who got violent not unlike some Christians have done in the US. The crime is not particularly different from the shooting of an abortion providing doctor or blowing up an abortion clinic.

In the case of more widespread movements, I'd think the movement leaders are taking advantage of local social problems to gain power and influence, and then once they have a power base, they use religiously-excused violence as a tool of intimidation in order to gain more power.

That's what fundamentalism is about, all over the world. Power, not religion.

I must say, Charles, that the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Efraim Karsh does not impress me as documentary evidence of the imperial soul of Islam. His best arguments come from before the 10th century, which are of course symbolically important times for the foundation of Islam, but, um, not the end-all of Islamic culture.

I can't say that that excerpt makes me curious to read his forthcoming book, either.

The author of this piece . . . would never be thought of as a liberal, yet is echoing some of the same points as a (dare I say it) Chomsky tract.

That was a great essay. I didn't even know who was writing until I looked at the corner. I mean Buchanan? I don't know if he still has those nativist tendencies from the late 80s and early 90s, but there was very little to disagree with in that piece. Especially for a piece written just a couple of weeks after 9/11, it was quite clear-sighted:

"An alternative view does not imply that we brought this on ourselves. The terrorists and those who aided them hold sole moral responsibility for the horror of September 11. They alone bear blame. But as we seek justice, the U.S. must trace the wellspring of the terrorists' rage if this is to be after and not between."

Although Buchanan is still a bastard. I don't think I'll be joining "The Cause" until they can harmonize the following facts from their website:

Fact 1) Patrick J. Buchanan, founder The American Cause

Fact 2) Launched in 1993, The American Cause is an educational organization whose mission is to advance and promote traditional American values that are rooted in the conservative principles of national sovereignty, economic patriotism, limited government, and individual freedom.

Fact 3) Patrick Joseph Buchanan (born November 2, 1938) is an American author, syndicated columnist, and television commentator.


To me, there is little better evidence of the non-existence of the Diety than the madness uttered/done in His/Her/Its name, now and over the centuries. If there is a God/Allah/Quetzelcoatl, He/She/It ought to be fired.

All that said, it seems to me that what we have here is people so wrenched by the changes brought about by modernity, they'd do anything to try to rooll it back. Now I think one could find members/leaders of different faiths uttering this kind of stuff, but that hardly matters. The question is what to do about it.

Removing secular dictators isn't at the top of my list.

I'd say that the very first step is to diagnose the problem: the Islamists are not mad at us because they're being given insufficient opportunities to be just like us.

And the one thing we absolutely cannot give up is the determination to live up to our own civic creed: just because the other guys torture, doesn't mean we can/should; just because a bunch of people want something inconsistent with that creed doesn't mean they can have it. (I'd be happy to compare the proportion of Muslims in the UK who's like sharia to govern family law with the proportion of "Christians" who'd like prayer restored in schools, or of all Americans who'd like flag burning outlawed. When it comes to some things, numbers do not matter.) Just because it's easier to fight a war as a dictatorship, doesn't mean we should embrace elements of same.

Yes! Yes!

I wonder why there is this drumbeat to define Islam as inately evil? I mean why the drumbeat now? Right after 911 the one thing I thought Bush did right was to make it clear the fight was with Al Quaida, not Islam or Muslims. Now there's this recurrent theme, stated subtly, but there nethertheless: it's Islam itself, there's something inate in Islam that is the cause of terrorism, therefor we have an enemy and can stay at war forever....

I think I have said this before, somewhere. But:

I think that a lot has to do with a massive sense of cultural humiliation in the Muslim world. To take the Middle East as an example: during the middle ages, Europe and the Ottomans were basically on a par culturally and militarily. Then we had little to do with one another, and when Europeans reappeared in the ME, suddenly they were vastly, vastly more powerful than the people in the ME. More powerful militarily: this goes without saying. But also able to make all sorts of things that no one in the ME could dream of making, and that dislocated Middle Eastern society immensely. And the more time went on, the wider this gap grew.

Moreover, the things we can make that they can't are hard to square with traditional Middle Eastern society in all sorts of subtle ways -- think, for instance, of the impact of household appliances on the traditional Middle Eastern family. Or, to take another example that I was thinking about after reading Billmon's post from Sharm el Sheikh: Once upon a time, the Sinai was largely out of touch with the rest of the world. The bedouin who lived there were Muslim, but they had a pretty tenuous understanding of what Islam actually was -- almost no one could read, so they mostly got their understanding of Islam from the odd itinerant preacher, meeting people while trading, etc. They didn't know it, but they were very heterodox.

When Israel conquered the Sinai in '67, they built schools for the Bedouin, and as a result Bedouin kids learned to read, for the first time ever. And they read the Qur'an, and were able, for the first time, to see that their parents' understanding of Islam was pretty different from the Qur'an. -- Bedouin society is extremely patriarchal. Respect for your parents and elders is a very serious thing. And it was enormously unsettling, in that context, to have kids in a position to challenge their parents' religious orthodoxy, on the authority of the Qur'an. That was not supposed to happen.

From the perspective of people in the ME, I think, their interactions with the west have been one story of that kind after another: all enormously disturbing to the culture, all humiliating, but a kind of humiliation that it's hard to dismiss. (What Muslim can dismiss the authority of the Qur'an? And what woman would not want to own a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner?)

So people end up trying to navigate a world that it's very hard to make sense of, since we use our cultures to make sense of things, and theirs is all bent and broken. Most people I met there love their culture, rightly, and they also see what's attractive about ours, also rightly, and it's hard to square those two things. Some people turn their backs on their culture; but some cling to it all the more tightly because it's under threat.

In general, when people try to cling to something for those sorts of reasons, they often end up with a caricature of what they're clinging to. (I think the analogy of fundamentalist Christianity is exact here: it is a parody of Christianity itself, created for very similar reasons, in the face of a similar, though less deadly, threat.) And the emotions that animate them have a lot more to do with the need to fight off the threat they see than with what their religion itself dictates.

(Analogy to Christianity again: looking at it dispassionately, how could anyone think that Christ, as depicted in the New Testament, would want there to be monuments to the Ten Commandments in courthouses? That's the sort of thing Christ has no patience for. Why think that the same Christ who said this:

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you"

-- would be in favor of mandatory school prayer? Or that the one who bade us render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's, would want us to be an explicitly Christian nation? Honestly. But I assume it's the sense of being threatened by the surrounding culture that accounts for this, not a dispassionate reading of the Bible.)

Add to this that most Muslim countries are completely corrupt, that many are humiliatingly dependent on the US, and that the sight of Palestinians being killed is (rightly or wrongly -- I don't want to get into that) a constant source of pain, and it's not, I think, that hard to understand.

Hilzoy, think you are correct. You have managed to say a lot of what I think about when confronted by the christianists and I guess it works for muslims too. How do we convince them both, that modern society is not a threat?

I started reading an insightful post, and was not suprised when I saw the signature - hilzoy.

