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Monday, November 22, 2004

Islam Divided?

Though many Muslims value unity within the Muslim community above all other values, there are brave voices speaking out against the barbarism being carried out in their name. The 'unity' in Islam is often superficial. The Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, Salafi (Wahhabi), and Takfir views on Islam vary a great deal. There are sects within sects. In Iraq, some Sunni are hunting Shiites south of Baghdad. "They act according to their own religious edict: If you kill a Shiite, you go to paradise."

From "speaking out":

Earlier this month, a group of about 3,000 Arab and Muslim intellectuals signed a petition demanding that prominent Muslim clerics known for inflammatory views face an international court on charges of encouraging terrorism. Among those they singled out was Egyptian Sheikh Youssef al- Qaradawi, based in Qatar, who has condoned attacks on American civilians in Iraq and sanctioned kidnapping in wartime.

These critics risk religious rulings calling for their deaths. There are very real and dangerous consequences when Muslims don't follow the radicals, and when they do.

Firstly, I was expelled from my school. “Being a good mother doesn’t require education”, Imam said. Secondly, I was forced to wear hijab all the time. Even that I had some problems with breathing, it didn’t matter. I was told to pray to Allah to save my life. Thirdly, I couldn’t use buses, trains and so on. I could only go out with my father. And finally, my mother wasn’t allowed to work. And we plunged into poverty.

Try to understand me, it wasn’t the secular law. We could bring legal proceeding against these criminals. But we could also be killed by our own neighbors for not obeying. And I WANTED TO LIVE, no matter how awful my life was.

At home we always discussed Islam. We read Koran and then compared it with reality. We were stunned. But not by reality. We were stunned because this awful life was required by Koran and Mohammed. It wasn’t terrorism. It was real Islam.

We made up our minds to escape as soon as possible. We saved all our money for a one-way ticket. And while doing it, I went to mosque; was beaten by Muslim boys because my name wasn’t Arab. I was beaten by Imams because I asked too many questions. I was beaten all the time.

After a few years, an awful event happened. My grandfather converted to Christianity openly and was killed near church. I didn’t know why he converted so openly; after all he understood that he would certainly be killed. But when he was at home writhing in pain, he confessed that he had cancer and knew that his death was somewhere nearby. He said he didn’t want to die a Muslim. It would be too shameful for him. I hope now he’s in Heaven or if Heaven doesn’t exist then I hope he’s now safe and happy.

From the "radicals" link:

The Takfir movement's limitless suspicion of outsiders and elusive tactics create huge complications for monitoring and infiltrating. Among Takfir precepts is "taqiyya," or use of deceptions that include blending into non-Muslim societies. This led some U.S. investigators to suspect Takfir links to some of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, though no clear evidence emerged.

There's also worry about a trend toward smaller, independent Takfir cells that follow their own random agendas.

"Now we have a new generation of fundamentalists," said Mohamed Salah, an expert on Islamic radicals and the Cairo bureau chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. "The atmosphere in the world now makes it easy for someone to get two or three people together and form a group."

Takfir has cropped up on the fringes of recent terrorist probes.

In Jordan, one of 13 suspects accused of plotting to bomb American targets earlier this year is an alleged Takfir adherent. Moroccan officials have targeted Takfir followers in raids. Last year, French anti-terrorist agents detained more than a dozen suspected Takfir members.

Also last year, Lebanese forces arrested dozens of suspects accused of planning to assassinate the U.S. ambassador and other plots. Some suspects were reportedly Takfir followers.

Belgian investigators, meanwhile, are looking for possible ties between the Van Gogh slaying and threats against political figures including the justice minister and a lawmaker with Moroccan parents, Mimount Bousakla, who has challenged conservative Muslim social codes. Bousakla went into hiding after receiving anonymous calls that included a threat "to ritually slaughter her," Belgian officials said Wednesday.

Van Gogh was shot and then his throat was slashed. He had recently collaborated with Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a parliament member, on a film criticizing Islam's treatment of women. She also has moved to a secret location.

"You can't dismiss the influence of Takfir on contemporary terrorism at some level," said Omid Safi, a religion professor at Colgate University. "It brands everyone it opposes as an infidel - including Muslims - and that makes it that much easier to inflict violence on them."

What actions can be taken to create a more moderate, less violent, Islam? This Stephen Schwartz article from Tech Central Station suggests a practical approach. Schwartz assumes the Koran, Hadiths, and Sira will never be changed, and he's probably right.

