Friday, March 20, 2015
Starbucks... *not* endorsed by Unforeseseen Contingencies
Op-Ed from Yemen
What???!!! Yemen is coming apart with religious and political violence, and the most important thing this op-ed writer can think of is to tell readers to "get in touch with their innermost selves?" Does this make any sense at all?
Well, yes. Frankly, I'm not sure there's any more important or appropriate message in the midst of such a mess. After all, how do you remain sane in the midst of the collapse of your society? If you are not true to something, if you aren't singlemindedly dedicated to some set of principles, you'll have no chance of retaining your equanimity. You'll be confused and lost and helpless, and others will be in charge of you and your soul. You'll be swept away by events around you. Sure, you might be swept away anyway, but at least it will be as someone in control of himself or herself.
The only people who are rock solid are those grounded in principles, But too often, the set of principles chosen is dedication to one theology or other, something supposedly greater than one's self. Yeah, great, that's what's getting us things like churches and mosques bombed, women burned to death for offenses against "holy" books, and similar insanity. Far better to be true to ourselves. This will be increasingly important; one can slide along just following the current in normal times and do OK. But the world is going to become much more tumultuous before it gets better. If you hope to keep your head about you when everyone else is losing theirs, remember that this is the only way to do it. Be true to the best within yourself. And to do that, you'd better learn what that best self is.
A few more excerpts from Abdulmaji:
"In stagnation, we can hardly be of benefit to ourselves, never mind others besides. True growth is not merely learning by taking in knowledge, reading what experts have said, understanding the ways of great men. This is helpful only if it then directs us to ponder over our own experiences, to enhance what needs to be enhanced and to make changes so that we can be express our true self. Too often it is we who stand in the way of reaching our maximum potential. We cannot allow others to influence our perspective and to stand in our way either physically or with limiting ideas."
I agree. I wish I'd said this. Well, I'm saying it now!
I suppose Abdulmaji could have laid out a brilliantly crafted solution to Yemen's crisis. None of the warring parties would have paid any attention and nothing would come of it. Instead he (she?) wrote something that will really have the effect of making the world better. Abdulmaji only has to remind one person of these truths to have been successful. If you are reading this, and act on it, Abdulmaji has been successful at least twice.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Obama loses election
It's very telling that so much of the media narrative, in both the United States and Israel, has been that returning Netanyahu to the post of Prime Minister "damages relations between the United States and Israel." Telling, in that it exposes the bias in the media in both countries. In fact, Netanyahu is quite popular in the United States, among Republicans, for one, and even more among conservatives and sane libertarians (such as yours truly). The bad relations are between Bibi and Barack Hussein, his administration, and that part of the foreign policy establishment that sides with him. They certainly are not the totality of "the United States," and once Obama is gone from office it's hard to see why the alleged bad relations between the two countries would persist. The media definition of appears to count the majority party in Congress and a substantial share of the American electorate as "not part of the United States." That's par for the course, since we live in a world where the administration can declare there's no reason to talk of Islamic extremism, and but regularly declares his political opponents "extremists" and sets the IRS and DHS after them.
One of the things I most appreciated about Netanyahu's campaign is that, at the end, he declared that if he returned as P.M., he would block the establishment of a Palestinian state. I appreciated this for two reasons. First, a Palestinian state under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas is unacceptable, since Abbas declares his goal of eliminating Israel. (So much for a two state solution.) The more likely scenario, a Palestinian state under the murderous Hamas, would be even worse. Second, how refreshing to hear a politician take a firm stance on a controversial position. One can imagine a Jeb Bush, a Chris Christie, a Hillary Clinton, or a Barack Obama, trying to frame a position that appeals to a wide swath of voters, by basically speaking mush. It's good to hear a politician take strong position, and actually think that he means it. These days, that kind of moral certainty too often comes from the likes of ISIS or a Putin. It's great that one of the good guys publicly takes such a stance... and then wins.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Obama on extremist Islam
One argument, usually from supporters, is that this is actually well-considered strategic policy. This account on the Beirut to Beltway blog is the most reasonable defense of this I've seen. But I don't buy it. If that's it, there are plenty of other things often labeled "Islamic" that he seems quite comfortable with, e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood. For another, it requires us to impose an interpretation on his words. But, as I'll argue, it makes more sense to simply take them at face value and assume he means what he says. He's consistent, after all.
