Thursday, December 18, 2008

"He rapes women like you"

A short excerpt from Michael Totten's latest post:
I heard Captain Looney's voice in the back room where the women and children had been corralled. The woman who had screamed when her door was broken down was crying hysterically.

“I've been in Iraq too long for your crying to affect me,” Captain Looney said in a hard, even, and no-bullshit tone of voice.

She stopped crying instantly. She didn't even continue to sob. She just stopped as if the captain had flipped off a switch...

A real spine-tingling tale. Read it all in On the Hunt in Baghdad, and please consider sending Michael a donation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Debunking "Ben-Gurion on Pakistan"

In our discussion of the fallout from the Mumbai Massacre, rabid anti-Zionist "DrM" produced this quote:
“The world Zionist movement should not be neglectful of the dangers of Pakistan to it. And Pakistan now should be its first target, for this ideological State is a threat to our existence. And Pakistan, the whole of it, hates the Jews and loves the Arabs. “This lover of the Arabs is more dangerous to us than the Arabs themselves. For that matter, it is most essential for the world Zionism that it should now take immediate steps against Pakistan. “Whereas the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula are Hindus whose hearts have been full of hatred towards Muslims, therefore, India is the most important base for us to work there from against Pakistan. “It is essential that we exploit this base and strike and crush Pakistanis, enemies of Jews and Zionism, by all disguised and secret plans.”
- David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minister.His words, as printed in the Jewish Chronicle,9 August 1967

Could this quote be true and accurate? I decided to investigate. I discovered that the London Jewish Chronicle (now called "The JC"), the only possible candidate for the "Jewish Chronicle" mentioned in the "quote", wasn't even published on the given date - it is published weekly - and an internet search of their archive for 1967-1974 using the search term "Pakistan" fails to reveal the "quote".

I notified LJC of the "quote" and continued my investigation. I discovered these words apparently first appeared on the internet for six years ago, in this article at Rense citing a now-defunct link at the "Baluchistan Post" as its source. Baluchistan is a region of Pakistan adjacent to Afghanistan, and its capital, Quetta, is allegedly the current headquarters of the Taliban and a known refuge, if not a headquarters, for Al-Qaeda.

The "quote" has an interesting Internet history. At the Pakistan Defense Forum, where it was under serious discussion, I announced my findings. Reactions ranged from amusement to denial:

Roadrunner: I don't know if the quote is true anyhow. I'm seeing why so many websites are reporting it. It might have been pulled -

I responded:

"Interesting, you confess you don't know if it's true, then proceed as if it is. There was no article to be pulled if the JC wasn't published on the alleged date! Yet you may have hit something: what is the thinking behind quoting something, then alleging it was concealed afterward?

"In Muslim cultures it seems to be important to portray crime or aggression against non-Muslims as a justifiable defensive response. I suppose a little fib like faking a quote would certainly help . The earliest versions of the "quote" always contain this preface:
If there is still any doubt as to the real intentions of Israel, then please see this statement issued by David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minister. His words, as printed in the Jewish Chronicle, 9 August 1967, leave nothing to imagination:

So the avowed purpose of "citing" the "quote" is to establish beyond any doubt that Israel is Pakistan's enemy.

"Think back, if you will, to those heady days of May, 2002 - the furthest back I've been able to trace the story, supposedly in the Baluchistan Post. Iraq had not yet been invaded, the Taliban and Al Qaeda had been tossed out of Afghanistan to hide in the NWFP, and it was Yassir Arafat who was stealing the Islamists' thunder by bombing Israeli civilians almost every day. What could be more natural for an Al-Qaeda seeking a new direction and renewed prominence than to attempt to compete with Arafat by shifting the struggle to Palestine and renewing its strength by drawing local Pakistani recruits into its ranks? The faked quote would thus be a necessary preliminary to recruitment, and if somebody happened to point out that there was no evidence of it, it could always be said that it was "concealed afterward".

"After 2002, it seems the "quote" slept for quite a while, until July or September of this year. Perhaps it was revived then to provide justification for the upcoming attack upon Nachiman House? Certainly the "quote" was quick to appear afterward. I'm disappointed by how quickly it was seized upon by Pakistanis, and how nobody bothered to try to verify it until now. When one considers the gullibility of so many Pakistanis, don't you think it makes us ignorant Westerners look almost wise by comparison?"

Debunking this took a lot of time and effort. It is quite unfair, very similar to debating "truthers". However, it seems many Muslims expect non-Muslims to do this kind of hard work for them, rather than checking the sources themselves. I wish it could be different, for in one respect debunking isn't always effective.

I recall one example, from five years ago, over at the now-defunct French-American discussion board that was hosted at After I showed my interlocutor that the anger he felt towards the U.S. was undeserved (because the article that had provoked him was marked "satire" and he didn't catch that) he noted that although he accepted the correction intellectually, he still felt angry towards America; his emotions remained fixed by his first, false impression of the USA.

Israel's stance towards Pakistan in the 40+ years since 1967 is best measured by its actions. Israel took little notice of Pakistan. Just consider that Israel did not respond to Pakistan's nuclear bomb development by conventional air attacks or a nuclear strike that would devastate Pakistan's population, as one would expect if the "quote" was an important guide to Israeli policy. The last time I recall an Israeli mentioning Pakistan was Peres' statement a few years back that he prayed for Musharraf's safety.

When will Arabs and Muslims grasp the fact that by giving in to anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism they are supporting the very tyrannies that threaten them and keep them chained?

Update, 12/16/08

Looks like "Michael Browne", a commenter on Truthdig, caught it first. link

Update, 2/6/11

Acknowledgment that Ben-Gurion's hostility to Pakistan is phony from a Pakistani general:

"A clearly forged statement, in which the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, terms Pakistan a threat to the existence of Israel, is quoted on many websites." link

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quote of the Year

'The truth will make you free' is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished...

"...There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of 'cut-throats.' It is the terrorism of the 'cut-tongues,' that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane."

- Magdi Cristiano Allam

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Slow Death of the Saudi Interfaith Dialogue Initiative

The Saudis appear to be reverting to the narrow definition of dialogue developed in June at the Mecca Preparatory Conference: that of dialogue as proselytization, rather than mutual and active listening. The U.N. Dialogue meeting is cited as "proof" of the monarchy's good intentions - thus letting the Saudis off the hook for any failure from this point forward. From here, I expect that the Saudi Interfaith Dialogue Initiative is quite dead. Only Minister of Culture and Information Iyad bin Amin Madani seems to consider dialogue as a means of rapprochement - assuming rapprochement isn't considered another euphemism for proselytization.

Curiously, although it is acknowledged that Muslim terrorists are the problem, the solution advocated is increased education of non-Muslims. How exactly is that supposed to help?

Friday, November 28, 2008

War in Mumbai: Who Did It?

Something smells here. It doesn't feel like an Al Qaeda attack because the groups were small and no big bombs went off. It doesn't feel like a Taliban or pirate attack because no targets-of-opportunity were engaged.

This feels like a Spetsnaz-style diversionary assault: a platoon of men divided into groups of two to four dispersed to attack fixed targets in an economically or politically sensitive area, thus tying down police and military forces that otherwise might be free to engage in conventional warfare.

No, I don't think the Russians did it. However, it does strike me that an attack like this is just what Pakistan would have prepared to undertake in the event of a general war to liberate Kashmir. An operation pre-planned, with operators pre-trained and ready to go with a single phone call. Something that would be part of a larger operation, but with a diversionary element that would be the responsibility of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

But now the new Pakistani government has been trying to reign in the ISI. Perhaps some rogue decided to set his group in motion as revenge. He might even have thought that he could keep his power and influence by doing so.

No wonder Pakistan promised full cooperation. Let's see how they live up to that promise.

Update, 11/29/08

So far, not very well: instead of sending the ISI boss, the Pakistanis, in response to domestic political pressure, are sending an unnamed lower-ranking official.

The ISI boss is new to the job, but he reports to his newly-elected political masters. Any information given to him will be applied to reinforce Pakistan's shaky democratic roots. A lower-ranking official lacks direct accountability, and his loyalties are more open to question. Will his report benefit the Pakistani government or the vested interests of the ISI and its subordinate terrorist groups? Thus it will be no surprise if the Indians are less than open with this envoy.

