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Religion

Libya: ruthlessness winning while the world dithers and religion takes over the opposition

A week or so ago I wrote a post about ruthlessness and how that usually wins in contests like we see in Libya.  Of course, the fact that the opposition is amateurish in the field and remains unorganized hasn’t exactly helped their situation.  But Gadhafi has been and continues to be ruthless in his pursuit of maintaining his power.

Meanwhile, given the deteriorating situation for the opposition, the time for a “no-fly zone” appears to have passed.  When it might have had some effect was early on in this battle.  As the battle has matured, the advantage seems to be going to the Gadhafi forces.  Not only are they more brutal, they’re better organized (relatively speaking) and performing better in the fight (again, relatively speaking).  At some point, one has to expect Gadhafi’s forces to take control of key areas that will signal, for all intents and purposes, that the revolution has pretty much failed (that’s not to say the civil war won’t go on for some time, but at a much lower key than now).

But back to the opposition and an article in the NYT today.  It’s interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a discussion of why the opposition formed and what is happening  to it according to the NYT.

Nearly 70 percent of Libya’s population is under the age of 34, virtually identical to Egypt’s, and a refrain at the front or faraway in the mountain town of Bayda is that a country blessed with the largest oil reserves in Africa should have better schools, hospitals, roads and housing across a land dominated by Soviet-era monotony.

“People here didn’t revolt because they were hungry, because they wanted power or for religious reasons or something,” said Abdel-Rahman al-Dihami, a young man from Benghazi who had spent days at the front. “They revolted because they deserve better.”

So the argument can be made it was started by the youth and the aim is secular – they have the luxury of oil but they’ve not enjoyed the benefits of that vital commodity within their country as they think they should.  Got it.

But, do you remember this quote from the older post?  It’s a quote from David Warren:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

Religion, speaking here of Islam, is ubiquitous in the Middle East.  It just is.  And those who live there, whatever their other desires, sift everything almost unconsciously through the filter of Islam.  That’s why it isn’t difficult for religious leaders or radical religious leaders to quickly gain a foothold they ruthlessly expand in any situation like this.   And that’s precisely what the NYT discovers:

The revolt remains amorphous, but already, religion has emerged as an axis around which to focus opposition to Colonel Qaddafi’s government, especially across a terrain where little unites it otherwise. The sermon at the front on Friday framed the revolt as a crusade against an infidel leader. “This guy is not a Muslim,” said Jawdeh al-Fakri, the prayer leader. “He has no faith.” [emphasis mine]

Other’s continue to fight against that trying to keep it (or change it into) a secular fight:

Dr. Langhi, the surgeon, said he scolded rebels who called themselves mujahedeen — a religious term for pious fighters. “This isn’t our situation,” he pleaded. “This is a revolution.”

But, it seems it is turning into their situation.  Again back to the Warren quote – what is ingrained in the opposition fighters no matter what their ostensible reason for fighting may be?  Their religion.  And what has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision.”?”  Their religion.  When viewed against the complicated process of democratic governance, religion as a one stop shop for both their spiritual needs and their political needs makes the former much more difficult to sell than the latter.  Religion, whether it is a fundamentalist brand, or a more moderate strain, is going to emerge as a huge force in all of the struggles in that part of the world.

Something else to note from the NYT article that is interesting:

Sitting on ammunition boxes, four young men from Benghazi debated the war, as they watched occasional volleys of antiaircraft guns fired at nothing. They promised victory but echoed the anger heard often these days at the United States and the West for failing to impose a no-flight zone, swelling a sense of abandonment.

Obviously their feelings for the US and the West aren’t particularly good these days.  One has to wonder if they ever were, but clearly, now that they’re starting to get rolled back they are complaining about the West’s dithering and lack of response.

I’ve said it before, I don’t support the US imposing a no-fly zone.  That’s not to say I’m necessarily averse to a NFZ if Europe wants to take that bull by the horns.  But I see this as Europe’s fight, not ours.

That said, any good will we in the West had prior to today with the Libyan rebels seems to have dissipated and may, in fact, be in the negative column now.  The outcome could be the beginning of an even bigger problem for the West:

None of the four men here wanted to stay in Libya. Mr. Mughrabi and a friend planned to go to America, another to Italy. The last said Afghanistan. Each described the litany of woes of their parents — 40 years of work and they were consigned to hovels.