There is much to what has been said above, that culture is in the end more important than what the religious teachings actually say, and hilzoy articulated it excellently.

But there are also differences between religions, which should make true religion harder to abuse. While it's true that mandatory prayer is hard to reconcile with the new testament, and state religion as well (although that finds far too good support in the old testament), Islam is in fact different.
You have to have a certain disconnect with what Jesus actually says to force these things which hilzoy mentioned, with Islam it is often not forcing these things which requires disconnect with what the prophet said. Islam is just inherently more suitable as support for certain forms of injustice, as I see it. I wish I could agree with the moderate muslims who say it isn't so, but Muhammed was a man of the sword - very much a millitant himself.

"How do we convince them both, that modern society is not a threat?"

The Deserted Village

b>Lily:In any case the "original sin" of Islam is the same as the "orignal sin" of Christianity. People are people, for better or worse.
Actually... no, it is not quite the same. Eve doesn't get the blame in the islam, which is a lot more female friendly than our reformed Christian fundamentalists here believe.
I also always thought it amusing that the Koran teaches that Jesus was not crucified but instead was saved by god while the people believed they were crucifying him.

One of my problems with religions is how many really rotten things are justified in their name. We actually have a fundamentalist reformed Christian party with two seats in parlement (and the biggest growth in yourh members of all political parties) called SGP. They don't allow women in public government posts - they had to be forced to accept that female members had voting rights - and believe all other religious believes are evil and should be expelled. That includes for instance Catholics, against whom they battled most of their political life. They believe in an 'old testament' like type of religion and have in interviews stated that if they were voted into a big enough majority (which they acknowledge to be unlikely) they would aim at making the Netherlands a theocracy and change the laws accordingly.

If you look at our history of religion you see how violent the various religious followers have been. Lots of Northers-Irelandish troubles and that was way before Islam.

About Hirsi Ali (or rather Hirsi Magan, as we now know): she started out in the research group of our Labour Party. After they promised her a seat in parlement and the right to be spokeswomen on immigrant integration she became a member of our conservative party within 24 hours. That party has made a point of being very very strict in our immigrantpolicies - up to a point where the human rights organisations report on our infringement of human rights. I have stated before that I think our current politics in that area are horrendous - and Ayaan has been a very prominent member of the party responsible for implementing those policies. A new law they got approved in 2003 stated that fraud is grounds to undo naturalisation or asylum status (till 12 years after the naturalisation). A family of Iraqi wanted their naturalisation data changed to their real name, since they felt they didn't have to protect family in Iraq anymore. They wrote a request - and got sued. November last year the Supreme Court decided that they were never Dutch, since they lied in their naturalisation proces. They will be deported soon.

Ayaan never protested those laws and those consequences, which frustrated quite a number of people. Especially since HER party is responsible for them (Verdonk is from her own party too). Unfortunately for her that case is quite similar to hers (they also used the name of a grandparent instead). Interesting, since if she has never been Dutch, she could have never been an MP, and thus could have never voted for things in parlement...

However she DOES still have a permit to stay, which precedes her naturalisation with a few years. Since the permit is older than 12 years she can not loose it, so she can legally stay in the Netherlands in any case.

She wanted to go more international and had allready informed the partyboard that she therefore would not be available for re-election spring next year. She has now decided to work for the AEI (not because of this affair, the job application preceeds this whole business).

It will be intersting to follow her religious development I think. Currently she is atheist and believes that you cannot be moslim and democratic. She also states that moslim women can only be liberated by denouncing their religion - one of the reasons many people feel that her targetted audiance is not really the moslim woman, but the white man with political party. Her admires are more likely to be the latter than the former in the Netherlands.

It is a noble concept for a person to voluntarily submit himself or herself to God and to put into practice the tenets of the faith. But it's another thing altogether when a person decides that others must also submit.

Right: so the moment Bush came up with the "protection of marriage amendment" to enshrine Christian bigotry against lesbians and gays into the US Constitution, you dropped him like a hot potato and started writing ferocious blogposts against him?

Pull the other one, Charles. This isn't about your opposition to enforcing religious tenets on the unwilling: the Bush administration is all about that. This is just another of your I-hate-Islam posts.

Jes, I think a more accurate characterization is 'The-Enemy-Sncks' as to which there is so little controversy that the focus of conversation tends either to be incidentals, or personal.

CB, I'll say it again: there's no doubt that the enemy sncks. The question is how to get him to stop sncking. And this breaks down into two subsidiary questions: (a) how responsive is he to our actions; and (b) just what can we really do anyway.

You seem, CB, like many of your colleagues, to think that folks who oppose the current policy of the Administration do so because they do not see just how badly the enemy sncks. While I'm sure you can find people on some fringe who will say such things, or that lots of other people snck, or have sncked in the past, the real questions really are those two. Propose an actual attainable way, consistent with our values (ie not the Final Solution) to make some progress on this, and you'll find allies.

This strikes me as the greatest (among many) flaws of the President. He thinks that leadership consists of announcing his position, and sticking to it come hell or high water. That showing resolve will bring people along. That whenever anyone questions the efficacy or necessity of one program or another, he can simply say 'there are bad people trying to kill us, and I'm not going to let that happen.' OK, there's a portion of the population for which this is effective. But to lead anyone else, it's going to have to be about shared goals, and shared efforts.

Re: Buchanan, just remember that his bedrock philosophy is isolationism, and his latter-day anti-Bush heresies (he's also rabidly anti-Iraq war) come into focus.

From the perspective of people in the ME, I think, their interactions with the west have been one story of that kind after another: all enormously disturbing to the culture, all humiliating, but a kind of humiliation that it's hard to dismiss.

It's weird that all the examples you list (we've got neat appliances, we build nice schools for bedouins) are ones that tend to gloss over the most obvious and glaring source of Arab/Muslim anger towards the West: the West's habit over the last century of trying to occupy Mideast nations, install Western-friendly dictators hated by the citizens, and otherwise curtail their sovereignty whenever their goals fail to coincide with our own.

The fact that the regimes propped up or outright installed by the West have ranged from wildly corrupt to monstrously oppressive while beggaring their citizens to enrich themselves refelcts on us. Beyond that, the West has a habit of blowing up innocent Muslims in the name of various dubious causes. It's not just a matter of "cultural humilation," as if we've just been such swell folks they just feel bad in comparison - it's because we've repeatedly screwed up their lives on a colossal scale.

I was using the phrase "original sin", not as it is used i the Bible, but as shorthand for the idea of something inately evil within something else.
Charles singles out the idea of submission and suggests that that idea inclides Islamic believers toward violence or prepares their minds for violence or something like that, as if this was an especially Islamic trait. However, I think that it is instinct in humans to want to submit to a leader against the other and Islamic people aren't any more inclined this way than Koreans who worship the Dear Leader, French Revolutionaries who worshipped Reason, Americans who want to subliminate themselves in Jesus ( there is a LOT of language about submission in American Christian extremism)or whatever. It's an instinct from our ancestry as territorial pack hunters. Everybody does it to some extent.