Furthermore, Pakistan has pointed out that if tensions with India rise they will abandon their offensive against the Taliban and move their troops to the India border. The prospect of a general war with India will surely freeze all discharges of intelligence personnel. It looks like some in the ISI are close to winning another round in their battle to imperil democracy in South Asia.

Update, 12/1/08

More ugly details: the dead at Nariman house had this distinction:
“Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims [Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka] bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again,” he said.
The Rabbi and his wife are what we Jews call our martyrs - victims of violence simply because they peacefully served G-d as Jews.

There are reports that the terrorists had intimate knowledge of the Chabad House because the terrorists had roomed there posing as Malaysian students. So they returned to torture and murder their host. The next time Muslims accuse others of “Islamophobia” - an unreasonable fear of Islam - they would do well to consider this incident, for if the Holtzbergs had feared Muslims more and refused the “students” lodging, they would have suffered less or not at all.

I find one tiny, hopeful note: a Muslim graveyard in Mumbai has refused to accept the bodies of the terrorists for burial: "People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim. Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." (H/T: Kashmiri Nomad)

Related: The 3-step system to make a suicide terrorist.

Update, 12/3/08:

Apparently there were a total of six "Jewish and Israeli" victims at Chabad House. In the newspapers and blogs, both Indians and Pakistanis are claiming total support from the world's major powers, a distortion. For example, both China and the U.S. express support for Pakistan's elected government, but nonetheless are conducting their own investigations in the belief that the attack originated in Pakistan.

Also, I consider it a bad sign that although many Muslim leaders have condemned the attack, they usually have refused to condemn the perpetrators unless they believe they are non-Muslims. This is leaves the door open to blaming the victims and absolving the terrorists' leaders. Don't laugh. Pakistani President Zardari says he wants to try Pakistanis connected to the attack in Pakistan, rather than extradite them to India - yet Zardari claims, "The state of Pakistan is, of course, not involved" and refers to terrorists as "stateless individuals".

How does he know that? Yet it should be pointed out that it remains to be conclusively proved in public that the Mumbai Massacre terrorists are of Pakistani origin, and noted that local Pakistani investigators have tried on their own initiative to discover the family of the one terrorist captured alive, but without success.(H/T "Marlin" at The Long War Journal)

Update, 12/6/08

Israeli psychologists arrive in Mumbai to help Indians deal with trauma. link

CNN's has interviewed the nurse of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg. link

Indian Muslims denounce terror: "There are some organisations and religious leaders doing awful things in the name of Islam like the Indian Mujaheedin, Al Qaeda and Taliban. We want to spread the message that killers of innocents are enemies of Islam” link

The Pakistani home village of the captured terrorist has been located. link

"The question facing New Delhi and also the US is how to strengthen the hands of the democratic government in Pakistan and at the same time hit out at the army and the ISI." link

"Pakistan is the only country in the world that negotiates with a gun to its own head."

"Pak on track to being named terrorist state" link

Condoleezza Rice reportedly told Pakistan that there is ‘irrefutable evidence’ of involvement of elements in the country in the Mumbai attacks and that it needs to act urgently and effectively to avert a strong international response. link

"US moves to declare former Pakistani officers international terrorists" link

Pakistan awaiting ‘concrete proof’ - but doesn't say what that could be. link

"The present assaults in Mumbai are qualitatively different. They are not acts of war; they are acts intended to provoke war....The Pakistani public is neither prepared nor equipped for a war against India." link

Pakistan went into a state of ‘high alert’ last weekend after a threatening phone call made to President Asif Ali Zardari by someone from Delhi who posed himself as the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. link

"When nuclear arsenals are involved, with insecure men in charge, doom cannot be ruled out." link

Clearly the emphasis is on provoking a conflict with India, and maybe with Washington as well. Only the ISI benefits in the current situation - and they possess all the means and motive necessary to produce it and nurture its murderous fruit, perhaps aiming to produce a bountiful harvest of death. (The ISI guys will just head for bunkers, hide in the hills, or leave the country altogether.) Can the ISI be stopped?

Update, 12/8/08

The terrorists' diary has been found. link

The State Department doesn't think that Pakistan is cooperating fully with the investigation - not yet, anyway. link

"The 'Islamophobia' canard after Mumbai"

Jihad terror justified by Pakistani general: link

Update 12/9/08

Terrorist talked to Chabad in NY before killing Rabbi. link:
During the time he held Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg; Holtsberg's wife, Rivka; and four other visitors to the center, Imran [one of the terrorists] repeatedly answered Holtsberg's mobile phone, talking to representatives of the Chabad movement in New York.

Imran spoke softly, said P.V. Viswanath, who translated the phone conversations in Urdu for Chabad officials.

"I think that shows something about his state of mind, it was very calm and collected," Viswanath told the AP in New York, where he is a finance professor at Pace University.

Viswanath, who grew up in Mumbai and is an Orthodox Jew, said Imran didn't display any anger or hatred for Jews. "He didn't say anything about Israel or make any anti-Semitic comments."

The terrorists did not kill out of personal antagonism. They may even have liked the Rabbi and his wife - they met them while pretending to be Malaysian students - but killed them anyway, because that was their job.

Meanwhile, in a game very dangerous to South Asia, Pakistan tells its own English-speaking population that it is pledged to "full cooperation", while it tells the rest of the world that it won't hand over any terrorists or their masters to India for extradition or questioning. That this furthers the impression of Pakistan as a state that trains and employs "stateless individuals" to attack others, simultaneously hiding them from justice behind its nuclear shield, is not reported. As the Pakistani Information Minister put it, “Pakistani media kept the country’s interests and the regional interest supreme and did not report anything that could lead to tension and contradictions.”

I grew up in the early 70s with Pakistani diplomats as neighbors, and liked and admired them and the country they represented, but that was a different era. One Pakistani writer traces the roots of Muslim extremism trace back to the policies of President Zia, though in my opinion the decay started with Pakistan's first democratic crisis back in 1958: as the legitimacy for rule grew thin, Pakistan's rulers increasingly leaned on Islam as a crutch. Now, it seems, as long as Pakistan's leadership refuses to be bold, violence may ebb and flow, but we will always have Pak-inspired terrorism with us.

Update, 12/10/08

What hard evidence do the Indians have of Pakistani involvement? The terrorists, spooked by a passing Indian coast patrol, forgot to destroy their satellite phone and GPS. The Indians got them both and all their records when they examined the boat the terrorists captured before the Mumbai assault. Additional details about satphone's calls may soon be available from its provider in the UAE.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, established by the U.S. Congress last year, just issued a report bluntly stating that
The President must make securing biological and nuclear materials in Pakistan a priority. Congress should ensure that sufficient funding is available for this purpose, and other countries such as Russia and China should be enlisted to contribute to this effort.

There is a precedent: the U.S. took the lead in securing the nuclear materials of several Eastern European countries after the fall of the Soviet Union. I expect that this report will be highly influential in shaping future U.S. policy towards Pakistan. (H/T: Times of India)

Update, 12/14/08

Deduction as to why India doesn't trust Pakistan when it comes to sharing intelligence. link A call for action. Confession. Denial and excuses. Denial II. Denial III. "Hare-brained theories" Terrorist asks Pakistan for legal help. link
President Zardari acknowledges that “Supporters of authoritarianism in Pakistan and non-state actors with a vested interest in perpetuating conflict do not want change in Pakistan to take root.” My recommendation for Pakistan's government and my conviction that those "under arrest" in Pakistan will not be extradited or charged with a crime and will probably be released. link link

Update, 12/15/08

Dawn gets it right. Regardless of who was responsible -
there is an infrastructure with organisational, financial and operational resources to recruit, indoctrinate and train the jihadis. Clearly, such an infrastructure cannot exist and operate without an element of tolerance or support from powerful elements aligned to state agencies...Either the nation’s intelligence agencies are completely incompetent or totally complicit...It would, therefore, be prudent for the country’s security leadership to undertake to renounce the highly counterproductive use of non-state actors as a policy tool and launch a full-fledged clean-up operation on their own initiative.

- including neutralizing the terrorists' handlers. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen, as Pakistan's policy of using "non-state actors" dates back to 1948.