Some also insist that it is simplistic to blame Wahhabism alone for the present offensive by radical Islam. That is because they do not grasp the nature of Wahhabism or the solution to it. Wahhabism abolishes the tradition of pluralistic interpretation of Qur'an, the hadith, and Islamic law for which the religion was always previously known. To discuss the issues that have been forced on Islam by the terrorists, such as jihad, Muslims must first reclaim the right to discuss the religion on its own terms. That means ending the Wahhabi monopoly on discourse. When I published an exposé of the "Wahhabi Qur'an," in which statements that might be applied negatively to Jews and Christians were printed as if they unquestionably assailed those faiths, I was accused of diverting attention from the original malice allegedly present in the text. But Islamic pluralism, and Islamic moderation, embody the unchallengeable presumption that Qur'an, the hadith, and Islamic law are and always were open to differing interpretations. (Debate over textual interpretation is not the same as ijtihad, or originality in legal judgments, but that should be taken up elsewhere.) Wahhabism, which dominates mosques in the United States no less than in the Saudi kingdom, wipes out such a diversity of views, and replaces them with a single totalitarian dispensation.

The enforced uniformity of Wahhabism must be overthrown; then, with the restoration of Islamic pluralism, every verse in Qur'an, every hadith, and every precedent in Islamic law can be analyzed anew. I believe much can and will be reaffirmed as a foundation for moderation. But it is doubtful that Muslim tradition will be reordered according to the dictates of simplistic and bigoted non-Muslim demagogues. It is peculiar to me, in this context, that the long-standing recognition that Islam is divided between a fundamentalist minority and a nonfundamentalist majority seems to have disappeared from the minds of many Westerners; to them, as to the Muslim radicals, there is only one Islam. Some Western propagandists work overtime to convince the world that fundamentalist Islam is the only expression the faith ever produced, or that because Qur'an has not been expurgated, Muslims will always turn in that direction. Such analysts of the past think little of the future; removing controversial parts of Qur'an or any other part of Islamic tradition would only make them forbidden fruit, and even more attractive as weapons of radicalization.

When these brave pioneers in Islamic thought attempt to bring new, or old, insight into Islamic scripture, I suggest they do so with their heads down and powder dry. The Takfirs and Wahhabis would like nothing more than to kill the "infidels".

"Anonymous" has a good point


The Vatican does damn well in worrying about secularism in Europe as much as about Islam.

My reply:

I think you are mostly correct. Secularism in Europe goes far beyond avoiding the "establishment of religion".

Cardinal Ratzinger:

"In this sense, a struggle exists and so we must defend religious freedom against an ideology which is held up as if it were the only voice of rationality, when instead it is only an expression of a 'certain' rationialism."

European secularism is of the evangelical, sectarian variety. Holding moral values derived from religion has nothing to do with advocating a state religion.

What is prohibited in the U.S. Constitution is the establishment of a state religion. The "wall of separation" between church and state was coined by Jefferson in a letter to a Baptist who advocated a national day of fasting. Jefferson's "wall of separation" letter to the Danbury Baptists (scroll to bottom). Jefferson's letter is often overstated. Jefferson was referring to the federal government, only. Nor was Jefferson an absolutist. How could he be an absolutist? The two religion clauses of the First Amendment are in opposition to one another, and require constant balancing between competing interests.

Recently an Italian politician, Rocco Buttiglione, was ambushed by socialist EU politicians for professing mainstream Catholic beliefs. When the Roman Catholic Church must advocate for religious freedom, and has solid ground on which to stand, secularism has become a religion unto itself.

In the United States the "wall of separation" between church and state is secure. Courts have probably built the wall too high in many cases. Secularists are now crusading against any vestige of religious symbolism in the public square. The United States is not a "Christian nation". Neither is the United States a nation where Christian symbols or beliefs should be hunted to extinction within the public realm. It will always be a balancing act between the "free exercise" of religion while avoiding the "establishment" of religion. But when the 'great' battles involve nativity scenes on the lawns of public buildings, "under God" in the Pledge, and tiny crosses on flags, methinks the secularists doth protest too much.

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

HOWEVER, radical Islam poses a threat to the socialist distopia EU politicians are trying to create, the Vatican, and basic human rights. I still maintain the jihad is a greater immediate existential threat to Europe. But the secular fundamentalists tend to side with radical Islam for its willingness to confront the United States using terror tactics. The cooperation between medieval theocrats and socialists never fails to amaze me. They are united in their hatred of the United States, and not much else.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

News of the Islamic Whirled

Summary: Still Theocratic and Dangerous

British Jihad, like all jihad, is organized and encouraged in the mosques by imams and radical commanders. Mosques, or wherever Muslims meet to pray five times a day, are the command and control network for militant Islam.

