Election ’08 Backgrounder

  

Financial Crisis | Iraq | Defense | Background & Character | Judges & Courts | Energy

 

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Quick Facts:

  • Democrats created the mortgage crisis by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them.
  • In 2006, McCain sponsored a bill to fix the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Barney Frank and other Democrats successfully opposed it.
  • Obama was one of the highest recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations in Congress.

Related Editorials

 

IRAQ


Quick Facts:

  • When the U.S. was on the verge of losing in Iraq, McCain chose to stand and fight.  Obama chose retreat.
  • Even after the surge succeeded, Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran he would still oppose it if he had the chance to do it all over again.

Related Editorials

 

DEFENSE

Quick Facts:

  • Obama has promised to significantly cut defense spending, including saying “I will slow our development of future combat systems.”
  • John McCain has vowed: “We must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies.”

Related Editorials

Obama Video: Watch Now

 

 

BACKGROUND & CHARACTER

Quick Facts:

  • Obama voted “present” 135 times as a state senator, and according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “gained a reputation for skipping tough votes.”
  • McCain has taken stances unpopular with his own party and/or the public on controversial issues, including immigration, campaign finance reform, judicial nominations, the Iraq War and more.

Related Editorials

 

 

JUDGES & COURTS


Quick Facts:

  • In a 2001 interview, Obama said he regretted that the Supreme Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.”
  • In the same interview, Obama criticized the Supreme Court because it “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”
  • Obama has focused on empathy, rather than legal reasoning and restraint, as his basis for appointing judges, saying, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy…to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”
  • McCain opposes judicial activism, saying, “my nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power.”

Related Editorials

Obama 2001 Interview: Listen Now

 

ENERGY


Quick Facts:

  • McCain has proposed building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 and is in favor of drilling in sectors of the Outer Continental Shelf.
  • Obama has refused to take a stand, saying only “we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix” and he will “look at” drilling offshore.

Related Editorials

»
McCain: The Energy Candidate

» McCain On Nukes: Yes We Can
» Breaking The Back Of High Oil

 

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Barack Obama, Penny Pritzker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad And Our Money

LONG BUT VERY IMPORTANT ARTICLE: An Anatomy of Surrender: Westerners are acquiescing to creeping sharia.

Bruce Bawer
An Anatomy of Surrender
Motivated by fear and multiculturalism, too many Westerners are acquiescing to creeping sharia.
Spring 2008

Islam divides the world into two parts. The part governed by sharia, or Islamic law, is called the Dar al-Islam, or House of Submission. Everything else is the Dar al-Harb, or House of War, so called because it will take war—holy war, jihad—to bring it into the House of Submission. Over the centuries, this jihad has taken a variety of forms. Two centuries ago, for instance, Muslim pirates from North Africa captured ships and enslaved their crews, leading the U.S. to fight the Barbary Wars of 1801–05 and 1815. In recent decades, the jihadists’ weapon of choice has usually been the terrorist’s bomb; the use of planes as missiles on 9/11 was a variant of this method.

What has not been widely recognized is that the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie introduced a new kind of jihad. Instead of assaulting Western ships or buildings, Kho­meini took aim at a fundamental Western freedom: freedom of speech. In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies’ basic liberties and extend sharia within those societies.

The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success. Two events in particular—the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam’s oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology—which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive—people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.

Call it a cultural surrender. The House of War is slowly—or not so slowly, in Europe’s case—being absorbed into the House of Submission.

The Western media are in the driver’s seat on this road to sharia. Often their approach is to argue that we’re the bad guys. After the late Dutch sociologist-turned-politician Pim Fortuyn sounded the alarm about the danger that Europe’s Islamization posed to democracy, elite journalists labeled him a threat. A New York Times headline described him as marching the dutch to the right. Dutch newspapers Het Parool and De Volkskrant compared him with Mussolini; Trouw likened him to Hitler. The man (a multiculturalist, not a Muslim) who murdered him in May 2002 seemed to echo such verdicts when explaining his motive: Fortuyn’s views on Islam, the killer insisted, were “dangerous.”

Perhaps no Western media outlet has exhibited this habit of moral inversion more regularly than the BBC. In 2006, to take a typical example, Manchester’s top imam told psychotherapist John Casson that he supported the death penalty for homosexuality. Casson expressed shock—and the BBC, in a dispatch headlined imam accused of “gay death” slur, spun the controversy as an effort by Casson to discredit Islam. The BBC concluded its story with comments from an Islamic Human Rights Commission spokesman, who equated Muslim attitudes toward homosexuality with those of “other orthodox religions, such as Catholicism” and complained that focusing on the issue was “part of demonizing Muslims.”

