Tag Archives: Islam

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Questions Avoided and Answers Evaded

Boston marathon bombings - avoided questions and evaded answersI don’t personally watch very much television, and essentially zero television news. Like many others these days, I suppose, I largely read about the news that interests me on the internet. Yesterday was an exception, albeit that the television news broadcasts I was watching came via the internet, consisting of local Boston coverage of the pursuit of the marathon bomber(s). The tone of what I was watching fairly shocked me, the more so as the day went on. I know that political correctness is a very powerful force, but I would have thought that given the gravity and drama of what was going down, it would be superseded by a more fundamental journalistic drive to get at the truth. In this I was naïve.

The syndrome at work was epitomized by an interview I saw take place with some casual friends of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at UMass Dartmouth. They regularly played soccer with him, and, as with seemingly the great majority of his acquaintances, they had only benign things to say about him. The reporter interviewing them (I think it was WBZ but I couldn’t swear) was naturally enough trying to dig up anything that might have indicated that the younger Tsarnaev was capable of setting bombs to kill random innocent people. She was coming up empty in terms of his general demeanor. People seemed to find him likeable, if quiet. So, she asked: “Did he ever talk about politics?” She got a negative response. The interview went on a little bit, and then she asked the same question: “Did he ever talk about politics to you?” The same answer came back: no, he did not seem very concerned about political issues. The interview continued, with more on his general behavior and school-related activities. Then (as I recall it) she asked yet another time: “Did he ever talk about politics?” It got the same answer from his soccer-playing acquaintances as before: no, he did not. Asking the same question three times seemed kind of silly, but the really crowningly-silly thing was the avoidance of asking a fairly similar question that surely was crying out to be asked, given the circumstances. That would have been: “Did he ever talk about religion, about Islam?” Despite the knowledge at this point that he was a Muslim from Chechnya, where an Islamist insurgency has been active for years, and despite the knowledge already being disseminated elsewhere regarding various internet postings by him and his older brother indicating their favor for extreme Islamic ideas, a simple question to his friends about whether he discussed religion with them was seemingly off-limits. I have no idea what their answer would have been—whether he kept that aspect of himself private or not—but surely the question begged to be asked. Asking about “politics” over and over again was, I think, the reporter’s attempt to ask it without actually using the relevant word, as if some kind of crime would be committed by the mere suggestion from her that religious ideas might possibly have played a role in the violent terroristic actions of two young Muslim men. Continue reading Questions Avoided and Answers Evaded

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And in Australia too

The sad truth is that it is hard to be surprised—strike that: it is impossible to be surprised by displays of savagery on the part of Islamic “demonstrators” in places like Tripoli, Khartoum and Cairo. (Impossible, at least, if you don’t work for the U.S. State Department.)

But to get news like the following from Sydney, Australia is chilling on another level, and surely it should be.

Violent clashes erupted yesterday after demonstrators marched from Sydney’s Town Hall to Martin Place yesterday afternoon and confronted police outside the US consulate.

Some protesters allegedly threw glass bottles and other missiles at police, forcing officers to use capsicum spray during a melee that led to six police and 17 others being injured.

Seven men and one male juvenile were arrested, with six men so far charged with offences including assaulting police and animal cruelty, police said.

[…]

Waving banners with slogans such as “Behead all those who insult the Prophet”, protesters listened as one protester told the crowd: “We will never accept the assault on our prophet.”

The rally was the latest in a spate of demonstrations at US embassies and consulates in the Middle East, Africa, Britain and elsewhere against the film, Innocence of Muslims.

Protester Abdullah Sary, who said he wanted a peaceful protest, said although he had not seen the film, he was offended because it ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed.

“The prophet is more beloved then my family, my wife, my mother and myself. So if someone says this, you can see how upsetting it is.”