Update, 12/19/08

This is getting silly: He's not. Oh yes he is!

Pakistan has moved very far from the initial promise of "full cooperation". All evidence must be provided by foreigners, Pakistani records will not be revealed and Pakistani persons of interest may not be interviewed by investigators or journalists.

The Pakistani government has lost my respect. It may be a long time before I can view its representatives with the dignity they think is their due.

Update 8/3/10

It appears that Nariman House was the primary target of the Mumbai attacks. The motivation was, apparently, sheer anti-Semitism: link

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Muslim Tolerance and Terrorists

This letter from the Pakistani newspaper Dawn deserves to be reproduced in full:
Lack of tolerance

A country hated all over the world for its policies and its administration; and a country which not long ago had two different laws for the White and the Black; where Black people were not allowed to enter various places or to sit in the same place as white Americans.

This country has shown and practised one of the most fundamental rules of humanity ..... Tolerance. In the concession speech, Senator McCain accepted his defeat like a gentleman despite deep-rooted political, cultural, class and racial differences. Mr McCain’s speech was devoid of any ill-feelings as he congratulated the winner.

Muslims claim that tolerance is part and parcel of their religion. But do they practise it? Have any of the elections, especially in Pakistan, started and ended without blood shed and have any of the assemblies tried to work together with the opposition?

Have any of the assemblies been devoid of walkouts, name calling and abuse between members? This can go on and on if we were to list instances of intolerance practised by so-called pious and devout Muslims.

It is time our political and religious leaders learnt some basic lessons from non-Muslims who practise Islamic teachings better than Muslims.


Why don't all Muslims think like Kamal Hamid? How are Muslims transformed into intolerant terrorists? It turns out to be very easy, as detailed in this article from the Telegraph describing the life of a "failed suicide bomber". There are three steps:

1) First, several years of an exclusively religious education, such as a madrassa, with an emphasis on selective isolation from outside influences and knowledge, not permitting the subject to verify any "truths" for himself. Preferably, the subject has no doubts about the verities of his controllers, nor does he possess any concept of the need to do so from his teachers.

2) Exposure to out-of-context examples of purported abuse of Muslims by non-Muslims to motivate the subject to commit a "just" revenge attack followed by

3) specialized training for the desired terrorist act.

The Telegraph story contains important hints for the "battle of the minds" between the world and radical Islam. Clearly, the concept of "justice" is overlooked. The failed suicide bomber was shown images of Abu Gharib as motivation. Perhaps if he knew more about how Westerners and their justice systems worked - if he knew that the perpetrators were discovered by other soldiers, tried in a court, and punished with prison terms - he might have been satisfied that justice had been done and thus convinced that any "revenge" attack was nonsense.

Apparently the dominant idea of non-Muslim "justice" contained in Islam as taught in these radical madrassas is that non-Muslims must be punished by violence for their perceived transgressions of Muslims and their "rights". Close and extended contact with Westerners - including U.S. troops - appears to create moderation.

(Note that this "injustice" approach to terror has no equivalent at all in Christianity and little modern application in Judaism. Not all religions are alike. If you decide to raise your kids as Muslims, the chances are much higher that they may one day become terrorists.)

If the Public Diplomacy Officers of the U.S. Department of State made more of an effort to highlight the story of how the perpetrators of Abu Gharib were brought to justice throughout the Muslim World, could that help set things straight? What about concentrating these efforts on madrassa teachers, as Kamal Hamid suggests?

Certainly it should be an important element of terrorist rehabilitation programs, as described in this New York Times article. Yet I've never read anywhere of including the best qualities of the West in their curriculum - indeed, the Saudi King's latest interfaith dialogue effort implicitly leaves in the injustice loophole, as I have described. Perhaps Kamal Hamid's letter marks a turning point.

Update, 11/17/08

Readers of Dawn continue to push the look-for-answers-at-home approach. I've often thought that things have gone downhill in Pakistan since 1971. The following letter not only supports this post, but the fact that it was written by the ex-principal of an Islamic school strongly suggests that the country has finally reached bottom and may soon be on its way back up:
...In this terror war, the most important tool used has been promotion of ‘ignorance.’ Most of the children in the terror-prone Muslim world have been denied the opportunity to education in the belief that a properly educated person would hardly fall prey to mindless propagations and be ready to be used as a terrorist or a suicide bomber. Then, the minority that finds way to schools has been systematically denied the right type of education that could promote objectivity and broadmindedness.

Recently, during a visit to Class VII in a school, I was astonished when the students told me that Sudan was located in Europe and Germany was located in Australia! Shocked, when I asked for the textbook of the subject Social Studies, I found that there were nine chapters in the book: (1) Pakistan in the Muslim World (2) The Contemporary Muslim World (3) The Muslim World and Colonialism (4) Muslim Awakening (5) Struggle for Pakistan 1937-1947 (6) Land and People of the Muslim World (7) Resources of Muslim World (8) Trade in Muslim World and (9) Civic Life in Pakistan.

The contents of these chapters were more confusing and one could hardly blame the students for their ignorance. This over emphasis on Islam and Muslims and total ignorance about the world that exists around us have helped a great deal the masterminds of terrorism to use these innocent young people as fodder in shape of suicide bombers and terrorists to achieve their political targets.

Perhaps the best places to fight the war on terror are the pages of the textbooks and the classroom and not the Vatican City.

Former Principal, Sindh
Madressatul Islam

Update, 12/14/08

In an eerie confirmation of the "How to make an Islamic terrorist" formula outlined above, the surviving terrorist of the Mumbai Massacre tells his story here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wisdom from Jay Nordlinger and V-Day thoughts

On the corruption of academia and education by foreign state-supported flacks and "believers". Too much to quote all its points, so read it all: An Area of Darkness.

Here's a sample, but there's plenty more:
When I was young, I was quite the little Arabist — cocksure, arrogant, wholly misguided. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and there were many Arab students — most of them Palestinian — in my high school. I befriended them, loved them. Was intensely interested in them. Some wore keys around their necks, and they claimed that these were the keys to the homes back in Palestine their families had been forced to abandon. I was mightily impressed. Later on, I knew to doubt the authenticity of those keys...

In the row in which I was sitting were several Arab students — older ones, graduate students — and one of them, in front of everybody, stood up and said words I will never forget. I won’t forget the words, or his face, or his relatively quiet, determined tone. He said: “I will kill you.” (This was directed at the woman who had asked the question.) His buddies got him to sit down.

But that’s not the important part — what he said is not the important part. The important part is, no one said a word. No one reacted. We all sort of coughed, and looked away, nervously. We all pretended that what had just occurred had not, in fact, occurred — or that it was normal, acceptable. We simply ignored it.

Eventually, I took another path, both at the university and in my own thought. I could never be convinced that America and its influence were evil. I could not be convinced that Israel was illegitimate. And I could not accept the “I will kill you” and our complete cowardice, or complicity, in the face of it.

Those who live under the threat of totalitarianism often must stay silent in the face of evil. To benefit, they may join in themselves, and to salve their conscience that they are "doing the right thing", change themselves to believe in it.

What is our excuse? We may have to stay quiet in the face of biased teachers and professors, men and women who have the power to destroy our careers if we fail to toe the line. Or maybe spectators mad enough to hunt us down and kill us.

So we, and by extension the media, can't "speak truth to power" without fear. Very well, but let us frankly admit that fear in ourselves. The least we can do is whisper the truth to our children and engage a circle of like-minded friends to maybe work together to make the world a better place in secret, if we fear to do so openly. When we have run the gauntlet and immune to oppression then we may be able to change things - if we don't lose our souls first.

America's Founding Fathers plotted against the tyranny of King George III before they could act to regain American liberty. Their dream of liberty with freedom from tyranny became something men are willing to fight for - men we honor on this Veterans' Day.

Doubtless everyone who has ever compromised themselves in the face of evil should feel ashamed to be standing in the shadow of these men. I urge everyone to meet that shame not with a narcissistic rejection of America - the fashionable response of many a self-centered Westerner today - but a quiet determination to better themselves and their community in the tradition of great men, men who so often chose valor over immediate self-interest.

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Thanks, But We're Not Actually Going to Do Anything."