More women being killed for walking in public unveiled

According to some Muslims, these practices are not Islamic: female genital mutilation, honor killings, and veiling. But they only occur in Muslim society. What should I believe: my lying eyes, or Muslim apologists?

European Muslims Fight for the Soul of Islam, allegedly.

If there is any proof the radicals have serious competition, I'd love to know about it. I hope it's not too late to avoid a clash of civilizations which kills millions in the West, but tens or hundreds of millions in the Islamic world. The author has three ideas which should have been implemented six years ago with Usama's open declaration of war on the West, and particularly the United States.

The above suggests three important tasks for Muslim leaders and intellectuals in the immediate future:

First, de-legitimize the political ideology of militant Islamism by exposing its departures from true teachings of Islam; refute its underlying conspiracy theories, its quasi-Marxist blueprint and its misuse of traditional Islamic sources.

Second, help the Western powers formulate better policies to overcome centuries of distrust and misunderstanding.

Third, construct a new interpretation of Islam that will help Muslims break free from medieval traditions and develop modern attitudes compatible with the Islamic faith and morality.

The mullahs of Iran are playing a dangerous game.

In the summer of last year, Iranian intelligence agents in Tehran began planning something quite spectacular for September 11, the two-year anniversary of al Qaeda's attack on the United States, according to a classified American intelligence report. Iranian agents disbursed $20,000 to a team of assassins, the report said, to kill Paul Bremer, then the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq. The information was specific: The team, said a well-placed source quoted in the intelligence document, would use a Toyota Corona taxi and a second car, driven by suicide bombers, to take out Bremer and destroy two hotels in downtown Baghdad. The source even named one of the planners, Himin Bani Shari, a high-ranking member of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group and a known associate of Iranian intelligence agents.

Muslims always underestimate America's will to defend itself. They are part of a long tradition. So did Nazi Germany, the Japanese Empire, and the Soviet Union.

Dear jihadists, let me introduce you to the United States Marine Corps

They say that for the new jihadists the appeal of Iraq has surpassed Afghanistan, a magnet for a generation of Islamic militants seeking to fight the Soviet communists in the 1980s.

"Iraq is an open battleground for jihadists to confront America directly. In the space of a few hours, volunteers can leave their countries and find themselves in the heat of battle (in Iraq)," said a top security official.

Iraq has given Islamic extremists the opportunity to secure a "ticket to heaven" through martyrdom. Easily accessible and with the enemy all around, it has overtaken the Palestinian territories and Chechnya as the battleground of choice.

"The Americans gave the militant extremists a chance they had long dreamt of ... now their enemy has come to them," said a Jordanian ex-intelligence officer.

Only a fool thinks we can appease or reason with this type of warrior. They fight us because their religion tells them it's the only sure way to get to heaven. If we don't fight them in Iraq, our other options include our passenger planes, large celebrations, sporting events, or schools.

But, of course, the actual cause of this jihad philosophy foists the blame on us:

"It has turned many gentle clerics and young men with strong religious convictions, but who (previously) could not stomach the sight of blood, into eager suicide bombers and executioners," said Sheikh Yusef Abu Kutaiba, a Muslim cleric.

Oh, yes, such gentle young men who cannot stand blood. That's why beheading videos are the LOTR trilogy of the Middle East. That's why al-Jazeera is so successful airing beheading videos in prime time, the Muslim aversion to blood.

Muslim clerics really think we are morons.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Our 'friends' the Saudis, and other Islamic topics

With Friends Like These...

When the State Department recently designated Saudi Arabia as a "country of particular concern" in its annual religious-freedom report, few took notice. But this unprecedented step may — just may — signal the start of a tectonic shift for the better in the troubled U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship, and in the broader war against Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia's welcome, if belated, addition to State's religious-freedom blacklist — along with the likes of Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Vietnam — fulfills the clear policy mandate of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). This measure explicitly recognizes that religious freedom is inseparable from the full range of other basic human rights, whose promotion and observance in turn advance vital U.S. interests and reflect basic American values. Where religious freedom is threatened or denied, so too are other basic human rights; and such violations of universally agreed-upon norms often reflect wider threats to international public order. Consider only this year's rogues gallery and their handiwork, from ongoing genocide in Sudan to nuclear proliferation efforts by Iran and North Korea.