Why Afghanistan?  Well not to fight on the side of the US, you can be sure.  As for the other two, disaffected and disenchanted immigrants provide a fertile hunting ground for Islamists.  Should the two get to where they want to go is there a possibility that they, at some future date, become radicalized?  Of course there is. 

Again, who has the “simplest, most plausible and easily communicated “vision”?”

~McQ

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Islam, the Middle East and ruthlessness

Reading through Martin Walker’s Feb. 28th piece for UPI about the unrest in the Middle East and N. Africa, I found this interesting:

That heady early talk of an Arab spring and a democratic flowering across the Arab world now seems distinctly premature. It is going to be much more difficult, and much more complicated, as the Europeans found when they started turning back thousands of Tunisians looking for jobs and opportunities in Europe rather than staying home to enjoy the new freedoms.

Beyond the unpleasant endgame of the Gadhafi regime, there are three predictable crises yet to come in North Africa. The first will be the question of food shortages and subsidies in Egypt, where the price of bread has been kept artificially low for decades at a cost of more than $3 billion a year. (The Mubarak government spent more on its various subsidies than it did on health and education.)

Egypt’s new government faces a tough dilemma. It cannot afford the subsidies but nor can it afford the popular outrage among the poor if it tried to end them.

The second crisis will come when business returns to normal and 30 percent of Egyptians and Tunisians in their 20s remain unemployed and a new class of graduates emerges to join them. They will demand government jobs. The government will try to comply but the government has no money. Money will be borrowed and printed. Inflation will result.

The third crisis will be more a problem of U.S. domestic politics but it will have grave implications for Egypt. It concerns Israel. The new Egyptian government, whatever its politics, will find it difficult to be quite as accommodating to Israel as Mubarak used to be. In particular, it will find it politically very unpopular to maintain the siege of Gaza.

His point, of course, is while there are many other problems attendant to any forced overthrow of a government, there are some others that will likely manifest themselves that will put even more stress and pressure on compromise governments (by the way, whatever happened to ElBaradei in Egypt?).

In fact, the new Prime Minister of Tunisia’s latest government just stepped down over dissatisfaction that change wasn’t coming fast enough.  So as hard as putting some form of government together that can quickly take the reins and effect the changes that the protesters have said they want, there are other externalities, beside a lack of history or tradition with a free form of government, that may sabotage their efforts.

As most pundits are now saying – after the initial orgy of opinions claiming this was nothing short of the flowering of democracy in some very arid land – we’re “early” into all of this. That’s called “walking it back”.   Now that the heady days of nonsensical optimism have passed, more sober analysis is becoming prevalent.  And, as one might expect, many are looking back into history to find a clue to what may happen in these countries.

Lo and behold, some are finding some fairly disturbing examples and principles that seem they may apply themselves to these particular situations.  For instance, as David Warren reminds us, the “most ruthless usually triumph”.   And our history is rife with examples.

A couple of points from Warren’s piece.  First ruthless doesn’t just apply to those who rise in opposition to the current government.  A recent example:

It does not follow, from the fact everyone is hooting, that Moammar Gadhafi will fall. He might, tomorrow, for all I know, or all anyone knows who is not clairvoyant. But as I recall, Saddam Hussein did not fall after the Gulf War of 1991. And the comparison is instructive. Every part of Iraq not directly attached to him through extended family and tribal networks (so tightly that they would share his fate) rose against him. And the world, beginning with the United States, was then as now urging his opponents on.

Saddam endured plenty of defections. Eventually, even "no fly zones" were established, to stop him from using airplanes and helicopters against the general population. But by the time these could be declared, and enforced, he had broken the back of the insurrection, and needed ground force only.

Saddam’s consistent policy was to be more ruthless than any potential rival. He slaughtered people by the tens of thousands to retain power, on that occasion alone. And that was not the only occasion on which his power was challenged. The casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, that continued eight years from September 1980, may never be adequately counted. Mixed in with them were huge numbers from his own side that Saddam massacred "pour encourager les autres." Millions of Iraqis found themselves being minced between two satanic giants: the other, of course, being Ayatollah Khomeini.

Gadhafi is also ruthless.

Loony as a cartoon character, but certainly ruthless.  That sort of ruthlessness obviously has a value to the person or organization that uses it – it provides a means to keep or take power.