What is truly upsetting is this image of a man, in Australia, in the year 2012, speaking to a reporter and being glad to state publicly that “the prophet” is more beloved to him than his family, his wife and his mother. Continue reading And in Australia too

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Islam, Mohammed and free speech: Could honesty be the best policy?

Yesterday, four American diplomats were murdered in Benghazi, Libya, and the consulate destroyed. The U.S. embassy in Cairo was attacked and breached by a mob, and its flag set on fire. Although the murders seem to have been pre-planned to a significant degree, both outbursts of violence are said to have been sparked by the circulation of a clip on the internet of some amateur film made by Americans which casts Mohammed and Islam in a negative light. The violent Islamic mobs were trying to correct any mistaken, negative ideas about Islam.

The messages from the U.S. government have to one degree or another “deplored” or “condemned” the denigration of anyone’s religion (i.e. the YouTube clip) while saying there’s no justification for violence over it. In the middle of a political campaign, the opposition has made hay by painting the current administration as weak. And maybe the Obama administration is weak. However, it should be recalled that similar responses took place during the previous administration to outbursts in the Muslim world like this, and there is reason to wonder whether President Romney’s words in the future would be as tough as Candidate Romney’s words now. An excuse always offered for tiptoeing around the sensibilities of rampaging mobs in the Muslim world is that it would “put our troops in danger” to offend the enraged fanatics any further.

I don’t know how well this has worked to date. In any case, U.S. troops are no longer in Iraq. In Afghanistan, even as things stand, the greatest threat to American personnel appears to be uniformed members of the official Afghan army, who have been outfitted and trained by us.

There seems to be a problem with the “messaging” from the American side. When the U.S. president and secretary-of-state take pains to say in a situation like this that Islam should not be denigrated, they are leaving the impression that they might actually do something to stop it, or that they would like to. The First Amendment, we should hope, would constrain them. However, they are reinforcing the idea, already highly-prevalent in the Muslim world, that one day no one will be permitted to speak ill of Mohammed or Islam. There are even persistent efforts at the U.N. to pass what amount to “anti-blasphemy” resolutions.

Maybe the message from the U.S. needs to be simplified in cases like this (of which there are bound to be more, as anyone with a cell-phone camera can shoot a “blasphemous” video and upload it to YouTube). Maybe the message needs to be something more like this:

“We have freedom of speech in America, which absolutely includes the right to criticize religious beliefs. That is not ever going to change. Those who criticize others’ beliefs may be criticized in return, but they may not be physically assaulted because of their opinions. Anyone attacking American citizens, anywhere in the world, will be dealt with extremely harshly.” Continue reading Islam, Mohammed and free speech: Could honesty be the best policy?

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Fearful Pakistani Christians build a chapel in the woods … in Islamabad

It’s frankly demoralizing to continue contemplating the seemingly endless reign of brutality and hatred in what we know as the Islamic world. But to pretend it’s not happening is to surrender to a very dangerous delusion.

Via Robert Spencer (for whom the word indefatigable was invented):

In the middle of a forest in the Pakistani capital, a group of Christians has cut down trees to clear land and has begun to build a church out of branches after leaving their neighborhood in fear when one of their own was accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.

Myriam Monsenego

Mohammed Merah: a “Lone Wolf” and an Idea that Will Not Be Shamed

Myriam MonsenegoMohammed Merah was the twenty-three year-old jihadist who brutally murdered three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, which was a follow-up to his killing of three French soldiers earlier in March. His older brother, Abdelkader, reportedly has said that he “is proud” of Mohammed’s actions.

Those actions include not only the cold-blooded human slaughter itself, but Mohammed’s filming of the acts. He had already uploaded his videos to a jihadist website, to inspire his brothers in faith, including the footage of him killing a terrified eight year-old Jewish girl. From the New York Post:

Mohammed Merah is seen yanking Myriam Monsenego by her hair — then firing a bullet into her head while he holds her.

Officials believe Merah strapped on a camera before each murder and posted the videos on jihadi Web sites, where he believed they would inspire other al Qaeda wannabes.

