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The gift that keeps on giving
Posted by: McQ on Friday, September 28, 2007

Thanks Bollinger. Thanks Columbia:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has extended an invitation to U.S. President George W. Bush to speak at an Iranian university if the American leader ever traveled to the Islamic Republic, state-run television reported Friday.

As part of his controversial trip to New York, the hardline Iranian leader spoke Monday at Columbia University, where he faced hostile questioning and a combative introduction by the university's president, who said Ahmadinejad exhibited "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."

"If their president plans to travel to Iran, we will allow him to make a speech" at a university, Ahmadinejad told state TV before leaving New York to travel to South America earlier this week.
I've taken a lot of grief from the "enlightened" among us who just don't understand why I'm so PO'd about Columbia's invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

They cannot conceive of what advantage Ahmadinejad enjoys by being invited to the campus, rudely dressed down and then "harshly questioned" afterward(hint: it isn't how he is perceived here, but how he ends up being perceived at home and elsewhere in the region he is trying to dominate).

It's called propaganda folks, and as has been clear since that day at Columbia that he's won that battle handily. This is simply another indicator of the propaganda gift Columbia's president gave the Iranian dictator.

(HT: Scott Jacobs)
 
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Geez, with the Iranian president’s speech at Columbia, skepticism about some soldier’s war stories, and a silly ad by an advocacy group, you are really tackling the big issues of the day. Keep up the good work.

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
you are really tackling the big issues of the day
Well they are certainly huge news stories.
 
Written By: jows
URL: http://
This David seems somehow familiar.
 
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
Yeah, why would anybody care about a propaganda op offered to the foremost security threat in the world, right Dave?

A-job is just going to milk this thing. The right thing to do with the guy is ignore him. Too late now, eh?
 
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://
McQ, perhaps you’re so "in" to the world of blogs and political discourse you see propaganda as driving events, rather than them being driven primarily by real interests, capacities and strategic concerns. It’s like the time you claimed that leaving Iraq would give Bin Laden a propaganda victory, so we have to stay. Really bad decisions are made when one doesn’t focus on the reality and substance of an issue but instead worries what others might say or that others might take it as some kind of victory. I see that in net debates here, people get so concerned about how something will look, that some people become convinced they can’t even admit when they make an obvious error.

Consider: Once McQ you made an argument that seemed to suggest that reform in Islam was impossible because Islam was defined as a timeless religion, with the Koran having a meaning which cannot be interpreted. I pointed out that this view of Islam is one interpretation, and not only are there others out there now, but historically there has been Islamic rationalism, Islamic scholars who attempted to connect Islam to Aristotle, debates about whether the Koran was invited or existed forever (the invited side was on top for awhile and persecuted the ones who claimed it was a part of God), and of course phenomena like Sufism. In short, you were wrong in stating that there could not be an Islamic reformation or reform of Islam. It’s just that the current ulama or religious clerics currently have the power to interpret religious doctrine, and they do it in an exceedingly conservative manner.

Why couldn’t you just admit error? Why make snide comments instead? Do you think it would make you look weak to say I was right about something once, and you were wrong? This is less about truth than personal propaganda wars? If so, is this the same kind of thinking that makes you so concerned about how something might be used as propaganda? Are you so caught up in the political arguments that they have become even more important than the substance of the situation? Columbia’s President could go to Iran tomorrow and engage Ahmadinejad and it would have very little value to Ahmadinejad in real terms, no matter what the Iranian media or American media did. Look at strategic interests, capacities, alliances, military strength, etc., for a sense of what really matters in dealing with Iran. Because whether your realize it or not, you’re dealing with trivial things here. (Yes, I know, the retort is that this is what people say when they want to avoid an issue — but by that logic nothing can be labeled trivial because it is really trivial, so that really isn’t much of a response).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erbie, hows about he admit his error once you’ve admitted to even half of yours.
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Well, Scott, what errors do you want me to admit to? (I think I’ve admitted to errors three times in the last couple days) Whenever presented with evidence of an error, I’ll take it seriously and if I was wrong then I admit it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Columbia’s President might matter visiting Iran and going to an ambushgive a speech if he were not merely President of a college.

Ahmedinejad isn’t merely President of the U of Tehran.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Consider: Once McQ you made an argument that seemed to suggest that reform in Islam was impossible because Islam was defined as a timeless religion, with the Koran having a meaning which cannot be interpreted. I pointed out that this view of Islam is one interpretation, and not only are there others out there now, but historically there has been Islamic rationalism, Islamic scholars who attempted to connect Islam to Aristotle, debates about whether the Koran was invited or existed forever (the invited side was on top for awhile and persecuted the ones who claimed it was a part of God), and of course phenomena like Sufism. In short, you were wrong in stating that there could not be an Islamic reformation or reform of Islam. It’s just that the current ulama or religious clerics currently have the power to interpret religious doctrine, and they do it in an exceedingly conservative manner.