Ruthlessness can come in many guises, but it essentially means letting nothing stand in the way of attaining an ultimate goal.  Whether it is in politics, sports or revolution, the most ruthless in the pursuit of their goal usually triumphs.  And that’s regardless of whether or not you agree with their methods. 

So Libya has descended into unspeakable violence.  But I’d guess few would believe anyone more ruthless than Gadhafi (and his family) exits there – but there may very well be.

Which takes us to part II of this.  Why do some nations who go through the throes of this sort of revolutionary change find it within themselves to create a more free and democratic society while others fall into even more and greater tyranny than before?  Warren’s theory:

We should grasp, for instance, that the American Revolution was almost unique in history, for ending so well. We should also grasp why. It was, from beginning to end, under the leadership of highly civilized men, governed by a conception of liberty that was restrained and mature. George Washington commanded, in his monarchical person, the moral authority to stop the cycle of reprisals by which revolutions descend into "eating their own." Nelson Mandela achieved something similar in South Africa.

Alternatively, a whole society -I am thinking here of the nations of Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall -may be so exhausted by revolutionary squalor that they long for return to "normal" life and have constitutional orders in their own, historically recent past, available as models. But even they needed Walesas and Havels.

Where such men exist, they are visible at any distance, from the start. Nowhere in the Arab world -and particularly not in Egypt, its centre of gravity -can such leaders be detected; only ridiculous pretenders. Nor do the conditions exist for wise statesmen to emerge. Nor have any of the Arab states a stable constitutional order to look back upon. Tyranny begets tyranny.

Certainly there are many shades and flavors of tyranny, and a nation may even lessen the hold its tyranny without actually ending it.  But as Warren observes, there are no real leaders emerging (at least not yet) that one could label, at least in the way Westerners would, that could be considered “highly civilized men” imbued with a sense of liberty that is “restrained and mature”. 

Instead, given the area, the culture, the history, we see this as what will likely emerge:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

Islam, in whatever form, shape or flavor is the common thread of these revolutions.   As I’ve mentioned before, what is considered a “moderate” in most of these countries would be viewed, were he a Christian, as a fundamentalist in most other places. The inclusion of Islam into the everyday lives of the people is as natural as breathing.  They take for granted it will be an essential part of any government they form.

There are no Walesas and Havels in those countries.  There are Imams and Ayatollahs who fill that function.  And, as Warren points out, the vision they present is indeed the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated vision” of all of them, to include secular representative democracy. 

They also fulfill the other two historical requirements to take power  – they’re the best organized and, as we’ve seen in many other places, the most ruthless.

~McQ

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Atheists whine about not being included in religious event

I get tired of this sort of nonsense:

Atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheistic Washington, D.C. residents will have no representation at Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray’s first official inaugural event—an ecumenical prayer service entitled “One City … Praying Together” at 8 a.m. Sunday, January 2, 2011.

“We would prefer that a government function such as an inauguration not be entwined with religion,” said Amanda Knief, a Humanist Celebrant and government relations manager for the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). “However, we find it overtly discriminatory when we request to be part of an ecumenical prayer service that is supposed to unite the entire city and are told there is no place for nontheists.”

How can a prayer service unite an entire city if atheists don’t believe in prayer or a deity?  Obviously, the word “prayer” is key to the phrase as it refers to those who both believe in prayer and a deity. Just as obviously, the prayer service is aimed a those in the city who do.  And why would an atheist want to go to a prayer service in the first place?

Oh, I know – “inclusion”.

Well, in reality,  they wouldn’t want to attend – “inclusion” is a false flag.  And they’re not “left out” of anything – atheism is their choice.  With that choice comes consequences – like not being invited to attend prayer meetings.

Instead this is really about banishing such services altogether.  And their assumed leverage here is it is a government event – a city government holding an “ecumenical” service, i.e. not touting a single religion and in perfect conformance with the 1st Amendment (which, btw, doesn’t apply below federal level, but I thought I’d point it out anyway).  But it isn’t “inclusive”.

Love the line, “we would prefer that a government function such a an inauguration not be entwined with religion.”

Cool.  Go out and win an election and then you can run the inauguration any way you wish.   That’s the basic message here.  Freedom is choice – and you can choose to not have such an inauguration if you win.  But if you won’t make the attempt or lose, tough nuts – the winner gets to “choose”, note the word,  how he or she will run the inauguration within the confines of the law.