In June 2005, the BBC aired the documentary Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic, which sought to portray concerns about Islamic radicalism as overblown. This “stunning whitewash of radical Islam,” as Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson put it, “helped keep the British public fast asleep, a few weeks before the bombs went off in London subways and buses” in July 2005. In December 2007, it emerged that five of the documentary’s subjects, served up on the show as examples of innocuous Muslims-next-door, had been charged in those terrorist attacks—and that BBC producers, though aware of their involvement after the attacks took place, had not reported important information about them to the police.

Press acquiescence to Muslim demands and threats is endemic. When the Mohammed cartoons—published in September 2005 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to defy rising self-censorship after van Gogh’s murder—were answered by worldwide violence, only one major American newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, joined such European dailies as Die Welt and El País in reprinting them as a gesture of free-speech solidarity. Editors who refused to run the images claimed that their motive was multicultural respect for Islam. Critic Christopher Hitchens believed otherwise, writing that he “knew quite a number of the editors concerned and can say for a certainty that the chief motive for ‘restraint’ was simple fear.” Exemplifying the new dhimmitude, whatever its motivation, was Norway’s leading cartoonist, Finn Graff, who had often depicted Israelis as Nazis, but who now vowed not to draw anything that might provoke Muslim wrath. (On a positive note, this February, over a dozen Danish newspapers, joined by a number of other papers around the world, reprinted one of the original cartoons as a free-speech gesture after the arrest of three people accused of plotting to kill the artist.)

Last year brought another cartoon crisis—this time over Swedish artist Lars Vilks’s drawings of Mohammed as a dog, which ambassadors from Muslim countries used as an excuse to demand speech limits in Sweden. CNN reporter Paula Newton suggested that perhaps “Vilks should have known better” because of the Jyllands-Posten incident—as if people who make art should naturally take their marching orders from people who make death threats. Meanwhile, The Economist depicted Vilks as an eccentric who shouldn’t be taken “too seriously” and noted approvingly that Sweden’s prime minister, unlike Denmark’s, invited the ambassadors “in for a chat.”

The elite media regularly underreport fundamentalist Muslim misbehavior or obfuscate its true nature. After the knighting of Rushdie in 2007 unleashed yet another wave of international Islamist mayhem, Tim Rutten wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “If you’re wondering why you haven’t been able to follow all the columns and editorials in the American press denouncing all this homicidal nonsense, it’s because there haven’t been any.” Or consider the riots that gripped immigrant suburbs in France in the autumn of 2005. These uprisings were largely assertions of Muslim authority over Muslim neighborhoods, and thus clearly jihadist in character. Yet weeks passed before many American press outlets mentioned them—and when they did, they de-emphasized the rioters’ Muslim identity (few cited the cries of “Allahu akbar,” for instance). Instead, they described the violence as an outburst of frustration over economic injustice.

When polls and studies of Muslims appear, the media often spin the results absurdly or drop them down the memory hole after a single news cycle. Journalists celebrated the results of a 2007 Pew poll showing that 80 percent of American Muslims aged 18 to 29 said that they opposed suicide bombing—even though the flip side, and the real story, was that a double-digit percentage of young American Muslims admitted that they supported it. u.s. muslims assimilated, opposed to extremism, the Washington Post rejoiced, echoing USA Today’s american muslims reject extremes. A 2006 Daily Telegraph survey showed that 40 percent of British Muslims wanted sharia in Britain—yet British reporters often write as though only a minuscule minority embraced such views.

After each major terrorist act since 9/11, the press has dutifully published stories about Western Muslims fearing an “anti-Muslim backlash”—thus neatly shifting the focus from Islamists’ real acts of violence to non-Muslims’ imaginary ones. (These backlashes, of course, never materialize.) While books by Islam experts like Bat Ye’or and Robert Spencer, who tell difficult truths about jihad and sharia, go unreviewed in newspapers like the New York Times, the elite press legitimizes thinkers like Karen Armstrong and John Esposito, whose sugarcoated representations of Islam should have been discredited for all time by 9/11. The Times described Armstrong’s hagiography of Mohammed as “a good place to start” learning about Islam; in July 2007, the Washington Post headlined a piece by Esposito want to understand islam? start here.

Mainstream outlets have also served up anodyne portraits of fundamentalist Muslim life. Witness Andrea Elliott’s affectionate three-part profile of a Brooklyn imam, which appeared in the New York Times in March 2006. Elliott and the Times sought to portray Reda Shata as a heroic bridge builder between two cultures, leaving readers with the comforting belief that the growth of Islam in America was not only harmless but positive, even beautiful. Though it emerged in passing that Shata didn’t speak English, refused to shake women’s hands, wanted to forbid music, and supported Hamas and suicide bombing, Elliott did her best to downplay such unpleasant details; instead, she focused on sympathetic personal particulars. “Islam came to him softly, in the rhythms of his grandmother’s voice”; “Mr. Shata discovered love 15 years ago. . . . ‘She entered my heart,‘ said the imam.” Elliott’s saccharine piece won a Pulitzer Prize. When Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes pointed out that Shata was obviously an Islamist, a writer for the Columbia Journalism Review dismissed Pipes as “right-wing” and insisted that Shata was “very moderate.”