CharleyCarp: Jes, I think a more accurate characterization is 'The-Enemy-Sncks' as to which there is so little controversy that the focus of conversation tends either to be incidentals, or personal.

True. My comment would have been more appropriate on HoCB, too.

I wish I could agree with the moderate muslims who say it isn't so, but Muhammed was a man of the sword - very much a millitant himself.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." -- Matthew 10:34

Christmas: it was late, so a number of things about that comment didn't come out quite right. One is the point you mention. My assumption was that that was obvious, but that the cultural humiliation is deeper, and inflects the entire response to things like actual occupation. I didn't mean to gloss over that at all, though I can see that it came out that way.

Relatedly, I probably should have made it clearer that I meant the analogy to fundamentalist Christianity to concern the psychological mechanisms underlying it, and the resulting caricature of a great faith, not anything else. In particular: there are of course violent Christians, clinic bombers, and the like. But the fact of visible onslaughts against Muslims on the news all the time, a history of genuine oppression by horrible governments that we have supported, and the fact of corruption, which makes it the case that for many people, literally everything is rigged against them and they have no hope of getting to a decent life by decent means -- all that makes the outcome very different.

I mean, in this country, Bill O'Reilly has to invent things like the supposed War on Christmas to stoke a sense of Christian grievance. Imagine if there were some analog of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, complete with killings; or the invasion of Iraq; or the repression of this entire country under a dictator imposed and supported by, oh, Saudi Arabia. That this is all counterfactual (for Christians) makes an obvious difference.

However, I think that it is instinct in humans to want to submit to a leader against the other and Islamic people aren't any more inclined this way than Koreans who worship the Dear Leader, French Revolutionaries who worshipped Reason, Americans who want to subliminate themselves in Jesus

Ah, than we are more or less in agreement Lily. I think that a small percentage prefers real authoritive and those become fundamentalists - in any religion or ideology.

The thing is, if we accept that radical Islam is just a lunatic fringe, it's hard to figure out what should be done about them. All too often, the focus is on how the "moderate Muslims" need to rein in their crazy brethren. Is that realistic? Do we often see moderate Christian spokespeople denouncing Jerry Falwell and his ilk? Not in my experience.

Given the difficulty of coping with radicalism as just a strain within Islam, it's understandable why so many have an agenda of proving that it's all attributable to something innate in the nature of Islam itself. Because then, you can just wipe 'em out.

Walter Cronkite has been trying to organize ecumenical support for moderate religion. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the organization even though I sent him some money.

Okay, that's a lot clearer to me. Thanks for the clarification.

FRANCIS:
We're gettin' in through the underground heating system here, up through into the main audience chamber here, and Pilate's wife's bedroom is here. Having grabbed his wife, we inform Pilate that she is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?
COMMANDO XERXES:
What exactly are the demands?
REG:
We're giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State, and if he doesn't agree immediately, we execute her.
MATTHIAS:
Cut her head off?
FRANCIS:
Cut all her bits off. Send 'em back on the hour every hour. Show them we're not to be trifled with.
REG:
And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop her up, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!
COMMANDOS:
No blackmail!
REG:
They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.
LORETTA:
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.
REG:
Yeah.
LORETTA:
And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.
REG:
Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!
XERXES:
The aqueduct?

REG:
What?
XERXES:
The aqueduct.
REG:
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
COMMANDO #3:
And the sanitation.
LORETTA:
Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
REG:
Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
MATTHIAS:
And the roads.
REG:
Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--
COMMANDO:
Irrigation.
XERXES:
Medicine.
COMMANDOS:
Huh? Heh? Huh...
COMMANDO #2:
Education.
COMMANDOS:
Ohh...
REG:
Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
COMMANDO #1:
And the wine.
COMMANDOS:
Oh, yes. Yeah...
FRANCIS:
Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
COMMANDO:
Public baths.
LORETTA:
And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
FRANCIS:
Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.
COMMANDOS:
Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
REG:
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
XERXES:
Brought peace.
REG:
Oh. Peace? Shut up!
[bam bam bam bam bam bam bam]
[bam bam bam bam bam]
MATTHIAS:
I am a poor man. My sight is poor. My legs are old and bent, and--
JUDITH:
It's all right, Matthias.
MATTHIAS:
It's all clear.
JUDITH:
Well, where's Reg?
FRANCIS:
Oh, Reg. Reg, it's Judith.
REG:
What went wrong?
JUDITH:
The first blow has been struck!
REG:
Did he finish the slogan?
JUDITH:
A hundred times, in letters ten foot high, all the way around the palace!
REG:
Oh, great. Great. We-- we need doers in our movement, Brian, but... before you join us, know this: there is not one of us here who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
COMMANDO:
Uhh. Well, one.
REG:
Oh, yeah. Yeah, there's one, but otherwise, we're solid. Are you with us?
BRIAN:
Yes!
REG:
From now on, you shall be called 'Brian that is called Brian'. Tell him about the raid on Pilate's palace, Francis.
FRANCIS:
Right. This is the plan...

From The Life of Brian

THOSE UNGRATEFUL JEWS!!! THE ROMANS GAVE SO MUCH AND ALL THE JEWS COULD DO IS GET ALL MOSADA ON THEIR ASS!!!

Fun piece o' trivia: Judith's full name, though never mentioned in the movie, is Judith Iscariot.

That's funny.

It’s kind of shocking to me that most of the comments here are right along the lines of “it’s really the fault of the West” or “Christianity is just as bad”.

Great moral equivalency. Clerics all through the red states call weekly for the death of those they disagree with. When a right wing extremist does kill an abortion doctor he is hailed as a hero and a martyr from the pulpits of churches all over the country and should he die in the attempt those churches give his family a nice chunk of money. Gays are crushed to death by a wall and when prayer is banned in schools the Catholic extremists storm an elementary school and behead several teachers in front of their students. The penalty for converting from Christianity to Scientology is of course death.

The fact is that since the end of the cold war, Muslims have been involved in just about every international conflict or case of ethnic strife anywhere in the world. From the ME to Africa, old Soviet client states to the Philippines, all over the world. In almost every case, Muslims are the aggressors. I’m having a hard time thinking of any conflict in the last 15 years that did not involve Muslims…

Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia, Sudan, Kashmir, Chechnya – the list goes on and on. So how exactly are we to blame for Bosnia? How about Chechnya?

I agree that the problem lies with the extremists, but if the moderates do not do more to gain control and purge the extremists from their midst they will be as much to blame for what comes. Every time there is a terrorist bombing anywhere in the world it must be renounced by prominent imams and Islamic scholars. Every time some extremist invokes Islam to justify violence it must be renounced by moderates, and not just when someone has actually died. Every Friday when one prominent imam calls for the death of others that imam and his statements must be denounced by equally prominent Imams. When one Islamic cleric calls for the death of cartoonists in the name of Islam 200 others must loudly denounce him and explain to their followers how it is not justified in the name of Islam. And the secular organs of the state must prosecute the one imam for inciting violence. Anything less is implied agreement. And all I see is less. The extremists are in my face – the moderates need to be more in my face.

