Sunday, March 01, 2015

Before the ides of March

In the runup to Spring Break things have become rather hectic, hence I've been a bit lax in getting posts up.  This is a bit unfortunate, as there's plenty going on I'd love to be talking about, and I have some interesting things to say (at least I think they're interesting, and that's what counts!) about Greece and the euro, Obama and Islam, Netanyahu's trip to Congress, the assassination of Boris Nemtsov (yes, Putin did it), Russia's continuing war on Ukraine, the Republican Congress and DHS, and a few other things.

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

I will not post a "crime of the week" this week, not because there's no material, but because there are a few other matters that need attention, in particular, Barack Obama's recent speeches on Islam and terror, and Vladimir Putin's war. But this is probably a good time for a quick break and reflection on what it is all about. What's the point of "Islamic Crime of the Week?"

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

"We" at Unforeseen Contingencies have not traditionally posted a Valentine's Day message, but maybe it's not a bad idea.  It's a holiday devoted to romantic love, one of the highest and best things that can happen in anyone's life.  Love is one of the things that makes life worth living, and yes, it's worth celebrating.  Here are a few unrelated Valentine thoughts.

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

Not just any old marriage, of course, but child marriage. In Yemen, an eight-year-old girl died on her wedding night after her 40 year old husband consummated the 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.[71][72] 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!


Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Primaries

I wrote the previous post on Rick Santorum because one of WaPo's "breaking news" emails covered the
Santorums' book Bella's Gift for some reason, and I found it an interesting and somewhat moving article. In the process of writing I went back and read a few of my posts written during the 2012 GOP primary campaigns.  Ugh.  I should not have done this, as my usual ebullience has suddenly abandoned me; I feel a bit down. I suspect we are about to see another fiasco.  If the Republicans (and Democrats this time) do not want a fiasco, here's what they must do.

1. No one should enter the race unless s/he first has a well defined, non-contradictory set of principles.

2. Every position, policy, and proposal must flow directly from those principles.

3. Every proposal, policy, and proposal must also be informed by carefully checked facts.

4. If a position, policy, or proposal seems to be unpopular, instead of waffling, flip-flopping, or prevaricating, the candidate must carefully, soberly, logically explain why voters should change their minds and see it his/her way.

The chances of this happening are zero, I know.  And even if it happened it would not guarantee good policies or candidates.  Some sets of principles are wrong and their policy consequences destructive.  But this would at least give us a coherent discussion.  And I have an ulterior motive here: I fear there will be no serious discussion of one of the greatest threats facing the United States: the exploding national debt.  Unlike almost any other threat I can imagine, this threat is not merely a possibility, but a certainty.  I expect no one will give it genuinely serious attention.  Oh, sure, someone will propose raising a tax here or cutting an expense there, some symbolic gesture that has no real effect.  But think of this as a bellwether.  American politics at the Federal level will remain utterly useless at best until it begins to grapple seriously with this dangerous and difficult issue.

Alas, if Hillary and Jeb and Chris Christie and Chief Elizabeth "you didn't build that" Warren are what we are going to get... alas.

Rick Santorum

I don't like politician Rick Santorum and don't like his politics.  I think he would make a bad president.  I've been extremely critical of him in the past.  But after reading this, I think a great deal more of him.  He reveals a great deal more personal character than most of our public officials seem to have.  I'm not so sure his public record is always so good, but I appreciate that he's writing about real things, and not giving us the usual load of nonsense that presidential hopefuls will be dumping on us soon.

It's unfortunate that so many religious conservatives have such a difficult time understanding that using the government to promote their religious ideas is a losing proposition for all of us.  Religion must be left as a personal matter, not because it isn't important, but precisely because it is so important.  No one can afford to have others make such important decisions for him or her.  Religious politics are a zero sum game.  At their worst, they result in wars of extermination, the sort of thing ISIS is forcing on us.

It would be good if Rick Santorum would realize this.  He doesn't, unfortunately.  He's a very bad presidential candidate.  But he's a good father and a good man.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Islamic Crime of the Week: legal stonings for adultery, fornication, and homosexuality

What's the proper way to deal with gays and lesbians?  What to do with unmarried couples who have sexual relations?  How about married people who have sex which someone to whom they aren't married?  What should the rest of us do with them?  Here's a hint: nothing.  We might consider their behavior good, bad, or indifferent, but it's also their behavior and their business, so long as it's consensual.  Certainly it isn't a police matter, and even more certainly it doesn't call for the death penalty, and most certainly it doesn't call for death by slow brutal torture.(Somehow I supposed that once something was "certain" it couldn't be "more certain," but these seem to be accepted expressions...oh well.)