So it goes in this upside-down, not-so-brave new media world: those who, if given the power, would subjugate infidels, oppress women, and execute apostates and homosexuals are “moderate” (a moderate, these days, apparently being anybody who doesn’t have explosives strapped to his body), while those who dare to call a spade a spade are “Islamophobes.”

The entertainment industry has been nearly as appalling. During World War II, Hollywood churned out scores of films that served the war effort, but today’s movies and TV shows, with very few exceptions, either tiptoe around Islam or whitewash it. In the whitewash category were two sitcoms that debuted in 2007, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Little Mosque on the Prairie and CW’s Aliens in America. Both shows are about Muslims confronting anti-Muslim bigotry; both take it for granted that there’s no fundamentalist Islam problem in the West, but only an anti-Islam problem.

Muslim pressure groups have actively tried to keep movies and TV shows from portraying Islam as anything but a Religion of Peace. For example, the Council for American-Islamic Relations successfully lobbied Paramount Pictures to change the bad guys in The Sum of All Fears (2002) from Islamist terrorists to neo-Nazis, while Fox’s popular series 24, after Muslims complained about a story line depicting Islamic terrorists, ran cringe-worthy public-service announcements emphasizing how nonviolent Islam was. Earlier this year, Iranian-Danish actor Farshad Kholghi noted that, despite the cartoon controversy’s overwhelming impact on Denmark, “not a single movie has been made about the crisis, not a single play, not a single stand-up monologue.” Which, of course, is exactly what the cartoon jihadists wanted.

In April 2006, an episode of the animated series South Park admirably mocked the wave of self-censorship that followed the Jyllands-Posten crisis—but Comedy Central censored it, replacing an image of Mohammed with a black screen and an explanatory notice. According to series producer Anne Garefino, network executives frankly admitted that they were acting out of fear. “We were happy,” she told an interviewer, “that they didn’t try to claim that it was because of religious tolerance.”

Then there’s the art world. Postmodern artists who have always striven to shock and offend now maintain piously that Islam deserves “respect.” Museums and galleries have quietly taken down paintings that might upset Muslims and have put into storage manuscripts featuring images of Mohammed. London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery removed life-size nude dolls by surrealist artist Hans Bellmer from a 2006 exhibit just before its opening; the official excuse was “space constraints,” but the curator admitted that the real reason was fear that the nudity might offend the gallery’s Muslim neighbors. Last November, after the cancellation of a show in The Hague of artworks depicting gay men in Mohammed masks, the artist, Sooreh Hera, charged the museum with giving in to Muslim threats. Tim Marlow of London’s White Cube Gallery notes that such self-censorship by artists and museums is now common, though “very few people have explicitly admitted” it. British artist Grayson Perry, whose work has mercilessly mocked Christianity, is one who has—and his reluctance isn’t about multicultural sensitivity. “The reason I haven’t gone all out attacking Islamism in my art,” he told the Times of London, “is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat.”

Leading liberal intellectuals and academics have shown a striking willingness to betray liberal values when it comes to pacifying Muslims. Back in 2001, Unni Wikan, a distinguished Norwegian cultural anthropologist and Islam expert, responded to the high rate of Muslim-on-infidel rape in Oslo by exhorting women to “realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”

More recently, high-profile Europe experts Ian Buruma of Bard College and Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford, while furiously denying that they advocate cultural surrender, have embraced “accommodation,” which sounds like a distinction without a difference. In his book Murder in Amsterdam, Buruma approvingly quotes Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen’s call for “accommodation with the Muslims,” including those “who consciously discriminate against their women.” Sharia enshrines a Muslim man’s right to beat and rape his wife, to force marriages on his daughters, and to kill them if they resist. One wonders what female Muslims who immigrated to Europe to escape such barbarity think of this prescription.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and one of Britain’s best-known public intellectuals, suggested in February the institution of a parallel system of sharia law in Britain. Since the Islamic Sharia Council already adjudicates Muslim marriages and divorces in the U.K., what Williams was proposing was, as he put it, “a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resources.” Gratifyingly, his proposal, short on specifics and long on academic doublespeak (“I don’t think,” he told the BBC, “that we should instantly spring to the conclusion that the whole of that world of jurisprudence and practice is somehow monstrously incompatible with human rights, simply because it doesn’t immediately fit with how we understand it”) was greeted with public outrage.