Over at Crossroads Arabia the proprietor, John Burgess, notes the increasing crescendo of interfaith dialogue events. One story in the English-language Arab News even headlines a story, "UN move proves success of Saudi initiative".

I don't believe a word:
The move to the U.N. is not a sign of the success of the Interfaith Dialogue Initiative, but the U.N.’s tribute to the Saudi King. Judge for yourself: at home, when the King brings up the subject the response is rather unenthusiastic, along the lines of “We heard you the first time. And the second time. And the third time. Thanks for the free food, swell trips, and increased budget. But we’re not going to commit to actually doing anything.”

The IDI reached a peak at the Madrid Conference earlier this year and failed to take off as it should have. Madrid, in my opinion, should have ended with a statement of agreements and differences and a commitment to institutionalizing the IDI at an Interfaith Institute on Saudi soil under the responsible direction of accountable individuals of an appropriate Muslim or Saudi organization. That would have ensured continued engagement. Instead, the process is being allowed to die a dull death: by definition, if people aren’t talking among themselves, dialogue isn’t happening.

How is pushing responsibility on to the U.N. supposed to help? The U.N. is a world-wide diplomatic institution and any religious dialogue process there must necessarily take place within the organization’s normal limits and conform to the U.N.’s other purposes. For example, if a Sunni-Shia conflict threatens to break out somewhere, is the U.N. really going to risk an interfaith dialogue (and maybe its own role as arbiter) if it feels a slip of the tongue could cause a war? The answer, of course, is a resounding “No!”

However, throwing the IDI to the U.N. does allow the Muslim World League, which organized the Madrid Conference, to wash its hands of the whole thing. Maybe other Muslims will now think that the failure of the IDI isn’t their fault any more, either.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Kingship

“It is a good thing to burn down the capitol and kill the King every now and then.”

Yes. If Michael's interview with "resistance" fighters didn't convince me -
Abdul, who can speak a little English, said that at first they liked the French and Americans because they were friendly and helpful. But he said that local people now see people who wear a uniform “all have one same face. ANA and NATO are all in one hand.”

Solomon2: These are not jihadi fanatics. They are not Afghan patriots. They are seeking justice for themselves and their families and village. That is a great reason for hope - if they are representative of others who have taken up arms against the Afghan gov't and NATO, then everything needed to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda is contained in this interview.

then this conversation surely did.

Democracy is the wrong form of government for Afghanistan. These people need a king.

A king, not a tyrant. Not a constitutional king, either, but one pledged to uphold local traditions and independence yet lend a hand when outside troubles threaten, and can deliver some goodies without excessive greed. Think King Alfred or the kings of Castile* rather than Saddam or George III. That's because in a land where literacy is low and philosophy non-existent, loyalties are limited to the familiar or the personal.

Think about it. An elected leadership could not be easily checked and thus would be too interested in padding its nest and fleeing abroad later. Religious dictatorship founders because those in power claim the right to decide what is right, and thus invariably lose their way and the respect of the people they dominate.

Selecting a monarch would be the difficult part. An enthusiastic crowd in the capitol can sometimes do the trick, but that's also how the Thirty Years' War got started. While foreign powers can make their own selection, it is the Afghans themselves who, as the "old men" point out, will wield the ultimate veto.

* Correction: Not kings of Castile, but kings of Aragon. Here is the loyalty oath taken by their subjects:
We, who are as good as you, swear to you, who are not better than we, to accept you as our sovereign lord, provided that you observe all our liberties and laws; but if not, then not.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"In the Office of the Head of the Political Security apparatus in Damascus"

I was sitting in the office of the head of the Political Security apparatus in Damascus, to get an approval for a new passport...listening to him as he read out loud my father’s file, and counted the number of arrest warrants with his name. That was less than a week after my parents’ death.
He rolled up in his big fancy leather chair, and said, “What exactly guarantees, that if we do give you a new passport, you wont go and turn out to be an asshole like your father?”

This isn't just any story. This is a young man in the midst of reconceptualizing - not abandoning - his Syrian identity, re-making his very soul, and thinks others in his country are on the verge of doing the same. As far as I can tell, for the Arab World, this is something entirely new:
...It is truly sad to see this happening, in a sense. But it also offers a real chance to truly change. To try to reconstruct together our own national identity, just as we do with our own personal one. To start critiquing ourselves, and our world more consciously. To dust off our own layers and layers of cement and ugly facades and look what’s underneath. To read our own history more critically, and reconnect with it. To regain a long lost sense of dignity and humanity. To try and let this generation recognize its problems, and express them.

The author properly titles his post, "On Hope".

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why did Russia do it?

I wonder how many of those worrying over SO and Abkhazia had the same feelings for Chechnya?...The US stood aside and let Russia pretty much destroy most of Chechnya, to this day Russians are still kidnapping and "disappearing" Chechans on a daily basis.

I have many of the same thoughts you did, Marc. The main difference, of course, is that Chechnya wasn't considered an independent state but a part of Russia, so the West felt it could look the other way.

Only guys like you and me would think otherwise: you because you've traveled enough to know that Chechnya is really a separate state under Russian domination, me because I've read so much I know that the nineteenth-century Russian government considered genocide as an option for Chechnya, while the Chechens under Soviet domination held to the credo that true manhood couldn't be achieved until you've killed at least one Russian.

The Chechens are probably the most aggessive and anti-Russian of Russia's minorities, and I was surprised that Yeltsin chose to pick a fight with them. But most interesting is that Putin entered national politics with what may have been a faked Chechen attack against Russian targets. Putin steered Russia from direct confrontation to employing its own Chechen stooges to commit mayhem on its behalf.

Georgians, by contrast, are viewed as gentle-hearted and fairly Russian-friendly; they didn't make good Soviet soldiers, but they made fine officers. Western training was in the process of changing that characteristic, to make a truly effective Georgian military - but Great Russians want to dominate everywhere, as long as they find it profitable, anyway.

Lo and behold a Russian puppet militia (who had that idea?) initiated an attack which provoked a Georgian response labelled "genocide" by the Russians, who promptly invaded with a division already fully mobilized and equipped with detailed plans in its officers' map cases, and Chechen puppet militias in its train.

The whole operation stinks of Putin's fingers, from the preparation of Russian opinion to the deceptions and tools used. But why did he do it?

That's the stupid part. Because Putin still believes that Russia can only operate as an empire, and thus he believes that if an empire doesn't expand it must contract. Rape and rapine are bonuses that benefit everyone from the contract soldier to the Kremlin leadership. And given the successful control of Russian public opinion, Russia is now locked into its bad old habits once more.

International law? That's just for wimps. The strong take what they can and the weak suffer as they must. If you wanted it differently you could have spoken out when the Chechens needed you. Welcome back to the nineteenth century, people.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Madrid Conference in Progress (Updated)

The Conference has a website, but it isn't very good, at least not the English version. I'm commenting on the event over at John Burgess' blog:

July 13: Saudi Interfaith Conference to Start on Low Key. If the delegates emerge without giving their followers license to kill it will be counted a success, but please no empty "Kumbaya" moments!

July 14: Problems for the Madrid Conference. Not "problems", but "challenges".

July 16: Saudi Interfaith Conference Begins. Live blogging is great!

July 17: Madrid Conference Coverage. The press seems to be putting words in King Abdullah's mouth.

Update, July 17: From the Saudi government's mouthpiece, the Saudi Press Agency's Madrid Conference Website, three articles are of note:

- one extolling the virtues of informal meetings at the Conference;

- one covering a meeting between a Saudi official and local Saudi students, explaining to them the significance of the Conference;

- and finally, one describing how the lone Iranian official at the Conference hopes it will serve to implement the hard-line resolutions of last month's Mecca Conference.

Glad am I to read from the news articles and the blogs that no one else in Madrid appears to be taking the hard line of Mecca seriously.

July 18:

Arab News interviews Saudi scholar Sheikh Hassan Al-Saffar, who
urged Muslims to be more objective and reasonable in dealing with other faiths. “Our problem is we don’t read others correctly and depend solely on preconceived notions about others, having images of others that do not conform with reality.”

A statement amazing for its modesty and self-criticism. I wonder what impact the Sheikh's words will have upon his co-religionists.