Why couldn’t you just admit error?
Was he really in error?

Different interpretions are not always equal. Specifically, interpretations that contradict text are not equal to those that argee with the text. The fact that some Muslims can rationalize various interpretations isn’t surprising.

I’m curious that you say that an "invented" interprtation of the Koran was once "on top". I’m pretty sure that Gabriel presented the Koran to Mohommad, and it takes quite a bit of rationalization to get past that.

When and where was the "invented" interpretation dominate?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
When and where was the "invented" interpretation dominate?
I must admit to that same curiosity - after all, ’invented’ implies Mohammed didn’t receive if from a divine source of any kind, ever.

Oh, I can see his contemporaries claiming he was a looney and that he’d concocted the whole thing, and that at one point, just as with the Christ, he was recognized by only a small group of followers, but that doesn’t really count because it should be obvious that that sort of fledgling stage had to occur for any religious beliefs that have ever been held.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
No one claimed that different interpretations were equal. Clearly before the Christian reformation the Church had a monopoly on providing an interpretation of the Bible. Yet:
interpretations that contradict text are not equal to those that argee with the text.
But different interpretations by definition means different ways to determine what the text means. Thou Shall not Kill is a pretty straightforward commandment, but it is rare to find Christian pacifists who refuse to kill in any circumstance. You find other things in the text, and find ways to create an interpretation that arguably alters the meaning that seems inherent in the text. And if war and the death penalty do contradict what the Bible commands, the state of Christianity today and really for centuries shows that a contradictory interpretation can not only come out on top, but become dominant for a long period.

So you get a bunch of interpretations, all which claim to be correcting understanding the text, while claiming others contradict the text.

Here is a bit from Reza Aslan’s No God But God (p. 140)

"The inquisition begins with a simple question: Is the Quran created by God, or is it uncreated and coeternal with God? Sitting atop his throne of gleaming gold and precious gems, the young Abassid Caliph, al-Mu’tasim (d. 842) remains apathetic as one by one ’the learned men of God’ — the ulama — are dragged before him in shackles...if they admit the Quran is a created thing (the dominant theological position of those who are called ’rationalists’), they are free to return to their homes and continue their teaching. If, however, they still contend that the Quran is uncreated (the position of the so-called ’Traditionalists’) they are flogged and thrown into prison."
Right now the traditionalist theory holds (it served the Ottoman Empire well and they used their military power to ensure other interpretations were put aside) and the ulama decide dogma. But new ideas, contentions within Islam (including from extremists like Bin Laden) are threatening that authority. With new technology, western influences, and change, it’s unlikely the ulama can hold this power. That’s going on in the Islamic world; it’s not so much Islam vs. the West but an internal struggle over the future of Islam.

 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Once McQ you made an argument that seemed to suggest that reform in Islam was impossible because Islam was defined as a timeless religion, with the Koran having a meaning which cannot be interpreted.
Nope. I never made that argument.

But it comes as no surprise that you don’t know that.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Here is a bit from Reza Aslan’s No God But God (p. 140)
Okay, so, you’re saying the interpretation that the traditionalists held was that Mohammed more or less received a soft copy that he turned into a hard copy, and that the paperback (sorry, can’t help myself) edition just always was, along with Allah?

Hmmmm, interesting mental picture, Allah, and a ’book’ sitting together in a sort of eternal waiting room, okay, an empty waiting room, okay, without the room. Probably no chairs or tables there, and certainly no homey pictures of mosques or attractive green ornamental plants.
I’m going to Muslim hell aren’t I?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Nope. I never made that argument.

But it comes as no surprise that you don’t know that.
Sorry, I thought you had made the argument that Islam could not have a reformation or reform because of the nature of the religion. I’ll trust you that you didn’t make that argument, and apologize for claiming you had.

Looker, yes, the traditionalists consider the Koran to be part of Allah (though they’d say the notion of ’part’ was misguided, the Koran is an internal expression of Allah. Rationalists said it was created by Allah, noting that the Koran’s passages changed over time — at first alcohol in moderation, then ultimately no alcohol, for instance. It’s often said this was done so the Ummah would have time to adjust to new ways, but that would seem to suggest Allah created the Koran and it was not always a part of god. (I must apologize for using the word ’invention’ above, that made it sound like a human creation — create, not invent was the proper term).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Yeah, invention was probably not the best word to use, but the citation got me around that issue since it was clear that wasn’t what you intended.

I want whatever the traditionalists were smoking when they wrapped their minds around that concept. I’m not sure why they insisted an operators manual must have existed since the existence of a supreme being would be sufficient and wouldn’t require any text for validation.
Yeah, I can see where ’part’ would be misguided, but there has to be some way to voice the concept, and well, that just doesn’t work well in English any other way.
Envisioning the concept an eternal being is right up there too.
What a drag being mortal and limited in thought.