Another prominent accommodationist is humanities professor Mark Lilla of Columbia University, author of an August 2007 essay in the New York Times Magazine so long and languorous, and written with such perfect academic dispassion, that many readers may have finished it without realizing that it charted a path leading straight to sharia. Muslims’ “full reconciliation with modern liberal democracy cannot be expected,” Lilla wrote. For the West, “coping is the order of the day, not defending high principle.”

Revealing in this light is Buruma’s and Garton Ash’s treatment of author Ayaan Hirsi Ali—perhaps the greatest living champion of Western freedom in the face of creeping jihad—and of the Europe-based Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. Because Hirsi Ali refuses to compromise on liberty, Garton Ash has called her a “simplistic . . . Enlightenment fundamentalist”—thus implicitly equating her with the Muslim fundamentalists who have threatened to kill her—while Buruma, in several New York Times pieces, has portrayed her as a petulant naif. (Both men have lately backed off somewhat.) On the other hand, the professors have rhapsodized over Ramadan’s supposed brilliance. They aren’t alone: though he’s clearly not the Westernized, urbane intellectual he seems to be—he refuses to condemn the stoning of adulteresses and clearly looks forward to a Europe under sharia—this grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and protégé of Islamist scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi regularly wins praise in bien-pensant circles as representing the best hope for long-term concord between Western Muslims and non-Muslims.

This spring, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, writing in the New York Times Magazine, actually gave two cheers for sharia. He contrasted it favorably with English common law, and described “the Islamists’ aspiration to renew old ideas of the rule of law” as “bold and noble.”

With the press, the entertainment industry, and prominent liberal thinkers all refusing to defend basic Western liberties, it’s not surprising that our political leaders have been pusillanimous, too. After a tiny Oslo newspaper, Magazinet, reprinted the Danish cartoons in early 2006, jihadists burned Norwegian flags and set fire to Norway’s embassy in Syria. Instead of standing up to the vandals, Norwegian leaders turned on Magazinet’s editor, Vebjørn Selbekk, partially blaming him for the embassy burning and pressing him to apologize. He finally gave way at a government-sponsored press conference, groveling before an assemblage of imams whose leader publicly forgave him and placed him under his protection. On that terrible day, Selbekk later acknowledged, “Norway went a long way toward allowing freedom of speech to become the Islamists’ hostage.” As if that capitulation weren’t disgrace enough, an official Norwegian delegation then traveled to Qatar and implored Qaradawi—a defender of suicide bombers and the murder of Jewish children—to accept Selbekk’s apology. “To meet Yusuf al-Qaradawi under the present circumstances,” Norwegian-Iraqi writer Walid al-Kubaisi protested, was “tantamount to granting extreme Islamists . . . a right of joint consultation regarding how Norway should be governed.”

The UN’s position on the question of speech versus “respect” for Islam was clear—and utterly at odds with its founding value of promoting human rights. “You don’t joke about other people’s religion,” Kofi Annan lectured soon after the Magazinet incident, echoing the sermons of innumerable imams, “and you must respect what is holy for other people.” In October 2006, at a UN panel discussion called “Cartooning for Peace,” Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor proposed drawing “a very thin blue UN line . . . between freedom and responsibility.” (Americans might be forgiven for wondering whether that line would strike through the First Amendment.) And in 2007, the UN’s Human Rights Council passed a Pakistani motion prohibiting defamation of religion.

Other Western government leaders have promoted the expansion of the Dar al-Islam. In September 2006, when philosophy teacher Robert Redeker went into hiding after receiving death threats over a Le Figaro op-ed on Islam, France’s then–prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, commented that “everyone has the right to express their opinions freely—at the same time that they respect others, of course.” The lesson of the Redeker affair, he said, was “how vigilant we must be to ensure that people fully respect one another in our society.” Villepin got a run for his money last year from his Swedish counterpart, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who, after meeting with Muslim ambassadors to discuss the Vilks cartoons, won praise from one of them, Algeria’s Merzak Bedjaoui, for his “spirit of appeasement.”

When, years after September 11, President George W. Bush finally acknowledged publicly that the West was at war with Islamic fascism, Muslims’ and multiculturalists’ furious reaction made him retreat to the empty term “war on terror.” Britain’s Foreign Office has since deemed even that phrase offensive and banned its use by cabinet members (along with “Islamic extremism”). In January, the Home Office decided that Islamic terrorism would henceforth be described as “anti-Islamic activity.”

Western legislatures and courts have reinforced the “spirit of appeasement.” In 2005, Norway’s parliament, with virtually no public discussion or media coverage, criminalized religious insults (and placed the burden of proof on the defendant). Last year, that country’s most celebrated lawyer, Tor Erling Staff, argued that the punishment for honor killing should be less than for other murders, because it’s arrogant for us to expect Muslim men to conform to our society’s norms. Also in 2007, in one of several instances in which magistrates sworn to uphold German law have followed sharia instead, a Frankfurt judge rejected a Muslim woman’s request for a quick divorce from her brutally abusive husband; after all, under the Koran he had the right to beat her.