So consider the critics. Some critics -- Sean Hannity, for example -- argue that Obama is incredibly naive. That's hard to believe. It's not as though the rest of us have access to better information than the president does, and even a superficial glance shows that Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS, and the many incarnations of Al Qaeda all claim Islam as their inspiration and Sharia as their goal. Naivete seems a weak explanation at best -- it really seems to be "steadfast refusal" rather than confusion.
Another explanation is political correctness. Blogger "Lorenzo from Oz" has a particularly insightful analysis of this phenomenon. I think this goes a long way to explaining why leftist academics sympathize with Islamism, and probably explains a good part of the machinations of the Obama administration and foreign policy establishment. (That, plus "following orders" is darn near a complete explanation.) But "political correctness" and the philosophy behind it is another argument that ultimately amounts to a failure on the part of those who insist that Islam is blameless to really understand the nature of Islamism.
I don't think these explanations explain Barack Obama's position, and I'd like to offer a different one -- one that is based entirely on taking his own words at face value. Barack Obama has repeatedly called violent extremism and terrorism done in the name of Islam to be a perversion of Islam. In doing so, he is taking a theological position, and it is one that has been made by a number of people and groups that are Islamist -- that is, who believe political systems should be Islamized, made into compliance with the Koran and Sharia, but that terrorism is the wrong -- and even immoral -- route to this. I first encountered this position in 1989, in the discussion with my Pakistani friend I've occasionally mentioned. He made the point to me not that the ultimate goals of jihadi terrorists were wrong (the spread of Islam, including Sharia, throughout the world), but that their methods -- terror and violence -- were wrong. As I understand it, many others, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, make the same argument: terrorism is unIslamic. But political Islam and the imposition of Sharia is Islamic. This is a theological position, based on particular interpretations of of the Koran and Hadith. When Barack Obama argues that violent extremism is unIslamic, he makes exactly this point. I have never heard him suggest that Islamism is in any way a perversion of the Koran, nor, for that matter, in any way objectionable. To the contrary, his statements suggest he is supportive of Islamism, at least mildly.
Given all that we've seen in his presidency, his speech in Cairo in 2009 seems much less bizarre. Whether he's secretly a Muslim or not I neither know nor care (I suspect he has no serious religious beliefs at all and is a de facto atheist), but he knows Islam, I think well, from "three continents," and think of it with a great deal of sympathy and respect -- hence his references to the "holy Koran," "the prophet Mohammed," and "the revelation of Islam." Given his background, he surely must understand Islam better than most Americans (I cannot fathom how he could be naive on Islam) and his pointed refusal to say anything at all against political Islam is telling. I think he is sympathetic to Islamism. Hence:
- His refusal to speak in favor of the liberals who opposed the mullahs during Iran's failed "Green Revolution"
- His support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's "Arab Spring"
- His immediate condemnation of the removal of Morsi and crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by General al Sisi
- His otherwise incomprehensible lament that the First Amendment "tied his hands' so that he couldn't go after the maker of the film on Mohammed that allegedly stirred up the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi (an allegation that turns out to have been a lie concocted by Obama and his administration)
- His appointment of Harvard Law Dean Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department (Koh has written on how the First Amendment could be circumvented so that the government could prohibit things like blasphemy and bring America more in line with international "standards.")
- His apparent willingness to get any kind of nuclear deal with Iran, even a temporary one that leaves all of Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact (more on this shortly)
- His remarkable hostility to Benyamin Netanyahu, and to Israel in general
- His repeated negative and even hostile references to Christianity, from denigrating its "bitter clingers" to condemning it for slavery (as if slavery is unIslamic!) or the Crusades
- All sorts of other strange things start to make some sense if one supposes Obama is taking a theological position as to what is and is not Islamic, e.g. Obama's insistence that the murders of Jews in a Paris market were "random" or that the Fort Hood shootings were "workplace violence"
Saturday, March 07, 2015
ISIS needs lace undies! And teenage girls!
What kind of religion is it that openly and explicitly combines the most draconian puritanical intolerance with the sexual restraint of a XXX movie character? What kind of religion promises its martyrs 72 perpetual virgins, or houris -- "perfect" women (i.e. big breasts, never menstruate, can't get pregnant) ... and "fresh boys," to boot? It's the religion of peace, of course.