Best iconoclastic messing with that I’ve ever seen, was, as I recall, Berke Breathed cartoon where a mystic explains that the world on the back of an elephant, and when asked what the elephant is standing on he says "a turtle", when asked again - same answer -
finally in frustration after several "what’s he on" he shouts
"It’s turtles! All the way down!"
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
LOL! I’ll have to look for the Berke Breathed cartoon.

Unfortunately the traditionalists dominate today, and unlike Christianity, who brought in reason with Aristotle (ironically because Thomas Aquinas discovered him through the writings of Muslim scholars), Islam remains in the hands of those who think the perfect would would be like Yathrib (Medina) around 625 AD. The Ottomans didn’t mind this, that view of Islam helped them maintain their empire and claims of control, and thus when the West modernized and past the Ottomans in the 17th century there was nothing the Ottomans could do to really catch up, their religion held them back. I really think that we’re seeing the start of some messy battles in the Islamic world as the traditionalists try to hold on, but the pull of markets and globalization make it harder to do so. Muslims that come west tend to modernize, whether in Europe or the US. But it’s not going to busy — just like it wasn’t easy for the Christian world.

Still, I’m relatively optimistic — somehow I think that reason and liberty are very, very powerful, even in the face of superstition with a long tradition.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
"Thou Shall not Kill is a pretty straightforward commandment..."

Ia that actually the commandment?
 
Written By: anonymous
URL: http://
The commandment actually states "Thou shalt not murder." Killing for a good reason is fine.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
1) I disagree with your main point. Iranians and supporters of Iran will see that even in one of the bastions of American Leftism, Mahmoud and his boilerplote soundbites were rejected. And if the American Left doesn’t want to defend Mahmoud, then something is seriously wrong (from their point of view).

2) The concept of the Quran being co-existent with Allah has been called inlibration by at least one scholar, in imitation of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation (made book—made flesh). Like almost everything in Islam, it is a version of a Jewish idea, in this case the Jewish view of the relationship between the Deity and the Torah—but taken a couple of degrees further than Judaism ever took the original concept. Think of Scripture being the primary expression by which God is made known to humanity—the parallel in Christianity being Christ, a person through whom God is make known to humanity—existing with God from or before the first moment of Creation, and, unless you’re a theologian, you can probably be safe leaving it at that.

And, BTW, Mohammed’s original reaction to the appearance of Gabriel was, according to the traditional biography, to believe himself crazy, and it was not until his wife declared her belief in the vision that he himself believed. So you can blame it all on the woman, if you want.

3) Islamic history records a wide variety of beliefs regarding acceptable limits on interpretation, and in fact Mahmoud and his fellow Shia in general allow for greater flexibility in interpretion than the Sunnis do. But to declare that the traditional view (if in fact it really is the traditional view) is the only legitimate Islamic view is simply to put yourself in the camp of the jihadis. Not only that, it’s not your call to make, anymore than any Moslem could decide whether Calvinism or Catholicism is the true version of Christianity. The only thing you can do is stand on the side lines and do whatever you can to help those Moslems who do think interpretation can be flexible, and that Islamic law does not need to be set in 9th century concrete, win.
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
"you are really tackling the big issues of the day"

What is it with all these people? Is a sense of humor unfashionable now? Life is too short. Laugh lines are more attractive than frown lines. Sheesh.
****************************

"Erbie, hows about he admit his error once you’ve admitted to even half of yours."

Not enough bandwidth.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Eisenhower entertained Khruschev.

There was a time when the political right in this country was mature. That time has long passed.

Sad.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Sad.
What’s truly sad is you’ve never had an original thought or idea of your own but are left to regurgitate the discredited ideas of others.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Ahem -
Wow....I had no idea, but I’m certain I saw it as a cartoon (Sunday script), and it would have been around 1995-1996. (Mainly because I recall standing around in the God Pod at EDS talking to a buddy and laughing over it...however, I digress...as usual....)

Here’s the (must be true!) Wikipedia reference to "turtles all the way down".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

As I said, I had no idea it had serious philosophical depth....
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Great comedy appeals often to different audiences who understand something at a different level. I hadn’t known of the phrase before, perhaps a handful who saw that strip related it to the issue you cited from Wikipedia. That’s why I always loved Berke Breathed’s work — sometimes I got the deeper humor, but more often I suspect I just enjoyed the ’lower’ humor. The Simpsons works the same way, and of course Monty Python were the masters.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I’ve taken a lot of grief from the "enlightened" among us who just don’t understand why I’m so PO’d about Columbia’s invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And rightly so. Oddly enough, your own post pretty well proves as much, were you not married to the opposite view. After all, if Ahmadinejad really believed, as you apparently do, that getting invited and publicly slammed was good for him, then WTF reason would he have to invite his sworn enemy for a round of the same?
 
Written By: Xrlq
URL: http://xrlq.com/

 
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