A prayer meeting isn’t about anything in particular which will effect an atheist that I know of.  It’s a meeting of like minded people to ask for help and guidance of their deity of choice.   How that is “overtly discriminatory” against those who don’t believe in prayer or a deity is beyond me.

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A Humanist Celebrant is the nonreligious equivalent of a clergyperson. He or she may receive national certification from several organizations, including The Humanist Society, the American Ethical Union, and the Society for Humanistic Judaism; and may conduct marriages, civil unions, memorial services, funerals, and other life ceremonies.

So they were supposed to invite a “nonreligious equivalent” of a “clergyperson” to a religious event?  What is a “nonreligious equivalent” to a clergyperson?   There is no equivalency in terms of belief.  The fact that the Humanist Celebrant can conduct marriages, civil unions, (so can a justice of the peace) etc.  doesn’t make them equivalent where it counts (and no one would argue a JP is the “equivalent” of a priest).

Look whether you believe in a deity or not, this is just nonsense on a stick.  Religion is a personal choice.  And nothing that I know of precludes government officials from conducting “ecumenical” prayer meetings if it is their desire. 

My guess is had the atheists – or Humanist Celebrant – shown up at the meeting he or she would have been graciously included.   Then what?

This is just more whining by the militant atheists of the country.  If you don’t want to participate in religion, don’t.  Don’t demand your “equivalency” be accepted by the religious or that they must include you in something, that in reality, you have no real desire to be included in at all.  The religious are not welcome in your camp and it shouldn’t surprise or upset you that you’re not particularly welcome in theirs. 

Such is life.  Grow up, drop the false “inclusion” argument and quit whining, for goodness sake.

~McQ

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Feminized MOH guy is back and wants a little cheese with his whine

[First posted at BlackFive.net – but it is a follow-up to a story I posted here recently.  This is a guy who has been comfortable in his little echo chamber spouting off about his pet theories and, I supposed, mostly getting affirmation.  Then he got outside that little box, his nonsense leaked into the larger blogosphere and he’s gotten absolutely hammered – and deservedly so.  He remains completely clueless as to the reason.– McQ]

You know, some guys ought to figure when to just shut up, fold their tent and take their due. Not our boy. Bryan Fischer, Mr. "Feminized the MOH", is back for more. In a follow up post (not even at the same blog – got to hot there I’d guess), our hero says:

The blowback to my column of two days ago, in which I argued that we seem to have become reluctant to award the Medal of Honor to those who take aggressive action against the enemy and kill bad guys, has been fierce. It has been angry, vituperative, hate-filled, and laced with both profanity and blasphemy.

Oh, my. Who needs the skirt now? Looks like the reaction may have "feminized" Mr. Fischer a bit. As for blasphemy, let me tell you something sir – I’m on the side of angels on this one.

Of course Fischer still has no clue about the reason for the outrage he spawned (or he’s chosen to ignore it) and falls back on the age old dodge that most that don’t have an argument use when cornered – ignore those who ate your freakin’ lunch in reply to that bad joke of a post and claim, "these people didn’t read what I wrote". No really – that’s his argument:

What is striking here is that readers who have reacted so viscerally to what I wrote apparently didn’t read it, or only read the parts that ticked them off. I’m guessing a fair amount of the reaction has come from those who didn’t actually read the column, but read what others said about the column. It’s been fascinating to watch.

What is really both striking and fascinating is how clueless this bozo is – utterly unaware and truly out-to-lunch. Hey, meat head, the visceral reaction was to the stupidity of your premise. It had to do with you using "feminized" as a pejorative (look that up if that skipped by you skippy) and in conjunction with the Medal of Honor. It had to do with the fact that you were ignorant about the MOHs that have been given in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yes, that’s right – ignorant.  As in “uninformed”.  Don’t know what you‘re talking about.  Check?

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A Mosque Too Far?

This post, in its original form, was previously posted at the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, August 11, 2010. The following post has been updated for today.

Plans to build an Islamic cultural center right next door to the site of the greatest attack on American soil have generated plenty of controversy. And as plans continue to move forward, more is promised still. Questions as to where the money is coming from to build it, and who exactly its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, really is are likely unresolvable, yet add fuel to the already contentious debate. In fact, today new questions were raised as to the connections of Rauf and his organization (the Cordoba Initiative) to Iran:

Two weeks ago the Cordoba Initiative website featured a photograph of the project’s chairman, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, and Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani at an event that the Initiative sponsored in Malaysia in 2008. This week, the photograph … has disappeared.