Those who dare to defy the West’s new sharia-based strictures and speak their minds now risk prosecution in some countries. In 2006, legendary author Oriana Fallaci, dying of cancer, went on trial in Italy for slurring Islam; three years earlier, she had defended herself in a French court against a similar charge. (Fallaci was ultimately found not guilty in both cases.) More recently, Canadian provinces ordered publisher Ezra Levant and journalist Mark Steyn to face human rights tribunals, the former for reprinting the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, the latter for writing critically about Islam in Maclean’s.

Even as Western authorities have hassled Islam’s critics, they’ve honored jihadists and their supporters. In 2005, Queen Elizabeth knighted Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain, a man who had called for the death of Salman Rushdie. Also that year, London mayor Ken Livingstone ludicrously praised Qaradawi as “progressive”—and, in response to gay activists who pointed out that Qaradawi had defended the death penalty for homosexuals, issued a dissertation-length dossier whitewashing the Sunni scholar and trying to blacken the activists’ reputations. Of all the West’s leaders, however, few can hold a candle to Piet Hein Donner, who in 2006, as Dutch minister of justice, said that if voters wanted to bring sharia to the Netherlands—where Muslims will soon be a majority in major cities—“it would be a disgrace to say, ‘This is not permitted!’ ”

If you don’t find the dhimmification of politicians shocking, consider the degree to which law enforcement officers have yielded to Islamist pressure. Last year, when “Undercover Mosque,” an unusually frank exposé on Britain’s Channel 4, showed “moderate” Muslim preachers calling for the beating of wives and daughters and the murder of gays and apostates, police leaped into action—reporting the station to the government communications authority, Ofcom, for stirring up racial hatred. (Ofcom, to its credit, rejected the complaint.) The police reaction, as James Forsyth noted in the Spectator, “revealed a mindset that views the exposure of a problem as more of a problem than the problem itself.” Only days after the “Undercover Mosque” broadcast—in a colossal mark of indifference to the reality that it exposed—Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair announced plans to share antiterrorist intelligence with Muslim community leaders. These plans, fortunately, were later shelved.

Canadian Muslim reformist Irshad Manji has noted that in 2006, when 17 terrorists were arrested in Toronto on the verge of giving Canada “its own 9/11,” “the police did not mention that it had anything to do with Islam or Muslims, not a word.” When, after van Gogh’s murder, a Rotterdam artist drew a street mural featuring an angel and the words thou shalt not kill, police, fearing Muslim displeasure, destroyed the mural (and a videotape of its destruction). In July 2007, a planned TV appeal by British cops to help capture a Muslim rapist was canceled to avoid “racist backlash.” And in August, the Times of London reported that “Asian” men (British code for “Muslims”) in the U.K. were having sex with perhaps hundreds of “white girls as young as twelve”—but that authorities wouldn’t take action for fear of “upsetting race relations.” Typically, neither the Times nor government officials acknowledged that the “Asian” men’s contempt for the “white” girls was a matter not of race but of religion.

Even military leaders aren’t immune. In 2005, columnist Diana West noted that America’s Iraq commander, Lieutenant General John R. Vines, was educating his staff in Islam by giving them a reading list that “whitewashes jihad, dhimmitude and sharia law with the works of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito”; two years later, West noted the unwillingness of a counterinsurgency advisor, Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen, to mention jihad. In January 2008, the Pentagon fired Stephen Coughlin, its resident expert on sharia and jihad; reportedly, his acknowledgment that terrorism was motivated by jihad had antagonized an influential Muslim aide. “That Coughlin’s analyses would even be considered ‘controversial,’ ” wrote Andrew Bostom, editor of The Legacy of Jihad, “is pathognomonic of the intellectual and moral rot plaguing our efforts to combat global terrorism.” (Perhaps owing to public outcry, officials announced in February that Coughlin would not be dismissed after all, but instead moved to another Department of Defense position.)

Enough. We need to recognize that the cultural jihadists hate our freedoms because those freedoms defy sharia, which they’re determined to impose on us. So far, they have been far less successful at rolling back freedom of speech and other liberties in the U.S. than in Europe, thanks in no small part to the First Amendment. Yet America is proving increasingly susceptible to their pressures.

The key question for Westerners is: Do we love our freedoms as much as they hate them? Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they’re incapable of defending it when it’s imperiled—or even, in many cases, of recognizing that it is imperiled. As for Muslims living in the West, surveys suggest that many of them, though not actively involved in jihad, are prepared to look on passively—and some, approvingly—while their coreligionists drag the Western world into the House of Submission.