The ME Times runs Madrid's Interfaith Conference: Optimists, Pessimists and Wishful Thinkers. Most interesting to me was the story's photograph of one of the Madrid attendees from Saudi Arabia's local Center for National Dialogue, demonstrating that the Saudis recognize that their needs for national and international dialogue are connected.

Arab News also runs two stories I find disturbing, for they bring the U.N. into the dialogue picture. This raises the specter of one of the more controlling resolutions of the Mecca Conference, the one forbidding criticism of religions as a "thought crime". Do the Saudis really want the U.N.'s political cords to strangle the baby in its cradle?

Which raises a larger question: who will shape the proposed "King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Civilization Interaction" that I expect the Madrid Conferees now enthusiastically endorse? Well the Center be a fount of progressive idealism, or betray the spirit of Madrid and become a sink of hatred? The devil is in the details.

Update, 5/27/09: Follow-up report from Rabbi David Rosen:
...I replied that an authentic dialogue is not one in which one side defines the character of the other, but rather seeks genuinely to understand others as they see themselves. Judaism has always been inextricably connected to the land of Israel. While this must not be used to justify actions or policies that conflict with Judaism's ethical foundation, to deny or try to separate this bond is to fail to acknowledge, let alone respect, the way most Jews define themselves. Moreover, because of the centrality of the land of Israel to Jewish life, without Israeli religious representation, no claim to full and genuine dialogue can ever be credible. link

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Prelude to the Madrid Interfaith Conference (Updated)

More details of the upcoming Madrid Interfaith Conference have come out, and I'm starting to think there is a possibility that it can be constructive after all:

Arab News, 6/22: According to Muslim World League Chief Abdullah al-Turki, the Madrid Conference will follow the program outlined at the Mecca Conference. It will last three days and topics will include
social amity, international cooperation, human rights and peaceful co-existence...the religious and cultural roots of dialogue, moral values of contemporary man, and the role of religion in combating crimes, drugs and corruption.
Turki adds, "King Abdullah's initiative has been hailed unanimously by the Muslim world, which was represented at the [Mecca preparatory] conference by prominent scholars and thinkers."

This is what is called "securing your base". Politicians often take this step before abandoning old positions and thereby frustrating their constituents, who put all their faith in their man only to be left with little or nothing. Warriors, on the other hand, take this step before they leave home to conquer new territory.

AFP: Saudi King Abdullah will launch the conference July 16th, and according to al-Turki "will discuss cooperation between communities from different religions and cultures over common human values".

Al-Jazeera: Saudis Invite Israeli to Madrid Parley
AP: Israeli rabbi invited to Saudi interfaith meeting:
Rabbi David Rosen said Saudi Arabia called the conference, set for Madrid from July 16-18, to bring world religions together to confront common challenges. Rosen called the invitation "a historic step for them."

But he warned that it might be no more than a Saudi attempt to improve its image and that of Islam in the face of criticism over the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other instances of Islamic extremism.

Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland who serves as head of interfaith relations for the American Jewish Committee, is not identified as an Israeli on the conference list; rather, as an American Jewish Committee official.

Rosen is a very important rabbi, but he is being invited as an AJC official, not in his capacity as a member of Israel's Chief Rabbinate. The Jerusalem Post and CBN quote Rosen as saying,
"They are building up to the big summit in stages," Rosen said. "Apparently, it would be too big of a step for the Saudis to invite either of the two chief rabbis of Israel. But I hope they will reach that step eventually."

Since Rosen is also a member of The World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, he may have had a hand in crafting the Madrid Conference in the first place. Note that he envisions Madrid as only the first in a series of inter-religious conferences.

Arab News, 7/6/08
: In addition to invitees from the Muslim world,
those invited from other faiths include: Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Papal Council for Inter-Religious dialogue, Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England, Robert Edgar, secretary-general of the National Council of Churches in the US, Rabbi David Weiss of Neturei Karta, Bawa Jain, secretary-general of the UN Millennium World Peace Summit, Rabbi Michael Paley of American Jewish Archives, Karen Armstrong, a Jewish researcher, Alan Race, director of International Interfaith Center at Oxford and American thinker Francis Fukuyama.

I find it difficult to take anything the NKs say seriously. Tauran and Williams are not without controversy, as they have been criticized for giving concessions to and excuses for Muslims without getting anything in return. Calling Armstrong "a Jewish researcher" is probably inaccurate - she's tried several faiths, and last I heard she was a Muslim. The inclusion of Fukuyama reflects the Mecca Conference's decision to include researchers and academics.

IINA: 200 religious leaders to attend Madrid Interfaith Conference: Additional invitees include: former US Vice-President Al Gore, Unesco Secretary-General Koshiro Matsura, Head of the Papal Council for Dialogue with Religions Jan Loi Toran, Fourth Archbishop of Hartford Henry J. Mansell, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches Dr. Guirgis Saleh and Head of the Indian Sikh Council Paramjit Singh Sarna, an official of the EU Rabbi Council, a Jewish Reform Federation Chairman, and the chief of the Protestant Bishops Council.

Presumably Rafsanjani will represent the Iranian Shia, hopefully without a terrorist sidekick. I wonder whether there will be representatives from Buddhist and Hindu communities?

While all the inviting is going on, trouble is starting to brew, as Shia Saudi clerics protest an edict by their Sunni counterparts that classifies them (along with Jews like me) as infidels. The Sunni-Shia split is almost as old as Islam itself; why should it be newly prominent now?
The edict by representatives of the conservative wing in the official Sunni religious establishment was seen by some observers as a shot against King Abdullah's plan to set up a dialogue between Muslims, Jews, Christians and other faiths.

No wonder the Saudi King is moving forward so quickly with the Madrid Conference; he has to act before opponents to his plans (whatever they are) get their act together.

Update, 7/13/08

More from the Christian Science Monitor:
"It's very difficult to deal with [the radicals]) on an intellectual basis, to open up their minds," says Shiite political activist Jafar Al Shayeb. "So having these Muslim scholars from all different parts of the world pushing for a more tolerant course, I think will help the government in dealing with radical groups internally."...Former Vice President Al Gore and the Archbishop of Canterbury were also invited, but declined because of prior engagements...Abdullah first disclosed his plans for an interfaith dialogue during a meeting with visiting Japanese scholars last March, describing it as something that had "obsessed [him]...[At the Mecca Conference] The king made clear his concern about Islam's image, saying that it faces difficult challenges from Muslim extremists, who "target the magnanimity, fairness, and lofty aims of Islam." He urged the delegates "to face the challenges of isolation, ignorance, and narrow horizons, so that the world can absorb the good message of Islam."

An example of this extremism is offered by Gulf News:
"No one should feel safe without submitting, and those who refuse to submit must pay a high price. The aim of our movement is to turn the world into a series of "wildernesses" in which only those under our rule enjoy security. "

Alsharq Alawsat:
The Islamic world seems to be trapped between a rock and a hard place; between despotism and extremism.

At the Saudi Press Agency an Algerian "thinker" and a Christian Jordanian "official" praise the Conference initiative (1,2,3,4).

The New York Sun notes that the NK's have been disinvited:
Jews invited to the Madrid conference next week found the inclusion of the Neturei Karta so troubling that, according to one rabbi planning to attend, Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the national director of the Islamic Society of North America, Sayyid Syeed, took up the cause, telling the Saudi ambassador to America that unless the Neturei Karta representative was removed and disinvited, he himself wouldn't go to Madrid.

Arab News quotes Muslim World League President al-Turki:
the conference would not discuss controversial religious and political issues. “It will focus on common human values”

A most important indication of the Saudi attitude going into the Conference, I think: they want it to be constructive, not destructive; they want these first tentative steps to be a success. Well, there may be very little common ground, but it is a start. The Madrid Conference may establish the directions for what could become its permanent mechanism, the grandly named "King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Civilization Interaction".

Arab News adds to the invitee list (1,2):
Claudio Epelman, director of the Latin American Jewish Congress...Mark Ebert, executive director of the Three Faiths Forum; Yi Cheng, chairman of the Buddhist Association of China; Andrea Riccardi, chairman of the SantيEgidio Community in Italy...Carl A. Sheingold, executive vice president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation in the US...Bishop Alexi II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church; Rev. Nichiko Niwano, president of the International Buddhist Congregation; Koichi Mori, director, Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions in Japan; Karan Singh, president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations; Swamy Agni Vesh of Arya Smaj; and M.M. Verma, director of Interfaith Foundation India...