Very much a side note and I'm only commenting on it because other people have done such a good job making the points I would have liked to make, but---

Steve said "Do we often see moderate Christian spokespeople denouncing Jerry Falwell and his ilk? Not in my experience."

This baffles me. Do people not know that there are a large number of Christians who condemn Falwell and despise what he stands for? And I'm sure I've seen them in the news.

But I think I agree with Steve's main point, which I took to be that it's not realistic to expect moderate Muslims to be able to rein in the fanatics, any more than moderate or liberal Christians are able to stop the Falwells. People like Falwell wouldn't think someone like me is a Christian. I have zero influence on him or anyone likely to admire him. Presumably something similar happens with moderate Muslims vs. the more fanatical variety.

Every time some extremist invokes Islam to justify violence it must be renounced by moderates

Is it worth pointing out that almost nobody on this website (that I know of) speaks Arabic and monitors the ME press to see if this, you know, actually does or does not happen.

OCSteve, I hadn't realized that it was the Muslims who were the aggressors in Bosnia, Kosovo, or for that matter in Chechnya, though certainly they've committed their share of atrocities (particularly in Chechnya). And Kashmir--I don't think the Indian government is completely innocent there. And there were a pretty massive anti-Muslim pogrom in an Indian state a few years ago. I suppose Muslim involvement as victims is further proof of the innate depravity of the religion.

As for Indonesia, funny how that's on everyone's list these days. Before 1999 just about the only Americans talking about the horrific human rights record of Indonesia were the Chomskyites. The US supported Indonesia when it massacred hundreds of thousands of real or suspected commies in the mid-60's and it supported Indonesia's near-genocidal Timorese invasion.

Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century
Alphabetical Index
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatx.htm

The "Christian" responsibility for "mega-deaths" seems pretty high. WW1 was no joke and it was wholly/holy the responsibility of Christian nations.

And when Russia started it's massacres when it became Communist, does it still count?

Early Roman Empire was pagan, but still part of the Western tradition. So is that a "Western" responsibility?

When the Romans turned Christian and sang their version of "Onward Christian Soldier" is that Christ's fault?

European imperialism was possible because of the sword and scripture…is that Paul’s fault? Peter?

Maybe it’s Imperialism and Capitalism using the words of Christ to justify their greed and mass killings…I don’t know….but Jewish pogroms were worse in Christian nations than Islamic nations…or am I being a postmodern for noticing the ignorance and hypocrisy of right-wing Christians who claim to kill and steal in order to liberate the world from tyranny.

I mean, wasn't Ivan the Terrible a devount Christian?

This baffles me. Do people not know that there are a large number of Christians who condemn Falwell and despise what he stands for? And I'm sure I've seen them in the news.

I think we're basically in agreement and any disagreement was probably a result of my overstating my point a bit. Of course there are plenty of Christians who think Falwell is icky. But my point is, if Falwell says something outrageous, you don't hear a chorus of moderate Christians jumping up and down to proclaim "he doesn't speak for me!" The reason most Christians don't feel the need to do that is not because they secretly agree with Falwell; it's because the proposition that he is an extremist freak pretty much goes without saying.

And it's not just about Jerry Falwell making some outrageous statement that everyone knows it would b ean embarassment to agree with. How many Christian moderates have spoken out against the overreaching of the right-wing religious agenda in general, how many Christian moderates spoke out against the travesty of Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, how many Christian moderates denounce the extremists who want to keep the cervical cancer vaccine from being developed? You could find isolated examples of each, I'm sure, but nowhere near the Greek chorus that OCSteve says he expects to hear.

OCSteve takes the typical, passive-aggressive position by saying, well sure there are moderate Muslims, but it's their own fault if they fail to denounce enough extremists and "something bad" happens to them because people conflate the moderates with the extremists. Well, the only reason that would happen is because people like OCSteve have been suggesting the moderates are duty-bound to distance themselves each and every time a bad thing happens in the name of Islam.

If some guy halfway around the world commits a murder because he thinks God commanded him to smite down the infidels, it would never occur to me in a million years that I have an obligation to denounce him and say he has nothing to do with my moderate brand of religion. Yet every time some crazy in Indonesia issues a fatwa, all the imams in Britain are supposed to denounce him or else it will be assumed that they secretly agree. The world doesn't actually work like that.

When CB cites and comments:

"What I have said many times is that there is no large-scale organized movement within the Muslim world against the radicals. Certainly there are many individual voices. Perhaps he's right, which is a depressing thought. "

Is it worth asking that aren't the Governments of Turkey and Bangladesh "large-scale" and "organized"? You know, the ones in two of the examples CB presented us who are not only speaking out against "Islamic Imperialism" (and using the word Imperialism along with the cited examples is quite frankly ridiculous), but actually PROSECUTING as crimes these violent acts? And don't street demonstrations, of the kind CB cites in his article about Turkey, with it's "decades-long tradition of secularism" (another decades-long Turkish tradition: military dictatorship), require large-scale organization?

In almost every case, Muslims are the aggressors. I’m having a hard time thinking of any conflict in the last 15 years that did not involve Muslims…

That's more of a reflection on your mental capacities, I'm afraid.

In Bosnia, the Sebs were the agressors and the Bosnian muslims the victims.

In Iraq, the US is the agressor. There are no Iraqi troops in New York.

With respect to Iran, again the US is doing the saber-rattling.

The Rwanda massacre, the ongoing civil war in the Congo (2 million dead and counting), the Liberian civil war, the Sierra Leonean civil war, the Tamils against the Sri Lankan government all do not involve Muslims.

Going back to the cold war, it wasn't Muslim nations that held arsenals of thousands of nuclear warheads and threatened to destroy the entire planet in the name of their respective ideologies.

2 million Vietnamese weren't killed by Muslims. 6 million Jews weren't gassed by Muslims. 50 million people died in WW2, but Muslims didn't kill them. The Soviet Gulags weren't built by Muslims, and neither did Muslims kill 30 million people in the Great Leap Forward. They didn't fight the Korean war, they didn't carpet bomb Indochina. They didn't nuke Hiroshima or Nagasaki, firebomb Dresden or Tokyo, or cause the Spanish Civil War. The guards with machine guns at the Berlin Wall were not Muslims, and the carnage at Dunkirk and Flanders fields was not ravaged by Islamists.

In fact, have a look at SomeOtherDude's links ... and see that in the last 100 years the Muslim world have been trailing in the bodycount sweepstakes by more than an order of magnitude.

But ... but ... 911 ... I hear you say. That balances 150+ million deaths all out.

Yeah. 911. Whatever.

Yet every time some crazy in Indonesia issues a fatwa, all the imams in Britain are supposed to denounce him or else it will be assumed that they secretly agree. The world doesn't actually work like that.