But we certainly can’t expect them to take a stand for liberty if we don’t stand up for it ourselves.

Bruce Bawer is the author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. He blogs at BruceBawer.com.

 

 

 

Turkey: “In a very quiet, deep way, you can sense an Islamization”

Turkey: “In a very quiet, deep way, you can sense an Islamization”

Turkish secularism on the ropes. “A Secular Turkish City Feels Islam’s Pulse Beating Stronger, Causing Divisions,” by Sabrina Tavernise for the New York Times, with thanks to Steve:

DENIZLI, Turkey — The little red prayer book was handed out in a public primary school here in western Turkey in early May. It was small enough to fit in a pocket, but it carried a big message: Pray in the Muslim way. Get others to pray, too.“The message was clear to me,” said a retired civil servant, whose 13-year-old son, a student at the Yesilkoy Ibrahim Cengiz school, received the book. “This is not something that should be distributed in schools.”

This leafy, liberal city would seem like one of the least likely places to allow Islam to permeate public life. But for some residents, the book is part of a subtle shift toward increasingly public religiosity that has gone hand in hand with the ascent of the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The phenomenon is complex. The party has not ordered changes, but sets examples through a growing network of observant Muslim teachers and public servants hired since it came to power in 2002.

The shift goes to the heart of the question that has gripped this country for the past two months: As the party settles more deeply into the bureaucracy, will it leave its Islamic roots in the past and build a future that includes secular Turks, or will it impose its religion more rigorously?

[...]

“In a very quiet, deep way, you can sense an Islamization,” said Bedrettin Usanmaz, a jewelry shop owner in Denizli. “They’re not after rapid change. They’re investing for 50 years ahead.”

At the heart of the issue is a debate about the fundamental nature of Islam and its role in building an equitable society. Turks like Mr. Zeybekci contend that their country has come a long way since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular revolution in 1923, and that it no longer needs to enforce controls like preventing women from wearing head scarves in public buildings. “It’s like locking everybody in a stadium, when you know that only three are thieves,” Mr. Zeybekci said, in his office, which has pictures of Mr. Erdogan and Ataturk.

But secular Turks contend that Islam will always seek more space in people’s lives, and therefore should be reined in. They look to the military as secularism’s final defender.

“Islam is not like other religions,” said Kadim Yildirim, a history teacher in Denizli from an opposition labor union. “It influences every part of your life, even your bedroom.”…

According to a report to Parliament by the education minister, 836 people from the government’s Religious Affairs Directorate have been transferred to the ministry’s offices during Mr. Erdogan’s tenure. That has also led to changes in the habits of the bureaucracy. In Denizli, the lunchroom in the local Ministry of Education no longer serves food during Ramadan, based on an assumption that all workers are observing the religious fast, employees said….

All education material, once vetted centrally, is now checked in a far looser fashion, according to one senior Ministry of Education official in Ankara, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid for his job. A point system to rate textbooks has been loosened. The red prayer book, illustrated with pictures of small children praying, would probably not have been distributed in past years.

It is still unclear where today’s changes will lead the country. Mr. Oran says that although the ideology of Mr. Erdogan and his allies “is inevitably Islam,” they are workers and tradesmen who are ultimately motivated by profit. “They are very rapidly becoming bourgeois.”

Mr. Yildirim draws hope from a recent exchange among his students he overheard. One posed a question: If you were rowing a boat with only one extra seat and passed by a deserted island with the Prophet Muhammad and Ataturk, whom would you save?

Another answered: “Ataturk is resourceful. He can save himself. Take Muhammad.”

So evidently Muhammad can’t save himself. He has to be zealously looked after, cf. Cartoon Rage, Pope Rage, etc

Mullahs fear a ‘velvet revolution’

Mullahs fear a ‘velvet revolution’

Thomas Lifson
Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has written a highly encouraging essay on the fragility of the mullahs’ regime.