The participants from the US include Muzammil Siddiqui, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Nihad Awad, director general of Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR); John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; and William Baker[!], president of Christians and Muslims for Peace.

Other confirmed participants are: Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican; Federico Mayor Zaragoza, president of Cultural Foundation for Peace in Spain; Thomas Lemmen, president of the Christian-Islamic Relations Center in Germany; Francis Lamand, president of the Organization of Islam and the West in France; Zhang Jiyu, vice president of the China Taoism Association; and M. M. Verma, director of Interfaith Foundation in India.

Buddhists in Japan will be represented by Nichiko Niwano, president of the International Buddhist Congregation, while Protestant Christians in Egypt by Safwat Nageeb El-Biady, president of the Protestant Churches Center.

Prominent personalities from Islamic countries include Saleh Bin-Humaid, Abdullah Omar Naseef, secretary-general of the World Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief; Muhammad Tantawi, head of Al-Azhar in Egypt; Abdul Rahman Suwar Dahab, president of Islamic Dawa Organization in Sudan; and Mohammad Basyuni, minister of religious affairs in Indonesia.

Note: William Baker appears to be a fake academic! I hope the Saudis haven't been suckered into inviting too many of these certain spoilers to their party.

Arab News claims that results of the Madrid Conference will be presented to the U.N. How that would work I don't know. More interesting is the hint that the Interfaith Conferences will become an annual affair.

CAIR discusses its participation here.

On a more local note, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle runs an essay by by two Muslims who cite the Madrid Conference as an example of Muslims "rising to that challenge" of educating "educate others about their religious beliefs and the commonalities among all faiths." It isn't always easy to tell where they are talking about themselves distinctly as Muslims or addressing Americans in general. Perhaps that confusion is itself representative of the American Muslim community as it strives for a balance in its relations with non-Muslims.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Proposed Islamic Conquest of Western Civilization

The official Saudi Press Agency covered the Islamic Preparatory Conference on Religious Dialogue I discussed in my previous post. The Conference actually achieved quite a bit, and I'm not laughing about it any more. According to the SPA, the conferees:

1) Recommended the establishment of "King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Civilization Interaction" with the aim to disseminate the "culture of dialogue" [as re-defined in this post.][That is, "dialogue" becomes "Islamic dialogue", i.e., "sensitize" the audience and proselytize to them without listening to what they have to say (6/15/08)].

2) Urged the king to invite "distinguished and specialized figures in the field of dialogue within Muslim circles and followers of other faiths and recognized philosophies to probe the Islamic vision this conference has put forward so as to reach a practical formula for a fruitful global dialogue that contributes to solving the problems humanity now suffers." - which I interpret to mean, get all the brains they can together to figure out how to convert or get the entire planet to acquiesce to Islamic Rule as quickly as possible.

3) Asserted "that Islam has viable solutions to those crises [of civilization?], and that the Muslim nation, with the rich civilization it draws on, ought to contribute with others to facing these challenges. The other divine religions and philosophies share with Islam the basics of human ethics and values which they should together protect against injustice, aggression and disintegration of families."

Note that this appears to be an admission that non-Muslim "civilizations" have taken the lead in solving problems between cultures, and have demonstrated that they "share with Islam the basics of human ethics and values". Muslims, by contrast, have only paid lip service to these desirable ends: "the Muslim nation, with the rich civilization it draws on, ought to contribute -"

4) "[S]ignaled Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah society as an ideal example of the society of co-existence of different cultures under the leadership of the Prophet."

That is, the ideal society the conferees seek is not one of democracy, but the dictatorship of an armed minority of Muslims over everyone else - but without the leadership of a prophet directly guided by G-d. Charming.

5) Stated that the most important goal of dialogue is to introduce Islam.

6) Agreed that the purpose of "dialogue" is to "correct the erroneous slanders raised against Islam, and to address the challenges facing the world owing to distancing themselves from religion and its values. Accordingly the world of today fell in the grip of vice and injustice, terrorism and Human rights violation."

Here's the hard sell we're going to experience for the next few years, folks: it is the "erroneous slanders" of non-Muslims that cause injustice, terrorism, and human rights violations! The actual Muslim perpetrators of such deeds are not to be blamed!

Note that "slander" is defined as "a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report". So an "erroneous slander" is a truthful statement. Non-Muslims are at fault for spreading the truth about Islam!

7) Decided that all of this propaganda is to be coordinated by a body created by the Muslim World League.

8) Suggested that tactically, dialogue "should focus on the common humanitarian and mutual interests, and should work to achieve peaceful coexistence, justice and social security among peoples of different civilizations -"

It's a page right out of the lefty-commie book, to garner support by appealing to the disaffected.

9) Presented a new tack: "dialogue with the followers of divine messages, philosophies and recognized intellectual approaches." Will that include Madonna and her new Kabbala school?

This effort will include "all political, research and academic and media fields, not only religious leaders" including "those with abusive attitudes to Islam".

10) Urged "compromise formulas to prevent a clash between civilizations". That sounds hopeful at first, until one recalls that "dialogue", as re-defined above, does not include listening to the other side. Therefore what can any "compromise formula" be other than one that implements Islamic Rule part-way, rather than in full?

11) "Stressed the need" for "information materials in various languages and disseminate them among non-Muslims to refute theories of conflict between civilizations and show the risks that might face humanity due to such thoughts" and to convene an international conference to promote the same. Existing international institutions (the U.N.) are to be encouraged to "carry out their duties and confront the culture of hatred between peoples, and to face the corrupt racial and hatred calls." The justification will be that "humans are equal in dignity and humanity" thus the U.N. must join "in rejection of racism and denunciation of odious claims of superiority."

Criticism of Islam is thus to be established as a thought crime with deadly, even genocidal, consequences, for everybody. The price of our remaining freedoms is to refrain from any criticism of Islam at all! The best violators can hope for, apparently, is prosecution by U.N. forces rather than "dialogue"-sanctioned murder. Note that "racism and odious claims of superiority" are crimes that, in context, only apply to those who criticize Islam and other religions outside the Muslim view of such things. So Jesus and Moses remain prophets, but ones who are superseded by Mohammed; any claim that religion stops before Mohammed is thus criminal.

12) "[U]rged Muslims in non-Islamic countries to conduct continued dialogue with the people of those countries, respect the host countries' rules, never neglect their Islamic religious duties, and show cooperation with the governments of Islamic countries and Islamic organizations."

Note that Muslims are NOT being urged to decide for themselves their loyalties based on their personal interpretations of the Koran - a Western concept. This is an appeal to Muslims in democratic countries to talk and interact with their fellow citizens, but ultimately to be loyal to Islamic governments and organizations, not the Koran.

Thus, if the function of Muslims in Western countries isn't to undermine their host societies, it may be to provide support to those who do - like the Iranian mullahs or Al-Qaeda. As discussed in the previous post, by accepting without qualm a man with an international arrest warrant for terrorism as one of their own, the conferees have implicitly re-established mass terror as a socially and politically acceptable tool for Islamic "governments and organizations".

13) Warned that the new "dialogue institutions" are "to give priority to issues of protection of values and ethics against the calls for demoralization on grounds of defending individual freedom and fighting terrorism, violence, extremism and blasphemy."

That is, special efforts will be made to prevent Western voices from being heard and Western values from being spread via the demoralization of those whose job it is to engage in "dialogue" (proselytization) abroad. These thoughts are to be wiped out. Agents of dialogue are to proceed on the grounds that the Conference has "refuted the suspicion that Islam and Muslims are responsible for terrorism, extremism and hatred" and not to think anything contrary to this.

14) Asserted that if poor peoples suffer from oppression, that is no excuse to liberate them on the grounds guarding their human rights.

Thus, dictators and totalitarians are to be given free reign over their subjects without any moral qualms. I wonder what the Iraqis will think of that?