Mohammed was not really innovating in what he did. Al-Qaeda and other jihadist killers have long used video recordings of their bloody slaughter of helpless victims to encourage, entertain and inspirit one another. None of these jihadist perpetrators should properly be called “lone wolves.” They share a philosophy and a network, one which continues to produce additional actors all over the world.

It’s not pleasant to contemplate this kind of evil. It’s natural to want to turn one’s head away and dismiss it as aberrant and incomprehensible. I’m as guilty of that inclination as anyone.

However, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, these acts raise questions that have to be reflected upon by anyone who desires to live oriented towards reality rather than a false rosy horizon. There is violence everywhere, and there always has been, but what is it that makes so many human beings today believe—without any apparent doubt or shame—that acts of this nature are not only desirable in the moment but objectively good? Mohammed Merah truly believed as he jumped out that window with bullets flying that he was on his way to heaven, to be with God and to be rewarded by God for the actions he had taken. God, he believed, was going to reward him for grabbing the hair of eight-year old Myriam Monsenego, yanking her head towards him and firing a bullet into her skull. His brother, still living, agrees, as do his fellows watching the videos on the jihadist websites. This is the same motivation which is behind countless acts of inexpressibly horrific violence going on around the world. (Most of it, of-course, takes place not in western nations like France, where it gets so much attention, but rather in Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, often directed against fellow Muslims, or in countries with burgeoning Muslim majorities like Nigeria.)

It is a very different quality of evil which is so confidently convinced of its own objective and eternal goodness, very different to the evil of pure blood-lust or of violent greed for money and power. It cannot be characterized as being completely unprecedented; people have been killed in the name of dark distortions of Christianity and of other religions before. However, surely it is unique in its imperviousness to the judgment of time and its apparent immunity to correction through reflective leadership and reform. Islam originated with Muhammad in the seventh century and, bluntly-speaking, the idea that killing people on the basis of who they are (Jews, Christians, infidels) can be regarded as an objective good has persisted since those earliest days. Of-course, it is not a behavior practiced by the majority of Muslims, as if that even needs to be said. But the idea itself that slaughtering even the helpless, even innocent children, on the basis of their non-submission to Islam can be good, laudable and holy: that idea has not gone away. And the consequences of that idea show no signs of abating in our modern world, in this twenty-first century. Far from it, as if that even needs to be said. President Obama is in Seoul this very day at a summit regarding nuclear proliferation. He has said that the danger of terrorists setting off a nuclear bomb in an American city is “the single most important national security threat that we face.” If or when that happens, it’s almost certainly going to be just one more consequence of this same idea. Millions may be destined for violent death in this century as a direct result of it.


Again, I feel I’m probably belaboring the obvious, and perhaps coming across as being naive, but every now and then, as these events proceed on and on, it is worth stopping to ask the basic questions, if only to resist falling into total callousness. Here is such a basic question: What is being done, within Islam, to defeat and eradicate this persistent idea? It is not enough for some imams or select Islamic spokespeople to react to the acts of a Mohammed Merah by saying, yet again, “This has nothing to do with Islam.” Yes, it did have something to do with Islam. Mohammed Merah believed he was going to heaven and would be rewarded for, among other things, grabbing eight-year old Myriam Monsenego by her hair while discharging his gun into her cranium. He believed this was a good thing, that it was something to proudly film and share to encourage others. And all around the world, more and more Mohammeds are convinced daily of the same basic idea, and are acting upon it. (If they are not killing Jews or infidels, they are killing fellow Muslims who they judge to be falling short in some way.) Why is it so apparently impossible for this idea to be fought and defeated by other Muslims? Why in fact does the horrible nature of such acts not produce a wave of shame that might extinguish the fire of would-be perpetrators?

I know that there are those who can write treatises in response to such questions, and I sometimes read them too. Maybe the answers are already out there. But sometimes you just have to stop and ask the questions again.