Twelve countries have public stoning embedded in their laws as the punishment for such consensual sex.  Of these twelve, eleven are overwhelmingly dominated by a particular religion, and it's this religion that explicitly is the source of jurisprudence on this issue.  Any guesses as to which religion?  That's right, it's the "religion of peace!"  Nigeria is the only country with legal stoning that does not have a clear Muslim majority...but Nigeria only has legal stoning in the states that have clear Muslim majorities and include Sharia as a basis for law.  In the twenty-first century, stoning is Islamic and only Islamic.

The dishonor roll includes:


And it appears that in all of these states, stonings for these sex "crimes" are imposed and carried out.  Note that these places have little in common other than Islam and Sharia.  They are linguistically, culturally, ethnically, and geographically distinct.  Those who argue that Islam is a "religion of peace" need to explain how stoning women to death for fornication or stoning gay men to death is peaceful.  Or they need to be able to explain how Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the UAE, Iran, Indonesia, et al. "hijacked" the "peaceful religion" and how they aren't really Islamic.  Or maybe they can show how a similar percentage of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and secular societies also have adopted stoning for adultery and homosexuality.  Or maybe they should just come to their senses.

I considered linking to a number of stories about stonings, but became sick at heart reading them and gave up.  Most seem to involve women, much of the time rape victims, and the men tend to get off scot-free for lack of evidence.  But the fact that the law is applied improperly isn't the point -- it's a terrible, criminal "law."  And it appears to be a standard doctrine in Muslim jurisprudence.  Sure, it's also in the Bible... but no Christian or Jew has paid any heed to that for hundreds of years (except Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell's lunatic friend, Gary North).  Perhaps it's time for mainstream Islam to discover the Enlightenment and the rights of the individual.

Read about stonings here.  The links in this Wikipedia entry seem mostly to work.

And here's a slideshow that defends stoning in Islam.  I tried to post a comment but it required me to sign up with Facebook.  So I'll post my comment here: "This convinces me that Islam is evil.  Stoning is a way to torture a victim to death.  Fornication and homosexuality are not crimes, but peaceful voluntary acts. So too adultery.  None are equivalent to theft (which also doesn't deserve this savage punishment).  If this is Islam, then Islam is evil, and people who advocate this are uncivilized savages.  I am amused, though, that the author thinks the existence of sexually transmitted disease helps make the case for stoning.  That's pretty funny..."

Happy Friday prayers.

Why hang al-Rishawi?

To take a person's life is an extreme thing.  Only the gravest of circumstances could justify it.  And while blogging about such matters is nowhere nearly as serious a thing, it is still a very serious matter to suggest someone's life should be taken.  It 's not a subject for cavalier pronouncements.  Now that Shajida al-Rashawi is dead, and now that I have a minute to write, why do I think her execution was called for?  Where is the justice in all this?  Doesn't this simply beget further violence?  Where would be the harm in simply keeping her alive in prison?  And how can anyone take such power into their own hands...are we so blameless?   Well, let me explain.

Was this just?  Yes.  It was just to execute al-Rashawi; she was a failed murderess who attempted to slaughter innocent people in a vicious act of terrorism.  As such, she forfeited any claim that we should respect her right to life.  One has a right to life and liberty only so far as one respects the equal rights of others.  For sufficiently small offenses against others' rights, death is hardly an appropriate penalty.  It would be unjust to execute, say, a petty thief.  But al-Rashawi participated in a crime that took her far beyond the bounds civilized society can tolerate.  She has (had) no right to live as a mass murderer.  Executing her was just.

But does this not beget further violence?  That's hard to believe.  To answer in the affirmative is to suggest ISIS will become more violent than previously.  It's hard to imagine how that could be.  ISIS already specializes in wholesale tortures and executions of the most brutal sort.  I suspect ISIS is largely impervious to outside influence and largely driven by its own internal dynamics -- first of all its theology.  But to the extent this does drive ISIS to further violence, so what?  Any resistance to ISIS will have that effect.  If that's what one really believes, one should then counsel avoiding all actions that might stir them up.  Capitulation and submission follow.  It's clear that dealing successfully with ISIS will require substantial violence.  This isn't something that's desirable, it's simply a fact, imposed on us by ISIS itself...

...which implies the answer to where would be the harm in simply keeping her alive?  One cannot negotiate with ISIS, not because members of ISIS are not rational, but because there is no common ground over which to negotiate.  There's nothing to compromise on -- the modern world and the vision pursued by ISIS are utterly incompatible.  On the other hand, ISIS, I think, does understand power and violence.  ISIS is emboldened by weakness and cowardice in its enemies, and threatened by their strength.  A calculus in which two of them die for each one they murder is a calculus they can understand, and it threatens them.  On the other hand, a calculus in which each victim they execute results in further embarrassing handwringing by John Kerry and further idiotic statements that ISIS is not Islamic from Barack "that's a red line" Obama simply amuses and emboldens them by giving the impression that the modern world is helpless before them. Preserving al-Rashawi's life under these circumstances would have been wrong.