As part of the annual religious-freedom report, State must designate particular countries that have "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom" under applicable international law. Designation may or may not result in sanctions, which may be as minimal as a mild private rebuke in the form of a diplomatic note. But what's often overlooked is that this designation is in itself a highly effective sanction, since governments are almost preternaturally averse to public criticism, whether from other states, international organizations, influential NGOs, or the media. And the bigger the megaphone, the sharper the sting of being named and shamed.

Few states are as image conscious and as institutionally thin-skinned as Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, "Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims." But the regime's official version of Islam is a narrow, intolerant interpretation of the majority Sunni tradition followed only by a distinct minority of fellow Sunnis around the world:

"The Government enforces a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned Salafi (commonly called "Wahhabi") tradition can face severe repercussions at the hands of the Mutawwa'in (religious police). The Government continued to detain Shi'a leaders. Members of the Shi'a minority continued to face political and economic discrimination, including limited employment opportunities, little representation in official institutions, and restrictions on the practice of their faith and on the building of mosques and community centers."

The situation is grimmer still for non-Muslims, including at least one million Christians among a population of six to seven million guest workers. All public worship is prohibited in principle, and private manifestations of faith (such as possession of Bibles) are often severely punished in practice.

'Fault Lines' of Radical Islam Growing

You know what happens near fault lines? Earthquakes and volcanos.

The most recent hot spots zigzag around the atlas — from Liberia in West Africa to the Netherlands to Southeast Asia. They join a growing roster of places already feeling the strains of religious conflict and terrorism along the edges of the Islamic world — regions as diverse as Chechnya, Nigeria, Spain, Central Asia and the Philippines. Even China is worried about separatist sentiment in its vast and mostly Muslim western province of Xinjiang.

"The militant voices on the street are gaining credibility in more and more places," said Gerges. "That's a worrisome trend."

Part of the reason, many Islamic experts say, can be traced to global communications that forge common points of reference such as al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's defiance or the guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. But even more powerful rallying cries come from firebrand imams and opinion-shapers: that Islam is under threat and it's the duty of followers to take a stand.


Please notice that it's the "firebrand imams and opinion-shapers" who are causing this. Root causes? Do I smell root causes?

Muslims Say Their Faith Growing Fast in Africa

"There is a kind of statistical warfare with Islam said to be growing by leaps and bounds on one side, and growing Christianity, especially Pentecostalists and charismatics, on the other," said Isaac, an Ethiopian."Statistics have influence. People like to be on the winning side."

But Bah Thierno Amadou, 36, a Sierra Leonian Muslim living in Madagascar, has no doubt his religion is on the march.

"More Africans are converting to Islam. There was hardly any Islam in Sierra Leone in the 1960s. Now it has a big following, and it's getting bigger in each generation," said Amadou, who also lived in Liberia for 16 years.
If people like to win, that implies a war or competition of some kind.

Notice what comes next though:

He says the wars pursued by President Bush are powerful recruiting tools for Islam in many parts of a continent with long memories of 19th century cooperation between European missionaries and colonisers.

"He (Bush) says he's a Christian and he does things to destroy people's lives and property who are Muslims. Africans identify with the victims of Bush, because they suffered under the European colonisers, also Christians," Amadou said.

Balanced, and confusing. Muslims want to win and listen to their leaders, but complain about the other side trying to win. Girlie men.

Nuclear news, views, and spews

Enough Brinksmanship tracks some of the ideas I expressed when I suggested many people have misread the lessons of the Cold War. I feel the real lesson is that the United States and the Soviet Union fought many proxy wars, killing millions, conducted dangerous and deadly clandestine operations on one another, and nearly blew up or irradiated a good chunk of the Planet Earth.

Enough Brinksmanship
Rethink nuclear nonproliferation, before it's too late.
by Henry Sokolski

AS THE UNITED STATES and its allies give Tehran its fifth chance in nearly two years to suspend activities that could bring it within weeks of having enough enriched uranium for a large arsenal, the question arises: Isn't there a better way to prevent states from getting nuclear weapons? The answer is yes, but only if we and our partners are willing to be much more aggressive in adapting existing nonproliferation efforts to today's threats.

NUCLEAR TERRORISM: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (Times Books / an imprint of Henry Holt & Co.; August 9, 2004).

Sometimes a book title is good enough.

Israel's Nuclear Weapons suggests that there may be over 400 deployed nuclear weapons awaiting any enemy, or enemies, of Israel.

Playing a game of national chicken against Israel, as Iran is doing, may well result in a head-on collision which destroys most of Iran and several surrounding nation-states.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Black Dog Menaces Guardian - More articles clogging up my favorites menu

Big Black Blogging Shepherd Watching You, Guardian! (see previous entry) She's a beauty, don't you think?