Islamic Crime of the Week: Saudi court punishes rape victim
No terrorist groups were involved in this, and it's hard to argue that this is Islam being hijacked by unIslamic extremists -- unless one argues that the entire Saudi system is a hijacking of Islam, which I gather is what Iran's Press TV argues. This case is actually from 2007, but the Press TV article is dated today (March 7 2015). Iran and Saudi Arabia are at war by proxy in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere, so I gather this case is being dredged up by Iran as a part of their effort. Jerusalem Post then picked it up and re-reported it, where I first noticed it. As it turns out, King Abdullah eventually commuted the woman's sentence, apparently because of pressure from the non-Muslim West, and the disbarment of the attorney was cancelled.
I know that Iran's Shiites believe that Saudi Wahhabism is not really Islam. But it's not the mainstream Saudis that Barack Obama is thinking of when he says extremists are not Muslims. And the practitioners of political correctness insist that "Islam is a religion of peace" and anyone who disagrees is to be condemned as "Islamophobic" aren't condemning mainstream Saudi Islam as "unIslamic." Wahhabi Islam is arguably the purest Islam. Saudi Arabia's "constitution" is the Koran and the Sunnah, and its law is Sharia. Trying this woman for any crime at all was an act of uncivilized savages, and the crazy ideas that drove them are similarly uncivilized.
I know very well that there are Muslims who would agree with my last sentence, and whose version of Islam is quite different and really is peaceful. But this Saudi version is also Islam, it appears to be spreading (after all, the Saudis have spent over 100 billion of USD promoting it abroad), and it is indeed a religion of violence and destruction. Never mind terrorism. The mainstream version, as practiced by the Saudis themselves, is nasty and violent.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
Before the ides of March
These will have to wait until either the stack of exams sitting beside me corrects itself, or I do. If the former happens, expect a full report. Otherwise the next posts will be on some of the above subjects. It'll be soon, I promise.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Islamic Crime of the Week: an interlude
It's pretty obvious that most Muslims are not terrorists. And there would be no sense writing multiple posts explaining that terrorism is wrong. It's also obvious that there are forms of Islam that are enlightened and extremely pro-freedom. But it's also clear that there are forms of Islam that are authoritarian or totalitarian and completely incompatible with a free, liberal, decent society. The purpose of "Islamic Crime" is to show this and to show that this is the Islam not of just a few extremists, but at the very least a substantial minority of Muslims, and very possibly the majority. And that kind of Islam is something we do need to make war against. Whether it be intellectual war, or sometimes the real physical thing, it is imperative that freedom of thought, freedom of speech and other expression, and freedom to live according to one's beliefs be protected, including from sharia.
So far this feature has demonstrated that in countries where law is based on the Koran, Islam leads to executing gays and nonbelievers, torturing those who speak out against religious authority, punishing people who own dogs, forcing pre-teen girls into "marriages," and legal rape -- not as rare, one-off events, but as widespread practices involving millions of people in multiple countries and cultures on different continents. I'm going to quantify this. Before I am done, I expect to be able to show that at least 1 in 8 Muslims believe in executing anyone who leaves the Muslim faith. It may turn out to be closer to 1 in 4. When it comes to other kinds of violence against non-believers and apostates, I think I'll be able to show that the numbers are higher.
What's the point? This isn't written for Muslims; I expect they already know what ideas are circulating in Islam (and besides, I'd be shocked if I had any Muslim readers). (Heck, I'll be shocked if I actually have any readers.) It's written for another group entirely: the advocates of political correctness, mostly on the left but certainly not entirely, who really do drink the "Islam is a religion of peace" Kool-Aid™.