But who are we to take such power into our own hands? ISIS is actually a fairly small, weak, and not particularly well-equipped or trained force.  But it does have one very powerful strength -- moral clarity.  Despite the "it's not Islam" myths perpetrated in the West and elsewhere, ISIS is Islamic.  They are driven by a very powerful religious vision.  I'm quite sure they genuinely believe in their enterprise of building the new Caliphate.  That moral confidence is what empowers them beyond what their numbers and materiel suggest.  It's a nasty, vicious, and anti-human morality, but a morality all the same.  It's that moral clarity that Westerners -- especially the modern left (but also, sadly, many of my fellow libertarians) -- lack.  And it's that lack of moral clarity and resulting self-doubt that leads to questions of the who are we to judge? sort. The moral confusion of multiculturalism becomes moral cowardice.

Who are we to judge?  We're living beings, that's who.  If we choose to live, we cannot escape making moral judgements.  We should simply identify the best values (some cultures are dysfunctional, you know, some are even evil), identify what is right and wrong, think carefully about consequences, and act accordingly, with confidence.  It's wrong to think we have to be perfect before we can decide anything, and it's crazy to think that because someone in the past did something wrong, we are responsible and thus cannot pass moral judgement.  (E.g. "Islamism is a just response to the West's colonial injustices, so shut up.")  Pfffttt.

I suppose in utopia we could take all the al-Rashawis of the world and make them see the errors of their ways, turn them in to repentant and productive, creative human beings.  But we can't.  Sometimes the best thing to do is simply kill them.  I fear that before we are done with our transition to a genuine world civilization, we may be required to do a fair amount of this, given the anti-liberal, antihuman ideologies that seem to be proliferating.  Let it be the least amount possible, but no less than is needed.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Hanging Sajida al-Rishawi

 Here's the kind of approach I'd like to see more of: Jordan threatens to hang all Daesh prisoners if pilot is killed.  From Al Bawaba news, via World Affairs Journal.  Violence does solve some problems.  If every time ISIS murders a hostage, multiple ISIS prisoners are executed, it will set up a calculus that ISIS cannot win and will move us closer to the day when we are rid of this scourge.  If they hang al-Rishawi, I hope they feed her a ham sandwich first.

Update (3 Feb.): The brutality of ISIS is matched by its dishonesty.  The government of Jordan as confirmed that Lt. Mu'ath al-Kasasbeh was burned alive a month ago.  ISIS "negotiated" for Ms. al-Rashawi's release by promising not to kill a man they'd already burned alive, and by beheading the man they offered in return for her.  Jordan is preparing to hang al-Rashawi and five others shortly.  May such a fate befall every member of ISIS.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Islamic Crime of the Week: The Death Sentence of Aasiya Noreen

It's a "religion of peace," right?  Then explain why an impoverished illiterate woman, Aasiya Noreen (a.k.a. Asia Bibi) languishes on death row in Pakistan for blaspheming the so-called prophet Mohammed.

Noreen, a Christian, was working as a farmhand with a number of other women, largely Muslims when she drank some water from a common bucket.  Since she's a member of a lower caste therefore "unclean" -- oh, that's right, Islam doesn't have castes, everyone is equal -- well, since she's a Christian and therefore "unclean," the members of the "religion of peace" began berating her and insulting her religion, to which she replied "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"

News of this "blasphemy" spread, and soon a mob of adherents of the "religion of peace" dragged Ms. Noreen and the rest of her family from their home and began beating them.  The police arrived and quickly restored law and order by arresting -- not the mob of rioting Muslims, of course --but the helpless Aasiya Noreen and charging her with blasphemy.  She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death.  Multiple appeals to higher courts have all failed to date.

The governor for Punjab Province, Salmaan Taseer, spoke up on her behalf, for which he was subsequently assassinated.  Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, spoke up on her behalf, for which he was subsequently assassinated.

By all accounts, Noreen's death sentence for blasphemy is popular in Pakistan.

This is mainstream Islam in Pakistan, not some perversion by a tiny minority of terrorists.  When her sentence was handed down, the courtroom erupted.  As she puts it, "I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: 'Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar!' The court house is invaded by a euphoric horde who break down the doors, chanting: 'Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!'"

Yes, well, allah is not great.  Allah is a hoax.  Mohammed was no prophet.  The Koran is not a book of truth, but a book of old religious speculations of uncivilized desert nomads.  And Islam is not a religion of peace.  The followers of this religion are not civilized human beings.  I say that Mohammed was not a prophet but a violent and crazy fraud -- and for saying this I do not deserve to die.  Even less deserving of death is this poor, inoffensive Christian woman.  But as things stand, she will be executed for the "crime" of blaspheming against Islam.

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country in the world, with over 180 million Muslims. Its official state religion is Islam.  Its legal system is based on Islam. This is mainstream Islam.

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