Unfortunately, it does, at least in the minds of the masses. Islam has a perception problem right now (understandably so), and one step towards solving it would be for moderate Muslim leaders to make a point of loudly disavowing every act of extremism committed in the name of their faith. I'm not saying that they are morally compelled to, mind you, just that it would be good marketing.

Islam has a perception problem right now

The United States also has a global perception problem. A lot of Americans, however, are in fact speaking out against the root of this unpopularity.

As for Islam, here is some actual bonafide data.

Time will tell if the democratic experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq will indeed work. Another favorable model can be found in Morocco.

I just thought I'd mention that Freedom House's "Comparative Measures of Freedom Index" list Morocco and Afghanistan as only "Partly Free" and Iraq as "Not Free".

Personally, I don't put much credence in a list that distills the essence of a nation down into 2 numbers, but CB seems to like it.

Unfortunately, it does, at least in the minds of the masses. Islam has a perception problem right now (understandably so), and one step towards solving it would be for moderate Muslim leaders to make a point of loudly disavowing every act of extremism committed in the name of their faith. I'm not saying that they are morally compelled to, mind you, just that it would be good marketing.

I understand the reasoning, but as someone who tends to take a 'moderate' view inside the American church, I offer this connundrum.

'Moderates' are tasked both with condemning their co-religionists in the marketplace of ideas, AND gently guiding their radical co-religionists into greater moderation. The oft-heard refrain of, 'If you moderates don't agree with your church leaders, it's your job to change things' is difficult when the very act of publically condemning them to comfort the liberal democratic masses distances them from the communities they're expected to change

I'm not making excuses for those who refuse to speak out for fear of losing power, or something like that. But it does seem that there's a conflicting set of expectations at play somewhere.

Lots of good points being made in this discussion.

I try to imagine the situation of the prototypical moderate Muslim. On the one hand, he sees outrages being perpetrated in the name of his religion, which we will assume for the sake of argument that he deplores.

On the other hand, he probably sees a Western world that appears increasingly hostile towards Islam, full of hardliners who seem to be clamoring for a "clash of civilizations."

It would be quite an article of faith, no pun intended, for this moderate person to believe that by denouncing his extremist coreligionists, he somehow has the power to sway Western opinion and demonstrate that "we're not all like that."

On the other hand, if he sees himself as occupying a middle ground between two hostile groups, he might be understandably reluctant to condemn one side too stridently, lest the other side take it as confirmation of its beliefs.

OCSteve, I hadn't realized that it was the Muslims who were the aggressors in Bosnia, Kosovo,

Bosnia/Kosovo. Many issues involved obviously – and “who started it” depends on who you believe. The first real shooting conflict of the war was between Muslim forces and the Croat army after Muslim forces ambushed Croat officers. During the Croat-Muslim War, the Muslim Army spent quite a bit of their efforts in the ethnic cleansing of the Croats. All 3 sides had shameful actions in this conflict, but the Muslims certainly had a hand in getting the shooting war started and certainly were involved in ethnic cleansing. (as were the other sides). Goggle “Izetbegovic” and “Islamic Declaration”:
“There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and those social and political institutions that are non-Islamic."

Yes, I am aware that we supported the Muslims in this conflict.


or for that matter in Chechnya

This is a great case of how the fundamentalists take over. Local Chechens have a very moderate brand of Islam. Now you have Wahhabi militias, mostly outsiders trying to enforce their brand of hard-line Islam. They had very little support from the locals – then the Russians started getting really brutal and they get a little more support. Sorry – as much as I dislike the Russian tactics I won’t call these guys freedom fighters – not after Belsan. Were they the aggressors? Not the local Chechens, no.


And Kashmir--I don't think the Indian government is completely innocent there

Neither is Pakistan. It was clearly the Kashmiri Muslims who initiated the conflict. The “dissidents” sure have killed a lot of civilians in their fight for autonomy – especially Hindus.


The US supported Indonesia when it massacred hundreds of thousands of real or suspected commies in the mid-60's and it supported Indonesia's near-genocidal Timorese invasion

That policy (stability at all costs) has changed now. Which way do you want it :)


Yet every time some crazy in Indonesia issues a fatwa, all the imams in Britain are supposed to denounce him or else it will be assumed that they secretly agree. The world doesn't actually work like that.

Part of the problem IMO is that Islam has no central authority akin to the Vatican. Want to know what official Catholic policy is on an issue? One stop, one final word on the topic.

So when we have all these self-declared Islamic scholars all over the world, who else can denounce them and their calls to violence? There is no central authority to make a ruling – who else if not the moderates? When they call for someone to be killed, and they have followers who are quite willing to do it – who is to speak out and say, “No – that is not Islam”?

How about the imams in Denmark? An imam has called for the cartoonists to be killed. Do the imams, at least in Denmark, have a responsibility to speak out?

I think I read somewhere that if "some crazy in Indonesia issues a fatwa" the only way it gets invalidated is if a bunch of other Islamic scholars get together and call BS. I could be wrong on that; I would have to research it. But I believe the way it works, per Islam itself, is that other scholars have to speak out to invalidate the crazy's fatwa - otherwise it stands.


and see that in the last 100 years the Muslim world have been trailing in the bodycount sweepstakes by more than an order of magnitude.

I specifically said post cold war, and in the last 15 years. I pretty much specifically excluding every other conflict you mentioned.

This is a great case of how the fundamentalists take over. Local Chechens have a very moderate brand of Islam. Now you have Wahhabi militias, mostly outsiders trying to enforce their brand of hard-line Islam.

But earlier you argue
if the moderates do not do more to gain control and purge the extremists from their midst they will be as much to blame for what comes

Unfortunately, the elison of in and out, having it merrily change everytime you want to condemn, doesn't really work. Perhaps you believe this, just as you believe that the people participating in this discussion are simply trying to create moral equivalency, but the people who you demand to gain control might not see it that way. And that you demand pronouncements from people when you are not quite sure what mechanism(s) exists for making such pronouncements suggests a rather ethnocentric argument.

Part of the problem IMO is that Islam has no central authority akin to the Vatican.

The Vatican is the central authority only for the Roman Catholic Church, not for Christianity as a whole, so how is this more of a problem for Islam than for Christianity? Most of the would-be theocrats in the United States are Protestants and certainly don't answer to the Pope.

OCSteve, I don't think that acknowledging that the historical treatment of Muslims could be one of the root causes of terrorism is the equivalent of "blaming the West". I think it is just a useful insight that could help make future policy less inflammatory. For example Biden has suggested that Iraq be partitioned into three parts. This is a bad idea because it will be seen by Muslims as another example of Westerners weakening a Middle Eastern state. Also, Westerners who support the invasion or bombing of Iran are naive to do sincesince such an action will stregnthen, not weaken, the power of the mullahs. Insights are useful for making good policy. it isn't about blame.
Also, at least in my mind, it isn't important to compare Islam to Christianity. It is important to aviod becoming religious bigots, which is what we become if we start believing that another relgion is inately violent while ignoring the way people all over the world throughout history have used relgion (or any other ism), to justify violence.