Larijani was the Iranian representative who defended Iran’s abysmal human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council in February and June of this year. Among other things, Larijani told the Council: “Torture is one thing and punishment is another thing. … This is a conceptual dispute. Some forms of these punishments should not be considered torture according to our law.” By which he meant flogging, amputation, stoning, and the criminalization of homosexuality, which are all part of Iranian legal standards. Larijani added: “Iran [has a] firm commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. … The Islamic Republic of Iran … is a democracy,” which would be news to the pro-democracy activists murdered or confined to Iranian prisons since last year’s fraudulent elections.

There may be nothing to these sorts of queries, and it may be that Mr. Rauf and his organization are earnest peace-seekers. Even so, the plan to place a $100 Million structure dedicated to Islam right next to Ground Zero has understandably caused a lot of questions to be asked, although few have elicited answers. Writing for the Ottawa Citizen, Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah think they can settle one of the burning issues, however: why a mosque at Ground Zero?

When we try to understand the reasoning behind building a mosque at the epicentre of the worst-ever attack on the U.S., we wonder why its proponents don’t build a monument to those who died in the attack?

New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it’s not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as “Fitna,” meaning “mischief-making” that is clearly forbidden in the Koran. […]

Let’s not forget that a mosque is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims and not an inviting community centre. Most Americans are wary of mosques due to the hard core rhetoric that is used in pulpits. And rightly so. As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.

The Koran implores Muslims to speak the truth, even if it hurts the one who utters the truth. Today we speak the truth, knowing very well Muslims have forgotten this crucial injunction from Allah.

The article’s writers are both authors about Islamic politics and culture as well as board members of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Now, I don’t know if Raza and Fatah are correct in their assertions, but I have a good reason to believe they may be. Several in fact, two of which I’ve seen personally.

I was once able to visit Istanbul and Jerusalem where I eagerly toured both the Hagia Sophia and the remains of what is believed to be Solomon’s Temple (typically referred to as the Western Wall). Both of these deeply religious sites have been converted to Muslim uses by the building of mosques.

The original Hagia Sophia was a church built by the Emperor Constantine some time in the fourth century, which was subsequently razed on a few different occasions. The Emperor Justinian I erected the current structure in the 530’s, and it still stands as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in existence. However, when Constantinople finally became Istanbul for good, the Hagia Sophia saw a dramatic change:

… Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.

Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque [ed. – which is within sight of of the Hagia Sophia], the Suleiman Mosque, the Shehzade Mosque and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.

No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit) and a wooden minaret made a mosque out of the church. At some early point, all the faces depicted in the church’s mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.

In short, the conquerors replaced a mighty cultural symbol of the vanquished with one of their own. Fairly standard really, but I still found it a bit odd to walk into one of the oldest Christian churches in the world only to be confronted with giant symbols of Islam everywhere.

Visiting Jerusalem was just as puzzling. I knew that the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) was all that was left of Herod’s expansion of the Temple Mount, but I had not realized that atop it sat not one, but two Islamic holy sites: The Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. These two religious sites replaced and took over what is considered the holiest of all places on Earth by the Jews, who are forbidden from entering either.

There are, of course, other examples, but it’s not as if this sort of conquering behavior is the sole province of Muslims. Indeed, the al-Aqsa Mosque was itself taken over as a church for a brief time by Crusaders.

Even so, it cannot be denied that erecting mosques and other holy sites upon or near places of great cultural significance to their enemies is something to which Muslims seem historically inclined. And while most Muslims may not consider themselves at war with the West, or Americans as an enemy of Islam, those who took down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 most certainly did, and still do. That is why I think that Raza and Fatah may be right.

To erect a monument in the form of the Ground Zero Mosque to the nihilistic, death-loving 9/11 terrorists is a slap in the face of everyone they murdered on that day, those who gave up their lives to rescue the survivors, and all of their families and friends. It would be allowing a symbol of enemy victory to desecrate hallowed ground.

Bruce made a great argument as to why, despite whatever intentions the mosque’s benefactors may have, it’s an affront to individual property rights and the rule of law to use the government to prevent the Ground Zero Mosque from being built.