Instead, financial aid will be provided to those who "bring up responsible generations who care for the world welfare according to the guidance of God." - that is, those who serve Islam or kowtow to Islamic Rule.

15) Concluded with a new mission: in addition to "dialogue", "to build together an international umbrella of ethics that confronts illegitimate social relationships, and addresses the risks endangering the family".

If you're gay or lesbian, you'd better watch out.

Thus, this Conference has outlined an approach proposing the total conquest of Western Civilization as we know it, including a veiled threat that weapons of mass destruction may be used if we don't cooperate. With the huge amount of petrodollars flowing into their coffers, Islam's rulers may believe they have the means to make these things happen.

Are you laughing out there, in San Francisco, Copenhagen, New York, or London? Remember: complaining about the Islamic approach to eliminating your lifestyle and freedoms is the very first thing that these Islamic proponents of "dialogue" propose to make a crime, and if this doesn't happen, you're going to suffer for it.


Counterpoint, 6/11/08, 9:30pm: "Sparky". an American Muslim living in Saudi Arabia, comments on this post at Crossroads Arabia.

Update, 6/14/08: Compare and contrast these guidelines with the Muslim-Jewish dialogue described in The Washington Post today and endorsed at John Burgess' blog. The Islamic Society of North America, which sponsored this dialogue, was also represented at the Conference and endorsed its results as "a paradigm shift". In their linked report ISNA also reports on the presence of an attendee, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has an Interpol warrant calling for his arrest, but blithely ignores this fact.

Welcome to readers from Dr. Sanity's weekly Carnival of the Insanities!

Update, 6/17/08

Writing at Jewcy, Ali Eteraz offers his own opinions of such conferences as "schizophrenic and confused" [H/T: Drima]. I still think the Mecca Conference is of a different and more menacing character.

Another conference, held in Kuala Lumpur a few days later, confirmed that the price of peace is for non-Muslims to hold their tongues (and pencils). Former long-time Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al Faisal, stated,
"I can never accept, in my personal view, that freedom of speech is morally right when it supersedes and offends my faith and my belief."

With this enshrinement of personal dignity over the possibility of criticism through any means other than force or compulsion, doesn't the Prince reduce Islam to the mere principle of "might makes right"?

And not just the Prince, either. In diplo-speak, the phrase "personal view" is special: according to Henry Kissinger, it means the diplomat is conveying a view widely held by government officialdom but one that can't be expressed officially. We are thus being told that, unofficially, it is the official view of the Saudi government that freedom of speech ends where criticism of Islam, or at least a person's faith in Islam, begins.

Writer Joshua Treviño adds:
To attack freedom of speech as a root cause of the conflict between the Western and Muslim worlds is to make two grave errors. First is the implicit contention that Muslims are psychologically and culturally inert, and purely reactive to Western stimuli.

This is plainly false: Muslims have the same capacity for moral choice, and the same independent existence, as all persons — even if their conference-going, globe-trotting leaders pretend otherwise.

Second is the baleful reality that if Muslims attempt to suppress free speech, then defenders of free speech will be forced to stand up for every stupid, cruel, and vicious rhetorical attack upon Muslims. By reacting to an abuse of liberty with an attack on liberty, Muslims against free speech elevate those abuses to exercises in principle.

A piece of "art" consisting of a crucifix floating in urine may be distasteful to us, but the fact we can tolerate it is a symbol of just how much we Westerners have achieved: we don't feel threatened by it, only disgusted. It is "morally right" only in the sense that it reminds us: we are human beings with the freedom to choose and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Thus we know we can evaluate whether what we do and value as individuals is pleasing in G-d's eyes or not, though we may not always do so correctly, of course. It is a dignity that men like Turki al Faisal would rather we not have.

Update, 6/22/08

With links to Riazat Butt's Guardian articles (1, 2, 3) and last week's leader in The Economist I'll close this post as I look forward to the upcoming Saudi-sponsored Madrid Inter-Faith Dialogue.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Dialogue Redefined

First reports are in from the Islamic Prepatory Meeting on Inter-Religious Dialogue:
““Yes, we should talk to different independent religious groups, but we should also talk to various personalities who are influential in their respective fields, such as media personalities, intellectuals and academics,” said Al-Turki.”

I can’t wait till they interview Britney!

Apparently the primary goal of dialogue is to make non-Muslims understand Muslim “sensitivities”. Not only is there no hint that in a dialogue it is, by definition, the duty of both parties to listen, but there are even suggestions that a program should be established to train journalists to spread Islam in the mainstream media.

I think we can now classify this “dialogue” as another instance of Newspeak, for its intended purpose is proselytization, not dialogue as Westerners know it. I suppose that a Westerner actually engaging someone who follows the guidelines outlined at this conference would make him or her very angry: they are engaging in “dialogue” to tell us what they think is wrong with our perceptions of Islam and Muslims, rather than to listen to what Westerners think is wrong with Islam and Muslims and what how Muslims could change to better Western opinion.

In my view, interfaith dialogues between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages did nothing to further relations between the two religious communities and were even counterproductive. Instead, it was the actions of secular leaders like Napoleon and Jefferson, a few sympathetic theologians like the English Puritans, personal relations, and cultural events like the play Nathan der Weise that made co-existence possible and desirable; usually religious authorities had no choice but to follow if they were to keep their flock.

Just possibly, according to the headline of the latest article by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, participants at the summit are speaking cautiously out of fear. In which case the “extremists” have already won, is that not so? I don’t usually appreciate Al-Rashed’s opinions, but at least he realizes that “regardless of how hard non-Muslims try to insult Islam, it is Muslim extremists who are threatening Islam today and not the followers of other religions.“

Welcome to readers from Dr. Sanity's weekly Carnival of the Insanities!

Afterword: For a real primer on inter-religious dialogue, do check out my previous post plugging Brad Hirschfeld's book, You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right!

Addendum, 6/10/08: Riazat Butt over at The Guardian agrees:
Christians are forever worrying that Muslims are hellbent on taking over the world and here we have the grand mufti saying pretty much that. Way to go.

Addendum, 6/10/08: Mohsen Rezai, a man wanted by Argentina and Interpol because he’s a prime suspect in the suicide bombing of a synagogue in Buenos Aires, also attended the conference according to Iran's Press TV.

The fact that he was there and that there was no public controversy between Muslims about this implies that the other attendees strongly endorse his goals and see nothing wrong with his methods - nothing worth mentioning out loud, anyway. Apparently the Saudis simply ignored Interpol's warrant for Rezai's arrest, along with Argentina's request for his detention and extradition.

Thus, the Simon Wiesenthal Center was too kind when they said they are "saddened that, by the presence of these antisemitic terrorists, the Saudi much-vaunted Muslim interfaith conference has been betrayed." Not only did the Iranian mullahs succeed in tarring the other Muslim attendees with the Islamic terror brush, they have thus successfully re-established terror as a socially and politically acceptable tool among Islam's self-declared leaders.

Update, 6/11/08 See my next post.

Update, 6/12/08: As conferees take their leave of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr Abdullah Al-Turki,
noted that the Ulema, thinkers and leaders of the Muslim minorities throughout the world were happy over the success of the conference in laying a scientific way for an objective Islamic dialogue [emphasis added] with followers of the other religions, cultures and civilization, and they are hopeful that the outcome of the dialogue will be positive...

Not "dialogue" but "Islamic dialogue". There you have it, right from the horse's mouth.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Could Arabs Do Without a "Resistance"?

[T]here are non-violent ways of dealing with Israel and bringing justice finally for the Palestinians.

Yes, BUT that would involve making crazy Arabs sane. If Israel gave back every square inch of territory and its population removed itself to the Moon, wouldn't Arabs and Muslims STILL be chasing around looking for "Zionist enemies", both internal and external, unless a better enemy came along?

Not just to keep Arab and Muslim leaders from being democratically accountable, but to keep Arabs and Muslims themselves from looking in the mirror and confronting just how much of their ills and those of the entire planet are attributable to themselves and their forefathers?

After sixty years of re-writing history and forcibly purged memories, it is a given that the Jews are responsible for the fate of the Arabs of Palestine.

After less than two years most Lebanese believe that Israel started the 2006 war.