An imam has called for the cartoonists to be killed. Do the imams, at least in Denmark, have a responsibility to speak out?

An Islamic cleric, Sheikh Nazem Mesbah, called for it. Other Islamic clerics rejected the fatwa. I don't see why Danish imams should be required to reject it (if they haven't done so) given their general stand -- as stated here.

The lack of a central authority has its good points, I'd say (and what KCinDC said).

I don't see why Danish imams should be required to reject it (if they haven't done so) given their general stand -- as stated here.

This discussion will go nowhere if you insist on utilizing facts.

I don't believe the Pope ever denounced Eric Rudolph, by the way. Nor do I recall anyone suggesting there was a need for him to do so!

Should the Pope go out of his way to denounce the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Pastor Pat Robertson and the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr.?

I don’t think Roman Catholics, as a group, are denouncing the pedophiles among their clergy, vehemently enough, thus I question the sincerity of their religiosity.

As a matter of fact, the Protestants of Asia better get to denouncing the Roman Catholics of America or their “pragmatism” will be questioned.

The Roman Catholics of Africa are silent when it comes to the Pentecostals of Canada and their agitation against "Peace in the Middle East" (it will welcome the anti-Christ, dontcha know?)

Sorry Steve, just read your post, and repeated some stuff.

"I don’t think Roman Catholics, as a group, are denouncing the pedophiles among their clergy, vehemently enough, thus I question the sincerity of their religiosity."

The funny thing is that I think you meant this as some sort of ironic refutation, but I would be perfectly willing to state it outright in a non-ironic sense. For that reason it doesn't end up sounding (to me) a very good argument against moderate Muslims denouncing terrorism.

OCSteve wrote: Every time there is a terrorist bombing anywhere in the world it must be renounced by prominent imams and Islamic scholars. Every time some extremist invokes Islam to justify violence it must be renounced by moderates, and not just when someone has actually died.

and if the moderates don't, then what? preventive nuclear destruction of iran?

there's always been a really strong strain of authoritarianism in modern conservativism, but this insistance that some group of people MUST renounce some other person or group of people (remember the insistence that the democrats renounce / denounce Michael Moore after his visit to the Democratic Convention?) is getting positively creepy.

frankly, it reminds me of the scene in Godfather when Michael is becoming a godfather to his nephew while at the same time becoming Godfather by killing all his enemies. [he renounces Satan while people are dying at his command.]

instead of ritual denunciations / renunciations, maybe we could try not creating a system where people find comfort in extremism.

btw, this -- That policy (stability at all costs) has changed now. -- is quite funny. Eygpt? Saudi Arabia? Our current policy in Iraq? Sudan? The counterexamples multiply.

and if the moderates don't, then what?

Then the perception problem in the West continues, and it's easier for Americans to go on believing that Islam is a religion of violence. That's a false perception, just as is the perception that Falwell and such speak for all American Christians, but if it's not refuted loudly and frequently, then people will act on that perception.

Unfortunately, the elison of in and out, having it merrily change everytime you want to condemn, doesn't really work.

Well condemning wasn’t really my goal. I’m not really following you – local Chechens have Wahhabi extremists in their midst, and they are not actively doing much of anything to either prevent them from taking over and enforcing their flavor of Islam or prevent them atrocities against civilians. I don’t see where my two statements contradict each other.

as you believe that the people participating in this discussion are simply trying to create moral equivalency

I didn’t say that anyone was trying to create it – I said I was shocked that the majority of (50 or so at the time) comments reflected it. It seemed to be a consensus and that surprised me.

And that you demand pronouncements from people when you are not quite sure what mechanism(s) exists for making such pronouncements suggests a rather ethnocentric argument

No argument there. On the religion side I don’t have a dog in this fight. I would have been quite happy to go through the rest of my life without learning anything at all about Islam. And yes – if Muslims want to change the way that I perceive Islam, then I demand that they provide the rhetoric and the actions to convince me. Right now the extremists get all the press – they are in my face and they have shaped my perceptions of Islam by using it to justify their actions. In other words they are winning the PR game. If the extremists truly represent a small minority then it should not be that difficult for the moderates to get some control and convince me. How they do it, what mechanism, I leave to them. I really don’t care. I didn’t ask for this – and to be completely honest I don’t care that much about historical context. My historical context for Islam began just under 5 years ago. I don’t care the tiniest bit about any religion – but in this case it is a matter of risk assessment.


The Vatican is the central authority only for the Roman Catholic Church, not for Christianity as a whole, so how is this more of a problem for Islam than for Christianity? Most of the would-be theocrats in the United States are Protestants and certainly don't answer to the Pope.

Well the pope was an example. Most Christian sects that I know anything about have some centralized authority that sets policy. I am not aware of any Christian religions that are as decentralized. Maybe I am wrong. As I noted, I am not a student of religion. It just seems to me a large problem that any self-proclaimed scholar can issue policy/opinion.

Well the pope was an example. Most Christian sects that I know anything about have some centralized authority that sets policy.
I'd suggest that your grasp on Christian denominational politics and theology is about as firm as your grasp on Islamic theology. Not being snarky, just saying is all.

In the Protestant world, there are 'heads of denominations' that set official doctrine, but for most believers it's sort of like watching the student council decide what 'initiatives' they'll pass for the school. Churches that follow the doctrinal decisions will, churches that don't don't, and ultimately one's influence is measured not by one's position in an ecclesiastical hierarchy but by how many books one sells and how popular one's televised sermons are.

Not saying that's a good thing, but it's how Protestant culture has evolved and I daresay that it's just as decentralised and distributed as Islamic groups. The phenomenon of the 'independent church', not even attached by name to a denomination, is a big trend as well.

If the extremists truly represent a small minority then it should not be that difficult for the moderates to get some control and convince me.

Actually, I think you underestimate how difficult it can be to dislodge an impression -- it depends on the media being willing to report, and the audience being able to hear and acknowledge, statements and actions that don't fit into their pre-existing narratives. The number of moderate Muslims making themselves heard is rising, but they don't get nearly as much press as the extremists (whose fault is that?), and people with hardened views towards Islam tend to set the bar higher and higher for what it will take to convince them.

Actually I think moderates have a very difficult time getting the kind of press extremists can get, whether one is talking about religion, political activism, or whatever. The press isn't going to cover a moderate saying something moderate. Even if the moderates tried to call attention to themselves, perhaps with a conference, it wouldn't get the press of one nut uttering threats. I can remember this from the old protest days when several thousnd people could stand around peacefuly but the one nut with a burning flag would be all over the news.

The number of moderate Muslims making themselves heard is rising, but they don't get nearly as much press as the extremists
Maybe if they blew something up for a change, or took some hostages. That always gets attention.

lilylily: Ha, beat you by a minute!