Basically, I think he’s right. But I can’t help thinking that if, say, a group of Japanese decided to by some property right next to Pearl Harbor in order to erect a monument or shrine, we as American citizens might find some peaceful and non-coercive way of stopping that from happening.

As for the Ground Zero Mosque, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Coming down on the side of bigotry

This “Ground Zero” mosque controversy has begun to rankle me. It is my understanding that those who want to build the "ground zero" mosque own the property there.

Secondly, it really isn’t adjacent to the old World Trade Center site, but a few blocks away.

Even if it is adjacent, however, if the first part is true, then it is theirs to build what they wish. I may or may not be happy about it, but they are the property owners and what is built there is their business.

The Anti-Defamation League seems to understand that as well, however, under the guise of "doing what is right" it acknowledges the mosque builder’s rights but then dismisses them in favor of the bigotry of those who oppose them. In a statement they said:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right. So the bigotry expressed in this is "unfair, and wrong", but to hell with rights, we’ll side with the arbitrary and subjective "what is right".

An amazing statement coming from a group which was founded to fight bigotry against Jews.

Thankfully not all Jews feel that way.  They also understand how profoundly wrong headed the ADL’s statement is.  From J-Street:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

Exactly right.  Another way of saying all of this is “grow up”.  You either have religious freedom and ownership rights or you don’t.  It isn’t a “right” if it can be selectively applied under the arbitrary rubric of “what is right” fueled by bigotry.

And, as inevitable as the rising sun, you can count on politicians gearing up for a run for office to grab the populist opportunity to chime in and side with the bigots because it is the popular thing to do.  Newt Gingrich issued this statement:

Throughout its nearly 100 year history, the cause of religious tolerance has had no better friend than the Anti-Defamation League.  The organization’s stand today in opposition to the proposed 13-story Islamic Center near Ground Zero is entirely in keeping with that tradition.  They recognize the provocative nature of the proposal, that its construction will only result in more pain for the families of 9/11 victims and fan the flames of inter-religious strife.  Abe Foxman and the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League deserve praise for taking such a careful look at this issue and arriving at the right conclusion. 

And Gingrich’s spokesman had this to say:

Newt Ginrich’s spokesman told Salon in a phone interview today that building a mosque at Ground Zero "would be like putting a statue of Mussolini or Marx at Arlington National Cemetery."

That’s pure crap unless you want to make the same comparison to, oh I don’t know, a Catholic church in Spain following the Inquisition.

Look, this is manufactured “outrage” and pure and simple bigotry.  We are either a nation of religious tolerance and property rights or we’re not.  There’s no in-between.  It’s like every other right – you may not like all of what it brings, but that’s just the price of freedom.

~McQ

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Why Turkey’s change of attitude toward Israel is important and could be ominous

Someone apparently had an extra bowl of Cheerios this morning:

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, in a BBC interview on Wednesday. Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”.

The rhetoric keeps ratcheting up as if various Arab factions are trying to talk themselves into testing Israel again. It’s been a while, but the in the past the results have been uniformly bad for the Arab nations.

But there has been a recent change. Turkey is now talking tough as well. And, add in Iran’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the Arab world and suddenly it’s a little different ballgame.

Turkey’s inclusion against Israel in the rhetorical wars now being waged has encouraged many Arab pundits to hail the Turks and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the much awaited “leader” of the movement against Israel. One writer hailed him as “more Arab than the Arabs” while criticizing Arab leaders as too passive.

There have been huge pro-Turkey rallies in Gaza, Beruit and Damascus. Recently, text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during a June 4th Erdogan speech in Konya, some of which said: “Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs,” and “Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans.”

Hizbullah considers Erdogan the new rock star of anti-Israeli leadership, and some Gazans are naming their children after him.

What Turkey and Erdogan have apparently managed to do, according to one writer, is bring those who have rejected Hamas and Hizbullah because of their Iranian ties on board in a unified “Islamic” effort to confront Israel:

“Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi’a… They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi’ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.

“Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam.

Turkey seems to have finally rejected the west and put to rest its desire to be a part of it. Although it retains NATO membership, it appears to have no further interest in the EU. Turkey also appears to be again casting its eyes in the direction of its past glory – the Ottoman Empire. Certainly it isn’t pretending it would again rule over all of its former territories, but Turkey seems to feel it could be a major if not the major influence in the area of the Middle East. One sure way to work toward that goal is to take on Israel.