There are very good people who are Muslims. There are forms of Islam that support individual rights, freedom, and peace. But Islam, far more than any other religion, is also infected with authoritarian, brutal, oppressive strains that are completely incompatible with civilization. These strains are not the Islam of a few"violent extremists" and terrorists, but very common versions, and very possibly the dominant versions, accepted by the majority of Muslims today. I'll establish that by the time this series is finished.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
A Few Thoughts on Valentine's Day
1. Romantic love is often thought to be a relatively recent (in historical terms) invention, a cultural thing, mostly Western. Nonsense. This is crackpotism. Romantic feelings come naturally to people; it's not some recently acquired cultural behavior that we've just learned. As evidence, you kind find it around the world, in entirely different cultures. Maybe recognition of it, or a public emphasis on its importance, is relatively recent -- after all, it's a very individual thing, built from the values and feelings of two individuals -- but that's different. The ability and tendency to it is inherent in us, reminding me of the notion of "aptic structures" (something I picked up reading Julian Jaynes). In that sense, it's like our "propensity to truck, barter, and exchange," i.e. to engage in mutually beneficial trading. It's always there, but only in a society which values each individual and protects her/his rights can it flourish.
2. Valentine's Day is un-Islamic, or so say the experts. It invites lust and causes one to focus attention on useless matters. Just in case it's not clear, romantic love is also un-Islamic (see "Firstly" and beyond). Celebrating Valentine's Day is illegal in Saudi Arabia, and can one into considerable trouble in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and few other places that appear to have nothing in common other than Islam. Here's provocative essay on the matter that links Islamic condemnation of romantic love with similar condemnation from the radical left. It's a sort of corollary to my observations in point 1. Creeds demanding total obedience are threatened by individualism and the rights of the individual.
3. My Valentine's Day, alas, wasn't what I'd hoped. I had planned to see my Julie, who has brought so much happiness into my life, but weather issues made this a bit problematic. (I was driving in intermittent whiteout, zero visibility; after I turned back I learned the highway ahead had a multiple car accident owing to this.) It's a little depressing, but there's something much more important. having someone I love, who loves me, and who is so ready to share adventures outweighs any momentary disappointment. So from UC chief blogger Charles N. Steele -- Julie, I love you, and Happy Valentine's Day to our always-appreciated readers!
Islamic Crime of the Week: Marriage
Let me rephrase that. In Yemen, an eight yer old girl was forced into marriage with a middle aged man, who proceeded to rape her, doing so much damage to her internal organs that she bled to death. What's remarkable about this is that in Yemen, and in Islam, this is perfectly legal. At least fourteen percent of girls in Yemen are forced into marriage before turning fifteen. While Yemen appears to be one of the worst places in the world for this crime, it's not an outlier. In Iran, child bride Razieh Ebrahimi, was handed a death sentence for killing her abusive husband. She'd been forced into marriage at age 14. This crime is quite common in many regions, but is particularly pronounced in Islamic cultures, because Islam explicitly endorses this practice. Banning it is un-Islamic.
I suppose it's bad form to quote Wikipedia, but note these:
"In 2013, Nigeria attempted to change Section 29, subsection 4 of its laws and thereby prohibit child marriages. This was opposed by Islamic states of Nigeria, who called any attempts to prohibit child marriages as un-Islamic. Christianity and Islam are practiced by roughly 50%-50% of its population respectively, and the country continues with personal laws from its British colonial era laws, where child marriages are forbidden for its Christians and allowed for its Muslims. Child marriage is a divisive topic in Nigeria and widely practiced. In northern states, predominantly Muslim, over 50% of the girls marry before the age of 15."
This isn't simply a cultural problem with backwards Arab tribesmen who happen to be Muslims. It's a Muslim problem.
"In Islamic nations, many countries do not allow child marriage of girls under their civil code of laws. But, the state recognized Sharia religious laws and courts in all these nations have the power to override the civil code, and often do. UNICEF reports that the top five nations in the world with highest observed child marriage rates Niger (75%), Chad (72%), Mali (71%), Bangladesh (64%), Guinea (63%) are Islamic majority countries." And note "...there is a strong belief among most Muslims and scholars, based on Sharia, that marrying a girl less than 13 years old is an acceptable practice for Muslims."
Maybe this is an exaggeration. Maybe it's not "most." Maybe it's only 25%. I doubt that, but isn't there a serious problem in a religion that has at least hundreds of millions finding this crime to be perfectly acceptable in this day and age? (Not a rhetorical question -- there's a correct answer: yes!)
Here's a fascinating video on a case of child marriage in Yemen. It manages to be horrifying, uplifting, and heart-breaking. But especially worth noting is the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Yemeni parliamentarian and Islamic scholar, who explicitly defends child marriage as Islamic. Religion of peace, pppffooey!