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Geert Wilders acquitted

Geert Wilders has been acquitted, by a Dutch court, of various “hate” related charges, brought against him because of his unflinchingly strong criticisms of and warnings about Islam. I think that it is a reason to be glad; Europe—or at least Holland—has given one small sign that it will not meekly commit cultural suicide by the blunt instrument of political correctness.

More on the result from Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch.

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The burning question on Korans and murders

Another copy of the Koran gets damaged (OK, destroyed), and rioting Muslim mobs on the other side of the world kill random non-Muslims in response. Yet, the focus seems to remain more on condemning the person who destroyed the copy of the book, instead of those who are killing human beings, and those religious leaders who are encouraging them to do so. As Robert Spencer says:

Everyone seems to take it for granted that if Muslims are offended, they will murder innocent people, and that instead of calling that irrational violence what it is, we should take pains not to offend Muslims, and blame those causing the alleged offense to the Muslims for the irrational violence.

Do we just go through the same cycle again this time? Do we simply wait for it to happen again without trying to change the way this issue is framed? People who don’t like Islam will sometimes damage or destroy Korans to express their point of view. It’s a crass and, I think, a counterproductive way of contending with an ideology and theology which one opposes, but — in the United States at least — it certainly cannot be outlawed.


At some point, we (and by that I especially mean our spokespeople in government) need to react to events like this not by seeming to validate the primitive, irrational and murderous behavior of these mobs and their mullahs, but by taking the opportunity to strongly emphasize the non-negotiable nature of the right of free expression in this country, and by condemning instead the concept of murdering people because they simply don’t share your religion. At some point, in other words, we have to stick up for what’s true, and attempt to convince others of that truth, instead of distorting what we claim to believe in the name of appeasing savage and bloodthirsty morons.

When will that point arrive?

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Increasingly lethal times for Christians

In Western Ethiopia, about fifty churches and dozens of houses belonging to Christians have been burned by Buddhist activists Muslim mobs, displacing thousands of people.

“The violence against Christians in Ethiopia is alarming because Ethiopian Muslims and Christians used to live together peacefully. Besides, it’s extremely disconcerting that in Ethiopia, where Christians are the majority, they are also the victims of persecution,” Jonathan Racho, ICC’s Regional Manager of Africa and South Asia, told FoxNews.com.

This is just the latest in a never-ending and bitter litany of attacks on Christians by militant Muslims in so many different areas of what’s sometimes called the “developing world.” Interesting developments indeed. Continue reading Increasingly lethal times for Christians

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Politically correct on Islam: To be or not be – that is the question

There are two stories whose headlines can be seen in various places today, and a comparison of the two seems instructive. One goes like this: Fort Hood shooting: Nine Army officers get reprimand for missing warning signs raised by Nidal Hasan.

The U.S. Army has announced that nine officers will be reprimanded in some way for “leadership failures relating to the career of Maj. Hasan.” Major Nidal Hassan shot 13 people to death at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, and wounded 32 others, in what was by far the deadliest jihadist attack in the United States since September 11th, 2001. For some of the officers involved, the reprimands are described as “career-ending.” Continue reading Politically correct on Islam: To be or not be – that is the question

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Chaput is right

And, in an important sense, Bush was wrong (as is Obama today), in not insisting on this as a premise in both Afghanistan and Iraq. At Georgetown University today the Archbishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, gave a speech which included the following:

The global situation is made worse by the inaction of our own national leadership in promoting to the world one of America’s greatest qualities: religious freedom.

This is regrettable because we urgently need an honest discussion on the relationship between Islam and the assumptions of the modern democratic state. In diplomacy and in interreligious dialogue we need to encourage an Islamic public theology that is both faithful to Muslim traditions and also open to liberal norms. Shari’a law is not a solution. Christians living under shari’a uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity. Continue reading Chaput is right