While it publicly claims it is still a secular nation ruled by secular institutions, this latest situation with Israel and Turkey’s reaction are all Islamic and designed to appeal to the Islamic world in general and the people of the Middle East specifically.

This is one of the conflicts that is brewing on the horizon. It is a new twist in a very old situation. But it promises real trouble if not addressed and defused quickly.

Of course, that will take leadership, not apology tours. I’m not sure that the US is up to the job. And I think the reason we’re hearing all this from Turkey now is they sense that is the case.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – Helen Thomas edition

As it turns out the quote isn’t from Helen Thomas, it’s about Helen Thomas:

Helen Thomas is as fair and open minded as she is good looking.

Usually I’m not one to attack an almost 90 year old woman, but then this particular 90 year old woman doesn’t at all mind attacking others, so it seems a wash.

And usually I’m not one to dwell on superficial things like physical appearance, but let’s face it (or not), she’s ugly. But what she said was very ugly as well. Another wash.

So now that I’ve totally rationalized it (hey, at least I’m honest about it), I found Jeff Dunetz line above to be hilarious. What more perfect a sentence to describe her?

Helen Thomas has now issued an “apology”. The scare quotes are to denote yet another in a long line of non-apology apologies. See if you agree:

“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”

Apparently that “heart-felt belief” about respect wasn’t very deep when she made the statements below in Billy’s post, was it?

~McQ

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Arab-American Miss USA

I note this for a single reason:

Fakih, an Arab-American from Dearborn, Mich., told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. She moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York, where she attended a Catholic school. Her family moved to Michigan in 2003.

Pageant officials said historical pageant records were not detailed enough to show whether Fakih was the first Arab American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title. The pageant started in 1952 as a local bathing suit competition in Long Beach, Calif.

How will the Arab nations accept Ms. Fakih’s win given she was seen “strutting confidently in an orange and gold bikini” during the contest?

Just curious.

~McQ

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Smearing The Religious

This is a favorite pastime of many on the left, and libertarians of all stripes. When in it’s the nature of busting biblethumpers’ chops, I get it. I mean, The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster? That’s just funny. As for those who simply question religion, well there is certainly a lot to question. I’m Catholic, a religion with plenty of black marks in its history, some of which rival (if not surpass) the Nazis in sheer disregard for human life and dignity. So, again, I get it. But sometimes the criticism and ribbing is nothing more than outright bigotry, designed to stoke popular hate against those who are religious.

The Huffington Post offers one of those latter critiques in a post entitled “American Family Association: Stone To Death Killer Whale Who Killed Trainer” about the tragedy at SeaWorld:

The American Family Association, a religious right group, is urging that Tillikum (Tilly), the killer whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, be put down, preferably by stoning. Citing Tilly’s history of violent altercations, the group is slamming SeaWorld for not listening to Scripture in how to deal with the animal:

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

However, the group is going further and laying the blame for the trainer’s death directly at the feet of Chuck Thompson, the curator in charge of animal behavior, because, according to Scripture,

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

SeaWorld has no plans to execute Tilly.

If you read nothing else other than the HuffPo piece, then the post’s title and implications make perfect sense. However, if you read the actual post being ridiculed by HuffPo, you may have a different opinion:

Now there are all kinds of theories as to why the “killer whale” did what it did, to include one which says it was just playing.

That could be, but whatever the reason it was an animal acting like it should. It kills things and eats them. It doesn’t moralize about what is or isn’t “good” or “evil”. It does what it is hard wired to do without thinking about it and certainly without concerning itself with the consequences. It certainly isn’t unreasonable to expect such an animal to act like it should.

Hmmm … actually, no. That wasn’t from The American Family Association, but instead from our very own Bruce McQuain. Here’s the AFA:

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “SeaWorld Orlando has always know that Tillikum…could be a particularly dangerous killer whale…because of his ominous history.”

The Sentinel then recounts that Tilly, as he was affectionately known, had killed a trainer back in 1991 in front of spectators at a now defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

Then in 1999 he killed a man who sneaked into SeaWorld to swim with the whales and was found the next morning draped dead across Tilly’s back. His body had been bit and the killer whale had torn off his swimming trunks after he had died.

What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?

You see the difference? McQ honed in with that laser-like focus that only Army Rangers possess on the most salient fact of the matter, i.e. that this was a wild animal known as a killer whale, while the AFA chose the lesser fact of … oh right, the same thing. So, now you know: McQ is a biblethumpin’ m’OH-ron.