On the same day Lebanese are attacked by Hezbollah thugs, Nasrallah publicly proclaims his peaceful past and present intentions, even as his forces receive their own orders over Hezbollah's private communication network, so tomorrow you may hear that any unpleasantness was due to the fact that Hezbollah's forces were unjustly attacked and had to defend themselves. In a year the story may be spread that Hezbollah never carried arms into Beirut at all...

How in the world could Arabs and Muslims handle the psychic backlash of guilt and remorse - not just directed towards Jews but towards God - that sanity would force onto their minds? Isn't that what Qadaffi warned everyone about just last month?

Islam simply does not offer, or perhaps has not evolved, the same relief to the soul that Christianity offers for followers who overcome their ego and renounce evil. Many ex-Khmer Rouges have adopted Roman Catholicism for that very reason.

Therefore, until a suitable spiritual alternative is developed how can Arabs and Muslims do without a sectarian feud, jihad, or "resistance"?

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right

"Religion captures the very best and very worst of who we are, and to see only the best or the worst of religion is a dangerous error. If you see only the good, you become an apologist and take no responsibility for the incredible violence that religion is so capable of unleashing. If you see only the bad in religion, then you miss all the biggest questions, the most profound longings, the deepest fears and the greatest aspirations that define us. When faith is working right it can be profound, inspiring, and a great force for positive change in the world, and it can help us lead more giving, productive, and fulfilling lives."

This paragraph is an excerpt from You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism, by Brad Hirschfeld.

Not just wisdom, but a personal journey through his own life, his studies of religion, and how they came to be shaped by his disillusioning experience as a fanatic Israeli settler in Hebron makes this book a good read. You don't have to agree with him to find it a valuable resource. Highly recommended, both for those who think their religion is the only one, and for those who deem all religions evil.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts on "Nakba Day"

Why, since Arabs don't display the pity they claim for themselves towards others, do they merit consideration for this mewling?

When Arabs are sorry for

the peoples they displaced,
the lives Arabs have destroyed,
the wives Arabs have forcibly taken,
the sorrows Arabs have created,
the seeds of hatred Arabs have planted,
the lies in the name of religion Arabs have advocated,
the lies in the name of theft Arabs have propagated,
the massacres of the innocent Arabs have committed,
the massacres of the innocent that Arabs have compelled others to commit in self-defense,
the history of peoples abused, robbed, and raped by their fathers that Arabs celebrate to this day,
their abuse of those who provide Arabs with charity, wealth, health, and education,
the cheap value they hold for the lives of their fellow Arab brothers and sisters when they manipulate them for their own ends,

then the plea of the Arabs for greater pity and understanding will be heard in my ears.

Why should their plea be heard by yours?


When The Arabs of Palestine can openly advocate being pro-Israel without fear of being executed without trial by their fellows, then they can discuss the history of the "Nakba". Not before.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lebanon: a Consociate, not a Democracy

Abu Muqawama admits to being stumped about what the U.S. should do about Lebanon, now that Hezbollah has launched its long-expected yet long-denied military putsch. My answer: nothing much right now, for the Lebanon is still (pardon the pun) a state in flux:

I think the key here is that Lebanon isn't really a democracy, but a consociate; it only appears to have functioning democratic institutions when the partners - the leaders of Lebanon's sects - of the consociate are in near agreement. And aside from Hezbollah, the mostly-unelected leaders of Lebanon's sectarian factions, like mob leaders throughout history, take their cues from the most vocal and strident constituents.

Thus, although Hezbollah has violated the rules, the response from the government is not immediate. At this stage, perhaps nobody knows what that response will be. And no one knows what effect it may have.

Later in the day, "Charles Malik" considered:
the United States might be thinking twice about providing the Lebanese Army with any more munitions in the future. Despite three years of assistance, the Lebanese Army remains more in the position of a caretaker than as an active military force capable of preventing violence and defending the country from chaos.

I wonder. The U.S. has provided the L.A. the arms and training to at least challenge Hezbollah, if it so desires. The past few days have demonstrated that Lebanon isn't a democracy so much as a consociate, and that is perhaps the most one can expect after thirty-plus years of strained constitutionality.

My hunch: only when more people, especially some of the Shia, get tired and angry with Hezbollah will the Army change its mind and take a more active role in current affairs. As long as the L.A. remains armed and united, the possibility of its taking action still exists.
Charles: As I've been saying for a few years, the most important this to do in Lebanon is to destroy Hezbollah's stranglehold on the Shia community.

The Lebanese Army is an extraordinary institution. The Syrians and former President Lahoud - when he was commander of the army - did an amazing job using the army to unify the separated and sectarian youth of Lebanon. The sectarianism remained to a degree, but the Army helped break down the barriers to inter-sectarian dialogue very quickly.

However, given that the Syrians controlled the institution for over 15 years, there are quite a few holdovers from an era in which pro-Syrian yes-men were promoted over competent soldiers who did not agree with the occupation.

Once the Army is a unified body, ie once Lebanese sects support the government and democracy as much as they support their communities, the Army will become a regulated body.

Hezbollah and Syria are the main things preventing the unity of the Lebanese Army.

There is a difference between legality and legitimacy. Legality comes from written laws; legitimacy is sanctioned by time-honored acceptance - custom. At this stage Lebanese institutions rely more on legitimacy than legality. That's why the L.A. not acting immediately isn't necessarily a bad sign.

A few months ago I was convinced that Syria exercised "assassination control" over ALL of Lebanon's generals - because of the fear displayed of Syria at the Nahr al-Bared "victory" press conference. (EVERY general made it a point to excuse Syria, as if one denial wouldn't be sufficient.) It may have taken people a while to realize that with Mughniyah dead, the threat of assassination is gone, at least temporarily, so there is more freedom to maneuver.

I don't know what will happen next, but I don't think what happened in the 1970s and 80s, when the Army pretty much dissolved and its weapons were distributed to the militias, should happen this time.


This student of Lebanon's history is quite sure of this: Lebanese anger is a slow-building yet terrible thing. And a consociated system has no bill of rights attached to it to protect either the innocent or the guilty.

5/13/08 3pm Update

Now Lebanon publishes this remarkable letter from General Suleiman to all officers of the Lebanese Army. After a brief review of the past thirty years of Lebanese history, the General curtly blames what in any country would be his civilian superiors for the current situation! "We have repeatedly warned officials of the need to find the necessary solutions in order to avert civil war."

What follows is an amazingly humble and introspective diagnosis of the afflictions of the Lebanese soul, as the General gives his officers their instructions in the broadest terms:
"I am aware of your deep pain due to the current events. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the 1975 generation hurt a lot, but still was divided, and you are still suffering from the consequences of its division when it comes to restoring the state’s sovereignty throughout the Lebanese territory. In truth, the sadness burdening your souls is due to a feeling of humiliation and to the pangs of conscience. This should constitute a motive to consolidate your unity and cohesion by taking advantage of the past. Turning away from the military institution is not useful at all; rather, it further weakens it, whereas what is required is more creativity and achievements that are born only out of suffering...Do not allow the martyrs to be killed twice."

That is, officers are to do what they think they can do, short of killing people, to avoid civil war from fully breaking out again. There is no mention of taking orders from a higher political authority. The Lebanese Army can thus be understood as a full and separate partner of the Lebanese Consociate, answering to everyone and to no one, possessing its own culture and decision-making processes.

5/14/08 3pm Update

The State Department has announced it plans to speed up deliveries of military aid to the Lebanese Army: "We have a very robust package of support for the Lebanese military and we intend to carry that out and give them the kind of help that they need to be able to, again, carry out their mission and support the Lebanese people."

It appears that Charles need not have worried so much about American support.

5/14/08 4pm Update

Forty Army officers, including the deputy chief of intelligence, have submitted resignations, but Suleiman refused them.

Threatening to resign is a form of politics, and by keeping them in Suleiman is expected to address their grievances. I assume they were protesting the Army's "neutral" stance. Thus it is unlikely that the L.A. will be able to justify remaining non-partisan if trouble breaks out again. Hezbollah may no longer enjoy the freedom of action that it did last week.

If this is the most Hezbollah can do, they can only go downhill from here, and indeed Hezbollah has now suffered a military defeat in its attempt to conquer the Druze's Chouwf stronghold.