Vatican awakening to jihad? I sure hope so.

Can we stick a fork in the "root causes" crap which permeates socialist-leftist thinking yet? It's done.

You'd never know there was any good news in Iraq unless you read this Opinion Journal feature which comes out every two weeks. Or you can read military blogs.

Amir Taheri is a great editorialist who I've mentioned before. Iraq: time to look to the future is brilliant.
What has happened in Iraq, however, was not imposing democracy by force. It was removing those who used force to prevent the emergence of democracy. Using force to remove impediments to democracy is nothing new. It has happened many times in history. The English and French revolutions were instances of using force to break the structures of tyranny that prevented democracy from emerging. Today, India is the world’s largest democracy because the British used force there to destroy the feudal society of Maharajas and Nawabs and other despots who would never have allowed the people any say in decision-making.

I think Prince Charles has converted to Islam. This exegeses on Islam is as one-sided as they get.

If you are like me, a Bush voter, you might be sick of the name-calling from the many leftists who can't imagine any reason for your vote other than assuming you are a theocratic, redneck, bigot. The Values-Vote Myth by David Brooks (NYT) is a good refutation. It's the Moderates, Stupid by a Clinton Democrat is even better.

The Vatican is still battling "secularism" in Europe. I think they should deal with the jihad first.

Here are two great articles from TCS. Wired Islam, can it help defeat the jihad? Yes and no. The jihadis are all over the Internet. Two, Elections and the Muslim World makes several critical points. One, terrorism is not new to Iraq. Saddam's regime waged an ongoing terror war against his own people. When the government has a monopoly on terrorism, it destroys any competition. Also, it's another example of leftist bigotry (my description) to say Muslims are not capable of freedom and democracy.

The obvious link between these claims is, broadly, the belief that the Muslim world is impervious to democratic change and that any action by us to implement it will only raise greater obstacles to progress. One must first understand that this stereotypical conception of global Islam is grossly ignorant and prejudiced. It much resembles the common Western apprehension that all Muslim countries live under exclusive sharia law, that none is pluralistic, and that Islam is universally jihadist. None of these views is accurate.

Let us begin with the issue of American invasion and the purported reaction to it. It has become a cliché of Bush-haters to assert that Islamist terrorism has grown since the intervention in Iraq, but even a superficial examination of Islam worldwide reveals a much better situation than many Westerners imagine. In Iraq itself, the Saddam regime exercised murderous terrorism against the Shia majority and the Iraqi Kurds, but with Saddam gone, that can hardly be said to have increased. The rebellion of Moqtada ul-Sadr has been neutralized and Iraqi Kurdistan is essentially pacified. The Saudi-inspired terrorists in Falluja have already begun to alienate their base by their attempt to transform the city into a fundamentalist redoubt.

When I said Osama was endorsing Kerry I only had the early translations. As it turns out, he promised to attack the Red States. I'm glad this had almost no effect on the election (according to exit polling). Even Kerry would have chased Osama, I'm pretty sure.

Janet Daley is one of my favorite new columnists. Bush's 'crime'? Just being a patriot.
Like most expatriate Americans living in Britain, it was a phenomenon I am unlikely ever to forget. The response to the deaths of 3,000 civilians, by comment writers in the Left-wing newspapers and the producers of "flagship" BBC current affairs programmes, was to orchestrate abuse of the bereaved country. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read a leader in Saturday's Guardian which pronounced with brazen sanctimoniousness: "The attack of September 11 2001, an event of historic seriousness, created an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity worldwide."

Oh really? Well, then the Guardian must have been wildly out of step with world solidarity at the time because it was gleefully leading a chorus of "America got what it deserved". And the BBC - sorry to return to this again but it remains burnished in my consciousness - staged an edition of Question Time in which anyone who expressed sympathy for the US was howled down.

Anybody who says that this kind of pathological hatred - the kind that relishes the loss of innocent life as a well-deserved "lesson" - would evaporate with the election of John Kerry, or any other contender who was remotely in tune with the American political culture, is trying very hard to deceive himself or the rest of us.

Perhaps there is a clue to the psychological logic of this argument in the Guardian leader's triumphal conclusion: "Three years later, much of that solidarity has been squandered."

Are the people who attacked the US at the time of 9/11 now trying to justify that gratuitous viciousness by claiming that it has been, as it were, retrospectively justified by the invasion of Iraq?

Will we ever know the truth about Flight 800? Clinton wanted terrorism which could help him politically. Fighting the jihad might have reduced his Muslim vote.

Watching the Guardian Posted by Hello