To be fair to HuffPo, the AFA did cite scriptures as guidance for how people should live their lives when everybody knows they’re just for displaying on placards at football games. How silly to think that religious people who believe in the same things as the AFA would look to the word of God as having some wisdom that might imparted.

But it’s worse than that. Whether or not you agree with the religious aspect of the advice offered by the AFA, the actual Bible quotes cited in the ridiculed post weren’t referenced as literal commands to action, contrary to what HuffPo would have you believe. Instead, they were cited as guidance (there’s that word again) in how people should live their lives:

If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

If I were the family of Dawn Brancheau, I’d sue the pants off SeaWorld for allowing this killer whale to kill again after they were well aware of its violent history.

I’ve highlighted that last sentence because, in complete contrast to what HuffPo would have you believe, the AFA author never demanded, nor even suggested, that the killer whale or anyone else should be stoned. Instead, he suggested that the aggrieved party should sue through the civil system — and he’s right. There’s a doctrine known as the “one bite rule” which, while not exactly what people think it is, does pertain to domesticated wild animals in certain situations. And, in fact, the legal underpinnings hue quite closely to what the Bible scriptures say as far as assigning guilt is concerned:

Restatement [of Torts] § 519 states the general principle for liability, and § 520 provides several evaluative factors. Section 519 provides for strict liability for one “who carries on an abnormally dangerous activity” causing harm to persons or property even if he “has exercised the utmost care to prevent the harm.” Section 520 suggests evaluative factors to assist in determining if an activity should be termed abnormally dangerous, and includes (1) the degree of risk of harm; (2) the magnitude of that harm; (3) the inevitability of some risk irrespective of precautionary measures that might be taken; (4) the ordinary or unusual nature of the activity; and (5) the activity’s value to the community in comparison to the risk of harm created by its presence.

In short, when a known dangerous animal is mixed with humans in that animal’s natural environment, there is a pretty good chance that the owner of that animal will bear blame for any harm that befalls another party, without any excuse (that is, with “strict liability”).

Of course, I don’t mean to say that the tragic death of the animal trainer was unequivocally the fault of SeaWorld or anyone else. There are plenty of legal doctrines (“assumption of risk” comes to mind) that could exonerate the owners of Tilly, despite the Restatement of Torts passage above. The point is that what the AFA suggests — that the animal should have been put down after it demonstrated it was not entirely domesticable — using scriptures as its guidance, shouldn’t strike anyone as particularly strange or outlandish. The common law quite agrees with that verdict. Indeed, if evidence were produced that the slain trainer was never made aware of Tilly’s violent tendencies, then the common law might very well find that SeaWorld is legally culpable for the death to the tune of several millions of dollars.

Getting back to the point, what the AFA argues is not that anyone (other than the killer whale) should be put to death, but that Biblical scriptures provide common-sense guidance (again with that word!) as to how to peaceably conduct ourselves as a community of mankind; the emphasis being on “common sense.” No one other than HuffPo claims that stoning is the appropriate penalty, or that the owners of Tilly should be killed, contrary to what HuffPo would have you believe. At most, the AFA author contends that SeaWorld should have used the Bible’s counsel when it comes to protecting human life from wild animal aggression, and that the victim’s family should avail itself of the civil court system for SeaWorld’s failure to do so. One can disagree with that presumption, but it’s pretty difficult to argue that anyone other than SeaWorld (or whomever) would have been better off for not disposing of the killer whale after the first death. Whether anyone is guilty in the eyes of God for that failure is not for us to decide, but it’s certainly not delusional to think that a mortal judge may arrive at such a decision.

Whatever problems one might have with religion, I just don’t see the utility in deriding people of faith for suggesting that their tenets have practical advice to offer. That goes double for harangues that have no basis in reality. With just a little bit of investigation, one would find that most religious texts offer an enormous amount of practical advice of the type that even the non-religious take for granted. There’s lots of goofy stuff in there as well, including prescriptions that shouldn’t be taken literally in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean the principles aren’t sound. When someone of a religious persuasion offers advice pertaining to those common-sense principles, and counsels adherence to those principles, then no fair critic would claim that such person is instead calling for a literal interpretation of ancient penalties. But then, HuffPo isn’t striving for fairness, but for bigotry.