I'd suggest that your grasp on Christian denominational politics and theology is about as firm as your grasp on Islamic theology

Stipulated.


and if the moderates don't, then what? preventive nuclear destruction of iran?

Not preventive no. But they, and we need to remember what the Western world is capable of – that is what scares me. We are capable of horrific destruction when pushed to the wall. This isn’t some cowboy BS. This isn’t about “authoritarianism in modern conservativism”. This isn’t about renouncement for the sake of it, because we are bigger and badder and we say so. They need to get control for their own good – not ours.

Do you have any idea what we will do if an Islamic nuke takes out a US city? Or Paris? Or Berlin? How about Tel Aviv?

I am saying that if these moderates do not get control, the ultimate outcome could be the total destruction of large parts of the Islamic world – and I submit that it won’t matter a damn which party is in control or how many peace protesters take to the street.

We are capable of it. We have done it before. The fire-bombing of Dresden makes Hiroshima look like a Sunday picnic. We have the capacity and we summon the will when the time comes and that scares me more than all the Muslim extremists in the world. We will survive whatever they come up with – but we may have to do things that will be a stain on our national soul for all time.

Do you have any idea what we will do if an Islamic nuke takes out a US city? Or Paris? Or Berlin? How about Tel Aviv?
From the sound of it, the answer is "destroy a civilization." I don't mean to sound crass, but to me that reads as, 'Hey, moderates! We've spent the last half-a-century funding repressive regimes and adding fuel to the fires of extremism. Now, we expect you guys to convince the ones with guns to stop. Or we'll kill you all. It's not a threat, just a warning!"
We have the capacity and we summon the will when the time comes and that scares me more than all the Muslim extremists in the world.
If something will stain our national soul beyond repair, and we have the capacity to survive whatever they throw at us, then perhaps it should not be done. You speak as if the only options in the face of extremism are 'being led like a lamb to the slaughter' or comitting genocide. They are not, in fact, our only options.

You speak as if the only options in the face of extremism are 'being led like a lamb to the slaughter' or comitting genocide. They are not, in fact, our only options.

I wasn’t talking about options in the face of extremism – I was talking about our response to the ultimate escalation – destruction of a city by an Islamic nuke. It will be a matter of national survival at that point and we will do whatever it takes – no matter how barbaric.

"we may have to do things that will be a stain on our national soul for all time."

I don't know that we'll _have_ to - we might do those things for reasons good or bad, but they'll be things we choose.


I rather expect that if we lose a city it will be to an anonymous bomb in a harbor, not an attack simply traceable to any particular swath of the Islamic world or anywhere else.

Apropos of nothing in particular there is a small "mosque" (in quotes because it's really just a house) on a main street near the university here in southern Arizona where I live. On the side of the east facing wall of this mosque/house in very large & very neat blue letters is written: "Happiness is Submission to God."

It's been there as long as I can remember.

One night some well prepared and enterprising graffiti artists painted over it and in the exact same size, color & font wrote" "God is Submission to Happiness."

A day or two later (it was still up!) it made the morning papers and was gone by that afternoon.

God is submission to happiness. Not entirely implausible.

OC Steve,

All snark aside, please visit this site:
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/pelikan/index.shtml

Jaroslav Pelikan (1923–2006)
Pelikan was professor of History at Yale University. He's written more than 40 books, including his 2003 opus, Credo. His most recent work is Whose Bible Is It? A History of Scriptures Through the Ages.

For many modern Americans, the very idea of reciting an unchanging creed, composed centuries ago, is troublesome. But, Jaroslav Pelikan, who died on May 13, 2006, was a scholar who devoted his life to exploring the vitality of ancient theology and creeds. He insisted that even modern pluralists need strong statements of belief.

Here, we revisit Krista's 2003 conversation with him, who, then, in his 80th year, had released a historic collection of Christian faith from biblical times to the present and from across the globe. They discuss the history and nature of creeds, and how a fixed creed can be reconciled with an honest, intellectual faith that changes and evolves.

You live in Sothern California, for Christ's Sake...the creeds and doctrines for the American South are created there!!! (OK, there was some snark for those in the know)

"It will be a matter of national survival at that point and we will do whatever it takes – no matter how barbaric."

Then we won't survive. Period.

Oh, the country will still be here, and there will still be people living in it. But it won't be the USA in any recognizable form, politically or socially.

And even that assumes a best worst-case scenario: that an exchange of nuclear weapons will be limited to "them" bombing us and us bombing "them" (whoever "them" is), once or maybe twice. It assumes that no other parties will get involved, an assumption I keep seeing in comments advocating military action against Iran; an assumption based on nothing other than wishful thinking.

It also assumes our government knows what it's doing, and is acting in good faith - an assumption I find frankly incredibly, given the past few years.

There are worse things than dying. Taking the rest of the world with us is one of them. A nuclear exchange opens so many Pandora's boxes, is so quintessentially destabilizing, has so many roads to utter disaster, that anyone contemplating it has to be out of their mind.

I'm partial to the Nicene Creed, however the Maasai Creed is interesting.

Has anyone heard of the Samson Option?
http://www.carolmoore.net/nuclearwar/israelithreats.html

Seymour M. Hersh, the reporter who broke the story of the U.S. soldiers massacring villagers at Mai Lai in Vietnam, published in 1991 the controversial book The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. The Biblical Samson, of course, brought down a temple that killed himself and his enemies. According to the namebase.org "The title of Hersh's book comes from Israel's notion that once they have the Bomb, they are in a position to bring it all down on everyone if ever they feel cornered. It's the ultimate in Israeli security as a nation-state, if not for the security of humankind. Israel used nuclear blackmail to force Kissinger and Nixon to airlift supplies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and they passed U.S. secrets collected by Jonathan Pollard to the USSR when it served their interests. The Bomb has been a hidden factor in U.S.-Israeli relations ever since the Eisenhower administration, but this is the first book [to] deal with Israeli relations from this perspective."

In the last 30 years we've had literally hundreds of Christianist bombings, shootings and arsons at abortion clinics

A couple of things here. I'm certain that most Christians are opposed to abortion. I'm also certain that most Christians are opposed to violence attacks against abortion clinics or practioners.

The term Christianist is a new perjorative that which muddies the waters between Christians with certain moral values and Eric Rudolph type characters.

This link indicates over a hundred incidents of arson, bombing, or attempts over a 15 year period. Yet the total number of murders and attempted murders for the same period is 24.

So I have to conclude that most of the arsons, bombings, and attempts at such occured when nobody was around, and the intent was to do property damage that would shut down a facility, and that by and large the intent was not to kill people.

I would also be interested in seeing the numbers of incidents and attempts separated, so we could know precisely what we are looking at, by the way.

Hundreds of incidents, yes. Hundreds of killings , no.