In his second decade of leadership, Khamenei is living in fear of just such a velvet revolution. Whereas his cultural invasion fears envisioned liberal, democratic values potentially subverting the cultural foundations of the Islamic Revolution, his current worries center on the notion that the revolution’s enemies could recruit people through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to humanitarian, child welfare, trade union, environmental, and antidrug issues. Accordingly, any social or cultural activity outside the regime’s supervision is subject to suspicion, especially in the wake of the “color” revolutions that led to the replacement of leaders in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan — countries close to Iran’s borders.
Several foreign scholars, including at least one affiliated with George Soros, have been recently arrested in Iran.
The Iranian regime arose from a mass revolution and has always claimed that it represents the Iranian people. But its actions show how afraid it is of the people. In the regime’s view, most Iranians could potentially act against it, whether by going unveiled, watching foreign satellite television stations, or following Western dress fashions. Consequently, control over every aspect of personal life — the hallmark of totalitarianism — becomes necessary to preserve the legitimacy and authority of the Shiite jurists. According to Iranian police officials, more than 150,000 women were arrested in Tehran just last month for “bad veils.” Many photos and films showing police beating women have been published on websites. Young men are also being targeted; last month, the regime sent instructions to barbershops regarding banned hairstyles.
The international community has limited leverage with which to respond to the Islamic Republic’s violation of human rights accords that Iran has signed in the past. More can be done, however, to broaden and extend international condemnation of Iran’s human rights record. It was discouraging that, in March, the UN Human Rights Council decided to drop its examination of violations in Iran.
Instead of relying on the corrupt United Nations, the US must work with the newly-elected French leadership and Frau Merkel of Germany, and incoming PM Browne in the UK to enforce tough economic sanctions against Iran, while broadcasting to the Iranian people that they can quickly rejoin the community of nations by bringing down the mullahs.
Iran’s ally Hugo Chavez is tottering, with mass demonstrations increasing day by day. History shows that revolutions can be contagious.

Hat tip: Richard Baehr

The Muddled Mess of Middle East Studies

The Muddled Mess of Middle East Studies

By Cinnamon Stillwell

What’s ailing contemporary Middle East studies? A symposium earlier this month at Stanford University provided a clue.

A paranoid fixation on imagined American and Israeli “empire”; the refusal to accept legitimate criticism; an insulated, elitist worldview; an inability to employ clear, jargon-free English; and a self-defeating hostility towards the West: these vices and more were made clear at “The State of Middle East Studies: Knowledge Production in an Age of Empire.
Professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University Hamid Dabashi captured the symposium’s theme by asserting that the “Middle East is under U.S./Israeli imperial domination” and that America is an “empire without hegemony,” engaged in a “monopolar imperial project.”
Yet no one defined this “empire” or “imperialism.” Nor did attendees learn what events in the Muslim world precipitated a more expansive U.S. foreign policy in the region after Sept. 11, 2001, or why Israel might have legitimate concerns about its bellicose neighbors.  
Only Nur Yalman, professor of social anthropology and Middle Eastern studies at Harvard University, made reference to Islamic terrorism. He also reported on the atmosphere of political unease in both Egypt and Turkey from whence he had just returned.
Also popular was equating criticism of Middle East studies with a U.S./Israeli/Jewish plot. Dabashi condemned Middle East scholar and critic Martin Kramer, calling his book, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, an agent of “U.S. and Israeli intelligence.” Yalman bemoaned a speech Kramer gave last year on the relatively stable geopolitical situation of Jews today, implying that such a condition represented a threat to Muslims. Dabashi denounced David Horowitz, Stanley Kurtz, Daniel Pipes, and Campus Watch for, as he put it, “helping Bush in his crusading war against Islamic terrorism.”
Dabashi also singled out Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, accusing them of acting, horror of horrors, in “the service of national security.” He was particularly aggrieved that with the ascendance of these think tanks, Middle East studies were no longer under the strict purview of the “academies.” He didn’t mention that higher education’s failure to adequately address the subject has been the cause of this evolution.  
The late Columbia University English and comparative literature professor Edward Said was the undisputed godfather of the day, with countless references to his theories on post-colonialism and Orientalism. Like Said, several speakers rejected what they saw as Western condescension and hostility towards the Muslim world. Yet it was they who seemed mired in antagonism. 
Discussion about the plight of women in the Muslim world was marred by anti-Western sentiment. Professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Minoo Moallem, dismissed such concerns as being part of an “imperialist narrative.”
University of Washington anthropology and law professor Arzoo Osanloo picked up on this theme by decrying “Western, paternalistic attitudes towards Muslim women.” Osanloo was concerned that “Islamic liberalism” would be “obscured by Western involvement,” particularly in Iran. 
Osanloo tried to focus on “Islamic feminism,” but her insistence that women had made great strides in post-Islamic revolution Iran through the use of Sharia law was a stretch. It didn’t help that she omitted any reference to the Iranian regimes’ current crackdown, including brutal beatings, on unveiled women and their arrest and detention of Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. 
Osanloo’s stated desire to “move beyond the binarism of East vs. West” was belied by an attitude of stubborn opposition to everything Western. There was no acknowledgement by any of the women present that Western culture has given them lives that would be the envy of their counterparts in the Middle East.
Similarly, the willful blindness of a group of scholars and students denouncing the West from their positions of power and privilege in the favored surroundings of Stanford University came across as utterly hypocritical.
Hamid Dabashi and Minoo Moallem’s reliance on academic jargon added to the esoteric nature of the proceedings. Schooled on a philosophical foundation of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucoult, and the obsession with semantics over objective reality found therein, both speakers were largely incomprehensible.
Expressions such as “diasphoric cultural mediators,” “amphibian intellectuals,” “contextualization,” “performance of the self as its own other,” the “inability to handle the otherness of the other,” “Eurocentric partriarchy,” “imperialist masculinist,” “gendered Orientalism,” and the obscure statement, “regions are not facts but artifacts,” provide just a sampling.
It was excruciatingly boring at times, and the fact that they read straight from their own work only made it worse. The young man nodding off in his chair during Moallem’s talk was an indication that the audience may not have been entirely engaged.
Thankfully, the other speakers spoke in plain English and Yalman even stated at one point that he was “uneasy with the abstract nature of the conversation.”
Indeed, those concerned with the negative influence such academics may be having on future generations should be comforted by the very real possibility that their students rarely understand a word they’re saying.
Cinnamon Stillwell is Northern California Representative for Campus Watch. She can be reached at stillwell@meforum.org.