I wasn’t talking about options in the face of extremism – I was talking about our response to the ultimate escalation – destruction of a city by an Islamic nuke. It will be a matter of national survival at that point and we will do whatever it takes – no matter how barbaric.
I'm still trying to work out this scenerio you're outlining. It SOUNDS like you're saying that if moderates are not capable of, say, keeping fissionable material out of the hands of terrorists, we'll obliderate their civilization in an act of retaliatory genocide.

I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe you meant to say that if a specific nation-state did such a thing to the US, we would obviously consider it an act of war and retaliate in kind, even though innocents in that nation would likely perish? That's certainly grim, but still different than "If an 'islamic nuke' goes off in the US, we'll kill the moderates and the extremists together."

I don’t see where my two statements contradict each other.

Well, you first argue that Muslim moderates must fight those 'from their midst', then you acknowledge that Chechen extremists are 'outsiders' is naturally contradictory. I think that you underestimate the ability of 'moderates' to demand certain conditions. In creating situations where outsiders can come in and create this kind of strife, it seems to me that the state carries the large burden rather than moderates policing their own, as it were. Also, the 'moderates must police themselves' is often invoked when the group is a minority group that is expected to succumb to pressure of the state. That Russia's participation in Chechnya is a major factor in the way that the situation has arisen doesn't seem to be such a difficult argument to make. That we can see these sorts of things in other countries should not be surprising, and a discussion of them shouldn't be considered out of bounds.

I didn’t say that anyone was trying to create it – I said I was shocked that the majority of (50 or so at the time) comments reflected it. It seemed to be a consensus and that surprised me.

I think it 'reflects' what you want to see. To me, people are trying to come to grips with what Islam is in this discussion and what grievances Muslim countries in the ME and elsewhere might have against the west. I don't want to be overly snarky, but that reflection might be the prejudice that you are bringing into the discussion. I see most of the people here basically objecting to a unitary notion of 'the Islamic world' exploring some of the reasons why that concept fails. This, of course, may reflect my own prejudices, but my comments didn't express any moral equivalence because for me, I didn't think the question ever entered this arena, and I would be surprised if it reflects the majority of the commentators in this thread.

I'm certain that most Christians are opposed to abortion.

Most Americans identify themselves as Christian. Most Americans support Roe v. Wade. The same can be said for much of the rest of the "Christian" world.

I'm also certain that most Christians are opposed to violence attacks against abortion clinics or practioners.

Are you thus implying most Muslims are not opposed to violent attacks?

The term Christianist is a new perjorative that which muddies the waters between Christians with certain moral values and Eric Rudolph type characters.

There seems to be very little problem using Islamicist as a perjorative for Muslims with certain moral values and Osama bin Laden type characters.

OCSteve: I specifically said post cold war, and in the last 15 years. I pretty much specifically excluding every other conflict you mentioned.

I don't have time for a detailed comment, but I do want to note that it's precisely this kind of game-playing or myopia that perennially gets us into trouble. Sure, we can draw an arbitrary delimiter to show that, from this point on, enemy X has done more damage than either we or enemy Y -- assuming in fact that there is a monolithic enemy X of whom to speak -- but that presumes that the line so drawn is meaningful.

For a somewhat dopey example, what if we only consider the last three years? The Christians may well have the edge over the Muslims based purely on casualties from US actions in Iraq alone. [I suspect, interreligiously, this is correct; intrareligiously, it's almost certainly not.] But why is this example dopey? Because (nominally) our invasion of Iraq was in response to 9/11,* so we didn't "start" anything. It is, in some sense, "their fault", whoever "they" might happen to be.

[I'll note also that this is the same dodge many libertarians use when talking about legitimate uses of force: if one controls the definitions or determinations of the "first" person to act illegitimately, one can justify and unjustify any reaction one pleases.]

The problem with just putting the window at 15 years, as you've done above, is similar: it presumes that anything that happened before that has been mulliganed. It doesn't count. It ignores the lengthy US history of meddling in those nations and cultures, and it does so at our peril. IMO it's also illustrative of a certain myopic parochialism that American foreign policy is hideously prone to: the belief, explicit or otherwise, that since we've forgotten about the past -- and in this country, the window's about ten years or so -- everyone else should too.

Trouble is, they haven't. And until we face up to that fact, and our role in those events, a whole lot of people are going to die.

None of this is to mitigate against the responsibility of the current bout of extremists (Muslim or otherwise) who are killing. None of this is to say that their terrorist (re)actions are legitimate or justified because they got screwed in the past. None of this is to say that I don't worry, every single friggin' day, that Islam will become the new religion of the dispossessed, as Communism was of old. It is, however, vital to note that a large number of people have a large number of legitimate grievances against us and, while their subsequent responses to that have been vile, we need to attend to the beam in our own eye while attending to the motes in theirs.

* Assume this arguendo if you don't accept it otherwise.

There seems to be very little problem using Islamicist as a perjorative for Muslims with certain moral values and Osama bin Laden type characters.
I think this is what he was talking about when he said 'moral equivalency.' In my eyes, it's not: it's simply demanding that the same standards of analysis and judgement be used for both one's own culture and "The Other."

Concur, Jeff.

my problem, OCSteve, is that your argument sounds like the logic of blaming the victim and sounds like a pretext for attacking Iran. To wit:

1. Islamic moderates MUST denounce / renounce / rein in Islamic fundamentalists.

2. If they don't, Islamic fundamentalists will continue to gain power / build Bombs.

3. If Islamic fundamentalists have Bombs, they will use them, likely on Israel and possibly on the US.

4. The US will then be forced to destroy, with nuclear fire, much of the Muslim world.

5. Therefore, if Islamic moderates don't rein in the fundamentalists, the nuclear annihilation of their countries will be their own fault.

[6. (If one reads WindsofChange) We are so sure of points 1-4 that the preventive attack of Iran is justified.]

this is a bully's logic. rational humans, by contrast, recognize that the US is an independent actor which bears the responsibility for its own actions.

Charles and OCSteve, do either of you actually know any Muslims personally? I'm not suggesting that you have to in order to have an opinion, but I wonder whether you'd feel so comfortable attacking an entire religion if you had friends who practiced it and seemed like perfectly reasonable people (including of course being horrified at the violence committed in the name of Islam).

Francis, I don't see point 5 in OCSteve's position.

Also, I think we might get a consensus on 1), 2, and 3') (substitute for "they will use them" the softer "there is a non-negligible chance that they will use them". And maybe 4') The US will feel compelled to react with much greater violence.

I might add that there is a similar argument that if the US doesn't return to a rational set of policies, then 2, 3, and 4'.

KCinDC: "do either of you actually know any Muslims personally?"

Seems ad hom to me.

("Do you know someone who's been murdered?" "Do you know someone whose job was outsourced to India?")

Odd Christian rally plus Navy Seals pretending to kill the audience.

We will survive whatever they come up with – but we may have to do things that will be a stain on our national soul for all time.

We won't have to but we will. To so many people, the cultural humiliation of an attack would be too much to bear.

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