Inching forward in the Middle East

Inching forward in the Middle East

By James Lewis

Unlike a football game, progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict comes in inches, not yards. But in the midst of all the pessimism there is genuine movement on the Gordian Knot of the entire seven decades of struggle: The Arab refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Because that knot is now slightly unraveling under the pressure of the Iranian threat to Sunni Arab nations (which is all Arab nations minus half of Iraq).

With a looming nuclear Iran fifty miles away, the Saudis cannot afford war with Israel. Tehran has already stirred up riots during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and Saudi legitimacy rests on protecting the holy places.
Specifically, the Arab League, led by the Saudis and Jordanians, has now publicly offered to recognize Israel. That offer comes with conditions that make it unworkable on the surface, although it may provide a basis for further negotiation. But the big breakthrough is implicit, as usual in the complex maneuvering characteristic of that part of the world. When the United States recognized Communist China after many years of passionate refusals, all the preliminary negotiations were conducted in secret between Henry Kissinger and Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-lai. Nixon’s public trip to China just put the official stamp on well-established secret understandings. There are now many reports of secret conversations between Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel.
Remember that Anwar Sadat was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood after Egypt openly recognized Israel. No other Arab nation dared to follow Sadat’s example. Twenty years later, Yasser Arafat told Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak that he, Arafat, would be assassinated if he agreed with the generous Israeli peace proposal that would have established a Palestinian state. So the peace agreement never occurred.  Offering recognition of Israel involves a great personal risk for all the Arab leaders involved. The terrorists are always out there, ready to kill any peace makers.
But the Arabs do not want a nuclear Iran trying to control the holy places of Mecca and Medina, with the ultimate possibility of radioactive fallout drifting across the Persian Gulf. For the Sunnis, Ahmadinejad represents a deviant strain of Islamic heresy, which cannot be allowed to control the two holiest cities of pilgrimage. Saudi preachers make worse denunciations about the Shi’a than they do about the infidels.
The implicit message in the Arab League proposal comes in the very use of the word “Israel” and in the public goal of diplomatic recognition.  Tehran and its puppets, Hezb’allah and Hamas, won’t even use the name “Israel” — it’s still the “Zionist entity” for them. In international diplomacy, using a nation’s name is to recognize it implicitly. And the open goal of the Arab proposal is public recognition. You can’t do that unless you are implicitly granting Israel’s right to exist in peace, and you can’t do that unless you are willing to terminate the de facto state of war that has existed since 1948. So this proposal breaks the logjam in public, even while posing unworkable preconditions. Inch by inch.
Israel has publicly rejected the Arab League proposal. But that’s only the cover story. Prime Minister Olmert has also praised the “great wisdom” of Saudi King Abdallah, without giving any details. News leaks of phone conversations between the sides are common.
So — it’s agonizingly slow, but progress. Underneath, there is very likely to be selective intelligence sharing on Iran and the common terrorist threat from Hezb’allah and Al Qaeda. There may be talks about giving Israel overflight permission in any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities — on condition that it be successful. When Israel knocked out Saddam’s nuclear reactor in 1981, the French, who had built the reactor, secretly provided blueprints and work schedules to the Israeli Air Force. When the strike occurred, it had pinpoint accuracy and French technicians were sleeping at home and in no danger. (Surprise!).
Some of that is probably going on right now among the players who do not want an Iranian nuke — which is all of them. Nobody but nobody wants a psychotic regime armed with nukes next door.
So there are grounds for cautious hope. This is a dangerous time. But Arabs have lived with Israel’s nuclear program for decades, and they don’t feel threatened by it. Like America’s nuke program, it is  carefully designed never to be used except in extremis. Don’t attack Israel, and Israel will never use its nukes.
That kind of rationality does not apply to Tehran, with its Armageddon martyr complex
If Iran were fifty miles from our shores, even the Denial Demagogues would have to get worried. Ironically, the new threat from Iran has made the Arab world more prepared for peace than ever before.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/.

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